Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Astrology Just For Writers Part 6: Targeting a Readership Part 3

I reviewed an Astrology book, ASTROLOGY A COSMIC SCIENCE, on Amazon which just turned up (with my review) on a Dating Website (Dating?!!! hmmm. Had to read that.)


Astrology A Cosmic Science is very old and the author, Isabelle Hickey, is now gone, alas, but this book came back into print recently.

It was written around the time Pluto was just discovered and Astrologers were trying to figure it out.


I had written about the book on Amazon:


Strewn With Hidden Gems Of Wisdom
Rating:5 out of 5 stars
The strength of this book is the deep, rich context surrounding each topic. But for many, that would be its weakness.

I use it as a reference book – when I’m stumped by a chart, I just page through this book looking for new associations to break the logjam in my mind. But in truth, this is a book to read cover-to-cover, pasting in post-it-notes to mark the bits and pieces of unrelated but illuminating wisdom tossed into various discussions.

For example, in one very illuminating section of this book, Hickey discusses each of the signs as it manifests as the Ascendant – then under each sign as the Ascendant, she discusses each of the signs that would be on the other House Cusps if there are no interceptions, or if you use equal-house methods.

She shows you how the rising sign synthesizes with the signs on each of the cusps – to create some of the characteristics of people with that sign rising, and to color the house involved. This explains WHY a particular ascendant tends to produce people who behave a particular way.

The book is worth its price for that section alone — if you’re willing to just sit for a couple of hours and read all the rising signs, one section after the other. The faster you read it, the more sense it makes. The section is laid out very systematically, and that system reveals vistas of astrological truths in and of itself.

However, at random throughout the section, a few sentences, “throw away dialog,” and offhand allusions are tossed into other topics to point you to bits of knowledge about how astrology works and what it’s actually for. These bits are not taken up anywhere else in the book, not assembled, not set into a larger context, and not indexed. They just leap out at you as if outlined in soul-fire.

For example: In the section devoted to Capricorn Rising, which puts Libra on the 10th, Hickey says, “Venus’s sign in Saturn’s house is often loving for the sake of expediency. This is not true of the more evolved individual. Students often ask the question, “How can one tell the evolvement of an individual in the chart?” Character is shown by the signs in which the planets are placed. Planets in their sign of exaltation and in the signs they rule are indications of an evolved consciousness. Also the higher-octave planets — Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, and Jupiter — in the first, fourth, seventh, or tenth house show that the individual has had much soul experience in other lifetimes”.

You see? For that alone, this is worth the cover price, and there are lots and lots of those throughout the whole book.

Maybe these bits of wisdom aren’t actually true. But as you go, “Aha!” and pull out a dozen charts of people you know well to check out Hickey’s theory, you learn vast amounts more about astrology than you ever would have without investigating that theory.

I came to amazon today looking for links to used copies of Hickey’s book and was delighted to find it in print. I had been paging through this book at random the other day and it gave me a flash of inspiration. I used that insight to write two columns for my sf/f review column called ReReadable Books. Hickey had connected several sf novels for me, using the 7th House, the 6 of Swords and how they generate the art of storycraft. I’m a professional sf author, and teach writing online, and I needed to write a handout for the Writing Workshop at the World Science Fiction Convention. Before I leafed through Hickey’s book, I had no clue in my mind what I could offer at that Workshop. Then I produced a 14 page essay which will probably be the October and November installments of my column.

So, the strength of this book lies in the context surrounding the facts, a context which assembles random bits of the universe in which you live into a pattern that makes sense. But that context material is so randomly placed – so “stream of consciousness” in the style of Hickey’s writing that it’s impossible to use this book just to find out, say, the signature of the advanced soul.

You’d never find it if you searched the index or the table of contents. You have to read the entire book. (stock up on post-its).

And if you like this style of astrology (with a karmic and spiritual bent) – you really need Hickey’s book on PLUTO as MINERVA, and all about WISDOM. There’s a lot in that book I don’t agree with – but it surely makes you think.

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

So I tried to post a reply on the Dating Site blog but it wouldn't accept it, I think because I'm not a member of the Dating Site and don't have their cookie on my computer.

So here's what I wrote in my comment, addressing members of the dating site, now redirected at Romance writers (and readers, for that matter).

This seems to be a posting of Hickey's book with the reviews from Amazon, including mine. I've learned a lot about Astrology and Tarot since I wrote that review, from Hickey and most notably from the great Astrology Teacher Noel Tyl whom I quote all the time.

Hickey's concept of Minerva as the symbolism for Pluto explains a lot about how and why Relationships form then blow apart violently (in divorce or worse).

Pluto transits transform people beyond recognition, but still within their Natal potential. Pluto, slowly but inexorably, fulfills natal potential, which is why it makes a good source of believable plot for a novel.

But such major Pluto transits tend to project the energies. Your transit can manifest via other people or the world around you, rather than within the psyche. It's hard for a writer to show-don't-tell the connection between the character and a sequence of plot events such as this:

... your boss fires you just because she's angry at someone else and you can't prove it. On the way home, you stop cleanly at a stop light, and a car whirls around the corner and T-bones your car. Your spouse files for divorce (what a relief) and your dog dies, and your replacement car needs a new transmission, and the house you win in the divorce springs a leak in the roof, and the insurance wasn't paid up, then your Mother dies (expected but the TIMING is exquisite) and at the same time, you win some award or have some totally explosive success that makes everyone you know and respect jealous, then you're diagnosed with Breast Cancer (thank G-d it's caught early, but you have no medical insurance because of the divorce and firing so all the inheritance is gone but you're alive).

Yep. The stuff of soap opera! Remember I did explain how Pluto is the absolute epitome of pure drama, intensified beyond all absurdities.

When a whole series of stuff like that just avalanches into your life over about 2 years, it is very likely a Pluto transit interacting with a) your Natal Chart and b) other major transits to your Natal Chart being amplified by Pluto.

Knowing that Pluto's energy of wisdom ebbs and flows through our spirits, we can learn how directing Pluto's energy into life is somewhat like trying to hold onto a fire hose running full blast. You definitely need HELP to keep it aimed where it can do good not harm.

And that help is your mate. Your Soul Mate.

If you're sitting on a big fire-hose, you need a Wisdom-Heavy Soul Mate to grab onto it behind you and aim YOU at a constructive task.

Well aimed, Pluto does not produce such a list of wild effects as I described above. Instead, it produces one clean, definitive Event from which you learn a new Wisdom, yielding to the lesson and reorganizing yourself around it. That too can make for great story theme and substance.

Pluto is not Love. It's Wisdom.

Love without Wisdom = Disaster.

That's the kind of Disaster that makes fabulous reading!

Below is a link to a blog post I did on Pluto and the generations of young people changing the world.

Those who are attempting to understand Relationships and the phenomenon of the Soul Mate might like to read some of my blog posts based on what I've learned of Tarot and Astrology applied to the field of Romance writing.

You can start with Astrology Just For Writers Part 6 and work your way back through the links in each post. Isabelle Hickey's Pluto/Minerva concept explains a lot especially about sex mixed with violence, bondage, and practices exerting excessive force. Hickey's concepts can provide alternative scenarios especially suited to writing Supernatural Romance and Paranormal Romance.



Meanwhile, I've just finished reading Deborah Macgillivrey's WOLF IN WOLF'S CLOTHING, a Dorchester Romance.


I think I found her on twitter, and the book sounded right up my alley. I'd read about a third when I asked her the following as a comment on her blog (linked above)

I'm still reading WOLF. Can you explain why you put the first really hot sex scene at the 1/3 point of the narrative and why it's over 10 pages long with several settings?

Since I keep writing blog posts on writing craft for the Alien Romance blog ( aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com ) questions of structure like this keep coming up.

Is this a Dorchester requirement or a pacing you find works with your readers? (and may I quote you?)


And she answered:

My characters act and react within their own parameters of who they are. In my second historical, “In Her Bed”, the first sex scene happened early on, simply because the plot opens with the heroine trying to get with child in order to hold onto her fiefs in Medieval Scotland. When and how characters meet, what is driving them, gives each story its own pace. In the first book in the Sisters of Colford Hall™ series, “The Invasion of Falgannon Isle”, Desmond comes to the island with vengeance on his mind. As soon as he arrives, he falls for the magic of the heroine and her quirky island, so their romance dictated the sexual scenes be put off. In “Riding the Thunder” the second book, Jago (Trevelyn’s twin) was in a flux, knowing their seeking vengeance against the sisters was not right. Thus, it pushed the sexual encounters farther back into the book because of his conscience gnawing on him.

When I created Trev, I wanted an arrogant man, used to taking life as he wanted, and little worrying about what happened after. He was a “wolf” in the truest sense. And he wanted Raven. He would not hold back, seeing sex as a way to bind Raven to him. Instead, it bound him to her?something he didn’t count on. Raven was the most vulnerable of the sisters, less willing to take risks. She’d spent so long creating a “Tolkein” faerytale world where she was safe, secure. Her letting go so early in the relationship and allowing Trev into her bed, her life, was her taking that ultimate gamble for something very special.

So, since I am allowed to write the stories as I want, it’s the characters themselves who say how the emotions and the sexual extension of that love occur and when. I love logic. Everything has to fit the logical make up of that character, or it just doesn’t fit. It won’t ring true for the reader.

If you find anything to help you, please feel free to use quotes.
November 2, 2009 4:56 PM

Now you can see from Deborah Macgillivray's track record that she has gained a readership that Dorchester Love Spell and Zebra Historicals know how to reach and serve. That's why she's "allowed" to write them as she sees them. She has created a market.

She has gained a gut-level understanding of the story that her readers are following, so she just has to follow her nose through her story to turn out a slam-bang perfect of its kind novel (yeah, she's that good).

Then I was thinking about WOLF IN WOLF'S CLOTHING (BTW it's not werewolf, and the paranormal is left gray and equivocal) and the similarity to Sharon Green's first DAW novel series, THE WARRIOR WITHIN. Green does not write that way -- follow-her-nose -- she does it on purpose.

Green took John Norman's Gor novels and (in response to a challenge uttered at a party at an SF convention) turned the Gor novel formula inside out and upside down (a totally unthinkable feat in professional story-telling at that time).

Sharon Green:
on Amazon

John Norman
John Norman on Amazon
Sharon Green took the cave-man, sword-slinging beast-man who rescued and ravished damsels with total disregard for their person-hood, and switched the point of view.

She did it pretty much on a dare (yes, I know Sharon Green and I like her a lot!)

The first novel sold so well, she got to do a whole series, showing how this character, Terrilian, a very strong woman with massive immaturity, learns that her preferences aren't the only ones that matter.

I couldn't put The Terrilian Series down! Really. Those books are as fascinating and absorbing as some of the best fanfic I've ever read, and I had never been able to read the source-material by John Norman.

Sharon Green dealt with teaching this lesson in Relationship to a woman, using the same trope John Norman used, but mirror-imaged.

See comments on my post http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/10/7-proofing-steps-for-quality-writing.html for comments on trope.

In the 1970's when women were struggling to attain a new identity in mid-life, Sharon's mirror-imaging of the male fantasy founded a blazing career for her.

But if you check the reviews of Terrilian on Amazon, though they are plentiful, there is a segment of the readership that came looking for "Romance" that went away bitterly disappointed.

At the time Sharon invented Terrilian, there was no commercial place for ANY relationship-driven action novels on either side of the Romance/SF divide. That was an absolute. (before the Web and e-books, there really was no place but the author's bottom drawer or fireplace.)

That was the decade when "Warrior" meant "male archetype" and nothing else. The female warrior archetype was literally "unthinkable" and certainly not commercial.

Yet Sharon Green's Terrilian novels, the series called THE WARRIOR SERIES, sold like hotcakes and therefore built a bridge over that divide with a very sophisticated use of the male action trope.

Sharon Green generated a public, popular, Group Mind image of a female warrior and what it means to be a female with warrior traits -- and those warrior traits are on the psychological level more than the physical (though physical courage is not lacking, it's not where the battle is joined).

There is no battle more fierce than the battle against one's own self-image.

As I've said before, there are things about writing that readers don't want or need to know if they simply want to read for the pleasure of reading.

But all writers could wish that most readers knew the difference between a badly written book and a book they simply dislike. I tried to address that issue of "Quality" in my post:


Despite the scathing reviews juxtaposed against the over-the-top rave reviews for Sharon Green's WARRIOR series, what you have in the Warrior Series is a very HIGH QUALITY piece of work.

Regardless of whether you like the dark story, the brutality mixed with sex, the raw power nature of the sexual component of what later (7 huge novels later) becomes a more emotional and intellectual Relationship, you should be able to see the QUALITY of what Sharon accomplished.

In addition to that Quality, Sharon broke trope without breaking it. She did what Hollywood always demands: something the same but different.

A great deal of what you see on the Romance and Action Romance stands today is based on the breakthrough Sharon Green made with this series.

You can make a fortune if you can master the thinking method used to arrive at the CONCEPT of mirroring the insanely popular male-action trope the Gor books epitomize, and selling the same male action-packed trope to WOMEN who wanted freedom without the price of maturity. That's where we were in the 1970's and even into the 1980's among adult women raised to be subservient to men.

Today, news reports of more violence against women on TV dramas than ever before are bandied about as a horrifying development, not as evidence of women succeeding in becoming Combat Officers in the Army (unthinkable development - there might be a woman in command over men! Can't have that!) Women now FIGHT and even win against men, in combat or board room.

Fiction didn't exactly lead the way, but Sharon Green and other writers who portrayed for the young generation of women a way of thinking, living and feeling that is both feminine and aggressive created a new trope for female-self-image.

Find the next thing that needs changing and invert the trope of that in our fiction.


If you're familiar with both WOLF IN WOLF'S CLOTHING and WARRIOR WITHIN, you can follow this contrast-compare more easily but I'll try to make it simple (OK, you can stop laughing now). This is important because it's about "targeting a readership."

Wolf in Wolf's Clothing is written to a generation of women raised to expect themselves to have to mature and remain women.

Warrior Within was written to a generation of women raised to expect themselves to get everything without maturing in order to remain women. (i.e. there WAS no archetype for THE MATURE WOMAN in American culture; we had to invent it. Marion Zimmer Bradley was one of the leaders with her Renunciates of Darkover -- but RENOUNCING protection isn't the key to a woman's maturity. It's only a step.) Think of I LOVE LUCY which I hope you've seen in endless reruns. Lucy portrays the archetype of yore. Wolf in Wolf's Clothing portrays the archetype of the near future, what the 14 year old girls of today will mature into (maybe sans magic; maybe not).

Both attitudes of the female READERSHIP addressed specifically by AUTHORS, (almost two generations apart) -- both attitudes are culturally inculcated. They do not represent Natal Chart personality or any individuality.

What you absorb subconsciously before you are old enough to speak is really hard to edit later in life. (Magical Initiation, Religious Conversion, or a massive Pluto transit as described above can force you to edit your operating system and "recompile" the code.)

That originally absorbed cultural material becomes part of your identity. (look up CULTURE SHOCK and read Alvin Toffler's book FUTURE SHOCK and Edward T. Hall's book THE SILENT LANGUAGE).



Both of which are products of the 1960's & 1970's culture and give you tremendous insight into what exactly has changed and where the next change of that magnitude is coming from. But these books give you the principles by which civilizations change on the archetypal level, and thus let you do some worldbuilding that readers will believe.

Macgillivrey and Green are both taking a character and "teaching them a lesson." And that lesson breaks their self-image.

Another series that does that with Pluto's huge hammer blows is the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series by Laurell K. Hamilton.

The Pluto-Minerva lesson in Wisdom has to BREAK the person, SHATTER a wall they don't even know is inside them, DESTROY their very identity at its core, in order to penetrate "down" to the layer where the error exists.

We accept anything that resides at that inner level as "Wisdom." Even if it's wrong. Perhaps especially if it's wrong.

The process of rewriting, debugging, recompiling and rebooting that internal Wisdom Operating System isn't likely to happen without a major Pluto transit with all the dark power-symbolism erupting full force. (Pluto transits can work the other way, too, changing correct information into incorrect information - Pluto is not survival-oriented except on the Soul level.) The older you are, the more force Pluto has to bring to bear to create real change.

Once that erroneous information coded into the core being is removed and replaced by new information, the PERSON literally becomes someone else.

What gives them pleasure changes. What gives them grief changes. All the emotional circuitry leading from events in the outside world to the gut-level responses within gets rewired and the resulting behavior in response to stimulus changes.

Ah, but the NATAL CHART does not change!!! This is still the same life lived by the same soul.

But any human observer would say, no, it's NOT THE SAME PERSON.

What is it that can produce this effect?

It's not the standard Saturn Transit that often opens one's eyes, strips away things you depend on, and shatters your ego, challenging your values. Saturn makes great plot material, but this is deeper.

connect what happened when you were 27, with what happened at 28 or 29 -- that's the maturing effect of the first Saturn return. Don't trust anyone over thirty -- is true. It's a gulf you cross to maturity and your responses to input will change.

Macgillivrey and Green are writing about a different kind of transit from the Saturn transit.

The reason that SEXUALITY and VIOLENCE and FORCE and ABSOLUTLY IMPLACABLE determination and total OBSESSION and HORRENDOUSLY COMPLETE CHANGE and even CRIME (Pluto is violent crime), DISEASE AND DEATH,INHERITANCE and HERITAGE are the forces driving both plots is that the transformation these authors are writing about is a PLUTO TRANSIT transformation.

Scorpio. Pluto. Force majeur. The underground. The subconscious.

For more on the symbolism I'm discussing with Pluto see my post on the generation signature by Pluto's Sign

That post is also Targeting a Readership Part Two.

For contrast with Wolf and Warrior, my first award winner, UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER is about a FIRST SATURN RETURN and is driven by all the keywords of Saturn, even the background and worldbuilding is derived from Saturn keywords.

The change that both Macgillivrey and Green were illustrating artistically was a change to the deepest core ASSUMPTIONS (not beliefs) of the main character each was dealing with.

In the early days, Green had to teach a lesson on that level to women.

Today, we feel the need to teach men a lesson.

As currently transiting Pluto enters Capricorn and shifts emphasis and coloration, we are in the mopping up part of the Gender Wars.

I didn't mention in Astrology Just For Writers Part 6 that along with Pluto's entry into Capricorn we also are looking forward to Neptune entering Pisces, it's own sign.

Remember how I made the point that the generation born with Pluto in its own sign (Scorpio) had a greatly emphasized Pluto energy in their personality, the source of what they obssess on and enjoy most, what they're willing to pay for in entertainment? Neptune will become exceptionally prominent like that when it's in Pisces, its own sign.

2011 or maybe 2012 should show us more of how that will work on the general group psyche of current adults, and it'll be a good 15-20 years before we know what the children of that generation with Pluto in Capricorn and Neptune in Pisces will go for in entertainment.

But note that as Pluto transited its own sign of Scorpio, we got the MORE-MORE-MORE-VIOLENCE-POWER-IS-EVERYTHING generation of video game players.

Neptune rules Pisces, and as it transits its own sign the keywords connected with Neptune will manifest in our cultural assumptions.

One pervasive effect of Neptune is to convince you that your highest ideal (12th House, Neptune and Pisces are about IDEALS among many other slippery things including entertainment itself) - that your highest Ideal already is a fact.

Saturn is Fact.

Neptune is Ideal.

Pluto is Force.

Uranus is Freedom.

Uranus will simultaneously be entering Aries, ruled by Mars (war; whereas Pluto is the upper octave of Mars which might be seen as nuclear war, supervolcanoes rather than mere volcanoes).

These 3 factors (Pluto in Capricorn, Neptune in Pisces, Uranus in Aries) will persist while Saturn sweeps through Scorpio and Sagittarius and maybe on into Capricorn which Saturn rules).

That is the "atmosphere" we'll be writing our fiction in. People battered by those forces, concerned by those issues, burned out over dilemmas and conundrums (Neptune), fighting with their teenagers over what the teens see as reality, will come seeking LOVE CONQUERS ALL and THE ALL POWERFUL H.E.A.


What lessons will the people born with Pluto in Scorpio (1985-1995 or so) need to see worked out in their Art (our novels) as they live through these transits?

What lesson in Relationship, what Wisdom, has to be "beaten" (Pluto) into their "heads" (Aries rules the head).

What do they assume is true (Neptune) which actually might become true if they would "wake up" (Uranus) to themselves (Aries) and accept the Discipline (Saturn) of Wisdom (Minerva-Pluto).

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. Great insight into the work of Sharon Green. Haven't read her work yet, but I have a feeling I will enjoy it.