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A Love Story Complicated by a Crime: “The Paying Guests” by Sarah Waters

I received a somewhat disturbing text from a friend the other afternoon. She was running late for work Paying_guestsbecause she couldn't put a book down that I'd recently leant her. "How can I go? I must read on!" "But, the children!" I cried. She is a nanny, you see, so while I could relate to her plight--I had spent a rare sunny day in Seattle, indoors, eschewing some much needed vitamin D reading the very same book--I didn't have children to keep alive. Such are the perils when one picks up The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. So readers, clear your calendars.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ms. Waters recently, on a not-so-rare rainy day in Seattle, to talk about this historical page-turner, set during a "politically untidy" time that has many parallels to our own. 

The story takes place in 1922 in suburban South London. WWI has ended and ex-soldiers are roaming the streets, unemployed and uncertain about the future. In a once grand and genteel house, Frances Wray--a spinster with a surprising past--lives with her mother.  "They've lost their men to war, and they've lost income and servants, and so they've had to bring in lodgers to make ends meet, and they are Leonard and Lilian Barber, the paying guests of the title. Francis is at first appalled by their gaudy furniture and bothered by the sound of them moving about upstairs, but finds herself increasingly drawn to Lilian. So the novel is the story of their affair and the sort of dramatic and really violent and alarming consequences that it has for everybody involved."

The novel was inspired, in part, by an actual murder case from that time--a case that had a "classic triangle at [its] heart--a wife, a husband, and a male lover. And, I began to think what it would be like if the lover was female--what that would do to the story, how it would touch on other issues in the period." With this germ of an idea, Waters began researching similar cases in earnest. "I was struck when I looked at those murder cases--and I looked at lots of other murder cases from the period. They did tend to feature ordinary people who by some sort of mistake, by a moment of madness, were plunged into nightmare and into disaster and ultimately towards some sort of violent death. And I was very struck by the fact that people in murder cases like that, they don't know what's coming...In the months, weeks, days leading up to the murder, they were just leading their ordinary lives."

Waters is known for plotting-out most of her books ahead of time, but she admits that she was knee-deep in the writing process before realizing that--despite the murder and the mayhem--the book is mainly a love story.  "I really was sort of rooting for Frances and Lilian but very conscious that their love came at a cost...Once I'd realized, though, that that was kind of the trajectory of the book--that it was based on their love--the book came together for me more smoothly. And then it became a novel very much about how their love is put under pressure, how it's tested by this dramatic incident, and the moral complexity of the events that follow."

Sound a bit dark? Fortunately, as fans of other Waters’s novels like Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith can attest, she has a knack for humanizing her characters with pitch-perfect humor for the period that also resonates with a modern audience. "Often humor is so specific to its moment that it doesn't date well. There's nothing worse than, sort of, terrible comics movies from the 20s, for example...The best of them last but they just seem incredibly tiresome now as no doubt our movies will in another hundred years. So, it's trying to find humor that belongs, feels like it belongs to the period and yet still seems kind of funny to us. That’s quite a challenge...We do need to get beyond those static black and white pictures of the past and remember that people live their lives in color, and with laughter, as well as with tears and sternness. The whole range, that's how you bring the past to life."

The Paying Guests was a Best of the Month selection for September.

Where We Were, Where We're Going

In order to understand how we shape our future, we need to understand the path that's led us to where we are. Check out 10 recommended economic history books and what Amazon customers have to say about them.

 

41iERde3NwLCapital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

"The empirical work he has done in assembling the income and wealth concentration for countries is simply invaluable. We have some data like gini and labor vs. capital income, but to meticulously collect and analyze specific percentiles of income and wealth in many nations is truly groundbreaking."

 

 

41fPHovbUiLThe Founders of Finance by Thomas K. McCraw

"If you have any interest in the history of some of great shapers and developers of our US Treasury, this is the book for you. I loved the section about Hamilton and there were a few new facts the author focuses on but the real meat was in the introduction of Gallatin. I have never studied about him until now and that's what makes this book great, it's shows how much of huge impact these two men have, to this day, on our country. A top notch book that is insightful and a joy to read."

 

51F0s01xT5LFreaks of Fortune by Jonathan Levy

"This book has opened my eyes to depths and meanings of risk, risk transfer, insurance, and a great array of related topics, I never grasped at anything like this level before."

 

 

 

 

41oAAZ-xzDLThe Crisis of Capitalist Democracy by Richard A. Posner

"So what is a federal judge and a law professor doing by trying to explain the causes of the recent financial crisis? That's what makes Posner so exceptional, his knowledge of economics is incredible, but even more amazing is his ability to explain esoteric subjects like derivatives in simply language so that even those of us with little background in economics can understand what he's talking about."

 

 

51MkusmkMRLThe Great Persuasion by Angus Burgin

"Writing about intellectual history tends to fall prey to one of two different vices. If the author is a member of the intellectual movement he is writing about, there is a tendency toward hagiography, with unflattering details carefully airbrushed out. On the other hand, if the author is not an adherent of the ideas he is describing, he's likely to descend into caricature in the opposite direction, failing to appreciate key nuances in the protagonists' arguments and attributing simplistic motives to them. Burgin deftly avoids both vices, presenting a sympathetic account of the thinkers he covers but maintaining a critical distance from their ideas."

 

410V8H9TQ4LA Failure of Capitalism by The Honorable Richard A.  Posner

"The book is well argued and much more thorough than I can convey here. One of the great things about Judge Posner's style is that he anticipates all of the reader's objections and tries to address them in good faith. Whether you agree or disagree, he is always worth reading."

 

 

 

414ry5cCdnLThe Illusion of Free Markets by Bernard E. Harcourt

"I found this book to be a very interesting history of classical economics as understood by the French. At least on the popular level, we rarely get a view of French economics and the reciprocal relationship between English and French economic philosophers. I found the book to be erudite and fascinating and would recumbent it to all."

 

 

 

41v5+LhKLJLMaking the European Monetary Union by Harold James

"If you are interested in the development of the European Monetary Union, as well as all the ancillary financial supporting commissions, the machinations of currency creation, politics and "in fighting", and, you wish to see this process "soup to nuts" -- from it's most abstruse departure point to the present, this book is for you."

 

 

 

51W+VjfS-nLWhen Wall Street Met Main Street by Julia C. Ott

"This book is at its best when it describes government bond drives during WW1 (and their use of propaganda) and the strategies bore out by corporations to reinvent themselves in the public eye (and profit on all the new, naive investors)."

 

 

 

 

WalterlippmanWalter Lippmann by Craufurd D. Goodwin (Pre-order Now, Available Sept. 22)

Product Description: Walter Lippmann was the most distinguished American journalist and public philosopher of the twentieth century. But he was also something more: a public economist who helped millions of ordinary citizens make sense of the most devastating economic depression in history. Craufurd Goodwin offers a new perspective from which to view this celebrated but only partly understood icon of American letters.

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger: Stephanie Wu, author of "The Roommates"

The RoommatesWe all know the horror stories--the passive-aggressives, the hoarders, the oversharers--but roommates can change your life for the better, too. For my new book, The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters, I wanted to find stories that embraced the great part of living with a stranger as well. Several people shocked me with their humanity and how well they dealt with extraordinary living situations--particularly these five roommates, who truly went above and beyond.

1.    The Teenage Cousin Who Came To Her Rescue:
When recent graduate Karen* moved in with her college freshman cousin, she wasn’t sure what their roommate relationship would be--was she supposed to keep him out of trouble? One day, Karen came home to her cousin and his friends, as well as their married next-door neighbor, hanging out in the living room. As she headed upstairs, she noticed the neighbor following her. “I saw his eyes darting around to the open door to my cousin’s room, and he started trying to push me in,” she recalls. Luckily, she managed to fight him off, and he ran out of the apartment. After realizing what had happened, Karen’s cousin followed the husband and beat him up, breaking his own hand in the process. When they moved in together, Karen thought she’d be a guardian of sorts--she never realized it was her teenage cousin who would come to her rescue.

2.    The Local Student Who Helped Her Navigate A Foreign Country:
Ricki studied abroad in Botswana, where she lived with local student Keletso in a dorm. The language barrier made it hard for the two to communicate, but over time, Keletso taught Ricki how to live in Botswana--showering with a bucket, the ritualistic hair braiding, and even how to survive an attack of locust-like flying ants. When Ricki’s homestay fell through later in the semester, Keletso opened up her home, and the two became family. “Living in Botswana was incredibly life-changing,” says Ricki. “I wouldn’t have been able to process what I was going through without Keletso’s quiet guidance.”

3.    The Suitemates Who Attended Therapy Together:
During college, Rose lived with five girls in an off-campus apartment, including Sandra, who they eventually found out had been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. After a violent episode, when one of Sandra’s personalities smashed several mugs in the sink and cut her hands in the process, the roommates, at Sandra’s suggestion, decided to go to therapy together to try to cope with and understand the disorder. Slowly, the roommates figured out Sandra’s triggers--dark movies, surprises, and even church, where abuse had occurred. “When I look back on it, it wasn’t a traumatizing experience,” says Rose. “The roommate therapy forced us to bond and support one another. I’m undoubtedly closer to them than any other group of roommates I ever had.”
 
4.    The Roommate Who Lent a Hand to First-Time Parents
When looking for a change of pace, Eva, despite warnings from friends, decided to move into a new apartment with Erin and Aaron, an engaged couple she met on Craigslist. Soon after the wedding, Erin and Aaron told Eva that they were pregnant, but she was welcome to continue living with them. They assured her they would do their best to keep the baby from disrupting her life. “I got to see the new-parent experience firsthand,” says Eva. “For the first six weeks, they were like zombies.” One Saturday morning, she found Aaron asleep with the baby next to him in her high chair, so Eva dragged the chair into her room to let Aaron take a nap. “They were so embarrassed, but I knew how sleep-deprived they were,” she says. When Eva moved out, she was sad to say goodbye to her roommates. After all, in their time living together, the baby’s crying only woke her up once or twice--and pretty much any roommate in New York will do that to you.

5.    The Friend Who Cooks, Cleans, And Runs Errands
After receiving his Ph.D., Nate wasn’t sure what to do with his life. His good friend, Ben, had just bought a large house with his fiancée, Becca, and offered one of the many extra rooms to him for free. “I was expected to chip in on cleaning, cooking, and other little things around the house,” says Nate, who turned into a full-fledged household manager: planning meals, walking the dogs, helping with home renovation, and consulting on Becca’s business. Though it wasn’t what he was expecting to be doing in his thirties, it’s an arrangement that has worked out. “I get to live with my friends and hang out with them all the time,” he says. “It’s much better than moving in with your parents--the default for this generation and time.”

*All names have been changed

How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture

The Birth of Korean Cool reveals how a really uncool country became cool, and how a nation that once The Birth of Korean Coolbanned miniskirts, long hair on men, and rock ‘n’ roll could come to mass produce boy bands, soap operas, and one of the world’s most important smart phones. Here, the author, Euny Hong, gives a guide to modern Korean etiquette.

1. It is never considered rude to ask someone’s age—technically, instead ask, "What year were you born?" Without knowing which party is older, no one knows how to act or speak. One central tenet of etiquette in Korea is that you have to pay attention to who you are in relation to those around you: Man or woman? Older or younger? Professional rank? Etc. etc. You base all of your actions on hierarchy. If someone new enters the room, you have to recalibrate your behavior.

2. Food and drink are to be consumed whilst sitting or not at all, and indoors unless you are sitting on a picnic blanket. Do not carry around food or drink; not even a bottled water. And definitely not coffee. That would be like walking the streets with a pint of Guinness. And for crying out loud, don't bring beverages into the subway. You don't want to be the jerk who spills liquids on someone's Samsung Galaxy smartphone while they're live-streaming their morning TV programs.

3. Corollary to above: Under no circumstances should you bring your refreshment into someone else's home or office. I don't care if you still have a 3/4 cup full of iced latte; you have to toss it before you cross the threshold. By bringing your own insolent beverage, you have denied your hosts the chance to offer a refreshment. They will per custom offer you a coffee even though you have one; you are obligated to say yes and you will end up with two coffees. If you refuse, your hosts can’t have any coffee either.

4. Do not pour your own alcohol. If you want your glass topped off, hint at this by pouring alcohol into someone else’s glass, whether this person wants it or not. That person must then offer to pour some into your glass. A second and very important rule is that when you are pouring alcohol for someone, pour with your right hand and use your left hand to hold your sleeve. This will assure your drinking buddies that you will not stab them with your free hand.

5. If you are out drinking with friends or colleagues, it's not considered sporting to go home until everyone does. Nausea is in no way a good reason to go home. If you must vomit, go off and do it in the bathroom or alleyway, then return and repeat the self-poisoning/purge process. It is totally within bounds to ask a friend to help you barf.

6. If you are a student at a public K-12 school, never raise your hand in class. No good can come of it. If you have to use the bathroom, wait till after class. If you have a question, let it go. If the teacher is horribly wrong about something and you are trying to correct him/her…you are mistaken. Also, jackets are to be zipped/buttoned up or not worn at all.

7. Your pockets are no place for your hands.

Author Booklist: Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew Recommend

Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, creators of The Shadow Hero,  recommend their top Asian-American books.

51u6oy3jIpLFrom Gene Luen Yang:

Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim

Cartoonist powerhouse Derek Kirk Kim perfectly captures what it was like to be an Asian American twenty-something in the 90's.  I know.  I was there.

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

To be perfectly truthful, I don't remember much from most of the books I read.  But this book haunts me. There's a scene where the narrator picks on a quiet girl in the bathroom -- it's been years since I read it, but I can still feel it.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before by David Yoo

Yes, this is a teen romance.  Why would a 40-year-old man be recommending a teen romance?  Because David Yoo is hilarious.

Malinky Robot by Sonny Liew

OK.  So this isn't exactly Asian American, but Sonny cheated on his list so why can't I?  Honestly, I would recommend this book even if Sonny and I aren't friends.  Malinky Robot follows the adventures of Oliver and Atari, two street urchins living in a futuristic metropolis.  

Silence by Shusaku Endo

Another cheat.  Endo is Japanese, not Japanese American, and his book was originally written in his native tongue.  Even so, in this masterful novel about a European missionary travelling through a hostile 17th Century Japan, Endo explores the clash between Eastern and Western belief systems, a struggle central to the Asian American experience.

 

From Sonny Liew:

Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
I've enjoyed all of Allen Say's books -- the art and language looks  simple of the surface, but they're wonderfully adept at capturing the passage of time; a sense of things lost, and found, if only for a moment again, in his stories. This account of his Grandfather's journey from Japan to the United States and back again reminds us of how we can be torn between all the places we've lived in -- that there might be no one true home, and our choices are dictated by our mortality as much as anything else.

Drawing From Memory by Allen Say
My favorite of Say's books, though, is Drawing From Memory, about his early apprenticeship under the Manga artist Noro Shinpei. Using artwork and photographs, he shows us the early fears, hopes, and dreams of a young artist in post-war Japan. It's pitch perfect from beginning to end.

The Ghost Bride: A Novel by Yangsze Choo
The writer spent her early years Malaysia but now lives in the United States. The novel itself is a supernatural tale set in 19th century Malacca. Yangsze and I have talked about adapting the book into a graphic novel -- something I raised after reading a draft of the story. It's a bit of Sandman-esque fantasy set in my home country of Malaysia, with a brave (in believable ways) female protagonist -- I think it'd make a great comic, but the book itself if of course well worth a read.

51hzCCavQOLSour Sweet by Timothy Mo
I read this years and years ago – it’s about Chinese immigrants making a go in London, and the cultural gap between generations. There were troubles with triads in there, too. In my own mind, Sour Sweet has become the prototypical immigrant novel. It's also been a while since I've read another book in the same genre -- a reluctance borne maybe of fear of repetition. Which is probably unfair to all those books out there, but somehow Sour Sweet already occupies that brain space, and there hasn't been room for more just yet.

Chan is Missing by Wayne Wang
Strictly speaking this clearly isn't a book of any sort -- but it's one of my favorite movies and an intriguing look at Chinese-American assimilation in the United States. There's a sort of Rashomon thing going on, with multiple accounts of the life of the missing Chan providing no easy answers, but rather a textured, complex view of a man. It's funny as well!

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
It's rather good, this.

The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck
Ok, by now this whole Asian American Lit category thing is halfway out the window, maybe we can pretend this counts too. I remember The Good Earth being a harrowing read -- all the hardships the protagonist goes through. I can't vouch for how accurate it is a depiction of the lives of Chinese villagers back in the day, but it certainly felt authentic,  a book that's lived long in the memory even as the details have faded.

Skim by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
I haven't had a chance to read their new book This One Summer (from First Second!) yet, but Skim was wonderfully drawn and written, an unexpected surprise when I picked it up on a whim from a local comics store. The beauty, aches, half-truths and half-lies of adolescence, all expertly and subtly captured.

 

Guest Blogger: Julia MacDonnell, author of "Mimi Malloy, At Last!"

Mimi Mally, At Last!Julia MacDonnell’s fiction has been published in many literary magazines, and her story “Soy Paco” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her journalism has appeared in The Boston Globe, the New York Daily News, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. A tenured professor at Rowan University, she is the nonfiction editor of Philadelphia StoriesMimi Malloy, At Last! is her first novel in twenty years. It serves as a a poignant reminder that it’s never too late to fall in love and that one can always come of age a second time.

My childhood was an immersion course in the lives of girls and women.  I grew up with eleven aunts and twenty-five girl cousins, all living within a hop, skip, or a jump of one another on the South Shore of Boston.  I also had a paternal grandmother and a maternal great-grandmother close by.  Sure, I had an uncle for almost every aunt, as well as a paternal grandfather and a bunch of rowdy boy cousins, but it was the women who schooled me, and their teaching tool was the Yik Yak Club: its members, the curators of their family’s oral history.

Not that I had a name for it back when I was a kid, sneaking around to eavesdrop on Ma and my aunts as they gathered at our kitchen table, drinking cup after cup of percolated Eight O’Clock coffee.  The name came to me when I was writing my second novel, Mimi Malloy, At Last!.  The narrator, Mimi, has no use for ancient history, declaring early on, “I’m not one to dwell on the past.”  By contrast, my mother, Norma, loved nothing better than a good gab session with her sisters and sisters-in-law. She’d be the one to call the meetings, almost always around our kitchen table.  A cirrostratus of cigarette smoke would signal that a gab fest was in session.  Worried about their figures, these women smoked instead of snacking, Ma cadging butts from her sisters because she’d never dare light up in front of my father.  

What could be so riveting, I wondered as a child, that it transformed these women from familiar aunts and mothers into luminous creatures whose voices, laughter and, at times, sobs floated around on smoky air? 

Only while I was writing Mimi did I figure out the answer. I figured out that the Yik Yak Club was a place of comfort and support for its members, a place where they could confide in each other, sharing words they couldn’t say to anybody else.  Yes, serious family business was sometimes negotiated and resolved during its sessions, but the most important thing seemed to be that they were together, a small, bright gathering of women, mothers in their twenties and thirties — in my mind’s eye, all of them are beautiful — their cheeks flushed, their eyes bright.  These weren’t women with time on their hands, but women who squeezed out of the endless hours of mothering and housewifery a bit of time to be together.

The post-World War II years, the 50s and 60s, are portrayed as decades of oppression when women stuck at home in subservient roles, an epoch before our collective consciousness had been raised.  In my family, most women had worked at the Fore River Shipyard during the War.  Their subsequent ability to stay home and raise their children was experienced as a gift. As little as they had, they gloried in their homes and families, and in their role in making the arduous ascent from the working to the middle class.  I’m convinced that the Yik Yak Club eased their way, giving them not just a forum for venting, though that mattered, but a place for listening, which they did in awe and wonder, each of them shaping herself into who she would become.  The Yik Yak Club I witnessed growing up was the school in which I learned about the perils and joys of mothering, sistering, wifing, and housekeeping; where I absorbed my most important lessons about how to be a woman alive in the world.  

--Julia MacDonnell

Guest Blogger: Barbara Taylor Bradford on “A Woman of Substance”

A Woman of SubstanceNew York Times best-selling romance author Barbara Taylor Bradford discusses her breakout first novel, A Woman of Substance, one of the top ten best-selling novels ever written with more than 32 million copies sold.

A Woman of Substance was my first novel.  I had attempted to write four others, and every time I stopped when I'd written about 90 or 100 pages. I simply didn't like them.

And then one day, unexpectedly, a young girl popped into my head as if from nowhere. I could see her clearly in my mind's eye. She was a girl of 12, and I knew she would grow up to be a beautiful young woman. Her hair was auburn and she had green eyes. But the important thing was that I sensed she was determined and clever and had a strong will.

That very moment, I took out my yellow pad and started to make notes. And soon I knew her very well indeed! Her name was Emma Harte. I understood she was driven and ambitious, and she was going to become and extraordinary woman. In fact, I wanted her to become a woman who would make it in a man's world of business when women were not doing that. I decided she would become a great tycoon.

Essentially, A Woman of Substance is the life story of a girl who started with nothing in life, who overcame hardships and adversity of every kind and triumphed in the end. I believe it’s an inspiring book because Emma achieves her dreams.

When I started to write the book, I knew I would finish this one. I had to because Doubleday in New York had bought it on a 12-page outline plus 90 pages – and they had done so within 48 hours of first reading those pages.

People have asked me why A Woman of Substance became so successful, and so quickly. I think there are many answers to this question. To begin with, Emma is a compelling character, as are her life long friends Blackie O'Neill and Paul McGill, the love of her life. And of course, the book has everything in it... drama, intrigue, money, passion, power and revenge – all of those great human emotions that make for a good story.

Eventually, A Woman of Substance was published in 90 countries and 40 languages. And I'm happy to tell you that it is still selling today. Woman all over the world told me that Emma Harte was their true role model, and that the book had changed their lives for the better. Some had started businesses. Others left bad relationships or abusive marriages. Many had gone to live in other cities. But they had all moved on and been successful. They thanked me for creating Emma Harte.

I had set out to simply tell a good story about a strong woman. I hadn't intended to send a message. But apparently, quite unconsciously I had. To sum it all up, all I know is that I wrote the kind of story I love to tell about an ordinary woman who becomes extraordinary in living her life a certain way and goes out to conquer the world.

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s second and third book in The Emma Harte Saga, Hold the Dream and To Be the Best, are now available in ebook, along with Act of Will, Angel, Remember, The Women in His Life and Voice of the Heart.

Guest Blogger: Gwyneth Paltrow

WithinGwyneth Paltrow is an Oscar winner and author of the New York Times best-selling cookbook, My Father's Daughter. She is a mother and an actress, splitting her time between London and New York.

When my latest cookbook, It's All Good, was nearly complete, I was still searching for someone to write the foreword.  Because the book included amazing recipes based on a particular healing diet I had been prescribed by my physician, I immediately thought of Dr. Habib Sadeghi.  Not only did he understand the medicinal qualities of whole foods, but also the spiritual partnership we have with the earth that provides them to us.  I was extremely grateful when Dr. Sadeghi agreed, and even more so when I recently received the opportunity to return the favor and write the foreword to his incredible new book, Within.

What struck me immediately about Within is that it’s so universal.  Yes, it focuses on the goal of losing weight, but it does so with principles that can be applied to anything we want to achieve.  It’s really a life map instead of a diet.  In fact, it isn’t a diet at all because he never mentions food or even exercise.  The world doesn’t need another carb counting lecture.  It’s really a healing workout for the soul, and that seems only fitting since people often call him the Old Soul Doctor.  

They say that over a lifetime, everyone has at least one story or experience that will break your heart. If that’s true, then Dr. Sadeghi has enough for three lifetimes.  He’s an old soul not because of what he’s been through, but because of how he survived and thrived on the other side of those difficulties. In Within, he shares the tools he used to get through those experiences and the wisdom he earned in the process. 

That’s why I was so proud to write the foreword to Within.  Who hasn’t wanted to change their life in some significant way and felt totally lost as to how to make that happen?  Dr. Sadeghi isn’t a motivational guru.  Even better; he’s somebody who’s “been there”.  If direct experience is the only real teacher in life, then Dr. Sadeghi has a PhD in getting your life off life support.  You’ll feel his compassion on every page and he never talks down to the reader.  Instead, he approaches every subject with the same intuitive empathy that makes him so successful as a physician.

I highly recommend Within, no matter what kind of change you’re seeking in your life.  Just be prepared for a paradigm shift in the way you think and feel that only comes from fearlessly “stepping into your loving”.

--Gwyneth Paltrow

Guest Bloggers: Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

Hunt the FalconSEAL Team Six and Thomas Crocker are back hunting their most elusive adversary yet: The Falcon.

When the White House needs someone to track down a group of dangerous terrorists who have been assassinating U.S. diplomats in posts all over the world, who do they call? Tom Crocker and his SEAL Team Six special operators, aka Black Cell. They’re the black ops specialists who are often tapped when anything highly sensitive, time-critical and extremely dangerous has to be done.

This time they raid a bomb-making factory in Thailand where Crocker and his team discover a group of Iranian terrorists holding Venezuelan passports, which points the finger of blame directly at the Iranian Quds Force. And here’s the little known true fact(the one that DC officials never talk about): the United States has been fighting a secret war with the Iranian Quds Force for years. They’re the group behind many attacks against Americans in Iraq (including the rocket attack on the Green Zone) and Afghanistan. Currently, they’re fighting alongside pro-Assad forces in Syria, and they also have a branch of operatives in Venezuela known as Unit 5000 that is in the business of shipping cocaine to Europe and using the proceeds to attack the West, and particularly the United States.

No one talks about them because they’re so nasty and as part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, take orders directly from the religious leaders of Iran – not the president, but the mullahs. They are, without a doubt, a state-sponsored Islamic terrorist group, much better trained, armed, funded and more insidious than al-Qaeda. And in Hunt the Falcon they’re lead by Crocker’s nemesis and the man behind his wife’s kidnapping in Tripoli (depicted in the previous book in the series Hunt the Scorpion) Farhed Alizadeh – the Falcon.

The question is: what are they up to now? And why are they operating right under our noses? To find the answers, Crocker and his men crisscross South America, trying to stay one step ahead of Unit 5000 operatives. When the latest technical gadgetry from DARPA fails during a raid on the terrorist hideout, Crocker has to rescue one of his wounded men the old-fashioned way: climbing a fence and improvising his way out with bullets flying.

Believe it or not, that’s just in the first hundred pages. And it’s only a fraction of Crocker’s problems. People back home in Virginia depend on him, including a wife at home who is trying to cope with PTSD and a father who seems to have fallen in love with a much younger woman.

The pace and severity of the physical and mental challenges Crocker and his men must face as they attempt to head off catastrophe push them to the brink of exhaustion. But even when they’re asked to undertake a final “suicide mission” deep behind enemy lines without backup, or a credible exfil plan, Crocker and his men answer the call.

--Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

Guest Blogger: Michael Connelly

The Gods of GuiltDefense attorney Mickey Haller returns with a haunting case in the gripping new thriller from best-selling author Michael Connelly.

In my new novel, The Gods of Guilt, the Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller likens the practice of law to juggling chain saws: It can be dangerous, especially if you catch it by the wrong end. I think writing a novel is the same way. There are many pitfalls. You have to be careful and steady with your juggling. Still, every book is a challenge in its own way, and those challenges are set by the juggler himself. So there is no use complaining about it. If you want to take the easy route, then juggle marshmallows.
When I wrote The Gods of Guilt, I think I went with chainsaws. I gave myself a challenge that probably nobody would notice but myself. I just wanted to see if I could pull it off.

First of all, I wanted the book to function as an entertaining legal thriller with lots of intrigue, courtroom drama, and subterfuge. I wanted a few surprises too, including the death of a secondary character that the reader wouldn’t see coming. None of that was really secret in terms of the structure of the book. They were needed ingredients and difficult enough to juggle and keep in the air. The secret agenda I added was with regard to two of the main characters. While functioning as a fast-moving thriller, the book’s true center revolves around the relationship between Mickey Haller and his 16-year-old daughter, Hayley. I wanted that strained relationship to be the engine that drives Mickey’s choices and desires through the book. The book is, after all, called The Gods of Guilt. I wanted Mickey to be operating from a standpoint of seeking redemption in his daughter’s eyes, and if he succeeded, then he would save the relationship that means so much to him and ease the guilt that weighs him down as the story begins.

But here’s the catch—or, I should say, the challenge. I did not want Mickey and Hayley to have a single exchange of dialogue in the book, let alone meet face-to-face. I thought this was necessary, at least in the first half of the book, to underscore how deep the rift was between this father and daughter and how difficult it would be to bridge the gap. I wanted Mickey’s efforts to reach out and to explain his actions to be unrequited. I wanted his phone calls to go unanswered, his texts unreturned. When the centerpiece trial got underway, I wanted Mickey to turn from the defense table to look for his daughter in the public gallery, only to see she was not there.

I hope you pay attention to this as you read my novel. I know there is one scene where Mickey watches his daughter from afar, and another off the page where Hayley visits without Mickey really knowing it—you’ll understand what that means if you read the book. You’ll then be able to decide if the challenge was successfully met, and if it was the right choice. Can the father-daughter relationship be the true center of the book if the two principles never talk to one another on the page? You be the judge.

— Michael Connelly