Sunday Smatterings

By J.T. Ellison

Well hello, chickens! Having a good weekend, I hope? There’s been lots of sunshine here in Middle Tennessee this week. Our daffodils are almost bloomed out, the trees I have no name for are all budded, but there’s no forsythia (they seem to have the edge when it comes to getting overly anxious and blooming too early–slow and steady, the forsythia) so I doubt it will last. Have you ever heard of Blackberry Winter? $10 it’s coming…

This week I looked up and realized I was more than halfway done with my next standalone novel! 🎉 Considering it kicked my tush from one end of the house to the other for a few months, I’m heartened. There’s nothing better than feeling a story quicken under your fingers, the characters coming to life on the page. It means there’s hope the story has a chance of being what I want it to be. You never know though. Sometimes, books have minds of their own.

Now on to the links!

Here’s what happened on the Internets this week:

One of my favorite reasons to travel? I get to catch up on my TBR list! But what happens when you’re not feeling anything on the pile? Buzzfeed has compiled their 27 books to read while you travel. What say you, reader—do you concur? What’s been your favorite travel read?

This quote from George Bernard Shaw will make you think deeply on how you live your life, and how much of it has changed in the 21st century. (spoiler alert: it’s about how we communicate)

Does your schedule feel packed to the gills, even though you still have goals you’d like to achieve? More reading, more moving, more volunteering? Here’s a thought: altering your morning and evening routines can help you achieve those seemingly impossible goals. All it takes is a few minute a day.

Merriam-Webster recently added 1,000 new words to their dictionary. These are a few fun ones.

Do you like Romantic Suspense? Join this giveaway, where you could win 50+ novels! Countless hours of steamy thrillers, y’all. Just sayin’.

And closer to home:

Last week, I talked about how I’m trying to untether myself from technology a bit in 2017. This week, I continued the series, and discussed how and why I’m systematically turning of my retweets.

If you love food and happen to hit the lottery someday, The Wine Vixen has found the perfect foodie road trip for you!

I’m so pleased to share that Season Two of the EMMY-Award-winning TV show I cohost, A Word on Words, is now airing! This week, brilliant novelist and bookstore owner Ann Patchett talked with my divine cohost Mary Laura Philpott about Ann’s new novel, Commonwealth. Ann has done such a great thing for this city, giving us Parnassus Books as our literary hub, and it was lovely to kick off our new season with her.

P.S. Catherine and I got our finished copies of THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE in the mail this week and OH MY are they BEAUTIFUL!!! A thick, fat book with a gorgeous cover (that should’ve been on Maria’s favorite things list, huh?). Barnes & Noble still has a few signed copies left, and it’s the cheapest I’ve seen it yet. Go get one for you and a friend!

That’s it from me. Talk a walk or two outside, be kind to restaurant servers, hug your fur babies, and I’ll talk to you soon.


Via: JT Ellison


Season 2 of A WORD ON WORDS Is Coming!

By J.T. Ellison

So excited to share that our Emmy-Award winning TV show A Word on Words is premiering Season 2 with the divine Ann Patchett this weekend!

It’s a darling interview, isn’t it? What a wonderful way to kick off the season.

More shows coming every weekend this month, so stay tuned. Once they’ve aired, you can see them on the A Word on Words website, as well as my own.

Via: JT Ellison


Sea Changes, Part Two

By J.T. Ellison

Since I’m reworking many of my habits this year, I thought I’d continue on the theme of Sea Changes.

Now that I’ve decided to start leaving my iPad downstairs, I’ve made another change, this time in how I consume my social media.

I’ve been systematically turning off straight retweets in my Twitter feed.

It didn’t feel like a major idea, but once I started, it’s become a rather big deal.

How does this work? Whenever I see an organic retweet, meaning the person I follow has simply clicked the retweet button, I go to that person’s page and turn off retweets. If the retweet comes with a message from my friend, then I see it, but if it’s just a regular click-to-spread thought, I don’t.

Simple. And mind-blowing.

It’s been a really interesting exercise, and one which has given me great pleasure, because I’m seeing posts from my friends again! I purposefully keep my follow count low on Twitter so I can actually connect with people there, and this has been one of the best things I’ve done in ages.

I’ve also noticed that people have a tendency to retweet things they may believe but would NEVER say themselves. Interesting, right? I know I’m guilty of doing that, too. But from here on out, if I’m retweeting, I’ll be commenting as well, so my followers know why I want them to pay attention to the post. Intentionality. I think it will help my interactions tremendously, because Twitter stopped having a lot happy feels for me a while ago.

And on Facebook, I’ve been doing some housekeeping as well. On my personal page, if I see a post from someone I don’t know (vestiges of my 5000 friend days — I moved everyone I didn’t know over to the fan page years ago, but there are still some I missed), I hide it. Especially if it’s something incendiary. I am a believer in democracy. I took an oath to protect and defend this country, one that I still take seriously. And I have faith in our people to make their own decisions. Some of the posts I’ve seen lately have been obscene, and hateful, and even though I’m not thrilled with the way of the world right now, I respect the process of democracy.

Now, if someone I know and like says something I don’t, no big deal. I firmly believe in free speech, and seeing my friend’s different opinions isn’t an issue for me. I might make a mental note to tease them a bit the next time I see them, or even comment, but in general, I read and try to understand where they’re coming from. I learn from my friends with whom I don’t agree 100% of the time. This is a good thing. I like a good clean debate, well-reasoned arguments, and being exposed to new ideas. I actually don’t know many people who don’t.

But strangers clogging up my feed with hate get unfollowed. Simple as that. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it, either.

Now if I could just teach Facebook to give me the most recent posts ALL THE TIME…

Via: JT Ellison


Sunday Smatterings

By J.T. Ellison

Sunday Smatterings 2.12.17.png

Hello, lovely readers, happy Sunday! How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

I traveled to Florida this week to see family. My mom turned 80, my brothers and daddy and I threw her a lovely small party, and a good time was had by all. I have to be honest, I haven’t gotten a ton of work done, but family is a very important part of my life, and I was excited to spend time with all of us under one roof. Something that doesn’t happen often. And… the weather’s been pretty fabulous. With all things green and sunny, I can’t wait for spring to come back to Nashville. We’re this close, I think; surely Punxsutawney Phil missed the mark this year—the South is seeing green things returning three weeks early.

A girl can dream…

Here’s what happened on the Internets this week:

This week I found an app I would’ve loved as a kid. For only $4.99/month, Epic! gives subscribers unlimited access to 20,000 children’s ebooks. Kids can read the books as many times as they want, whenever they want. Can you imagine having The. Whole. Library. at your fingertips when you were a kid? Bliss.

And when you feed the mind of a child, you feed her creativity. Kids are less inclined to have inhibitions (a lesson we can re-learn), so they can create some of the most fantastic art. Here is what a few children’s book authors and artists created when they were young.

Have you found yourself scrolling through social feeds lately, only to click away with a sigh and a heavy heart? It’s a strange time we’re living in. We writers don’t have a typical means of dealing with hard times in the zeitgeist. Most of us consider words our means of change, though I’d wager most of us want to help our fellow humans in a more tangible way. Leave it to the wise Kris Rusch to tell us how to write in the most difficult times, when it feels like your world is on fire. (Spoiler alert: your work isn’t trivial, and there are things you can do to help.)

This is a nerdy publishing industry post, but! If you’re in the business, here’s what I and a few other publishing peeps think you should do to reach your readers this year.

And closer to home:

Y’all know I am a minimalist. I strive to live simply, to cut out the clutter in my home and my work. But I noticed a habit of mine was clouding my brain and stealing my attention, so I’ve decided to change it. It takes zero time to do, but adds hours to my day. I think you might find it handy, too.

The Wine Vixen ponders a very important question—stemless wine glasses: yea or nay?

Don’t forget: there’s still time to enter the Harlequin Secret Valentine giveaway on Goodreads! I’m offering a paperback copy of FIELD OF GRAVES, along with my favorite romance novel of all time…which will only be revealed to the winners. Go put your hat in the ring! 💕

That’s it from me! This week, show somebody you love them, send some homemade Valentines, sip hot chocolate in front of a fire, and we’ll talk again soon.


P.S. I LOVE YOU!!!!!

maybe you just need one person.

Via: JT Ellison


Sea Changes, Part One

By J.T. Ellison

Full fathom five thy father lies,

Of his bones are coral made,

Those are pearls that were his eyes,

Nothing of him that doth fade,

But doth suffer a sea-change,

into something rich and strange,

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,


Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.

-Shakespeare, The Tempest

Leave it to Shakespeare to come up with a perfect idiom for internal alteration.

I am undergoing a metamorphosis of my own these days. My change is not wrought by the sea, per se, but it is of my own microcosm.

It’s no secret I am a fan of minimalism. This bleeds into my life in interesting, and mostly productive, ways. Inbox Zero, for example. When there are more than 20 emails in my inbox, I start getting a strange, itchy feeling between my shoulder blades, which won’t go away until I’ve cleared out my inbox. Amy always teases me that my procrastination results in productive things, like blogs (ahem) and business attended to.

So what is this sea change of which I speak?

I’ve stopped taking my iPad to bed.

My normal evening/morning involves reading before I go to sleep, then waking up, immediately grabbing my iPad, and reading the news. Inevitably, this means I’m doing email at 11 p.m., and at 8 a.m. And playing on Facebook and Twitter. I have a designed format I follow, site to site to site, news to social media to email (which, if I’m feeling rebellious, I flip, and go from email to Twitter to the news…) but it means I am always plugged in. Always.

I read this piece last week, and it really affected my thinking about how I’m using my devices — or, how they’re using me. Lent is coming soon, and with it, my annual social media sabbatical. The six weeks I spend off the socials is always a psychological boon to me, simply because I allow myself to focus my energies elsewhere without guilt.

I’ve always been rather proud of the fact that my phone stays plugged in on the kitchen counter by the door when I come home. I don’t carry it around the house with me. If someone calls, they’ll leave a message. If a text comes in, I’ll deal with it when I get to it.

And then I realized I’m a complete and total hypocrite, because my iPad is simply taking the phone’s place. I have an unhealthy habit of having my iPad attached to me at all times. I’ve started leaving it in the kitchen during my work day so I’m not tempted to look for things, check email, and the like. That’s helped. My January felt more peaceful and settled, absolutely.

But I realized the moment the workday ends, I’m just trading one screen for another. When my laptop goes off, my iPad comes out. And stays in my hand the whole evening, until I literally fall asleep with it in my hands.

So over the weekend, I left it downstairs. I read on my Kindle. That worked just fine. What I love about the Kindle is the ability to fix fonts to my liking, turn down the backlight, and read in the dark, so I don’t disturb hubby with the bedside lamp.

I wasn’t able to access the news, my email, Facebook, etc. And when I woke up… I got up. The cats weren’t happy, but my day suddenly felt longer. I combined the news reading with breakfast. And I was writing by 10, instead of noon.

I’m several days in to this new habit, and it feels more and more comfortable every day. We’ll see if the cats agree, they aren’t happy they don’t have the warm cuddles in the morning.

I realized immediately this should equal more words per day, one of my biggest goals for 2017. And that’s good news for EVERYONE!

Via: JT Ellison


Sunday Smatterings

By J.T. Ellison

Hello, gentle readers! How’s your Sunday going? Ready for the Super Bowl? Have you started your tailgate yet? ‘Tis the season to make the perfect nachos. If you come up with a recipe, do send it this way, won’t you? I don’t have a dog in the hunt this year, so I’ll be watching for the commercials. Sound off on your favorites!

There was so. much. writing. at Chez Ellison this week. Looming travel plans have a way of speeding up progress toward my goals, and I was off to the races this week, had some very productive days, even found a fresh twist or two in the new standalone. That always makes this writer happy.


Here’s what happened on the Internets this week:

“Crime fiction all boils down to this question…” said Ian Rankin in The Lit Hub. I think he’s right, too. Crime fiction matters, more than you might realize.

You’ve probably stood in the aisle of your local bookstore, poring over titles, trying to find something oddly specific, like a book set in a holiday other than Christmas. I get it—I’ve been there, too. We all know the impulse to read All the Things comes from a good place, from being a curious reader who wants to learn more about the world. But you know what? Sometimes these arbitrary goals we set… they’re just too much. My friend, fellow author Ariel Lawhon, decided she isn’t going to participate in a reading challenge this year. And I have to applaud her.

One of my favorite writer/bloggers, Dean Wesley Smith, recently had a good, somewhat paradoxical (to some) thought: in order to be a better storyteller, you need to… write faster.

Audiobooks are all the rage these days. How could they not be? They’re super portable with a fantastic price, perfect for travel or workouts or household chores. If you’re new to the wide world of audiobooks, let Modern Mrs. Darcy take you by the hand—she explains all things Audible and will have you listening to good stuff in no time. Rosamund Pike reading PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is perfection.

And closer to home:

Time for a giveaway! Head over to Goodreads and enter to win a copy of FIELD OF GRAVES, plus my favorite romance novel (which will only be revealed to the winners… 💕).

February is a lovely month for the gluten eaters—because it’s the return of Girl Scout Cookie Month! And what better way to end the day than a Girl Scout cookie and the perfect wine pairing? The Wine Vixen has the scoop.

Assistant Amy began her new monthly blog series, “Words from The Kerr,” this week. Ever wondered what Amy does for me? She gave the scoop on a few of her activities.

That’s it from me! Call your mom and tell her hi, go get your nails done, play some golf (even if it’s cold), and we’ll talk again soon.


Via: JT Ellison


The Author Assistant Wears Yoga Pants (and many hats)

By J.T. Ellison

Hi, guys! Amy here.

You may have seen my name floating around here for the past couple of years. I know I seem like the Phantom of the Opera, creeping around the rafters while J.T. shines brilliantly on the stage. Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering, Who is this Amy person, and what does she even do?

That’s a fair question, dear reader.

Simply put, I’m J.T.’s assistant/business manager/right-hand/co-publisher.

See. I told you it was simple.

Long story short, my job is to make sure J.T. has as writing much time as possible, so she can continue to flood our bookshelves with thick, fat novels. I think it’s a noble calling, don’t you?

Okay, Amy, so how do you make sure J.T. writes all the books we love to devour? What does that look like?

I could make this metaphor with yoga pants, because I love them. And I wear them all the time. But for ease of visualization, let’s stick with hats, shall we?

Honestly, my job looks like a closetful of hats. Throughout my day, I wear about three or four of them, just take one off and put another on, for whatever the day entails.

Ever owned a small business? Are you a mom? You know what I’m talking about.

Here are a few of my most Frequently Worn Hats:

  1. Website Builder/Maintenance/I.T. Support
    In college, I majored in English. I minored in French. Nothing really prepared me to be in web design or maintenance, but here I am, captain of J.T.’s web properties! When J.T. asked me to build web pages for Two Tales Press and The Wine Vixen, I said, “Sure!” And then I sat at my computer and got my master’s degree in Google Searching, which I still use to this day. Thank goodness for Squarespace, savior of non-techies who need websites. If I can use Squarespace, anybody can use Squarespace.
  2. Social Media Scheduler/Meme Maker
    J.T. and I like you people a lot. And we enjoy talking to you! A big chunk of my job is to take the cool stuff we find online and make a home for it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Pretty pictures, funny pictures, inspirational quotes, nerdy book articles, Q&As on Wednesday: we talk about our favorite things, then I put them online for you to enjoy along with us.
  3. Idea Bouncer Off-er/Editor/Proofreader
    This is one of the most fun parts of my job. I get to be one of J.T.’s first readers on just about everything: books, blog posts, fun little pieces she writes around book launches. When I was four years old, I used to climb into my box of books and sit there and read for hours, dreaming of my favorite characters and wondering how I could read books for a living. Four-year-old Amy? She loves this part of the job. It’s as fun as it sounds.
  4. Co-Publisher
    In a past life, I was an editor for a Big 5 Publisher, and I still enjoy putting books together. Thankfully, I still get to do that in my current job. While I worked in a variety of roles at said-publisher, nothing could’ve prepared me for playing all of a publisher’s roles at the same time: acquiring editor, numbers-cruncher, content editor, production coordinator, salesperson, and marketer. There are unique skills to each of a publisher’s jobs, so it’s been a fun ride to do try my hand at everything.
  5. Media/Events/Marketing Coordinator
    If someone wants to book J.T. for an event, their first stop is yours truly. And as the resident Rain Man when it comes to dates, I make sure all of our five calendars (yes, five) are up to date, and that we’re on track to hit our target goals and deadlines (a consummate professional, J.T. needs no help with staying on deadline—that one’s for me).
  6. Frequent Post Office Visitor
    Oh, if you only knew how much mail book people send. I’m serious. When I was a publicist for said-Big 5 Publisher, I had at least one huge mailing (I’m talking 100+ books at a time) a week. While (thankfully) J.T. and I don’t send that kind of volume at once, I’m still at the P.O. a couple times a week. I wish they had punch cards; I could’ve had a dozen free sandwiches by now.
  7. New Gadgets Tester
    There are a few personality traits I’m glad J.T. and I share: we both keep honing the way we work, we’re never completely satisfied with our status quo, and we enjoy being early adopters. This leads to us testing a new program or gadget at least a couple times a month, something we think may help us do our work better. Most of what we try gets rejected, but every once in a while we come across a diamond in the rough that makes our lives easier. I still think the best one we ever found was Vellum. What used to take days now only takes ten (!) minutes.
  8. Fellow Wine Enthusiast
    I owe my burgeoning wine obsession to J.T. Before I met her, I could point to a Moscato and say, “I like that because it tastes like Kool-Aid,” but that was about the extent of my wine knowledge. My boss has opened my eyes to all kinds of varietals and vintages, and how wonderfully wine can pair with food and company.
  9. Cat Wrangler
    I only wore this hat one time, over Christmas 2015, when Jameson the Silver Mackerel Tabby decided to eat, what is to this day, a mystery piece of green plastic. J.T. the Mama Cat was traveling and much to Jameson’s chagrin, I had to catch her, put her into cat carrier (which she despises more than anything), and take her to the vet. She didn’t speak to me for a while, but we’re okay now.
  10. It’s a Secret
    Sorry, I’m sworn not to talk about this one just yet . . . but it’s pretty freaking cool.

Thus ends my tour of the hat closet. And before you say it, I know: I hit the job lottery.

I’m going to start shedding my Phantom persona, and you may see me a bit more often around here, talking about life behind the scenes (shelves?) as an author assistant, my favorite tools, and maybe even TV (because, y’all, I love TV—I love it so much). If you’ve got something you want to ask, feel free! Leave me a comment below, and I’ll take a blog post and answer it sometime.

See you later!
Amy/The Kerr

Via: JT Ellison