I write lesbian romance in equestrian settings. It’s sort of my trademark. I’m also from the South and it shows in my accent and my stories.
So, it seemed appropriate that I should pull on my boots and hop an airplane (actually several) for a little Southwest tour where boots and horses are abundant, and everybody speaks Southern.
I expected to visit with good friends, meet new friends and spread the word about the stories I write. I didn’t expect the treasures I found along the way to remember each leg of my tour of the Soutwest.
I started in Oklahoma (makes you want just want to sing, doesn’t it?) with the Tulsa Lesbian Book Club. The club’s organizer Heather Hartman, her partner and her litter of canine children were wonderful hosts. Before the club met, Heather treated me to margaritas and awesome guacamole at a local cafe. Her club members asked great questions and bought up all the books I’d been able to stuff in my backpack. Even better, we went out for real Texas barbecue (first time I’ve had brisket) and they all came with us. That was so much fun.
The book club met at the Tulsa LGBT Center and Heather gave me the nickel tour. I was impressed with their programs for HIV testing and a workshop on Coming Out. I’m sure my coming out would have been smoother if I’d attended a how-to workshop before hand instead of just blurting it out at the dinner table. The center’s facilities included a clinic, meeting rooms, a huge room where you could hold dances or yoga classes and a gallery where they displayed the work of local LGBT artists.
The gallery was where I lingered. You see, I’m a fool for southwestern art and pottery. It’s a good thing I sold books, because I turned around and spent the money on a great piece of pottery I found there. Now, every time I walk into my living room, I’ll see it (the piece in the foreground) and remember what a great time I had in Tulsa.
An aside: Heather is training Jenny, a beautiful yellow labrador, to assist a handicapped person. I felt like I was in a beer commercial when Jenny opened the fridge and retrieved a bottle of water for Heather. And, I had to laugh when Jenny brought Heather’s slippers to her while we ate breakfast. Seems they had left the closet door open. Later in the week when I was visiting Carsen Taite and her partner Lainey, Carsen said Jenny did the same for them when she visited the Tulsa Book Club and they stayed at Heather’s house. Only Jenny brought their shoes and gave the correct shoes to the correct person. (I’m going to resist a joke here about matching smelly shoes to certain feet.)
I flew from Tulsa to Dallas and indulged my late mid-life crisis by renting a really sweet ride – a Mustang convertible – to drive just south of Tyler, Texas, to spend a few days with my editor and friend Shelley Thrasher and her partner, Connie Ward. They have a beautiful house, a parrot, a sweet Boston Terrier and the cutest Pomeranian puppy in the world. We had a wonderful visit. I set up their printer/fax that had been sitting in the box for a year because Connie hates to read directions. They took me to the weekly “tea” at their friend Troy’s house for a lively discussion among a diverse group of people.
I found my second treasure at Troy’s house. Although I drink coffee, tea is frequently my preference. My usual favorites are Plantation Mint and Chai. Troy, however, introduced me to White Tea. The tea was great, but I was fascinated by his “tea blossom” that opened as it steeped in hot water. I’d never seen one, so I had to bring some home. To indulge me, Connie stopped at an upscale grocery and I spent $10 on peach tea blossoms. Thankfully, the TSA knew about tea blossoms and didn’t try to detain me for transporting Texas-sized marijuana buds.
On Friday, we hopped in our cars and headed down to Austin for the Lone Star LesFic Festival. What an event! Besides myself and Shelley, we met up with Bold Strokes Books authors Ali Vali, Carsen Taite, V.K. Powell, Julie Cannon, Clifford Henderson and Melissa Brayton. BSB gay author Russ Gregory also joined us for dinner that night. Stacia Seaman and her partner, Bella author Reese Szymanski, joined us on Saturday.
My third treasure arrived with Ali Vali. When she and her partner, Caroline, were Christmas shopping, they spotted a great piece of metal work art. Ali said they fell in love with it and Caroline asked, “Who do we know that loves horses.” Ali replied, “I know just the person.” They didn’t buy it that day, but when she found out we both were going to be at the Austin event, she went back to where they had seen the horse art. “If it was still there, I knew it was supposed to be,” she told me. It was and she threw it in the back seat to drive it up to Austin. I love it – especially since it came from one of my very favorite writers – and hung it as soon as I got home.
The Lone Star LesFic Festival was a huge success. It was wonderful to spend the day with other writers and, best of all, the people who read our stories. I finally got to meet in person: R.E. Bradshaw, Carrie Carr, Jeanne Magill, Nat Burns and Linda Crist. I also met Ann McMan, a fellow North Carolinian, and Salem West, the Rainbow Reader. There were more, but my brain was on overload trying to match the faces with already familiar names. It was an amazing day.
The event was held at Nature’s Treasures. It’s a huge store of gifts and awesome rocks. I picked out a few interesting items to take to my rock-loving friend, Joanie, when I visit her and her partner, BSB author Jane Fletcher, this summer in the U.K.
Then I saw it. I had to have it.
Oh, well. I was going to make another trip to UPS anyway to ship Ali’s gift home. What’s one more box?
From Austin, I followed Carsen, Lainey and Vic back to Dallas. It took most of the afternoon because we made lots of stops. Two notable stops were the Common Grounds coffee shop next to the Baylor University campus (their special sauce added to coffee was delicious and eye-opening) and the outlet mall where I discovered that Carsen and I like to hit the same shops (Ralph Lauren).
I dodged a near disaster after we dropped Vic off at the airport Monday morning. Carsen and I were headed back to the gayborhood UPS store, chatting up a storm when my cell phone rang. The caller was “restricted” and Carsen advised, “I never answer those calls.” Good thing I didn’t listen to her. It was Vic. I have your car keys, she said. She had asked me to hold her bag for her while she unloaded her luggage. The Mustang rental’s keys were in my hand and I never noticed that they snagged on the bag when I handed it back to her. Fortunately, Vic noticed them before she went through security and we whipped back around to pick them up without making her miss her flight. Whew!
Turned out, that was only my first flirtation with disaster.
When Carsen went back to work on Tuesday, I spent the day with Sandy Thornton of the Dallas Jewel Book Club. Sandy’s house is a treasure of lesbian fiction. She even has it sorted in a database to help her keep track of the shelves and boxes of books she has.
We were so intent on discussing the merits of the books on her list, we were oblivious to the sirens going off to alert us there were tornadoes in the area. Then our cell phones started pinging with text messages and emails. Everybody wanted to know: Were we okay? Sandy turned on the television and we were shocked to see that tornadoes were jumping all around us. The lights hadn’t even flickered.
Despite the bad weather and the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship showing at the same time, we had a good turnout at the book club and a wonderful visit. That’s where I told them about another treasure I was taking home from Texas – the names of the characters for the next book I’ve been cooking up in my head. My romances begin with the characters and they don’t take full shape in my mind until I have names that fit them, so that’s pretty important to me. Nope, not sharing that treasure. You’ll have to stay tuned.
Finally, I brought home some great memories with treasured friends and list of great new friends. Those were the best. No shipping required.