Saturday, September 1, 2018

From Stage to Keyboard: by Connie DiMarco

Jenn McKinlay: True confession -- I read my horoscope every day. 
I have also been known to consult runes, tarot cards, and one time a 
psychic. She told me not to worry and that everything would work 
out. That was enough for me, I never needed to consult another 
psychic again. Right? Anyway, when I saw the Zodiac Mysteries 
hit the shelves, needles to say, they were immediately added to my 
TBR pile! They're wonderful! And their author, the fabulous 
Connie DiMarco, is here with us today to tell us how they came to 
be.

Connie DiMarco: A big thank you to Jenn 
McKinlay for  inviting me over to visit the 
Jungle Reds! I’m thrilled to be here today 
among such a fabulous group. 

Tail of the Dragon, Book 3 in the Zodiac Mysteries, has just been released.  The mad round of blog tours and events has (almost) come to a close and now, with a little breathing room, I find myself giving a lot of thought to the crazy business we are all involved in.  The ups and downs, the disappointments and frustrations.  And of course, the thrill of holding your very own book in your hands or spotting your magnum opus on a Barnes & Noble bookshelf. But the truth of it is that getting published can be a real pain in the zorch! 

JENN: Pain in the Zorch!!! I love it!

My wonderful agent several years ago tried to sell the Zodiac Mysteries, but no publisher would bite. One reason I’m sure was that I had no resume as a writer.  In fact, I had never written a thing or even thought about being a writer.  Crafting a thank you note or a little message on a Christmas card took all my ingenuity and focus.  The thought of staring at a blank computer screen, wracking my brain for clever ideas seemed an excruciating form of mental torture.  I swore I’d never step into that.  
My first love was acting, from the time I heard a soap opera on the radio at the age of six.  I was entranced.  I wanted to live in that world.  And eventually I did -- for a lot of years.  A few people who know about my foolish past have remarked, “How exciting! Wasn’t it exciting?”  I’ve replied, “Uh . . . .”  How can I explain to anyone that the work is sometimes an E-ticket ride, but the life is anything but.  If sweating blood for the next job, anxiety attacks, and waiting for the phone to ring is exciting . . . then maybe you’re meant to be an actor (?). 
It was boredom that kickstarted my venture into mystery writing.  The epiphany happened one day in a Hollywood parking lot in 105-degree heat. I was playing a receptionist in a miniseries who helps an undercover FBI agent posing as a Muslim terrorist fill out a job application for a rabbi who is in fact a terrorist himself.  If you’re confused by this description, no worries.  So was I.  Over the years under my professional name, I’ve played all sorts of moms, divorcées, nurses, secretaries and waitresses, even a hooker or two.  That particular day, I was in a state of narcoleptic ennui.  Bored stiff.  This was not art.  I was merely advancing the plot.  That’s the day I decided to head home as soon as possible and start writing my mystery.  (Did I mention I’ve always been a lover of mysteries and thrillers?)  
As an actor, not only are you a social leper at a party because everyone knows you’re just looking for the next job, but in a working situation, you have no control.  Not on a set and not on a stage.  You only have your part, one cog in a great wheel.  But (lightbulb going off here) as a writer, you can create and control everything.  You build your own world, just the way you like it.  

August 2018
So that’s how my crime-solving San Francisco astrologer was born.  The early rejections didn’t bother me.  I already had a Ph.D. in rejection – three decades of chewing fingernails, sitting in LA traffic, A/C on stun and makeup melting onto my lap for the jobs I didn’t book.  But I was undaunted.  I wrote the second book in the series and then the third.  Still nothing happened.  The Zodiac Mysteries languished.  Julia, my crime-solving astrologer wasn’t solving any crimes, nor did she have any clients to speak of.  In the meantime, I wrote several books in the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries but I hadn’t given up on the Zodiac Mysteries.  Those stories were still dear to my heart.  

Fast forward several years. Once again, my dauntless agent tried to sell the series.  But still there were difficulties.  One editor said, “A religious cult that takes over the city?  Oh no, we can’t touch anything like that!”  (The Madness of Mercury)  Another said, “Astrology? Oh, I think that’s way too complicated for our readers!”  (All Signs Point to Murder)  And so on . . .  But, at least no one said, ‘She’s a terrible writer.’  There was hope yet.  
Then finally, the clouds parted, the stars aligned.  A publisher actually wanted the series!  Not just any publisher, but Llewellyn/Midnight Ink.  How perfect, how appropriate, I thought.  The publisher of all those astrology books I had been perusing for years.  Who knew I be able to create a unique character from all that wealth of information? 
Chinese Zodiac
So that’s how the Zodiac Mysteries finally saw the light of day.  That’s how Julia Bonatti was born, with clients who bring murder to her doorstep. And I couldn’t be happier to have created my own world.  Is getting published still a pain in the zorch?  Yes, it is, but it’s a whole lot more satisfying than anything else I’ve done in life.  I wouldn’t trade being part of the mystery community for anything!  I just wish I had started sooner.  

So, Reds and Readers, the obvious question is -- what's your sign?
Are you a believer in astrology or no? 

Here's description of the latest Zodiac Mystery: Tail of the Dragon
A rare astrological event could help San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti avoid a deadly destiny:
Julia Bonatti loves the freedom of working for herself as a professional astrologer. But after receiving several unexpected bills, she considers a temp job offer from her old boss a stroke of luck too good to pass up.
On her first day, the posh law office becomes a crime scene when one of the partners is found dead. Julia discovers that a series of death threats have been sent to several employees of the firm, and she uses her astrological expertise to discover possible motives. But before she can convince the authorities of what she knows, the killer strikes again. Will Julia unmask the culprit before he, or she, takes another life?
Praise for the Zodiac Mysteries
All Signs Point to Murder
"Di Marco crafts an intricate, twisting plot and layers on the astrological details that fans of psychic mysteries so enjoy."―Booklist

68 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Connie . . . your zodiac stories sound fascinating. I’m looking forward to meeting Julia . . . .
    Although I’m not a regular horoscope reader, I know that I’m a Leo . . . .

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    1. Hi Joan, thank you. I can't resist reading newspaper horoscopes either! Actually, if you know you're rising sign (based on the time of day you were born), that's the one to read. It'll be more accurate. Happy reading!

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  2. I don't believe in astrology, but it is fun to read the horoscopes sometimes. And I'm glad your series finally found a publisher!

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    1. Me too, Marla! Thank you. When a publisher nibbled, no one was more surprised than I! I thought it would never happen!

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  3. Congratulations on finding such a perfect home for your series, Connie!

    Back in the stone age, when I was getting my BFA in Theatre, I made something of the same discovery. Actresses have a shelf-life, but directors get to work even if they're fat and have wrinkles, and writers . . . Writers get to play all the parts! While I'm still looking for the perfect home for my stories, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and wishing on lucky stars. While I don't exactly believe in astrology, I have found that my daily dose of horoscope is usually just good, common sense to remind anyone of any sign to watch out for users and be kind to others. And, yes, I have consulted cards and psychics and done all that stuff over the years. What else would you expect from a Scorpio?

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    1. Ah Scorpio! A fascinating sign -- deep, intense and passionate! And I can relate because my Venus is in Scorpio and that's probably (ahem) landed me in various troubles over the years. But you're so right about shelf life, Gigi. Meryl Streep called it her "sell by date," but bless her! As it's turned out, she's still going strong. Perhaps she knows a good psychic?

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    2. Meryl Streep just refused to stop, I think. But, once again, the power lies with the writer. Women do not disappear from the face of the earth when they turn 30. In fact, that's when they really start to get really interesting. But in the movies? Yeah. If writers bothered to write more meaty female roles, we'd all have more interesting stories to watch, and Meryl wouldn't be all alone up there on the Oscar stage. (Well . . . maybe she would. She's in a class by herself.)

      By the way, those "troubles"? Those were just adventures.

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    3. That's right, they were Gigi! A wealth of life experiences to mine. One of the reasons I started Julia at age 36 was for that very reason. I think the mid-30's are the true beginning of self-knowledge. Hopefully, Julia will survive past the age of 40 . . . or even 50!

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  4. Congratulations, Connie! These books have been on my list for a while - must move them to the top. I live with a man who is a deep believer in astrology. I'm a double Scorpio with moon in Taurus and ever since my college roommate did my chart, it has made sense to me. Really interesting to hear you talk about acting - I never thought about how little control you would have. Best of luck with Dragon!

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    1. Thanks so much, Edith! Wow! I knew you were a Scorpio, but Sun and rising sign both? And a Moon in Taurus. I stand in awe! I would not want to butt heads with you over any issue. LOL! What Sun sign is your partner?

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    2. He's very much a Capricorn! It's funny, both my sisters and my mom also have/had moon in Taurus. Two of my past lovers were triple Scorpios = fireworks both good and bad. ;^)

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    3. Actually, that's a good blend, Edith. The steadiness of an earth sign like Capricorn will settle the emotional Scorpio energy, and you both have Moons in earth signs. Very compatible. I once read an article by an astrologer who said that Scorpio-Scorpio relationships weren't bad, neither individual would trust the other, so they'd keep things in balance. Sounds a little negative to me. It's not surprising about your Mom and sisters, either. There are amazing correspondences in families! I often wonder if we have agreements to come back to earth with the same souls.

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  5. Oh gosh, I’m a Libra. Perfect for a reporter, right? Absolutely! Do I believe it? Um, yes and no. See? See what I did there? :-) Welcome welcome welcome Connie!

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    1. Thanks so much, Hank! And yes, I'll bet you charm your interviewees into spilling the beans, right? I'm strictly an amateur, although I've read a lot and played with my chart and friends' charts and the more I learn, the more amazed I am. Perhaps there is a divine order in the universe.

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  6. I'm not a believer, but I confess, I read my horoscope daily, and I'm always amazed at how well it predicts... what happened yesterday! My sign: Pisces. Looking it up: "Spiritual, curious, and gentle, the Pisces woman is a true dreamer." Uh, come again??

    Astrology is too complicated? That's bizarre. The series sounds like great fun. Congratulations on the new book!

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    1. Hi Hallie, thank you! One of my dearest and life-long friends is a Pisces and that's very accurate. Pisces is a sensitive, dreamy water sign.
      One of the brain puzzles in writing this series is making sure I have solid charts for (at the very least) my murderer and my victim. Professional astrologers are very very serious and will call me out if I make an error! For example, 'How could her Mercury possibly be in Leo if she's a Taurus? Mercury can never be more than so many degrees away from the Sun!' I do have to get my facts straight!

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  7. That's quite a publication story! Glad it all worked out. Gemini. I read my horoscope in the Sunday paper.

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    1. Hi Margaret, if you're a Gemini, there's a good chance your Mercury's in the same sign. A natural writer and communicator! I think it's impossible to resist those magazine and newspaper horoscopes, isn't it? I'm always sneaking a look in the supermarket line.
      I was very blessed to find a terrific agent and ultimately be published. It is a rocky road. Maybe there are writers who come straight out of the gate into amazing success, I don't know. But I think every author must have horror stories!

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  8. Capricorn here, Connie. Yesterday on JRW, we were discussing covers--and The Tail of the Dragon is a showstopper! I'd pick that up in a heartbeat (or click on it), then I'd be picking up all the previous books in the series. Looks like a fun read and I'm so glad you (and your agent) kept trying--it's great to see your faith in your own work rewarded!

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    1. Hi Flora ~ for some reason, I did have faith. Not sure where it all came from, but I'm glad I was able to keep plugging along with Julia's stories. I'm so glad you love this cover too! It's my favorite as well, and much more in line with the series. And I love that the cover artist incorporated so many zodiac symbols!

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  9. Both the Capricorn and the Pisces rising in me loved the book, Connie! Congratulations and fondest regards.

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    1. So good to see you here, Wendall. Thank you! I'm so glad you've enjoyed Julia's adventures too! And you know you're rising sign, that's great. (Make sure you read Pisces' predictions in the newspapers, as well as Capricorn.)

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  10. Congratulations, Connie!

    I'm a Virgo. I don't read daily horoscopes, but friends tell me I display many of the Virgo traits - some more painfully obvious than others. =)

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Hi Mary ~ my husband has a Moon in Virgo, plus a couple of other placements in Virgo and once in a while he catches himself. One time, he stopped in mid-sentence of a very critical diatribe, turned to me and said, "I'm a Virgo hemorrhoid, aren't I?" I fell off my chair in hysterical laughter. I'm a fire sign and probably drive him nuts! Take heart, Mary, maybe a hobby like music or art will relieve the need to be perfect.

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  11. Congratulations! Double Scorpio with a third Scorpio aspect (is that the right word for not quite a triple because it's in the wrong place?). Oh, hell, yes, I believe.

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    1. Hi Keenan ~ That must mean there is a third Scorpio placement, perhaps not the Moon but another planet in the same sign, but not close in degree. As with Edith Maxwell above -- deep, intense, passionate, perhaps a true detective, or a psychological profiler. I wouldn't want to be an opposing counsel in court! And I'll bet you can see right through your clients too. What type of law do you practice? Inquiring minds would like to know!

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  12. I'm a Taurus and although I don't believe in astrology I do have some strong Taurus traits (stubborn homebody, emphasis on stubborn). I like to read horoscopes so your series sounds like fun!

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    1. Hi Cathy ~ those horoscopes are so hard to resist, aren't they? There's nothing so fascinating as reading about yourself!
      It's true, Taurus can be very stubborn, very! Slow to anger, but when angered, everyone needs to clear the arena. And much attached to creature comforts, if not delicious fabrics, fine wines and an appreciation of all sorts of luxuries. I'm not proselytizing here, but astrology really does work!

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    2. Connie re anger: oh yes! And while I find it really hard to forgive, I never forget.

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    3. Yes, Taurus does hang on and doesn't like to let anything go. It's considered a "fixed earth" sign and just can't be moved from its position. There's a reason its symbol is the bull!

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  13. I just bought the Madness of Mercury. If any JRW readers don't have it yet, the Kindle version is on sale for .99!

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    1. Oh, thank you, Cathy! I really hope you enjoy Julia's very first adventure! And thanks as well for that plug. I'm very happy my publisher has kept the first Zodiac Mystery up on sale for a longer time. Happy reading!

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    2. Thanks, Cathy, for the head's up. Will get it now!

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  14. Good morning Connie- Congratulations on the new book! I hope your tour has gone well. I've been waiting for this one since last May. I was fortunate to attend the SinC panel discussion at the Pasadena LitFest. You were a panel member and the room collectively wrote a plot line. I'm also delighted that Hollywood didn't snatch you up and you became the full fledged writer you were obviously meant to be. P.S. I once heard a director say that actors are nothing more than movable props. It perfectly described my brief stint in acting. Again, congratulations!

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    1. Hi Lyda ~ great to 'see' you again! So glad you could stop by today. That was a wonderful event in Pasadena. I truly enjoyed it, and we were so lucky to have such an enthusiastic group!
      I've certainly run into that attitude you describe about actors. The assumption is that you're quite dumb, one step below a writer. And writers are considered fairly low on the food chain as well. Very expendable. But (in defense of Hollywood) I've also met many casting directors who love actors and confessed they have no idea why anyone would pursue such a crazy career, but are grateful they do. And once in a while, against all the odds, some art manages to bleed through into the business.

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  15. Connie- I love this series! So glad you joined us today. I’m an Aries, and I have no idea how that worked to make me a writer - control issues? I do believe in astrology up to a point. Too many people fit their profiles too well for me to shrug it off completely. Also, I found the story of your journey to publication amazing - the PhD in rejection? Painfully hilarious! Will there be more Zodiac Mysteries?

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    1. Oh, thank you, Jenn! And I'm thrilled to be here today! I'm chortling now . . . Ph.D in rejection! It's true though. I was blown away by how NICE and courteous people in the publishing world were. They would actually write a note or an email to reject you and tell you they wanted nothing to do with you. I thought how civilized! It was a lot better than sitting on top of the phone trying to convince yourself that your agent would call at any moment.
      Aries (ruled by Mars) is a great sign for forging ahead and cutting through obstacles. One of my daughters has her Mars in Aries and when she's on a mission, we do not get in her way! But your writing career might have more to do with your Mercury placement and aspects to that planet and your 3rd house (uh, oh, sorry, don't want to get to technical and bore you!).

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  16. I really enjoy this series. I do not read my horoscope daily but when I can. I am a cancer and when they describe love of family. That is definitely me. The family and I always talk about with sign each of us are and say yep that is us. Then we laugh. Keep up this series because I think is a wonderful series and great read.

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    1. Oh, thank you, Lois! I'm so glad you've enjoyed Julia's adventures! Cancer is very protective of loved ones. The symbol is the crab with a hard outer shell and a soft vulnerable interior, I think it's a perfect symbol.
      Did you know that the U.S. is a Cancer country? Most astrologers agree on the chart. And it makes sense -- as a nation were were reluctant to enter the World Wars. It took Pearl Harbor to get us moving in 1941. Mundane astrology (study of nations/events) is definitely not my forte, but I enjoy reading articles about the subject.

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  17. Hi Connie! Glad to see you here. My sign is Cancer and I think it fits, and after a couple more Zodiac mysteries I will be a true believer. Congrats again on a great book.
    sally

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    1. Hi Sally ~ thanks so much for stopping by! I'm so glad you've been enjoying the Zodiac Mysteries!!!
      My husband is a Cancer too. Tough on the outside, but so sensitive inside.
      One of the benefits of writing this series is that I've connected (FB and Twitter) with several astrologers. I love to read their posts and predictions, it's fascinating! And they remind me how much I still don't know. One woman even wrote to thank me for promoting astrology in fiction! Isn't that amazing?

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  18. Congratulations Connie. I love that you didn't give up, and your series was finally published. I don't read horoscopes often. I'm a Pisces.

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    1. Thanks, Robyn! I have no idea why I managed to keep going, really. I guess I was just sure that Julia was an interesting character in an urban setting, and in a profession that would bring her lots of opportunities to solve crimes.
      I love that people are sharing their Sun signs too! Like Hallie above -- you are sensitive, dreamy, intuitive and creative!

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  19. Hi Connie! I'm looking forward to your books. I'm a Gemini. While I'm not a true believer, I do think it's interesting how often people's personalities seem to fit their signs. I see it as a useful way to understand what makes other people tick.

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    1. Oh, thanks Deborah!
      Astrology offers a wonderful frame of reference. I have a good friend who's a psychologist and she and I have often compared notes (no names mentioned of course). And there are even some psychologists who used astrology to gain insight into their patients' inner workings. (Just realized I might have stumbled upon a good plot for Julia! LOL!)
      A famous astrologer once quoted an ancient Greek and said that "Character is destiny." It's possible to actually predict an individual's response to a given situation based on his or her natal chart.

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  20. I've noticed over the years that there are a surprising number of writers who were involved in acting in some way - professional, community theater, or what have you. I'm convinced that the training one gets as an actor is directly useful to creating characters on the page. I know the things I learned studying theater and as an Equity apprentice are a LOT more relevant to writing mysteries than my three years in law school.

    And: Cancer, with my moon in Sagittarius, so I love to travel and love to get back home!

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    1. Oh how funny, Julia! You're absolutely right. Sagittarius wants to leap over the fence and take off, while Cancer would prefer a fireplace and a snuggly blanket. I'm glad you manage the confict well!
      It's true about actors and writers. There are a number of actors who are also authors that I've met, just in the mystery world alone - Melodie Johnson Howe and Harley Jane Kozak to name two that pop into my head.
      Actually, I think it's the same job and we use the same skills. We're entertainers. And I've met several attorneys over the years who are or were actors too.

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    2. Oh! Thank you, Karen! How could I overlook Daryl. Absolutely! I know Daryl well, we're Sisters in the same chapter and virtually neighbors. I just saw her on a wonderful panel at the Beverly Hills Library with Kate Carlisle, Ellen Byron and Linda O. Johnston. They were so entertaining!

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  21. Sagittarius here! I've never found the newspaper horoscopes to be terribly accurate for me, but Vogue magazine had an astrology column years ago that was totally spot on every month.

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    1. Oh, me too, Susan! Great to meet a fellow Sagittarian. We are generous, optimistic, forward looking, and adventurous (if it's not too dangerous). I'm a bit of a scaredy-cat, but I love to put my Sagittarian protagonist into danger. Just wish I were as courageous as she.
      Re: horoscopes - a lot depends on the astrologer and how much he or she wants to dig in. I admire people who can walk that edge, general Sun sign astrology, yet offer something personal and detailed as well.

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  22. Hi, Connie! I'm the Karen that had lunch with you and "the other Connie" at Malice in 2017.

    Yes, I believe that some horoscopes are good, but some are just made up out of whole cloth. It's easy to disbelieve when you read the bad ones.

    I'm a Libra, and classically, like Hank. Years ago I had a new assistant whose birthday was the day after mine. I said, "Oh, you're also a Libra. Tell me, do you have a hard time making up your mind?" She said, "Yes. No. Well, maybe."

    We both cracked up. So typical.

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    1. Hi Karen ~ great to see you here!!! That's such a funny story! Libra's symbolized by the scales, balancing this thing against that thing. They can see all sides of an issue and have a hard time making a firm decision. I hope that didn't interfere with the work you and your assistant accomplished!
      I do think people need to be cautious when approaching anyone in the occult arts. Some are just on an ego trip and could care less about the person who's opening up to them. And, whether we're aware of it or not, consulting someone like that is definitely opening up at a psychic level and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. The truth is we already know the answers to most of our questions, and if we don't, time will make the answers blindingly obvious.

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  23. Welcome, Connie! Maybe you can solve a mystery for me! I always hear conflicting opinions about whether I'm an Aquarius or Pisces. My birthday is February 19th. Any thoughts?

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    1. Ingrid, you can have a quick, free chart made for you on this site, and it will solve once and for all which sign you are.
      https://alabe.com/freechart/default.asp
      You are on the cusp, so probably have some characteristics of both signs. Like me: I'm the first day of Leo, on the cusp of Cancer.
      February 19 is right on the cusp, and the sign may have changed on the very day of your birth, so when you do a chart and fill in your time of birth, you can find out for sure. But you need to check your birth certificate for that time of birth.

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    2. Thanks, Keziah! I actually know my time of birth since I was three weeks late and induced. It's family lore that I finally arrived at 1:41pm after many uncomfortable weeks for my mom!

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    3. Hi Ingrid ~ Just to be sure, what year were you born? Most likely you're an Aquarius but it can vary.

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    4. Oh, I just did a quick check using a year in the 1980's, and came up with 0 degrees of Pisces, 27 minutes.
      Ingrid, just need the year you were born and the city and state to be extra sure.

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    5. Or for the sake of privacy, you can email me at conniedimarcomysteries@gmail.com.

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  24. Congrats on your new release Connie! I'm a Gemini. I read my horoscope every once in awhile for fun, however, I don't really believe in it.

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    1. Hi Jana ~ there's no need to believe in astrology to have fun with it. And of course newspaper/magazine horoscopes are pretty general. Geminis tend to be very chatty, social butterflies, quick-witted and charming. If something doesn't really grab them, they lose interest and they're on to the next thing. The sign is ruled by Mercury so they do tend to be great readers.

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  25. I am a Leo with Moon in Gemini. Leos have the sunny disposition, and Gemini is the writer. I was raised to think of astrology not as something you believed in, but something you just did. As with any field, there are good practitioners.

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    1. So true, Keziah! Robert Hand, a very famous astrologer, has said that it's not the movement of the planets that affect an individual, but rather they indicate at a macrocosmic level the inner development an individual is ready to experience. I'm not quoting him very well, he said it much better, but hopefully you get his drift. I thought it was a brilliant way to look at the subject.

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  26. Great books from a great writer! Waving madly, Connie!

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    1. Hi Casey/Connie! Great to see you here and I'm waving back madly too. Thanks for visiting and awww . . . thanks so much for the compliment!

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  27. Loved your first two books and greatly anticipating the third one. Maybe as a Cancer, I am prone to believing. At the very least, I know that mysteries featuring astrology, tarot or the like usually are at the top of my TBR.

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    1. Oh, thank you, Sue! I'm so glad you've enjoyed Julia's first adventures. I hope you like Tail of the Dragon too! Cancer is a water sign and all the water signs are terribly sensitive, maybe even psychic. Even though Cancers are more self-protective than the other water signs (Scorpio and Pisces), they're very good at picking up emotional atmospheres and intuit things emotionally even though it may not make logical sense to anyone else. And of course you must love mysteries!

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