Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday! I come to you without stitches! This gives me freedoms I haven’t had in a couple of weeks, like baths. And CBD cream. And pants. That last comes at the perfect time since it’s suddenly quite chilly here. We went Summer to Winter with barely a Fall. We have a big neighborhood party today, with fire pits and hot dogs and bbq and chili and s’mores. It’s always so much fun to connect with the folks we only wave at most of the time as we’re driving in and out. 

It was a long, strange week. We lost an uncle who had been ill for some time, and the funeral was unbearable, uplifting, and everything in between. He was an Air Force veteran, so there was a full military service graveside, and that was the strangely uplifting part for me. The playing of Taps, the flag-draped coffin, the ceremony and respect helped, in some ways. So too did the baby changing station in the bathroom. Such an odd reminder of the circle of life. Rest in peace, Joe. You will be missed. 

I also think I have the book figured out. Three big plot breakthroughs, lots of waking up to write myself notes and scribbling away in the notebook. Oddly, I didn’t get a lot of writing done, but I’m working on the outline now.

Last week at Southern Festival, Jeremy Finley and I were talking about outlines. I don’t like to outline until I’ve been writing on a project for a while; he won’t start writing until he’s planned out exactly what he’s doing. Neither way is right, neither way is wrong. Both are valid, both get you where you need to go.

I like to do my outlines at this point, when the first third of the book feels really solid, when I’ve set up several plot points, and I know the why behind them. I can see the threads of where things are going, why the characters have made their moves, and know many of the scenes I want to write to make it all come together.

And by “outline”, for me, that’s just putting one or two lines about what happens in the scene. I don’t map it out deeper than that, just make a note about what I want to accomplish in the scene. It gives me a little bit of a road map. My notebook is littered with scenes broken out by character. At this point, I take those, lay them into Scrivener, and the shape of the story reveals itself.

Hmm. Maybe I should stop referring to it as outlining, and starting using roadmap instead.

And with that, I’m back to it. A happy writing and reading week ahead to you all.

Oh! Be sure to keep an eye on the Bargains page. Lots of deals rolling through right now and there’s more to come.

On to the links!


How To Search Books By Color. Great tips for those of us who have rainbow bookshelves or want to know what that book with the red cover is. Because trust me, when you know the book cover is black but the spine is red, it causes all sorts of issues.

Waldsassen Abbey is the Fairy Tale Library You Need to Visit. This is so gorgeous!

Are the Women of ‘Succession’ Finally About to Smash the Patriarchy? If you're not watching Succession on HBO, you should be, because it engenders fascinating conversations like this.

Pottery Barn Is Launching a Harry Potter Holiday Collection. This is tempting…

What Fan Fiction Teaches That the Classroom Doesn’t. “A fan-fiction site is a uniquely energetic learning environment. Unlike in the classroom, where a writing prompt is as likely to be met with groans as with enthusiasm, writers on fan-fiction websites are thrilled to be there, excited to write, and passionate about the material—because it’s based on a book, TV show, movie, video game, or something else they already love.”

The germiest place in your home and the best way to combat those microbes. ACK! At least I feel better about Jameson’s love of drinking out of the toilet.

Could you be suffering from ‘book burnout’? “Don’t get me wrong, I love reading, but it’s got to a point where I feel like I’m only reading to keep up with the zeitgeist, rather than for my own sheer enjoyment or learning.”


GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn

When we talk about unreliable narrators in novels, Amy Dunne is almost always at the top of the list. Gillian’s brilliant book almost single-handedly resurrected the female villain/unreliable narrator device, and love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. It never truly went away; read any Du Maurier book and you’ll see this device front and center.

It’s always been my goal not to overly victimize the women in my novels, especially those who die at the hands of a male killer. Now that I, too, have pivoted toward writing books with unreliable narrators, I’ve been thinking about how the female villain can too easily be forced into this role, becoming the victim in other ways.

I’m also interested in how many writers have changed from having women as victims to women being the leads, albeit often as unreliable narrators. Is it any different? Or is it just the other side of the coin? Would love to hear what you think...

That’s it from me. Make some popcorn and sit by the fire, work on strengthening your core with some great yoga (Adriene is my favorite), rake up some of your neighbor’s leaves, and I’ll see you next week.

GOOD GIRLS LIE giveaway on Goodreads

Goodreads is giving away 15 finished copies of GOOD GIRLS LIE! US and Canada only.

About the book:

Goode girls don’t lie…

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.

Audible Daily Deal: TEAR ME APART

Exciting news! TEAR ME APART is today’s Audible Daily Deal! Get the audiobook for just $4.95. This is incredible savings! The audiobook was narrated by Eva Kaminsky, Rebekkah Ross, Jacques Roy, Caitlin Davies, Amy McFadden, and Pete Simonelli, and it is simply amazing.

Don’t have an Audible account yet? This could be the perfect time to start. Select TEAR ME APART as your free audiobook to sign up and you’ll get 2 free Audible Originals for your trial. After the trial ends, you’ll get 1 audiobook and 2 Audible Originals per month. Audible is $14.95/mo after 30 days. Cancel online anytime and keep all your audiobooks. And let me tell you, I’ve added a full 20 books a year to my reading by listening to audiobooks. it’s a wonderful experience, especially for your favorite novels.

About the book:

The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s TEAR ME APART is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.

One moment will change their lives forever…

Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.

Who knows the answers?

The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.

With vivid movement through time, TEAR ME APART examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.

Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday! It’s the first cool weekend of the fall here in Nashville, and I for one am thrilled. I can’t do a lot of walking yet, but I can sit on the porch and enjoy the sounds and smells that are so specific to this season--the crackle of leaves, the scent of the fire, the rustling of the breeze through the thinned out trees. It’s perfection.

Oh, before I forget: Today is the last day of the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, and I am appearing on a panel at 1pm with my friend and fellow author Jeremy Finley. If you find yourself downtown today, we’re at the NPL auditorium, and would love to see you!

So that paragraph in and of itself tells you how I’m doing. I’m getting back on my feet, slowly but surely. I am down to one crutch already, and the swelling is going down. Stitches out later this week, and then it’s all healing, all the time. I admit, I’m getting a little claustrophobic not being able to move freely, but I keep reminding myself that this too shall pass. I had that feeling last surgery, and I’m so far ahead of where I was at the same point last time that I’m sure I’ll have full motion soon.

The enforced downtime made for good writing this week. I’m trying to get a draft of this book done by the beginning of December so I’m not frantically writing through the holidays. I’ve had some trouble nailing down my main character, she simply refused to reveal herself to me. I finally realized I’d named her wrong. When her real name came to me this week, boom went the dynamite, and the story is flowing again.

I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I do believe in the power of a story to drag its feet until you dread to open the damn thing because you know you’re going to circle around what you’ve written, feeling like something is wrong but not being able to nail it down, until you give up and go binge-watch Succession. I have done this enough to recognize the signs, and I know not to force it. Whatever’s wrong with the story will eventually let itself be known. 

My rule of thumb: if it’s been a couple of weeks and I haven’t moved forward, I start looking at where I went off the tracks. I don’t panic. I don’t flip out. I don’t tell myself I’ll never write again. I give it some slack, read a fabulous book, get some inspiration, and tackle it again, starting at the beginning. Often times, there’s something in my original concept that’s off, and if I let it go and accept where the story has gone instead, things resolve themselves. Sometimes it’s a tense issue, or a POV. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a name. Regardless, you have to respect that this is art, and sometimes, art doesn’t want to behave. Like a child, you can indulge to a point until you are forced to lay down the law.

With that, I’m off to the festival. If you’re in town, I hope to see you there. On to the links!


Fall 2019 YA Books: 90+ October–December New Releases. There goes my TBR... There are SO many great new books out this year…

Trick-or-Treat: 18 Examples of Bookish Halloween Decor. Cool ideas! I’m a little behind on my Halloween decorating.

Caroline Vs. Natalie And My Personal Essay Identity Crisis. Shannon Keating gives us lots to think laying bare your soul for the world to see healthy?

See 23 of the world’s most enchanting libraries. Beautiful!

How Your Phone Is Ruining Your Relationships. “Society changes as technology changes.” We’ll never recover, I fear.

All about the inaugural MMD Book Club Retreat. How much fun is this? Modern Mrs. Darcy always comes up with the cool stuff.

Literary Wedding Ideas for People Who Don't Really Understand Books. These ideas sure are something. I can’t believe people have actually done a Handmaid’s Tale theme!

True Life: I Inherited a Private Library. Great story. Can you imagine???

Study finds that learning to read enhances the brain in more ways than one. More proof that reading is good for you!

Reese Witherspoon's Book Club Is Keeping Hello Sunshine on Top. Interesting behind-the-scenes article.


THE SECRETS WE KEPT by Lara Prescott

The hype surrounding this book is so well-deserved. I'm a fan of anything lady spy, especially CIA, so I pounced the moment it came out, and it was so worth it. Elegantly written and realized, Prescott has done a fascinating moment in history justice. I had no idea about the backstory of Dr. Zhivago's long road to publication. Prescott presents all sides of the story, from Russian gulags to the swans of a D.C. summer, from the keen eye of multiple fascinating narrators. This is a get smart kind of book. (see what I did there?) I loved it!

What are you reading?

That’s it from me. Enjoy a cool afternoon in front of the fireplace, find a new show to binge-watch (I highly recommend Succession), try a book in a genre you don’t normally read, and I’ll see you next week.

PS: Since Succession season 2 is over tonight…what do you recommend I watch next?

THE LOST KEY is on sale for $1.99!

THE LOST KEY, the second book in the Brit In The FBI series, is on sale for $1.99! Get your copy while it lasts.

About the book:

"A thriller packed with nonstop action, real-life name-dropping and enough cutting-edge science to make you wonder how much of it could be true." – Kirkus Reviews

Freshly minted FBI agent Nicholas Drummond is barely out of his Quantico training when he and his partner, Mike Caine, are called to investigate a stabbing on Wall Street.  

Their investigation, however, yields more questions than answers. It quickly becomes clear that the victim, John Pearce, was more than the naval historian and antiquities dealer he appeared to be. What Drummond doesn’t know is that buying and selling rare books was Pearce’s cover, and that he had devoted his life to discovering the whereabouts of a missing World War I U-boat concealing a stash of gold bullion, and an unexpected surprise that only raises more questions. When Drummond and Caine find both of Pearce’s adult children have disappeared, the case assumes a new sense of urgency. The FBI agents know their best lead lies in the victim’s cryptic final words—“The key is in the lock.” But what key? What lock?

The search for Adam and Sophia Pearce takes them on an international manhunt, which threatens to run them afoul of an eccentric billionaire industrialist with his own plans not only for the lost gold, but the creation of a weapon unlike anything the world has ever seen.

Download the eBook