First of all, a family situation with my parents has taken over my life the last few days. I hope this post makes sense.
I’ve mentioned before how my mother listened to country music during my childhood. I’ve also said I wasn’t a fan. That all changed when I sold my first book with a cowboy hero and started listening to country music for inspiration.
What I love about country music is how many songs tell a story or contain a lesson. “I Drive Your Truck” (click here to listen) by Lee Brice tells the story of a man coping with a friend or relative’s death serving our country in Afghanistan. (It was inspired by the true story of a man who lost his son.) A song with a happier story is Brad Paisley’s “Mud On the Tires” (click here to listen) . A man’s asks a woman to go for a ride down by the lake in his new truck. It always makes me smile, want to hop in a truck, and go four-wheelin’. Then there’s Billy Currington’s “Good Directions” (click here to listen) where a city girl asks a country boy for directions. It plays every string of this happily-ever-after girl’s heart. (For an extra treat click here to listen to his “People Are Crazy”.)
But the song that’s speaking to me most, keeping me going, and inspiring me lately is Rascal Flatts’ “How They Remember You”. The song contends everyone will be remembered. The question is how, and the lyrics insist the answer is up to us. Dealing with aging parents has me thinking about the past and legacies. The song asks some important questions. The answers to which determine how we’ll be remembered. Here’s part of the lyrics. Click here to listen)
Did you make ‘em laugh or make ‘em cry?
Did you quit or did you try?
Live your dreams or let ‘em die?
What did you choose?
When you’re down to your last dollar
Will you give or will you take?
When the stiff wind blows the hardest
Will you bend or will you break?
We get one life shot. How we use it and what we do matters. Not all of us can save the world, but we can treat those around us with kindness, respect, and dignity. Life can be rough like it is right now. That stiff wind is definitely blowing hard. How do we keep from breaking? As my BFF Lori told me lately, take the lemons and make lemonade or my grandmother’s lemon bars! If we can’t do that, throw the lemons at the fence. At least that’ll burn off stress.
Everyone is struggling, and many of our coping strategies, like getting together with friends, aren’t available. So what do we do? We can text friends to say hello or check on them. Or better yet, call. A dear friend, Cathy has done this during COVID-19. Her call made my day! If you’re like me and have a stockpile of cards, send them to friends along with a note. We need to find creative ways to stay connected and show we care.
And if you think little actions don’t make a big difference, consider this quote from the Dalai Lama. “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
To be entered in the random giveaway for an digital copy of my latest release, To Marry A Texas Cowboy, leave a comment to this question. What is a song (doesn’t have to be a country one) that speaks to you or inspires you?
Take care, be safe, be kind, and tell someone today how much he or she means to you.
In this time of ‘house arrest’ we are all staying home most of the time. Now I don’t know about other writers (haven’t seen any) but I started out the first two weeks thinking I’d write like crazy.
Didn’t work. I cleaned closets, cooked, watched TV, read books.
When the two weeks continued on and on, I made a list every morning of what I would do. Pretty soon I learned I could keep my Monday to-do-list all week and just change it to Tuesday, then Wednesday, then Thursday.
THEN I discovered a box of old music, country of course. I bounced out of bed, put on my sweat pants, didn’t bother with shower or makeup half the time, and flipped on Only the Lonely by Roy Orbison. We danced around the house.
I know it sounds strange but it cheered me up. By the time I played it three times, I was ready to write.
Then I found a CD of Riders in the Sky with a song Gene Autry wrote. Back in the Saddle Again. I learned to sing Whoopi-ty-aye-oh. Dancing again. To hear the song click here.
I played it as I saddled up for work. When I was a kid I loved nothing more than riding across open country and today (as I have for thirty years) I love writing.
I’ve stepped into fiction in good times and bad. When my heart’s been broken, I fall in love with my characters. When reality gets too much, I make my own world. When I simply want to have an adventure, I travel in my mind.
During this time of isolation, I still feel connected to my readers and all the writers I know. We may be home dancing to Only the Lonely but we’re together.
After I took a bad tumble riding in my teens, the hardest thing I ever did was climb back on a horse, but the strange thing was, once in the saddle, I wondered why it had taken me so long.
My advice for this time:
Be good to yourself. Get lost in a good book whether you’re reading it or writing it. Have a party every night. Popcorn and a movie or cookies and milk on the porch watching the rain.
Be happy. Sure you don’t get to see the people you love, but the upside is you don’t have to be around all those folks who bother you.
Dance. Personally, I never learned to dance, but I do it anyway. I told Tom once that I may look like I’m standing still, but I’m dancing inside. He smiled and said, “I know.”
I’m in the middle of a series and I’m loving it. Book One, BREAKFAST AT THE HONEY CREEK CAFÉ came out last week. It’s packed with action and love stories that will keep you reading through the night.
Please add it to your reading list and ‘if you have time’ leave a comment and tell me what you’re dancing to during this isolation. One reader’s comment will be selected to receive my first book out of the box.
Joke of the day from Riders in the Sky. “If the world was logical, men would ride sidesaddle.”
Summer seems like the most patriotic time of the year in general, doesn’t it? We kick off the summer months with Memorial Day in May. Poppies are worn in remembrance of veterans on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day in November.
On June 6, we are reminded of the sacrifices made on a faraway beach in Normandy that resulted in many deaths in WWII, but turned the tide for the Allies and helped us gain victory. June 14th is Flag Day, a fine “tune up” for our huge 4th of July celebration that’s right around the corner.
Is anyone more patriotic than a cowboy? I don’t think so! So many country and western songs have been written through the years that are a tribute to not only our troops, but to first responders, and to all the “regular” American people who love our country.
Here is my list of top country and western patriotic songs, compiled from several on the internet—all different, but all wonderful—and all with one thing in common: our love for our country. These are in no particular order. I don’t know how anyone could choose one over the other since they all are products of excellent songwriting and musicianship—and heartfelt sentiments about America! And goodness knows, I didn’t list them all here—no room! Like I said, there are a lot of patriots in the country music field, and a huge number of songs to listen to in order to get in the patriotic spirit of things! I’ve included the youtube links in case you want to pop over and give these a listen!
This first one is an odd one, but I just love it. It was recorded by David Ball, who didn’t have that many hits, but this one will stay in your memory when you hear it for the very first time. I get chills every single time I hear it. A young man buys a ’66 Corvette and discovers a letter in the glove box “My name is Private Andrew Malone, and if you’re reading this I didn’t make it home…” Which always makes me think about so many young men who could have written this following line…“For every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true…” It’s called RIDING WITH PRIVATE MALONE and it has a very twisty ending you’re sure to love!
Probably the most recognized country song that many call our “unofficial” American anthem was written and performed by Lee Greenwood—GOD BLESS THE U.S.A. Written in 1983, it’s become synonymous with patriotism, and is loved by countless Americans, whether they are typical country and western fans or not. Its simple message is one that grabs you and holds on, and I have to admit, that even after nearly 40 years of hearing it, I still get teary! “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me—so I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today, for there ain’t no doubt I love this land—God Bless the U.S.A.!”
Another “oldie but goodie” is Merle Haggard’sTHE FIGHTIN’ SIDE OF ME, written in 1970. Oh, goodness. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard my husband play and sing that back when we used to have our band…fond memories, and it was a song that was a frequent request, whether we lived in West Virginia or here in Oklahoma. “If you don’t love it, leave it, let this song that I’m singin’ be a warnin’—when you’re runnin’ down my country, hoss, you’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me…” I love the sentiment of this song. In true “Merle” fashion, he’s saying that we can disagree on things without trashing our country. I think everyone in the audiences we played to knew the words to this song!
WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE WORLD STOPPED TURNING? is not a “patriotic” song in the way we’d normally think of one, but it was not written during normal times. Penned by Alan Jackson in 2002 after the horrific events of 9/11/01, this song is packed with emotion and validates the many thoughts and feelings that Americans went through during the aftermath of that day. Each chorus of this song ends with the reminder that God’s greatest gift to us is love—even though we were going through some horrendous times. This song was nothing short of a masterpiece that drew Americans together, gave us hope, and let us know we were not alone in our feelings.
In 1974, Johnny Cash wrote RAGGED OLD FLAG, a recitation about all the incidents that happened to “the ragged old flag” that hangs in a little town’s courthouse square as told to a town newcomer by one of the old men who lives there. “She’s been through the fire before, and she can take a whole lot more…on second thought, I guess I do like to brag, cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag!”
8TH OF NOVEMBER, another patriotic song written about the Vietnam war, is performed by Big and Rich. It is the true story of a terrible battle in which the 173rd Airborne was engaged. That day, 48 Americans died with very few survivors when they were ambushed by 1200 Viet Cong. “With the fire rainin’ down and the hell all around there were few men left standin’ that day…”
There are countless others, in case you want to put together a country and western playlist for your big Independence Day shindig! Take a look!
SOME GAVE ALL by Billy Ray Cyrus
LETTERS FROM HOME by John Michael Montgomery
HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN? by Darryl Worley
IF YOU’RE READING THIS by Tim McGraw
HOME by Dierks Bentley
I DRIVE YOUR TRUCK by Lee Brice
FOR YOU by Keith Urban
IT’S AMERICA by Rodney Atkins
FLYOVER STATES by Jason Aldean
COURTESY OF THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE (THE ANGRY AMERICAN) by Toby Keith
WHERE THE STARS AND STRIPES AND THE EAGLE FLY by Aaron Tippin
AMERICAN SOLDIER by Toby Keith
THE BALLAD OF IRA HAYES by Johnny Cash
This isn’t all of them, either! Hope you all have a very happy 4th of July with family, friends, and loved ones. What’s your favorite country and western patriotic song, and why? It’s hard to pick just one!
Last summer after dropping off our youngest son at college in New Jersey, we visited wineries on the return trip to break up the endless miles. Once home we discovered quite a few wineries in our area. Now I had a goal I could really get behind–visiting local wineries!
I found Valley View, Texas because of a billboard advertising its local winery. What I never expected was to also find a Texas getaway gem in this town of seven hundred fifty-seven people.
The minute I drove into Valley View, my tension drifted away with the warm Texas breeze, and that was even before I had a glass of Firelight Vineyard’s sangria! The town reminded me of my childhood spent at my grandparent’s farm in northeastern Iowa. There was open space, trees, horses and cows. Often all in one front yard. There life doesn’t speed by. Neighbors know each other. Everyone’s friendly and laid back. Whenever I’m there I run into someone who wants to talk. Whether it’s someone at the winery, a local business owner, or an Army/Air Force Veteran. Whenever I hear Josh Gallagher’s “Pick Any Small Town” Valley View’s the one I’d pick.
The last year has been stressful, so for our anniversary, my hubby and I headed to Valley View for a getaway weekend. We wanted to spend time away from email, texts, social media, and other city commitments. For us, when we’re away from the city and in the country, life’s troubles fade away and we focus on what’s important—each other and family. The drive to our B&B, Towering Oaks Haven, took us on a gravel road, once again reminding me of my childhood. The fast-paced-need-to-get-ahead-world disappeared. We spent the weekend wandering around antique stores, shopping at my favorite boutique Rustic Ranch, and becoming reacquainted with each other. We weren’t on our phones constantly. We weren’t worried about spotty internet service. We connected with those around us, rather than those on social media sites. We listened to stories, told some of our own, and were simply in the moment. We ate fantastic gourmet pizza from Lil’ Brick Oven delivered to us at the winery. After that, we listened to the David Alexander Trio while sitting on the Firelight Vineyard’s patio chatting with someone my husband knew from years back and a wonderful couple from Oklahoma.
Life was simpler, personal and connected. And I loved every minute of it.
I remembered why I write stories set in small towns, because of the feelings I rediscovered in Valley View. Because of the way I felt at my grandparents’ farm and in their small town.
I can back rejuvenated and my head spinning with story ideas! A Texas winery owner heroine and a rancher in a small Texas town trying to revitalize the town square. Hmmm. It’s a start.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me about your favorite getaway spot that rejuvenates your body and soul. Enter a comment for a chance to win the wine charms and a wineglass from FIrelight Vineyards.
Hi Y’all. I’m head deep in my next Texas Cattleman’s Club book, working on a deadline and hoping you’d like a sneak peek at my upcoming Desire. The early reviews of this book have been wonderful garnering an average of 4.75 Stars out of 5 on Goodreads.
And now for a little peek under the Christmas tree:
Brooks Newport swiveled around on the bar stool at the C’mon Inn, his gaze fastening on the raven-haired Latina beauty bending over a pool table, challenging her opponent with a fiercely competitive glint in her eyes. With blue jeans hugging her hips and creamy skin exposed from the cropped red plaid blouse she wore, the lady made his mouth go dry. He wasn’t alone. Every Stetson-wearing Texan in the joint seemed to be watching her too.
His hand fisting around the bottle, Brooks took a sip of beer, gulping down hard. The woman’s moves around the pool table were as smooth and as polished as his new Justin boots.
“Five ball, corner pocket,” she said, her voice sultry with a side of sass, as if she knew she wasn’t going to miss. Then she took her shot. The cue ball met its mark and sure enough, the five-ball rolled right into the pocket.
She straightened to full height, her chest expanding to near button-popping proportions. She couldn’t be more than five foot two, but what she had in that small package was enough to make him break out in a sweat. And that was saying something, since he’d come to Texas for one reason, and one reason only.
To meet his biological father for the first time in his life.
He’d spent the better part of his adulthood trying to find the man who’d abandoned him and his twin brother, Graham in Chicago. Sutton Winchester, his bitter older rival and the man Brooks thought might be his biological father turned out not to be his blood kin after all. Thank God.
But Sutton had known the truth of his parenthood all along and all Brooks could figure was the ailing man, plagued by a bout of conscience, had finally given up the name and location of his and Graham’s father.
Brooks would have been speaking with his real father at Look Away Ranch in Cool Springs right now, if he hadn’t gotten a bad case of nerves. So much was riding on this. The trek to get to this place in time, to solving the mystery surrounding the birth of the Newport twins, as well as his younger brother Carson, would finally come to fruition.
So, yeah, the powerful CEO of the Newport Corporation from Chicago had turned chicken. Those bawking noises played out in his head. He’d never run scared before and yet as he was breezing through this dusty town the Welcome sign and Christmas lights outside the doors of the C’mon Inn had called to him. He’d pulled to a stop and entered the lodge in need of a fortifying drink and a good night’s rest. He had a lot to think about and meeting Beau Preston in the light of day seemed a better idea.
He kept his gaze trained on the prettiest thing in the joint. The woman. She yielded the pool cue like a weapon and began wiggling her perfectly trim ass in an effort to make a clean shot. He sipped beer to cool his jets, yet he couldn’t tear his gaze away. He had visions of taking that bend on the pool table with her and bringing them both to heaven.
Long strands of her hair hung down to touch her breasts and as she leaned over even further to line up her shot, those strands caressed green felt. She announced her next shot and bam, the ball banked the left side and then ricocheted straight into the center pocket.
The whiskered man she was playing against hung his head. “Man, Ruby. You don’t give a guy a chance.”
She chuckled. “That’s the rule I live by, Stan. You know that.”
“But you could miss once in a while. Make it interesting.”
So, her name was Ruby. Brooks liked the sound of it, all right. It fit.
He had no business lusting after her. Woman trouble was the last thing he needed. Yet, his brain wasn’t doing a good job of convincing his groin to back off.
The game continued until she handed the older guy his vitals on a silver platter. “Sorry, Stan.”
“You’d think after all these years a man could do better against a teeny tiny woman.”
She grinned, showing off a smile that lit the place on fire, then set a sympathetic hand on the man’s shoulder and reached up to kiss his cheek.
The old guy’s face turned beet red. “You know that’s the only reason I endure this torture. For that kiss at the end.”
Her deep, provocative chuckle rumbled in Brooks’ ears. “You’re sweet for saying that, Stan. Now go on home to Betsy. And kiss your sweet grandson for me.”
Nodding, Stan smiled at her. “Will do. You be good now, you hear?”
“I can always try,” she said, hooking her cue stick on the wall next to a holly wreath.
Stan walked off and Ruby did this little number with her head that landed all of her thick silky hair on one shoulder. Brooks’ groin tightened some more. If she was any indication of what Cool Springs was like, he was quickly growing an affinity for the place.
The woman spotted him. Her deep-set eyes, the color of dark cocoa, met his for a second and time seemed to stop. Blood rushed through his veins. She blinked a time or two and then let him go, as if she recognized him to be an out-of-towner.
He finished off his beer and rose, tossing some bills onto the bar and giving the barkeep a nod.
“Hey, sweet doll,” a man called out, coming from the darkest depths of the bar to stand in front of her. “How about giving me a go-round?”
Ruby tilted her head up. “No thanks. I’m through for the night.”
“You ain’t through until you’ve seen me wield my stick. It’s impressive.” The big oaf wiggled his brows and crowded her against the pool table.
She rolled her eyes. “Pleeeeze.”
“Yeah babe, that’s exactly what you’ll be crying out once we’re done playing.”
“Sorry, but if that’s your best come-on line you’re in sad shape, buster.”
She inched her body away, brushing by him trying not to make contact with the bruiser. But the jerk grabbed her arm from behind and gave a sharp tug. She struggled to wiggle free. “Let go,” she said.
Brooks scanned the room. All eyes were still on Ruby, but no one was making a move. Instead, they all had smug looks on their faces. Forget what he’d thought about this town; they were all jerks.
The muscles in his arms bunched and his hands tightened into fists as Brooks stepped toward the two of them. He couldn’t stand by and watch this scene play out, not when the petite pool shark was in trouble. “Get your hands—”
The words weren’t out of his mouth, before Ruby elbowed the guy in the gut. “Oof.” He doubled over, clutching his stomach, and cursed her up and down using filthy names.
Crap. Now she was in deep. The guy’s head came up; the unabashed fury in his eyes was aimed her way. Brooks immediately pulled his arm back, fists at the ready, but before he could land a punch, Ruby grabbed the guy’s forearm. The twist of her body came so fast, Brooks blinked, and before he knew it, she’d tossed the big oaf over her shoulder WWF-style and had him down for the count. As in, she’d laid him out flat on his back.
Someone from the bar groused, “No one messes with Ruby unless she wants to be messed with.”
Apparently, the oaf didn’t know that. And neither did Brooks. But hell, the rest of them had known.
She stepped over the man to face Brooks, her gaze on the right hook he’d been ready to land. “Thanks anyway,” she said, out of breath. Apparently she wasn’t Supergirl. The effort had taxed her and he found himself enjoying how the ebb and flow of her labored breaths stretched the material of her blouse.
He stood there somewhat in awe, a grin spreading his mouth wide. “You didn’t let me do my gladiator routine.”
“Sorry, maybe next time.” Her lips quirked up.
Behind her, the bartender and another man began dragging the patron away.
“Does that happen often?” he asked her.
“Often enough,” she said. “But not with guys who know me.”
He rubbed at his chin. “No. I wouldn’t imagine.”
He kept his gaze trained on her, astonished at what he’d just witnessed. Her eyes danced in amusement, probably at his befuddled expression. And then someone turned up the volume on the country song playing, and his thoughts ran wild. He was too intrigued to let the night end. This woman wasn’t your typical Texas beauty queen. She had spunk and grit and so much more. Hell, he hadn’t been this turned on in a long, long time.
A country Christmas ballad piped in through the speakers surrounding the room. “Would you like to dance?” he asked.
She smiled sweetly, the kind of smile that suggested softness. And he would’ve believed that, if he hadn’t seen her just deck a man. A big man.
Her head tilted to the left and she gauged him thoughtfully.
He was still standing, so that was a plus. She didn’t find him out of line.
“Sure. I’d like that, Galahad.”
I hope you enjoyed my sneak peek! Check out my website next week for more details on this fun surprise that I’d like to share with you. To celebrate the fall, I’ve teamed up with more than 60 fantastic contemporary cowboy romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner! Here’s what’s happening starting NEXT WEEK. And remember to visit me on Facebook and on my website.
The Texan’s One-Night Standoff is available for pre-order on Amazon and all other stores today.
As I watched CMA’s Music Festival from the comfort of my own home the other evening, I was smiling and singing along with the artists as they sashayed across a stage that reached thousands in the audience and millions through their television screens.
Gosh, I love country music so much that it never occurred to me that there were so many different variations of what was once known as hillbilly music. As I delved into country music’s bright history, I learned that this new form of music derived in the southern United States was brought forth in the 1920’s and originated in Atlanta, Georgia, not Nashville, Tennessee. It has been argued that Atlanta be known for the birth of Country Music. Country music was delivered by way of working class Americans bringing their own backgrounds and culture to the city by blending popular songs, Irish and Celtic fiddle tunes, blues, cowboy songs and traditional ballads. And nearly a century later country music has climbed the ranks to become the most listened to rush hour music during the evening commute, coming a close second to the most listened to morning rush hour commute.
Some of the most renowned artists of the 1920’s were “Fiddlin’ John Carson in 1923 (Okey Records) and Samantha Bumgarner in 1924 (Columbia Records) and then in 1927 RCA Victor Records (remember them?) recorded the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. During the Great Depression radio sales were down, but country music became a very popular form of entertainment with “barn dance” shows that transmitted all over the South and from Chicago to California. In 1925 the Grand Ole Opry made its debut from Nashville and it continues on in glorious fashion today.
The first commercial recordings of what was considered country music were “Arkansas Traveler” and “Turkey in the Straw” on June 30, 1922, for Victor Records and released in April 1923. Columbia began issuing records with “hillbilly” music (series 15000D “Old Familiar Tunes”) as early as 1924.
And later, the popularity of movie westerns only seemed to spur on (pardon the pun) the country music industry. But like everything else in the world, country music evolved and branched off into different genres from bluegrass to gospel, from hillbilly to country boogie, from honkytonk to rockabilly and country rock. In 1956 the number two, three and four songs on Billboard’s charts for that year were Elvis Presley, “Heartbreak Hotel“; Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line“; and Carl Perkins, “Blue Suede Shoes“.
Willie Nelson helped coin the genre “country outlaw” and megastars like Taylor Swift have delivered us “pop country.” While Carrie Underwood (my favorite female vocalist) has been branded a “country rock” musician. I might also mention icons such as Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers and Barbara Mandrell, who all made an indelible mark on country music.
Do you remember Barbara Mandrell sayin’ “I was country when country wasn’t cool.”
So much music, so little time!
Do you like country music? What type of country appeals to you most? And if you could meet one of the legends of country either living or dead, who would you choose? Can you guess who I’d choose? Play along for a chance to win a copy of one of my available backlist books of your choice! Winner chosen at random on Saturday so be sure to check back!
(PS, not Carrie, although I would love to meet her!)
Grand Ole Opry pic by Deirdre 11:55, 27 February 2007 (UTC) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,