Leaps in Time (and other stories)

JT Ellison

There is nothing more remarkable than the moment you realize you are no longer a struggling debut writer, but a real live working author. I’m not quite sure I’d fully grasped that concept until now, as I begin the penultimate blog before my fourth novel goes on sale.

Trust you me, when I started blogging here at Murderati on April 7, 2006, when I had an agent but no book deal, I never dreamed that I’d be at this point. I’m not being modest, I really, truly, honestly never in a million years thought that in a mere four years, I’d be doing what I’m doing.

What I’m doing is writing book six, and thinking about book seven, and getting ready for copyedits on book five, and promoting the living hell out of myself and book four, and working on three shorts for anthologies, and remodeling, remembering to breathe and beginning my foray into a bunch of foreign markets.

I am blessed.

A momentary aside: I am not kidding when I say that. I KNOW I’m blessed. Yes, I work hard, very hard. But there’s always an element of luck and timing involved in publishing, two things that have been in ready abundance for me. I don’t know why that is. I wish to God I could share it with everyone.

But that’s what happens in this crazy world. Sometimes, if you’re very good and very lucky, you get a break. Sometimes, if you’re very good and very lucky, you don’t get a break. It’s not fair. It upsets me to no end. I want everyone to be happy, published, self-sufficient. I know that’s not the case. Because there’s a downside to the good – friendships lost, sleepless nights worrying about what’s to come, the fear of a book’s complete failure. There comes a point where sharing good news can only be done with a few trusted individuals, because you don’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings with your joy.

That’s a lonely day. And it’s especially bad when you’re in the month leading up to a book release, when all you can thinking about is you and the novel and your positioning for the next interview, and you cringe knowing everyone who knows you must be sitting back and saying my God when did it become all about HER? You find out who your friends are when things are bad. You find out who your friends are when things are good, too.

But the good, it outweighs the bad. It outweighs it ten to one.

There’s a moment in the promotion schedule that I always hit – what in the world am I going to talk about with this book? I’ve been suffering with that malady tremendously with THE COLD ROOM – on its surface, it’s a novel about necrosadism, though there is so much more to it than that. There’s a secret in the book. Something that I don’t want to talk about – that’s not true, I DO want to talk about it, but I’ll ruin it for the readers if I do – so I’ve been stubbornly clinging to the mentality that I don’t have anything but that to discuss. I’ve had a horrible mental block on this, and we’re only three weeks from launch day. I have a punishing schedule of appearances and travel, and no matter what I want or don’t want, I have to talk about this book. I’ve tried to make notes, and nothing’s coming together. I am doomed.

And then my editor needed a series of questions answered for the Polish translation of ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS.

ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS? Hell, I haven’t even thought about that book for years. Literally, years. How am I supposed to think about that when I’m trying to figure out what to say about book four? And write book six? And remember to breathe?


So I got on a plane. Flew to my parents (it was a scheduled trip, but after the past month, and knowing what’s coming in the month ahead, I was really looking forward to being on a plane with no Internet for an hour and a half.)

I put on my earphones to discourage the negative Nelly next to me (note to flyers: NEVER open to your seatmate with a story about a plane crash. IT IS BAD LUCK!) settled in, and the second the bell dinged, I dove. I listened to some MUSE, some METRIC, then hit shuffle and closed my eyes. The first song that came on was Sarah McLachlan’s ANGEL.

Which is the theme song for book six.

Which I haven’t heard forever because I forgot I made it the theme song for book six.

Because I am an idiot.

And everything fell into place with one of those big huge cosmic CLICKS!

I suddenly remembered what I wanted to do with book six. I realized what I needed to talk about on the road for THE COLD ROOM. I remembered the joy and the agony of writing ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, and where I was four years ago, no deal, no books, no worries. I remembered that I have people, people who love me even when I’m being selfish, who want so much for me and put up with my nonsense.

I found my center.

I opened my Moleskine and started writing. I laid out everything I wanted to touch upon during the tour. I worked on the standalone. I worked on a short story. I made notes on THE PRETENDER. I listened to Angel over and over, and the blood, sweat and tears I’ve been putting in for the past four years just flowed onto the page.

I got off the plane feeling better than I have in months.

2009 was a rough year for many of us. Ours was particularly rough on the non-JT side of the fence, but a great one for JT. Which threw a great big rift into my ability to keep the two separate. I’ve been spinning my wheels for months now – working but not feeling wholly involved, promoting but resenting it, writing but feeling a spark missing.

That fire relit itself on the plane, because I had to think back, truly reach back in my mind, to remember something about my debut novel. I’m sitting here on my parents couch, looking at the waves, remembering how it all began.

Funny how life works, isn’t it?

Next time, I’m going to bore you to tears with all kinds of details about THE COLD ROOM. It was the most difficult book I’ve ever written for a number of reasons, and I’m ready to talk about that.

But today, let’s celebrate someone else.

My friend Carla Buckley will join the ranks of published authors for the first time on February 9, with her fantastic debut THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE. I met Carla through the ITW Debut Authors Committee, and we were fast friends right away. I am so excited that her time draws nigh, and hope you’ll welcome her with a due accord (BUY THE BOOK!!!)

Here’s the officially skinny on Carla:

Carla Buckley is the debut author of The Things That Keep Us Here (Delacorte Press, February 2010.) Orion in the UK and Wunderlich in Germany pre-empted rights to her first two novels. Carla is the Chair of the International Thriller Writers Debut Program and currently lives in Ohio with her husband and children.

A year ago, Ann and Peter Brooks were just another unhappily married couple trying—and failing—to keep their relationship together while they raised two young daughters. Now the world around them is about to be shaken again, when Peter, a university researcher, comes to a startling realization: a virulent pandemic has made the terrible leap across the ocean to America’s heartland. And it is killing fifty out of every hundred people it touches.

Food grows scarce. Neighbor turns against neighbor in grocery stores and at gas pumps. And then a winter storm strikes, and they are left huddling in the dark.

Trapped inside the house she once called home, Ann Brooks must make life-or-death decisions in an environment where opening a door to a neighbor could threaten all the things she holds dear.

Whew! That’s the way to grab our attention, Carla. Many, many congratulations!

Wine of the Week: Bogle Phantom An outstanding wine for under $20 that is full, and ripe and utterly yummy!

P.S: See how it all began! ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS is available as a free download! Stop by eHarlequin or my website to get your copy.


28 thoughts on “Leaps in Time (and other stories)

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hey JT

    I was lucky enough to read THE COLD ROOM in its early stages, and it’s a fabulous book. I know it will continue to do great things for you ;-]

    But your productivity makes me horribly aware of being non-productive – particularly in relation to one of those short stories you mentioned …

    And don’t worry about revealing the twists – in my experience, the first reviewer who posts will do that for you in spades!

    Welcome Carla! And many congratulations on your debut – it sounds an intriguing and unusual premise!

  2. Cornelia Read

    .But that’s what happens in this crazy world. Sometimes, if you’re very good and very lucky, you get a break. Sometimes, if you’re very good and very lucky, you don’t get a break. It’s not fair. It upsets me to no end. I want everyone to be happy, published, self-sufficient.

    Oh, JT, that’s it EXACTLY!

    And I’m with Zoe… your productivity makes me feel like a total slug. But what a wonderful thing about your epiphany on the plane trip. Maybe that was earned because you had to listen to the idiot plane-crash person? I would’ve slugged him/her.

    I’m rooting for you to have a wonderful time on the road with The Cold Room!!

    And welcome Carla!

  3. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    I needed your post this morning. I’m having a hard time imagining the day when all I’ll be doing is writing and marketing my books. I have to go through a hellstorm to get there. I’ve only just finished book two and from here it’s looking like a long way to book four, or five, or six. You are an inspiration, JT.

  4. JT Ellison

    Z, I don’t feel productive at all. I always feel like I should be doing more. I guess that’s what keeps me engaged, but I’m not sure if that’s a healthy way to approach life. Seeking balance is my most cherished goal – I seem to get worse at it rather than better. But I’m trying…

    Dusty, you said it. I haven’t had a new book for 13 months, so I think I forgot what it was like in the few weeks leading up to it all. Thank you for all your support – it means the world. Really. And I am coming to North Carolina – Forest City, March 5. Is that anywhere near you?

  5. JT Ellison

    Cornelia, trust me. You would have strangled this woman. She wouldn’t stop complaining. Everything was wrong. I just felt her chipping away at my armor until I got all passive aggressive with her – "But see, it all turned out just fine." "But you got to get a brand new jacket." "Southwest is always a good flight." It was driving her mad.

    Stephen, my friend – patience is a virtue. Early on, a great author gave me some advice – to keep my head up, not sweat the small stuff, and focus on writing the best books I possibly could. I know four years feels like a lifetime right now, but I promise, the hard work does pay off. It doesn’t get any easier, mind you, but it does come more naturally. And if you think I don’t look at folks like our Tess and our Allison, who have SO MANY books under their belts, with absolute utter awe… They are my inspirations.

  6. tess gerritsen

    Even after all these years, I still can’t accept the fact that I really am a working writer. Because in the back of my head, I’m always thinking that this gig can’t last.

  7. Robert Gregory Browne

    Know exactly how you feel, kiddo. I’m finishing up book six, getting ready to start book seven, have to come up with workable premises for books eight and nine and have some other irons in the fire as well.

    And, yes, a lot of it IS luck. But who on earth would’ve believed it?

    Congrats on the new release!

  8. Carla Buckley

    It’s an honor to be a part of this community. Thank you, JT, for all the ways in which you’ve supported me, and thanks to the warm welcome by all of you.

    As I look ahead to the release of my first novel, I am reminded of the sentiment recently expressed by another author who shall remain nameless (okay, Rebecca Cantrell), who was passing on the advice given to her by you, JT: now you really start running.

    I admit it. I thought I already was.

  9. Brett Battes

    Right there with you, JT. Well, not literally, though I’m sure your parents would make room for me. Edits on book five, starting books six, and even thinking about book seven. And damn glad and happy to be here.

  10. kit

    The "barbaric YAWP" in me….understands the "barbaric YAWP" in you. I’m happy you found your center.
    Welcome, Carla!

  11. Gar Anthony Haywood

    Best of luck with the new book, JT. And you couldn’t be more right about giving thanks — every day — for what you’ve got and where you are, career-wise. Take it from me, things can change pretty quickly in this business, and you don’t want to look too far ahead. Wake up every day and go, "Book contract? Check. Solid agent? Check. Adoring fans? Check. Roof over head? Check. Thank you, (God, Divine Spirit, Powers That Be, whatever)."

    That’s where I’m at. Took me a long time to get here, but I’m glad I’ve finally arrived.

  12. pari noskin taichert

    Your posts always speak straight to my heart. I’m sitting here looking at having to go back to a day job — not resenting it, but acknowledging that twists of fate sometimes don’t turn in the ways we want them to, no matter how hard we try to engineer the direction — and yet, reading your post reminded me in such a good way of my journey so far.

    Thank you.

    AND congrats on the new release!
    AND AND congrats and welcome to Carla Buckley.

  13. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Whoa, so many great things here, baby, it’s hard to even start. I’m so glad you were OPEN enough to the Universe to get the answer through "Angel" about where you are and what to talk to people about. We all spin out, so often, there is so much to juggle, all exciting and wondrous but so overwhelming, sometimes. But none of us would ever have published at all if we hadn’t had help, cosmic help, and THAT – is always available. To everyone.

    Published or not yet and anything in between.

  14. Chuck

    Hi JT:

    Very cool tour of what goes on in your mind. You have a heart. You are a good person. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and am SO HAPPY for you! Cannot wait to read The Cold Room and look forward to discussing the secret. (Great tease, BTW.)



  15. Chuck

    And by the way, last week, on a flight to San Antonio, I was so wonderfully upgraded. I had my noise cancellers on, writing, and the old man next to me waved me down mid-flight and talked to me the rest of the way. UNREAL! I guess he just couldn’t take the silence.

    But he was incredibly interesting. Who knew?

  16. JT Ellison

    Louise, my love, you are an inspiration to me every day. You personify grace. Thank you for making my heart swell.

    Tess, you’ve added the line that I was trying to get to last night and didn’t know how to word correctly. As fun as things are, there’s always this sense of how long can it last? I pinch myself every day, and hope to keep pinching for a long time, though I’m well aware that it can all end tomorrow. You just have to enjoy the ride.

    Rob, congratulations right back at you! I know how hard you work, and I admire you so much!

  17. JT Ellison

    Carla, dear, you just wait. It feels like the roller coaster is at the summit, but it’s really just left the gate.

    Brett, like Rob, you are always busting ass, and I admire the hell out of you. I love that we can look back to those first few days of breaking into this crazy business and know what blood was left on the page.

    Kit – barbaric YAWP – jeez, that’s it exactly! Well said!

    Gar, that’s the absolute truth. I learned early on that this business shifts on a dime, and you never know whether it’s going to be heads or tails. I’ve always subscribed to the belief: expect nothing, be happily surprised if you get something. And be really grateful for everything. I’m hoping this post shares some good karma with everyone.

  18. JT Ellison

    Pari, sweetie, that would be a temporary setback, because you’re just too damn talented to not be making this your whole world. It’s insane how things work – no rhyme or reason, but I truly believe the shifts in the market are temporary, and once the recession is over, ebook prices are settled and all this uncertainly is gone, there will be a massive buying spree from New York. There’s a lot of folks who are suffering right now, and I hope that the tides are turning back in your favor. xo

    Alex, cosmic help, yes and tangible help too. I have been boosted by everyone around me, especially, ESPECIALLY, everyone here at Murderati. I spend as much time working on my stuff as I do learning from all of you – and I wouldn’t be anywhere without you. So thanks, for always helping me unravel the mysteries in my own head.

    Toni, you are a doll. You’re sadly aware of what that book did to me, inside and out, and having had you to lean on was very, very precious to me.

    Chuck, my friend, I have a hard time being truly open on the page, and I so appreciate you taking my words as they were meant – as a rallying cry for us all. When you’re four years in, you and I will have a very special private laugh. And sometimes, those people are put next to us for a reason. You probably made a lonely old man’s day.

  19. Allison Brennan

    JT, what an amazing post. This business is full of ups and downs. No one is immune That I can write full-time is a true blessing, and one I hope I never take for granted. But more than anything, this business has taught me who my real friends are. Those who are happy when you succeed and don’t secretly root for you to fail; those you can talk to about anything, the good and the bad, and when you get to the bad they don’t tell you that you should just be happy with what you have.

    I am so proud of you and your books. I’m one behind, but my mom said that each of your books have gotten better and she is waiting for her pre-ordered copy of THE COLD ROOM. So am I 🙂

  20. JT Ellison

    Allison, I am, as always, humbled by your kindness. : ) Finding the people who are on your side is what this is all about – and you are the best at it. Thank you for always, always being such an encouragement!

    Pari, it will happen. I just know it.

  21. Allison Davis

    From those of us struggle in the unpublished purgatory (but happily writing away), thanks for giving us a goal.

    Today we got 60 tents to 60 kids and their families (that my sister teaches) in Jacmel Haiti with the help of a tenacious friend, a tent company, a shipping company and one of my law partners who is a pilot and heeded the call to do mercy flights to Haiti from Ft. Lauderdale all week. Luck, circumstances and the help of others.

    Just like being an author. Thanks, J.T. I’ll keep editing.

  22. Robert Gregory Browne

    Allison one of the great things to know when you’re still struggling to be published is that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US was there once. It’s only a matter of time and tenacity.

    And what you’re doing to get those tents to Haiti is amazing work. Thank you.

  23. JT Ellison

    Allison, Ditto what Rob said, on both accounts. Perseverance is key, and remembering that we all started as unpublished hopeful authors. And not that long ago, either…


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