Author: Andra Watkins

Book Review | “Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace” by Andra Watkins Autobiographical account of a daughter & father

Posted Thursday, 15 January, 2015 by jorielov , , 1 Comment

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By:

Last year, I participated in an epic historical fiction blog tour on behalf of a novel I was itching to delve into ever since it was first offered to me to review for the tour itself! The novel I’m referring to ended up being one of my Top Picks for 2014 (which is included on my End of the Year Survey for 2014; not yet released at time of this posting) due to the breadth of the story combined with the scope of a story-teller who left me ruminatively happy! “To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis” changed my perception of historical fiction as much as “Inscription” by H.H. Miller. Both writers wrote genre-bending narratives that etch themselves into your mind and heart, to a level that sets the bar quite high for others who follow suit.

I was captured by the journey Ms. Watkins was taking on the Trace, camping out in front of a computer with my Mum & Da, watching her videos like you might serial tv! Each video was honest and shot straight from the Trace itself! The only takeaway we wished we had of that experience is the little green calling card for “To Live Forever” which Ms. Watkins held up during each video! She captured our spirits by her unwavering honesty and her cheeky humour which gave us a lift of joy! Whilst she was on the Trace, I hosted her for a review and an interview (the latter of which she replied to at a stop!), but I knew then, what I know now… Ms. Watkins was one author I would support throughout her career. She has something quite special to share with the world and I knew I had discovered something quite extraordinary!

I was contacted by Ms. Watkins who put me in touch with her publicist in regards to reviewing her first non-fiction release, an autobiography of her journey on the Trace and the time she spent with her father. I was honoured she had reached out to me and I quite happily returned a reply to accept. I received a complimentary copy of “Not Without My Father” from Word Hermit Press in exchange for an honest review! I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

On my connection to Ms. Watkins: 

I felt connected to Ms. Watkins before and after I read her debut novel, “To Live Forever” whilst attempting to keep in touch with her via her blog. Life ebbed and flowed in the months between when I first met her through the blog tour and January 2015 when I am hosting her for the second time, but one moment in particular I remember we both experienced the same agony at the same time! In July 2014, we were both bitten by spiders and equally allergic to them! We had a lovely conversation about it on Twitter, and I couldn’t help smiling realising despite the miles, she understood what I was going through! She’s an incredible writer and motivating spirit — a person I am genuinely thankful my path has crossed with and of whom I am thankful to interact with during the year.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with her through her blog as much as I enjoy our random conversations on Twitter. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time.

Book Review | “Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace” by Andra Watkins Autobiographical account of a daughter & fatherNot Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace
by Andra Watkins
Source: Direct from Publisher

Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero? Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.

After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.

As Watkins trudged America's forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humourous and heartbreaking memoir that asks is one can really turn I wish I had into I'm glad I did.

Places to find the book:

Add to Riffle

Also by this author: To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis,

Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction


Published by Word Hermit Press

on 15th January, 2015

Pages: 238

Published By: Word Hermit Press, 15 Janaury, 2015
Converse via: #NotWithoutMyFather | #AndraWatkins | #NatchezTraceWalk444miles
Available Formats: Paperback

About Andra Watkins

Andra Wakins

Andra lives in Charleston, South Carolina. A non-practicing CPA, she has a degree in accounting from Francis Marion University. She's still mad at her mother for refusing to let her major in musical theater, because her mom was convinced she'd end up starring in porn films.

In addiction to her writing talent, Andra is an accomplished public speaker. Her acclaimed first novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis was published by Word Hermit Press in 2014.

Read More

Divider

Posted Thursday, 15 January, 2015 by jorielov in 21st Century, A Father's Heart, ARC | Galley Copy, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Father-Daughter Relationships, Indie Author, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Jorie Loves A Story, Memoir, Modern Day, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Natchez Trace, Non-Fiction, Philosophical Intuitiveness, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Seclusion in the Natural World, The Natural World, Travel Narrative | Memoir, Vignettes of Real Life, Walking & Hiking Trails

+Blog Tour+ To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis by Andra Wakins

Posted Tuesday, 1 April, 2014 by jorielov , , 7 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

To Live Forever by Andra Wakins

Published By: Word Hermit Press, 1 March, 2014
Official Author WebsitesSite | Twitter | Facebook | Pin(terest) Boards
Converse via: #ToLiveForeverTour | #ToLiveForeverBook
#MeriwetherLewis
| #NatchezTraceWalk444miles
Available Formats: Paperback & E-Book
Page Count: 305

Acquired By:  As soon as I saw this particular tour come through my Inbox from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, I elected to request to be a tour stop on the “To Live Forever” virtual book tour. The premise of the book was awe-inspiring and I could not pass up this opportunity to read a book which shattered conventional genre orientations! I was given two spots on the tour, a book review & an Author Interview of which I was grateful! I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author Andra Wakins in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read: 

Whilst reading the virtual tour information for “To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis” my initial reaction was thus: I love everything about this particular story, from the historical impact to the paranormal implications! There is suspense but there is also the human desire for legacy! A wicked chance to read a book that I cannot quite put my finger on which genre it belongs in! I love finding genre-benders and this one for sure has all the lovely ingredients of a historical novel interspersed with time slip, paranormal tendencies and psychological suspense! As a reader, who dances through genres and whose blood is stirred by the evoking narratives of inventive writers who dare to give a reader a new dimension of a reading experience — I will always champion the rebels with a cause, such as Ms. Wakins! Who boldly refuses to give up on their stories and forge their own path towards publication!


Book Synopsis:

Is remembrance immortality?

Nobody wants to be forgotten, least of all the famous.

Meriwether Lewis lived a memorable life. He and William Clark were the first white men to reach the Pacific in their failed attempt to discover a Northwest Passage. Much celebrated upon their return, Lewis was appointed governor of the vast Upper Louisiana Territory and began preparing his eagerly-anticipated journals for publication. But his re-entry into society proved as challenging as his journey. Battling financial and psychological demons and faced with mounting pressure from Washington, Lewis set out on a pivotal trip to the nation’s capital in September 1809. His mission: to publish his journals and salvage his political career. He never made it. He died in a roadside inn on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee from one gunshot to the head and another to the abdomen.

Was it suicide or murder? His mysterious death tainted his legacy and his fame quickly faded. Merry’s own memory of his death is fuzzy at best. All he knows is he’s fallen into Nowhere, where his only shot at redemption lies in the fate of rescuing another. An ill-suited “guardian angel,” Merry comes to in the same New Orleans bar after twelve straight failures. Now, with one drink and a two-dollar bill he is sent on his last assignment, his final shot at escape from the purgatory in which he’s been dwelling for almost 200 years. Merry still believes he can reverse his forgotten fortunes.

Nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney is the daughter of French Quarter madam and a Dixieland bass player. When her mother wins custody in a bitter divorce, Emmaline carves out her childhood among the ladies of Bourbon Street. Bounced between innocence and immorality, she struggles to find her safe haven, even while her mother makes her open her dress and serve tea to grown men.

It isn’t until Emmaline finds the strange cards hidden in her mother’s desk that she realizes why these men are visiting: her mother has offered to sell her to the highest bidder. To escape a life of prostitution, she slips away during a police raid on her mother’s bordello, desperate to find her father in Nashville.

Merry’s fateful two-dollar bill leads him to Emmaline as she is being chased by the winner of her mother’s sick card game: The Judge. A dangerous Nowhere Man convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his long dead wife, Judge Wilkinson is determined to possess her, to tease out his wife’s spirit and marry her when she is ready. That Emmaline is now guarded by Meriwether Lewis, his bitter rival in life, further stokes his obsessive rage.

To elude the Judge, Em and Merry navigate the Mississippi River to Natchez. They set off on an adventure along the storied Natchez Trace, where they meet Cajun bird watchers, Elvis-crooning Siamese twins, War of 1812 re-enactors, Spanish wild boar hunters and ancient mound dwellers. Are these people their allies? Or pawns of the perverted, powerful Judge?

After a bloody confrontation with the Judge at Lewis’s grave, Merry and Em limp into Nashville and discover her father at the Parthenon. Just as Merry wrestles with the specter of success in his mission to deliver Em, The Judge intercedes with renewed determination to win Emmaline, waging a final battle for her soul. Merry vanquishes the Judge and earns his redemption. As his spirit fuses with the body of Em’s living father, Merry discovers that immortality lives within the salvation of another, not the remembrance of the multitude.


 {: Author Biography :}

Andra Wakins

Hey. I’m Andra Watkins. I’m a native of Tennessee, but I’m lucky to call Charleston, South Carolina, home for 23 years. I’m the author of ‘To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis’, coming March 1, 2014. It’s a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809.

I like:

  • hiking
  • eating (A lot; Italian food is my favorite.)
  • traveling (I never met a destination I didn’t like.)
  • reading (My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.)
  • coffee (the caffeinated version) and COFFEE (sex)
  • performing (theater, singing, public speaking, playing piano)
  • time with my friends
  • Sirius XM Chill
  • yoga (No, I can’t stand on my head.)
  • writing in bed
  • candlelight

I don’t like:

  • getting up in the morning
  • cilantro (It is the devil weed.)
  • surprises (For me or for anyone else.)
  • house cleaning
  • cooking

Meriwether Lewis | Enters stage right just past the grave:

Watkins has a gift for eluding to the story as its foreshadowed to unfold by giving her readers a nib and a tasting of where her characters are going to lead both the writer and the unsuspecting reader who bemuseful of curiosity picks up the book to engage in the mystery. She cleverly allows the three main protagonists to make a causal, unfiltered entrance whilst giving the reader a nibbling of suspense about the purported dimensional expanse in which they live. One of the reasons I was attracted to reading this particular story is the level of interest in the unknown. For as many near-death experiences there are of those who return back to earth as they stepped out of the light to come back to their earthly lives; there are a multitude of examples of what ‘lies beyond the veil’.

The Meriwether who steps into the forefront of this particular story is a nearly-jaded (here I refer to ‘nearly’ as a piece of his spirit half-hinges himself to a hope he no longer feels possible) downtrodden Meriwether who has lost the will to see the point in his existence. After attempting task after task to sort out where he is and how to exit the in-between world he’s tethered too, you gain the sense he is walking the path between madness and fugue.

Unbeknownst to Meriwether, I do believe is his fatherly nature and tendencies towards children. I think he was plumb aghast at how well he fared whilst in the company of Miss Emmaline. A natural bourne role model for young people, giving them something to chew on by appreciating their worth at their age of youth. He treats her with respect and talks to her straight, allowing her to process what she needs to hear. He listens and he’s attentive and that is one of the best bits to seeing Meriwether in this way. Emmaline humbles his weathered and jaded heart.

My Review of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis:

The opening bits of To Live Forever surely by George tug quite a heap at your heart-strings! Emmaline is a young girl, all of nine years when her mother strategically out favoured her father in the judge’s eyes for sole custody. The very words sole custody etch out a shuddering straight to the core of a little girl’s soul! Dragged away from the one parent who loved her beyond selfish desires and needs, Emmaline is forced to grasp a hold of the whisperments of her father’s memory until the day could arrive where she could change her stars and reunite with him permanently.

Caught up in the darkest of night behaviours, Emmaline is fated of having a mother whose only intentions towards her daughter are to earn  her keep out of her. I cringed reading the passages of where only Aunt Bertie could save Emmaline’s life from being snuffed out from love completely! A measure of a man’s humanity is oft laid bare by his actions towards his children. If Emmaline’s mother had to stand trial on grounds of character choices and humanity she would no sooner see the daylight again than a bat caught in the nettles of a sewer tunnel! Young Emmaline is gifted by a singular grace of affecting herself to the light within the days she has never quite been free to live within. Her inner spirit hugs her close to the truths of life and its her raw courage which solidifies her ability to reach out to Meriwether in a darkened alley.

Words ooze out of Wakin’s narrative as sweet as a honeycomb to a tending worker bee. She has a way of conveying imagery, both hauntingly dangerous and tragically poignant with the flick of her pen and a dribble of her ink. All of which fuses into a new tangible version of Southern Gothic intermixed with historical fiction purveying the notion that our past is entwined to our present as much as our future. Time is temporal and To Live Forever is a living thesis towards that end. The novel breathes and extends its own narrator around the interjections of the characters on its flattened stage. 

Emmaline and Meriwether’s sojourn trek into the wilds of the Natchez Trace held me reflective of their plight. Not merely to reach Nashville, in order to seek out Emmaline’s father but of the greater disadvantages against them. Of Meriwether never truly seeing himself for the man he was but rather the disillusioned sigh of a lost legacy. Emmaline was still young enough to grow and find in maturity a strong path towards individual freedom. Each of them were tied to a future bent against them by situations out of their control. Striving to forge a better path to walk, they found reassurance in each other knowing that any journey worth taking is sometimes lessened in adversity when shared.

The natural world is the backdrop of To Live Forever, fraught with an indecisive urge to complicate their expedition by presenting new challenges neither of them had yet experienced. For Meriwether he’s being given the chance at redemption, and towards living a half-life of what his life could have been had he lived past his time of death. In Emmaline, I see an urchin of an innocent girl stalwart and strong in her internal hope to carry her through the aching tides of her adolescence. Her courage runs deeper than her confidence due to a few kind souls who crossed her path for the good.

The story is interwoven as a refractive mirror of the Natchez Trace itself. The harder you believe any blight of adversity is in your life to conquer and overcome, the more your spirit will start to believe your too fragile to try anything. The Trace is a test of wills as much as it’s a test of inner fortitude to re-strengthen our shield against unwanted storms and periods of stress which arise out of nowhere. Life can ebb and flow, bobbing us along until we’re ready to see what our eyes blinded us towards revealing. All of our passageways lead us further towards where our feet are meant to land, but what if we hold ourselves back from the greatest revelations of all? Simply because we’re not willing to alight where we’re lead to go? The Trace is unique in that it withholds its past like a tightly woven tapestry. Each piece of its innate soul is stitched inside the weathered path where feet and souls mingled into the mist. There lessons linger and their spirits shudder to grieve.

There is an ever-knowing pool of truth and hope awaiting us around each bend and turn. The people we feel we are ‘randomly’ encountering are the kind of teachers and advisers we might never expect would be important to our growth. Listen with compassion. Be kind to strangers who might one day become a cherished friend. Grow through friendship and rise each day realising the beauty of the hour. Our lives are leading us through the light and back inside it.

 

On Illustrations | Reflective fragments of text:

A delight for someone who appreciates illustration, art, and design as much as I do will appreciate the cover-art splashing out an array of the internal illustrations peppered throughout the novel itself! They arrive rather unexpectedly as you travel through the chapters. A bit of a sketch here, and an elusive sketch over here, attempting to give you another fragmented piece of the whole. I like the old-school approach to the sketches themselves and if I had thought to ask ahead of time, I would have asked Ms. Wakins about their origins whilst I was still composing my Interview which posts on Thursday! The vivid detail in carbon textured visuals is a treat for me, as I always felt one place most novels lose a bit of creative edge is from withholding illustrators from illuminating their novels with art.

There is a geometric shift in book production where stock imagery has morphed away the originality of most cover designs to where its hard to distinguish at times who was the forerunner and who took up the lead from the one who followed next. I miss the uniqueness of book cover art as only a few Indie publishers still strive towards giving us a peek of a view of the internal world inside the stories whilst gracing their covers with conversational stirring projections! I am blessed to host blog tours with the few I am referencing in this paragraph!

Not all book covers yield to this opinion, but you have to admit, how oft do you wander around a bookshoppe and feel as though you’re staring into the sameness of what was already released!? As though if you were to stack a heap of books end to end with each other, they would look like twins rather than fraternal cousins four times removed!? The differences in design and the elements in which covers resonate with us boil down to typography, colour, elemental ornamentation, and a cheeky clever way of cluing the audience in on a ‘slice’ of what they will find revealed by the ending chapters fall close. And, this dear hearts is where Ms. Wakins outshines the lot!

I loved the clever surprise in who “Mister Jack’ was in reality! This nature-loving girl felt all giddy inside when she connected the dots, which nearly occurred half a step ahead of Emmaline!

A note of gratitude on behalf of the author, Ms. Wakins:

I classified this novel several different ways to Sunday under “topics, genres, and subjects” because it fits quite easily into quite a few distinctive areas of literature! For me, its occupying the ethereal space between psychological suspense intermingled with Southern Gothic, with a pinch of Horror-lite (I blame the Judge!)! Horror-lite for me implies that there are bits and bobbles of ‘horror’ thrown in for good measure but not overtly so as to be disturbing or distracting. Once your reading a novel by Ms. Wakins your lulling in the water of the Mississippi, fully aware of where you are but caught up in her stream of lucid dream-state story-telling where you barely notice the darker points around the fringes of the story because your caught up in the adventure of the central plot surrounding Meriwether Lewis!

I earmarked ‘vulgarity in literature’ as a way to reference the lovely gift Wakins wrote into her début novel; with one singular foul-mouthed character she championed every inch of what I have been lamenting about myself for quite a while now on Jorie Loves A Story! That there are far better ways to express yourself and that sometimes, even though you walk a line in life yourself, you cannot always help but encounter a few people who might push your buttons towards one extreme or the other. It’s how you find the balance and how you learn to embrace the ruts in the road which will define your characters in the long run.


Virtual Road Map for “To Live Forever Tour”

To Live Forever Blog Tour via HFVBT

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBTon my Bookish Events page!


{: Natchez Trace Walk :}

Natchez Trace Map
Natchez Trace Map of the walking route Andra Walkins undertook to promote her début novel “To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis”. Map supplied by the author for the virtual blog tour.
The Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of years ago, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from points in the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi. It was logical for the first Native Americans to settle along the Trace to follow part of their migrating food supply. When the Kaintucks settled west of the Appalachians, they had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez, but before steam power, they had to walk home. The Trace became one of the busiest roads in North America.

An extra special surprise for readers:

Whilst Ms. Wakins undertook the grueling 444 miles walk along the Natchez Trail, she brought a free-spirited funny-bone tickling sense of humour with her as a constant companion on the road! As evidenced through her cheekily humourous responses to “reader submitted author questions” whilst she walked! Filmed wherever she happened to be on the Trace, I implore you to sit back, pull up a comfy chair and a cuppa of your favourite brew! I’d personally go with hot cocoa or fresh brewed hot chai,…

 

[ To Live Forever | Natchez Trace 444 Mile Walk Start ] by Andra Wakins
Start with her video diary Question 1 & watch straight-through!
After you listen to several, come back & add your reflections in the comment threads!

 


To Live Forever is a humbling tale of adventure and the juxtaposition of immortality, death, and life as it evolves throughout our days on earth and what fore-falls us in the next. Atmospherically enriched by characters happily brought forward to meet as you journey with Emmaline and Meriwether. Do you feel you can relate to some of the life lessons and cardinal truths I hinted about in my review!? Have you noticed similar intuitive resonations in your own life which have led to either a renewal of hope or a resolution of an obstacle once on your path?! How did you react when you learnt the author walked the 444 mile Natchez Trace route!? Did you feel as I did that she not only undertook a trail to promote her book, but she re-traced a part of Meriwether Lewis’s life to where the past had a deep impact on the future? A cross-roads of one life intersecting with another? What do you like the best about reading stories like To Live Forever where the writer focuses you to think about ethereal dimensions just outside of our view!?

{SOURCES: Cover art of “To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis”, book synopsis, author photograph of Andra Wakins, author biography, the Natchez Trace map & Natchez Trace Walk Infomation and the tour host badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. The video by Andra Watkins had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Comments via Twitter:

Divider

Posted Tuesday, 1 April, 2014 by jorielov in Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Discussions, Debut Novel, Geographically Specific, Ghosts & the Supernatural, Good vs. Evil, Gothic Literature, Haunting & Ethereal, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Horror-Lite, Indie Author, Indie Book Trade, Magical Realism, Meriwether Lewis, Natchez Trace, Naturalist Sketchings, New Orleans, Parapsychological Suspense, Southern Gothic, Time Slip, Vulgarity in Literature, Wildlife Artwork

Page 1 of 11