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December 2012

How Much Do You Really Want It?: When Change Can’t Happen

BlumenthalGuest blogger Brett Blumenthal is the best-selling author of three books, including 52 Small Changes and—fresh off the presses today—A Whole New You. Her writing is regularly featured on the Huffington Post and Yahoo!, among many other outlets, and she is the founder of Sheer Balance.

At the turn of every new year, millions of individuals vow to change something about their lives. Many set goals to lose weight and improve health, some look to reinvent their careers, and others hope to strengthen relationships. Unfortunately, within a few weeks of the new year, many resolutions fall by the wayside. In A Whole New You, I offer a six-step process to help people make real transformation that lasts.

BlumenthalLasting change has to be authentic to you as an individual; to your desires and your needs. To change because we “have to” or “should” sets us up for failure in the long run. If, for instance, you attempt to lose weight solely because you think you should, you may be successful in the short term—but old habits likely will creep in later, and the weight will return. But if you have a deep personal desire to lose weight, your chances of long-term success will be much greater.

To ensure success, it's critical to be honest with yourself about what you really want. Honest evaluation of how much you desire to change is crucial to making real transformation happen.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Why am I making the change? List all the reasons for considering the change.
  • What is my motivation? Identify the driving force behind your interest in change. Go beyond the rationality of why, and think about the emotional side and your feelings. Is your interest due to external influences, guilt, or because you think you should or need to? Or do you have a burning desire to make the change?
  • Am I really passionate? On a scale of 1 to 10, with “1” being the least and “10” being the most, evaluate how passionate you are about the transformation you’re considering. Also assess if you have felt a strong passion for a long time or if it might be fleeting.
  • What would change feel like? Imagine you are successful in your transformation. How would it feel? The same? Better? Would you feel exhilarated? Relieved? New and improved?

As you consider the above, always remember: True transformation must be authentic to you and to your goals. The six steps outlined in A Whole New You provide the framework to build goals for your own transformation. The more you stay true to yourself, the more successful you will be.

Brett Blumenthal

Guest Blogger: Stefan Bachmann, author of "The Peculiar"

The PeculiarIn The Peculiar, first-time novelist Stefan Bachmann crafts an elaborate alternate steampunk Britain, set after the Smiling War, when a door to the Old Country was opened and faeries of all types streamed into Bath. Here he is, talking about the top 5 questions kids asked him during his book tour. 

Back in October my publisher sent me on tour for my first book, The Peculiar. This was pprrrettty much the most exciting thing ever. I got to run around the US in a banana yellow car, and go to NYC, and Comic Con, and lots of schools, and meet all the awesome kid readers, and give presentations, and at the end of each presentation we always did a round of Q & A. And after a while I started noticing that some questions came up more than other questions. Like, a lot more. Sometimes several times from the same group, because kids would forget that someone else had asked it and would be, like, “Oh, me! I have a GREAT question.”

So I did this super-scientific tally after each presentation and added them all together, and here they are. . . .

The five most-asked questions from kids:

1. “Where do you get your ideas?”

2. “Will there be a movie? I like movies.”

3. “How much money do you earn? I like money.”

4. “Why does Hettie have branches growing out of her head? That's dumb/weird/rather interesting.”

5. “Is Mr. Lickerish’s faery butler based on the video game Slender?”

So. Here are the answers:

1. Where do I get my ideas? Umm, I meant to pick the kid next to you. Oh, you wanted to ask that question, too?

*flees*

Not really. But ideas tend to come from random places, and in this case the idea for a sinister steampunk-y England with folklore creatures and magic and clockwork birds came from nothing I can actually remember. It basically developed over a long period of time out of all the things I liked, and that’s not a very exciting answer, so I usually just said, “Nineteenth-century literature and Disney movies.” So, Treasure Planet, Atlantis, The Great Mouse Detective. Because Disney movies are awesome.

2. I don’t know if there’ll be a movie of The Peculiar! There’s a tiny chance? Maybe? I have a fantastic film agent who handled the movie deals for such things as Twilight and Eragon, but it’s a long road from book to screen and even if The Peculiar is optioned one never knows whether a movie will actually be made. ’Twould be cool, though.

3. Woah, sorry, what?

Okay, I only said that the first time. And I really should have been expecting this question, because had an author ever visited my school while I was growing up, I totally would have asked this. But of course one doesn’t talk about these things, so I usually just said, “I won’t tell you, mostly because it doesn’t matter. If you’re a writer you’ll write whether you’re paid a bajillion dollars or no money at all. You’ll do it because you love it, and because if you don’t write you’ll go insane.”

4. Because branches-growing-out-of-heads is cool? Obviously?

(What I actually said: Because Hettie (and her brother Bartholomew) is a Peculiar, half faery and half human, and somehow I needed to show that Peculiars were instantly and recognizably different from the Victorian humans and the wild, suspicious faeries. Therefore, branches.)

5. Mr. Lickerish’s faery butler is not based on the Slender Man. They’re both tall and creepy and have the tendency to show up when they’re least wanted, but the Slender video game didn’t even exist when I was writing this book. That’s okay, though. I loved this question.

I loved all the questions, really. Even the repeat questions and the silly ones. Kid readers are the best, and once we got these five out of the way, we got to all the smart and interesting ones about what it’s like living in Switzerland and the differences between it and the US, and why I wrote a book as a teenager instead of waiting until I was thirty years old and wise, and whether The Peculiar is secretly a deep metaphor for real-world issues. (Answer: Up to you! I just hope it’s an exciting and slightly frightening read for all sorts of different readers.)

Guest Blogger: Lauren Oliver, author of the Delirium Trilogy

RequiemLauren Oliver captivated readers with her first novel, Before I Fall, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. She followed that up with Delirium, the first book in a best-selling trilogy, which continued with Pandemonium. The exciting finale is available March 5. Download Requiem today.

People often ask me what my preferred genre of book is—not just to read, but to write.

At first glance, it’s hard to say. I’ve always resisted categorization, or at least tried to, and every book I’ve written so far differs substantially from its predecessor. I’m similarly diverse in my reading: I often cycle through several books at once, alternating among literary fiction, potboiler detective novels, nonfiction, pop-science, and children’s books. My debut novel was realistic teen fiction; then I wrote a fantasy/sci-fi series; then a ghost story for children; then a story about spiders that live underground and eat children’s souls (also for children). In other words, a diverse group of books with a diverse set of main characters and themes.

But I’ve realized recently it’s not quite true that I don’t have a preferred genre. I love to write stories where the real and the fantastic—or the purely imagined—are in very close contact, just as I’ve always liked to read stories where a very thin membrane exists between the real and the fantastic. I like books where a plain, sturdy wardrobe gives access to Narnia; I like the works of Gabriel García Márquez, where everything is amplified and slightly distorted; and books about circuses that house real magicians and appear out of nowhere.

Maybe that’s why I like writing books for kids and teenagers. For children, that divide—between the real and the imagined—is naturally more tenuous. And for teens, the desire for another reality, a fantasy world that will lift them out of their present circumstances, is overpowering. All books are doors (and the best ones are wardrobes with doors in them). But they are also mirrors. We read books for entertainment, of course, but also to be transformed by them and to see our images reflected back in their pages. I don’t think the two things—escape and reflection—are mutually exclusive. If realistic fiction is a perfect mirror, an exact reflection of our lives and behaviors, then fantasy is that mirror brought up to a microscope, amplified, and made obvious. That’s what fairy tales are: short, weird, strange stories full of improbable or impossible things that nonetheless tell us something deeply true about who we are and what kind of world we live in. (See Bluebeard, and the fact that we all harbor secrets, and that even in intimacy we’re often strangers to one another.)

I’m working on my first book for “grown-ups” now, and I’m happy to say that it, too, is a ghost story. Our imaginative lives may be more segregated than the day-to-day in our adult lives (nothing kills a good bout of make-believe like being stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway), but we don’t stop craving escape. We will always need mirrors—and wardrobes.

--Lauren Oliver

Max Allan Collins on The Disaster Series

Max Allan Collins is the Shamus Award winning, New York Times best-selling author of Road to Perdition and multiple award-winning novels, screenplays, comic books, comic strips, trading cards, short stories, movie novelizations, and historical fiction. We recently had the chance to ask him a few questions about his Disaster Series available on Kindle and in paperback.

Question: It’s unusual for a series of mystery novels to lack a continuing character; however this series is based on a thematic unity. You focus not only on famous historical disasters, but also on a succession of famous mystery and thriller writers, as your hero/detectives.  How did you come up with that approach?

TitanicMurdersMax Allan Collins: Somewhat by accident. As with most of my series books, this one spun off of a novel intended as a one-shot The Titanic Murders. Shortly after I saw James Cameron’s film, I was talking to an editor at Berkley Books about the movie, and its enormous popularity, and mentioned in an off-hand way that a famous mystery writer of the era had died on the Titanic, Jacques Futrelle, author of the Thinking Machine stories, which I’d read in junior high.  I said, off the top of my hand, that somebody should write a mystery in which Jacques Futrelle solves a closed-environment, Agatha Christie-style puzzle aboard the doomed ship.  Wouldn’t it be darkly amusing for the detective to solve a murder mystery, pronounce all right with the world, and then hear a WHUMP, and say, “What was that?”  And then after a long pause, my editor said, “Can you get me something this afternoon?  Just a paragraph?”  I said sure, did so, and the book was sold.  Same day.

Q: But how did The Titanic Murders lead to a series?

MAC: When it came time to negotiate the contract, I was told that the publisher wasn’t taking on anything but series books and that I had to come up with two more books.  I said, “Well, the detective dies at the end, it is the Titanic, after all.”  Too bad, but you have to do a series, I was told.  Again, off the top of my head, I said, well, I could do other famous disasters, like the Hindenburg and the Lusitania. 

Q: But not all of the writers were actually present when the disaster in the novel took place, correct?

MAC: Most were.  Agatha Christie was certainly in London for the Blitz.  Edgar Rice Burroughs was in Pearl Harbor during the attack.  S.S. Van Dine did travel on the Lusitania, although not during the fateful voyage.  And Walter Gibson, as the creator of the Shadow, had an obvious connection to Orson Welles, making Gibson’s presence at the War of the Worlds broadcast believable.

Q: Will there be more Disaster novels?

MAC: Well, I always say it’s nice to write a novel that’s a disaster on purpose. But during the writing of The Lusitania Murders, 9/11, the worst disaster of recent memory, occurred and took some of the fun out of my notion.  I never made light of the disasters I was dealing with, except perhaps in The War of the Worlds Murder.  But the distance of time does provide a cushion.  I’ll be interested to see how new readers, coming to the Thomas & Mercer editions, feel. 

Q: We understand all of the books will be available on audio.

MAC: Yes, most of them for the first time.  It’s fun to have these stories, these characters, come so vividly to life.

Browse the Max Allan Collins store to view the Disaster series and more of his titles.

Five Noir Films Author Vincent Zandri Loves

MurderbyMoonlightIntrepid author and world traveler Vincent Zandri offers up his thoughts on the movies, in honor of his book trailer contest, live now on Amazon Studios, and his newest Dick Moonlight mystery, Murder by Moonlight. Check them both out and try your hand at the contest featuring $3,000 for the winning trailer!

I don’t go to the movies.

Wait, scratch that…I love the movies. Or, films, I should say. It’s just that you’re going to be hard pressed to find me spending a Saturday night at the local mall, buying over-priced popcorn and sitting through the latest Adam Sandler flick while some high schoolers are chatting it up behind me and the seven-feet-six basketball player seated in front of me blocks the entire screen.

Ok, I know, going to the movies isn’t necessarily for the guys, but more for the gals. And it’s what you do for someone you love who is constantly doing things for you that she doesn’t necessarily enjoy doing. Like bellying up to a bar for instance.

But while we’re on the subject, I have a serious confession to make. Until recently, I’ve been single for a long time, dating here and there, enjoying some short-lived relationships, living the George Clooney life more or less, only without the bucks or the Hollywood good looks. In any case, I always find myself telling my date, or prospective date, how much I love to go to the movies. It works like a charm, every time. All I have to do is ask a girl if she’d like to go to a movie this Friday night and dinner afterwards and her eyes will light up and boom, I’m in.

So what I do after that is wait a few days and then I’ll sort of suggest we save the movie for another time since I can only get an early dinner reservation at this really cool restaurant. Usually she agrees and from that point on, I keep promising a movie, but it usually never happens. And that’s usually when the relationship fizzles out.

Problem is, in my business, I can watch movies all the time, anytime, via Netlfix or Amazon Instant Video or even YouTube. In fact, I probably watch and re-watch half a dozen movies per week.  Watching movies and reading books are essential as a fiction writer. Like a musician listening to other bands, watching movies not only sparks my creativity but it also makes me a more enthusiastic writer. I find myself watching not only as a professional, but as a fan.

The  movies I like to watch and, as I’ve already pointed out, re-watch, almost always fall into the noir or hard-boiled categories. The top 5 noir films I simply cannot stay away from are as follows:

  1. ChinatownChina Town: Hands down one of the best hard boiled, wise-guy detective flicks ever made. The Robert Towne script is said to be perfect but the performances are even better with Jack Nicholson playing the sarcastic gumshoe and Faye Dunaway the femme fatale. Look for the scene in which Jack slaps Faye around while trying to figure out if the kid upstairs is her sister or daughter. “My sister, my daughter, my sister…!!!” Classic.

  2. AngeltownAngel Heart: This one came out in the mid-1980s when I was still in college and was more or less a sleeper but a real horrific sexy shocker. Mickey Rourke plays a 1950s era P.I. who has a bit of an amnesia problem. I could tell you the plot but it would spoil the movie. But for atmosphere and acting, you can’t get a better noir performance than this one.

  3. SevenSeven: I’m a big Brad Pitt fan. He makes the big bucks and I believe he should make the big bucks times two. In this one from the mid-1990s, Brad and Morgan Freeman join up to discover who is behind a series of gruesome killings that are mimicking the seven deadly sins inside a city where it always rains and the view is nothing other than the concrete jungle. A contemporary classic with Kevin Spacey as the villain.


  4. DoubleDouble Indemnity: I don’t know about you, but I grew up thinking Fred MacMurray was a real dork considering the dad he played on My Three Sons and the goofy professor in Disney’s Flubber series. But turns out, back when my parents were still having movie dates, old Fred was bad ass. In this one, he and Barbara Stanwyck try and off her husband in order to collect the insurance dough. But it all goes bad in the Hollywood Hills. No one says “Baby,” better than Fred “Flubber” MacMurray.

  5. ForeignForeign Correspondent: This one was made by Hitchcock pre-World War II and it’s more of an atmospheric, paranoid suspense thriller than anything else. Dark shadows, tight claustrophobic settings, crooked camera angles, and in my mind, one of the first and best English speaking foreign noir films ever produced. Joel McCrea’s performance is remarkable in that it’s stood the test of time. I love to watch this one when travelling in Europe.

So those are just five of my tough guy noir favorites. There are of course, many, many more. Tales of the Gun, The Killers, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, among them. My choices range from the classic black-and-white to the horrifying to the campy as all hell. But I love them nonetheless and all have influenced my novels, especially the Dick Moonlight series (Murder by Moonlight), in one way or another. I suspect I’ll be watching them again and again until my dying day.

I’ll leave you with one last confession regarding my movie dating situation, or lack thereof: Just last year, my ex-wife Laura and I decided to start dating again. One of the things that made her come back to me was my convincing her I would take her to the movies once a week. Well, ummm, it’s been a year and we still haven’t gone. But we’re going to get there (I promise, baby). But lately I’ve been thinking that maybe we won’t get there until one of my own films is finally released.

But even then, I might not feel like going to the movie theater. Or maybe I will. I can just see myself sitting in the back row with Laura on one side and some stranger on the other. Knowing me, I’ll poke the stranger on the arm.

“I wrote this,” I’ll whisper.

“Good for you,” she’ll whisper back, maybe with a roll of her disbelieving eyes. Or maybe she’ll get up and move her seat, thinking I’m some crazy dude or full-of-himself tool. Whatever the case, at least I will have finally made it to the movies.

Guest Blogger: Sebastian Junger on the Kindle Single, "A World Made of Blood"

A World Made of BloodSebastian Junger is the author of the best-sellers War, The Perfect Storm, Fire, A Death in Belmont, and the Kindle Single, A World Made of Blood.

In 2000, I went to Sierra Leone for Vanity Fair to write about the illicit diamond trade, and I intentionally picked a quiet time during a cease-fire between the government and the Revolutionary United Front. But this was my first assignment in Africa, and I didn’t realize how fast things can change there. Almost overnight, the RUF launched attacks across the country and overran at least one United Nations base, taking hundreds of international troops prisoner. I was up-country with a photographer—a good friend named Teun Voeten—and we were evacuated along with other foreign nationals by British Special Air Service (SAS) troops on Chinook helicopters. Most of the evacuees continued to London, but Teun and I stayed in Freetown to cover the war.

One day I took a taxi out to the front lines—which were constantly shifting—and found myself in an increasingly precarious situation with a bunch of young fighters known as Kamajors. They were fighting alongside regular soldiers but were barely under government control. After a while I realized that this was not going to end well, and I hitched a ride out of there with several Sierra Leonean soldiers and a couple of Western reporters. I thought I was home free, but half an hour outside of town, a dozen heavily armed fighters stepped out of the jungle and surrounded our jeep. That was when the screaming and the gun cocking began. That was when I realized that I had never known real fear.

No one jumped out of the jeep to take photos; no one did anything but sit there mutely and wait. I don’t know what the other men were thinking, but I was pretty sure we were all going to be killed. I may have been completely wrong—West African fighters can be pretty histrionic—but they can be pretty nihilistic as well. (Two Western journalists—American Kurt Schork and Spaniard Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora—were killed on that same road just a couple of weeks later.) The guys who stopped us were from a criminal gang called the Westside Boys. They were loosely affiliated with the rebels and lived in the jungle outside Freetown. In the end, they didn’t kill us; they let us go and we returned to Freetown, shaken but alive. Later I heard that the Westside Boys had tried to fight a contingent of British SAS forces and were wiped out almost to a man.

Many years later, I decided to write a short story that would start from my own experiences and then take them a step further. I wanted to horrify myself with the possibilities; I wanted to crank things up and see how I would react. I’m not a brave person; I think my reactions are very close to those of most people. I wrote this story hoping that others would think about what it means to be scared, and to be brave, and to have the power to take a human life. It’s the ultimate power, and yet it’s so very poorly understood.

Who Are the Warriors in the Black Helicopters?

Guest post by former Green Beret and NY Times best-selling author Bob Mayer. Mayer is the author of the Sci-fi thriller Nightstalkers, the most recent book in his Area 51 series.

NightstalkersWho are the warriors in the black helicopters?

I remember sitting inside of a Blackhawk helicopter, flying an infiltration mission with Task Force 160 (the same unit that flew the Bin Laden mission) when it was first formed many years ago and wondering that same question, not quite accepting we were the guys in the black helicopters. 

Members of TF-160 are called the Nightstalkers, as is the team I invented in my new book, Nightstalkers (the first in a new Area 51 trilogy). However, my team of fighters is a collection of former Special Ops, Covert Ops, and uncanny warriors drawn together for the most unique mission of all:  to protect us against the things that go bump in the night.

Way back when, I commanded a Green Beret A-Team that was part of a classified program called Trojan Warrior.  It was designed to make an even more elite fighter out of Special Forces soldiers.  If you’ve seen the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats—well, yes, it is was similar to that.  But there was a whole lot more such as martial arts, mentally controlling heart rate and body temperature, and learning how to walk and chew gum at the same time.  Truly elite.

This specialized skillset is needed by the Nightstalkers team in the first book as they face havoc wreaking fireflies that emerge from a rift in space, a killer rabbit, and even a possessed swimming pool.

The books are a lot more fun than the reality of being a warrior, but they reflect the reality.  I remember doing a beach infiltration in a foreign country (to remain unnamed), swimming in, ditching my dry suit, wearing an unmarked uniform with weapons that couldn’t be traced (technically, we couldn’t be traced either).  We moved inland and were in a small town when a taxi came by and the driver happened to glance over and see us:  blackened faces, submachine guns, our vests bristling with the tools of death. The look on his face is part of what I want to convey in these books.

The books in the Nightstalkers trilogy will be both real and a smidge over the top, a little humor never hurt anyone.  In fact, the last thing I would tell new members joining my A-Team during inbrief was:  "Keep your sense of humor; you're going to need it." -- Bob Mayer.

Michael Connelly and Alan Russell Talk "Burning Man"

Michael Connelly, best-selling author of The Black Box, interviews fellow author Alan Russell who just released the new action-packed police procedural Burning Man now available on Kindle and paperback.

Connelly-RussellMichael Connelly: Welcome back to the world of mystery writing! Where the hell have you been for the last decade? Did you become a golf pro? (Inside joke: Connelly has seen Russell golf which is not a pretty sight).

Alan Russell: I was writing, but mostly ghostwriting to pay the bills. I had my own secret titles for the books I wrote. There was Downstairs Flooring, and My Son’s Expensive Liberal Arts College. Actually, that was a trilogy, with parts I, II, and III. There was also, Dental Work, Two Bridges and an Implant, and my classic work, Upstairs Decking.

M.C.: Someone told me you were writing movie scripts.

A.R.: True. You want to hear my Oscar speech for best screenplay?

M.C.: Speaking of Hollywood, I always wondered why they didn’t make your novel Shame into a movie.

A.R.: It went in and out of option a few times. How was your walk on the red carpet when Blood Work and The Lincoln Lawyer hit the big screen?

M.C.: I had a blast with The Lincoln Lawyer. Blood Work was a good experience too, but the movie had only passing resemblance to the book.

A.R.: Anytime Hollywood wants to ruin one of my books, I’ll gladly let them.

BurningManM.C.: Maybe they’ll do it with Burning Man. What’s it about?

A.R.: It’s a cop story with two protagonists: an LAPD detective and his K-9 partner.

M.C.: Did you say LAPD?

A.R.: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

M.C.:  Which subject did you find more interesting to research and write: humans or animals?

A.R.: I grew up with German shepherds, and currently have three dogs, so I am clearly a dog-lover. What I most enjoyed writing was the relationship between Gideon (cop) and Sirius (dog).

M.C.: What kind of research was needed?

A.R.:  When I wrote Multiple Wounds I was assigned to a homicide team in San Diego, but without an LAPD resource I did all the reading and research I could and hope it came out right. By the way, I love the videos on your website when you bring in real LAPD detectives.

M.C.: It’s fun to do. You have to be authoritative on what you write but you can get that from many sources. For example, I get most of what I need for Lincoln Lawyer from a couple of lawyers that practice in Florida.

A.R.: Research is important; good writing is even more important.

M.C.: Tell me about the title of Burning Man. I really like it. What’s it mean?

A.R.: In the prologue Gideon and Sirius go into a canyon fire to try and capture a notorious serial killer. They get their man, but barely survive. The physical scars are one thing, the mental scars another. Gideon doesn’t want to tell anyone about his PTSD from the fire. The only positive is that his suffering brings him inexplicable insights into the cases he’s working.

M.C.: And what cases are those?

A.R.: The set-up for the series is that Gideon and Sirius work the Special Cases Unit and get the unusual and different cases.

M.C.: Such as?

A.R.: In Burning Man they investigate a modern crucifixion.

M.C.: Not your everyday homicide.

A.R.: That’s something you know more than a little bit about.

M.C.: You’re not going to disappear for another decade, are you?

A.R.: No, you won’t be that lucky. I am working on a sequel to Burning Man.

M.C.: Don’t quote me on this, but I’m glad you’re back.

A.R.: It’s good to be back.

Learn more about Michael Connelly and browse his booklist on his author page. Also, Check out Alan Russell’s page featuring his titles Burning Man, Shame, and Multiple Wounds.

Guest Reviewer: Tatiana de Rosnay on "Still with Me"

CohenGuest reviewer Tatiana de Rosnay is the best-selling author of The House I Loved, A Secret Kept, and Sarah's Key.

This is a love story, but not your typical love story.

Jeremy, a teenager, is madly in love with Victoria. Alas, he suspects his love for her merely goes one way. In despair, he decides to put an end to his life on May 8, 2001.

Somehow, incredibly, Jeremy wakes up exactly one year later, snug in Victoria's tender arms. What happened? Jeremy has no memory of what occurred in the past 12 months. And now he's being confronted with his past—and his future—in a strange and haunting manner.

Thierry Cohen, with fluidity and poignancy, offers his readers an original viewpoint on life's fragilities, on the tough decisions we sometimes need to make, and on the never-ending mystery of how and why we inhabit this earth.

This novel, Cohen's first, took the publishing world by storm in 2007. Since then it has been published in 15 countries and has enthralled 200,000 readers worldwide. Young readers were the first to devour it, and then they got their parents to read it. People of all ages enjoy a book that artfully mingles spiritual elements and philosophy and suspense.

And now Still with Me comes, at last, to the USA. I'm sure—no, wait!—I'm convinced you will enjoy this powerful, emotional read, which will keep you up all night turning pages.

Tatiana de Rosnay

Ten Reasons Why “USS Alcatraz” Was Written

A thriller with a submarine on the cover suggests many things – from Tom Clancy to Das Boot and countless other underwater military yarns. Phil Robinson’s USS Alcatraz is a different beast entirely, a churning and rousing dive into what he calls “mayhem and skullduggery.” We asked Phil why he created such a wild story and what animates him as a storyteller. Here are his 10 reasons.

  1. USSAlcatrazI wanted to write a book that was outrageous and fun, with huge characters that you could hiss and boo.
  2. The USS Alcatraz exists in the same sort of alternate reality as other big adventure stories, like Raiders of the Lost Arc or Batman. The idea behind it—that a wealthy malcontent can drop his enemies to the bottom of the ocean—is a fun one. The story is supposed to be plausible, rather than likely.
  3. I started writing because I was bored with thrillers that read like non-fiction memoirs. I didn’t want to read about soldiers unpacking and packing rucksacks and discussing their load-out and mission planning. I am much more interested in mayhem and skullduggery.
  4. Like most men my age I probably have MacGyver issues. I am more interested in a character improvising with what’s around him, than pulling out the greatest piece of gear ever.
  5. The “what if” at the heart of the story really grabbed me. What if you could make a submarine into a prison?
  6. As soon as I started researching the book I realized that building a prison sub from scratch would take too much time and cost way too much. Stealing one and refitting it would be much smarter. I searched around for submarines that had been lost at sea and found this old cargo submarine project in Archangelsk that suffered problems with brittle titanium hulls. Perfect, I thought, I can have Carson steal one!
  7. I quickly realized that it never really mattered to Carson if his new prison submarine was really sea-worthy; he was only going to sink it again anyway.
  8. Anyone looking for a book about submarine warfare is in for a shock. The USS Alcatraz is more sunken death-trap than underwater war machine.
  9. I grew up reading graphic novels and thrillers side by side. I think the two genres have bled together here. I owe as great a debt to Frank Miller and Alan Moore as I do Tom Clancy or Alistair Macclean.
  10. Too many books are written with the film in mind. I wanted to write a story without limits that jumped around the world. That’s one of the great things about the novel format; you can leap between characters at will and go where your imagination takes you.