New Author Webpage

Meanderings and Muses isn't going anywhere.


I do have a new webpage which will focus mostly on my writing.

If you're interested in reading more about my books, anthologies, and events, please click over to

There are a few videos of me reading from "Whimsey: A Novel," and from other favorite authors' work.

With more videos still to come.

The new page is a work in progress with plans for still more to come
- I'm just still trying to figure out exactly what that might be -
so check back from time to time, please.

See you there!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Caryn has drawn the winning names for her book give-away, and they are:

Brothers Boswell - Vicki Lane
Probable Claws - Auntie Knickers
Life Sentences - Carol H
Killer Keepsakes - Writer's Porch Carol
Flip Out - Helen

Please get in touch with Caryn by either leaving a comment here, or sending her a note:
She'll need your mailing address.

Thanks to Caryn for a fun post. And generous!!!!

and thanks to all of you for popping in!

If you're new to Meanderings and Muses, I hope you've found us to your liking and will visit often. And to those of you who do drop in often - see you again soon!


Some of you are probably wondering who is this person that Kaye has asked to blog this week? Let me briefly introduce myself.

I'm Caryn St.Clair, a 50 something year old from St. Louis Missouri. I met Kaye on DorothyL and then in person at Bouchercon last fall. Kaye and I have a shared interest in good books and interesting people.

When I am not reading, I can often be found at the St. Louis Zoo where I am a volunteer and docent. My husband and I are often at the zoo 3 or 4 days a week in one capacity or another. My involvement with animals extends beyond the zoo though. We are active friends of the Wild Canid Center (commonly called the Wolf Sanctuary). My husband and I share our home with two dogs and two cats and our backyard with many wild birds. I try to change the feeders with the season to catch the migratory birds as well as keeping feeders for our year around residents.

Besides books and animals, I follow Big Ten football and basketball (Go Boilers-class of '74), the St. Louis sports teams- the Blues hockey team (I have to have something to do in the winter), the Rams (and the Arizona Cardinals as long as they have Kurt Warner) and most especially the St. Louis Cardinals.

I also love to travel. I've been overseas a few times, but most of my traveling has been around the US. My favorite places to visit are Edisto Island, South Carolina and the National Parks in the western United States, especially the parks in the southwest. I think Bryce Canyon is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Our best family vacation ever was 2 weeks spent in and around Yellowstone. The best vacation that was just my husband and I was a 10 day trip to Hawaii.

My music tastes run from classic rock (more Stones than Beatles) jazz (especially the Cuban/Latin influenced) to classical to Broadway musicals.

Enough about me, on to the blog. What season do you look forward to each year?

I am a summer person. Give me 90 degrees and sunny any time. One of my goals in life is to finally live in a place where flip flops (I have several pairs) can be worn at anytime of the year. This desire for heat is in direct conflict with my half Norwegian blood, and not really in line with the German side of the family either. It is definitely NOT shared by any of my close relatives.

My strong preference for summer is also not in line with the places I have lived. I grew up in a smattering of small towns around Indiana where we did have nice hot summers for sure, and beautiful autumns with warm if not sizzling days.

But those two seasons were followed by cold, snowy winters and springs fraught with tornadoes. When I finally got my chance to break out of Indiana, where did I land? Central Ohio where the weather was just like Indiana.

A two year stint in Ohio was followed by seven years in Western Michigan where summer is that lovely season that happens, if you are lucky, between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. IF you are lucky. Two of our seven years there we wore winter coats to the fireworks. And because we lived not too far inland from Lake Michigan, we didn't really have the gorgeous clear blue skies as there was always a sort of cloudy haze from the lake. And oh my gosh, the snow! I knew I was in trouble when the city came around and put tall flags on the fire hydrants in late September. See the thing about the snow in Western Michigan is because of the lake, it also snows-like every day. The weather people call it “lake effect flurries.” Believe me it all mounts up over time. Then when they have a real snowstorm, well, I'm here to tell you we have pictures of snow along our driveway over the kids heads. Once it starts snowing, the snow is there until spring-otherwise known as June.

But to be fair, Western Michigan does have lakes. Not just the big one, Lake Michigan, but a number of smaller ones with the clearest water imaginable. And the fruit! The blueberry crop alone almost balanced out the snow-almost. Yes, in spite of the snow, we enjoyed our years in Michigan. However, when we were looking to move on, I begged my husband to move south-way, way south.

We did-all the way to St. Louis. So finally I have hot, hot summers and lovely warm autumns with the most beautiful blue skies. But there is still the winter problem. We have snow and ice-lots of ice. At least in Michigan the city even plowed our sidewalks, and driving was not a problem as the streets were quickly cleared and people knew how to drive in snow. Here? Give us 4 inches of snow and the city is paralyzed, especially if that snow has an inch or two of ice under it. And our springs? That's a mixed bag. We can have wonderfully warm weather with bright blue skies, or terrifying thunderstorms that bring down huge trees (and the power lines). We may have 80 degree days followed by a quick hitting ice storm.

But what makes late winter and early spring tolerable here? BASEBALL! Come February, no matter how frightful the weather is here, the pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training, and I know summer is just around the corner.

Yes, St. Louis is not as warm of a climate as I'd like, but with baseball, it'll do.

How about you all? Are there any other summer folks out there? Or do you prefer the autumn leaves and crisp cool nights? I'm assuming there are a few winter sport nuts among us, or people who can't wait for the fresh start of spring?

As an incentive to hear from you all, I'm offering a few books to jump start your summer reading. These are all “read gently one time” ARCs of books that I have received from publishers to review. Leave a message telling us what your “season” is and what book (or books) you are interested in. I'll draw names on Wednesday and ask Kaye to post the winners then along with my email address so that you can send me your mailing address.

You can only win once, but your name can be in more than one pot! (US ADDRESSES ONLY PLEASE).

I have a little something for just about any reader so let me know which one(s) you'd like. I have five great reads to share.

1.Flipping Out by Marshall Karp-the crew from The Rabbit Factory returns.

2. Killer Keepsakes by Jane Cleland-the 4th Josie Prescott antique mystery.

3.. Life Sentences by Laura Lippman-a stand a lone that explores how we remember things versus what really happened. A thought provoking book.

4. The Brothers Boswell by Philip Baruth-this is an interesting historical fiction that has a bit of a mysterious twist to it. James Boswell (the biographer of Samuel Johnson) apparently had a brother John who suffered from mental problems. The book tells the story of John stalking James and Samuel through London with murder in his heart. Quite an interesting read from SOHO Press.

5. Probable Claws by Clea Simon-the fourth book in Simon's Theda Krakow series. While Theda tries to help her neighbor with her cat shelter, she becomes embroiled in a murder which in turn jeopardizes her job as a
freelance music critic. The book stands on it's own, so even if you've not read the previous books, if you are interested in mysteries with cats who do not talk or solve crimes, this might be the book for you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is There a Favorite Writer you Patiently (or Impatiently) Await?

There's a whole slew of new books coming out in the next few weeks. A lot of them are written by writers I love and who reside on my "auto-buy" list.

Some of my once favorite writers sometimes fall off my auto-buy list after awhile, but there always seems to be someone new making their way there, so it remains a rather long list. And some of those who have fallen off sometimes even make a come back. My addiction to books is just that. And since it doesn't hurt anyone - not even myself - it's one I'm quite content to live with. I've lived with it since I was a little girl and I'll live with it till the day I die.

How about you guys? Addicted to books? Do you have a favorite writer (or several) that you get impatient with if they miss that once a year release?

I'm picking one, and only one, very favorite writer who has a new book coming out this year.


Gloriosa, this man makes me nuts 'cause he takes so long between books. But. As soon as his newest comes out, all is forgiven.

It has been 14 years since his last novel.

Know who I'm talking about??

Pat Conroy.

In my mind - he is The Master of Southern Literature.

His new, long awaited novel, "South of Broad" will be released in September. Hooray Hooray!

Since "Beach Music," he has written "My Losing Season," (From Fantastic Fiction - "In My Losing Season Pat Conroy has written an American classic about young men and the bonds they form, about losing and the lessons it imparts, about finding one's voice and one's self in the midst of defeat. And in his trademark language, we see the young Conroy walk from his life as an athlete to the writer the world knows him to be."), and "The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life" - NOT your typical cookbook, by any means. I loved both these books. I still keep the cookbook close at hand, because every once in awhile I want Mr. Conroy to tell me a story. Don't we all, at some point, love to be told a story? and who better at this than Pat Conroy? The man loves words, and language and is a storyteller extraordinaire.

One of my favorite blogs, Book Chase - by Sam Sattler, was where I first learned the news with this entry - New Pat Conroy novel expected.

Book Chase is also where I got to watch Mr. Conroy being interviewed by his lovely bride, author Cassandra King.

AND, through Book Chase, I learned even more news about the book from a friend and early reader of Mr. Conroy - Mr. Sean Scapellato, who writes the "Thoughts on Writing From a Cul-de-Sac" blogspot.

Don't you love the blogging community?! I swear - you can find just about anything you want if you search around long enough. There are the most interesting people out there writing about a world of stuff. Anything and everything. That's what makes the world go around, isn't it? That gift of curiosity. If you get a sudden hankering to read and learn a little about the most mundane, or the most arcane, or the most esoteric subject matter imaginable, you can find it.

But, enough of that - I meander.

I want to squeal about how excited I am about "South of Broad." It sounds to be just what we expect, and love, of Pat Conroy. Sweeping sagas that are so very southern, so emotional, and oh, so very "Pat Conroy." I don't think you could pick up anything this man has written, read more than a few words and not know pretty quickly who it was written by.

I have one little story.

When Donald and I were still living in Atlanta, Mr. Conroy did a signing of "Beach Music," and we, of course, went to Mr. Conroy's signing. My first edition personally inscribed and autographed copy of this marvelous book is one of my life's treasures. As is remembering the conversation we had regarding Fripp Island. While we waited in line, Donald kept saying things like "now you need to talk to him - don't freeze up, tell him how much you admire his work, tell him you love Fripp Island - say something!!" So, when it came time to hand this great man my book, I spurted out "I love Fripp Island. Wish I lived there." (brilliant, huh?! pfft). Mr. Conroy stood up, left his chair, came around the table, asked our names, shook our hands, leaned against the table and said "You know Fripp Island? Tell me how you know Fripp." I could have died. But I rambled on at some length about how a group of very close friends would go to Fripp every year for Memorial Day weekend. How we would always rent the same big old house at the very tippy end of the island and how we did that for several years and how those weekends were some of the loveliest of my life. Without missing a beat, he said - "I've heard of you! Weren't you and your friends told to leave the island and never return?!" And threw his head back and laughed a big booming, from the soul, laugh. And so did I. That, of course, never happened, but that he could even just say such an outrageous thing, made me just want to laugh with him, and kneel at his feet. He then proceeded to chat with us at length about Fripp, and his love for the island, acting as though we were the only people in the room with him at the time. I was honored by his attentiveness, and completely in awe of his graciousness. If I had not been a huge fan before, that did it. He's funny, ever so personable, I love him and he is one of my heroes. We all need heroes.

Photo David Spielman

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fictionalizing Reality by JT Ellison

J.T. ELLISON is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Taylor Jackson series, including ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, 14, JUDAS KISS and the forthcoming EDGE OF BLACK. She was recently named “Best Mystery/Thriller Writer of 2008” by the Nashville Scene. She is a former White House staffer who moved to Nashville and began research on a passion: forensics and crime. Ellison worked extensively with the Metro Nashville Police, the FBI and various other law enforcement organizations to research her novels. She is the Friday columnist at the Anthony Award nominated blog Murderati and a founding member of Killer Year. She lives in Nashville with her husband and a poorly trained cat. Please visit for more information.

Fictionalizing Reality
by JT Ellison

Twisted as I am, my imagination usually guides my stories. I dream up horrific endings by villainous creations (who end up giving me nightmares,) and terrorize my adopted hometown of Nashville with crazed killers. But up to now, every story I’ve written has been pure, straight out of my head, fiction.

I made an exception for JUDAS KISS. The fictional murder of my victim, Corinne Wolff, was based on a real case.

In 2006, I saw an article from a North Carolina newspaper about a young pregnant mother named Michelle Young who was found murdered by her sister. Her death was unspeakably violent, and her child had been alone in the house for days with her mother’s corpse. The media reported a number of salient details, including the bloody footprints the child had left through the house. I watched the case, hoping there would be a resolution. Unfortunately, Michelle Young’s murder still isn’t solved. Her husband is the prime suspect.

Her story became the opening of JUDAS KISS.

The crime stories that seem to capture our interest as a society are the ones that take place where we feel the safest, which is inside our own homes. That’s where the majority of homicides take place. And we all know how much the media loves a good suburban murder, especially in my fictional Nashville. In the novel, there’s a sense of the fantastic surrounding this case, an “it could have happened to me” mentality couple with the media frenzy – satellite trucks parks on quiet streets, reporters camped on the lawns, every moment chronicled. It doesn’t happen that way in the Section 8 housing. The drug and vendetta killings don’t make the news very much. So in a sense, I’m capitalizing on what does capture our attention.

But JUDAS KISS wasn’t the easiest book to write. Any time an author is faced with a child at a crime scene, a tightrope appears from your laptop, and gets thinner every moment you spend looking at it. It’s a difficult balancing act.

Bad things do happen to children. Bad things do happen to animals. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of reading about either. Reality can stay out of my fiction, thank you very much.

So when I wrote the opening of JUDAS, I didn’t give it much thought, simply because I wasn’t killing Corinne Wolff’s child. I was in safe territory. But one of my independent readers was very unhappy with the opening. She was terribly upset with me for leaving Hayden Wolff alone with her mother’s dead body. “If the husband did it, there’s no way he would leave the child alone like that. No one would. You’re going to alienate mothers all across the country.” I was struck by that statement, obviously. That’s not the goal behind these stories.

So I sent my reader the links to the real case. In the book, I’d actually toned down some of the “real” parts because they were so dreadful. My reader came back with a new eye – she understood now. She was horrified by the real case, understood what I was doing. She realized that I never set out to shock or offend with this story. I only wanted to give the real victim, Michelle Young, some closure. Her story affected me in ways I couldn’t imagine. I’ve found that reality can sometimes throw me for a loop.

We mystery writers are a strange lot. We write about murder and mayhem all day. We walk a fine line between victims and victimizing. I try very, very hard to make sure the violence in my books is never gratuitous. I always strive to make sure that my victims have a reason, a place, a purpose. They aren’t just dead bodies stacking up like cordwood to move the story along. That’s just not why I wanted to write crime fiction. I wanted to find ways to give some justice to those who didn’t have anyone to fight for them, to right the wrongs, and penalize the guilty. In my books, the bad guys get caught, and they are punished. Justice is served. The white hats win. That’s why I got into crime fiction.

But it doesn’t stop me from wishing I could do something for the Michelle Young’s of the world.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Book Geek Quiz

Okeey doke - by now many of you are plugged in to Facebook and know the drill for the many Facebook Quizes that continually pop up - "Copy the questions into your own note, answer the questions, and tag any friends who would appreciate the quiz."

Patti O'Brien tagged me and has since posted this on her blog and Lesa Holstine has it posted at her blog. I tagged a bunch of people, and decided it would be fun to post it as Lesa suggested. And - maybe some of you will want to post it at your blogs.

Some of us (ME!) are crazy about lists. And some of us (ME!) think these little tests are fun. I can't resist them. I was a sucker for the little tests in Cosmo and Seventeen when I was a teenager, and haven't stopped taking them yet.

So. Here we go - chime in and tell us your answers; here's mine.

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Not sure how many without getting up to check, but - all Margaret Maron's books (both of her series, stand-alones and anthologies), all the James Lee Burke Dave Robicheaux, and all the Spenser novels. If it's a series I like, I probably have them all.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
Ann Fairbairn's FIVE SMOOTH STONES, Pat Conroy's BEACH MUSIC, Laurie King's FOLLY.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Just one?! Mike Chapman and Armand Gamache.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children)?

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Probably a Nancy Drew OR Kay Thompson's ELOISE.

"I am Eloise. I am six. I am a city child. I live at the Plaza."

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
Hard to say 'cause if I'm not enjoying a book, I won't finish it.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Just one?! How 'bout Louise Penny's series.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
You know - I just can't do the "one" thing. See the three books I've listed above - Five Smooth Stones, Folly and Beach Music.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
I'm going to go along with Patti's answer - I don't seem to read what is usually nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I'm usually disappointed with the transition from book to movie, so probably none. But. A couple of noted exceptions. I thought the "Ya Ya Sisterhood" was very well done. And I thought "Fried Green Tomatoes" was done exceptionally well.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I really don't recall ever dreaming about a writer, book or literary character.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
Lowbrow?!!! Whoa - one gal's lowbrow might be another gal's treasure! I'm not above grabbing an occasional bodice ripper; if that's what might be meant by "lowbrow."

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
Civil War on Race Street, The Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland by Peter B. Levy (written about the town where I was born and raised. heartbreaking).

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
Although I've read most of Shakespeare, I've actually seen very little performed, but is there any Shakespeare that can be called "obscure?"

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I like Lesa's and Patti's answers to this one: "Neither. Give me Americans, British or Canadians."

18) Roth or Updike?
Neither. I guess I should try again? big sigh.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

21) Austen or Eliot?

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Self help and I'm sure I could use some!

23) What is your favorite novel?
Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn. (surprise!!)

24) Play?
"Bell, Book and Candle."

25) Poem?
Kim Addonizio's The Red Dress (or what do women want)

26) Essay?
I'm coming up blank here. I do though always enjoy reading Anna Quindlen's work.

27) And... what are you reading right now?

28) What's the best title for a book ever (you don't have to like the book).
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons. (that title just cracks me up! and - i liked the book).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Commas 'n' Sh*t by Pari Noskin Taichert

Pari Noskin Taichert celebrates New Mexico's quirkiness through Sasha Solomon, a reality-challenged, whipped-cream dependent PR consultant who helps small towns with tourism projects. Pari is a two-time Agatha Award nominee. Unlike Sasha, Pari is married, has kids and leads a normal life. * (blog) * (newsletter)

Commas 'n' Sh*t
by Pari Noskin Taichert

So I'm sitting on the can reading BE COOL by Elmore Leonard and come across this quote: "You just put down what you want to say, then you get somebody to add the commas and shit, fix up the spelling if it needs it. The way this one's going I think it'll write itself."

Chili Palmer and his buddy Elaine are discussing writing screenplays, but the whole enchilada gets me thinking about punctuation (after I scoff at the idea that anything writes itself. Yeah, right.).

Many posts on Murderati have to do with the art of creating crime fiction -- and our blog's readers enjoy these insights -- but commas, well, they affect us all. It doesn't matter if you're writing the Great American Novel or a thank-you to Grandma Rose, you put a comma in the wrong place and your meaning gets shot to smithereens.

Don't get me started on misplaced periods. And colons? Forgettaboutit.

I bet everyone reading this post, everyone surfing the Internet, has some bugaboo -- some grammatical tic -- that makes him or her seem super-special or sound super-stupid.

Me? I'm a recovered ellipses addict.

Right now, I'm fond of the em-dash. My first drafts always look like abacuses, those little lines are -- well -- everywhere. (Parentheses can make life worth living sometimes.) Commas are pretty fun, too. No, really, I mean it. And, a couple of years ago I learned about the joys of semicolons and now I can't seem to stop myself from using them for lists; to clarify divisions between commas; to connect two similar thoughts; to spice things up. If you get my drift.

I'm not even going to get into misspellingg; that's totally, like, digesting. (No. I didn't mean that.) Disgusting. (Yeah, that's it.) Oh, and that leads me to using the wrong word. Talk about a criminal. (Darnit! Did it again.) It's a crime.

And then there are all the rules we break on porpoise, um, purpose. But, you must know what I'm talking about here. Sentence fragments. The prepositions that other sentences end with.

Yet, I've never been interested in studying books about commas 'n' sh*t. I think some mistakes, or deliberate grammatical snubs, make for good reading.

The problem is when the reader becomes too aware of the tricks, when the punctuation distracts from the storytelling. I don't care if it shows a writer's cleverness or devotion to propriety -- if I notice the punctuation/grammar -- I'm knocked out of the read. And, I usually resent it.

So, what about all of you?
What grammatical crimes do you consistently commit?
Which ones drive you bonkers when you see them in someone else's work?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kirk Bjornsgaard's "CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK QUEEN" - review by Pat Browning

Sometimes you have to wonder about life’s timing.

Almost a year ago Kirk Bjornsgaard submitted his first novel to 4RVPublishing, a small but busy Oklahoma press. He signed a contract and manuscript edits began. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Kirk was diagnosed with cancer. But wait. There was hopeful news. The cancer went into remission. Then came the time for final edits, and there was dreadful news. Kirk called the publisher from the hospital. The cancer was back.

Vivian Zabel, president of 4RVPublishing, completed the edits with the help of a couple of editors/writers. Kirk just had to read, make suggestions, and give the final okay. CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK QUEEN, a stunning debut with a '60s rock and roll theme, was published in March.

Kirk is an acquisitions editor for the University of Oklahoma Press, with a lifetime of writing and editorial experience. He has also played drums in rock and roll bands since high school, so he wrote his novel from experience in the music business.

Right now he’s going through the hell of chemo. Even so, he did a great interview for Vivian’s blog. Here are a couple of comments:


… I’d long wanted to write a novel that had rock’n’roll as its back story, its narrative vehicle. Too often, rock music has been utilized in novels and in most every case the author knows too little about the mechanics of the music, the instruments, and the performers. As a drummer in innumerable bands over the years I wanted to get the details ‘right.’

The inspiration came in a fully-formed story. This wasn’t one of those “start writing and see where it goes” books. It’s never happened before or since but the narrative arc and the characters came to me, fully-formed, and I just set out to write it as I envisioned it. The first draft from a decade ago looks a lot like the final, published version in its basic form and characters.

End Quote.

He also comments: “Frankly, the cancer and its treatments and side effects have brought writing to a screeching halt. The extreme fatigue brought on by the disease and the side effects of chemo have made further work impossible … To call this a major setback in my life––after 57 years of near-perfect health––is an understatement; but my family and I are dealing with it to the best of our abilities, thanks to many good friends and colleagues.”

You can read the interview on Vivian’s blog at

Promotion is out of the question and that’s where the generosity of others plays such an important role. On a moment’s notice, the ever-gracious Kaye Barley allowed me to post this, plus my book review, here on Meanderings and Musings.

My review:

A Time And Place Preserved

By Pat Browning

It’s six o'clock in the morning and I've been up all night reading CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK STAR QUEEN by Kirk Bjornsgaard. This stunning novel revisits the 1960s in the beguiling story of a young farm girl who wants more than anything to get out of Oklahoma and make it big in the New York music world. I don't know whether the author has total recall, or whether he kept copious notes, but he has recreated a time and place in a way that few writers do.

The book begins and ends in Beggs, Oklahoma, a wide spot in the road near Tulsa. In a prologue, Sarah Morely, head of Morely Oil, gets an unwelcome visitor. A veteran journalist has tracked down former associates of rock star Sally Moore for a book he’s writing. He wants to know what really happened to Sally Moore, whose obituary was written in 1969. The following chapters flash back to Sarah’s brief reign as rock star Sally Moore and her Karma band.

It begins while Sarah is still in high school, chafing at the restrictions of her church-centered life and the demands of her guardian, the straight-laced Aunt Mae. The rest of the world is tuning into rock and roll. Sarah takes her father’s old Martin guitar to a school talent show audition.

Waiting her turn, she strikes up a conversation with a shy student who plays piano. When she apologizes for her limited repertoire of folk, church and hillbilly songs, he says, “Well, Hank Williams built an entire career around three chords and a Christian upbringing.”

They audition as a duet and win. Things move swiftly and before long Sarah is the girl singer in a garage band. The boys in the band treat it as a lark. Sarah has bigger ideas. On New Year’s Eve she takes her guitar and her father’s truck and heads for Dallas. She walks into a coffee house, announces that she’s a folk singer and offers to perform for free during intermission.

The headliner, a musician from New York, gives her his business card, inviting her to look him up if she ever comes to New York. The day comes when Sarah persuades her band mates that it’s time they got out of the sticks and looked up the guy she met in Dallas. The story of their dazzling success and eventual breakup is a bittersweet tale, beautifully written.

My only quibble is perhaps a bit too much dialect in the story. Even so, the writing is superb, like music on the page. It was worth staying up all night to finish.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lonnie and her Kindle

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Lonnie Cruse now resides in Metropolis,Illinois, home of Superman. She writes the Kitty Bloodworth, ’57 Chevy mystery series and the Metropolis mystery series. Lonnie is a member of MWA and the Antique Automobile Club of America, and its Southern Illinois Ohio Valley Chapter. Lonnie teaches writing workshops and speaks to writers/readers groups.
Her website is:

My Kindle2, mine, mine, mine . . . back away and no one will get hurt By Lonnie Cruse, mystery author and reader

I received my new Kindle2 on February 27th, one month and twenty-seven looong days after I ordered it. And in case you are sniffling and telling yourself I must be rich because I can afford a Kindle2 and you can't . . . I couldn't afford it either. But I asked for and received Amazon gift certificates for my birthday, Christmas, and Valentine's Day. And any other days in between that I could think of.

Since Amazon was launching Kindle2 to replace the original model, instead of the three week usual wait, myself and several other anxious buyers waited nearly two months, and blogged to each other on Amazon, and sobbed on each other's shoulders, and twiddled our thumbs, and surfed through the list of Kindle books, and gritted our collective teeth, and waited some more. At last, the units began arriving. Some new owners were thrilled, a few were not. Count me among the thrilled.

I plugged the unit in to charge it (holds a charge up to two weeks!) and began surfing Amazon again for books. I'd already chosen July Hyzy's HAIL TO THE CHEF (about $7.) so I downloaded it first thing. And the English Standard Version of the Bible, which was FREE. There are several free Kindle books and books under a buck. Then I downloaded several first chapters of books that looked interesting, so I could read and decide if I wanted to pay for more. I wound up with a Lillian Stewart Carl short story, SARDINES FOR LUNCH, (under a buck) which I loved, and Dashiell Hammett's ARSON PLUS for $.80. I've downloaded several other first chapters and am busily wading through them.

I confess, I accidentally bought a book I didn't intend to, but Amazon always asks if you are sure you want to buy or if you bought by mistake. I decided to confirm and downloaded the book, and I think I'll enjoy it.

The new Kindle2 does NOT come with a cover, like the old model did, but prompted by the advice of other first generation owners, I got the $29 leather cover (also a gift) to keep the Kindle2 safe from damage.

The Kindle2 is easy to navigate, easy and fast to download books, and from the other posts I've read on Amazon, customer service is easy to work with if the owner encounters problems. There is no back light to read in the dark, but my hubby can't abide a light inside the car at night when he's driving, so I'm fine with that. You CAN buy a small light that attaches, if your hubby can take it.

I like that I can make the print as large as necessary. I don't like the "quick blink" when the page turns, but I'll get used to it. I love being able to buy a book no matter where I am in the U.S. without a computer and without visiting a store or waiting for something to ship to me. I'd like to see more mysteries in Kindle format, but the list grows daily, and if you click "I'd like to read this book on Kindle," publishers are fairly responsive to the suggestion.

Kindle2 holds around 1500 books (try carrying that many in a tote bag at the same time!) weighs less than a pound, and is easy to operate. Yes, it's expensive, but I bought it because at the end of each year I usually have a tote bag FULL of books I either read and didn't want to keep (my bookshelves are sagging as I type) or didn't finish reading. I generally give these away or donate them somewhere. And I think of the trees that went into creating these books. With the Kindle2, I can read a book and either keep it or delete it. Yes, someday the units themselves *could* wind up in a landfill, but I believe conscienscous owners will find a correct way to dispose of them, just like we now have the opportunity to properly dispose of old batteries, tires, and cell phones.

I love being able to carry multiple books in my purse or to bed, so I can choose what to read, depending on my mood. Let's face it, I just plain love it.

Oh, and did I mention that one of MY mysteries is available on Kindle? MURDER IN METROPOLIS.
Less than five bucks. I'm just saying . . .

Postscript, a week or so after the Kindle arrived:

One of the things I liked right away about the Kindle was being able to download sample chapters to see if I think I'll like a book. Recently I downloaded a sample of CREPES OF WRATH by Tamar Myers and nine or ten other samples. I usually read several chapter of a book before going to sleep each night, but that night I decided to read the samples instead of chapters from the book I was involved in. The Myers chapter quickly had me biting my lip to keep from chuckling out loud and waking Hubby. I wanted that book right then and there, but the nearest book store is in Paducah, KY, twenty minutes away, across the river, and it was closed. No problem, I clicked on my Kindle to turn on the wireless Internet connection and ordered the book directly from Amazon. They charged it to my account and downloaded it to my Kindle in minutes, without being connected to the computer.

What I felt for this gizmo thingy before was merely puppy love. Now I was fully enamoured with this gadget! Imagine, buying a book while sitting in bed, just before midnight! Doesn't get ANY better than that. And I'm still chuckling over the book. Now, sigh, I gotta find the rest of the series either on Kindle or in paperback, if it isn't on Kindle. Life is tough. Particularly at midnight.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Needing a little red in my life

Whenever I start feeling a little blue, I buy something red.

Anyone else do that?

When winter goes on too long, I start feeling the need for red.

Any little ol' thing. Sometimes I splurge and buy a piece of clothing, like a red dress. But sometimes it's just a little piece of pottery. Or even a new red lipstick. You know what they say - "Life's too short to not wear red lipstick." I don't think I had ever worn red lipstick in my life till I saw that little declaration on a little handpainted sign hanging in a shop. Little did I know that there are about a beezillion shades of red lipstick, and sure enough - my fear of red lipstick was soon banished with the help of Nancy the Lancome Lady at the Boone Belk's. She helped me find the perfect one. Hot Nights. It is YUMMY! It's sheer, so it isn't quite as "in your face" as some red lipsticks might be. And it's shiny. Pretty. I recommend it. But if Hot Nights doesn't work for you, keep looking and treat yourself to one red lipstick. You'll love it.

The first time I even realized I had this need for red was 11 years ago. We were living in Atlanta. Actually, in Kennesaw, GA; a suburb of Atlanta. Donald had accepted a job in Boone, NC at Appalachian State University, which as you know, is where we now are. I stayed behind to sell the house. Didn't know it was going to take six months. After 10 years of marriage, this was the first time Donald and I had ever spent even one night apart. It was a very tough time, and I had periods of being pretty blue. Special girlfriends helped me a lot. There's nothing like special girlfriends when times are tough.

and shopping.

The Marietta, GA square was one of my favorite spots to shop. I don't remember the name of the little clothing boutique I wandered into, but I could tell by their window that it was going to be just the place I was looking for. As soon as I walked in the door and the sales woman asked if she could help me, I replied with "I need something red." Now, believe me - I had not planned on saying that. It just fell out of my mouth and I was totally surprised. I don't think I even owned any red clothing at the time. This woman was a dream woman, or maybe a witch - the good kind, of course. She took one look at me and said, "I can see that you do." This may have had something to do with the fact that I had started crying. BIG tears. Just rolling down my face.

Embarrassed to death.

But. She never even once asked me what was wrong, so I didn't have to go into the whole long story about how much I was missing my Donald. She just brought me the prettiest, reddest, jacket ever. And I put it on, wiped away the tears, and walked out of that little shop feeling like a million bucks - wearing that bright red jacket. I love that jacket. Not only is it red, but it has gold silk lining - gold lapels & when I roll the sleeves up a bit, that gold lining just shines. AND it's sprinkled with gold embroidered hearts. Or wait! Is it stars?! DANG. It's been too long since I've worn it, I can tell! Shame on me for forgetting. I'll have to dig in my closet and find it. Today. As soon as I get home from work. It's not a bit like anything else I've ever owned and I don't wear it often, but when I do wear it I send up a thank you to that dear woman in that funky little boutique in Marietta, GA. And I do still wear it. It's a bit wild, but it's cut in classic lines so even though it's a bit over the top, it's a good piece of clothing.

Then I guess life moved on, the house in Kennesaw finally sold, I finally got to Boone, settled into our new home and our new life and sadly forgot my newly found love of red.

But recently, I've rediscovered it. I'm not entirely sure why or what happened this time, but over a period of time, more red has found its way into my wardrobe, and into my home. I used to have a lot of pink accenting the place. While some of the pink has moved on, I've come to discover that some pinks and some reds look smashing together. They're just happy colors together, I think.

And as usual, I have gone so far off on a tangent I have no way of knowing how to get back.

big sigh.

All I wanted to do was drop in and share two poems with y'all.

Two poems about red dresses.

and they're about as different as they can possibly be.

Here they are -

The Red Dress
by Dorothy Parker

I always saw, I always said
If I were grown and free,
I'd have a gown of reddest red
As fine as you could see,

To wear out walking, sleek and slow,
Upon a Summer day,
And there'd be one to see me so
And flip the world away.

And he would be a gallant one,
With stars behind his eyes,
And hair like metal in the sun,
And lips too warm for lies.

I always saw us, gay and good,
High honored in the town.
Now I am grown to womanhood....
I have the silly gown.


The Red Dress (or What do Women Want)
by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

How 'bout you? Is there a particular color that has meaning to you?