Heartland

The difference between passion and compassion? Throbbing members and refugee kids.

I arrived at the atrium level early one evening to find hundreds of certified MILFs drinking red wine and screwdrivers, notebooks poised on their knees and pens in hand. It was as if Dallas had split into two schools. The former Debate Club girls gathered at the peace conference to talk about issues and eat granola, while every sexually frustrated band girl (flutists, no doubt) who'd long pined for the untouchable star quarterback had shacked up at the Hyatt to create elaborate fantasy worlds in which everyone gets their romantic happily-ever-after.

Before I attended a novel-writing boot camp led by a guy in a camouflage kilt and matching cowboy hat, I met two sisters. One, plump and blond, did her sister's public relations and proofreading. The other, the writer, was rail-thin with brunette hair that hung down well past her thighs. Behind dark sunglasses, she told me she wrote paranormal romance. There are about 50,000 different kinds of romance novel, from historical to suspense to inspirational, and the paranormal genre is particularly growing in popularity.

"It's called The Memoirs of Renee LeBouf," the dark writer told me about her book. The plump sister piped up immediately with a heavy Texas twang, "She's such a good writer! I mean, she is good." Good? Well, I was sold. Sign me up for the presale. I love good stuff. What was it about?

"It's a vampire story," her darkness explained, "set in the 1930s." I asked her to repeat the title for me one more time so I could scribble the name in my notebook. As I started the word "memoirs," the author clarified.

"It's not real memoirs," she said, pointing at the word. "They're fictional."

"Oh," I said, nodding enthusiastically, as if telling me that the Depression-era paranormal romance novel about vampires wasn't real was a tremendously helpful, clarifying statement.

Between the peace delegates and the romance writers, it was a weird week for Dallas—full of fantasy in both camps. If it's bizarre to sit around and imagine vampires putting on a little Rudy Vallee and getting their game on, it's just as nutty to believe there's a way to bring peace to this planet. And I love that there are lots of people who don't give a crap and decide to try it anyway.

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