Deep in the Heart of Texas!

Y'all...I had an awesome time in Texas.

I mean, I know...I know that they tell you that Texans are exceedingly generous and that they are exceedingly friendly and that they're exceedingly good at making barbecue...but you don't actually believe that when you're a girl who grew up in Rhode Island and lives in New York City. You think, My, what excellent PR that unnecessarily enormous state down there has. But here's the thing. It's true.

I spent last week traveling across the great state of Texas. I flew into Dallas, met up with an incredible group of authors, gave a speech *eek!*, then drove with Sophie Jordan, Kerrelyn Sparks & Vicky Dreiling from Dallas to Houston where I was able to join Kerrelyn for two awesome booksignings and hang out with the Jordan clan before heading home.

While there, I steeped myself in good ol' Texas. I lone-starred it up. I came just short of putting on chaps and going to the rodeo (though, only because it's not rodeo season).

And, honestly? This girl from the smallest state is sold.

So...without further ado...

Ten Things I Loved About Texas by Sarah MacLean

1) Raising Money for a Great Cause - I was so incredibly honored to be asked to keynote the annual Buns & Roses literacy event to benefit the adult literacy programs of the Richardson, TX public library and the Richardson Adult Literacy Center. Buns & Roses has been held for six years, and each year boasts a collection of romance, mystery & fiction writers, each of whom host a table of readers for a wonderful program in celebration of books, of reading, and of literacy. As you may know, my mom teaches adult literacy, and so I was really thrilled to have a chance to speak at "Buns" this year, and tell the (eep! very large!) roomful of readers and writers about my own journey with text. I told stories about my mom, my dad, my friends and my husband...and even about the mantis shrimp. What? It totally related.

2) Buc-ee's - When I landed in Dallas, my dear friend Sophie Jordan began using all sorts of words I didn't understand. Like "Buc-ee's." I thought it was some kind of Texas twitch. Come to discover, it's not. It is, in fact, the world's largest gas station (everything's bigger in Texas, right?). The eponymous Buc-ee is a beaver. In camouflage. And apparently some kind of Texas rite-of-passage. Kerrelyn Sparks, Vicky Dreiling and Sophie decided that we absolutely, positively had to stop there, and not only because it has "fabulous bathrooms." It also has the largest selection of beef jerky in the US, more corn nuts than any one person needs, and hog pens. What's a hog pen? I'm not sure, but Sophie assures me they're necessary because, "In Texas, pigs will kill you." Hmm.

3) The Hug & Pat - Texan ladies like to hug. I like to hug. Obviously, that was going to be a thing that I came to enjoy about Texas. But here's the thing...Texan ladies don't just cling. They add in a little, rhythmic pat on the shoulder. At first this might be disconcerting for Yankees, who might take the pat to mean, I'm not really into this. But ultimately, it's just reassuring. A nice touch.

4) The Firing Range - When in Rome...or Houston, as the case may be. I've never held a gun. Heck, until last week, I'd never seen a gun out of a holster. But I'm always up for new experiences...so...to the firing range I went! It was nervewracking and unsettling and yes...exhilarating. And, for the record, in case of Zombie apocalypse? I'm a crack shot. Also, I think perhaps the best photo that has ever been taken of me was taken there. Either I should wear this outfit every day all the time, or firearms agree with me.

5) Sophie Jordan's House - I love Sophie Jordan. I also love her husband, and her two mini-Jordans. They do funny kid-like things like, wear their Halloween costumes three weeks early and play with legos and play tag with cute boys. Also, there's a four-legged Jordan who won my heart (don't tell Baxter). But more than all that, Hotel Jordan has a comfy bed and great conversation and excellent eats. Four stars.

6) So. Many. Romance Novel Readers (and their husbands)! - Everything is bigger in Texas, and not just the gas stations. As part of Buns & Roses, 21 authors came together to sign a ridiculous number of romance novels for a great crowd in Plano, TX. It was awesome, and not just because I got to hang out with Cathy Maxwell and Lorraine Heath. It was awesome because those ladies in Texas like their love stories. And I like mine. So we were, of course, well suited to each other.

But here's the coolest thing. See that guy in red? The only guy? In red. Standing. He stood there for the entire 45 minute talk leading up to the signing, and at one point, I turned to Kerrelyn Sparks and said, "Do you think he's a reader?" We couldn't figure it out. But when the signing began, he made a bee-line for me, introduced himself, and told me that he was there in secret because his wife couldn't make it and I was "her favorite author" (flattery, of course, gets him everywhere). He then proceeded to have me sign a copy of A Rogue By Any Other Name for her. I couldn't help but ask if he'd done something really really bad that he was trying to atone for, but no...he was just there. Out of love. So, as a gift to him and his wife, for being so awesome, I gave him an ARC of One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, too. After all, husbandliness like that should be rewarded. What a sweetie!

7) So. Many. Romance Novel Writers! - See above for photographic evidence of that! But also, I got to have lunch with Shana Gaelen and Lily Dalton and Mary Lindsey drive around Texas with Kerrelyn Sparks -- we had a little dog and pony show, me for Rogue and her for her newest book -- an American-set historical called The Forbidden Lady. I am SO EXCITED about this book, and I was so blown away by having had such an awesome chance to hang out with THE KERRELYN SPARKS and hear all about her cool life and her writing process. I have copies of The Forbidden Lady and her first Love at Stake book, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire for giveaway...stay tuned for how to win at the bottom of this post!

8) Barbecue - So, you can probably tell that I embraced Texas while there. And I was told, in no uncertain terms, that the full Texas experience is not the full Texas experience without barbecue. Luckily, Jared Jordan (Sophie's hubby), is a BBQ afficianado. Also, a Top-Chef caliber smoker of meats. He made me brisket (and schooled me in the process of selecting the perfect brisket), ribs, chicken & venison sausage. This is a meal for neither the faint of heart nor the vegetarians. But man, was it terrific!

9) Writing Buddies - Just another chance to tell you how awesome it is to hang out with your critique partner/writing buddy/friend for a week. It's like the best slumber party ever.

10) Coming Home - As much as I loved Texas, it's always nice to come home from a place that's so different from where you live. I flew into Laguardia Airport, hopped in a cab, and ordered a big salad on my way home from the airport. It arrived just as I put my suitcase down, and I ate it with Baxter *flipping out* at my feet, regaling Eric with stories of all of the above, then showed off my target from the shooting range with pride (He was unimpressed. Whatever. He'll change his tune when the zombies come.)

But I'll be back, Texas. Leave the light on.

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Did you think I'd forget to bring you something? Of course I wouldn't! Tell me in comments about your favorite Texan person, place or thing (films and ten-gallon hats count), and I'll choose one lucky winner to receive signed copies of Kerrelyn Sparks's The Forbidden Lady & How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire!

US only; I'll choose one winner on Friday!