My Car Does Time Travel

wet dog on board

Smells like summer in the back of my car since I have neglected to unload the lake house linens brought home to launder.  I’ve left them there because every time I get in my car, the dusty mildew triggers a flood of summer memories that take me way back.  And since my new novel includes time travel, any actual experience in the field is a good thing.  The first time it happened, I traveled to my 20s, when the smell of lake water represented an idyllic escape from a Dallas desk job, when boat rides became romantic, and the future seemed as mysterious and exciting as dock lights flickering on inky water at night.      

Sometimes, driving around with musty linens induces a slight headache, but each mildewy car trip takes me back farther into the summers of my life.  I visited my father’s various sailboats and the summers of my teens where everything smelled like a damp life-preserver and I made the exception to hang with parents to cruise the Chesapeake Bay.  I revisited a canoe in a Northern Michigan lake where we children had a license to paddle reedy shallows while the adults inhabited a separate plane of existence on the shore.        

My summer time travel ultimately lands me in one of those long summer afternoons when the wonder of endless unstructured time, teeters on the brink of death by boredom.  That was the hard part.  We struggled, but were saved by whoever thought of draping a blanket over a table or a refrigerator box, redirecting our next three days to organizing a tent world and spending a half-night sleeping outside.  

Time travel through summers is distracting and causes me to drive beyond my destinations, but what’s a little u-turn compared to the opportunity to commune with the essence of summer?  The smell in my car allows total recall of the feeling of liberation, the same now as in childhood: the suspension of ordinary routines, replaced by summer’s New Best Friend: water.  Sparkling and splashing in pools, raining on hot concrete, shimmering on lake surfaces, growing mildew in lake house linens. 

Must stop.  I have to board my time travel machine in order to fetch son from sailing camp.


Filed under Cindy Jones, My Jane Austen Summer

The Scone Tour*: TV and Me

Time Warner's Studio in Irving, Texas

The Scone Tour took me to Irving, Texas where I arrived “camera ready” to tape an episode of Conversations Cafe with Cheryl Nason.   

Everything takes longer in show business and since the crew was out filming a sporting event, I parked in The Green Room, which is show biz for waiting area, and concentrated on remaining “camera ready”.  

I photographed the door plate

(A bottle of Perrier was the only green thing in the room.)  Sitting there was like waiting for a doctor, and I was glad to have a book to read, even if it was My Jane Austen Summer which I’ve read maybe 2 billion times. 

Eventually, an assistant ushered me into the studio, a cavernous room focused on a cozy living area, with enough light to double as an operating room.  

The actual studio

Everyone was very nice to me, reinforcing my sense of doom, and I was delighted that Cheryl Nason, the show’s talented host, had read my book.  Unfortunately, the moment I took the seat next to her, my upper body contracted rigor mortis.  If this had been a doctor’s office, someone would have explained what was coming and how much it would hurt.  If only I could practice.  

Me with Cheryl Nason of Conversations Cafe

When Cheryl’s TV voice spoke to viewers at home, I knew it was a matter of time.  Like water skiing or having a baby, after a certain point there’s no turning back, camera ready or not.  What would happen if I said, “cut”?    Before I knew it, I was talking, and since I’ve read my book 2 billion times, turns out I can discuss it even in a state of semi-paralysis.  We talked about Jane Austen, the road to publication, and researching characters.  Just when I was getting comfortable with the whole TV thing, thinking about perhaps moving one or two muscles in my upper body or asking Cheryl a question to relieve the one-sidedness, it was time to go.  All done.  And I never felt any pain.  

If you subscribe to Time Warner Cable in Texas, you can watch this episode of Conversations Cafe on your TV.  Or, you can watch it here: 


*The Scone Tour is my fond name for activities where I share scones and Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea in appreciation for book promotion.


Filed under Cindy Jones, The business of writing..., The Scone Tour

Earth to Cindy

Calling Cindy...

My family was hopeful that after the launch of my debut novel, things would return to normal.  And ideally, I would have dropped everything and gone back to matching socks, if only my novel-in-progress had not been weighing on me like a term paper for a class I’d stopped attending.  Since I was already short-listed for Space Cadet of The Year, and considering how little time remained before summer, it hardly seemed worthwhile to switch gears.  If I could just take the momentum from my book launch and apply it to finishing next novel, I could be present for an earthling summer and sort socks in time for camp.  Unfortunately, over the previous year I’d only demonstrated ability to focus on next novel while in solitary confinement, at least 450 miles from home.  Sacrifices would be required to replicate the intensity.  Earth would have to go.  

I printed the existing draft and read it aloud, plunging deep into the world of my characters, maintaining an iron grip on the narrative line while my grasp of reality flirted with black holes.  I solved literary problems while driving the car, but my passengers rolled their eyes as I passed destinations, again and again.  I rallied for the dinner hour, but was no good for conversation, and relied on the puppy for homework patrol.  At the very moment it seemed our household chaos could not possibly get worse, oldest son arrived home for the summer and unloaded a year’s worth of dorm life just inside the back door.  He left a narrow path to the kitchen but that hardly mattered for obvious reasons.

For the record, I entered a grocery store during all this, but the minute I tossed the first item into my cart, a distressed text message originating from afterschool sports screamed:  WHERE R U??  I had to ditch.      

Yes, I managed to finish the novel, but for the first time in my life, I truly understand my late grandfather.  I laughed at the absent-minded professor stories, but now I know why he backed out of the garage before opening the garage door and why he sometimes wore his pyjama bottoms to work.  And I’m with him on driving to the university and taking the bus home.  At the most distracted point of this episode, I hauled three teenagers out of bed for a very early morning obligation at church and then had to explain to them, and the assembly of church people whose morning I disrupted, that I was operating in a different week of the month.  If they had flipped their calendars ahead one week they would have understood exactly where I was coming from, or where I was at that moment.  Someday it will seem funny.    

And then I reached the end.  I pressed send, launching new novel through cyberspace and into my agent’s orbit.  After a brief personal celebration, I reorganized The Sock Department of our Laundry Room, patronized three grocery stores, and relieved the puppy of command.  At one point a teenager grumbled, “don’t you have a book to write?”  It’s nice to be back.   



Filed under Agent, Cindy Jones, hazards of writing, launching things, teenagers

Guest Blogger: My Sister


A Book Review by her sister, Deborah Sundermann

Spoiler Warning:  This Review Keeps No Secrets

One of my favorite bars in college served their version of a drink called “Strip and Go Naked.”  It was part peach liqueur, part whiskey, part vodka, with a splash of beer on top.  And I was rather fond of it.  It was a little odd, but that’s what I liked about it.  I feel the same way about Lily Berry, the protagonist in Cindy Jones’ debut novel, My Jane Austen Summer:  A Season in Mansfield Park.  Lily is part Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, part Cinderella, part energizer bunny, with a splash of Cher.  She’s a little odd, but that’s what I like about her.

We join her as her world, which has been held together rather tenuously by a small string, is unraveling.  Her reality becomes fiction as her most recent boyfriend expresses his complete dissatisfaction with the relationship she thought was perfectly normal.  It is with some irony that we learn that her heart’s desire has always been to escape reality and live in a novel.  Her dependence on fiction as well as her dangerously low self-esteem are expertly combined in her remark, “If only Austen were still alive and writing, I wouldn’t have to stare at the walls of my bedroom, studying the Braille-like texture under the paint, as if the clues to my failure hid there.”

 She loses her job by misrouting payroll deposits because she was more interested in reading her stack of Jane Austen novels over lunch—a time period that is significantly warped in the land of fiction.  Lily observes,

As my boss explained termination benefits, it occurred to me that books should come with a warning from the surgeon general:  Literature can be dangerous to your mental health and should be indulged in moderation.  Read in excess, fiction may blur the line between fantasy and reality, causing dysfunction in personal and professional relationships.  Readers should refrain while operating heavy machinery or driving automobiles.  Or working in offices.

 Through a fellow reader who may be equally delusional, she gets an opportunity to go to England and participate in a literary festival where Jane Austen books are reenacted for tourists—this summer being Mansfield Park.  Impulsively, she liquidates life as she knew it—a complete failure in her eyes—and prepares to embark on a new adventure.

 As Lily prepares to start fresh, one observation struck me as a sermon in eight words.  “If I hadn’t failed, I’d still be failing.”  This was my first clue that this story is not just a fun summer beach read.  Important lessons about failure and letting go, determination, transformation, and rising from the ashes will be woven into a rich tapestry of classic yearnings and modern characters where nothing is obvious and little can be predicted.  That is not just a story.  That is literature.  But Lily’s quirky character does not allow the book to take itself too seriously.

 Lily realizes, perhaps too late, that she is utterly unprepared for the potential consequences of her rash choice to sell everything and go to England.  Standing in the airport, she envisions, “With one foot in Dallas, the other on a departing plane, I would do the big-time splits or splash into the Atlantic.  And be eaten by sharks.”  It’s the shark part that makes me laugh.  If you don’t get it, you need to lighten up or you might miss the book’s subtle humor throughout. 

 Jones’ writing glistens with saturated details that I especially enjoy when Lily is on the move.  “Ducking into a ladies’ room, I took my place at the end of the line, advancing to the rhythm of flushing toilets and banging Band-Aid-colored doors.”  Who among us has not had this ubiquitous experience, brought alive on the page in one beautifully crafted sentence?  Another series of amazingly vivid images comes through in this:  “I ran, but a family of five blocked my path:  a blond Texas Hair woman holding a map, followed by a man and three rambunctious children, progressing in a tangle of limbs and barks like naughty puppies.”

When she arrives at Literature Live, she learns that she doesn’t exactly have a part in this new fictional reality.  Thus the stage is set for conflict as we cheer Lily on through her adventures with a cast of characters that truly breathe.  I have to say that my favorites are Omar and Bets.  With his even nature and fondness for Lily, he brings a welcome warmth to every scene he inhabits.  As long as he is there, I know that everything will ultimately be okay.  And I still laugh out loud when Magda enters the room, they both flinch, and the diminutive Omar, who was leaning back his chair “fell off his toes.”  Bets provides an unexpected contrast to Lily.  While she has assumed a dark Gothic aura, Bets just sparkles in the story, adding spice to the entire experience.  I challenge any reader to compare and contrast Lily and Bets and not find a common thread.

 This book should be read at least twice so that you don’t miss Jones’ exquisite details, such as “On the opposite wall, floor to ceiling lace curtains dressed the windows like spinsters left over from the Depression.”  Or “He paused after each phrase to allow his words to float down and settle on us like snowflakes.”

 My heart beat with Lily as she leaned forward to soak up every detail about Literature Live like the geekiest, most obsessed Jane Austen fan.  And while Lily is very unlike myself with respect to her relationships with men, I could still identify with her desire to please the faculty of Literature Live, her awkward moments, and her difficult recoveries.

 I have read other reviewers who express one form or another of disapproval of The Scene with Sixby.  It caught me by surprise on my first reading.  But upon second reading, I saw the foreshadowing that led up to it.  That is not to say that it is not disturbing.  I think it is supposed to be disturbing.  It is part of the “rock bottom” that Lily must hit before rising up.  As Lily initiates it, she observes, “Plunging into disaster felt so much better than lame suffering.”  Personally, I have a hard time with that world-view.  I’m a lame sufferer to be sure.  So this scene has become a twist in the story that I want to discuss with friends over a good glass of wine—to ferret out this protagonist’s choices and any number of issues dealing with power, self-image, promiscuity, desperation—the richness of this intentionally wretched scene screams for analysis.  That is the challenge and reward of reading good books.

 When the book nears its end, Lily is in Randolph’s room musing to herself, “Do you crave love or pain and are they the same thing to you?”  The theme has returned to reveal the same question posed by The Scene with Sixby, but it is filtered through a stronger, more self-aware and less self-destructive individual.  It is dense, like a consummate red wine reduction for your filet mignon.  It conveys the heartbreak of every relationship in Lily’s life in one comprehensive, yet concise question.

 What I was least willing to accept in this book, on first reading, was the allure of Willis.  I really had no patience for his deception-by-silence and I was angry that Lily seemed so forgiving of it—as if she deserved no better.  But, again, this made me want to lift out that relationship from the pages and marinate with it in a good Zinfandel.   I wanted to understand it, through the eyes of my friends.  It was this that compelled me to re-read the entire book.  Paying more attention to their interactions and the place in his life where Lily made her entrance, I have to admit that his character was a difficult finesse that, once again, Jones pulled off in quiet understatement.  I get it now.  And I have that much more respect for Lily as she navigated her parting of ways with him.

 I am drawn to books in order to enjoy interesting characters and examine difficult relationships.  My Jane Austen Summer is steeped in both.  Lily Berry may appear at first blush to be rather pathetic.  But she has a belief in herself that even she cannot defeat.  She has a determination that is inspiring.  And her character survives an insanely wild adventure to emerge windblown and exhausted, but happier for it.

 The worst thing about this book is that its fanciful plot and contemporary setting might lull readers into thinking it is just a summer beach read.  It’s so much more.

Deborah Sundermann lives with her family in Corpus Christi, Texas where she practices law and meets occasionally with her wine tasting club.


Filed under Book Review, Cindy Jones, My Jane Austen Summer

Pictures from the Tea Launch


The sandwich course

My Jane Austen Summer celebrated its launch over Afternoon Tea in the French Room of The Adolphus Hotel in Downtown Dallas.  These photos are your virtual ticket to the event.

 Getting to The French Room is half the fun.  You don’t just walk in.  From the lobby, a wood-paneled entryway offers a staircase to a spacious landing.  A right turn on the landing and a further ascent create a sense of leaving the real world behind.  When I entered The French Room, I knew two things: I had never been there before, and I would never forget being there now, so striking was the beauty of the marble floor, elegant appointments, and glorious painted ceiling.  Hard to believe Downtown Dallas was only two floors below.  Hard to believe I was launching my novel in that room. 

A guest arrives

The Tea exceeded my expectations from the moment the waiter poured Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea, with its unusual lavender tint, into my white china cup.  Three courses were served, featuring things like: Protagonistic Chicken Salad on Bookish Croissant, Vera’s Slightly Controlling Personal Selection of Miniature Pastries, and Nelson’s Assorted Bad News Tea Cookies, each menu item re-named to feature an aspect of My Jane Austen Summer.  Of particular note was Willis Somerford’s Evasive Egg Salad on Cautiously Romantic Brioche.  

Launch Remarks

As I enjoyed the ambience, the menu, and the impeccable service, it occurred to me that everything in The French Room was perfect.  The only thing left was–my talk.  Yikes!  Just being in The French Room inspires awe and creates a certain pressure on a speaker to rise to its standard of beauty.  I ate one of Sue’s Tricky Truffles.  If I’d had a bottle of sherry, I would have spiked everyone’s tea at that moment, knowing my remarks are smarter, more articulate, and funnier, if my audience has imbibed spirits directly before my talk. 

At the appropriate time, I stepped up to the podium to introduce my debut novel.  Rather than indulge

The glorious French Room

the impulse to keep up with The French Room, adding a Baroque flourish I would have regretted forever, I stuck with my prepared remarks.  As a result, my talk ended blessedly without incident, ensuring that my memories of launching My Jane Austen Summer in The French Room will always be as happy as the pictures. 

And finally, the book signing

    Thanks to Kate Mackley Media for the photography of this event.  To see all of the Tea pictures, click here.   


Filed under Cindy Jones, launching things, My Jane Austen Summer, Tea

The Truth About Signing Books

I have been signing books for a month now and want to go on record to say that signing books is not as easy as it looks.  Several times I messed up and had to start over with a clean book.  Sometimes I get carried away and gush.  (New nightmare:  reading old inscriptions in resale copies at Half-Priced Books).  But my all-time worst fear is that a friend will present a book for signing and I won’t recall their name.  Even if we rode to the event in the same car, book signing dynamics cause names to disappear faster than a teenager with a driver’s license.  This is why sticky notes and pens and lines were invented.      

Discussion Question:  Should a person who can spend an hour revising a brief email be inscribing books?  If words came quickly and easily, I’d be a speaker.  Instead I’m the Tiger Mother of Manuscript Revisions.  Me to manuscript:  I don’t care if it takes all day!  Every word in this sentence will demonstrate a brilliant reason for its continued presence or see a blue haze and hear the right click of my mouse!  I will cut, paste, and revise until I get it right.          

And ideally, every book I sign would get a custom-nuanced dedication, drawing on past shared experience (if applicable), hope for present or future enterprises, a hearty affirmation of Jane Austen, a declaration of the appropriate degree of affection and gratitude, all topped with just the right personal motif.  After all, this is my tender newborn I’m putting in readers’ hands.  Husband would prefer that I harness my powerful overthinking skills in favor of something productive, like say, my novel-in-progress.    

He may be right.  Not everybody wants a War and Peace Inscription and it is hard to go deep with people I don’t even know.  Some people anticipate and say, just your name, please.        

My son saw this picture of me signing books at the Texas Library Association Conference and snickered.  Why would anyone want his mother’s autograph?  Pigs fly.


Filed under Cindy Jones, My Jane Austen Summer, The business of writing..., Writing Nightmares

Tea for Dallas Book Clubs

If you live in Dallas and your book club is reading My Jane Austen Summer, please consider joining me over a pot of Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea at Maudee’s Tea Room on Saturday, May 21 from 3 to 4:30 pm.  The three-course tea at Maudee’s is entirely reserved for us.  I’ll welcome you and sign your books while you enjoy sandwiches and scones with your group.  During the third course, while you sample sweets, I’ll provide a little book talk and confess what I was thinking when I wrote that ending, and gossip about what happens to the characters after the book ends.  We won’t have to worry about spoilers!

Tea is a very important ingredient in My Jane Austen Summer and gathering over Lily’s tea elevates the literary experience from a solitary read to a social event.  Readers without a book club are absolutely welcome and will be seated with other single readers. 

Maudee’s is located at 4333 Lovers Lane, between Douglas and Armstrong.  To reserve a table for your book club, call 214-526-9750.  Tea is $20 per person (plus tax and gratuity).  For more information about Maudee’s, click here:

Questions?  Email

Leave a comment

Filed under My Jane Austen Summer, Tea

Life After Launch

I have been a published author for a full week which qualifies me to observe that the old uneasy feeling of handing my precious manuscript over to my husband or my writing group and then WAITING for the verdict, now seems cozy and quaint, compared to the dizzy sensation of surrendering 40,000 copies to the United States of America, its territories and possessions, the Philippines, Canada, and the rest of the world, with the exception of countries listed on Schedule A, and WAITING for the verdict.   

Regardless, it has been a full week and although it was great fun to be surrounded by family and friends on my book’s big day, the party’s over and, as one of my sons pointed out yesterday, we still have no bread.  Now that the book is out in the world where she will have to rely on her merits to survive, it is time to resume grocery shopping, address maintenance issues deferred for the last five years, and lower the boom on homework procrastinators.  And promote the book.  Although they claim to love their new “sister”, one family member asked when are we gonna get all these books out of the living room?…  (She’s not going back to the hospital).

Many thanks to all who joined me at Borders for the launch event.  You honored me with your presence.  And thanks to Bob Jones who provided pictures to share with those who are far away.  For more pictures, click the Facebook badge to the right of this post and check out photos on the My Jane Austen Summer Facebook page.



Surrounded by friends and family

The bookstore is only 4.7 miles from home but it took 10 years to get there!


Filed under Cindy Jones, launching things, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers

Launch Day: Here we go!

My Jane Austen Summer is released as of today.  If you have not yet ordered your copy, you can do so from the links on my website:  

If you are in Dallas, please come to the launch event:

My Jane Austen Summer Launch Day Event 
Tuesday, March 29 at 7 pm
Border’s Books and Music
5500 Greenville Avenue (facing Lovers Ln.)
This event is free and open to the public and no reservation is required

Here are links to reviews:

My Jane Austen Summer celebrates publication today with a four-stop blog tour and giveaways on each blog. Visit and leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of the novel and a package of Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea, created by Bingley’s Teas, Ltd.  Each blog will hold a separate drawing, meaning four chances to win. Here’s where we’re celebrating:




Filed under Book Review, Cindy Jones, launching things, My Jane Austen Summer

Dallas Launch Events

One of the unexpected pleasures of working with the copy editor on my book was receipt of the Style Sheet, a document summarizing the editorial conventions to be followed in preparing my text for publication.  Included were explanations of my usage, “narrative is colloquial, may not always be strictly grammatical” (thankyouverymuch), a list of ironic labels I enjoyed seeing all in one place, and a roll of place names and proper names that, when presented in such a businesslike manner, seemed oddly real, like seeing my children dressed up for Easter brunch.  On March 29, I will celebrate the birth of My Jane Austen Summer and welcome my 57 new fictional characters into the world, including:  Lily, Willis, Vera, Nigel, Omar, Magda, Archie, Bets, Gary, Lady Weston, Randolph and Pippa, one cat, one dog, and all the others I spent five years wrangling into a plot.  

Please join this book birthday celebration at either of two launch events to be held in Dallas.  Here is your formal invitation:

My Jane Austen Summer Launch Day Event 
Tuesday, March 29 at 7 pm
Border’s Books and Music
5500 Greenville Avenue (facing Lovers Ln.)
This event is free and open to the public and no reservation is required


Tea with My Jane Austen Summer
Literary Launch in The French Room
The Adolphus Hotel
Saturday, April 9
2 to 3:30
$48.86/person, includes Afternoon Tea, tax and gratuity
Make your check payable to: My Jane Austen Summer
and mail to:
Tea with My Jane Austen Summer
6301 Gaston Ave., Suite 530
Dallas, Texas  75214

Seating is limited and your ticket to this event is non-refundable.
Questions?  Email 
Lily Berry’s Pink Rose tea will be served and period attire is encouraged!



Filed under Editor, launching things, My Jane Austen Summer