Sunday Smatterings

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Hello from Edinburgh! Well, I will just be arriving home as you read this, so hello from jet-lagged Nashville where I am still sound asleep, but you get the idea.

I’m writing from my lovely hotel room with its stunning view of Edinburgh Castle. It’s been an amazing couple of weeks over here. From the stark beauty of the Highlands to the Speyside whisky distilleries being visited by Ludacris to Balmoral where we saw the Queen and Prince Charles on a walkabout to Edinburgh proper, we’ve been experiencing  a great deal of what the home country has to offer. I say home country because husband and I are both Scots by blood. I’m Scots and Italian, he’s full blown UK. We did a DNA test once and he’s more British than 76% of the Brits who were born here... think about that! That’s what happens when your people fight on the losing side of a war and are transported to the US.

I always feels so very blessed to be able to travel overseas as much as we do. We’re both just fascinated with how other cultures work, the people, the food, the atmosphere. This is my 6th time in Scotland, and it won’t be my last.

We met several lovely people on this trip, including a trio of gentlemen from Japan who were real whisky lovers and artists, two couples from Canada who were having a superb time, a perpetually dissatisfied Australian in a desperate search for a decent cup of coffee, a Cuban American family celebrating their youngest’s birthday, an Irishman who ran our hotel in the Highlands who was a brilliant chef and made me gluten-free fish and chips every night and introduced us to new whisky. Our world gets so small when we travel. It was such fun.

Edinburgh is a favorite spot, and we have a few nooks we love to visit every time we’re here—and a few new ones we’ve found this trip, including a ridiculously delicious authentic Italian restaurant. And a steakhouse on the Royal Mile that until recently didn’t even have signage. And the bar across from the hotel where we’ve been taking a wee dram at night. Even hanging in the hotel has been fun, with staff that are attentive and kind.

Last night, sitting quietly by the fire in the pub across the way, we were talking about something rather serious, making a decision, and I felt a hand on my back. I turned expecting to see the bartender, asking if I wanting another, but there was no one around. The hand on my back was a gentle caress, one like a mother might give to a child. It felt very loving, and was the perfect allegory for this country, where I feel so at home. Whether it was a gentle admonition to get off my phone and stop fretting, or an affirmation of my decision, I suppose I’ll never know.

Scotland is haunted, no one questions that. Every step I take, I feel like I’m following in the footsteps of someone else, that at any moment the veil could lift and I’ll be walking alongside a forebear. No wonder I love Outlander so much.

Edinburgh, too, is an old town and has seen its share of death and destruction, but there is so much joy here, too. The city is young and vibrant; students and young families abound. They’re filming A Fast and Furious on the Royal Mile, we stumbled into the set the other night walking. Even though tourist season has passed, a cultural cornucopia of people throng the streets. It’s wonderful to see, and I’m already thinking about when I can come back.

I did get some work done, but now that I’m back, it’s hit the books time. Don’t be surprised to find some of these experiences in a book down the road…

With that, I’ll leave you to the links. Slainte!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Fabulous news: Publishers Weekly gave GOOD GIRLS LIE a starred review! “A high-tension thriller...Alternating points of view raise the suspense, blurring the lines between true and false...Ellison keeps readers guessing throughout.” I could not be more thrilled. It’s coming for you on December 30. Preorder your copy today!

At age 101, this woman released her first collection of poems. “At a time we normally think of as winding down, Sarah’s imagination is unfolding.”

Related: 6 Women Writers Who Published Their First Book After They Turned 70. It’s never too late!

A Family’s Journey from Mob Murder to NFL Fame. This story is wild!

Cleo Le-Tan Knows Where All the Bookstores Are in New York. This looks like a cute guide!

We Asked 20 Authors For Their #1 Favorite Book Of Fall 2019. Great list!

How to Write While Not Writing. “When I’m not writing, I’m often having experiences that fill my creative engine with the fuel necessary to power the work itself. Without the not writing, my creative engine runs dry.”

When the Public Feared That Library Books Could Spread Deadly Diseases. Can you even imagine?

As we prepare for the mass market release of NO ONE KNOWS, enjoy this look back: Sometimes, Dreams Do Come True—Literally. The story idea started with a dream.

8 Best Independent Bookstores in the United States. How many of these have you visited?

Save Space On Your Shelves For These Amazing Space Bookends. Super cool!

The Wine of the Week at The Wine Vixen!

What I’m Reading:

THE NANNY by Gilly Macmillan

Gilly Macmillan is an outstanding writer, but THE NANNY is a step above. Complex, intriguing, scary, devastating, and so lyrically written I got out my "I'm not worthy" kneepads. You are going to go ape for this one.

What are you reading?

That’s it from me. Pour yourself a wee dram, read a good ghost story, do some research on your ancestors, and I’ll see you next week.

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

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Hello, lovelies. Happy Sunday to you! 

Last week we talked about a topic near and dear to my heart, productivity. Today I want to talk about how you make productivity happen. You can organize and plan and dream, but at some point, you’re going to have to execute those plans. And that’s where things often get a little tricky.

Fear of success can get in your way. Fear of failure, too. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of the unknown. Fear, fear, fear. 

How you overcome it is personal. Nothing I say or do will help you outside of reassuring you that all artists have the sword of Damocles swinging above their heads that screams you’re not good enough, the work isn’t good enough, you’re never going to amount to anything. Successful artists tell Damocles to fuck off and get on with it, because they are compelled to.  There is nothing--nothing--that will keep them from their art. 

But if you want to succeed at anything in this life, art or otherwise, you have to put in the work. That means sitting down every day with it, whether you’re jotting ideas in a notebook or laying down 1000 words. Whether you’re editing what you wrote to outlining where you plan to go. The objective is to touch your work every day, and keep on touching it. Manipulating and massaging, caressing and cavorting. Yes, you must be in a committed relationship with your work. You don’t have to be monogamous, but you do need to be committed.

And if you want to succeed, you have to be just as committed to getting your work done as you are to feeding your kids, or washing your face. Friend and author Wendy Heard gave the smartest writing advice I’ve ever heard a few weeks ago: Write so much it becomes less precious.

When you’re starting, every word is sacred. Awe-inspiring. Every concept explored, every page written, all glorious. Eventually, if you do this enough, they’re words. Some will stay. Some will go. Some tell the story well; some obfuscate and must be cut. 

Write. Just sit down and write. That’s how you execute your plans. 

On to the links!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

35 New Books Out In September 2019 For The Cozy Days Of Fall Ahead. So many good books coming out!

How To Simplify Your Life. PLEASE take 6 minutes and watch this. It just might save/change/improve your life.

The Voice Behind Many Bestselling Books On Tape Is Actually That of An Infamous Serial Killer. This is wild.

A Plagiarism Scandal Shakes Up the True-Crime Podcast World. “One possible outcome could be a bump in scrutiny of the true-crime podcast community, which has largely thrived off to the side as an internet subculture. This subculture, whose largely DIY ethos tends to be somewhat fluid when it comes to ethical considerations, has long seen accusations of plagiarism pop up from time to time throughout its ranks. It has also seen worse scandals.”

50+ Must-Read Gothic Novels and Stories. Great list!

The DIY Furniture Project That Led To A National Book Award. Wonderful story.

In Praise of the High School English Teacher. "In popular culture, teachers are so often presented in an almost mythic way. We are martyrs; perfect people who would teach for free."

Preparing For Price Increases On Books and Print Goods. We’ll see how this plays out.

What If Social Media Platforms Were More Like Libraries? An interesting question to explore.

The Wine of the Week at The Wine Vixen!

What I’m Reading:

THE NEW GIRL by Daniel Silva

Silva never disappoints. After last year's outstanding THE OTHER WOMAN, I was worried about how he would top it. This follow-up is classic Silva, with a topical storyline and twists galore. Many outstanding questions are answered. Highly recommended.

What are you reading?

That’s all for now. I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

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Hello, lovelies. Happy Sunday to you! 

Sunday Sunday, and it’s hurricane central here at Chez Ellison. The Southern Command is threatened, so we’re watching Hurricane Dorian (Dorian Gray, naturally) quite closely, and praying for the safety of friends, family, and strangers, alike. I admit, I prefer hurricanes to tornadoes, only because you have time to prepare, but still, nothing and no one can face down a Cat 4 and come out unscathed. It’s going to be a long, hard slog for all. Hang in there, and sound off when you get a chance to let us know you’re okay!

Had a fun conversation with a dear friend this week regarding setting up a productivity stream/content management system. She’d hired an assistant and was trying to figure out the best way to delegate, for the two of them to coordinate projects. I gave her a run down on my system using Microsoft To Do—the pale imitation of my beloved Wunderlist, but it’s coming along. 

For someone who’s never used a content management system before, it’s daunting, to say the least. Here’s the advice I gave:

I would open a To Do account, then take 20 minutes and do a brain dump. Every single thing you need to do, might need to do, dream about doing. Everything you want your assistant to do. Get everything out of your head and onto paper/screen.

Then, prioritize it. What has to happen today. This week. This month. Pipe dream. That’s 4 lists.

Once you see all that’s needed it’s easier to say—yes, do this now, do this next month, oh here’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never had time for... 

I laughed to myself at the “4 lists” as I wrote it, because I am the queen of too many lists. And then I did my own mental inventory, because I have a LOT floating around taking up RAM. Two pages later, I was able to take a breath and look closely at how to prioritize my own upcoming work.

How do I set all this up, you might ask? I use a simple three-layer system. 

Project → Task → Subtask

Here’s an example. This is my To Do list for this week, which is updated daily. Look at the Friday Business Tasks. So the workflow is:

JT - This Week → Friday Business Tasks → Actual Tasks

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Yes, I have a LOT of delineated projects. But I’ve been doing things like this for years, so they do tend to build up.

What I’ve learned, though, is if you try to go past the subtask level you get deep into the weeds, which is why Quip and Basecamp and any CMSs that are Kanban board-based aren’t for me. I need the limits to keep myself from going down the rabbit hole of fifty thousand To Dos. 

I do recommend starting with just the three or four main lists you need, like: Today, Upcoming, Dreams. Don’t bite off too much to start. And learn how to prioritize by hitting that Star button that makes it an important task—and then DO the task. The best content management workflows are useless if you don’t actually work your lists.

And with that spot of Sunday advice, on to the links!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

A Novel Concept: Silent Book Clubs Offer Introverts A Space To Socialize. This sounds wonderful! It’s not that I don’t want to talk, but sometimes it’s nice to just “be”.

From Baba Yaga to Hermione Granger: why we're spellbound by 'witcherature'. Great thesis here. As a big fan of literary witches, I concur.

7 Great Mysteries about Rare Books and Bibliophiles. Great list!

Business Musings: Expect Success. I agree, fear of success stymies too many artists. It’s probably the number one reason so many people leave the arts.

15 Plot Twists Readers Found So Shocking, They Had To Stop And Put Their Book Down For A Bit. Do you agree with this list?

Physicist Wins Ig Noble Prize For Study On Whether Cats Should Be Classified As Liquids Or Solids. All cat owners know cats are liquid fur. My parents cat, especially, gone utterly boneless when picked up. It’s a riot!

This historic Michigan library looks like something out of Hogwarts. Wow! I want to go, now!

5 Steps to Clear Your Mind and Make Room for Creative Work. Not only is this great advice, it's a lovely piece, and fits well with todays post.

Unexpected: Pinckney Benedict doesn’t fit the traditional stereotype of creative writing professor. This is one of the coolest writing degree programs in the country, and I know firsthand how much work goes in.

Twitter’s Ad Network Is Waging a War Against Anatomy. This is still blowing my mind. I admit to having a rather childish urge to run through the website posting the word Vagina everywhere. But seriously, this is ridiculous. With the vitriol and death threats and horrid language used against women on Twitter, they draw the line at vagina? *insert eye roll here*

28 YA Sequels You Need to Get Your Hands on This Fall. I can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these! I do love me some YA.

Foyles sets up libraries for high-end retirement homes. This is a neat development, and something we should all think about contributing to.

The Wine of the Week at The Wine Vixen is a oldie but goodie from my second trip to Napa!

What I’m Reading:

THE GOOD WIDOW by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

I've had this stellar suspense by Lisa and Liz on my TBR for ages. I have several of their books from Thrillerfest, but I wanted to go to the beginning of their suspense journey, and boy am I glad I did. I totally missed the twist coming, which I attribute not to sloppy reading on my part but a subtle, insidious plot device on theirs. So bravo!

What are you reading?

That’s all for now. Think about making a donation to the Red Cross for hurricane relief, stand up to a bully, organize your thoughts, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

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Hello, lovelies. Happy Sunday to you! 

It’s been a working weekend for me. I’m doing a final line edit pass on GOOD GIRLS LIE before it goes into production. I want it to be as clean and perfect as possible on this round. It’s funny, we’ve been working on this manuscript since I turned it in, and though it went to galley early, I’m now getting a chance to fix those niggling little errors and inconsistencies, tighten the language, and otherwise make the story as bright and shiny as possible. The next time I see it will be the last. It will be formatted, all the copyedits and line edits accepted, no more funny comments from my editor and queries from the copyeditor. Some of the side conversations we have in the track changes are freaking hilarious; I always keep a separate version for posterity so they aren’t deleted forever. 

You wonder how typos make it into a manuscript—well, when you’re working electronically, it’s VERY easy for your brain to tell you the word is correct even when it isn’t. Like progeny and prodigy. I know the difference, naturally. But my brain kept reading progeny as prodigy and I missed two instances. Silly things like this pull a reader out of the story, so it’s imperative to catch them all.

I enjoyed my week in Colorado, where the weather was nigh on perfect, crisp evenings that called for long sleeves, sunny days with dramatic afternoon storms and divine sunsets, deer and rabbits and Mexican food galore. I was able to write some, which is great. The new book is starting to shape itself into something resembling a story, at least. There are a lot of sharp edges, and a few plot lines that I have no idea where I’m leading myself, but that’s the fun part of creation, allowing myself to be surprised.

I’ve been listening to some classics, and it’s such a different experience, these favorite books of mine on audio. REBECCA, read by Anna Massey, was sheer perfection: frightening and intense and seductive. I gleaned so much from the story that I’d missed on my many reads. So now I’m off to THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, and it, too, is a dynamically new experience thus far. 

The secret project is back in the queue, and a few show tapings, and an extended business trip upcoming. Obviously, there’s quite a bit going on here, but the new schedule is working wonders, and after a minor freakout when everything hit at once, I am feeling calm and content as I plow through all this. It’s funny, I was never a do your homework the night before kind of girl, and that’s carried into adulthood, but... I do better when there’s a LOT on my plate. Which is nutso, for sure.

And tomorrow is our 24th/27th anniversary!  We have a lovely celebration planned, and I’m looking forward to focusing all my attention on my darling husband, without whom none of this would matter. Believe me when I say I know how incredibly blessed I am to have such a steadfast companion in Randy. He is my sun and my moon. The yang to my yin. To think, all those years ago, at this moment, he was walking into my classroom at George Washington, spying me, and asking if the seat next to me was taken, and all I could think was oh no, that guy is really cute. I had no idea when I sat down that evening my life was about to change forever—rather, I did, it was the first night of graduate school and I was taking the next step career-wise. But I didn’t know my heart would be stolen and my forever partner found.

Sometimes, upon meeting that person, you just know. I did. ❤️

And with that, off to the links with you!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

'Fleabag' Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge on Writing Bond 25 and Her Secret New Movie. Dream writer…

A Reservation-Only Wizarding Restaurant In The Theme Of Harry Potter To Open In Maine. This looks amazing!

What knowledge might save your life one day? Things to know.

The Hazards of Writing While Female. “Agents probably knew that George’s book would be easier to advertise and more likely to get reviewed. When George wrote about a female protagonist, it was edgy; when Catherine did so, it was ‘women’s fiction.’ The dismissiveness woven into that label—when do we ever talk about “men’s fiction”?—is part of a pattern of associating female writers with the personal, the domestic, the emotional, the subjective, and using that to diminish them.”

Welcome to America’s other clutter problem. It’s called self-storage. Wow.

Celebrate Women in Translation Month With These Book Riot Favorites. Great list!

Do You Ever Read Your Journal? This is a good explanation for why you should.

The Beginner's Guide to Edibles. Lots of good advice here.

The Wine of the Week at The Wine Vixen

What I’m Reading:

REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier

I found an old paperback copy of Rebecca on my bookshelf while I was in Colorado. This one was printed in 1971. I was a little too young to read it then, but I'm sure I found it on my parents' shelf and appropriated it for myself a decade later. It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite books. It’s had a huge influence in my work, as I’m sure you can tell if you've read any of my standalones. This time around, I'm listening to the audio. As always happens when I listen to a much-loved book, I get something new out of it. Hearing the story is chilling in the extreme; it is even more disturbing and sinister than reading the words. This is a genius at work. And there's going to be a new TV show! Can't. Wait!

What are you reading?

That’s all for now. I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday, all!

First, just an FYI…This is the last day to get A THOUSAND DOORS for only 99 cents! PW gave it a starred review (!), Bookreporter said it was worth the wait, and the reviews online have been stupendous. Added bonus? You’ll find a LOT of super talented authors to read!

Greetings from the great mountainous west! It’s my dad’s birthday week, so the family has converged to celebrate. It’s been a gorgeous, mostly lovely week, with big skies and cool evenings. And lots of Mexican food. Oh, people. I am addicted to green chili. I’ve had it all but one day. I might just turn into a bowl of green chili. We just can’t get it like this in Nashville.

I normally play a lot of golf out here, as this is my home course where I learned and played years of junior golf.  But that’s being interrupted by the bum knee, so I’ve been doing a lot of chilling. Working on the new book. Getting ready to switch my content manager in anticipation of the new Apple operating system coming in a few weeks. Debating changing my screen savers to a fall scape. Watching some Harry Potter (my default destressor) Pondering how to have a better work/life balance. You know, all those end of summer things. 

The work/life balance... I think I have it figured out. I asked a few folks how they handled their stress, and got several really great answers that had actionable steps for me to try. And it’s helping, tremendously. I’ve been forced to go against my nature—my best writing time is between 3-6pm—but getting the words done in the morning makes such a difference I’ve been willpowering my nature into another pattern. 

If I don’t write first, it’s too easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of business— and let me be clear, by business, I don’t mean social media. I mean blurbing books, editing stories, handling communications with my publishers and team, planning the newsletter, appearances, art briefs, release workflows, working on Two Tales and the Wine Vixen, and of course, prepping for A WORD ON WORDS.  It is not playing on Twitter or Facebook. I have a fantastic admin who helps plan the social media aspects so I’m free to be social when I choose to engage. 

This is a damn good problem to have, yes. But I’m getting too busy again, so it’s time to pull back. Busy makes me feel stressed, and then overwhelmed, and then I can’t get anything done well, which is not a state I enjoy.

It was funny, I had a stress dream in the midst of all this pondering. I’d set up a signing, had people flying in, had planned this huge event, and had forgotten to order the books. Just clean forgot. That’s my biggest worry, always, that I’ll forget to do something I’ve promised to do. I’m also writing a character who is a book publicist—that might be part of the why behind the dream. The ultimate publicity nightmare, right? Still...UGH!

So how do we fix the sense of being too busy? We promise to do LESS! 😊 

I hate saying no, but I’m learning how to make it my default. Most importantly, how to keep on saying no, even when things ease up.  It’s time to break out the No Gnome again. (Oh, he’s a peach... maybe one day I’ll post a picture.)

And don’t worry, none of this is at the expense of the writing. That always gets done. The book always comes first. I’ve just been playing with when to do the inevitable business tasks. For the past month I’ve been trying to do a single business day once a week, a day set aside to do all the things I need to feel on top of things. Cleaning out my email, writing non-fiction, etc. It’s working very well. I hope this change takes me into fall and the launch of Good Girls Lie!

As always, I’m open to thoughts. But I think this is working pretty well.

OK, enough. On to the links!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Anatomy of a Suspense Novel. “If you think about it, every suspense writer is like Mary Shelley creating her own Frankenstein. I am just filling in the atlas of the book’s vital organs.”

10 Intersections Between Podcasts, Audiobooks, and Storytelling at Large. It’s really interesting to consider how podcasts and audiobooks intersect and amplify one another.

The most anticipated thrillers of fall 2019. I was blown away to be included on this list with such great company! So many amazing books coming...

50 Ways to Live On Your Own Terms. Brilliant advice. As a matter of fact, I’m refilling my tea cup and rereading right now.

Organization that gives away books for free just opened its first ‘store’ for teachers. This is wonderful! What a great way to give back.

18 Times Toni Morrison Spoke To Our Souls. What a terrible loss. But Toni is one of those writers who may leave us physically, but her lessons will live on in our hearts.

Why You Owe It to Yourself to Abandon Books You’re Not Enjoying. Always a good reminder. This plays into my too busy feeling too often.

19 Romance Novels To Fall In Love With This Summer. Another great list! I’m just so impressed with the quality and quantity of excellent work in the genre.

The Wine of the Week at The Wine Vixen is another white - what is HAPPENING???

What I’m Reading:

LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager

Riley Sager is doing a lot of good work lately, and Lock Every Door fits well into his canon. Echoes of Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby are clear, and The Bartholomew is a character unto itself. A satisfying thriller with a great twist.

What are you reading?

That’s all for now. Remember the power of your words, be them kind or mean, take a huge deep breath today and let your shoulders relax, and watch out for deer on the roads! I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,