A WORD ON WORDS with Yaa Gyasi

By J.T. Ellison

“If I had known how much research it was going to take when I started writing this, I never would have written it.”

This week, my intrepid co-host Mary Laura Philpott takes the reins and chats with literary wonder Yaa Gyasi about her brilliant debut novel, Homegoing. Gyasi’s novel tells the story of two half sisters born in Ghana in the 18th century. The girls grow up never knowing each other, then their lives diverge even further—one marries a British slaver, the other is sold into slavery—and the book follows their descendants to the present day.

Yaa and Mary Laura talk how this novel was born, the importance of family lineage, and about LeVar Burton. 🦋 Check it out!

Via: JT Ellison


On Finishing What We Start, and Other Writerly Myths

By J.T. Ellison

This first appeared on Women Writers. If you don’t follow their awesomeness, go do it right now!

I often joke with friends that if you don’t finish what you start, you’ll end up with a trail of half-eaten sandwiches around the house.

I don’t remember where I first heard this analogy for unfinished work, but it’s such a vivid image that it’s stuck with me all these years. Can you imagine how messy your home would be if every discarded idea lay on the floor, cluttering up your space?

I know for me, it would mean trudging through mounds of detritus, some tiny specks of dust, some true dust bunnies. Others would be larger, mean and angry, like broken furniture, all sharp and crooked, just waiting to catch my leg and leave a deep gash.

We don’t want that.

So I’m careful with what I entertain. When I have what I think is a solid idea, I open a Scrivener file, give it a title, and create a book journal. This journal is important: I use it to explain what the thought is about and why I’m writing it down. Manifestation is a powerful thing—I don’t do this unless I feel like the idea has real legs. I save this new project to a folder called—quite originally, I might add—Ideas. Every once in a while, I run through them. A good 75% of the time, when revisited, the idea has faded away. Which tells me it wasn’t that good to start with. The ones that are still as vivid and exciting as the day I put them in the file, those are the ones that I think long and hard about starting.

Because if I start a story, I finish it. I refuse to allow myself to abandon a project once it’s underway.

That sounds harsh, I’m sure. That I’m lashing my Muse to the prow of the ship and heading into dark waters with hurricane warnings ahead. And yes, sometimes, that’s how starting feels to me. A journey into the heart of darkness, with no idea of whether what lies ahead will be good, bad, or something in between.

But when I sit down to write a story, be it a short or a novel, I do so with a commitment to finish paramount in my mind.

Starting is hard. Finishing, though, is sometimes much, much more difficult.

I’ve been planning this blog for several days. I didn’t want to start it until I had a solid hour ahead in which I knew I could get it drafted. Today was the day. In one of those odd universe-timed moments, a friend wrote me right before I started with a question. She’s been balls to the wall on deadline for the biggest book of her career. All she’s wanted for weeks is to Get. It. Done. Already.

And today, the day she’s going to finish, she woke up and had the most jarring thought—that she didn’t want to let it go.

This, I believe, is why finishing is so hard.

Her emotion is one I am intimately familiar with. Every time I’m nearing the end of a story, I have the same sensation. For days, months, even years, in some cases, all I’ve wanted it to get the book done and off my plate. But when the moment presents itself, suddenly finishing doesn’t feel good. It feels too big. Too scary.

Finishing means your work will no longer be your own. To me, that’s a thousand times scarier than starting.

I believe this is why so many ideas are abandoned. Because when you finish, you have to let your work out into the world, where it will be judged. We’re writers, and this is a subjective industry. Some people will love your story. Some will hate it. That’s the nature of the beast.

The trick is to not let the beast slay you before you’ve even put the food in its maw.

All well and good, JT, you say. So tell me how to finish.

You just do.

You throw away your fear, you swallow the bile that rises at the thought of someone else reading your words, and you finish. And I don’t mean just putting an ending together and calling it done. You’ve spent all this time creating a brilliant story, why would you rush and throw something together so you can type The End? You won’t be happy, and neither will your Muse, and she won’t hesitate to let you know it.

No. Never that. You must be brave. You are a hunter. You must march deliberately into the darkness, your torch held high, and tap into your reckless abandon. That is the bait for the monster you must slay. Because all endings are monsters, and they do not like confidence, or excitement, or serenity.

When you find that perfect (or not so perfect) ending and wrestle it onto the page, crushing the biggest monster of all, two things will happen.

1 — You will have the incredible satisfaction of knowing you gave it your best (which is the psychological component you must overcome when finishing, because I heard the voice in the back of your mind say—But if this is my best, and people don’t like it, I will shrivel up and die in a corner—to which I say, bosh, no you won’t).

2 — You will experience something I like to call “creative satisfaction.”

Creative satisfaction is elusive and shy. She won’t come when called, and she will never show up willingly. She only pokes out her head when you’ve exhausted yourself, a balm for your wounds. She nestles next to you like a loving cat, tells you how fabulous you are for being brave, and gives you a sweet kiss on the forehead, one you’ll feel when the next new idea comes along. Real creative satisfaction fills you up, and gives you the strength to do it all over again.

But if you don’t finish, and finish strong, you’ll never find her.

Finish what you start. Find that ritual that tells the world you’re finishing (mine is donning my ragged old Harvard T-shirt. When I have it on, that’s a signal to the universe that today is finishing day—and I do it for every project!) and just get it done. Because I know you can do it, and do it well.

Write hard, my friends.

Via: JT Ellison


Sunday Smatterings

By J.T. Ellison

Happy Sunday, my lovely chickens! How’s it going? It’s exciting times here in the Ellison house. This week I had the pleasure of wearing my old, battered, torn, Harvard T-shirt— the T-shirt I wear for a particular special occasion.

Wearing Mah Finishing Shirt

Wearing Mah Finishing Shirt

What’s that, you ask? I FINISHED A NEW BOOK!!! ✨🎉🙌😎 My 19th novel. I can hardly believe it. This is the 19th time I’ve hauled that shirt out of the chest, and it worked again. I admit, it’s tradition. This shirt is my lucky charm, seriously. If I’m not wearing it, I simply can’t finish! There was much rejoicing and tears and queso post-finish. But. The very next day, I was back at it, editing my 18th novel, LIE TO ME, coming to your hot little hands September 5.

No rest for the weary, folks. Even when you have the best job in the world.

Here’s what happened on the Internets this week:

Okay, y’all, here’s one of the most important things you’ll read: fix the internet by writing good stuff and being nice to people. This is a wonderful, thought-provoking clarion call to get away from posts with only 140 characters, hostile trolls, and video ads that play unprovoked (WHY??) and back the days of thoughtful discourse, long blogs, and creative/independently-owned content.

Every time I read a post from Modern Mrs. Darcy (and look at her gorgeous photos), I take a deep breath and sigh. She always has a lovely thought with the pictures to match. This post is no different: 6 mini-resolutions keeping me healthy and happy and sane this spring. (ranunculus! 🌸)

Some food for thought for your money today: 7 Pieces of Financial Advice That Forever Changed My Life (the advice about the car is particularly insightful)

This is what I looked for when I hired #TheKerr: someone who knew different things from me. Together, we have a wider breadth of knowledge and skill set. Win.

If you need a good cry today, I give you 37 of the most heartbreakingly beautiful lines in literature. You’re welcome. 😭

And if you need something to pick you up from the depths of sorrow from the previous post, here are a few mistitled books and pitches imagined for them (I mean, who could argue with Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Scone? I’d read that… if it were gluten-free.)

I swear to you, if you saw Jack Kerouac’s house in St. Petersburg, FL, you would never believe he lived there (or maybe you would). In any case, it’s up for sale—but fans are trying to turn it into a museum.

And closer to home:

Gardeners, I need your help! I’m doing something different in the gardening realm this year and would relish your expertise in the comments.

We debuted a new episode of A WORD ON WORDS this week! I talked to local author Robert Hicks about his poignant historical novel, THE ORPHAN MOTHER.

Did you get the April newsletter this month? No? Sign up here, and get all whole inside scoop: fun news, exclusive contests (newsletter chickens got their own LIE TO ME ARC giveaway this month…), yummy recipes, and all kinds of tomfoolery. You even get a free ebook as a thank-you gift!

That’s it from me! Y’all have a nice week, open the windows, put some flowers in a vase, and we’ll talk again soon.


Via: JT Ellison


On Making Things—and Making Them Grow

By J.T. Ellison

True confessions time: I am a wanna-be gardener.

Wanna-be, because while I technically try to put in a garden every year, I’ve only had success exactly once, when my tomatoes wouldn’t stop producing fruit, and I made batch after batch of marinara sauce until I had to start giving it away. The remaining three years, they alternately died from a blight, were eaten by bugs, or simply didn’t produce any fruit at all.

The one thing I seem to grow without issue is sweet basil. I love nothing more than to whip up a fresh batch of pesto before your eyes and send it home with you while it’s still warm in its Tupperware, ready for dinner. Thankfully, the basil complies.

As for the rest… honestly, I suck at it. Should the zombie apocalypse come to pass, I fear we will most likely starve if I’m in charge of growing our food supply.

This year, I’ve decided to try something different. I’m going to put in a butterfly garden.

Why butterflies? Well, I have a deep, personal relationship with the whole concept of transformation. I have a butterfly tattoo on my left shoulder, and I will stop whatever I’m doing when one crosses my path, simply to watch its ethereal beauty. I love them, love how they symbolize growth and change, and I would love to provide a home for them.

I wasn’t aware that Nashville is on the Monarch butterfly migration path until last year, and decided there and then I needed to create a safe haven for the beauties in my backyard. I’ve been studying placement, have bought my seeds, and will be breaking ground in the next couple of weeks if it stays warm, in order to get it all built and ready for planting. I’m hoping I have better luck growing flowers than I do food. 🍅 🌿

Have you built a butterfly garden in your yard? Any and all suggestions welcome from you, fellow gardeners. Please drop a pearl of wisdom in the Comments section below! 🦋

Via: JT Ellison


Help me develop the Huntress series as a TV show and win a Kindle Fire!

By noreply@blogger.com (Alexandra Sokoloff)

My producers and I are looking for reader feedback as we develop the Huntress Moon books as a TV series and make casting and other decisions.
Everyone who returns a questionnaire will be entered in an exclusive drawing to win a Kindle Fire (or $100 Amazon gift certificate, your choice). Winner to be announced the first week in May.

Huntress Moon
Blood Moon
Cold Moon
Bitter Moon

Via: Alexandra Sokoloff


Review: 5 out of 5 stars for “Island Zero”

By Tess

As a novelist, I’ve dealt with great reviews and awful reviews for my books, but I’ve never been as delighted by a review as this one. Two nights ago, our first feature horror film “Island Zero” (written by me, directed by my son Josh) screened at the Boston International Film Festival. It was open to […]

The post Review: 5 out of 5 stars for “Island Zero” appeared first on Tess Gerritsen.

Via: Tess Gerritsen


Sunday Smatterings

By J.T. Ellison

Hello, my darlings. I am BACK from my social hiatus! Every year when Lent arrives, I take a break from social media, embrace the silence of the season as a way to re-center myself as the world wakes up and comes alive again, and me with it. When Easter comes, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated, having accomplished many things in the silence, namely the joy of having ritual in my life again, a quiet space to listen to the still, small voice inside of myself, whispering that all is okay, I am enough, go to the page and the words will come.

And they do. They always do.

I admit, I miss you when I’m on hiatus. I like chatting with you, catching up, seeing what’s new and what you’re into these days. Some days the silence doesn’t come as naturally as others, and I feel restless when I can’t pop in for a quick hello, how are you?

But. Easter is here, and spring with it, and here I come bounding back into the energy of the world. It’s good to be back again.

Anyway. On to the links!

Here’s what happened on the Internets this week:

This article, right here. The name alone is compelling enough: What If All I Want Is a Mediocre Life? (To be fair, I don’t think “mediocre” is the word I’d use. Maybe just… normal. Quiet. Content.) There’s something to be said for a life with less striving and more being. It’s a wonderful, thought-provoking read.

Also this, because life is messy, and life is hard: Here’s to All of You Trying to Make the Most of a Bad Situation. I agree with the idea that we should celebrate the heroes among us who are finding ways to get by, instead of ways to get glory.

In that vein, here are 50 Ways to Live Life on Your Own Terms. Because self-empowerment is a beautiful thing. This read has really realigned the way I’m approaching most everything in my life.

Something lighter, all told in Gilmore Girls gifs, because Gilmore Girls: 15 Things All Book Lovers Fight About. (I guarantee you’ll find a couple that make you go 😡)

Oh, and Peggy Noonan won the Pulitzer, which I just love, because I love her (and have for decades). I don’t always agree with her, but she was the most powerful female voice in D.C. when I Iived there, (she’s a writer, remember. The pen is mightier than the sword… 1,000 points of light… shining cities on hills, you know, the idealistic view of life and politics, the one I fled from with great sadness?) and she stuck with me.

Aspiring thriller writers, are you stuck? Don’t worry—this is the best way to start a book. Even Neil Gaiman says so.

And a last little lovely for your brain: these are the writing retreats from some of our favorite authors. (LOVE.)

And closer to home:

Gymnasts start at age three or four. So how do they really know what they really want, and how do the parents know when their [own] desires have taken over? –says the wise and über talented thriller writer Megan Abbott in this week’s A WORD ON WORDS episode.

We touched on her latest book, YOU WILL KNOW ME, and why genre distinction doesn’t really matter (a good story is a good story, y’all).

Are you looking for more good things to fill your ears? I found a few podcasts I really, really enjoy… and invent errands to drive around town for so I can listen.

LIE TO ME ARC contest

Big news: my 2017 standalone, LIE TO ME? It has a cover—and it is GORGEOUS!!! You can learn more about the book here. (FYI: I think it’s the best one I’ve ever written. Dead serious.)

Guess what? Three of you won’t have to wait until the book comes in September to read it. Oh, no. Because three of you can win an ARC!!!!!! Click here to learn how to enter to win.

That’s it from me, y’all! Enjoy your Easter Sunday (maybe you found the prize egg??), or your Passover, should you celebrate one or the other, pick a few flowers and put them in a vase, bring cookies to your elderly neighbors. We’ll talk again soon.


Via: JT Ellison


A Word on Words with Megan Abbott

By J.T. Ellison

Gymnasts start at age three or four. So how do they really know what they really want, and how do the parents know when their [own] desires have taken over?

I had a blast talking with one of the most talented novelists of our time, thriller writer Megan Abbott. We touched on her latest book, YOU WILL KNOW ME, a fascinating look into the life of a gymnastics prodigy and who the ambition for greatness really belongs to—child or parent? We also touched on why genre distinction doesn’t really matter (a good story is a good story, y’all).

Via: JT Ellison


The Divine Inspiration of the Perfect Podcast

By J.T. Ellison

I am late to the podcast game.

I am a visual learner, which means when I’m in the car going places, I’m don’t normally use that time constructively. I make phone calls (hands-free, of course) and listen to music. I’ve tried audiobooks, but unless they are seriously engaging (Rosamund Pike reading PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, for example) I have a difficult time with them.

But I wanted to use my car time more productively, so I subscribed to Elizabeth Gilbert’s MAGIC LESSONS podcast. I hadn’t read Big Magic yet, but I liked the idea of getting bits of inspiration as I drove around town.

And boy, did that work. I was hooked. I caught myself creating trips out just to listen. (I know, I could have listened at home, but I LOVE to drive, so…) When I finished, I told everyone I know to listen, and listen now, and I looked for something new to capture my attention.

I came across a podcast called WRITING EXCUSES. It has an adorable pitch— “15 Minutes Long, Because You’re in a Hurry, and We’re Not That Smart!”

OK. Totally in.

I scrolled for something that looked up my alley, for something I’d connect with. The proprietors of said podcast (Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells) all write in the fantasy, sci-fi world, so I worried for a moment that I was going to feel lost in space somewhere, but I love Sanderson, and what the heck, it’s fifteen minutes. (Though of course it has 12 SEASONS)

I picked an episode called “Elemental Thriller.”

Holy shit, people.

You know what’s totally awesome? Having people who don’t write your genre exclusively dissect your genre. I learned SO MUCH. A lot I already knew instinctively, I just hadn’t heard it phrased that way. But the most important thing was, I listened for five minutes and suddenly realized the essence of what was troubling me with my WIP—and fixed it that night. This particular episode was the key to allowing me to finish LIE TO ME.

I was hooked—again. I never expected something presented in a such a silly way to have such a remarkable effect on my writing. I of course went back to the beginning of Season 9 and have been systematically working my way in. I’m halfway through Season 11 now, and I am 100% convinced my writing is stronger, tighter, and more impactful because of all I’ve learned. The way they talk about story, about themes and elemental genres, just makes sense.

Highly recommend you listen, and try some of the writing prompts! It will help you think about your story in a different way, guaranteed. And hey, we all need to learn, right?

Via: JT Ellison