So, here is another author who I’ve yet to officially meet, I’m sad to say.  Once again, I’ve been at the same conferences as Chris Paynter, but we’ve not actually had the opportunity to bump into one another.  And here is another reason why I love Facebook.  For all of its faults, Facebook allows me to “get to know” people over extreme distances. (Though, admittedly, the distance between Chicago and Indianapolis isn’t that extreme.)  Chris was one of the folks who gave me such support when my mother was battling cancer and provided words of comfort when Mom lost that hard-fought battle.  For that reason alone – even if we never do officially meet – I’ll always call Chris a friend.  (But I’m determined to make sure we meet in Dallas…for sure.)

This year, Chris is a finalist in for both a Goldie and a Lammy for her novel Survived by Her Longtime Companion.

Carleen Spry contacted me (and several other authors) to ask if we’d blog about our experiences at the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference, what it has meant to us, memorable moments, etc. I told her I’d be more than happy to.

I attended my first GCLS Conference in July 2009 in Orlando with my partner Phyllis. Blue Feather Books had just released my debut novel, Playing for First, on June 8, 2009. (The publication date is imprinted in my mind because, well, it was my debut, and it’s also the birthday of Buddy, our beagle. <g>) My first impression when we arrived in Orlando was, “Wow. This is empowering.” And it wasempowering to be among so many lesfic fans, publishers, and authors whose work I greatly admire. I found myself literally standing a little taller when I walked around the hotel.

The 2009 GCLS Con was my first opportunity to meet my fantastic publisher, Emily Reed, and my editor at that time, Jane Vollbrecht. I was glad to finally meet Em face to face after exchanging many emails over the prior eight months. It was a pleasure chatting with Jane who’d worked so tirelessly with me on Playing for First and who taught me so much about the craft of writing. I have to say, though, I’m surprised she didn’t hit me over the head with something “hard” (she’d get the joke–“hard” was one of my favorite overused words in the early versions of PFF lol). I still carry Jane’s many lessons with me on my writing journey, and I’m blessed that she remains my good friend and mentor.

I couldn’t get over how friendly everyone was at the Con and how at home I felt. I remember the first time someone asked me to sign a copy of my book. It was fun. I was sitting at the Blue Feather table, and I heard Phyllis nearby telling someone, “I see you have a copy of Chris Paynter’s book. She’s right over here and would be happy to sign it for you.” lol! I’m sure other authors can relate to their spouses being their number one fans.

The next year, I was excited when Playing for First was shortlisted for the Ann Bannon Reader’s Choice Award. The biggest disappointment, though, was Phyllis was unable to attend because she fell and broke her foot the day before we were to leave for the conference. I’m thankful to my buddies for helping me enjoy the conference, even if my joy was muted. Patty told everyone at the first meeting about Phyllis not being there because of the broken foot. I can still hear everyone, in one voice, saying, “ohhhhhhhh.” I did get a laugh out of the simultaneous response of sympathy.

It was a thrill meeting Lee Lynch in 2009 and sitting in on a writing session with her at the conference in 2011. That same year, I was honored that my second novel Come Back to Me was shortlisted in Traditional Contemporary Romance and for the Ann Bannon award.

Phyllis and I were unable to attend last year in Minneapolis because Phyllis was undergoing cancer treatment at the time. But we’re definitely looking forward to traveling to Dallas this summer. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Dallas twice and being a guest of Sandy Thornton (the ultimate Dallas ambassador!) when the Jewel Lesfic Book Club discussed Playing for First in 2011 and Survived by Her Longtime Companion in November 2012. Not only did I meet some wonderful women (including Sandy!), but I also got to meet one of my favorite authors, Carsen Taite. I’m psyched that she, along with Georgia Beers, are the speakers at this year’s conference. I joke with Carsen every time I see her that I’m not quite sure if she’s Phyllis’s favorite author or if I am. Phyllis asked me to inform Carsen that she would be her groupie in June, if that tells you anything.

I’ll close by saying the GCLS Con is always a blast. You make new friends every year… and you take those friendships back home with you to treasure for the rest of your life.

So if you’re up for a rollickin’ good time (including karaoke on Friday night), please join us in Dallas in June. If you are able to join us, please be sure to say “howdy.” Because if you don’t, I have a feeling my wonderful wife will lasso you and drag you over (and, yes, I do love her!). There! My two cowboy references for the Dallas Con!

Chris graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in history from Indiana University. After graduation, she worked as a general assignment reporter and a sports reporter. In her current position as an editorial specialist, she supports third-year law students in publishing a quarterly law journal. She continues to work on her novels, including her next stand alone romance, To Love Free, as well as From Third to Home, the final book in the Playing for First series. Chris and her wife, Phyllis, live in Indianapolis with their beagle, Buddy the Wonder Dog.

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