DEAD ENDS: Stories from the Gothic South is on sale today!

For years, I’ve been telling people (new writers, especially) that while everything is derivative—there are only seven plots, after all—what makes their story distinctive is voice. The treatment a writer gives their novel or short story will always be unique unto them: their voice, their experiences, their vocabulary, their writing style, all will converge to make even the most tried-and-true plot trope unique.

Said more simply, if you give thirteen writers a photo and ask them to write a story, you’ll get thirteen completely different stories.

I’ve seen this happen when I teach. I like to use visual aids to help the writers in my classes, to give them a jumping-off point. A kick start. I think it’s a fun, stress-free way of starting a story. I show them a man, a woman, a setting. Something, anything, so they don’t have to conjure up a tale from total scratch.

I’ve been using this example for so long, and so often, that when I came across this photo in an article I was reading, I knew I had the perfect opportunity. 

 
The House that inspired DEAD ENDS
 

I immediately wondered: What was his story? What was this place he stood before? What was the house to him?

With this evocative photo in hand, I approached my publisher and posited an idea: Let’s create an anthology of stories based on the house in the photo. I mean, why not put my money where my mouth is, right? I handpicked a group of writers whom I thought would do a great job at showcasing (and proving) my theory—that no two writers will approach the page the same way. We had only two requirements for them: that the house appear in the story in some way, and the theme of the story was Southern Gothic.

These talented writers did exactly what I thought they’d do—they created wildly diverse stories about, in, and mentioning the house that are in turns chilling, haunting, and downright scary. From writers going mad to demons inhabiting young girls; ancient caves to ancestral feuds; gardens of stone angels to evils seen and unseen—the stories you’re about to read cover the gamut of the best themes of Southern Gothic fiction.

They clearly had so much fun with it that I had to join in.

And so, I give you DEAD ENDS. My brilliant friends and I have cooked up thirteen original, never-before-published spooky tales for you to enjoy this Halloween season. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did writing them. But be sure to lock the doors and windows first... you never know what the road ahead might bring.

 

Get the ebook: $3.99

Get the Paperback: $13.99

Get the Hardcover: $24.99

Look at this picture. Tell me what you see…

The American South is rife with stories of a haunted past—especially its houses. In this eclectic and impressive collection, thirteen novelists were asked to build their tales around the photo of a dilapidated mansion. They were given two requirements—the house must appear in the story, and it should be a Southern Gothic tale. And they delivered.

From childish demons to a mad novelist, from the Mississippi delta to the Appalachians, this collection from emerging voices and New York Timesbestselling authors explores what happens when secrets that lie beneath the dust are disturbed—and our worst nightmares begin. 

Darkness lurks behind every corner, especially dead ends.


Contributors Include:

  1. Jeff Abbott
  2. David Bell
  3. Laura Benedict
  4. Patti Callahan Henry
  5. Dana Chamblee Carpenter
  6. Paige Crutcher
  7. Helen Ellis
  8. J.T. Ellison
  9. Ariel Lawhon
  10. Lisa Morton
  11. Bryon Quertermous
  12. Amanda Stevens
  13. Dave White

Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 8.27.17

Hey, peeps, happy Sunday! Hope you had a good week. Did you do anything fun?

Lots of quiet time for me, writing and storing up energy for a busy fall. I'm looking forward to traveling to across the country over the next few weeks. I do my best writing on planes, actually, because I have nowhere to go and no immediate distractions – no phone to answer, no kitchen to clean, no errands to run, no kitties to throw mice for. On top of that, I get to say hi to so many of you, for which I'm so grateful! LIE TO ME is about to be born into the world, and y'all are the ones who make it all possible. Thank you, darling readers. Truly.


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

19 Thrillers You May Have Missed This Summer. Stock your TBR lists, people! Winter is coming. You may see some familiar faces here...
 

A Discover of Witches TV Show Announcement. If you've been around the Tao for a while, you know I feel pretty strongly about Deb Harkess (I love her) and her series A Discover of Witches (I love it). So I was tickled pink when Deb announced the TV casting for reluctant witch Diana Bishop and sexy vampire geneticist Matthew. Wonderful choices—especially for Diana! I can't wait to see their performances.
 

A Woman Was Arrested for "Stealing" a Case of Water Bottles and THIS Was Her Husband’s Response. LOLOLOLOL! Priceless. 😂
 

How many of the top 100 crimes novels of the early 20th century have you read? Y'all are pretty prolific readers, so I'm curious. Leave your answer in the comments...
 

Being Busy Is Killing Our Ability to Think Creatively. I'm trying my best to heed these words. Focus takes practice now, which is alarming to me. I've had a lot happening this year, so this is especially salient right now.
 

8 Books to Read If You Loved Broadchurch. After the finale, you may be jonesing for more Hardy and Miller. These may do the trick.
 

20 Literary "Would You Rather"s. Hee! 
 

A WORD ON WORDS with Elizabeth Strout. Did you know Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of OLIVE KITTERIDGE and MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON, did stand-up comedy? My cohost Mary Laura Philpott uncovers all kinds of gems in this episode of A WORD ON WORDS (psst, this kicks off a whole slew of Season 3 episodes! Stay tuned over the next few weeks for some killer all-star guests 🙌). #keepreading


And closer to home:

LIE TO ME is here NEXT WEEK.

Needless to say, I can't wait for you to get your hands on it!

Some lovely people have been featuring the book, bloggers you may want to put on your radar if you want some tip-top resources to your TBR pile. Many thanks to:

Haven't pre-ordered your copy yet? No worries.
Find your preferred format and favorite retailer here, and claim yours in a couple of clicks.


As you know, I have been stocking my indie press, Two Tales, with my own short stories exclusively. But no more! 

On September 28, we are releasing the first Two Tales Press Anthology — DEAD ENDS: Stories from the Gothic South — featuring 13 original stories by 13 incredible authors. It's a themed anthology, too! DEAD ENDS is now available for pre-order in ebook, paperback, and hardcover. I hope you love it—there's some amazing stuff in here for you. Here's the lineup of incredible authors:

  1. Jeff Abbott
  2. Helen Ellis
  3. Patti Callahan Henry
  4. Amanda Stevens
  5. Paige Crutcher
  6. Dana Chamblee Carpenter
  7. Laura Benedict
  8. Bryon Quertermous
  9. Dave White
  10. Lisa Morton
  11. David Bell
  12. J.T. Ellison
  13. Ariel Lawhon

Enjoy, y'all.


That's it from me! Y'all have a great week, enjoy the last vestiges of summer before we plunge into Pumpkin Spice mode, and I'll talk to you again soon.

xo,
J.T.

Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 7.23.17

Hey, y'all! How's tricks? The Ellison house is trying to stay cool during the heat wave, and thankfully that's more possible now that our air-conditioner is fixed...er...completely replaced. Yes, our 30-year-old unit took one look at the heatwave and said, no, nope, no way and quit. Oh, the joys of Tennessee summertime... 

Got a bit of writing done on the new Brit in the FBI book, though not as much as I wanted. But like I said, hitting a rough patch at this stage of the book, a quarter of the way through, is normal for me. Sometimes you just have to buckle down and write through it anyway. It's not fun, by any stretch, but as a professional, sitting down and doing the work is something I have to do. The end result will be worth it, and I think you're all going to love this book. Plus I get to go on vacation soon, a proper one, something I haven't done in a couple of years. That's a nice light at the end of the tunnel.

Anyway. It's been a while since we've had a Sunday Smatterings, so without further ado...


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

BLAME, the stunning new thriller from Jeff Abbott. Y'all, do yourselves a favor and pick up a copy of my buddy Jeff Abbott's latest novel, BLAME. It's a five-star read!

10 Writing Rules You Can (and Should) Break. Amen. What makes your writing yours is how you break the rules.

Revered and Feared in the Book Review. "A good murder novel, she once wrote, can be 'a portal to a wider world.' Here she is literally at home among them, windows into alternate realities as familiar and vital to her as they can be strange and sinister to others."

Should You Make Your Book Available for Pre-Order? I, along with 13 other authors, weigh in.

The Handmaid's Tale: How to Soundtrack a TV Show Set in Silence. If you haven't seen the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE, trust me when I say the soundtrack of the show is sheer brilliance. I enjoyed this peek into the creative minds behind it.

Emma Watson Interviews Margaret Atwood on "The Handmaid's Tale." Speaking of tapping creative minds, Hermione Granger interviewed the author herself. The meeting of these two smart, savvy women is so enjoyable!

The Golden Age of Bailing. "Technology makes it all so easy. You just pull out your phone and bailing on a rendezvous is as easy as canceling an Uber driver.... But we should probably make bailing harder."


And closer to home:

This week, not only did we receive a wonderful starred PW review (!), I announced dates and locations for the LIE TO ME tour! I'm heading to some new places on tour this time. Am I going to be near you? If not, never fear: I have a LiveSigning planned on September 21! What's a LiveSigning, you ask? It'll be a live streaming video where I'll sign books on camera, talk about LIE TO ME, and answer your burning questions—just like a regular bookstore signing. And guess what? You can get yourself an autographed book and submit a question before the livecast! Want to learn more? Details here.

New J.T. story: THE ENDARKENING. Have you read my latest short story? It's the perfect ebook read for a plane ride or a day at the beach. Especially if you're into sexy Scottish Highlanders...

JUDAS KISS is only $0.99 until tomorrow! If you've never read Taylor's 3rd book, now's your chance to get the ebook for a bargain.


That's it from me! Y'all enjoy a lazy summer day or two, binge-watch something good, be safe in the heat, and we'll talk again soon.

xo,
J.T.

Daily Tao ☯ 7.17.17

And… we’re back! Did you have a fabulous couple of weeks? We did. Amy had a blast on her travels, I got a ton of writing done, and now we’re back to regularly scheduled programming, albeit it with a bit of fantastic news to kick off the week:

LIE TO ME received a Starred Publisher’s Weekly review today!

★ Publishers Weekly

Successful authors Ethan and Sutton Montclair, the married couple at the heart of this exceptional domestic thriller from bestseller Ellison (No One Knows), lead a relatively quiet life in Franklin, Tenn., where they each work on their respective books. Then Ethan wakes up one morning to discover a note from Sutton telling him that she needs some time away and doesn’t want him looking for her. Distraught, Ethan contacts Sutton’s mother and her friends, yet all of them claim not to know where she is. When Ethan finally decides to get the police involved in searching for Sutton, he falls under suspicion. Witnesses claim that Ethan physically abused Sutton and was even responsible for the death of their infant son. Might Ethan, emotionally devastated as he appears, be a psychopathic killer? Ellison keeps the suspense high with chapters from the point of view of someone very evil. The person responsible for Sutton’s disappearance remains a mystery right up to the surprising finale. This standalone may be Ellison’s best work to date.

I cried. Of course I cried. A — it’s an incredible review. B — sometimes, you don’t believe what the people around you are saying, and you need affirmation from an anonymous stranger. Isn’t that how art works?

The hardest part for me is always when the book is no longer mine, and it’s gone out into the world to belong to others. You hope and pray it stands up straight, showers daily, puts on fresh underwear in case there’s an accident, comports itself with compassion and grace, doesn’t get drunk and fall down and skin its knee, but you never know what’s going to happen.

So I was incredibly excited when I saw the review. And then I opened my laptop and wrote, because the only way to deal with good news is to remember the way the good news came about, which is hard work. But all day, I kept looking at that star with a secret smile. I put myself out there with this one. It's the book of my heart, and to have this recognition means everything to me. 

Later, we celebrated as we do, with GF pizza and excellent champagne, and the last episodes of House of Cards and The Handmaid’s Tale. All in all, it was a perfect day. 

So all is right in my world at the moment. 

Now, I have a favor. There’s an incredible book about to make its debut in the world tomorrow. It’s called BLAME, and it’s by a good friend of mine, Jeff Abbott. I would have been sharing this news with you regardless, but I’m banging the drum a bit harder than usual because the Abbotts lost their house to a terrible fire last week, and the only thing I can do to help is spread the word. Supporting an artist in his time of need is the most worthy cause. You can get BLAME everywhere fine books are sold. Jeff's signing at Book People tomorrow night, so you can even get one personalized and shipped. Click here for more info!

Here’s what I had to say about it -- I give it 5 Stars!

“BLAME is a masterful suspense novel, full of dread, lies, and deceptions. Abbott is one of our finest writers, and BLAME takes his talents to new levels. Sinister and twisting, this is hands-down the best book you’ll read — and re-read — this year. Absolutely top-notch.”

Have a fabulous evening, chickens! It's good to be back.

Juxtaposition

“Where there is great doubt, there will be great awakening; small doubt, small awakening; no doubt, no awakening.” - Zen proverb

Two writers. Two different realizations. One is struck by the Muse. One is sharing why we all sometimes needs to fight to find the Muse, because she's hiding under a pile of paper. One writer is yet to be published, but working hard and on submission. One is an internationally bestselling author. One is on the cusp of becoming the other, and I have no doubt will soon surpass us all.

They're both doing it right.

Both work incredibly hard at their craft, and inspire me daily.

More importantly, both are accomplishing their goals for the day.

Discipline and enlightenment.

These are the two ingredients that make a successful author. They go hand in hand. Without one, the other doesn't matter. You can be inspired, touched on the shoulder by the Muse, but if you don't have the discipline to sit in the chair and pound out the words every day, nothing will come of it. If you have the discipline, the dogged rampant desire to work hard, but can't see the forest for the trees, nothing will come of it.

You need both to be a writer. You need the moments of enlightenment; need to allow yourself to accept the gift when it's presented to you. And you need a method, a habit, to harness those gifts and produce a story.

I'm struck by the balance that we all must seek between the two extremes, between the Necessary Evil that is the writer's To Do List, and the Necessary Good that is the writer's Muse. Take the two pieces and use them for yourself today. And if you have tips on balancing the two, leave them in the comments.