9.25.16 - Sunday Smatterings

By JT Ellison

Hello, dear readers!

How did you fare this week? I’m slowly recovering from a glorious week in New Orleans (you can see a few of my favorite photos here), but man. It takes me a bit longer to get over a few late nights than it used to.

So forgive me that this week’s list is a little shorter than some. But without further adieu…

Here’s what happened on the Internets this week:

How to dress like a Victorian

When you woke up this morning, I know you were thinking, How can I dress more like a Victorian today? Well, dear reader, your wish is my command.

How long it took for your favorite authors to write their famous novels

Just like maturing, every writer writes at his or her own pace. This is how long it took some of the world’s most famous novelists to finish their books. (Les Mis = 12 YEARS)

10 series to read if you love Rizzoli & Isles

Sometimes this writing this is pretty surreal. Case and point: I’ve been reading Tess Gerritsen (and nearly everyone on this list) for years. YEARS! Long before I was a writer. So to be mentioned in this BookBub list of series to read if you miss Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles on TNT is just, along with my writing heroes…I’m verklempt.

And closer to home:

On Creative Satisfaction & Book News

You might’ve heard that I just finished a book (🎉🎉🎉), and… the Sam & Taylor book I thought was coming out next year won’t be coming out just yet. I know—I really don’t like disappointing you. Here’s a little bit more insight into that decision.

🍝 BONUS: cooler temps harken visions of comfort food, so this week I cracked open the archives and rediscovered this beauty: carbonara featured in WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE. Man, oh man, did it hit the spot. I used gluten-free ziti, since that’s what I had in the cabinet. Between mixing cheeses using farm-fresh eggs (we’re talking sunset-golden yolks), and lots of pancetta and black pepper, this was just spectacular. And it’s quick and easy, perfect for busy weeknights!

That’s it from me this week, y’all. Happy first full week of fall, put out your festive decor, and we’ll talk again soon!

xoxo,
J.T.

Via: JT Ellison

    

On Creative Satisfaction and Book News

By JT Ellison

I interview writers. I do it here on the Tao, I do it on television. I’m not a professional by any means, I’m just a writer who’s curious about other writer’s process and mindsets.

One of my favorite questions: Are you creatively satisfied?

People interpret the question in different ways, and the answers vary widely.

My own answer has been very elusive for the past few years. I love the work I do. I love my characters. I love being with them, spending time in their heads.

And yet… There’s been something hanging over me. Something holding me back.

I’ve never truly been able to put a finger on it. And I’ve thought about it a lot lately.

For the longest time, I chalked it up to good old-fashioned envy—seeing other authors write stories that look effortless, look like fun. I’ve read outside my genre almost exclusively for the past few years. Fantasy worlds, books that are truly creative and have no basis in actual reality, but are worlds unto themselves, with rules inherent to the culture. Dystopian stories of reluctant heroes. Young adult coming-of-age tales (I especially like ones set in boarding schools. The kids always seem inches away from morphing into Lord of the Flies.)

Crime fiction isn’t what people would call fun. It’s dark and brooding, tears apart the soul in many ways. To examine how and why people do terrible things to one another isn’t a recipe for unicorns and rainbows. After I stopped the Taylor series, and moved away from the darkness, I felt better, but, ironically, that’s when this lingering dissatisfaction started.

Interesting, right?

The Sam series has been incredibly hard for me. I always thought I was much more like Taylor than I am Sam, because Sam’s books were so much harder to write. Turns out, I poured a lot of my heart into Sam, and it was very cathartic for me. I finally did find a stride, and Sam is a woman I am proud to write about, a woman I think readers can truly identify with.

But I’m a writer with a LOT of ideas. And I have still had that sense of wanting to try something new and different. NO ONE KNOWS was a product of this desire. I love that book. It took forever to write, and I just kept plugging away at it for years, and it finally saw the light of day. I’m proud of it, and I’ve been proud of myself for committing to it and letting it out in the world.

So when I had the option to write another standalone, I jumped at it. I’d been playing with an idea last summer, then had to put it on hold to write Sam and a new Nick and Mike book. Once I finished, I came back to it and sold TEAR ME APART in June. It had about 30,000 words, most of which needed major reworking. I’ve been writing like mad all summer to get it finished.

And it is dark. Probably as dark as anything I’ve ever written. But it’s not dark in a macabre or bloody way. It’s about betrayal. Which is really the darkest crime of all, don’t you think?

Since I was in sort of a hurry to get it done by the end of summer, while I was writing it, I started to take chances. Strange voices came out of the woodwork of my mind. I began utilizing POVs I’ve never tried before in long-form fiction, new settings, new topics. Even so, I saw the wall looming. The wall I approach time and time again, fearing that at the last second, I might flinch, and turn away, instead of crashing into and through it.

Now, I don’t flinch in my work. I go for it, always. Some of the themes and storylines in my Taylor books and Sam books are truly intense. But sometimes I feel like I could do better with the story, better with the resolutions, better with the characters. What I realized is I’ve been approaching all of this intellectually rather than… I don’t even know what the right word is. Spiritually? Organically? Some combination of them both?

When I realized I was holding myself back on this new book, and the wall loomed bigger and thicker than ever before, I made myself a note in my To Do list, and kept it front and center, for the last month of writing. It said:

Be willing to take one more step with TMA.

It’s simple advice. Logical advice. And powerful in ways you can’t imagine.

I discarded everything I knew about writing. All the rules I normally follow, all the little sequences I normally use. I discarded advice from trusted sources. I reshaped the concept, moving away from the proposal. I just went for it. And the result is a book that’s totally and completely different than anything I’ve ever done. New style, new format, new language and pace, everything. It feels very avant garde for me. Very fresh and exciting.

I know nothing’s truly original, and everything’s been done before, blah, blah, blah. Voice is going to make a story your own, yes. But genres have conventions. They have formulas. The stories that seem to be rewarded aren’t necessarily deviating from those tropes, only finding new ways to approach the path. Writers spend a lot of time writing to the market, to the idea of success. It’s a natural thing. Someone writes a kick-ass vampire story, and suddenly, the market is glutted with vampires. Someone writes a kick-ass domestic suspense, and the market becomes a feeding frenzy of people trying to glom on.

I’ve fallen into this thinking, though happily I feel like the stories I’ve told up to now haven’t fallen into convention entirely.

But this one… it feels different to me. I took an extra step. It wasn’t immediately after I typed The End, but when I finished, really finished, I experienced something I haven’t in a very long time.

I realized I was creatively satisfied.

So no matter how it does, how readers feel about it, how sales go… I have that feeling in my gut, the expansiveness and satisfaction of knowing I created something unique unto me. And that’s refilled my well in ways nothing has for years.

And I want the well to stay full. So I’m going to try and do it again. I have another book due in mid-April. I’ve decided it will be another standalone. Sam and Taylor will stay on vacation for the time being, while I run with this new creative flow that I’ve found. Don’t worry, I swear on all that’s holy they will be back. But I’ve started another standalone crime fiction story, and I hope it will bring me the kind of joy TEAR ME APART has.

Thank you for standing by me, and indulging me. Your support makes this possible. I truly, truly appreciate you!

P.S. for my writer friends: I strongly suggest trying this. Do something totally alien to your style, and see what happens!

Via: JT Ellison

    

9.18.16 - Sunday Smatterings

By JT Ellison

Hello, chickens! I write to you this week from steamy New Orleans, after a week of panels by day and smoky bars by night. Some of my favorite people, writers whose work I admire, are here. It’s always a cool feeling when you get to rub elbows with the greats. I’ve never lost that wonder, and I hope I never do.

Since Amy and I are mobile this week, this Smatterings will be a little shorter than most. But without further ado…

Here’s the skinny on what happened this week:

Nerd alert: there were lots of great linguist-type articles floating around…

npr why english changes

If you’ve lived for any length of time, you’ll have noticed the way you used certain words as a kid is different from the way society uses them now. You know what? That’s ok. Language is supposed to evolve and adapt—it’s how English has transformed over a thousand years to become what we speak today, and it’ll change after we’re gone. Linguist John McWhorter talks more about this, about how our langugage has “interesting little wrinkles.

bbc language rules we know but we don't know we know

You’re cleverer than you actually are. Why? Because there are unspoken rules to the English language that we all know—we’ve just forgotten that we know them. The writer of this article had a post about adjective order that went viral last week (yep, you read that right), and he reveals a few more secrets about our complicated langugage…

attention residue deep work

Let’s get a profound lesson on productivity from a classic arcade game, shall we? (this brilliance is brought to you by Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work). Attention residue is real, y’all—and a real problem.

what to do when your characters need therapy

For the writers: this post from Lisa Alber is spot on—“What to do when your characters need therapy.” Have you ever found yourself in this position?

stephen pressfield inciting incident the call

For the writers 2.0: Mr. Pressfield has a few words about Inciting Incidents and “The Call.”

27 literary prints to hang in your home library

For a quick dose of inspiration, here are 27 literary prints to hang in your home library. 💕

And closer to home:

Copy of Join My Newsletter banner (1).png

Don’t forget: if you sign up for my email list, I’ll send you a FREE ebook! And I won’t spam your inbox either, because we all have enough email to read. I’ll just give you some news and fun goodies from time to time!

That’s it from me, y’all. Enjoy autumn’s official arrival, be good to your people, go apple picking, and I’ll talk to you again soon!

xoxo,
J.T.

Via: JT Ellison

    

9.11.16 - Sunday Smatterings

By JT Ellison

Morning, loves. It’s a hard day. It’s hard to believe it’s been fifteen years since the horrible attacks against our country, our way of life, our people and cities. I think that we continue on, living, loving, and learning, is the very best revenge. We lost so much that day, and I want to take a moment to acknowledge the brave men and women who continue to give their lives to keep us safe. Thank you for your service.

This is a good place for me to mention a book I read last week. Daniel Silva, who is truly the finest thriller writer we have, released his tour de force thriller THE BLACK WIDOW. It is a thrill ride, yes, but it is also an education in what’s happened in the world since 9/11, and what’s happening (and not happening) to combat the threats we face from those who want to kill us. Read it. Trust me. It’s brilliant, probably Silva’s best ever.

Now onto the links:

Italian government giving away book money

Oh, you brilliant Italians: “The Italian government is giving €500 on every 18-year-old’s birthday.” This is an initiative I can get behind.

Ann Patchett - The Guardian interview

Ann Patchett has a habit of speaking truth, but this article hits really close to home: “if writers are to survive, we must take responsibility for ourselves and our industry.” It’s very true letting your career happen to you is a recipe for disaster. More about her latest book, COMMONWEALTH, writing about family, and tending an indie bookstore here.

write better emails

“Dear Colleague, I hope you’re well!” Face it—we’ve all been guilty of writing this. Instead of opening with nondescript pleasantries, let’s write better, more sincere greetings in our emails. But let’s not give up all the niceties, okay?

contract lawyer

Budding writers, artisans, and people of the world: this article on hiring a lawyer for contract negotiations is business gold from Kris Rusch. Read it, bookmark it, live it.

And closer to home:

The End Game pb is available

If you love reading paperbacks, then perk up, buttercup: THE END GAME paperback went on sale this week!!!!

Season 2 (!) of A WORD ON WORDS begins with my lovely co-host, Mary Laura Philpott, and Nashville author Ed Tarkington. Check out their interview (complete with original songs written for the book by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Will Hoge!).

That’s it from me, loves. Here’s to cooler weather, cinnamon-scented treats, and lots of love. And one last thought:

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”
—Elbert Hubbard

xoxo,
J.T.

Via: JT Ellison

    

9.4.16 - Sunday Smatterings

By JT Ellison

“It’s not who you think you are that holds you back,
it’s who you think you’re not.”
~Anonymous

I open today with a quote that feels very apropos, considering. I finished my 18th novel this week. TEAR ME APART is my second standalone novel. I started it entirely by accident, sitting in a Parisian café, and went back to Paris to write parts of it. All the while I was writing it, a voice in the back of my head kept telling me I couldn’t do it. I second-guessed character decisions, plot devices, threads. It wasn’t until I went back and reread some of my heroes that I remembered the golden rule, and I was able to truly settle in:

“There are no rules except those you create, page by page.”
~Stuart Woods

I was holding myself back because I’d convinced myself I wasn’t a standalone writer. Consider that particular block crushed. : )

Now, on to the links!

The Guardian has this gem of a headline: Antlers Hunter S Thompson stole from Hemingway’s home returned to family. It’s about time.

Speaking of Hemingway, I bought this book this week. He wrote large parts of it in Venice, at a small table in the corner of Harry’s Bar. When I did my Hemingway footsteps trip last year, I spent a lot of time at Harry’s.

Ever wonder what a chef reads? Wonder no more!

David Berry has been cast as ‘Lord John Grey in OUTLANDER!!! To which I reply… A: AWESOME! B: What a polite character description of LJG! I can’t wait to meet him on screen.

Lifehacker is doing a great series called “Will it Sous Vide?”

Once again, Facebook shows its algorithms are invasive and frightening.

But to cheer you up from that, I give you, Quilted Northern: Rustic Weave, which made us giggle all week long.


Closer to home:

It’s been a relatively quiet week. Randy and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary, we’re in a hurricane as I write this. It happened on our first honeymoon, our 11th, and now out 21st. It’s an every decade thing for us.

The newsletter went out, so if you didn’t get it, check your spam folder! And if you want to sign up, you’ll get a free ebook! What a deal…

Blessed week ahead to you, chickens. May your lives be hurricane free.

XO,
JT

Via: JT Ellison