Monday, August 25, 2008

Romance Writers of America: San Francisco Adventure

At the end of last month I had the interesting experience of being a presenter for a portion of the “Romance Writers of America” conference, held in San Francisco. The group I actually spoke for is “Beau Monde”, which specializes in Historical Romances (thus explaining why on Earth I was invited to speak there.) At any rate, it was an adventure to be sure!

Most of the endeavor involved getting myself and my “props” (which constituted some score or more muskets, rifles, pistols and revolvers, several swords and four saddles complete with tack) from the environs of Seattle to downtown San Francisco. I certainly wasn’t about to haul all of this inventory via airline, so drive I did. Fairly long drive, but at least this time I wasn’t hauling horses cross-country, as I usually seem to find myself doing. I spent the night before the event at friend Nick’s house in Berkeley, where of course we stayed up too late talking about “stuff”. Then it was off at 0-dark-thirty to beat the traffic into SF. Made it to the Marriot with no issues, and took the Valet Parking option. The joy of course was in hauling all of the aforesaid impedimenta from point “A” in the lobby to point “B” in the bowels of the hotel, without exactly knowing where point “B” was. That in itself was a further adventure, but I got there eventually.

The presentation went fine, of course, entitled something like “Firearms of the Golden Age” or some catchy phrase like that which my host “Kalen Hughes” came up with. The room to which I was assigned was fairly small and packed full of rather attractive and better yet very attentive ladies. I can’t say that I was at all ill-disposed towards the situation. However, due to the exertions of getting everything set up, plus the poor air-conditioning (it was SF after all, they’re not used to heat) and that the room was full of bodies, I was sweating like a horse. I hope it didn’t show too much.

What I found most amusing was that, while I had gone well out of my way to ensure that I brought the coolest, most interesting and famous of the firearms I own to show off to these ladies, the one thing they were most interested in was of course the one that was the last minute “what the heck, I’ll throw it in” one. I should have known, of course. So among my wheellock horse-pistols, matchlock and flintlock muskets, Henry and Springfield rifles, Colt’s revolvers and the like, what were they interested in? The tiny little flintlock “Turn Off” pistol. Again, I should have known. It was made at some point during the Regency period or there-about, and they were quite popular not only as a pocket pistol but as a “muff gun”, to be secreted in the fur muff that was so fashionable in the period. In a day and age where casual violence was in fact much greater than it is today (contrary to modern mythology), carrying a small, handy “equalizer” was a smart thing to do. And, obviously, my audience somewhat appreciated that fact, thus their interest. I found it quite agreeable to have been fortunate enough to hit upon “just the right thing” for their interest, even if it was completely by accident.

My other presentation, later in the day, was as a member of a panel of speakers on the subject of historical horsemanship. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I can’t recall the names of all of my other co-panelists (I recall that one is a Veterinarian who is also a historical romance writer), but the lady who pretty much lead the discussion was a fine lady by the pen name of Sophia Nash. All of my co-panelists were quite knowledgeable on horses and especially on women’s roles with horses in various periods of history. I brought the hardware (saddles and tack) and discussed military horsemanship through during the past 400 or so years (briefly, as that’s a long time period to cover). Of course we went longer than the time allotted to the session, which was fine by me, as it gave me more license to pontificate, but alas, it eventually came to an end. I must admit that I enjoyed the lime-light, even with the stresses of getting things set up, torn down, and packed away again.

After the end of THAT part of the conference, and after having to haul my stuff over hill and dale (well, actually just up and down various floors: that place is huge!) my eldest daughter Elizabeth arrived on the scene. She’s presently working at an internship in the City during the summer while awaiting the start of her last year of law school at Golden Gate University. It was great to see her, and get a chance to wander around the hotel a bit to see what other things were going on with regards to the conference. There were LOTS of women there! As my old friend Steve Moffatt (who was there to give a presentation on armour) stated: “Man, this place is full of women! YIKES!”

Another nice thing was seeing many old friends from the Renaissance Military Society, from when we used to be a part of St. Michael’s Guild at the old Northern Renaissance Faire. Kalen, who was running the “Beau Monde” show, was an old hand from the RMS and had arranged it all, so it was old home week. Even Eyore Danny stayed to socialize! I was astonished…and pleased, to be sure.

I ended up going in to the Ball Room for the big “Signing” session. When I walked in, the sound resembled high-caliber hail on a corrugated tin roof! Lord, but was it loud in there! The ball room wasn’t exactly designed to suppress THAT much noise, I guess. Anyway, I managed to find both Kalen and Sophia in the press, and also one of the ladies who had attended my first class, Monica McCarty, so I bought their books for my wife to enjoy. (Check out her blog here on the subject of Romance Novels.) Eventually it was time to leave, though. I conned Elizabeth into doing the driving back to her bungalow in Oakland (she’s used to SF traffic), where her husband Jeremiah had dinner waiting for us. After a nice visit, it was hit the sack, then make the loooooong drive home the next day. Thank goodness I had the next day off to try to recover!

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