An Excerpt of Hymns Of The Republic by S.C. Gwynne

 

 

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From the New York Times bestselling, celebrated, and award-winning author of Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell comes the spellbinding, epic account of the dramatic conclusion of the Civil War.

The fourth and final year of the Civil War offers one of that era’s most compelling narratives, defining the nation and one of history’s great turning points. Now, S.C. Gwynne’s Hymns of the Republic addresses the time Ulysses S. Grant arrives to take command of all Union armies in March 1864 to the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox a year later. Gwynne breathes new life into the epic battle between Lee and Grant; the advent of 180,000 black soldiers in the Union army; William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea; the rise of Clara Barton; the election of 1864 (which Lincoln nearly lost); the wild and violent guerrilla war in Missouri; and the dramatic final events of the war, including the surrender at Appomattox and the murder of Abraham Lincoln.

Hymns of the Republic offers angles and insights on the war that will surprise many readers. Robert E. Lee, known as a great general and southern hero, is presented here as a man dealing with frustration, failure, and loss. Ulysses S. Grant is known for his prowess as a field commander, but in the final year of the war he largely fails at that. His most amazing accomplishments actually began the moment he stopped fighting. William Tecumseh Sherman, Gwynne argues, was a lousy general, but probably the single most brilliant man in the war. We also meet a different Clara Barton, one of the greatest and most compelling characters, who redefined the idea of medical care in wartime. And proper attention is paid to the role played by large numbers of black union soldiers—most of them former slaves. They changed the war and forced the South to come up with a plan to use its own black soldiers.

Popular history at its best, from Pulitzer Prize finalist S.C. Gwynne, Hymns of the Republic reveals the creation that arose from destruction in this thrilling read.

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CHAPTER ONE: The End Begins

Excerpted from HYMNS OF THE REPUBLIC: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War, by S.C. Gwynne. Copyright © 2019 by Samuel C. Gwynne.  Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

 

Washington, DC, had never, in its brief and undistinguished history, known a social season like this one. The winter of 1863–64 had been bitterly cold, but its frozen rains and swirling snows had dampened no spirits. Instead a feeling, almost palpable, of optimism hung in the air, a swelling sense that, after three years of brutal war and humiliating defeats at the hands of rebel armies, God was perhaps in his heaven, after all. The inexplicably lethal Robert E. Lee had finally been beaten at Gettysburg. Vicksburg had fallen, completing the Union conquest of the Mississippi River. A large rebel army had been chased from Chattanooga. Something like hope—or maybe just its shadow—had finally loomed into view.

 

The season had begun as always with a New Year’s reception at the Executive Mansion, hosted by the Lincolns, then had launched itself into a frenzy whose outward manifestation was the city’s newest obsession: dancing. Washingtonians were crazy about it. They were seen spinning through quadrilles, waltzes, and polkas at the great US Patent Office Ball, the Enlistment Fund Ball, and at “monster hops” at Willard’s hotel and the National. At these affairs, moreover, everyone danced. No bored squires or sad-eyed spinsters lingered in the shadows of cut glass and gaslight. No one could sit still, and together all improvised a wildly moving tapestry of color: ladies in lace and silk and crinolines, in crimson velvet and purple moire, their cascading curls flecked with roses and lilies, their bell-shaped forms whirled by men in black swallowtails and colored cravats.

The great public parties were merely the most visible part of the social scene. That winter had seen an explosion of private parties as well. Limits were pushed here, too, budgets broken, meals set forth of quail, partridge, lobster, terrapin, and acreages of confections. Politicians such as Secretary of State William Seward and Congressman Schuyler “Smiler” Colfax threw musical soirees. The spirit of the season was evident in the wedding of the imperially lovely Kate Chase—daughter of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase—to Senator William Sprague. Sprague’s gift to Kate was a $50,000 tiara of matched pearls and diamonds. When the bride appeared, the US Marine Band struck up “The Kate Chase March,” a song written by a prominent composer for the occasion.

What was most interesting about these evenings, however, was less their showy proceedings than the profoundly threatened world in which they took place. It was less like a world than a child’s snow globe: a small glittering space enclosed by an impenetrable barrier. For in the winter of 1863–64, Washington was the most heavily defended city on earth. Beyond its houses and public buildings stood thirty-seven miles of elaborate trenches and fortifications that included sixty separate forts, manned by fifty thousand soldiers. Along this armored front bristled some nine hundred cannons, many of large caliber, enough to blast entire armies from the face of the earth. There was something distinctly medieval about the fear that drove such engineering.

The danger was quite real. Since the Civil War had begun, Washington had been threatened three times by large armies under Robert E. Lee’s command. After the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862, a rebel force under Lee’s lieutenant Stonewall Jackson had come within twenty miles of the capital while driving the entire sixty-thousand-man Union army back inside its fortifications, where the bluecoats cowered and licked their wounds and thanked heaven for all those earthworks and cannons.

A year and a half later, the same fundamental truth informed those lively parties. Without that cordon militaire, they could not have existed. Washington’s elaborate social scene was a brocaded illusion: what the capital’s denizens desperately wanted the place to be, not what it actually was.

This garishly defended capital was still a smallish, grubby, corrupt, malodorous, and oddly pretentious municipality whose principal product, along with legislation and war making, was biblical sin in its many varieties. Much of the city had been destroyed in the War of 1812. What had replaced the old settlement was both humble and grandiose. Vast quantities of money had been spent to build the city’s precious handful of public buildings: the Capitol itself (finished in December 1863), the Post Office Building, the Smithsonian Institution, the US Patent Office, the US Treasury, and the Executive Mansion. (The Washington Monument, whose construction had been suspended in 1854 for lack of funds, was an abandoned and forlorn-looking stump.)

But those structures stood as though on a barren plain. The Corinthian columns of the Post Office Building may have been worthy of the high Renaissance, but little else in the neighborhood was. The effect was jarring, as though pieces of the Champs-Élysées had been dropped into a swamp. Everything about the place, from its bloody and never-ending war to the faux grandiosity of its windswept plazas, suggested incompleteness. Like the Washington Monument, it all seemed half-finished. The wartime city held only about eighty thousand permanent residents, a pathetic fraction of the populations of New York (800,000) and Philadelphia (500,000), let alone London (2.6 million) or Paris (1.7 million). Foreign travelers, if they came to the national capital at all, found it hollow, showy, and vainglorious. British writer Anthony Trollope, who visited the city during the war and thought it a colossal disappointment, wrote:

Washington is but a ragged, unfinished collection of unbuilt broad streets.… Of all the places I know it is the most ungainly and most unsatisfactory; I fear I must also say the most presumptuous in its pretensions. Taking [a] map with him… a man may lose himself in the streets, not as one loses oneself in London between Shoreditch and Russell Square, but as one does so in the deserts of the Holy Land… There is much unsettled land within the United States of America, but I think none so desolate as three-fourths of the ground on which is supposed to stand the city of Washington.

He might have added that the place smelled, too. Its canals were still repositories of sewage; tidal flats along the Potomac reeked at low tide. Pigs and cows still roamed the frozen streets. Dead horses, rotting in the winter sun, were common sights. At the War Department, one reporter noted, “The gutter [was] heaped up full of black, rotten mud, a foot deep, and worth fifty cents a car load for manure.” The unfinished mall where the unfinished Washington Monument stood held a grazing area and slaughterhouse for the cattle used to feed the capital’s defenders. The city was both a haven and a dumping ground for the sort of human chaff that collected at the ragged edges of the war zone: deserters from both armies, sutlers (civilians who sold provisions to soldiers), spies, confidence men, hustlers, and the like.

Washington had also become the nation’s single largest refuge for escaped slaves, who now streamed through the capital’s rutted streets by the thousands. When Congress freed the city’s thirty-three hundred slaves in 1862, it had triggered an enormous inflow of refugees, mostly from Virginia and Maryland. By 1864 fifty thousand of them had moved within Washington’s ring of forts. Many were housed in “contraband camps,” and many suffered in disease-ridden squalor in a world that often seemed scarcely less prejudiced than the one they had left. But they were never going back. They were never going to be slaves again. This was the migration’s central truth, and you could see it on any street corner in the city. Many would make their way into the Union army, which at the end of 1863 had already enlisted fifty thousand from around the country, most of them former slaves.

But the most common sights of all on those streets were soldiers. A war was being fought, one that had a sharp and unappeasable appetite for young men. Several hundred thousand of them had tramped through the city since April 1861, wearing their blue uniforms, slouch hats, and knapsacks. They had lingered on its street corners, camped on its outskirts. Tens of thousands more languished in wartime hospitals. Mostly they were just passing through, on their way to a battlefield or someone’s grand campaign or, if they were lucky, home. Many were on their way to death or dismemberment. In their wake came the seemingly endless supply trains with their shouting teamsters, rumbling wagon wheels, snorting horses, and creaking tack.

Because of these soldiers—unattached young men, isolated, and far from home—a booming industry had arisen that was more than a match for its European counterparts: prostitution. This was no minor side effect of war. Ten percent or more of the adult population were inhabitants of Washington’s demimonde. In 1863, the Washington Evening Star had determined that the capital had more than five thousand prostitutes, with an additional twenty-five hundred in neighboring Georgetown, and twenty-five hundred more across the river in Alexandria, Virginia. That did not count the concubines or courtesans who were simply kept in apartments by the officer corps. The year before, an army survey had revealed 450 houses of ill repute. All served drinks and sex. In a district called Murder Bay, passersby could see nearly naked women in the windows and doors of the houses. For the less affluent—laborers, teamsters, and army riffraff—Nigger Hill and Tin Cup Alley had sleazier establishments, where men were routinely robbed, stabbed, shot, and poisoned with moonshine whiskey. The Star could not help wondering how astonished the sisters and mothers of these soldiers would be to see how their noble young men spent their time at the capital. Many of these establishments were in the heart of the city, a few blocks from the president’s house and the fashionable streets where the capital’s smart set whirled in gaslit dances.

This was Washington, DC, in that manic, unsettled winter of 1863–64, in the grip of a lengthening war whose end no one could clearly see.

 

Excerpted from HYMNS OF THE REPUBLIC: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War, by S.C. Gwynne. Copyright © 2019 by Samuel C. Gwynne.  Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

 

 

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About the Author:

S.C. Gwynne is the author of Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War and the New York Times bestsellers Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He spent most of his career as a journalist, including stints with Time as bureau chief, national correspondent, and senior editor, and with Texas Monthly as executive editor. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife. For more information, please visit https://scgwynne.com

 

 

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The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma by James S. Gordon MD

 

Transformation James Gordon

 

 

A world-recognized authority and acclaimed mind-body medicine pioneer presents the first evidence-based program to reverse the psychological and biological damage caused by trauma.

In his role as the founder and director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM), the worlds largest and most effective program for healing population-wide trauma, Harvard-trained psychiatrist James Gordon has taught a curriculum that has alleviated trauma to populations as diverse as refugees and survivors of war in Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel, Gaza, and Syria, as well as Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, New York city firefighters and their families, and members of the U. S. military. Dr. Gordon and his team have also used their work to help middle class professionals, stay-at-home mothers, inner city children of color, White House officials, medical students, and people struggling with severe emotional and physical illnesses.

The Transformation represents the culmination of Dr. Gordon’s fifty years as a mind-body medicine pioneer and an advocate of integrative approaches to overcoming psychological trauma and stress. Offering inspirational stories, eye-opening research, and innovative prescriptive support, The Transformation makes accessible for the first time the methods that Dr. Gordon—with the help of his faculty of 160, and 6,000 trained clinicians, educators, and community leaders—has developed and used to relieve the suffering of hundreds of thousands of adults and children around the world.

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Laughter Breaks Trauma’s Grim Spell

James S. Gordon, MD

 

Excerpted from THE TRANSFORMATION by James S. Gordon, MD. Reprinted with permission of HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2019

Reader’s Digest used to tell us each month that “laughter is the best medicine.” Drawing on folk wisdom, the Digest was reminding us that laughter could help us through the ordinary, daily unhappiness that might come into our lives.

In 1976, Norman Cousins, the revered editor of the Saturday Review, wrote a piece that signaled the arrival of laughter in the precincts of science. It was called “Anatomy of an Illness (as Perceived by the Patient)” and appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, the United States’ most prestigious medical publication. 

When the best conventional care failed to improve his ankylosing spondylitis—a crippling autoimmune spinal arthritis—Cousins took matters into his own hands. He checked himself out of the hospital and into a hotel, took megadoses of anti-inflammatory vitamin C, and watched long hours of Marx Brothers movies and TV sitcoms. He laughed and kept on laughing. He noticed that as he did, his pain diminished. He felt stronger and better. As good an observer as any of his first-rate doctors, he developed his own dose-response curve: ten minutes of belly laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep. Soon enough, he became more mobile.

Once the healing power of laughter was on the medical map, researchers began to systematically explore its stress-reducing, health-promoting, pain-relieving potential. Laughter has now been shown to decrease stress levels and improve mood in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, to decrease hostility in patients in mental hospitals, and to lower heart rate and blood pressure and enhance mood and performance in generally healthy IT professionals. In numerous experiments, people with every imaginable diagnosis have reduced their pain by laughing.

Laughter stimulates the dome-shaped diaphragmatic muscle that separates our chest from our abdomen, as well as our abdominal, back, leg, and facial muscles. After we laugh for a few minutes, these muscles relax. Then our blood pressure and stress hormone levels decrease; pain-relieving and mood-elevating endorphins increase, as do levels of calming serotonin and energizing dopamine. Our immune functioning—probably a factor in Cousins’s eventual recovery—improves. If we are diabetic, our blood sugar goes down. Laughter is good exercise. It’s definitely healthy. And it’s first-rate for relieving stress.

Laughter also has a transforming power that transcends physiological enhancement and stress reduction. Laughter can break the spell of the fixed, counterproductive, self-condemning thinking that is so pervasive and so devastating to us after we’ve been traumatized. It can free us from the feelings of victimization that may shadow our lives and blind us to each moment’s pleasures and the future’s possibilities.

The wisdom traditions of the East extend laughter’s lessons. Zen Buddhism surprises us with thunderclaps of laughter to wake us from mental habits that have brought unnecessary, self-inflicted suffering. Sufi stories do the same job but more slyly. Over the years, I watched as my acupuncture and meditation teacher Shyam, himself a consummate joker, punctured the self-protectiveness, pomposities, and posturing that kept his patients and students—including, of course, me—from being at ease and natural, joyous in each moment of our lives. The stories he told from India, China, and the Middle East brought the point home: seriousness is a disease. Sorrow is real and to be honored, but obsessively dwelling on losses and pain only adds to our sickness. Laughter at ourselves and all our circumstances is our healing birthright.

A story I first heard from Shyam about the Three Laughing Monks is apropos. It is said that long ago, there were three monks who walked the length and breadth of China, laughing great, belly-shaking laughs as they went. They brought joy to each village they visited, laughing as they entered, laughing for the hours or days they stayed, and laughing as they left. No words. And it’s said that after a while everyone in the villages—the poorest and most put-upon and also the most privileged and pompous—got the message. They, too, lost their pained seriousness, laughed with the monks, and found relief and joy.

One day, after many years, one of the monks died. The two remaining monks continued to laugh. This time when villagers asked why, they responded, “We are laughing because we have always wondered who would die first, and he did and therefore he won. We’re laughing at his victory and our defeat, and with memories of all the good times we have had together.” Still, the villagers were sad for their loss.

Then came the funeral. The dead monk had asked that he not be bathed, as was customary, or have his clothes changed. He had told his brother monks that he was never unclean, because laughter had kept all impurities from him. They respected his wishes, put his still-clothed, unwashed body on a pile of wood, and lit it.

As the flames rose, there were sudden loud, banging noises. The living monks realized that their brother, knowing he was going to die, had hidden fireworks in his clothes. They laughed and laughed and laughed. “You have defeated us a second time and made a joke even of death.” Now they laughed even louder. And it is said that the whole village began to laugh with them.

This is the laughter that shakes off all concerns, all worries, all holding on to anything that troubles our mind or heart, anything that keeps us from fully living in the present moment.

Researchers and clinicians may lack the total commitment to laughter of the three monks, but they are beginning to explore and make use of its power. Working together in various institutions, they’ve developed a variety of therapeutic protocols that may include interactions with clowns and instruction in performing stand-up comedy.

“Laughter yoga,” which has most often been studied, combines inspirational talks, hand clapping, arm swinging, chanting “ho, ho” and “ha, ha,” deep breathing, and brief periods of intentional laughter; it often concludes with positive statements about happiness.

I agree that funny movies and jokes and games of all kinds can be useful tools to pry us loose from crippling seriousness. Still, I prefer to begin with a simple, direct approach: three to five minutes of straight-out,straight-ahead, intentional belly laughter. It’s very easy to learn and easy to practice. I’ll teach it to you.

I do it with patients individually or in groups, when the atmosphere is thick with smothering self-importance or self-defeating, progress-impeding self-pity. It’s not a panacea, a cure-all. But, again and again, I’ve seen it get energetic juices flowing, rebalance agitation-driven minds, melt trauma-frozen bodies, dispel clouds of doubt and doom, and let in the light of Hope. This laughter needs to begin with effort. It must force its way through forests of self-consciousness and self-pity, crack physical and emotional walls erected by remembered hurt and present pain.

Once you decide to do it, the process is simple. You stand with your knees slightly bent, arms loose, and begin, forcing the laughter up from your belly, feeling it contract, pushing out the sounds—barks, chuckles, giggles. You keep going, summoning the will and energy to churn sound up and out. Start with three or four minutes and increase when you feel more is needed.

You can laugh anytime you feel yourself tightening up with tension, pumping yourself up with self-importance, or freezing with fear. And the more intense those feelings are, the more shut-down and self-righteous, the more pained and lost and hopeless you are, the more important laughter is. Then laughter may even be lifesaving. After a few minutes of forced laughter, effort may dissolve, and the laughter itself may take charge. Now each unwilled, involuntary, body-shaking, belly-aching jolt provokes the next in a waterfall of laughter.

Laughter can be contagious. Other people will want to laugh with you. 

And after laughing, as you become relaxed and less serious, you may find that people relate to you differently. Sensing the change in you, they may greet you or smile at you on the street. And you may find that you’re happy to see them and that you enjoy the warmth of this new connection. 

Don’t take my word for any of this. Do the experiment with daily laughter and see.

James S. Gordon, MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma from which this article is excerpted. 

 

 

Transformation James Gordon

 

 

About the Author:
Dr. James Gordon is the author of The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma (HarperOne; September 2019). He is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. Dr. Gordon is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, former researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health and, Chair of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, and a clinical professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown Medical School. He authored or edited ten previous books, including Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-stage Journey Out of Depression. He has written often for numerous popular publications including The New York Times, The Washington PostThe Atlantic, and The Guardian, as well as in professional journals. He has served as an expert for such outlets as 60 Minutes, the Today show, Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning, Nightline, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and many others. For more information, please visit https://jamesgordonmd.com and follow the author on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

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Stop Looking for Others to Create a Life of Joy – by Renee Linnell

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~Easily the best memoir I’ve ever read~

 

 

 

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Stop Looking to Others to Create a Life of Joy

by Renee Linnell,

Author of The Burn Zone: A Memoir

 

Originally published on Psych Central

 

I believe there is not enough dialogue out there about soul-sickness, especially among wealthy communities. We are taught to believe from a young age that once we have the perfect partner, house, car, children, and careers, we will be happy. And often times this is not the case; the happiness does not come. There is an insatiable need for more. Because there is no dialogue about this, most people think, I am the only one, something is wrong with me, or no one understands me. This leads to deep despair and usually a diagnosis of depression and medication.

I ruined my life searching for peace. I pushed away everyone and everything I loved. I allowed myself to be emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused. I allowed myself to be brainwashed in seemingly unhealable ways. And what I finally discovered, after all of my searching, is that the peace and happiness for which I had been searching was inside of me all along. But, and this is a big but, I had to be shattered by life to find it. I had to be shattered to finally stop living a life that was not mine. I had to be shattered to finally decide that following my own heart and being true to myself and creating a life that brought me joy was more important than living a life to please other people. I had to be shattered to start questioning what the hell I had been doing and why the hell I had been doing it and to what point.

Why do we feel the need to say, “to death do us part” and bind ourselves to another person? Why do we ignore the intense fear that comes with this decision? How can we even know that this will be in our best interest or the other person’s for the rest of our lives? Many of us do it because everyone else does. Why do we forgo choosing work that we are born to do, work we are naturally skilled at doing, work we love, work that makes our hearts sing and instead choose a career we hate because it pays more? We do this because we are told to do it by our parents or our teachers, and because everyone else does. Why do we dress the way we dress and worship the way we worship and pick romantic partners the way we do? So often it is because we were told to do it this way, or because everyone else does. Often we don’t question any of this. I know I didn’t.

I believe the only way to true joy, to true bliss, to true freedom, is to begin the work of uncovering our real selves—to chip away at the parts of us that are false, the façade we created to please our families, the mask we built so the world would approve of us. Only when we are willing to stand tall in our own uniqueness, with our own idiosyncrasies, will we be able to do the work we came to do, to build the life we always dreamed of, to excel beyond our wildest dreams, and to live in true joy and abundance. When we finally tap into what we naturally are, we discover we already have the exact right skill set to become everything we have always secretly wanted to be.

We are all flawed, we are all damaged, and we are all beautiful. Each one of us is unique; there is no carbon copy. So how can we possibly follow what others are doing? How can what they are doing be right for us? We were born to blaze our own trails. We were all born with unique abilities and skill sets, with unique damage and unique wounds. I believe we are meant to use this combo to discover who we truly are and why we are truly here. Our wounds are not a mistake, they are given to us for a reason, they are Divine. In the healing of them we soften and we open, and we learn how to help others overcome similar damage. In our speaking about them and our owning of them, we encourage others to do the same and as more and more of us speak our Truth, we all eventually realize we are not alone. We have never been alone. We are surrounded by each other, our brother and sister humans, and we are here to support each other on this crazy amazing Earth Walk.

Yes, the decision to live this way is terrifying; but once we decide to do it, we feel the life force energy coursing through us again, we feel the blood pumping through our veins, we rediscover passion and the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We are here for such a very short time; I simply cannot believe we were meant to spend that time in loveless relationships stressed about paying bills.

In my journey to wholeness I discovered that me just being me, dressing the way I want to dress, saying the things I want to say, doing the activities I love to do, putting myself first and making sure I am taken care of before I take care of others—living this way brought me so much joy that I began to radiate joy and light and love and kindness. I discovered a joyful me was a radiating me. A joyful me was a kind me. A joyful me was a patient and compassionate and forgiving me. After destroying myself and my life and all that I loved in order to become Enlightened, in order to become Saint-like, I finally realized that the key to my becoming Saint-like was just being me. When we create a life of joy we stop worrying about what others are doing or not doing. We stop pushing against. And instead we begin loving. And we add our light to the sum of light; we shift the consciousness of the planet from fear to love. What better use of our time here on earth than that?   

 

 

 

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About the Author:

Renee Linnell is the author of The Burn Zone: A Memoir (She Writes Press; October 2018). She is a serial entrepreneur who has founded and cofounded five companies and has an Executive Masters in Business Administration from New York University. Currently she is working on starting a publishing company to give people from diverse walks of life an opportunity to tell their stories. She divides her time between Colorado and Southern California. For more information, please visit https://reneelinnell.com and follow Renee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

The Artist’s Journey With Steven Pressfield & Joanna Penn

IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY FOLKS!

 

 

 

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The Artist’s Journey With Steven Pressfield

 

 

 

 

 

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“No one’s insights about the craft and journey of being an artist have guided me in the day-to-day struggle of this profession more than Steven Pressfield. Wherever you are, whatever you’ve been called to make, you need to read this book…and everything else he has written.”

— Ryan Holiday, Bestselling Author of Ego Is the Enemy and The Obstacle Is the Way

YOU ARE AN ARTIST … AND YOU HAVE AN ARTIST’S JOURNEY

I have a theory about the Hero’s Journey. We all have one. We have many, in fact. But our primary hero’s journey is the passage we live out, in real life, before we find our calling.

The hero’s journey ends when, like Odysseus, we return home to Ithaca, to the place from which we started.

What then?

The passage that comes next is The Artist’s Journey.

On our artist’s journey, we move past Resistance and past self-sabotage. We discover our true selves and our authentic calling, and we produce the works we were born to create.

You are an artist too—whether you realize it or not, whether you like it or not—and you have an artist’s journey. Will you live it out? Will you follow your Muse and do the work you were born to do?

Ready or not, you are called.

 

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Benjamin Thomas

@thewritingtrain

www.mysterythrillerweek.com

 

 

 

 

Interview with Travis Smith Author of Superhero Ethics- Part II

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Interview with Travis Smith,
Author of Superhero Ethics

 

About the Author:

Travis Smith is the author of Superhero Ethics (Templeton Press). He is an associate professor at Concordia University where he teaches political philosophy. He remembers seeing Superman: The Movie with his dad on the big screen at the age of five. He has been collecting comic books since he bought a copy ofUncanny X-Men #207 in 1986 with his allowance from the racks at Stan’s Variety. For over thirty years, Travis has made a weekly stop at his local comic shop on the day new comics are released to pick up the books on his pull list–from Comic Connection in Hamilton, Ontario, while he attended McMaster University, to the Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as he earned his doctorate at Harvard University, to Major Comics in Montreal, Quebec, the city where he now teaches Hobbes, Tocqueville, Plato and Aristotle by day, and fights crime by night.

For more information, please visit www.templetonpress.org/books/superhero- ethics

 

 

 

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What is the overall theme of the book?

It’s ostensibly about superheroes but it’s really about us, in our early twenty-first century moment—the challenges of living in our world today; wondering what kind of people we should aspire to be; and what it means to be responsible, for ourselves and to others.

 

Describe your process of breaking down each character’s moral code of ethics.

I gathered information about each character’s origin, powers, relationships, major stories, successes and failures—rewatching many movies and shows, reading and rereading comic books. Then I tried to discern what was at their core. What kinds of people do they resemble if you don’t take the fanciful elements too literally? What part of the human condition—which temperaments and tendencies, which dilemmas, dreams, and dangers—do they represent? Then I had to pair each one up with another character I saw as essentially speaking to a similar part of the human condition, but in a distinctive enough way so as to avoid overlap and repetition.

 

 

 

Choosing Between Right or Wrong

 

 

What is the significance of hero’s vigilante justice?

Superhero stories reflect our society’s uneasy relationship with violence. We abhor it yet remain fascinated by it. These stories give that impulse a vicarious outlet. But your question reminds me of when I told my wife that I was watching the Rocky movies with our young son and she said, with faux outrage, “you’re watching movies about fighting with him?” I protested, “the fighting is a metaphor!” With a wink, she replied, “a metaphor for what? For fighting?!?” My approach in Superhero Ethics downplays the vigilantism and the violence, fully aware of how ironic it is to use characters best known for participating in violent spectacles as models for more civilized behavior. But I’m also a fan of professional wrestling, and in that genre of simulated combat, each bout should, as they say, “tell a story.”

 

 

Vigilante on the white background, red illustration

 

 

In every chapter I get an impression there’s an inherent need of saving or altering the human condition. Explain.

Superheroes definitely speak to our hopes and fears regarding technological science. Most of my work as a professor of political theory focuses on early modern thought. In a way, you might say that the great early modern philosophers, such as Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes, were trying to be superheroes. They were trying to find ways to abolish suffering—or else make the promise of its abolition seem believable. They took the Biblical idea of saving the world and made it a project for human beings to pursue—with or without God’s help. What’s more comical than that? So, I’m not surprised that the models of heroism found in the modern medium of comic books are representatives of that endeavor.

 

 

“Suffering is one of life’s great teachers.” – Bryant H. McGill

 

 

 

What role does heroism play in our society?

I wouldn’t want to downplay the heroism of the bravest among us. In fact, I think our society tends to pooh-pooh heroics, as if only jerks and dolts try to be heroes and their spiritedness only puts the rest of us in danger. (Thomas Hobbes deserves a lot of credit for instilling this attitude in us.) But for the purposes of this book, I’m more interested in asking whether superheroes model behaviors that we non-heroic types can and should labor to exhibit in our own lives, for our individual and collective well-being.

 

 

 

Hero Concept Pinned Cards and Rust

 

 

 

What do you think of the contrast between Daredevil and the Punisher?

You’re right. That warrants a chapter-length treatment, doesn’t it?

 

Do you have more books planned about Superhero ethics? (Please, don’t make me beg.)

If I could write any book on philosophy and popular culture that I wanted to next, it would be about women’s professional wrestling. I think that’s the most exciting and inspiring thing out there today in sports and entertainment.

 

 

 

 

Kapow image

 

 

 

Your book touches on a very fundamental and  complicated subject. What is justice? What is the right way to live? Who or what determines what is right or wrong? Where does our sense of ethics come from and why do we seek to emulate it in fictional characters? This book was epic and I loved every bit of it! Definitely would be interested if you wrote more. Perhaps the role of villains? Hint, hint.

 

I can imagine a volume on super-villains. Nobody wants global governance more than they do! And as they say, compelling villains believe they’re the real heroes. I have been thinking a lot lately, for instance, about what the character of Killmonger from Black Panther is intended to communicate about the nature of injustice. Anyway, thank you to The Writing Train for the opportunity to discuss my book. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

 

 

 

Superhero dude with S image

 

 

Thanks Travis!

 

 

SuperHero ethics image

 

 

Whether in comic books or on movie screens, superhero stories are where many people first encounter questions about how they should conduct their lives.

Although these outlandish figures—in their capes, masks, and tights, with their unbelievable origins and preternatural powers—are often dismissed as juvenile amusements, they really are profound metaphors for different approaches to shaping one’s character and facing the challenges of life.

But, given the choice, which superhero should we follow today? Who is most worthy of our admiration? Whose goals are most noble? Whose ethics should we strive to emulate?

To decide, Travis Smith takes ten top superheroes and pits them one against another, chapter by chapter. The hero who better exemplifies how we ought to live advances to the final round. By the end of the book, a single superhero emerges victorious and is crowned most exemplary for our times.

How, then, shall we live?

 

    • How can we overcome our beastly nature and preserve our humanity? (The Hulk vs. Wolverine)

 

    • How far can we rely on our willpower and imagination to improve the human condition? (Iron Man vs. Green Lantern)

 

    • What limits must we observe when protecting our neighborhood from crime and corruption? (Batman vs. Spider-Man)

 

    • Will the pursuit of an active life or a contemplative life bring us true fulfillment? (Captain America vs. Mr. Fantastic)

 

    • Should we put our faith in proven tradition or in modern progress to achieve a harmonious society? (Thor vs. Superman)

 

Using superheroes to bring into focus these timeless themes of the human condition, Smith takes us on an adventure as fantastic as any you’ll find on a splash page or the silver screen—an intellectual adventure filled with surprising insights, unexpected twists and turns, and a daring climax you’ll be thinking about long after it’s over.

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Templeton Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Travis Smith Author of Superhero Ethics- Part I

SuperHero ethics image

 

 

Interview with Travis Smith,
Author of Superhero Ethics

 

About the Author:

Travis Smith is the author of Superhero Ethics (Templeton Press). He is an associate professor at Concordia University where he teaches political philosophy. He remembers seeing Superman: The Movie with his dad on the big screen at the age of five. He has been collecting comic books since he bought a copy ofUncanny X-Men #207 in 1986 with his allowance from the racks at Stan’s Variety. For over thirty years, Travis has made a weekly stop at his local comic shop on the day new comics are released to pick up the books on his pull list–from Comic Connection in Hamilton, Ontario, while he attended McMaster University, to the Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as he earned his doctorate at Harvard University, to Major Comics in Montreal, Quebec, the city where he now teaches Hobbes, Tocqueville, Plato and Aristotle by day, and fights crime by night.

For more information, please visit www.templetonpress.org/books/superhero- ethics

 

 

Superhero

 

 

How would you define the notion of a “Super” hero as opposed to
other heroes in literature?

I use the term superhero conventionally as pertaining to the kinds of costumed characters labeled that way in the DC and Marvel universes and in similar stories. Most of them have superpowers, but not all of them. I don’t think they’re inherently more super than other fictional heroes lacking those costumes and powers. In fact, for the purposes of Superhero Ethics, I downplay the “super” part of superhero—and even the “hero” part, too, to a fair degree. I look for ways these characters’ personalities, abilities, and activities can be read metaphorically so as to resemble the lives of ordinary human beings and the challenges we face. Maybe counterintuitively, I think that their being fantastical makes it easier to apply them analogously to our experiences and situations. It is often hard and sometimes objectionable to compare our own problems with the real-world difficulties confronted by other actual people—or even characters featured in more realistic fiction.

 

 

 

Superman logo image

 

 

What is it in our nature that draws us to superheroes?

In democratic society, we emphasize equality—the ways we’re equal to each other, and the ways we say we should be. But we also want to be happier than we are, better than we are. We look for or create models of excellence that are worthy of admiration and emulation. We do so on our own terms, of course. We like superheroes who make sacrifices on behalf of anyone and try to save everyone. We like it when we can imagine that any of us are potentially like any of them. Superheroes also remind us of the importance of courage in overcoming hardships and pain. I think courage tends to be neglected in the way we’re raised today, since we’re so concerned with minimizing suffering and making everything safe. So, superheroes speak to some parts of the human condition that are neglected or suppressed in our public ethos but ineradicably part of us, and therefore of perennial relevance to ethics.

 

 

Iron man toy image

 

 

Do you have a personal favorite?

Captain Marvel—the Carol Danvers version of Captain Marvel, originally known as Ms. Marvel—is my favorite superhero. She’s not featured in the book because I decided to focus on popular, well-known characters who have been featured prominently in recent films. But she is the first female character to star in a solo self-titled movie set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to be released in early 2019, and I’m excited about that.

 

 

“I think that we all do heroic things, but hero is not a noun, it’s a verb.” – Robert Downey Jr.

 

 

Describe the hardest chapter to write and why it was so difficult.

My chapter on Captain America and Mister Fantastic was the hardest to write because I use them to contrast the two models of the best life for human beings according to the classical tradition: the active life and the contemplative life. And I’m aware of how distant my own life is to any model of either ideal. I try to approach those characters in good part by asking: In which ways does modern society hamper or compromise any attempt to realize these conceptions of the best life—even among those individuals who come closest to approximating them?

 

 

 

Captain america toy image

 

 

 

Name some characters that didn’t make the cut for this book.

There are so many! Because I made the decision to focus on characters well-known presently to the general public, I didn’t write a book about my favorite characters. That would include not only Captain Marvel but Booster Gold, the new Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, and Power Girl. I didn’t include the very popular Deadpool or Harley Quinn because they mock the very idea that superheroes should be good role models. I also wanted the characters I chose to be distinctive with respect to the ethical concerns they represent.

So, Black Widow wasn’t examined on account of embodying the maxim “don’t be what they made you,” which makes her too similar to the better-known Wolverine. Black Panther’s feature film came out only as I was submitting my final manuscript, so he wasn’t treated at length—although in the book I hint that he represents a happier version of the active life than Captain America does. I most regret leaving out Wonder Woman, but I mention that she is more divine than Superman, and I argue that Superman is already too divine for us.

The only character good enough to contrast with Wonder Woman is Silver Surfer and most of us are glad to have forgotten the movie that featured him. Personally, I prefer Supergirl to Superman—she represents the challenge of living up to an impossible standard already set by someone else to whom you’re inextricably tied. That’s a situation a lot of us are familiar with. But I decided not to use characters whose origins are directly dependent on another character’s story. I think if I were writing the book just five years from now there would be so many more popular, well-known characters to choose from.

A mere ten years ago, Iron Man was a relatively obscure character. Most moviegoers hardly knew anything about Tony Stark until Robert Downey, Jr. made him so endearing. Doesn’t that seem crazy now?

 

Funny portrait of a superhero

Thanks Travis! Stay tuned for part two of the interview…

 

 

SuperHero ethics image

 

 

Whether in comic books or on movie screens, superhero stories are where many people first encounter questions about how they should conduct their lives.

Although these outlandish figures—in their capes, masks, and tights, with their unbelievable origins and preternatural powers—are often dismissed as juvenile amusements, they really are profound metaphors for different approaches to shaping one’s character and facing the challenges of life.

But, given the choice, which superhero should we follow today? Who is most worthy of our admiration? Whose goals are most noble? Whose ethics should we strive to emulate?

To decide, Travis Smith takes ten top superheroes and pits them one against another, chapter by chapter. The hero who better exemplifies how we ought to live advances to the final round. By the end of the book, a single superhero emerges victorious and is crowned most exemplary for our times.

How, then, shall we live?

    • How can we overcome our beastly nature and preserve our humanity? (The Hulk vs. Wolverine)
    • How far can we rely on our willpower and imagination to improve the human condition? (Iron Man vs. Green Lantern)
    • What limits must we observe when protecting our neighborhood from crime and corruption? (Batman vs. Spider-Man)
    • Will the pursuit of an active life or a contemplative life bring us true fulfillment? (Captain America vs. Mr. Fantastic)
    • Should we put our faith in proven tradition or in modern progress to achieve a harmonious society? (Thor vs. Superman)

Using superheroes to bring into focus these timeless themes of the human condition, Smith takes us on an adventure as fantastic as any you’ll find on a splash page or the silver screen—an intellectual adventure filled with surprising insights, unexpected twists and turns, and a daring climax you’ll be thinking about long after it’s over.

 

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Templeton Press

 

 

Book Review: Superhero Ethics by Travis Smith

SuperHero ethics image

 

 

 

Whether in comic books or on movie screens, superhero stories are where many people first encounter questions about how they should conduct their lives.

Although these outlandish figures—in their capes, masks, and tights, with their unbelievable origins and preternatural powers—are often dismissed as juvenile amusements, they really are profound metaphors for different approaches to shaping one’s character and facing the challenges of life.

But, given the choice, which superhero should we follow today? Who is most worthy of our admiration? Whose goals are most noble? Whose ethics should we strive to emulate?

To decide, Travis Smith takes ten top superheroes and pits them one against another, chapter by chapter. The hero who better exemplifies how we ought to live advances to the final round. By the end of the book, a single superhero emerges victorious and is crowned most exemplary for our times.
How, then, shall we live?

  • How can we overcome our beastly nature and preserve our humanity? (The Hulk vs. Wolverine)
  • How far can we rely on our willpower and imagination to improve the human condition? (Iron Man vs. Green Lantern)
  • What limits must we observe when protecting our neighborhood from crime and corruption? (Batman vs. Spider-Man)
  • Will the pursuit of an active life or a contemplative life bring us true fulfillment? (Captain America vs. Mr. Fantastic)
  • Should we put our faith in proven tradition or in modern progress to achieve a harmonious society? (Thor vs. Superman)

Using superheroes to bring into focus these timeless themes of the human condition, Smith takes us on an adventure as fantastic as any you’ll find on a splash page or the silver screen—an intellectual adventure filled with surprising insights, unexpected twists and turns, and a daring climax you’ll be thinking about long after it’s over.

 

Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

Book Review - 3d rendered metallic typeset

 

 

 

This book was exquisitely delicious in every sense of the word. If I could, I’d rate it with 10 stars from start to finish. Impeccable in presentation, brilliant in theme, and praiseworthy in effect. Ten comic book heros, ten ways to save the world, and which one do we need most now? Author Travis Smith analyzes each superhero pitting them metaphorically against one another; extricating their relevant significance to the human condition, society, politics and virtues to emulate. I’d try to say more, but they’d fail to describe the magnificence of this book. Get yourself a copy!

 

 

 

 

Awesome Word Rubber Stamp 3D Rating Review Feedback

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Travis Smith received his PhD from Harvard University and is associate professor of political science at Concordia University. He has been collecting comic books since he bought Uncanny X-Men #207 with his allowance in 1986. His writing has appeared in the Weekly Standard and Convivium Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: UNSUB by Meg Gardiner

Unsub

 

 

 

A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An Unsub—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?

 

 

 

 

My Review

 

A Damn good thriller!

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and definitely the best crime fiction. Absolutely amazing. A must read. Caitlin Hendrix, a narcotics detective joins an investigation to catch one of the nations worst serial killers that her father failed to catch. In fact, her father Mack Hendrix now a retired cop, tries to persuade to stop investigating since it ruined his life nearly driving him insane. 

I loved what Meg Gardiner has done with detective Caitlin Hendrix. She’s not necessarily an expert, but joins the homicide division due to her father’s connection to the case. Determined, focused, bold, not to mention brillant; she works with law enforcement to catch the UNSUB.

Meg Gardiner does a spectacular job creating the twisted M.O. of the serial killer, UNSUB. He was such a formidable opponent it made for a JUICY conflict. Meg crafts his motivations perfectly.

The suspense is so thick you can cut it with a steak knife. So if you like edge-of-your-seat thrillers, THIS IS IT. Look no further.

In the crowded arena of crime fictiob UNSUB is quite unique. Don’t miss it!!

 

 
Five golden stars isolated on white background

 

 

 

 

Pre-order the next book here: Into the Black Nowhere: An UNSUB Novel

 

 

Into the Black Nowhere

 

 

Release date is Jan. 30th 2018!

 

Inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, an exhilarating thriller in which FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix faces off against a charming, merciless serial killer

In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.

Caitlin and the FBI’s serial crime unit discover the first victim’s body in the woods. She’s laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest’s darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style–posed like Snow White awaiting her prince’s kiss.

To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homology–that elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasy–dolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin’s profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people’s trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.

 

 

I already have this title and can’t wait to sink my teeth into it!

 

 

 

Hungry meat-eating man

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with Meg Gardiner

 

 

Meg Gardiner

 

 

Meg Gardiner is the author of thirteen thrillers. UNSUB, her latest novel, features homicide detective Caitlin Hendrix. Don Winslow says, “Like The Silence of the Lambs, this novel scared the hell out of me. I dare you to try putting it down.” The novel has been bought for development as a TV series by CBS.

Meg was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. A graduate of Stanford Law School, she practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She’s also a three time Jeopardy! champion. Meg lives in Austin, Texas.

She’s the author of the Evan Delaney series and the Jo Beckett novels. China Lake won the 2009 Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Paperback Original. The Dirty Secrets Club won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel of 2008.

 

 

Amazon Twitter | FacebookGoodreadsWebsite

 

 

 

 

 

 

recommended vintage orange seal isolated on white

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t be a stranger!

 

 

 

 

 

Benjamin Thomas

@thewritingtrain

www.mysterythrillerweek.com

 

 

 

 

MTW Blog Cover Image by Eva

 

Celebrating Perseverance in the Writing Community

 

 

 

sharing-our-stories

 

 

 

Today I am happy to be part of Writers Persevere!, an event that authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are running for the next few days to celebrate their release of their newest book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. This book looks at the difficult experiences embedded in our character’s backstory which will shape their motivation and behavior afterward.

 

 

 

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Because Angela and Becca have spent the last year exploring painful
human struggles, they wanted to highlight a very important aspect of
overcoming difficult circumstances: it can make us stronger. I promised to let Angela hijack my blog today, so please read on!

***

Hi everyone! When you set out to find examples of inner strength, you don’t have to go very far. Right here in the writing community we see it every day. Writers more than anyone understand the swirl of emotions as we work toward publication. We dream of making it and seeing our books in the hands of readers…yet doubt and frustration can be a constant companion. For us, there is a lot to learn, much to steel our nerves for, and unfortunately, a host of real-world problems that can try to derail us. And, even as we slowly move forward and grow, we can sometimes feel like impostors. This is a tough road.

 
But the fact that writers face this battle, day after day, and KEEP GOING…this should be celebrated! We need to be reminded that we are much stronger than we sometimes believe. We dream, create, and force ourselves to keep striving. Through the ups and downs, we persevere!

 

 

Have you encountered something on the writing road that made you question yourself? Have you faced an obstacle that required a force of will to get past?

 

 

 

If so, we want to hear about it! Join Becca and me at Writers Helping Writers from October 25-27th,  where we are celebrating writers and their stories of perseverance. Stop in, and tell us about a challenge or struggle your faced, or if you like, join this event by writing a post on your own blog and share it using the hashtag #writerspersevere. Let’s fill social media with your strength and let other writers know that it’s okay to question and have doubts but we shouldn’t let that stop us.

 

 

 

WHW_Persevere-1

 

 

GIVEAWAY ALERT!

We also have a prize vault filled with items that can give your writing career a boost, so stop by Writers Helping Writers. I would love for one of you to win something that will help you get closer to your goal!

If you struggle, remember to reach out to others. We are in this  together, and by supporting one another, we cross the finish line together (and then keep going!).

Happy writing!

Angela & Becca

 

Author Mary Angela Introduces Passport to Murder

 

passport_murder_300

 

 

 

 

Death never takes a holiday, but it certainly can take away one. Will Professor Prather find out who killed her Parisian plans before the end of spring break?

 

 

 

 

© Julie Prairie Photography 2016

 

 

About the Author

Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather academic mystery series, which has been called “enjoyable” and “clever” by Publishers Weekly. She is also an educator and has taught English and humanities at South Dakota’s public and private universities for over ten years. When Mary isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. For more information about Mary or the series, go to MaryAngelaBooks.com.

 

 

Book Blurb

Passport to Murder (Professor Prather Mystery #2)

 

Start with an unlucky number. Throw in a romantic location. Include a dashing Frenchman and an uncompromising professor. And you have all the ingredients for a passport to murder.

This semester, it seems that Professor Prather’s dreams are about to come true. Ever since she was a young girl, she’s imagined going to France, and her French colleague, André Duman, has finally made that trip possible. Over spring break, she and André are to lead a group of students and faculty to Paris to explore the City of Light. But before she can utter her first bonjour, a professor dies, and they are stuck in Minneapolis. She returns to Copper Bluff with an unstamped passport and a mystery to solve.
When André becomes the prime suspect, Emmeline puts her research skills to good use, determined to find out who really killed the professor and spoiled their spring break plans. With thirteen travelers assembled, the possibilities are varied and villainous. Luckily, her dear friend and sidekick, Lenny Jenkins, is close by. Together, they will sort through the conflicting clues even if it costs them time, trouble, or tenure.

 

 

 

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  1. What was your process for creating English professor Emmeline Prather?

I knew I wanted to set my series in a small college town in South Dakota, so I imagined a young professor relocating to the area. The landscape had to be a draw for my protagonist because the pay is definitely not. I like that she’s an outsider looking in. It heightens her awareness of the region.

 

 

 

 

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  1. What do you like about an amateur sleuth versus a professional one? 

I like that an amateur sleuth is not paid to solve crimes. It’s not her job, so she doesn’t have any police experience to help her. The amateur sleuth allows me, as a reader and a writer, to become intimately involved. I like to imagine what I would do in the same circumstances.

 

  1. What are some characteristics of Emmeline that help her solve crimes?

She is an excellent researcher, which helps her dig up information. She also has a degree in French literature, so she’s great at analyzing stories. Combined, these characteristics make her a tough sleuth to beat!

 

 

 

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  1. You affectionately call her “Em.” Describe your relationship to the protagonist. 

Em is so much fun, and I do think of her as Em as I’m writing. I enjoy writing her because she can be incredibly passionate when it comes to education, students, and crimes. Sometimes I get a chuckle out of her antics.

 

  1. What are the dynamics like between Emmeline and her sidekick Lenny Jenkins? 

There is a strong dynamic between Em and Lenny; they balance each other nicely. Em can take herself too seriously, and Lenny—doesn’t. They both challenge each other to see the world from another viewpoint, which is incredibly advantageous for crime fighting.

 

 

 

Fighting crime word cloud concept on grey background

 

 

 

  1. Describe some challenges writing Passport to Murder. 

Moving a group of thirteen characters was hard. I had to talk to the airport police in Minnesota and South Dakota. I also had to read about police procedures and what can and can’t be done when police investigate a suspicious death.

 

 

 

Distracted businessman distracted

 

 

 

  1. What did you learn while researching this book? 

I learned that the FBI has jurisdiction involving any crime committed in the air. I thought that was pretty interesting! I also learned that a plane can’t land on a full tank of gas.

 

 

 

Seriously, Just Ahead Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Sky, Clouds and Sunburst.

 

 

 

  1. Is it challenging writing a mystery? 

Yes, it is challenging, but that’s exactly what I like about the mystery genre. It works both sides of my brain. I spend lots of time making my characters and settings interesting, but I also spend an ample amount of time creating a clever and believable plot. All loose ends have to be tied up by the end of the novel. It takes great attention to detail.

 

 

 

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  1. Do you outline your novels? 

No, I don’t, but I do create a timeline and plot some events before writing them.

 

  1. Imagine yourself as Professor Emmeline.  Given the criminal circumstances, would you make the same choices as her? Why or why not?

That’s a tough one! I think I would. I might try to reveal the murderer in a less obvious way, but if I thought I could solve the crime, I would have to try, especially if it benefited my campus or friend.

 

 

 

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  1. Have you ever been to France? 

Yes, I have been to France and loved my time there. I would like to go back and spend the summer in a little French village. That’s my hobby: looking at vacation rentals in wine country. Maybe some day!

 

 

 

France-2308162_960_720

 

 

 

  1. What’s next for you?

I’m writing book three in the series, A Very Merry Murder. It’s a holiday mystery, so I’ve been spending most of my days dreaming about baking sugar cookies and eating fudge. Not a good omen for the impending holidays!

 

 

 

Connect with Mary Angela

 

© Julie Prairie Photography 2016

 

 

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Thanks for ridin the train folks! Come back and see us. Peace out.

 

 

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Benjamin Thomas

@thewritingtrain

www.mysterythrillerweek.com

 

 

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