Category Archives: JT Ellison

Hardwood Bookcase

Oh, joy! A large box of books appeared in my living room after the parents drove through. Whist we are still in the throws of renovation, it has sat, unexplored, for the better part of two weeks.

Unexplored is really a misnomer, because they are my books. Every couple of months, I package up all the hardcovers, ARCs and paperbacks that have accumulated and send them to my folks. I’ve turned my Dad on to the likes of John Connolly, Lee Child, John Sandford and Michael Connelly this way (Daddy stole my newly signed and unread copy of Echo Park, which I am really looking forward to reading.) My mom has different tastes, so when I package up a box for them, I try for a really wide cross section of titles.

Since the paint had finally dried in the living room, we put the little bookcase back in place (the one I use for my TBR pile – yes, it’s gotten so big that we had to buy a new bookcase, natch.) I pulled all the titles off, brought that lonely box over to the corner and reloaded.

There’s something so sublime about a full bookcase.

Since we do this dance several times a year, I sometimes forget what I’ve sent, and they don’t come back in order, so I’m always surprised by the contents of the return box. This one was no exception. Just for fun, I thought I’d run you through some of the titles that are now back in my possession.

John Sandford’s
Prey series

Jan Burke – NINE and BONES

Diana Gabaldon – A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES and THE FIERY CROSS

Greg Iles – FOOTPRINTS OF GOD

Vince Flynn – CONSENT TO KILL

Michael Connelly
– CITY OF BONES and CHASING THE DIME

Mo Hayder – THE BIRDMAN

Caleb Carr – THE ALIENIST

James Patterson – JACK AND JILL and BIG BAD WOLF (I saw his newest Alex Cross is coming – CROSS, on November 13. Very cool.)

Lee Child – TRIPWIRE

Tess Gerritsen – THE APPRENTICE and THE SURGEON

Harlan Coben – NO SECOND CHANCE

Jeffrey Deaver
– THE BONE COLLECTOR

Erica Spindler – DEAD RUN

Robert Fate
– BABY SHARK

Are you seeing a trend here? I have a tendency to share crime fiction with the parents. Maybe I’m just trying to prepare them for what’s coming. If I can get them on board with all of my favorites, then Mom won’t be so horrified when she reads what her darling cherub has written.

And the hubby just walked into the room and asked why I’m sitting in the corner in front of the bookcase with the laptop. Why, I’m sharing my little corner of the world, of course.

I know I’m not the only one who does this. So share.

What are the most recent additions to your bookshelf? What new books are making you warm and fuzzy right now?

Wine of the Week — In honor of Halloween — Vampire Merlot from Transylvania (no, really!)

Letters From The Edge

JT Ellison

I’m in New York today on a research trip. It’s my first real trip to the city, a brief two day affair, and I’ll report back on all the excitement next week. In the meantime, here’s something a little different from the email files, from my guest blogger Robert Fate. Beautiful…

JT —

Ran into something interesting. A poem by Jim Harrison. You know how we were discussing Neal Barrett, Jr., the Wiley Moss Mystery Skinny Annie Blues guy? Well, this is his favorite poem. Can’€™t divulge how I got this, but you’€™re going to want to read it. I’€™ll send it along.

Best,
Robert Fate

The Old Days

In the old days it stayed light until midnight and rain and snow came up from the ground rather than down from the sky. Women were easy. Every time you’€™d see one, two more would appear, walking toward you backwards as their clothes dropped. Money didn’€™t grow in the leaves of trees but around the trunks in calf’€™s leather money belts though you could only take twenty bucks a day. Certain men flew as well as crows while others ran up trees like chipmunks. Seven Nebraska women were clocked swimming upstream in the Missouri faster than the local spotted dolphins.  Basenjis could talk Spanish but all of them chose not to.

A few political leaders were executed for betraying the public trust and poets were rationed a gallon of Burgundy a day. People only died on one day a year and lovely choruses funneled out of hospital chimneys where every room had a field stone fireplace. Some fishermen learned to walk on water and as a boy I trotted down rivers, my fly rod at the ready. Women who wanted love needed only to wear pig’€™s ear slippers or garlic earrings. All dogs and people in free concourse became medium sized and brown, and on Christmas everyone won the hundred-dollar lottery. God and Jesus didn’€™t need to come down to earth because they were already here riding wild horses every night and the children were allowed to stay up late to hear them galloping by. 

The best restaurants were churches with Episcopalians serving Provencal, the Methodists Tuscan, and so on. In those days the country was an extra two thousand miles wider, and an additional thousand miles deep. There were many undiscovered valleys to walk in where Indian tribes lived undisturbed though some tribes chose to found new nations in the heretofore unknown areas between the black boundary cracks between states. I was married to a Pawnee girl in a ceremony behind the usual waterfall. Courts were manned by sleeping bears and birds sang lucid tales of ancient bird ancestors who now fly in other worlds. Certain rivers ran too fast to be usable but were allowed to do so when they consented not to flood at the Des Moines Conference. Airliners were similar to airborne ships with multiple fluttering wings that played a kind of chamber music in the sky. Pistol barrels grew delphiniums and everyone was able to select seven days a year they were free to repeat but this wasn’€™t a popular program.

In those days the void whirled with flowers and unknown wild animals attended country funerals.  All the rooftops in cities were flower and vegetable gardens. The Hudson River was drinkable and a humpback whale was seen near the 42nd Street pier, its head full of the blue blood of the sea, its voice lifting the steps of the people in their traditional anti-march, their harmless disarray. I could go on but I won’€™t. All my evidence was lost in a fire but not before it was chewed on by all the dogs that inhabit memory. One by one they bark at the sun, moon and stars trying to draw them closer again.

by Jim Harrison

My favorite part is where he marries the Pawnee girl behind the waterfall. The whole thing is visual, but that’s special.

Robert Fate, author of Baby Shark
Robert Fate Bealmear
www.robertfate.com

Of Vampires and Jumpers

JT Ellison

Alex wrote a post this past weekend about the vampiric
nature of writers.

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that for
writers, life can sometimes seem like a series of vignettes, a compilation of
observations that we distill into experiences and memories that propel our
work. I’d even postulate that crime fiction writers get a wealth of inspiration
from the everyday life going on around us – let’s face it, there is no desert
when it comes to crime as inspiration. Just look at your evening news, the
majority of lead stories are crime related. If it bleeds, it leads.

I know this is true for me. And over Christmas, I had an
experience that shaped my view, sparked an idea, and gave me creative
sustenance. I just wasn’t happy about it.

Hubby and I were heading to my parents, and their house is
on an island. There are two bridges over to beachside, and we were heading
toward the South Causeway, a relatively new structure that allows for large-mast
ships to pass through on their journey along the Indialantic waterway. The
North Causeway is still a charming drawbridge, the South is mammoth by
comparison.

As we reached the base of the bridge, there were cop cars
littering the road, and they were directing people to turn away. There have
been some terrible accidents on the bridge – the speed limit is much too high,
so the first thought was bad smash-up. But I saw a few people walking around at
the top and realized, no. It was worse. It was a jumper.

Now, this bridge is big enough to do some serious damage if
you went over unwittingly. About four stories high. Not a guaranteed death, but
you’d get hurt. Badly.

I was horrified at my immediate reaction. We must pull over.
I need to see this. I can work this into a story. I need to assimilate the
scene, burn the images into my mental retinas. Before I knew it, I was
vocalizing my thoughts. I told hubby we needed to stop. I heard myself giving
him directions into the local library parking lot, which sits at the base of
the bridge. There was already a group of people doing the same thing. But things
got worse. I sickened myself when I realized I had my camera. In my bag, at my
feet. And as the car stopped moving, it was in my hand.

                       Jumper_large_4

A familiar sense of detachment flooded me. I got out of the
car, and snapped a few shots, telling myself that if I were a photographer and
this were my daily job, I wouldn’t have two seconds of hesitation about taking
pictures. I’m simply documenting at this point, a purely dispassionate
observer. I am not rooting for this man to jump. I am not glorying in his pain.
I am not wondering what it would look like if he actually lets go of the
railing he seems to be clinging to as if he really doesn’t want to be doing
this. My mind can make all of those images and words for me. I am absorbing. I
am being a vampire.                                                   

I’ve seen some pretty nasty things. My research has taken me
into darkness. I’ve been at a stabbing scene, seen the results of teenage head
versus .44 magnum in a suicide, viewed autopsy photos and crime scene photos.
But nothing could have ever prepared me for a group of people, gathered at the
base of a very big bridge, all yelling one collective word. “JUMP!”

That’s right. While I’m mantra muttering Don’t Do It under
my breath, the redneck assholes who were partaking in an afternoon of someone
else’s misfortunes are wrapped in their superiority cloaks, screaming at this
poor soul to kill himself.

But what did I look like to them? I’m the one with my camera
in the air.

I felt a bit like a naturalist. On the Discovery Channel,
you wonder how the videographers and photographers and announcers do it.
There’s always the story of the lion pride, and the cub that’s gotten lost. We
usually see the happy ending, the cub is reunited with his pride. But the
tension I feel leading up to that moment is overwhelming. How many times did
the cub not make it? When does reality intrude on the entertainment value?

If the documentarians are true to their work, they know
there’s nothing they can do to put the cub back on the road to safety. They
can’t interfere; it’s nature’s way. But how do they watch, and record, and
voice-over while the hyenas strike?

I always tell myself, as I turn off the show before I find
out what happens, that it’s happening right now, all over the world. The weak
are being preyed upon by the strong. The naturalists know that if they weren’t
there to document the process, it would happen regardless. That’s how I
justified my actions at the bridge. If we hadn’t stopped for a soda and had
been five minutes earlier, we would have driven by and never known the
difference. But since we were there, I felt compelled to, at the very least,
give the man’s story some credence. I told hubby if he did jump, at least I
could find a way to mention it so he wasn’t lost in utter obscurity, didn’t
become just another statistic.

He came down. He lived. I didn’t know that until the next
day, when a brief mention in the newspaper handled the situation with
surprising delicacy. I’m paraphrasing… Police closed the north Causeway for
nearly an hour yesterday as they talked with a despondent man… Despondent.
What a perfect word to describe the situation.

You may be surprised by that last bit. Yes, we left. I
didn’t want to see what happened. I certainly didn’t want to see him go over. I
was testing fate by even stopping and taking pictures. I was lucky that he
didn’t let go while I was there.

                       Jumper_small_1

This nameless, faceless stranger has been grafted into my
next book; I’ve got a scene with a jumper. I intend to mine it for every detail
I can, answer all the unanswered questions, glorify and inflate the situation
to fictional proportions. And I have my memories and pictures to thank for
guiding me. All’s well that ends well, right?

If I just weren’t thinking about what drove him to that
bridge in the first place.

 

 

JT’s First Unabashed (Sort of) BSP

The fine editors of the most exciting new ezine this year, MOUTH FULL OF BULLETS, have nominated a story I wrote for them for the Preditors and Editors 2006 Readers Poll.

The story is called THE TEMPEST, and it’s one I wrote while I was in Colorado this past summer. I blogged about that week in my old hometown, and promised that I was writing. This is my proof.

Here’s a link to the story.

There’s a catch. This is a voted contest. If you like the story and want to vote for it, click here.

I’m going to blog about the issue of awards in two weeks. I debated long and hard about whether to mention this at all, simply because it feels unseemly to me to ask for votes.

But you know what? The editors of MOUTH FULL OF BULLETS felt strongly enough about this story to nominate it. It’s their only entry in this particular category of the contest. And I want to honor their kind action by sharing this with all of you. This one truly isn’t about winning or losing. So thanks for the vote of confidence, BJ!

Scissors Shears

JT Ellison

The DorothyL listserve had a discussion last week about hospitals. Can characters walk in and out of sections of a hospital without being stopped, can a patient slip out of ICU unnoticed, all that good creepy kind of thought process. Since I never feel really good about hospitals, the conversation fascinated me.

Unfortunately, I’ve had some experience here. And as fate would have it, during the online conversation, my mum took ill and we needed to put her in the hospital here in Nashville. She’s fine now (Hi, Mom!) and back home in Florida. But the five days she spent in St. Thomas really had me freaked out.

I’ll tell you one thing that’s an absolute – if you want to wander into a hospital room, no one is going to stop you.

If you look like you know what you’re doing, you could go into a room, kill a patient, and walk away with no one the wiser. For five days, I walked in and out and not a single person asked who I was, who I belonged to, who I was visiting, nothing. It was horrifying, really. I’m shocked there isn’t a higher number of hospital fatalities and murders. We won’t even go into the lack of attention paid to the patients.

I’ve never been comfortable in the hospital. The surgery side is fine, emergency is sort of fun in a gruesome ‘things are horrible but they will get better’ kind of way. It’s the ‘spend the night’ areas that I don’t like. I’m not sure where my intrinsic fear of this comes from, having been in hospitals all my life. Maybe it’s the constant barrage of daytime soaps that I watched growing up — DAYS OF OUR LIVES must have set every third scene in University Hospital. Maybe the barrage of people who died, came back from the dead, lingered in comas, had affairs, tainted my worldview.

But I do know one event in particular that really blew it for me. Seeing the Exorcist III in the theater.

I lived in Washington, D.C. at the time, and spent an ungodly amount of time carousing in Georgetown. I didn’t really want to see the movie, but a boyfriend insisted (he wasn’t a boyfriend after that night, I assure you). What a mistake that was. I’ll never forget how scared I was, seeing the halls of Georgetown University Hospital, knowing the streets, the signs, the shops intimately and imagining that the Gemini Killer was real – hell, I couldn’t go to Georgetown unaccompanied for months.

Think I feel things a bit too keenly? That’s why I don’t watch horror movies.

There’s one scene in particular in the movie that still haunts me, where the Gemini Killer comes flying out of a room with the shears to cut off the nurses head – yeah. It was too much for me, I still get chills thinking about it.

Now I find that the movie is based on the book, LEGION, by William Peter Blatty, (yes, quit rolling your eyes, I didn’t know that the original EXORCIST was a book first, I’m sorry) and I find myself wondering if I should get it and read it. Knowing my track record with these kinds of things, I’m thinking no. I just spook too easy.

I watched half of CONSTANTINE (wasn’t scared in the least, just got tired and needed to go to bed) and ended up having one of the most horrific nightmares I’ve ever experienced. Read Peter Straub’s GHOST STORY and couldn’t walk down the hallway to my room by myself for a year. What’s so sad is I read GHOST STORY when I was eight, and saw CONSTANTINE when I was thirty-six, and had the same damn reaction. I just can’t handle the scary stuff.

Yet I can research and write books about serial killers, write short stories about stalkers and demons who terrorize innocents. Any psychologists want to explain that one to me?

Wine of the Week – Maybe this will cheer me up – Molly Dooker Shiraz

I Resolve To Procrastinate More…

JT Ellison

A quick note of BSP — the kind gentleman from Texas has interviewed me on Murder and Mystery Books 101. Stop by and learn all kinds of blackmailable information.

Now, about that whole procrastination thing…

You may think I’m kidding. I know I should be writing a
nice, happy list of New Year’s resolutions. I should be reflecting on the
craziness that was 2006, and laying out my goals and plans for 2007.

But the past week has been, to sum it up in one word, weird.
We lost James Brown and Gerald Ford. Poor Betty Ford suffered through days and
days of public mourning – he was our President, but he was her husband, and she
has to grieve openly, which really tears me up. Add to that Taps, missing man
flyovers, twenty-one cannon salutes, (I can’t count how many times I’ve mouthed
along to the Lord’s Prayer) and I’m an emotional wreck. Of course, I get teary
at the National Anthem, so you can imagine what the pomp and circumstance
patriotism does to me.

Balance the solemnity of the week with the absurd — Pat
Robertson has declared an imminent calamity
will claims thousands of lives in
September, because God told him so. Saddam had his neck stretched on You Tube
and the cell phone videographer/perpetrator was arrested, who knows what will
happen to him? Yes, I’m guilty of watching. A couple of times, actually. Let’s
just leave it at that.

Then there was the jumper. He deserves his own blog entry, so suffice it to say he’s currently alive and residing in a psychiatric hospital in a coastal Florida town, and we’ll talk about that another time.

On a much happier note, Christmas was lovely. Two presents
especially – my very own engraved iPod Nano to replace my dinky Shuffle, and a
china box in the Limoges fashion my mum gave me that said “Behind Every Good
Woman… Is Herself.” That struck home in many ways. I guess if I have to
reflect, 2006 was the year that I proved myself – to myself.

I had my little freak out on New Year’s Day. Not to be
clichéd, but the train left the station at midnight, and I forgot to get off.
But that’s cool. Being an author is what I’ve planned for, what I’ve worked
for, what I’ve dreamed about. Right?

Top all of this nonsense off with a wicked cold, one of
those where your brain turns to absolute mush. That’s been the weirdness of the
past seven days.

Okay, you’ve caught me. There’s a reason for this…
ambivalence. It’s time to erase my white board and begin writing the next book.

Making the transition between books is always hard for me.
And it seems like I just did that (I guess I did, it was July. Time does fly,
doesn’t it?) I’ve been casting about for a couple of weeks, searching for
something to get me refocused. There’s no more cushion, no taking a month off
to find myself. The bullet must be bitten immediately. I’m actually starting on
the third book before the second is completely finished. As my darling critique
partner JB Thompson will tell you, thinking about multiple projects isn’t
something I’ve mastered.

But I hit upon something yesterday, drew up a list of names,
wrote an elevator pitch, and realized there is light at the end of my weeklong
tunnel. Halleluiah. The procrastination portion of our programming may be at an end.

How about you? Do you have trouble transitioning between
books, or stories? Can you work on multiple projects, or are you like me, more adept at focusing on one thing at a time?

Wine of the Week — A repeat from the past, but we had it for New Year’s Eve’s dinner, Tenute
Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino

Honestly one of the best wines in the world. I plan to stop by the vineyard in April, replenish the stores.

AND…

Major congrats to Killer Year member Marcus Sakey, who has pulled off a nice little coup — getting a controversial review from the New York Times — outside the crime fiction section. Marcus is rewriting all the rules for debut authordom. He needs to be watched. I’ll reference Mr. Guyot’s eloquent post from Tuesday — combo platter indeed.

AND…

150thrillersbanner1

ITW is having a cool new promotion.

 

Thanks Aren’t Enough…

A big Thank You to Graham Powell, for all the incredible work you do with CrimeSpot.

We appreciate your dedication and support. Happy Holidays!

——————–

And from the terrible news department, Flashing In The Gutters, the coolest site on the web, has shut its esteemed doors.

On behalf on myself and all the flashers here at Murderati, let me extend another huge THANK YOU to my buddy Tribe, for giving me a chance to share my dreams and nightmares. You taught me what short fiction was meant to be, and I’ll be forever grateful.

We’re gonna miss ya!

All best,
Murderati

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

JT EllisonGrinch_1

I have a new nickname around the house. Crank. Miss Crankypants, to be exact.

I have better words for it, considering the season. Grinch. Scrooge. Bah-Humbug.

Yes, that’s right. I am NOT in the Christmas spirit. I haven’t seen Rudolph, Charlie Brown or any of my other staples. I’ve barely done any shopping. Hubby had to practically force me to put up the tree, which after half an hour became the "Less is More" tree and is missing an entire bag of tiny ornaments, just because I couldn’t face dealing with them.

What is wrong with me??? Could it be the specter of 2007 roaming around my house like a pre-Christmas dinner Roast Beast?

I finally had a moment putting together the Christmas cards. Every year we send out a ton of cards to folks far and near. Up until three years ago, we always included a letter. Lately, people have complained that they aren’t getting the letter updating them on the nothingness that’s happening in our lives during the year. We don’t have kids, haven’t bought a new car, haven’t been the recipients of a lottery check, haven’t survived a tragedy. Things have been rather nominal in the Ellison household of late. And if there’s nothing to say, I’m not going to send a letter — Dear friends and family — NOTHING EXCITING HAPPENED THIS YEAR.

But this year it’s all different. We have tons to share. Self-serving, obviously, but a lot of news. Hubby has a new job since the last letter, I have the book coming out, all that is fodder for the ubiquitous yearly correspondence. At last — we have news.

So I put together the letter. Updated the address database. Printed out the labels, which is a new thing for me. I usually handwrite, but the list has gotten a little long, and I copped out. Printed the return labels. Printed the letter. Bought the cards. Set up in the dining room where I could spread out my happy little stacks and work the system — write personal note in card, fold letter, insert letter into card, insert card in envelope, lick envelope and seal, stick on address label. Seemed like a perfect setup.

Until I opened the box of cards. Boxes, I should say. And realized I was a complete idiot. I try to buy the boxes that have two greetings, one Merry Christmas, one Season’s Greetings. That way I can send cards to everyone and not offend anyone. The boxes I bought this year had 2 messages alright. They were just disbursed among 15 different designs. 2 cards of each design. 4 boxes. Which meant I had to break open all the boxes and separate the cards into stacks, matching the designs from box to box. Grrr….

Okay, this is doable. I start breaking everything into their individual piles. There’s only one problem. Half of the cards are covered in some sort of fine, industrial grade glitter. Whomever decided that glitter on a Christmas card was a good idea should be taken behind the woodshed and summarily shot.
Christmas_card_kitty_1

So here I am, stacks of cards abounding, each with designs that range from lovely to cheesy, and the cat decides to join the party. I’m covered head to toe in glitter, there’s no more fizz in my Diet Coke, I have a crick in my back, and the cat comes and lays smack dab on the piles. I nudge her off; she just slides down the table a few inches. I give her a push accompanied by a semi-curse (because who can swear at a cat who wants to share Christmas joy with her mother?) and she took shelter under the table runner. That’s when I decided I needed to A) take pictures and B) blog the hell out of this story.

Cat out of the way and pictures taken, I settled in and made some progress. I had about twenty cards complete when I realized… I was having a good time. Yes, there were a million designs. Which meant I was picking the cards individually for the recipient. Oh, they have kids, they’ll like the glittery Santa Claus. Oh, she likes animals, I’ll do the Snowman surrounded by bunnies. I want to impress so and so, I’ll send the elegant ornaments. On and on I went, decimating my stack, signing and folding and licking, until I finally, finally felt the spirit of Christmas.

People say be careful what you wish for. 2007 will bring many changes to my life. I just finished book 2 this week. I have a proposal due for book 3 on January 1. Killer Year is humming along. Murderati is populated with the coolest writers on the planet. But I’m going to try and forget about that for now, and live in this moment. Treasure this Christmas, my family, my friends. Stop being such a grinch. Remember that there are people in this world who have a lot less that I do, and be thankful that I have this life.

And be thankful for all of you, who help make this happen. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!

This doesn’t mean I’m completely abandoning my grinchiness. Just watch this… (not with the kids around, though!)

Wine of the Week — Marquis Philips Cabernet Sauvignon S2 McLaren Vale

 

Desperation, Desolation

JT Ellison

UPDATE — December 18, 2006
They might have him!

This headline caught my eye for obvious reasons. Hunt For Serial Killer Widens in England. It’s been touched on here and here. The story is terrible, but one that’s become all too common in our society today. It’s interesting that they are billing this as a new Jack the Ripper — it seems every time prostitutes start dying, Jack is the gold standard for comparison.

12/13/06 by Rukmini Callimachi (AP)

Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull of Suffolk police advised Ipswich prostitutes not to go out to work.

"We
have got three prostitutes murdered, now possibly another two. I do not
know what stronger warning there can be to get off the streets as soon
as possible," he said.

Detectives were already investigating the
deaths of three women, whose naked bodies were found a few miles apart.
One body was found in a stream, another in a pond and a third in the
woods, about 30 yards from a road.

The two bodies discovered
Tuesday were lying near Levington, Suffolk, a village about five miles
south of Ipswich. The corpses of the five dead women have all been
found within a few miles of Ipswich.

The killing has stirred
memories of the so-called Yorkshire Ripper, one of Britain’s worst
serial killers. Peter Sutcliffe admitted to killing 13 women, mostly
prostitutes, in the 1970s. He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 30
years in prison.

His reign of terror recalled Jack the Ripper,
the notorious Victorian serial killer who murdered at least five East
London prostitutes in 1888. He was never caught and speculation about
his identity continues.

The latest deaths have drawn intense
media interest, with Ipswich’s afternoon newspaper labeling the
prostitutes’ killer "the Suffolk Strangler."

Creative geniuses, these serial killers. Preying on prostitutes. Women who are desperate for money to buy drugs, maintain their pimps, or simply find themselves in a situation beyond their control.

And now a new report has surfaced. Scotland Yard is "talking" to the authorities in Atlantic City, New Jersey, about possible similarities in the cases. From a creative standpoint, the idea that a transatlantic serial killer is alternating murdering prostitutes in the States and the UK is where a thriller novel is born. (It’s mine, don’t you even think about it.)

But there is a dark, grim reality out there.

I spent an overnight on a ride along interviewing pros. We’d pull them over, take a Polaroid, take down a physical description, noting tattoos and scars, eye color, the unchangeable traits they possessed. We ran their sheets, most of which were fourteen to twenty pages long, with various and sundry charges, nearly all drug related. We took down their information, last known address, anything and everything. None of them really seemed to grasp why.

Why? Because when they were found in a ditch or a dumpster three weeks later, the police would have something to identify them with.

As the sun rose over Nashville and we called it a night, I was devastated. It’s depressing seeing these women, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, pushed into this life. They aren’t pretty, they aren’t glamorous. They aren’t the version you see in movies with the short sequined skirts and lucite platform FMP’s. They are dressed in tattered jeans and over-sized t-shirts. They are missing most of their teeth. They have lank, greasy hair, haven’t showered for days, and generally are about as unappealing as you can imagine. They walk with a wide gait, arms swinging at their sides — the Crack Walk. It makes a woman wonder why, exactly, a man would pay money to have sex with them.

Yet pay they do. I saw several cross country truckers parked in the back of quiet buildings, men of all ages and colors wandering behind their "date" (you have to stay out of the prostitutes proximity so you aren’t labeled a John and picked up.) Drugs fuel this underworld, and it is depressing as hell to see first hand.

There’s a program here in Nashville called the Magdalene House. It’s a spectacular recovery and rescue run by Reverend Becca Stevens of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church. Becca is a pretty amazing woman.

"From
my experience the line between priest and prostitute is very small. The
bonds which hold us together are much stronger than the lines which
keep us apart."

— The Reverend Becca Stevens

Magdalene House has grown, and now has a cottage industry called Thistle Farms, where the women who’ve graduated the program work. I’ve met some of the women, both while they’re in recovery and after. There is hope in their eyes, something I didn’t see on the streets of downtown Nashville.

I wish there were a way to talk these women off the streets. The cops in Ipswich, England "encourage" the prostitutes not to go to work. But they can’t stop. They are fueled by addiction, and are therefore something like a herd of deer, being thinned by predators. These women are easy prey, hunted by cowards. We’ll hear these stories again, and again, and again. There will always be desperation, and desolation in this world.

I chose to write serial killer novels for many reasons. I’ve discussed my motivations before. I want to give a voice to the victims. In my world, the one I make up and put on paper, I can address the issues. I can catch the bastards who prey on women, and see that there is justice. But every once in a while, I see a story in the news and realize I’m not enough. Programs like Magdalene aren’t enough. It’s sad to realize that no matter what I do, it’s not going to change a thing. Sick minds like the Ipswich Ripper, the Atlantic City killer, the myriad of others who are killing — nameless, faceless — will never stop.

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P.S.   MJ Rose is sponsoring a great contest at Buzz, Balls and Hype.
Write YOUR letter to Santa and win $100 for your favorite charity.

If my letter is picked, the $100 will go to Magdalen House.

Tag, You’re It.

JT Ellison

I’m being lazy today. I know, I know, during a brilliant relaunch week, I should have something magnificent to contribute. But I’ll be honest with you, I’ve just had a really (really, really, really) long week. A great week, but long. Some of the highlights: Finished a solid first draft of book 2, did a read through and got it to my beta readers. Met with my new publicist (okay, I just like saying that because it makes me feel special). And got a HUGE sneak peek at something from the fine folks over at MIRA Books that literally took my breath away. The process is beginning for ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, and it’s crazy fun.

So please, forgive me for being lazy. I’ll try to get it back in gear next week, and bitch about my woeful lack of Christmas spirit. Maybe I’ll get perky about it before then. In the meantime…

I found this meme on Word Nerd who had been tagged by Raspberry Latte. Since we have some new members here at Murderati, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity for all of us to get to know one another a little better. And I thought I’d tag y’all, see if we can’t get a blog roll going. So here goes:



List 5 things you’d like to do someday. The dreams you’d like to realize. The goals you’ve set for yourself.

JT’s List

Have a house in Italy – A place to retreat, to write, to experience another culture. That would also play into another of the top wishes, which is to be able to speak my mother tongue fluently. And would result in another sub-dream…Travel, travel, travel – Experience the Continent, go to Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Romania and not have the fear of being an American in a foreign clime. Which I suppose means we’d have to have some kind of world peace. But I’ve always, always wanted to travel to Nepal.

Read all the books by every crime master
– I still feel woefully unread. I’d like to have the full collection of each major writer under my belt – Ellroy, King, Hammett, Chandler, Burke and all the greats.

Spend an afternoon in an F-15, and another on the track at Daytona in a stock car.
– Really. I want to go fast, really, really fast, at least once. In addition to NASCAR, I’d like to take a few laps in any open wheel — Indy, Formula 1 or CART. I ain’t picky.

Make a living as a writer – I’d love to be successful enough that hubby could quit his day job and pursue his dreams. He’s been supporting me for so long, I’d like to do the same for him.

Have a Wine Cellar
— A real collection of excellent vintages, more than the casual 91 and aboves. Of course, that means I need to learn a lot more about good wine. And have a house big enough to house the bottles.

And I’m going to add in a question.

Name one thing you’d love to do, but you know will NEVER happen:

Sing the National Anthem at a sporting event – Why will this never happen, you ask? I can’t hold a tune in a bucket, but I spent months singing the anthem in the privacy of my bedroom growing up in the hopes that I could train my vocal chords into some semblance of melody. Not gonna happen.

I am tagging
The Man In Black
The Debutante Ball
The Sphere
Anatomy of a Book Deal
Good Girls Kill For Money

And YOU!

Wine of the Week — Since I’m being lazy this week, why don’t y’all give me your picks? I prefer reds, but white is fine too, I’ll pass those suggestions along to Mumsy.