Tablo—Writers and Readers Unite

I don’t live under a rock, but I had not heard of Tablo until last week.

YouTube is to video sharing as Tablo is to content and story sharing. It’s an online publishing platform and marketplace where authors—like me—can write and post stories, assign tags, affix covers, and connect with thousands of readers. Indeed, every day more than a million words are published on Tablo by authors around the world.

Tablo Publishing

Readers can discover new, interesting, upcoming writers to follow and leave “likes” and/or comments about certain writing projects.

Tablo offers an easy-to-use BookMaker widget. By simply dragging and dropping a document into  the Tablo frame, it instantly turns your work into a publishable eBook. Authors can then publish their books with a single click on Tablo and its applications, on the iBooks Store, on Amazon and other major booksellers. And yes, Tablo assigns ISBNs, validates and packages eBook files, distributes content and manages royalties. The only thing the author needs to do is write a book, select a book cover, publish, and drink a cold Margarita while relaxing on a shady porch.

So last week, I saw a post about Tablo’s flash fiction contest. With a nice $500 purse, I decided to give it a try. I created a Tablo account, selected one of six writing prompts, and uploaded my 494 words to my bookshelf. To my surprise, over one hundred people read it and thirteen people voted for it. As a writer, I love for people to read my work, and on Tablo, people are actually reading my work. Yay!DANCINGDAYS3

I chose the writing prompt: Suddenly, every radio station in the world turns to white noise and a voice reads out a single name.

I immediately thought about old radio hour shows. I started humming some Big Band tunes, which reminded me of my mother-in-law, who adored Swing music. And that memory made me think about her last days at the assisted living facility. And so I crafted a flash fiction story based on the prompt and titled it, “Dancing Days.”

To read it, please click over to Tablo (https://tablo.io/amber-nagle/dancing-days), and if you like the story, please leave me a “like” vote. And if you follow me on Tablo, I’ll follow back.

I’ve enjoyed the Tablo experience of discovering interesting writers. It’s more than a publishing and sharing platform, it’s a community—a community where writers and readers can congregate, connect, and unite. What a brilliant idea! This one’s a winner, folks!

Why Authors Need Literary Agents

A few years ago, after I had collected about twenty-five stories for my anthology, Project Keepsake, I began looking for a publisher. I crafted a killer query letter and sent it out to about twenty publishers I selected from the pages of my thick Writers Market guide.

“Sorry, we’re going to pass on your project,” most of the replies noted. Other publishers said, “We only review works by agented authors with strong platforms.”

I had a pretty strong platform, but I did not have an agent. So, I shifted gears and began looking for a literary agent—not just any literary agent, I wanted a literary agent with Mary Tyler Moore spunk.

I got no after no, and then, I heard back from Jeanie Loiacono (www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com).

“I really love this and think I can find a publisher for it,” she said. “How long will it take for you to collect enough stories about keepsakes to fill an entire book?”

She was kind, interested, and experienced. After I collected the other stories, I sent her my draft manuscript, and she sent a contract outlining her services and compensation. I signed it.

Jeanie Loiacono

Jeanie Loiacono is a literary agent. Visit her website at www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com.

My friends and family members didn’t understand why I needed a literary agent, and so I found myself frequently explaining the role of literary agents in the world of writing, publishing, and selling books. In case you are wondering, here are a few things literary agents do.

  • LITERARY AGENTS SEND OUT MANUSCRIPTS TO REPUTABLE PUBLISHING HOUSES. Jeanie is well-connected in the publishing world and knows the key players at several publishing companies. Publishers open her email messages and take her endorsements seriously. She knows the people in the industry who may be interested in particular projects and doesn’t waste time sending manuscripts to publishers who won’t care.
  • LITERARY AGENTS ALLOW WRITERS TO WRITE. Before I found Jeanie, I spent hours each day researching publishers and crafting tailored query letters. Even when I wasn’t scouring the Internet or the pages of my Writers Market, my mind was preoccupied. Finding a publisher was more time consuming than I had ever imagined, and it interfered with my job as a freelance writer. Jeanie lifted the burden of finding a publisher from my shoulders and allowed me to get back to writing (and making money). Handing the task of finding a publisher to her was freeing, and a smart business decision.
  • LITERARY AGENTS SHIELD WRITERS FROM THE GLOOM OF CONSTANT REJECTION. Rejection is par for the course. Jeanie sent my manuscript to dozens of publishers, fielded the rejections and negative remarks, and continued to move forward without losing hope.
  • LITERARY AGENTS SEND PROGRESS REPORTS TO AUTHORS. Every other week, Jeanie sent me a detailed spreadsheet listing all publishers and contacts she had sent my manuscript to, along with comments and status notes. She kept me well informed during the process.
  • LITERARY AGENTS NEGOTIATE THE TERMS OF PUBLISHING CONTRACTS. I’m not a lawyer. The legal jargon of the contract was a little confusing to me, and I certainly didn’t know the going royalty schedule for first-time authors. Jeanie knew what to look for in the contract and fought for the best possible deal for me.
  • LITERARY AGENTS CELEBRATE SUCCESS WITH THE AUTHORS THEY REPRESENT. Jeanie was genuinely happy for me when she found a publisher (Native Ink Press) for Project Keepsake. She basked in the sunshine with me that day.
  • LITERARY AGENTS HELP WITH PROMOTION. Jeanie didn’t stop advocating for me and my book after she landed my book deal. She posted reviews on Amazon and other online bookseller sites. She tweeted about my book. She shared information about my events on Facebook and on her website. She wants the authors she represents to succeed, and so she helps us. She is a champion for her authors.

Sure, Jeanie and other literary agents work on commission, but what Jeanie Loiacono did for me far outweighs the meager monetary compensation she gained from my project. I had hoped Project Keepsake would skyrocket up the bestseller list and make Jeanie (and all of us involved) a small fortune, but that didn’t happen. I promoted and peddled books like a mad woman, but we didn’t make it to the Today show. Through it all, Jeanie never complained. That’s just not her nature. She continued to press forward with optimism and spunk, and that’s what makes her a great literary agent.

To learn more about Project Keepsake, visit the website at www.ProjectKeepsake.com.

Selling Books at Country Fairs and Outdoor Festivals

Janie Dempsey Watts and I decided to try our hands at book selling at Prater’s Mill Country Fair in Northwest Georgia this past weekend. The two-day, October event showcases Appalachian music, Southern foods, history exhibits, and over 200 booths featuring handmade arts and crafts—iron works, pottery, woven garments, quilting, carvings, paintings, prints, collectibles, etc.

Going into it, Janie and I didn’t know what to expect. We knew that thousands of people roam around the fair each year, but we didn’t know if we would sell enough books to justify the time, labor, and aggravation involved in setting up and working the crowds for two full days. I told my family, “I’ll never know unless I give it a try.”

Those who know me well know I go into most activities seeking knowledge. I participate, make adjustments as needed, then afterwards, I evaluate the experience and consider what lessons I learned. I ask myself, “What went well? What didn’t go so well? Why? What could I change to make the experience better?” And then I share what I learned.

This morning as I assessed the weekend and its many successes and blunders, I jotted down a few tips to help other authors who are considering selling books al fresco. Enjoy!

  • PARTNER WITH ANOTHER AUTHOR—Partnering may allow you to share booth or entry expenses, but the big benefit of partnering is the sharing of tasks and equipment. I took care of the tent, sandbags for the tent, a folding chair, the easels for our posters, a phone charger, and a decorative tablecloth. Janie brought a folding table, two folding chairs, a table scarf, and other supplies. During the fair, I manned the booth when Janie needed to take a break and vice versa. And I enjoyed having a friend there to talk to when no patrons were stopping by the booth.
  • NEGOTIATE WITH ORGANIZERS—The Prater’s Mill booth fee was $125 for artists and craftsmen. The fee was too high for us (after expenses and taxes, authors don’t make much money per book), so Janie contacted the fair’s organizers well in advance and negotiated a different deal for us. In the end, we both paid Prater’s Mill 20% of our total sales.
  • PROMOTE BEFORE AND DURING—Fair organizers promoted the fair in newspapers and publications throughout the state, but I wanted people to know that two local authors were going to be there selling books. The week before the fair, I posted the event on social media and asked friends to swing by and see us. I not only posted it on my Facebook wall, but I also posted the information with a photo of Prater’s Mill to local and county-wide sites. One post was viewed by 4,377 people. Try to promote a few days before via a newspaper press release or a guest spot on a local radio or television show. Also, during the weekend, we took photos of book buyers and splashed the photos all over social media to remind people of the fair.

    AmberwithPosterFiltered

    Use large posters and signs to draw attention. Place your poster on an easel. I sold books at an outdoor country fair, so overalls were appropriate.

  • TAKE POSTERS AND SIGNS—At fairs and festivals, people walk by and look at your booth before deciding to stop, so a nice poster is mandatory. In three hours, Office Depot printed a 15” x 22” poster of the cover of my book, mounted it on foam board, and laminated it for me for just $20. We placed our posters on easels so that the signs would be eye-level and easy to read. It’s also a good idea to have signs in the booth saying things like, “Project Keepsake—$16,” “Local Authors,” “Ask Me About Project Keepsake,” and “Signed Copies of Books Available.”
  • MAKE A LIST—Make a list and be prepared. Some events provide a table and chairs, and others do not. Beyond books, business cards, posters, and money, you may need tape, scissors, a pen, paper, a few basic tools, a jacket, a hat, sunscreen, water, hand sanitizer, tissue, paper towels, a change of clothes, a hand truck, and trash bags.
  • SET UP A TENT OR AWNING OVERHEAD—At Prater’s Mill, we experienced both torrential downpours and bright, burning sunshine, so the water-repellant canopy we borrowed from my sister-in-law proved to be invaluable. If you opt to use a tent, you may want to tie weights or sandbags to the legs to prevent the wind from blowing it away. Also, a can of WD-40 may come in handy since metal frames rust sometimes making legs and braces hard to slide into position.
  • STACK BOOKS ON THE TABLES—Stack a few books on the table so that passersby can read the spine of the book. Also, prop one book upright so patrons can see the cover from several feet away. If the weather is wet or humid, don’t take too many books out or the pages will swell and buckle.
  • BE NEAT—Keep your table nice, neat, and presentable. Clutter is distracting. No one wants to see crumpled candy wrappers and trash on the table top.
  • GIVE STUFF AWAY—One way to draw people into your booth is to give away inexpensive freebies. This past weekend, I gave buckeyes to dozens of people as they contemplated buying my book. I’d smile and say, “Put it in your pocket for good luck.” The buckeyes were great conversation starters. Be creative. What about a clear vase full of tootsie rolls? And always have a few bookmarks and business cards on the table for people to take.
  • HAVE OTHER RELATED THINGS TO SELL—Janie was smart. She had three items to sell—Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge, Broken Petals, and okra necklaces. I only had one item for sale. After seeing the little glass bluebird on the cover of Project Keepsake (and on my poster), a few people stopped by and wanted to purchase a glass bird. I was surprised, but afterwards I thought, “If I ever do this type of event again, I should probably have a few little birds to sell.”
  • POSITION YOUR TABLE CLOSE TO THE FLOW OF PEOPLE—You want to be as close to the people traffic as possible so you can make easy eye contact. If you place your table deep within your booth, a potential customer has to walk all the way in, which may deter people from stopping.
  • SET PRICES FOR CONVENIENCE—Don’t sell your book for an odd price requiring coin change. Make it easy on you and the buyers and round the price to the nearest dollar.
  • HAVE CASH AND YOUR SQUARE DEVICE—Have plenty of cash on hand. I sold copies of my book for $16, so I made sure that I had plenty of one dollar bills in my cashbox. Also, make sure that your Square device (or other credit card processing device) is working and ready for the day. Pre-program the items you will be selling on your Square app so you don’t have to remember the prices during the transaction.
  • KNOW YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH—An elevator pitch is a thirty-second description of your book. Every author should have one, and every author should practice saying the pitch over and over again. Here’s mine: “My book is a collection of 55 nonfiction stories about keepsakes—a ring, a pocketknife, a quilt, a Bible, a hat, a fishing lure. I asked friends and other writers to pick one of their keepsakes or heirlooms and tell me where it came from and why it’s special. I’m interested in the stories and memories associated with the keepsakes.” I pause for a moment then ask, “Do you have keepsakes at home?” Also, if you partner with another author, make sure you know how to pitch his or her book, too. 
  • PREPARE FOR CHIT CHAT—“So, are you from around here?” “I love your boots!” “Do you read nonfiction?” “Do you have keepsakes or heirlooms at home?” “You look familiar to me.” “I think the rain is over for a while. Have you seen the radar?” Also, if you find out a patron is involved in a particular school, library, club, or group, inquire about speaking to the group about your book. Seize the moment and ask, and don’t forget to get his or her business card or contact information.
  • DON’T HOUND PEOPLE—Not everyone reads, and not everyone wants to buy a book at a country fair or fall festival, so if they keep walking, let them walk away. Don’t call to them. Don’t badger them. Let them go.
AmberwithDempseyFiltered

Wear comfortable clothing. By the way, this man bought my book, returned an hour later and told me how much he loved the first two stories.

  • WEAR COMFORTABLE, APPROPRIATE CLOTHING AND SHOES—Sorry, four-inch-heeled, strappy Manolo Blahnik shoes and skin tight pencil skirts aren’t appropriate articles of clothing for a country fair or street festival. Think comfort. Consider jeans and a nice top. Wear comfortable shoes. This past weekend, I wore my Project Keepsake tee shirt so everyone would associate me with my book. 
  • WEAR A NAME BADGE—A name tag will help people know who you are so they can call you by name. It will also reinforce your brand.
  • SMILE AND BE FRIENDLY—No one wants to buy a book from a grumpy person (unless you are Grumpy Cat). Smile. Be friendly. Be inviting. Be helpful. Be respectful. Let people know you are approachable and you want to be there.
  • WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE—In today’s world, a simple thank you goes a long way. Sit down and write a thank you note to the event organizers and ask them to keep you in mind for other events.

If you, too, have sold books at an outdoor community festival or fair, I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts. Please share by leaving a comment. And as always, thanks for reading my blog. Check out my other blog at www.ProjectKeepsake.com.

Day 7—The Welsh Harp

In an effort to help my writer friends promote their books, I launched Seven Book Reviews in Seven Days.

I met Merrill Davies at a book signing event at Barnes & Noble in Rome a few months ago. The following week, she and her husband sold books next to me at the inaugural meeting of the Calhoun Area Writers group at the Harris Arts Center in Calhoun. Merrill and I traded books that day. She left with a signed copy of Project Keepsake, and I went home with my own copy of The Welsh Harp.

WelshHarpThe book is a coming-of-age novel for young adults set in the early 1900’s. Her story begins in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales, where young Gwen Thomas and her family prepare to move to Eastern Kentucky to reunite with Gwen’s father. Gwen uses her savings to ship her grandfather’s harp to America.

She dreams of learning to play the harp as eloquently as her grandfather, but she’s forced to postpone her dreams to deal with life events in the harsh coal mining community—a hostile school environment, her mother’s severe depression after a tragic event, a flood, etc. Through the trying times, Gwen demonstrates a blossoming strength and maturity as she navigates obstacles and thinks through her problems and situations.

In this excerpt, Gwen is talking to her brother, Simon.

…”Of course you know I want so badly to study the harp. I don’t know if they even teach the harp. Then there’s Mother. Do you know what she said? She said that maybe I should just stay home this fall. Simon, I won’t do it! But the problem is, I don’t know what I want to do.”

“Have you ever though of studying some other instrument, the piano maybe?”

“Not really,” said Gwen. “The harp is a kind of symbol to me. It stand for our country, our people, our kind of music.”

“I guess so,” said Simon. “But sometimes you have to give up your personal dreams because they don’t fit at the time. You have to keep making progress, even if at times it seems you’re going in the wrong direction. You can’t just sit and wait for the perfect set of circumstances.” —Merrill J. Davies from The Welsh Harp (page 112)

Another interesting element to the novel is that Davies drew upon a handwritten family memoir (her husband’s Aunt Ellen Davies’ journal) to describe the Thomas family’s voyage across the Atlantic and arrival at Ellis Island. She was inspired by the history and story.

The Welsh Harp is a great story of determination and perseverance for young readers.

The Welsh Harp
Author: Merrill J. Davies
ISBN:  978-1478186977
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Price: $10.80 (Paperback)
Buy it HERE.

Day 6—A Southern Place

In an effort to help other writers promote their books, I launched Seven Book Reviews in Seven Days. Today, I celebrate another book by a writer with a Calhoun, Georgia connection. Elaine Drennon Little is the author of A Southern Place.SouthernPlace

Last spring, I saw a copy of A Southern Place sitting on a counter in Wanda Dills’ lovely gift shop (A Gift of Season) in downtown Calhoun. As I plucked it from the counter, Sherry said, “A local author wrote that one. It’s good!”

I replied, “Hmm. I don’t know Elaine Little. I know a lot of writers from this area, but I’ve never met her.”

The cover art took me back to my roots in the flatlands of Georgia—south of the state’s fall line where hills and valleys are not plentiful and fields are a deep, verdant green. The back text teased me, but I put the book down remembering the dozens of unread books I had at home.

Two days later, Elaine and I connected via the magic of Facebook. A few days later, she sent me A Southern Place, and I wrapped and taped a copy of Project Keepsake and sent it to her.

Little hooked me from the first page. The book starts in 1989 as a beaten, broken young woman (Mary Jane “Mojo” Hatcher) fights for her life in the ICU of Phoebe Putney Hospital in South Georgia. Sheriff Wally Purvis tries to question her, but she codes before she can push any details out. What happened to her? Where’s her family? Will she survive?

The story then moves back in time to 1958 and uncovers the backstories of Mojo’s mother (Delores) and Uncle Calvin. Here’s an excerpt from the third chapter, as the reader is introduced to Delores.

She was outside under the smoking tree, on break from her job at the Nolan Manufacturing Company, a sweatshop that produced ladies’ panties from size 4 to size 44+. One Pattern. All cotton. In white, pastels, and various floral some big-wig found for next-to-nothing at going-out-of-business warehouses.  —Elaine Drennon Little


Mojo meets Danny Hatcher in Chapter 17. Here’s a part of her narrative:

I paid him no never mind, not at first, I didn’t, and I meant not to at all, but after I talked to him, well, things changed. People aren’t always as bad as you think they’re gonna be, you have to at least give them a chance, before you make a decision about them. My mama didn’t trust nobody, ‘specially men, though she must’ve trusted on at least one or I wouldn’t be here. —Elaine Drennon Little

The rest of the book chronicles Mojo’s journey and the events leading to her unfortunate trip to the ICU.

A Southern Place is not a happy, feel-good story. Instead, the book is about enduring. Surviving. Inner strength. Moving on. It’s a real story that maps a life’s trajectory—the sadness, pain, and misfortune that accompany so many lives throughout the South, and beyond. Little weaves alcohol abuse, the plight of the working class, poverty, pregnancy, and domestic violence into her book with panache. Her story is about real people living real lives, and I loved it!

A Southern Place
Author: Elaine Drennon Little
ISBN: 978-1-937178-39-0
Genre: Southern/Fiction
Price: ~$16 Paperback
Buy it HERE.

Day 5—Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble

In an effort to help my writer friends promote their books, I launched Seven Book Reviews in Seven Days. Today, I celebrate Calhoun’s magnificent mystery writer, Mignon Ballard, and her novel, Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble.

Mignon is a natural-born storyteller, which doesn’t surprise anyone who knows even a little bit about her background.  MissDimple

“We were creepy children with large imaginations,” she told me during an interview last year.  “Some nights, we walked up to Fain Cemetery, sat outside the Pitts family mausoleum, and told ghost stories or pretended to have a funeral with all the characters—the widow, the preacher, the mourners, and of course—the corpse.”

Mignon has written lots of interesting books during her writing career, but she’s also passionate about helping other writers. Last Saturday, Mignon invited a small group of writers ( I was included) to her house for sandwiches, melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Chess pie, and fellowship. She said, “Ask me anything about my books and publishing—anything!” And we did, and Mignon answered all of our questions with great candor and humor. She’s a jewel, and we love her.

Mignon’s latest book was released just before my publisher released my book, Project Keepsake. I attended her book signing at the Harris Arts Center and bought a signed copy. Miss Dimple has been at it again.

“Did you hear that? Dimple Kilpatrick added another couple of peaches to the basket on the ground and paused to listen.

“Hear what?” Charlie Carr, her fellow teacher and former pupil, stood on a ladder almost concealed by the leaves of the tree.

Dimple frowned. “It sounded like someone screaming.”

Set in Elderberry, Georgia during WWII, beloved first-grade teacher Miss Dimple Kilpatrick hears a scream as she picks peaches at an orchard. She rushes to the peach shed to see if she can help the person in distress, but no one is there.

She soon learns that 18-year-old Prentice Blair, who was working alone at the shed, has disappeared. Blair’s lifeless body is later found at a location where she and her boyfriend, Clay Jarrett frequently had romantic rendezvous. Jarrett becomes the prime suspect, but did he do it?

From page 179, as Miss Dimple speaks to the suspect’s mother: “I assume it’s because the evidence—what there is of it—points to Clay. And there’s nobody else in the picture—at least right now. But I told you in the beginning I would help find out the truth, and I will.”

Miss Dimple and a band of school teachers investigate the homicide and unravel the mystery.

Like the other Miss Dimple mysteries, Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble is a fun, delightful read fusing a cast of quirky characters, a murder mystery, and life in a rural American town during wartime.

Miss Dimple Picks a Peck of Trouble
Author: Mignon Ballard
Genre: Mystery Fiction
Price: $18.29 Hardcover $10.67 Kindle
Buy a copy HERE.

Day 4—In Pursuit of Abraham

In an effort to help my writer friends promote their books, I launched Seven Book Reviews in Seven Days. Today, I celebrate Francine Fuqua and her novel, In Pursuit of Abraham.

I met Francine through the Chattanooga Writers Guild. I was collecting stories for Project Keepsake, and I sent her a note and asked her to write a story about one of her keepsakes. Little did I know Francine has dozens of keepsakes, each with its own rich, delicious story. She wrote “Pieces of Esnons-au-Val” and graciously allowed me to include it in my collection.

A month later, I read Francine’s book, In Pursuit of Abraham—a compelling blend of history and drama that had me on the edge of my seat.

Set during the brutal WWII Nazi occupation of France, Dr. Georges Moncel comes under suspicion when he begins researching the Old Testament and writing a historical novel. His actions lead the German SS to believe Moncel is a Jewish sympathizer. With the help of the French Resistance, Moncel flees France to escape harassment and inevitable arrest. He travels to Cairo and finds himself amid the archaeological wonders of the world and the deep biblical history surrounding Abraham and Sarah.

PursuitAbrahamFrancine incorporates a lot of dialogue in her storytelling. Here’s a conversation between Moncel and his wife, Suzanne.

Suzanne stared at him in surprise. “Oh, you’re writing a novel. What’s your novel about? And what does it have do with Jews?”

“The title of my manuscript is From Sarah to Esther. It’s about the great Jewish heroines of biblical times.”

Suzanne’s mouth opened in astonishment. “You can’t be serious!” —Francine Fuqua

Francine’s book takes readers along for the ride as Moncel journeys to the Middle East and makes a ground-breaking discovery. She weaves history, espionage, danger, betrayal, and a controversial love affair into her absorbing storyline.

I enjoyed Francine’s book, and l learned a lot from reading it. And guess what?  She is working on a sequel.

In Pursuit of Abraham
Author: Francine Fuqua
Genre: Fiction
Price: $14.99 Hardcover $8.59 Paperback $2.99 Kindle
Click HERE to buy it.

Day 3—Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches

In an effort to help my writer friends promote their books, I launched Seven Book Reviews in Seven Days. Today, I celebrate Renea Winchester and her book, Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches.

Renea's BookI met Renea a few years ago at a writer’s conference in Calhoun, Georgia. She was kind and approachable, and I liked her instantly. The conference was one of my first outings as a self-proclaimed freelancer, and I still felt weird about introducing myself as a writer, but that doubt and discomfort didn’t last long. At lunch that day, I found myself dining and laughing with Renea, Wayne Minshew (writer extraordinaire and bonafide baseball man), Carmen Slaughter (who knew about The Moth), and the legendary Terry Kay (author of To Dance with the White Dog). It was as if I had been initiated into a very exclusive club of Georgia writers, and I loved it!

I loved reading her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love, and Tomatoes. A few months later, Renea carved out some time in her crazy schedule and wrote “Uncle James’ Pocket Knife” for Project Keepsake.

I devour all of Renea’s writing, and so I knew that Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches would be enriching and delightful, and it is. She shares more of her days spent with 82-year-old, Billy Albertson and the interesting parade of friends, family, and neighbors who frequent Billy’s urban farm.

“A bond forms during visits to Billy’s. Threads of just-made memories weave their way into a special place in the heart. Images captured on film, smiles shared, and that magical moment when a baby goat nibbled your pants or a chick hid beneath your hair: these experiences nestle deep inside a lonely place we all carry, a place we do not share with others. Visits to the farm are precious, priceless, and often recalled in unexpected moments during ordinary days. Sunlight pierces the cloud. A breeze kisses our face, and we recall that moment when old friends introduced us to new friends. In that moment, we became a family.” —Renea Winchester

She also fuses dozens of Southern-inspired recipes into her stories. Readers learn the magic of pouring a small bag of Lance peanuts into a bottle of ice-cold Coca-Cola—a delicacy that took me back in time to my own childhood. Cream-style corn. Microwaved Moon Pies. Buttermilk biscuits. She included so many Southern favorites and recipes and all are meticulously woven into her down-home narratives.

 
Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches
Author: Renea Winchester
Genre: Essays/Recipes
Price: $17 + S/H on Amazon, but also available at lots of brick-and-mortar booksellers
Click HERE to buy it.

 

Day 2—Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge

In an effort to help my writer friends promote their books, I launched Seven Book Reviews in Seven Days. Today, I celebrate Janie Dempsey Watts and her debut novel, Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge.

I met Janie through the Chattanooga Writers Guild. I was collecting stories for Project Keepsake, and I approached her about writing a short piece for the collection. She agreed and penned “The Picture Hat.” A few months later, I found myself reading Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge. Janie masterfully mixes Cherokee history, mystery, romance, and humor to create an undeniably entertaining story.Moon Over Taylor's Ridge

Janie introduces us to Avie Williams Cole, an endearing woman who returns home to Northwest Georgia to settle her father’s estate.  Accompanied by her teenage son, Joseph, the two soon find themselves surrounded—and at times, suffocated—by a cast of quirky Southern characters.

By the way, my favorite character in the book is Xylia, a woman who owns a general store and cares for a mentally challenged adult son.

Avie’s son becomes obsessed with Cherokee history and the possibility that a mine lies hidden on or near his grandfather’s property.  While his mother tends to business, Joseph spends his waking hours on a mission to find the mythical treasure trove.

Enveloped by the beautiful, bucolic countryside, Avie begins a quest of her own as she examines her life and realizes that she and her husband, Michael, have drifted hopelessly apart.  She sinks into a dark place, as she grieves the loss of her father, mourns the loss of her marriage, and battles family members who wish to develop the pristine acreage of Taylor’s Crossing for financial gain.

While roaming the ridgeline, she meets a mysterious stranger, Will, who possesses a connection with the land that Avie finds deeply intriguing and appealing.  Avie fights her feelings even though her attraction to Will grows stronger with each chance encounter.

The storyline follows an interesting trajectory as Avie rediscovers her inner strength, learns to stand on her own again, and pursues a happiness that has eluded her for several years.

Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge
Author: Janie Dempsey Watts
Genre: Fiction
Price:  $11.66 Paperback $6.99 Kindle
Click HERE to purchase.

Day 1—Dusty Books & Faded Papers

In an effort to help my writer friends promote their books, I launched Seven Book Reviews in Seven Days. Today, I celebrate Marie J. Amerson and her masterpiece, Dusty Books & Faded Papers: Writing a Community History.

I met Marie at a Project Keepsake book reading and signing event in Warner Robins, Georgia. After the event, she shared a copy of her book with me. I didn’t have a chance to thumb through it for several weeks, but when I did, I saw the power and potential in the pages. Marie’s book fuses together two of my loves—storytelling and documenting histories (of people, of places, and of things). Her book will help many!Dusty Books & Faded Papers

I’ve heard it said that many people live the history of a place, but few actually write about it. My purpose here is to share my experiences as a novice historian and provide ideas to help you sift through layers of your community’s past. —Marie J. Amerson

Dusty Books & Faded Papers is a practical guide for researching, writing, printing, and publishing a community’s history. Based on her own experience, Marie chronicles how she and her mother researched and wrote the history of Corinth Methodist Church titled, Generations of a Brush Arbor. 

From refining a community history project to the gathering, the sifting, the endless researching, the compiling, and the publishing—she covers it all in her easy-to-read book. After each section, Marie offers helpful action tips—to-do lists, of sorts, for readers who are embarking on similar projects. She also included worksheets in the appendix designed to help novice community historians organize their work and stay on task.

I love this book. I feel that it will help so many people who are pondering launching some type of community history project but don’t know where to start or how to go about doing it.

Dusty Books & Faded Papers: Writing a Community History
Author: Marie J. Amerson
Genre: Nonfiction
Price: $11.40 Paperback, $2.99 Kindle
Click HERE to buy it.