The Absconding Pen, And Other Tour Stories

by JT Ellison

Well, hi! Happy Friday the 13! Long time no blog, I know. I've missed y'all, so forgive me if this is more chatty than educational today.

I've been facing an interesting challenge, a book due March 1, and promotion to do for my January book. JUDAS KISS got moved up in the publication schedule, which is why I've been put in this position of having to cut back on some of my non-writing work in order to make my deadline. And I received copyedits last week for my September book, so it really was the perfect storm. I've got a handle on it all now (she says, with a quick look heavenward) and feel like things are calming down a bit. No travel for three weeks, so I'm breathing a sigh of relief.

I've also decided to do no promotion AT ALL from June-August, to give myself real time to get a chunk of my March 2010 book done so I won't find myself in this predicament again.

Right before Christmas, I instituted a new writing pattern, and I promised to report on how it's working. In a word, it's not. I read all the time management books, built a beautiful color-coded time map, put it in my notebook as a reminder, and proceeded to never follow it. Not even for one day.

My natural circadian rhythms don't work in the way I wanted for my new writing schedule, which was to get up and start my fiction immediately. I am simply not a morning person. I hit my stride around 3 in the afternoon. Once I abandoned the new method and returned to my 12-4 schedule, my word count shot up. So, chalk that up to a lesson learned. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, no matter how pretty and shiny the new methods seem.

What my adventure in time management DID do was help me prioritize my non-writing time in the mornings. I'm no longer losing writing days because I'm dealing with the Internet. My email is under control, Facebook is limited to marketing, a once or twice a day gander at status updates and a firm hand on the "Ignore All" button when it comes to invitations, drink requests, fairies and the like. It's liberating, I'll tell you that. I feel much more settled with my writing. My To Do list is consistently getting dealt with and I don't feel that clawing sense of guilt when I'm not writing. I've even gotten my reading back on track (which is probably a major reason my writing is going better.)

One of the things I heartily believe in is rewarding yourself when you accomplish your goals – major and minor. My latest little reward (for a three day turnaround on a full edit of Edge of Black, natch) was a beautiful, shiny rollerball pen to take on tour with me. I love fancy pens, and I have a gorgeous Mont Blanc that I adore. But I'm scared to death to take it on the road with me for fear of losing it. Which is kind of silly, because I never lose anything. I'm so good about that. I'm still wearing a ring I bought in Hawaii when I was 15. I've only lost one earring, (that was a function of the idiot I loaned it to in a parking lot to pierce his ear dropping it in the gravel. It ws my favorite diamond stud, too. Who's the idiot?) I have a twenty-year-old watch, a twenty-year-old Mont Blanc, and a seventeen-year-old truck. Oh, and a fourteen-year-old marraige, so I haven't lost him either ; )

So I tapped my Levenger coupons and ended up with a hot pink True Writer for $29.99. 

Pink Pen

I never in a million years expected to like a pink pen. It's just so not me. But the price was right, and I felt like if I ended up not liking it, I wouldn't have lost too much. When it arrived, I was shocked. It's beautiful. Darker than it looks in the picture, just the right weight for my hand. I also bought the rollerball refills with gave me some felt tips to put in it which work better than Sharpies on the signing pages because they don't bleed through. HEAVEN! I loved it so much, I decided to get another. One for home, to attach to my Circa and Moleskine, the other to travel with me. And if I lost it, I'd have a back up. But losing it wasn't going to happen – my goodness, I have a track record with objects. I have rollerballs from Staples that have traveled all over the world, literally, and made it home safe. An expensive pen that I'm really paying attention to is safe as kittens.

So the first pink pen went with me to Florida and Illinois, happily tucked into my bags. My pen loved me. I could tell. She was always ready to be opened, begging to come out of my bags to be shown off, the ink rolling smoothly out onto the page, the screw cap never getting dislodged. People commented on my pretty pink pen, teased me for being finicky and using it instead of pens provided for my signings, then oohing when they received the signed copy with the flourished signature. My pen and I were one.

Until the bitch absconded in Chicago, running away from home with a glee I can say still smarts. 

I've searched high and low, retraced my steps, talked to every restaurant and hotel and bar manager where I sat on Saturday night, but she is well and truly gone. I ordered her replacement, which arrived today. From now on, she'll travel in her box instead of in my bag.

Don't think I'm crazy, but all of my inanimate objects are male. My car, my iPhone, my laptop. They're usually termed "Baby," and I identify them with a male entity. Wiccans and Pagans worship the God and the Goddess, so I guess my stuff is all associated with the God. But my pen was a girl, a Goddess, all the way. Figures it was a woman who'd have her own mind and refuse to be controlled.

Aside from the trauma of losing my pen, I had more random craziness over the weekend. I somehow managed to drop a carton of honey into my bag, which spread through the center pocket, got all over the case for Randy's Eee and coated my boarding pass with sticky goodness. I'm covered in bruises from a graceful trip Saturday morning trying to get up from the lunch table. I forgot to bring my postcards to the group signing, never a good thing. Southwest was overbooked on all five flights from Midway to Nashville, which stranded Randy and I at the airport for five hours. It was chaos, all weekend, all the time. I'm just lucky I didn't tip over the exceptionally cool glass decanter at Cooper's Hawk Saturday night – breaking expensive glass would have made my weekend complete. I don't think I've ever been so relieved to get home.

And now you know why my mother calls me Grace.

Regardless, the best part of touring is connecting with people. I've done nine or so events for JUDAS KISS, from Tennessee to Texas to Florida to Illinois, and they've all been wonderful. Love is Murder in Chicago was a fun conference, and I saw a lot of old friends. I also FINALLY met Bryon Quertermous, who is one of the nicest people in publishing, and the man who published my first short story, effectively kicking off my writing career. Thanks Q, for giving me a chance and being so cool.

So, that's the wrap up. To list everyone I've seen over the past two months would take all day, but you know who you are. I enjoyed it all – giggling in hotel rooms over cheesecake with my dear fellow blonde Laura Benedict, GPS tracking with Erica Spindler and CJ Lyons, dinner with Shane Gericke, the bestseller lists, the private dinner in Dallas, the surprise visit from my cousins in Houston, Sherlock's and Davis Kidd and Murder by the Book, the media, the signings, the panels. We'll do it again in September, me and Pretty Pink Pen 2.

But if this one runs away, I'm going back to the $2 pens from Staples.

Do you have a treasured artifact in your life?

Wine of the Week: 1991 La Cave Caluso Passito

This was a very different wine. It's technically a white, though it tastes like port flavored with the tiniest hint of wild apples. It's a lovely amber color too, definitely an unexpected taste. It comes from the Erbaluce grape, grown primarily in the Piedmont region of Italy, which is where my family still resides, so it was a very special bottle of wine for me. Drink after dinner as a treat, with fresh fruit or chocolate.

With my apologies for being a week late, the winners of CJ LYON'S contest for a copy of LIFELINES: Rashda, Debbie K. and Kelly Stone. Please contact CJ directly with your snail mail address. CJ at CJLyons dot net.

20 thoughts on “The Absconding Pen, And Other Tour Stories

  1. J.D. Rhoades

    Heh. it was great seeing you and Randy this past weekend, JT. Thanks for everything, especially all the support Saturday night.

    My treasured artifact would probably be my Alvarez guitar. It’s doesn’t have the built in cachet as the Martin, the sound’s not as rich and complex, and it’s got a few dings in the finish, but I can tell you where every one of those dings came from, and the wear on the frets is all from my very own fingers. I honestly can’t remember how long I’ve had it. It’s at least fifteen years. It just seems like it’s always been there by the bed.

  2. B.G. Ritts

    Ahhh, Levenger (‘insert superlative of choice’ catalog) — where my writing implement collecting phase started. That was supplanted by my discovery of Zuni fetishes, but not before I acquired well over a dozen pens, all lovely to look at and hold.

    I believe the idea is supposed to be that inexpensive pencils and pens disappear easily because they all look alike, but a fine instrument doesn’t because everyone knows to whom it belongs. I’ve had a mint green, fine mechanical pencil for well over 30 years. No matter where I’ve worked, it always made it’s way back to me if I left it somewhere. (Now that I’m not working in an office any more, I can’t find where I’ve left in my house.)

    “…a treasured artifact…”

    Yes, but only the bottom of a once magnificent cut crystal vase of my grandmother’s. To keep it out of the way of my cats, I had placed it on top of my china closet. Unfortunately, one of the cats decided that was a good place to be and one day I heard a loud shattering noise. The vase was in a million pieces on the floor, but the base was left intact. I still have it, and had kept the other pieces for a long, long time before realizing they were never going to be put back together. This happened over 15 years ago, and I still remember sitting there on the floor, in tears, for an extended length of time.

  3. Louise Ure

    My treasured object was the diamond solitaire from my engagement ring. It fell out of the setting in a taxi in Sydney, and that sweet cabby pulled to the side of the road, yanked out the entire backseat and searched the car until he found it.

  4. R.J. Mangahas

    Great to have you back here, JT. It sounds like quite a tour you were on.

    Treasured artifact, huh? I wouldn’t call it an “artifact” per say, but it’s certainly a prized possession, and it has a great story to boot.

    About a year and a half ago, due to health, I was legally blind (I have since gotten that taken care of and can see much better now). This was difficult for me because it made it very hard to read or write.

    One day my girlfriend hands me an envelope, with just my name on it. (I could still see well enough to somewhat read). Inside was a personal note from one of my all-time favorite authors, Dennis Lehane.

    Apparently, my girlfriend had written a letter to him explaining my situation and Dennis Lehane was nice enough to send me a note with well wishes. I got the opportunity to thank him in person later when I went to one of his signings. So now, that note is tucked safely away in the pages of my signed copy of A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR. But to me, the note is much more valuable than the signed book.

  5. Steve Steinbock

    Enjoy your Pretty Pink 2, and don’t let her out of your sight. I dig pink, and I’m man enough to admit it. But for pens, my current favorite is the ultra-inexpensive Staples Sonix gel-ink pen. Less than a buck a piece.

    I’ve taken to keeping a smaller Moleskine notebook in my shirt or jacket pocket at all times. It’s the soft-cover 3.5 by 5.5 size that looks just like an American passport. It’s perfect for quick notes, ideas, and reminders. Then I use a hardcover Moleskine reporter pad as my PDA (parietal disgorgement aid).

    Good luck with your updated schedule and work-strategies.

  6. Chuck

    Hi J.T.

    Thanks for catching us up on what you’ve been up to.

    Regarding treasured artifacts, I have a few, but only one I think of when it comes to writing. I have original, first printings of the four novels that most shaped my writing. They were published in 1951, 1971, 1978, and 1986. Sometimes, usually before dawn (when I like to write) I’ll pull one down and read a page, thinking about how the author likely stumbled through the same things I struggle with. It always helps me.

  7. Kaye Barley

    Fun post, JT! You know what? Pink Pen #1 just needed a few more days in Chicago. She could still end up back in Tennessee. It could happen – let us know, O.K.?!

    My treasured artifact. I have to say my jewelry. If I have to narrow it down to one thing I’ll have to say my jewelry box with my jewelry piled in it. Not that any of it is valuable other than sentimental – but almost every piece has been a gift with a sweet memory attached to it which makes it all priceless to me, even if worthless to anyone else.

  8. Ann Voss Peterson

    Hey, JT! Meeting you was delicious.

    My treasured artifact? A pair of Tony Lama cowboy boots I’ve had since I started showing horses as a teenager. They were the first good shoes I owed, and I still wear them all the time.

  9. toni mcgee causey

    JT, sounds like you had a wonderful trip (in spite of the gracefulness)… great to see you again.

    Artifact… I had to think about this. I’ve never had a specific favorite writing pen (though I do have a cheap favorite type – Uniball Gel Impact). I have, however, collected French drip coffee pots ever since my husband’s grandmother left hers to us, and then my grandfather’s was passed to me. There were a lot of family events tied to those pots, and I grew up with my dad trying to patiently teach me how to make “good” coffee (something I intentionally never learned). But I have several pots from family and from my husband scouring little antique stores in out-of-the-way places in order to surprise me. Here’s a photo on my old journal site:

    (That’s my dining area.)

  10. J.T. Ellison

    Dusty, you’re most welcome. I’ve been thinking about you this week. Your guitar sounds fabulous!

    BG, I have a fetish collection too – stone and wood bears. I’m totally drawn to them. What do you have? And I know what you mean about the broken precious items. I have a couple myself.

    Louise, since I was married, I have this bizarre, recurring dream about my diamond falling out of it’s setting. I spend a lot of time at the jeweler, getting it looked at. So glad you were able to recover yours!

    RJ, that’s lovely. Just lovely.

  11. Jeff Abbott

    JT, the only lesson anyone can take from the time management books is find what works for you and ignore the rest. Seriously. You notice that Twyla Tharp’s book doesn’t get much into mechanics of how to manage schedules, and there’s a reason for that with creative people.

    Re treasured artifact: mine is the desk my grandmother taught second grade at for thirty-seven years. It sits in my office (not my main work desk, although it used to be). I always draw inspiration from it. She taught hundreds of kids how to read while sitting at that desk, and I think all the words worked their way into the wood.

  12. J.T. Ellison

    Steven, one of the things I did keep in the new system is the Moleskine. I’ve enjoyed keeping all my thought in one of two places – the Moleskine for ideas, the Circa for the book. The Circa is working great because I can move the pages around to suit me, the Moleskine because I just like having it. I bought a bungee for it from Levenger and can keep Pretty Pink Pen 2 attached to it.

    Chuck, that’s awesome. Twyla Tharp would call that a habit, and it’s a damn good one.

    Kaye, I was kind of hoping someone might read this, realize they’ve adopted a wanted pen, and give her back. Who know???

    Ann, it was wonderful to meet you too – you’re awesome! Randy says hi!

    Stephen – sounds like a marriage made in heaven – a pen and her thumb drive. Hope you didn’t loose anything too precious.

    Jake, Crap’l Hill? I’ve never heard that one – excellent. I loved watching lacrosse in high school and college, great sport.

    Toni, I love that collection. I do Limoges china demitasse cups, and it’s always so fun to find one tucked away in an antique store. I love how vibrant your collection is! (I can’t make coffee either.)

  13. J.T. Ellison

    Jeff, that’s awesome. I think the pieces that get handed down, with all their attendant history, are the best. I have a painting in my upstairs hallway that my great-grandmother painted. She died when I was very young, but I always feel her near me.

    And of all the books I read, the Twyla Tharp was by far the most resonate. Structure is one thing, micro-managing your time another. I don’t think we creative types should micro-manage ourselves, it kills the process. At least, that’s what I found for me.

  14. pari

    JT,It’s so wonderful to see you here today. What a ride you’re on. Holy cow!

    Of all my possessions right now, the one that I’m most attached to is a chair from China, circa 1900. Below is a link to a chair similar to the one my mother bought in in the 1960s. My chair is more ornate and looks like it’d be uncomfortable, but it’s magnificent. Just sitting in it is calming.

  15. J.T. Ellison

    Cornelia, if you see her, give her a tongue lashing for me.

    Pari, what a gorgeous chair! I love it. I’ve sat in one like that, and they are surprisingly comfortable. It’s good to be back, too : )

  16. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    Great to have you back!

    I have a couple of really nice signing pens, given to me as presents. One is a gunmetal Sheaffer and the other is a Caran d’Ache. Someone once told me you should always use expensive pens, because then you’re never too embarrassed to ask for them back.

    My treasured possessions are probably also jewelry – my black sapphire engagement ring, my grandmother’s wedding ring, and my antique Whiting & Leavis articulated snake bracelet, which I always wear to conventions and which was given to me by my husband, Andy as a wedding anniversary present.

    A few years ago, though, I called my sister and said to her, “I’m making out my Will. Is there anything of mine you’d particularly like?”

    Her answer: “Andy.”

    Well, yeah, I think she got that about right … ;-]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *