Actively Disengaged

by JT Ellison

I really should have titled this "What I’ve Read on My Summer Vacation," but actively disengaged fits so well.

I’ve been at the beach this week, desperately trying to keep away from the Internet, from work, from the incessant deadlines that seem to plague me. And for the most part, I’ve done a good job. I have the beginnings of a wicked tan, have indulged in adult beverages in the middle of the day, have seen more flesh than is humanly possible, and have read four books. And of course I’m typing this blog, because I couldn’t get everything I needed to done before I left for vacation. I haven’t been able to stay away from the television, mostly because we were dealing with the remnants of Thunderstorm Kaye when we arrived, and are now fretfully watching Gustav, scared to death for our friends in New Orleans.

Since 14 came out this week, I’ve also been doing press — interviews and guest blogs, phone interviews, all the attendant public relations that goes hand in hand with a book’s release. I went to Barnes & Noble and Bookland to visit the book Tuesday, a heartening experience considering they asked me to sign all the stock. Every time I crossed out my printed name and slapped my signature on the book, I felt a little lighter. It’s utterly surreal to have published a book. To have two books on the shelves is a bit overwhelming.To be able to walk in a bookstore, a grocery store, a drugstore and see my name of the cover of a book is craziness.

I think I’m lucky that I use a pseudonym — like I’ve said before, I can separate J.T. Ellison from me, which lends this slightly warped perspective to my daily life. It’s hard trying to keep the two halves of my world separate. I don’t like JT bleeding into me, and I don’t like me bleeding into JT. It’s difficult to keep the two apart, especially when you’re working on vacation. Bah.

It can be especially hard for me to disengage the JT part of my brain when it comes to reading. Turning off the writer side off and letting my inner reader reign supreme can be tricky. But this week, the books I chose to take with me have let me to be a reader, to glory in the story, to read without analyzing writing style, without that little niggling voice that usually reads a line and say oh, I wouldn’t have said it quite that way.

I started with Zoë Sharp’s FIRST DROP — I’m telling you, Taylor and Charlie Fox would get along very, very well if they ever had a chance to meet in person. The story rolled along at a breakneck pace — I always love books where there’s a real chase on — and kept me up way to late the first day we were here. Add to that the setting, miles from my current environs, and I was totally hooked. I’m moving on to SECOND SHOT by the end of the week.

Next up was Kristy Kiernan’s MATTERS OF FAITH, a brilliantly nuanced story of love, loss and family relations. Kristy’s books are always lyrical and stunning, and I was so completely sucked into the story that the real world faded away. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

I finished Alex Berenson’s THE FAITHFUL SPY last night. I’ve been saving this book for months, knowing it wouldn’t disappoint. I was right, it was stunning. Scary as hell, too, considering our political climate and the war on terror. I have his new book, THE GHOST WAR, and will hopefully get it done in the next week.

I’ve also nearly finished Dave White’s THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, a wonderful followup to his debut Jackson Donne novel WHEN ONE MAN DIES. Dave writes with an assurance well beyond his years, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

So in addition to the second efforts of both Zoë and Alex Berenson, I’ve got CHASING HARRY WINSTON by Lauren Weisberger. Had to do it. Don’t apologize for a second. Can’t wait to dive in. So there.

At the bottom of the stack is the creme de la creme, the book I’ve been waiting to read for months. Lee Child’s NOTHING TO LOSE. I can’t wait.

This is only a tiny crack, a baby fissure in the stacks and stacks of books I need to catch up on. I’m taking September off from writing, will be doing research for book 5, THE IMMORTALS, reading for pleasure, and touring. Catching up on playtime. At least for a few weeks.

So let’s just have fun today. What are you reading?

Since I’m in the land of margaritas, daiquiris, crashing waves and soft sand, let’s skip the wine this week and do something called Chases’ By The Beach – raspberry liqueur, vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and orange juice. Yum! And how about a glass of Prosecco to toast our 13th wedding anniversary  this past Tuesday. Nothing like have a book drop on your anniversary : )

29 thoughts on “Actively Disengaged

  1. Catherine

    Congratulations on both the book drop and your wedding anniversary JT.

    I’ve had the biggest book binge since I caught some late winter bug that has been going around. I’m on my way back, but it’s the sort of thing that keeps you prone.I’d emerge long enough to get more books and tissues..other than that it’s been a couple of weeks of resting, reading and recovering.

    So books read …

    Louise Ure,’Forcing Amaryllis’

    I discovered a new to me, Australian author, PD Martin, and read her three books so far, ‘Body Count’, ‘The Murderers’ Club’ and ‘Fan Mail’.

    Greg Iles, ‘Third Degree’Lisa Jackson, ‘Lost Souls’John Creed, ‘Black Cat, Black Dog’John Sandford,’ Phantom Prey’

    Finally got the chance to read Michelle Martinez, ‘Most Wanted’, ‘Finishing School’,and ‘Cover Up’

    David Lawerance,’Down into the Darkness’ andJames Grippando,’ Last Call’…and the 1st season of The Wire on DVD.

    Oh and this morning with a barely operational coffee starved brain I, (with the patient assistance of Fran), managed to order 14 from the Seattle Mystery Bookstore.I’m really looking forward to that appearing in my mail box.

    Good luck JT with all the promotions.

  2. Chuck D.

    Hey JT! I, too, am at the beach this week. Sometime today, probably around lunch, I will finish this great new book (that looks a little tattered from the salt and sand) titled “14”. It’s wonderful, and I will email you later with a few comments.

    You did a superior job, and I’m not sure what impresses me more: your characters or the layered plot.


  3. Bryon Quertermous

    I just finished Michael Koryta’s ENVY THE NIGHT. Great book. Next up is LAS VEGAS NOIR and Jason Pinter’s THE STOLEN. After that I want to read the new Lehane, Laura Lippman’s story collection, Michael Harvey’s THE FIFTH FLOOR, and Sean Chercover’s TRIGGER CITY among others.

  4. Jake Nantz

    As I will be teaching them soon, I am patiently re-working my way through HEART OF DARKNESS, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, because it’s been a few years since I last read them before I taught them. On the other side, I just finished RAIN STORM and have FIGHT CLUB and SECOND SHOT next in the queue.

  5. JDRhoades

    Just finished SECOND SHOT. It’s even better than the first one, and the first one kicked ass. Right now I’m reading Alan Moore’s graphic novel WATCHMEN. It’s fantastic.

  6. j.t. ellison

    Oh man, y’all are giving me more to buy. Ack!!! Great choices all.

    Thanks, Catherine! It’s been a wonderful week. I hope you’re better soon — you need to shake this!

    Patti — it is, but it’s made and imbibed in at a place called Chases, their signature drink. : )

    Chuck, you are much, much too kind. Glad you’re enjoying it — that’s the best news a girl can get!

    Bryon, I have four of your titles on my TBR pile too. All excellent choices.

    Oh, Jake, great choices. Wuthering Heights is one of my all time favorites,and P&P, and Heart of Darkness. Would LOVE to see your lesson plans, it’s always fun getting a new perspective.

    Dusty — amen to that. Gotta love a woman who can kick ass and still be a woman.

  7. Becky Lejeune

    I wish I had a week at the beach, or even a week to go visit family – though Louisiana wouldn’t be a good choice right now. My brother is in Nashville, though.

    This week I read:

    14Immunity by Lori AndrewsBook of Lies by Brad MeltzerMurder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner

    I’m also hoping to finish Fickle by Patrick Manus, Blood Eagle by Craig Russell, Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain, and Duma Key.

  8. Kaye Barley

    Have one of those cute little beach drinks for me, please!

    Right now I’m reading Don Bruns’ “Stuff Dreams are Made of.”

    Holiday weekend reading includes:

    Anne Rivers Siddons’ “Off Season.”Carol Goodman’s “The Night Villa.”Ann Cleeves’ “White Nights.”

  9. Louise Ure

    I’m at the tail end of a family crisis week, so I’ve been in a No Reading Zone for a few days. Can’t wait to get back to it.

    Many congratulations on 14, JT!

  10. Tasha Alexander

    JT, sounds like perfect bliss! Books and the beach. Just, you know, keep out of the sand.

    I’m reading Bellow’s Adventures of Augie March, but as I’m on page two will reserve comment for the moment……

    Happy Anniversary and Happy Book Launch!!!!

  11. j.t. ellison

    Tasha, you always find the greatest books!!!

    Louise, I’m so sorry. I hope everything is okay out there. Here’s a {{{HUG}}} just in case!

    Kaye, I love Don. One of the nicest men on the planet, and a great writer to boot. Have a great weekend reading, sweetie!

    Becky, what a great load of books! I’m jealous! And thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed 14!!!

  12. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    Thank you for the kind words on FIRST DROP. I’d go with Dusty, though – SECOND SHOT’s better ;-]

    I’m faced with a real dilemma in reading material. Both ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS and 14 turned up this week, but I’m not allowed to start on them until my latest deadline is hit (Sept 8) Andy’s put them on a high shelf, but has started reading them himself in the meantime. Talk about cruel and unusual. Argh!

    Plus a certain WIP from our own Dusty Rhoades – STORM SURGE – landed via email and although so far I’ve only allowed myself the first few pages but, damn, it looks good so far! Can’t wait!

    On top of that, a PDF of Marcia Talley’s latest, DEAD MAN DANCING, is sitting on my computer waiting to be read before I moderate her Friday morning panel at B’con. (Stunning cover, by the way.)

    And finally, as well as answering all my initial questions regarding that same panel, a copy of REQUIEM FOR AN ASSASSIN dropped through the letterbox from Barry Eisler’s UK publisher yesterday. All this before half the panel members have even replied to my first email!

    How’s that for efficiency?

  13. pari

    JT,What’s a beach?

    I’m so glad you’re reading and taking some time to recharge before September’s rush.

    My reading continues to be quite scattered:–TULAROSA: THE LAST OF THE FRONTIER WEST by C.L. Sonnichsen (non fiction)–WILD INFERNO by Sandi Ault–DEAD IN THE SCRUB by B.J. Oliphant–FOR THE LOVE OF INSECTS by Thomas Eisner (nonfiction)

    BTW: Someone mentioned Ann Cleeves.She’s the moderator for my panel at 10 am on Sunday. We’ve also got Martin Edwards, Carolyn Wall, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett. The fact that we’re on Sunday means there are only two panels running concurrently rather than five.

    I couldn’t be happiers

  14. pari

    Um, it’d help if I mentioned the convention, wouldn’t it?

    I’m talking about Bouchercon . . .

    Argh. Maybe I NEED a vacation too.

  15. Kaye Barley

    I’m so awful. I was in such a hurry to get out of the office, grab us a frappuccino and get on home to kick off the long weekend I forgot to say Happy Anniversary, JT!!!!! Happy Anniversary and many, many more happy years with your honey. There is nothing more fun than a happy marriage. This from someone who had to try it a couple times before getting it right. But now creeping up on 23 years.

    And even worse – I forgot to tell everyone here how much I loved 14!!!! Taylor Jackson is very cool. VERY cool, and I love her to bits.

    Pari – Not to worry! I knew which convention you were talking about. I’ve been talking about it for a year and wondering what I’ll have to talk about when its over. big sigh.

  16. pari


    I also spelled “happier” wrong. I’d better go back to my hideyhole — or drink whatever JT and Randy are having.

  17. R.J. Mangahas

    Glad you’re relaxing a little there, JT. I should be too, but I’m trying to work on my WIP, and unfortunately, there are so many great books I’ve been reading, it’s pulling me away from the book. ARRRGH!!

    Some of the list includes:


    Anyway, hope you have yourself a good weekend (and anniversary)

  18. woodstock

    In the past few weeks I’ve finished MUDBOUND by Hilary Jordan and THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE by David Wroblewski. Both will make my “best of 2008” list for sure. I don’t really pay much attention to chicklit as a rule, but I really enjoyed SO NICE TO COME HOME TO by Rebecca Flowers. And with a wistful feeling, I read Magdalen Nabb’s last (and last, since she died about a year ago) VITA NUOVA. Her books were little gems, every one of them.

  19. j.t. ellison

    Woodstock, how have I missed the EDGAR SAWTELLE book? I’ve been in a cave granted, but that’s a new title to me. I’ll check it out.

    RJ, thanks — and great list. I know what you mean about getting distracted from the WIP… Keep it up!

    Pari, glad you got that panel straightened out. Yay!!! Bouchercon is going to be so much fun.

    Aw, Kaye – you are too sweet, and too right. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful marriage to a great guy, and don’t know where I’d be without him.

    Z, tell Andy he’s a mean, mean man ; )

  20. Allison Brennan

    Wow. I never knew JT Ellison was a pen name. I just assumed JT were your real initials.

    So I’m 50 pages from being done with my revisions. Yeah! They’re a week late (sigh) because last week the kids were out of school, out of summer camp, and I couldn’t get anything done. But I’m happy with the story . . . my TBR stack is huge. I have two ARCs on the top of my stack, then I can finish THE GENIUS by Jesse Kellerman which I had to reluctantly put aside to work, then dig into the last JD Robb book (STRANGER, I think) before the next one comes out in November (which is always my goal.) I’m eagerly anticipating THE KEEPSAKE which my mom just finished the ARC and said it was Tess Gerritsen’s best book yet . . . but I’m waiting for it to hit the bookstores 🙂 —

    Roxanne St. Claire’s NOW YOU DIE, the end to her incredible trilogy, is right under the JD Robb book. Then FORGOTTEN by Mariah Stewart which my mom just finished and said is very good. I also have a bunch of books I picked up at Thrillerfest that are in the stack. But I’m not sure how far I can go down, even reading one book a day, before I get into crunch time again.

  21. Catherine

    Oh that’s funny JT, I’ve just been sitting here reserving books like crazy using this post as a reading list.Also wondering how I’ve missed some of these authors before.


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