Category Archives: JT Ellison

The Inspiration of Ozymandias

JT Ellison


by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Whew. Shelley just does it for me.

Sometimes I forget that my first love growing up was poetry.
Though I had dual majors in college, I was an English Lit major at heart.
Politics was fun, and stimulating, and, well, practical. But I reveled in the
literature coursework. Who wouldn’t – homework consisted of reading. Poetry,
the classics – my battered, dog-earned, written upon Norton’s Anthology of
English Literature was my most prized possession. It still is.

It all started with Tennyson. Alfred Lord, to be exact. Who
wouldn’t love the imagery, the absolute desolation of his powerful words?

When I was a little girl, I used to sneak into my parent’s
bookshelf and read. One of the first things I discovered was my mom’s book of
poetry. I sat on the floor on the other side of their bed, the door to the hall
half closed, blocking me from sight. I was a sneak thief, stealing little
moments of influence.

It was early on when I discovered it. The work so
compelling, so overwhelming that I snuck in the bedroom as often as I could to
read it again and again.

A fragment of a poem, bristling with promise, the glory its
very succinctness. The Eagle.

He clasps the crags with crooked hands;
Close to
the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls:
He watches from
his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt, he falls.

Sigh. What is it about this piece that devastates me so?
I’ve never really been able to put my finger on the why. But it opened the door
to who I am today. As a little girl, something in my very core shifted the day
I read this poem. I wanted to do that. I wanted to find a way to devastate a
reader. I wanted to create the words that would blow some other little girl
away. It was an epiphany. I started writing.

My parents, of course, knew I was rooting around in their
world. They never dissuaded me, only encouraged me. I think it tickled them,
their towheaded tomboy in love with words. I read everything I could, tried my
hand at writing. Found a vocation. An all-consuming vacuum to get lost in,
over, and over, and over. Words.

Quick fast forward through college. I tried my hand at the
B-school, but did horribly. The only class I succeeded in that year was
English. So I, ahem, transferred schools. But I had to take a semester off, so
I worked on a political campaign. Got bit by another bug. When I enrolled at Randolph-Macon
Woman’s College, I declared two majors, Politics and English Lit. The politics
was fun for a long time, but my romantic soul got too disillusioned to continue
in the field. Where did that leave me? Well, Norton’s Anthology was on the

Not to give anything away, but ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS has some
of my favorite poems on the pages. Just not the way you’d imagine.

Where did all this come from, you ask? Today’s Writer’s
Almanac had the poem Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Good
old Percy. Loved him. Loved Ozymandias. It made me remember the moment
in college when I read it and felt that same tingle of devastation that I’d had
so many years before when I read The Eagle. Sometimes, a short piece of
art is just as good as an ode, you know?

I read Oz today, and my heart filled up with that
indescribable love again. I forget my roots too often. I labor over my words
when I should read the Romantics – learn how to write, how to reach, how to
influence all over again.

Thanks for indulging my trip down memory lane. I think
Norton and I have a date. 

So tell me, what was your inspiration? Can you trace it to a moment in time?

Wine of the Week — For all you romantics out there —

Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Poggio all’Oro Riserva 1999

Just saying it is sexy, the wine itself is outstanding. Decant and let it breathe for at least 30 minutes.

I’ve been hopelessly discriminatory when it comes to you
white wine lovers. I’m sorry about that – white wine gives me migraines, so I
avoid it outside of baking. So, in an attempt to be fair, I will be adding a
White Wine of the Week – just realize that it’s not MY taste buds guiding the
selection, rather the taste buds and tasting menu of someone I trust.

White Wine of the Week —

Quinta da Aveleda – Aveleda Vihno Verde (Portugal)


Click on the link to see this great new issue, including my short story KILLING CAROL ANN.

We Now Return You To Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

JT Ellison

Ah, it’s September. Back to school, back to work. Back to drooling over the pen and paper selection at my local Staples. I have a serious problem when it comes to "school supplies."

I’ve usurped my original column this week to bring you up to date on
quite a few goings on. Some may wonder why I haven’t been babbling on about all
the things happening with the new book deal, given that I’m the newbie and I’m
supposed to be giving you that perspective. Thing is, it’s a quiet, long
process to get some of the formalities out of the way.

So, with some fanfare – I signed my contracts!!!

And everything is very, very real for the first time since

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been prone to bouts of grinning for
no apparent reason other than the thought crosses my mind that yes, when I say
I’m a writer and I get that inevitable question, “Oh, where can I buy your
books?” I’m now able to say with confidence, “Next November, anywhere and
everywhere.” And I’ll admit to a few moments of jig dancing these past couple of
months. Too bad I’m a lousy dancer.

Thankfully, there’s been some real work getting done amidst the playtime.

There’s lots going on behind the scenes with Killer Year,
and there’s going to be oodles to say about that later this month.

I have a new website too, thanks to my darling Hubby. If you haven’t had a chance, stop by and take a look. It needs some work, there’s a technical glitch in the software that’s being worked on so I can finish populating the links, etc. But I love it, and hope you do too!

If you really want a laugh, I’m making my appointment with a photographer for the official "Author Photo." That’s frightening in and of itself. And my new business cards arrived today. They are too cool. I’ve graduated to Overnight Prints, rather than doing it myself on the laser printer. There’s a step in the right direction for ya!

I’ve had some time off, sort of, and actually didn’t touch
the computer for two days in a row, which has to be some kind of record for me.

But what I’ve been focused on, fighting for, immersing
myself in is serious, balls to the wall writing.

The second book is halfway done, and I want to complete it
by November 1st. I have the plot for Book 3, which is stellar news
for my mind gremlins, because they can go back to worrying about other things
while I finish Book 2. I have new goals and deadlines that are mandated, and
those dates are further out, but I’m sticking to my original schedule to give
myself some breathing room in case of maiming or dismemberment, which is about
the only thing that will keep me from my deadlines.

I’ve also done some short stories, the first of which is
available now at one of the coolest new sites on the web.

MOUTH FULL OF BULLETS, a innovative ezine from the devious
mind of B.J. Bourg, is live with their Fall issue, and my flash piece THE
is up there, pretty as you please. To top it off, it’s the first time
I’ve been paid for my work. You know how businesses pin their first dollar
about the register? I’m framing the check, with B.J.’s permission, of course.

I have another coming next week, a full-length short story
called KILLING CAROL ANN, in the special fall double issue of SPINETINGLER
. My hat’s off to Sandra Ruttan and Kevin Einarson, the editors of
SPINETINGLER, for all the amazing work they are doing with this internationally
acclaimed ezine. This will be their first issue available in print too.

I’m so thrilled with the number of places where first time
writers and seasoned veterans can mingle in print. FLASHING IN THE GUTTERS is
one of my favorites, and I contribute frequently over there. DEMOLITION
is one of the strongest, tightest run ships on the net, and their
current issue is mind blowing.

There are many more, but these are markets I’ve found who
welcome newcomers, who encourage submissions, who treat their writers with
respect and are gracious in their critiques.

I highly recommend everyone do at least a flash piece this
week, support our community’s ezines.

So, now that I’m done tooting my own horn, I do hope you
enjoy the stories. Shorts for me are a way to deviate from my prescribed path,
to explore new points of view, develop new characters, exorcise demons
(literally) and generally have a good time.

I consider them brain medicine.

We’ll now return you to your regularly scheduled

So, tell me. Share with the mystery community. What have YOU been up to?

Wine of the Week: Hmmm… Hubby brought home a new varietal,
the Nero D’Avola grape, dark, luscious and very drinkable. This varietal is to
Sicily what Sangiovese grapes are to Tuscany. Here’s a couple to try.

Duca Enrico

Pasqua & Fazio "Mezzo Giorno" 1999 Nero d’Avola


GO VOLS!                                    


Keep the Faith

JT Ellison

We’ve all been there. That moment in your writing career where you ask yourself, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this? I’m not published, there’s nothing but rejection letters on the horizon, my spouse is wondering when some green will come of all this effort. I think I should move on to something else.”

DON’T!!! Don’t give up. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep the faith. If it happened for me, it will happen for you.

I’ve had that moment twice in the past three years. One was at the very beginning of my writing career. I had written half of a manuscript. Things weren’t going well. I had 20,000 words, nothing to do with them, no real direction. Then two things happened.

One, my contact in Metro Homicide offered to look at what I’d written and give me some feedback. He did, and he called me and told me it was really good stuff. Very realistic. WHOA, NELLY! A homicide detective thinks my work is realistic? He likes my characters? Well, maybe I need to give this a second thought.

The second was something much more ephemeral, ridiculous, really. I was reading one of my magazines (I’m addicted to magazines, by the way. I have three that I’m religious about – People, for the book reviews, Elle, for the fashion and the book reviews, and Architectural Digest. Random compilation, I know, but hey, my tastes range.)

So I’m reading Elle, and at the end of the magazine there’s the astrology and numerology section. Now, I’m not a big believer in all that. But I read them anyway, just because sometimes it’s fun.

My numerology number is 7. I flipped open the page, went to my entry and saw this:

"It’s time to come out of hibernation and reconnect with the world. You are prepared and armed for battle, and finally have an opportunity to put months of study and hard work to the test. Don’t allow fear of failure to inhibit you. This month is like one long “now or never” moment. Stand up and be counted. Allow your very real power and determination to vanquish any nagging insecurities. You must stop containing your potential. Now is the time to express it."

Wow. If that wasn’t the most timely kick in the butt. Here I was, doubting myself, doubting my ability to continue writing my first book, and I read that. It was exactly what I needed to hear (read) at the exact right moment. I decided that I needed to take this anonymous, non-personal advice, apply it, and quit whining. I finished the book. It was more of a novella, and it was terrible. But it had sparks of promise, which I’ve talked about in past posts.

Should I credit a numerology column for helping my career? Not in so many ways. What I believe happened was someone told me I was going to make it. Now, I have no idea who that someone is. I’m not a practitioner, I’m sure that this person who writes these entries has a fascinating background that led to doing numerology for a woman’s fashion magazine. But whoever it was, I need to say thank you. Thank you for reminding me to keep the faith.

So, in a much less personal manner, that’s what I’m telling you. Keep the faith. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. If you think you’re a nobody, so will everyone else. If you treat yourself and your writing career with the respect you deserve, others will too. This is a difficult profession. You aren’t alone when you wonder why you’re putting yourself through the aches and pains of writing novels, or short stories, or articles, and getting them published. But if you keep the faith, keep plugging, keep writing and submitting and believe in yourself, and your abilities, the opportunities will come.

When was that second moment, you ask? Right before I landed my deal. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

Wine of the Week – D’Arenberg “The Footbolt” McLaren Vale Shiraz, South Australia


JT Ellison

I’ve sprained my ankle.

No, don’t all of you send flowers at once. (I like roses and
red gerber daisies, by the way…)

Seems like an innocuous little injury. When I was on the
track team in high school, sprains, aches, pains, torn muscles, skinned knees –
all that was a daily occurrence, nothing to give a second thought to. You iced,
then you taped, and you went on with the show.

But now, well, I’m in actually pain. I’ve got it wrapped, I
have it elevated, I’ve taken some Advil, but that nagging soreness won’t go
away. From hobbling around, the head of my left quadricep muscle is inflamed,
moving into my hip flexor, so now my entire leg hurts. We won’t go into the
visions of blood clots and strokes (hypochondria, anyone?)

And all this got me thinking about my characters, and
readers perceptions of characters.

A while back, a thread appeared on DorothyL about characters
being sick. One or two people got exceptionally vocal about it too, asserting
they hated when a character catches a cold, or hurts themselves. Now, in my
first manuscript, my character had a cold that progressed into a sinus
infection. But here in Tennessee, that’s something that happens to EVERYONE.
The doctors have an esoteric label for it, something not just anyone would have
thought of. The Tennessee Crud.

You catch the Tennessee Crud about twice a year. The docs
shoot you full of Cortisone, give you a Z-pak, Musinex, and some of that nifty
cough medicine with codeine in it, then send you on your way.

Being a relatively naïve young writer, I felt that adding a
bit of realism to my novel was a good thing. So I wrote the Tennessee Crud in,
giving it to my main character, homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson, who despite
feeling like absolute sh*t, must work to solve the murders. Serial Killers
don’t seem to care if you have a cold, they just want to make their next kill
and move on with the story.

Apparently, that wasn’t such a good idea. Readers, at least
those who took the time to chime in, HATE when a character falls ill. As they
do street directions, but that’s a whole different beast.

Now, that book isn’t getting published, so I don’t have to
worry about offending any readers. But the dichotomy surprised me. While it
wasn’t a big deal to many readers, to some, it was downright offensive.

I’m curious what the reasoning is behind this feeling. Is it
that you want a main character who’s strong and virile? Is it annoying to be
reminded of your own failings and weaknesses?

As I sit here, nursing my own aches and pains, I think of
poor Taylor, who suffered so mightily (and for no reason) with her cold in the
first book, and feel a little closer to her because she isn’t infallible.

So tell me, what do you think? Can a character’s humanness
get in the way of the story?

Wine of the Week: This wine blew me away. It’s called Taltarni Shiraz, from Australia.
Rich, fruity, beautiful. Highly recommended.
And since Hubby and I will celebrate our 11th anniversary tomorrow, how about some celebration wine? Piper-Heidsieck

Changes in Latitude…

JT Ellison


I’m away from home this week, visiting family in Colorado. I’m trying to work. I’m sitting on the deck, trying desperately to hit that magic 1,000 word a day vacation goal. I’m pecking away at the keyboard of my laptop, and I can’t concentrate.

It is just so beautiful here.


Img_0225_3 Img_0223


This is my home, where I spent my formative years. All of my firsts happened in this area. I learned to golf, and swim, and play tennis, and ski here. I learned to drive, had my first kiss, lost a close friend to suicide. I spent all of my time out of doors, leaving the house first thing in the morning and not returning until the gloaming. There were three of us in kindergarten, and it wasn’t until second grade that they decided to bus in some kids from neighboring areas, so we weren’t alone.

I learned to drive, to dream, to work. I fell in and out of love with my brother’s friends. I snuck off into the red rocks with a couple of friends to smoke cigarettes; we discovered dinosaur tracks in the rocks. I was isolated by geography, yet lived the fullest possible life that a child could lead.


These are often melancholy memories, for I left this area under extreme duress when I was a teenager. My parents moved us to Washington, D.C., someplace I had absolutely no interest in going to. I cried for a year. I left every part of me behind. For many unfortunate years, I believed I left the best parts of me behind.

This area is so fraught with emotion, with memories, that I can’t seem to work on the new book. From an objective sense, the beauty of the area overwhelms me. But what’s really happening is everywhere I look, I see the ghost of a smaller me, sniffing the bark of the pine trees trying to decide if the scent is chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. (Don’t believe me? Try it.)

I am so inextricably linked to these woods, these rocks, the greens, blues, blacks and browns, the deer and bear, that I can’t seem to keep Nashville and Taylor Jackson, my protagonist, foremost in my mind.

I’ve settled for writing some short stories. The tenor is completely different from some of my earlier work. It’s moody, and atmospheric, and I’m finding new expressions to illustrate my surroundings. I think once I’m back home, in my office, staring at the river birch outside my window, I’ll be able to refocus on Nashville, and killers, and homicide lieutenants.

This does not bode well for the lifelong dream – the house in Tuscany half the year to write, write, write.


In the meantime, I want to watch the black storm clouds lurk over the jade and stone mountains. I want to smell the sparkling air, tinged with the scent of wet asphalt, moldy leaves and the barest hint of skunk. I want to laugh at the antics of the towhees, scratching for dinner in the scrub oak.

I want to watch the golfers stream in off the course, shouting admirations to one another as they come in to the 19th hole for a post-round drink.

I want to watch the deer wander through the backyard, stopping at the birdbath for a quenching draught of water. They all seem to have had twins this year, so Bambi keeps interrupting my thoughts. (As does Jetta the Wonderdog.) They’re all adorable.


Each time I return, I realize that I didn’t leave the best parts of me behind, but stamped my imprint on the area in such a palpable yet subtle way that I will always feel like I’ve come home.

It’s okay that I can’t work on the book. There are other avenues to explore, other stories to put on paper. I hope to take it home with me, this texture and depth. For today though, this setting is just one spark that I will use to write something… different.

Wine of the Week — L de Lyeth Merlot



The Power of Critique Groups

JT Ellison


Forgive me while I wax poetic. I have an amazing critique group. We even have a name – The Bodacious Music City Wordsmiths. BMW’s for short. This compilation of writers range from New York published authors to independently published authors to short story authors to authors whose first books aren’t out yet to unpublished authors. There’s one key ingredient that brings us together. We all love to write, and that respect carries over into our WIPs (works in progress).

Critique groups catch a lot of flak. Let me tell you, finding a good one takes time and effort, but a good critique group is worth its weight in gold.

When I was invited to join the BMW’s, I was thrilled and scared. I’d just come out of a different critique group, one that had really cooled my jets on having a group of people review my work. And I’d never even given them my work to critique.

We had a tyrannical leader who was really harsh, and not shy in his views. If things didn’t match what he thought they should, he harangued and brow beat the issue. He wasn’t critiquing, he was being critical. There’s a HUGE difference. Feelings got hurt, people lost interest, and we were over before we even began. It wasn’t the greatest experience, and I was a little leery about joining another. But I knew that I needed some outside input on my work, so I agreed to come to a meeting.

I was hooked from moment one.

All critique groups are set up in different ways, but the gist is you bring your pages, read them aloud and the group, obviously, critiques your work. In the BMW’s we bring 10 pages. Each person reads their work, then it’s a free-for-all. Likes, dislikes, comma splices, misused words, too much sex, too little sex, too many F-Bombs, your character is doing something unbelievable, your setting doesn’t work. Anything and everything is fair game. Sounds rough, doesn’t it?

The reason it works is that we all genuinely care about helping each other become better writers. Egos are checked at the door. Personal feelings are checked at the door. We’re all friends and there’s no need to worry that we’re going to hurt someone’s feelings because we find ways to work together for solutions to problems. That’s the key ingredient to any good group. Feel free to point out the glaring errors, just have a suggestion for how to make it better.

For me, the group has brought me out of my shell. When I first started with them, I could barely read my work aloud. It was mortifying. But a great lesson for the future. And now I look forward to my twice monthly meetings. They keep me focused on my work. I know that I’m required to show up with ten new pages every two weeks, and let me tell you, that keeps your nose to the grindstone.

I’ve asked my fellow BMW’s a question. What’s the most important thing you get out of the BWs and critique groups in general. Here’s some of the answers:

· Alternate perspective. Like most people, I haven’t always written what I think. The group sees what’s on paper, not what I was thinking.

· Besides heads-up help, shared knowledge.

For me, I find that I get such a sense of camaraderie from my group. Knowing I’m not the only one having issues and eureka moments really helps me engage. Whether you’re a new writer or an old hat, a critique group can help your writing improve.

Have any critique group suggestions/stories to share? Please post them in our comment section!!!

Wine of the Week – A very fine wine — Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon



Tomorrow’s ON THE BUBBLE will have ANOTHER phenomenal guest. Last week’s interview was  Tess Gerritsen. Who will Elaine pull out of her hat tomorrow? Stay tuned to see…

Terror in Music City

JT Ellison

No, not that kind of terror.

The terror that comes from facing an unknown. The terror of
speaking in public. The terror that precedes my very first public appearance on
the teaching side of a panel at a writer’s conference. It happens tomorrow, and
I’m scared to death.

Saturday, August 4, 2006 marks the very first writer’s
conference where I’ll be facing an audience. It’s called Murder in Music City and is
sponsored by the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. The goal is
to help aspiring authors gain knowledge and skills to assist in the journey
toward publication. And somehow, someone thought that I’d be a good person to
have for this.

What were they thinking? What was I thinking to agree?????

Okay, true confessions time. I have a little public speaking
fear. In graduate school, we had to get up in front of a class and a video
camera and do a 30 second political spot we’d written. Writing the copy was a
no brainer. But as I watched my classmates parade, one by one, up to the
podium, launch into their campaign ads, my palms started to sweat. My head
started to hurt. By the time it was my turn, I was feeling a little panicky. I
got up in front of the group, the light of the camera went on, and I FROZE.
Heart in my throat, black spots in front of my eyes, the works. I took a couple
of shallow breaths, mumbled my way through and got the hell out of there. Hubby
was there (boyfriend at the time) and he was shocked. Here I was, this well put
together woman who could jaw with Senators and Congressmen all night, but a
little 30 second camera spot unglued me. He should have run then.

I’ve been worried about this for a while. What in the hell
am I going to do in front of an audience now? I’ll tell you. I’m going to
panic. I may not show it, but my heart will be racing, I’ll stumble over my
words – in short, it’s not going to be pretty.

Facing an audience is the one thing I didn’t sign up for
when I decided to become a full time writer. I love my computer, my desk,
email, the phone. I love critique groups, going to Sisters in Crime meetings.
Hell, I had a ball at ThrillerFest (with a little help from my little friend
for the first couple of days, if you know what I mean). Just don’t ask me to
speak to the group.

So I’ve been fretting for a solid year about this moment. I
know myself, once I get used to it, I’ll be fine. Practice makes perfect, all
that good stuff. It’s the initial events that are going to be rough. I’m never
going to have the style and panache of J.A. Konrath, who can crash a meeting of
Sisters in Crime Middle TN Chapter and talk for an hour, off the cuff, about
his long road getting published. I’m never going to have the charm and grace of
a Tasha Alexander, who captivated an audience I was in for an hour. We wanted more.
I’ll never have the laconic coolness of Lee Child, the off the cuff humor of
John Connolly, the gravitas of Jan Burke. I don’t even worry about that,
really. Why set yourself up for failure, you know?

So here’s the set up. I was supposed to be on a panel with
several other SEMWA mystery writers. A bit panic inducing, but my most
excellent friend, JB Thompson, was tapped to moderate. I knew I could manage
that. I talked myself through it and knew I would ultimately be okay.

The there was a schedule change. And don’t get me wrong, I’m
thrilled about this, just a wee bit nervous. The esteemed P.J. Parrish (the
Kelly Nichols half) is the headliner, doing a presentation on writing
thrillers. The powers that be decided that I’d fit better with her, an old pro
v. new kid on the block set-up. So it’s the two of us, with a killer PowerPoint
presentation, in front of the audience, for 90 minutes.

Can you say stomach cramps?

I’m going overboard here. I’ve never met Kelly but have
heard amazingly wonderful stories about both her and her sister, Kristy. She
has been so gracious, forthcoming and damn helpful getting this presentation
together. She’s a cool cucumber, has done this a million times, and will
certainly be able to cover any flubs I might make. Personally, I plan to sit
back, click the mouse to change slides and pray no one knows I’m there. Vanna White, anyone?

If you’ve met me, you might not believe this deep rooted
fear is possible. I’m a bit chatty, actually. I enjoy meeting new people. I’m
generally a pretty outgoing, laid back kind of girl. It’s the audience that
scares me.

So I have a favor to ask, my fellow scribes and readers. Can
you share some embarrassing moments you’ve had or witnessed? Please tell me I’m
not the only one who’s ever had this mind numbing feeling, and I’ll go into
tomorrow with my head held high.

And a plastic bucket under the table, just in case.

Wine of the Week: Red Guitar Navarro Tempranillo Garnacha


P.S. For yet another chance to see me flub my lines, KillerNashville is just around the corner, September 15-16. If you’re in the Southeast and want a great conference to attend close to home, come check it out. Click here for more information.

BIG P.P.S. Just found out one of my most favorite authors will be the special guest ON THE BUBBLE tomorrow. You DON’T want to miss her. Hints? NEVER! You must come back in the morning for your treat.

Beach Reads

JT Ellison

I’m on a “working vacation,” which means I’m trying to get work done on the new book, casually read email and blogs, but also try to rest and catch up on reading. Hubby and I are sunburned, tired, have eaten some great food, and feel nice and relaxed.

More importantly, I’ve achieved the daily word count (and then some) and have read. A lot. So instead of an essay, I thought I’d share some of the books I plowed through this week.

RUSTY NAIL –  J.A. Konrath

Review to appear at Reviewing The Evidence

I was really looking forward to reading this book. I enjoy the Jack Daniels series, but to be honest, someone piqued my interest in this book a while ago. A friend whose opinion I trust had mixed emotions about the book, mostly due to the exceptionally graphic nature of the crimes committed. That made me want to read it immediately – face it, I’m a controversy hound. I see what she’s saying, the crime scenes are a little over the top, but the storytelling is solid, the criminals creepy and the laughs off the hook. Konrath captures morbid cop humor so well, and in RUSTY NAIL I think he made a leap past the simple “joking” and plugged into true human nature.  

THE HARROWING – Alexandra Sokoloff

Review to appear at Reviewing The Evidence

Another book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on, especially after meeting Alex Sokoloff at ThrillerFest. What a woman, and what a book. THE HARROWING is Sokoloff’s debut, too, which has me jumping for joy in anticipation of her fiction career. The book reads fast, is dense and atmospheric and is so realistic that I felt like I was at Baird, in Mendelhall, with the ghost. THE HARROWING comes out in September from St. Martin’s, so put it on your TBR lists.

WHISPERS – Lisa Jackson

I must declare this book the perfect beach read. It goes fast, the characters are engaging, the men by turns handsome, bad and cruel, the women intelligent but capable of making mistakes. It’s romantic suspense, but not at all fluffy. Jackson’s deft touch weaves the stories of three privileged sisters in Oregon and it had me captivated all day.

THE LINCOLN LAWYER – Michael Connelly

This one needs no introduction. A great read, solid writing — Connelly always does it up right.



Review to appear at Reviewing The Evidence

SHOTGUN OPERA — Victor Gischler

Review to appear at Reviewing The Evidence

What are your favorite beach reads? Is there a particular author that you hold out for?

Wine of the Week – Ah heck, forget the wine, we’re at the beach. Let’s have a couple of peach daiquiris, a frozen margarita and call it a day. (Though they sell decent wine in the grocery stores here and I did pick up a nice Chianti…)

That Magic Moment…

To start with, today one of you will be our 25,000th
. So let me say a big THANK YOU! to all of our readers. And
indulge me for a moment while I thank my fellow Murderati – Pari, Deni, Naomi, Simon, Elaine and Jeff,
who bring so much to this blog, day after day, constantly writing ingenious,
inventive and informative posts. Bravo, blogmates!

The success of Murderati became a launching pad of sorts for
me. As I developed confidence in my essay abilities (I still feel they are
woefully lacking, just look at Pari‘s  and Naomi’s posts this week to see why) I starting venturing into areas where I wasn’t as
comfortable. I don’t have the expertise that my blog mates bring to the table.
Let’s face it, I won’t even be in print until late next year. As a result, I’m
finding that my blog entries are becoming more of a journal for what’s
happening that week in my writing process.

When I started with Murderati back on April 7th, I had no idea what
was coming down the train tracks. I was struggling, trying to figure out the system, doing
this blog, gleaning as much information as I could from my fellow writers,
working on short stories, getting my name out, doing all the things I told all
of you to do in my first column.

Then the world exploded. My agent took my manuscript out, I
signed with MIRA, got involved with KillerYear, and went to ThrillerFest, all
in a brief two-month period.

Things are getting back to normal now. I’m beginning to
catch my breath. I actually go for long stretches at a time not thinking about
the fact that I’m finally realizing my dreams of being published. The summer
stretches before me. I haven’t received my edits on ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, so
I’m moving forward on my next book.

There are moments when I’m working on a book, mile markers,
if you will, that let me know how well I’m doing. My first major hurdle is the
20,000 word count. Until a new manuscript hits that point, it doesn’t feel like
it’s ever going to be a real book. I broke 20K yesterday, so now I’m 80 pages
into my 350 page journey and feeling like maybe, just maybe, I can salvage a
book from this mess. My next big goal is the 100 page mark. Then I’ll feel like
something substantial has been accomplished.

By setting and achieving small goals, I find that writing a
book is that much easier. I try for 1,000 words a day. Sometimes I get on a
roll and write 3000. Some days I struggle getting 500 down. But I continue to
slog away, day after day, trying to just get the story down and not worrying as
much about the perfect turn of phrase, or whether I’ve tied up that loose end.
It’s the best advice I can give. Just get the story down. A draft is called
that for a reason.

I love the moment that first draft is finished. It’s a time
for celebration, to treat myself with something, a new book, an afternoon off.
Because rewriting and editing are a lot easier than getting the story down in
the first place.

Let me suggest something for anyone who struggles with
getting that manuscript finished. There’s a contest in November called
NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Go to the
site. Think about the goal – 50,000 words in 30 days. Think that’s impossible?
It’s only 2600 words a day. The goal is to write. Write, write, write, like your
hair is on fire. No looking back, no worrying about style, voice or point of
view. That’s all for your rewrite. It’s a great exercise in getting something
major done on your manuscript.

Start now. Think about what you’re going to write, how the
story will go, who your characters are, and when November 1st rolls
around, go for it. You have absolutely nothing to lose!

A Late PS: Jason Pinter has an excellent Do/Don’t list at his blog today — Check it out…

Wine of the Week: I discovered a new varietal this week that
I really enjoyed and plan to add to the meager collection. It’s a Greek based
Italian red grape called Aglianico, (ahn-LAHN-ico) from the Basilicata region. Try the Ars Poetica Vulcano, or the Re
Manfredi Aglianico del Vulture

On Magpies and Fireflies – Impressions from ThrillerFest

Much has been said about ThrillerFest this week, so I won’t
recap the fun stuff here. But there is something that I took away from my first
major conference. There are a lot of very impressive writers out there. And
they all congregated in Phoenix this past weekend.

May I offer you a slice of humble pie?

Seriously, there is nothing more exciting that spending time
with the heavy hitters of your genre. Hence the Magpie/Firefly reference. I’m borrowing the phrasing from the wonderful John Connolly, who once described writers as like magpies,
easily distracted by shiny objects. And Fireflies flit and flut, dancing their
way around almost carelessly. That’s how I felt all weekend. So much to see, so
much to do, so many people to meet. I was all over the place because there
wasn’t enough time to do and see it all and meet everyone I wanted to meet.

Getting ready for and attending ThrillerFest was like
getting backstage passes to your most favorite band. Say you’re a fan of AC/DC.
You’d do anything to go to the concert, much less sit down with the band
members for four days, partying, learning new chords, watching them work their
magic. Yeah, it was like that.

Actually, the entire event felt like a rock concert to me.
You see that your band is coming, you wait for the tickets going on sale, you
buy said tickets and the anticipatory rush is on. As the day draws closer, you
play the CD’s over and over, gearing up.

You arrive at the concert and there’s this pulsing mass
of humanity, hundreds if not thousands of people JUST LIKE YOU, people who have
been sitting at home, playing the CD’s and wanting this for the past few

The room lights go down, the air is thick with adrenaline.
The stage lights flicker, then go dark and the band takes the stage to the
whoops and sheer madness of the crowd. The band plays their set, the level of
intensity building to a climax that leaves you breathless.

Take away the loud, frantic noise, tight t-shirts and jeans,
drunkenness (no, put that back in) and keep that level of intensity and
enthusiasm. That’s what my ThrillerFest experience felt like.

If anyone ever again asks if going to a conference is worth
the time, money and effort, I will always say yes.

Not only did I get to meet many of the writers I consider my
literary favorites (Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, Jim Born, Allison Brennan, Alex Kava, Erica
, well, I could go on and on with that), I made new friends. I met
several of my KillerYear classmates. I met writers I’ve read, writers I haven’t
read, writers who were funny, writers who were witty, writers who are major
successes, writers who struggle and a lot of great reviewers.


  1. Writers write.

That may sound flip, but I’m dead
serious. Let me give you a little example. I had dinner with Heather Graham and her
husband Dennis (Thanks, MIRA!). Heather’s career is really missing a beat,
she’s only written 127 books. Let me repeat myself. 127 BOOKS. I’ve
written 2. And the first didn’t sell. There’s nothing like being around people
who do this for a living to make you go, Oh.

So I’ll say it again, and it’s the
most important lesson I took away from the conference.

Writers write. They don’t him and
haw, don’t “walk the dog” for days on end. The don’t get themselves so wrapped
up in blogs and emails and distractions that they find two weeks going by
without a single word written. When you have 4 books coming out a year, you sit
your ass in the chair and write the books. Heck, if you’ve got one book coming
out a year, you sit your ass in the chair and write. Period. End of discussion.

  1. There is always someone who knows more than you do about writing and publishing.

Seriously, these writers have sold
over 1 billion copies of their books. That’s a lot of writing. Can you believe
I’m sitting here trying to figure out the word count for that? If my math is
right, (I don’t do math. That’s why I became a writer) given the assumption
that each book averages 100,000 words, that comes to approximately 100 trillion
words. Crap.

So basically, as a newly published
author, you’re in the room with people who’ve forgotten more words per capita
than you will ever think, much less write. Pretty humbling. Plus each one has
been through what you’re going through; they have all navigated the proverbial

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Buy drinks if necessary. Writers
with two or three or one hundred books know more than you. Remember that, and
be appropriately in awe.

  1. Connections are the name of the game.

I’m blessed that while I start off
shy, I can have fun by myself in a paper bag and have intelligent conversation
with walls. Letting shy get in the way of having a good time is the curse of
the modern writer. Tess Gerritsen is shy (don’t believe me? Read her
blog) and she comes to the conferences and
acquits herself quite well. If you worked at a company and went to the office
everyday, you’d find yourself with friends over time. Go to a conference and
within 2 hours you’ll have met five people who want to share your Xanax, within
5 hours you’ll be happily arm in arm, singing show tunes. Okay, I’m
exaggerating. But reviewers are real people. Major A-list writers are real
people. Editor and agents are real people (Hell, Bob Diforio can get jiggy with the best
of them). See where I’m going? I was so scared going in, and it was just a
silly fear of the unknown.

Here’s the most important
realization that I had this weekend…

4. No matter how big and
important or small and unimportant, we’re all in this together
. Big name
writers get those twinges of self-doubt when they sit down to their computers
just like Newbies. The reason they broke through is a certain je ne sais quoi,
a desire to explore new worlds, to share their magnificent brains with the rest
of us, to entertain, to teach, to amuse and enlighten. And they have AIC
syndrome. Ass. In. Chair.

Guess what? You can do it too! Put
away that shyness, put aside the procrastination. Write like there’s no
tomorrow, then make the reservations and go spend three glorious days with
people who think just like you do.

Wine of the Week — Domaine Des Espiers Côtes du Rhône