Readers who have either met me briefly or who are life-long friends know that I am a champion for the printed word and Independent Booksellers. I’ll do just about anything to help those folk out which is why I dressed up in overalls and rode a stick pony while filming the Harlem Shake at The Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia and why I delivered a jug of “the recipe” for the “Mountain Women” event at FoxTale in Woodstock. When I’m not in a bookstore, I’m in the library giving readers the opportunity to meet Billy Albertson, the man behind my first book. I am a self-appointed author cheerleader, linking their latest releases and events the moment I learn about it. I prefer, without debate, a real printed book. So why did I release Mountain Memories: True Stories and Tall Tales from Appalachia exclusively through Kindle?
Just writing those words make me feel dirty. Y’all know me for my honesty and there it is: money. I don’t have any pie-in-the-sky notions about becoming independently wealthy with Mountain Memories. Honestly, I am very nervous about this e-book release. My tummy is all queasy, I’ve been weepy. I am just not myself. I want in my heart, to release a printed version, but I am eyeball deep in my novel. There is a conundrum authors’ experience, the fear of loosing readers. My first book came out in the fall of 2010, a lifetime ago in the publishing world. I know that I must act, must keep engaging readers who fell in love with my first book In the Garden with Billy. If not, they will forget about me. That is the cold hard truth we don’t discuss at the dinner table.
This May my critique buddy, (and pretty fantastic author) Carmen Slaughter, noted that it was National Short Story Month. I already had the twitch to return to short stories, where I cut my teeth and first put pen to paper. Yes, I write every single word on paper first. I can’t help myself. While I wrote Amazon established a new division for “shorts.” Acceptance into the shorts program requires approval by an employee of the company. Like them or not, Amazon recognizes trends, or perhaps sets them. I dunno. I have long said the trend is toward more short stories, what with our constant interruptions and no-time-to read.
My collection gives voice to my people. My people aren’t stereotypically southern, we’re rural Appalachia. There is a difference. I also know that no publisher, unless it is a vanity press, would print my regional collection. I know this. Independent Booksellers know this. You, the reader, now know this. My words had no home and y’all know how desperately I need a home.
As Carmen monitored my progress I typed and challenged myself to write words that might surprise readers. I want to grow, remain fresh, unpredictable. Feeling like I was handing a chunk of my heart, I sent a story to Carmen, then to Beverly who was my first reader, and finally to Laurie, who is a bookseller. While they read I polished Mountain Memories. Then, a miracle happened. Mercer University Press accepted Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Cue the Peanuts Happy Dance and Hallelujahs!! I am over the moon, humbled, honored and deeply indebted to Mercer University for taking a chance on this terrific book, which is a sequel to In the Garden. The publisher is excited. I am excited. Billy is excited. However, the book won’t be ready until 2014, and 2014 is a long way away my friends, which brings us back to money.
Dental bills, car repairs, and the high cost of everyday living; writing is my job. Not to mention the emergency garage door repair (don’t y’all breathe a word to my husband about that….promise?). I know I am preaching to the choir. I know that some of you are nodding as you read this. And (hang on here comes more honesty), authors only receive about one dollar per copy of every book sold. Doesn’t it always come down to money? And don’t we always feel punched-in-the-gut about our lack of money. So there you have it.
Now you know, the reason why I chose to release Mountain Memories: True Stories and Tall Tales from Appalachia via Kindle. I’m no technical guru. I don’t own an iphone or any thing that starts with an i; but a little birdie told me that you can also read Mountain Memories by other avenues. Amazon has links that allow you to read using Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac, ipad, iphone, or even your eyeball (haha). Click the link here to choose what works for you. And know, truly know, that I appreciate every single one of you. I do not take lightly your purchase. $ 2.99 might not be much for some, but for me, it is and I am thankful for you. In appreciation, if you leave a review on Amazon and email me the comment through my website HERE I will email you a short story FOR FREE.
Those who don’t have an e-reader, can purchase a pdf copy directly from me through my website www.reneawinchester.com
Here’s a little tease. An example of a true tale and half truth.
From: Remembering:[this is a true tale]
We are here.
Here, where wild hogs have ploughed the ground and the ditch doesn’t drain well anymore. Here, where Cinnamon ferns throw spores to the wind, where fronds unfurl and ferns grow tall; already four feet even though it is only mid-May. Here, where our ancestors rest in peace. The gardeners in the group covet Mother Nature’s ability to hide treasures such as this. Mother Nature does an excellent job hiding the graves of our people behind a hedge of brambles. For that we are thankful. Otherwise their resting place might be disturbed by folk who don’t understand the importance of heritage.
We are here, in our place heart longs to visit, where our soul finds rest. We are here, where we our people expect us to be each year at this same time. We are in a place others know as western North Carolina. In a place millions know as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We are here, in a place our people fought to save; in a place they never wanted to leave.
We are home.
Feeling their spirit, I quickly wipe away tears and gather the flowers made of tissue paper, just like Aunt Edna used to make. I think she’s pleased her tradition remains. Each year I assemble the flowers using recycled paper and pick buds from my own garden. I am unwilling to adorn graves with plastic, partially out of concern for the environment, but primarily because I want to honor the old ways. There were no plastic flowers back then; only fresh-cut stems placed in glass jars, or colorful paper twisted around pipe cleaners.
The hike to the cemetery is strenuous. Even the youngest family member stops to rest or beg the nearest adult for a piggyback ride. As we ascend, native flowers such as Jack-in-the-pulpit and trillium, greet me. As does the rose bush my great grandmother planted where the combination church and schoolhouse once stood. Again I smile. There is still something left of her in these woods, even if I am the only one who remembers. The government may own the land, but I own my memories.
From Nathaniel Preston’s Funeral [this is a half truth]
Mittie Cleveland walked down the aisle of the First Baptist Church like she once had many years ago. Fifty years had passed since her feet last touched the maroon-colored carpet. On that day her future husband had fiddled with his watch while she marched slowly toward the minister and a man she adored, a man who would never return the adoration. Mittie interpreted the gesture−a toe tap anticipation−as eagerness, that her future husband was excited about their new life together. As she inched forward the baby growing inside her womb kicked for the first time. Smiling then, she had looked into the pale blue eyes of a man she barely knew and pledged her life to his, until death parted them. She had not known then, because it is impossible to know ones husband well on your wedding day, that impatience, not eagerness caused him to wind his watch. Mittie quickly learned that neither patience, nor fidelity, was her husband’s strong suit.