Thursday, June 20, 2013

Happy Summer Solstice 2013

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice (or Midsummer) marks the longest day of the year. According to Celtic mythology, the Sun King has now reached the highest point in his journey through the heavens. In 2013, we celebrate Midsummer on June 21, when the sun enters 0 degrees of the zodiac sign Cancer (at 5:04 A.M. UT). This is a time of abundance, when the earth displays her bounty.

The Holiday’s Significance
In early agrarian cultures, Midsummer marked a period of plenty, when food was abundant and life was easy. Our ancestors celebrated this joyful holiday with feasting and revelry. At this point, however, the sun reached its pinnacle and began its descent once again. Celtic pagan mythology depicts this as the end of the Oak King’s reign as he is overthrown by the Holly King, who presides over the waning part of the year.

Folklore says that at Midsummer earth spirits abound—a belief that inspired Shakespeare’s delightful play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Apparently, life on every level rejoices in the fullness of the season. If you wish, you can commune with the elementals and faeries at this time.

Ways to Celebrate
Just as people have done for centuries, you may choose to celebrate the Summer Solstice with feasting, music, dancing, and thanksgiving. Remember to share your bounty with the animals and birds, too, and to return something to Mother Earth as a sign of gratitude.

Midsummer is also a good time to collect herbs, flowers, and other plants to use in magick spells. Some people say that if you wish to become invisible, you must wear an amulet that includes seeds from forest ferns gathered on Midsummer’s eve. Do spells for success and abundance on the Summer Solstice, too, to take advantage of the fullness of this sabbat.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Five Moment Memoir

Recently I tried an exercise NYC writer Sarah Beauchamp recommended: the five-moment memoir. Because I write for a living, I'm not inclined to journal much. But this helps me keep track of what I've been doing and it only takes a few minutes. It also lets me decompress at the end of the day. Maybe you'll enjoy it too.

Simply note five moments that occurred during the day––things you did, ideas you thought about, people you encountered, emotions, or insights. Keep it brief, but jot down enough to jog your memory later on if you choose to come back and expand upon what you've written. Some examples:

1) Called Mom––she always seems appreciative when I do.
2) Cleaned the bathroom. It looks so nice, I should do it more often.
3) Started reading a new Barbara Kingsolver book. Love her writing.
4) Bought a dozen roses on sale at the local supermarket. Flowers make me smile.
5) Got a card from a friend that says "May there always be an angel by your side."

See how easy it is? 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy Ostara/Spring Equinox

Pagans celebrate Ostara (also known as Eostre) when the sun enters 0 degrees of Aries; this year that happens on March 20. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Spring Equinox ushers in warmer weather, days that are longer than nights, and the advent of new life. Christianity adopted this joyful period of the year for the celebration of Easter (which usually falls near the Spring Equinox). Ostara gets its name from the German fertility goddess Ostare; the word Easter derives from the same root. Both holidays celebrate the triumph of life over death.

The Holiday’s Significance

According to mythology, the Sun King’s chariot continues climbing higher in the sky, reaching the point at which day and night are of equal length on Ostara. Therefore, this sabbat is associated with balance, equality, and harmony.

The Spring Equinox marks the first day of spring and the start of the busy planting season in agrarian cultures. Farmers till their fields and sow seeds. Trees begin to bud, spring flowers blossom, and baby animals are born. Ostara, therefore, is one of the fertility holidays and a time for planting seeds—literally or figuratively.

Ways to Celebrate

On Ostara, sow seeds that you want to bear fruit in the coming months. This is an ideal time to launch new career ventures, move to a new home, or begin a new relationship. If you enjoy gardening, start preparing the soil and planting flowers, herbs, and/or vegetables now. Consider the magickal properties of botanicals and choose plants that represent your intentions. Even if you aren’t a gardener, you could plant seeds in a flowerpot to symbolize wishes you hope will grow to fruition in the coming months.

Witches connect each plant—herb, flower, and tree—with specific magickal properties. Sage, for example, is used for purification rituals. Mint and parsley can be added to prosperity talismans to attract wealth. White snapdragons ensure protection and roses play an important role in love magick.

Some popular Easter customs have their roots in Ostara’s symbolism. Eggs represent the promise of new life, and painting them bright colors engages the creative aspect of this sabbat. You might enjoy decorating eggs with magickal symbols, such as pentagrams and spirals. Rabbits, of course, have long been linked with fertility. In an old German story, a rabbit laid some sacred eggs and decorated them as a gift for the fertility goddess Ostara. Ostara liked the beautiful eggs so much that she asked the rabbit to share the eggs with everyone throughout the world.

(Excerpted from The Everything Wicca & Witchcraft Book)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Understanding Mercury Retrograde

In the coming days if your thinking seems fuzzy, you can’t communicate with loved ones or coworkers, you keep losing or forgetting things, or your computer or SmartPhone starts acting weird, blame it on Mercury. The little planet that causes so many problems is retrograde until March 17. In Roman mythology, Mercury was the messenger of the gods and goddesses. In astrology, the planet rules all forms of communication (including equipment such as computers, phones, and fax machines).
            Every four months, this planet appears to change direction and move backward in its orbit around the sun for about three weeks. When this happens, all sorts of mix-ups can and do occur. Our thinking processes become muddled; we have trouble concentrating; we don't seem to be able to express ourselves clearly; we forget things. Stuff gets lost in the mail. Cars and computers break down. No matter how hard we try and how careful we are, shit happens.
            While Mercury is retrograde, it's a good idea to check everything three times. Don't rely on verbal acknowledgments or your memory––get everything in writing, keep lists so you don't forget something important, and take copious notes in meetings. If possible, put off signing contracts, giving presentations, and purchasing big-ticket items especially electronic equipment or cars. Don’t start a new project or open a business during this Mercury cycle either––it may never get off the ground or could take longer than you expect. And don’t schedule an important event now––all kinds of problems could crop up and spoil your day.
            Mercury can also have an impact on travel plans. To avoid mix-ups or delays, be sure to confirm dates, schedules, and travel reservations, and give yourself plenty of time to make connections. If you're flying, mark baggage clearly and carry what you absolutely need on the plane, just in case your luggage gets lost. If you're driving, get your car serviced before you hit the road.
            Put off elective medical and dental procedures until Mercury goes direct. Miscommunication, mistakes, and complications are much more likely at this time. If you receive a confusing or upsetting lab report, get the test redone after the planet turns direct.
            But even the clouds surrounding Mercury retrograde can have silver linings. During this period, long-lost objects may turn up, hidden situations might come to light, old friends often call, and business deals you'd given up on can finally materialize.
            Of course, we can't all go on retreat every time this planet turns around––although that's the ideal way to utilize Mercury's retrograde energy. The next best option is to plan around the retrograde periods as much as possible. Steer clear of situations that you know will be taxing. Give yourself more time than usual to accomplish difficult tasks. And be patient––with yourself and everyone else.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

First Book in My New Deadly Duos Series

My new e-book collection of stories is now available for 99 cents at Deadly Duos, Volume 1 contains two tales of murder, suspense, betrayal, and astrology––set in Boston.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Art forger Sebastian Avery never learned which toes to step on and which to dance around. This time the “bad boy” of the art world went too far––and ended up shot full of arrows, like his patron saint. His long-time friend, astrologer Charlotte McCrae, vows to find out who killed him, with deadly consequences. Set against the backdrop of the real-life unsolved art heist at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, “Hidden in Plain Sight” is a must-read for mystery lovers, art enthusiasts, and astrology buffs.

Life, Death, Love, and Baseball: When a wealthy photographer with a mysterious past hires landscape gardener, amateur astrologer, and die-hard Red Sox fan Jessie Ames, she doesn’t realize her life is about to change forever––and not in a good way. Disappointed with her marriage to a minor league pitcher, Jessie begins an affair with the older man that takes her into risqué and risky territory. Set against the real-life backdrop of major league baseball’s 1981 “split season,” this tale of murder and betrayal is a must-read for mystery lovers, baseball enthusiasts, and astrology buffs.

I hope to follow this with at least two more collections in the coming months. Kathleen Valentine designed the beautiful cover. Please let me know what you think. Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Next Big Thing: Blog Tour

I’d like to thank Susan Oleksiw, author of the Mellingham Mystery series and the Anita Ray series, for inviting me to participate in this writers’ blog tour: The Next Big Thing. Check out her post for the tour at “One Writer’s World.” Susan and I have known each other for many years, and cofounded the publishing company Level Best Books, along with Kate Flora. They’re both terrific writers, and Susan is also a talented photographer.

On this tour, lots of writers share their experiences and ideas about the writing process, and talk about either an already published book or a work in progress. It's a great opportunity to get together online with our friends, colleagues, and readers. We all respond to the same set of questions, but of course our answers are all different. Although I’ve got two novels ready for a publisher (anybody interested?) and am halfway through the first draft of another, I decided to blog about my latest published work, which I hope will become my Next Big Thing sales-wise.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the author of more than thirty fiction and nonfiction books, including Hidden Agenda, which won The Kiss of Death Award for best novel of romantic suspense. Most of my fiction falls into the mystery category. Much of my nonfiction work centers on health/healing, metaphysical subjects, home/interior design, and mystical, magical beings such as angels and mermaids. My short stories have been published in numerous anthologies internationally, and my work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Q: What is the title of your book?

My most recently published book, Mermaids: The Myths, Legends, and Lore, came out earlier this year and includes all sorts of tales, trivia, sightings, and fascinating info about mermaids throughout history and from around the world.

Q: Where did the idea for the book come from?

My editor, Andrea Hakanson, at Adams Media and my now-agent, Paula Munier, came up with the idea––thanks again, ladies––and we developed the book together.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?

Basically, it’s a nonfiction work and classified under the rather boring “reference” category, but Adams produced it so beautifully (hardcover with lots of lovely turquoise illustrations throughout) that it really should be considered a gift book as well. You could also shelve it under mythology because, as the subtitle says, it traces the myths, legends, and lore about merfolk back thousands of years to ancient Assyria.

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, lots of movies have already been made about mermaids. Disney popularized Hans Christian Andersen’s story in the animated movie The Little Mermaid, which has grossed billions of dollars since its release in 1989. However, the actual tragic tale is a far cry from the fluffy Hollywood interpretation. And mermaids have appearanced in other movies, including Splash in 1984 starring Daryl Hannah. The Secret of Roan Inish is about Irish Selkies, a type of merfolk who shapeshift from seals to humans. Many of the individual legends in my book could be brought to the movie screen––I’d nominate Scarlett Johansson, Amanda Seyfried, Evan Rachel Wood, and Sierra McCormick for mermaid roles.

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’d say: Everything you ever wanted to know about these mysterious and magical beings, and more. Actually, the back cover copy says: “In this beautiful collection, you’ll explore the watery origins of these mysterious nymphs, from the streams and rivers of ancient Babylonia to the shining seas of the New World and beyond.”

Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Adams Media, in Avon, MA published the book this year; they’ve also published seven of my other books. Paula Munier––one of my inspirations at Adams at that time––is now my literary agent and is seeking publishers for two of my novels.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I spent about three months on the first draft, then another few weeks making revisions my editor recommended. I can’t remember the exact timeline, but from conception to birth the project probably took about the same amount of time as a human baby would, but with a lot less discomfort!

Q: What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Mermaids have mesmerized us for millennia, and the mermaid mystique shows no signs of diminishing anytime in the near future. I had a great time researching this book, talking to anthropologists and historians, and learning about all the different types of merfolk that splash about in the waters of the world. Did you know, for instance, that mermaids don’t just swim in the sea, some of them live in lakes, rivers, and even fountains? Not all mermaids sport a single tail (the ultimate chastity belt)––some, like the original mermaid on the Starbucks logo, feature split tails that allow them to mate with humans. And many can transform their fishy tails into human legs when they want to come ashore. Most mermaids combine good and bad qualities, but all are bewitchingly beautiful. And yes, mermen exist too. I hope if you choose to read Mermaids: The Myths, Legends, and Lore you’ll have as much fun as I did writing it.