Category Archives: JT Ellison

It’s Moving Day!!!!!!

by JT Ellison

I'm eschewing a regular post today to give you some information about the new site, which will be up and running Monday, April 13. We won't have posts over the weekend. Why?

MURDERATI is moving, RIGHT NOW!!!!

Murderati Moving Truck

The truck has already left and is about to pull up to the new site, dumping every bit of information that we can glean into the new archives. The new site will be searchable, will be organized differently, and has a cleaner, more open look to it. We hope you love it as much as we do.

The new web address will be The new site feed will be active on Monday, as will the new web address. Please update your bookmarks with the new site address. This post will stay up for a month or so to redirect people, but the feed will be running from the new site.

Why move? Well, any long-time reader of Murderati has experienced the pains we've had with comment eating, formatting, cutting and pasting issues, broken feeds, etc. With any luck, the new site will have none of these problems.

Let me also take this moment to let you know that Neil Nyren, Sr. VP, Editor in Chief and Publisher of Penguin Putnam (and one of our favorite guys) will be here next Friday with his annual STATE OF THE INDUSTRY interview. It's got some fascinating and valuable information, and we're so happy he's decided to join us again.

Forgive me for not posting today, I'm directing the moving trucks and trying to get everything up and running over the weekend. We'll be open for business bright and early Monday morning.

Thanks you for making the move with us! Have a blessed weekend.


by J.T. Ellison

A few months ago, my friend Tim Hallinan asked me to participate in a series he was doing on creativity. I loved the concept, and though a bit terrorized to be included in the company of Emmy and Oscar winners, I gamely tried my hand. The basic question he asked us to contemplate: What Is Creativity?

I thought it might be interesting to have that debate here at Murderati, so today's blog is an adaptation of the one I wrote for Tim. I'd love to hear what YOU think.

Defining creativity to me is akin to the
government’s views on obscenity – it’s something you recognize when you see it,
but no one knows exactly the moment art crosses the line into obscenity. How do you define creativity? What does it mean? Is there a good definition?

went back to the basics, and looked at what the word creativity means to the
official folks who write the dictionary. They’re smart, they’ll have a good
sense of it, right?

I loved the definition I found:

Creativity is “the ability
to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like,
and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.;
originality, progressiveness, or imagination.”

Transcendence. Now we’re

But it’s still not perfect.

There is a difference, I think, between creativity and the
creation of art. Creativity is simply a new way of doing things, a solution
addressing a need. Creativity is problem solving. Anyone, given the right tools
and motivation, can be creative. Art, on the other hand, is problem solving in
its most esoteric form. Art gives solutions to problems that no one knew
existed. Art creates problems to solve.

Look at it this way. You’re lost in a strange city. You
approach a friendly looking fellow and ask, “How do I get from point A to point

A normal person will tell you.

A creative person will give you a few routes and look at you
quizzically, as if to say, “why couldn’t you think of that yourself?”

An artist, though, will argue about why you have to go from
point A to point B. What about trying Point A to C instead, or, better yet, how
about forgoing the path altogether and seeking a route to X?

When faced with a problem, a creative person will find a
new, different way to solve it. An artist will find multiple solutions,
different paths that are laden with color, sound, scent, characters and plot,
try them all, figure out which ones work, then discard all of the solutions in
favor of the most treacherous, difficult path, the one where no one has traveled

Ah, the road less travelled. That’s what separates the
creative among us from the artists.

But you can’t get to the point of being an artist without
being creative. So we’re back to the same old conundrum: What is creativity?

Creativity, obviously, is creation. It’s as simple, and as
complex, as that.

Art, on the other hand, is something creative that transcends
conventional ideology to develop something new and original that speaks to the
audience. It is a contract between your mind and the rest of the world. Stephen
King calls it a psychic connection between the writer and reader; the same
could be said of a painter, or a musician, or an architect. Where there once
was nothing, now there is something, and the audience sees that. They experience
your thoughts through your medium. It’s overwhelming, if you think about it.
All of this psychic communication, there for the taking.

That said, you don’t need to have any kind of approval, or
recognition, to be creative. But it is the simple act of creating something new,
something no one else has before, that makes you an artist – be it a novel, a
poem, a screenplay, a painting, a ballet, a composition, a guitar lick, a new
angle on an architectural drawing – anything that is creative in its nature can
be art.  

I realized that I was tightrope-walking the thin line
between creativity and art early on, but had that budding insouciance nipped by
a decidedly non-creative teacher who told me I’d never be published. There is
nothing, nothing worse than fettering an artist. Some rise above the criticism,
become because of it. I,
unfortunately, did not. I walked away and spent fifteen soulless years looking
for something. I knew what I was doing wasn’t right, I knew I wasn’t happy, I
knew I was being stifled, but it never occurred to me to sit down and create my
way through it.

I found that voice again through reading. I was recovering from a surgery, had oodles of time on my hands, and I lost myself
in books. I read a lot during that year, everything I could get my hands on –
historical, mysteries, thrillers, literary fiction. The words on the page were
my lifeline back to a creative life.

It’s funny how the mind works. I wish I could say that I
planned to become a novelist, that I wanted to play with the form, to create a
literary thriller series that showcased my characters, my setting and my words.
But I wasn’t that prescient. I had an idea, a spark. A creative moment, if you
will, and my main character leapt into my head fully formed. She was tall, like
me, blond-haired, gray-eyed, spoke with a slow, smoky southern accent. She was
righteous, and good, and would be the protector of Nashville. Her name, of
course, was Taylor Jackson. My very own Athena.

And with the name came a storyline from a dream – twin girls
leading separate lives, one who would do anything to further her career, one
who was dissatisfied with the life she’d been striving to build. And suddenly
there was an antagonist, a man who was killing young girls. A backstory.

Before I knew it, I’d written an opening paragraph. In a
move so utterly subconscious that I can only look back on it and laugh, I wrote
about a murder on the steps of the Parthenon. The skies were sapphire blue, and
a squirrel toyed with an acorn.

I actually was moved to tears by that paragraph, not because
it was any good – it wasn’t – but because it was the first creative thing I’d
written in so very long. Suddenly, I had a story to tell, and I buckled down to
tell it. While I did, a strange thing happened. I began to feel lighter, and
freer. I became so incredibly happy. I didn’t really think about being
published, that came later. Instead, I reveled in the moment, the realization
that I needed to do research to make the story come alive, that I was building,
slowly, a rather large file of pages that moved me.

It was then that I started to wonder. If this story moved
me, might it move someone else?

And there it was. My moment of transcendent creativity. It
was a simple thought that broke me free, that allowed me to make the leap from just
being creative to becoming an artist. That moment, about halfway through the
manuscript, when I realized I wasn’t writing just for me.

I was writing for you.

Wine of the Week: Morellino Di Scansano Rinaldone dell'Osa

Formatting a Manuscript

by J.T. Ellison

Last week, I mentioned that I'd formatted a new document so I could start writing THE PRETENDER, and Sandy chimed in with a question: What program do you use to write with? I thought it might be fun to hear how everyone does their prep work, including the program you use and how you format your manuscripts.

Let me say, for the record, that there is no one right way to do this, though there are ways to make your editor and agent submissions easy to read.

To start, use a word processing program that is universally accepted. I'm on a PC, and most of New York is too. I can't tell you how many time I get emails with attachments formatted for Mac. I can't open them, and I always have to go back and ask the sender to reformat it into something that my computer can open. Right now, Word 97-2003 seems to be universal, and if the Mac people could chime in here on what they have, that would be fantastic.

I use Word 2007, but when I e-mail my manuscript to New York, I save it as a 97-2003 document. This system works just fine, allowing me the more sophisticated tools of the newer version of Word and easy conversion for submission.

So when I get started, there are a few things I do to make my life easier.

First, a header. A typical header looks like this:

Centered at the top, with the name and title on the left and the page number on the right:

J.T. Ellison, THE PRETENDER                                                    Page #

I used to do page X of Y, but found that New York preferred just the page number.

Then you set your margins: 1 inch, all the way around. Now, I cheat when I've got a work in progress, because I'm taking pages to critique group and I want to maximize what I bring, so my margins are 1 inch at the top and sides, and .8 at the bottom. That allows for approximately 25 lines per page.

Font is a big deal too, for several reasons. You want your editor and agent submissions to be readable, first and foremost. So choose Courier, Times New Roman, or Arial, in 12 point. In Word 2007, I use Calibri, which is a version of Arial. It's easy to read, easy on the eyes, and allows my editor a lot of white space to edit.

Double space your lines. Do not insert a break between paragraphs. The first line of a chapter should not be indented, the rest of the chapter's paragraph starts should have a .5 indent. Begin the first chapter of the book halfway down the page. Some authors start every chapter halfway down the page – it's personal preference.

You'll notice that moving your manuscript between the fonts will change the page count. TNR will be the smallest, Courier the largest. A manuscript that comes in at 320 pages in TNR will run about 413 pages in Courier. Arial comes in at 339. Now here's the thing: we all want to think our manuscript is a big, hefty behemoth of linguistic goodness. But if you're using page numbers to determine your worth, it's easy to lie to yourself and make your manuscript bigger than it really is.

I use word count to determine the length of my manuscripts, not page numbers. Word has an automatic word counter, and that's what I use. It's simple, straightforward, and no amount of fooling with styles will change the essence of it.

A personal suggestion: whatever font you choose to write in, when you're done and doing a final revision to turn it in, change the font throughout before you print it out. The mind is an amazing creature, able to independently insert what you KNOW should be on the page instead of what actually IS on the page. Reading it through in a different font allows you to catch some of the errors you might miss otherwise.

I also format the style sheet for the page, so my chapter heading, paragraph body, etc., are uniform and I don't need to format each time I change something. In Word 2007, there are styles that you can open and adapt to your preferences. Very handy and simple, you just type your heading, click the style sheet for heading, and Bob's your uncle.

Chapter headings seem to differ from house to house. Chapter One, One, 1, are all used. It depends on the style guide of your house, so ask. My house spells out the chapter, so my headings look like this: One. Twenty-One.

Another personal suggestion. As I write, I change my chapters around, add chapters, combine them, break them apart. It's a very fluid event. And all those changes mean I end up having to renumber my chapters, which is a pain in the tuckus. For THE IMMORTALS, I tried something different. I didn't use Chapter numbers, simply started each new one with the word Chapter. When I was done, I went through and numbered them. So I had Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc. But since my house doesn't like the word Chapter, I needed to delete them. I waited until the last possible moment, because, as always, I ended up breaking a big chapter into two smaller ones, and that messed up the numbering. But… I used the find/replace function, and was able to go through and renumber them effortlessly, and delete the word chapter from each heading. Voila. I saved myself oodles of time that I usually waste trying to get it all renumbered.

Speaking of Find/Replace. It's a brilliant tool, but it has limitations. Don't ever do a global find/replace and think you've managed a neat trick. You always have to look through the document. Name changes are especially tricky – we've all heard horror stories about writers who change a character name at the last minute, do a global find/replace, and end up messing up other words and names.

Saving and backing up your document is vital as well. I am notorious for multiple backups, simply because the idea of losing my work paralyzes me with fright. To start, my Norton system has a global backup. There's one. Second, I use a program called Mozy, which you can set to any specifications. Mine automatically backs up my files when I've been dormant for more than 15 minutes. Third, my document has both auto save and automatic backup, so every ten minutes Word does a global save on the open document, and when I save and close for the day, there is a backup copy made. That way, no matter what, you'll never lose more than ten minutes worth of work. Fifth, I email the manuscript to myself, so a copy resides on the server. Sixth, once a week I move a copy to a thumb drive. Also, every time I do a revision, before I type a single word, I save the document as a new file and do all the work in it. My file names read like this: THE IMMORTALS WORKING MANUSCRIPT, THE IMMORTALS V1, THE IMMORTALS V2, V3, V4, V5, etc. I do it like that because I work with the entire story in a single document. I know some authors take it a step further and save each individual chapter as they go – I think this falls under personal preference.

Sound like a bit much? NEVER. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH REDUNDANCY. With that in mind, I've started using Dropbox, which allows you to move files between computers.

I also think it's a very, very smart idea to print as you go. That way,
in case everything else fails, you have a hard copy and you can input
it directly.

Anal? Yes. But it's how I work, and like NASA, I have failsafes in place so I'm never stuck out in space without my oxygen.

Like I said, there is no one right way to do this, this is just my way. I would love to hear how other authors do it.

Wine of the Week: Homemade Sangria

2 Liters Riunite Lambrusco
3/4 cup Brandy
1/4 cup Cointreau
1/2 cup fine white sugar
2 cups Orange Juice
2 Lemons, thinly sliced
2 Oranges, thinly sliced
2 Limes, thinly sliced
1/2 Liter Club Soda

Combine all the ingredients but the club soda and allow to ferment overnight. Add club soda, serve over lots of ice. Really Yummy!

I’ve Been A Bad, Bad Girl…

by JT Ellison

I went to the beach last week. It was supposed to be a celebration, a reward for hard work. My trip was preceded by another one of those insane deadline weeks – coming off four days of travel for the South Carolina Book Festival, the fifth book, THE IMMORTALS, was nearly finished. I'm talking inches away from being submission ready. I was just going through one last tweaking revision based on my critique partner's comments when the page proofs of EDGE OF BLACK came in. Cue panic, and scrambling. What was supposed to be a leisurely revision became an all out push to make sure both books got their proper due.

In a feat worthy of David defeating Goliath, I managed. Hubby went another four days without leafy greens and I turned in both books with an unbelievable sigh of relief. Washed my hands of them. Sent them to the powers that be and let them worry about it. Because I NEEDED A VACATION.

Florida was sunny and warm. My flight was eventful, only because of my elderly seatmate who was tippling in the Bloody Marys. She skedaddled off the plane when we landed in Orlando, but she was continuing the flight on to Ft. Meyers so the flight attendants had to capture and reseat her before anyone else got off. Tipsy little old ladies = herding cats. Priceless. 

The beach was welcoming, salty air and ocean breezes. Lovely, really. Deep breaths. Unwind.


I spent the first day there on the horn to
New York worrying about a section of EDGE that might have a copyright
issue, and another day dealing with a long-overdue project that needed
some TLC so I could get it off the ground, which of course involved 17
emails of back and forth discussion – all of which I attempted on the
iPhone whilst laying in the sun. Bikinis and iPhones don't mix unless
you're on Girls Gone Wild, which I certainly wasn't.

With the advent of laptops and iPhones, I know I have to go to
Herculean efforts to actually get away. So I tried. I really did try. I put the phone away (but I had to keep
checking to make sure the copyright issue was settled.) I turned the
laptop off (but I had to turn it back on because I had to read a book
for a blurb that was on it. Note to self – always, always insist on hard copies from here on out.)

Did I get a vacation? Well, sort of. I walked on the beach, read three books, played two rounds of golf, ate fish three times and had salads daily to fight off impending scurvy, went to the movies (WATCHMEN was very cool) and saw three more at home, and attended a dinner party with friends and fans. We watched the shuttle launch, and I have to tell you, there in nothing, NOTHING, cooler than a sonic boom that shakes the very earth. Humbling as hell. And  of course, I engaged in that time-honored vacation tradition – Twitter.

That's a pretty full week, to be honest. Aren't you tired just thinking about it? Because I'm exhausted.

Here's the problem. The whole time – laying on the beach, teeing off, reading, relaxing – a little voice inside my head kept banging away. "You need to get back to work, JT. You have a book due in September. You know you'll have to do revisions on THE IMMORTALS in the middle of that, and plan a tour for EDGE. There's that cool standalone book you started that's suddenly gelling that needs your attention. You have to finish the project your promised for ITW. You need to do your newsletter, and… and… and…."

Damn voice. I'd like to strangle it, but that might hamper my efforts to be creative, and we can't have that.

I've learned that when the Muse is speaking, you kind of have to tell everyone and everything to shove off and get whatever she's saying out of your head and down on paper so you don't lose it. I'm a firm believer in all good ideas stick like glue in your mind, but I also know my brain well enough that I know if I don't write these brilliant gems down somewhere, they will eat at me.

In the middle of it all, while I was supposed to be relaxing, I formatted a new document and wrote the first line of book six, THE PRETENDER.

So much for vacation.

Remember a few months ago I started working a new system of organization into my daily writing life? It's working. My Moleskine is filling up with ideas. My inbox stays empty. My To Do list stays manageable. My deadlines are met, my daily word counts pile up. All good things. I feel very much in control of all these balls that I'm juggling. Sometimes, to be honest, I think too much in control. Therein lies the problem. I need to find a way to let it all go, stop worrying, thinking, plotting and planning, and just be. There's not enough of just being anymore. And I have a feeling I may not be the only one with this problem.

My question for you today – what advice can you give to help? Any great tips or ideas for turning it all off, for living in the moment? Because I'd love to hear some…

Wine of the Week: Of course found at the beach – Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel – EXCELLENT!

Five Simple Ways To Be An Effective Promotor

by JT Ellison

Promotion. It's a dirty word to many of us – a necessary evil, but an evil, nonetheless.

I was in South Carolina this past weekend at the incredibly awesome South Carolina Literary Festival, and found myself engaging in several different types of promotion, all of which are vital skills that every author attending these events need to master. Promotion is, at its heart, relationship management. In this brave new world, where social networks allow unprecedented access to authors and touring isn't as frequent, you need to maintain the relationships with your readers. A newsletter is a must, I think, as is a website with all of your relevant information. The social network sites have exploded, but they are as much of a time suck as a means to an end. I doubt we'll all ever agree on what works and what doesn't, because it's different for each writer. Do what works for you, and don't feel pressured to worry about every shiny new toy the internet produces.

Thankfully, there are still plenty of opportunities to do the face-to-face promotion (and folks, I'm not talking about the kind of promotion when you're acting like a used-car salesman for your books) I'm simply talking about being nice to your readers. Being nice goes a long way. We all have bad days, and the strain of being "on" can be overwhelming at times. But there's just no excuse be arrogant, or sit behind the signing table looking at your line and saying – "Oh, I wish I didn't have to sit here and sign all these books." (Yes, I've seen it, and it wasn't pretty. I'll never read THAT author.)

It's really such a basic thing, when you think about it. A smile and kind word can go miles toward maintaining a reader-writer relationship. Twittering and Facebooking and MySpacing and GoodReading and Blogging aside, there's nothing like meeting your readers in person. I highly recommend you do so at every feasible opportunity, even if it's just going to a conference. Go in with an open mind, don't try to cram your thoughts down everyone's throats, don't do stupid stuff, and you'll be just fine. Listening is 9/10th of the law at a conference. Follow that formula and you'll be the kind of author that gets invited to more and more events.


One aspect of conference promotion that I'm finding not everyone is aware of is called the Moveable Feast. At many conferences and festivals, attendees will spend good money to come to these events. I was thrilled to be one of the authors participating in the Moveable Feast on Sunday morning in South Carolina. I've done this format before, but this particular event absolutely rocked. I passed out postcards with all of my current books on them, talked about Taylor Jackson, my path to writing, all that good stuff. But what I also did was listen. These readers are there because they want to learn something unique about you, something that they can walk away and know that only they are aware of. It's a special bond, and if you work it correctly, you'll gain readers for life.

When the authors who were participating gathered to have breakfast beforehand, I was surprised to hear that several of them didn't know what the moveable feast was, nor how to approach it. The authors who did filled them in, and everyone went in somewhat prepared. But I figured if they didn't know, other authors don't either, especially newbies who've not been thrust into this format yet.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a moveable feast (sometimes called a round robin) places one author at a table of readers for a limited amount of time. The basic structure is usually the same – you have ten minutes to pitch yourself to the table, then you move to the next. On Sunday, I spoke to seven tables, and let me tell you, it's exhausting work.

But I always feel like this is the very best format to really meet readers. I don't like to sit down and fly into my spiel right away. I usually introduce myself, and ask them what them enjoy reading. When you're having a dialogue, instead of talking at readers, it's more fun for everyone.

You also have to be prepared to talk for the whole ten minutes. Usually these readers will pepper you with questions, and the time flies. But I've been at tables where the readers either don't like psychological thrillers, or are terribly shy, or just don't take to me. Engaging folks who don't read your kind of work can be difficult, so instead of pitching them, I try to talk about the kinds of books we can all agree on. At one of my tables this weekend, we talked almost the entire time about THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY. But each person at the table came and bought my book afterward, and had me sign. Again, the lesson is clear – discretion is the better part of valor. Don't force yourself on people, they don't like it. Be subtle, humble and kind, and you'll find a way to break in.


I'm not a big fan of swag – the millions of "things" authors carry with them and give out to their readers at signings and conferences. I've seen some very clever items – William Conescu carries pencils with his name and book title on them – imminently USEFUL, which is a bonus, Erica Spindler carries hard copies of her newsletter and adorable light bulb magnets that instruct the reader to leave the light on. Alex Kava has bookmarks that have forensic terms and their definitions parading up and down – which I'm definitely stealing one day. But I do usually carry postcards – my current one, seen here, has all my available titles:


It's handy, and helps me point out titles that the booksellers might not have brought to the festival or conference. The back is blank except for a watermark of a bullet and a Glock, and can be used to jot down useful things. I use, buy 100 at a time so I'm always running low instead of having millions of cards laying around, and generally change the card up after each book comes out. Yes, they're bigger than bookmarks, but I've had several people tell me they like them, so I keep putting them together.

Whatever you choose to have on hand, you should have something. I passed out at least 80 postcards at the festival this weekend – a number of those fine folks bought my books at the festival, but the ones who didn't have the covers and my website ready to hand, and I saw a massive spike in my numbers this week, so it must have worked.


I adore being on panels. My first of the weekend was with three authors I've never met  the lovely Karen White, Jack Riggs, and Grace Octavia. We got together at the request of our wonderful moderator Valerie 30 minutes prior to showtime, found we all had rather perverted senses of humor, went into the panel and had the audience engaged and laughing the whole time. Our moderator was excellent – she'd done her homework, had specific questions relating to our work, and was wise enough to step out of the way when we got on a roll and deviated from the plan.

My second panel was with dear friends CJ Lyons and Our Alex (note her new name – we've all gotten so possessive of you, my dear) moderated by a lurker here at Murderati (Debby – show yourself!) It was absolutely fascinating. Talk about three writers who take a very different approach to their craft. Again, the moderator was prepared, funny, and willing to let the authors take the stage. Good moderation is vital to the author's ability to give good panel. We're only as good as the directly we're being led. You'll hear it time and again: when you're moderating, the panel isn't about YOU, it's about the panel. Sadly, many, many moderators forget that, or choose to disregard, to the detriment of everyone involved.


This really goes without saying, but show your booksellers some love. Booksellers at festivals and conferences are putting in long hours, dealing with snafus and belligerent buyers, and generally getting kicked around. Treat them well. Make a point of introducing yourself, give them your business card. Offer to sign stock for them to take back to their stores. If they look haggard and thirsty, get them a drink. Kindness to your readers shouldn't stop at the ones who are opening their wallets.


Talk about people who are underpaid and overworked. Many of the people running these events are doing so as volunteers. Treat them with respect, thank them for their time and effort. Listen to them when they ask you to sit a specific place, follow their guidelines for how long you should sign. In general, make their lives easier by not being difficult. Did I say thank them? Oh yeah, don't forget to THANK THEM!

I'm going to go all debutante on you for a moment. WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE. This little nicety will be greatly appreciated. 

So that's it, just a quick and dirty guide to some of the niceties you should endeavor to whilst conferencing. I would love to hear from our 'Rati commenters today:

Best experience at a conference or festival? Worst? Have you ever seen an author do something that endeared you immediately? Turned you off?

Wine of the Week: 2002 Hundred Acre Cabernet Sauvignon  My brother had this in Vegas and it was ridiculously expensive, so it's definitely a special occasion bottle.

25 Writers

by JT Ellison

Before I start, I'd like to share some sad news. Louise Ure's mother, Jeanne Ure, passed away Wednesday night. I know I've treasured Louise's posts about Jeanne – told with such eloquence, detailing the hardship and agony of losing one you love piece by piece, and the beauty and joy that has been her life. Please join all of us as we send our prayers and condolences to Louise and her family.

It's fitting, really, that this post is about influences.

There have been a million and one memes floating around lately. I usually don't participate, for a variety of reasons. This one, though, is too cool not to participate in. I got it through Facebook, but it comes up on DorothyL sometimes, and other listserves.

Who are you influenced by? What writers have had such an impact on you that when asked to list them, you'll think of them immediately?

To satisfy the meme's mission, I decided to list mine out – along with the one book or story or play or poem that was the most influential to me with a random tidbit as to why. It was hard to keep the list to 25, as you'll see…

25 Writers:

1. Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita

I've never been as affected by a novel as I was Lolita. It taught me voice, and passion, and how an unreliable narrator can squeeze out your soul. Something I've never forgotten.

2. Virginia Woolf – A Room of One's Own

Because I've always ascribed to the belief that, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Amen to that, Sister.

3. Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird

My first moments of social awareness.

4. Mary Stewart – The Wicked Day

I've always been fascinated with the Arthurian Legend, and this book, from Mordred's point of view and partially set in Wales, is my favorite of the lot.

5. Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged

I read it at the suggestion of a boyfriend in high school I wanted to impress, and was blown away by the concepts. Her short novel Anthem is my favorite book.

6. Sun Tzu – The Art of War

I fancied myself a Taoist for a while, but the logic of the simple dictum make sure your enemy has a way to escape stuck with me. Fitting for war, and life. And how can you not love a book that's influenced the art of war throughout history?

7. John Connolly – Every Dead Thing

His first, and possibly one of the finest debut novels I'll ever read. Connolly has long been an influence on my writing – his literary style is unmistakable and effective.

8. John Sandford – Mind Prey

The book I was reading when I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing again.

9. Carolyn Keene – Nancy Drew and The Secret of the Old Clock

After reading the Nancy Drew' books, I spent several years insisting on being called George, even going so far as to sign my school photographs George M. To say I was a tomboy is putting it mildly.

10. Ernest Hemingway – Short Story: Hills Like White Elephants 

I've never been so affected by a story in my life. Possibly the best example of metaphor ever written, and certainly one of the best shorts of all time.

11. Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

I always hated the movie, because the book gave Frankenstein's monster a conscience. I've always felt that evil is a choice, and this book encapsulates that concept for me.

12. Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights

I'm in love with Heathcliff, mental illness and all. There, I said it. And I thought the most recent BBC offering of the story was grand, if a little off the mark.

13. Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice

I'm also a bit in love with Mr. Darcy. And I married my own, so this book was a helpful guide to the path of true love.

14. Diana Gabaldon – Outlander

The book that precipitated my shift away from politics and back to writing. Grand, sweeping, and another main character I've got the hots for.

15. Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince

The art of the State, an essential book for me when I was planning my political career.

16. A.A. Milne – The House at Pooh Corner

I felt a great affinity for Christopher Robbins, because my stuffed animals had lives too.

17. Lee Child – Running Blind

My first Child book, with one of the most incredibly effective and affecting scenes I've ever read. A true impetus to get it right.

18. C.S. Lewis – The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

I was an imaginative child, so fantasy novels really worked for me. I cried so hard when Aslan died, and found joy again when he resurrected. I saw what power writers have and started writing.

19. Elizabeth George – Write Away

One of the first writing books I ever read, and a great influence on how to build a story.

20. Stephen King – On Writing

The most important book in my toolbox, simple, straightforward, and definitely a help in improving my writing.

21. Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ozymandias

This poem is one of my favorites – succinct yet powerful.

22. Alfred, Lord Tennyson – The Eagle, A Fragment

My all time favorite poem – I recited it for an assignment in third grade, my first speaking part. It spoke to me, touched something in my soul. It still does.

23. Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

A journey into the heart of man, one not easily forgotten.

24. Jean Rhys – Wide Sargasso Sea

The idea of one of the greatest novels of all time (Jane Eyre) having a backstory floored me. Lush and evocative.

25. Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night's Dream

This was impossible to narrow down, because I'm a Shakespeare fiend. But this is one of my favorites, along with Taming of the Shrew.

So what about you? Who are your influences?

Wine of the Week: A gift from a friend, the best way to enjoy wine.

2005 Nickel & Nickel Branding Iron Cabernet Sauvignon  Yummy!!!!! The tasting notes from the Nickel & Nickel website say it best:

The 2005 Branding Iron is very fruity with flavors of blackberry and cranberry prevalent on the palate. This sweet fruit is accompanied by some peppermint and earth, while the oak offers up a warm toast and spice. The longer growing season this year allowed for good resolution of the tannins. The wine is fat and velvety with a long, coating texture that progresses into a warm, lingering finish.

The Absconding Pen, And Other Tour Stories

by JT Ellison

Well, hi! Happy Friday the 13! Long time no blog, I know. I've missed y'all, so forgive me if this is more chatty than educational today.

I've been facing an interesting challenge, a book due March 1, and promotion to do for my January book. JUDAS KISS got moved up in the publication schedule, which is why I've been put in this position of having to cut back on some of my non-writing work in order to make my deadline. And I received copyedits last week for my September book, so it really was the perfect storm. I've got a handle on it all now (she says, with a quick look heavenward) and feel like things are calming down a bit. No travel for three weeks, so I'm breathing a sigh of relief.

I've also decided to do no promotion AT ALL from June-August, to give myself real time to get a chunk of my March 2010 book done so I won't find myself in this predicament again.

Right before Christmas, I instituted a new writing pattern, and I promised to report on how it's working. In a word, it's not. I read all the time management books, built a beautiful color-coded time map, put it in my notebook as a reminder, and proceeded to never follow it. Not even for one day.

My natural circadian rhythms don't work in the way I wanted for my new writing schedule, which was to get up and start my fiction immediately. I am simply not a morning person. I hit my stride around 3 in the afternoon. Once I abandoned the new method and returned to my 12-4 schedule, my word count shot up. So, chalk that up to a lesson learned. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, no matter how pretty and shiny the new methods seem.

What my adventure in time management DID do was help me prioritize my non-writing time in the mornings. I'm no longer losing writing days because I'm dealing with the Internet. My email is under control, Facebook is limited to marketing, a once or twice a day gander at status updates and a firm hand on the "Ignore All" button when it comes to invitations, drink requests, fairies and the like. It's liberating, I'll tell you that. I feel much more settled with my writing. My To Do list is consistently getting dealt with and I don't feel that clawing sense of guilt when I'm not writing. I've even gotten my reading back on track (which is probably a major reason my writing is going better.)

One of the things I heartily believe in is rewarding yourself when you accomplish your goals – major and minor. My latest little reward (for a three day turnaround on a full edit of Edge of Black, natch) was a beautiful, shiny rollerball pen to take on tour with me. I love fancy pens, and I have a gorgeous Mont Blanc that I adore. But I'm scared to death to take it on the road with me for fear of losing it. Which is kind of silly, because I never lose anything. I'm so good about that. I'm still wearing a ring I bought in Hawaii when I was 15. I've only lost one earring, (that was a function of the idiot I loaned it to in a parking lot to pierce his ear dropping it in the gravel. It ws my favorite diamond stud, too. Who's the idiot?) I have a twenty-year-old watch, a twenty-year-old Mont Blanc, and a seventeen-year-old truck. Oh, and a fourteen-year-old marraige, so I haven't lost him either ; )

So I tapped my Levenger coupons and ended up with a hot pink True Writer for $29.99. 

Pink Pen

I never in a million years expected to like a pink pen. It's just so not me. But the price was right, and I felt like if I ended up not liking it, I wouldn't have lost too much. When it arrived, I was shocked. It's beautiful. Darker than it looks in the picture, just the right weight for my hand. I also bought the rollerball refills with gave me some felt tips to put in it which work better than Sharpies on the signing pages because they don't bleed through. HEAVEN! I loved it so much, I decided to get another. One for home, to attach to my Circa and Moleskine, the other to travel with me. And if I lost it, I'd have a back up. But losing it wasn't going to happen – my goodness, I have a track record with objects. I have rollerballs from Staples that have traveled all over the world, literally, and made it home safe. An expensive pen that I'm really paying attention to is safe as kittens.

So the first pink pen went with me to Florida and Illinois, happily tucked into my bags. My pen loved me. I could tell. She was always ready to be opened, begging to come out of my bags to be shown off, the ink rolling smoothly out onto the page, the screw cap never getting dislodged. People commented on my pretty pink pen, teased me for being finicky and using it instead of pens provided for my signings, then oohing when they received the signed copy with the flourished signature. My pen and I were one.

Until the bitch absconded in Chicago, running away from home with a glee I can say still smarts. 

I've searched high and low, retraced my steps, talked to every restaurant and hotel and bar manager where I sat on Saturday night, but she is well and truly gone. I ordered her replacement, which arrived today. From now on, she'll travel in her box instead of in my bag.

Don't think I'm crazy, but all of my inanimate objects are male. My car, my iPhone, my laptop. They're usually termed "Baby," and I identify them with a male entity. Wiccans and Pagans worship the God and the Goddess, so I guess my stuff is all associated with the God. But my pen was a girl, a Goddess, all the way. Figures it was a woman who'd have her own mind and refuse to be controlled.

Aside from the trauma of losing my pen, I had more random craziness over the weekend. I somehow managed to drop a carton of honey into my bag, which spread through the center pocket, got all over the case for Randy's Eee and coated my boarding pass with sticky goodness. I'm covered in bruises from a graceful trip Saturday morning trying to get up from the lunch table. I forgot to bring my postcards to the group signing, never a good thing. Southwest was overbooked on all five flights from Midway to Nashville, which stranded Randy and I at the airport for five hours. It was chaos, all weekend, all the time. I'm just lucky I didn't tip over the exceptionally cool glass decanter at Cooper's Hawk Saturday night – breaking expensive glass would have made my weekend complete. I don't think I've ever been so relieved to get home.

And now you know why my mother calls me Grace.

Regardless, the best part of touring is connecting with people. I've done nine or so events for JUDAS KISS, from Tennessee to Texas to Florida to Illinois, and they've all been wonderful. Love is Murder in Chicago was a fun conference, and I saw a lot of old friends. I also FINALLY met Bryon Quertermous, who is one of the nicest people in publishing, and the man who published my first short story, effectively kicking off my writing career. Thanks Q, for giving me a chance and being so cool.

So, that's the wrap up. To list everyone I've seen over the past two months would take all day, but you know who you are. I enjoyed it all – giggling in hotel rooms over cheesecake with my dear fellow blonde Laura Benedict, GPS tracking with Erica Spindler and CJ Lyons, dinner with Shane Gericke, the bestseller lists, the private dinner in Dallas, the surprise visit from my cousins in Houston, Sherlock's and Davis Kidd and Murder by the Book, the media, the signings, the panels. We'll do it again in September, me and Pretty Pink Pen 2.

But if this one runs away, I'm going back to the $2 pens from Staples.

Do you have a treasured artifact in your life?

Wine of the Week: 1991 La Cave Caluso Passito

This was a very different wine. It's technically a white, though it tastes like port flavored with the tiniest hint of wild apples. It's a lovely amber color too, definitely an unexpected taste. It comes from the Erbaluce grape, grown primarily in the Piedmont region of Italy, which is where my family still resides, so it was a very special bottle of wine for me. Drink after dinner as a treat, with fresh fruit or chocolate.

With my apologies for being a week late, the winners of CJ LYON'S contest for a copy of LIFELINES: Rashda, Debbie K. and Kelly Stone. Please contact CJ directly with your snail mail address. CJ at CJLyons dot net.

Cliff Jumping

by JT Ellison

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failures, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
— Teddy Roosevelt

This is one of the best quotes of all time. Roosevelt had it right on the money. You must take chances in order to succeed in life. You must give in to your impulses every once in a while, trust your gut, know your own soul. You need to ignore the fact that the drop off the cliff is mighty, and jump anyway.

I had the opportunity to discuss my views on cliff jumping with three people recently. One is my husband, who jumped off a very, very high cliff indeed to start his own consulting firm at the first of the year. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud as I was when he told me he’d made the decision. It’s a risk, certainly. But there is no reward in this life without risk.

Second is an author who is a bit of a cliff jumper herself, albeit one who likes to have knowledge of how far the fall might be. And the third is a friend who needed to be shoved, kicking and screaming, right on off the edge. Between the three of them, I engaged in several days worth of fascinating discussions about how fear can inhibit your growth, as a writer, as a person, as a lover and friend. It affirmed what I’ve always believed – Fear is the most dangerous part of life.

Allow me one of my earnest moments. I’ve never let fear get in my way. I would so much rather fail, to put it all out there and fall flat on my face, than never try at all. Better to have loved and lost, right? That’s my personal credo.

Because, you see, I am a cliff jumper. And I want everyone to jump right along with me.

My darling husband reminds me, at times, that not everyone wants to be a cliff jumper. He says, “Honey, some of us like to walk to the edge, look over and ascertain how far the drop is.”

Where’s the fun in that?

I hold to the belief that if you look at how far you might fall, you’ll back away from that edge and never jump.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not flighty about all this, rushing about succumbing to frivolous impulses. I’m just willing to take chances to further my career, my life and my soul. I never want to look back and say, man, I wish I’d done that. I want to do it. I want to run screaming along the beach and dive off mountains. I want to shoot for the brass ring with my career, and pray that somewhere along the way, the ring turns golden. I want to put my heart on the line, to give myself wholly and completely to my loved ones, even knowing that there’s a chance my precious heart will get trampled.

I want a lot of things, and they aren’t the kind of items you can buy in the store.

Nike has the slogan that you’ve heard all of us here at Murderati talk about. “Just Do It” embodies the life of a professional writer. “Ass in Chair,” “Just Do It,” “Work the Purple…” You’ve heard those phrases here. And I subscribe to all of them. We’ve gotten into this racket for a reason – we love to tell stories. We love to have that psychic interaction with a stranger, to affect their being through our words. We love to share our world with our fellow writers, with the readers and booksellers we meet on tour, with the editorial and agent teams we interact with at our houses. This business is one of communication, and if you’re not willing to lay it on the line, you’re going to have a hard time.

I believe in honesty, in open lines of communication, in taking chances. I believe fear will cripple your psyche. I believe that if you want to be a writer, you need to polish and submit, and that there are no excuses for not. I believe that if you’re an established writer, you have a contract with everyone involved in your career to meet your deadlines and put your writing first. I believe that if you love someone, you tell them. It’s as simple as that.

There is another quote that I believe in wholeheartedly. I’ve shared it here before, but this is so apropos to this particular post that I wanted to share it again.

When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.
— Lao Tzu

So what about you? Have you jumped off any cliffs lately???


JT & Laura Crime Scene Nashville

I need to say thank you to a few folks this week for the feeding, watering and general care taken of Laura Benedict and me on our “Blonde and Blonder Tour”: the incredible staff at Sherlock’s Books in Lebanon: Patty, Judy, Lise, Jill, Steve, and frequent chatter Cathy; the wonderful folks at Davis Kidd in Nashville, especially Tim, who rocked our signing and shared some great news that made me cry (#3, Baby!); our friends McKenna, David and Ann at Murder by the Book, Houston, and Ashley and Jaime Lavish, who drove all the way to Houston to see us; and Jacob at the Barnes & Noble in Preston Royal, Dallas, who helped me welcome a few familiar faces – thanks to Dan, Christine, Suzanne and Sara for making me feel at home, and the Bookies, a Dallas based book club, who had a party for me and shared in all the good things. It was a wonderful trip, to be sure, and the pictures can be seen here. Signed copies are available at all of the stores listed.

Wine of the Week: Mark West Pinot Noir, a gift from a dear friend. Yum!



A Toast to 2009

by JT Ellison

Happy New Year!

I've been casting about for days trying to decide how to open the year. New Year's Resolutions – been done, and then some. Reflections on 2008 – ditto. Revamping the writing process – DONE, DONE, DONE. Then it hit me. What I wanted to talk about today. It's something I've been missing.

Killer Year.

You've heard me talk about the group ad nauseum, and with the paperback release of our anthology, we've come full circle. No more debuts. No more anticipation of releases. We've all moved on – into our second, third, fourth books. Our debut year is well and truly over, and our post-debut year is behind us as well. It's hard to fathom, actually.

One of the random biographical details that I share with my main character Taylor is the fact that I was a semi-reluctant debutante. (She was a completely reluctant debutante, but that's a different story.) During that time, my reluctance disappeared and I embraced the reality wholeheartedly, because it was flat out fun. We had a two-year commitment – our debut year, and our post-deb year. The debut year was full of classes and parties — midnights hiding behind statues in foyers, sneaking kisses with boys who had "potential," afternoon teas at lovely estates, slick boats, fast cars, darkened subways and sleazy bars, broken hearts, torn dresses, too much liquor and a few emergency room runs. It was a blur of silliness and fun, the last moments before we became "responsible" adults.

The post-deb year was when we made that transition. We were expected to mentor the upcoming debutantes – teach them all the little tidbits that we'd learned from the post-deb class before us — not to get throwing up drunk when in the presence of royalty, don't sleep with the escorts unless they give you a ring, write your thank you notes within twenty-four hours so you don't forget, start practicing your curtsy a few months before the big night, because the incidence of pulled hamstrings and quadriceps muscles is higher than during pro football season. You know, the little things.

Killer Year was surprisingly similar to my real debut. There were lifelong friendships made, secrets shared, help, support and never ending kudos for the smallest accomplishments. There was a real sense that we were doing something special, unique, and we all benefited. All of us.

But the most exciting part is the fact that the spirit of the organization continues. ITW has made Killer Year's concept into a permanent reality – helping all their debut authors realize the wonderful dream that is cooperative marketing, friendship and support, all under one umbrella organization- The ITW Debut Authors.

So instead of looking back to 2008, I'm going to channel the spirit of the post-deb. I thought I'd take my very first Murderati post of 2009 to give a shout out to this exceptional group of debut writers. The ITW Debut Class of 2009, to be exact. These are the upcoming writers who you may not have heard of yet, but you most definitely will by the end of the year.

And away we go…

Kay Thomas – BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF, (Harlequin Intrigue) January 2009; BULLETPROOF TEXAS (Harlequin Intrigue) April 2009

Roger Smith – MIXED BLOOD (Henry Holt) March 2009

Kate Carlisle – HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER (NAL) February 2009

Don Helin – THY KINGDOM COME (Medallion Press) March 2009

Robert Rotenberg – OLD CITY HALL (Farrar Straus and Giroux) – February 2009 (UK), March 2009 (Canada & U.S.)

A. Scott Pearson – RUPTURE (Oceanview) February 2009

Bob Burke – THE THIRD PIG DETECTIVE AGENCY (The Friday Project / Harper Collins) March 2009

Paul Tremblay – THE LITTLE SLEEP (Holt Paperback) March 2009

Rhodi Hawk – A TWISTED LADDER (Tor/St. Martin's) April 2009

Jaye Wells – RED-HEADED STEPCHILD (Orbit) April 2009

Rebecca Cantrell – A TRACE OF SMOKE (Tor Forge Books) May 2009

Christy Reece
RESCUE ME (Ballantine Books) – May 2009; RETURN TO ME (Ballantine
Books) – June 2009 ; RUN TO ME (Ballantine Books) – July 2009

Stuart Neville – THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST (Harvill Secker) July 2009

Grant McKenzie – SWITCH (Bantam Transworld UK) July 2009

Jeremy Duns – FREE AGENT (Viking) July 2009

Sophie Littlefield – A BAD DAY FOR SORRY (Thomas Dunne) August 2009

Diana Orgain – POSTPARTUM DETECTIVE (Berkley) August 2009

JJ Cooper – INTERROGATED (Random House Australia) August 2009

Hank Schwaeble – DAMNABLE (Berkley/Jove) – September 2009

Norb Vonnegut – TOP PRODUCER (Thomas Dunne) – September 2009

Sharon Potts – IN THEIR BLOOD (Oceanview) September 2009

Cynthia Robinson – THE DOG PARK CLUB (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's) Fall 2009

Pretty amazing group of authors, huh? Talk about a force to be reckoned with. I can't wait to see what they do.

I'd be remiss if I didn't include two more of 2009's debuts. My friend Andrew Grant – EVEN (St. Martin's Minotaur) May 2009, and a fabulous book that I'll be blurbing: Stephen Jay Schwartz – BOULEVARD (Tor Forge) Unknown Release.

So tell us, 'Rati faithful. What books are you looking forward to this year???

Wine of the Week: Since I took a trip down memory lane for this post, I'm going to make a general suggestion this week, Lambrusco, a wine that's gotten a bad rap in the past. We had a bottle of Lambrusco over Christmas, and it was excellent – tart and fizzy, just the right compliment for a heavy turkey second-coming (that's our redux of the traditional Christmas feast.) We had the old faithful, Riunite, almost as a joke, but it was quite good. Eric Asimov has some more suggestions for you here. Salut! 


R.I.P Donald Westlake

Such incredibly sad news. The many tributes can be found here.

The Writer’s Life (Part 3) and a PSA

by JT Ellison

The Writer's Life (Part 1)

The Writer's Life (Part 2)

Merry Christmas!

I hope your day was lovely, and if you don't celebrate, you had a
good Hanukkah, or Festivus, or Boxing Day or Kwanzaa.

Now, for the PSA, aka BSP:


I got so caught up in my new "methods" that I neglected to share some rather important news. My third Taylor Jackson novel went on sale this past Tuesday, December 23. I feel like a right eegit for not sharing this news last week, so forgive me. I don't know what it says that I wasn't on top of this… it's the holidays, we're all preoccupied, I was way more worried about getting my edits turned in for EDGE OF BLACK, I'm a blithering idiot… whatever the cause, the fact remains. JUDAS KISS is available wherever fine books are sold. PW gave it a starred review, Romantic Times gave it 4 1/2 stars, it's a top pick at Romance Reader at Heart… and if that's not enough to convince you, it's only $6.99.

I'm doing a brief tour, and would love to see some of you out on the road.

Here endeth the PSA aka BSP.

Since I'm on vacation, at the beach (YAY!) I thought I'd wrap up the
series on my writing life with a discussion of tools and tips for
better organization, less stress and an all-around happier writer.

In a slight departure for David Allen's GTD, I decided to separate
out my creative and my business. Here's how I define it –Business is
online. Creative is what I physically write.

  • My first, and most important tool, is my laptop, a Sony Vaio. It's
    light, has a 14 inch screen and is my favorite laptop ever. You need to
    enjoy both where you create and and what you create on. One day I may
    move to a Mac (if they ever address the pesky backspace key issue.)
    Until then, I'm a Vaio girl.
  • The TO DO List – I got all excited about moving all of my day-to-day to do list and
    calendar online, then realized I was defeating the purpose. If my lists
    are online, then I have to be online to access them. I went back and
    forth on this – online or paper, online or paper? I decided to stick
    with the online versions – Remember the Milk for my to do list, Gmail
    for my mail and Google Calendar for my appointments. All three tie
    directly to each other and, more importantly, to my iPhone, and that's
    just so much easier than dragging
    around a day runner for me. My Google Reader goes to the iPhone too —
    literally an all-in-one stop gap. If I lost it, I'd be in serious
  • My
    – It's becoming a valuable tool for me. I can turn off the
    wireless on my laptop, turning it into a dedicated writing machine, and
    if I need a break or need to look something up, my iPhone is there. I
    can glance at my email, Facebook, Reader, stocks, etc., taking five
    minutes to gloss through everything. I find that I rarely surf on my
    phone, which makes it the perfect substitute for being online on my
    laptop, and limits the wasteful time.
  • Two email addresses – one
    for crap (online ordering and subscriptions to groups you don't follow
    closely) and one for business. Some people break it out by friends and
    business, but I find that the crap versus meaningful works best for me.
  • Google Readers for RSS Feeds – I've turned off my daily newsletters from the newspapers and
    other sites like Galley Cat, and use my Google reader to follow any
    news I need throughout the day. It's so handy, because it can tell you
    when something is new, and it's all in one place. I've become a big
    proponent of all in one place.
  • The Moleskine notebook  – I've
    never used a Moleskine before (sacrilege!) and I'm excited to have gotten one for
    Christmas. I find that my notes get littered with creative ideas, and
    my To Do Lists include titles, or my grocery lists and that latest
    phone call get into my book notebook. I hope to use the Moleskine to
    capture my creative thoughts – ideas on new books, snippets of dialogue
    or scene, book titles, new characters – those ideas that go on Post-it
    Notes, the scribbles in the middle of the night, the whole kit and
  • A Circa notebook for the book – because I don't want the
    distraction of all the notes in my Moleskine. The Circa is great because
    I can tear pages out, reorganize them into tabs, and have everything
    book related at my fingertips. Now that I know how to use it, it's
    working well for me.
  • Fancy pens and pencils – It was office supply Christmas, and hubby got me some fabulous Palomino pencils for me to edit with. Me loves. I also am always on the lookout for a great pen. I have a wonderful Mont Blanc that I got for graduation, but I'm always scared I'm going to lose it, so it's sitting in a nice safe spot upstairs in my office. I use it to sign contracts, write thank you notes, anything important. Which means I need another, one that I can tour with. I'm looking at a TrueWriter from Levenger, just a basic solid Good Pen that I won't freak out about if I lose.
  • Write in the morning, edit in the afternoon.
    That way, the next morning, I can do the edits and it launches me right
    back to the spot I need to be mentally to continue producing. Some
    writers like to stop mid-line, mid-paragraph or mid-thought and come
    back to it the next day. I'm more inclined to finish at a chapter break
    or a scene pause. That allows me to pick up a fresh thought when I come
    back to work.What I am going to try is reading the last few paragraphs
    of what I wrote that day right before I go to sleep, and see what my
    subconscious does with the downtime.

And that's really it.

The picture below
is one of my favorite gifts received this year, from my wonderful
critique partner cum adopted sister JB Thompson. Isn't that great?

Christmas 2008 004

So, a twofold question today. Did you get anything for Christmas or Hannukah that you especially loved? And what are your favorite tools?

Wine of the Week: A gift from the Italian side of my familia, shared over Christmas dinner. This is one of the finest wines in the world, #6 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 of 2008: 2004 Pio Cesare Barolo