Coming to #RWA14? 6 Quick Tips from a Texan

I leave the Houston area tomorrow to travel to San Antonio for the national conference hosted by Romance Writers of America (RWA). Much to my satisfaction, we’ll be gathering on the San Antone Riverwalk — a fabulous location to get a glimpse of Texas.

Riverwalk photo
By Zereshk, via Wikimedia Commons

Since many writers, agents, and presenters will be coming from other states around the country, I thought I’d throw out a few practical things non-residents might want to know.

1. Yes, it’s blazing hot. Now I personally don’t balk at 90°-degree weather. Being a native Texan, that only strikes me as warm weather. But hey, we like to crank it up even higher, to ridiculous temps like the 97° to 100° Fahrenheit predicted for the next five days. Add in 75% humidity, and you’ve got a nice little heat wave happening in San Antonio.

So pack light — as in light clothing that will be comfortable in the heat. Remember that looser, thinner clothing, like a sundress or linen pants, will allow for air flow and comfort more than a pair of jean shorts and a cotton tee. And flip-flops are standard attire.

2. We air-condition. Don’t forget the jacket or sweater, though. Every building you enter will have air conditioning, almost always central A/C. So just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean it’s hot inside. If you’re prone to getting cold, you’ll like want something to layer on top of your summer outfit while sitting in a workshop or standing in a book line. Grab the jacket, sweater, shrug, pashmina, or whatever, but be prepared that it could feel cool inside.

3. Tex-Mex is its own cuisine. I’ve had New-Mex and Cal-Mex and down-in-Mexico-Mex, and they are all different. If you’ve had an enchilada in New Mexico, it won’t be made the same in Texas. So if you decide to give San Antonio’s Mexican cuisine a try, go ahead and ask questions about what things are. Ask how spicy a particular sauce will be or what ingredients are put in a dish. We love our Tex-Mex, and we hope you will too, so we’re happy to answer any questions and help you order something you’ll enjoy. And we won’t even make fun if you, as one Boston friend of mine did, mispronounce jalapeño (it’s ha-la-peen-yo, not jah-lah-pen-oh).

4. The Alamo is not big. Yes, I know everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas, and it mostly is. But people often see a movie based on the Alamo and then expect to see a large Spanish mission and surrounding grounds. In fact, most of the original Alamo fort is gone. The facade and courtyard remain, but the Alamo’s land is now filled with downtown buildings. The Alamo is still worth visiting and a very interesting historical site, but know ahead of time that it isn’t big. If you want a more complete look at mission life, check out the Mission Trail, which includes Missions San José, Concepción, San Juan Capistrano, and Espada.

5. We don’t all have accents. It’s a pet peeve of mine when movies and TV shows have a Texan character, and they immediately shove a fake drawl onto the poor, unsuspecting actor. We don’t all have overly pronounced accents. Now of course you can tell that I’m from Texas by the way I speak, but I don’t talk like J.R. from Dallas. And frankly, few of us sound super-country.

So you won’t need a translator! 😉 But you might want a primer on the use of the word y’all. It’s the quintessential form of the plural you. There’s youy’all (more than one), and all y’all (a crowd). You might hear when leaving a store, “Come back, y’all!” — which isn’t a call to turn around right then and there, but simply a courteous you’re-welcome-back-anytime for you and all those you’re with.

6. Buy a pair of cowboy boots while you’re here. My own confession is that I didn’t own a single pair of boots until I passed age 40. I wasn’t really a cowgirl, so I didn’t see the point. But now I’m 100% sold on the idea. If you’re interested and you’ve been waffling about making that purchasing decision, let me assure that we Texans don’t just wear boots for the look — boots are actually very comfortable and sturdy footwear, not to mention that there are many be-you-tiful choices these days.

Lucchese boots
Lucchese boots, made in Texas

Find a Western wear store while here and grab a pair of Justins for a workhorse boot, a pair of Ariats for comfort, maybe Corral for some fun looks, or go whole hog and grab some gorgeous Lucchese (pronunced loo-kay-see) boots. Don’t freak out about the $100 or up price tag: You’ll be wearing those boots for a long time to come. Boots can be resoled again and again and last many, many years. My husband has a pair of boots older than our teenage children.

2014 RWA logoThat’s not much, but it’s a few things you might not have known before — or wanted a reminder about. If you’re looking for a good packing list, see Jami Gold’s Ultimate #RWA14 Conference Packing List and for more details on San Antonio, check out the new RWA 14 App.

What tips would you give for traveling to #RWA14? What other tidbits about Texas or San Antonio do you want to share? Or what questions can I (a born-and-bred Texan) answer for you?

Losing a Pet and ROW80

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. This post is shorter than usual, since I’m mostly on blogging vacation.

Last week I found out that one of our cats had advanced kidney disease. He had reached the point of not eating much, moving very little, and even stumbling. There was little we could do for him, and the most compassionate choice was putting him down.

So we did. My husband and I stood nearby in the vet’s office and petted him as he passed peacefully.

So what have I learned? Well, this is the second time we’ve had to put a cat down, and the fifth time I’ve lost a pet. Yet as hard as it is to care for pets and then lose them, it’s been worth it to me. I experience a better life and become a better person by caring for others, even furry others.

So rest in peace, Hermes. You were a good cat…and a great mouser.

Hermes the cat

One final note: When I posted about my loss on Facebook and Twitter, the outpouring from the writer community was beautiful. My thanks to all who graciously expressed their sympathy and well-wishes.

ROW80 Update

As you can imagine, two days were pretty much blown from taking our cat to the vet, then putting him down and grieving his loss. I also visited family and friends on a couple of days last week, so my report is pretty light.

1. Edit/rewrite SHARING HUNTER, a YA contemporary novel. No more progress.

2. Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Finished earlier.

3. Read 10 fiction books: Six so farWhite CatRed Gloveand Black Heart by Holly Black; Firelands by Piper Bayard; Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth Essex; and Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb. I’m currently re-reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams with my son and starting The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi today.

4. Finish craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. (I read the first half last round.) Typed up a lot of notes. This is a great craft book, by the way. I am on track to finish the book before the round is up.

5. Visit and comment on five ROW80 blog posts per week. Half-done.

6. Attend at least one RWA meeting. Attended West Houston RWA meeting yesterday, where I heard from a panel of local booksellers.

Do you have pets? Have you ever lost a pet? Have you ever had to put a pet down? Do you think your life has been richer in some way because of a pet?