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?

Catie Rhodes & Texas, the Rich Setting of Forever Road

It’s Scarlet Thread Sunday, when I share a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. Today, however, I used my thread to tug Catie Rhodes over to the blog to tell us about her paranormal mystery, FOREVER ROAD.

First, here’s the book blurb:

Seeing ghosts is rough, but owing a ghost a favor flat out sucks.

Forever Road Cover My name’s Peri Jean Mace, and I’ve seen ghosts ever since I can remember. Don’t get too excited. Seeing across the veil branded me as a loony during my growing up years, and I learned to keep my yap shut about it. 

Now I’m not sure I can anymore. 

 See, my cousin up and got herself killed the very same day I promised her a favor.  Now she’s back in spirit form and determined to make me pay. If I don’t solve her murder, she’s going to haunt me forever. Talk about the debt collector from hell. 

That’s not my only problem. An obnoxiously hot cop wants to arrest my best friend for the murder.  My bigmouthed archenemy holds a clue to the killer’s identity. And there’s this mean—and ugly—woman who wants to beat me up. 

None of this can turn out good. 

Buy now at Amazon.com

Catie and I became friends online, but eventually discovered that we don’t live terribly far from one another. Thus, Catie has become a face-to-face friend as well. When I received an advanced copy of her book, I confess that I really wanted it to be good. (What do you do if a good friend writes a book and you don’t like it?)

I needn’t have worried. FOREVER ROAD is well-worth your time! An awesome debut novel. One thing stood out to me as I read–how Catie’s description of the East Texas setting and its people added depth to the novel. So I asked Catie to chat with us about her love of the Lone Star State.

***

Thanks for having me, Julie. I’ve been looking forward to joining you for some greasy deep-fried food stimulating conversation for quite some time. Thanks for inviting me to talk about one of my pet subjects—Texas.

Before I get into my version of a Travel Tex commercial, let me explain why we’re talking about Texas. When I sat down to write FOREVER ROAD, I created a fictional East Texas town called Gaslight City. I spent hours figuring out the geography of this town. By the time I wrote about it, the place seemed real to me. That’s why Julie invited me to explain why I set my book in Texas.

I am fond of saying Texas is in my blood, in my bones…and it is.

My family has been in Texas a very long time.  One of my many-greats-grandfather’s name appears on musters from the Texas Revolution. He was John C. Gallion (listed on the musters of the Northeast Beat as J.C. Galion). My father’s side of the family is descended from John C. Gallion’s daughter Ellen.

My Thornton ancestors, on my mothers side of the family, came to Texas by covered wagon in the 1850s. James D. Thornton and his wife Princess Clarky Ann Tullos (a Native American) settled in Trinity County, Texas. Their descendants still live on the land James and Clarky settled all those years ago.

The people from whom I am descended came to Texas for opportunity, to secure a better future. They survived obstacles unimaginable to a generation who is lost without high speed internet. Texas was a frontier when my ancestors came here. It was either sink or swim. Whatever happened, help was not coming. In spite of adversity, wars, and poverty, my ancestors survived well enough that I’m here telling y’all where I came from.

To me, that’s what Texas is all about. It’s about working hard and taking chances to achieve dreams. It’s about independence and individuality. It’s about never giving up in the face of adversity.

There is one famous Texan who best expressed this sentiment. Surrounded by the Mexican Army at the Alamo, William B. Travis wrote

“I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna—I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man—The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken—I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls—I shall never surrender or retreat…”

Travis’s resolve never fails to inspire me. His words encourage me to keep going through adversity, doubt, and fear. There is no way I can be more afraid than he must have been as he faced the last days of his life.  But even facing certain death, Travis reacted with dignity and faith. And defiance.

I like to think we all have our place in the world, and Texas is mine. To repeat myself: this land is in my blood, in my bones…and even in the sweat of my effort. That’s why I write about Texas.

I hope some of you will check out FOREVER ROAD.  It is a mystery featuring ghosts, but it is ultimately about surviving life’s curveballs and having the inner strength to keep going anyway…in small town East Texas.

Catie Rhodes PhotoCatie Rhodes decided to turn her love of lying into writing fiction after she got fired for telling her boss the President was on the phone. It didn’t take Catie long to figure out what she wanted to do when she grew up. Drawing on her East Texas roots, her love of true crime, and her love of the paranormal, she writes the kind of stories she wishes the book stores sold. With her faithful Pomeranian, Cosmo, at her side, Catie relishes being that kid your mother warned you about, the one who cusses and never washes her hands after petting the dog.

Find Catie Online:

Long Roads and Dark Ends Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

***

Thanks to Catie for coming by! You can also see my review of FOREVER ROAD on Amazon or Goodreads.

Buy FOREVER ROAD now at Amazon.com

Feel free to ask Catie or me any questions about FOREVER ROAD, Texas, ghosts, whatever in the comments.

ROW80 goals met: Wrote 9430 words on YA mystery; finished Margie Lawson’s course on Writing Body Language; exercised twice this week.

Tips for Talking Texan

It’s Amaze-ing Words Wednesday again! It’s also conference season, and many writers are busy preparing for their trip, classes, pitches, or table-dancing performance. Since we’ll have some non-Texans attending the DFW Writers’ Conference, I thought it was a good time to re-run a post from May of last year. In case you’ll be in the Lone Star State anytime soon, or you just want to decipher want the heck we’re all saying down here, here are my Tips for Talking Texan.

In a prior post, I said that I enjoy mimicking accents, though I am not fluent in any foreign languages.  But I should qualify that some people think my native tongue of Texan is a foreign language.  In fact, an ad for the Texas Tourism Bureau has had a slogan for years to promote travel to the Lone Star state:  “It’s like a whole other country.”

Now I don’t believe I have a strong drawl and, with concentration, I can eliminate it from my speech almost entirely.  But put me in a herd of fellow born-and-bred Texans or get me super-excited about something, and I twang like a dueling banjo.  If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to speak Texan, here are a few pointers from me:

1.  Take It Easy.  First of all, Hollywood totally overdoes it.  DO NOT try to sound like J.R. from Dallas.  If you do, you should get shot.

2.  Use Y’all.  The proper plural of “you” is “y’all.”  It’s the perfect contraction of “you” and “all,” which comes in handy when distinguishing a single Dallas Cowboy cheerleader from the whole scantily-clad cheer squad or one particular misbehaving child from the group of rambunctious hellions.

3.  Be polite.  Our language is infused with Southern courtesy and superfluous manners.  I was downright flummoxed by Senator Barbara Boxer getting her granny panties in a wad over a Brigadier General Michael Walsh calling her “ma’am.”  That’s a compliment and a sign of respect down here.  My children had better not say to some teacher, “Yeah”; they are expected to answer, “Yes, ma’am.”

This goes along with other seemingly over-the-top courtesies, like saying “Hi” or “Howdy” to people you don’t know (you can’t walk the Texas A&M campus without being greeted that way); having a store clerk invite you to “Come back” – meaning you should return to shop sometime in the future, not turn around because you’re being accused of shoplifting; and waving at drivers in other cars if they allow you to pull ahead or pass (okay, that’s not spoken language, but it is communication).

4.  Tex-Mex It.  Throw in words borrowed from Spanish.  Texas has, after all, been under Six Flags in its history – one-third of those being Spanish-speaking nations (Spain and Mexico).  We also have a wonderful population of citizens with Hispanic, or Latino if you prefer, heritage –many of whom are bilingual.  And we sure do like our Tex-Mex food.  (You would too!)  Try out a few like Spanish words like these:  “Everything” becomes “the whole enchilada.”  “Goodbye” is “Adios, muchachos.”  And “Stop parking on your lawn like a hillbilly!” becomes “Loco!”

5.  Channel your Inner Texan.  Mostly though, what you need to remember is to spread your mouth wide, add a syllable or two when there is a long vowel (“lamb” becomes “lā-ă-ĕmb”), and channel your inner Dixie Chick. 

Lyle Lovett, a native, has a great song called That’s Right, You’re Not from Texas, with the next lyrics being “but Texas wants you anyway.”  We’re happy to have anybody identify themselves with the Lone Star State, so take this opportunity to practice a down-south drawl and be an Honorary Texan for a spell. 

Meanwhile, I enjoy hearing accents from all the regions of our union.  Where are you from?  Do you have a strong accent or not?  What are the particular idiosyncrasies of your area’s rendering of English?

Wednesday Words: Talking Texan

In a prior post, I said that I enjoy mimicking accents, though I am not fluent in any foreign languages.  But I should qualify that some people think my native tongue of Texan is a foreign language.  In fact, an ad for the Texas Tourism Bureau has had a slogan for years to promote travel to the Lone Star state:  “It’s like a whole other country.”

Now I don’t believe I have a strong drawl and, with concentration, I can eliminate it from my speech almost entirely.  But put me in a herd of fellow born-and-bred Texans or get me super-excited about something, and I twang like a dueling banjo.  If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to speak Texan, here are a few pointers from me:

1.  Take It Easy.  First of all, Hollywood totally overdoes it.  DO NOT try to sound like J.R. from Dallas.  If you do, you should get shot.

2.  Use Y’all.  The proper plural of “you” is “y’all.”  It’s the perfect contraction of “you” and “all,” which comes in handy when distinguishing a single Dallas Cowboy cheerleader from the whole scantily-clad cheer squad or one particular misbehaving child from the group of rambunctious hellions.

3.  Be polite.  Our language is infused with Southern courtesy and superfluous manners.  I was downright flummoxed by Senator Barbara Boxer getting her granny panties in a wad over a Brigadier General Michael Walsh calling her “ma’am.”  That’s a compliment and a sign of respect down here!  My children had better not say to some teacher, “Yeah!”; they are expected to answer, “Yes, ma’am!”

This goes along with other seemingly over-the-top courtesies, like saying “Hi” or “Howdy” to people you don’t know (you can’t walk the Texas A&M campus without being greeted that way); having a store clerk invite you to “Come back!” – meaning you should return to shop sometime in the future, not turn around because you’re being accused of shoplifting; and waving at drivers in other cars if they allow you to pull ahead or pass (okay, that’s not spoken language, but it is communication).

4.  Tex-Mex It.  Throw in words borrowed from Spanish.  Texas has, after all, been under Six Flags in its history – one-third of those being Spanish-speaking nations (Spain and Mexico).  We also have a wonderful population of citizens with Hispanic, or Latino if you prefer, heritage –many of whom are bilingual.  And we sure do like our Tex-Mex food.  (You would too!)  Try out a few like Spanish words like these:  “Everything” becomes “the whole enchilada.”  “Goodbye” is “Adios, muchachos.”  And “Stop parking on your lawn like a hillbilly!” becomes “Loco!”

5.  Channel your Inner Texan.  Mostly though, what you need to remember is to spread your mouth wide, add a syllable or two when there is a long vowel (“lamb” becomes “lā-ă-ĕmb”), and channel your inner Dixie Chick. 

Lyle Lovett, a native, has a great song called That’s Right, You’re Not from Texas, with the next lyrics being “but Texas wants you anyway.”  We’re happy to have anybody identify themselves with the Lone Star State, so take this opportunity to practice a down-south drawl and be an Honorary Texan for a spell. 

Meanwhile, I enjoy hearing accents from all the regions of our union.  Where are you from?  Do you have a strong accent or not?  What are the particular idiosyncrasies of your area’s rendering of English?