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The Circle, 3rd book in the Wallis Jones series, due out in early 2015.

It seems like a human being is a deep, narrow pool of water that is so dense, it’s impossible to see to the very bottom. But there at the bottom is where all the origins of the story of my life are swimming and playing, and teeming with energy.

Every thought, idea and most of all, belief that we’ve taken in as truth and then forgotten that there was ever a time when we didn’t know it, is buried down there in the bottom of that dark pool. At some point, our behavior starts to seem like a part of us. We must have come into the world like this.

It’s an argument to give in to the fears or limitations and work with what we are, who we are and settle. We have completely forgotten that each of those beliefs is just a layer sitting on top of all of our potential.

If only we had the insight to see past it and keep trying.

I spent so much time being afraid of what I might lose and where I might end up that just seeing past all of those layers seemed like a monumental task. I had no idea where to begin and I was positive that I would not only fail, I’d die trying. It was a truth to me and my shrinking life was proof of that belief.

Fortunately, I discovered writing thrillers and through twisted plots and well-meaning characters trying to do their best, I found a voice. For me, it was as if the depths of my soul were tired of waiting for me to come to life and had found a way to be heard.

But I still pulled my punches, trying to write in a way that wouldn’t be found offensive. I’m not sure who I thought I’d offend or what I would say that would do that but I was cautious and careful and busy trying not to look like it. Even with all of that, readers wrote me saying they identified with the characters and felt like someone was finally speaking for them.

We were all speaking to each other on some level I was still not really perceiving but some amount of a message was getting through. Still, I wondered if I had enough, deep at the bottom of the well to sustain me through an entire life. I really wasn’t sure.

My answer was to create a character, Wallis Jones, who is sure of herself and her loving husband Norman, her funny, smart son, Ned, and the life she’s created. She believes everything exists in her life because of the part she played, and the hard work she devoted to all of it. Of course she is succeeding, until she finds out none of it is really true.

What if you found out that your entire family history was a lie the older generation came up with just to keep their own ambitions alive? What if you couldn’t stop the machinery that had been in power for generations and at best, could only hope to escape it or at best, learn to live peacefully within it?

Everyone in The Wallis Jones series is trying to figure out how to be happy in a complicated world, even the characters that have less than admirable traits. Everyone has the same goal but different beliefs in how the universe works and their actions bubble up from that dark place, deep down inside and guide them to think of others, or think of no one but themselves.

Wallis watched all of this unfold in a leafy suburb of Richmond, Virginia among friends who like to play Bunko, and clients at her law firm that keep making the same mistakes, asking for her help. She’s one of us, except for that big conspiracy.

That’s exactly how I walked around for years. I’m okay, I think, except for this big conspiracy that starts from within me and says, you may not be up to the task.

I’ve started to find the beginning of a solution that involves faith and courage and a willingness to keep moving forward. I’m just going to let my story unfold in the series, which seems somehow right at home in a thriller. The first two books are out now, The List and The Keeper, and The Circle will be out early next year. More will be revealed.




It was the cavalry that needed rescuing that blistering summer afternoon 124 years ago.

Martha Note: Custer’s Mystery is brought to you from History’s Mysteries – Enjoy!


George Armstrong Custer, the young Civil War hero turned Indian fighter, was trapped on a desolate ridge overlooking the Little Bighorn River in the territory of Montana. Swarms of well-armed Indians surrounded him. According to legend–and many historians–Custer rallied his vastly outnumbered troops. The desperate 7th Cavalry soldiers shot their horses to make barricades and fought ferociously as hundreds of Indians, led by famed Sioux war chief Crazy Horse, overran the ridge.

But because Custer’s men were wiped out before reinforcements arrived, a definitive account of the Little Bighorn battle has eluded historians. The only eye­witnesses were the Indians, who had conflicting recollections. And so the legend of “Custer’s last stand” began to take shape. “The image of Custer blazing away till the very end with his pistols was an icon of the American West,” says John Dorner, chief historian at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

The lack of reliable accounts has kept the details of the battle a hotly debated topic, and discoveries in recent years have challenged the heart of the legend. “The myth is the gallant, heroic last stand–that the Indians drove him to the killing field, where he fought to the last man and last bullet against overwhelming odds,” says Richard Fox, a professor of anthropology at the University of South Dakota.

Fox, who specializes in archaeology, completed an extensive battlefield survey after a 1983 wildfire and revealed evidence that cut to the core of the Custer legend. “My research says the outcome was a function of panic and fear, a very common thing in battle. There was no last stand in the gallant, heroic sense.”

Tomorrow: Part Two


Photo by Locket479

Martha Note: Today’s Little Thriller is a True Story that Crisscrosses the Globe – excerpted and edited from NPR Interview with Scott Simon and Author, Roya Hakakian.

On September 17, 1992, a political assassination took place in a Greek restaurant in Berlin. Dr. Sadegh Sharafkandi, chairman of a Kurdish political party in Iran, two of his aides and an exiled dissident were shot to death. Five men, including four Iranians, were arrested by German police. Despite pressures to keep the investigation at the lowest possible level, the German prosecutor assigned to the case began to unravel a tangle of threads that led all the way back to Iran’s supreme leader.

The assassinations go back to 1979 to the Iranian Revolution when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power. He had expected all ethnicities and minorities throughout Iran to cast aside whatever ethnic or religious or minority interests they had on behalf of his broader Pan-Islamist idea. When the Kurds did not do so, it really created the kind of hostility that lingers. There was already a pattern being established around the world, so any Iranian in exile must live in fear for his or her life.

There were victims in the United States and on to Paris and Rome and Geneva. All over the world. Therefore, not only the Iranian community was certain about who had done it, but they were all certain that in this case everyone would get away with this murder. What makes this story really astounding and beautiful is that it didn’t go the way anybody thought it would.

At the same time, especially in the 1990s, Germany had many interests in revolutionary Iran. Germany had hoped to step into the empty space that the U.S. had left behind after 1979, the seizure of the American embassy and the loss of relations between U.S. and Iran. In many ways, Germany had successfully inched its way into that space, and this case just created a major obstacle in the way of all these efforts going forward.

When Judge Kubsch not only said the men who pulled the triggers will be held responsible, but for the next several minutes, Judge Kubsch traced the history of the Kurds’ persecution since the rise of the Ayatollah to the killings at the Mykonos Restaurant. By then tension had fallen away from him and he was speaking in the same measured and deliberate voice everyone knew.

Speaking the lines the exiles had never thought he would, never believed any foreigner capable of understanding their tale well enough to compose, Judge Kubsch uttered what to their exhausted ears was a lullaby, one of vindication. The orders for the crime that took place on September 17, 1992 in Berlin came from Iran’s supreme leader.

That especially controversial for this court to hold the supreme leader of Iran responsible.

It was historic that a living, ruling leader was being implicated in crimes. And it worked, meaning that it had great repercussions inside Iran for many years to come and even to this day. It was just a mere confrontation with the truth that had never been presented in this way that really made this work.

The subsequent moral stand that the European Union took, because of the judgment, really delivered a blow to the leadership in Iran in a way that no other act has ever done. The simplicity of it, that telling the truth to power can work in a great way is just what makes it sublime.

Roya Hakakian is the author of, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace.


Bank of America Building in NYC (Photo by DVPFagan)

America is starting to see some recurring signs of a recovery, including a recent increase at last in the number of new jobs. It was still marginal and across less than half of the country but it’s a start and in the right direction.

A basic principle of economics is that momentum of any kind will continue in the same direction without some kind of intervention. In other words, the rock is no longer rolling over us.

However, the tangled mess of mortgages that crashed the country into the Great Recession still has a few good punches to the gut left before we can put it all behind us. The hairy part is that the problems that are left are still big enough to trip up the recovery and drag out the recovery further or perhaps even send us into a double-dip recession.

Officially, in case you missed it, the Great Recession was over in June of 2009. Now, we’re in the midst of the Great Recovery, which means we’ve hit bottom and are looking toward the rebuilding instead of trying to prevent further deterioration.

But the U.S. economy is still causing a few late night meetings at the White House to get us off the critical list because we’re still in a financial ICU and it’s partially because of what got us here in the first place, mortgages. The other big sticking point is not our deficit as much as other country’s crashing economies that we are tangled with in so many ways but that’s another story for another day. Mortgages are enough to cause plenty of sleepless nights among regulators and politicians all on their own.

Investors who purchased mortgage-backed securities from banks have become fed up with getting nothing for their money and are suing the banks. Bank of America has several lawsuits filed against it for at least 54 billion dollars. Originally, they had pegged the amount at 375 billion last year but after a court ruling had to scale back the numbers.

While the different lawsuits in several states are varied about the exact offenses by BOFA, there is one underlying problem that everyone agrees has aggravated the problem. Sloppy record keeping has led to confusion about who exactly has owned or still owns the mortgages. BOFA is not the only major US bank being accused of the problem. CitiGroup, Wells Fargo, PNC Financial and JP Morgan Chase are some of the others who have recently had lawsuits filed against them citing the same types of problems. [click to continue…]


Political Rally from the 1800's

There is a lie circulating in American politics right now that says Americans don’t want new taxes and will withstand just about anything else to avoid a tax increase. Cut entitlements, cut benefits, even let us slide toward default but don’t raise taxes.

It’s the new American third rail, which is becoming the biggest threat to our already fragile economic recovery.

Obama called out the new lie when he put the old standby, Social Security on the bargaining table during the recent debt-ceiling crisis. He said to the others at the table that nothing was off limits, including taxes because we all needed to compromise but no one took the bait.

Instead Boehner and company threw down the gauntlet over taxes for the wealthy and said they were willing to risk default. Unfortunately, Obama backed off, tossed away the opportunity and bowed to the pressure at the worst possible moment.

Note that even though we averted the default Standard and Poors still downgraded the U.S. rating by a notch for the first time in our history. They were pointing out something essential that is already tearing apart other once-solid foreign economies to their bare bones. If an entire economic force doesn’t share the cost of doing business it cannot remain healthy.

Besides, there aren’t enough items to cut from the federal budget in order to balance the bottom line even if it was okay to do away with most of what we’ve come to know as an American lifestyle like roads that work and clean water.

But put even that aside for a moment and ask yourself if you want to keep voting for people who say you ought to pay more from your smaller pile than they do, or for that matter their friends and largest contributors to their campaigns.

In recent polls by CBS, the NY Times and CNN, 63 percent of Americans said they can see this truth for themselves as well and are calling for the Super Committee of 12 to instill new taxes for the wealthiest amongst us, including businesses. [click to continue…]

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U.S. Capitol keeping late hours

This weekend’s news cycle was either an indication that we have become over the top self-absorbed or more accurately, a really good indicator of how much trouble the U.S. economy will be in if we falter and default on our obligations, even if it only lasts for a few days.

It’s an amazing moment in journalism when a terrorist bomb and a mass slaying of children in Norway can get trumped on U.S. news channels by brief announcements that U.S. debt talks have broken down, yet again between House Republicans led by John Boehner and President Obama.

The social mediums of Twitter, Facebook and now Google+ were faster at reporting and sharing the details of the Norway news, which may be an indicator that even TV journalism is becoming outmoded but that’s a different discussion.

Major news outlets were leading with the sound bites that nothing had been resolved and the debt ceiling was still closing in as August 2nd approaches. The White House even called an unusual Saturday morning meeting to get everyone back at the table and they came but that too ended in recriminations from both sides and no progress.

Another indicator of just how deep our troubles are that cuts in Social Security, the hallowed third rail of politics, is on the table and neither side is balking at all.

The reason the approaching debt deadline is getting so much attention is because the potential consequences will make the Great Recession look like an ice cube in comparison to the collision with this new financial iceberg.

U.S. Treasury bonds account for two-thirds of the $14 trillion debt, which is currently the largest in the world and the rest is considered Government Account securities or debts owed by the government to itself, such as Social Security payments. Treasury bonds are owned by mostly foreign investors with the biggest debt-holder being China who let us run up such a huge tab so we’d keep buying their exports. [click to continue…]


News Corp Comes Undone

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, News Corporation, which includes American TV’s Fox News, is extensive to the point of global and is coming unraveled. At first the fallout from the phone and email tampering scandal seemed like it was going to be contained to a few people getting fired across the Atlantic pond. Perhaps there would even be some collateral damage to a handful of underlings, but something different is afoot here.

So far, the head count is 10 arrested and seven resigned with the most surprising arrest so far being Rebekah Brooks, now the former CEO of News Corp.’s British newspaper arm, News International and thought to be Murdoch’s top lieutenant. Brooks went to Scotland Yard on Sunday as a cooperating witness after resigning her post on Friday only to find herself under arrest.

Laura Elston, a reporter for the British Press Association was the first non-World News employee to be arrested. Andy Coulson, former press secretary to British Prime Minister, David Cameron was also arrested, causing a few headaches for Cameron and should make Monday’s questioning of Murdoch by Parliament even more interesting, if not hopefully revealing.

This was to have been his moment in an even bigger spotlight as Murdoch and son seemed poised to capture the British media plum, BSkyB and spread the media tentacles even further. After the news of the tampering broke though and the scale became apparent Murdoch withdrew his bid. However, prior to that many had feared just what Murdoch’s domination would have meant to journalism.

The scandal has even spread to American shores with the news that families of the 9-11 tragedy may have had their personal lives illegally poked around in by News Corp staffers all in the name of tabloid journalism.

The knives are definitely out and the evidence seems to be bigger than anyone realized at first.

It’s as if there is a backlog of people who had a grievance toward News Corporation and they had to get it off their chest. News Corp’s reputation as a media bully has been whispered about very quietly for years but most people thought it was better to stay out of the way or as we’re starting to see, maybe even participate. The worm has turned.

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