This Week’s Column:


... a MobyLives guest column

by Nancy Pate

Nancy Pate, book editor for The Orlando Sentinel, is used to interviewing authors as they come to town on book tours. Now, the shoe is on the other foot: she's co-written a murder mystery — "Fiddle Dee Death" (John F. Blair, $21.95 hardcover, $14.95 trade paperback) — and commenced a book tour. What's it like to be a well-known critic with your own book out? She'll be letting us know as she files reports from the road periodically over the next two weeks for MobyLives.

25 June 2003— I keep looking for hidden cameras. Surely, with reality shows blanketing summer TV, some network honcho has gotten wind of the great Caroline Cousins book tour: Three co–author cousins hitting 15 cities in six Southern states in 14 days in the rental silver Turn Around van — as in "Turn around, we should have gone left back there." One look at our if–it's–Tuesday–it–must–be–Raleigh schedule and surely some producer would immediately see that we are a combination of The Amazing Race, Road Trip and Survivor.

When I first told people I had written a mystery, Fiddle Dee Death with my cousins in S.C., sisters Meg Herndon and Gail Greer, I was met with looks of astonishment. "You wrote a book with your cousins?" said one writer friend. "I don't think my cousins can read, much less write." Then, I tell folks Blair is sending us on tour together for two weeks and we plan to outline our next book while on the road. This time their faces imply that insanity must run in our family. Even other relatives are shaking their heads.

"There may not be a sequel," says Gail's husband, Jeff, "but there could be another murder."

Ha! I am happy to report there has been no violence yet. Of course, it's only Tuesday and we're in Raleigh, and we've only been together for two days. Maybe it's just as well there were no cameras around to record the incident in the parking lot of the Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Wilmington, N.C. Sunday night when we stopped the van to stare at the map. They would have had to bleep a couple of choice words said by me, the Methodist.

"I can't believe you said that in a church parking lot!" says Gail, who missed Baptist Sunday school so she could get ready for our launch party at the Mt. Pleasant, S.C., Barnes & Noble right outside Charleston.

"I didn't hear her," pipes up Meg from the back seat, where she has been on the cell phone with our motel getting directions. ("Turn around, you went right by us," the clerk said.) "What did she say?"

Gail shakes her head. "God heard her." Then she breaks into a fit of giggles. "Hand me some more chocolate. And give her some too."

She is not quite as amiable at 5:30 the next morning driving Meg and I to an early TV appearance. She hasn't had enough coffee yet. "You need more blush," she says, looking at me critically. "You look like a ghost."

"There's a ghost in our book," I defend myself, but I let her apply more red to my non–existent checkbones. I look like a harlot.

But she's complimentary after our five–minute chat with anchor Bob, having watched us in the TV break room and had more coffee. There was room for only two authors on the set's sofa, and she won/lost the coin toss, depending on how you look at it. And she's positively aglow three hours later when a woman stops her in Barnes & Noble and tells her how pretty she looks. I would have been happier if any of our books had been there, but having seen the rave review in the Wilmington paper and heard that we sold more than 200 books on Sunday in Charleston, the manager bumps up our order. Besides, our signing is at Bristol Books at 4 p.m.

Bristol has plenty of our books. But it's a gorgeous day for the beach, and only a handful of people show up for our signing. Still, manager Nicki Leone is pleased — she sold 30 copies before we arrived, and the cousins and I wandered around Wilmington, leaving our cards and realizing with amazement that people watch TV at 6 in the morning.

"Oh, you're the cousins!" says a nice sales lady. She buys two books from Bristol. I buy an $18 keychain from her.

Says Meg: "I'm good at smoozing."

"Schmoozing," we tell her. "The word is schmoozing."

"Whatever," she says. "I'm good at it."

She is. We all are. We get it from our mamas, who are sisters. They married two first cousins and live down the street from one another on Edisto Island, the inspiration for fictional Indigo Island in "Fiddle Dee Death." Meg and Gail are my 1 1/2 times first cousins. And, no, insanity does not run in our family. Much.

We drive to Charlotte tonight, Columbia the night after that, then Atlanta. Friends and relatives better show up. We are taking names of those who don't.

Meanwhile, we continue to direct perfect strangers to our web site,, and contemplate replenishing the supply of Cheetohs. Meg ate the last ones last night.

"Hey," Gail said. "You could share."

"They're gone," Meg tells her, brandishing the empty can. "Like Scarlett said. "We'll think about it tomorrow. The book too. Who are we killing off this time?"

Fiddle dee dee. Twelve days to go ....

©2003 Nancy Pate

The previous Column: HOW I BECAME A DICK LIT WRITER WITHOUT EVEN TRYING ... In a MobyLives guest column, Steve Almond talks about how he was surprised at a conference to learn that what he was writing has been labeled "Dick Lit."


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