Legal Thriller: No Truth Left To Tell by Michael McAuliffe an Excerpt

 

 

No Truth Left to Tell

 

February 1994—Lynwood, Louisiana: Flaming crosses light up the night and terrorize the southern town. The resurgent Klan wants a new race war, and the Klansmen will start it here. As federal civil rights prosecutor Adrien Rush is about to discover, the ugly roots of the past run deep in Lynwood.

For Nettie Wynn, a victim of the cross burnings and lifelong resident of the town’s segregated neighborhood, the hate crimes summon frightful memories of her youth, when she witnessed white townspeople lynch a black man. Her granddaughter Nicole DuBose, a successful journalist in New York City, returns to Lynwood to care for her grandmother. Rush arrives from DC and investigates the crimes with Lee Mercer, a seasoned local FBI special agent. Their partnership is tested as they clash over how far to go to catch the racists before the violence escalates. Rush’s role in the case becomes even more complicated after he falls for DuBose. When crucial evidence becomes compromisethreatening to upend what should be a celebrated conviction—the lines between right and wrong, black and white, collide with deadly consequences.

No Truth Left to Tell is a smart legal thriller that pulls readers into a compelling courtroom drama and an illusive search for justice in a troubled community.

 

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An Excerpt

NO TRUTH LEFT TO TELL

By Michael McAuliffe

 

Prologue

July 1920
Lynwood, Louisiana

 

The following excerpt is reprinted from No Truth Left to Tell by Michael McAuliffe, released on March 3, 2020. Reprinted with permission of Greenleaf Book Group. Copyright © 2020 Michael McAuliffe.

 

Nettie glided along the sidewalk in her best dress, her mother’s creation that would soon be too small. That Saturday, however, the colorful outfit still fit and perfectly complemented her wide smile and earnest stride. The dress was spring blue with flower patterns bursting open into full blossoms, quite like Nettie herself. 

She stayed out of the way of the white pedestrians inspecting her with what appeared to be a mixture of curiosity and irritation. “What’s that one doin’ here?” one woman asked as she passed by. So Nettie hugged the buildings as she moved, trying to disappear against the facades. There was something big going on in the square, but Nettie couldn’t see over or through the gathering, since she was just seven years old. 

She had pleaded with her parents to go with her father from their home in Mooretown, Lynwood’s section for blacks, to a nearby town while he delivered a meal to a close friend who was gravely ill. At the last minute, Nettie’s mother had wanted one more item added to the delivery from a store on Lynwood’s downtown square—an establishment that served them only from the back door off an alley. Nettie was supposed to wait in the car, but despite her father’s admonishments, the strange and festive noises drew her out into the nearby crowd where she was protected only by her look of youthful wonder. 

Lynwood’s civic core was comprised of an expanse of lawn with a massive oak reigning over the surroundings. Four perpendicular streets framed the lawn, and they had been closed for several hours so people could mingle without regard to sputtering cars. The attendees had obliged the gesture by swarming the entire area by midmorning. The day’s activities appeared to originate across the street nearer the tree, allowing the spectators along the periphery to wander about with more freedom. From where Nettie was she could see the crown of the tree, and she moved in that direction as if pulled by some invisible force. 

The day was hot and humid. High clouds had gathered through the morning and darkened the midday sky, but the music played on and people chatted in small groups as if they were at an annual parish fair. 

After several minutes of distant rumbling a sprinkle started, and it soon developed into cascading water pouring from invisible pots in the sky. The drenching dispersed the crowd into stores and under awnings. Deserted chairs and soda bottles lay across the lawn. 

The scattering of the masses created large openings around the square. What was an impenetrable wall of people became a flat, open field of vision. The oak, of course, remained right where it had begun decades before as a sapling. 

Nettie couldn’t run into any of the stores like the others caught out in the street during the rainstorm. So, like the oak, she remained standing, although now she had a clear view of the square. Her dress—dripping and heavy with water—would have distracted her in any other setting, but unanswered curiosity kept her searching the square for clues about the day’s festivities. 

The oak tree had long, thick branches, like the heavy arms of a giant. A braided rope was slung over one of these arms, out about ten feet from the trunk. The rope was wrapped once about the branch and secured to a large stake in the ground. The other end of the rope was fashioned into a noose, and suspended from it was the still body of a black man. The man’s neck was grotesquely angled, and the feet were bare. His hands were bound behind his back. 

Nettie leaned forward like she was about to rush toward the oak. But she neither ran away nor went to it. She stared up at what had been until moments before a living, breathing person. She was frozen in place and time—alone in the moment when her world changed forever. 

Her father came running from behind and snatched her up with such force that the dress ripped along a side seam. He covered her with his protective embrace and spirited her away to the car that waited in the alley. They headed straight home using back streets and little-known shortcuts, the car not speeding despite the urgency of the situation. The trip to deliver the meal basket was abandoned as her father kept swearing that he’d never go to the square again. 

Nettie didn’t look outside the car. She kept her head down and stared at one of the dress’s printed blossoms, the flower part of the pattern ending at the hemline to reveal her trembling knees. 

 

 

Michael McAulife

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michael McAuliffe is the author of No Truth Left to Tell and has been a practicing lawyer for thirty years. He was a federal prosecutor serving both as a supervisory assistant US attorney in the Southern District of Florida and a trial attorney in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. In 2008, Michael was elected and served as the state attorney for Palm Beach County, leading an office of approximately 125 prosecutors. He was  known for leading the ethics reform movement in county that resulted in the creation of a permanent inspector general, an ethics commission, and new ethics code. Michael and his wife Robin Rosenberg, a US district judge, have three children and live in Florida and Massachusetts. For more information, please visit https://notruthlefttotell.com/

 

 

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A Self-Care Checklist for the Sandwich Generation by Dr. Ken Druck

 

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A Self-Care Checklist for the Sandwich Generation

By Dr. Ken Druck

Regardless of whether adult children are distant or close, the pressure to get involved in a parent’s life increases over time. Parents who are beginning to look and feel older, slow down, unplug from a career, face a new season of life—and whose needs are changing—may look to their adult children for greater support. The parent who once gave care is now in need of care. For many adult children, meeting the needs of an aging parent comes at a time when they’re raising their own children and immersed in their career. “The Sandwich Generation,” a term officially added by Merriam Webster to its dictionary in 2006: is defined as “a generation of people (usually in their forties to seventies) who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.” I refer to them as “SanGen’s.” Adult “SanGen” sons and daughters are called into action no matter how overwhelmingly busy they are with their own lives, necessitating a new self-care OS (Operating System).

A Self-Care Checklist for the Sandwich Generation

To repeat something very important: the only way to survive the squeeze of SanGen stress is to upgrade your operating system for self-care. When we feel exhausted and pulled in a million directions, self-management is the key. SanGen survival requires upping your self-care game. At the end of the day, each of us is our own primary care physician. We are responsible for ourselves.

Here is a blueprint for taking exceptionally good care of yourself—that you can tailor to meet your particular needs—taken from my new book, Raising an Aging Parent: Guidelines for Families in the Second Half of Life.

 

1. Exercise and move

2. Balance stress and activity with rest and relaxation

 

3. Eat right and hydrate

 

4. Say “No” and avoid putting anything more on your plate

 

5. Find healthy/constructive outlets for emotions like fear, sorrow and anger 

6. Maintain a positive outlook to the best of your ability

7. Stay engaged with other parts of your life (friends, neighbors, community, etc.)

8. Make a plan to do things that lighten and lift your heart

9. Work smarter, not harder and waste not

 

 

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A self-care checklist can be more powerful than it might look at first glance. At its core, taking good care of ourselves is about balancing rest and activity, getting in game shape to play at our life, restoring and rejuvenating our souls, and investing wisely in our best possible futures. For perhaps as long as we can remember, we may have been running around doing everything for everyone else, leaving ourselves with crumbs and leftovers. It’s time for a change.

 

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About: Dr. Ken Druck is an international authority on healthy aging and author of the new book “Raising an Aging Parent.” He has spent four decades helping people grow into the more courageous, compassionate, and resilient version of themselves by transforming adversities and losses of every kind into opportunities. Learn more at www.kendruck.com.

 

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Decisions by Robert L. Dilenschneider: An Excerpt

 

 

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Your Future Depends on Your Decisions

Sorting out our lives amidst chaos, confusion, and innumerable options is a process we all have in common. The decisions we ultimately make can affect our lives and the lives of others. It’s not always easy. In this empowering guide, an expert in business strategies shares the choices of notable, visionary decision-makers–from Harry Truman and Henry Ford to Marie Curie and Malala Yousafzai–and explains how you can apply their principles to your own personal and professional real-life scenarios.

Resolve, patience, and practical thinking–take it from these politicians, scientists, economists, inventors, entrepreneurs, theologians, activists, and commanders of war and peace. Their inspiring counsel will give you the tools you need to help change your life. Both big and small, your choices can shape the minutes, days, weeks, and years ahead. This book is the first motivating step in the right direction.

“Upgrade your daily decisions with the wisdom of two dozen renowned influencers who changed history.”
Mehmet Oz, M.D.New York Times bestselling author of You: The Owner’s Manual

“A truly inspiring book about how to become a leader. Highly recommended!!”
Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author of American Moonshot

“The best decision you will make today is to read and learn from this array of bold thinkers.”
Harvey MackayNew York Times bestselling author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive (less)

 

 

Business judgement. Making the right decision.

 

 

Excerpted from DECISIONS by Robert L. Dilenschneider. Reprinted with permission from Kensington Books. Copyright © 2020 Robert L. Dilenschneider.

 

Abraham Lincoln was known throughout his life as an extremely gifted writer and speaker. Astonishing when you remember that he had very little formal education. But in addition to immense intelligence, Lincoln had an innate sense of what to say and how to say it both beautifully and effectively. And he worked at it! 

I think that eloquence is part of strong decision-making. Writing and speaking well depend on clarity. You must know your thoughts and your facts and be aware of the needs and expectations of your audiences. You need to have a thesis statement, a clear-cut goal for what you are writing or saying. Just as with decision-making. You need to marshal all the factors that will, or might, affect what you are contemplating. 

Beyond his carefully crafted speeches and letters, Lincoln used story-telling (or yarn-spinning) to marvelous effect. He could be ribald, humorous, or wickedly funny, homespun, serious—whatever it took to disarm his audience while he made a point or performed what research professionals have come to call “soft soundings.” You can do the same.

Confidence is an overlooked factor in effective decision-making. I don’t mean cockiness. I mean the personal strength that is rooted in knowledge, experience, and purpose. 

Lincoln may have “freed the slaves,” but America continues to be haunted by the Civil War and what some have called our “original sin” of slavery. 

Vicious disagreements about statues of Confederate generals, for example, are place-holders for larger issues of identity, history, racism, and inequity. Think about lynchings, beatings, murders, and assassinations, about lunch counters and city buses, about violence in minority communities, voter suppression, restricted real estate listings, affirmative action, integration, the 2008 Presidential election—and so much more. 

Civil rights activism remains its own war. And theologically, the nature of original sin is that it is forgiven and removed but its effects remain. Does this gloomy assessment mean that Lincoln’s decision about the Emancipation Proclamation was wrong or ineffectual? This is something that all of us worry about as we make decisions large and small.

 

My answer is a resounding No. Abraham Lincoln’s decision was of the highest moral order. It was right, in the true sense of that word. It was good. The changes it caused in America have become worldwide. 

I’ll close by suggesting a visit to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. If you’ve been there before, you’ll know why. If this would be your first visit, you have much to look forward to. Picture yourself standing there, dwarfed and humble, as you gaze up at the magnificent and massive statue of a brooding, seated Lincoln. What is he pondering? Surrounded by the shadowing, sheltering, and towering classical columns of the Memorial edifice, resolve to make your own decisions—right ones and good ones. They will change your world.

This greatest of American presidents offers us these lessons:

  1. Be patient in all you do. 
  2. Always seek clarity in your actions. 
  3. Do not accept immorality. Work to change the culture. 
  4. Work to understand when the right time to act might be. And gather supporters, especially if you are making a controversial decision. 
  5. Always be humble. 
  6. When possible use stories and illustrations to make your point.  
  7. Timing is everything.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robert L. Dilenschneider has hired more than 3,000 successful professionals, and advised thousands more. He is founder of The Dilenschneider Group, a corporate strategic counseling and public relations firm based in New York City. Formerly president and CEO of Hill & Knowlton, he is the author of the bestselling books Power and Influence, A Briefing for Leaders, On Power and newly released Decisions: Practical Advice from 23 Men and Women Who Shaped the World. For more information, please visit https://robertldilenschneider.com

 

 

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Book Recommendations with Regan from Peruse Project

 

IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY

 

 

Vintage Red Television

 

 

 

 

Exciting August Book Haul with Regan from Peruse Project

 

 

 

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Instagram: Peruse Project

 

 

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Book Recommendations with Regan from Peruse Project

 

IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY

 

 

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Book Recommendations with Peruse Project

 

 

 

 

Regan @peruseproject

 

 

 

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Guest Post: She’s So Cold by Donald E. McInnis

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Think this couldn’t happen to your family? Think again.

In the winter of January 1998, the small town of Escondido, California, was horrified when the body of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe was found brutally murdered in her own bedroom. The police used psychological manipulation to force three 14-year-old boys to falsely confess to the murder. She’s So Cold traces the twists and turns of a real-life mystery which eventually changed the lives of fifteen people and cost a district attorney his job.

To protect children and teens from such manipulation in the future, McInnis proposes a new Children’s Miranda Rights Warning and a Bill of Rights for Children who are being questioned as suspects. These proposals must be adopted in order to prevent minors from making false confessions that could destroy their futures.

She’s So Cold is the story of a broken system. A system stacked against families and, most of all, against children.

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THE CROWE MURDER CASE


by Donald E. McInnis
Author of She’s So Cold: Murder, Accusations and the System that Devastated a Family

When a police investigation goes wrong,

it is a travesty for all

 

As one of the defense attorneys in the Crowe murder case, what enrages me most about the botched investigation into the brutal death of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe is that her father, Steven, and mother, Cheryl, never got the closure of knowing that the real killer had been caught, convicted, and sentenced to prison. To make matters worse, these parents had to suffer through the horror of their 14-year-old son being prosecuted for Stephanie’s murder.

The incredibly frustrating fact is that the Escondido detectives had all the evidence they needed to arrest the man whom a jury would eventually convict for killing the little girl. Instead, they followed the hunch of a uniformed officer who felt Michael was not showing enough grief over the loss of his sister.

What evidence did the detectives overlook? On the night of the stabbing of young Stephanie Crowe, a vagrant named Richard Tuite was seen in the neighborhood peering through windows, knocking on doors, and walking into homes looking for a young woman named Tracy – a young woman who looked like Stephanie.

The day after the discovery of Stephanie’s body, the police had already decided that the murder was the result of a well-thought-out plan, since they had found no evidence at the murder scene that could lead them to the murderer. The police therefore expanded their initial investigation and went looking for the 28-year-old vagrant. Tuite was found in a laundromat several miles away from the Crowes’ home. The patrol officer, following protocol, took Tuite to the police station, where the suspect was stripped of his clothes, photographed, interviewed, and given new clothing; his clothing was bagged and catalogued. In the investigating officer’s opinion, however, Tuite was mentally incapable of such a “sophisticated” murder, so he was released.

Tuite’s clothing, along with clothing of the Crowe family, was examined by the local crime lab. No physical evidence was found connecting anyone to the murder. But instead of sending the clothing on to another lab for advanced DNA testing, the evidence was stored at the police station.

Since the police had no other leads, they turned to 14-year-old Michael Crowe. After two days of interrogation, they got a confession. Two friends of Michael’s, 14-year-old Joshua Treadway and 15-year-old Aaron Houser, were also interrogated, and incriminating statements were obtained. The Escondido police had their man, or at least their boys. Case closed.

Until a year after the murder, when the defense attorneys for the three boys demanded further DNA testing, and Tuite’s clothing was sent to an advanced lab in Berkeley, California. By now, Joshua Treadway’s trial was starting. Then came the news that shocked everyone: Tuite’s clothing had splatters of Stephanie’s blood on it. All charges against the boys were dropped and Tuite was charged for Stephanie’s murder. 

Very few of us know what it is like to lose a child, much less by the supposed hand of your own son, who you know in your heart could not have committed such a horrible act. Steven and Cheryl had to live with this terrible reality simply because the police proceeded on a hunch and saw no need to send Tuite’s clothing for further DNA testing. 

But the dismissal of charges against Michael was not the end of the Crowe family’s suffering. After two jury trials for murder and nearly 12 years after Stephanie’s death, Richard Tuite was found not guilty of the murder, due in part to how the police handled the evidence. Not only did the one person the Crowes felt could have murdered Stephanie go free, but now this family faced the worst possible ending to their daughter’s death — no closure. One can’t image the continuing pain the Crowe family has had to live with these last 20 years.

It is hoped my book She’s So Cold, a true and accurate telling of the failed police investigation, once and for all sets the story straight as to why Michael and his friend were maliciously interrogated and prosecuted for a crime they did not commit. Their story of what happens when the police interrogate a child is a warning to every parent: Do not let this happen to your child.

In an effort to prevent such catastrophes in the future, I propose new Miranda rights warnings specifically worded so children can better understand their constitutional rights, and a Bill of Rights for Children for when they are being investigated by police. These new protections are in the Appendix to She’s So Cold. We need not repeat the painful agony that the Crowe family continues to live with to this very day.

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Donald E. McInnis is the author of She’s So Cold: Murder, Accusations and the System that Devastated a Family. He is a California criminal defense attorney, and he represented one of the three accused boys, Aaron Houser, in the Stephanie Crowe murder case. Over the span of his 40-year legal career, Mr. McInnis has worked alternately for the prosecution and for the defense, having served as a deputy district attorney for two California counties and as a deputy public defender for one California county during his early professional years. For more information, please visit https://donaldmcinnis.com

 

 

 

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Interview with Neel Mullick Author of Dark Blossom

Dark Blossom

 

 

Sam returns home from a business trip a day before his son’s thirteenth birthday and is looking forward to being with his family, when his world is cruelly shattered in one fell swoop. Initially he thinks he can cope with the loss, but finally seeks the help of Cynthia, an experienced therapist, to regain his equipoise. What he does not know is that Cynthia herself is trying to cope with a debilitating divorce and the sinister shadow of her ex-husband over her daughter…

What happens when doctor and patient find themselves in the same sinking boat? Moreover, when they are rowing in opposite directions–one clinging to the past, and the other unable to get rid of it! In the midst of it all is Lily, Cynthia’s daughter, who harbours a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.

 

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Interview with Neel Mullick

 

Dark Blossom. I love the title of this book. Was this your first fiction book? What’s the story behind it? (No pun intended)

Thanks! To be honest, the title appeared to me in a dream. And since I’m being honest, I must also admit that I fell into writing rather serendipitously as well. Dark Blossom is indeed my first work of fiction and both the story and the characters were more or less cleaved by an imagination that had run amok at a time when I was struggling with empathy in my life.

While the characters are all very different from me and the ordeals faced by them are exaggerations of what I was going through, my innate spirit wanted to describe their experiences and interactions in a way that was entertaining for readers. This duality of finding entertainment and perhaps even levity in daily strife exists in everyone including my characters and the title from my dream captured that essence. Here’s a snippet from my book launch on that topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iodpyiw4Z7Y&t=3s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you enjoy most about storytelling?

Given how and when I fell into storytelling, I soon found writing to be an unbridled expression of empathy. First, I needed it for my characters to allow them a full and vibrant range of expression and then, for my readers to help them partake of such expression in a riveting way. So writing afforded me a double dose of empathy if you will – and it helped fill that personal void in my life too.

In retrospect though, there is one other thing about writing and storytelling that I enjoyed as much. Call me a masochist, but I fell in love with playing around with language – its syntax, semantics, and subtleties, all of it! How a word here instead of there, a moved punctuation, or a replaced synonym can affect the way people understand intellectually and perceive viscerally is all very fascinating. As a life-long learner too, I think I have fallen in love with this process of reflection followed by articulation.

 

 

Which came first idea, theme, or character?

If I were to think about just the idea and the characters, I would have to say it’s a judicious mix. In order for a story to take place, not only must the idea be important to the characters but also they must have something important to say about it. Once this scaffolding is in place, then the idea might change less and the theme is driven by its interplay with the characters, but it’s the characters that really have to evolve the most. They have to – to fight increasing stakes, win small battles, and eventually come out on top at the end of the war!

 

 

What’s your method for character creation?

Good stories take place at the intersection of personal authenticity and people’s perceptions. Ergo, good characters must be borne from a place of sincerity. If that’s not the case, then it will be difficult to convince readers. Once I am able to make this genuine empathic connection with my characters, I follow a five-step process to give them substance – Read, Research, Reflect, Rest, and Repeat. First, I read and research a lot and this includes conversations with people who might provide inspiration. Then I let it percolate by backing off completely after a period of reflection, of course. Lastly, I find myself having to go back to the start of the loop at times when I get stuck.

 

What can you tell us about Sam?

Phew! Now that’s a toughie. Let me explain. Part of the inspiration behind the novel is my belief that the solution to a rapidly fracturing world lies in peeling enough layers to discover the similarities, rather than judging on mere superficialities. And Sam’s character is supposed to catalyze readers to reflect on how we judge the motives of those around us. In fact, I have even incentivized such reflection with a contest at www.WinTrip2NY.com.

So while Sam’s loss and his tribulations are real, his characterization has been somewhat abstract. Let it suffice to say that he is an immigrant who has assimilated well and is unsure about how to cope with a very deep loss.

 

Who is Cynthia and what role does she play in the story?

Cynthia is a psychologist and she finds herself alone with her patient and her daughter in a sinking boat. Moreover, they all seem to be rowing away from one another. While trying to heal from a debilitating divorce, Cynthia is helping her patient, Sam, who is struggling with the worst kind of loss there is. She is also trying to mend her relationship with her daughter, Lily, who is not only fighting her own demons but also holding on to a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.

 

 

What was your experience writing the point of view?

From the very beginning, I wanted to narrate the story from Cynthia’s perspective. This was daunting since I am neither a woman psychologist nor do I share a cultural background with her. So I knew I was trying to fill shoes much larger than my own and I had to both step out of my comfort zone and dig deep. And I’d like to believe that I have grown much as a person because of it. So not only was the process personally gratifying but also her perspective turned out to be most relevant for the plot.

 

 

Was it easy writing about flawed characters? 

Aren’t we all?! But yes, confronting these flaws, let alone embracing or articulating them, is never easy. Fortunately, I strongly believe that such duality exists in all of us and I’m quite comfortable with both my flaws and my struggles with them. Even though writing about these flaws in characters that are different from me wasn’t easy, the fact that I enjoyed this process helped me immensely. Now, as to whether or not I was able to do justice to such expression – I think I’ll let readers be the judge of that.

 

 

What’s next for you?

I have only recently started researching and outlining my next novel. It’s also going to be narrated from the perspective of a young woman, Abigail, who has just started her first job as a nanny at a prominent bureaucrat’s home. The story starts with her charge, six-year-old Stewart, fighting for his life in the pool. And Abigail soon discovers that June, the boy’s older sister, may have been the one who pushed him in.

 

 

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Neel Mullick is the author of Dark Blossom. The Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family-office technology company, Mullick is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and INSEAD. He mentors female entrepreneurs through the Cherie Blaire Foundation for Women, is involved in raising a generation of digital and socially aware leaders with Nigeria’s Steering for Greatness Foundation, supports improvement in the quality of life of domestic workers through Peru’s Emprendedoras del Hogar, and works with IIMPACT in India to help break the cycle of illiteracy plaguing young girls from socially and economically impoverished communities. Dark Blossom is his first novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Could Go Wrong: Interview with Author Brett Grayson

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There comes a time when couples decide to create and raise tiny helpless human beings, hoping they one day become non-tiny and less helpless.

This is one family’s journey through ten months of pregnancy (isn’t it supposed to be nine months?), the first years of parental cluelessness, the terrible twos, threenagers, and the few years that follow when they begin to learn about a world that’s even crazier than they are.

Join the author and his wife as they navigate those ten months, from the always romantic conception, to her water breaking in the most unique way possible. Then watch them attempt parenthood, from the seemingly simple routine of dressing their kids for school, to the complex experience of teaching them to use public bathrooms.

It’s mostly a breeze…

No it isn’t. Pre and postnatal complications; battles with their own mental health; and those rapidly growing and irrational miniature versions of themselves. Some of it is devastating. Much of it is overwhelming. All of it challenges them to maintain their sense of humor.

And when they attempted to go on an airplane as a family… that was a sh*tshow.

 

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An interview with Brett Grayson

author of What Could Go Wrong? My Mostly Comedic Journey Through Marriage, Parenting and Depression

Why did you decide to write What Could Go Wrong?

Well, deep down it’s probably because I’m a narcissist. Anyone who writes about their life and expects others to care has to be a little self-absorbed and potentially delusional. 

On a practical level, I am a person who struggles to get out of bed each morning unless there’s something for me to shoot for. This book gave me a purpose that was lacking in my life for so many years.

The book is full of hilarious parenting anecdotes. Can you share your favorite story?

That’s like picking my favorite dog. I should be reticent to do so, but unlike with my kids, my dogs don’t understand it anyway, so I have no problem choosing a favorite.

And speaking of dogs, my favorite story from the book is probably the night my wife Lauren’s water broke in a bizarre way which related to my dogs. So I used to cook our dogs their dinner because when you don’t have children yet, you have too much time on your hands and do insane things like cook for your dogs. Well, one night I made salmon and the smell permeated the air in our tiny apartment and led to Lauren getting nauseous and facilitated her water breaking.

You are very honest in describing the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenthood, including tough times your family has had. How does your wife, Lauren, and the other people in your life feel about this honesty? Has writing the book changed any of your relationships?

With Lauren, no. The book wouldn’t have been possible without her being on board from the start. She knew it would be revealing and signed off on it, which is freaking amazing as she’s more naked in the book than I am. (Figuratively naked, I mean. It’s not a porn book.) I’m not sure I’m a secure enough person that I would have been as understanding if she were the one writing it. But that’s why I married her. She’s better than me.

My parents have been a mixed bag as they’re from a generation where you don’t share your secrets, especially anything about mental health. Slowly though, as I’ve revealed a lot through my blog, and people have responded so positively, they’ve come around.

They were also rightly concerned about my career as a lawyer being compromised by the mental health revelations. That was the driving force behind me using a pen name for the book. I can keep the two careers separate.

In the book you talk about your struggles with depression and anxiety, as well as Lauren’s postpartum depression. What has been the biggest challenge in relation to your mental health and your role as a parent?

I think being present and active in their lives is a daily challenge. On one hand, I’m better around them because they don’t know about my struggles and also because being with them gives me meaning and forces me to be present. On the other hand, they are difficult to handle for long periods of time. They always require attention and sometimes I have a hard time taking care of others when I’m so caught in my own head. They also don’t listen and require patience, which I don’t always have.

It’s hard to admit, but at times I fight the urge to want to get away from them, and at night to rush them to bed. Life is easier to handle when you don’t have to care for others. But paradoxically life is also meaningless if you’re not helping others. And I know this and love them so much and try to remind myself to appreciate my time with them rather than rush through it.

How has becoming a parent changed your relationship with Lauren?

I go into this a lot in the book and I hope my honesty on it will be relatable. Because I’m not sure that becoming parents has necessarily been a good thing for my marriage. Yes, it creates meaning and gives you motivation to work through your problems for the sake of the kids. But kids are also a burden on a marriage in many ways. You don’t get to spend a lot of quality time alone, which is something I miss and has caused us to drift apart at times. Kids also have led to a lot of fighting for us on the issue of how to raise them. Lauren and I just disagree a lot about parenting decisions.

In the book you talk about your son’s diagnosis of CLOVES syndrome. How has this diagnosis impacted your family, and how is he doing today?

He has a big surgery coming up in the first half of 2019. It’s the first big one, though likely not the last. At four-years-old, he’s still in the dark about all of it. Which is both good and bad. On a social level, we’re worried about how he’s going to do once other kids start commenting on his different appearance. But we’re not there yet.

In terms of its effect on us as a family, it’s actually brought Lauren and I closer together. While we have our challenges as I’ve elaborated in the prior answer, experiencing this with our son together is a great emotional equalizer for us. Now I’d rather find a different equalizer, but I can’t make that trade. So experiencing all this with Lauren-the trips to Boston, the dozens of doctors’ appointments-are an experience that we share and few others can understand.

What advice would you give new fathers and fathers-to-be?

  1. Don’t cook salmon when your wife is about to burst.
  2. This may slightly ridiculous – but actually sit down and talk to your wife ahead of time about

how you intend to parent. And write it down. For example, Are you going to let your baby cry or are you going to run into their room the second they cry? It seems unimportant until that moment when you start disagreeing while it’s happening.

What’s next for you?

I intend to keep writing about the absurdities and meaningful parts of my experience as a parent. I’m not sure I have another book in me for a while on this topic, as this book covered a six-year period in our lives. I’m sure I’ll be sharing my story in some form, though.

 

I’d also like to write a bit more about mental health and continue to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of anxiety and depression. It’s just so prevalent in our society. I’m not sure I really understood the extent of it until I started blogging about my own struggles. More than anything I’ve written about, my blogs on mental health have garnered the biggest response.

Where can we learn more about What Could Go Wrong?

 

Go to Amazon and buy the book. Half the money is going to support a charity for our son’s condition (CLOVES Syndrome). So you’re being a good person regardless.

And I think you’ll enjoy the book. Worst case scenario – it winds up on that place on the back of your toilet that I don’t know the name of.

 

Website | Bio | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

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Thanks Travis!

 

 

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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