Hello everyone! Today I am so excited to welcome the fabulous James Buchanan back to the blog. James is here as part of the GRL Blog tour and talking about past trips to Chicago. Please join me in giving James a big welcome!


This year, GRL is heading to Chicago.

grl tour badgeI can’t say that I’m in love with the Windy City. Nice enough, but not really my type of town. That’s not to say I don’t have some pleasant memories of being there.

Earliest I can remember was when I was maybe thirteen or so. The only real take away in my head – it was DAMN cold. That, and walking at night with my dad across a bridge and the lights from the buildings were almost like golden stars. I don’t even remember what bridge except that it was near the more historical part of town and that there was some big, famous church nearby. Such is the way of our memories. We retain scraps, sensations, and fleeting glimpses of the past.

Jumping ahead about thirty years, I landed back in Chi-town: this time for business. Unfortunately, it wasn’t fun writing business, but rather my other career – law. The pleasant highlight of that trip was running into my former mentor who I’d lost touch with for a while. The impression on that trip is that there were a lot of good bars with very rude bartenders. Lawyers drink, a lot. Otherwise, I saw a lot of the insides of conference rooms and heard a lot of droning on about interstate transportation and commercial code reform. If the titles put you to sleep, just imagine sitting through the panel on the subject.

I didn’t have to wait another three decades to return. About a year later, I was invited to speak on a panel for a very different type of convention – one on alternate sexualities – by Dr. Sarah Frantz. The conference serves the mental health community in broadening the positive views on alternative lifestyles and gender/sexual variance. We were on a panel of various genders, sexualities and perspectives on BDSM in writing.

This time, I was able to actually explore Chicago some. I and Sarah toured two museums: The Museum of Contemporary Art (http://www.mcachicago.org/) and the Leather Archives & Museum (http://www.leatherarchives.org/). The Leather Archives, while small, is very interesting. They have rotating exhibits on various aspects of Leather culture, bondage equipment and art involving BDSM. We also managed to drag L.A. Witt (http://www.loriawitt.com/ )to her first International Mr. Leather convention, which was happening at the same time …where I was, rightly, accused by Sarah of being far too much of a Dom with L.A. I bought my Sjambok there (Google it) and watched demonstrations of vacuum cube bondage.

I was able to roam the streets with Edmond Manning (http://www.edmondmanning.com/) as well, who I hadn’t seen since Philly. We took pictures of his little monster doll (who’s name I’m spacing) at various public art installations. We got coffee with L.A. and shot the breeze. Sometimes, as a writer, it’s very hard to find time to just sit and relax with other writers. Usually, at conventions, we are “On.” We’re there for readers, and even if we’re in a group of other writers, we don’t let our hair down and just be.

My cohorts and crime and I also ended up at Bear bar to watch a bondage demonstration by another speaker at the conference. We spent the earlier part of the night at an Alice themed lesbian bar across the street discussing crime fiction with a Chicago detective and her partner.

We were also, a group of us, able to go catch Marshall Thorton (http://marshallthornton.wordpress.com/) and L.A. read from their Lambda Nominated books. It was a fairly small, intimate reading from some very good books. I was able to “talk books” as both a reader and writer.

That last trip to Chicago…that made me feel alive again. As writers, we live in these dark holes of our own minds. We sit in front of a computer and beat ourselves up when the words don’t flow right. Most of us don’t have a large community connection. And while online interactions with readers and authors is okay – it’s like near beer when what you need is a margarita.

Now that GRL is heading to Chicago, and I’m heading there, I’m looking forward to the chance to soak in the connections. The hugging, the stories, the actually hearing the laughter instead of seeing an “LOL” typed on the screen. I want to meet new people, put faces to those I only know and catch up with old friends. In short, I’m excited.

Maybe Chicago isn’t that bad after all.