I'm so happy to welcome Connie di Marco back to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Connie writes the Zodiac Mystery series. THE MADNESS OF MERCURY is the first book in the series and is being rereleased.
Kathy: Julia Bonatti is an astrologer. What are the misperceptions many people have about astrology and astrologers? Do you address any of these in THE MADNESS OF MERCURY?
CDM: Hi Kathy ~ it’s great to be visiting with you again! And thanks for hosting me today.
I certainly hope I’ve been doing a good job of portraying Julia’s working life as an astrologer, and all the various personalities she deals with. Her clients already have an open mind about astrology, otherwise they wouldn’t be sitting in her client chair. But occasionally, she runs into resistance or complete disbelief from a client, and sometimes anger, when Julia has to convey something they don’t want to hear. No matter what, Julia does her best to tread carefully and give the best advice and predictions she can.
I think a lot of people view astrology as either fortune telling or complete nonsense -- a woo-woo occupation. It’s an intense study and it works, although a lot depends on the skill of the astrologer. For example, an astrologer can’t say “You’ll meet a tall, dark and handsome stranger,” but he or she can tell you when a new relationship is likely to occur, and make an educated guess as to the type of person you’d be attracted to.
Astrology offers a frame of reference, like psychology, that an individual can use throughout life. Your natal chart is a map of the heavens at the time of your birth. It indicates the talents you are born with and the difficulties and challenges you’ll face in your life, as well as all the important cycles you’ll experience. It’s an endlessly fascinating study!
Kathy: While I certainly don't look forward to mercury retrograde and will postpone doing certain things if possible (I decided to wait until this last one passed in order to set up a new webpage) I don't panic. Of course, I never had to deal with what Julia does in this first Zodiac Mystery. What advice would you give people when mercury comes in retrograde again?
CDM: Well, I have to say that Mercury retrograde has gotten a really bad reputation. It’s honestly not terrible. Mercury rules communications – written and electronic. Mercury in a natal chart will indicate a person’s mental processes, how he or she thinks and speaks.
During a Mercury retrograde period (in other words, when Mercury appears to be moving backward from the perspective of the earth) you’ll often find that an email doesn’t go through, or your password won’t work on a certain site, or you miss a phone call. It is better not to sign contracts or agreements when Mercury’s retrograde, because the document might have a mistake or have to be revised, but it’s not disastrous. You can prepare during a retrograde period but it’s probably better to press the button on your new website when the time period is over.
It just seemed right to give Julia a Mercury retrograde period in her story, because THE MADNESS OF MERCURY is all about the planet Mercury, particularly a silver-tongued Mercury-ruled evil preacher who preys on the vulnerable.
Kathy: Setting is so important when it comes to traditional mysteries. San Francisco is so distinctive, it can almost be considered another character. What made you decide to set your series here?
CDM: I lived in the city for many years and still miss it a lot, although I do manage to visit a few times each year – research of course for the Zodiac Mysteries!
I had no doubt when I started this series that it had to take place in San Francisco. And I wanted my protagonist to have an unusual occupation. San Francisco is a beautiful city, but one of the things I love about it is its many moods. One day might be sunny, bright and windy. But let the sun set and it’s a foggy dank mysterious place. There’s lots of history to draw upon and a very eclectic population to offer Julia lots of crime. And I’m not alone. So many writers have set their stories in San Francisco. I wrote a post about San Francisco Detectives (http://www.conniedimarco.com/san-francisco-detectives/) a few years ago and as I researched, I was blown away by all the mysteries set there.
Kathy: THE MADNESS OF MERCURY was previously published by a no longer existing publishing house. How has it come to be rereleased? Are there plans for the other books in the series to be released as well?
CDM: I was really thrilled when Midnight Ink wanted the Zodiac Mysteries. It seemed the perfect fit because Midnight Ink is the fiction imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide, famous for publishing occult and spiritual books. I had fulfilled my contract for the first three books when I learned they’d be closing their doors. Many other authors were dropped in the middle of their contract and no other publisher would pick them up. It was much tougher for them. I had always planned to continue the series, no matter what, and since the publishing world was in such flux, I figured why not self-publish? Many authors have had great success and many are hybrid authors, traditionally published and self-published. As it turned out, a friend recommended me to Suspense Publishing and that was a wonderful gift. The people at Suspense have been terrific and I’m very happy to be part of their group.
Kathy: I love this series and was shocked when its publishing house closed its doors. I've been hoping the series will continue. Can we expect new books in the Zodiac series?
CDM: Absolutely! Suspense wanted to re-release the first three books with much more appropriate cover designs. (I wasn’t at all happy with my earlier covers. I didn’t feel they truly represented these stories.) Zodiac #2, ALL SIGNS POINT TO MURDER, will be out on December 1st and shortly after, TAIL OF THE DRAGON (Book 3), will be re-published.
After that, there’s a novella planned -- ENTER A WIZARD, STAGE LEFT, which is set before the series begins. Then Book 4, SERPENT'S DOOM. I’m just finishing up Book 5 now but haven’t definitely decided on a title yet.
Kathy: When it comes to writing I understand there are 2 general camps-plotters, who diligently plot their stories, and pansters, who fly by the seat of their pants. Are you a plotter, a panster, or do you fall somewhere in between?
CDM: I’m definitely a plotter. I like to know exactly where I’m going. Now, that doesn’t mean the story is carved in stone. It can be molded differently if something new comes to me, but I feel much more secure if I have a road map.
When I was writing my first series, the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries for Penguin (as Connie Archer), my editor required a detailed outline for each book. She didn’t want to see a synopsis, which is usually what editors require. This forced me to be very specific with the story line, to know where each clue would be dropped, how the action would unfold. It was a very valuable lesson and saved an enormous amount of time. I had only eight months to submit each book. I wanted to finish each one in six months to give myself time to offer it to beta readers for comments and extra time for revisions. Mysteries require a definite format – a strong plot, red herrings and camouflaged clues to be fair to readers. A really good outline is invaluable.
Kathy: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing, especially for a new release. What's your favorite part of marketing your work? What do you dislike about marketing?
CDM: The most difficult part of marketing is trying to figure out the best way to reach readers and where to invest my marketing budget, which certainly isn’t huge. But the most rewarding part is connecting one on one with readers who love good stories! Sadly, we can’t do in person events right now, but at least we can connect online. Hopefully the day will come sooner rather than later when we can return to more normal social interaction. I love meeting readers and signing books in person!
Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?
CDM: After Zodiac #3, TAIL OF THE DRAGON, will be the novella -- ENTER A WIZARD, STAGE LEFT. This was really fun to write. The action takes place at a theater production of an Agatha Christie play – Appointment with Death -- and this story has turned out to be a bit of a nod to Golden Age classics. I hadn’t planned on writing a novella but I received lots of messages from readers asking how Julia first became interested in astrology, wanting more stories featuring Gloria, Julia’s grandmother, and even asking how Julia first found her cat Wizard. So that’s how Enter a Wizard came to be.
After that Book #4 will be released – SERPENT'S DOOM. I’m finishing up Zodiac #5 right now but still haven’t decided on a title. I’m looking forward to writing more mysteries to challenge Julia’s sleuthing and astrological skills!
THE MADNESS OF MERCURY By Connie di Marco
The First Zodiac Mystery
Julia Bonatti is a professional astrologer in San Francisco. In addition to private clients, she also writes the Ask Zodia newspaper
feature anonymously. However, somehow not only her name, but e-mail,
phone number and address have been leaked out and she's getting
protests, threats, and more from people associated with the Prophet's
Tabernacle. In addition, some of her private clients are making
surprising claims and making poor life choices. Already one person has
died, although it appears to be accidental. Violence is increasing by
these religious extremists and this period of mercury in retrograde
could be Julia's worst one ever...if not her last!
The first few sentences into this book I thought I would love it. The writing was just my style, the theme was right up my alley, and I thought I'd just discovered a favorite new series. As I continued, however, I became more and more nervous. While the writing was excellent, the story was reading as more of a thriller. Threats and violence escalated and one act of violence nearly made me put down the book for good. At this point while I considered this book a very good thriller, it was not what I was expecting. I was led astray by the cover. The cover is an absolute gorgeous work of art, a warm inviting room with a cat that screams "cozy mystery". It is not a cozy mystery. I continued the book, which slowed its thriller pace and became what I would call a traditional mystery.
As a traditional mystery the book is stellar. The Madness of Mercury takes a fascinating look at people and their inner workings, their motivations. It is a complex mystery which combines astrology and cult mentality, showing what can happen when divergent beliefs cross paths and intolerance rears its ugly head. This book struck some very personal chords with me. When I read about people who believe they should "not suffer a witch to live". I get nervous for me and my cats. In the book di Marco took a step across a line to show just how far the cult would go. I don't think that step was necessary, but it most certainly amped up the adrenaline and made issues much more serious, although the characters used a serious lack of judgement in how they handled this heinous situation.
The Madness of Mercury is a fast paced thrill ride of a psychological mystery. Darker with more risks and violence, there is more at stake here than in a cozy mystery. As such, it is more gripping and more disturbing, making you think more and contemplate society as a whole.
The Madness of Mercury (Zodiac Mystery) by Connie Di Marco
About The Madness of Mercury
Traditional Mystery 1st in Series
Publisher: Suspense Publishing (October 8, 2020)
Paperback: 268 pages
San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice. But when a disastrous Mercury retrograde period hits, her life and practice is turned upside down, along with that of many of her colleagues who practice in the city. San Francisco has fallen under the spell of the Prophet’s Tabernacle, a religious cult that has descended upon the city. Reverend Roy, a Mercury-ruled, silver-tongued preacher offers a message of love and charity to the less fortunate, but Julia soon learns that the Reverend’s charity doesn’t extend to anyone who stands in his way. The Reverend is waging war on sin as he perceives it, targeting psychics, Wiccans, mediums, astrologers, gays, and anyone else he considers an abomination unto the Lord.
Driven from her apartment, Julia seeks shelter with her client and friend, Dorothy. Dorothy has separated from her spouse and is caring for her two elderly aunts at their home on Telegraph Hill. Dorothy’s aunt, Evandra, appears stricken with dementia and her other aunt, Eunice, has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. When Eunice disappears, Julia’s sure that she is headed for Prophet’s Paradise, a supposedly idyllic community north of the city. Julia fears that Eunice is being misled and will be in danger. She determines to rescue Eunice and take on the Army of the Prophet.
Julia learns once more what she already knew –that Mercury wasn’t just the messenger of the gods, he was a trickster and a liar as well.
About Connie di Marco
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the series will be re-released in October 2020.
Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.
Social media links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/zodiacmysteries/ (Connie di Marco Author)
Purchase Link - Amazon -