They wanted me to come to Mesquite and go to a casino in Oklahoma with them a couple years ago. “It’s all free,” they said. “Sure it is,” I said.
“Really, it is; Julie (one of their friends) gets free rooms and free food for her and her friends. Come on! Please come, it’ll be fun,” they insisted. Oklahoma? Hmm.
“How far is the casino from Oklahoma City?” I asked.
“That’s where the casino is. Oklahoma City,” Julie said. “It’s only an hour away from here.”
“Really? Let me check on some things. I’ll get back to you.”
Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City had graciously invited me to be part of their monthly New Ink Author Showcase a couple years ago. I contacted them and accepted. I also emailed the writers’ group in Oklahoma City and invited them to the signing at Full Circle. They invited me to speak at their monthly meeting which happened to be the same week. I booked a flight, paid extra baggage for my books, ................
It turned out the casino really isn’t in Oklahoma City; it’s on the border of Oklahoma in Durant, three hours away from Oklahoma City. Oklahoma’s border is one hour away! Filippino Julie is geographically challenged. But my friends merrily drove the three hours to Oklahoma City to get me to the Writers’ Group and the Full Circle Bookstore.
This was my first trip to Oklahoma. I was interested in the landscape and its colors, so different from the southeast in many ways. Even the light is different. Folks really do wear cowboy boots, bandana kerchiefs, and big cowboy hats. And they’re friendly. I could see how “Howdy, pardner,” could roll off their tongues with ease.
We had a lot of fun. The most fun was trying to convince Julie that her trips to the casino really weren’t free. The promotional package did give her two free rooms, which were lovely, “free” money, and “free” food. Julie’s convinced she’s got a good free deal. She goes frequently to spend the casino’s free money while staying in the free room. When she runs out of free money she uses her own to win the free money back. The casino visit was a first for me. I am certain they couldn’t give me enough free money to ever get me to come back. I did like their soap, though. And I needed it after fifteen minutes choking in the smokiest room I’ve ever been in.
There were nine authors at Full Circle Bookstore’s New Ink that Saturday in January of 2011. I sold the most books (7), and the shop keeper, Dana, bought some of my books to put on her shelf. I spoke to a packed room of Oklahoma Writers who then took my friends and I with them to lunch. I keep in touch with some of them.
Since then, I’ve attended the LexiCon Writers Conference in Texas for two years. I’ve made friends, found two publishers who’ve published my books, have a new facebook group, learned a lot at the conferences and sold some books. Texas is a long way from my home. So’s Oklahoma. I never dreamed I’d see those states or sell books in either place.
The lesson here is nothing has to be all work and no play, or all play with no work. If you’re going out of town to visit relatives or friends, contact the schools, stores or libraries in that town. Always carry your business cards with you. Visit places likely to be interested in your book, factory, museum; look for potential tie-ins to your theme, setting, era or persons. Plan vacations around them. Collect memories and friends; keep a scrapbook; save souvenirs. Remember your contacts and thank yous. Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy. It will increase your opportunities to sell and distribute your books.
Today I am thinking about all my friends in Texas, hoping to see them soon.