How Do You Define Home?

photoWe’ve settled back into mountain life now after about two months. The weather has been a beautiful summer mix of cloudless blue skies and 75 degrees, and cool mountain rain that rolls in from the West in the afternoons.

It’s been an especially good wildflower season. Even as September approaches, there are still carpets of white, yellow and lavender mountain daises and large swaths of bright purple fireweed. The sweet scent of pink and violet clover fills the air on our walks.

The monsoon moisture has also kept the forest floors thick with green, and the meadows are thigh-high in bunchgrasses and cattails. Trout are jumping out of the crystal-clear mountain lakes, daring us to try to reel them in.

And in just our short time back, we’ve already seen an abundance of wildlife, including moose, black bears, foxes, coyotes, a mountain lion, rabbits, and beavers — not to mention the plethora of birds and chipmunks and squirrels who keep the forest humming.

It’s a bit like living in a nature photographer’s dream. And, honestly, it’s where I feel the most alive.

But is it home?

Obviously, I haven’t always lived in the mountains. I grew up in the flatlands of South Texas. And I love those flatlands.

I love the people, the stories, the food, the history, the music, the Texas sky. The smell of mesquite-smoked barbecue. The feel of crisp, dried grass under your bare feet on a hot summer day. The mixing of Mexican, German, Czech and other cultures. The homemade tamales. The kolaches. The sound of polka music on the local radio station. The click-click-buzz-pop of grasshoppers flicking about and attaching themselves to the porch screen door.

I love all the little idiosyncrasies that make that place special. The small-town courthouses and main streets. The Lone Star beer, the dancehalls, the oil wells, the old churches, the Stetsons and belt buckles and boots, the cattle and horses lazing under hundred-year-old oak trees.

Did I mention the food?

And of course, most importantly, all of my family members, including my Mom and Dad — whom I cherish — still live there. In the house I grew up in.

But is that home?

I’ve always thought of “home” as a place where you feel most comfortable. Where you can wrap yourself in familiarity and know that someone always has your back. A place you know like the back of your hand.

And in those terms, South Texas is all that and more.

Yet.

Here feels right for me, and it has for a long time. Like in a good novel, this particular cabin and mountain have become the physical place where the narrative arc of my life moves forward. It’s as much a part of my story as my friends, my job, my writing, my dogs, and even my son and husband. I think that’s why I felt so lost when we moved away for a couple of years.

If you don’t count those years we spent in the foothills, we’ve lived on this mountain now for 11 years or so. That’s long enough to feel that sense of familiarity and comfort, right? Instead, here, I find myself wrapped in something much different.

A kind of wildness maybe? A feeling that there are systems in place in this world that are much larger than myself? A feeling of wanting to uncover all the things I don’t know yet?

Yes, all of those things.

Some people say home is wherever their spouse or children are, that just being with them is all it takes. But I’ve learned from experience that even though you are in the presence of people you love more than anything in the world, there can still be a hole … a missing piece of the puzzle.

So what does define home?

Is it the place that warms your threadbare soul, like my mama’s chili on a rare cool day in South Texas? A place that knows who’ve you’ve always been?

Or is it a place that pushes you, like a rippling and rushing mountain creek full to its banks from spring runoff? A place that knows who you’re still becoming?

I don’t have the answer. But I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. Meanwhile, I have firewood to chop. Snow’s in the forecast.

 

PS: This is one of the themes explored in my novel, Blue Straggler. I keep hoping that, through writing, I’ll figure some of this stuff out.

colorado moose

My Novel Wins [Gulp] a National Award

cover A Good kind of knowingCan I get a woohoo? How about a yeehaw? My latest novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, has won top honors from the National Federation of Press Women in its 2013 national writing competition. The book won first place in the Novel – Adult Readers category. The awards ceremony will take place this August in Salt Lake City. Earlier this year, the novel won the state competition, and that news was exciting enough. But national? Wow. I’m stunned!

To celebrate, the novel will be only 99 cents as an ebook on Amazon for a few days, so tell your friends, family, enemies, dogs, llamas, etc. Here’s the link.

Thank you so much for believing in my work. A national award is groovy, but whether you are a new reader or an “old” reader, your support is what matters most to me.

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.

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

First Installment of A Good Kind of Knowing Music to Read By

Since my new novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, is all about music, I plan to post, every now and then, samples of the songs and artists mentioned in the story. Eventually, when I can find about an hour of previously unbooked time, I will put together a formidable playlist for those who want to read and listen at the same time. It’s gonna be EPIC. That’s my new word, by the way, when I’m trying to sound hip. Something tells me even using the word, “hip,” however, just blew my 43-year-old cover.

Here’s the first installment of Music to Read By:

First, the one and only Willie Nelson.

Next, how about some Texas Tornadoes with Freddy Fender?

And then there’s Charlie Sexton. Remember him?

And Ms. Nanci Griffith.

Finally, a necessity. Vintage George Strait.

Happy Friday, Y’all!

Celebrating With Willie

Tonight, I’m celebrating the fact that my new novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, broke the top 100 in sales in its category on its first day out as an ebook. Yeehaw!  I’m pretty excited.

So, I thought I’d toss out a little Willie for everyone … it’s the song mentioned in the first paragraph of the new novel. In fact, since the novel is all about music, and there are tons of songs referenced in the story, I’m putting together a playlist for anyone who would like to listen along to relevant music while reading certain chapters. Stay tuned.

But for now. Take it away, Wille honey.