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Reading, Writing, Cooking on Retreat

August 6, 2014 | No Comments

I am on a retreat this week. Not the monastic kind, although, come to think of it, my narrow twin bed here does resemble something you’d find in a nunnery. No, actually I am on my annual twice-a-year writing retreat with my pals Margaret Maron, Bren Witchger and Diane Chamberlain. Normally, there are seven of us, but this time around, unfortunately our number is diminished due to life issues. We’re missing Katy Munger, Alex Sokoloff and Sarah Shaber, but work—and writing must go on.

This week we are at a beautiful non-profit center for the arts in Southern Pines, N.C. Our location sometimes vary, but our routine does not. The seven of us run away from home with our laptops and yellow legal pads. We burrow in for five days and write, brainstorm, write some more, and offer each other encouragement and advice, stopping only for very simple meals—and more brainstorming.

We’re now in our seventh or eighth year of retreats, which means collectively we’ve probably produced a couple dozen novels as a result of this week. So we take our work here very seriously.

Because the kitchen here is rudimentary, okay, it’s positively primitive, our meals have to be easy to prepare—and delicious. We all take one night to prepare dinner. Usually I bring a beef stew, or chili, or sometimes roast a chicken. As you can see from the photo below, I had to use three small saucepans to cook the pasta, because the kitchen doesn’t have a stockpot. Or a decent knife. In our writer’s group, Margaret is always assigned to bring a knife, and Sarah brings the coffee. Diane is in charge of getting us scheduled for the retreat. I bring wine. Alex brings her amazing shoulder massage talents. It’s a beautiful thing, our division of labor.

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But this year, we are having our retreat in August for the first time. Because I come from the longest distance away, I drove up from Atlanta Sunday night and stayed in a motel so I could be ready to get to work on Monday.

Before heading over to the retreat house, I took a leisurely drive around the country-side, on the hunt for a produce stand. I hit the jackpot at Auman’s Peach Orchard in West End,N.C. I bought two sacks of sweet, juicy Georgia Belle peaches, some corn and blueberries, all grown on or near the property. The peach man directed me to another produce stand, Andrews Family Produce, just up the road where I scored some fabulous local grown tomatoes.

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Tonight is my turn to cook, and I’ve been salivating all day today, anticipating the recipe I’ve chosen. It’s called Francis Lam’s Perfect Five Minute Raw Tomato Pasta. I first found it and fixed it on another retreat I took myself several years ago at my friend Beth’s house in the mountains of Ashe County, N.C. I fell hard for this recipe, fixing it three or four nights in a row, it was so easy. And yummy. I couldn’t find the recipe, so I called Beth today, and she shared it with me again. So here it is. And I hope the girls like it. And that the muses like it as much as the last time I fixed it in Ashe County, where I had a break-through on the book I was writing at the time. Muses gotta eat too, you know!

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This serves 2-4 people supposedly. And you should only make it if you have gorgeous dead-ripe ‘maters.

 

2-1/2 lbs. tomatoes.

2 loose cups arugula

Scant ½ shaved red onion

1 lb. linguine

olive oil, to taste.

Salt and pepper to taste

Red wine vinegar, a glug. You know what a glug is, right?

Freshly grated or shaved parmesan cheese Not the stuff in the green shaker can.

 

Chop the tomatoes into ½ inch piees and put with all their juices in a very big bowl. Season with salt and pepper and a splash of olive oil. Stir and taste. Add some red wine vinegar.

 

Bring a big pot of water to boil, add salt and then the pasta. Stir

While the pasta cooks, layer the arugula on top of the tomatoes and then layer the slices of red onion on top of that.

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When the pasta is done, drain it and dump it straight into the bowl. Leave it there, untouched for two minutes. Sip some wine. You bought wine, right? Grate the cheese while you’re waiting. Now, stir it all together, add the cheese and taste for salt and pepper. Serve. I probably should have told you to fix some garlic bread in the broiler while your sauce is sitting. You’re gonna need it to sop up all those yummy juices.Otherwise, prepare to lick the bowl and experience  a literary break-through. Don’t thank me. Thank Beth. And Francis Lam.

 

 

Meet Truman Kicklighter on Audio

July 7, 2014 | No Comments

Back in the 1990s, when I was writing mysteries, I conjured up a retired newspaper reporter sleuth named Truman Kicklighter. Truman was a crusty widower who lived on a fixed income, in a retirement hotel in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. Truman was feisty, a dedicated early-bird coupon clipper, much like many of the retirees I knew while growing up in St. Pete. He had a sidekick, Jackleen Canaday, who was a waitress at The Fountain of Youth residential hotel, and the two of them managed to get themselves into and out of hot water on a regular basis.
Lickety Split

crash course

The two books in the series, LICKETY-SPLIT and CRASH COURSE, went out of print some years ago, but with the advent of e-readers, I decided to self-publish both titles. In the first book, LICKETY SPLIT, Truman and Jackleen investigate the murder of a race-track tout who’s come up with what seems like a fool-proof system to pick winners at Derby Lane, the historic greyhound race track in St. Pete. In CRASH COURSE, Truman comes to the rescue after Jackleen unwittingly gets herself mixed up with a crooked gang of used car scammers. Both books are available on all digital formats, but now, finally, I’m happy to announce that Truman is also available as an audiobook.
Kayser

When it came time to hire a narrator to give voice to Truman, I knew immediately who to call. Our friend Chris Kayser is a celebrated veteran actor, best known in Atlanta for bringing Ebeneezer Scrooge to life for the past 16 years in the Alliance Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol. Chris keeps busy with other acting roles, and professional voice work–and he plays a mean game of tennis, according to my husband, who plays with him on a regular basis. Chris is actually A LOT younger than Truman, but being the amazing actor he is, he’ll make you believe he’s the personification of my favorite male sleuth. I’m thrilled with the results, and hope all my fans will give the books a listen during their summer road trips–or just your next block of “me time” listening to audiobooks.

If you’re an audiobook fan like me, I hope you’ll give check out LICKETY SPLIT and CRASH COURSE.

On The Road Again

June 2, 2014 | No Comments

Save The Date goes on sale at midnight tonight, and that means just one thing–I’m on the road again! People always ask me what is my favorite thing about writing, and the answer, unfailingly, is meeting my readers. They welcome me, inspire me, hug my neck and comment on new hairdo. What’s better than that?

We had an amazing party in Atlanta last night to celebrate the launch of my 23rd novel, and now, the party rolls on. If we did book tour T-shirts like rock n’ roll tours, mine would have to be an XXL to list all my tour stops. Briefly, it reads like this, Savannah, Charleston, Raleigh, Pawley’s Island, Greenville, S.C., Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham, New Jersey, Conn., Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Fairhope AL., Nashville, St. Simons Island, and Savannah again.

If you live anywhere near my tour stops, I hope you’ll come out to meet me, party, hug my neck–and comment on my new hairdo. Y’all come!

In the meantime, here are some pics from last night’s shindig…

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Save the Date June 1

May 15, 2014 | No Comments

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Hey y’all, what are you doing on Sunday June 1? I promise you this is one date you are going to want to save. We have got a whopping wing-ding of a launch party planned for the publication of my new summer beach read SAVE THE DATE. So get yourself to Atlanta and the Buckhead Westin for the party of the season that Sunday, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Complimentary valet parking!

We’re partnering up with the foxy ladies at FoxTales Book Shoppe again this year to out-do everything we’ve done in the past. Your $35 party pass gets you a signed first edition of SAVE THE DATE (two days before the official on-sale date), and a swag bag full of goodies, plus lots of nibbles and a signature “Wedding Crasher” cocktail from our friends at Vixen Vodka. The folks from Sinless Cocktails will be in the house too. A portion of the proceeds from the party will go to The Atlanta Humane Society, who are promising to promenade some adorable pups during the party. And here’s a very cool thing–be an early bird and buy your tickets by midnight May 15 and you’re registered to win Uber Black Car service transportation to and from the party for you and three friends, plus a $200 gift card to enjoy dinner after the party at Dantanna’s, which is right beside the Westin. This, my friends, is a $400 value!

Since the protagonist of SAVE THE DATE is a Savannah wedding florist/planner who is about to score the society wedding of the season,we’ve lined up nearly two dozen wedding vendors who’ve donated goodies plus raffle prizes. And you do not have to be planning a wedding to enjoy all this wonderfulness. We’ll have DJ Dano Atlanta spinning dance tunes–but I’ve promised my children I won’t be breaking it down to “Brick House”, okay, I probably will be breaking it down to “Brick House”. Because you just can’t NOT dance to that. (But I’ll try not to do the “Elaine.”)

elaine dance

 

We’ll have a photo booth by Bert McDonald Photography so you and your BFFs can document the evening. A parade of fashions from Tootsie’s. The girls from Kendra Scott are bringing their jewelry bar so you can customize some cool jewelry pieces–at a discounted price. We’ll have yummy treats from Yum Yum Dessert Company, cupcakes from Sprinkles, and appetizers from Sean O’Keefe Events and the Westin’s own kitchen wizards. Speaking of fashions, and crimes against fashion, you should definitely dig out your most heinous bridesmaid’s dress to compete in our Ugly Bridesmaid’s Dress contest. We’ll love you (and ridicule you endlessly) if you wear the dress, but if it no longer, um, fits your physique, feel free to bring it along. If only I still had the fetching peach polyester confection with matching straw picture hat I wore to my friend Donna’s wedding, I think it would be a serious contender. But by all means, if you have a purple satin gown with white fur trim accessorized by a muff and improbable hat like these unfortunate lasses, please, I beg you, bring it on.

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What else? Well, Uber will be in the house, offering discounts for those who download their app. Seriously? Have you tried Uber? You’ll never get in a grungy taxi again. If you’re into pampering–(who isn’t?) the ladies from Spa Sydell, Sweet Peach Wax and Sugaring Studio, Roc House Women’s Fitness Spa, b. You BlowDry & Beauty Bar, and White Salon and Spa plus Beaty Facial Plastic Surgery will be offering samples and discount coupons. Intimacy–have you tried their bras? Cross my heart, you’ll love ‘em. Should you actually have a wedding in the near future, Modern Luxury Brides Magazine and Groom Studio will also be at the event. We’ll be raffling off amazing door prizes all evening, but the most amazing prize is the mac-daddy Grand Wazoo Prize–a package of each vendor’s products and services, which is a $2,500 value. Our friends from Sea Island will also join us at the party, and they’ll be holding a drawing for two nights at the five-star resort, The Cloister–a double occupancy room, a massage for two and a $200 resort credit. Ah-mazing. The Cloister. My idea of heaven on earth.

the cloister

 

So, to re-cap. A benefit for the Atlanta Humane Society, the Mary Kay Andrews Save The Date Book Launch–tickets are $35 in advance, $45 at the door. After the event, go over to Dantanna’s, show them your copy of the book and receive 10 percent off your meal. Go here to buy your ticket. And remember, SAVE THE DATE!

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Saved the Date Yet?

April 8, 2014 | No Comments

NC309_CRcard_NOTESI know, it’s been months since I posted here. I bet you thought I was still down in Florida, sunnin’ and funnin’. Or maybe you thought I’d taken the winter off to go junking. I wish! Instead, I’ve been hard at work putting the finishing touches on SAVE THE DATE, which publishes June 3. We have all kinds of fun promotional opportunities for my fans, including this bribe, I mean, offer, from our fab friends at Anna Griffin. Pre-order SAVE THE DATE from your favorite bookseller by the deadline of May 23, and fill out this form HERE, and we’ll enter you to win one of 250 sets of this lovely Anna Griffin stationery. The pattern is called Olivia and the box includes 20 flat cards with coordinating lined envelopes–a retail value of $18.

pre-order gift-1

In the meantime, my life never seems to slow down. But in a good way. I’ll be doing a brown bag lunch and lecture in Savannah next Weds. April 16 at a fun new venue called Cohen’s Retreat. We’ll spend Easter with the family on Tybee at Ebbtide, then I’ll bunny hop my way down to Tampa to sign books on Thurs. April 24 at the Southern Living Custom Builder Showcase Home. On Monday, June 28, I’ll be the luncheon speaker at the Morton Plant Mease Foundation’s Planters Spring Luncheon at the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach. Given the fact that my late sister Susie was a 30-year career hospital nurse, I was so pleased to know that funds raised at the charity luncheon will go towards scholarships for nursing students.

On Apr. 29, LADIES’ NIGHT will release in paperback–just in time for your spring trips to the beach. And on May 2, I’ll be the luncheon speaker at the Polo Women’s Club in Cumming, GA.

Stay tuned to my Facebook page for news coming soon about our annual Mother’s Day recipe card giveaway.

And did I mention, you should totally pre-order SAVE THE DATE here? Maybe get one for mom while you’re at it.

Happy Spring, y’all!

Snow Place Like the Beach in January

January 31, 2014 | No Comments

I am pregnant with book. Over-due with book. This summer’s book was due months ago, but sometimes, that’s how I roll. So I ran away to write. Not to Tybee, my normal runaway destination, but farther south. All the way to Anna Maria Island, Florida. Anna Maria, you may remember, was the setting for LADIES’ NIGHT. I was so charmed by this low-key island paradise, I decided to come back to work on SAVE THE DATE. Mr. MKA and I arrived in early January. I graciously allowed him to stay here for a few days, and then escorted him to the airport. Three whole weeks of writing! Three weeks of solitude. And it’s been amazing. Even if the weather hasn’t been.

Here’s what I saw on one of my first beach walks.

Anna Maria Island beach birds

Anna Maria Island beach birds

If I could paint, this is what I would paint. But I can’t, so I guess I’m stuck with writing. Good thing I love it. Back to the weather. I was hoping for warm, sunny weather, because I love to take long walks to clear my head after hours of writing. What I mostly got was chilly, over-cast, and chilly mixed with rainy. But since I was able to dodge the bullet with Atlanta’s snowpocalypse, I really can’t whine too much.

Being a real estate voyeur, I love to look at cute, vintage cottages when I’m out for my daily strolls. I adored this old-timey screen door insert, and the picket fence.

Anna Maria Island screen door and picket fence

Anna Maria Island screen door and picket fence

SAVE THE DATE is set in Savannah, with a protagonist named Cara Mia Kryzik, a wedding florist whose own outlook on love and marriage is decidedly cynical. The book takes place in May, so I had to retreat into the world of the book and sunny, springtime Savannah, instead of chilly Anna Maria, while I was writing. One day while I was out strolling, I spotted this barnacle crusted tandem bike, complete with matching fishing pole, in front of a local business. There must be a story here, right?

barnacle-encrusted tandem bike and fishing pole on AMI

barnacle-encrusted tandem bike and fishing pole on AMI

Another morning, when I went out to walk, this little guy strolled up the driveway of my rented cottage to greet me. White egrets are all over the island.

Anna Maria egret

Anna Maria egret

Most days, weather permitted, I set out for a stretch of beach a couple blocks away, to sip wine and watch the sunset. Maybe because I grew up right across Tampa Bay, in St. Pete, but I have to say Gulf sunsets are my favorite. And I love seeing them through the feathery Austalian pines that dot the coast here. Reminds me of my childhood on Pass-A-Grille beach. I’m headed home Saturday morning, with a huge chunk of the book completed. I hope all the Atlanta roads have thawed by then. And I hope whereever you are, you’ll be as warmed as I am by one last Anna Maria sunset. Ahhhh.

sunset on Anna Maria Island

sunset on Anna Maria Island

 

 

 

 

My make-believe Christmas dinner party

December 22, 2013 | No Comments

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This week, one of my favorite design bloggers, Rhoda, of Southern Hospitality came over to shoot my house all foofed up for Christmas. So I decided to set my dining room table for a dinner party. And I nagged and whined until my crazy talented interior designer buddy Clay Snider came over to help me make it look like I have a fabulous life-style. You know, the kind of life-style where you dress up in a stunning black velvet cocktail dress with your grandmother’s good pearls, and your movie star handsome husband wears a dinner jacket and a tartan cummerbund, and all your guests also look like they stepped out of a Ralph Lauren magazine ad. In my imaginary lifestyle, we serve glammed up food like shrimp bisque and Yorkshire pudding and chocolate souffle. Five course meals, with corresponding wines. I did decide to get a little realistic with my make-believe Christmas party. In this scenario, all our handsome fantasy friends show up for a semi-casual game dinner. They probably drove over in their pretend vintage Range Rovers. Because my husband and son are outdoorsmen, we actually do sometimes serve quail, ducks or venison which they have shot.Here’s what we came up with. And by we, I mean, I dragged all this stuff into the dining room and Clay did his magic.
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The woven rattan chargers are set with my chipped-up white Mikasa dinner plates, which are topped with antique blue willow luncheon plates. As you might gather from my dining room decor, I’ve collected vintage blue and white transfer-ware for many years. The tartan napkins are from Pier One, bought at an estate sale, and the beaded napkin rings are also estate sale bargains. The flatware is my silverplate wedding pattern, mixed in with some random estate sale pieces. The footed beaded goblets were a recent lucky score from the Ballard’s Back Room outlet on DeFoors Avenue here in Atlanta. Four for $9.99!
The centerpiece is made up of magnolia branches poached from a city park near my house, along with similarly poached pine cones. One set of the deer antlers are from the large buck my son shot last fall–his first with a bow. The other antlers were all scored for $3 apiece at a yard sale in Savannah last year. We mixed in pheasant feathers my husband brought back from a hunting trip to South Dakota this year. The bird-dog sculpture is actually a vintage iron door-stop English Setter–a gift from me to my husband, because we own two similar setters, Wyatt and Weezie. The gigantic glass vase full of apples probably came from the Pottery Barn outlet in Gaffney, N.C.
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Because I’m a firm believer that more is always more, we added in the antique transferware vases (estate sale finds) filled with nandina berries and leaves clipped from my yard, along with some curly willow branches from Home Depot. The silver pheasants aren’t terribly old, but I like their look, and I think I picked them up at an estate sale. That bottle of bourbon is there because we happen to like bourbon. So that’s my fantasy dinner party. After dinner, the make-believe ladies all retired to my (non-existent) salon, where we traded gossip and bon mots, and the men-folk wandered into the (also non-existent) library, for Havana cigars and an excellent port. We served ourselves drinks from this antique mahogany game table–yes, another estate sale score, which is topped with one of my many estate sale silver plate trays, which I like to think class up my house–even when the only thing served on them is cheap chardonnay.
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So that’s my make-believe dinner party. Aren’t you glad I invited you? You must come back New Year’s Eve, for our intimate faux black-tie foie gras, caviar and champagne party.

Going to the Chapel

October 21, 2013 | No Comments

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Give me a bright shiny fall day in the country-side. Give me gently rolling green hills, blue skies, fluffy white clouds. Give me junk! A big ol’ room-full of delicious vintage treasures, collected by some of the nicest, most talented junk sisters (and one brother) on the planet. Then, give me a chance to play with the big kids, the PRO-fesh-ional junkers and lifestyle bloggers–and let me sell my shiny new book, CHRISTMAS BLISS–and you’ve got a day that’s pretty doggone close to heaven. That’s what we experienced Saturday when we were invited to be vendors at The Chapel Market in Pike Road, Alabama. The market was the brain-child of our friends Layla and Kevin Palmer of The Lettered Cottage fame. Some months back, Layla asked if I’d be interested in participating, and of course, I jumped at the chance. The timing was perfect, as CHRISTMAS BLISS just came out last Tuesday. I even managed to rope Mr. MKA into coming along too–as junk wrangler/painter/fixer-upper/head salesman. Here’s an abandoned oak dresser he helped me save–it only had one drawer when we found it, so he made shelves, then painted it so I could wax and distress it. This found a new home on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

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I made it back to Atlanta from book tour on Friday, just in time to jump in the SUV which Mr. MKA had stuffed to the gills with our treasures. We even had furniture roped to the roof, Clampett-style. We got to Layla’s postcard-perfect neighborhood, The Waters, just in time to unload the vehicle and get our booth set up. With just one little hitch. We’d left the boxes containing ALL my smaller treasures at home in Atlanta. A three-hour drive away. Glancing around the room at all the gorgeous booths of my neighbors, I was nearly in tears. Our cupboard was looking mighty bare. But my sweet neighbors came to the rescue. Mary of The Urban Farmgirl–whose amazing booth was right next to ours, loaned us some strings of lights–and a ladder to hang them with. Cindy, one of Layla’s neighbors, ran home and got some treasures from her now-closed shop to add to our booth. And suddenly, life was looking brighter, literally. We especially felt better after all of us were treated to a delicious dinner at the home of our gracious hosts Kathy and Eddie, who put us up in their beautiful guest house. Let me tell you, we slept the sleep of the dead that night!

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Saturday morning, we made it over to the Chapel in time to put the finishing touches on our booth, and to meet the fabulous booksellers from Books-A-Million who brought many, many bins of my books to sell. I’ll admit, I was nervous. This was the first time we’d done a vintage pop-up market–and a book-signing. Would people come? Would they buy our stuff? Would they buy my books??? We thought they might when we arrived at the chapel at 7:30 a.m. and there were already people lining up for the 9 a.m. opening. We knew it at 8:30 a.m. when Mr. MKA took this picture…

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Yes, folks wrapped all around the building and down the road! To shop and meet all these fabulous junk-istas. Like the uber-bubbly Karianne of Thistlewood Farms, who trucked down all the way from Kentucky and shared space with Susan from Finding Home and Heather of At the Picket Fence. Here’s a quick snap of their booth.

thistlewoodfarmsThey were there to shop with Shaunna, of Perfectly Imperfect, who has a for-real shop in Troy, Alabama. How much do you love those stalks of cotton–those sold out in a New York minute.

perfectly imperfectAnd they came to plunder the wonder of The Urban Farmgirl, who brought one of everything I would ever like to buy, all the way from Rockford, Illinois. I loved Mary because she loaned me lights–and also her very tall helper dude offered to help Mr. MKA hang them. Can you see a cute little Tonka red truck? I bought it before the doors opened–don’t hate me.

urbanfarmgirlboothAnd they came to meet rock-star blogger/author/furniture painter extraordinaire Marian Parsons, of Miss Mustard Seed, who trucked in such mouth-watering vintage loveliness, and styled it so beautifully I wanted to hate her–because my scanty booth was right next to hers. But I couldn’t hate her, because she’s so darned nice and talented. You can tell I pulled this photo off her website, right, because she’s a crazy good photographer. And I’m not…mustardseed booth

And they came to see Layla, of course, but she was hard to pin down, because she was buzzing around all day, and Kevin of course, but he was ferrying people around on golf carts. I didn’t manage to get pictures of all the booths, or all the dealers–because fortunately, we were crazy busy all day! And what a day it was. Nearly perfect. So good I almost didn’t mind hearing the screams of the Auburn fans because their team was winning, while we few Georgia bulldog fans were sulking around feeling sorry for ourselves. But here’s a pic we did manage to snap, at the end of the day, tired but happy.

chapelmarketvendorsOh, and, you know all those great vintage smalls that didn’t make it to The Chapel? They’ll be making their appearance this weekend at my booth at Seaside Sisters on Tybee Island. See, it all worked out after all!

 

CHRISTMAS BLISS–In October

October 7, 2013 | No Comments

Attention ATL-area peeps! Sunday, October 13th is the
not-to-be-missed launch party for CHRISTMAS BLISS!

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Order your tickets by calling (770) 516-9989 or purchase online by CLICKING HERE!

The Decatur library and the Georgia Center for the Book is the place to be this Sunday. Yep. It’s launch time, go-time, party time, for my newest novel, CHRISTMAS BLISS. Yes, I know it’s only October. I haven’t even put out my Halloween pumpkins yet. But booksellers like to start the holiday shopping season early, so who am I to argue? Anyway, who doesn’t love a party? Especially a party with stuff like, oh, I don’t know . . .DESSERTS?  And maybe, um, let’s see, what would make this even more festive? Hey, how ’bout a peppermint infused vodka cocktail from our down-home Georgia girlfriends at Vixen Vodka?vxn.lust.logo

Not a vodka drinker? Well, there will be beer, wine, and soft drinks too. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without some rockin’ cleverly crafted holiday cards, right? So, we got another down-home Georgia girl, Anna Griffin to agree to join the party. Anna herself will be at the Christmas Bliss launch party this Sunday, and she’s bringing a boat-load of card-making supplies so that everybody at the party can make their own take-home hand-crafted Christmas cards.

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We’ll be decorating the Decatur Library launch-pad with my own vintage Christmas decorations. Yep. Aluminum Christmas trees, lights, the works. We’re loading my favorite Christmas tunes on the iPod too–so you know that means the playlist will include Darlene Love’s version of White Christmas, and her inimitable Christmas, (Baby Please Come Home) plus the Ronettes singing I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Eartha Kitt’s, Santa Baby.

It wouldn’t be an MKA launch without swag bags…so, of course we’ll have those too. You’ll go home with recipe cards, book marks, and loads of goodies and coupons

And let’s not forgot the reason for this celebration, the publication of my 21st novel, CHRISTMAS BLISS. This time around, I’m bringing back my most beloved set of characters, Weezie Foley and BFF BeBe Loudermilk, the protagonists of my Savannah Series, which includes Savannah Blues, Savannah Breeze and Blue Christmas. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that the story starts a week before Christmas, with Weezie planning her Christmas Eve wedding to long-time love Daniel. Her maid-of-honor BeBe has a major life change underway too–she’s pregnant with charter boat captain Harry Sorrentino’s baby, but is resolutely refusing to take a third trip down the aisle, despite the pleas of everybody in her life, including Harry and Weezie.I had so much fun re-visiting my old friends Weezie and the gang, I almost felt guilty about getting paid for it. Almost. But not quite!

The advance reviews for CHRISTMAS BLISS have been a gift in itself. Kirkus Reviews saidReaders can expect a delightful diversion that’s fast paced, character-driven and extremely fun. . .Andrews delivers a blissfully divine holiday gift.” Library Journal said “Andrews’s holiday-themed novel is as warm and funny as usual, and the crazy antics of her two protagonists will entertain readers…VERDICT: An essential Christmas read for anyone who likes amusing, Southern women’s fiction.”

 But wait, there’s more! No, you don’t get a Ronco Bass-O-Matic or a set of Ginzu knives, but the $25 admission ticket does get you all of the above, plus an autographed first edition of Christmas Bliss. A portion of the sales of all books goes to the Georgia Center for the Book. Our friends, those good old girls from FoxTale Book Shoppe will have loads of extra copies of the book–enough for everybody on your Christmas gift list. Go here to order your ticket for the firstest, bestest, Christmas party in town.

A Tweak @The Beach

August 20, 2013 | No Comments

Most people go to the beach and they actually GO to the beach. Ya know, frolic in the waves, stroll the sand, burn their flesh to an unbecoming shade of crimson.

:Luckily, our granddaughter Molly, and her cousin Ellen, have plenty of time to romp on the beach this week at Tybee.

molly&ellen ebbtide

 

Not me. I go to the beach and I tweak. The beach house. Last week was no exception. As you may know, we rent our Tybee Island beach homes, The Breeze Inn, and Ebbtide, through Mermaid Cottages. Not being filthy stinking rich–I know-waaaaah–we don’t usually go to the beach in the summer because that’s our busy rental season. But we had a last-minute cancellation at Ebbtide last week, so off we went.

In my own defense, I had no real right to relax. I had to read the final copy-edited version of CHRISTMAS BLISS, which goes on sale Oct. 15. I had to read and answer copy edit questions for the re-issue of MIDNIGHT CLEAR, which will release Nov. 19. And I had to write! Next summer’s book is already over-due. So no rest for the weary.

We did do some fishing off our friend’s dock on the Back River–and lucked into several nice-sized flounder. Which meant Mr. MKA whomped up a fish fry–to which I contributed a homemade tomato pie made with my friend Linda’s heirloom tomatoes. We also served Linda’s fresh-picked corn. And her homemade pickles. It was a real throw-down.

flounder dinner

 

But in between writing and editing, I had several little projects i was anxious to complete at Ebbtide. And I had the luxury of having the ever-handy Mr. MKA on the premises–and willing to attack my long honey-do list–in between fishing expeditions. We filled both our cars with tools and paint and bins of vintage treasures I’d been hoarding for the house.

First on the list was hanging this vintage grocery sign I picked up at my favorite North Carolina antique mall, The Depot at Gibson Mill, in Concord. I talked my husband into making a plain frame for the sign and painting it black, and I knew it would be perfect in the kitchen. Like so.

kitchengrocery sign

Next on the list was assembling and hanging the cheap Michael’s glass floating frames for the collection of vintage DO NOT DISTURB hotel signs I’ve been hoarding for eight years. Yes, eight years. Some people might accuse me of buying a second beach house just to have a place to display these sweethearts. And some people might be dangerously close to understanding my peculiar brand of insanity. I adore these hangtags. Also the story behind them. When we were living in Raleigh, I went to an estate sale of a sadly dilapidated house down the block from our own house on St. Mary’s Street. The elderly lady who’d lived there was apparently quite a character. She’d traveled with an actor’s troupe in her youth–probably in the 1940s and 1950s, and I discovered a trunk full of items she’d stolen, er, appropriated during her long-ago travels. Shrivelled-up hotel soaps, stationery from long-closed hotels–with great graphics, and these ten “Do Not Disturb” door signs. Finally, last week, they found a home in the guest bath at Ebbtide. They are sharing wall space with a vintage 1920s wool bathing suit. i “might” have a thing for these suits. i have three of them framed in this house alone.

bathroom donotdisturb

While we’re on the subject of hoarding, i’d been hiding (and hoarding) a primitive folding wooden daybed under our bed in the master bedroom at Ebbtide since January. I bought it for $10 at an estate sale in Atlanta and was told it came from a cabin in the North Georgia mountains. I thought it would be ever-so-lovely at the foot of our bed. But it was just big enough that I would have gotten up in the middle of the night to pee and tripped over it. So I had to find another spot for the daybed. And get a cushion made for it, and slipcover it . . . But finally, last week, Alison, the magic slipcover girl who has definitely slipcovered everything in this house that doesn’t move, delivered my daybed cushions. And it was worth the wait. Because in the meantime, I found a red and white antique crib quilt at another Atlanta estate sale–for $15, to go on the daybed. And I bought a vintage French grain sack from my pal Beth at KnickKnack Paddywhack which Alison magically transformed into a long bolster. To slipcover the mattress and end bolsters, Alison used some of my vintage blue and white ticking. I bought a bolt of this stuff, probably 15 years ago, from the Atlanta estate of an upholsterer. The bolt probably had a hundred yards on it–and it cost $40. Over the years I had a sofa and love seat slipcovered with the ticking, and still had plenty left. The daybed was screaming for ticking like this. Doesn’t it almost make you want to swoon? And nap?

ebbtide daybed

But the big project we tackled was setting up a dining and seating area in the open area on the ground floor of  Ebbtide, adjacent to our grilling area. I assembled most of the mismatched, oddball pieces for the area over the past few months. One trip to Scott’s Antique Market a couple months ago yielded two wrought iron “bouncy” chairs, a wicker settee and a glider. Everything needed help. Another trip to an Atlanta thrift shop brought me a pair of wicker chairs–they also needed paint. I found a wooden swing at an estate sale, and at yet estate sale in Druid Hills in Atlanta, I found a beat-up wooden farm table in the garage–for $10. It had old linoleum glued to the top, and when i peeled back the linoleum I found that the wooden top stained with large blotches of red, green and blue paint. At a yard sale in Savannah i found a second pair of wrought iron bouncy chairs. And then on a morning walk in my neighborhood I found a set of seat cushions–they were coated in yellow pollen and mildew–but they were striped red and blue. Yoink!

After Alison slipcovered all the upstairs porch furniture I turned her loose on the downstairs porch–with the last of my ticking fabric and some feed sacks I’d bought at the Depot. While she was sewing, Mr. MKA was building me benches to go with the farm table. We found the plans for these here on Ana White’s website. I used gel stripper to get off the worst of the paint on the table top, then sanded it and topped with a coat of poly. Then we attacked all that mis-matched furniture with Rustoleum spray paint. Here’s how the glider looked when we started. Bleah, right?

glider before

And here’s Gladys the Glider, after she got tarted up with some Rustoleum navy spray paint, with white painted inserts and her glam new cushions. The throw pillows, by the way, are from Home Depot.

glider after

Here’s the rest of the seating area. I ran out of time to style it, but I think you can get the general idea.

porchseatingareaAnd here’s a shot of the also unstyled porch picnic area. Perfect for shrimp boils, right?

picnic porchTime for one more picture? Here’s the vintage coke sign I found on Craigslist in Atlanta. We literally met the seller in the Target parking lot to conduct this “coke deal.” It found a new home on the upstairs porch at Ebbtide.

icecokeYum, right? Maybe next time I’m back at Ebbtide I can actually walk on the beach. Nah–I’ll probably spend the whole time styling that new porch area.