Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 12.31.17

Happy New Year's Eve! I hope you've had a blessed holiday season, enjoyed time with family and friends. I know I did. Lots of Christmas cookies, movies (Star Wars was awesome!), rounds of golf, beach walking, reading, and dreaming up plans for 2018. This is one of my favorite times of year. I'm so enjoying the quiet. It helps me reflect on the year that's ending, and allows me to look forward with a clear head.

This week, I've sprinkled a few productivity articles among the fun links. I hope you find all of them useful (I especially love those free word trackers). If you have any productivity tips or goals for 2018, let me know in the comments. I'm a sucker for anything that helps me thrive!

Here's to our last Sunday Smatterings of 2017!


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

 

In praise of JK Rowling and all other Rebel Girls. Bring on the stories of badass women! In a sea of tough dudes and superheroes, little girls deserve to see tough chicks, too. 

Scientists just found the oldest known black hole. It's a monster. This is incredible! I lost half a writing day talking with my father about what's on the other side...
 

2018 Word Trackers are here! Attention, fellow data geeks: If you'd like to count how many words you write this year, use these handy word trackers from Svenja Gosen. They're free, too, though I like to leave a nice fat tip on my way out the door.
 

10 Authors Share the Writing Tools They Can’t Live Without. There are many ways up the creative mountain, and I'm fascinated by how other writers get the job done. I can't help it; my curiosity rivals a cat's. (psst: if you're new to my site and curious as to what I use, I outline my favorite writing tools here)
 

12 Tips from Rare Books Experts to Keep Your Books Looking Great. You know, for the more, ahem, OCD among us.
 

Why A WRINKLE IN TIME will change Hollywood. Great article. I can't wait to see this in theaters. The trailer looks ah-mazing!
 

The solar eclipse burned a crescent wound on a New York woman’s retina. She wasn’t wearing proper glasses. 😳😳😳 
 

12 Literary Cocktails to Pair with Classic Reads. Just in case you need to jazz up all the winter nights of reading by the fire.

Lastly, we lost an icon this weekend. I was heartbroken to hear of Sue Grafton's passing. She was a class act; a generous, kind, and down to earth woman with a spicy sense of humor, and her legacy is more than a phenomenal series of books and trailblazing the way for women mystery and thriller authors. Every writer who shared their remembrances told a similar story: she was good to them. It's the way to leave this world, I think, with the accolades and praise for your spirit as well as your work. RIP, Sue. The alphabet ends in Y.


And closer to home:


Keep an eye out for my 2017 Annual Review and 2018 Preview, coming out later this week! It's my favorite blog post each year. If you'd like to compare my 2017 predictions with my upcoming results, take a look at my 2016 Annual Review and 2017 Preview.


That's it from me in 2017! I hope you have a wonderful start to 2018, that you're safe tonight and take care of pets who aren't big fans of fireworks or cold weather. Stay warm, be good, and we'll talk again soon. Happy New Year!

xo,
J.T.

Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 12.17.17

Hey there, chickens, what's shaking? Enjoying the holiday season? I want to wish a very Happy Hanukkah to my friends who are celebrating this week!

Lots of cleaning and straightening and drop-off trips to Goodwill in my neck of the woods this week. The Ellison elves have been clearing the clutter—we had a party on Friday, and we've long needed the extra overflow space for our guests to mingle and play pool (like Taylor!). It took quite a few man/woman hours and four-letter words, but our bonus room has a new lease on life as a proper game room, and I couldn't be more pleased. The best part is we didn't just hide the clutter, we removed it entirely. The end result is a clean, minimalist house with great energy flowing through! 

If I only hadn't overindulged in almond flour macaroons last night...

Without further ado, here are your links.


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:
 

2018 Golden Globes Nominees Are Chock-Full of Literary Adaptations. Which of these have you read? And which stories are you excited to see on screens big and small?
 

16 Literary Gifts For Every Book-Lover In Your Life, Based On Their Myers-Briggs Type. For all of you personality geeks who categorize your friends and loved ones (INJT here! ✋), this list may help you choose your holiday gifts.
 

CBTB Recommends #3: Witty Crime Fiction and Dark Thrillers. I love a good year-end roundup list—they help me stock my TBR for the next year! If you need some book suggestions, stop by Crime by the Book. She's always reading something good.
 

The 50 Best Superhero Movies of All Time. What’s this list say? We desperately need some more female superheroes, in books and on screen. Period.
 

Being Busy Is Killing Our Ability to Think Creatively. Ouch! It's easy to get overloaded, especially this time of year. But we all need to build quiet space in our schedules, time we can calm ourselves and get creative. This is part of my plan for 2018.
 

How I Learned to Make Business Travel More Enjoyable. Being a road warrior is tough. These are tactical suggestions to ease your stress while you're on the move. (hint: it's okay to enjoy the perks - necessary, even!)
 

Chicago Boy, 4, sharing gift of books with others after reading 100 in a day. So precious. May we all set big goals and work hard to achieve them!


And closer to home:

Sunday Reads: I listened to THE GRAY MAN by Mark Greaney this week. Superbly paced and performed, Mark has ushered in a new spy for our modern age. I loved Court Gentry, an honorable Byronic hero if I've ever met one, and loved the read. 

 

2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Booksworms, Nerds, and Productive People. My favorite books of the year, my favorite tools and trinkets, even my favorite blogs: they're all here and linked for your browsing and shopping pleasure. Hope you enjoy them!


That's it from me! Listen up for a second: just breathe. This time of year can be so stressful. I know you want to enjoy the holidays with your loved ones and make their experiences the most fun they can possibly be. But... if you can't enjoy them yourself, what's the point? Take a minute to s l o w  d o w n. It will all be fine, okay? No one's judging you but you.

Have a great week, y'all.

xo,
J.T.

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.
 
THREE DARK CROWNS – Kendare Blake

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.
 
THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE – Matthew Quick

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! 
 
A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN – Sarah J. Maas

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. 
 
NATURALLY VEGETARIAN – Valentina Solfrini

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!

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.

xo,
J.T.

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.

Anyway...


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.

 *shudder*


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.

xo,
J.T.