Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday, blessed solstice, and welcome, Summer of ’19! 

Here we are, halfway through the year. Rather amazing, that. And a wee bit terrifying, as I have a hard stop December deadline for my next standalone. 

I always build my year around my deadlines. I have some strict rules—no appearances in the weeks prior to a deadline, a short vacation halfway through drafting, monthly word goals to keep me on track, built-in time for the inevitable I’ve finished a draft and caught a cold that happens with every book.

For the past several years I’ve been juggling the deadlines of two publishing streams. Now that I’m back to solo work, and technically writing 1 book a year, I can look at my calendar differently, schedule things more in line with the rhythms of my year. That’s not to say I won’t write two books in a 12-month period, it’s entirely possible that I will. But for now, I get to start looking at things on an annual basis. Which means finish a book December 1, start a new one January 1. And add some touring in for the most recent releases, which, for now, will be winter.

Best case scenario sees a finished book in June, giving me a few weeks off in July, and starting a new one in August, wrapping before Christmas, but we’ll see how that works. I want to throw some short stories in there, too. I have two brewing, and one promised, so soon enough there will be some more work to do on those, too.

(Feel free to jump ahead to the links, because I’m going to talk craft for a while…)


In the midst of last week’s very excellent new books news, I had an “all is lost” moment. I just could not figure out why the new book wasn’t working. I’ve had the concept and been excited about it since the end of March. My agent was excited about it. My DH was excited about it.

But when I turned myself to building the story, nothing would work. The characters just didn’t zing. And then I wrote a prologue that had exactly zero to do with the story I thought I was telling. 

I finally publicly lamented that I’d forgotten how to write books, which I think every author feels at one point or another, but an agent friend very kindly reached out and gave me a bit of bootstrapping support, which reminded me that even though the writing life can be quite isolated, and success therein isolating, we aren’t really alone. There are agents. There are editors. There are writer friends, partners, and other sounding boards available to us, should we care to crawl out of our holes and seek help.

So seek help I did. I spoke at length with a developmental editor friend at a party (poor girl, so sorry to have dominated your evening.) I listened to agent friend’s advice. I talked to my BFF, and my husband. And then I called my editor and talked to her. 

We pretty quickly hit upon the major stumbling block—the premise is cool, but my awesome characters were just plain wrong. The POV was off because the characters weren’t right. I have all the awesome elements for a great story, but I wasn’t connected to the characters. They were too old. Their motivations were wrong for the story I wanted to tell.

So I tossed them, and the 5,000 words I had. (Gulp) (and by “tossed” I mean moved them into a new folder inside the WIP Scrivener file. I NEVER actually throw out words.)

That same day, my BFF sent me a get well present, and in it was a note written on a Jane Austen postcard, with the following quote:

“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

It hit me light a lightning bolt. A—I had no epigraph for the story: me, the queen of epigraphs. And B—this quote was *perfection*. Hello, epigraph! (I also have a mediocre working title that I know will change, another weird stumbling block.)

And then I watched the James Patterson MasterClass, which I highly recommend for every level of writer. I was worried it was going to be too basic, but Master Class is the best name for this, because it wasn’t basic at all. Like many craft conversations, the more you know, the more you’ll take away. Plus, Patterson is a hoot.

Thinking about the story in terms of the craft gave me what I needed. I changed the main character’s name, which altered her totally and completely, and that started the ball rolling. After circling the opening for weeks, I finally, finally hit upon the right POV, the right characters, and the right setting, and it meshes with the prologue, and the epigraph, and the elements. Phew!

This all sounds SO messy, I know. I’m a very instinctual writer, finely attuned to my subconscious. My stories usually find me, I don’t set out to find them. I’ve learned an excellent lesson from this. When I try to hunt and kill a storyline, it doesn’t work. I have to let it develop organically. Push too hard, and I simply shove the ideas away, like two north pole magnets trying to connect.

So. Now I can happily participate in #1000wordsofsummer and get going on the damn thing! I will keep you apprised of my progress, natch.

And with that, onward!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Harry Potter-Inspired Café, Steamy Hallows, Is Brewing in NY. Let’s go! Right now! (Or at least during Thrillerfest, if anyone’s in…)

The Hit Books of the First Half of 2019. See any favorites? I am continually astounded by the level of talent out there. Literature just keeps getting better and better.

What I didn’t know about the writing process.  A lovely introspection from Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Buy This Thing. So fighting with this... all the time. Apparently I am susceptible to good marketing.

The Silent Productivity Killer Nobody Talks About. So true… the “getting ready” plague hits us all from time to time, me included. It makes you feel like you’re accomplishing so much, and yet…

Weeding is Fundamental. Fascinating story about what happened at the San Francisco Public Library after the earthquake in 1989.

Advice for Millennials: The Case for Spacing Out. “We’re all in this miserable boat together...” Isn’t that the truth? Though I must say, we also have the power to switch boats.

A Time Capsule From The Greatest: PW Talks with Hana Ali. “I know my dad was not perfect. But I respect and love how we handled his faults.” 

This 10-Minute Routine Will Increase Your Clarity And Creativity.  I do this all the time. Again with the subconscious writer pro forma, I know…

Author Platform: How to Build Your Online Audience and Stay Sane. Good tips! One of my web threads just had the social media discussion. And the advice is always the same - pick what makes YOU happy and do that. To hell with everything else.

Wine of the Week from The Wine Vixen…

What I’m Reading:

THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Patti Callahan Henry

I am a huge fan of Patti Callahan Henry. Beautiful, nuanced writing; characters you are rooting for; deeply relatable situations; and fabulous settings; these are her forte. Her wonderful BECOMING MRS LEWIS, the story of Joy Davidman, wife of C.S. Lewis, was on my Favorite Books of 2018 list. And now Patti is back with a remarkable family drama that explores the vagaries of memory. It’s so good, I bought a second copy so I could share it directly with one of you. Enter the giveaway on Instagram. What are you reading?

That’s all for now. Thanks for hanging in this big huge blog this week. Refresh that cuppa, see if you can spend a week not buying anything, journal for a few, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday, and Happy Father’s Day to all the awesome dads out there, of people and pets, especially my exceptionally cool daddy. I am blessed with a best friend in my father. From golf to books to movies to space, we are two peas in a pod. Love you, Daddy!

It’s been such a cool week! I got to announce the best news — a new three-book deal with my longtime publisher MIRA books, edited by my awesome longtime editor Nicole Brebner. I waxed poetic on Facebook about this, but truly, you — the readers — you are the reason this happens. Your continued support, buying the books, sharing the books, talking about and reviewing the books, is keeping me in a job, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it! And I really appreciate everyone at Mira for the huge vote of confidence. These folks have stood by me through thick and thin over the years, and never gave up, even when sales weren’t superb. So hurrah for all!

I also started PT on my knee. I got the stitches out Friday and got to see some seriously cool photos of what they found when they got in there. The good news is they cleaned everything up. The bad news is, there’s more extensive damage than anticipated, so I heard the dreaded word replacement. That’s down the road, so I’m not too fussed. By the time I need to do it, they’ll have it down to an easy surgery that’s no big deal. (She says, praying.)

I really have underestimated how much this would take out of me, though. I’m genuinely tired, genuinely sore, and genuinely sick of being tired and sore. It’s affecting my linguistic skills terribly, too. I’m working, but things aren’t going the way I want. I keep reminding myself I had surgery, with full anesthesia, so that’s playing a role. And I always forget how to write a book when I start one, which is a true writer phenomenon. Things are starting to click a little bit, so hopefully next week, I’ll see some progress and be able to start writing a proposal.

The proposals I do are sort of an outline, sort of a narrative structure, sort of a guide for where the story is going. It’s for my editor to see what I’m thinking. Characters are revealed, motivations explored, some overarching plot details fleshed out. Right now, I have a working title, a log line, an a X meets Y, and some characters. Now I need to make them all dance, and while I’d prefer a smooth tango or an en pointe ballet, I wouldn’t say no to a decent little shiggy.

One thing I don't want is too much detail. GOOD GIRLS LIE had an ending early on. It was one of the hardest books I’ve ever written because I knew the ending before I really knew the whole story. I am determined never to do that again. So no endings! I have a super vague sense of where this is headed, but I refuse to even let myself think in terms of the end. I don’t even know what the twists are yet. I’ll get there. Maybe.

On a totally different note—THE WINE VIXEN is back up and running! New posts go up at 5 p.m. Wednesdays. So if you’re into some cool wine suggestions, take a gander! It’s a 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷 suggestion this week, too.

With all that behind us, it time for the links!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

40 New Thrillers Out This Summer That Make The Perfect Vacation Reads. Every. Book. On. This. List. WOW! The talent pool just keeps growing!

Best Gardening Books for Lazy Gardeners. It's like you see me.

Please, Let Me Be Alone With My Thoughts. Gotta say, the “nothing box” sounds so appealing. And might save some relationships...

10 romance novels that are perfect for summer reading. Nice list! See my latest romance read below…

What is Success? [insert laughing/sobbing] — Wendy Heard asks a tough question, and I couldn’t help but jump in and try to answer it. 

Ian Fleming Explains How to Write a Thriller. Superb advice and insights on how to write. Full stop.

Parker Posey Buys $1.49 Million One-Bedroom Chelsea Apartment. Lovely! I could do with a 1 bedroom in Chelsea. Just saying…

7 Book Promotion Trends & Tips from BookExpo 2019. Check out these marketing takeaways from #BookExpo #BookExpo19 — interesting info on debut promotion, working with indie bookstores, and packaging ARCs! 

The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet. A deep philosophical thought for you today.

Step inside 'Leninka,' Russia's largest and oldest library. Beautiful and such an interesting history! 

What I’m Reading:


I know you’ve heard about this book and it is worth the hype. Absolutely adorable, sharp and funny and self-aware, this is the book for anyone who likes romantic comedies, who likes stories about hope, who needs some cheer in their lives. A quick and satisfying read. And now I need to go watch You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, and While You Were Sleeping for the umpteenth time.

What are you reading?

That’s all for now. Watch your favorite rom com, get on your bike and get some movement in those knees, eat a Tootsie Pop, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

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Greeting, salutations and warm Sunday hellos!

I come to you from the land of surgical recovery. Went under the knife Thursday morning. The first couple of days were not at all fun, because the surgeon had to do more than anticipated -- he found two tears, one “significant” in the meniscus, one in the plica surrounding the tendon, and some nasty arthritis which he smoothed away. But the knee is starting to knit and heal. I can put some weight on it, and stretching is starting to feel good instead of murderous. I get to take off the surgical dressing this afternoon, and replace it with bandaids. Trust me, that will feel very good. I hope to go downstairs tomorrow. And physical therapy starts Tuesday. And showering. Oh, my kingdom for a hot shower. 

Despite the fine ministrations of Nurse Husband, who has been incredible, feeding, watering, and entertaining me at regular intervals, I am about to go out of my mind. I’ve been stuck in bed, leg elevated, cushioned by down alternative and weighted by cats for three days now and I’m amazed at how very bored I’ve been. I’ve tried reading, watching movies, magazines, even a little work, but it’s being stuck in bed that has me rolling my eyes. I’m ready for this to be over, for sure. Let me do something. ANYTHING!

The minions, on the other hand, love this. There are mountains of pillows to snuggle on, a warm, bored mom who is happy to chat and scratch, even the gentle purr of the ice machine which seems to make them feel safe and happy. 

Regardless, I’m feeling very blessed that things have gone so smoothly. I was quite nervous about this one. Should see a full recovery within a few months. And of all the strange things, one of my golf/yoga buddies had the same surgery with the same doctor the same morning, but we only found out because I heard the name called in the waiting room as I was prepping to go back for mine, and went huh, what are the odds?  So we’re getting to be rehab buds. 

With that, let’s check out the somewhat truncated links (because the pain pill just kicked in…🤪!)

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Crime Fiction as Self-Care. "The insular act of reading lets you into a story but keeps you safe, putting you just out of reach of a world full of troubles."

Rare library book returned after 80 years. It's never too late to return a library book!

Keanu Reeves Is Too Good for This World. I’ve always loved Keanu. His simmering kindness and self-containment is so very attractive.

16 Twisty Books Like Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. LOVE seeing NO ONE KNOWS on this list. And if you missed it, we did a cover reveal this week for the upcoming mass market paperback (Sept 24)!

This Cincinnati Bookstore Operates from the Bed of a Vintage Volkswagen Pick-Up Truck. Nothing like a good bookmobile.

Step inside 'Leninka,' Russia's largest and oldest library. Gorgeous photos and such an interesting history.

Blackwing Eraser Hack-a-Thon. Depthcharge Nerd Alert, but so cool!

How Social Media Movement Subway Book Review Changed How We Look At Books. “While its main mission is to help its 225,000 social media followers discover new books, places and people, Subway Book Review delves deeper and shows us to never judge a person by their book cover. Beutter Cohen has become a documentarian of the underground and someone who is dialed into the American and international cultural scene.”

What I’m Reading:

MAN OF THE YEAR by Caroline Louise Walker

Beautifully written and deviously plotted—the very best kind of story. MAN OF THE YEAR is a stellar literary suspense, exploring the chasm between truth and lies, identity, love, hate, and the pursuit of self, and how a moment’s decision can undo a perfect world. Caroline Louise Walker is a remarkable new voice to watch. Give me more! On sale Tuesday. What are you reading?

That’s all for now. Take some time today for a nap, read a good book, put in a few more herbs, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

NO ONE KNOWS mass market cover reveal!

I am thrilled to announce NO ONE KNOWS will be coming out in mass market paperback September 24! It has a spiffy new cover, and I was able to do a pass through, fixing some tiny issues.

Also, for the first time in print and ebook in the US, the original ending for the book has been restored. 🎉

Ever since I agreed to change the ending, I’ve felt something was missing from the book. It was too abrupt the way it was originally published. The addition of the original ending truly finishes out the book, and I hope you feel the same.

It was both fun and alarming to reread this book. It’s not something I’ve ever done—once a book is published, that’s it. I might listen to the audio, but I don’t reread. Ever. It’s a rule. Because of course there are a hundred things I would change, if I could. I think that hold true for many authors.

But this time, with the permission of my editor, I did just that. The book took place 6 years ago in Nashville—I adjusted a few things to be more current. I smoothed some rough edges. I addressed a mistake that made it through. Little things, here and there.

All around, it was a joyous experience. This was my first standalone novel. It’s much more “literary” than my series novels. It was the first time I really stretched my wings as a writer—leveled up, as we like to say. I am obscenely proud of my debut effort at a standalone. It was a Book of the Month selection, was long listed for the SIBA Southern Book award, was an Okra Pick, was a She Reads pick, made Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide, and, thanks to you, hit the USA Today list.

If you haven’t heard the story behind the plot of NO ONE KNOWS, you should read this: THE SECRET PROJECT IS NO LONGER A SECRET. It’s a fun peek into the origins of this novel. I hope you love it, and if you haven’t read the book, now’s your chance. Even if you did, I hope you will get your new and improved copy come September. Links below! Mwuah!

About the book:

With the same page-turning suspense as The Husband’s Secret, New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison’s No One Knows is a “riveting…skillfully plotted” (Publishers Weekly) thriller that questions if the narrator’s husband really has returned from the dead—or if she’s merely losing her mind.

Aubrey Hamilton has been mourning her missing husband for five years, despite being the prime suspect in his murder. When he is officially declared dead, there are still more questions than answers: Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Was he murdered, or did he run away? And is the new, mysterious man in Aubrey’s life as familiar as he appears, or have years of loneliness and confusion finally driven her mad?

No One Knows is an evocative mystery that explores the complex darkness within all of us, perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins.

Preorder it today!

Listen to the Book Soundtrack

Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday! What a lovely (short) week it’s been. With the garden fully in after Mr. Ellison’s tender ministrations over the three-day weekend, I have some beautiful flowers to look at, and the veggie patch is flourishing. We have Romas, naturally, and carrots, butter lettuce, potatoes, mint, basil, rosemary—all the staples. I’m going to put in some thyme and scallions this weekend. My Gardenia is blooming like mad, but she reminds me of a shy, southern lady—her blooms come to life and are gone the next day. No hummingbirds yet, but I learned they’re in bug-catching mode right now, so hopefully they’ll be back to drinking nectar soon. The hydrangea is starting to flower, the delphiniums are bursting at the seams. Waiting for my lavender and the butterfly bush to get going. And there are now lots of petunias, as suggested.

We have a rule. I do the flowers, Mr. E does the veggies. He has the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen. I do not. It’s crazy.

Did a lot of editing and organizing and idea-gathering this week, too. I know I’ve mentioned the Writing Excuses podcast before, but I’ll direct you to it again. I’m on season 11, with three more ahead. Like watching the Masterclass, listening to experts in their field talk about writing always shakes loose some excellent ideas, and plot thoughts. I spent Thursday organizing and listening, and it gave me a great idea for the new book that is going to be sustainable.

Good Girls Lie Galley

And some GOOD GIRLS LIE galleys came! I am beside myself excited. I know it’s seven months away, and that’s a long time to wait, but we will be doing some giveaways, and the PR machine will gear up in the fall.

I have to laugh, though, looking at this picture. The galley sits atop my notebook for the next book. My work is a metaphorical literary garden, without a doubt. Some parts are perennial—the process, the notebooks, the stages of writing. Some are annual—the unboxing of books, the sudden rush of emotion seeing last year’s garden bloom out so vigorously. And with any garden, once it’s finished blooming, you turn the soil and lay the groundwork for next year. That’s exactly what I’m doing right now, enjoying the blooms, getting ready to prepare the soil so it can lie fallow and grow something new.

Oh, the knee surgery is scheduled for later this week, so if I’m a little less responsive than usual, it’s because I’m tucked up in bed, drooling. I will be back on my feet quickly, the doctor assures me. I am holding him to it.

So with that, let’s check out the links!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Looking for a good book? Here are 8. (So cool to see our A Word on Words episode with author Delia Owens included in this lineup from PBS Newshour’s Arts Beat, Canvas, especially to point people to such an incredible book!)

50 of the Best Books to Read This Summer. I don’t know about you, but I will never be able to read all the books I want to. And here are some more great ones. Time to fill up your TBR! 

Cat furniture dragon franchise, anyone? Cat Owner Makes A Cardboard Iron Throne For Her Maine Coon Cat, And The Lord Of The House Loves It. OK, this is too fun. I love the creative spirit, and would love to see this commercialized.

Mary Laura Philpott Answers Bustle’s New Feature "Ask An Author": I'm About To Get My Degree From Grad School — Now What? Lots of super advice here.

The All-Star Closer Who Is Trying to Save Bookstores. I am a Dodgers fan by marriage, so it’s always hard for me to root elsewhere, but Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle has gained a fan for life.

NPR's Summer Movie Guide: 27 Films Coming Soon To Theaters. Rocket Man, Late Night, and Dark Phoenix are all on my list. What’s on yours?

Are There Any Subjects Too Dark For Crime Fiction? 6 Crime Authors Debate the Possibilities & Limits of Noir...And Also Dinosaurs. This was one of the most fun interviews I've ever done. Hannah Mary McKinnon brought us together and set us free. You can imagine the thread that was happening as we were answering the questions and talking to each other. It was an absolute delight and I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Get an In-Depth Look at a Barnes & Noble Concept Store. Have you visited one yet? I like this set up, and the refocus on books.

5 Ways to Improve Your Focus and Productivity with Exercise. “You’re probably aware of the physical benefits of working out. Whether it’s lower cholesterol, increased longevity, or just fitting better in your clothes, exercise is great for all of it. The mental benefits, however, are often overlooked. These can translate into a huge edge at work.”

For those of you who enjoyed THE LAST SECOND, here’s a fun little article that popped up Friday on the Navy’s secret alien documentary. For reals.

What I’m Reading:

OUT EAST by John Glynn

The divine Mary Laura Philpott recommended OUT EAST in her sweet tiny newsletter, and I jumped on it immediately because A - MLP knows whence she speaks when it comes to book recommendations, B - I'm trying to read more non-fiction, and C - Montauk. I've always been obsessed with the northeastern beach scene, being a Florida beach girl myself. I went in expecting a light read about the Hamptons and WHOA. John Glynn's style is amazingly evocative. This is a wonderful coming-of-age memoir, beautiful, lovely, heartbreaking, and inspiring. I gobbled it up in two days. While John's day job is editing for Graydon House, I really hope he writes a lot more, he's a true talent. What are you reading?

That’s all for now. Cut some flowers for your counter, put out a bowl of water for the unseen neighborhood beasties (it’s getting HOT out there), invest in some lightweight running shoes to motivate you to get out and walk, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,