The Best Gift My Dad Gave Me

My rough-around-the-edges, Texas-rancher dad spent 25 years or so in a house with four females (and one bathroom for most of that time), and I never once heard him complain.

As he said to me when I recently asked him what the secret was to being married to my mom for 50 years, this is his philosophy: “I try to keep my head down and my mouth shut.”

Did I mention he’s fairly funny, too?

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My dad with child-labor ranch-hand.

He probably learned that mantra in the Army, but hey, it’s not a bad plan. It’s also one that failed to sink in with his middle daughter. But ironically, I think I actually owe a good part of my outspoken nature to my dad.

You see, he may look to the world like a Tony Lama-boots- and Stetson hat-wearing good-old-boy from Waelder, Texas. But my dad is a highly intelligent man who, in partnership with my mom, gave us all an extraordinary gift: He made his daughters wholeheartedly believe that we could be anything we wanted to be, that we could do anything we set our minds to. As long as we worked hard and used our brains (that he helped cultivate, I might add), the world was ours to conquer.

In fact, I didn’t even really believe that sexism existed out there in the world — that girls were sometimes treated differently, as somehow less — until I got to college. You can imagine my anger and downright shock when I encountered blatant discrimination from a professor at Texas A&M. It was only then that I realized being a girl meant I’d need to work even harder to get to where I wanted to go.

But that was okay, too. Because my dad also taught me that no matter what life throws at you, you work through it. No matter how much something hurts, you find your grit and get up again the next morning.

Here’s a prime example of the kind of father my dad was when we were growing up. I decided on a whim one day, at age 17, that I wanted to work at the local radio station as a DJ. I had no experience, of course, or any idea of what the job entailed. But why would that have stopped me?

I didn’t ask my parents about the idea; I just headed down to the station and pitched myself to the owner, who just happened to need someone for the late-night shift — as in signing-off-at-midnight-with-the-national-anthem night shift. Neither of my parents blinked an eye when I told them about my new gig, and I started the following week.

I had my own wheels by then, so I didn’t need a ride to and from the station. And yet, every night, once I’d signed off the air, as I’d lock up the station alone and walk out to my car, I’d see my dad parked a few yards away in his old Chevy, just waiting. Maybe listening to some Waylon Jennings or CW McCall, or reading a Larry McMurty novel by the humming street light. Night dew already on the windshield, crickets chirping all around. I’d smile at him, give him a little wave, and then he’d follow me home.

He never once said I couldn’t do that job because it was dangerous, leaving the station so late, by myself, when everyone in the two-county broadcast area knew exactly where I was and when I’d be heading home. He never suggested I do something a little more ordinary, like a normal junior in high school might do.

He never said a word.

He was just there. Making sure I was okay. Even though it meant he had to stay up late, too.

He was just, always, there.

I knew he had my back, even though he’d raised me to be fearless.

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Handsome grandpa, unknown stinkbug grandson

Now, when I think about how I’m raising my own son, I’m using that as my guide. Be fearless, kid. Grab your crazy idea and go for it. But I’m here. I’m always here. Just in case.

My dad may not be a man of many words, unless he’s telling old Army stories, but he certainly knows how to raise little girls to be headstrong, independent women who rarely take no for an answer.

Thank you, Daddy. (Yes, we all still call him that. We were raised in Texas, remember.)

Thank you for being our head-down, mouth-shut, loving hero who inspired us to be who we are today.

I kind of think that, even now, in your seventies, you’re still the glue that holds us all together.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

 

Things That Happen to Me That Don’t Happen to Other People

You know how most people lose socks? That’s how I lose bras. Yes, bras.

I think it’s because I’m always taking them off. Which sounds like I’m a floozy-ho-slut (technical term), but really it just means I hate wearing them, so I tend to rip those suckers off the moment I think I no longer need an over-the-shoulder boulder-holder. (Thanks for the term, Judy Blume.) That might include in my car, my office, the kitchen, the backyard … you get the picture.

So they just … disappear.

olga bra

This is the bra that is missing. If you find it, please return immediately.

Right now, I have misplaced for several weeks my only beige-colored bra. That means I only have black bras to choose from, and one very bright red one with polka dots that hasn’t fit me since 1998. It also means that every time I dress for the world, I have to consider what shirt will work with a black bra. (Because I’m too cheap to go buy a new beige one when I KNOW the other one will turn up soon. And since I’m not really a floozy-ho-slut, I don’t want my black bra showing through my shirts. At least not all the time.)

This also means that half of my wardrobe is unwearable right now. And this means that I have to think too much in the mornings, which I try not to do.

This all leads up to one night this week when I was getting ready to go to see Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band in concert. I was choosing what to wear and of course did not have the aforementioned BEIGE bra. But I really, really wanted to wear a cute blouse that required a BEIGE bra.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided that going braless to a concert wasn’t a bad thing.

I mean, women do it all the time, right? At least they do at Willie Nelson concerts; there are usually tube-tops involved.

A rare moment on Willie's bus (not). I love the Internet.

A rare moment on Willie’s bus (not). I love the Internet.

Now maybe those women aren’t as, errr, well-endowed as me, but it’s a thing. People do it. Besides, I just knew Bob Seger would be able to FEEL the overwhelming presence of my braless boobies from onstage. They would inspire him.

That’s how I came to be talking to a couple of guys at the concert who were seated in front of me who will very likely never forget me.

You see, I was leaning over a bit to talk because they were BELOW me, and the sleeve of my blouse caught the edge of the arm of my seat. Which shall we say pulled the fabric a bit (a lot) to the left. Which in turn caused a gap. Which in turn gave these lovely men a tumbling sort-of-oh-my-god-there’s-a-large-dangling boobie right-in-front-of-me kind of view.

We’re not talking flashing a little side boob here. There may or may not have been  nipple involved.

I really hadn’t noticed anything was askew at first. Because I’d had a few adult beverages by this point. I was digging some “Turn the Page,” and I thought these two old hippie men were just really interested in my witty conversation.

But then I began to note that my chest was not the area where my witty conversation was emitting from, and yet that area was where they appeared to be focusing their attention.

I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this point. I think I said something like, “Oh, wow, would you look at that?”

In retrospect, I should have just said, “It’s for Bob,” and left it at that.

It was probably in reality only a second of a flash. But I have learned my lesson now: Don’t try to make witty conversation after several adult beverages. It’s not worth it.

It was all for you, Bob.

It was all for you, Bob.

 

Free Kindle Promotion for A Good Kind of Knowing

cover A Good kind of knowingMy latest novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, has been out now since October (in ebook, since December in paperback), and this is the first time it’s been offered free as an ebook via Amazon. It’s a free promotion in advance of my blog tour, which begins next week.

If you’d like to try the novel, risk-free, this is when to download! The promotion goes from April 4 through April 7.

 

 

Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009V3G93O

The book currently has 35 reader reviews on Amazon and a 4.5-star average rating. (Thank you, readers, who have offered your heartfelt reviews!) A friend recently told me that it was the most moving book she’s read in a long time. Wow. Just. Wow. So pleased with that kind of response to my work.

Feel free to share this information with friends. For every download, I hope that person enjoys the story enough to tell a friend.

Oh, and you don’t have to have a Kindle to get the free download. You just need to add the Kindle app to your iPad, android tablet, iPhone, desktop computer, whatever. You can get the free app here.

Thanks, always, for the support!

 

 

 

Readers’ Top 10 Blog Posts in 2012

I started this blog in early 2012, at the request of my publisher. I’ll admit I was worried about it. I’d written a weekly online column before, but that was different. This was a BLOG, something I’d resisted for years. Would I have time to blog and blog well? Would people (other than my mother) care enough about what’s going on in my head to read it? And what in the hell would I write about?

Well, I haven’t kept up with the blogging schedule I’d hoped for, but I have written a few fun pieces. Below, I’ve featured links to the 10 most popular posts, just in case you missed `em. Even I enjoyed rereading a few.

Oh, and just to recap this AMAZING year in publishing for me (because that’s what you do on New Year’s Eve-Eve) … after becoming an Amazon bestseller in the spring and summer, Blue Straggler (released as an ebook in August 2011 and in paperback in March of this year) remains in the top 30 in sales and customer ratings in comic fiction on Amazon. It hit #2 again right after Christmas and #5 in a different category (humor). Pretty cool. Or rather, a huge dream of mine come true. A Good Kind of Knowing was released in ebook in October and in paperback earlier this month. It made it to the #10 spot in its category (fiction/drama) on Amazon and remains in the top 30 in ratings. It also made the top 100 in customer ratings in literary fiction. Whew. That’s as good for this writer’s soul as crab legs, cheese biscuits and a Bahama Mama from Red Lobster.

I’m so thankful to everyone who has supported me this year and always. Having my work touch just a few people would’ve been satisfying. But this kind of success has been overwhelming. Thank you!

Now on to those posts, and here’s to 2013, y’all!

 #1  Our Dogs Are Going to Get Us Kicked out of the Neighborhood

#2  Saying Goodbye to My Dream, or the One-Year Experiment With Normal Living

#3  And This Is Why I Hate Dental People

#4  Friends Are Worried About My “Girls”

#5  What Happened When I Turned 30 …. and 40

#6  What Being a Texas Woman Means

#7  How Growing Up With Country Music Made Me a Better Writer

#8  21 Facebook Posts You’ll Never, Ever See From Me

#9  Open Letter to High-Fructose Corn Syrup

#10  Your Official Music-to-Read-By Playlist 

Your Official Music-to-Read-By Playlist for A Good Kind of Knowing

I’ve always loved to listen to good music while reading a good novel. And since the love of music, and its universal calling, is a central theme in my latest novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, I wanted to develop a playlist for readers to have on hand while reading the story.

In the book, the artists and songs mentioned range from outlaw country to early jazz, from Ella Fitzgerald to George Strait, from music made in the 1920s to lyrics penned in the 1980s. In the following playlist, I’ve taken liberties to include some current-day music, as well. But mostly, I’ve carefully chosen music for each chapter based on the mood of the characters and the pacing of the plot. In many cases, the songs listed here are ones the characters themselves are listening to in the storyline; others are ones I remember listening to when I wrote these very chapters and scenes.

I sincerely hope you enjoy this playlist as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

PS: If you don’t want to pay for all these tunes by downloading them into a “real” playlist, most can be found on youtube for free.

A Good Kind of KnowingA Novel by Kathy Lynn Harris

The Official Music-to-Read-By Playlist

 

 

Chapter 1

Pretty Paper – Willie Nelson

Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin

Amarillo by Morning – George Strait

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights – Texas Tornadoes

Everyone Will Crawl – Charlie Sexton

Speed of the Sound of Loneliness – Nanci Griffith

I Gotta Find Peace of Mind – Lauryn Hill

Sugar Plum Fairy – Duke Ellington

Walkin’ After Midnight – Patsy Cline

Silver Wings – Merle Haggard

A Good-Hearted Woman – Waylon Jennings

Chapter 2

Working Man – Merle Haggard

Faded Love – Bob Wills

Should I Come Home or Should I Go Crazy – Gene Watson

Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger

Resistance is Futile – Steve Coleman

I Won’t Dance – Frank Sinatra

Regalame un Besito – Laura Canales

How Blue Can You Get – B.B. King

Chapter 3

Angel from Montgomery – John Prine and Bonnie Raitt

Lover Man – Charlie Parker

Summer Skin – Amy Cook

Can`t Let Go – Lucinda Williams

Chapter 4

Rainy Days And Mondays – The Carpenters

Someday – Steve Earle

Bruises – Train featuring Ashley Monroe

Chapter 5

(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding

Black Coffee – Ella Fitzgerald

Blue Moon – Billie Holiday

Chapter 6

Brown Sugar – Rolling Stones

Who’ll Stop The Rain – Credence Clearwater Revival

Kentucky Waltz – Bill Monroe

Chapter 7

Rainy Day Woman – Waylon Jennings

Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino

Fishin’ in the Dark – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

California – Joni Mitchell

Lost Highway – Hank Williams

Understand You – Lyle Lovett

Chapter 8

Lullaby – Johannes Brahms

Sharp-Dressed Man – ZZ Top

Ain’t No Way – Aretha Franklin

She Thinks I Still Care – George Jones

New Life In Old Mexico – Robert Earl Keen

Chapter 9

Sunday Kind of Love – Etta James

A Love that Will Never Grow Old – Emmylou Harris

Chapter 10

If I Had You – Benny Goodman

That’ll be the Day – Buddy Holly

Runaway Train – Roseanne Cash

Chapter 11

Sunday Morning Coming Down – Johnny Cash

Desde Que Conosco –  Freddie Fender

Down to My Last Cigarette – k.d. lang

A Soft Place to Fall – Allison Moorer

Chapter 12

I Don’t Wanna Fight –  Tina Turner

Members Only – Bobby “Blue” Bland

Blues for Dixie – Asleep at the Wheel featuring Lyle Lovett

Yesterday – Gladys Knight & The Pips

Days Like This – Van Morrison

Wings Upon Your Horns – Loretta Lynn

Chapter 13

Sleepy Cowboy – Yonder Mountain String Band

Whoever’s in New England – Reba McEntire

Linda on My Mind – Conway Twitty

Chapter 14

What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

Take Me Down – Kelly Willis

Don’t Be Cruel – Elvis Presley

Heaven – Los Lonely Boys

Original Sin – Elton John

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues – Rodney Crowell

Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music) – Vern Gosdin

Mr. Record Man – Willie Nelson

Chapter 15

I Am A Town – Mary Chapin Carpenter

Rose of My Heart – Johnny Cash

Sittin’ Here Drinkin’ (Whiskey Blues) – Muddy Waters

Chapter 16

The Weight (Take a Load off Annie) – The Band

Windows Are Rolled Down – Amos Lee

Chapter 17

Simple Gifts –  Jim Brickman

In The Mirror – Yanni

Before the Next Teardrop Falls – Freddy Fender

Down on the Rio Grande – Johnny Rodriguez

Chapter 18

Bad Moon Rising – Credence Clearwater Revival

Forever Mine – Hank Crawford

You Are the Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne

Ball and Chain – Big Mama Thornton

Chapter 19

A Woman Left Lonely – Janis Joplin

Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty

Chapter 20

Meet Me in Montana – Dan Seals & Marie Osmond

Hound Dog – Elvis Presley

Help Me Make it Through the Night – Sammi Smith

Chapter 21

If Wishes Were Horses – Lucinda Williams

Peaceful Easy Feeling – The Eagles

Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man –  Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty

Texas River Song – Lyle Lovett

Chapter 22

Christmas for Cowboys – John Denver

I’m Coming Home – Zydeco Hurricanes

To Make You Feel My Love – Garth Brooks

When I Call Your Name – Vince Gill

November Rain – Guns N Roses

Chapter 23

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain – Willie Nelson

A Picture of Me Without You – George Jones

Chapter 24

Losing You – John Butler Trio

Lovin’ Her Was Easier – Kris Kristofferson

Someone I Used To Know  – Patty Loveless & Jon Randall

Lucky Now – Ryan Adams

Chapter 25

Sweet Dreams – Patsy Cline

Chapter 26

Silver Wings – Merle Haggard

Chapter 27

Blue Guitar – Earl Hooker

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Ella Fitzgerald

These Arms of Mine – Otis Redding

Sitting In Limbo – Jimmy Cliff

Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground  – Willie Nelson

Into the Mystic – Van Morrison

THE END

Thanks for reading, and listening. Email me if you’d like a Word doc or PDF of this list – kathy [at] kathylynnharris dot com.

What I’m Thankful for Right Now, in This Moment

New and old friends and family who support my writing. A six-year-old who can already cook up a mean batch of fried catfish. Sonic ice and Dr Pepper. A husband who buys me Sonic ice because he knows it makes me happy. Two furry babies who make me smile, no matter how very bad they can be. My publisher, 30 Day Books (Laura Pepper Wu and Brandon Wu) — it’s so darn awesome to know that there are good, kind people all over the world, and that I have these folks on my side. Jeremy Kron for his wonderful work on my novels’ cover and interior design. My new job with Truven Health Analytics. I’m loving the work so much. Knowing that I’ll get to see my family and taste my mama’s cooking in just a couple of weeks. My Kindle Fire. Brilliant writing by people who inspire me. The herd of deer hanging out on our road this evening. The Rocky Mountains. Fresh mountain air. Memory foam. This laptop. Friends I know will be there for me if I need them. Texas Hill Country pecans, found at a Target in Colorado, believe it or not. Cool cotton pillowcases. Good wine. Stand-up comedians. A mother- and father-in-law who adore my son and treat us all with overwhelming generosity. The good health of myself, my family and my friends. The music of Lyle Lovett. Sara Lee pies because I don’t have time to make my own. Readers out there in the universe who are reading my novels and taking the time to let me know that my words touched them somehow. Every single person who has written a review of either of my novels. My eyesight. A soft, warm blanket on a chilly night. Stars. Avocados. Dark chocolate. Ariat boots. Vacuum cleaners. Wild Orange essential oil. A massage therapist as a spouse. And the sound of my angel-son saying, “I love you, mama,” as he drifts off to sleep.

What are you thankful for right now, in this moment? (Don’t think about it deeply, just spit out what comes to mind. It’s nice sometimes to just Let. It. Out.) PS: Vacuum is a weird word, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Music to Read By – Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys

If you’re reading A Good Kind of Knowing, thank you so much. Here’s some good old-fashioned music to read by – fits well with Chapter 2. Full playlist for the whole book coming soon!

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys – Faded Love

Music to Read By – Waylon Jennings

In A Good Kind of Knowing, Sera’s husband Bill listens to old outlaw country on his eight-track player in the garage in Chapter 1 (and later on in the story, too). And he loves Waylon.

So here’s your Music to Read By installment for today – Mr. Waylon Jennings singing “A Good-Hearted Woman.” It really doesn’t get much better than that, now, does it?

Music to Read By – Nothing Like Merle Haggard on a Friday

I’m continuing to feature songs here that are mentioned in my novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, which is chock full of music and song references.

This one is also found in Chapter 1, and should put anyone who loves love old country in the mood to two-step.

Take it away, Merle.

Merle Haggard – Silver Wings

Music to Read By – Let Patsy Speak to You

The main character, Sera, in A Good Kind of Knowing, loves Patsy Cline. Of course, I do, too. I love her voice. I loved that she was kick-ass. I loved that she had to fight her way into the boys’ world of Nashville. I love that Loretta Lynn was her best friend. I love that she and Charlie had a turbulent, brilliant kind of love. As you might guess, Sweet Dreams is one of my all-time favorite movies, too.

So, here you go. If you’re reading the novel, this is a good song to go along with Chapter 1.
Patsy Cline – Walkin’ After Midnight