When we heard about an upcoming Romance Writer/Reader Conference in our home town of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, fellow gay romance author, Nathan Burgoine, and I exchanged several Facebook messages back and forth deciding whether or not to attempt to break into a largely hetero-normative romance arena. It didn’t take us long to decide to team up and register, requesting a joint table at the book fair which organizer Eve Langlais was great about granting us.
I’m used to marketing my books to the kinky leather/fetish community here in Ottawa, so was rather intimidated about bringing my particular brand of erotica to the conference. But if my writing journey has taught me anything at all, it is to avoid making assumptions and just put myself out there.
So, bright and early on Friday morning, after throwing together school lunches for my two kids and charging my husband to get them off to school before he went to work, I picked up Nathan for the drive to Kanata. His wonderful husband, Dan, was kind enough to map out a route that would avoid the morning rush hour traffic and for that I am immeasurably grateful! We pulled into the hotel parking lot at exactly 8:59 after a 25 minute journey which could easily have been 45 or 50 minutes if we’d gone a different way. Nathan was a wonderful driving companion, metaphorically holding my hand as I maneuvered the Queensway for the first time in about five years. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered but I did stay in the slow lane driving right at the 100km/hour speed limit.
When we arrived at the hotel we quickly found the conference on the second floor, met Eve, received our badges and gigantic swag bags, then quickly decided to sit in on the Historical Romance panel before we were due for our own panel on LGBT romance in the same room. It was great fun to listen to authors Tina Christopher, Claire Delacroix, Reece Butler and Sharon Page discuss the techniques and complexities of writing historical romance. Their casual and relaxed comportment put me at ease and made my upcoming appearance on a panel seem less intimidating. Plus there was Tina’s totally awesome steampunk costume and her lovely British accent which made me feel at home (my father hails from London, England).
Next, we were up. I grabbed a glass of water and sat at the table with my buddy Nathan and the delightful Kayleigh Malcolm. We hadn’t even designated a moderator so I bumbled through an ad hoc introduction, forgetting to say who we all were. Luckily my co-panelists reminded me and we each introduced ourselves. After that it’s a bit of a blur. I do remember Kayleigh’s quick wit and Nathan’s wonderful description of the bizarre controversy between MM romance and Gay literature. As a woman who writes gay erotica I appreciate his inclusive views on the matter. I remember that our audience wasn’t shy about asking questions and I felt relatively comfortable speaking about writing graphic BDSM erotica about gay men.
Our allotted time passed quickly and when it was over, both Nathan and I were starving and thirsty so we decided to have lunch at Milestones. We had a lovely chat and parted, Nathan to return to the conference and me to return to my home in south Ottawa. I had worked on Wednesday and Thursday evening so wanted to be at home for my kids and husband that evening, even though I had to miss out on the dinner and dance at RTC.
Saturday morning I headed out to Kanata, again hitting light traffic and making it in about a half hour. I had hoped to get there in time for the start of Nathan’s event, Same Love, Same Romance, but had to sneak in halfway through. I came to provide moral support but it turned out he didn’t need it. He was surrounded by supportive women – readers and authors – who listened intently to his take on writing good gay romance and those aspects that do make it somewhat different from straight romance even though the main love story is the same.
I had to leave before it had finished in order to attend my next event. I found the Algonquin ballroom in time for Kali Willows‘ Speed Date an Author. I had signed up for this because it seemed an exercise in brilliance to think of setting up an author meet and greet like a speed dating event. It proved to be just that once things got organized and readers started rotating along a line of thirty or more authors. Because of the small size of the room compared to the amount of humanity inside it, the din was enormous and we had to shout to be heard, but it was nonetheless very rewarding to be able to describe my books to so many different readers in such a short time period! And kudos to those readers who concealed their shock when I told them I basically write romantic BDSM porn about gay men. I could tell that some were not entirely comfortable with this subject matter, but everyone was very gracious about it. Luckily I had the Ottawa setting to discuss as a fall back to put my companions at ease.
I was extremely surprised but pleased by the number of people who praised the covers of the books in The James Lucas Trilogy. One of my main goals in writing this series was to present, as accurately as possible, the story of three kinky gay men navigating an alternative poly relationship. To be able to have on the covers an actual kinky gay leather man who resides in Ottawa, the series’ setting, is a dream come true. Mr. Michael Tattersall, Mr. Leather Ottawa 2010, was kind enough to pose for three local photographers (Fernando Farfan, Stéphanie Amesse, Paul Thompson) on three different occasions in order to fulfill my desire 🙂 He is as kind and compassionate in person as he is smoking hot sexy on the covers.
After the speed dating, I was lucky enough to find Ellie Macdonald sitting in the hotel restaurant and she graciously allowed me to join her. While we ate we discussed Jane Austen and period romance which is what Ellie specializes in. We spoke about how to put a new, original spin on a common theme and from what Ellie was saying, it looks like she’s done just that. I look forward to checking out her books!
After lunch, I wandered back upstairs only to find my friend Nathan again surrounded by adoring women. These included Reece Butler and Kadian Tracy who were in the midst of a heated discussion of cleavage or lack thereof which was hilarious and apparently quite informative to our resident gay author. I could tell that Nathan had found his way into the hearts of these women with his humble disposition and clever wit.
Soon it was time to set up for the book fair. Nathan had his books and materials with him already so we stashed those and he kindly offered to accompany me to my car and help carry my stuff. Honestly, I’m so used to my husband doing these things for me and hadn’t expected anyone else to offer. I was really touched. I know my husband would have been right there helping me if he didn’t have our two kids to look after back in Ottawa. And to tell you the truth, I’d kind of made fun of how enormous the green swag bags were the day before, but boy did mine come in handy when I needed to transport a box of books and other things!
Since Nathan has done this a few times before and also worked in a bookstore for many years, he set up his side of our table with finesse. I struggled a bit more with my display but he kindly gave me some advice which I was happy to take. It was very satisfying to be able to line up all three books from The James Lucas Trilogy on the table in front of me. I was also extremely honoured when bestselling author Opal Carew actually sought me out to say hi. We know each other through a mutual friend and in fact it was Opal who indirectly inspired me to begin writing erotica for publication. Nathan and I were a bit astonished at the amount of books and swag at many of the other tables but decided we weren’t here to compete with anyone and settled in to have a great time.
The book fair was extremely well attended by both registered participants and the public. Nothing quite prepared me for the joy I felt when two separate people gathered up all three books from my trilogy for purchase! I also sold a few copies of Beyond the Edge (book 1) and The Cross and the Trinity (book 2). Nathan had a lineup at his side of our table a few times and sold out of almost everything. I call that a smashing success!
Nathan and I were thrilled to be able to bring a different kind of romance to RTC 2015 and will definitely be back for RTC 2016! We were both very pleased with the fact that nobody had anything negative to say about gay romance/erotica except that it wasn’t their particular cup of tea while many were extremely enthusiastic about it.
And next year I’m staying overnight in the hotel so I can party with you all.
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