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 booksellers 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. I announce their latest releases and events the moment I learn about them. I prefer, without debate, a real printed book. So why did I release Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half Truths from Appalachia exclusively through Kindle?
In a word: Money.
Writing those words make me feel dirty. But I purpose to live a honest life, so there it is: money. Life isn’t supposed to be about money, but sometimes reality shakes down to the number of coins jingling in your pocket. Very few authors make enough money to pay the bills. And while I don’t have pie-in-the-sky notions about becoming independently wealthy with sales from Mountain Memories, I know that readers will enjoy this collection. Honestly, I am very nervous about this e-book release. My tummy is all queasy, I have been weepy. I am just not myself. I want in my heart, to release a printed version, but there is a conundrum authors’ experience; time and the fear of loosing readers. It was easier (and faster) to create an e-book.
My first )printed) book came out in the fall of 2010, a lifetime ago in the publishing world. Then I wrote Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice, a book for fledgling authors. I spent a year teaching authors how to market their books. During that time I knew that I must act, must engage readers who fell in love with my first book In the Garden with Billy. I had spent over a year building a family of readers, yet I knew if I didn’t release a book soon readers would forget about me. That is the cold hard truth we authors don’t discuss at the dinner table. It takes a year or more to see a manuscript become a book, and you better have two books written when your first is accepted. But I didn’t have two books and I can’t, simply can not churn out a book a year.
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 worked on my collection, Amazon established a new division for “shorts.” Acceptance into the shorts program requires approval. An employee reviews your work first. They are currently looking at another collection I penned. Like them or not, Amazon recognizes trends, or perhaps sets them. I dunno. I have long said the trend is toward more short books, What with our constant interruptions and no-time-to read, short stories are (I believe) the future.
Mountain Memories gives voice to my people. My people aren’t stereotypical southern folk; we’re rural Appalachia. There is a difference. I also realized that no publisher, unless it was 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. You, my readers are my family and without a home I am lost.
As Carmen monitored my progress, I challenged myself to write words that might surprise readers. I want to grow, remain fresh, unpredictable. Feeling like I was handing her a chunk of my heart, I sent a story to Carmen, then a different story to Beverly, and a chunk of stories to Laurie, who is a bookseller. While they read, I polished Mountain Memories which I intend to release in two short works. If Amazon Shorts doesn’t take the stories I submitted, I’ll release the second installment come January. The voices you’ll find in Mountain Memories are strong, shocking even myself. Some are true. Some are not. I will leave it up to readers to decide. During all of this writing and editing, 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 with Billy. The publisher is excited. I am excited. Billy is excited.
However, the book won’t be ready until late 2014; and 2014 is a long way away my friends, which brings us back to money. The difference between writers and-oh let’s say, any other employed human being- is that published authors can not count on continuous income. We have no health insurance, no retirement plan. I must rely on you, the reader, to take a chance on my work. Yet, writing is my job. Like you I have, dental bills, car repairs, and the high cost of everyday living. 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, more of my heart, served up for you.
Now you know, the reason why I chose to release Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half Truths from Appalachia as an e-book via Kindle. It is not on Nook, but that’s not a problem, you can still get an electronic copy. This link allows you to read my book using other electronic mediums. 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 the medium that 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. And for those who don’t have any of those electronic devices, I’ve added a PayPal button on my website www.reneawinchester.com.
For $ 2.99 I’ll deliver the same book to you in PDF format. And you’ll even get a couple of photos which will help you determine which story is a true-story, and which is a half-truth.
To show my appreciation, for everyone who leaves a comment on Amazon, I will send you another short story, delivered to your email, for free. Cut and paste your review or comments into the comment section of my website. The link is here. In appreciation, I’ll deliver another story to your inbox. Don’t forget to include your email.
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.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She loves hearing from you. Contact her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com