Astrology in Novels: Nina Romano’s Inspo


In high school, a classmate who was as passionate about reading as I was sat near me. Best friendship was in our stars!

The carvings with Chinese Zodiac on the ceiling of the gate to Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka (mirror image, to have animals in the correct order). Photo By Jakub Hałun - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64844306 The carvings with Chinese Zodiac on the ceiling of the gate to Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka (mirror image, to have animals in the correct order). Photo By Jakub Hałun – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Her preferred reading was historical fiction, the ancient sort with mythology and astrology mixed in. Thanks to her, I read a bunch by Mary Renault, an English author who lived much of her life in South Africa. Those books depicted lots of buff gay guys from olden days. Ironically, a) in South Africa Renault could live more peacefully than in the U.K. with her life partner who was also a woman, b) she often portrayed women harshly, and c) she criticized the gay rights movement.

My friend also introduced me to “Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.” (Here’s a rare video interview with Goodman.) For me, Goodman was worthy of extra esteem as she was Aries, the same as me. When it came to Aries, all compliments were correct and unflattering attributes were incorrect. Until, that is, at some point in my so-called maturity when I tossed astrology into the same bundle as my Catholic upbringing. Both harbored too many confounding and disturbing aspects, so best not to fret about either.

Not so much later, though, a new friend entered who was into astrology. Charts, she explained, are how astrology becomes scientific. She introduced me to Angela Louise Gallo, a master at charting the stars. Gallo read and taught from her home in Van Nuys, which is just above Hollywood, hence she garnered a sizable entertainment biz crowd of followers.

Gallo’s monthly talks culminated with “hororary” readings, as in “hour-related” since those forecasts tied her psychic powers to the time of night when she would take questions. From slips of paper handed to her, she’d give quickie predictions. I’d parted ways with my parents as soon as I graduated high school with no plan other than survival. By the time I met Gallo those few years later, I’d collected myself enough to realize that I needed to do better. I asked Gallo whether I should sign up for college. She answered, “Wait a couple of semesters. Soon you’ll be taking a long trip.”

That month my grandmother sent me an airplane-paid invitation to visit her in Argentina! During childhood, my grandmothers and I exchanged many letters. They were fantastic in all the ways that mattered to me: they didn’t sugar-coat life, they wanted the best for me, and they helped foster the writer in me who will eventually publish Flamenco & the Sitting Cat and Tango & the Sitting Cat. I loved them dearly, sight unseen. The one in Spain I first met when I was nine. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I got to hug my Abuela in Buenos Aires.

After that trip, I hired Gallo to do a detailed chart, yet I can’t remember anything about it, including what happened to it. These days, I’d rather not presuppose anyone based on their birthday, and I prefer to bumble along as best I can when it comes to my future.

Yet I still adore stories about astrology!

In this admittedly roundabout way, I present to you, dear reader, today’s poet/novelist guest, Nina Romano, who writes from Florida and Utah. Originally from New York, she’s a world traveler who’s earned degrees and writing awards galore, plus she’s published a slew of books.

Here she generously recounts the way that Chinese astrology figured into her The Secret Language of Women, the first of her Wayfarer Trilogy. Read to the end for an excerpt from it in addition to links for Nina and her writings.

Writer Nina Romano. Writer Nina Romano.

How Chinese Horoscopes Helped Me Develop a Realistic Protagonist by Nina Romano

For The Secret Language of Women, the first book of my Wayfarer Trilogy, I decided my main character Lian’s horoscope would be the Year of the Dog. Knowing her horoscope facilitated my understanding of the protagonist’s psyche for this novel. Since the book is set in China, I used Lian’s Chinese Zodiac sign to learn about her qualities and personality traits intimately so that she appeared genuine yet flawed. She is a warm and caring being, a healer, courageous and intelligent. When a person born under this sign falls in love, they do not ever change.

Loyalty and honesty are two of this horoscope sign’s characteristics. Lian falls in love with Giacomo, an Italian sailor, and remains faithful to that love, despite the fact that she is forced into a loveless marriage. Her quest is a difficult one, but she chooses to follow her path despite menaces, oppositions, troubles, risks, and dangers. She is fierce in her love and faithful to everything she believes concerning it.

Having visited China several times afforded me unique experiences that enabled me to see in person Hong Kong, Beijing, and its fabulous Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and Lian’s enchanting city of Guilin. I was able to envision Lian’s travels and travails in war-torn China, an era suffused in superstition, intrigue, culture, and history. I incorporated the themes and things I care about, such as love, family, food and recipes, art, dragons and horses. Why? Simply because it’s straightforward to write what I know and have feelings for, and all of these ideas translated well even to a novel set in China during the Boxer Rebellion. My own horoscope is the Year of the Horse, so I made sure I had an important role for a horse in this novel, and I’m positive that my horoscope had an incredible influence on my stars being aligned because I signed a contract for a three-book deal for my Wayfarer Trilogy with Turner Publishing during the Year of the Horse.

While writing this novel, I pictured what happens during the Chinese New Year: careful cleaning of the house, the distributing of red envelopes, Lian cooking on a wok, and serving rice to her beloved.

Since this story takes place in China where live fish, most especially carp, are good Fengshui, which according to Wikipedia, is a “philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment.” For this reason, I describe a pool with carp in the Summer Palace in Chapter 1, where Lian meets the love of her life. Do I believe in the influence of horoscopes and how they can help round out a character? Of that, there is little doubt.

Cover of

Excerpt from The Secret Language of Women by Nina Romano

The things that test you and are vanquished bring everlasting joy. The differences between traditional written Chinese and Nüshu, the secret language of women, made it difficult for me to learn it. My mother and grandmother could not write Chinese and learned Nüshu when they were young and wanted me to grasp it too. I cannot say they harped on me or were tyrannical, but I will say they were insistent, and for this I am eternally indebted.

My mother said it challenged me because I wrote like a man and didn’t have to rely solely on Nüshu, the way they did to communicate with other women. The ideograms of Chinese correspond to a word or part of one, whereas each of the seven hundred characters of Nüshu represent a syllable— women’s language is phonetic, in Chéngguān dialect 城关土话, adaptable and pliant for singing, poetry and writing with such delicate strokes they appear as lines of feathers.

Though learning was problematical, I mastered it, like I do all things I set my mind to

conquer. At the time, I resented the study of it, yet I knew innately one day I would be grateful to possess the knowledge and skill of this secret language, which would offer me strength and solace for a lifetime. And although I was writing in Nüshu, for some reason, I signed with flourish in Chinese: Wǒ Lián. I am Lian. 

Amazon Author — hardcover, softcover print, and Kindle: The Secret Language of Women & Lemon Blossoms & In America — softcover print and Kindle: The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley.

Goodreads & Twitter & @ninsthewriter & Facebook & BookBub

Has astrology helped you with storytelling and anything else?

 

Guest Blog Post: How well do you know your hometown? by Nina Zee


My Los Angeles, much as I adore it, is an urban sprawl that takes effort to get around in. Busses take forever to get from one stop to the next, our new-ish subway system doesn’t go to nearly as many places as I’d like, and our freeways are clogged round the clock. Do you take the time to get to know all that your city has to offer?

Born in Michigan, raised in Ohio, and a decided globetrotter, blogger Nina Zee is on a mission; to inspire travelers to create dream trips using tips from her vast experience. Here she shows us around her home city, Atlanta, Georgia…

Blogger/world traveler Nina Zee.

“How well do you know your hometown?” by Nina Zee

Until last year, I know the answer for me was not very well! While I had lived in Atlanta for most of my life, I did not explore it or really venture downtown. Heck, most of it really was not that safe. But thanks to us getting the Olympics in 1996 and other development since then, like the Beltline, it continually becomes a great place to wander aimlessly.

Like most others, I was busy going to school, getting married, building a career, raising puppies, creating a dream home, and just living life in general. We would head downtown to see NHL hockey, but when that was gone, we no longer had a reason to go to that corner of town.

When people would come to town, we would head to the aquarium, the largest in the western hemisphere, and Centennial Olympic Park, but that was about it.

Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia.

My New Year’s resolution in 2019 was to fall in love with my new hometown. I made a list of the top things to see and do. Every time we did some new, like going to Atlanta Botanical Gardens, the Dragon Con parade, or Ponce City Market, I fell more in love with it.

Lucky for me, our street art scene is busting at the seams.

Street artist Greg Mike’s Atlanta Braves mural.

After spending most of the year visiting sites around town and attending events, I can proudly call myself an Atlantan. It is amazing what seeing it through a new pair of eyes can do for you.

I dare you to explore your city like a tourist and not fall in love with it!

Even though you live someplace, do you really explore it? Do you know it like the places you visit?

Let me know.

Nina Zee

Animals in Fiction: Part 2 of 2 about novelist Peni Jo Renner


If you’re planning to be a soon-to-be self-published novelist like me, what’s your game plan? Mine is first to gather a following of folks who enjoy my general sensibility and style. Everyone can get an idea of both through Happiness Between Tails and the other social media I use. That way (fingers crossed) there will be some people interested in reading my books when they finally debut.

How do you find out about novels, purchase them, and in what format?

Peni Jo Renner, who lives in Maryland, is a self-published historical novelist — plus she’s a blogger. In a prior post about her, she shared her self-publishing insights.

Her three books are available by clicking on their titles. The 3-part series begins with multi-award-winning Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, followed by, Letters to Kezia, and lastly, Raid on Cochecho.

Here she discusses the value of animals in fiction…

Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner has self-published three books!

“The Importance of Furry and/or Feathered Characters” by Peni Jo Renner

I spent my childhood pounding out corny stories on a plastic manual typewriter that printed only in caps. Admittedly, my plots were shallow set in idyllic valleys where the protagonist’s biggest challenge was locating a runaway Palomino mare named Nugget.

Accompanied by a bloodhound named Trapper.

And a pet raven named Edgar (and no, I’d never even heard of Edgar Allen Poe yet!).

Fast-forward about 40 years, and after putting aside fiction writing for nearly a quarter of a century, the writing bug bit me again and I realized my dream of writing (and getting published!) when I wrote Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames. This multi-award-winning novel was quickly followed by its sequel, Letters to Kezia.  A third novel, Raid on Cochecho, completed the trilogy and I had accomplished my task of writing historical fiction.

My novels are peopled by my own Colonial ancestors, and it was really fun researching life in the 17th century. During my research, I was reminded that although styles may change and technology may advance, humans retain their proclivities throughout the centuries. 

As do non-humans.

Some of the most fun characters to bring to life are the four-legged ones. Riff, the big, loyal dog in Puritan Witch, continues his role as a devoted companion in Letters to Kezia. In the opening scene of Raid on Cochecho, the purity and innocence of childhood are embodied in a playful white kitten simply called Kitty. 

A human-only cast of characters, with their human foibles such as hate, greed, and selfishness, in this author’s opinion, needs a little respite with the sprinkling of a few animal companions here and there. After all, they can be the most fun to write!

Self-Published Historical Novelist Peni Jo Renner: Part 1 of 2


Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner has self-published three books!

Many who visit here are soon-to-be self-published novelists — me too! Fortunately for us, Peni Jo Renner (who lives in Maryland) has three self-published historical novels worth of experience to share with us…

da-AL: What advice can you give to writers who want to self-publish? And who’d like to get their books into public libraries?

Peni Jo Renner: Advice? Well, in 2012, I hadn’t written in like 25 years, and I felt I needed a refresher, so I took a class at our local community college. A fellow student told me that she had published HER book with iUniverse, so I went with them. But due to the measly 20% royalties iUniverse offered, I looked into other self-publishing companies and settled on Lulu with its 80% royalty rate. LuLu took care of all the copyrights and stuff. Self-publishing with companies like this can be expensive, so if money is an issue,  Amazon’s Createspace is free. 

I’m not big on self-promotion. I didn’t write my trilogy to make money, more to fulfill a lifelong dream. However,  I do ask new Facebook friends to “Like” my author page, and I participate in #SharingIsCaring on Facebook. #SharingIsCaring is this campaign on Facebook (and I suppose Twitter and Instagram) that authors list their FB author pages on other authors’ pages. Everyone Likes everyone else’s pages. Usually, the campaigns begin on Sundays.

In the past, I have participated in local book-signing events, but they are few and far between. However, I like to keep a supply of “The Puritan Chronicles” bookmarks, and I’ll ask people, “Do you enjoy reading historical fiction?” If they reply in the affirmative, I give them a bookmark. 

As to libraries; I know my trilogy is at my local library, but that may be due to the fact I used to work there! However, a cousin in Texas did show me a photo of my book, “Puritan Witch,” that she found at HER library!

My books are POD (Print on Demand), so the best way to purchase them is online. I wrote Puritan Witch; The Redemption of Rebecca Eames. This multi-award-winning novel was quickly followed by its sequel, Letters to Kezia.  A third novel, Raid on Cochecho, completed the trilogy and I had accomplished my task of writing historical fiction.

Here’s the bookmark that historical novelist Peni Jo Renner hands out.

Dear Happiness Between Tails friends: Check back soon for the follow-up to this Happiness Between Tails blog post, when in “Animals in Fiction: Part 2 of 2” about novelist Peni Jo Renner, she gives us a peek at her writing process.

Are you writing, or planning to write, a novel?

Guest Blog Post: Who is Family? by K E Garland


Photo of author/blogger K E Garland
Photo of author/blogger K E Garland.

Holidays and New Year celebrations are when messages about what family should and shouldn’t make me want to gag. They generalize everyone into one big homogenous lump.

That’s when I step back and take stock of the people I know. It does my heart good to see that we’re individuals — and that includes our families, the ones we make, or our lack thereof.

What are your thoughts on family?

Here blogger and author of books, K E Garland, describes how being adopted shapes her concept of family…

K E Garland

Being adopted has shaped the way I view who is family and who is not. When I found out I was adopted over thirty years ago, I saw the people around me in a different light. I saw them as strangers, yet I still accepted them as family because they had taught me to do so. I instantly realized that any combination of people could make a family.

img_8185In this way, I accepted my mother and father as my family unit. These were the people who’d decided to raise me from infancy as their own. They loved me, and I them. But when my mother died and my father gave up his parental rights, I began to question the definition. Was my adopted father not my father anymore simply because the Court said he wasn’t? I mean the Court deemed him my father in 1974, and so he was. Was…

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Guest Blog Post: Mutts and Mistletoe by MACSBOOKS311


Cover of "Mutts and Mistletoe" by Natalie Cox

Mention a dog in a book and instantly it’s that much better! Do you agree?

Here MACSBOOKS311 revisits us with another great book review…

Macsbooks

If you are a dog lover, then Mutts and Mistletoe is must read book for you! Even if you aren’t a dog lover, you will enjoy this delightful holiday book!

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The holidays – which for me begin on October 1 – are the only time of the year that I actually read and enjoy cozy mysteries and romance books. I think it has something to do with being raised on holiday classics which morphed into Hallmark Holiday movies. I like feeling nostalgic and magical and in love this time of year. If given the opportunity to read a fun holiday story, I will jump at the chance. Mutts and Mistletoe was such an opportunity!

Charlie’s life has hit the rocks – her boyfriend just ran off with his trainer, her mother has fled to Australia with her new husband and, in a neighbor’s freak explosion, her apartment ceiling caved in…

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Happy Halloween and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) by da-AL


da-AL and her husband in Halloween 1970s disco costumes.

Get out your candy corn and candles and costumes! It’s Halloween and Dia de los Muertos aka Day of the Dead. Do you celebrate them?

Huntington Library, Art, and Gardens by da-AL


da-AL at The Huntington, sitting on a bench in rose garden

What better way is there to celebrate a special occasion than with an all-day excursion of gorgeous weather, strolling an array of gardens that span rainforest to desert and Japanese to Australian to more, seeing the worlds’s stinkiest (and amusingly phallic) plant, eating international fare, admiring fine art museums, and ending it all with a high tea?

My honey and I spent our special day at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (a collections-based educational and research institution) located in San Marino, California. Tap photos for captions…

da-AL and her honey having high tea at The Huntington

What’s your favorite way to celebrate a special day?

Guest Blog Post: American Grocery List by Elan Mudrow


1930s or so black & white photo of young woman typing
From Elan’s ‘about’ page.

Tired of taking food too seriously? Let blogger Elan Mudrow help…

3. Ever been told…? by da-AL


Flamenco woman with text over that reads: Ever been told that 'all Middle Eastern women are sexy,' that they have 'hypnotic eyes,' & that 'you know what goes on under those burqas'?

Ever been told that ‘all Middle Eastern women are sexy,’ that they have ‘hypnotic eyes,’ and that ‘you know what goes on under those burqas’ as if they’re an exotic species?