20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

by JT Ellison

If this is your first time to Murderati this week, I’m sorry to tell you we’ve lost one of our own. Louise’s husband, Bruce Goronsky, lost his battle with cancer on Monday. Words are simply inadequate. Please consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society in his name, and send prayers and love to Louise.


You’ve all heard the term “underwater.” The service industry refers to it as  “being in the weeds.” It’s reserved for that moment, the perfect storm, when there is simply too much going on for one person to handle.

Yep. That’s me this week. Home from tour, FINALLY, thinking I’m going to get some time off. Not really time off, per se, since I have a book due May 1, but a little breather? Maybe a chance to catch up on Gossip Girl? Read the massive stack of People Magazines that have taken root next to my chair? Talk to a couple of friends? My parents? Heck, my mom literally started pouting yesterday when I had to get off the phone after a quick five minute call because we haven’t had a chance to just plain chat for almost a month.

Suffice it to say, I’ve had a lot on my plate. And yes, the vast majority of it I put there myself, which means I’ve got a damn sore backside from kicking myself.

The tour went great. The highlight, by far, was getting to travel with my good friend, the brilliant and talented Erica Spindler. We rocked the West Coast and Denver, and had a great time. Special thanks to everyone for dinners and drinks and rides during our coastal stay (Keith Raffel, Ken Isaacson, Michelle Gagnon, Jason Pinter, Maddie James, Steven Steinbock (though I think I bought HIS drink ; ) Jim Scott Bell… ) I even saw my dear friend Lee Child and managed not to get sucked into the vortex known as the Camel. Denver was wonderful, because I got a chance to see my family, and a couple of my dearest friends. D.C. was the same, I got to meet Katherine Neville and Robbie Goolrick, which was incredibly cool, and I made a new friend, Pickles, the Easter Bunny from Borders. Though poor Randy got food poisoning and we got stuck in Baltimore whilst he was ill. I feel sorry for our neighbors.

The Tennessee Mountain Writers conference in Oak Ridge, Tennessee was wonderful. I taught two fiction sessions, Building an Idea into a Novel and Murder Your Darlings: the Art of Revision. And I spoke to the plenary session, giving a long, convoluted speech about the joys and dangers of social networking. As always, teaching gives me insight into my own writing, and while I’m still not the best teacher in the world, I’m at least getting the hang of it so I don’t have the night terrors before I go in.

And then I came home. March was gone. The book did great. My sanity, not so much.

It’s that damn To Do List, you see.

Priority 1 – My AAs are here for my October book, THE IMMORTALS. AAs, Author Alterations, are Harlequin’s version of page proofs. It’s my very last chance to see the book before it goes to press. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I do my absolute best to catch all the little mistakes: copyedits that didn’t make it in, repeated words and phrases, typos and the like. It’s painstaking work. I’ve marked the manuscript with mini-post-its every place there’s a change, purple for copyedit fixes, yellow for my changes. I’ll compile them all into a spreadsheet and mail the whole thing to New York (today!) So there’s one thing off my plate.

Priority 1.5 – Golf started this week. Randy and I made an executive decision to join a golf club this year. Playing golf on the Nashville public courses has always been good enough for us – the municipal courses around here are fantastic. But the price has gotten completely out of control. A single round of 18 holes for two, with a cart, on the public course, was running us $90. That’s just plain insanity. When we looked at the number of times we played, and the number of times we wanted to play, we realized that it would actually be cheaper to join an actual club. And said club has 27 holes and a strong women’s league, which I promptly joined.

We had our first outing Wednesday morning – and I’ll be playing every Wednesday morning from here on out. I joined the group for a couple of reasons – 1, so I would have some accountability, would make myself get off the computer and actually get outside in the fresh air and get some exercise. You can burn 1,000 calories during a sedate round of golf. And 2, the ongoing attempt at socialization. Being an introvert means I’m perfectly content sitting in the house and not interacting with people, and I have to force myself to go out and do these things. So it should be good for me.

Yes, I took 3 hours away from the multitude of things on my To Do list (one so long it’s actually giving me hives) and played golf. I played like hell, but at least I wasn’t on the computer or staring at words. One of my personal goals for the year was to drop ten strokes off my game, and by God, I’m committed.

Priorities. I Has Them.

Granted, I haven’t read a book since I downed Robbie Goolrick’s A RELIABLE WIFE (fantastic book) last month, I have a stack o’stuff that needs dealing with, two books to read and blurb, oh, and that naggy little thing called a DEADLINE coming up.

But you know what? Life is too damn short. I’m the one who put all this pressure on myself, and I’m going to take it off. It’s my new mantra. I will not feel guilty for doing something that’s good for me. Everyone around me will benefit. My priorities have changed.

This has been coming for a while, but Bruce’s death this week really hammered it home for me. I have been trying to fathom Louise’s loss, and I can’t. I’m in tears right now just writing about it. And I’m getting to an age where loss is going to become a part of my vernacular. So I don’t want to lose a minute of the time I have left.

I hope you’ve taken some extra time this week to love the ones you love. Not just be with them, but truly reach out and let them know just how much they mean to you. Let me take a moment and thank all of you for reading this blog. It’s a true honor to write for you.

And now for some good news. April 16, our very favorite editor Neil Nyren will be here at Murderati for his fourth State of the Industry interview. It really couldn’t come at a better time – the industry is changing, and we couldn’t ask for a more more expert opinion on what’s going to happen. So plan to show up, comment, ask questions, etc. If you have something pressing that you’d like me to ask him, leave it in the comments. Otherwise, Happy Easter to those who celebrate!

Wine of the Week: In honor of our friends who just celebrated Passover: Covenent Cabernet Sauvignon, a Kosher Napa Valley wine. I want to go to this vineyard – I’ve heard delighful reports.

26 thoughts on “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    Bravo! As one of the highest achievers I know, you deserve some time to yourself. Build it in to the schedule. It’s a necessary part of the process – not just for your creative side, but every other side of you as well. You need some downtime.

    It brings it home to me when I speak to people I haven’t seen for a while and they say, "So, what have you been doing?" My answer is usually the same: "Oh, work, work, and more work."

    We met a guy this week who’s driving around the northern United States and Canada in a Minivan (That’s a 1960s Austin Mini-Minor van, not a Dodge) He’s worked in Kazakhstan on hovercrafts, and in the antarctic, because he made the decision to just go for it.

    Made me realise, I’ve just gotta get out there and do it…

  2. billie

    Good for you for realizing you have the power to take the pressure off! I love that you joined a golf club so you can play more – enjoy… and consider forgetting that goal to drop 10 strokes..:)

  3. PK the Bookeemonster

    It’s interesting what one’s perspective is. For some, the thing that you’re taking a break from is the very thing for them that they’d be putting it all out there and going for a dream for. (I hate ending on a preposition but that’s the only way my deep, ponderous words of wisdom made sense, grrr)

  4. Chuck

    Hi JT:

    I’m saddened to hear of Louise’s loss. I lost my father to cancer in 1986, and my other in 1998. Suffice it to say, I cringe every time I hear the damned "C" word. My prayers are with her and her family. Very sad.

    Regarding the schedule you have been keeping, it sounds like great fun, but I’m glad you and Randy are planning to smell a few roses. You absolutely have to, or things around you will begin to suffer.

    Tell Randy I said to make sure he gets a bow tie and a seersucker suit for the country club crowd. 🙂 And you need to learn to speak with your teeth clinched together. Ha.

    All best!


  5. Alafair Burke

    Just what I need to read while I’m on tour. You’re a cruel, cruel woman, JT. (Kidding, of course. We need to golf together one of these days.)

  6. JT Ellison

    Z, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. If I don’t force myself, I’ll just work on the computer all day. Helps me get a lot done, but it’s not the healthiest way to live.

    Rob, you said it. I’ve always been careful not to go over the edge into burnout, but this tour killed me. It’s just so nice to be home, writing, and enjoying the gorgeous late Spring we’re having.

    Billie, I promise I won’t beat myself up if it doesn’t happen. I think a season of being able to play consistently will do wonders for my game. No surgeries, no recovery, nothing but enjoying myself. It should be great.

    PK, I think you may have misinterpreted what I’m saying. I’m not taking a break from writing my books – I’m still on a two book a year schedule, and I have several other writing goals this year. Where I’m taking a tacit break is from the social networks, which frees up so much of my time. I’m translating that time into ME time. Still dreaming the big dream, though…

  7. JT Ellison

    Chuck, I am so, so sorry. It’s an insidious, nasty, cruel disease.

    And dahling, I ahlready DO speak with ma teeth clenched. It’s the Virginia lockjaw.

    Alafair, I looked at your tour dates and got hives. Yours is so much bigger than mine was. I know you’ll have a fantastic time! And yes, we definitely need to hit the links. Thrillerfest???

    Julie, it WAS fun. I had a blast. Of course, I love hotels, so that helps. And meeting new people, trying new food, exploring new wine. LA was hard because my back was out, and I wasn’t feeling 100%, but that only lasted three days. Thank goodness!

  8. Allison Davis


    You’re an inspiration. Giving away my pre season baseball tickets tonight because I am just too damn tired. Coming off business trips to LA and NYC, to Seattle next week and then Japan the week after (fun yes, but mostly work), and clients yammering at me because I seem to be behind on everything, never mind the "book," and Alafair’s new book now added to the pile next to the bed amongst the dirty clothes and my poor young tomato plans plaintiffly looking at me, wondering if they will wither before I properly plant them….I haven’t even had coffee yet, as my emails beckoned (clients on the East Coast)…not sure how you other lawyers balance all this and get the writing done. The book suffers from 20 minute syndrome…needs a few hours a day. Sigh.

    And yes, life is short, every day is precious, this week two friends also lost their moms, one, Larry Gasper, wonderful short story writer from Saskatoon who’s been to Book Passage Mystery Writers and Bouchercon among others (and reads this blog)..along with our own Louise.

    And the golf clubs!? I took lessons — for six months, then fell, nearly breaking my arm, so the muscles all forgot, then started over, then something else happened. I didn’t make it yoga last night because I needed to get my time sheets in. Good lord.

    Ok, I’m rambling. None of this stuff I’m doing is as important has spending time with people you love. And you know, I do take time for that. This week was my birthday so made a vow to do just what JT has advised. Let’s see how I do.

  9. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    What happened with Bruce has also changed my life this week. I couldn’t go into the day job on Wednesday, I just couldn’t fathom it. I stayed home with my wife and kids, just hung out, wrestled the boys, watched the hummingbirds, listened to what my family had to say about things. Priorities.

  10. Keith Raffel

    JT, my heart goes out to Louise.

    So come on back out to God’s Country real soon. There are so many good restaurants and bars to try. Good golf courses, too. Hi to Randy.


  11. JT Ellison

    Oh YAY – the AAs are done!!!! Off to the post office I go…

    Allison, I feel your pain. Japan will be fun, but ack, that time change! My body went into total shock – not only was I on the west coast during the time change, I then went to mountain time, central time and east coast time all within three days, and then we hit a full moon My poor body revolted in every imaginable way.

    Stephen, that’s it exactly. Everything became rather meaningless in the face of Louise’s loss, and all I wanted to do was latch on to my loved ones.

    Keith, you know we’ll have to come to Napa this year, so you’re on!!!

  12. pari noskin taichert

    Congrats on the AAs!
    Breathing, stopping, golfing, sitting and doing "nothing", reading . . . This week has been that (minus the golfing) for me too. I got news that a dear friend’s mom died late last week, another business acquaintance from way back left us this week.

    Believe me, I’m spending a lot of time just enjoying my children and being thankful for what I Do have rather than what I want . . .

  13. Allison Brennan

    I’m spending lots of extra time with the kids this week because it’s spring break, and writing at night when they’re asleep. 🙂

    I love page proofs (or AA’s or whatever they’re called!) and I’m very excited about your next book!

  14. BCB

    I almost feel guilty for saying this . . . except I worked damn hard to make it happen and I deserve it (I keep repeating that every few minutes, hoping I’ll believe it soon). As of about an hour ago, I am FREE from work obligations for nine whole days! And after the weekend family holiday plans, which I will thoroughly enjoy and savour and appreciate, I am going to the beach for the rest of the week. ALL BY MYSELF. So I can relax and recharge and take deep breaths and listen to the ocean and watch the pelicans. And think. But mostly so I can write.

    I’m not even there yet and I feel so much happier and lighter than I’ve been in a very long time. Although, that might be the haircut I got after work.

    Any of you who are feeling stuck in a rut or stressed or flat worn out and depressed — all of which I was feeling just a week ago, hell, a day ago — GO! Get away. Do something special for yourself, even if it’s just an afternoon at the park. If I deserve it (and I do) so do you.

    Have a terrific week! I’ll probably be reading, because you all are so irresistible. Not commenting.

    Must go find the sunscreen…

  15. BCB

    Oh, and a HUGE thank you to JD for reminding me in his post a while back that NC has gorgeous beaches and they just aren’t that far away.

    Of course, I told my boss he won’t be able to reach me. Seeing as how I’ll be in Tuscany.

  16. JT Ellison

    BCB – You go, girl! That sounds absolutely heavenly! Mr. Ellison and I have just started talking about a week away, a real week away, with no email, and a cell phone that’s only given to family, agent and editor for real live emergencies. I applaud you doing this! Please report back on your time off – and enjoy yourself! xo

  17. PK the Bookeemonster

    JT — oh, I know you’re not taking a break from books. Heaven forbid, don’t do that. I was commenting on the "seize the day-ness" of your post. For some, seizing the day would be writing books. You’ve already done that and moving on to other things. THAT perspective.

  18. JT Ellison

    PK, that’s actually funny. My seize the day is allowing me more time to write the books. I spent all last weekend telling folks who kept saying they wanted to write a book but didn’t have time that if they’d just spend 30 minutes a day focused on their craft, they’d have a draft in 6 months.. They didn’t believe me : )

  19. Ken Isaacson


    Very saddened to hear of Louise’s loss.

    It was great seeing you guys in LA, and I’m glad your tour was a success. You say you and Erica rocked the West Coast, and I note that there was an earthquake the day after I left. Coincidence?

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