kind_of_cruelResearching my seventh psychological thriller, Kind of Cruel, I realized I was psychologically illiterate. The plot of Kind of Cruel involves hypnotherapy, and I’d never been hypnotized. I was planning to go for one session, but the hypnotherapist took one look at me, decided I was a little on the screwed-up side, and signed me up for fifteen sessions of “hypnoanalysis.” I quickly became aware that, dysfunctional as I undoubtedly was, I was far from fluent in the language of psychological dysfunction. I’d fancied myself an expert, and yet I didn’t know how to recognize a textbook narcissist, or an emotional energy vampire. I didn’t know what enmeshment was, or codependency, or emotional incest syndrome, or enabling, or triangulation. So, while I wrote Kind of Cruel, I simultaneously read lots of books with titles like Healing the Shame That Binds You, Trapped in the Mirror, and Toxic Parents and How to Survive Their Hurtful Legacy. (I had to hide that last one when my nearest and dearest visited, for obvious reasons!) All of these books were fascinating, and they taught me a lot. For forty years, I realized, I’d done my best to make myself understood from a position of psychological illiteracy. I’d relied on phrases like “Whenever I’m with her, I feel as if I’m suffocating” and “There’s something kind of off about him.” Suddenly, I had a whole new vocabulary at my disposal. I could identify people who posed a psychological threat, and I often found that I knew the right word for the threat they posed.

Imagine if we could all recognize a codependent narcissist as easily as a knife. If someone runs at you holding a knife, you’re immediately aware of the danger. You have the concepts and vocabulary you need. You think, “Knife—help—imminent, hideous death!” and you run. Also, you can be confident that the police will be familiar with the language of physical threat and understand the implications of “He came at me with a knife.” Everyone knows what a knife is, means, and is called. Same with a bomb. If someone lobbed a bomb at you and you thought, “What a pretty round thingie,” and didn’t run away, you’d get blown up. That’s the situation most of us are in, psychologically. Say to the world at large, “He came at me with enmeshment,” and you’ll meet with baffled looks. Most of us don’t know what that and other such terms mean, and I’d guess that a lot of people suspect they mean nothing, that American shrinks have made them up. As a skeptical Brit, I firmly believe that this is not the case. I’ve known enmeshment in Edinburgh, codependence in Coventry, narcissism in Newbury, triangulation in Truro. Okay, I’ve altered details for the sake of alliteration, but the point is still valid. This isn’t something that applies only to people in L.A. From Dagenham to Doncaster to Dundee, diagnosis is the key. Believe me, nothing scares off a damaged and damaging psyche as quickly or efficiently as the threat of diagnosis.

I’m currently reading Healing the Child Within. Partly as research, and partly because I’m still only at kindergarten level when it comes to diagnosing psychological dysfunction. One day, I hope, I’ll be an expert!



Excerpt (32)
Excerpt Everything for Us M. Leighton (Berkley)
Excerpt Race Across the Sky Derek Sherman (Plume)
Excerpt A Tap on the Window Linwood Barclay (NAL)
Excerpt The Family Tonino Benacquista (Penguin)
Excerpt Omens Kelley Armstrong (Dutton)
Excerpt Necessary Errors Caleb Crain (Penguin)
Excerpt Undead and Unsure MaryJanice Davidson (Berkley)
Excerpt Breath of Iron Kate Cross (Signet)
Excerpt Burn   Maya Banks (Berkley)
Excerpt Thirteen Kelley Armstrong (Plume)
Excerpt The Wicked Girls Alex Marwood (Penguin)
Excerpt Demian Hermann Hesse (Penguin)
Excerpt The Dominant Tara Sue Me  (NAL)
Excerpt Maggie’s Man Lisa Gardner  (Signet)
Excerpt Codex Born Jim C. Hines (DAW)
Excerpt Compound Fractures Stephen White (Dutton)
Excerpt Hotshot Julie Garwood (Dutton)
Excerpt A Dangerous Fiction Barbara Rogan (Viking)
Excerpt The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic Emily Croy Barker (Pamela Dorman Books)
Excerpt Breakthrough David C.M. Carter (Tarcher)
Excerpt Emperor of ThornsMark Lawrence (Ace )
Excerpt Magic Rises   Ilona Andrews (Ace)
Excerpt Heaven’s Fall David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt (Ace)
Excerpt Pile of Bones Bailey Cunningham (Ace)
Excerpt The Artist’s Way for Parents Julia Cameron (Tarcher)
Excerpt Bait J. Kent Messum (Plume)
Excerpt Headhunters on My Doorstep J. Maarten Troost (Gotham)
Excerpt The Gallery of Vanished Husbands Natasha Solomons (Plume)
Excerpt The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)
Excerpt Kind of Cruel Sophie Hannah (Putnam)
Excerpt The Kill List Frederick Forsyth (Putnam)
Excerpt The Good Lord Bird James McBride (Riverhead)

Reading Group Guide (3)
Reading Group Guide Letters to a Young Poet Rainer Maria Rilke (Penguin)
Reading Group Guide A Different Sun Elaine Neil Orr (Berkley)
Reading Group Guide Captains of the Sand Jorge Amado (Penguin)

Video (8)
Video Fantasy Life Matthew Berry (Riverhead)
Video Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul Clark Howard (Avery)
Video You Are Now Less Dumb David McRaney (Gotham)
Video Turn and Burn  Lorelei James (NAL)
Video Lil BUB’s Lil Book Lil BUB (Gotham)
Video Grow a Pair Larry Winget (Gotham)
Video The Asylum Simon Doonan (Blue Rider Press)
Video Everything is Connected Keri Smith (Perigee)

wicked_girlsIt’s interesting to stop and think, sometimes, about the roots of one’s work. If someone asks me where the ‘idea’ for my novel The Wicked Girls came from, it’s easy to tell the story of receiving a round-robin email calling for the death of a pair of British men who have never been forgiven for a crime committed in childhood; of emerging stunned from the cinema after seeing Heavenly Creatures for the first time; of seeing trial reports come over the wire at the newspaper where I worked, only to see almost unrecognisable stories appear in other publications; of watching a murder victim’s innocent landlord subjected to trial by tabloid as I wrote the book. But then other memories surface…

I grew up in Cotswold villages exactly like Long Barrow, where my girls’ original crime takes place: all thatched roofs and walls of golden stone and tiny medieval windows. There are scores of them, tucked away in lush green valleys, gathered round thousand-year-old churches, filled in the summer with camera-toting travellers, their eyes dark with bucolic dreams. These villages are the closest thing to the British dream: places where everyone believes that they could be happy.

The reality, of course, is quite different. Behind the Britain in Bloom contests and the jubilee hog-roasts lies a world where the class system never died out, where troubled families are as likely to be put in Coventry as helped, and where the only entertainment, if you don’t have a car, is the village Bench. The Bench can be found in every village, usually filled with a handful of sullen teenagers who fall silent when an adult walks past, a place where ‘nice’ kids are forbidden to go. The fiercest row I ever had with my mother centred around the fact that I’d been seen drinking cider on the Bench and had brought disgrace on her. Villages are like that: all judgements and pursed lips behind the mullion windows.

And every village has a Family. The one held up to all the other children as an example, the one people will cross the road to avoid. On the outskirts of my village lived the Broadhursts: a clutch of children ruled over by a bearded man who held his coat on with string. No-one had ever seen the mother. He was a farmer – well, he owned land on which he kept a collection of rusted machinery and some squealing pigs – but his main occupation seemed to be picking fights with the neighbors and threatening representatives of the local council.

We were the Posh Kids. There were plenty of us around; this was the Cotswolds after all. We spent most of our summers riding horses and occasionally dodging the odd small stone hurled from the village bench. Once I reached the age of 10 or so, the horses became a good excuse to explore one’s independence: for some reason the parents were under the impression, despite a healthy history of broken bones, that no real harm could come to us on horseback. My friends and I would spend our days ranging the countryside, swimming in the river, talking about boys. Not a bad childhood, as childhoods go, but sometimes our route took us across the Broadhursts’ land.

One afternoon in late June, when I was twelve – the crops waiting to turn and the sky high and blue – I was going to the next village to meet a friend when I arrived at Broadhurst’s barley field. The official right of way ran straight across his field, but he had planted over it so there was no sign of the path. On the far side, I could see him silhouetted against the sky, sitting on a chair atop an abandoned bus, a shotgun slung over his shoulders and supporting his draped wrists, like a character from a Mad Max movie. I pondered for a moment, then steered my horse along the hedge with the country person’s respect for crops. Broadhurst sat still and watched as I approached. When I got within speaking distance, I called a cheery country hello. He looked at me in silence.

I came closer. He stood up. Despite the heat of the day, his old woollen overcoat remained tied firmly to his body, as though it had grown to be a part of it. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ he asked.

I didn’t have an answer for this.

‘The bridlepath’s over there,’ he said, pointing at the sea of feathered barley.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I didn’t want to damage your crop.’

‘You people,’ he said, and hoisted his gun down into one hand, ‘think you can do anything. There’s a path. You’re only allowed on the path.’

‘I can’t see the path. I thought it was better if I…’

‘And now you’ve damaged my land,’ he said, and lifted his gun butt to his shoulder. My horse, Bones, shifted beneath me, snatched at a tuft of grass.

‘I don’t think I have,’ I stammered. ‘I just rode round the edge.’

Bones suddenly jumped, as though he’d seen a tiger, or a blue plastic fertiliser bag, which, as everyone knows, is the most terrifying thing one can find in the British countryside. To my left, a child my age clambered onto the roof of an Austin Healey that had been there so long its wheel-rims were sunk deep into the hardened mud. She was wearing jeans that skimmed her ankles, an old pink t-shirt so tight it squeezed the blossoming breast-buds beneath obscenely, and her hair had been cut with the kitchen scissors. She stared at me, I stared at her. A sudden cloud passed over the sun.

‘If I see you damaging my land again,’ said the farmer, still pointing his shotgun, his voice quiet and filled with menace ‘you won’t get off so easy. There’s a path. Use it.’

I apologised humbly and squeezed Bones into a trot. Rode off up the track to the main road, my face burning, as Broadhurst and his daughter stared silently at my retreating back. I never went that way again. Never told my parents, either, for fear that our freedom would be curtailed and the dead hand of parental supervision would once again clamp down. But there, lurking quietly in my memory, was my character Jade, waiting for her moment to step onto the pages of a book.

appointment_in_samarraYears ago, someone challenged a book group I was part of to see who had read the most novels on Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels list. I can’t remember if I had the top number, but I had read about half of them and was determined then to read every novel on that list. I love literary lists.

Ulysses, rightfully so, is at the top of the list. And there’s Great Gatsby. A fine novel…a little over rated and over-read…but not as much as #55’s On the Road. At #22 on this list—nestled in there between Saul Bellow and John Dos Passos—sits Appointment in Samarra, a novel I skipped over to read later for some reason. Why didn’t I consider this novel at the time? Was it the clinical sounding “Appointment” in the title? Did I assume it was a Middle East war story? Something Biblical?

I never made it through the entire list and didn’t take notice of the title again until a couple months ago, when I saw our stunning new cover for the novel. Jazz & fast cars & dancing & highballs…obviously not a Biblical story and certainly not clinical.

So I Wiki’d the book & the author John O’Hara and discovered he penned Butterfield 8, the source of one of my favorite Liz Taylor movies. “Mama, face it: I was the slut of all time.”

I knew I needed to reconsider this book.

I was sold after I read W. Somerset Maugham’s epigraph:


There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture,  now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

The novel did not disappoint.

Written about ten years after Gatsby and set in 1930, this was called the hangover generation and the novel’s plot follows the unraveling of the central male protagonist during Christmastime after he drunkenly throws a highball in the face of a “friend” at a party. One bad decision leads to another for our anti-hero and at the end of three days of excessive drinking and cloudy, hung-over damage control, things do not end well. The moral of the story? Imbibe a few less drinks; don’t throw your drink in the face of the guy who loaned you $20k; don’t sleep with the mob boss’s mistress; and don’t beat up a one-armed war veteran.

John O’Hara presents us with a colorful world filled with small town country clubs, where African-Americans and Jews are outsiders and Protestants and Catholics are in constant conflict. A world where the drinks are always flowing, along with the dipsomaniacal insults, and misfortune might have been averted had there been one less holiday highball.

- Clinton Wilson, Marketing Manager

strange_medicineBy chance I overheard someone say that medicine went absolutely nowhere for thousands of years. I thought hmmm, that’s strange.
Think about it. The Romans, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.  Indoor plumbing and the printing press and the steam engine. Playing cards, double-entry booking keeping and the Spinning Jenny.

Medicine? Zilch. Nada. Except, of course, for the four humors-blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm.

In fact, during all this time medicine did more harm than good. A reasonable argument can be made that patients of the great Hippocrates, 2,500 years ago, received better medical care than our first president, George Washington. Sick with a sore throat, he was drained of four quarts of blood by three of the finest doctors in the land. Each took more than the last, and poor George died within hours.

Medicine did, finally, get better, around 1850 or so. Doctors discovered things like anesthesia and germ theory, and, for the first time began keeping track of what they did.

Having wanted, like most authors, to build to a sizzling climax, this turn of events was most unfortunate for me and my book.  It was, however, a great boon for mankind, and something I’ve learned to live with.

These days my doctor hustles me in and out, and in the waiting room I still have to choose between Golf Illustrated and Sky and Telescope. But I figure things could be worse, lots worse…



woofatthedoorI’ve always loved wild things.

Even when I was a little girl I was fascinated by the beauty and wonder of the natural world. I blame my early upbringing in Central America. My family moved to Costa Rica when I was a few months old, so I grew up on a coffee farm in the rain forest. Such a lush vibrant setting wasn’t wasted on me.

When I was three, sitting in the backyard near a blooming bush that had attracted a swarm of swallowtail butterflies, I held my pudgy little finger up in the air. My mom asked me what I was doing. I told her I was waiting for a butterfly to land on my finger.

“Laura, sweetheart, a butterfly isn’t going to land on your finger,” she said, sorry to spoil the moment.

“Yes, it will,” I told her.  And it did.

As a young teenager in Florida, I learned there was more to nature than just delicate beauty. I spent countless hours on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. This might not sound like the most treacherous place on earth compared to the Costa Rican jungle, but when the undertow current of those calm Gulf waters claimed the life of a friend’s mother, I understood.  Nature is beautiful, but she mustn’t be underestimated.

Working at a zoo gave me another perspective. Wild things are truly wild. No matter the time spent raised by and cared for by humans, they are not ours. The animals I worked with had a depth and intelligence so different than the pets I’d grown accustomed to. I knew I could never forget that.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to write a mystery series that allows me to include domestic animals but also walks a little bit on the wild side.


Excerpt (25)
Excerpt Neptune’s Brood Charles Stross (Ace)
Excerpt Cold CopperDevon Monk (Roc)
Excerpt Storm Surge Taylor Anderson (Roc)
Excerpt The Thousand Names Django Wexler (Roc)
Excerpt My Education Susan Choi (Viking)
Excerpt The Universe in the Rearview Mirror Dave Goldberg (Dutton)
Excerpt Real Talk for Real Teachers Rafe Esquith (Viking)
Excerpt The Never List Koethi Zan (Viking)
Excerpt The Widow’s Strike Brad Taylor (Dutton)
Excerpt Blade Reforged Kelly McCullough (Ace)
Excerpt Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures Emma Straub (Riverhead)
Excerpt The Dark Road Ma Jian (Penguin Press)
Excerpt Bombshell Catherine Coulter (Putnam)
Excerpt The Warriors Tom Young (Putnam)
Excerpt The Mediterranean Caper Clive Cussler (Putnam)
Excerpt Elisha Barber E.C. Ambrose (DAW)
Excerpt Death Angel Linda Fairstein (Dutton)
Excerpt Earthbound Aprilynne Pike (Razorbill)
Excerpt Going Home A. American (Plume)
Excerpt Surviving Home A. American (Plume)
Excerpt Biting Bad Chloe Neill (NAL)
Excerpt The Cleaner of Chartres Salley Vickers (Viking)
Excerpt Return to Oakpine Ron Carlson (Viking)
Excerpt Up to Me M. Leighton (Berkley)
Excerpt Down to You M. Leighton (Berkley)

Notes on Text (1)
Notes on Text Death Angel Linda Fairstein (Dutton Adult)

Podcast (1)
Podcast A Good Birth Anne Lyerly (Avery)

Q&A (5)
Q&A The Thousand Names Django Wexler (Roc)
Q&A Headhunters on My Doorstep J. Maarten Troost (Gotham)
Q&A A Good Birth Anne Lyerly (Avery)
Q&A Handling the Truth Beth Kephart (Gotham)
Q&A Duke Terry Teachout (Gotham)

Reading Group Guide (4)
Reading Group Guide Archipelago Monique Roffey (Penguin)
Reading Group Guide The Queen’s Lover Francine du Plessix Gray (Penguin)
Reading Group Guide East of Denver Gregory Hill (Plume)
Reading Group Guide Demian Hermann Hesse (Penguin Classics)

Video (5)
Video Eve in Hollywood Amor Towles (Penguin)
Video The Family Tonino Benacquista (Penguin)
Video The Signature of All Things Elizabeth Gilbert (Viking Adult)
Video Haldol and Hyacinths Melody Moezzi (Avery)
Video The Mask Carver’s Son Alyson Richman (Berkley)

When I told a friend of mine recently that I was really looking forward to working San Diego Comic-Con for Penguin this year, she was surprised. She asked, “Why would a book publisher have a booth at a comic book convention?”

Ten years ago, some of my snootier colleagues at various publishing houses might have asked the same question. My answer has always been the same: Why would a book publisher not want to promote their products to 150,000 rabid pop culture fans with disposable income, all of whom love to read? Especially a publisher with a list as strong in science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, crime fiction and young adult fiction as Penguin’s?

Large pop culture conventions like New York Comic Con (125,000 attendees) and San Diego Comic-Con (150,000 attendees) long ago moved past the “comic book convention” label and have now become an extraordinary way for content creators across all mediums – film, television, digital, gaming, comics and books – to engage fans and promote new products. In the United States, all of the Big Six publishers and dozens of smaller ones now routinely run booths, host book and swag giveaways, and set up author signings and panels at major pop culture conventions, all in an effort to connect directly with our most valued asset: our readers.

dark_lycanThis week, Penguin’s adult marketing and publicity folk will once again team up with their geeky counterparts from Penguin’s Young Readers division to host one giant booth at San Diego Comic-Con. We’ll be giving away thousands of books, advance reading copies, postcards, buttons, posters, masks, and tote bags. And, over the course of the con, Penguin authors and staff will speak on 19 panels, and Penguin authors will meet fans at 43 separate post-panel and in-booth autographings. We’re also beyond thrilled that two of our authors are also Special Guests of Honor this year: New York marblesTimes bestselling paranormal fantasy author Christine Feehan (Dark Lycan)  and critically-acclaimed graphic novelist Ellen Forney, whose latest book Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me  is up for an Eisner Award!

So if you’re coming to San Diego Comic-Con this week, be sure to swing by the Penguin booth (#1028/1030) and say hello to our staff, meet our great authors, and pick up a LOT of free books! For a full list of all the Penguin panels and autographings, head over to (And be sure to follow the hashtag #PenguinCon for SDCC updates at the con!)

See you in San Diego!

- Colleen Lindsay

This July Fourth my family traveled to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina for a vacation. Getting there was no easy trip. We traveled during the astrological period called Mercury Retrograde: a thrice-yearly phase when the planet Mercury appears to move backwards – and travel, communication, and commerce (all things associated with the ancient god Mercury) are thought to go awry. And so they did. But there were deeper lessons in store.

We began our travels just a few days after the current cycle began on June 26 (it ends July 20). As astrological tradition holds, it is an especially ill-fated time for travel. True to lore, my wife and our sons, ages 6 and 9, discovered that our outbound flight from New York was severely delayed, causing us to miss our connection in D.C. and leaving us stranded overnight. For added measure, our luggage got lost in transfer limbo.

“Now do you believe in Mercury Retrograde?” I asked my wife. She fixed me with a don’t-even-ask look.

This kind of travel snafu is considered typical during Mercury Retrograde. But an interesting wrinkle occurred – the type of thing that gets overlooked when people speak with trepidation of Mercury Retrograde. When we returned to New York, upon deplaning we re-encountered the same (very humorous) gate attendant who had seen us off at the start of our trip. He not only remembered us but resumed a joke with our youngest son, Tobias, which he had made at the start of our trip days earlier. This minor light on our journey points toward an under-appreciated facet of Mercury Retrograde: We get the chance to repeat things. People can surprisingly re-merge from our past. Old projects can get revived. Relationships and endeavors we were certain we had left behind, or lost items (and not just lost luggage), can reappear.

Mercury Retrograde cycles last about three to four weeks and occur when the planet Mercury traverses furthest from the sun in its highly elliptical orbit. At its point of curvature Mercury visually appears to be moving backwards when viewed from Earth. Optically this is somewhat like when you’re on a train and another train on a parallel track slows, but does not stop, and from your seat appears to be reversing.

Everything has its hour and Mercury Retrograde is not just a cycle of missed flights and botched transit: it can also become a time of revisiting, revising, and reconsidering. During this year’s first Mercury Retrograde cycle early in 2013 I heard from a network television executive who had been discussing a show with me the previous year, but talks had dropped off. Now she wanted to talk anew.

Signing contracts and selling homes is considered a big no-no during Mercury Retrograde. But even in this area interesting developments can occur. About six years ago, my wife and I reluctantly committed to selling a lake house we own in upstate New York. We were uncertain it was the right move. But we went ahead and signed a deal with a local real-estate agent. I knew that signing deals was considered verboten during Mercury Retrograde, but the agent was understandably eager – and I didn’t feel that I could tell him: “Well, you see Mike, in about four weeks the god Mercury will be more inclined to shine favorably upon our undertaking, so…” One weekend we went to prepare the house for sale and unexpectedly found that our three-year-old son was enchanted with the place. Seeing his newfound excitement, we reversed our decision and decided to keep the house – later to our great relief. This was a decision that had needed reconsidering. Enter Mercury Retrograde.

Western astrology has ancient roots extending to the Babylonian and Hellenic civilizations. Yet in its contemporary practice, astrology (as with many aspects of modern life) takes on forms that are actually more recent than we realize. The earliest references to Mercury Retrograde as an astrological phenomenon began in the mid-1700s in British agricultural almanacs read by farmers who believed that the motions of the stars affected planting seasons. “Mercury is turn’d retrograde in Sagittarius, which brings him back to meet the Sun in Conjunction,” went a reading for December 9, 1754 in Vox Stellarum: Or, a Loyal Alamack. In the twentieth century, Franklin Roosevelt’s agricultural secretary and second vice president, Henry A. Wallace, himself a farmer and almanac publisher, felt that the study of zodiacal cycles could aid scientific agriculture. Even today zodiacal charts remain a regular feature of planting almanacs.

Mercury Retrograde has currency among many people who don’t follow astrology. Although you won’t find Mercury’s cycles tacked up on the bulletin boards of air-traffic control centers or search-engine offices, lots of people in those fields and others talk or (often uneasily) joke about it. Anecdotally, Mercury Retrograde is considered prime time for internet crashes and travel mishaps, or even disasters.

But we cannot sit things out during Mercury Retrograde. Contemporary life is fast moving, and certain things, including signing contracts and taking trips, cannot be placed on hold during Mercury’s thrice-yearly visual reversal. My advice is: Don’t even attempt to hunker down during its cycle. Depending on your outlook, you might have to brace for a few reversals and snafus. But there is another dimension to the matter. You might also find that Mercury Retrograde – contrary to the apprehension it stirs online and in coffee-break rooms – is a period of revisiting or happily reversing situations that you had once imagined set in stone. Mercury Retrograde may place a speed bump into your plans, but it can also loosen things up and unwind knots. So sit back for the ride. It will be an unexpected one.

# # #


Mitch Grand Central Web ResMitch Horowitz is vice-president and editor-in-chief at Tarcher/Penguin. He is the author of Occult America (Bantam), which received the 2010 PEN Oakland/ Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence. His new book, One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, is forthcoming from Crown in January 2014. Horowitz frequently writes about and discusses alternative spirituality in the national media, including CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, All Things Considered, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and He is online at:

venus_in_winterBess of Hardwick, who was born in 1527 and died in 1608, lived through the greatest period of religious turbulence in the history of England. One of the biggest changes to take place during the English Reformation was the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer, which set forth for the first time the complete forms of service for daily and Sunday worship in English. It contained Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, the Litany, Holy Communion, and the orders for baptism, confirmation, marriage, “prayers to be said with the sick,” and funerals.

Much of the language of the Book of Common Prayer is so familiar that it seems that it must have existed forever:

“Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…Give us this day our daily bread…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.”

“Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife?”

“With this ring I thee wed.”

Yet before the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549, none of these words had been spoken before, and for centuries, people in England had worshipped and been christened, married, and buried with services in Latin.

Writing Venus in Winter, my novel about Bess of Hardwick, made me think about how striking it must have been to hear as new the words we know so well.

Bess was married for the first time in 1543 and for the second time in 1547. It was only with her third marriage, to Sir William St. Loe, in 1559, that she would have spoken the vows that are still used today:  “I take thee to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and obey, til death us depart.”

It’s hard to imagine now that the simple and beautiful language of the prayer services could have been contentious, but on the very day that Bess was giving birth to her second child, Temperance, June 10, 1549, riots were breaking out across England, partly as the result of the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer, which was such a radical break from centuries of tradition.

Not until Bess buried her third husband would she have heard, and perhaps drawn some comfort from the powerful words, “I am the resurrection and the life, sayeth the Lord. He that believeth in me, yea, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” I have Bess reflect that just as the Book of Common Prayer reminds us that “In the midst of life, we be in death,” so too in the midst of death we are in life.

When Mary Tudor succeeded to the throne, she returned England to Catholicism, and services were once more in Latin. But in 1559, Queen Elizabeth brought back the Book of Common Prayer, with a few modifications. A revised version came out in 1604 under James I (who was also responsible for the King James Bible). Not until 1662 was there another major revision, and that book remains the official prayer book of the Church of England, and is still in common use throughout the English-speaking world.

Please visit Gillian’s website, Facebook Page, and Twitter feed for more on her books and upcoming events.