Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday! I don't know about you, but I wouldn’t mind sitting at a table with a cup of hot cocoa and some heart-shaped cookies right about now.

It’s been a bit of a week. While in Florida, I realized I wasn’t going to make my self-imposed deadline for the new book, and that I was probably going to need to ask my editor for another couple of weeks, to boot. Why? The story had stopped. It simply stopped on me. At 80,000 words. I’d just rounded third and was getting ready to slide home, and I managed to tear a hamstring halfway down the line. (There’s always a sports analogy.) And no matter what I did, I couldn’t find a way out.

I didn’t panic. (Okay, I panicked a little). I got on the phone with my agent, told him I was in trouble, and he reassured me this happens (but not to meeeeeee, I whined) and then instructed me NOT to think about the book for a few days (ummmm…. OK.) I promised I wouldn’t. And I didn’t. I went to Hamilton, hung out with my family, took a few VERY long walks, went to the races…and realized what the problem was with the book. Amazing how altitude helps.

What I realized is that I have a POV issue. If you recall, TEAR ME APART hit a stumbling block as well, a bit past the point I’m at now. That was a tense issue. I changed to third present, rewrote 90k, and it worked wonderfully. Boom, book got done.

This one is slightly trickier, as I need to change a main character’s point of view. But I’m already almost halfway through that revision, and it’s definitely going well. Where the book stands next weekend will be the true test of the situation. That’s when I’ll be done revising the POV and back to telling the story. I hope and pray I’m going to make the end of the month for my draft, and the manuscript to my editor mid-March. We shall see.

I tell you all of this twofold: one, this is my journal of record, and I find it very helpful to look back and see where I’ve been, especially in these teeth-gnashing moments. Two, though… I’m on my 22nd book. That number in and of itself is surreal, but you’d think I’d know how to do this by now.

But I’ve never wanted to write the same kind of book twice in a row. I’m constantly trying to challenge myself (write a book about a serial killer but no blood allowed; write in a brand new genre; write in a new tense; toss out the traditional thriller structure) and sometimes, these reaches don’t go smoothly.

This situation is a perfect example of me trying something new and finding it more challenging than expected. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time left to play with, so I’m revamping both the genre and the POV to make it hurtle toward the finish line again.

Thing is, I’d rather try and screw it all up and have to back away and start over than not try something unique.

This is the only way to level up, trying new things, writing in new ways. Sometimes it works wonderfully. And sometimes…sometimes we throw up our hands, slink off to the kitchen for a PB&J and some tea, kvetch with a friend, then wipe ourselves off and march back upstairs to start again.

The one thing you can’t do is give up.

And with that, I’ll leave you to the links!


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Loved having a chance to talk about this wonderful book with the intriguing Tayari Jones in Problems And Their People for A WORD ON WORDS! Stay through the end, it was a fabulous, illuminating interview.

How To Find a Book Club, For Online and Local Clubs. There’s an option for everyone! I’ve found book clubs are what you make them – you can be as serious or a fun as you wish. One size does not fit all.

Lindsey Vonn reflects on her incredible skiing career. One of my heroes does her last interview with a black eye. What a badass! I have so enjoyed watching Lindsey ski all these years, admire her leadership and dedication and determination. We can all learn something here.

Between the Lines: Kat Martin. I will always be grateful for Kat's wonderful career/writing/life advice when I was a young pup debut author. Great author, great lady!

It’s Not Too Late to Quit Social Media: a great interview with Cal Newport. I know I bang this drum a lot, but I do believe that while you don’t have to give up entirely, especially introverts like me who like the connection without the pressure, it doesn’t have to take over your life.

Stay the Night in This Cozy 130-Year-Old Library. Wouldn’t this be incredible?? Though… 👻


Why are wine grapes picked at night? Ask Decanter. The more you know... One of my favorite things is these really cool wine blogs. I know wine can be mystifying, but there are so many neat resources out there.

Genre Fiction Is Finding a Place At Indie Bookstores. “As McKenzie Workman at Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., asked, ‘If somebody is looking for something to read, isn’t it your job to put it in their hands?’”  I’ve been so very happy with the reception my suspense novels have received from our Indies.

Creating Saturday Night Live’s Cue Cards. OK, I’ll admit, I’ve always wondered about this… cool piece.


What I’m Reading:

THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton

I’m totally grooving on this wonderfully written, atmospheric novel. It has everything I love — a country house, English setting, precocious teenager, books, detectives––and a mystery. Don’t tell me how it ends, okay???


That’s it for now. Pick out an outfit that makes you feel sassy and wear it this week, make that cup of cocoa and bake some cookies, and take a breath. It’s a good week to chill a bit. I’ll see you next Sunday.

peace and hugs,
J.T.

Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday! Coming to you today as I head home from the Southern Command. I went down to celebrate my mum’s birthday (she is a sassy 82!) and attend the play of the century—Hamilton! My brother surprised us all by getting tickets, what a mensch! I’ve been so excited for this. I had plans to attend in NYC a couple of summers ago, but it all fell apart when I had to cancel the entire trip (because of a deadline, boo hiss)! So I am probably the last person in the free world who hasn’t heard the music or know the whole story — and this is on purpose, because I have a thing about experiencing a phenomenon firsthand.

And phenomenon it is. I was blown away. I am SO happy I went in relatively blind to the music. I’m certainly not blind to the story on which it’s based (hello, Federalist Papers) but now I get to throw myself into Hamilton fever whole-hog. First up, the PBS Great Performance documentary Hamilton’s America. And this documentary is wonderful, too. Also, I need to give a major shoutout to the traveling cast. They were astoundingly good. And clearly enjoying themselves. (Can you tell I loved it??? 😂)

I know some of you (possibly including the nasty critic who lives in my brain) are wondering what the heck I’m doing “playing” when I’m on such a close deadline. You’d be right to think this. I’d really hoped to have a draft done before this trip. But the story is being recalcitrant, so I decided a few days of fresh air, long walks, and getting mothered and fathered might help instead of hurt. I’m taking notes as ideas and plots points reveal themselves, and getting a wee bit of altitude. I am probably not going to hit my personal deadline, but that’s something I realized last week, and has everything to do with the story. Sadly, sometimes the creative machine revolts. I want to write the best book possible. Period. And it looks like it’s going to take me longer to make that happen than I wanted.

Not to mention I may have a POV issue. Which will mean some major, major reworking. Big fat UGH.

(But this is also why I set my personal deadlines so far ahead of publisher deadlines…)

So… I’m going to take a walk. And hand this over to you. Time for the latest links!


Here's what happened on the Internets this week: 

12 Books We Should Stop Making High Schoolers Read. I don't necessarily agree with the thesis of this article, as many of these books rank among my favorites and taught me a great deal about writing, humanity, and society in general. Were I an English teacher, I'd use this list as a wonderful juxtaposed then and now exercise: We'll read both and discuss the merits of each.

Cohost with the most Mary Laura interviewed Silas House this week on A WORD ON WORDS! Enjoy!


Decluttering only helps so much if you’re still buying too much in the first place. “The habits around what we buy are complex, and the line between what we need and what we want is blurry. Real progress in terms of decluttering and organization requires changing our mind-sets and rethinking what we value. Which possessions are essential? Which items make us truly happy and which ones just weigh us down?”

Mystery writer Laura Benedict worries there's a stranger in her house. I mean, can you imagine? It’s the worst nightmare ever.


"We speak in links, even for the most devastating of news, and tech giants have made themselves indispensable for link translation." Blocking The Big Five — This is a fascinating series. Follow along as she tries blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, and it proves nearly impossible. Scary. Also, meta to the max, yes?


Are These Bad Habits Creeping Into Your Writing? Mr. Dryer is aptly named, and his copyediting advice is legendary amongst his friends and Twitter followers. And I JUST read a book where the protagonist shrugged her shoulders… I’m looking forward to reading his new style guide.


Two Harry Potter Books Worth Nearly $4000 Showed Up on Antiques Roadshow. But how could you ever part with them? No way, man. No way.


Steve Jobs Never Wanted Us to Use Our iPhones Like This. So looking forward to Cal’s new book Digital Minimalism! I am a fan of Cal’s work, and love how he’s been adapting his message to take into account those of us who can’t just shut it all off because of business reasons.

Rare half-male, half-female cardinal spotted in Pennsylvania. Chimera alert! This is a super fascinating story.


What I’m Reading:

THE STRANGER INSIDE by Laura Benedict

Nothing excites me more than a talented author making an editorial pivot. The first straight suspense from Laura Benedict is off the charts great. Dark, intelligent, beautifully written. You will not be disappointed.


That’s it for now. Give this a listen, get some fresh air, I’ll see you next Sunday.

peace and hugs,
J.T.

LIE TO ME: BUY 2 FAVORITE PAPERBACKS, GET THE 3RD FREE AT BARNES & NOBLE

It’s official! LIE TO ME is a Favorite Paperback at Barnes & Noble. You can pick up a copy, plus two more books you’ve been wanting to read and get one free. Their Buy 2, Get The 3rd Free deals are always incredible!

About the book:

Domestic noir at its best. Readers will devour this stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple. New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison takes her exceptional writing to a new level with this breakout novel. 

They built a life on lies.

Sutton and Ethan Montclair's idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her. 

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

Comment

J.T. Ellison

New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the premier literary television show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

For more insight into her wicked imagination, join J.T.’s email list at jtellison.com/subscribe, or follow her online at Facebook.com/JTEllison14 or on Twitter @thrillerchick.

Sunday Smatterings

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Happy chilly (for most of you) Super Bowl Sunday! Are you watching the game today? Who are you rooting for? I have no real pigskin in the game (ha!) as neither of the teams are on my must win list, so I’ll probably just wait to see who turns my crank and root for them. I like underdogs.

I do love the ads, though.

It’s a working weekend for me. I’m pushing hard to meet my draft deadline of Valentine’s for the new book. If you’re on Instagram or the Facebook page, you can see my progress in Stories. What is Stories, you ask? When you see a circle around my face on the page or in my profile, that means there is an update, but it only stays in existence for 24 hours.

I resisted Stories for a while, but my Buddhist nature has taken over, and I now enjoy the impermanence of a social update that disappears.

I have two trips this month, and of course, fifty thousand other things going on, so it’s imperative that I focus and really knock out the words. It’s coming. I’m entering the last stretch, so there’s hope across the land.

My days are pretty structured, following this new chronograph schedule. I am feeling much more alert, getting much more done, and feel like the balance is returning to my life. I’ll do a write up on this once I’ve been at it for another few weeks, as I’m still struggling with getting up out of the bed as soon as my eyes open. But I’m getting there. I’ve at least started eating breakfast (I almost always fast until noon) and while that is giving me more energy, I’ve had to bump up my workouts to compensate for extra caloric intake. Push and pull. Push and pull.

With deadline brevity in mind, let’s jump right in and take a look at the latest links…


Here's what happened on the Internets this week: 

I had so much fun talking cowboys, Wyoming, and the transformative powers of literary crime fiction with Craig Johnson in Population 19 for A WORD ON WORDS. A lovely man and a lovely interview.

BookClubbish is giving away 5 one-of-a-kind copies of TEAR ME APART! Surprise! This project is near and dear to my heart. I annotated the novel with all kinds of fun facts and story inspiration. You can’t get this edition anywhere else! The giveaway ends tonight.

Here's What Being An Audiobook Producer Is Really Like, From Someone Who Has It As Her Job. I am so happy audiobooks are making such a huge dent in our industry. Here’s a lot of fun info on why and how!

How To Walk 100,000 Steps In One Day. This challenge is fascinating. Incredible. I always congratulate myself on my 10k days - 100k seems outrageously hard. As always, the training is the key. And the corgi. (Just read it…)"

Founder of Dead Poets Society is published, posthumously. This is flat-out beautiful. What wonderful children!

Five Hidden Cognitive Biases That Keep Us From Our Best Creative Work. Well worth a read – especially for breaking the sunk cost bias... (If you’re not familiar with sunk costs, that’s a phenomenon in which you don’t want to abandon a project that’s not working because of the time you’ve put into it. Like walking away from a book that isn’t working etc. Very hard to do.)

The Difference Between Introverts, Empaths, and Highly Sensitive People. A great explanation…I have friends in all these “categories” and inhabit one myself. Guess which one…

Several fabulous books are coming to bookshelves everywhere this Tuesday, February 5. I can’t recommend them enough. THE STRANGER INSIDE by Laura Benedict, I WAS ANASTASIA by Ariel Lawhon, PARADOX by my co-author Catherine Coulter, and DIGITAL MINIMALISM by Cal Newport. I know what I’m doing this week.


What I’m Reading:

AN ANONYMOUS GIRL by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I’m sure you’ve seen this book all over the place (This cover is for the ARC… yes, I got it early. Yay me!) It’s very fun for me to see all these incredible women authors writing such intense, evocative suspense.

I was up too late this week finishing this one.

This is a solid entry in the domestic suspense genre. Excellent structure, excellent use of the second person POV, which is a very difficult thing to do well. And the ending will have you talking!


That’s it for now. Treat yourself with a new book by my BFFs Laura and Ariel, donate a coat or a pair of gloves and a hat to a shelter, let me know which Super Bowl commercial was your favorite, and I’ll see you next Sunday.

peace and hugs,
J.T.

Sunday Smatterings

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Happy Sunday, y’all! Grab a cuppa and let’s chat.

I hope your week was wonderful. Mine wasn’t bad at all, I saw two dear friends IRL - in real life, one of them twice! Had a couple of lovely long phone call catch ups, too. The writing is going as well as can be expected for the second half of the second act. I truly believe books hinge on this moment. With all the outlining and planning, it’s what I like to call the push comes to shove moment when the protagonist has to make a choice that changes the course of the remaining story. Problem is, two of my characters made choices I wasn’t expecting. Yeah. To say things blew up is to put it mildly. I went through my seven stages of grief: this sucks; there’s no way I can make the deadline; I should send my editor a note and tell her I’m not going to make it; I might as well bag the whole book, it’s never going to work; I’ll never have a decent idea again; screw dry January, I’m having a glass of wine.

And then… a new possibility opened up. It does take the story in a slightly different direction, but things are working again.

My biggest issue is I know what the end is. I’m trying so hard not to telegraph it, I’ve almost handicapped myself, but I finally feel I’m at the point in the story that it’s okay for the reader to start getting an inkling of what’s happening. Makes my life so much easier. I normally have no idea what’s going to happen until this moment in the book, so it’s been a bit of a slog to try and get here. Had a nice 4k day Thursday and another on Friday, so the crisis is past and things are moving forward. No lamentable emails sent, either!

But yes, that means I didn’t make the whole month for Dry January. But I’ve made so many positive changes to my habits and well-being this month that I’m not fussed about it. I’ve designated the last two weeks wine-only. Good enough.

Onward! Time for the latest links…


Here's what happened on the Internets this week: 

A WORD ON WORDS is back for Season 4! We’ve already taped a whole slew of shows. Check out my co-host Mary Laura in Writing A Mural with Rebecca Makkai.

The single best thing you can do for your reading life. Shorthand: you don’t have to finish a book if you’re not enjoying it. And trust me, as hard as this is for many, myself included, it does up your reading happens quotient. I probably abandoned 20 books last year.

Hate Your Current Life? Start Waking Up Early. I’m trying... I’m trying... But… I also have been working on an entirely new schedule based on my Wolf Chronotype and my productivity is surging! More on that next week.

Could a Daily Poetry Podcast Save Your Mental Health? “Even if you don’t think you’re interested in poetry, a podcast that asks you to spend a few minutes sitting in thought is good for the mind and the body.”

Back to the Basics. Absolutely fabulous piece. Bullet Journaling has become the “in” thing, and I was so sad to read that some BuJo people have lost sight of what the experience is designed for. It’s a true allegory for how social media can wreck us. If you’re doing it for “them” you will never be happy. Do it for you.

Book Lover Arranges Her Huge Library of Novels Into Imaginative Scenes. Incredible! I especially like her wings.

Want to Know the Greatest Determining Factor of Your Success?  Hint: It's CONSISTENCY. Consistency is the key to life. To determination. To discipline. It’s all you need to become a success if everything you do.

How to Host a Soup Group. Who’s in? Might bring this idea to my supper club.

Build Productive Writing Habits: How to Write More in the Time You Have. "Priorities set the rhythm of your life." Another excellent piece.


What I’m Reading:

INHERITANCE by Dani Shapiro

This was not the easiest book for me to read, if only for the amount of time spent on the aspects of infertility, but the spirit of it was so beautiful and pure. That Dani was able to write about her experiences at this moment in time, when DNA and ancestry databases are helping to solve crimes and helping families find their truths, it’s true serendipity. I think it will help a lot of people who are searching for their own identities. A must-read.


That’s it for now. Snuggle your fur babies, start dreaming about summer vacation, buy yourself something nice (and by nice I don’t mean expensive, new pencils are nice!) and I’ll see you next Sunday.

peace and hugs,
J.T.