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posted Oct 10, 2014, 12:45 PM by Janie Watts

Once you take your book on the road, you never know who you’ll meet at book signings and other events.  If you live in the South, it might just be kinfolk!

Through Facebook I received an invitation to speak at a book club about half an hour down the road from my home.  At night.  From a person I’d never met. In a remote area.  Alarm bells rang in my head!

I began trying to wrangle up a girlfriend to accompany me to this mysterious book club. After all, she was a pistol packing mama. She could wait in the car—then come in to rescue me if I didn’t come back in five minutes.  I imagined this book club meeting would end up being something like “Misery” (novel by Stephen King, screenplay by William Goldman) with the author (me) being the victim.  

Two weeks before the book club, I was at a bookstore signing when a well-dressed woman showed up and introduced herself as my cousin, Joan. 

“I’ll be at that book club meeting October 2, the one out in the country.  I thought you might like to meet me,” she said.  (Boy, would I!) “And by the way, we’re cousins.” She pulled out a chart showing our 19th Century ancestor-in-common, one Amos Williams of Walker County, GA.

How had she figured that out, I wondered? 

Oh, the book.  My novel, “Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge.”  The story features a legendary Cherokee silver mine, and my real-life ancestor Thomas Williams, who is her ancestor, too.  She had consulted her genealogy charts and figured out how we are related.   

The upshot is on the night of the book club, my pistol packing friend couldn’t come after all, but I felt okay as I pulled off the main highway and wove my way into the backwoods area where SIRI directed me. All because of my new-found cousin who had graciously taken the time to introduce herself at a book signing. 

The large rambling farmhouse was soon filled with wonderful readers, and no less than five of my Williams’ cousins. I met a brother and sister, their mother who was in her 90s, another cousin, and saw Joan again.  I instantly felt a connection with each of these cousins, and especially the talkative 90-plus year old lady.  She had lived in the Chattanooga neighborhood I had grown up in, albeit 20 years earlier than I. We discovered my favorite neighbor as a child, the well-read Louise Oehmig Burton, was a common connection.

That October night at the book club turned out to be a magical one. We sat outdoors in and talked books by candlelight. The members of “Reading Between the Wines” sipped their drinks while I spoke about my book.  I felt honored that my cousins had taken time out of their busy lives to come meet me.

Since then, I’ve seen some of these kinfolk, and met yet another cousin they introduced me to.  That one is a gardener, and happens to need fertilizer for her garden.  I have horses…with lots of “fertilizer” for the taking.  She is a strong woman and knows how to wield a shovel.  Nothing like having a shoveling cousin in the family when you own horses.

 Best of all, I survived my fear of the dark and remote book club meeting. Instead of a mad Kathy Bates imprisoning me against my will, I was surrounded by kinfolk, blood.  I was safe.