Category Archives: JT Ellison

It’s All About The Debutantes

I’€™m doing a cross over between my two blogs today. Kristy
Kiernan
, debut author of CATCHING GENIUS and fearless leader of The Debutante
Ball
, a grog of women’€™s fiction authors debuting in 2007, has a beautiful essay
over at Killer Year
. I was so impressed by her words that I decided to bring
her on Murderati, ask her a couple of questions, and introduce the Debutantes
to the Murderati crowd. They are well worth getting to know, I’€™ll tell you
that.

So let’€™s get this party started! Maestro, a waltz, if you please…

————————————————————————————–

JT: Tell us about your book CATCHING GENIUS.

KK: Connie and Estella Sykes are as close as sisters
can be, until Estella is diagnosed as a genius at age seven. Connie loses her
playmate, as well as the special relationship she had with her father, whose
attention is now turned toward promoting his math prodigy and fulfilling his
own dreams of greatness. Years after their father’s death, the sisters–now
grown and not nearly as different as they think they are–are brought together
by their shrewd mother, June, to pack up their home on the island of Big Dune.
Connie struggles to maintain the façade of perfection in the face of Estella’s
surprisingly normal life, while dealing with the reality of her family’s
emotional and financial disintegration at the hands of her husband, as well as
the startling discovery that she knows nothing about her oldest son and that
her youngest appears to have inherited the genius gene. But Connie isn’t the
only one with secrets. Both Estella and June have tales they’ve kept
well-hidden, until the timeless sand and surf of Big Dune Island finally wears
away this family’s resistance to the truth: They need each other more than ever
before.

It’s about sisters and families, of course, but also touches on the nature of
genius, the relationships between math, music, and nature, and is a little bit
of an indictment against the development and commercialization of my beautiful
home state of Florida.

JT: Tell us about the books by the rest of the Debs.

KK: Oh, I love this, because we all have such different stories! I’ll go
alphabetically:


Tish Cohen’s TOWN HOUSE
(May 1, 2007) is about Jack Madigan who lives an
enviable existence in a Boston town house with his son, Harlan. Jack is
agoraphobic, but living on his rock star dad’s royalties, his condition hasn’t
been a problem. Until the money runs out. The bank is foreclosing, Jack’s ex is
threatening to take Harlan, and, Lucinda, the little girl next door, won’t stay
out of his kitchen. Jack must outwit the bank, win back his house, keep his
son, and, finally, with Lucinda’s help, find a way back to the world outside
his door. Tish lives in Canada and film rights to TOWN HOUSE have been sold to
FOX with Ridley Scott’s company producing. TOWN HOUSE is mainstream fiction,
and if all that isn’t enough, Tish also has a Y/A, THE INVISIBLE RULES OF THE
ZOE LAMA, coming out in July.


Eileen Cook
is another Canuck (though she’s officially a transplant, does that
still count as a Canuck?), and has her own very funny blog in addition to
grogging at the Ball. IN THE STARS is about Sophie Kintock, who wants her guy
back and poses as a psychic to give his new girlfriend a fake reading designed
to break them up. Faking it turns out to be easy and fun, especially after a
few lessons from Nick, who knows all the tricks of the trade. But now she’s
being offered a job telling fortunes on the radio and she must decide whether
to accept her rising stardom in a less-than-honest line of work. And whether
the best option is trying to rekindle her old flame-or finding romance with
someone new. Eileen’s going great guns on foreign rights on this one, and I
can’t wait to read it next February. Oh! And her husband, Bob, is the fabulous
designer of The Debutante Ball’s site!


Mia King
lives in Hawaii, lucky dog! She and her husband run their own golf
academy, and she also blogs in addition to grogging at the Ball. Her debut is
GOOD THINGS, and is about  Deidre McIntosh, who became famous teaching
women to live simply, and simply live. But when her Seattle
cooking-and-lifestyle show gets bumped off the air, and her best guy moves in
with his boyfriend, she’s left trying to figure out the next segment. Seizing
on a chance encounter with an attractive stranger, Deidre accepts his offer to
use his country home. She hopes to get away for a while and learn to practice
what she preaches. To appreciate life without voice mail. To gain the courage
to start again, and take the first slow, cautious steps toward a new kind of
success – and maybe even love. GOOD THINGS comes out February 6th, and I’m
trying to talk my husband into attending her book launch in Hawaii!


Jennifer McMahon
gives me goosebumps! Her book does anyway. PROMISE NOT TO TELL
is about Kate Cypher, who has just returned to her small hometown to care for
her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother. The night she arrives, a young girl is
murdered. Kate is drawn into the investigation—and deep into the childhood
she’s tried to escape. As the investigation unfolds, the facets of Kate’s life
collide in a terrifying way: her mother is deteriorating, her old friends are
never quite what they seem, and the ghosts of her childhood have emerged to
haunt her. Jennifer lives with her partner and daughter in Vermont, and has
held about every job in the world. I’m glad she settled on writer.

And finally, our reality fiction writer, Anna David. She’s written for just
about every popular magazine out there and has been on TV shows like The
Today Show
. She’s currently on the G4 Network as their Attack of the
Show!
sex expert, and blogs about reality TV for FOX. PARTY GIRL, is
about Amelia Stone, known for sharing wild stories about her hot (and often
hilarious) nightlife. Invited to Hollywood’s most exclusive, star-studded
events, she rubs shoulders—and occasionally has trysts—with
celebrities, indulging in the ultimate sex, drugs, and rock and roll
lifestyle. A writer for celebrity magazine, she is finally offered the chance
to prove herself by interviewing several high-profile stars. As she engages in
more and more self-destructive partying, Amelia loses control and makes the
decision to end her drug abuse. Sober, she meets the man of her dreams and is
hired at a better magazine to write a column about her adventures. Little does
the magazine know that Amelia’s partying days are in the past. Faced with the
most exciting opportunity of her career, she must now decide to either save
herself or salvage her reputation as the ultimate party girl.

JT: You credit Vermeer with landing your agent. We must hear this story.

KK: Ha! Well, that happened on one of those sleepless nights during my
agent querying phase. That week I’d sent out a lot of queries after being
prodded by a friend…prodded, like with a sharp stick prodded. There was one
agent I was very interested in, but another friend had been a client of the
same firm and I’m sort of funny about mixing personal and professional
business, so I’d shied away, thinking it was sort of like dating your friend’s
ex, you know? So, over that weekend the flurry of queries went out. On Monday I
put things out of my mind and researched an idea I had for my next novel (er,
which turned into my current novel, CATCHING GENIUS; the research revolved
around Leonardo daVinci). I came across the term "Camera obscura,"
which is a device, a forerunner of the modern camera, used to basically trick
light into inverting an image (no, really, look it up!). The term struck me as
particularly poetic, one of those things I file away in the back of my mind. On
Tuesday, my husband, an art dealer, picked up one of their artists at the
airport and we went out to dinner. The artist’s conversation revolved around
his technique, which he called Camera obscura, though it seemed he used it less
as an actual physical device than a particular, very vivid and realistic, way
of painting. This of course intrigued me even more! On Wednesday I sent out
more queries, and that night I couldn’t sleep. Finally, at about 3:30 a.m.,
having driven my husband from the room, I turned on the TV. The channel
happened to be on the Discovery Channel, and they were showing the biography of
the great Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer. The main controversy surrounding
Vermeer was if he used a Camera obscura to "cheat" and allow him to
paint his paintings in a very scientific and realistic way. So here’s this
bizarre term I’ve never heard before, thrown at me every single day three days
in a row? I’m not a particularly mystical person, but let’s just say I was
paying attention! The next day I thought I’d get through another query or two
and looked in Publisher’s Marketplace, searching for the term "Debut."
Only one I hadn’t seen before came up, the brilliant debut of Miranda
Beverly-Whittemore’s The Effects Of Light.
That’s the title it was
published with anyway, but the title it sold with, the one on Publisher’s
Marketplace? CAMERA OBSCURA. The agent? The exact same agent I had wanted to
query but had shied away from because I was worried about too many connections,
Anne Hawkins of the John Hawkins Literary Agency. I fired off an e-mail query
to her so fast I nearly locked the computer up. She became my agent within a
week, and still is.
   
JT: You don’t write mysteries. Do you read them? Who are your
favorites?

KK: I love mysteries. My book obsessions as a
child were Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, and when I’d gotten through all of
those, I stole my brother’s Hardy Boys. The first really grown up book I
ever read was a John D. MacDonald, The Green Ripper. I was
probably nine or ten years old, and the cover absolutely terrified me,
but I was hooked. I went through all of his, then moved onto
Robert Parker, Elmore Leonard, Ken Follett, all the usual suspects. I grew up
FAST that year! My friend Tasha Alexander has turned me onto Elizabeth George,
as well as to her own Lady Emily Ashton series, and I’ve been very impressed by
J.D. Rhoades (my redneck heritage coming out), Wallace Strohby (my tendency
toward noir), and Bob Morris (well, really, it’s Florida, what more could you
ask?). As a writer, I’ve been so impressed by the way the mystery community
supports writers. I’ve certainly considered writing a mystery, but I have to
admit that I’m intimidated by it. I have a few ideas, but I start thinking
about them and start chewing my fingernails. Maybe one day I’ll be confident
enough to tackle it. I’d like that.

JT: What advice do you have for new writers?

KK: Educate yourself. You have to, but please, please
remember that the MOST important thing is a well-written, good
story. It’s not how the stamp goes on the SASE, it’s not how many
pre-blurbs you can get, it’s not 18# or 20# paper for your query. It kills me
to watch so many writers get so caught up in the minutiae of the business when
they don’t even have a complete manuscript yet. They’re concentrating on
the wrong thing. They’re concentrating on what they can control
because it feels good to know that there IS something you can control in this
business. And before you think I sound condescending or insincere, I
am SO VERY sincere, because I did the exact same thing. I regret the
unnecessary stress I put myself through. It’s a huge waste of time, and that
time should be spent learning your craft and making your manuscript better.
That over-education applies to new authors too. Everyone is constantly telling
you how hard it is, how you’re never going to get a second book published
unless about 367 things go just exactly the right way on the third Thursday of
the seventh month when Venus is in retrograde and a brindle armadillo crosses
US41 from east to west at midnight. Write the next book. Write well, plot well,
concentrate on the work. (And yes, I’m making that very mistake right this
second
.)

JT: Do you think group marketing makes debuting easier?

KK: I don’t know. I’ve never done it any other way,
but I DO know that I feel as though my stress is spread out across five other
women, five truly talented and intelligent and generous authors. How could that
possibly be bad?

JT: Would you recommend new authors to follow the Killer Year and
Debutante Ball model?

KK: Absolutely. Here’s who should NOT do it (and be
honest with yourself):

* Anyone with jealousy or envy issues. We all have these
feelings, but if it’s going to eat at you when your fellow authors get better
reviews, a bigger contract, more foreign rights, a big movie deal, whatever it
is, you’d better sit the group dynamic out. Because it WILL happen. Someone
will always get something bigger, better, and if you can’t genuinely be happy
for that person, or if you’ll spend all your time beating yourself up for NOT
getting those things, then you WILL poison the entire group, and you’ll make
yourself crazy too. Save yourself, and others, the heartache. Other’s
success does NOT equal your failure.

* Anyone not willing to pull their own weight…and everyone
else’s once in a while. You can’t slack, and you can’t be a martyr in a group
like this. Figure out everyone’s strengths, and then work them. Sometimes
you’ll do more work than others. Get over it. Next time they’ll do more work
than you.

* Anyone who has a tendency to get excited about a project
and then lets it peter out. Get excited and stay excited.Champglass_1


Told you. Pretty cool chicks, if you ask me. The Debutante
Ball is one of the greatest grogs going. I highly recommend you stop by and
sample their refinement.

Thank you, Kristy, for taking the time to share your story
and the Debs with Murderati. Best of luck with all of your debuts in 2007.
We’€™re all rooting for you!

Wine of the Week –€“ In honor of our fine guests, a
champagne cocktail.

Soak a sugar cube in Bitters. Drop in a flute of bubbly.
Think intellectual thoughts.

P.S. I’€™m having a cocktail party of my own today at The
Good Girls Kill For Money blog
, with the stunningly effervescent Tasha Alexander and all the Good Girls.
Stop by and ask me anything.

And a quick bit of industry news…

DEADLINE EXTENDED FOR ITW AWARD SUBMISSIONS

The deadline for ITW award submissions has been extended to December 15th, 2006.

Please contact Alex Kava (alexkava@aol.com)
for the list of judges, addresses and rules of submission. Also, a
reminder to authors that ITW allows authors to submit their own work
rather than go through their publisher or agent.

Money for Nothing and Your Books for Free

JT Ellison

Happy Day After Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is stuffed and lazy today. In case you aren’t — have to work, were dealing with cranky in-laws or burnt pies, here’s a little rant.
And stop by Tasha Alexander’s game of Sincerity today on the Good Girls Kill for Money Blog.

I am continually amazed at the sheer audacity of people.
These situational conversations have been cropping up more and more lately, and
I find them a bit alarming.

The conversation plays out as follows.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“For the newspaper?”

“No, I write psychological thrillers.”

Now, play with me, here. Insert any of the following
sentences into the following line. And I swear, I’ve heard each of them in the
past month.

“Oh. Do you have any idea what your book is about?”

“Oh. I don’t remember the last book I read.”

“Oh.” Nods vacantly.

“Oh, you must have a lot of time on your hands.”

“Oh, you know, I’ve got a great story for you. Blah, blah,
blah, Aunt Myrtle, blah, blah, blah…”

“Oh, so that means I get a free copy, right?”

“Am I in it?”

“If I give you some information, will I get a royalty for
it?”

“I’m getting a copy, aren’t I?”

“I haven’t written anything since high school.”

Let me seize upon two items that kill me. The first is that
so many people don’t read. I know, I know, we all can’t be perfect. I can’t
imagine what a world without books would be like, so I can rarely find a pithy
response to that one.

The second is the free book scenario. I realize that we
writers work in a barter system now, that if we give a copy of our book, an
endeavor that most likely — on average — took a year out of our lives, to a
person, said person will supply an equal amount of services in return.

NOT!

Can you imagine – at the post office – “So I get a free copy
of your book, right?”

“Sure, if you’re planning on giving me free postage for the
year.”

I think I’m on to something. This scheme could wend its way
through our capitalist system, with books as the new currency. We writers would
be fat and happy, trading our words for groceries, gas, furniture,
prescriptions, clothes, cars, mortgages…

Ultimately I suppose any of us making a real living at this
do just that, there’s just that little cash up front thing that gets in the
way.

Wine of the Week –

It’s that time of year! — Beaujolais Nouveau

Dream A Little Dream

JT Ellison

I had a fortune cookie this week. The slip of paper said —

“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so you become.”

I smiled when I read it, knowing that it was quite apropos
for my life right now. It’s a wonderful indicator of how I’m feeling today. The
past few months have been a whirlwind of good news. And this week, I received
some more.

You may already know, but Killer Year will have an anthology
of short stories
coming out from St. Martin’s Minotaur in Winter, 2008, which
will be edited by the venerable Lee Child. Pretty damn cool. Let me take this
moment to say THANK YOU to all the Killer Year members, the mentors, MJ Rose
and Scott Miller, for helping, advising, and getting things done.

Once again, the industry has smiled upon us newcomers. It
has become readily apparent that this community feeds on its good will toward
others. We must all be floating on some sort of cosmic karma bubble, because
the more involved I become, the more I see this.

Established authors help new authors. Big presses do favors
for small presses. New authors band together to help each other and in so
doing, start to raise awareness for their books, their personalities, their
careers. New groups of debut authors have been formed — my favorite is The
Debutante Ball
, the new women’s fiction group. There’s also the young adult
authors of 2007
, who are doing some amazing work for each other.

Hubby and I had the distinct pleasure of hosting Pari
Taichert in our home and fine city this week. You think the Internet does Pari
justice? Think again. Irrepressible is the best term I can come up with. We
stayed up much too late two nights in a row, drinking a lovely McWilliams’s
Shiraz I’ve been keeping back for months for the occasion. We talked a lot
about this industry, about the future of our careers, about blogging in general
and Murderati in particular. And I realized something.

We ALL want success, and we ALL want to see our friends succeed.
And as long as we keep that in mind, this industry, genre fiction, mysteries
and thrillers, will continue to thrive and grow.

And I’m just so damn honored to be a part of it with you.

Oh, and that fortune? I promptly spilled Diet Dr. Pepper on
the paper and had to rush to save it. I hope that’s an indicator of what my
career has in store for me. Ups, downs, highs, lows, but all around, dreams
fulfilled.

Wine of the Week — The McWilliam’s Shiraz, of course.

CLP… and I Had A Dream

JT Ellison

Jan Burke, award-winning novelist extraordinaire and creator of the Crime
Lab Project
, very kindly asked Killer Year to blog this week in her absence,
and we’ve been giving it our all. Today, it’s my turn. Please come over to CLP and
read my brief interview with Detective David Achord, Metro Nashville Homicide.
I asked him a few questions about the lack of private labs in Nashville.

Detective Achord will be here at Murderati one day in the
near future, answering your questions in the comments section. So look for an
upcoming blog warning.

—————————————————————-

I had a dream this week that I’ve been trying to interpret.

Hubby and I went to a conference (it seemed like Phoenix,
possibly a ThrillerFest, so perhaps I’ve developed precognition and this
happens in the future). When we arrived and were checking in, I realized that
I’d left a few things at home.

1. Business Cards

2. Killer Year postcards (maybe we aren’t in the future
after all)

3. My registration information

I’m panicking in a slight, “Oh damn, how stupid am I” kind
of way. Then I realize that we’ve left the cat home alone with no babysitter
arranged, I can’t figure out if it’s Wednesday and the conference starts on
Thursday or it’s Thursday morning, so I can’t estimate if she’ll survive.

And then comes the zinger. I don’t have my cell phone, which
has all the numbers for all the people who can bail me out of my mess.

Now, I manage to get in touch with the company that prints
my business cards and the KY postcards, and they agree to make new ones for me
pronto and can have them to the hotel by Friday. Unfortunately, I need to order
thousands to get the overnight shipping cost justified.

Just as I get in touch with the woman that usually takes
care of the cat when we vamoose, my alarm went off. Thank God!

This dream is utterly fascinating to me because I’m a bit
type A, with a slight case of OCD (Hubby can quit laughing now – I know he
stows the peanut butter on the wrong shelf just to freak me out.) The concept
of me arriving for a conference without my happy little packages of notes and
cards, without handling the arrangements for my beloved munchkin, is absurd.Gatlinbergchristmas057

So why did I have this dream?

I think, and I’m speculating, that my world is slightly out
of my control. I’m feeling a bit selfish because my edits came on Saturday and
I dropped everything to dive in, which means I’ve been in la-la-land and have
been a bit spacey with hubby – not cranky so much as elegantly vacant.

Things are starting to hum with the book, and I’m experiencing
a lot of stuff for the first time.

I’m going to chalk this one up to newbie jitters, and hope I
don’t have any more.

(P.S. The edits are officially submitted. What a great feeling!)

Wine of the Week — Let’s celebrate with a fine selection — Baroli Barolo. Yummmmmm……

 

When The Character Runs The Show

JT Ellison

Last week I wrote about Michael Connelly, and a question I asked him that garnered a stern look and made me feel silly for asking it. I asked if Harry Bosch ever did or said anything that surprised him, and his answer was a definite no. I told this story to another writing friend, one whose judgment I truly respect, and her first words were, good question.

It got me thinking. How well do I really know my protagonist?

Taylor Jackson is the homicide lieutenant for Nashville Metro. She is young, tall, blonde, sharp and witty, tough as nails, and the kind of girl a gentlemen would love to sit down and have a beer with. I’ve planned her that way, want her to not be me, per se, but an extension of me. I want Taylor to have the best of everything, the funniest lines, the deepest courage, the strength of character that ensures her success.

So how is it this creature of my imagination can do or say things that surprise me?

Like I said, I’ve been thinking. And I realized that she doesn’t. I’ve been selling myself short in this department, assuming that more experienced writers are better equipped to explain their motivations, their process, their insights. Realizing that I’m just as connected with my protagonist was a relief, as well as a revelation. And a reminder to quit underestimating myself already.

I’m working on my third book with Taylor. I struggled with her character in the first book. I really didn’t like her very much. I think she was too strong, she was so damn capable and brilliant she was nearly a caricature of herself. Taylor was my imagination’s perception of what a successful female cop would be like, but I’d never had any contact with real women cops. I have a lot of male contacts, and I know Taylor appeals to them, but I was worried that she wouldn’t be realistic because I had nothing to base her on. I actually had planned to kill her off in a dramatic ending. All because I’d built this wisp of an idea into a person, and she kept doing things I didn’t plan for.

By book 2, ATPG, Taylor had mellowed a bit. She’s in love, practically against her will because there’s a whisper of neediness that goes along with being devoted to someone. She’s grown as a character, has fleshed out. I don’t hate her any more. I’ve embraced her, flaws and all. I’ve finally realized that she does and says the things she does because that’s who she is. Who I’ve made her into. An extension of some part of my psyche that respects women who are so capable, so strong that they don’t need.

Once I realized this, I finally figured out what Connelly meant. Bosch doesn’t surprise him because he created the character, with deliberate strokes of the pen. He is in control, not the book.

So this is where he and I differ. I’m in control of Taylor now, know what she’s going to say in a particular situation, know how she’s going to feel, how she’s going to whip her hair out of its ponytail and put it back up when she’s frustrated, know just the moment she’d say something to diffuse a situation. It’s the story that surprises me.

Remember that friend from earlier? We talked about this too – the process of creating the story. She does research, copious amounts of research, then writes, knowing full well where things are headed.

I, on the other hand, get a concept, try to write down an outline, get too enthusiastic to plan and start writing, do the first ten or fifteen chapters and realize nope, there needs to be something else, something different. For each book I’ve written, those openings end up being the scenes which bridge to the climax. It’s strange, and I can’t exactly explain it, but that’s what happens.

This is why I don’t like to outline, because the story doesn’t always go how I want it to. Which means I’m doing quite a bit of subconscious work on the manuscript in addition to writing it. That’s not all that bad, in my mind.

Maybe when I have 12 books under my belt, I’ll be able to feel like I’m in complete and utter control. I’m envious of writers who say they have the next eight books planned out, know exactly what’s going to happen in their series. For now though, I’m going to go with it, see where the story takes me, see what Taylor is going to do next.

Wine of the Week — a little bit of Spanish goodness
Carrizal Roija Riserva
and
Marques de Riscal Sauvignon Blanc

Stumbling Up Mount Olympus

JT Ellison

Michael Connelly came to Nashville this week, which was an incredibly exciting event for me. He did a great talk and signed, and I actually managed to ask two (count them, two!) questions. Of course, I was busy having a fangirl moment and sounded a bit like an idiot.

“Mr. Connelly, has Harry Bosch ever done or said anything that surprised you?”

The look he gave me was humbling, to say the least. The answer was an unequivocal no, and he went on to say he’s always surprised by writers who say their characters do things they weren’t expecting, because he is (I’m paraphrasing here) so deliberate with his story and characters that he knows exactly what’s going to come out of their mouths, because he’s the one putting those words there.

I also asked how Duane Swierczynski and Sarah Weinman happened to appear in ECHO PARK, and he spoke of making the books as real to life as possible. He was looking to name two journalists and it seemed a good match.

Strike one on sounding erudite and sophisticated in front of one of my literary gods.

I have four gods in crime fiction, and numerous goddesses. The four gods are John Connolly, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and John Sandford. I’ve now met three of these amazing authors, and have put my foot in my mouth with each of them. I’m thinking the best thing to do with Mr. Sandford is challenge him to 18 holes, where I can lay down and make a fool of myself privately, instead of in front of a group.

Sara Rosett over at the Good Girls Kill for Money site had a great essay this week that segued perfectly into what I wanted to talk about today. She asked if the advent of websites and blogging has taken some of the mystique out of writers, since readers can readily connect with their heroes and find out more than they ever wanted to know by reading their neurotic highs and lows on a regular basis. I commented that not so very long ago, I was on the outside, getting my information about authors from their jacket covers and the occasional website, being surprised by author photos, etc.

But when it comes to meeting the literary gods and goddesses I worship, I’ve found I really like getting to meet, and ultimately know these great writers. Yes, I invariably say or do something stupid. When Jan Burke came to town, I was the proud owner of a severe ear infection so intense that while I was waiting in line to get my book signed, I practically fainted and had to sit down or fall down. At ThrillerFest, I introduced myself to Tess Gerritsen, pumping her hand like her arm was a water spigot in the desert and telling her, and I quote, “You’re my biggest fan!” Tuesday night with Michael Connelly, I tripped over my tongue trying to talk to him, managed to give him my business card and a Killer Year postcard, called my long suffering husband a wallet (an inside joke that didn’t translate) and basically felt like an idiot when I stepped away, despite the fact the he was very kind and asked if he could keep my card.

I’ve done better with John Connolly and Lee Child. John, hubby and I ended up having many beers and stayed out way too late talking politics. I’ll never forget that night, it ranks as high on my list as you can get. And I got a kiss on the cheek at the end of the evening, which was mind-blowing. This man, this giant, this god of mine, kissed me on the cheek. Damn.

Lee Child was gracious and funny, actually talking to me, not at me. That laconic smile, the accent, the incredible advice – yep, another moment to treasure. And another kiss on the cheek. I may never wash again.

I hope to have a chance to see Michael Connelly again, maybe when I’m not such a greenhorn, so I don’t stumble to badly. And Sandford, well, he was my inspiration for writing crime fiction, so if I gush I won’t feel so bad.

On a slightly different note, it’s been a bad week for writing. The contractors, sweet as they may be, are noisy little cusses, my parents arrived on Wednesday afternoon with the dog and cat in tow, which meant my little darling striped kitty monster searched high and low for places to hide and didn’t eat for two days. So I tried to salvage my unproductiveness by reading. And boy, did I get a treat. Two amazing novels, completely different in style, both with so much punch and emotion that I was left breathless.

The first is T. Jefferson Parker’s newest, STORM RUNNERS. Parker has been added to my god list. He is an amazing writer, the depth of his storytelling ability overwhelms me. The other is Karin Slaughter’s TRIPTYCH. For lack of a better term, holy crap. Slaughter’s first standalone is brilliantly plotted, full of surprises, and one of the best books I’ve read this year. She’s had goddess status for a long time.

I have one more to read this weekend, then Monday I’m back in the fiction creation game. Anne Frasier’s PALE IMMORTAL called to me from the new release table in Davis Kidd, so I took it home with me and plan to make a weekend of it.

The list of gods and goddesses grows.

Wine of the Week: In honor of the parental units —

Wyndam Estates Bin 555 Shiraz

Kris Pinot Grigio

Happy Friday the 13th!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being JT -or- You Mean I Have To Wear Clothes?

JT Ellison

I’ve been dreading this week for months.

I have a deadline November 1st, which is cool, I
have no real issue with deadlines. There’s a pretty line drawn that exists in a
nebulous timeframe in my mind that gets to be put on paper. No worries there.

No, it’s not the deadline I’ve been dreading. It’s something
much, much worse.

The contractors started Monday.

Last April, we looked up at the ceiling in the living room
and realized there was a long wet spot traversing about five feet of drywall.
We’d been having plumbing issues since we moved in the house last year, the
plumbers had been called out five times over a five-month period. Cracked
toilet, missing seals, leaky shower, the works. But we’d never seen the problem
from below. Turns out there was a massive leak in our master bath, a leak that
apparently has been going on for a LONG time. Well before we moved in. The leak
that has become the bane of our existence.

Normally it wouldn’t be such a huge deal. We saw the issue,
called out the plumber, who cut two large holes in our living room ceiling to
find where the water was coming from. The sub-floor was completely rotted out
and covered in an attractive mold. Major renovation project. Little problem.
That was the same day the horrible tornadoes cut a swath through Nashville,
leveling most of Gallatin, a city north of us. Which meant, you guessed it,
every contractor in town was called into action to rebuild the city.

So here we are, six months later. The contractors we wanted
to work with finally had an opening. So the boys started on Monday.

And I panicked.

People who know me well know I can be hard on myself about
being a more disciplined writer. I read stories about famous authors who have
these amazing schedules, hear from people who work full time jobs so they get
up at 4:00 AM to write. There are people who have kids, which take their
attention and energy, so they’ve developed highly specialized scheduling to be
able to work.

Me, I’m a little lacking in the discipline department. I’ve
struggled with my time – tried to set apart specific hours of the day to work
on the books, tried to find time to go to the gym, which often derails my
thought process, try to write before I open my email, after I open my email,
during opening my email. I didn’t realize until my “schedule” was shattered
that I actually do have a… method. I don’t want to call it discipline, because that
connotes something too much like work. But I do have a pretty intact system for
getting the work done.

Normally, I’m late to bed and late to rise. I usually get
logged in at 9 AM, read my mail, cruise through the blogs, deal with whatever
crisis has popped up overnight (and there’s always at least one.) That takes me
to noon, when I get some tea or some food, and start writing. I’m now a 7 day a
week worker because there’s so much to do. Killer Year eats time like a
monster, the new book is at a critical stage, there were short stories commitments
to fulfill (that’s done, thank all that’s holy), blogs to write, all that good
stuff. I spend the afternoons working on the books, usually up until 7 or 8,
when hubby arrives home and we eat. We watch whatever treat is on the TiVo, then
I do email and more internet surfing until I go to bed, midnight, one AM or so.

It’s not disciplined by any means, but I still average over
1,000 words a day, so I guess I can’t complain.

So my happy schedule is all screwed up now, because the
contractors show up at the ass crack of dawn. They’re here by 7 AM, which means
I have to get up by 6:45 and do something I never do. I must put on clothes.

Yes, I’ll admit it. My office is two doors down from my
bedroom. Nine times out of ten, I’ll roll out of the bed, manage to grab my
glasses, walk down the hall and log on. When I say my morning ablutions carry
me to noon – well, I guess I have to bare all here. In truth, most days, I look
at the clock, realize it’s noon and I’m still sitting in my t-shirt. I say oh,
you’d best put some clothes on.

Whatever demons we writers pay penance to for our muse also
give us the unparalleled privilege of working in our pajamas. I wouldn’t have
it any other way. Buck the man, and all that. The problem lies in two very
sweet contractors who are doing a lovely, albeit loud, job of remodeling my
master bath. I actually have to get up and get dressed in the morning. I go
downstairs, make myself some tea, make them a pot of coffee (also not my forte,
the first day I did it their eyes bugged out and their hands shook). And I get
started a little early. It’s not perfect, but we’re managing. Of course, I’m in
a semi-coma in the mornings, but this too shall pass.

Poor me. (A brief message from the contractors – Bang, Bang,
Bang.)

Does anyone else have problems setting and keeping to a
schedule? I can’t be the only one.

Wine of the Week: I’ve been boring and staid this week, and
am sticking with a simple bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz.

For the white, an old favorite from my college days, Soave
Bolla
.  

Time To Rejoice and a Time To Weep

JT Ellison

Something
happened this week that is rare, at least to me, in the world of genre fiction.
It’s like a whisper, like a brief breeze that’s gone before you can really
acknowledge it ruffled you hair.

I was
moved to tears after reading a passage from a crime novel.

I say
this doesn’t happen often because I can count on one hand the number of times
I’ve been so moved.

There
are so many wonderful writers out there, novels that I read and enjoy, pass
along to my friends, recommend in reviews and even on this blog. There are book
that I read and finish, forgetting the story and characters the moment the
covers meet. There are books I read that aren’t so great, whose authors needed
to have more… something.

But
every once in a great while, I find myself entranced, drawn into the story,
forgetting the realities of my life – there’s no chair, no living room, no cat,
no television, no music, no walls, no storms, no deadlines. Stories with that
much power are magical. These are the authors I buy again and again.

Transcendence
isn’t an easy job for a mystery writer. There are all the pesky realities that
must be inserted into a book – the forensics, for example. Get one little thing
wrong there and you yank a reader out of the story like you’ve smacked them on
the head. There’s the story, the plot, the pace, the verbiage. You mustn’t
mislead, waylay, or otherwise trick your reader, yet you must develop a story
so complex that they are fooled into believing it’s possible.

There are
times when it’s exhausting reading other mystery and thriller writers. I
dissect, deconstruct, reword, realign, and otherwise tear apart the stories.
Just like I’m sure you all do.

So when
I find one of these peaceful moments, where the words have transcended the
page, where I’ve become so involved in the story that I FEEL what’s happening,
man, you can bet I’m going to come back for more.

This is
how I judge a book – not by its covers, but by the author’s ability to make me
a part of the story.

So who
got me so fired up this week?

Barry
Eisler
. It was a section of his 3rd Rain
novel, RAINSTORM that moved me so deeply I had to put the book down and
process. I won’t share the passage; you’ll have to get the book and see if
Eisler’s exceptional writing moves you too.

 

On a
separate note, Killer Year launched this week with big news, a new website and
a completely redesigned blog. I encourage you to stop by and see what 2007 has
to offer. We are indebted to MJ Rose and the rest of the amazing International
Thriller Writers
who have welcomed us into their folds, and overwhelmed at the
outpouring the mystery and thriller community has shown us. Thank you, from the
bottom of our killer hearts.

Wines
of the Week:

Red –
Casali de Bibbiano Casalone

White –
Pittaro Pinot Grigio

Heartbroken

The column I want to write – well, suffice it to say I’m still so ticked off about the incident that I don’t know if I can get through an entire blog without using very dirty words and having a heart attack. But I’ll try, if you’ll forgive me a lapse or two. Hey, Simon used the F-bomb (in context, of course) last week and Jeff used shit in his title…

How unladylike, to swear. I know my mother cringes every time I pop off with a charming epithet, whether she’s hearing it live or reading it on the page. Hubby has gotten used to my mouth, even adopted a few of my favorites into his repertoire.

Get me really wound up and I’ll throw unique combination of words into the naughty mix. Bat-shit is my all time favorite. Now that we have the fact that I curse like a sailor out of the way, I’ll get to the real topic.

I attended a small school in Virginia called Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. That’s right, gentle readers. This foul mouthed besom went to a nice little school where they educate girls, try to class them up and send them out into the real world with an edge of sophistication and intelligence. And it’s been working, just like that, for 115 years. Pardon me.

115 YEARS!

Okay, JT, deep breaths.

On September 9th, the board of trustees, in one of the all time brilliant moves society has ever seen, voted 25-2 to make my beloved alma mater co-educational.Mainhall_150_2

That’s right. After 115 years of proudly educating in a single-sex environment, these **^*)@% idiots decide it’s time to get progressive, work for a Global Honors program, and admit men.
Now, I could bore you with the details. Things like 90% of the students were against this action. 89% of the alumni were against this action. The monetary toll alone will result in the school having to raise tuition to, are you ready? $25,700+ per year, per student, to cover the costs that result in alumni, like myself, who pulled all their funding from the school after the vote.

Wills have been rewritten. Millions and millions of dollars in endowments revoked. They lost 5 million bucks the first day alone. All because they decided to let a few paltry boys cross the threshold into our hallowed halls? DAMN STRAIGHT!

See, R-MWC was an educational institution like no other in the country. To start with, our dorms are part of the classroom buildings. My sophomore through senior years, I lived in Main (with a brief sojourn to West Hall, which is adjacent to Main as a wing off the building), and for class, I rolled out of bed, threw the hair in a ponytail, and went to class two flights of stairs below in my boxers, sweatshirt and pearls. Half the time I didn’t need shoes, much less clothing, to get my education.

We didn’t have sororities, we had secret societies. The big difference? You didn’t get to lobby to join. If you fit the secret group’s particular mold, they came to you.

We had traditions galore — Odds and Evens, Daisy Chain, Pumpkin Parade, Ring Night, SDD.

We had professors who treated us as equals, who were just as likely to hold class in their backyard with a bottle of wine to accompany the lesson as they were to teach in the classroom.

We had an honor code that was unparalleled in the university system today. And it worked, believe me.

Our motto – Vita Abunditor – The Life More Abundant – was precisely what we as students, as women, were looking for.

Copy_of_aerial_2Another strange thing Macon had that no other school had was the ability to make a woman realize her potential. The single sex environment provoked learning. We had no competition, no distractions. We were there to learn, and learn we did. Weekends were for parties and boys. Weekdays were for school. Grand, strange concept, I know, but it worked.

So are you already seeing a couple of major problems with going co-ed? One the name of the college has to change. Randolph-Macon Woman’s College can’t be shortened to Randolph Macon, because there is already a Randolph Macon (co-ed) in Virginia. Boom – the identity of the school is GONE, right there.

Then you have the little issue of living space. I guess they will make the dorms co-ed too, which will really be interesting. Either that or they’ll have to keep the girls in Main and the boys in a separate building created solely for that purpose.

I’m beginning to rant, and I apologize. Here’s the bottom line. When I went away to school my freshman year, I went to a co-ed school. I didn’t do so well. When I was looking for a school to transfer into, Macon opened their arms to me, didn’t care that my transcript was a joke. They saw my potential. They rewarded my loyalty with an education that is truly unsurpassed. They gave me myself back, taught me new pride in my abilities, and showed me not just that I mattered, but why I mattered.

I’m sitting here typing this with tears in my eyes. In one fell swoop, 25 strangers who don’t know me, don’t know this institution, and don’t understand the ramifications of their actions have erased 3 years of my identity. My alma mater no longer exists.

In the future, when I’m asked what college I did my undergrad at, I’ll have to say the school I attended closed in 2006. And that breaks my heart. It’s not just a matter of changing the name, of allowing boys to cruise the halls. It demeans and erases 115 years of history, of the desire to be different. We chose to attend Macon, chose to be educated among the finest international coalition of female students the world had to offer. Copy_2_of_blue_ridge_3

And it’s gone.

Damn them.