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The cold struck on Friday, September 21st. “Shit,” I muttered while staring at my laptop but then, in what I like to think of as my ‘cup half full’ approach to life, I told myself it would be over in a week, hardly likely to affect my attendance at the Historical Novel Society conference in London. Might need some cough lozenges and hand sanitizer – the lozenges so I could listen and talk without too much hacking, the hand sanitizer so I wouldn’t infect any fellow writers, members of the publishing industry or historical fiction enthusiasts.

I was, as some of you readers might recall, scheduled to talk about the historical fiction survey at the conference.

The flu struck on Tuesday, September 25th. I spent most of that day and all day Wednesday dozing on and off, eating nothing and, on the advice of Jenny Barden (Conference Coordinator and programme director) and my mother, drinking hot water infused with lemon and honey. To no avail.

On Thursday morning, I admitted defeat. This gal was not going to fly across the Atlantic Thursday night, I could barely think straight or keep anything down let alone pack, get myself to the airport and endure ten or more hours of travel. Jenny was amazing. My fellow panelists, Justin Neville, Emma Darwin and Harry Sidebottom, agreed to look after the session and I returned to bed.Β This ranks as my biggest disappointment of 2012.

But that’s not the end of the story.

In the tradition of compelling historical fiction, where disaster strikes from unexpected quarters, knights in shining armour ride to the rescue and princesses remain the hidden power, the following unfolded.

  • I sent my speaking notes to Justin but given the feeble state of my brain, did not copy Emma, Harry or Jenny.
  • Saturday morning, Justin was in a car accident on the way to the conference. Very good news – Justin was not hurt.
  • Harry brought an earlier version of my agenda to the breakout session.
  • Emma brought a copy of my survey results.
  • Emma and Harry carried the day – or as Emma said, “we busked it”.

Drama and serendipity – a noteworthy combination. I offer grateful thanks to all involved.