A Texas Christmas (Early) and Other Thoughts

We flew home for a quick holiday visit to South Texas this past weekend. As always, it was great to see my family, wear sandals and shorts in December, and enjoy my mom’s awesome cooking.

Mom made 12 pies at last count, and I think I ate 10 of them. We’re talking pecan, peach, lemon icebox, lemon black-bottom … mmmmm. We had her famous chili and beans for our “Christmas” lunch, along with homemade tamales. She also made all of her traditional cookies, and Dad barbecued my favorite sausage for me. It was all delicious, and I’m pretty sure I gained 10 pounds in three days, as evidenced by my jeans getting tighter and tighter each day. Ask me if I care!

The best quote from my son since we’ve been back was: “It sure is hard to come back here after eating at Grams’ house.” Which did not go over well, as he said it while eating a dinner my husband had cooked.

During the Texas Christmas gathering, we also enjoyed another rousing singing competition we call “Harris Idol.” My favorite moment was when the whole kid gang (minus my nephew who preferred to go deer hunting instead) sang Feliz Navidad as a finale, with all their hearts, even the parts they mumbled. It was priceless.

I don’t care who you are. This is funny.

There was the usual craziness in Texas, too, of course: We played our traditional Christmas Lights Game and some Unnamed People cheated badly. There was a strange Santa Claus toilet seat cover involved, dating back to the 1960s. My parents’ dog hid behind the couch a lot. I encouraged my kid to write “Wash Me” on my sister’s dirty prized Cadillac, which in hindsight might’ve been a mistake. We opened presents one at a time (to make the fun last longer) and there was disagreement as usual over whose turn it was. My son got a youth-size power drill. (And I’m totally on board with it. After all, he asked Santa for wood.) The usual country music CDs and knives and handheld spotlights were given and received. There were a few disagreements here and there, some harsh words may or may not have been spoken at one point. I was enjoying Hazelnut Martinis, so I’m not the best judge.

My son wants his own goats.

My son, by the way, loves Texas even more than I do. He cried for a long time at the airport — so much so that I truly think some people assumed I was abducting him. The only way I could get him to stop was to talk about all the things he’d do once he moved to Texas, which he plans to do as soon as he graduates from high school (as long as I come with him). He says he will attend Texas A&M (good boy), build his own log cabin on my family’s land, dig three water wells so he won’t run out of water, and drill one oil well so he won’t run out of money. He wants 10 dogs, three goats, three milk cows, five beef cows, one rooster, some chickens for eggs, and a pig. Also he will have three horses, and I get to ride one of them. The other two are his. And he plans on having several tractors because they are always breaking down. He’s got it all planned out — has even sketched out how he will design his log cabin. When I was his age, I’m pretty sure all I cared about was my Lite Brite and Raggedy Ann doll.

On a much sadder note, Newtown happened while we were home, too. Like so many people, there were entire moments when I couldn’t breathe when I heard the news. Could. Not. Breathe. But I couldn’t let myself get too vocal about all that I was feeling while I was home — I didn’t want to ruin Christmas with my family, a lot of whom are supporters of the NRA and who believe guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Just typing that old cliché upsets me, actually. To me, that’s like saying (and I’m stealing this from a Twitter feed) chickens don’t lay eggs. People with chickens lay eggs.

But here’s the thing. We as a nation have to do something. Something is terribly wrong in our society. The easy availability of assault weapons — weapons designed and manufactured to kill — is part of the problem. I believe that with every ounce of my being. It’s not the only thing wrong, but it’s a large piece of the puzzle.

So I say this: Please, please, let’s have some rational discussions about assault weapons. Let’s demand a plan of action from our leaders.

Please.

For the sake of every little soul who was killed, for every parent who waited at that firehouse for their baby … who never came, for the children and adults who lived through the massacre and now have to go on with those images and emotions forever embedded in their brains and hearts, for our own children.

And to all those who say it won’t help to ban assault weapons, I say this: Maybe it will. It’s a start. And what if it COULD help? What if it could save one child’s life? It’s worth a try. Slippery slopes, be damned. Can you look a parent in the eye whose child was shot 11 times and say you are worried about losing your right to own a hobby gun?

That’s all I want for Christmas. For us, as a nation, to act on this.

In the meantime, I wish all of you, no matter where you stand on gun control issues, a warm holiday with your families. Tell everyone you love that you think they are pretty great. Make sure that every friend and family member knows that if they are ever feeling so completely hopeless that they want to take their life or others’ lives, that you are there and you will help them. Tell them that killing is never the answer. And to every family who lost someone to a mass shooting this year, I pray for your hearts to heal. And I’m not even the praying kind.

Sending love and peace to all.

 


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My First-Ever 99-Cent Sale

Today is a first for me — both of my novels are just 99 cents (ebook/Amazon Kindle version). A sale of epic proportions!

Not sure yet how I feel about it, since obviously the royalties on these sales wouldn’t even buy me a can of Dr Pepper or a scoop of Cool Whip. But the more readers, the better, right?

So there you go. This is a one-day sale on both titles, so get it while the getting’s good. (Texas translation – hurry and buy them while they are on sale.)

And thanks to every person who has read either of my novels. I’d add in a “mwah!” but that may be over the top.

 


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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.


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Putting Up the Tree — and Missing My Mammaw and Granny Like Crazy

Well, first I’ll get the mountain-snob snarkiness out of the way: It’s just plain weird to me to put up a Christmas tree in Colorado when there is no snow on the ground, no howling wind outside your door, no traipsing through knee-deep drifts to find the perfect tree, no fire burning in the wood stove. You get the picture. That was always our life when we lived at the top of a mountain. And I loved everything about it.

Down here in the foothills, we put up our tree today, and it was 60 degrees and not a flurry in sight. I wore shorts. We got our tree from a commercial seller.  It was too warm for a fire in the fireplace. Blah, blah.

But there are a few things that didn’t change. First, we made kettle corn to munch on while we decorated our tree (Grand Fir, $34.99. Ooops, snark returns.) We played Christmas music (on Pandora instead of CDs – hey, you can’t stop progress). And we pulled out all the same ornaments we use every year.

And that’s when I always start to miss my grandmothers, both of whom have passed away, so bad it’s a downright physical thing.

My grandmothers (Mammaw on my mother’s side, and Granny on my dad’s) could not have been more different, but I have such great memories of time spent with them both at the holidays.

I’m lucky that we lived fairly close to both of my grandmothers, and that both liked us girls to help them decorate for the holidays after Thanksgiving.

With Mammaw, it was fragile glass ornaments and shiny, gold-beaded balls she’d made herself. It was a pristine white angel with real feathers as wings as the topper. Some years, it was a full, lush tree flocked with fake white snow. It was white lights and a silver-trimmed tree skirt, probably bought from a department store. It was Eddie Arnold on the stereo. It was quiet and beautiful.

When my grandfather passed away (Mammaw left us years earlier), my mom shared some of Mammaw’s ornaments with me, and I cherish them. There are a couple of delicate antique ornaments in gold and red and silver, and two of her ornaments she decorated herself with old jewelry and tiny sequins and pins. They are as classy and lovely as she was. And they make me miss her so much. Our conversations. Our games of cards. Her Thanksgiving turkey and dressing. Her walking around with that kitchen towel on her shoulder as she cooked holiday meals. Her long, lean, soft hands that, as she got older and sick, she’d ask me to hold.

And then there are the items I have from Granny that take me back to the holidays at her house. She was a ranch woman, but she also loved to crochet. Those rough, calloused hands were like magic when it came to yarn. I have crocheted icicles and snowflakes she made – their hangers are old bread ties in green and red and blue. I specifically bought big, round, frosted bulbs this year to put on our tree, based solely on the fact that she had some similar on her tree every year. (They were from the 1960s, I swear, and we often worried that they’d get so hot, they’d catch the tree on fire.)

This is what a mesquite tree looks like, for you non-South Texans.

And her tree! Oh, I loved Granny’s approach to her tree. It was usually just a cedar tree we’d cut from the pasture, lopsided and wispy and perfect. She didn’t have a tree stand; we’d just plop the tree trunk in a bucket and fill it with rocks to hold `er steady. Ornaments were mostly handmade by either her or us kids. We always added store-bought tinsel of some kind, and red-and-white candy canes. Lots of multi-colored, twinkling lights were a must, too. She’d hang mistletoe up (real mistletoe, people!). Plus she had some plastic pine garland we’d hang over the entrance to the living room, from the dining room. With fake red berries. There’d be nails up there from the year before to tuck the garland behind, or we’d just use scotch tape.

After we decorated our tree today, we made cookies as a family, and I found my Granny’s old recipe for Cherry Cream Delight, which is basically just Cool Whip, a can of cherry pie filling, cream cheese, and graham crackers. Man, I loved that stuff. And I think I’ll be making it this year.

It’s nice to have my grandmothers’ things around me during the holidays, since I can’t have them here with me anymore. But what I wouldn’t give to, just one more time, hear Granny say, “No need to rush off now,” late on Christmas Eve, or to hear Mammaw shooing us out of her kitchen on Christmas Day.

Miss you both.

What do love most about your grandmothers and the holidays? I’d love to hear about others’ memories, too.


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Music to Read By — Black Friday Special

Yes, I only put Black Friday in the headline to attract people to this site. (Ha!) I’m not above tactics like this.

Seriously, to continue in my quest to provide readers with music to read A Good Kind of Knowing (my latest novel) by, here is a great song to listen to while reading Chapter 16. And it’s a favorite of my son’s, too, so of course I had to feature it here.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!


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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?

 

 

 


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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


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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?


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Getting Closer to Paperback Release …

I received the galley proof of the paperback version of A Good Kind of Knowing in the mail today. Very exciting. Release date is December 5 — let’s see if we actually hit that mark. Special thanks go out to Jeremy Kron and Brandon Wu for their work on the cover design!

(Remember, though, ebook is already out there and garnering some great reviews!)


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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


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