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Sun Conjunct Ascendant

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Today is the birthday of one of my favorite people in the world (who prefers to remain nameless). It’s also the day my Sun conjuncts my Ascendant. Basically, my Sun now enters the First House of my natal chart. So while my birthday/Solar Return is in December, a sort of secondary birthday occurs now. Which may explain why so many of my friends are Aquarius and Aquarius Rising; I’m Aquarius Rising, too, and we’re on a similar wavelength.

The First House in astrology is the representation of oneself. It’s the way the world perceives you, the personality you project. So though my Sun is in Sagittarius, I often come across as Aquarius because that’s the sign of my First House. (Or most of it. There’s some Pisces in my First House, too.)

Aquarians are often described as “offbeat” and “eccentric.” But also “logical” and “detached.” It’s a visionary sign, able not only to see the big picture but practical enough in some ways to take steps toward achieving that. Except . . . Aquarians are also dreamers. So sometimes those big pictures they see aren’t all that realistic, despite all their logic. What seems obvious to an Aquarian often isn’t to anyone else, and Aquarians get frustrated when others don’t jump on board right away or require additional explanation.

Sometimes Aquarians are called “cold,” but the truth is, feelings run deep for Aquarians, and they don’t show them unless they’re with people they know and with whom they are comfortable. Once you get to know one, you’ll find them to be very warm. Yet it sometimes feels like something they can turn on and off at will. When logic is required, all warmth goes away, and the Aquarian bends to his or her task. That’s the detachment aspect at work.

Still, Aquarians do best in occupations that ignite their interest and, yes, their emotions. They do best to tap into those feelings and channel them into their work. And because Aquarians are so original, they make great fashion and interior designers, musicians, artists, directors, and writers. Project management, too, for the more business-minded of the sign. Jobs where their visions can be made concrete. That’s the key to happiness for an Aquarian: thoughts put into action leading to a solid result.

Because Aquarians can be grandiose in their visions, they’re easily frustrated and disappointed when things don’t happen the way they plan. Often there is a gap between what an Aquarian wants and what can realistically be accomplished. Talking them down is likely only to irritate them more, so it’s usually better to give the Aquarian his or her space. They bounce back soon enough with a new plan of attack or another big dream to chase.

Most people think, being the Water Bearer, Aquarius is a water sign, but it’s not. It’s an air sign. Sharply intelligent, logical, shrewd—all these accurately describe air signs and Aquarius. The corresponding Tarot card is the Star, the keywords for which are hope and ambition. Those two words sum up Aquarius quite nicely, and yet note that there is water involved both in the sign and on the Star card. Feelings are there. They are channeled toward that hope and ambition. And that is the very nexus of Aquarius.

The Spinning Top

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I was raised in a religious household. We were Catholic at first, and then my mother became “born again” as they say. My dad, I think, stayed Catholic at heart, but he wasn’t overt about his beliefs and didn’t attend with any regularity. Nor did he protest when my mom ripped me from the relative quiet of CCD and Catholicism and thrust me into the lights and noise of “non-denominational, Charismatic Christianity.”

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything. Well . . . For a while I bought into Gospel Bill and all that jazz. And then at some point my love of history began to clash a bit with what I’d been raised to believe. I also was never very keen on beating people over the head with the Bible, which was something it seemed I was expected to do. So I backed away slowly and went back to quiet. I began exploring my own tangled web of thoughts and ideas and beliefs.

My conclusion was that I do believe there is some Higher Power in the Universe. I’m not an atheist. Okay, so that’s a good thing to know about oneself. It’s a starting point.

In fact, there may be several gods or goddesses. I don’t know, but the way the Bible talks about “no other gods before Me” and all that, I figure there must be competition. Like, the Judeo-Christian God-with-a-capital-G wanted His people to only worship Him, but yes, there were other options. It’s not that those other powers don’t exist, it’s that God didn’t want to share the spotlight.

All right. At this point I have to ask myself whether I want to believe in one or more gods, and if I do believe there are more gods and goddesses, I have to decide if I want to dedicate myself to any one of them. I’ll admit, I haven’t decided on this point.

And you’re probably still wondering what this has to do with anything. What got me started on the topic was the question of Creation versus Evolution versus Intelligent Design. See, the reason I’m not an atheist is that I don’t believe this world is a cosmic accident. I just can’t believe we somehow formed without something being behind that. There’s an old story about Maimonides arguing this point. The person he was arguing with—the person arguing against there being a God who created the world—stepped away and when he came back, there was a poem written on a sheet of paper. The man read it and said, “This is beautiful, where is it from?” Maimonides told him, “I spilled my ink and this was the result.” The man said that was impossible, and Maimonides said, “Yet you expect me to believe the very same thing of the world we live in.”

So, yeah. No. I don’t believe the primordial soup just cooked us up. Someone or something brought the ingredients together at the very least.

And that’s the spinning top I mention in the title of this post. There is at least one great power out there—I believe that much. But I’m not sure how involved he/she/it is in the world. I sometimes thing Earth is just a big toy that power set spinning . . . And have you ever watched a kid play with a top? It spins and spins and eventually the kid either nudges it to watch it wobble (at which point the top goes off its axis and eventually sputters to a stop), or he wanders off to do something else. What would be better? To be left to spin unmolested? Or to be toyed with?

Ready, Set, Stop

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Mercury went retrograde this morning, and right on schedule everything that had been making progress came to a screeching halt.

I’ve been involved in a series of conference calls—superstition prevents me from saying more at this juncture—and today we were supposed to have another one, but it got postponed. Now I’m waiting to hear the new day and time for the call.

This is classic Mercury retrograde. Mercury is the planet of communication and travel, and when he goes backward, delays and obstacles spring up, miscommunication runs rampant, wires get crossed, trips get cancelled . . . They say you shouldn’t plan trips or sign contracts when Mercury is retrograde. Of course, sometimes you have no choice, but you should at least plan extra time and remain flexible, and you should always be absolutely sure of anything you’re signing (but you should do that anyway, right?).

Mercury is one of my ruling planets. I was born on a Wednesday, which is Hermes’/Mercury’s day. He’s also a patron god of writers, so . . . He and I have a thing.

On the plus side, though Mercury retrograde is bad for starting any new projects, it’s a great time to revise things, which is what I’m doing with Peter now. In fact, anything “re-” is good during a Mercury backspin. Review, return, etc. You may also find old issues popping up, or old friends unexpectedly contacting you. Nostalgia is sometimes part of a Mercury retrograde.

And then it also depends on where in your personal chart Mercury is at the moment. Right now he’s in my First House, right up front and center. (In my Solar Return chart, he’s in my Seventh House of partnerships, hence the delays on these conference calls. Frustrating, but par for the course, so I shouldn’t be surprised it happened.)

It’s fine. Mercury retrograde is a lesson in patience, something I’m not great at, but I get a little better at it each time . . .

For the Birds

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I have a couple “regulars” I see on my walks in the nearby hills. First, there is a pair of mated crows (and sometimes a few more crows, which I always count because I’m compulsive and superstitious). There is also a beautiful hawk. This morning my hawk friend followed me on my walk, going from this tree to that, then to a nearby rock, then up to a streetlight as I walked home.

A new bird also appeared on scene this morning: a big, white heron. He flew over me a few times as I walked. Quite lovely.

1. “Never Thought” by Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers
2. “Bigger Than the Both of Us” by Jimmy Buffett
3. “Aren’t You Mine” by Pure Prairie League
4. “Last Chance” by Maroon 5
5. “Fool’s Game” by Richard Marx
6. “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” as covered by Los Lobos
7. “As Long As It Matters” by Gin Blossoms
8. “Meet Virginia” by Train
9. “I Take My Chances” by Mary Chapin Carpenter
10. “Leave An Open Door” by Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers

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Odds & Ends

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Received more great coverage for my TV pilot yesterday. I have real hopes this could be a network television show.

I’ve also been getting solid feedback for Peter. Now I’m making revisions based on that feedback, and I think the novel will be stronger for it.

Lately I get a lot of, “I see you walking in the mornings.” Considering I’m up in the hills and almost never wear the same jacket twice in as many days, it might seem impossible these people are so sure they saw me. Except I’m the only person in these parts with flaming red hair streaked with orange and pink. At least, I think I am . . . My natural hair is almost completely white now, which seems crazy considering I’m not that old (in my opinion, anyway). If I were brave, I’d leave it. But I’m not brave. And I love being a redhead. And orangehead. And pinkhead. And sometimes purplehead or bluehead. I never know ’til I leave the salon what color I might end up being.

Today’s walk:

1. “Tributary Otis” by The Refreshments
2. “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
3. “Chemical Party” by Gavin DeGraw
4. “Follow Through” by Gavin DeGraw
5. “Give Me the Meltdown” by Rob Thomas
6. “Just South of Nowhere” by Gin Blossoms
7. “Stop and Stare” by OneRepublic
8. “Drops of Jupiter” by Train
9. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston
10. “Early Morning Riser” by Pure Prairie League
11. The Road and the Sky” by Jackson Browne
12. “Where Are You Now?” by Mumford & Sons

I had a dream last night about Gin Blossoms, so I wondered if they’d turn up on my iPod this morning. In the dream I was at an outdoor concert—they were playing in front of a municipal building, but the building was in the middle of a clearing in a forest. And as the concert ended, masked men came and shot the drummer dead and took some hostages. Pretty crazy. The dream ended with me going into the building, which was a maze of beige marble hallways, and finding a room that seemed to have mounds of snow in it but they turned out to be beanbags. And a woman who acted like she knew me but was talking about my Sherlock dolls, saying, “Jim, right?” Except I only had my Sherlock doll with me, not Jim or John. And another woman asking me to look up info about the Attorney General, but all I could find was a picture of her as a cheerleader with a tattoo of the Sun in Aquarius and a bunch of astrological info. Hmm. I don’t even know how the whole hostage situation ended.

Now I’m off to continue revisions to Peter . . .

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Good News, Bad News

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It’s been one of those weeks. I’m getting a lot of feedback regarding Peter, which has been mostly very encouraging: it’s well written, I’m told, and a unique story. But. (And there’s always a “but.”) The story should start in a different way and I should make Peter more sympathetic from the get go.

I’ll admit he’s a cypher. That’s kind of key to being a spy. But many agents and editors are telling me to maybe get in his head a bit more.

It feels like a daunting amount of work, but I’ll do it. I need to print out the whole damn thing and give it a thorough once over, identify where and how to add and tweak.

So now I’m caught: Do I focus on fixing Peter? Or do I try to finish Changers first? Changers will surely be an easier sell to agents and publishers. But I also have this need to see Peter settled and done with. And now I feel frozen, not sure where to turn, which means I’m not getting anything done.

Well, but there’s been good news this week on the screenwriting front. Superstition keeps me from going into detail, but it’s sufficient to say I’d have had a pretty awful week if not for this bright spot.

Onward, then.

As soon as I pick a direction.

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Magnolia, You Sweet Thing

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It’s a line from a song by Poco.

You see, my parents almost named me Magnolia. (If I’d have been a boy, I would have been named Martin Peter. “M” was destined in any case.) Then my parents argued. My mother said they’d name me Magnolia and call me Maggie for short. My dad said if they named me Magnolia, they would call me Magnolia. That’s the whole point of a name, etc. My dad always has been a very logical sort.

Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and try to imagine I’m a Magnolia. I could maybe believe a Maggie, but . . . Though I’m a Southern girl, for sure, I’m maybe not quite sweet enough to pull off such a name.

And then I wonder why they couldn’t have just called me Martine. I like that name. I feel like I could be a Martine. But not a Martina. Isn’t that interesting, how that tiny difference feels huge? Certainly there’s a cultural difference. I come from a French background, so of course Martine feels more natural to me, more in keeping with my identity.

It feels like I’d have been a very different person if I’d been named Magnolia. Do names have that kind of influence? I think so, just a bit. Studies have shown how people respond differently to various names. The ancients believed names carried power, and I think they do, even if it’s just the power of suggestion.

“A rose by any other name . . .” Yeah, it would smell the same, yet people would still treat it differently if it were called hackweed or something. But then, one doesn’t discover something as lovely as a rose and call it “hackweed” either. Yet we name babies well before we come to know them. Hmm. It’s a kind of burden we place on them, a mantel they are expected to wear and carry all their days. Something to either live up to or live down. Something they’re expected to reflect rather than giving them a name that reflects them. (Well, unless they change their names.)

I do love magnolias, though. But . . . Do I love them for themselves, or because I almost shared their name?

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About Peter

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People keep asking me where things stand with it, so here are the facts:

I’m no longer sending out queries. Right now six literary agents have the full manuscript and four others have partials. I will wait to hear what these say, and in the meantime I’m fleshing out a few revisions per some of the feedback I’ve received.

I was feeling really down about it all last week, but then I received two more requests for the manuscript—and two requests for scripts that I’ve written—and that got me feeling better.

What I’ve come to recognize about myself is that I’m a product of the system that taught me to seek approval, those gold stars from teachers and such. I was so good at that in school, but when you’re a writer the gold stars are fewer and farther between. And when I go a long while with no feedback, no praise, I get into a slump. I lose my motivation. I mope and drag.

All well and good to know this about oneself, but is there anything I can do to change it? Not sure. I need to think about it. At least I can now acknowledge when this is happening. Then, hopefully, I can find something to perk me up when it does.

For now I’m feeling okay, though I’m not sure how long those requests from last week can or will sustain my mood. I’m like a junkie! Must have pettings and soothing words said to me on a regular basis. Hmm . . . Maybe I’m more like a cat. I like the pettings, but I also get tired of them and will bite you if you carry on too long. And I definitely don’t like it if you try to pick me up.

Walk this morning:

1. “Dead Or Alive on the 405″ by Gin Blossoms
2. “Main Titles” from Sherlock
3. “Give Me the Meltdown” by Rob Thomas
4. “Feel Again” by OneRepublic
5. “Bent” by Matchbox Twenty
6. “Not Coming Home” by Maroon 5
7. “Nothing to Hide” by Richard Marx
8. “Don’t Change for Me” by Gin Blossoms
9. “Hands Are Tied” by Gin Blossoms

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Loose Corset

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Congrats to fellow author Christine Rains on her publication day! You can pick up the first in her Dice & Debauchery series on Amazon among other sites. (I’d post a picture but for some reason my WordPress site no longer allows that.)

And, yes, I’ve been walking. On Wednesday I was enough over my ear infection to be able to listen to my music again.

Wednesday:

1. “Gimmie Another Chance” by Pure Prairie League
2. “Down Together” by The Refreshments
3. “Man on a Wire” by The Script
4. “If You Ever Come Back” by The Script
5. “Wonderful” by Rob Thomas
6. “Crazy Lucky” by Better Than Ezra
7. “Because We Can” by Bon Jovi
8. “Love Unemotional” by Richard Marx
9. “Stop and Stare” by OneRepublic

Thursday:

1. “Nothing” by The Script
2. “Feels Like (It Feels Alright)” by Collective Soul
3. “Never Going Back Again” as covered by Matchbox Twenty [still my favorite cover by them]
4. “Don’t Change for Me” by Gin Blossoms
5. “King of Anything” by Sara Bareilles
6. “This Is the Time” by Billy Joel
7. “Soldier” by Gavin DeGraw
8. “Pinch Me” by Barenaked Ladies
9. “Belief” by Gavin DeGraw
10. “Honey, Let Me Sing You a Song” by Matt Hires
11. “Forever December” by Tabitha’s Secret

Friday:

1. “Feel So Bad” by Rob Thomas
2. “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce
3. “Hard to Handle” by Black Crowes
4. “Impossible” by Anberlin
5. “Friday I’m In Love” by The Cure
6. “Paint Me Blue” by Tabitha’s Secret
7. “How Long?” by Matchbox Twenty
8. “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons
9. “Everywhere I Go” by Amy Grant
10. “Free” by Train
11. “Early Morning Riser” by Pure Prairie League

I’ll admit the year has been off to a rocky start, but I just keep trying to find the nuggets of goodness. And today I got a couple more requests for my manuscript, which, after all the rejection, felt pretty good. A few friends have pointed out that if the year starts at a low, it can only get better . . . But I really don’t want to test the theory by seeing if things can get any worse! So I’ll just try to be happy for what I have.

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Simeon the Brilliant

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I was playing around with a Random Plot Generator while thinking about the next book in the Peter Stoller series. I already know I want it to focus on Simeon; he’s such a fun character. Here’s what the Plot Generator came up with:

What would you do if you knew there were unprepared people with shocking habits near the ones you love?

The night of the party changes everything for Simeon Martin, a 26-year-old spy from London.

One moment, he is discussing radios with his daring boss, Peter Stoller; the next, watching with horror as unprepared people kill each other.

He knows these people came from Vienna but he can’t prove it – at least not without some secret books.

The brilliant, forgiving man knows that his unsettled life is over. He acquires some secret books and is reborn as the hero who will save the world from unprepared people.

However, when Peter calls, begging him to come home, Simeon is forced to decide what is more important: stopping the unprepared people that kill each other, or preserving his relationship with his boss?

It gave the book the title Simeon the Brilliant. Um . . .

If you’ve never used one, a Plot Generator works like Mad Libs. You fill in some names, nouns, adjectives and it does the rest. To hilarious results. All those unprepared people . . . Gotta stop ‘em.

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