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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Author Guest Blog & Contest with Maria Lima

Author Maria Lima is no stranger to Amberkatze's Book Blog. Her guest blog today is her third appearance here and I hope it won't be her last!

Last year Maria popped in for an interview when her second book 'Blood Bargain' was released. Then two months ago when her third book 'Blood Kin' was released Maria guest blogged here about 'There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb'. Today she is back with her next guest blog and I hope you will all enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Oh and make sure you contest at the end for a chance to win a copy of her latest release Blood Kin!


Texas: It's like a whole other country*

Many myths exist about my former home state of Texas, some truer than others, some as far-fetched as any fantasy novel. Texas is a land full of contradictions, from the stark beauty in the spare barrenness of the Llano Estacado to the lush greenery of the piney woods of East Texas to the incomparable variety that can only be found in a state so large that it incorporates a variety of ecological regions from desert to marshland and everything in between. Some areas are hot and dry, others hot and humid. It really does take about a full day to drive from top to bottom of the state--not that I've tried it. I did, however, once drive from San Antonio to El Paso--twelve grueling hours in a car with a caged and not-sedated part-Siamese cat. Every single time another car passed us, the cat would yowl, as only Siamese can. I never thought I'd survive the trip!

The Texas of television and the movies is only a tiny slice of the myriad of realities--it's not just a Red State. It's not just a bunch of rednecks looking to punch cows (or people they dislike), and it's most definitely not only made up of cows, cowboys and big oil--though they definitely play a huge part in the state's makeup and history. It's a huge state chock-full of contradictions and crazy characters--just like the country it belongs to.

I chose to set my series in Texas, because as with many of us, the place we consider "home" often holds mixed and opposite feelings. I have a love/hate relationship with Texas that leads to my own characters' relationships. Like Keira, I consider the state home, but as she did when she hit human-version adulthood, I, too, began to wander. First from the Austin area to San Antonio, then to El Paso, to Midland, and then Dallas. Eventually, I made my way back to San Antonio, until the turn of the millennium, when I found myself aching for the East Coast--where we'd lived for a few years when I was a child. I got to experience South Texas, Central Texas, North Texas, West Texas and the Hill Country--all jewels in their own right, each with unique characteristics. Pretty good prep for my later career as a writer, huh?

As had some other writers before me, it wasn't until I left that I could appreciate my home state's wonders and accept those things I found (and still find) deeply wrong. Separation for me brought a certain equanimity and an ability to see Texas and Texans from the outside as well as granting me that unique insider's view. Writing in my fictional town allows me to settle some old ghosts, as well as evoke the familiar emotions that keeps my fierce love burning, despite the machinations and ridiculous politics, the bigotry of some of its citizens, and the ingrained belief that somehow, this state isn't really part of the union...no kidding. With that in mind, I create a fictional Texas that has some of the best traits, some of the worst traits and hopefully balance the two within a story about people--because to me, that's what writing is all about: characters. Laura Lippman may have Baltimore; Dana Stabenow owns Alaska--but I'd like to claim the Texas Hill Country as my own space to play in. So, without further ado, a quick primer on the Texas Hill Country--with tongue firmly in cheek.

  * The following things are NOT found in the Texas Hill Country:

  + Saguaro cactus (the big tall ones): look further west...like Arizona. You will find a lot of prickly pear and other smaller cacti.

  + Pine trees: (those are east--Houston, Galveston), instead, you'll find live oaks, mesquite and cottonwoods (cottonwood in Spanish? Alamo)

  + Lots of lush grass (most grasses in the Hill Country is non-existant...at least the kind you think of on suburban lawns. You'll see mostly sparse, scraggly grass in the rural areas and very much human-imported and tough to grow lawns in the 'burbs.

  + Oceans--the Hill Country is smack in the center of Texas, hours away from the Gulf Coast

  + Vampires: nope, not even vampire bats--just loads of other kinds of very useful bats that eat the mosquitoes and June bugs.

+ Wolves: wer, or otherwise. However, in East Texas, the endangered red wolf inhabits the marshland between Houston and Beaumont, one of the most thickly settled areas of the state.

  * Things you CAN find in the Texas Hill Country:

  + Ranches: with cowboys and cows and barbed wire - side-by-side with McMansion subdivisions/resorts and the requisite millionaires

  + Hills: lots and lots of rolling hills built on porous limestone

  + Water: lakes (mostly man-made via dams); some are even underground in gorgeous grottos

+ Wine: The Hill Country is the center of the award-winning Texas Wine Industry. No laughing!! There are some really fabulous wines here.

  + Parks and recreational areas: loaded with 'em, unfortunately, it's often too hot in the summer to even *think* of camping out, though people do.

  + Caves: loads and loads; the base of the area is limestone--everywhere, you can even see it in the drinking water from the tap (yes, I know, ick).

  + Golf Courses: loads and loads, even professionally rated courses used to play the Masters Tournament.

  + All sorts of ethnicities: from the Mexican natives who once owned the land, long-established settlers from "back east", Alsatian descendants still keeping their cultural traditions, Germans, Polish, Spanish, French, Canary Islanders, and many, many more.

+ Bluebonnets--In the spring, they bloom all over. A common tradition is to have your family photo, wedding photo, etc. taken amongst the bluebonnets. Google "bluebonnet photos". They're pretty. They're a weed. And highly illegal to pick...because it's the state flower. (I shrug at this--it's not like they're endangered!)

  + Horses: not of the wild persuasion, they always belong to someone else. Yes, there are still horse and cattle rustlers in Texas...only now, they're just called thieves.

  + Armadillos: a.k.a. road kill. They're built like tiny tanks, but no match for a speeding, or not speeding car. Slow waddlers, they're most often found flat in the middle of the road

  + Deer: all sorts, mostly white-tail.

  + Javelina: a really ugly boar-like creature that a lot of guys love to hunt.

+ Feral pigs: exactly what they sound like; they're extremely ugly, nasty and have no natural predators...except for the 2-legged shotgun-toting kind. 

+ Big hair: yeah, I admit, it's everywhere. But for every big-haired woman, there's at least three others that have sensible 'dos.

Some famous Texans from this region:

+ Lance Armstrong
+ Michael Dell
+ Kinky Friedman
+ Molly Ivins
+ Lyndon Johnson & Lady Bird Johnson
+ Tommy Lee Jones (I totally saw his house!)
+ Stevie Ray Vaughan

As you can see--variety isn't just a word, it's a plain fact. The Texas Hill Country is an amazing place that remains very special in my heart, and now in my books.

Have you learned anything new about the Hill Country? What's your hometown/home region story? Comment below with an anecdote or fact about your home to be eligible to win a copy of BLOOD KIN.

* Texas Tourism Slogan from the early 90s


Contest Time

Maria asked you all a question at the end of her guest blog. Answer that question and you will be entered to win a copy of Blood Kin.

No Answer = No entry!

Earn another entry for each place you link this contest on the net. Make sure you add links here for me to confirm your entries!

You can also earn extra entries by emailing your friends about the contest. Just make sure you send a copy of your email or receipt to me at Amberkatzes_book_blog at gmx dot net.

Keep the contests going by using the Amazon links below and around the site!

The contest will stay open until Sunday 20th of December 2009 4pm CET and the winner will be picked by a randomizer. Entrants should check back to see if they have won. I do not hunt down winners and will pick new winners for any prizes not claimed within 7 days.

Good Luck!


Vickie said...

I lived in Big Spring Texas for three years when my dad was stationed at Webb AFB back in the 60s. I loved everything about it, except the stickerburrs. Those made going barefoot chancy at best.

As an Air Force brat, I don't really have a home home, but close enough is Fort Scott Kansas, an old Civil War fort town and in Bourbon County, at one time the driest county in Kansas....which I always thought was kind of off.

Abigail said...

As long as there's still big hair in Texas :) If Maria said that one wasn't true...:(

booklover0226 said...

I knew Tommy Lee Jones was from Texas but not from the Hill Country.

I grew up on plantation (yes, a plantation) that was owned by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Tracey D

Simply Stacie said...

I am from Pembroke, Ontario and it is known as the smallest city in Canada.

Rosie said...

I learned where one of my favorite actors (Tommy Lee Jones) lived . . . awesome!

I'm from Pittsburgh, home of the Stanley Cup champion Penguins!!!

cait045 said...

I live in a town in South Jersey called Marlton. Its named after this red-like clay dirt called Marle. Its hard and nothing grows well in it.

Jackie said...

First off let me say Hello to Maria Lima and thank you for being here with Amber today....I am a bred, born and raised Texas myself. At present lived for the last 8 years 50 miles east of Austin so the Hill Country is not that far of a drive for us. What I learned about from Maria's little educational segment is #1 been to some of the places she mentions with the caves and yes the water tap from the underground limestone filtration is in a word, Ick. #2 am proud to say knew about Mr. Tommy Lee Jones being from Texas for years now and so proud to call him a Native Son #3 Since actually moving to the area of Central Texas outside Austin have been exposed to more Armadillo "roadkill" sites then when grew up in South Texas. #4 There is a bit of Trivia about Stevie Ray Vaughn can tell you both, and that is that his brother Jimmy Ray lives outside of Smithville Texas right now near myself and my husband(this will be my tidbit for my home region story). There is another bit of info that I can tell Maria, if you take a trip to Kerrville and go to Enchanted Rock you will find Prickly Pear and other kinds of Cacti growing out in the wooded area around the base of the tourist attraction the "Big Rock". I am not sure if she considers this part of the Hill Country Proper but all the people around here do....
I posted the link and info on Facebook Profile:
Tweeted on Profile at : http://twitter.com/jacabur1
Posted on my Blog site a short recap at:

Jackie B Central Texas

cfisher1504 said...

I did not know that Tomy Lee was from the Hill country.

cfisher1504 said...

I live in Brock Texas. Our past time is basketball. Our town centers around schools and churches.

Maria Lima said...

Welcome to all you Texans!!

Peeking in for a moment while on major deadline and enjoying the comments.

Cheers and happy holidays to all!
- Maria

Judy said...

This was a very interesting post!! I live in a very small town in Louisiana, between Hammond and Baton Rouge, not much goes on here since it is really like a township, instead of town, no officials or anything. We have one school (kindergarten through 12th grade). Everyone knows everyone, of course. It is nice and quiet most of the time:)

All This Silence... said...

I live in Greeley, Colorado, and nothing very interesting happens here. The only thing I can think of is that my high school is the only one in Colorado that still holds a homecoming parade at the start of every school year.

justpeachy36 said...


The most interesting thing about my hometown of Morehead, Kentucky is a feud that occurred here when my grandmother was young. It was something akin to the Hatfields and McCoys of West Virginia. Was quite the scandal back in the day.

Please enter me in the giveaway.

IceJewel said...

I live in Pune city, India ! Born and brought up here.Studied in Pune University.We call it as 'The Oxford of the East' :)

In India you will find deserts(Rajasthan), Snow(Kashmir) and greenery every where :) And I love it..!

Please enter me, icejew at gmail dot com if its International.

I have posted the contest on my sidebar

Thanks for the contest.

Curling up by the Fire said...

I found this post to be very interesting. I like the story about the bluebonnets as it reminds me of the trillium we have in Ontario. There is a belief that it is illegal to pick the trillium in Ontario and I remember one time I picked a whole bunch of them thinking I would get arrested if caught. They were going to be destroyed anyways as a new house was going in the field where they grew. I snuck into the field and picked them, thinking I was being clever. A police officer laughed hysterically when he heard what I had done as apparently they're only illegal to pick in provincial parks and conservation authorities. All that sneaking gone to waste. My children thought it was hilarious. They are now trying to come up with an appropriate name for the flowerbed where I planted them.

Llehn said...

My hometown is famed for its pineapples so it's nicknamed Pineapple Town.

Calliope said...

I have to say I did learn quite a bit about Hill Country.

I live in a town small enough that you bike around its circumference in twenty minutes. It's in Quebec, so most of the neighbours speak French and I grew up English which made for a pretty isolated childhood. The annual Christmas parade and Santa Claus visit was pretty much the highlight of the social scene.

What was, well is pretty cool about the town is its scenary. There are a lot of woods around I used to play in and wander and there's this huge HydroQuebec damn just down the street with these willow trees around I used to climb or sit under to read. It was awesome.

Ina said...

Hi Maria!
loved your post - and yes, I learned something ;)

I live in the South of Austria in Villach where you can find the "Maibacherl" a mineral spring open to the public - it has just a few times in the year water when the water basin in the Dobratsch overruns...

wish you all the best!