Tell Me Lies

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Overview

Maddie Faraday knows she's having a bad day when she finds a pair of black lace panties under the front seat of her husband's car. To make things more complicated, C.L. Sturgis, her old high school flame, is back in town and still has a yen for her. Maddie wants to get even with her husband, but she wants to keep her reputation, too, and the juggling act that follows ends with great sex in C.L.'s backseat, which leads to gossip and a showdown with her husband. Things get rapidly out of hand as Maddie discovers ...
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Overview

Maddie Faraday knows she's having a bad day when she finds a pair of black lace panties under the front seat of her husband's car. To make things more complicated, C.L. Sturgis, her old high school flame, is back in town and still has a yen for her. Maddie wants to get even with her husband, but she wants to keep her reputation, too, and the juggling act that follows ends with great sex in C.L.'s backseat, which leads to gossip and a showdown with her husband. Things get rapidly out of hand as Maddie discovers that nobody's been telling her the truth: not her husband, not C.L., not her gossiping mother, not her secretive best friend, not even her eight-year-old daughter, Emily. And when her husband disappears, Maddie soon becomes the most-talked-about person in town. She is on a quest for answers, but will she survive long enough to discover the truth...and rediscover the man she loves?
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A ferociously funny sey read." --Redbook

"A humorous mixture of romance, mystery, and mayhem. A winner!" --Susan Elizabeth Phillips, New York Times bestselling author of Breathing Room

"Lovers of Susan Issacs' mysteries, take heart...There's a new author on the block!" --Woman's Own

"A jaunty tale of love and murder...the plot springs some genuine surprises...there's enough intrigue and scandal here to make a small city stay home." --Publishers Weekly

"Smart, sexy, and howlingly funny. Having a bad day? Tell me lies is just the tonic to make you laugh again." --Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Apprentice

Redbook
A ferociously funny, sexy read.
Library Journal
Maddie Martindale has been the nice girl of her small town of Frog Point where gossip is major entertainment. Comfortably, if not happily, married to bigshot Brent, who is running for mayor, and mother to a sweet girl, Maddie seems to have a perfect life. But after she finds crotchless panties in her husband's car, Maddie's pristine reputation unravels. An imminent divorce, her husband's murder, and the precipitate return of Maddie's sexy high school flame, C.L. Sturgis, lead to her quick fall. C.L., the rebel bad boy who never dropped his torch for Maddie, has straightened out handsomely and plays a seductively vital role. The town is agog with talk of Maddie, the adulteress and murderess. An exciting, sensual romp, chock-full of mystery and intriguing characters, this light novel provides hours of fun reading. For all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/97.]Sheila M. Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.
Kirkus Reviews
A popular paperback author dives headfirst into familiar territory: the mystery romance. On her way to self-actualization and a worthy lover, a small-town girl enters a classic merry chase of general upheaval. It all begins when Maddie Faraday of Frog Point, Ohio—where gossip is the major sport and everyone knows everyone else's business—finds a pair of crotchless black lace underpants under the seat of her husband's Cadillac. Like an Erma Bombeck femme whose personal sphere is defined by fixing her broken microwave and washing her dirty macaroni-and-cheese skillet, Maddie (who calls herself "the perpetual virgin of Frog Point") has always been a good girl, a good wife, a good daughter, and a good mother to her precious eight-year-old daughter Em. But the discovery of a few triangles of illicit lace begins a weekend that sees the uprooting of Maddie's entire life. Right in the middle of her tumultuous morning, C.L. Sturgis, a "rebel without a clue" who long ago took Maddie's virginity and has grown up 20 years later into a hot-looking accountant (there's been a dearth of rugged CPAs in recent romance fiction) appears at her door, looking for her husband, Brent. Brent, it seems, is suspected of embezzling a lot of money. Then, as if a bad morning and a marriage spent cleaning up EggMcMuffin wrappers weren't enough, Maddie's car is totalled and she suffers a concussion. Plus which Brent, who's disappointed a whole posse of Frog Pointers, is found shot in the head on a former lovers' lane. The identity of the killer is fairly obvious; somewhat implausibly, Maddie grows estranged from C.L. Still, for lovers of chocolate brownies, fairly explicit sex, and heroines who let itall hang out, an entertaining hardcover debut. (Literary Guild selection; author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250024473
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/22/2012
  • Edition description: Special Edition, $9.99 Edition
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer  Crusie

Jennifer Crusie is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of Tell Me Lies, Crazy for You, Welcome to Temptation, Faking It, Fast Women, and Bet Me.

Biography

Don't expect to see Fabio's flowing mane on the cover of any of Jennifer Crusie's romance novels. She completely eschews the tradition of overwrought melodrama and heaving bosoms to toss a comic gauntlet into the romantic arena. Her fun, funny, and frisky books are a refreshing breeze in a genre that could easily grow stale.

Former schoolteacher Jennifer Smith got her Master's degree in Professional Writing and Women's Literature at Wright State University. She wrote her thesis on women's roles in mystery fiction before trying her hand at penning romance novels using her grandmother's family name Crusie. Despite her impressive credentials, she dismisses her debut novel Sizzle as "lousy" even as her fans clamber to gets their hands on this long out-of-print pulp romance. "That damn book is following me around the way early porn films follow actresses," so says Crusie one her web site of Sizzle.

No matter what the author thinks of her first effort, the astounding string of critically lauded bestsellers that followed it have firmly established Crusie as one of the very best writers of contemporary romantic fiction. Much of this is due to her sharp wit and ear for comedic dialogue, humor being an element often sorely missing in romance novels. From the sly private dick tale What the Lady Wants to the frantic Faking It, Crusie's books contain the perfect balance of suspense, snickers, and steamy love scenes.

What's more, the author has raked up a slew of awards, as well as spots on "best romance novels of the year" for Anyone But You, Temptation, Fast Women, and Faking It. Getting Rid of Bradley scored Crusie a RWA Rita award for Best Short Contemporary Fiction, and in 1996, she received a career achievement award for her work in the romantic comedy genre from Romantic Times magazine.

Now, after 13 crowd pleasers and award winners, Crusie is offering up her first-ever collaboration. She teamed up with hard-boiled action writer Bob Mayer (Operation Dragon-Sim) to conjure up Don't Look Down, a wacky escapade that is equal parts comedy, adventure, and playful erotica.

In Don't Look Down, movie director Lucy Armstrong goes toe-to-toe and heart-to-heart with J.T. Wilder, a green beret who serves as an advisor on a movie that is taking an unexpected turn from romantic comedy to blow-‘em-up action flick. Publisher's Weekly has declared the joint-effort "good fun," and Crusie reveals on her website that more fun with Mayer is on the way. The team is currently working on their second novel together Agnes and the Hitman.

As for future solo ventures by Crusie, there's plenty more in store. She not only has another release slotted for 2006 -- a sexy yuletide novella titled Hot Toy, which will appear in St. Martin's Press' Santa Baby anthology -- but she currently has no less than five additional projects on the burner. Among these upcoming releases are a collection of short stories and a book that Crusie is particularly qualified to create: a guide to writing women's fiction.

Good To Know

Crusie and Bob Mayer are making things a little easier for guys who want to check out their new collaborative novel Don't Look Down. All you have to do is remove the cutesy dust jacket to reveal a tough-as-nails camouflage cover design and voila! No one will ever know you're enjoying a romantic comedy.

Crusie is the proud owner of three dogs, one of which is named Lucy. Oddly, the main character of Don't look Down is also named Lucy -- and happens to be a director of dog food commercials. Coincidence?

Crusie has a few nonfiction works to her credit, including introductions in Totally Charmed, a collection of essays about Alyssa Milano's cult TV series, and Anne Rice: A Critical Companion, which the author wrote under her given name of Jennifer Smith.

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    1. Hometown:
      Ohio
    1. Date of Birth:
      1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ohio
    1. Education:
      B.A., Bowling Green State University, 1973; M.A., Wright State University; Ph.D., Ohio University, 1986

Read an Excerpt

Tell Me Lies ($9.99 Ed)


By Jennifer Crusie

St. Martin's Griffin

Copyright © 2012 Jennifer Crusie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781250024473

TELL ME LIES (Chapter One)

ONE HOT AUGUST Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the front seat of her husband’s Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace underpants. They weren’t hers.

Up until then it had been a fairly decent day. The microwave had snapped and died when she’d tried to heat a muffin for Em’s breakfast, but the sun had been shining on their blue frame house, and the temperature hadn’t hit ninety before noon, and Em had been absorbed in planning her school shopping, and contentment had reigned. Even Brent, muttering about what a mess his car was, had cheered up when Maddie volunteered to clean it, something she’d done more from a sense of guilt than a sense of obligation. It seemed fair that she should clean the car since she had summers off from work and he didn’t, and she’d been bending over backward to be fair lately because it was so tempting not to be fair. “I don’t even like you,” she wanted to say. “Why would I clean your car?” But Brent was a good husband by default: he didn’t yell, drink his paycheck, hit her, or do most of the other things the country music she loved complained about. He was doing his part, the least she could do was play hers. “Em and I will clean your car this afternoon,” she’d said when he’d hugged Em good-bye and was on his way to the door. “Call Howie and have him pick you up on his way out to the company.” And Brent had been so surprised, he’d kissed her on the cheek.

Em had done her usual eight-year-old eye roll behind her glasses when she’d heard the good news. But then she’d gotten a calculating look in her eye and become the Angel Daughter, trooping out to Brent’s gleaming Caddy after lunch with no protest. Something was up, and Maddie waited for the other shoe to drop while she cleaned the trash out of her husband’s front seat and sang along with Roseanne Cash on the tape deck.

Em hauled enough junk from the backseat to fill a cardboard box. “I’m taking this stuff inside and putting it away right now,” she announced, her thin arms wrapped around the box, and then she escaped into the bright yellow airconditioned kitchen while Maddie waved her on from the floor of the front seat.

Maddie reached under the seat and grabbed an Egg McMuffin wrapper as Roseanne sang “Blue Moon with Heartache.” Good song, nice day. A screen door wheezed to her right, and she craned her neck to see their next-door neighbor, Mrs. Crosby, shuffle out onto her immaculate little white porch and lean into her immaculate little marigold-edged yard to squint in the direction of Brent’s Caddy, which should not have been in the driveway because it was a workday.

Mrs. Crosby was festive today, topping the red leggings that hung on her skinny little thighs with a hot orange T-shirt that said “World’s Greatest Grandma,” cotton proof that hypocrisy began young in Frog Point, Ohio. Maddie waved and called, “Hello, Mrs. Crosby, we’re just cleaning out the car.” Mrs. Crosby didn’t have the hearing or the eyesight she’d had twenty years ago, but she still had the mouth, and there’d never be an end to the hell she could start if she was ignored. “There was that car,” Mrs. Crosby would say, “big as life, just like he didn’t have a job to go to.” It was easier to wave and yell now than explain later.

Mrs. Crosby flapped her hand at Maddie and shuffled back inside, now sure that nothing interesting was happening in the driveway next door. Maddie stuffed the Egg McMuffin wrapper in her garbage bag, and then she went under the seat after the last of the trash and found the underpants.

Mrs. Crosby had been wrong.

Maddie sat with her bare legs stretched out the car door, and stared stupidly at the lace and elastic dangling from her hand. It took her a minute to figure out what it was because the middle was missing, there were just four black lace triangles held together by loops of black elastic, and then she realized they were panties, crotchless panties. She thought, Not again, and Beth, and Thank God Em went inside, and Now I can leave him, and then a car door slammed next door to the left, and she jerked and crumpled the lace into a hard ball that scratched her palm.

Gloria was home. It would be bad if Gloria peered over the big picket fence as she always did and caught Maddie on the floor of Brent’s car with another woman’s underwear. Roseanne started singing “My Baby Thinks He’s a Train,” and Maddie snapped the tape player off and groped for sanity.

It was probably paranoid to think that Gloria Meyer could identify another woman’s underwear at forty paces, but this was Frog Point, so there was no room to take chances. If Gloria saw, her nose would twitch, and she’d wave and scuttle inside, and an hour later Maddie’s mother would be calling to find out if it was true because she’d heard it from Esther by the toaster ovens at Kmart and now everybody in Frog Point was talking about what a fool Maddie was and what a shame it was for Emily and how it was all Maddie’s mother’s fault because she hadn’t raised Maddie right.

The sunbaked suburban landscape dipped and swerved, and her stomach rose up to meet the curves. She realized she wasn’t breathing and filled her lungs with the hot dusty air as the blood pounded in her ears.

Next door, Gloria’s screen door slapped shut as she went inside.

Think, Maddie told herself. Forget the dizzy part. The talk before had been awful. And Em was old enough to understand now. Em would know.

And then there was her mother. Oh, God, her mother.

Think. Stop panicking. Well, one thing she could do. She could make sure she wasn’t a fool again. She could get a divorce. She nodded to herself and then felt like a fool anyway for nodding alone on the floor of a car.

She put her hand on the hot beige leather and pushed herself out of the car to stare at her backyard. Funny how normal everything looked. The pine picket fence was still where it was supposed to be, and the splintered picnic table, and Em’s beat-up blue bike, and yet she’d found somebody else’s underwear, here on this spot, on Linden Street, between Gloria Meyer and Leona Crosby, right in the middle of her life.

Maddie took a deep breath and walked up the back porch steps and into the cool of her kitchen, making sure to slam the back door, which had started to stick in the heat. It was the details that mattered, like not air-conditioning the outdoors because she was distracted and had let the door pop open. She stood next to the sink and held the pants in her hand, trying for a moment to make them fit into her everyday reality the way Em used to sing along with “Sesame Street”: one of these things did not belong here, one of these things was not the same. Yellow Formica counter. Dead microwave. Blue-checked hand towel. Flintstone glass with milk in bottom. Mac-and-cheese pan soaking in sink. Brown calico pot holder with “i love you mom” embroidery.

Black lace crotchless underwear.

“Mom?”

Maddie dropped the underwear into the mac-and-cheese mess with nerveless fingers and shoved it to the bottom of the pan, splashing scummy dishwater on her T-shirt. She turned and saw Em in the doorway, lost in her black oversize Marvin the Martian T-shirt, her baby-fine brown hair curling around her face, vulnerable as only an eight-year-old can be vulnerable.

Maddie leaned on the sink for support. “What, honey?”

“What was that?” Em stared at her, her brown eyes huge behind her glasses.

Maddie stared back stupidly for a moment. “What?”

“That thing.” Em came closer, sliding her hip along the yellow counter as she moved, bouncing over the cabinet handles. “That black thing.”

“Oh.” Maddie blinked at the pants floating in the pan and shoved them under the water again. “It’s a scrub thing.” She began to scour the mac-and-cheese pan with the wadded-up pants, taking great satisfaction in the way the pale cheese clogged the lace.

“A scrub thing?” Em peered over her arm.

“It’s not a very good scrub thing.” Maddie let the sodden lace sink to the bottom of the pan. “I’m getting rid of it. What’s up with you? Got everything put away?”

“Yes,” Em said, full of virtue. “And I put the box in the basement so nobody would trip over it.”

Fear caught at the back of Maddie’s throat. Em’s virtue was all part of some plan for whatever it was she was up to this time, some plan she could make because her world was secure and ordinary, and it was all about to blow up in her face. Maddie’s knees went and she pulled out a kitchen chair and sat down before she fell on the floor and made a fool of herself in front of her daughter.

“Mom?” Em said, and Maddie held out her arms and pulled Em close to her.

“I love you, baby,” Maddie said into her hair as she rocked Em back and forth. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too, Mommy.” Em pulled away a little. “Are you all right?”

“Yes.” Maddie forced herself to let her daughter go. “I’m fine.”

“Okay.” Em backed up a little and began to sidle out of the kitchen. “Well, if you need me for anything, yell. I’m going to go work on my school list some more. It’s pretty long this year. Third grade is harder.”

“Right,” Maddie said. Whatever it was that Em was going to ask, she’d postponed it until her mother was normal again. But normal was going to be never unless Maddie could handle this mess somehow. The key was in not overreacting. That was the key. Think everyday life. If she hadn’t found the underwear, what would she be doing? Finishing the mac-and-cheese pan. Taking out the trash. Today was trash day. She’d definitely be taking out the trash.

She got up and pulled on the blue plastic trash basket under the sink. It stuck, and she pulled on it again and again, gritting her teeth, finally yanking at it savagely until it gave up and popped out. Damn right, she thought, and caught her breath. She dumped the water out of the mac-and-cheese pan and threw it and the gross, cheese-encrusted panties in the trash. Overcome with revulsion, she grabbed the can of Lysol out from under the sink and sprayed the trash and her hands until they dripped and her nose stung from the chemical-rich air. Then she dragged the trash outside and upended the basket into the Dumpster at the side of the yard, carefully not looking at Brent’s car. She was supposed to bag everything she put into the Dumpster, but today was not a bagging kind of day. She slammed the Dumpster closed and straightened as the screen door of the next house wheezed and bounced. Gloria again.

“Uh, Maddie?” Gloria peered over the fence and pushed a wisp of pale hair behind her ear. Maddie squinted at her in the sunlight. Gloria was pretty in a faint, pale, overbred way. Maybe Brent was cheating with Gloria. She was right next door, so he wouldn’t have to make much effort. That was like Brent.

“Maddie, I wanted to ask you, what do you think about the grass?”

Maddie gritted her teeth. “I don’t think about the grass much, Gloria.” She turned back to the house, knowing she was being rude and not caring. Well, caring a little bit; there was no point in making Gloria feel rejected. Or in giving her a reason to talk, for that matter. She turned to smile at Gloria as she walked past her, but it was feeble. You can do better than that, damn it, she told herself, but Gloria wasn’t noticing anyway.

“I don’t know.” Gloria’s forehead creased as she frowned. “Don’t you think yours is getting a little long? Could you ask Brent to come over tonight to talk about it?”

Maddie restrained herself from ripping her neighbor’s face off. Gloria Meyer was a pain in the rear, but there was no way she could be sleeping with Brent. For one thing, Gloria would never wear crotchless panties. For another, sex would mean she’d have to stop talking about her damn lawn. “The grass will be okay, Gloria.”

“Do you think so? I really think I should talk to Brent.” Gloria pursued Maddie obliquely, sliding down her side of the fence much the way Em had slid down the side of the counter.

Maddie reached the steps and didn’t stop. “I have to go,” she said, and escaped into her kitchen.

She was probably overreacting. Absolutely, she was overreacting. She was ready to murder Brent, and over what? A pair of underpants that there might very well be a good explanation for. She was behaving as if she were in a bad TV show, the kind that began with a misunderstanding that any idiot could see through, and then continued while the two stars plotted and fought all through the half hour without ever discussing the problem like reasonable people until the last five minutes of the show when they talked and everything was all right in time for the Infiniti commercial. How ridiculous. She’d just wait and mention the pants to Brent when he got home. Like a rational adult.

“Hi, honey. What the hell were black lace underpants doing under the front seat of your car?”

Calm down. Be rational.

Eat chocolate.

There was a good idea. Chocolate spurred the production of endorphins, which would calm her down, and was full of caffeine, which would give her the energy to kill her husband. The best of both worlds.

The cupboards were full of canned vegetables and cereal, but in the freezer, in back of the frozen peas and last week’s chicken soup, she found one permafrosted brownie. Thank God. She peeled the plastic wrap from it in strips and then dropped it on the counter where it skated and spun like an ice cube.

Great. And the microwave was broken. A deeper woman might see this as symbolic of the breakdown of her life. Fortunately, she wasn’t deep. She’d just eat the damn brownie frozen.

She tried to bite off a piece, but it was like chocolate rock. She yanked open a drawer and pulled out her big carving knife. The brownie sat on the counter, sullen, cold, unresponsive. She poised the knife over it and then slammed it into the heart of the cake, but the knife skidded off the top and gouged the yellow Formica. Brent would be mad about that. Well, too bad. Lately he’d been mad about everything; for the past week, she hadn’t done anything right. That was one of the reasons she’d been out there in the heat, cleaning his damn car. She thought of the car and felt her blood pound in her temples. He was doing it again. With Beth? Visions of the perky little redhead loomed before her. Maddie hated perky. The hell with both of them.

Maddie held the knifepoint to the center of the brownie. Precision work. Gritting her teeth, she shoved the knife into the center where it jammed, the brownie still refusing to split into edible chunks. Maddie exhaled through her teeth. She’d never met a more irritating piece of fat and sugar. Just her luck: one damn brownie in the house and it had to be male.

She picked up the knife, and the brownie stuck to the end, impaled. It was a nice image, full of vengeful satisfaction. She carried the knife to the stove, turned up the gas burner, and began to toast the brownie like a marshmallow over the flame. The smell of burning chocolate filled the room.

Who was it this time? Beth? Or somebody new? Her mind ticked over the usual adultery suspects.

Gloria next door?

His secretary, Kristie?

Somebody at the bowling alley?

Somebody he and Howie had built a house for?

Did it matter, really?

Maddie turned the flame up higher. After it happened once, did it matter who it was the next time? This was Brent’s fault, he was the one doing it to her. And to Em. Oh, God, Em. She hoped he—

The phone rang, and Maddie snarled in frustration before she turned off the gas and went to answer it, the knifed brownie still in hand. “Hello?”

“Maddie, honey, it’s Mama.”

Maddie closed her eyes and waited for her mother to say, “Maddie, you’ll never guess what I heard about Brent today.”

“Maddie? Are you all right, honey? I tried to call about fifteen minutes ago, but there was no answer.”

Maddie swallowed. “We were outside cleaning Brent’s car.” And guess what we found. She went into the living room and sank down on her blue-flowered overstuffed couch, stretching the phone cord tight across the room as she dropped. Maybe if she propped the knife up in the living room, Brent would come home and trip over the phone cord and fall onto it. She pictured his body toppling, massive and solid, and the scrunch the knife would make going in.

“Well, it’s too hot to clean cars,” her mother was saying. “You stay inside.”

“We are,” Maddie said. “Now.” She gripped the knife until her knuckles turned white and gnawed a small chunk off the corner of the brownie. It was hard and icy, but it was chocolate. She sucked on it, making it melt with the heat of her angry mouth, and then swallowed it, choking a little as it went down. Slow down, she told herself, and drew in air through her nose.

“Are your allergies acting up?” her mother demanded.

“No.”

“Well, take a Benadryl just in case. You sound wheezy. I won’t keep you, I just wanted to let you know that you’re getting company any minute now.”

“You’re kidding.” Maddie gnawed off another corner of brownie.

“It’s Sheriff Henley’s nephew, the one you went to high school with.”

“Nephew?” The news took a moment to sink in, and then Maddie dropped her knife, brownie and all. C. L. Sturgis. He’d been her first mistake. If she’d stayed a virgin, none of this would be happening. She tried to sound uninterested as she groped around on the navy carpet for the knife. “I don’t remember.”

Her mother did, but that wasn’t unusual. Her mother’s memory was a natural database of all the times everybody in town had screwed up, so she’d definitely have a file on C.L. And now her file on Maddie, never small to begin with, was about to get bigger.

“I ran into him outside the police station,” her mother was saying. “He was looking for Brent, but I told him you were home this afternoon, so he said he’d try you next.”

Thank you, Mother. Where was that damn brownie?

“And oh, Maddie, I was so embarrassed.” She lowered her voice. “I couldn’t remember his name. I knew he wasn’t a Henley because he was Anna’s sister’s son, but I couldn’t for the life of me think of who he was. He was a year behind you in school. He was always in trouble for fighting and such a reckless driver, remember?”

“Sort of.” Maddie put her head between her knees so she could think and found the knife and her brownie on the floor under her legs, only slightly hairy from the carpet. So C.L. was back, was he?

Maddie picked up her knife and shoved herself up off the floor so she could pace. Gee, and just yesterday she’d been thinking her life was boring and empty. Well, bring back yesterday. Her skin prickled and her breath came funny again. She tried to focus on brushing the debris off the brownie, but it was difficult one-handed while she was pacing.

Her mother was still talking. “He married Sheila Bankhead and moved away, but then she left him and took him for everything he had. Don’t you remember? Maybe he’s come home because she’s getting married again. What was his name? Something strange.”

Maddie cradled the phone on her shoulder as she dusted the last of the lint off the brownie and her mother ran down a list of wrong names. When her mother ran out of steam, Maddie gave her the right one: “C. L. Sturgis.”

“That’s him! That Sturgis boy. He should be there any time now.” Then her mother’s voice changed. “Now, how’d you come to remember his name?”

“Lucky guess.” Like she could forget. Well, the hell with C. L. Sturgis. The hell with all men. Especially the hell with Brent. She started to pace again, chewing off chunks of the thawing brownie as she walked.

“Well, anyway, Sheila’s marrying Stan Sawyer.” Her mother sighed. “He’s dumber than squat, but she’s probably after his money, not his brains. He just inherited all that Becknell money from his aunt. Cancer. Terrible. At least Sheila’s better than that Beth he was dating.”

Maddie stopped as her stomach started up her esophagus again, full of brownie this time. Beth. She tested herself, looking for the rage she’d felt for Beth five years before, but it wasn’t there. She should be mad at Beth. She definitely didn’t like her. But hating Beth didn’t solve anything. At least, it hadn’t solved anything five years ago. Beth wasn’t her problem, even if it turned out that she was the one missing the underwear. Brent was her problem. She should leave the son of a bitch. Then he could marry Beth. That would be one way to get even with Beth.

Her mother was still talking. Her mother would talk through the Second Coming, doing the play-by-play. “And now the sinners are in the lake of fire. I can see Beth the slut from here. I believe, yes, she’s doing the backstroke.” Maddie could sympathize; she felt as if she were in the lake of fire, too. Going down for the third time with Brent tied around her neck. She leaned her forehead against the wall as her mother moved on to another topic.

“I talked to Candace Lowery at the bank. She was wearing a beautiful beige jacket. To look at her, you’d never think she was a Lowery.”

“Mom.” Maddie could hear Frog Point talking now. She stayed with him after the first time, what did she expect? The way she acts, you’d never think she was a Martindale. She rolled her shoulders back against the wall and clenched the knife in front of her and ate another chunk of brownie.

“I ran into Treva at Revco. She said Three’s home from college for a month. Doesn’t that sound like a long time?”

“It sounds nice.” Maybe she’d go see Treva. Maybe she’d say all these thoughts out loud, and Treva would make sarcastic remarks about her being paranoid, and they would have a good laugh. They were long overdue. She hadn’t talked to Treva since last week.

“Didn’t you know? She’s your best friend, and you didn’t know her son was home?” Her mother’s voice was starting to rise.

“We’ve been busy.” Maddie didn’t know why she hadn’t seen Treva, and at the moment she didn’t care. One trauma at a time. She shut down all thought and ate the last of the brownie. It was a very good brownie, considering its circumstances.

“Busy doing what?” her mother said, and then the doorbell rang, and Maddie let her head fall back against the wall.

C.L.

“It’s summer,” her mother was saying. “Teachers don’t do anything in the summer—”

The doorbell rang again, and Maddie straightened away from the wall. “Mom, there’s somebody at the door, I have to go.”

“That Sturgis boy. Maybe you better talk to him on the porch. You know how people are. I’ll hang on until you find out.”

“No, Mom, I’m going to go now. I love you.” Her mother was still talking as Maddie hung up. Just her luck, she’d answer the door and there would be a serial killer, and he’d murder her on her doorstep, and then at her funeral her mother would tell everybody, “I told her not to hang up, but she never would listen.” Some screwups lasted beyond death, and answering the door right now was probably one of them.

She did not need C. L. Sturgis. She especially did not need C. L. Sturgis right now because every time things went wrong with Brent, C. L. Sturgis was the memory that popped into her head. Things could be worse, she’d tell herself. You could have married C. L. Sturgis. Except that things couldn’t get much worse, and C.L. was not that bad a memory, and for all she knew, in the twenty years since he’d lured her into his backseat, he could have improved. Brent hadn’t, but that didn’t mean C.L. couldn’t have.

The doorbell rang again, and Maddie walked into her white-on-white hall and yanked the door open.

Sure enough, there on her porch, lit by the sun, was C. L. Sturgis, choreographed back into her life by her mother and a malignant Fate, looking better than he had any right to after twenty years. He said, “Hey, Maddie,” and she adjusted her memory of C.L. at seventeen to the real C.L. at thirty-seven. His face was more lined, and he was taller and broader through the shoulders under his blue-striped shirt, but his dark hair was still thick and rumpled, and his eyebrows still did that V thing that made him look like Satan’s delivery boy, and he still had those hot, dark eyes and that wide, brainless, sheepish grin. Yep, it was C.L., all right. Rebel without a clue.

“Maddie? Your mom said it was all right to stop by.” C.L.’s voice was light and his grin was still in place, but his dark eyes had cooled to wary. What had she ever done to make him look at her like that? Well, besides dumping him after one night in his backseat. He couldn’t still be holding that grudge after twenty years. C.L. took a step back on her porch, and Maddie’s frown hardened. Sure he could. The way things were going today, somebody she’d pushed on the playground in second grade was probably heading her way with a grenade.

He ducked his head and peered at her, and for a minute he looked seventeen again, unsure of himself and doubly dangerous because of it. There was nothing worse than C.L. looking vulnerable, she remembered, because he so rarely was. “Uh, bad day?” he asked.

Oh, great. He knew about Brent, too. Maddie scowled harder at him. “What makes you think so?”

He pointed at her left hand. “The knife. Big sucker, too.”

She glanced down. She still had the blade clenched in her hand, poised to jab. “I was eating a brownie.”

C.L. nodded, looking not relieved at all. “Sure. That would explain it. Listen, I don’t want to keep you.” His eyes went back to the knife. “Is Brent here?”

It was so surreal. An hour ago, her life had been fine, and now she was talking to C. L. Sturgis, who wanted to talk to her cheating jerk of a husband. “You know, my mother told me you were coming over, but somehow I just didn’t believe it.”

He kept his eyes on the knife. “Believe it. About Brent—”

The hell with Brent. She waved the knife to get his attention. “Look, C.L., I’m kind of busy right now—”

He reached out and took the knife from her so swiftly that she was left staring at her empty hand. “No offense, Mad, but it’s been a while, and for all I know, you’ve gone homicidal on me.” He stepped back off the porch and shoved the knife up to the hilt into the flower bed by the steps. He still had the same great butt he’d had in high school, Maddie noticed, and from the condition of his jeans, they could have been from high school, too. Then he came back to her and smiled again, and she could have sworn his smile was the same it had been in high school, part happiness, part invitation to trouble. It was impossible to be cold when he hit her with that smile. There was something about C.L. that insisted you smile back even though you knew it was a mistake.

She relaxed, exhaling in relief as some of the tension left her neck. “I’m sorry. I’m having a bad day.”

He nodded, warm and sympathetic, and she remembered why she’d climbed into his backseat twenty years before. “That’s because you’re still living in Frog Point,” he said. “Every day here is a bad one. You look great, by the way.”

Maddie looked down at her soap-stained pink T-shirt, still blotchy with the water from the sink. “You know, C.L., there’s such a thing as carrying politeness too far.”

“No,” he said. “You really do look great. Just like in high school.”

He wanted something. He had to; nobody could look at her and say, “Just like in high school,” not after twenty years of wear and tear and Brent. She felt the chill return. “Thanks,” she told him. “So what do you want?”

C.L. looked taken aback, but not for long. “Well, now that the chit-chat’s out of the way, and we’re all unarmed, is Brent home?”

Brent. The son of a bitch. Everywhere she went, there he was. She glared at C.L. “No. I’m busy. Try the office.” She swung the door closed, but he put his foot in the way and stopped her.

“Wait a minute. I tried there.”

He was closer now, and she realized he’d grown more than shoulders and height since seventeen. There was weight to C.L. now; he was solid, and his dark eyes under the thick fringe of his lashes were sure. He’d grown up.

Too bad Brent hadn’t.

Maddie took a deep breath. “Look, this is not my day to watch him, okay? I don’t know where he is. It’s been nice seeing you, but I have to go.”

“I can’t believe this.” C.L. frowned. For a moment, all his warmth went away, and Maddie took a step back. “There is no way anybody can disappear in this town. You’re his wife. You must know where he is.”

This Maddie didn’t need, her first romantic disaster commenting on her current one. “Look, I don’t know where he is. Now, go away.”

“All right, all right.” C.L. held his hands up to ward her off. “All I want to do is talk to him. Mind if I come in?”

“Yes,” Maddie said. “I mind a lot.” She shoved his foot out of the way with hers and slammed the door, surprising herself with how fast and how mad she was. Two men in her entire life, and they’d both taken her for a ride. Well, the hell with them.

“Maddie?” C.L. said from the other side of the door.

“Not now, C.L. Not now, not ever. Go away.” Maddie listened for a moment to see if he was gone, and then jumped when Em said, “Mom?” behind her.

Em stood there with her school list. “I heard you talking. Who was that? You look funny.”

Em. Every time she got to a place where she could make jokes and pretend it wasn’t happening, there was Em with disaster bearing down on her. She couldn’t do this alone anymore. “That was nobody,” she told Em. “Let’s walk over to Aunt Treva and Mel’s.”

“All right,” Em said, but her eyes were cautious.

Ten minutes later, Maddie stood in her best friend’s back doorway, trying to look mentally healthy while Treva blinked up at her, startled.

“Mel’s in the family room,” Treva said to Em, not taking her eyes off Maddie’s face. “Go find her.” Once Em was down the hall, Treva grabbed Maddie’s arm. “What’s wrong with you? You look awful. Is this my fault? I know I haven’t called. What’s wrong?”

“Brent’s cheating on me.” Maddie swallowed. “I have to leave him. Divorce him.” It was a lot more awful than she’d thought, saying it out loud, and she staggered back a step and threw up her brownie into Treva’s bushes.

“Oh, hell,” Treva said.

 

AS A SEMI-MATURE. Sturgis knew that a crush that had blindsided him in the fifth grade and then come back to wipe him out again in high school could not possibly have any impact on his life now. Then he realized he’d driven four blocks down Linden Street with no idea of where he was going and no idea of where he’d been since he’d seen Maddie in her wet T-shirt. So much for semimaturity. Figuring his reputation in town was bad enough, he pulled over and parked his convertible before he ran down a Frog Point citizen while having carnal thoughts about a married woman and got another couple of sins added to the list of Things C.L. Done to Shame Henry and Break Poor Anna’s Heart.

He tapped his fingers on the wheel, trying to get his thoughts back where they belonged. No matter how desirable she’d been standing in her doorway, all dark curls and warm curves and cool eyes that made him stupid, Maddie Martindale was history. And all he’d done was talk to her on her porch step, so there was nothing for him to feel guilty about, especially now that he wasn’t driving in a lust-fogged stupor. He was an adult in a car he’d paid for, and he had every right to be where he was and to talk to anybody he wanted.

C.L. looked around at the tall old houses, every one of them staring into the well of the street with dark windows, and slid a little farther down in the seat, wincing under guilty memories of toilet-papered trees and soaped windows and potatoes in tailpipes and cherry bombs in mailboxes. Then he caught himself. He hadn’t done anything wrong around here for almost twenty years. He was innocent. He could even get out of the car. The hell with Frog Point. He jerked on the emergency brake and got out and slammed the door.

The noise seemed to echo up and down the street. He lit a cigarette and leaned against the car door, wondering why he still had the feeling he was going to get busted for smoking. He was thirty-seven. He was allowed to smoke in public.

Across the street, a woman opened her front door and came out on the porch, jerking her head at him suspiciously, no doubt drawn out of her musty living room to see who he was and why he was parked on her street in the middle of the day when a decent man would be at work. She looked familiar, and then he recognized her and realized that he’d parked where he had from force of habit. Mrs. Banister. He’d spent most of his senior year parked right here in front of her house trying to seduce her daughter, Linda, and succeeding an amazing number of times. And now here he was, back one last time, betrayed by his instincts again.

C.L. straightened and waved at her to let her know he wasn’t some pervert or, worse, some stranger casing the joint to rip off her Hummels. She squinted at him and then stomped back inside, slamming the door. He couldn’t tell whether it was from recognition or heightened suspicion, and he didn’t care.

What he cared about was Maddie.

She’d looked unhappy and angry and lost when she’d opened the door, and she’d been brittle and smart-mouthed, not the smiling girl he’d remembered from high school. Whenever he’d thought of Maddie in the past years, he’d remembered her warmth, but she wasn’t warm anymore. Somebody had hurt her, and he had an idea who’d been doing the hurting and that made him mad. Somebody should have to pay for all this misery, and he was pretty damn sure that somebody was Brent Faraday.

And C.L. was also pretty damn sure he knew how to do it. His ex-wife, of all people, had handed him the weapon.

“I need you for this, C.L.,” Sheila had said on the phone when she’d called him the week before. “I need an accountant I can trust. You can take a long weekend, they love you at that firm you work for, they’ll let you take off as long as you want. You were a lousy husband, but you’re a damn good accountant.” After that come-on, he’d had no problem saying no when she said she was afraid her fiance might be getting swindled, no problem saying no when she cried, no problem saying no when she offered to sign away her right to alimony since she’d have to give it up when she married Stan anyway. But then she’d said, “Please, C.L. All you have to do is come down here and look at the books and tell me if Brent Faraday is ripping Stan off by asking for two hundred and eighty thousand for a quarter of the company. Just yes, he is, or no, he isn’t, that’s all.”

And he’d said, “I’ll do it.”

He took another long drag on the cigarette, sucking in nicotine to blunt the memory. Sheila had said, “There’s probably nothing wrong. After all, it is Brent Faraday,” and he’d known there had to be a lot wrong. More than he hated Frog Point, he hated Brent Faraday, who got away with murder while Frog Point loved him, and Maddie married him, and C.L. got caught over and over again.

Thank God all that was behind him now. He was a solid citizen with a solid job and a solid future. He might finally be able to catch Brent at something, he was sincerely hoping he would, but his own days of worrying about getting busted were over.

C.L. was finishing his cigarette, getting ready to leave, when a squad car pulled up behind his Mustang, and a cop got out and came toward him.

TELL ME LIES Copyright © 1998 by Jennifer Crusie Smith



Continues...

Excerpted from Tell Me Lies ($9.99 Ed) by Jennifer Crusie Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer Crusie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Interviews & Essays

On Sunday, March 29th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Jennifer Crusie to discuss TELL ME LIES.


Moderator: Welcome to the barnesandnoble.com live Auditorium. Author Jennifer Crusie joins us to chat about her wickedly funny new novel, TELL ME LIES. Good evening, Jennifer Crusie. We're so glad to have you online tonight! How are you this evening?

Jennifer Crusie: I'm delighted to be here, although still getting the hang of this.


Joy from San Francisco: Jennifer, thanks for your books! I'm a "prepublished" romance novelist, working on my first manuscript. Developing a plot is my biggest challenge. I've tried to outline but find it difficult to see that far ahead. Do you outline or simply write?

Jennifer Crusie: This is one of those "whatever gets you through the book" answers. My good buddy Patricia Gaffney outlines everything first; I don't outline at all. I write the first draft by doing the scenes I want to write first (and some of them never make it into the book at all) and then I look to see what I've done. Sort of "I don't know what I'm saying until I see what I've typed." Then I start analyzing the script and breaking it into acts and looking for turning points. That way I can keep the energy and freshness of a first draft and still have a tightly constructed final draft. And thank you for reading the books, Joy!


Sarah Houghland from Williamsburg, Virginia: How do you develop a story line? Thank you!

Jennifer Crusie: I start with character and relationships. With Maddie, I knew she had a best friend and a daughter and a mother, and I knew there'd be a hero in there someplace. I wrote scenes to find out not only who Maddie was but also how all those relationships worked. Then I thought, "What's the worst thing I can do to this chick?" and it was in the scenes already, so I broke the action into five acts (because I ended up with four turning points) and made sure that the trouble escalated each time, but always through Maddie's actions. She'd try to solve her problems, but her logical attempts only got her in deeper. Story has to come from character, so I explore character first.


Pamela K. Muir from New Rochelle, NY: Your book is promoted as a "romantic comedy" and not a romance. Could you please explain to us what the difference is? Thank you. I am looking forward to reading the book!

Jennifer Crusie: Actually, TELL ME LIES is a romantic comedy with a mystery subplot. So we're calling it a lot of things. What would you like to read today? [laughs] A romantic comedy is a romance novel that's funny. The romance genre is huge: There are historical romances, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, paranormal romances, SF romances, inspirational/Christian romances...dozens of subgenres. So the label is just to help you determine what kind of romance it is. If I had to describe it, I'd say it's a relationship novel that is also extremely gentle social satire with a strong mystery subplot. This is why they never ask me to describe my books.


Gina Maula from Camp Verde, AZ: Your book kicks right off -- right from the beginning, it is hilarious and diving right into the story. Is this the result of several drafts? Beginnings are so difficult.... What made you begin right at the very brink of the plot, when she finds the crotchless underwear in the car?

Jennifer Crusie: Oh, Gina, if you only knew how many times I wrote that beginning. First I learned from Lee K. Abbott in the creative writing program at Ohio State that a good storyteller always starts where the trouble starts. And I knew from studying screenplay writing that a strong image is also important (yes, in print narrative, too). So one of the earliest drafts began: "The black crotchless bikini underpants lay on the yellow Formica counter like a bat in butter." There's a real grabber, right? Yeah, except nobody could get past it. Four pages later, I had readers saying, "Wow, a bat in butter." So I had to keep reworking it until it grabbed without stunning the reader into stupefaction. The big thing to remember about beginnings and endings, I think, is that they're always inherent in each other; that is, the seeds of the ending are in the beginning, as long as you have the right beginning. And you get the right beginning by starting where the trouble starts -- in Maddie's case, by finding something not even she can ignore -- and ending where the trouble ends.


Oren Bearson from Normal, Illinois: Your book sounds like something I would like to read. What is your background as a writer? I read that this is your first hardcover. Do you have other paperbacks?

Jennifer Crusie: Oh, it is something you want to read, Oren. [laughs] My background is varied. I started out in art, which actually was good training for writing because so many of the design concepts are the same. Then in the '80s I got my masters in professional writing (business and technical), which was excellent training, and in feminist criticism. Then in the '90s I began my Ph.D. in literature and discovered romance novels, a form I'd been too much of an intellectual to read before. What a dummy I'd been: I fell in love with the genre and switched my research to a feminist analysis of romance as subversive feminism. And then I started to write them. After five, I knew I needed to know a lot more about writing, so I put the Ph.D. on hold and went into the MFA in fiction program at Ohio State, which is where I began workshopping both TELL ME LIES and the book I'm working on now. I started writing fiction in the summer of '91, sold my first book in '92, saw it on the shelves in '93, got my MFA in '97, and now my tenth book is in hardcover. And I still haven't finished the Ph.D. Everything else you ever wanted to know and more is on my Web site, at www.sff.net/people/jennifercrusie, including the first chapters of all my books. And thanks so much for asking! (Aren't you sorry you did?)


Michelle from Columbus, Ohio: In the beginning of your book, you thank many people from Ohio State University's creative writing department. Are you a student there? If so, what do you study? How has this influenced your writing?

Jennifer Crusie: Hello, Michelle, right here in town! I graduated last June from the MFA program at OSU; now I'm finishing the Ph.D., which analyzes the way romance novels revise the toxic traditions that fairy tales and myths have given women. It's called THE FEMINIZATION OF ENCHANTMENT, and my dissertation adviser is dying to read it. The creative writing department at OSU is superb. Lee K. Abbott is a great teacher, as is Melanie Rae Thon, and the program has made a huge difference in my writing and my career. My literary studies have always been in feminist criticism, so that's had a huge influence on my work, too.


Francine P. from Princeton, NJ: How do you feel about the stereotypes people hold against being a "romance" author? It seems as if people think this is a negative term, and even if a book has elements of romance in it, people try to stray from calling it a romance. Why this negativity? What do you think?

Jennifer Crusie: Oh, Francine, don't get me started, we'll be here for days. I think the stereotypes stem from two biases: Romance is a woman's genre, and we don't respect anything dominated by women (look at teaching, nursing, and child care, three vitally important aspects of our culture). Romance is about love, and we're uncomfortable with idea of love as a powerful emotion, one that people can die without, one that makes everyone act like morons when it has them in its grip. It also emphasizes other things that many radical feminists (note: I'm a feminist -- a really, really passionate feminist) want to deny, that women are interested in clothes and houses and kids, for example. The thing that makes me nuts about all this is that the people throwing stones generally haven't read enough romance to make a judgment. Sixteen hundred romance titles were published last year alone. Yet scholars still make judgments based on a handful of romances that might span ten years. Finally (actually, I have a lot more to say, but I'll stop), the general trashing of romance is intellectually dishonest, because no intelligent critic judges by subject matter. Saying "all romances are trash" or "all romances are alike" is as intellectually bankrupt as saying "all literary fiction is good" or "all stories about dogs are alike." People blinded by fear and bias make bad critics. As far as why people don't want their books called romances, it's because of the stigma. Me, I wrote a romance.


Joy from San Francisco: Another question, piggybacking on the last. You said you don't outline. Do you do any sort of preplanning or just sit down and write?

Jennifer Crusie: You know, my life would be a lot easier if I could. But it kills the book. I had a great idea about a bunch of people stuck on an island, a modern day takeoff on Christie's TEN LITTLE INDIANS, and I had all the alibis and murders plotted and all the back story done, and all kinds of research, but when I went to write it, it died on the page. Never again. Now I start with the characters and let them go where they want. Sometimes they're dead ends, but that's okay. Sometimes you have to write to get to the book you want to write. It's just part of the process. But boy, after the first draft, I have a 48 by 72 inch white board that gets covered in diagrams and arrows and color-coded loglines.... I love it. The illusion of control.


Kathi from Vacaville, CA: Hello! You are one of my all-time favorite authors. Your Web site was one of the first I ever bookmarked! Anyway, my question is, now that you've hit "the big time," are they going to rerelease your previous books anytime soon? Thanks!

Jennifer Crusie: Oh, Kathi, from your mouth to Toronto's ear. I think it's a distinct possibility, but right now it's still up in the air.


Lyric from Atlanta: Jennifer, I've had difficulty finding your previously published books, especially GETTING RID OF BRADLEY. It was so highly recommended at an online readers' site that I'm really anxious to read it. I've looked in used-book stores and at book sales and have discovered it's not listed to be ordered from local book stores. Is there any way I can get a copy?

Jennifer Crusie: First of all, what a great name. That should be on a book cover. Then about BRADLEY: Used bookstores are your only hope. It's been out of print for about four years now. Uh, Toronto? About those reprints...?


Hallie from Fullerton, CA: Hi, Jennifer. I'm a great fan of your books. Do you follow a regular writing schedule, with a per day quota of pages?

Jennifer Crusie: Hi, Hallie! Always glad to hear from a fan. Actually I'm always delighted to hear I have fans. No, I'm a mess when it comes to writing. I just went on a mystery-writing cruise with Nora Roberts, and while I baked in the sun every morning, she stayed in her cabin and wrote. This is why she's famous and I'm not. On the other hand, when I finally do find my way into a book, I'm obsessive and I work on it night and day until I've got the first draft down. Then I calm down for the dozens of rewrites I do. It's not efficient, but it works. Sort of.


Paidrick from St. Louis, MO: Do you think men would also enjoy TELL ME LIES? Why or why not?

Jennifer Crusie: Yes. (Did you really think I'd say no?) But seriously, yes, because men have read it and liked it. My favorite guy reader story is from St. Martin's, my publisher. My editor handed the book to a marketing exec there, and he said, "You don't pay me enough to read a romance." She said, "Oh, yes we do," so he read it, and when we met at a sales conference, he told me how he'd resisted the book and then read it -- stayed up until three to finish it, in fact. And then he said, "Are you sure it's a romance?" Yep. Or there's the close personal friend of mine now living in New York who called and said, "Exactly where did you learn to write sex scenes like this, and why wasn't I there?" Not that you'd be interested in sex scenes, Paidrick. I know you're not that kind of guy.


Priscilla Jayne Jones from Greenwich, CT: I just love reading about Maddie. Her reactions to the situations are so hilarious. (I knew I loved her when she scrubbed the mac and cheese pan with the crotchless underwear!) Is Maddie based on anyone real?

Jennifer Crusie: No and yes. No because none of my characters are based on real people. The real people I know and love aren't that interesting, and the real people who are that interesting I try to avoid. Also fictional characters have to behave logically, and real people seldom do. But yes, because I think any good writer puts something of herself in every character she writes, even the villains. You have to love and sympathize with them all. But literally, no.


Jane from St. Paul: What's your take on writing books and conferences? There are tons of them. Have you found any useful (especially books)?

Jennifer Crusie: First the books. I think Robert McKee's STORY is brilliant. Linda Seger's MAKING A GOOD SCRIPT GREAT is also wonderful. These are both screenwriting books, but they're essential for fiction writers, too, I think. Renni Browne and Dave King's SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS is a huge help. A good text book is Janet Burroway's WRITING FICTION. And the conferences: RWA does some fine conferences, including the national one held in Anaheim this year at the end of July. There are some terrific regional ones, too, like Moonlight and Magnolias in September in Atlanta. And of course other organizations holds conferences, too. I've heard Sisters in Crime does a wonderful one. Conferences are good for workshops, but their greatest value is the networking that goes on. That's invaluable.


Susan Selke from Chicago, IL: Jennifer, can you give some tips on how you incorporate humor into your writing? You (and your books) are hilarious!

Jennifer Crusie: Sure. (And thanks for the compliment!) The biggest thing to remember is that humor has to flow naturally from character. That is, your character's sense of humor will determine the humor in the book. Forgetting this leads to most of the unfunny humor out there. For example, people think that humor is inherent in situation. "I'll write a scene in which two women wrestle in lime Jell-O," somebody thinks. "What a hoot." Yeah, but what if one of the women is wrestling to get the money to save her child/job/Tara/whatever? Then Jell-O wrestling become high drama. Look at "The Full Monty," for example. That movie would break your heart if it weren't for the essential good tempers and great senses of humor that the characters possess. This is a story about men pushed to the limits of desperation, and yet it's wonderfully funny because the humor isn't in the situation -- amateur male strippers -- but in the way the characters deal with the situation. Look at every great piece of comedy narrative -- film or print -- and you'll find that comedy isn't in one-liners or pratfalls, it's in character. Of course, if you're talking farce -- "Hot Shots" or "Spaceballs" -- all bets are off. But for fiction, well-developed stories about people the reader cares about, it comes from character.


Kathi from Vacaville,Ca.: How are your pets? Also, will you be writing any more series romances?

Jennifer Crusie: They're with me now. As a matter of fact, I've shoved one of the cats off my lap three times during this chat. (What is it about cats and computers, anyway?) The dogs are all stretched out on the floor, and everybody's happy. I'd love to write more series romance, but I'm still in a standoff with Harlequin's legal department over a clause they put in the contract that I won't sign. Actually, the standoff was over long ago when we both wandered off, but until the clause is gone, I can't write category, since HQ and Silhouette have the monopoly. (And where is the Justice Department when you need them, anyway?) But I'd like to. I really love the form.


Moderator: Thank you so much for joining us tonight, Jennifer Crusie. Chatting with you has been much fun, and quite enlightening! We hope you will join us with your next book. Before you go, any closing comments for your readers?

Jennifer Crusie: Gee, and I was just getting the hang of this, too. Thank you to all who asked questions -- great questions -- and to the moderator. I had a great time!


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 99 )
Rating Distribution

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(56)

4 Star

(29)

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(11)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 99 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Tell Me Lies

    At first I thought it was starting a bit slow - but then I couldn't put it down! This book has everything happening in it - a fun and down to earth read! I think it's one of Jennifer's best books - never boring - and highly recommended!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 21, 2011

    Very interesting

    I agreed with several of the write ups. Not as funny as some.. kids made me crazy (but mine do too) and they were tied into the story plot which made it all work. There was joy at the end which always works for me!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Scared me...

    Really good book with some very serious issues. There were times that I put it down just so I could catch my breath! You'll be nervous, you'll choke up & most of all you chuckle. Not my favorite book but if you love Crusie like I do then you will have to read it just b/c it's something she wrote!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not her best but still good.

    I just finished this book and to me it was just okay as compared to her other books. This book was a bit more serious than her other books, which are usually very funny, and I suppose that makes sense as this was a bit of a more serious story. I found some of the scenes that followed the main character's daughter tedious. I just didn't care what a couple of kids (elementary aged kids at that) were planning and thinking. I loved all of the scenes with C.L., especially the ones with his uncle.

    Maddie, the lead character, almost went on my stupid list near the middle of the book when she started complaining that the C.L., her love interest, had lied about why he came to town, which was untrue. However, the narration did not stay on that theme for long.

    Overall, the book was written well. There was LOTS of chemistry between the main character's, Maddie and C.L. Ms. Crusie did an excellent job of weaving a complicated thread about a small town murder and how small town life played a role in it. Overall I really enjoyed the book and definately left me smiling and happy at the end. I am still a big fan of this writer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2010

    Good, easy read

    We picked out this book for our book club to read because we wanted something light and easy to read. We succeeded! The plot is not deep, but it is entertaining. There is a little bit of everything - mystery, drama, romance, and humor. While some things are predictable, others take you completely by surprise! I have to say, I didn't see the end coming and would have been wrong in guessing "who dunnit" :-) If you are looking for a book that is quick to read, but also keeps you reading because you want to know what happens next - this is the book for you! Most importantly, it has a happy ending. I like to finish a book with a smile on my face and a "feel good" feeling in my heart. Winner here.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    It was funny and thrilling from page one.

    That first sentence is what hooked me on. I definately laughed out loud on this one. The plot was definately a great mystery and found myself caring for the characters involved. I always suggest this one to everyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    This was the first book that I read of J. Cruise and I can't wait to read more of her work. This book was terrific. I couldn't put it down.
    I highly recommend this!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 5, 2014

    Awesome

    Awesome

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    Clear

    <_>

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    Midnightfang

    "All clear. Lets head back to camp."

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2013

    Such a great book! If you're looking for something easy to read

    Such a great book! If you're looking for something easy to read just for entertainment, this is it. I got so involved with the story and the characters that I couldn't and didn't want to put it down! Twists and turns, romance and intrigue - great story!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 8, 2013

    Thoroughly enjoyable!  Once I started it, it was hard to put dow

    Thoroughly enjoyable!  Once I started it, it was hard to put down.  Love Cruisie's novels.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2012

    Silvermoonstr

    Next result!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012

    I really enjoyed the pace and humor of the book! It was one I ha

    I really enjoyed the pace and humor of the book! It was one I had a hard time putting down! I'm excited to read more of Jennifer Crusie's work!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 27, 2011

    Enjoyable as always

    Humorous and quick paced with a couple of twists

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2011

    Wow!!!

    So great and interesing. You never kniw what will happen next :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 15, 2011

    Love jennifer's books!!!!

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Posted June 24, 2011

    Loved it!

    Great, fun read.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    GOOD READING

    SHE IS AN EXCELLENT WRITER I'VE READ MOST OF HER WORKS
    YOU'LL ENJOY THIS ONE

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    small town setting

    I loved the setting of this book. It truly portrayed the small town secrets/betrayals and power. How many of us wonder " what if" from our high school days?! It was a fun read on a hot summer day. Glad Maddie got to go back and experience some fun with a previous lover.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 99 Customer Reviews

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