Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Solstice Blessing





© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

In your heartbeat
this darkest night
in the quiet
lies the pulse of peace.

We can hold hands
 sync our heartsongs
discover
the circulatory system
the life force
that begins all
ends all
sustains all
and heals all
the communion of hearts
of spirits.

All this for the price
of hushed tones
faith in the dark
and deep listening.


~~~

Photo Credit: Fir Tree Heart © Albrekht | Dreamstime.com



A Blessed Solstice and New Year 
from The Radical Virgo.

Seasonal Gift: One-third off 2012 readings through January 16, 2012.
See details on Radical Black Friday.




Saturday, November 26, 2011

Is Mercury Retro A Mean Santa?




 


Tips to Make It a Merry Mercury Retrograde

© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

It feels unfair for Mercury to have gone retrograde just as most of us are gearing up, preparing for the busy winter holiday season. The longer your list of shopping, parties, and family get-togethers, the harder it is to take the downtime Mercury insists upon when he appears to move backwards in the sky. Yet insist he does, so here are some Radical tools, ideas and reminders to help minimize any glitches to your Tinsel Time.


Stay on Point

Since this Mercury Retro is in Sagittarius, focus on Mercury/Sag ideas. What’s your philosophy about the holiday season? Consider your relationship to generosity of your time, energy and financial resources. Are you doing too much or too little? What is your relationship to “stuff?” How can you create a season of love that reflects your true values about peace on earth and all the things we celebrate across cultures and spiritual paths this time of year? How are you doing with your own spirituality?

Set Aside a Dollop of Downtime Daily

If you can’t devote hours to the rethinking, reconsidering, and retooling your life in the middle of the Holidaze, think smaller and more effective. Give yourself 15 minutes of quiet time for contemplation, meditation, reading—or collapse!

Review Past Materials on Mercury Retro

Here are some posts that might make practical reads during your quiet time. The blessing is a great way to kick off those short daily meditations:





Remember, honor Mercury—and he will return the favor with less glitch and more insights.

~~~

Photo Credit: Greedy Santa © Sergey Mostovoy - Fotolia.com


Don’t forget the Radical Black Friday one-third off readings sale through January 16, 2011.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Radical Black Friday





Dear Readers,

There’s a holiday sale on The Radical Virgo that requires no dangerous trips to the “maul!” My regular $150 astrology update will be available for $99 through January 16, 2012. To get this discount, you must simply: (1) Be on my mailing list, and (2) Book and prepay by January 16; however, I’m not taking my first appointments until January 17, 2012. (I take time off during and just after the winter holidays.) The earlier you book, the better chance you’ll have for an early-year appointment.

These discounted readings also apply to gift certificates you can give as holiday gifts. Here’s a sample.

To make arrangements, simply e-mail me, and once we have our appointment time agreed, I’ll send you a PayPal invoice. You may also make arrangements for advance payment by check. If you aren’t already on The Radical Virgo mailing list, I’ll assume you’re willing when you take advantage of this offer and will add you. The Winter Solstice newsletter will be out in early December.

Here’s more about my Personal Consultations. I look forward to sharing insights about your personal outlook for 2012. After all that hype, the long-awaited year has almost arrived!

Blessings All,
Joyce


~~~

Photo Credit: © labellanenadurmiente - Fotolia.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One Last Radical Departure: The Book Is in the Mail!





© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved


During October and November, I’ve been doing short posts to take you along for the ride of rewriting and getting my humorous mystery book ready for submission to the St. Martin’s Press Annual First Crime Novel Contest. To read the entire series, start with No Small Change on The Radical Virgo or enter Radical Departure in the Search Box in the sidebar of this blog to pull up the full list of posts. This is the final installment of the series.


Twenty-two is a Master Number in Numerology. It also happens to be the day I was born in September. I have a powerful, personal resonance to the vibration of 22.

The 22 is the most powerful of all numbers--often called the Master Builder. The 22 can turn the most ambitious of dreams into reality. It is potentially the most successful of all numbers. It combines vision with action.  ~ Decoz.com

I’ve been working to live up to this number all my life. (The name Joyce is also a 22 vibration). I’m thrilled that my book entered the mail stream on this 22-day. Today is also a Best Day, according to Joanne Hampar’s Electional Astrology Planning Guide 2011. Since electional astrology isn’t my specialty, I count on Joanne’s Guide and don’t make any major timing decision without it. (For more on her work, read her past post here: The Art of Timing. All-round, I’m delighted that I met my goal to mail The Crystal Ball into the contest on this auspicious day.

Where Do I Go from Here?

I won’t be resting on my laurels waiting to find out if I won the contest, which will be announced by late March. Jupiter enters my 1st House on March 31, and I plan to take advantage of the blessings coming my way. T-Pluto is also conjunct my Moon in the 9th House. According to my own intuition, supported by my personal astrologer, 2012 will be a fortunate year for me when it comes to Jupiter-related and 9th House pursuits, including publishing. But God/dess helps those who help themselves. (More and more, I think of Creativity with a Capital C as Higher Power.)

While I’m waiting to find out if St. Martin’s may become my publisher through the contest, I’ll be putting out query letters to a limited number of carefully selected literary agents. If I’m lucky enough to find someone willing to work with a first-time novelist (this is becoming quite rare), then the next milestone would be selling it to a traditional publisher with the help of an agent. Getting an agent doesn’t guarantee getting a contract with a publisher. I’ve had friends who have been signed by an agent, just to have the disappointment of their book not selling to a publisher. The jackpot would winning the contest or A+B—getting an agent and selling the book to one of the larger publishers. If the latter happened before the former, I’d withdraw my manuscript from the contest, as required by the rules.

The traditional route isn’t the only way to get published. I’m sure you’re all aware that the publishing industry is morphing as we speak into a much more diversified and level playing field. There are excellent smaller presses that publish mysteries, and there’s the increasingly practical option of self-publishing. Since I’ve already self-published three e-books, I have no qualms about this alternative. It has many advantages—a faster turnaround time to print and distribution and more profits to the author, who isn’t sharing them with an agent and outside publisher. On the other hand, the traditional route does cover some expenses that the author otherwise incurs, usually involves a cash advance against sales, and carries more promotional opportunities.

No matter which way The Crystal Ball goes, the major marketing will be in the hands of yours truly. Fate has conspired to give me a many occasions over the past decade to learn how to promote my work. I’m grateful that I no longer feel completely self-conscious and lame about marketing myself. Today’s author has to be both an introvert to get the writing done and an extrovert to put herself and her books out there to sell them. In case I haven’t mentioned this before, I am just 1 point into Introvert on the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory. That’s about as perfect a profile as a writer can get, walking the fence in both worlds, although 1 point into extrovert would probably be just as good. (In case you’re wondering, if you’re Myers Briggs savvy, I’m an INFJ.)

I’ll be keeping you up-to-date on publication milestones. Since these routes vary widely as far as when the book might be available for purchase, I’ll make a bold prediction--earliest, the second half of 2012, latest sometime in 2013.

The good news is that the path to how the book sees print has no relevance to the reader. A book is a book is a book—unless it’s also an e-book, and nowadays most novels are published in both formats. I love reading and writing e-books, and my Kindle is my life’s companion (the original name of The Crystal Ball).

As always, I promise to keep you informed about what’s happening at The Ball! When we’re closer to book in hand, I’ll be publishing excerpts and hope you’ll all be humming Carly Simon’s catchy classic, Anticipation.

Meanwhile, I’m giving myself some much needed time off till mid-January to spend the holidays with friends and family. And, by the way, I’ve already started writing and gathering ideas for my second novel in the Micki Michaels mystery series. It’s called Vanished on the Vortex. It’s about a young teen who disappears in Sedona, Arizona. Her UFO-watcher mom thinks she’s been abducted by aliens. Micki has other ideas, especially when she discovers on the down-low that there have been a string of young girls who have disappeared around the Red Rock Mecca, threatening the tourist trade if word gets out.

I’m so grateful for your support and encouragement,
Joyce


~~~

Photo Credit: © Anatoly Maslennikov - Fotolia.com


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Radical Departure: It’s Done!




© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

In case you’re wondering what on Earth is going on here, see No Small Change on The Radical Virgo. During October and November, I’ll be doing short posts to take you along for the wild ride of rewriting and getting my humorous, metaphysical mystery book ready for submission to the St. Martin’s Press annual First Mystery Novel Contest.

 
Help me jump up and down, whoop and holler! I finished The Crystal Ball today, and I couldn’t wait till next week's installment to tell you. Hitting “The End” seemed important to report, so this is a quickie to say I’m doing back flips—at least the figurative kind! (I think my arthritic knee just laughed at me.) I still have edits and more detailed manuscript prep to do over the next week, but those are finishing touches compared to sewing the story together.

I love the synchronicity of this day. Sixteen years ago, I adopted two kitty brothers who were my loves at first sight, Duffy and Darrin. It was one of the happiest days of my life—now times two. Even though I lost Darrin in 2007, Duffy is still holding fast at 16. Duffy has his medical challenges, but he’s still full of himself and seems to have no plans to join his brother in the big Catbox in the Sky anytime soon. He’s sitting in his favorite spot right now, acting as my lumbar support in my computer chair. If this book finished on November 16 brings me half the joy of that other November 16; I’m the luckiest woman on Earth.

Another omen: Today I received my first Christmas card and gift from my God Is Not an Aries, stellium in Ram friend, Jessica. I laughed and sent her an email with the header, Prize for Most Aries. Talk about needing to be first. She said she got a jump on it. Call her Evil Knievel. Actually, Tim and I are grateful for a Panera gift card to kick off the holiday season and celebrate my fait accompli at breakfast tomorrow.

My book is a “first” in many ways—it’s not just my first novel but it’s also very pioneering in some of its content. That’s why I think my Aries friend’s gift is reminding me that those Marsy qualities in me are some of my gifts in this adventure, too. Her Christmas card is a keeper. It’s a picture of a lamb kissing a lion …


… reminds me of my astrologer/metafoofoo/do-gooder protagonist and her ex-FBI agent beau. The man who inspired Curt, the spy sweetheart has—you guessed it!—Leo Moon. Another perfect synchronicity.

A very early Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Yummy Yule, and Joyful Kwanzaa … and may you make all your dreams come true, too!


~~~

Photo Credit: © Jaimie Duplass - Fotolia.com



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Radical Departure: The Home Stretch







© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved



I have issues with completion. The psychological roots of this problem are clear to me, but thankfully, they don’t apply to every aspect of my life. I’ve managed to finish college and a three-decade government career. I’ve tied up any loose ends left dangling in almost every one of my relationships. However, there are certain things that have been difficult for me to finish. Getting a full-length book on the market is one of them, yet it has been a huge goal for most of my life. The Crystal Ball will be the first time I do it—thus, the publication of this humorous mystery will represent a monumental personal milestone. (There’s an irony since it was long a mystery to me why I couldn’t pull it off.)

Like nearly everything else in life, my paralysis in owning my destiny as an author came from an emotional logjam from my personal Chironic wounding. The details belong in a counselor’s office, where I have repeated them enough times; I’m sick of them. To spare you both the inappropriate crossing of that boundary and the melodramatic details, I’ll share just one of many “messages” I internalized—the one I consider the most factual and the least emotionally sticky—behind why I have sabotaged myself for years.

Quite literally, I was “held back” from being born. My mother’s personal physician wasn’t on the premises, and the hospital staff wanted her to hold off till he could get there.

What a revelation when I found my birth mom and learned this bit of personal history. Of course, the message my psyche took in was to hold myself back, to hold off giving birth to myself. I cannot separate being a writer from who I am. Once you start writing books, you’re really “out there,” as far from the figurative, protective womb as I can imagine. My other core issues, sometimes still stumbling blocks, are closely related by theme.

Given this psychological set-up, the “home stretch” is a dangerous place for me, the one where I am most likely to trip myself up or create something, consciously or “un,” that will do it for me. That’s because it’s the last time I can bail.

Here I sit with only one chapter left to write and a week to go until my November 22 deadline. I am watching myself like a hawk for any signs of self-sabotage. Entering the St. Martin’s Press First Mystery contest was not only a swift kick in the seat of the pants to encourage me to take the leap I’ve been postponing most of my life; doing it in community, sharing the process, makes me responsible, not only to myself, but to others to finish it.

Thanks for being there for me! Your support goes deep. My five years combined of blogging on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights and The Radical Virgo have helped me, post by post, to put myself out there as a writer. This blog, in particular, has gotten me out of training wheels and into writing three e-books. It has given me the courage and self-confidence to make the final leap to full-fledged author. My work has been so well-received here; the only person left to conquer is me and my residual fears. Blogging has also been a real training ground for the task at hand. When I’ve felt overwhelmed and questioned my ability to crank out my manuscript in time, I told myself, It’s just like writing 25 blog posts. You can do it in your sleep.

Next week, I plan to tell you the book is in the mail. With that, I’ll explain my next steps. I’d like to close this week’s update with an overview of what I’ve learned on my way to becoming a writer. That “school” has intensified since I retired from my civil service job. Wisdom alert! The following anecdote might also contain some great advice for baby boomers getting ready to retire or who have done so recently.

When I left government service after more than 31 years at the end of 2005, I couldn’t wait to start my first writing projects. Wow! Now I could tackle all those book ideas. I was as eager as a panting puppy.

The reality? It was like climbing uphill in cement boots to get the smallest thing out of my computer that I’d be willing to send out into the world. I struggled and struggled. It didn’t feel like writer’s block, but I couldn’t pinpoint the malady

Finally, after nine months of this quagmire, the same time it takes for human gestation, it finally dawned on me. All tolled, I had worked for over 37 years straight without much more than a few weeks’ vacation at a stretch. My body was trying to tell me that I needed some serious down time before I headed out to my next career. (Got that, Workgo?)

I retired in December 2005. I gave myself permission around Autumn Equinox 2006 to do nothing for as long as my body and psyche needed it. After only six months by Spring 2007, I was back! That’s when I discovered blogging and the fact that I couldn’t start a new career as CEO—LOL!

Transition is a powerful time of learning and experimentation. I’m not just in the home stretch of writing this book; I’m in the home stretch of a much larger transitionbeing reborn as a writer. I’m doing that Chironic, transmutation thing I talk about. I no longer aspire to be a writer or think of myself as a writer on the side or as an astrologer who writes. I now see myself differently. The culmination of this transition is that, for the first time, I feel like a writer because I know I am a writer.

One of my favorite quotes by Rumi is “Lovers don’t just meet one day. They are in each other all along.”

Writing is my love. We’ve met, and we’re telling the world.

~~~

Photo Credit: © Alison Bowden - Fotolia.com





Thursday, November 10, 2011

Radical Departure: Mazes and Evening at the Improv








© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

In case you’re wondering what on Earth is going on here, see No Small Change on The Radical Virgo. During October and November, I’ll be doing short posts to take you along for the wild ride of rewriting and getting my humorous, metaphysical mystery book ready for submission to the St. Martin’s Press annual First Mystery Novel Contest


The only other time I have written a full, book-length manuscript was in 1990 when I wrote The Crystal Ball’s predecessor, Life’s Companions. That was too long ago for me to remember much about my process, so everything I’m discovering about writing a mystery now feels brand new. I’ve actually had considerable mystery writing education since my first foray. My first book suffered from genre confusion. It wasn’t sure if it was a mystery, a romance, a self-help book, or some a New Age version of the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower publication—actually a bit of all of those. It was way too autobiographical. My life is stranger than fiction, and when I write it too literally on paper, it comes out just plain strange.


Writing a mystery—even a cozy humorous one like The Crystal Ball— is akin to doing a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle in motion. The puzzle is a maze, and sometimes I hit dead ends and don’t know how to get myself out of the messes I’ve gotten myself into. This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings:

Things are always easier to get into than to get out of. 
~ Corollary to Murphy’s Law

When I get stuck, in order to move out of the latest corner I have written myself into: I pace, I do other things, I distract myself until my subconscious can resolve it. I learned from the book Higher Creativity: Liberating the Unconscious for Breakthrough Insightsthat this is how problems are best solved—not by direct brain power but by tapping the unlimited creativity of our psycho-spiritual selves.

My psyche sure surprises me at times. I knew certain plot points in the book going into it, but I find it mandatory to develop others “on the fly.” Writing a long story is all about visualization. I see characters get into situations, and I have to envision in real time how they’ll resolve each crisis or tension point. I can’t freeze-frame the action; it’s like a movie that has to keep going on paper. I can pause in the writing to figure it out, but it has to flow in the reading. My characters have to think on their feet. No rehearsal.

In this intricate puzzle, change one thing and there’s a multi-level domino effect. Many other things must change as revisions ping off the sides of my mental pinball machine. I laughed yesterday when I had one couple seated in two different places in the audience, listening to my protagonist give a speech. Talk about attention to details. No wonder Virgos make good writers.

I’m bringing more astrology into The Crystal Ball than I originally planned but less than in Life’s Companions. It’s quality over quantity, and my friend Chiron plays a special role. Is anyone surprised? (I thought you’d like the skeleton key in the maze, what Chiron’s symbol represents.)

After much angst about making my deadline, getting waylaid for a few days by the flu, and several other distractions, I now sit at approximately 75 percent done, confident I can make it.

But that last quarter is also the most challenging to write—the denouement, the resolution. I have a lot of loose ends to tie up, and I don’t know, quite yet, how that’s going to happen. I’m very excited to find out! One of the biggest problems resolved itself tonight, better than I thought I ever thought it would. These are the times I know I channel. Even the Radical Virgo can’t come up with solutions that tidy without divine intervention.

I wrote something today to the effect that the members of the longevity organization in my novel live their lives like Evening at the Improv. These folks are so full of vitality and being who they are without fear or hesitation, they are just “on.” They problem solve and create scenarios in the moment and are effective, funny and endlessly entertaining.

I realized that’s how I have to write. This is also how I want to be. Seeing the differences between the 1990 and the 2011 versions of this material, I’m gratified to see how far I’ve come in the pursuit of Improv.

Most importantly, today I realized how much fun I’m having. This is what I have always wanted to do, my entire life, but all those Chironic wounds, insecurities, and lack of maturity were in the way. The wisdom years, in many ways, are even more than they’re cracked up to be.

I was born to do this, and wherever it goes, I’ll be there doing comedy sketches.

~~~

Photo Credit: © koya79 - Fotolia.com

Friday, November 4, 2011

Radical Departure: Book Research Trip to San Francisco



Vintage jukebox, Mel’s Diner - Lombard St., San Francisco
 
© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

People say “write what you know.” That includes where you know. Unfortunately for me, the goings-on in my mystery novel could only take place in San Francisco. It hardly broke my heart to realize I’d need a research trip to the city!

I left my heart in San Francisco long ago with apologies to Tony Bennett. In fact, I heard an interview of him on NPR en route about his wildly popular Duets II album. Tony’s one of my models of cool aging, getting his first number-one album at 85—very encouraging to someone starting her career as a novelist as a supplement to her Social Security and pension. Tony is the oldest living artist to debut at number one on Billboard 200. One of his duets in the album was with Amy Winehouse, shortly before her death. I heard them sing “Body and Soul” together and Tony’s touching tribute to her.

My birth mom lived in San Francisco, and for the fifteen years between our reunion in 1986 and her passing in 2001, I spent considerable time with her there. She lived in the 700 block of California Street near the edge of Chinatown. Her neighborhood was remarkably colorful, right on the cable car line. Even though I have my share of SF impressions, they’re a decade old or older—and they’re not in the neighborhoods and places where my characters have decided to live and hang out.

I was going to SF anyway to a Rick Tarnas workshop on the Astrology of Rock ‘n’ Roll. One of my astrologer friends agreed to be my local color consultant and to join me for dinner and questions on living in SF. We ate at Mel’s on Lombard Street, which was quite a treat on Halloween weekend. Kids were in costume, the place was lively, and we found one of those true rarities in the City by the Bay—a parking space. The vintage jukeboxes and teens playing dress-up seemed like the perfect transition from a discussion of the heyday of rock ‘n’ roll to my futuristic costume party. Linea has over 30 years’ experience of living in the city, and she answered all my pressing questions. The rest, I’d have to see for myself the next day to be able to write from sensory recall.

I made a point of staying in the neighborhood where my protagonist Micki Michaels lives. It’s rare for me to get a night alone unwinding, something I’m finding that’s as essential to the creative process as the writing itself. TV is my solace for getting out of my head, and the more mindless the programs, the better. I was tuned into TV-Land and old episodes of Hot in Cleveland and Everybody Loves Raymond. I had only watched Hot once before, and I became a fan that night. How could I resist with an ensemble cast that includes four actresses I love? Betty White, Jane Leeves (Daphne on Frasier), Wendie Mallick and Valerie Bertinelli. I had never watched Raymond much, and I got a vicarious trip to Italy in one of the episodes, not to mention a reminder of how all families are dysfunctional—it’s just a matter of degree.

I spent Sunday driving around the various ‘hoods, paying attention to details that would to lend authenticity to my prose.  Getting the feel of the place my protagonist lived and worked was essential for me, and it also helped me refrain from making a number of mistakes based on assumptions about places I barely knew. Monday there were rewrites!

Visuals help. I took a lot of pictures and used specific houses and properties as models for my fictional versions.  I spent a tiny bit of time enjoying Union Street, starting with brunch at La Boulange which knocked me out for the high quality and presentation of their food. I found a holiday gift at the Enchanted Crystal. This was a treat in contrast to driving the streets of San Francisco like a taxi driver for the rest of the day.

But I did accomplish my mission! I had dinner with a friend in Berkeley on the way home and came back with a new perspective on the backdrop of my novel.

I’m in the stretch with 60 percent written and just under three weeks to go till my mail-in date for the contest. Fortunately, I’m at a place where I can borrow about half of the material from the previous version of the book while interlacing the changes to the plot and ending.

My biggest challenge of the moment is fighting the flu. Keep me in your positive thoughts and intentions! My confidence in getting the job done on time vacillates, though I know it’s doable. It’s more about my faith to keep myself together to do it.

The best part of it all is the writing itself. There’s nothing like being a channel of the Creative All. I have no idea where it comes from, I just enjoy being the first one to see it and the messenger to share it.

~~~

Photos by Joyce

Liz's photo © Andy Johnson

Winner of the October Comment Contest!  Congratulations to Liz Jasper, winner of last month’s comment contest on The Radical Virgo. Liz is a sister writer, an award-winning author of paranormal mysteries and young adult novels. Check out her linked website! And if you're having a hard time letting go of Halloween, don't miss her Underdead and Underdead In Denial. Liz won a copy of Capital Crimes: 15 Tales by Sacramento Area Authors. My short story, Digital, is included with its share of gallows humor and scenes in a funeral parlor. The Halloween theme just keeps on giving!



 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Treat Break!






Costumes I've Had the Nerve to Wear


© 2011 by Joyce Mason


Busy as I am on my book, I needed some comic relief today. My friend, Cindy Sample (you met her on my last Book Signings and other Inspirations post) sent me to another mystery writer’s blog, Buried Under Books. Author Liz Jasper is asking readers to describe costumes they have made for Halloween. I couldn’t resist describing my two favorites, a Christmas tree (talk about holiday mixed metaphors) and The Purple People Eater. (See Comment #25 on Liz’s Buried blog.) You can see my two favorite get-ups on this post. (Please overlook those purple thunder thighs. Was I ever slim? Maybe when I was 10.)

I thought this would be a great time to share previous Halloween posts on The Radical Virgo, which are as timeless as Trick-or-Treat:

Scorpio for A Day. What is Halloween if not a Scorp fest? In this frolic, I describe my ideas for how the signs would “do Scorpio.”

Happy Haunting from the Radical Virgo: Background on Halloween and other nearby holidays, including Day of the Dead and All Saint’s Day, the latter which also happens to be the anniversary of Chiron’s Discovery. Includes a look at Chiron’s Discovery chart. As a liberal Catholic church in my neck of the woods calls it, November 1 is a Holy Day of Opportunity.

Lastly, since we’re having a comment contest on The Radical Virgo this month  with a mystery anthology prize in honor of my retreat to fiction (does retreat mean I get candy twice?), I pose this question to you, dear readers, for comment.


What patterns in an astrology chart indicate a penchant or passion for costumes?

Writing fiction has lots of tricks and treats. One of the tricks is personal pacing to the finish line. I’m finding it as energetically exhausting to do a book-length manuscript as hard labor. Never underestimate the impact of mental gymnastics!

One of the treats is learning how many scenes in my life are finding their way into the book, fictionalized, like pearls awaiting rediscovery—especially the funny ones. I can’t believe how snips of conversations and experiences are there in my mental kaleidoscope. Twist a little, and they fall a different way—right into The Crystal Ball. Since my novel takes place at a futuristic costume party, share any far-out ones you've worn and let me know if you're willing to see a character show up to the Crystal Ball in it.

As they used to say on NYPD Blue, I’ll say for Halloween, “Be careful out there!”

Most of all, have fun.

~~~

Photo credit: © Olga Lyubkin - Fotolia.com

Up Next: Radical Departure – Research Trip to San Francisco

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Radical Departure: Book Signings and Other Inspirations



Janet Evanovich at 2006 signing for Twelve Sharp in Roseville, CA

© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

In case you’re wondering what on Earth is going on here, see No Small Change on The Radical Virgo. During October and November, I’ll be doing short posts to take you along for the wild ride of rewriting and getting my humorous, metaphysical mystery book ready for submission to the St. Martin’s Press annual First Mystery Novel Contest


Whenever I start to freak out about the tight timeframe to rewrite my book and submit it letter-perfect, I remind myself that I’m finally doing what I've always wanted to do. I try to let the joy of the creative process overshadow the fear of the clock.

Sometimes it works.

Although the deadline for the annual St. Martin’s First Mystery Contest is November 30, I didn’t look past November 22 as my personal deadline. It’s a great electional day. Theoretically, great things should come of anything I start, like my part in the contest process. I can’t say I like that it’s the annual anniversary of the assassination of JFK, but beggars can’t be choosers when I’ve only got 4 ½ more weeks to pull it off. If I’d have looked one day deeper into my calendar, I’d have realized the other reason I can’t go past November 22. In my time zone, Mercury goes retrograde late on the 23rd. The fact that Mercury Retro wasn’t even on my radar screen speaks to the Sabian symbol for my Sun: A false call unheard in the attention to immediate service. This Sabian is all about priority and absorption. One interpretation calls the bearer of this symbol “deaf to all allurement.” (Sorry, Mercury, I didn’t even know you were alive. Don’t hold it against me!) Too close to it, akin to how you can’t see your own nose.

I always knew I had an overly active imagination, but until I wrote this novel, I had no idea what actually goes on with me “upstairs.” My mind is a little scary. I feel that way when I hear Robin Williams. He actually blurts out the kind of stuff that goes on in my brain. The first time I heard him, I blushed! Since I need to produce quickly right now, I have no time for creative inhibitions. I just have to let go and let flow. I wrote five new chapters this week, still borrowing bits from Life’s Companions, the original version of the story. Ninety percent was new. The process keeps surprising me. Words keep on appearing on paper. (Is this automatic writing?)

One thing’s clear. You can’t hurry love and you can’t push creativity. Down time is an essential part of this process. I felt lousy the other day—tummy trouble, my back was out, and I generally felt like the flu was gunning for me. I decided to take the day off and get some extra healing sleep. My reward was cranking out three more chapters in the next 24 hours.

Now that I know I need R&R to make my fountain of creativity bubble, I have to trust that the timing will fall into place. I took off a few hours Saturday to go to my friend Cindy Sample’s book signing. It was another good shot in the arm. Cindy and I had lunch recently and compared notes on the writing life. Her second humorous mystery, Dying for a Dance,is now available. Her heroine, Laurel McKay, is a single mom who keeps stumbling over dead bodies, this time at her ballroom dance class studio. Since my novel, The Crystal Ball, takes place at a futuristic costume party in a big ballroom, I feel a kinship to Cindy’s latest book and just loved reading it in Kindle!

Cindy is also the queen of making book signings fun. Since the murder weapon in Dance is a high-heeled shoe, she had a big basket of chocolate high heels. (Death by chocolate—yes!). Some of her other edible perks are dead body crime scene cookies, you know—the outline of a body. Pass the yellow Do Not Cross tape!

At Cindy's signing, I bumped into another author I know from Sisters in Crime, Elaine Macko. Elaine and I were in a critique group together some years ago. Her first novel, Armed, just came out. Who knew murder could be so much fun! Armed takes place in a mannequin factory in a fictional New England town with a very interesting cast of characters and a unique murder weapon. I've been enamored with her story since she was still writing the first draft. Her new web site rocks.

It’d be a crime not to promote such creative new authors, so I’m giving their books as holiday gifts to a number of people this year. Watching them finally manifest all this “fun between the covers,” after being familiar with their stories for a number of years, is a great model of manifestation. I'm enjoying the vicarious thrill.

Seeing Elaine also reminded me of a time when we went with another Sister in Crime to a local signing by Janet Evanovich a few years ago. Janet’s at the top of this post in that moment all authors dream of—stacks of books ready for signing and crowds lined up by the thousands. We got to Barnes & Noble early, waited a long time, and it was well worth it. Janet, too, has a huge flair for creating a party at her book signings, including goodies. She passes out the Jersey junk food that’s everyday fare for her snack-addicted Stephanie Plum, the protagonist in her number novels. For Janet and Stephanie fans, in case you haven’t heard, the movie of her first book in the series, One for the Money, will be out in January 2012 starring Katherine Heigl. Don't miss the trailer in this link! For fans of Stephanie's wacky Grandma Mazur, I almost fell over when I found out she'll be played by Debbie Reynolds.

It’s a reliefand a big carrot!to remember that the other end of this process is a party. In my case, that’s doubly true since much of The Crystal Ball takes place at one—a big, crazy costume party. Carrots may be incentives, but I don't plan to serve them at my book launch.

Will someone help me see that party in my Crystal Ball next week when I’m up to my eyeballs in work?



Monday, October 17, 2011

Chiron and Wholeness Primer: ReKindled, Finds Its Nook







Chiron primer is now available for Kindle, Nook and epub formats!


Dear Radical Readers,

Since you’re radical and leading-edge, I’m hoping that many of you use eReaders like Kindle and Nook. Join me in the excitement of reaching a new publishing milestone. My most popular e-book, Chiron and Wholeness: A Primer, is now available in a format for these devices.

There are two ways to purchase a copy in the eReader versions:

  1. Click the PayPal link in the sidebar of this blog. A copy will be sent to you automatically in the format of your choice. The button for Kindle is in Kindle’s required .mobi format. For most other devices, use the Nook, Etc. button in .epub format. Download from your computer into your device, using your USB cord.

  2. Purchase instantly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

The advantage of #1: You’ll support the work of The Radical Virgo by purchasing directly and avoiding the go-between.

The advantage of #2: It’s hard to argue with one-button purchasing and not having to dig out your device cord to transfer the file into your Kindle or Nook from your computer.

While you’re on Amazon or B&N, check out the other astrology titles. While not that many are in eReader format just yet, some good ones are. Many up-and-coming authors, as well as progressive professional authors, are releasing in this format first.

Healing and wholeness,
Joyce

PS – For those of you who have read and appreciated Chiron and Wholeness (the text is the same whether PDF or eReader version), I’d be very grateful for a Like or positive review on either Amazon or B&N. A Like takes seconds; a review, only a few minutes. Here’s how:

Amazon: Go to this linked page for Chiron and Wholeness (Kindle). Mid-page, under the title and author name, click on Like or to the left of Like, Review.

B&N:  Go to this linked page for Chiron and Wholeness (Nook, etc.).
At the bottom of page, Customer Reviews, click the WRITE A REVIEW button.


Thank you for helping spread information about Chiron to a larger audience! If you’re a regular reader, you know by now how important I believe the Chiron archetype is to personal evolution. Your support helps enable me to continue this work.



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Radical Departure: Borrowing a Cup of Sugar


 
© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

In case you’re wondering what on Earth is going on here, see No Small Change on The Radical Virgo. During October and November, I’ll be doing short posts to take you along for the wild ride of rewriting and getting my humorous, metaphysical mystery book ready for submission to the St. Martin’s Press annual First Mystery Novel Contest.



Since returning to my current rewrite of The Crystal Ball, I’ve felt like an out-of-era Betty Crocker trying to bake the perfect cake by the end of November. I’m up to my ears in flour and various ingredients, apron full of splotches. I thought I had everything I needed. I thought Life’s Companions, The Crystal Ball’s unpublished predecessor, contained most of the necessary ingredients. I figured I’d only have to rework it a little. I went to borrow a cup of sugar from the last incarnation of this book and discovered there were only a few tablespoons left.

In other words, I have changed the plot and focus so much, there isn’t nearly as much that I can borrow—at least in the first two thirds of the book. That means more creative writing in a hurry. Just when I was starting to freak out at the size of the task and its time pressures, I stumbled on an inspiration. If people across the country can write a book in a month during the annual NaNoWriMo event, I can certainly come up with the rest of this one in six weeks. Or so I keep telling myself! November is National Novel Writing Month, what the acronymn NaNoWriMo stands for. Maybe I’ll inspire you to join me on your own writing ride!

This would be a good time to discuss my writing process. The two extremes of writing habits are people who outline and those who fly by the seat of their pants or make it up as they go. I’m primarily a seat of the pants writer who works with a skeletal outline or story arc. Other writers have told me they outline more, the more they write. I’ll be thanking God for Sr. Fabian, my 8th grade nun who was a fanatic about teaching us how to outline with all the appropriate Roman Numerals, numbers, and parenthetical numbers and letters. I never thought such an excruciating skill to learn might come in handy some day.

As far as my mystery is concerned, I know whodunit, howdunit, wheredunit, and whydunit. It’s just the middle of the Oreo—the filling—that needs a little more substance. I’m sure it’ll look like a cake, or at least a cookie, before I know it—I hope.

There’s nothing novel about a tablespoon of the good old Virgo self-doubt!

Halloween’s around the corner, Maybe I should throw in some eye of newt.

As an update from last week, my visit with my niece and family has actually confirmed the authenticity of many nuances in the relationship of my protagonist, Micki, with her nieces. I see I drew deeply from my Auntie Joyce role (the actual one, rather than the slightly snarky comedian you sometimes see on this blog.) I also got quite a surprise, an example of art imitating life in an intuitive preview. Something that I’ve been planning for Micki’s nieces in the second book in the series is likely happening to my actual nieces in real life.

Art imitating life just proves life is art!

Hope you all had a good Full Moon in Aries this week. Seeing Dawn, my stellium in Aries niece with most of her close-knit family? The most literal manifestation of an Aries Full Moon I’ve had in years!

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Photo Credit: © Scott Griessel - Fotolia.com



You may be the lucky winner of a free mystery anthology.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Radical Departure: Zipped Lips!









© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved


In case you’re wondering what on Earth is going on here, see No Small Change on The Radical Virgo. During October and November, I’ll be doing short posts to take you along for the wild ride of rewriting and getting my humorous, metaphysical mystery book ready for submission to the St. Martin’s Press annual First Mystery Novel Contest.


Since my sights are set on submitting The Crystal Ball to a contest, I have to follow the rules. (Capricorn Moon does not mind this—in fact, she does not feel comfortable doing otherwise.) One rule is that I can’t publish the book before submission, including on a blog or website, except for brief excerpts. Since interpretation of “brief” lies in the eyes of the contest judges, to play it safe, I’ve decided not to publish any of actual text beforehand. The temptation is fierce, and I want you to know I’m not as comfortable holding out on you as I am following the rule that requires me to do it—if that makes any sense. So, the book blurb in the last post is all I can say for now. (Lips zipped—or I guess that would be fingers.)

This first week, I’ve written three more chapters and am amazed at how the plot thickens and the new direction of the story line tells itself to me. I has been hard to do the “old version” review, because my mind is so anxious to hear the new place the tale is taking me. Still, there is much material from the original Life’s Companions to weave into the mix of the old and new—just like Chiron weaves wholeness from the best of both old and new, reflected by its position between Saturn and Uranus.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn the chapters each begin with quotes—and that I find ones that suit each part of the story that stun me for their perfect fit. I guess researching all those Quotes for the Signs has paid off!

One of the best books I have ever read, Higher Creativity: Liberating the Unconscious for Breakthrough Insightsby Willis Harman and Howard Rheingold, turned me on to the importance of down time in the creative process. I’ve found myself “plumb tuckered,” an expression I learned from a Southern belle, that I just love. I need to veg and to escape my own writing by reading others’ novels. How do I fit it all in? My month has its share of previous commitments, appointments, meetings, and a visit by my niece and her family. Most of these things were planned before I got the Bell Rock Whisper that I was being redirected to work on this book now. I’ve decided that I will continue to rely on inner guidance to determine which things I can blow off or postpone and which things I cannot … and those I simply have to view in a different way.

On the latter, two characters in the novel were inspired by my niece and one of her daughters. What a perfect time for them to show up, where I can enjoy them and, at the same time, observe them with my writer’s eye to polish April and Tansy, their fictional counterparts.

Who knows what’s next? These two months require Radical trust, that term I learned from the flower essence, Barnacle, by Pacific Essences.

There’s my intuition reminding me again—I have to restock that stuff!


Photo Credit: © kitchidk - Fotolia.com



Don’t forget the Comment Contest!

 

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Photo Credit: © kitchidk - Fotolia.com