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?

A Few of My Favorite Things: Holiday Edition

One more holiday-themed post before we get back to the regular programming. Here on Deep-Fried Friday, I like making lists. Top 10 Lists. So “raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens,” yada-yada-yada . . . a few of my favorite things around the holidays:

10. Nutcrackers. I don’t even own a nutcracker, although I wish someone would get me one already. But I love seeing all of the variations of the wooden nutcrackers around the holidays. (This does not mean that I like that ballet, however. I never really understood that story.)

pic from http://www.nutcrackermania.com

 9. Wassail. I love this hot spice-laden beverage that warms your whole body throughout. I have never made the mulled punch myself, although I think I should give Christine Ashworth’s mulled wine a try too.

pic from http://www.tasteofhome.com

8. Christmas Lights Reflected in Water. I enjoy Christmas lights around town and in my neighborhood. But growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, I loved when people strung lights on their boats at the T-heads (harbor).

I also delighted in seeing the lights on the San Antonio Riverwalk – which are always lit in a celebration the day after Thanksgiving.

There is something not only about the bright lights, but the way they reflect upon the water that moves me. Now I may to take a trip to Kemah or Galveston to check out the lights there.

7. Hallelujah Chorus. I was in my high school choir, and we had a tradition of singing The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah at the end of every Christmas concert. Alumni were invited to come up and join in, if you could still reach all of those notes somehow. I find the lyrics and music uplifting. If the song ever comes on, I sing with it at the top of my lungs. Watch out, people!

Here’s an interesting version:

6. Holiday Parties. I know that some of them are obligatory. But they can also be quite fun! I’ve attended some great get-togethers over the years – from office parties to Christmas progressive dinners to my personal favorite, a New Year’s Eve fondue party. There is a festive spirit at such gatherings, with Christmas carols in the background, decorations all around, yummy food, and a chance to connect socially.

5. My kids’ excitement. Yes, this ranks somewhere in the middle. On one hand, it’s so much more fun to have Santa Claus and Christmas with a wide-eyed 6 – or even 14 – year old in your house! However, children are by nature impatient little creatures. They count down the Advent calendar like it’s a NASA liftoff. And to them, I suppose it does feel a bit explosive when the day finally arrives. Still, seeing the holiday season through children’s eyes gives it a sense of wonder that I hadn’t felt since . . . well, since I was a child.

Not my kid, but ain't she cute?

4. Christmas Carols. Beyond Hallelujah Chorus, there is a slew of great music out there for the holidays. Personally, I like the more traditional stuff best: Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas, Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside, and literally anything by Dean Martin. But there is also room in my playlist for such great songs like The Carpenters’ Merry Christmas, Darling, Harry Connick Jr.’s What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve, Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Cynthia Basinet’s Santa Baby, and the recent She & Him version of The Christmas Waltz. My favorite Christmas carol, however, is O Holy Night, and I love the rendition by Martina McBride. Here’s an acapella version from McBride on Opry Live. Wow.

3. Hubby Off Work. My husband usually gets several days off work at the end of the year. It’s a nice change to have him around, and we get quality time with our kids and with each other. I’d post a picture of the hunky hubs here, but I’m saving it for Roni Loren’s Boyfriend of the Week someday. 😉

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Although I liken myself to the Grinch at times during the holiday season, every December I aspire to be more like Linus in understanding the true meaning of Christmas. I love the whole show written by the brilliant Charles M. Schulz, but this monologue is the best part:

1. Friends and Family. I am blessed to have wonderful people in my life, and that number has grown in this year of blogging, tweeting, and meeting fellow authors. I have also reconnected with high school and college friends in the last few years. My circle is growing, and it includes some amazing people.

There are some who dread this time of year because it reminds them of their loneliness. I hope that we can reach out to our loved ones and to others and treasure them more than the gifts we receive this season.

Your turn: What are a few of your favorite things over the holidays?