“I have long awaited this second book, Cold Light, after the way Fallen ended. I was NOT disappointed!” writes Jennifer in this impassioned review. Check it out!
Emma’s daughter has been kidnapped by a rogue group and she goes on a suicide mission to get her back. I was very excited to be reunited with a few of the cast from Fallen and am still in anxious need of book three now to see how this all wraps up.
Emma is one strong and determined woman but Arthur is just as determined. I am torn on which way I want Emma to go because with the one man her husband she has the strong history and children but she shares something with Arthur that I dont think she and her husband ever really had or ever will.
I can’t say much more without a spoiler comment but I will say I didn’t really like the way Cold Light ended. I would not want to be in Emma’s shoes and have to make the choices she is being forced to but it’s time…. there can be only one victor in this war.
And to Jennifer and other readers who are asking for Book 3: it’s coming!
Of late I listen to an audiobook: Paramahansa Yogananda on the Bhagavad Gita, as explained by his disciple, Swami Kriyananda. The Gita is one of the great scriptures of enlightenment, a conversation between Krishna the God of Love and Arjuna the universal devotee, right at the moment when Arjuna beholds a civil war in which he is supposed to fight.
“Brother against brother, cousin against cousin, how can I fight in this terrible battle?” Arjuna asks, his heart breaking. Krishna has an answer, and Yes, Arjuna is supposed to fight. This life is a play of shadows, rebirth is a certainty, consciousness is evolving, at one level, we must live out our dharma.
I’m not sure I totally agree with Krishna’s answer. One scripture or another is always in hand, and I always debate with it in my head. I am on a journey and I don’t have answers, I have questions, and boy oh boy, do I have a lot of opinions. Just because some holy person centuries ago wrote something doesn’t mean I have to buy it. Used car salesmen, the lot of them. Prophets, scribes, proselytizers, and disciples, all selling their brand of God. As if God could be a brand. Or defined by any one person, one path, or one book.
My husband Sabin finally forbade me to read the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying at bedtime, because it riled me up. I’d try to draw him into a debate and then sleep restlessly, arguing in my dreams. But I don’t think we’re supposed to take any gospel literally. It’s my opinion that we’re supposed to struggle with the words of God, all of us like Jacob wrestling the Angel of God. Finally, a blessing is bestowed.
Another of the great scriptures that has a longtime spot on my nightstand is The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. I like Patanjali’s work because it’s methodical. He gives a practical curriculum for advancing in consciousness. I want to get there from here–don’t ask me where ‘here’ and ‘there’ are, what progress consists of, or how it is measured. I’ll send a postcard when I’ve arrived. Meantime, there are these paths. Ahimsa, nonviolence, is one of the crucial ones.
For the last few years I’ve undertaken ahimsa in my language. Specifically, refraining from the violence of dishonesty. Honesty comes easily to me, but sometimes too bluntly. I tend not to tell lies. But I can tell truths with a sharp edge. So the deeper, more textured layers of this issue fascinate me, eg, the small dishonesties that pass for social courtesy. Because kindness matters, too. Kindness is the crux.
How do I tell a scrupulous truth without hurting someone’s feelings? For example, how do I refrain from saying that a haircut or dress is flattering, when it’s butt ugly? How do I negotiate my simultaneous responsibilities to the truth and to kindness?
Which put me in a sticky situation recently, when I visited with someone who I knew had googled me. This person asked me what I did, as if it were unknown. Well, the spouse had googled me. Marriage being what it is, I assume the spouse had shared information about me.
There is a crude but effective invisible hit counter on my website. It gives useful stats about visitors to my site: how many page loads, what state or country. Usually the information is pretty anonymous. I can tell that someone using Verizon internet in New York state was on my site, for example. It’s great fun to see hits from distant countries.
Sometimes a large company or institution names their ISP network after themselves, so the name of that institution or company appears. For a while, my middle daughter had my website set as her default Safari page on her macbook. I knew when she took her computer to school and played on it, because a user on her school’s network would pop up on my counter.
The day before the visit with my new acquaintance, who is a lovely person, my counter showed the name of the company where the spouse works. Now, this isn’t a small company; it took me a while to figure out who at that company might have been interested in me. But it’s not that hard. I went to the company’s website and took a look at the page on their employees. One of the names matched a name on a list of people I’d been given, some of whom I’d also googled.
So, out of truthfulness and kindness, what am I supposed to do when someone pretends they know nothing about me, but there’s an indication that they’ve googled me?
In this instance, surprised, I opted to play dumb. I said that I was an author. And then eventually the conversation came around to spouses, and since I’d taken that first step into the shadows, I asked what the spouse did. As if I didn’t know. It was distressing to be in this position, holding hidden information like a steaming potato. I felt like a liar. That’s not who I want to be.
But if I admit to googling, do I seem like a stalker? If I admit to googling and the other person doesn’t, do I position them as dishonest, which is unkind? If I mention that I know that they’ve been on my website, is that a violation of privacy, another unkindness?
What are the rules of kindness and honesty in the world of immediate information via google and statcounters? What would Krishna or Jacob’s Angel have to say about the virtual world?
The day after that visit, I had a business meeting with a married couple who told me straight out, up-front, no BS that they’d googled me, been on my website, and watched the video clip. It was a great relief. It made me like and trust them. It seemed to me that the universe had sent me this latter experience as a foil to the prior one, to illustrate for me the way that I was supposed to follow. The Universe works that way, with care and great intelligence, for seekers and strugglers.
From now on, I’ll confess straightaway to my nefarious googling and statcounter information. Hopefully I’ll be able to do it with courtesy and tact. That’s my growing point.
There’s a particular joy in getting engrossed in a really great novel. I felt it for the first time when I was 6 years old. At that age, I progressed in a few months from reading “See Spot Run” to reading ‘big books,’ that is, chapter books for much older kids. My rapid evolution wasn’t due to anything special about my intelligence, alas. It was due to the joy…the delight and pleasure…of being grabbed by a well-told story.
That joy inspired me with a longing: the longing to write novels. It’s that joy and that longing that have led me through my life. Literally. I came from a family where no one had gone to college in generations, and I went to Yale at 17 because I was so motivated by the joy and the longing intrinsic to reading and writing.
I still read continuously. I also read indiscriminately. It’s all market research. Unfortunately, so much popular fiction inspires only boredom and the same kind of icky self-loathing you get after eating a Big Mac and a shake, or a Twinkie.
I say it regularly: there are good reasons why the legacy publishers are foundering. The poorly written, gimmicky popular books, and the unlikeable protagonists, faux depth, poseur angst, and, well, general self-important silliness of that which has been anointed as “literature,” are among the reasons.
But there are great writers writing great fiction: Sue Grafton. Greg Iles. Richard North Patterson, when his work isn’t too self-reflective and self-congratulatory.
Then there is Daniel Silva. I opened The English Girl yesterday and by the middle of the first chapter, all that juicy joy and longing had erupted within me. This reader was delightedly and gratefully in the hands of a Master.
The English Girl is beautifully written, line for line. It’s a pleasure to read on the level of appreciating well-crafted prose. Silva has a fine ear for music in the language, and his diction is thoughtful and often quite lovely.
Best of all, this novel works superbly as a story. It sets out the stakes right from the beginning, and then the screws tighten, and the suspense builds. The characters are three dimensional, unique, and unexpected. They don’t quite ever get what they want. Gabriel Allon, the wry and likable art restorer-spy, wants peace. I doubt he’ll ever get it.
Remember: those are two of my rules for writing novels: One, story is how your protagonist does NOT get what he or she wants, and two, what are the stakes?
So I recommend The English Girl. It’s an exciting five star read. It’s engrossing. It makes you think and it makes you care. It’s fun!
Disclaimer: clicking on the links above takes you to Amazon via my affiliate link.
This rich review site gave FALLEN a “Lovely Rose” rating…
Here are a few quotes:
“Review: Fallen by Traci L. Slatton is a book unlike any other that you have read. It will keep you at the edge of your seat and unable to pry your hands and eyes away!…
FALLEN had me on an emotional roller coaster at times – warming my heart, bringing tears to my eyes, heart thundering in suspense and unease as well as the yearning of heat and passion simmering over me. Traci L. Slatton has an excellent story telling ability….
Catch the review here.
Yoga Teacher Training
A few months ago, a long time friend came for dinner. She’s an American living elsewhere. She’s brilliant and amazing and full of knowledge, an expert in her field.
But she has forgotten how to listen.
She talked over my husband and me and couldn’t hear any of our ideas or opinions. Now, this lovely lady is a wonderful person in a thousand ways. She’s a repository of information about the fascinating field of the esoteric, because she has studied metaphysics for decades. Her whole life, really. But there was this thing missing from the way she related to us and it was receptiveness. Her vast knowledge has become a bulwark through which no one else’s thoughts and experiences could penetrate.
That dinner made a big impression on me. I don’t want to be like that: ossified behind my own learning. I want to be open and flexible and receptive. I want to hear other modes of thought, other people, even when I have education and experience that contradicts what they think. Even when it’s hard to listen, which it can be, because I’m an opinionated person with a great deal of education.
I thought of this dinner when I signed up for Yoga Teacher Training at Three Sisters Yoga; as the body goes, so goes the mind. A flexible, open body will yield a flexible, open mind. I was also thinking of the next three decades of my life. I don’t want to teach yoga but I do want to invest in the training to nourish my body and to create flexibility, strength, and stamina for the next thirty years.
The program at Three Sisters Yoga is meticulously thought out and the teachers are terrific: warm, engaged, present. But already I have encountered opposition to my own internalized systems of thought. Because Yoga considers itself a Science, and I studied and used a different system that also considers itself a science. I studied Healing Science for 4 years at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing (BBSH). I had a practice as a healer and saw clients for a decade.
The BBSH was a pivotal, seminal experience for me. It is integral to who I am as a human being and to my writing. Most of my characters are healers in one way or another.
This thing about wholeness haunts me.
I seldom speak of the BBSH now. When I was at the school and for years after I graduated, I went around talking about it a lot. It was amazing: there existed other people like me who were attuned to the subtle worlds! Who perceived the subtle worlds! I was newly out of the closet as an energy sensitive and exulting in the liberation.
But I got tired of head-blind non-healers projecting weirdness onto me–as if it isn’t our birthright as souls taking on flesh to see, hear, feel those other, primary realms.
Also, there’s a lot of acting out at the school. The BBSH doesn’t always act in integrity. Graduates and teachers of the BBSH don’t always act in integrity. It was upsetting to me that when someone questioned the school, the school’s response was to squash that person and to decree, “You’re in resistance.” Translation: you’re bad.
There was a point at which almost all of the teachers with open hearts were either fired or chased out of the school. I did not respect that.
The founder of the school Barbara Brennan sued people over her healing techniques, an action which lacked integrity. In the field of science, scientists throughout history have built upon one another–that’s what leads to progress, to the slow and meticulous accumulation of scientific knowledge. Newton didn’t try to own gravity. But Barbara wanted to own her healing techniques, some of which had been developed by other people. She had a paranoid streak which she never owned but which was clearly visible to anyone not submerged in the cult of her personality.
Nor has the BBSH been open and honest about what’s going on now with Barbara: she’s institutionalized with Alzheimer’s. Students and graduates deserve to know this. Barbara Brennan isn’t just a private figure; she’s also a public figure. She put herself on the world stage with schools in Europe and Japan. She has forfeited some of her right to secrecy.
I had a lot of problems with the conduct of Barbara and the BBSH. Nonetheless, I remain grateful to both. Barbara’s vision was extraordinary, both her high sense perception and her larger sense of the possibilities for healing techniques in the world. The BBSH was a left brain mystery school. It was a gift and a blessing for someone like me, who has a good working intellect as well as access to the subtle realms.
Barbara herself was extraordinary as a human being. Before enrolling in the school, I attended a lecture she gave. I walked up to her to have her sign my program, and as I approached her, my energy bumped up. She had that affect on me. She smiled at me and her eyes got dreamy as she gazed at me. She wrote, “Traci, Keep letting out your love, beauty, and sweetness.”
In my sophomore year at her school, Barbara read my field in front of the class. She said, “One day everyone will know that you have a secret, private inner world full of butterflies.”
As someone who has spent a lifetime with a secret, private inner world full of butterflies, I was shaken, startled, and freed to have her see me and validate me.
I owe Barbara a debt of gratitude. Also, I used BBSH healing techniques effectively in my practice.
This circles back to Yoga Teacher Training and my desire to remain open and flexible because already some of the Yoga precepts that are taken as “true science” butt up against my training and experience as a healer.
Can I stay open and flexible and allow divergent schools of thought to live in me simultaneously? It will be a challenge. Of course, it’s only fun if it’s a challenge–and I love to have fun.
The Doctor As Entrepreneur
Medical technology is changing every day, advancing at an unprecedented rate. Inventions like contact lens that measure blood sugar, and other wearable technologies, are in the works. Within a decade, it’s likely that people will be able to assemble health information easily, without the need for finger pricks or trips to the doctor’s office.
Some weeks ago, author and medical technologist Robin Farmanfarmaian was a guest on my BlogTalkRadio show, Independent Artists & Thinkers. Farmanfarmaian, who works with silicon valley biotech and medical technology start-ups, talked about her book The Patient As CEO: How Technology Empowers the Healthcare Consumer. She commented on the speed of the medical technology revolution and how difficult it is for doctors to keep track of new developments. The patient, she advises, must see himself or herself as the head of a team of healthcare professionals who work together to help the patient achieve optimal health.
This revolution is occurring at the same time that managed health care is making it harder for physicians to make a good living at a profession for which they have studied and specialized for a decade or longer, while also undertaking huge student loans. Indeed, I worry about my stepdaughter in medical school. Will she be forced to see twenty-two patients per hour just to pay back her student loans? Will her options be limited by checklist medicine and by debt?
In the face of the medical technology revolution and ever more rigid and punitive insurance regulations, doctors do have their own ingenuity to fall back on. I was reminded of this recently when my friend dermatologist Debra Jaliman told me about new products that she herself developed, Sea Radiance skin care products.
Dr. Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has been a resource for me for more than twenty years. She’s always on the cutting edge of dermatological products and techniques. I reviewed her book Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist because I found it useful, informative, and well-written.
Cosmetic dermatology may not be in the same category as, say, paint-on ink that gauges blood pressure, but for women like me who care about looking their best, it matters. Life deals us all so many bad cards that when I can do something positive for myself, I seize the opportunity.
So I was intrigued when Dr. Jaliman announced her new cleanser that moisturizes as it cleanses and her new eye cream, both made from sea flora, organic flower essences, and advanced dermatological formulas. I wanted to know what the products could do for me. Thinking about my stepdaughter’s future in medicine, and about Farmanfarmaian’s appearance on my BlogTalkRadio show, I also wanted to know what had prompted Jaliman to develop them and how she had done so.
“I’ve been working with big companies for so many years, and I always had in mind that I’d create my own products,” Jaliman told me. She’s consulted with companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, SKII, Lierac, and others, helping them develop products. “I don’t sign the standard non-compete clause, when I work with them.”
“But why these products, now?” I persisted.
“I listen to my patients. They want immediate results around their eyes,” Jaliman said. “And over the years in my practice, I hear the same complaints, especially from people with sensitive skin or adult acne. The usual cleansers dry them out or provoke redness; after many people wash their face, their skin feels tight and dry. My goal in developing gentle cleanser was to create a product that took off all the dirt and impurities but left the skin feeling hydrated.”
She also commented that patients would stand in her office and read labels, and some dismissed certain products because of their ingredients. So Jaliman sought out the purest ingredients–and a lab that would work with her to create the finest, most effective products.
“Not all labs wanted to do this because it’s incredibly difficult,” she admitted. “It was no easy goal. I made many different formulas.” She noted that her products have very low numbers on the Environmental Working Group‘s list. Her eye cream and cleanser are formulated without parabens, phthalates, sulfates, gluten, and synthetic dyes and fragrances.
She explained that while the big corporations have the advantage of big budgets for research and development and marketing and promotion, she has an advantage in immediacy of feedback. “I have thousands of patients that I could give the product to. They tested it for me and gave me honest feedback. We then changed the product many times over the course of the year and a half of development.”
Jaliman was a stickler for maintaining her products’ efficacy. Air inactivates antioxidants, so she sought out a high tech tube that wouldn’t allow air in for dispensing the eye cream. Before launching Sea Radiance, she had a beautiful and informational website built. The consummate marketer, she included the new products in a gift bag for stars at the Academy Awards.
She handed me samples so I could try them for myself. I felt so good about the purity of the products that I shared the cleanser with my 11 year old daughter. She left for school saying, “My face feels so good, mommy!” It’s a sentiment I’m happy to echo: my skin feels softer since using Sea Radiance cleanser, and my crow’s feet are smoother with the eye cream.
I’m also happy to see such positive, utilitarian results from Dr. Jaliman’s entrepreneurial efforts. The medical technology revolution doesn’t just benefit consumers–it also, with some responsiveness and inventiveness on their part, potentially benefits doctors.