So many things about writing are unlucky, even frustrating. While I try to focus on the positive things (and I have many), the negative things are sometimes mind-blowing enough for my wounded psyche to take days to recover. Other writers will probably recognize a few of these gems.

  1. Indie bookstore owner – “I won’t read your book, because I’m sure it’s terrible. People are just telling you it’s good to be nice.”
  2. Vendor I (used to) frequent – “Yeah. I know I told your husband I wanted a signed copy of your book, but now that you dragged it all the way out here, I don’t have time to read.”
  3. Numerous people of the nameless, faceless variety – “I only read non-fiction. Fiction is a waste of time.”
  4. More nameless, faceless people – “I don’t buy books, because I can get so many for free………and they all mostly suck……..why can’t writers pen good free books for me to read???”
  5. Dad: “You a reader?” Random people: “No. I don’t read, and I don’t understand why anybody does.” Or: “I only read motorcycle magazines.” (Is that code for p0rn??)
  6. Infamous South Carolina Congressman – “I’ll come back and buy one.” (He never did. Maybe he didn’t want to read a book set on a famous trail, given his association with famous trails???)

Given how much of this my publisher, my publicist and I hear every day, I savor each success. I can run my Happy Tank for weeks from one positive review or successful event.

And book clubs are starting to honor me with multiple hits to my Happy Tank. In September, I’m traveling to Auburn, Massachusetts for a book club appearance, thanks to the awesome Lisa Kramer. The ladies of the Moncks Corner-Pinopolis Book Club have booked me for February 2015. And I have back-to-back book club appearances in Denmark/Bamberg, South Carolina next May, thanks to Emily Guess.

Book club appearances always lead to stories. How clubs were founded. Fun traditions they follow. What they like to eat and drink.

If you’re a member of a book club, I’m starting a periodic series that will feature YOU. I’d love to chronicle the story of how your book club came to be. If you have a favorite book club recipe, I’d love to share it here. Any other off-the-wall traditions? Send those along, too.

Submit your book club story to mystories(at)andrawatkins(dot)com.

Not in a book club? No worries. You know plenty of people who are. Share this post with your book club friends, and encourage them to participate.

Tomorrow, our first story is from the Beaufort (SC) Book Bashers, the first book club to ever honor me with an invitation. I’m sharing their awesome recipe for Kennedy Punch. (I cannot imagine Jackie Kennedy drinking it, but I love the story of how it came to be.)

Actual fan mail. I read and save every bit of it!!

Actual fan mail. I read and save every bit of it!!

Haven’t heard of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether LewisThat’s okay. Most people haven’t. Become part of an elite group – People Who Read TLF Before Everybody Else. Download your digital copy for $4.99 at your favorite online outlet below.

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Oprah Winfrey is made of the dust of the Natchez Trace. The Devil’s Backbone. Maybe that’s why she’s so tough.

image from forbes.com

She was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. A town of just over 7,000 people, it sits west of the Trace in the central part of the state. Right where the Mississippi Hill Country starts.

As I approached the 200-mile mark on my 444-mile hike of the Natchez Trace, I walked through swamps for several days to reach the hills. The federal road is raised, but I imagined the boatmen who walked the Trace in hoards. Sloshing through mud and muck, their leather shoes paltry cover compared to my high-tech athletic wear.

Maybe those indefatigable spirits imbued a few Trace people will iron wills.

I wandered around Kosciusko’s center. A town with no stop lights. The courthouse its central feature. I tried to imagine Oprah playing outside a boarded up laundromat. Going to the tiny library. Wondering about the Revolutionary War general for whom her hometown is named. Dreaming of where an ancient roadway might take her.

If she followed it.

She’s not the only woman who took the Natchez Trace to follow her dreams.

If you are new to this 444-mile trek of mine, the Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Throughout history, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi; Native Americans settled along the Trace to follow their migrating food supply; and when the Kaintucks  had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez before steam power, they had to walk home, making the Trace one of the busiest roads in early America.

To launch my recently-published novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I will be the first person of either sex to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014. Fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. I will spend each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809.

I am taking readers into the world of the book. You’ll see the places that inspired scenes and hear the backstories of different characters, with running commentary by my father, who’s tagging along with me, just as Merry and Em do in the book.

Click here to see the best photos from my Sunday rest day: Andra Watkins Tumblr

You know you like FREE. Tweet, Facebook, type and review your way to Charleston, South Carolina in the To Live Forever Journey to Charleston Contest. The more you enter, the better your chance to WIN. Click here to find out more: Support My Aching Feet.

Finish my novel before I’m done walking. To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is available in paperback and e-book formats at these outlets: Click to Purchase To Live Forever.

Here’s today’s Reader Question: