2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Bookworms, Nerds, and Productive People

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Take heart, last-minute shoppers. It’s not too late to grab a few thoughtful gifts for the people in your life!

I’ve gathered my favorite books, tools, and gadgets from 2017—each with a clickable link—for your viewing pleasure. And some of them are free, which is always a win during the holiday season.

Gifts for Book Worms

Because books are life.

THE RULES OF MAGIC – Alice Hoffman (my #1 for the year)

This is my favorite book of the year, and oddly, I listened to it instead of reading. The story is so lovely, so sad and joyous in its lessons on finding contentment, forgiveness, compassion, and love, in accepting yourself and those around you. I'm recommending it to everyone I talk to. I loved it.

Perfect for: Anyone you love, want to love, those who are looking for love, and those who need to accept themselves for who they are.
A PARIS ALL YOUR OWN – edited by Eleanor Brown

I don't have many regrets, but not traveling to Paris when I was young and inexperienced is one of them. I was honored to share a stage with Eleanor Brown whilst on tour this fall, and her collection of Paris essays is a must-read for anyone who dreams of being a writer in Paris. Funny, poignant, and downright hilarious. This collection? C'est parfait!

Perfect for: The budding writer in your family. 
THE SLEEPWALKER – Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian was a guest on A WORD ON WORDS this year, and this book didn't disappoint. It has a section that is so utterly stunning, so ferociously vivid, that I read it three times and cried. On a plane, no less. The story is stellar, too. Original and well done.

Perfect for: Your literary lover.

I love a fantasy novel that can surprise me, and this story does that in spades. Kendare Blake is a new-to-me author but I immediately grabbed all her books. I mean, a whole generation of "posioners"—people who gain strength from eating posionous food? Awesome!

Perfect for: Fantasy lovers of all stripes, and your tweens and teens looking for feminine power books.
HOUSE OF SPIES – Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva always enthralls, and his second novel in the duology with THE BLACK WIDOW continues the story in the most delicious way. Silva is on top of his game, our finest spy fiction writer. 

Perfect for: Your current affairs junkie, your spy thriller junkie, your aspiring thriller writer.

This book. It's so wrong it's right. From the description, I never thought I would enjoy it, but boy, was I wrong. I laughed, and I cried, and I think everyone should read it. The climate we find ourselves in, at war with ourselves, is addressed on the nose. Plus, Matthew was a guest on A WORD ON WORDS and our interview was something special. Highly recommended.

Perfect for: Anyone on the opposite side of the fence from you politically. Seriously, this book is a treatise for both sides.
NOT A SOUND – Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf always writes excellent novels, but her latest offering is a stunner. Her main character has profound hearing loss, and is holed up in a cabin trying to get her life back in order when she finds a body in the lake near her new home. Imagine the claustrophobia of knowing people are coming for you, but you can't hear them... and that's only scratching the surface of this wonderful book.

Perfect for: The deep ones who like to examine life's mysteries.
BLAME – Jeff Abbott

It's no surprise I have a Jeff Abbott title on this list. I adore his work, and have been a fan since PANIC. BLAME has the same kind of propulsive action as Abbott's previous thrillers, but in the domestic suspense genre. He uses memory loss in unique ways, and nails the twist.

Perfect for: Your nail-biting suspense lover! 

I have a wicked writer girl crush on Sarah Maas, and her third book featuring Rhys and Fayre is by far her best. I like to call her work "Game of Thrones for girls." It's more than just cool battle scenes, though. Maas shows her readers what a loving relationship built on respect looks like. Something for all our teenagers to be reading, and our adults, too. 

Perfect for: Every pre-teen you know, and your friends who say they don't like female-driven fantasy. 

I'm making some diet changes, and I was looking for something that would make the transition easier. I had no idea when I ordered this book that the author's Italian farm was located in the very region I'd just spent several months writing about, nor did I expect the stunning photography and wonderful storytelling. I mean, this is just a cookbook, right? No. It's so much more.

Perfect for: Your health-conscious friend, your travel buddy, your yogi.... 

Gifts for Nerds

A list for general life enthusiasts. Perfect gifts for yourself, for your friends, and for your social consience.

Patreon - To fund independent artists and thinkers. My favorites are Kris Rusch and @NashSevereWx.

Animals Affected by 2017 Natural Disasters - Our furry friends need help, too.
     Los Angeles ASPCA
     Sonoma Humane Society
     Napa Humane
     Houston Humane Society – Hurricane Harvey Fund
     Florida Keys SPCA

BookBook for iPhone - My wallet/phone cover of choice. 

Numi Moroccan Mint Tea - The yummiest mint tea on the planet.

The Genius Deck - I love this for when I'm stuck on a story. It breaks me free every time.

Constant Comment Tea - An old favorite, this is the best afternoon tea.

No/No Bird Feeders - My girls and I love to watch the birds congregate on these feeders. Pro tip: I use safflower seeds so the squirrels won't even try to break in.

Cobalt Blue Betty Teapot - A perfect brewing teapot, in a beautiful cobalt color.

Reading Glasses from Zenni Optical - Because who wants to spend $300 for a cute pair of RX readers?

Steagle Laptop Webcam Covers - Fantastic privacy guards for laptop and iPad. 

Gifts for Productive People

For the writers and go-getters in your life.

Scrivener 3 - The best writing software on the market has just gotten a superb update. It's even easier to use, and easier to learn.

Newton - The most minimalist email program you will ever use—and incredibly powerful, to boot.

Habana Notebooks - I use the Habana for my Bullet Journal. I love the extra lines (though they make a blank notebook, too), the quality of paper, and the durability. 

The Baron Fig Squire Pen - The right pen is a joy to use, and this one is lovely. I also love the Spectre pen with a ghost on it (come on!), though it's sold out for now.

Passport-Sized Midori Notebook - I love the leather on the Midori notebooks, so this one resides in my purse as my on-the-go notebook.

Lechtturm Pen Loops - Perfect for sticking to the back cover of your favorite notebook.

Tiffany Pen - Spoiler alert: it's a splurge! Mine was a gift, and it's the perfect size to rest inside the Midori notebook without causing lumps and bumps.

Svenja Gosen Word Tracker Spreadsheets - This is how I keep track of my word counts. These trackers are intuitive and such a joy to use.

Freedom - The very best way to bolster your self-discipline during the work day.

Bonus! Gifts for YOURSELF

Because self-care is important.

Jarrow Golden Milk Powder - This is the central ingredient in my delightfully spicy and super healthy Golden Milk.

King Arthur Almond Flour - If you're gluten-free, this is the best baking flour I've ever found. Makes awesome shortbread, too.

Alyssa’s Healthy Oatmeal Bites - For when you need a healthy snack, and you don't feel like baking.

Trinkets from Pottery Barn, HomeGoods, and Wayfair - because who doesn't love a cozy home?

Double Bonus: These are free gifts for yourself. 

These are my favorite blogs, and they keep giving all year long.

Cal Newport's Study Hacks - Brilliant, necessary.

Becoming Minimalist - I especially love the "Inspiring Simplicity. Weekend Reads." link series—a perfect way to unwind on a Sunday.

mindbodygreen - I love this website, chock full of inspiration, healthy recipes, and exercise motivation. 

Buddha Groove - A lovely place to buy gifts for your more spiritually inclined friends and yogis, and they have a weekend blog that's a joy.

DailyOM - A restful spot on the web for daily inspiration and advice.

Modern Mrs. Darcy - For general loveliness, a daily read of this blog will enhance your life.

Desire to Inspire - I love this blog's design posts. I get a lot of remodeling ideas here.

Yoga with Adriene - My go-to online yoga class. Adriene is good people.


Many blessings on you and yours! I hope you've enjoyed the gift guide. Merry Everything!

Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 12.10.17

Back on deadline go I. My priority at the moment is getting the revision of the new standalone done. As of this moment, you can look for this new book next September. If I get it revised in time, that is. It's title is TEAR ME APART. And oddly, it's already available for pre-order. That freaks me out a bit. I mean, it's NOT READY....

When I start feeling this kind of pressure, I take a deep breath, make myself a nice cup of tea, listen to a podcast or audiobook, pet the kitties, and then, sit back down at the computer and keep on trucking.

I tell Assistant Amy all the time, we aren't curing cancer here. What we do is try to entertain, to enlighten, even sometimes to educate, none of which is life threatening, for us, or for you. Remember that as you move through this month. Blessings abound. Kindness exists. Did you see the video of the man in California saving the baby rabbit from the fires? It shattered me for almost an hour. And the response shattered me again when the internet came alive with recriminations on how he'd condemned the bunny's family to death by interfering with nature. [Update: our hero confirmed the bunny's family followed their matriarch out of the flames...]

This season, be the man who felt so strongly about seeing another's suffering he braved the flames of a massive fire to save a wild rabbit, not the one who attacks this act of kindness. The world will thank you.   

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Crime Fiction novels make excellent travel guides. I completely agree. I've traveled Nashville and DC with Sam, and the entire world with Nicholas. 

The 11 Best Holiday Foods In Literature — From Treacle Tarts To Snow Candy. Which one do you want to make?? I pick snow candy.

Andy Weir: By the Book. In which Mr. Weir admits he hasn't read a huge book in the sci-fi canon... but, um, he's excused because he's writing fabulous books.

17 best debut novels by women in 2017. Stock your TBR and support women writers, y'all! 

Wellbeing enhanced more by travel than by objects, study finds. Intriguing. This study says that people are more content when they feel strong emotional pull toward a special place rather than a special object, like photographs or a wedding ring. Do you agree? 

Formerly conjoined twins sent home five months after surgery. So amazingly cool! That we have the technology, the doctors, the skill to accomplish this feat is such a blessing. 

And of course, the video that left me in a puddle. I have a fondness for wildlife. 

And closer to home:

Today's Sunday Reads: EVERYTHING WE KEEP by Kerry Lonsdale.  This one kept me on the edge of my seat, whipping through pages until the bitter end. As a matter of fact, I stayed up until 2 in the morning to read. Snatch this one up! And if you're a Kindle Unlimited member, lucky you—you can read it for free.

That's it from me! Be good to each other, make a small donation to your local animal shelter (in the form of money, towels, newspapers, anything) take a deep breath, and we'll talk again soon.


Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 12.3.17

The first Sunday in December, and I have all my decorations up! This has NEVER happened before. I did a massive purge of old Christmas items, broken ornaments, funky gifts, and the like, and we are only using/keeping the pieces that speak to us the most. It was quite liberating! I hope your December is starting strong too, that you're decorated (if you dig that kind of thing), and spent your weekend curled up under a blanket with visions of Hallmark movies (or a big book!) dancing in your head.

It's been all about revisions this week at Chez Ellison. Catherine and I are beavering away at Brit #5, THE SIXTH DAY, polishing to make it gleam. Revision is writing, my friends. This is when the book really comes to life, in the editing: plots are tightened, dialogue sharpened, descriptions refined. The editing is just as important as the writing – it's not something to be taken for granted. Meanwhile, I'll get back to work on my new standalone novel on Monday. More to come there! When I have news to share, you'll be the first to know.


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

How to make the best gluten-free shortbread. Navigating the holidays as a gluten-free eater can be tricky. It's not only dangerous, it's hard not to feel left out this season when there are baked goods galore that you can't eat. The best way to remedy that? Make your own! I can't wait to try this recipe for GF shortbread, and dunk it in my tea. (and for those of you who don't want to bake, Walkers does make a gluten-free shortbread, though I find it a bit grainy.)

Two for one: I'm also a big fan of King Arthur almond flour -- here is their recipe as well. I'm trying this one today!

VetDog Charlie drops puck on Islanders' Military Appreciation Night. This is just wonderful. What a fantastic program! I wish the Predators would get involved!

Choose holiday traditions that serve you. The holidays are here—and with them come hustle and bustle galore. Celebrating with family and friends is so much fun... but it can easily become exhausting. But you know what? It doesn't have to be that way. 

Louise Erdrich, Great American Novelist, is just getting started. Such an inspiring woman. Go, Louise! (and if you'd like to check out her interview with my TV show, A WORD ON WORDS, click here)

To cure affluenza, we have to be satisfied with the stuff we already own. If you don't read any other Smats article today, read this one. Sobering, thought-provoking stuff, especially for this time of year. 

And closer to home:

The Omen Days ebook is on sale for $0.99. If you're looking for something with a little edge this holiday season, try my Christmas ghost story. Here's a bit more about it: 

Zack Aukey hates Christmas—despises it, actually. December carries painful memories of his first love Autumn Cleary, who left him during the holiday season. But when Autumn mysteriously shows up in Nashville on Christmas night bearing gifts and apologies, Zack knows this is a holiday he won't soon forget. 

And then he sees the police report.


That's it from me! Y'all enjoy this first full week of December, stay warm, drink a cup of hot cocoa with c reamy cocunut milk, and we'll talk again soon.


Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 11.19.17

Chickens, welcome to Sunday. Did you have a good week? American chickens, are you ready to watch some football and chow down on some turkey and pumpkin pie?

I have to say: No matter where you are, or how you're celebrating, please know I am thankful for you, dear reader. Thank you for joining me in the books, in the newsletters, in this online world. It's a blessing to know you, and I am thankful to walk alongside you.

It's been a quiet week. The moment I sent Catherine a draft of the new book, I got sick. As in I lost all the dealine weight there was a norovirus flatteneing Nashville sick. It happens every time I finish a book. Crazy, right?

I took advantage of the enforced down time to binge-watch Stranger Things (fun, and not too scary, thank heavens) and sign tip in sheets (how your books get presigned by authors -- publishers send the front page of the book and we sign, then when they make the book, those page gets inserted. Cool, right?) Special limited edition signed copies of THE SIXTH DAY will be available around release.

And while Catherine is editing away, I've turned to my next project, which is a new standalone novel! It's with my editor right now and revisions start next week. I don't have a release date yet, but I'll announce it as soon as I know.

Without further ado, here are your links.

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

The Busiest Reading Day of the Year Is the Wednesday Before Thanksgiving, According to Barnes & Noble Data. Gear up, buttercups: it's time to get your nerd on! Apparently we all snag a few minutes of book time between chopping veggies and rolling out pie dough. It definitely has nothing to do with realizing our Reading Challenge on Goodreads is 15 books behind schedule, oh no it doesn't....

Here's The Pitch Publishers Rejected When J.K. Rowling Was Trying To Get "Harry Potter" Published. Moral of the story? Never. Give. Up.

How Reese Witherspoon Is Changing Hollywood for Women.  She's a dynamo, that Reese Witherspoon. And she's doing some astounding things for women and telling their stories. And she's not afraid to say hey, I'm successful, and I work hard to achieve my goals. I LOVE THAT!

The Important Emotional Labor of Librarians Most People Never Think About. Librarians are some of the best people on the planet—period. And this article explains one of the many reasons why. One of the things I'm thankful for this year: librarians. 

16 Literary Subscription Boxes To Gift This Year, Based On Their Myers-Briggs Type. This is genius. Tuck this in the back of your mind for a great bookish holiday gift.

And closer to home:

DEAD ENDS is only $0.99! This is the sale you've been waiting for: 13 deliciously creepy stories for less than $1! if you need something short and sweet to read on your way to Thanksgiving celebrations, this is the book for you.

Tom Perrotta is a veteran writer. You may recognize his name from the opening sequence of HBO's The Leftovers, the movie Election (starring Reese Witherspoon!) or Little Children. Mr. Perrotta just released a new novel, Mrs. Fletcher, a wry take on a woman trying to cope with an empty nest and figure out what the rest of her life will look like. Check out our chat!

That's it from me! Y'all travel safe, hug your loved ones, don't spill the cranberry sauce and we'll talk again soon. Have a great Thanksgiving!


DEAD ENDS ebook on sale for $0.99!

Just in time for your Thanksgiving plane or car ride: the DEAD ENDS ebook is only $0.99!

These are perfectly binge-able nuggets of suspense from some of the best writers around (Jeff Abbott, Helen Ellis, Laura Benedict, Patti Callahan Henry, David Bell, to name a few). If you haven't picked up your copy, now's the time—the price doesn't get better than this!