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 -

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,


Photo Credit: © labellanenadurmiente -

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.  ~

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,


Photo Credit: © Anatoly Maslennikov -

Thursday, November 17, 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 -

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 -

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 -

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!