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 -

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,

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!


Photo Credit: © Scott Griessel -

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 -

Don’t forget the Comment Contest!



Photo Credit: © kitchidk -

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Comment Contest: Fiction Fest on The Radical Virgo

To keep things lively while I’m off writing a book, I thought I’d stir things up a little with a Comment Contest. We haven’t had one here in ages! The prize is a copy of Capital Crimes: 15 Tales by Sacramento Area Authors. It includes my darkly humorous short story, “Digital,” and a host of other fine offerings from members of my local Sisters in Crime chapter. All comments during the month of October count. Here’s how it works:

You can comment on any post on The Radical Virgo. The names of each commenter will be place in a hat for a drawing. The person who’s name is drawn on November 1 will receive a copy of the book. Your copy of Capital Crimes will be shipped via the most inexpensive option, and you must provide your postal address to receive it. (The winner has the option to pay the difference in postage to upgrade to a faster form of delivery.)

And if you just can’t resist buying Capital Crimes and reading it anyway, the Amazon link is included below. To pique your interest, my story has something to do with a very unusual taco.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: HEART © Alexroz

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Radical Departure: The Book Blurb

© 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.

Peeling out,

Greetings, as I skid to a stop in front of my new home for the next two months. The address is OMG! How Am I Going to Get This Done by November 30th?

The artwork in this post is a cover concept for my book. Of course, if it’s published by anyone but me, I’m unlikely to have the final say about the cover art. If money were no object, it would have an intricate drawing of some of the more wacky costumes at The Crystal Ball. That’s the costume party where much of the action in my book takes place.

The Crystal Ball

They’ve loved each other since they were teenagers.  He’s a chain-smoking, recently retired FBI agent—a crusty guy who has seen it all.  She’s an astrologer and president of a society dedicated to increasing longevity—as New Age as he is Old School.  A New Year’s Eve costume party brings them together in a way neither of them would have ever imagined in a race against time to prevent a crime.

They’re the new Nick and Nora Charles! –Carolina Montague, Author

My first job this weekend is to reread the original version of the book I wrote in 1990. Yes, I said 1990—no typo! Originally entitled Life's Companions, I wrote it for a contest Ted Turner sponsored. Obviously, I did not win or would already be a famous novelist. :) The contest had some sort of “ideas that will change the world” concept. I set it aside for a decade-and-a-half before picking it up again in 2005. That’s when I took a mystery writing class and saw ways I could redirect it that would work better and be much more exciting.

Timing is everything (said the Capricorn Moon). I figure if there’s anything to Saturn cycles, at 21 years old, this book is three-quarters of the way to its Saturn Return. It’s certainly time for it to grow up and leave home in the form of an emancipated book, not some manuscript still stuck in my computer and several notebooks full of research and old versions.

At least I proved to myself that I can finish a book. Now, to refinish it!

Till next week!


Photo Credits: Disco Ball - © Maxim Loskutnikov -, Carnival Mask -  piai -