Stepping over to the e-side Why I released Mountain Memories exclusively through Kindle

 

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?

 

In a word: Money. mountainmemoriescover

 

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.

 

Advertisements

Author Conference at Kennesaw, Georgia May 18, 2013

May and June are typically the busiest months for book releases and writing conferences. This year I have the honor of leading a workshop titled, Creating Memorable Characters Through Dialogue. 

Dialogue is an excellent way to describe a character without saying, “she had red curly hair,” or “she was angry.”

Remember, words are power. While it is the author’s job to create believable characters, they should also develop memorable characters. Dialogue is an excellent way to do that.

For those who can’t attend the conference, here is one of the many tips I’ll share. This is an excellent way to find the voice of your protagonist. Sit down, literally, with them. Have a discussion. Ask questions. Listen for their response. Interview them. Document their responses.

What you don’t want to do is force your protagonist, or antagonist. Making them bend to your will is a recipe for disaster.

Now, regarding using dialogue. Under the show, not tell category, my beloved friend and mentor, Wilma Dykeman, could have written Lydia was desperate, hungry to read books.

Instead she used dialogue in her book The Tall Woman. She used it brilliantly I might add, in the following excerpt:

Lydia speaking after learning she was denied access to books.

“No need to be down-hearted. I always say if you can’t go to town in a buggy, use a wagon, and if you don’t have a wagon, use shank’s mare. Now where’s that first book on the world’s geography?”

This dialogue shows the reader that Lydia was desperate, and determined to read even if she had to walk ten miles and collect a single book. This my dear friends, is how you use dialogue to develop your characters.

For those in the Georgia area, please click the links below to register for the conference. Only a few spots remain. See you there!

Red Clay will be held on Saturday, May 18th in the Social Science Building at Kennesaw State University

Red Clay Potter

This Conference will host workshops in the genres of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, mystery and thriller, teen fiction, and book publishing and marketing. Workshops will focus on molding and shaping one’s craft Furthermore, each workshop is designed to leave writers with techniques, tips, and tools to apply to their own craft.

We have an outstanding list of speakers for you at this years event! Terry Kay, 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, will offer the keynote speech at 9:00AM. Afterward, attendees will be able to choose the workshop that is most applicable to their writing endeavors. Clickhere to view the workshop times. Our speakers are covering everything from the writing process to publishing. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the experts and connect with other writers!

Click here to read more. Stay informed by joining our mailing list.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of  In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

 

The Harlem Shake, Indie Bookstore Style

The Harlem Shake, Bookstore Style

Breaking News: It is world wide knowledge that Indie Bookstores go the extra mile to sell books. They have free giveaways, quirky contests, and sometimes . . . ask authors to act a fool while someone captures their shenanigans on film. Cat Blanco, owner of The Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia recently did just that, ask me and a handful of others to act a fool.

Younger readers will recognize The Harlem Shake as a phenomenon that has taken over YouTube.

For those who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, here’s the gist: as best as I understand. The video begins with a group of people hanging out. These people could be in the Starbucks, college dorm, or in this case, a local bookstore. All of the sudden a kooky person enters, dancing all kray-kray while no one else seems to notice. Then when the music hits a certain note everyone starts dancing kray-kray.

For the record, we realize our feeble attempt is in no way similar to the “Original” Harlem Shake. We’re just trying to spread the word that Indie bookstores are anything but boring.

Cat assembled the group and we picked out our headgear (apparently head-adorning-implements are required for this type of activity). Next, it was time to cue the music.

Law have mercy. It's a good thing none of our parents have internet access !

Law have mercy. It’s a good thing none of our parents have internet access !

What you can’t see on the video are customers entering the store as we’re standing there wearing hats, motorcycle helmets and bunny ears. Cat explained, Don’t mind us; we’re just filming a Harlem Shake video.

She said this like it was an everyday occurrence. Then she asked. . . wanna join us? The look on their faces was priceless. By the way, no one volunteered to join us.

harlemshake1 (1)Cat also pulled the guy next-door from the barber shop. C’mon, join the fun. Here’s a pic of her covering adjusting his silver wig.

As my people would say, They help my time.

It took a couple of takes, before the video was done. Even now, we look at the video and smile. We were supposed to stand in one spot and shake our booty. But there was something about the music, the excitement that filled the room that made up hop around the room like excited bunnies.

If it’s been a while since you’ve visited an Indie Bookstore you’ll see that they are, loads of fun. No stuffed-shirts hoity-toity folk in here. Most Indies bookstore owners remember your name, and your reading preferences. They provide jobs for the neighborhood and are far from being extinct. If you haven’t visited The Book Exchange well it just up the road from you on Canton Road.  The address is 2932 Canton Road, Marietta GA 30066. If you’ve got your eye on a new release, or you want to load up on your favorite used books give Cat a call at (770) 427-4848.

Cat is known for hosting fabulous author events that bring New York Times best-selling authors to North Georgia. If you have never attended an author event, here’s a listing of upcoming author appearances:

April 16, 2013 Wendy Wax

May 16, 2013 Charles Martin and Patti Callahan Henry

June 4, 2013 Karen White

harlemshakemyra1I promise. We will leave our goofy headgear and stick pony at home. You will find that we’re just a group of passionate readers happy to support the local Indie, and a group of devoted authors acting a fool all for the love of books.

Please visit The Book Exchange on Facebook and LIKE their Page. We’d hate for all our Tom Foolery to be for naught. Oh, and while you’re there please follow me, or send me a friend request.

And now, without further ado, the video. The Book Exchange’s version of the Harlem Shake. harlemshakeyoutubepix

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

Not “loving it” at McDonald’s

Recently I caught up with author friend, and award-winner extraordinaire, Ann Hite at the place where authors hang out…the McDonald’s. We chatted about her beautiful book, Ghost on Black Mountain and her upcoming novel, Barren Soul. We chatted about my work in process, In the Kitchen with Billy. We chatted about books we love and the importance of  marketing. If you are a writer you realize marketing is a “must-do” prior to the release of your manuscript. Hopefully, this blog entry will also provide a teaching moment.

Connected by words, we communed like long-time best girlfriends. Before Ann corrected my mistake, I was certain she had grown up near the western North Carolina mountains. She probably believed I had grown up in North Georgia. Gardening, farming, and family members with calloused hands tied us together.

An hour into our conversation we were interrupted by a man sitting in the next booth who asked the question, “are you familiar with Casey Anthony?”

Since my back was to him, Ann responded in the affirmative. He had obviously overheard a majority of our conversation and in a blink of an eye asked the question, “can I have your opinion on something?”

Mistakenly, I opened the floodgate by saying, “sure.”

“I’d like you to have a look at something,” he said while passing his laptop over my shoulder and into my hands.

Note to authors everywhere: please do not do this. Ann and I had been cooped up in the house for who knows how long; writing, sweating, praying. We needed a little girl time. Authors don’t get out much.

As proper southern manners dictate, I opened the Google search window as he instructed and begin typing the title of his work in progress, “Catch Her in the Rye.” He was making a point, that his work is ranked high on the web. Admittedly, I held my breath when the ever-helpful Google search window completed the words “catch herpes” instead of “catch her.”

I didn’t look at Ann. I just kept typing (really fast) the words, “her in the rye.”

Side note: Please, do not give your title a quirky little name.

“Casey Anthony is innocent,” the man professed.

He did not give us his name. We both knew better than to ask. “The court found her innocent. She’s a free woman,” he continued.

His obsession was clear…. crystal clear. Then he said, “I’ve written a play on words account using sentences from Catcher in the Rye. You’re familiar with Salinger?”

We nod, smile, and notice that his thumb and forefinger display permanent nicotine stains. At least we hope it is nicotine.

Coming around to the edge of our table, he leans over our drinks and locates his work in progress on the screen. His work isn’t displayed on a word processing program. Instead, it is posted on one of the billions of “free” author sites available to those who don’t realize the risk of posting your words online. Were his work-in-progress phenomenally fantastic, it would already be “published,” which most publishers consider a significant no-no. While he pointed out the number of “hits” his work had received, I notice a sentence from Catcher. I am certain Ann noticed it too.

Crossing thin arms across his chest he said, “I’d really like to know your thoughts.”

I hear this sentence often. People who utter this phrase rarely want feedback. They want affirmation, which we (eventually) politely provided.

“You don’t have quotation marks around this sentence,” I say pointing to the Salinger quote. Ann moved our drinks away from the laptop.

“Don’t need ‘em,” he replies. “I’m just using a sentence from Catcher here and there. That’s not copyright infringement.”

As he broadcast Casey Anthony’s innocence and name-dropped reputable attorneys from his home state of Florida, his words sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. The positive energy Ann and I had shared earlier rapidly evaporated.

“I’m moving a word around here and there,” he defended. “I’m not quoting Salinger directly, but people will know who I’m quoting.”

He wanted to talk. He did not want to know “our thoughts.” He did not listen. Eventually we said what he wanted to hear and then it was time to go.

“I’m sorry,” I said pointing to the time on his computer screen. “I have to teach a class in a few minutes.”

Standing, Ann and I wished him the best.

What are your thoughts about this man’s actions? Please feel free to share your comments.

Expressing Yourself!

Recently I attended a workshop where someone asked the question: “How many exclamation marks should my manuscript contain?”

The instructor replied: “Before I answer that question,  tell me how many your manuscript contains.”

“Approximately one hundred and thirty.”

The (multiple-award-winning) instructor’s response: “That’s one hundred twenty-nine too many.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Recently I edited a chapter in which the words “of course,”  appeared eight times. 

After reading the chapter I wondered, what in the world was this author thinking?

Unfortunately, the author was me!!!!

Don’t you hate it when you read something you have written and then wonder, what in the world was I thinking?

Of course. Upon re-reading the work I realized that the phrase was, of course, completely unnecessary.

So are most exclamation marks! Especially sentences where the author uses multiple marks as a way to really express emotion!!!!!

Our job as the author, and storyteller,  is to choose words that adequately express emotion. While it is grammatically correct to write: “Watch out!” It isn’t necessary to decorate emotional dialogue with punctuation as in the example below:

“No!” I screamed as Angela inched closer to the edge. “Stop!”

While reaching toward her I said, “Take my hand!”

Shaking her head, Angela took another step backward. “Stay away from me!”

“Please!!! Don’t do this! You mean too much to me!”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Be honest, didn’t you get tired of seeing an exclamation mark at the end of every sentence?

Of course you did.

Readers quickly tire of exclamation marks and repeated phrases (which my critique group calls “an echo”).

Using a yellow, orange, pink, and light blue highlighter, re-read your work and mark phrases that repeat and unnecessarily punctuation. Then take a moment to review how much color appears on the pages. You might , of course, wish to remove every single word that doesn’t strengthen your manuscript.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Blessings and bestsellers to you!

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of the book In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes, (Little Creek Books 2010) and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author (Make Your Mark Publishing 2011). Visit Renea’s website at www.reneawinchester.com and her other blog at http://blogthefarm.wordpress.com