Life in the fast lane

Ah the high-flying life of the best-selling author. It’s all champagne and caviar and air-kisses with the New York literati. Right? Not so much. Example: Sunday, at the women’s expo in Tennessee, while I’m waiting for my herbal belly wrap to melt inches off my waist, two fans came up to the table where I was sitting and stared down at the stack of books in front of me. Then up at me. Then back at the books. With deep suspicion and not a little hostility in her eye, the alpha fan said, “Is this you?”
“Yes,” I said brightly. “I’m Mary Kay Andrews.” They backed away a little and gave me the once-over. So I picked up a copy of BLUE CHRISTMAS,turned to the author photo and held it up next to my face. “See! It really is me,” I chirped.
They picked up the book and studied the author photo intently. “Your hair looks better in the photo,” the woman said flatly.
“Well, yes, that’s because they had a professional hair and make-up person at the photo shoot,” I said. “Also, they touch these photos up. But it’s really me. I swear.”
“You should do your hair like that all the time,” her friend opined. And then they left.
Now we come to Tuesday. My publisher flew me to New York for a lovely luncheon at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain with all sorts of media types, in the hopes that said media types will write flattering stories about DEEP DISH . I felt so suave, so sophisticated. I had on my new cute Cole Haan shoes and the new eyeshadow from the women’s expo, and the control-top pantyhose. Really, I thought I was all that and a bag of chips. And I did meet some very nice media types, who did seem interested in me and my book. And the deep dish chocolate cream pie was to die for. It was all I could do to keep from picking up the plate to slurp it clean. I flew home, and this morning, my agent emailed me a link to the blog written by an editor at PUBLSIHER’S WEEKLY who was a guest at the luncheon. How excited I was, how enthralled. I emailed the story to a journalist friend, who quickly shot back an email, saying “nice job, Nancy Hogan Trochek.”
SAY WHAAT? Here’s the link to the story. You can read it yourself.
As you can plainly see, PW does not know my real name. They think I am named Nancy. And they don’t know how to spell my real name. But at least they got the Mary Kay Andrews part right. And DEEP DISH. They mentioned DEEP DISH. PW, however, does love my friend John Searles. They even know how to spell his name. But then, everybody loves my friend John Searles. Life is so unfair. As I told John in my email today, when I’m reincarnated, I’m definitely coming back as him. He’s thinner and has cuter clothes. He gets invited to all the happening parties and has cool friends. And you can bet your life HE never has to walk around in an herbal belly wrap under his control-top pantyhose.

From a hotel room in Tennessee

I’m officially on the road for the re-release of BLUE CHRISTMAS. Friday I flew to Detroit and then Saturday I gave a talk at a library fund-raiser in Grosse Point Farms. This is a verrry chi-chi town. The only thing I knew about it was that darkly comic movie Grosse Point Blank with John Cusack. The fund-raiser was held in a beautiful 1910 building, the War Memorial, which sits right on rolling green lawns on Lake Michigan. At least–I think it was Lake Michigan. Also on the lunch program were mystery writers Nevada Barr and Stuart Kaminsky. A swell time was had by all. I didn’t know if I’d have any readers as far away as Grosse Point Farms, but turns out I do. As I said in my talk, I write about women. Although I’m from the South and have never lived outside the South, I believe that underneath all our big hair and Lee Press-On nails, we’re just like those gals up north. Bless our hearts!
On the way back to the airport, I had the driver cruise up and down the streets, but tragically, there were no estate sale signs anywhere to be found. I hung around the Detroit airport for four hours waiting for my flight. I discovered the Northwest Admiral Club–score! They have a fireplace and cheese and crackers and serve-yourself bar. As I was getting on a plane–either in Atlanta or Detroit, I overheard a guy in front of me talking on his cellphone. Here’s what he said: “I been drinking in the lounge for a couple hours, and now I gotta piss like a racehorse. But I never use the bathrooms on planes. Instead, I got a plastic bag with me. I’ll just get me one of those blue blankets…..” Can I just say EEEEEWWWWWW! Can you imagine sitting next to this bizarro?
Then today I went to the Women’s Expo sponsored by the Kingsport, Tenn. paper. They had all these vendors selling perfume and makeup and Pampered Chef stuff, ect. And a whole bunch of authors. In between selling and signing books, I got to looking at the booth opposite ours. These women were selling these fat-wrap systems. And they had a show special–$20 for a tummy wrap. You know I totally went for it. Of course they advertise that you can lose 4 inches in 4 hours or something. Personally, I think it’s probably a bunch of hooey. But I’ll try anything once. So I’ve got this swath of herb-soaked goo wrapped around my belly, and that’s wrapped with Saran wrap. And when I walk it sounds like I’m wearing Depends. But I’m totally counting on having my pants zip a little looser tomorrow. So later on I waddled over to the Belks’ booth and had some Clinique makeup slapped on. I bought some new eyeshadow and got myself made up with full-tilt spackle. So now I’m wearing my herb depends and I’ve got great make-up, and I’m sitting in my hotel room watching chick flicks on TBS. Pretty soon I’ll dial up some room service dinner and startle the waiter with my beauty. Not a bad life. Tomorrow–off to New York.

Blatant Self-Promotion by a Brazen Hussy

The new, improved edition of BLUE CHRISTMAS should start appearing in stores tomorrow. Which means you should all run right out and buy a dozen or so for your nearest, dearest, friends, relatives, book club buddies, carpool partners, bunko pals, ect. You can see the new improved jacket above.

Even if you bought BLUE CHRISTMAS last year, you should still go out and buy it again this year. Why, you ask? The most obvious answer to this question is that you should buy it so that I can make a quick buck. But wait, there’s more! This year’s edition of BLUE CHRISTMASis new and improved, with added, original material penned by moi.

The exact nature of this new material is top secret stuff, but trust me, you’ll enjoy it. And the re-issue gives me an excuse to go off on book tour again, which means fresh opportunities for subsidized junking. Subsidized junking is a term I just this minute made up. It means that my publisher, HarperCollins, flies me around the country and puts me up in much nicer hotels than I could afford on my own. And in between the scheduled book signings, I skip around from town to town, and junk. And then I take all this fresh-picked junk down to my booth at SEASIDE SISTERS ANTIQUES on Tybee Island, and sell it to unsuspecting junk-lovers. What’s in it for you, dear reader? As far as I’m concerned, it’s a win-win situation for everybody. Harper gets me out on the road, selling books and meeting and greeting fans. Mary Kay scams some free nights in cool hotels, does some junking, and oh yeah, meets and greets fans and autographs books. You, dear reader, get to buy a fun book and get me to autograph it. Also, we exchange confidential information about hot junking spots, memories of dysfunctional holiday family reunions, and recipes for highly fattening foods. What’s not to love about that?

Your first formal opportunity to schmooze and buy books comes up this Sunday, at the Kingsport Women’s Expo in Kingsport,Tenn. I’ll be there from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Watch this space for upcoming appearances, and, of course, you can always check my website at for the full schedule, and to sign up for the ultra-cool HarperCollins function which will automatically ALERT you to new books and signings.

What Not to Say to an Author

On Tuesday I attended a huge meeting of booksellers who work for a well-known national chain. A couple thousand of them convened in Birmingham for their yearly seminar. I love booksellers. All of ’em. But sometimes they make me laugh or shake my head.

Like the guy who approached the table where I was signing FREE books. He picked up one of my books, looked at me and shook his head sadly. “I didn’t think you’d be this old,” he said.

EXCUUUUSE ME??? All three of my chins trembled in righteous indignation.

“Dick,” I said, batting my graying and thinned out eyelashes, “That’s not really something you want to say to a woman author.” (His name wasn’t really Dick, but that’s how I was thinking of him right at that moment.)

“What I mean is, your books read like they were written by someone much younger,” he blurted out.

“Again, Dick,” I said, in my most kindly, school-marmish manner, repressing the urge to kick him in the crotch with my orthopedic black lace-up nun shoes. “Not tactful.”

So that’s how I roll.

Later, another bookseller who was clutching a huge satchel of free books eagerly confided in me that she’d shared all my FREE books that she’d scored last year with her mother, sister, sister-in-law, neighbors and parole officer. In fact, dozens of people had enjoyed the free ride down Mary Kay Andrews Boulevard.

“Heidi,” I said, gnashing my wooden teeth. “If you give free books to everyone, they won’t want to buy my books. In fact, they’ll EXPECT you to supply them with free books for the rest of their lives. And that would not be good for me. Or bookstores that sell books. Or you, since you depend on people buying books so you can earn a paycheck.”

“Oh,” she said. “I never thought of it that way.”

People mean well. They really do. But sometimes they say the most outlandish,inappropriate things to authors. So, in the spirit of public awareness, I’ve prepared this little primer of things NOT to say to an author, should you encounter one at a cocktail party, book signing or arraignment.

1. “I’ve always thought that if I didn’t have this incredibly important career as a a.brain surgeon
b.rocket scientist
c.trial attorney
d.certified public accountant
that I could have been a novelist.”
Ah yes, this statement seems to say. Any boob with a word processor can get a book published. Just look at you, for instance. And by the way, I’ve always thought that if this writing gig doesn’t pan out, I might take up brain surgery in MY spare time.”

2.”I see you write (mystery,romance,erotica,horror,whatever). Have you ever thought of writing a real book?”
“No,” I always want to say. “These fake books I’ve been writing seem to be paying quite nicely and filling up space on those imaginary library shelves behind you.”

3. “So you’re a writer. Have I ever heard of you?”
This is just one of my all-time favorites. “No,” I always say politely. “But don’t feel bad. ‘Cuz I never heard of you either.”

4. “Hey–I’ve got a great idea for book. How about I tell it to you, and you write it down and sell it and we split the multi-million dollar advance between us?”
“Hey,” I always want to say. “How about you step away from the clam dip and go back to boring people with those same old wildly amusing anecdotes about your childhood in Omaha?”

5.”A writer, huh? Can you really make a living doing that?”
Usually I glance meaningfully out the window at my shiny black BMW when somebody asks me that one.

The Perfect Chick Weekend

Mix three old friends, a long weekend at the beach, a cute beach cottage, marinate well in chardonnay and vodka tonic, stir well, and you come up with a great chick trip. I’ve known my friends Linda and Sue since seventh grade at Bay Point Junior High, so you could say we have some history. They both came to my sister’s funeral in July, and we vowed then to have a chick getaway in October. Three other old friends were scheduled to come–but weddings and sick husbands and mom’s 90th birthday got in the way, so it ended up just the three of us at Tybee Island last weekend. Sue flew down from Ohio and Linda flew up from Fort Lauderdale, and we spent the weekend kicking back, giggling and acting like seventh graders again. We started Thursday night with a great dinner at Sundae Cafe on Tybee. You should go. Try the shrimp and grits, or the grouper. Then we went back to our headquarters for the weekend, Key Lime Cottage, which is one of the cottages managed by my friends at Mermaid Cottages. This is the fourth one of their cottages I’ve stayed at, and the problem is that each one is cuter and cozier than the last. After dinner we went back to the cottage, climbed into our pjs and climbed into the time machine. I’d found a box of old notes from junior high and high school, and we travelled back to those days. My favorite note was the one from Linda warning me not to call her house because her mother thought we were shopping together, when actually, she’d gone flying in a little Piper Cub plane my cousin Art used to pilot. Friday we did some shopping and some touring around Tybee, then got ourselves in pirate mode. Sue bought us the tatoo sleeves, head scarves, and earrings at a Wal-Mart in Ohio. We picked up the wooden parrots on Tybee.

We wandered around the Pirate’s Fest thieves market for a while, buying t-shirts that said things like SURRENDER THE BOOTY. Then we strolled over to the outdoor stage, where a great Zydeco band played, followed by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. After we’d rocked out for a while, we went over to Doc’s Bar on Tybrisa. If you read SAVANNAH BREEZE you’ll remember Doc’s as the place where Harry Sorrentino liked to hang out. Doc’s had a great band too, and my friend Jacky joined us, and we danced and laughed some more. Saturday we watched the Pirate Parade, complete with boats and lawn-mowers decked out as floats, Shriners on motorcycles, and, of course, lots of wannabe buccaneers kickin’ it Johnny Depp style, complete with eyeliner and dreadlocks.

That night we headed back to Doc’s, where we met friends Ron and Leuveda, who demonstrated Carolina shagging for Linda, who’d never seen it before. Sunday morning we had a little porch time at Key Lime before reluctantly packing up and heading home.

We’ve already started planning next year’s Pirate’s Fest weekend. I hope my husband won’t miss our lawn-mower.

Confessions of a Junk Addict

Hi. My name is Mary Kay. I junk. I junk on book tour. I junk mid-week when I should be writing. I once junked on the way to my friend Don’s mom’s funeral. Also on the way back. I junked on the way to a wedding once, and was mortified when, as I snuck in the back door of the church, I bumped into the bride, just about to float down the aisle. Don’t even think about an intervention. My husband tried that once. It wasn’t pretty. And I don’t want a 12-step program either. There is no help for me.
I’ve decided to embrace my inner junker. I’m going into the biz.
YES–dear reader. I admit it. I’ve crossed over to the dark side. I’ve become a dealer. At a friend’s invitation, I’ve signed up for a teensy little space in a new antique shop opening on Tybee Island. Called SEASIDE SISTERS, the shop will specialize in “casual coastal cottage” stuff. Or, as my husband would say, chipped up, banged up, cast-off crap. NONONO. Not crap. Gorgeous stuff. I’m sharing my space with my Tybee posse, Jacky and Polly. Tuesday I piloted a 10-foot U-Haul trailer full of my accumulated crap, er, treasures, down I-75, to I-16, to Tybee. Through pouring rain. I was scared witless when I got behind the wheel of that beast, but junk will do strange things to you. When I got down here, I saw our space. Of course, Susan, the antique shop madam, er, manager, had emphasized how small our space was. She’d urged me to go larger. But no. I blithely insisted that we would go small. And I mean, it IS small. But adorable. Here’s a look at MAISY’S DAISY, which is what we are calling the booth. The inspiration, of course, is Weezie’s shop in BLUE CHRISTMAS.

SEASIDE SISTERS opens today, Saturday, Oct. 6. It’s in a pink building on the left hand side of the road as you arrive on Tybee on U.S. 80.
The other reason I’ve been down at Tybee this weekend is to have a chick weekend with Linda and Sue, two of my oldest buddies. We’ve been friends since 7th grade, believe it or not. We were in each other’s weddings even. We are staying at one of the fabulous Mermaid Cottages down here. Thursday, Sue and Linda flew in and drove out to Tybee to meet me. I heard a knock at the door and here’s what I saw when I opened it.

I’d forgotten it’s Pirate Fest weekend at Tybee. Last night we got ourselves up in our pirate gear and went over to enjoy the festivities. They had a great band, and we spent the night perfecting our pirate talk. Linda, in particular, enjoyed accosting strange men and offering to shiver their timbers.

SIBA–The big book show

This past weekend was my all-time favorite bookseller’s event–The Southeastern Independent Bookseller’s Association meeting. I’ve been going to SEBA, or SIBA as it’s now called, for 16 years. And from the time my very first book, EVERY CROOKED NANNY was published, way back in 1992, the Southern booksellers have been amazingly supportive, friendly and helpful.

I love going to SIBA because it’s like a big ‘ol family reunion–without the ‘tater salad or dysfunction. This year was no different. The first person I spotted when I walked into the downtown Atlanta Hilton was my dear friend Nancy Olson, who owns the amazing Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. You know you’ve arrived as an author when Nancy invites you to sign at Quail Ridge. And I’ve been fortunate enough to call her a friend for many years now. In fact, when we moved to Raleigh, she was the person who found our real estate agent for us, and put me together with an amazing group of writer friends like Margaret Maron, Sarah Shaber, Katy Munger and Bren Witchger. Here’s me with Nancy and the world’s greatest publisher’s rep, my own, darling Eric Swenson of HarperCollins.

Saturday morning, I was asked to emcee the Southern author’s breakfast sponsored by HarperCollins, with authors Michael Lee West and Nancy Peacock. Nancy lives a double life–turning out critically acclaimed novels while working as a cleaning lady. Her new non-fiction book about writing and cleaning is called A BROOM OF ONE’S OWN, and she lives near Chapel Hill, N.C. Michael’s new novel is MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT. If you’ve never read these wonderwomen, you must. I especially recommend Michael’s CONSUMING PASSIONS, which is a warm and witty series of essays about Southern cooking. My favorite one is called “Fear of Frying” in which she explains why she wears opera gloves when frying chicken. Michael lives on a farm near Lebanon, Tenn., and she has a watch-donkey.

Later that day, I got to sign advanced reading copies of DEEP DISH in the Harper booth. Of course, DEEP DISH won’t be out ’til March, but publishers prepare advanced copies of upcoming books to give away at trade shows like SIBA so booksellers and critics can get an early peek. There is nothing as heart-warming as looking up to see a long line of book-sellers waiting to grab your new book. I saw tons of my favorite bookstore owners, like Cathy Blanco, of The Book Exchange in Marietta, GA., Mary Jane of G.J. Ford’s in St.Simon’s Island, GA., the new owners of Bay Street Books in Beaufort, S.C., Earlene Scott of Scott’s Bookstore in Newnan, GA., Frazer Dobson of Park Street Books in Charlotte, NC, and the girls from Page and Palette in Fairhope, ALA. Here I am with the Page and Palette girls in the Harper booth.

And as a reward for all that hard work, what did I get? Free books! Oh heaven, oh bliss. You know you’re a hard-core bookslut when you have a 60-pound canvas satchel of books on each arm, yet you’re still cruising the aisles for more goodies. Some of the ones I brought home include David Halberstam’s new book about the Korean War, David Baldacci’s new book (Mr. Mary Kay is a fan), Margaret Maron’s HARD ROWa re-release of Barbara Kingsolver’s essays, and much more. Tomorrow I leave for a few days down at Tybee, and I have an embarrassment of riches to enjoy.

Actual writing

It’s really hard to start a new book. I spend weeks thinking about it, scribbling down ideas, consulting with my editor and my agent. I’ve known for months now that my next book would be about a woman starting over in life. I knew she would be moving to a small town in Georgia, and struggling with change. I knew I wanted the book to be a “fish out of water” story.

When I start a new book I almost always decide on the title first. Many times I have a title before I know what the book will be about. That’s the way it worked with HISSY FIT. I was literally taking a bubble-bath, pouting about some injustice that had been visited upon me. I vowed that I would just have to “pitch a hissy fit.” And as soon as the thought ocurred, I knew I had a book title. All I needed was a plot to go with the title.

This time around I started with a concept. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of “flipping” a house. Of course, flipping is all the rage these days. I’ve got to believe that Bravo-TV’s Flipping Out got huge ratings. I know I watched every episode at least once. And every yuppie with a Home Depot credit card and a power drill thinks they can buy a house on the cheap, slap a coat of paint and some new tile on it, and make thousands in profits. My own mother, who sold real estate in St. Pete for more than thirty years, flipped houses before her death, and she absolutely loved the process.

So the new book is called THE FIXER-UPPER. It’s about a young woman named Dempsey. And I don’t want to give away too much of the plot yet–mostly because I haven’t really started writing yet. Last week I visited the town that will be the inspiration for the small town where Dempsey starts her life over again. On the map it’s called Griffin, Georgia. I went down to Griffin, which is about an hour south of Atlanta, last week. A friend of a friend drove me around, showed me the town’s high and low points, and filled me in on the local hot gossip. Griffin, like Madison, where I set HISSY FIT, has the feeling I need. But Dempsey’s town will probably have a fictitious name, because I intend to have all kinds of stuff happening there, that could not, and would not happen in the real Griffin. Besides, I don’t want to piss off my new friend’s neighbors if I decide to say something unkind or unflattering about Dempsey’s new home. Don’t want Irate Irene getting on my case again!

While driving around my friend took me past a house that will do nicely as a stand-in for the house Dempsey intends to flip. In my mind, Dempsey’s family’s old homeplace is called BirdSong. Here’s a photo of the house in Griffin.

So there you have it. A peek into the creative process of an extremely disturbed mind. Probably what my kids call TMI–Too Much Information.

This n’ That

Wow–ten days since I’ve blogged. So, here’s what I’ve been doing.
1. Junking. A lot of junking. More on that later.
2. Kitchen retrofit. The good news is that the new cabinets are in, and the cabinet boxes have been painted and glazed. The bad news is that Mr. Mary Kay hates the glaze. Sigh. So, they’ve got to be re-painted.
The new stove has been semi-installed, and the buyers of the old stove and microwave happily carted them off last week, so I no longer have a stove sitting on my side porch. Here’s a photo of Bob the Builder at work.

The junking has been excellent lately. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit that I junked four days in a row this week. On Wednesday, Jinxie and I went to a charity tag sale to benefit Atlanta Pet Rescue. Wowsers! We totally rocked that sale. Jinx got a beautiful antique cherry–or maybe pine? three-drawer chest that would have cost $400 or more at the Scott Antique Market, for $175. I got a great antique round pine drop-leaf table for $85. Plus three mulberry transfer-ware plates for $5, an antique round oak-frame mirror for $25, a partial bolt of designer red and white check fabric (think kitchen curtains) for $15, and an amazing vintage leather armchair with oak frame for $25. The seat cushion on the chair has to be replaced.

I’m thinking a great tapestry fabric will work for that. Also four or five roles of Thibaut black and cream toile wallpaper for two bucks apiece. Two of the rolls are triple rolls, and I think this stuff sells for about $75 a single roll, so major score there. My friend Susie is the recipient of the wallpaper. Thursday we went to an estate sale where I picked up six vintage “undersea” prints for $20. An Ebay search revealed that the prints were ’50s or ’60s era menu covers for an Italian cruise ship line. The owner of the house where the sale was held had been an artist. I bought two of her pastel drawings for $20 apiece. Re-matted and framed they’ll go in my master bath. Friday was an estate sale in Marietta, run by Vicki. Vicki always has great sales, and her prices are usually pretty fair. I picked up an oil painting of daffodils for $18, a wooden tole-painted tray for $5, and some other stuff.

Saturday was the neighborhood-wide yard sale extravaganza in Druid Hills. This is the neighborhood where Driving Miss Daisy was filmed. Also the site of the memorable oriental rug-on-the-curb coup from a couple months ago. Got a great oil painting of zinnias for $5, and four wonderful rusty scrolly iron chairs for $25. Not to mention a pair of ’50s crewel-work parrot pictures for $6 and a great black-painted oak piano stool for $8. Score! I also actually got some real writing/research work done this week. Fill you in later on that.

Kitchen bitchin’

There is a lot to love about our new old house–but the kitchen isn’t one of my favorites. The previous owners turned a former bedroom at the front of the house into a kitchen, because the existing kitchen was a tiny space at the back of the house. So the window placement is a little wonky. And it opens directly into the dining room, which I don’t love because we’re messy cooks around here, and we entertain a lot. And the previous owners were in the restaurant business, so I don’t think they did a lot of home cooking. All of which means–remodel. But not a big remodel. No. More like a retrofit. I must have been doing something right when we moved into the house, because I found Bob the Builder. Bob is heaven-sent. He works alone. He does everything–carpentry, plumbing, wiring, tiling. He’s sweet and neat, and reliable. Totally husband material, except he’s already married, and so am I. Anyway, here’s the deal. We’ve removed the existing upper cabinets, which did not go all the way to the ceiling–meaning I had a serious storage situation. Bob has built lovely sturdy, roomy new upper cabinets, and Roz the painter–also amazing–she and Bob work together all the time, is painting the new cabinets, and the old lower cabinets, a shade called Timid White, and they will have an umber glaze. Then, next week, if the Gods are with us, the new stove will arrive. Mr. Mary Kay demanded a stove with bigger burners, and who was I to keep him from stove destiny? So the new Dacor should be in next week. And if I’m still living right, Mark the Marble Guy will come back and install black granite countertops. And then Bob the Builder will return to install a tile backsplash. And hopefully build us a cabinet around the huge shelving unit which exposes my sloppy cookbooks, glassware, ect. We’re hoping for a cupboard which looks antique and slightly Welsh cupboard-ish. In the meantime, we’ll be living on rotisserie chicken and bag-o’salad off paper plates. But it will all be worth it–right? I’ll keep you posted with pics of our progress.