Wednesday, May 25

Great Escapes Guest Post: The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco (@askzodia)

The Madness of Mercury

Zodiac Mystery, #1
Connie di Marco

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Date of Publication: June 8, 2016
Number of pages: 312

Available at the following retailers:
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Mercury retrograde wreaks havoc on astrologer Julia Bonatti

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti's life is turned upside down when she becomes the target of the city's newest cult leader, Reverend Roy of the Prophet's Tabernacle. Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who's caring for two elderly aunts. One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long lost nephew arrives. The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become. Is the young man truly a member of the family? Can astrology confirm that? Julia's not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn't merely the messenger of the gods—he was a trickster and a liar as well.
Guest Post: 
Le Chat Noir 

There’s a lot of thought that goes into creating the world of a series. A plot, a setting, a protagonist, and his or her relationships and connections. I really can’t say why my protagonist, Julia Bonatti, San Francisco astrologer, needed to have a cat – a black cat at that. Maybe I felt bad for her, living all alone after losing the love of her life. Hey, maybe that’s even a good story – ‘How Julia got her cat.’

Is Julia a particularly home-oriented, domestic woman? Not really, she has her moments, she needs her nest, but mostly if she’s not studying an astrological chart, she’s on the go, helping her clients and solving murders.

But a black cat? Now, if you’ve observed, the book cover of The Madness of Mercury shows a cat that’s black with touches of white. That’s because the artists at Midnight Ink thought a completely black cat might be difficult to visualize. That’s fine with me, but don’t be fooled. Julia’s cat Wizard is completely black and very big – he weighs twenty pounds! Maybe he looks a bit more like an ocelot than a cat, but whatever, he’s gorgeous, he is! 

But back to Julia... why a black cat named Wizard? Well, there is a certain cachet here because black cats have a fascinating mythology.
  • In the Middle Ages, a black cat was perceived as a witch’s “familiar.” Women accused of witchcraft were suspected of worshipping the Devil in the form of a cat. Perhaps it was the cat's nocturnal nature that fed that myth because as everyone now knows, witches meet only at night. Ha! 
  • In Colonial America, settlers believed a black cat entering a wake was bad luck, and could indicate the death of a family member. The Puritans were so fearful of anything that smacked of Satan, that anyone caught with a black cat could be severely punished or even killed.
  • In the 16th century, superstitious Italians believed that if a black cat jumped on a sick bed, that person would die.
  • In Europe in the 14th century, hundreds of cats were deliberately killed leading to a rise in the rat population which helped spread bubonic plague.
We’ve all heard the warning that a black cat crossing your path brings bad luck. Maybe that’s why black cats are the last to be adopted from animal shelters. Very sad!
But don’t despair, there are a few upsides to owning a black cat.
  • In Yorkshire, England, it’s lucky to own a black cat, but unlucky have one cross your path.
  • To dream of a black cat is lucky.
  • At Halloween black cats are thought of as a charm. A black cat at your door will scare away any evil critters that might come calling.
  • The Egyptian goddess Bast was often depicted as a black cat or a woman with a cat’s head. Killing a cat in Egypt was punished by death and dead cats were often mummified.
  • A woman who owns a black cat will have many suitors.
  • Sailors considering a “ship’s cat” preferred a black one because they believed it would bring good luck. And sometimes, fishermen's wives kept black cats at home in the hope they’d be able to use their influence to protect their husbands at sea 
  • Here’s another seafaring myth: If a black cat walks onto a ship and then walks off, the ship is doomed to sink on its next trip.
  • If you find a single white hair on your otherwise-black cat, it's a good omen.
  • In England's border counties, a strange black cat on the front porch brings good fortune.
Did you know there are famous real cats? India was a black cat owned and loved by the Bush family. She died at the White House in 2009 at the age of eighteen.

Trim was a ship’s cat that joined Matthew Flinders on his voyages to map the coastline of Australia from 1801 to 1803. Trim fell overboard, but managed to swim back to the vessel and climb aboard by scaling a rope. After that, Trim became a favorite of Flinders and his crew.

Maybe I gave Julia a twenty pound black cat because it adds just a touch of mystery to her life. And maybe because I once had a gorgeous black cat who really didn’t like anyone but me. He was found on the street, a fuzzy black ball that only filled my palm. I don’t know how he ended up there, where his mother and siblings were, but he was so young, he had to be fed with a dropper. When he grew into his full gorgeousness, he used to sleep with me and wrap his fuzzy black arms around my thigh. When he died, after many years and a lifetime of living in pampered luxury, the entire family was heartbroken. We were wrapped right around his little paw.

So, for all of the above reasons, Julia needed to have a cat and he had to be black and he had to be named Wizard. Just remember though, Julia’s an astrologer, she is not a witch!
Author Bio:
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink. She was fascinated by astrology at an early age and this was the inspiration that gave birth to Julia Bonatti, San Francisco astrologer and her newspaper column Ask Zodia. Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Connie lives in Los Angeles with her family and a constantly talking cat.

To connect with the author online:

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