3 Ways an Author Assistant Can Help

By J.T. Ellison

I’ve had the privilege (and infinite pleasure!) of working with J.T. for two years, and I’d say we have a pretty good working relationship. Sure, our Type-A personalities jive (confession: our first bonding moment was a joke about nesting folders—yes, we are nerds). But maybe there’s a little more to maintaining a good working relationship than a shared love of hyper-organization.

As a job title, the “author assistant” is still fairly new. In the past ten years, along with the rising popularity of social media and the Internetz, authors have worn more hats than ever before and write for more platforms than ever before—honestly, a more appropriate term for author these days would be Chief Content Officer of their own small businesses.

As I discussed the last time I was here, the crux of my job is increase the amount of time J.T. has to write. I’ve noticed a few ways we assistants can successfully make that happen.

1. Anticipate

I’ve been in the book business for the better part of a decade, so I’m pretty familiar with the life cycle of a book, from the idea stage to the pure ecstasy of holding the finished product in your hands.

But you know what?

There are a. lot. of. steps. in making a book come to life. So many that it’s easy to forget a few, even if you’ve done it a frillion times.

Publishing is the ultimate plate-spinning job. At any given moment, J.T. is writing a book, editing another, and promoting yet another, so it’s crucial we keep all the plates a-spinning, even when we’re tired.

How do we do it? We anticipate.

It’s crucial to anticipate every part of the book-making process because books aren’t created in a vacuum. Authors, project editors, managing editors, copy editors, proofreaders, production managers, cover artists, printers, shippers, sales people, distributors, store owners: it takes a huge network of folks to pull everything together by release date. Any snag in the process means that someone else down the line is delayed in doing their job, which results in a Lucy-and-Ethel-at-the-Chocolate-Factory kind of moment.

this is the opposite of what you want in book-making

This is the opposite of what you want in book-making.

And in order to anticipate properly, J.T. and I are constantly referring to our workflows.

Y’all. Workflows have saved my hide more than once. Not even kidding.

When we decided workflows would be part of our lives, J.T. and I sat down and outlined our mosts common tasks: book tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks. At our staff meeting each week, we review where we are in each workflow and adjust accordingly (they’re great accountability tools, for sure).

Workflows ensure we’re on the right track. They take the guesswork out of where we need to go. And they help us decide how to pace ourselves and how to fill our calendars so we’re not running around with our hair on fire.

2. Delegate

Before I showed up, J.T. did everything by herself: write books, edit books, promote books, schedule interviews, design newsletters, curate social media, coordinate travel, and more. She wrote twelve books doing all the things before she handed off some of it to me.

When did she sleep? I don’t know. It still blows my mind.

And J.T. is good at everything—I’m serious. I’m not just saying this because she’s going to read it later. She has a Midas-like touch, and she is just good at stuff.

But just because she’s good at something doesn’t mean she should be doing it.

Delegation is a tricky thing. It takes trust to do it well, and I’m grateful to have hers (again, Type-A girl understands it’s not easy to relinquish control). Because in order to make this work, in order for me to have a job, in order for J.T. to have more writing time, she has to let go of some things. I’ve taken over the design work and website. I coordinate media inquiries and her appearances.

Sometimes, would it be easier for J.T. to answer one of those media inquiries herself? Sure. But that could lead her down the rabbit hole of “Oh, this will just take a minute” and an hour later find herself on Wikipedia reading about Vlad the Impaler (Has this happened? I’ll never tell…).

When everyone is clear on what their job is, and sticks to it, the machine runs more smoothly.

3. (over) Communicate

At some point, you’ve probably wished for the ability to read minds. (and other times have been grateful no one can!)

Human beings are wired differently, and we’ve all had different experiences. What’s obvious to some wouldn’t occur to others in a million years.

The foundation of any good relationship is communication, ensuring both parties are on the same wavelength, and that includes mine and J.T.’s. On a weekly basis, I guarantee we’ll have at least one “Who’s on First” moment because someone is partially explaining what’s going on in her head. When this happens, the other will say “USE YOUR WORDS!” as a nicer code for:

For the small things, for the big things, for the things you don’t understand, or even for the ones you do—say something. It’s better than saying nothing and being confused.

Or duplicating work. 😑

Or doing the wrong thing. 😡

Your author has limited time. Clearly say what you mean, and outline what you’re working on or how to reach a goal. Everyone will thank you.

How do you maintain positive relationships, creative or otherwise? Any wisdom to share?

Via: JT Ellison


A RITA nomination for FIELD OF GRAVES!

By J.T. Ellison

YOU GUYS!!!!!!!! I just got a phone call. A very happy-making phone call. FIELD OF GRAVES has been nominated for a RITA award for Best Romantic Suspense from the Romance Writers of America!!!

To say I am over the moon is an understatement. My little book, the very first I ever wrote, the one that got me an agent (THANK YOU, SCOTT) but didn’t sell in New York, the one that put me on the path to series writing, to expanding Taylor Jackson’s world with the book that did sell (aka ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS), to catapulting the career I have — this book, that languished in a virtual filing cabinet for a decade before my awesome publishers at MIRA said, Hey lady, let’s do this — this Little Book That Could has now gotten the highest recognition in its field.

Ahem. FIELD! Hee!

Yes, I am utterly delighted. This book is a classic romantic suspense, the beginning of Taylor and Baldwin’s epic love story set against the backdrop of a murderous villain accosting Nashville co-eds, and I can not tell you how excited I am to see it get this wonderful recognition from RWA.

The honor is always in the nomination, and I’m thrilled to be nominated alongside the best names in RS writing today. Good luck to all of us!

Orlando, here we come!


PS: One of the really fun things that goes along with the RITA Awards is the RITA Reader Challenge put on annually by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. You might want to go check it out!

PPS: If you haven’t read FIELD OF GRAVES yet, check it out here!

Via: JT Ellison


Sunday Smatterings (The Kerr Edition)

By J.T. Ellison

Happy Sunday, one and all! It’s me, your friendly, neighborhood Kerr.

Did you have a good week? Have you gulped down THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE yet?

How was your week, Amy? Oh my week was fine, thanks for asking. When J.T. is in the zone, working hard on a new book, I get into a groove of my own. It helps to have a boss who believes in Deep Work, and allows me to turn off anything with notifications so I can concentrate for large chunks of time. It’s a wonderful way to work, people. Silence is golden, in more ways than one.

I hope all of our Northeastern friends survived Snowpocalypse 2017! I have a friend in Pennsylvania who showed me a photo of his Jeep buried under a snow bank, and I almost cried for him—out of jealousy, because he couldn’t go anywhere for days, and wouldn’t that be glorious?! (if you’re giving me the Stink Eye right now, I don’t take it back—I’m an introvert for life).


What I’m Eating

Remember how I’m ridiculously lazy when it comes to food? Yeah, that didn’t magically change this week.

The past few years, I’ve made an effort to replace refined sugars and starches with vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I love refined sugars and starches . . . vegetables just make me feel better.

One of my easiest veggie swaps is spaghetti squash for traditional spaghetti noodles, because (a) it’s nice to pretend I’m eating noodles and (b) I actually like the way spaghetti squash tastes (it’s a bit sweet, which I don’t mind in savory dishes).

For a quick meal, I’ll preheat my oven to 375, grab a spaghetti squash, poke a bunch of holes in it, then stick it on a sheet pan to bake for 75 minutes. Then I let it cool, take the seeds out, and take the “spaghetti” strands out of the squash. While the squash is cooking, I brown some ground beef or Italian sausage, add a jar of pasta sauce (I like this Tuscan Pepper sauce for a bit of a kick). Combine spaghetti squash and meat sauce, and boom: lazy, healthy dinner.

Lazy healthy eater pro tip: I put down a bed of spinach, then scoop my “pasta” onto it to it because I, like Popeye, feel better when I eat spinach.

What I’m Playing

This week, what I’m “playing” is on my iPhone: the Alabama Shakes’ album, Sound & Color. The title track especially is . . . wow. Talk about a song with texture. I played on loop for hours as I worked this week, and I didn’t get tired of it. Not even once.

What I’m Reading

I went on a tear and added a bunch of stuff to my Kindle this week, but I’ve been too busy to start any of them (thanks, taxes 🙄).

  1. BEFORE THE FALL by Noah Hawley (J.T. freaked out about this book—this is usually a good sign)
  2. YOU’LL GROW OUT OF IT by Jessi Klein (supposed to be funny—we’ll see)
  3. TEXTBOOK AMY KROUSE ROSENTHAL by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (RIP, wonderful lady)

I’ll keep you apprised on my progress.

What I’m Watching

You guys. I tore through Season 3 of HALT AND CATCH FIRE. Tore. Through. It. As in, the last time we talked, I didn’t even know Season 3 was on Netflix yet.

AMC hardly goes wrong in their original scripted television (except for TURN, which is kind of a snoozefest). Armed with fresh, innovative story ideas, this beautiful network has given us MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD, and television’s most-watched show when GAME OF THRONES isn’t on (and for good reason), THE WALKING DEAD. All this from a network that, ten years ago, showed old movies and had just started airing a show about an ugly (hahahaha NOT) man named Don Draper.

Back to HACF: if you’re nostalgic for the 80s, if you had a Commodore 64, if you remember what it was like to dream a world of technological possibility before such mind-blowing things like the website you’re reading right now could have ever existed, if you want to see strong women in the tech world, if you want to see the different kinds of people and personalities that make up a microcosm of the corporate world, if you’re a human with a pulse—you want to watch this show.

Simply put, the story follows four people—a Steve Jobs-like visionary, a brilliant young coder, and two slightly beaten-and-broken-but-still-talented product engineers—as they navigate the burgeoning tech scene in the Silicon Prairie (yes, prairie) of Texas. The set designer and costumers did a brilliant job capturing the 80s details (oh the kitchens—they could be the backdrop of my own childhood memories). The show is fun and poignant and riveting, and begs viewers to ask themselves what the world could look like thirty years from today. Because the world we live in right now is so different than the world of HACF—but also much the same.

Well, folks, that’s all I’ve got for you. I hope your week is warmer, the flowers brighter, and your spirits higher. I’ll talk to you soon.

The Kerr

Via: JT Ellison


On Blogging, and Blogs I Love

By J.T. Ellison

I love to blog. I love the examination of thoughts and words. I do it for myself in many ways, knowing that the days I’m struggling with writing, that if I at least put a blog in place, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something. My longstanding rule—When you can’t write, write about writing. It helps.

I started blogging many, many years ago, and have been relatively consistent with it. I used to blog every Friday at Murderati, then bi-monthly, then when it shut down, I kept it up on my website, albeit to a smaller audience.

And then the socials happened, and blogging supposedly went the way of the dodo, or so we were meant to believe. Some of us kept at it—and many, many bloggers saw their audiences grow and bloom. Mine hasn’t really changed upwards or downwards, though I have seen that the more I blog, the more people who read them.

But, oddly, the blog commenting seems to have migrated to Facebook, where I am very active on my business page. It’s no real skin off my nose, though it means I need to pay attention to make sure everyone is getting what they need. And then we started scheduling, so there’d be regular programming, which becomes it’s own issue. We’ve settled into a Sunday blog, and a Thursday blog. I vacillate on whether to do more, or less.

Truth be told, I miss my daily snippet blogs, and might bring them back, if there’s interest…

Why do I bring all this up? My bestie, Laura Benedict, has starting blogging daily. It wasn’t something she necessarily set out to do, but when she realized the rhythm was pleasing, and helping with the work, she kept it up.

This makes me happy on so many levels. Laura’s a true essayist. I’ve spent years saying how I wished she blogged more, because her words are just so calming and comforting. I always feel good when I finish reading, even if its a difficult topic.

Laura’s blog—Notes From The Handbasket—is everything you want from a writer’s blog. Funny, charming, engaging, vulnerable—she has a wonderful, unique voice and a wry sense of humor that takes the ordinary around her and makes it extraordinary. I highly recommend you give it a read.

For me, there’s something very special about hearing about a writer’s day. The little accomplishments that, when taken en total, become a book, a series, a career. The blogs I gravitate to are ones of nurturing and education, that examine the world in a pleasing manner, and offer bits of enlightenment to the reader. Laura’s qualifies, on all accounts.

Here are some other blogs I love:

  1. Dani Shapiro
  2. Kristine Rusch
  3. Modern Mrs. Darcy
  4. I Heart Words
  5. Quo Vadis
  6. The Well-Appointed Desk
  7. Tools and Toys
  8. Cal Newport

What are your favorite blogs?

Via: JT Ellison


“Island Zero” screens at the Boston International Film Festival

By Tess

The horror film I wrote and produced, “Island Zero,” will be screened at the Boston International Film Festival on Saturday April 15 at the Paramount Theater. If you’re in the Boston area, here’s your first chance to get a look at a movie inspired by those fun old-fashioned creature features that I grew up […]

The post “Island Zero” screens at the Boston International Film Festival appeared first on Tess Gerritsen.

Via: Tess Gerritsen



By J.T. Ellison

Hello, book people! I come to you today to help you celebrate the Ides of March with a fun new book—THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE, book #4 in the Brit in the FBI series I cowrite with the divine Catherine Coulter.

I swear, if we’d known the book was going to drop today, we would have put a quick tie-in to Caesar, because we have nods to practically every other historic event over the course of time, but what are you going to do? I will admit, I took to calling it Nick and Mike’s Excellent Adventure as we were writing it. There’s a LOT of history packed in.

All that to say, I am so excited to share this book with you. Catherine and I have cooked up something extra special this time.

Remember Kitsune, everyone’s favorite thief extraordinaire from THE FINAL CUT? She’s back, and in big trouble. Hired to steal the staff of Moses from the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, her clients have turned on her, and she’s forced to ask for help from the new Covert Eyes team. Of course, things go awry, and Nicholas Drummond and Mike Caine are drawn into a much larger conspiracy. Can the villains truly control the weather? Can Covert Eyes stop the Kohath twins from destroying Washington, D.C. with a mega-storm? Is the Ark of the Covenant about to be rediscovered? And will the secrets of the Bermuda Triangle be revealed?

I did a lot of in-person, overseas research for this book. Venice, in particular. I can’t tell you how fun it was sitting in the Piazza San Marco, sipping prosecco, eating potato chips, and deciding from which balcony Nicholas would nearly fall, and where the shots were coming from. Total blast.

There’s another special place in this book—Castel Rigone, a personal favorite of mine. You see, Catherine had a dream about this book, and when she told me about it, it became the entire basis for this book. I knew I would have to find the perfect place to execute said dream. Suffice it to say, there’s a motorcycle chase… underground.

I hope you love the personal touches that made it into the story. Our fourth James Bond-esque romp was an absolute blast to write. With a Booklist Starred Review and a Romantic Times Top Pick!, I think you’ll say it’s a blast to read, too. Let me know what you think!

Get the Hardcover






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About the book:

He who controls the weather, will control the world. He who controls time, will never be around.
—Thomas Frey

FBI Special Agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine are the government’s Covert Eyes—leading a top-notch handpicked team of agents to tackle crimes and criminals both international and deadly. But their first case threatens their fledgling team when the Fox calls from Venice asking for help.

Kitsune has stolen an incredible artifact from the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, and now the client wants her dead. She has a warning for Nick and Mike: she’s overheard talk that a devastating Gobi Desert sandstorm that’s killed thousands in Beijing isn’t a natural phenomenon, rather is produced by man. The Covert Eyes team heads to Venice, Italy, to find out the truth.

From New York to Venice and from Rome to the Bermuda Triangle, Nicholas and Mike and their team are in a race against time, and nature herself, to stop an obsessed family from devastating Washington, D.C.

Via: JT Ellison


Sunday Smatterings (The Kerr Edition)

By J.T. Ellison

Hi, guys! It’s me, The Kerr. Did you have a good week? Mine was pretty good since I found good Tex-Mex in Nashville!!! Finding good Tex-Mex this far north is like spotting a unicorn in the wild 🦄, so needless to say, this native Texan is super pumped she can get homemade flour tortillas and delicious beef fajitas (cooked medium-rare, because hello, flavor) anytime she wants. I cannot stress enough what a miracle find this is!

ANYWAY. I could talk about food all day. Let’s get on with the program, shall we?

What I’m Eating

Oh, look, more conversations about food!

As you know, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up on Friday. If you want to celebrate, but don’t feel like making the same Corned Beef & Cabbage like you do every year, you should try this apple cider-braised cabbage.

Confession: I didn’t make this recipe the way it’s written here. I didn’t have any cider, but I did have cider vinegar and some fuji apples (and some celery) that needed to be used up, so I added those in there. And I used red cabbage. And I cut it into one-inch pieces, not wedges. And I sautéed everything in bacon fat first, because bacon. If you want some protein in here, I think kielbasa or polish sausage would be phenomenal.

So… basically what I’m telling you is that I didn’t follow this recipe at all. But I used it as inspiration! That should count for something, right? 😂

What I’m Playing

Think fast: can you match these three-letter words to their definitions? I did it in 2:35. I know you can beat me.

What I’m Reading

I needed a laugh this week, something a bit more lighthearted than THE GODFATHER (don’t get me wrong, I love it—just ready for fewer backroom deals and gunfights, ya know?). My friend Lisa and I text each other our books for the week, and I saw Nora’s book of essays, I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK (and other thoughts on being a woman), in her stack and I shamelessly copycatted her. I’m not sorry about it, either, just like I’m also not sorry for snort-laughing alone in my house. Nobody makes me giggle quite like the dry wit of Nora Ephron.

What I’m Watching

You guys. THE AMERICANS came back this week! 🎉👏🇺🇸

I don’t know why this show gets so little buzz and critical acclaim. It is wonderfully cast and written, and definitely deserves a few EMMYs by now (especially Matthew Rhys as Phillip—he’s just so transformative in the role). Also, who couldn’t love Keri Russell? And Margo Martindale, who is up there with Kathy Bates as a wonderful supporting actor in any role.

Here’s the premise: it’s set in the 1980s and focuses on the Cold War. The show follows Phillip and Elizabeth, two KGB spies living in suburban Washington, DC, trying to gather intel and assets without raising the suspicions of their next-door-neighbor, Stan, who is (of course) an FBI agent. Phillip and Elizabeth have two children, the older of which begins to become suspicious of her parents’ erratic hours and behavior, thinking perhaps they aren’t the travel agents they claim to be. The show masterfully examines what it means to be a patriot (especially how much of your individual self you can—and should—sacrifice for the greater good), marriage, spirituality, and gender roles, to name a few.

The show is equal parts suspenseful and fascinating. Folks nostalgic for the 80s are going to love the details like music and set design. Seriously, thriller fans, you’re going to love it.

Facebook LIVE 3.14.17

***One last thing: THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE is coming out Tuesday! To celebrate, JT is going to host a Facebook Live on her page Tuesday night at 8 pm EDT. If you comment during the live cast, you could win one of three signed copies of THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE. So mark your calendars, and head over to JT’s Facebook page Tuesday night!!!

That’s all I have for you this week, you guys. Have a great week, go get a copy of THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE and devour it (and tell me what you think), and I’ll talk to you again soon!

The Kerr

Via: JT Ellison


A WORD ON WORDS with Emma Straub

By J.T. Ellison

photo credit: Nashville Public Television

These two don’t look like they had fun taping this episode at all.

My intrepid co-host, Mary Laura Philpott, hung out with author (and soon-to-be-bookstore-owner) Emma Straub and asked her about mid-life crises, Jane Austen-inspired rock songs, and why writing about teenagers is a lot more fun than being one.

Enjoy this one, y’all!

Via: JT Ellison


On Momentum

By J.T. Ellison

A note from The Kerr: J.T. will still be writing for The Tao on Thursdays. So these are (not surprisingly) her words, not mine!

There comes a time in every book when the story begins to coalesce and gain speed. This time has (thankfully) come for my new standalone, which I’m trying to finish by the end of April so I can turn, unencumbered, to Catherine and the next Nicholas Drummond book (which, thankfully, is already knocking at my brain with a few ideas) the second week of May.

It’s the coolest feeling, this momentum. I can pinpoint the moment it started, too.

The week before last, I was doing a set of three deep-work days in a row, and something simply clicked on the last day, at around four in the afternoon. I caught a wave, and rode it all the way to the shore. I was still writing when hubby arrived home, and simply held up a finger and accepted a quick buss on the cheek. He knows me well enough not to interrupt a moment of true flow, and that’s where I was.

The book had come alive under my fingertips.

Interestingly, it was something off script that caused this wave, too. A character who wasn’t in the proposal or outline, who appeared a few weeks ago as a throwaway line, a convenience person, and has suddenly become a lynchpin.

It happens that way sometimes. It’s really the fun of writing, when the character who is the least important suddenly raises their hand and says, “HEY! Pay attention to me. I’m here for a reason, you silly writer.”

I’m a baseball fan, and I respect a streak. The thing with these kinds of flows is to not let them die. I made sure to touch the book every day whilst I was in Florida, and now I’m back and my fingers are itching to rediscover the story and see where it takes me. I’m over the halfway mark, which means I’ve got two of my “turns” in place, with two more to planned. This book seems to be twisting itself like a braid, though, so there may be more than I first thought.

And so… back to it. I will report in on how it goes.

Via: JT Ellison