HNS Trek 2007: Part 3, Friday 8 June

Friday morning was The Morning of Toll Roads. Good heavens,
I’ve never seen so many points for collecting tolls, starting with the toll to
cross the Susquehanna River in MD where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay and ending
with the toll to exit the New York State Thruway in Albany. $17.75 in tolls
that morning. Random barricades of tollbooths scattered along the length of the
Garden State Parkway bottleneck traffic. Cryptic signage above each string of
booths baffles non-natives. E-Z Pass? Blinking green light? Blinking yellow
light? Steady green light? What language is this? If you don’t figure the
scheme out quickly, other drivers communicate their disapproval without

WoodstocksignThe Catskills Mountains sure are lovely. A Mecca of the
Hippy Era, Woodstock, is located in the Catskills. Sure do wish I’d had an
extra day to tour the area, and that I’d also had time to tour the Saratoga
battlefield, located only about half an hour north of Albany. But what the
heck, it’s only about eleven hours north by car, and by the end of the trip, I
had those user-unfriendly tollbooths on the Garden State Parkway figured out,
so maybe I’ll go back soon.

The Desmond Hotel and Conference Center looks like a
colonial village and is a beautiful facility with two indoor pools and an
indoor courtyard that’s a favorite for bridal parties. My room, furnished with
a four-poster bed plus canopy, had a balcony that opened onto the courtyard.

After a reception and cash bar that evening, all the
conference attendees headed into the King Street Ballroom for a scrumptious
buffet dinner. What a shame when they set up the desserts as a buffet, too, and
then I accidentally sat near the dessert table. Books were given away as prizes
for those who correctly answered Trudi Jacobson’s post-dinner questions about
the HNS and history.

Keynote speaker Bernard Cornwell — author of the Sharpe
series, an Arthurian series, the Saxon Tales, and numerous other books — had
us belly laughing over his caustic schtick. Awhile back, those Sharpe novels of
his were made into a miniseries starring a lanky, hunky, blond,
thirty-something Sean Bean. Cornwell quipped, "They picked Sean Bean for
that role because he looks like me," and when the laughter died down added,
"That wasn’t supposed to be funny."

Thanks to all the folks from the HNS who planned and helped
execute the evening. If there were snags in it, I sure didn’t encounter them.
Looked seamless to me.

HNS Trek 2007: Part 4, Saturday 9 June

At conferences, I enjoy meeting people with whom I’ve
corresponded via email, such as Diana Gabaldon and Ann Parker. Almost never do I
have time to talk with everyone I want to meet. There’s so much to do, and
often several very interesting sessions are scheduled at the same time. Pick
and choose, the conference attendee’s universal lament.

So…was I frightened when I got stuck in the elevator during
a brief power failure Saturday morning at the hotel? Nope. I was frustrated
that I might miss all that good stuff going on out there. I took the stairs the
rest of the day.

I attended
Chris (C.C.) Humphreys’s session "Imagining Saratoga 1777: How an Author
Reconstructs a Famous Battle." Chris, an actor, interspersed lively readings from
his latest Jack Absolute book with discussion about what works for him
in writing and reading historical fiction. Chris’s key points:

  • Don’t make him read a history lesson in historical fiction.
  • A book has to be about vulnerable characters -– people -– to
    keep readers interested and make them care.
  • Doing on-site, hands-on work, especially when weapons are
    involved, is crucial in providing writers with accurate sensory experience for
    their fiction.
  • Since many writers fall in love with the history and make
    the mistake of choking a manuscript with details, insert details only on a
    need-to-know basis.
  • When writing about a battle, focus on strategic points of
    the battle where your character can interact, rather than trying to recount the
    entire battle.
  • A fight scene isn’t just a fight. Regard a fight as another
    form of a conversation. The fight can serve double duty when you use it to move
    the action onward and reveal some personal facet about a character.

Curious to hear the NYC agent take on what’s happening with
the historical fiction market, I attended Irene Goodman’s session,
"Whither Historical Fiction: the Market and Publishing Trends." Irene was moving fast, so I
probably missed a few points, but here are her
key points as I caught them:

  • Fiction based on "marquee names" (real people) is
  • The number 1 setting is England, but France, Italy, Greece,
    and Rome are good, too. For the most part, America is too Puritanical to be
  • Non-genre historicals are a hard sell.
  • Today, there must be a character arc in a historical.
  • In terms of protags or top characters, it’s a woman’s world
    in historical fiction, and if you have more than one strong female character in
    your book, that’s even better.
  • One new angle for a book is viewing a dominant male
    character from a strong female character’s POV.
  • You can successfully base your book on popular characters
    from classic fiction if you spotlight their strong female characters.
  • Emotions and good characterizations are far more important
    than events, so focus on how your strong female character experienced the
  • The two elements that most make a character attractive or
    sexy are wit and resourcefulness.
  • Allow your character to have control of her own destiny.
  • Just because a topic does well as a movie doesn’t mean it
    will do well as a book and vice versa.

Because I returned to my room to look over notes for my
session, I missed most of the third morning session. I did catch an astute
comment from Alan Gordon on the panel "Putting the Who in Whodunit:
Historical Forensics." He noted that we in the 21st century have lost a
good bit of our observational ability. People long ago were much more
observant. Alan challenged writers to use that characteristic in building
believable historical characters.

Editors Hope Dellon (St. Martin’s Press), Allison McCabe
(Crown Publishers), and Jackie Swift (McBooks Press) formed the panel for
"Selling Historical Fiction," with Alana White acting as moderator.
The editors explained the differences in their publishing houses and discussed
such topics as whether non-agented submissions were accepted (no, except for
McBooks). I found it interesting that none of the editors performs at the
office those tasks we traditionally associate with editors: reading and
editing. While in the office, they’re too busy putting out fires, attending
meetings, and so forth. The editors also commented on the enhanced efficacy of
writers using Publishers Marketplace as a tool to search for agents vs. the
more traditional (and easily outdated) tools such as Literary Marketplace, and
they each said that they never checked writer web sites on PM for possible
clients because they had so much business coming to them through other
channels. What type of manuscript was the most difficult to turn down? One that
was very well written but too similar to a book already published. The dilemma would be how the editor could possibly differentiate the manuscript enough from
the published book to justify acquisition. Finally, all three editors admitted
that many times when they knew they couldn’t acquire a manuscript for one
reason or another, they still found themselves sucked into it if it was well
written. So the next time you receive a rejection from an editor that says,
"Read the whole thing and enjoyed it, but it’s not for me," guess
what might have happened?

WomenpanelMy panel, "Rewriting the Role of Women," was
scheduled for the final time slot Saturday afternoon and very well attended.
Mary Sharratt moderated the panel, and the other panelists were Dr. Irene
Burgess, Provost at Eureka College in Eureka, IL; Susanne Dunlap; and Sandra
. (Pictured from left to right: Mary, Irene, me, Susanne, Sandra.) After introductions from Mary, Irene started us off by sketching the academic
landscape for the role of women in history. I discussed variables that have
allowed historical strictures on women’s actions to relax and permit them a
wider range of acceptable activities. Susanne discussed how involvement with
vocal and instrumental music has both helped and hindered women in the past.
And Sandra discussed historical aspects of women’s health and resultant quality
of life. We answered many questions from the audience and had a drawing for
copies of our books. Thanks to everyone who attended our panel. Comment on my
blog or email me if you attended. I’d like to hear from you. A special thanks
to Mary, Irene, Susanne, and Sandra.

CornwellgabaldonFew pictures I took of other authors turned out well enough to post to the blog — I’m still getting used to my new digital camera — but here’s one of Bernard Cornwell and Diana Gabaldon at the mass booksigning that started at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Author tables were arranged around one of the indoor swimming pools. I noted one particularly
tight corner with the tables close to the pool’s edge, somewhere near where
those authors with last names starting with E and F were signing, and predicted
that someone would go for a swim before the hour was up. Around 4:30, I heard
the tremendous splash from our accidental swimmer. I hope nobody’s books got

Our keynote speaker at the Saturday night banquet was Diana
Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series and numerous other novels. Have you
tried to work more than one job, raise multiple preschoolers, and write
novels without your spouse being the wiser? Diana did and recapped the humor
and irony of the situation. Turns out that inspiration for the character of
Jamie Fraser, the series’ hero, came when she happened to catch an old episode
of "Doctor Who" and noticed a guest actor portraying Scottish lad in
a kilt. The strapping lad made such an impression on her that she
was still thinking about him the next day, while in church. A (clueless) German
reporter once asked her to explain the appeal of a man in a kilt. She
responded, "Because you can have him up against a wall in less than a
minute." Yesssss.

A historical talent review followed Diana’s keynote, and
then after that, several authors including Diana promised to read sex scenes
from their books. Alas, I had to get up at the crack of dawn to start the drive
back to Raleigh. Otherwise, I’d have stuck around for Saturday night’s piece de
resistance. If you attended, please email me or comment in my blog. I’d love to
hear what happened.

A brilliant day. Thanks to all the folks from the HNS who
planned and helped execute it.

HNS Trek 2007: Part 5, Sunday 10 June

Carl and I hit the road around eight Sunday morning. That
meant I missed all of Sunday’s sessions, including the ones about arrrrr
pirates and writing sex scenes. (The latter session was affiliated with the
late-night reading of sex scenes.) But Creatures ‘n Crooks bookstore in
Richmond, VA closes by 5 p.m. on Sundays, and I really wanted to meet Lelia
Taylor, and those wacky tollbooths on the Garden State Parkway plus
who-knew-how-much-traffic in Washington D.C. stood between me and my goal, so
adios Albany.

Good thing we built in the extra time. A navigational error
plus near gridlock on the south side of D.C. cost us an hour of travel time.
(The south side of I-495 was under construction. Last time I drove through D.C.,
four years ago, that same portion of I-495 was under construction. Is that road
ever going to be fixed? Never mind, silly question.)

CreaturesncrooksCreatures ‘n Crooks is the bookseller for the annual
Virginia Festival of the Book. The store is tucked back in the corner of the
Cary Court Park & Shop, in a revitalized section of downtown Richmond heavy
on bistros, bagel shops, and latte nooks. A twenty-something artsy crowd
strolls the sidewalks. I arrived at Creatures ‘n Crooks around 4:45 p.m, just
under the wire.

LeliataylorLelia, every bit as gracious and accommodating as Lanny
Parks and Kathy Harig, chatted with me for about an hour while the shop’s cat
mascot snoozed on a chair nearby. Lelia stocks mystery, science fiction,
fantasy, and horror novels. Most of her customers are of the speculative
fiction persuasion. Her mystery customers aren’t book collectors, and they
aren’t gung-ho to meet authors. They often bypass a signing to come in on their
own time and purchase the featured book –- although a couple of reading groups
meet at the store to discuss mysteries and have enjoyed author visits. Got a
mystery set in the Northern theater of the Revolutionary War or Civil War? It
probably won’t sell well at Creatures ‘n Crooks. Lelia highly recommended
Bouchercon 2008 for me, especially since I anticipate the release of Camp
(book 3 of my series) around that time.

I arrived home in Raleigh around 9 p.m. Sunday night. Our
three dogs had alarmed our neighbor caregivers by staging a hunger strike and
reverting to semi-feral lifestyles due to a combination of stress over our
absence and 95-degree days without AC or fans. It’s nice to be missed by
tail-wagging pooches, but sheesh. I’m happy to report that they’re all fine
now. Be it ever so humble.

Thanks to Lelia Taylor for her time.

Excellent conference! If you attended any of the sessions I missed, I’d enjoy
hearing about them.

The 2007 Florida Historical Society Awards Luncheon

Patricksmithaward_3On Thursday 24 May, the Florida Historical Society (FHS)
presented me with the 2007 Patrick D. Smith Literature Award for Paper Woman at
the annual awards luncheon. I received a medallion (pictured) and a
certificate. Fortunately, the FHS didn’t expect a lengthy acceptance speech. I
was somewhat tongue-tied in my ability to adequately express the honor I feel
at receiving an award for my very first published book, and my joy at being in
the company of so many other award recipients, and my gratitude toward Mr.
Smith -– alas, unable to attend the luncheon due to health concerns.

BelleviewbiltmoreThe Belleview Biltmore Resort, where the ceremony was held,
is located on the west coast of Florida in Clearwater, south of Tampa. It was
built by Henry Plant — Florida pioneer, railroad magnate, competitor of
east-coast railroad magnate Henry Flagler — and first opened in 1897 as a
winter retreat for steel magnates, presidents, tycoons, and industrial barons.
After you walk through the modern lobby, you enter the period portion and can
feel the pre-stock market crash vibes of the resort, from the high ceilings, to
the spacious Tiffany dining room, to the gentlemen’s pub downstairs. The
current lobby was added in the 1990s. However for many decades, guests stepped
off their private railroad cars and walked up steps into another lobby, now a
roomy restaurant, located in the middle of the building. In 1942, the U.S. Army
Air Corps blacked out windows in the Tiffany dining room and housed military
personnel in the hotel. And in 1980, the Belleview Biltmore received a listing
on the National Registry of Historic Places. Ahhh, historic Florida at its
best. If you’re visiting Clearwater, the Belleview Biltmore tour is well worth
your time.

Many thanks to the FHS for honoring me with the Patrick D.
Smith Literature Award!

Next up: the Historical Novel Society conference in Albany,
NY, the weekend of 9 June 2007.

Summer Mystery Reading Challenge

Book reviewer Liz Clifford has created the 2007 Summer Mystery
Reading Challenge

Her goal? To encourage adults to read six mysteries by
authors whose works they haven’t read before between 1 June and 31 August. Each
day during that time, Liz will feature a different novel from among the many
sub-genres in mystery. Readers have the opportunity to win a book from a
drawing each week. They can also discuss the novels with other mystery readers
on Liz’s blog. Plus, anyone who completes the challenge is eligible for a
drawing for an Amazon gift certificate at the end of the summer.

Paper Woman will be featured on Friday 15 June. (Thanks,
Liz!) Visit Liz’s blog, check out the rules, and browse her "Reviews by
Author" column on the right for excellent summer reading ideas. I
look forward to seeing you there!

Midwest Book Review of Paper Woman, May 2007

Christy Tillery French’s review of Paper Woman for the
Midwest Book Review starts its run 1 May. Scroll down a little on the site to find the review, or read it here in full:

Widow Sophie Barton helps her father run his printing press
and tries to stay out of politics in the small town of Alton, GA, which remains
peaceful while redcoats and colonists clash in other parts of the colonies.
Sophie’s father, however, has been acting mysterious and Sophie suspects he has
aligned himself against King George. Although Sophie is being courted by the
major of the British garrison, she isn’t so sure she wants to become his
mistress and move to England with him. When her father’s burned body is
discovered, Sophie is placed under house arrest with orders to decode a secret
message meant for him. She escapes with Mathias, her former lover, and embarks
South, accompanied by her brother and Mathias’s uncle, in hopes of finding the
person who killed her father. Their trip turns into an electrifying journey as they
traverse through Floridian swamps, sail along the Caribbean, and end up in
Havana, Cuba, pursued by the major and his lieutenant, a demented man who
enjoys torturing those who oppose him, as well as two Spanish assassins.

Adair takes her reader on a thrilling adventure with Paper Woman. Packed with action and
breath-taking suspense interwoven around a fascinating time in American
history, with the perfect blend of romance, this is an exhilarating story that
will captivate the reader from beginning to end.

Claudia VanLydegraf also posted a good review of Paper Woman for MyShelf.

Thank you, Christy and Claudia, for the favorable reviews.

Circling the Chairs in Pender County, and the Carolina Conspiracy at Shakespeare & Co.

Between 13 April and 21 April, I’ve driven about a thousand miles
and sold a heap of books. Time for an oil change in the car, and time to cool
my heels awhile. I can sorta imagine how author J.A. Konrath felt last year during his
cross-country, handshaking blitz. Sorta.

In my last blog entry, I reported on my presentation for the
Caswell-Nash chapter of the D.A.R. (13 April) and author panel at Ninety Six’s
Revolutionary War Days event (14 April). On 19 April, I had two engagements
within the Pender County (NC) library system as part of National Library Week:
the first at the Hampstead branch, and the other at the county’s main library
in Burgaw. Many thanks to librarians Marsha
Dees and Nancy Lukens for setting up the events. The events attracted small audiences,
so I went with my instincts: abandoned my prepared presentation, circled the
chairs, and invited attendees ask me questions. They wanted to know about
writing, publishing, reenacting, and where my series is going.

From the enthusiasm expressed by both audiences and the
variety of intelligent questions they posed, it’s clear to me that most people who
come to author appearances really want time to ask authors questions, not to hear authors read from their books. One
reader told me how much more she liked my session than a recent one with
another author because, "All she did was read from her book and answer a
few questions." (Authors, take note.) Not only does "circling the
chairs" provide the opportunity for readers to get to know authors better,
but it gives authors a handle on what their readers enjoy in books. While I
like speaking in front of a big audience, I enjoy the opportunity for that near
one-on-one with readers even more. In the future, I’ll be exploring variations
on the traditional podium author speech so I can find that opportunity to talk
more with readers.

In between those two appearances, I drove to New Hanover
County and popped into Two Sisters Bookery in Wilmington, NC to pick up copies of
Paper Woman that my publisher had left for me. Two Sisters Bookery, a quaint,
independent bookstore, is in the Cotton Exchange in downtown, historic
Wilmington. This was my fourth visit to the historic district, and I enjoy the
lumpy, bumpy streets of old Wilmington every time. Brick streets discourage
driving faster than about 25 mph, but that means you have time to notice how
old the buildings are. Wilmington dates back to the mid-1700s, and dozens
of original buildings and houses have been preserved quite well. The place
oozes history. I look forward to returning over the summer and spending a few
days there while I perform research.

SandcosideShakespeare and Company, another quaint indy bookstore, is
located in Kernersville, NC (between Greensboro and Winston-Salem). Owners Gail
and Wade Behrns have remodeled the upstairs and downstairs of an old house in
the downtown area and placed comfy reading chairs in each room. With plenty of
open space, a pleasant cross-breeze and natural lighting from many open
windows, and espresso and home-baked goodies on-hand, what’s not to like?

Sandcocc01From left to right, Carolina Conspiracy members Suzanne
Adair, Nancy Gotter Gates, Richard Helms, John Staples, Joanne Clarey, and
Lynette Hall Hampton. Lynette started us off with prepared questions before we
answered questions from the audience. Many thanks to Lynette for setting up the
event and also to Wade and Gail for hosting us.

Poe’s Deadly Daughters, the popular group blog of Julia
Buckley, Lonnie Cruse, Sandra Parshall, Sharon Wildwind, and Elizabeth Zelvin,
graciously allowed me to guest-blog on 21 April. Check it out!

Next up: I travel to Clearwater, FL to receive the Patrick
D. Smith award on 24 May from the Florida Historical Society. Huzzah!

The Caswell-Nash Chapter of the DAR, and Revolutionary War Days 2007 at Ninety Six

On Friday 13 April, I received the opportunity to speak
before the Caswell-Nash chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution
(DAR) in Raleigh at the chapter’s monthly luncheon. My topic was how so-called
"non-traditional" women of the eighteenth century and Revolutionary
War weren’t so uncommon after all. As a whole, Georgian-era women weren’t
confined to domesticity like their Victorian sisters but mastered many professions
and trades such as astronomy, blacksmithing, brewing, coach making,
gunsmithing, lighthouse management, mathematics, printing, scouting,
shoemaking, tanning, and upholstery. There’s sagacity behind that bumper
sticker that reads, "Well-behaved women seldom make history," so I
postulated that most members of the Caswell-Nash chapter had
not-so-traditional, not-so-well-behaved female ancestors. Otherwise they
wouldn’t be members of the DAR today. Many thanks to the chapter for its
elegant hospitality. I enjoyed the intelligent questions and audience
discussion. Ladies, are you absolutely certain you don’t want me to bring my
redcoat with his musket and bayonet next time?

Ninety Six, SC figured in altercations between settlers and
Cherokee Indians in the 1750s. During the Revolutionary War, two battles were
fought there. The second battle, in June 1781, unfolded when the forces of
Loyalist commander Lt. Colonel John Harris Cruger were besieged by the forces
of Continental General Nathanael Greene at the star-shaped fort and stockade.
While Greene’s engineers attempted to tunnel to the fort, Cruger received
supplies and communications via trenches. The approach of Lord Francis Rawdon’s
reinforcements sent Greene into retreat. Battling beneath a Carolina summer sun
was no one’s idea of fun, and Lord Rawdon had brought British regulars with
him, not just militia.

As usual, Chief Ranger Eric Williams and the rangers at
Ninety Six National Historic Site put on a great show for the annual
Revolutionary War Days living history event the weekend of 14-15 April.
Although no battle reenactment occurs at this event, visitors witness plenty of
weapons and artillery firings from reenactors. Living history-only events tend
to set a less hectic pace for everyone involved, allowing spectators to meander
and learn more and reenactors to relax. So spectators enjoyed an impersonation
of Lt. Colonel Cruger at the Star Fort, learned about the everyday life skills
of early settlers, listened to performers of period music and theatrics, and
watched artisans at work. There were battlefield tours and activities for

I was one of four women authors to give talks and/or
participate in an author forum. Sheila Ingle (Courageous Kate), Leslie
Sackrison (Awesome Women), and Dr. Christine Swager (White Crows and Black
et al.) also participated. Traditionally, the Revolutionary War has
been chronicled by men. When women talk about this war, however, a different
story emerges. In 2000, only Chris Swager was published. Now there are four of
us, and we’re in the forefront of a huge movement to redefine the roles of
women in history. Very exciting! Thanks to the rangers at Ninety Six for the
opportunity to participate in the event.

Next up: author appearances for National Library Week at the
libraries in Hampstead, NC and Burgaw, NC on 19 April; and a booksigning with
the Carolina Conspiracy at Shakespeare and Company 21 April in Kernersville,

Paper Woman Wins the 2007 Patrick D. Smith Literature Award

I’ve been busy proofing The Blacksmith’s Daughter for
publication this fall. Lo and behold, in my email in-box today, I found a
congratulatory message from the executive director of the Florida Historical
. Paper Woman has won the 2007 Patrick D. Smith Literature Award. What
an honor!

Patrick D. Smith’s novels such as A Land Remembered have
stimulated greater interest in the literature of Florida. The award is open to
authors and presses for a book of fiction on a Florida history topic published
during the calendar year Jan.1-Dec. 31 preceding the award.

This year, the Belleview Biltmore Resort in Clearwater,
Florida hosts the annual meeting of the Florida Historical Society. I will
receive the award at the luncheon on May 24.

By the way, Liz Clifford recently posted a good review of Paper Woman. Click on "Suzanne Adair" in the right column ("Reviews By Author"). She also posted the review to Thanks, Liz.