Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 4.29.18

Welcome to Sunday, gentle readers. Time to grab some tea, kick up your feet, and lazily read my favorite reads of the week.

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

15 of the best Shakespeare tattoos. Which one is your favorite? I'm partial to #2, myself.

How to Make a Fruitfly Orgasm. Most interesting headline of the week, for sure...

This Joan Didion essay will change the way you think about keeping a journal. "Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether..."

"Ask Benedict to say the word 'penguin.' " Oh my, this is priceless. I love a man who can laugh at himself!

Time management Monday: Just Don’t Do It. Fabulous advice. This is how I prune my To Do lists.

The best method for cooking asparagus is 2000 years old. If it ain't broke...

Advice to writers: You can't write what you wouldn't read. Brilliant advice from Queen Nora.

And closer to home:

The LIE TO ME ebook is only $2.99 until tomorrow! Dirt cheap, y'all—less than a latte, and maybe provides a little more adrenaline.

10 of you can win a copy of THE SIXTH DAY from Shelf Awareness! Throw your hat in the ring on this one. 

That's it from me. Y'all give a treat to the neighborhood cat, send a just-because card to a friend, and we'll talk again soon.



Never miss a post! Subscribe to the blog or get email updates.

Settling Back In

Momentary Lapses of Reason

I love to work travel. Being in a new place sparks all sorts of new ideas for me, and reinvigorates my mind. There’s only one problem… by the time I’m really settled in and hitting a flow, I have to leave. And settling back into the home routine is hard. 

But settling in I am. Slowly but surely, habits are being resurrected. Here’s my perfect day:

  • Read papers, check email…
  • Breakfast — usually cereal with a banana, first of several cups of tea, and a book…
  • Second cup of tea with vitamins…
  • Sit down at the laptop… 
  • Write up a storm…
  • Stretch/yoga/play with the kitties…
  • Lunch with a book, chat/text with a friend…
  • Check email/ handle business…
  • Back to the laptop to write some more…
  • Email and wrap business day…
  • Walk…
  • Dinner prep… 
  • Read…
  • TV…
  • Bath…
  • Sleep.

How many days a week does this happen? Not as many as I’d like.

Several years ago, I instituted Sacred Days. I don’t schedule appointments, lunches, or other day time events Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, so I can have deep work time. These sacred days are vital to my production levels. When I break them, my work suffers, and I turn into a grump.

Since I’m at the beginning of a new book, and my normal patterns have been shot these past few months with travel and epically close deadlines, back come the sacred days! Their structure will allow me to get my footing again, and guarantee me at least a few quiet days of deep work.

How do you schedule out your days?

Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 1.7.18

Hey, chickens! How you doing today? Thawing out, I hope? No more bomb cyclones raging in our backyards?

If you're a U.S. chicken, I don't need to tell you that it has been so cold lately. My fingers stay frozen if they aren't wrapped around a tea mug. The kitties can't go on the porch. Thankfully Nashville wasn't swept up in the bombogenesis, but my deepest sympathies to you if you were. Yeesh. Old Man Winter is sure a grumpy fellow sometimes.

This week I put in lots of edits and new words for TEAR ME APART. I'm at a point where I'm honing the story, upping the tension, making things tighter, discovering more dark and twisty corridors inside of my characters. This is the good stuff of storytelling, when I can start pulling all the threads together. It makes this writer very, very happy.

Anyway. Without further ado, I give you links.

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

The simple structure to attaining your goals. Essential January reading, especially for those who want to keep their resolutions.

Jocko Willink on the power of discipline. We all know I'm a fan of Cal Newport's work, and I read his blog religiously. This article featuring former-Navy-Seal-turned-leadership-consultant Willink ran in December, but I thought it would be a perfect read as we ring in the new year. We're all looking for more freedom in our lives, and Willink uses a surprising tool to find his: discipline. 

How to use money to buy back your time. Creatives, take heed. Your time is so valuable. Where can YOU turn over your work to someone and buy back some creative time?

I WAS ANASTASIA by Ariel Lawhon - a Winter 2018 Okra Pick. I had the pleasure of reading this beauty early. Fans of historical fiction: y'all need to run to your bookstore in March when this hits shelves. Such a great story!

Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan on How They Found the Voice of "Lady Bird." 2018 is going to be a powerful year for women in entertainment, both in front of and behind the camera. Long overdue!

Triple-Acting Diabetes Drug Reverses Memory Loss in Alzheimer's Disease Mouse Models. This is huge, y'all! An accidental find, and a promising start.

How Americans of both political parties can come together to support the Iranian people. When I joined Twitter, we turned our avatars green in support of the Iranian people. It’s time for another bold statement. #freedom

And closer to home:

My 2017 Annual Review. 2017 was one of my most exciting, crazy, thought-provoking, and frustrating years ever. At the beginning of the year, I predicted I'd more create consistency and contentment through staying home more. How well did I do? You be the judge.

Sunday Reads: YEAR ONE by Nora Roberts. This apocalyptic read is quite a departure from Nora's usual fare...

Also, an important thing I must tell you before I go:


Saturday nights tights. #myhusbandisagenius #crazycatlady

A post shared by J.T. Ellison 📚🤓 (@thrillerchick) on


They make sexy tights with kittens on them. You're welcome.

That's it from me! Y'all stay warm, make a snow angel or two, and we'll talk again soon.


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

Copy of Holiday Gift Guide 2016 (4).png

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. And PS: click here to get a coupon code for $10 off!

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!

On Lent, and Doing Good Things for Ourselves and Others

It’s that time of year, when I give up social media for Lent. For the next six weeks, I will be turning inward, and stepping back from all things online.

I’ll still have blogs here, and since I have a release in two weeks (!) I will certainly pop up to say “Hey, buy mah book,” but otherwise, I will be silent.

Lent is just that for me, a time to reflect, to go silent. To look away from the world. It is incredibly difficult for me, which is why this is my Lenten abstinence of choice. I’ve given up Starbucks in the past, smoking, wine, chocolate, but none of those things (outside of smoking — that was a good one, it stuck) truly feel like a sacrifice.

Social media, on the other hand, does. I don’t like not having ready contact with people. I don’t like missing out on photos and news. I certainly don’t like not chatting with folks about books.

Which is why this is the right thing for me to give up. It really does affect me, puts me in a different mind space, where I can contemplate life and creativity and my spiritual nature. I was raised Episcopal, which is why I celebrate Lent in the first place, but over the years I’ve brought a number of tenets from various religions into my daily life, especially Buddhism. I’ve always felt everyone is right, and every religion and belief structure has something worth exploring.

So the weeks stretch ahead of me, unformed, open. There will be a lot of yoga, and meditation. And writing. Of course, there will be writing.

Whether you celebrate or not, may I offer this blessing for your next six weeks? That you have moments of quiet gratitude. That you are showered with kindness from strangers, and in turn have some to spare for others. We have all been put through the wringer over the past six months, and I can only hope that things calm down, that everyone feels less threatened and upset, and we can all work together to keep making our lives, and the lives of others, wonderful.

Blessed be!