President's Astrologer ~ Barbara Shafferman ~ 9/99 ~ Fiction/Author Event
July 13, 1999 - 04:40 pm

The President's Astrologer
by Barbara Shafferman

A Special Message to SeniorNet from the Author

"I am delighted that The President's Astrologer was selected for discussion by SeniorNet Books and Literature. This is my first novel, written at an age when most people are planning their retirement. For me, however, The President's Astrologer is both the beginning of a new career and the culmination of a dream. Life's detours had set other priorities for me, but now I can devote my full attention to writing.

Drawing on my twenty seven years as an astrologer, I felt this would make an interesting and unusual background for a political thriller. For plot reasons it was necessary to set my story in the near future, so I chose the year 2006 for the events that take place in The President's Astrologer. My primary goal was to create an exciting, suspenseful novel about an astrologer who becomes enmeshed in a web of danger when she stumbles onto a plot to overthrow the President of the United States. But I had a second goal as well: to introduce the reader to the way real astrology works, which is far beyond the popular awareness of Sun Signs. The reviews of The President's Astrologer make me feel I have succeeded in accomplishing both goals.

Astrology is a controversial subject, as some of your early messages indicate. Interestingly, two of the four people posting identify themselves as Virgos, and both I and my astrologer-heroine are Virgos as well. I wonder if there's some sort of connection here. At any rate, I hope we have a wide variety of Sun Signs posting, and I look forward to a lively, thought-provoking discussion."

From the Publisher

While this New Age thriller might be reminiscent of the real-life astrologer associated with President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, the story is carefully and creatively set in the year 2006 and focuses on the impact an astrologer could have on an American president and the affairs of state.

The President's Astrologer was selected as one of the three finalists for the PMA Benjamin Franklin Award for fiction/drama.

For Brief Reviews by Readers: Five Star Reviews

Discussion Leader: Charles Wendell

Authors who've participated in Books discussions

July 29, 1999 - 09:08 pm
This story ran on page C2 of the Boston Globe on 07/26/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

Astrology a 'dirty puddle'
By Chet Raymo, 07/26/99

Recently, an astronomer at the Lick Observatory in California found in the institution's library a horoscope cast by the 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler for an Austrian nobleman, Hans Hannibal Huetter von Huetterhofen. The document had been purchased in Russia in 1886 by the first director of the Lick Observatory and had lain forgotten for a century. Present-day astrologers always drag out poor Kepler in support of their bogus craft. See, they say, even such an eminent scientist as Kepler was a believer. Kepler practiced astrology only as a matter of financial necessity. His heart certainly wasn't in it. He wrote: ''A mind accustomed to mathematical deduction, when confronted with the faulty foundations [of astrology], resists a long, long time, like an obstinate mule, until compelled by beating and curses to put its foot into that dirty puddle.'' Kepler's distrust of the ''dirty puddle'' hasn't rubbed off on Americans. Polls show that half of Americans are open to astrological influences in their lives. Most newspapers and magazines offer horoscopes. Even those people who say ''Oh, I just do it for fun'' will sometimes admit that ''Well, maybe there's something to it.'' ''After all,'' they say, ''science doesn't know everything. Maybe, just maybe, the positions of the planets and stars do affect out lives. Haven't people believed it for thousands of years? Didn't Kepler believe it? I may not be able to prove it is true, but neither can science prove it is wrong.'' And, of course, they are right. Science can't prove that astrology is wrong because the whole system is so slippery and vague that it's impossible to get a grip on it. That's what Kepler meant by ''dirty puddle.'' A typical horoscope is loose enough to let almost anyone see themselves in it. Whatever Kepler gave Hans Hannibal Huetter von Huetterhofen, we can be confident that his customer went away thinking he got his money's worth. It was the genius of the British philosopher Karl Popper to realize that nothing in science can ever be proved absolutely true. Just because something ''works,'' doesn't mean it's right. But what we can sometimes do with confidence is show that a scientific idea is wrong. As Popper said, good science is ''falsifiable.'' An idea that offers ample opportunities for falsification, yet resists refutation, is to be valued highly. An idea that can't be proved wrong is simply not science. When Kepler discovered what we now call Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion, he found precise mathematical formulae that describe the motions of the planets and their moons to a high degree of precision. A single unambiguous exception to the laws would show that something is amiss. Four hundred years later we have not found an exception. But when Kepler cast horoscopes, it was a ''well, maybe'' sort of thing. Since the 1950s, many scientific studies have attempted to assess the accuracy of astrological predictions, usually by asking astrologers to match horoscopes to people in blind tests. The results have been overwhelmingly negative. In spite of hundreds of person-years of research, not one shred of reliable evidence has emerged to show that astrology is anything but bunk. Do astrologers therefore concede that their horoscopes are a swindle? Not on your life. The system is much too elastic for that. Psychologist Ivan Kelly of the University of Saskatchewan lists a number of ways astrologers get around the scientific critique of their craft: Ignore bad news. Kelly quotes several astrologers who take this tack, including John Anthony West in his ''The Case for Astrology'': ''Since the aim of this book is to present the positive evidence, intimate details of the bulk of the negative evidence do not concern us.'' This has been the dominant response of the astrological community. Knock science. Astrologer Robert Hand writes: ''I don't think that science is yet capable of dealing with the full complexity of the symbolic language as employed by astrologers.'' Move the goal posts. There are so many different ways of doing astrology that if a scientific study debunks one method, the astrologer simply invokes another. Invoke negatives. The phenomena of astrology are subtle and elusive and require more creative ways of investigating them than have yet been mustered, say astrologers. Kelly quotes a professional astrologer who admits the absence of scientific evidence for astrology - so far: ''I am personally still convinced that, given more sensitive and imaginative tests, confirmation of the reality of sun-sign typologies, and the signs generally, will be obtained.'' Blame faulty methods. Astrologer West, for example, says that scientific criticism of astrology is irrelevant because astrology is a ''system of magic,'' where magic is ''the attempt to master fundamental laws of resonance that have produced the cosmos.'' In other words, the practice of astrology is so slippery and ambiguous that it cannot be falsified. That is why it continues to flourish in spite of failing every scientific test. And that is why astrology is different than science. <PP> Chet Raymo is a professor of physics at Stonehill College and the author of several books on science.

This is one view of Astrology. Barbara Shafferman has another. What's yours? Ms. Shafferman has written and published extensively on Astrology. This novel, however, while weaving Astrology into the plot is not a book "about" Astrology - but a political thriller. If you're a fan of that genre, I believe you'll enjoy reading this one. Please join us for the discussion on September 15th. The author will be joining us!! More details when the stars are aligned more favorably!!!

betty gregory
July 31, 1999 - 01:03 am
Ah, September!! Virgo that I am, a cool month to begin this book. And, no, absolutely not, I do not believe in astrology. Except...except...that my best girlfriend (who became my sister-in-law) and I have the same birthday and do each fit the written-about characteristics of Virgo. But...but...I'm a scientist at heart, want to be shown the facts, the bottom line, don't talk to me about scientific relationships, I want to see statistical significance. And replication. (Which, let's face it, being that particular and exacting does fit a Virgo.) In the meantime, I've got a gazillion other books to read before this one. A Virgo gets her books read on time, has organized notes ready to go, worries ahead of time that enough people will be reading this book, too, therefore, feels obligated to leave this post 45 days ahead of schedule.

More later.

robert b. iadeluca
July 31, 1999 - 03:59 am
Amen to all the statements regarding scientific approach said by Readerdoc. Having said that - I am a Libra. I would imagine that almost everyone, believer or not, found out at some point in life under what sign he/she was born under.


Joan Scales
August 10, 1999 - 03:58 pm
readerdoc - I'm considered a "virgo" since I was born in September, but I don't fit any of the critera for being one. I also don't believe in fortunetelling or consulting the stars for information about my life. As a Christian first, I go to God for answers and also requests.

Eileen Megan
August 29, 1999 - 08:08 am
Thanks to Ann Alden, I'll be getting the book soon and hope join in on the discussion. I too am a Virgo and DO have many of the qualities assigned to this "sign". But, I agree with Joan and don't take any stock in Astrology.

Eileen Megan

robert b. iadeluca
August 29, 1999 - 08:37 am
I, too, was born in September - based on the Septembers here, I would say that January is a cold month. Anyway, I was born Sept. 25th so I am a Libra (not a Virgo). I have no idea what all that means.


August 29, 1999 - 08:44 am
I rather like to read my horoscope in the evening paper, and I find it rather fun to see if I can fit the prediciton to some situation that occurs. Most generally, I can't.

I'm a Leo, but will now have to check and see if I fit the Leo personality.. I remember a lady at our wedding told me our marriage would not last since Charlie was a Scorpio, but we just celebrated 51 years.

August 29, 1999 - 10:35 am
Hello and welcome to all who will be joining us for this discussion. Now we may all have our differing views of Astrology. Some of us may believe in it and some of us may not. Many of us may be ambivalent about it in the same way some are ambivalent about – oh, say religion for instance. But the premise that Barbara Shafferman uses as the focal point of her political thriller is as plausible as the political news of the day – or yesterday, in the case of Nancy Reagan. There may be dispute about the details and extent of the influence of Astrology in the Reagan White House – but there appears to be no doubt that certain things happened concerning Reagan’s schedule and the alignment of the stars. There is even what might be called a political trilogy on the matter. Donald Regan, Ronnie’s former Chief of Staff, kept a color coded schedule for the President (green was good, red was not propitious and yellow could go wither way) and he reveals his side of the Astrological influence in his For The Record. Nancy Reagan, in My Turn, dismisses much of what Regan had to say but admits that the Astrologer Joan Quigley was a paid consultant to the tune of $3,000 per month to advise her on the President’s schedule – especially after the assassination attempt by John Hinckley. In What Does Joan Say?, Ms. Quigley claims to have had much more extensive involvement than Nancy was willing to admit. She claims to have put the “Teflon’ in the Teflon Presidency!

The point is, some of the things in this futuristic political thriller have already happened!!!! Sometimes truth IS stranger than fiction. As those of you that have already read this novel understand, Ms. Shafferman takes this core of an idea, and weaves a nifty little tale of political intrigue that takes some interesting turns.

We’re so glad that Barbara Shafferman will be available to answer your questions on this novel or on her life as a writer. As we begin this discussion on September 15th, we can look forward to her posts along with ours as she will be dropping in from time to time. And please post any questions of her that you might have at any time – we’ll put them up in the opening page of the discussion along with her answers as we receive them. If you are reading along with us but are ‘just lurking’ – you can e-mail your questions directly to me if you wish. We’ll get them to the author also. All in all, this should be an exciting first for us here at SN B&L.

Joan Pearson
August 29, 1999 - 03:01 pm
I agree, Charlie...this will be an exciting first. I haven't received my copy of the book yet, so will not be peeking in here until I get started. Would hate to read the denouement first! Shall we read the whole thing through prior to 15th?

Would like to add before I go, since we are all playing the "What's your sign" game...I am a Gemini...classic Gemini. Every description of those born under this sign describes me to a tee. Never a detail off. Enough to make me a true believer in my daily horoscope! Except, my husband is also a Gemini...and not a single characteristic does he share with me and Sidney Omaar's description of a Gemini! So that shakes my "faith". However, I am willing to suspend any doubt and accept this "nifty little story" for what it is. And we do have a former president's agenda scheduled around the stars. Can't wait to read Barbara's tale...

August 29, 1999 - 07:04 pm
Please see the top of the page for a special message to all our SeniorNet members from the author.


robert b. iadeluca
August 29, 1999 - 07:09 pm
To the author:

I have always described myself as an open-minded skeptic. I'll start with an open mind and we'll see what happens.


Eileen Megan
August 30, 1999 - 08:14 am
Ms. Shafferman,

As a fellow Virgo, it shouldn't be too surprising that I would be skeptical, but, like Robby, I promise to keep an open mind. I'm so excited that you have agreed to participate in our discussion!

Eileen Megan

Ella Gibbons
August 31, 1999 - 02:18 pm
I have just received my copy of the book and am awaiting our discussion. Are we to tell our astrological signs, although I'm sure no one objects. I am a Scorpio, but that is all I know, having been born November 11th. I've never read the portents in the newspaper - it might be fun! I have an open mind, as Robby does, - as most seniors do - and am looking forward to reading a mystery and having the author here to answer our questions.

Thank you, Ms. Shafferman, for participating in our discussion and hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Larry Hanna
September 1, 1999 - 07:51 am
I have read a little more than half of the book and it is a good read.

I am an acquaris and really know nothing about astrology. I would be interested in knowing the background of astrology. Am looking forward to this discussion.


September 1, 1999 - 09:39 am
I can't wait for my copy to arrive in the mail! It sounds like this will be a very interesting discussion. I know I am a Pisces, but have never learned what that is supposed to mean. I'm looking forward to having the author introduce me to the way real astrology works.

September 1, 1999 - 04:06 pm
What fun!! I am Aquarius, too, the Fame Freak, it will be very interesting to read all the comments!

I do like the book.


robert b. iadeluca
September 1, 1999 - 04:54 pm
So far I seem to be the only Libra.


Barbara Shafferman
September 3, 1999 - 02:03 pm
I've been reading the messages posted with great interest. Virgos seem to have a real monopoly on messages so far, but that's not surprising because in astrology, Virgo is considered the sign of the book. How appropriate to have so many with that Sun Sign participating in a book discussion.

However, I want to point out that knowing your Sun Sign is just one small part of real astrology. As you will discover when you read "The President's Astrologer", astrologers look at the positions of all the planets, plus the Sun and the Moon, at the exact time and location of a person's birth. the zodiacal location of the Sun, which is what makes you a Gemini, Cancer, Leo, etc. is only one part of a birth chart. The location of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, etc. all the way out to Pluto, gives astrologers important additional information. We use the Sun Sign as a kind of astrological shorthand, because it is the strongest influence in a chart, and most people display the nature of their Sun Sign fairly consistently. When someone is not typical of his or her Sun Sign, we usually find that several of the other planets in the chart are in signs that are very different from the Sun Sign.

I'm telling you all this not to give a lesson in Astrology 101, but rather to explain why some of you are so typical of your Sign while others are not, which is what many of you are questioning. When you read the book, you'll understand this better, because my astrologer-heroine, Addie Pryce explains it far better than I do.


Larry Hanna
September 3, 1999 - 06:31 pm
Barbara, it is great to have you joining in already. I am getting to the exciting part of the book and am worried about Addie. Am enjoying the book and bet we will have a lot of questions for you. I have one already, which is a general question related to astrology. You speak of the importance of the exact time of birth and the date. How exact are you talking about? Would a few minutes or an hour make any significant difference. I feel fairly confident that the exact time to the minute, while listed, probably in many instances is an approximate correct time.


Ella Gibbons
September 4, 1999 - 07:05 am
Barbara - I am half-way through the book and enjoying it also. Are you the character Addie - minus the presidential speech-writing position, etc? Do astrologers actually make a living doing this, as Addie was doing?

Barbara Shafferman
September 7, 1999 - 07:13 am
Today I'll answer the questions asked in the last two messages. But first, I wanted to ask everyone posting to be careful not to reveal the surprise twist in "The President's Astrologer". When everyone has finished reading the book, I'll tell you how I got the idea for this plot twist. I think you'll find it interesting how a chance remark can set a whole tale spinning.

Larry: As far as time is concerned, I'm talking about exact--at least as exact as a person can discover. Birth records vary from state to state. In New York state, for example, the time has been listed on the birth certificate for the last 55 or so years. Hospital records and baby books are also sources for the time. A mother's memory is the least reliable source. Of course, no time is really exact to the minute unless you're timing with a stopwatch. An error of more than 10 to 15 minutes can give a very inaccurate reading. Knowing the time gives about 50 percent of the information, so it's very, very important.

Ella: I think every writer puts something of herself into her main character, so in many ways Addie and I think and react alike. However, I have to say "no--I am not Addie, although I might wish to be her." Very few astrologers can make a living, simply by practicing it as Addie did. Some supplement their income with writing, lecturing, etc, but most have other jobs that pay the bills.

Ella Gibbons
September 7, 1999 - 05:04 pm
Thank you so much, Barbara, for answering our questions at this time. I finished the book but wouldn't dream of giving a thing away! Am looking forward to the discussion.

September 7, 1999 - 05:40 pm

Very interesting what you say about the exact time of birth. I pulled out my birth certificate (Ohio)and as I remembered, the time is stated pretty scrupulously - 8:01 AM. Whether that's the right time or not, it certainly gives the impression of being exact - right to the minute!

Larry Hanna
September 8, 1999 - 01:10 pm
Barbara, thanks for answering my question on the time. I would expect that with the accuracy of today's clocks the records are a lot more accurate than they were 50-70 years ago. I also would wonder if the doctors didn't prepare the birth certificates at a little later time than the birth, although surely some annotation would have been made in the records. No way to ever know.

I have finished the book. Certainly won't give away the ending.


September 8, 1999 - 02:03 pm
After reading all of the post, I can't wait for my book to arrive. I am looking forward to this discussion.

Welcome Barabara to the discussion and for the record I am a Scorpio.

Will have to keep an open mind.

September 8, 1999 - 02:47 pm

Glad you will be joining us. You'll like the book and the characters (the characters in the book).


Joan Pearson
September 8, 1999 - 05:25 pm
Barbara, I can't wait to get my copy of your book! It should arrive any day now. I read this article in the Washington Post today and thought it might be of interest.

Lucky Stars?

For those who don't have the time to read the article in its entirety, here's an extract...
"Of course, maybe it isn't fair to insist that astrological predictions be any more flawless or all-encompassing than weather forecasts or election polls. Horoscopes, however, incur no penalty for being wrong. Indeed, astrologers are the first to explain that there are no guarantees, noting that "the stars incline, they do not compel."

Serious astrologers claim, however, that, with exact information about an individual's birth date and time, down to the second if possible, they can be fairly specific.

That's all the basic input astrologers use: the date and time of your birth. (Long ago, some forms of astrology used the date of conception, but that turned out to be hard to pin down.)

....However, because astrological predictions are not falsifiable, they are well-nigh impossible to test. Nonetheless, numerous studies have been conducted.

These tests are mostly statistical, that is, they try to establish whether astrologers' assertions and predictions are correct more often than would be expected by chance alone.

One statistical study of the relationship between birth date data and life experience deserves special comment. Over two decades in the middle of this century, French researchers Michel and Francoise Gauquelin assembled and analyzed horoscopes of more than 25,000 individuals. At first, they found no positive correlations.

Mars has long been astrologically associated with violence and killing. But the files of 623 notorious convicted murderers showed no correlations with the location of Mars by astrological house.

Nevertheless, one modest positive correlation did appear: A significant number of sports champions was found to have been born when Mars was between the eastern horizon and the celestial meridian. The Gauquelins' 1969 book trumpeted this result as the "Mars effect." Professional astrologers embraced their findings and proclaimed that they placed the whole field on a scientific footing.

I have been looking for my baby book; my mother recorded lots in mine, as I was the first child...I don't think she caught the second I was born though, and certainly didn't record the date of conception...

This should be fun...and Betty, you are so fortunate to have written a book about a subject that has fascinated you for such a long time.

Will be back with book in hand......

September 9, 1999 - 06:24 am
Charlie, I like all the characters here too. I'm so anxious that I call the book store last night to see if it had come in. As soon as it walks in the door, they'll call me.

Barbara,I can't wait.

Barbara Shafferman
September 9, 1999 - 11:14 am
You're right, Charles. When the birth certificate has an odd time like 8:01, we're pretty sure that it's accurate within a few minutes. However when it says 8:00, 8:30 or any other rounded off time, we get suspicious that the time was written in as an afterthought. We also know that the time is not the uppermost concern in the doctor's mind at that moment, so we expect some deviation.

Joan: Thanks so much for that article in the Washington Post. It's very fair, but it did leave out one important factor. Astrologers use the date and time of birth, but also the location is of vital importance. We work with the longitude and latitude of the birthplace, as well as the time, to set up a picture of exactly what the sky looked like at the moment of birth. The Gauquelin study that the article mentioned is one of the most important statistical validations of astrology. Not only did they find a Mars correlation with sports champions, but there was a Moon correlation with writers, a Jupiter correlation with actors and politicians and a Saturn correlation with scientists. I'm happy to say that the Moon in my chart is in just the right place for writers!

betty gregory
September 9, 1999 - 07:30 pm
Barbara S., Beyond position of planets at birth, do astrologers look at weather? I was born in central Florida during a hurricane, in '48, a few years before they began to give them names. (At 8:01, as a matter of fact. Great minds.) Even as I ask, my skepticism grows. Sorry. I seem to be on a fussy streak this week. For example, since there is no standardization of "moment of birth" (cutting cord? first breath? last tiny foot to slip free? on mommy's tummy?), even if there is an effort to be accurate, what is the criteria? And what of the different routines of doctors? Or of the newer under water birth?

I am still really looking forward to reading this book, however. No skepticism is going to ruin MY fiction.

September 11, 1999 - 08:10 pm
I'm with readerdoc. A little suspension of disbelief is necessary; otherwise, why read fiction at all?

I hope to join you all for the book but don't have a copy yet. Don't worry; I read fast. I'm a Cancer; a friend who was learning how to be an astrologer cast my horoscope some years ago. The only thing I remember was that I wasn't "balanced," i.e., everything was on one side of the chart instead of being scattered around.

I just had a baby three months ago and can speak to the when question--at least, how they do it now. Right after he was out, the doctor said, "Boy, born at 5:03 p.m." So I think they time it from when the doctor feels able to look at the clock in the room!

September 12, 1999 - 06:27 pm
I was born right before a hurricane in '28.. Maybe that is what makes us feisty... That's what my dad always told me.

betty gregory
September 12, 1999 - 07:07 pm
Ah, yes, Pat, all the hurricane jokes. I know what you mean. I expect there are quite a few of us out there--even many born early because of the dropping barometric pressure. Today, unlike when I was born, they know to have pregnant women stay in close touch with their doctors, or in some cases, be admitted to the hospital in case labor is prompted by the pressure.

September 12, 1999 - 07:23 pm
The hospital was demolished right after my mother left, so I had a hard time getting a birth certificate

September 14, 1999 - 09:14 pm
Hello all. I’m hoping everyone has been able to get a copy of the book, although I know some of you may not as yet – or have received it just recently. I suggest therefore, that we take a look at the first nine chapters this week. This will give everyone a chance to catch up – this is a pretty quick read.

CHAPTERS 1-9 (Pages 1-94)

(Up front: I’ve been having some kind of connectivity problems for over a week and can’t seem to figure it out. It’s difficult for me to POST messages of any length, although I don’t really have any trouble reading them or getting around – so, please bear with me).

We open with Addie Pryce, “a thirty-seven year-old astrologer”. I liked her immediately – successful and self-assured – but a workaholic. As we get to know her, we find her vulnerabilities linked to her past pain. The issue of “betrayal” seems to drive her reactions somewhat, don’t you think? But she sure doesn’t like to be manipulated, does she? I like that, too. Things charge ahead for her don’t they? A lot of changes coming her way right from the start. I like the way the plot moves right along. I think when we say a “quick read” this is what we mean most of the time. The plot grabs you and pulls you ahead so that you want to find out what happens next.

Walter and Jonah are an immediate contrast to Addie – the typical Washington insiders, Mr. Politico and Mr. Science? But that’s just the surface, the first impressions. We get to know them better also. I like the way the author (Barbara Shafferman) kind of sets us up to assume things about her characters and then proceeds to draw them more fully for us to discover. The little dance between Addie and Jonah commences immediately. What did you think of that? It’s obvious there is some kind of spark between them from the start.

Ms. Shafferman also introduces the ‘Nancy Reagan’ question immediately. It sort of validates the possibility of this actually happening, don’t you think? I am interested in the kind of mechanics of “the idea” for the novel. Being an Astrologer, I wonder how much impact the sorts of revelations about Nancy Reagan and Astrology had on the author’s idea to write this novel? I often wonder if such a small spark can ignite the creative process – or is it a number of small sparks??

Joan Pearson
September 15, 1999 - 05:19 am
Charlie, I misread your "connectivity" problem at first...thought you meant mentally and was about to suggest that Barbara might provide a reason for that based on the stars...

I am the chronically late Gemini, with so many irons in the fire...perhaps our astrologist will comprehend that!

Will catch up before the day is out. I really do look forward to this discussion!

Ella Gibbons
September 15, 1999 - 07:45 am
Our author,Ms. Shafferman, I believe has been an astrologer for some years so I'm wondering if by chance she knew the name of Nancy Reagan's astrologer.

I'll browse through the first 9 chapters as I've finished the book a few weeks ago. It started off rather slowly for me, but I was soon caught up in the plot.

Barbara Shafferman
September 15, 1999 - 01:36 pm
readerdoc: No astrologers don't look at the weather at all. However, with all the excitement of a hurricane, I'm amazed that the doctor had the presence of mind to put down such an exact time as 8:01. The first independent breath is generally accepted by astrologers as the correct moment of birth. It's then that one exists as an autonomous human being.

EllenM: As you say, suspension of belief is necessary for the proper appreciation of fiction. So, hopefully, personal feelings about astrology won't affect anyone's enjoyment of my book.

Charles: Yes, I do set the characters up initially on a more superficial level to allow them to grow and change as the novel progresses. This is the way life happens--we're exposed to situations and people, and give up some of our preconceived ideas and prejudices along the way.

The furor over Nancy Reagan and her astrologer did give me the initial idea for the book. That was the first spark--the thought that an astrologer working for the president would be an interesting background for a political thriller. Also, I thought it would be an entertaining way to show the general public what astrology is really like. However, I had no idea what the actual plot would be. It took a luncheon conversation with a fellow writer to ignite that spark, and I can't tell about that until everyone has finished the book. It would give the plot away.

Ella: Mrs. Reagan's astrologer was Joan Quigley, a well respected San Francisco astrologer. In fact, Ms. Quigley wrote a book about her experiences with the Reagans called "What Does Joan Say?"

It's interesting to me that you felt the book started rather slowly. I'm always rewriting in my mind, even after what I have written is published. I have thought recently that I might start the book differently, if I were writing it today. I might have begun with some dramatic incident happening to Addie, and then flashed back to Walter and Jonah's initial visit. I'd be interested to know what you all think about that.

Larry Hanna
September 15, 1999 - 02:13 pm
I liked Addie from the very beginning. It was obvious she wasn't going to be walked over in the way she dealt with her 11 am appointment being cancelled and taken by someone else.

Do astrologers have computer programs like the book described where you can enter the time and get a full read out or is that a projection towards the future? I found your wrist telephone and other technological anticipations of the future very inventive and believable.


Barbara Shafferman
September 17, 1999 - 04:31 pm
Larry: Astrologers are quite technically oriented, because setting up charts based on accurate astronomical data is very exacting. Therefore, we were in the forefront of the computer revolution. The first astrology computer programs, similar to the one I described in the book, were devised in 1982 when computers used only Basic and we had 16k memory. That's when I got my first computer, a TRS 80. Both computers and astrological programs have become much more sophisticated since then. The only difference between the program I use now and the program Addie uses is that she inputs the data verbally. I still have to type it in. Glad you liked my other technological innovations.


September 17, 1999 - 05:58 pm
The author made an interesting comment about how she set the characters up “initially on a more superficial level to allow them to grow and change as the novel progresses. This is the way life happens…” This worked on two levels for me. I thought one of the finer aspects of her writing was the initial engagement between Jonah and Addie: their wariness of each other, their coming closer together, their misunderstandings, their moving apart. Their ‘getting to know’ each other. Addie in fact says, early on that she’s “still learning and discovering things every day.” Although she is referring to her evolving understanding of Astrology – she could just as well be talking about Jonah. But also, I realized that I make judgments of characters in novels much the same way as I do about people in life. I tend to make an initial judgment very quickly – however, it’s written in pencil so to speak, and I leave an open mind to discover whether my initial judgments were close to the truth or far off the mark. On reading a good writer, as in life, most often my initial reactions/judgments have at least some validity, a core of the truth, but are rounded out and amplified by experience.

As for the opening, I thought the flashback was very subtle – I really enjoyed it I found it much more effective than what might have been a dramatic event. It really got me into the character - and therefore into caring what had just happened to her. It just probably depends on a reader’s orientation, though. Plot driven or character driven. I just happen to be more character driven. For me, a dramatic event BEFORE knowing Addie even a little bit would just not have been as effective.

Now, Barbara – I’ve been wondering if you had a mentor in the style of Livonia. She is obviously drawn very lovingly. One of the reasons (among, I suspect, many) why I could never be a writer is that it would just be too difficult for me to ‘kill off’ a character that you have such obvious affection for. Is it hard? Do you try to find other ways to advance the action rather than take this kind of difficult step?

P.S.: Heck, Larry - Dick Tracy had one of those wrist phones YEARS ago!!!

Larry Hanna
September 18, 1999 - 01:41 pm
Charles, when Dick Tracy had the wrist watch phone it was really out in left field. Sure couldn't say that today.

Barbara, the information on the long use of the computer in the field of astrology was very interesting. Are there any websites you could give us that would provide more information on astrology without being too technical? I looked at the charts you had at the back of your book and they looked like they were annotated in another language. Are those symbols of astrology recognized world-wide?

Was there some particular reason you had the President have a drinking problem. Also did the characterization of the First Lady reflect a current or past First Lady? Have to admit when I read of her actions in the book I had a face flash in my mind of someone well known.


betty gregory
September 18, 1999 - 04:31 pm
Well, what a treat. Long before the "it" of whodunit takes place, there is a subtle tension that begins to grow. That I can't quite put my finger on what is causing the tension makes me think of the classic Agatha Christie stories. Something is amiss, but what? Yes, of course, Charlie, the slow evolution of character is as mysterious as the plot of the "it." (Although I will admit--now, be nice, this is among friends, right?---that I initially thought here and there that Addie and others were inconsistently drawn, before something spurred me to think about how I see my friends---who are always inconsistent (and multi-dimentional, too): strong at work, too dependent at home, vulnerable with one person, assertive with someone else. Those smaller, day-to-day inconsistencies.

Anyway, I like the brand of strength Addie shows. Her overall strong self goes forward even while this human side of her sometimes does struggle to keep up. And, thank you, Ms. author, for this incredible role model of mentor in Livonia. I was mid 30's before finding a mentor and as amazing as she was, she was all business (grad school) and would never, as Livonia did, feed me chef salad and warm rolls on good china. That thought is worth a long, cleansing laugh. I, too, want to know if you had a Livonia in your life, or like me, wish you had one.

I want to know if astrologers, in general, promise to keep the charting and personal information confidential. A few times, I talked aloud to Addie, saying, "Don't tell. That's confidential." But she told anyway. So, I wondered if her character doesn't realize the complications/implications of telling personal and chart information--she hasn't been burned yet---or if astrologers don't have the same constraints psychologists have, for example.


September 18, 1999 - 08:49 pm
I lived with an astrologer for six months who like to talk about people and the only way I could communicate with her was to learn something about astrology because we used it as a kind of personality shorthand. In that way it has value.

In every other way it can be rationalized to mean anything you want it too. there are even more than one systems for charting. the oldest one (Sidereal) is thirty degrees on the circle behind the current one(Tropical). My own chart (in tropical) shows me to be sun in pisces, very laid back and philosophical and rising sign (just as important) in the aforementioned virgo, an uptight freak for detail who can't see the forest for the trees. in sidereal I'm an aquarian..quite a different profile although both are creative. I have three other planets that stay put in aquarias in both systems so that probably means I'm more of an aquarian than a pisces, but becuase of my sun sign I'm considered to be that...confusing huh?

I did charts with the help of a computer program on everyone I met for over a year just to give the devil her due before claiming that THERE IS NOTHING TO IT. In only one instance did I find myself wondering and doubting.

I did a chart for the day my father died -- suddenly--for me, my mother and my son. My son and I had extremely negative charts i.e. 26 or 27 negative items to maybe three others not necessarily posative and my mothers was not affected which made me think maybe there was possibly a relationship involving genes???? as well as the position of the planets???? still wondering.


September 19, 1999 - 01:07 pm
readerdoc - You made such a great point: ". . . something spurred me to think about how I see my friends---who are always inconsistent (and multi-dimentional, too): strong at work, too dependent at home, vulnerable with one person, assertive with someone else. Those smaller, day-to-day inconsistencies."

I had never considered that idea before. But now that you've pointed it out, it seems so obvious. I have so much to learn here, so pardon me while I mull over what you all probably have already discovered. Now I realize that incorporating these "day-to-day inconsistencies" into character development is part of the writer's craft.

I also was curious about the confidentiality of a client's chart reading. I wonder if normally this is confidential information, but the author needed Addie to talk about it to further the plot development.

I found myself quickly drawn into this novel and was willing to suspend all disbelief in order to more fully enjoy the experience. Normally, I am cautious about topics like astrology. But while reading this novel I accepted astrology as a proven fact. So when Addie was puzzled by the inconsistencies between the Vice President's chart and his actual personality, I immediately suspected that the chart didn't belong to the Vice President.

It's been very interesting to learn about astrology through the telling of this novel. It made me want to find out more about astrology. I searched the internet and found this helpful website:

MondoLink Astrology

Since I know so little about astrology, I can't vouch for its accuracy. Hopefully the author will say something if the information presented is contrary to her beliefs.

September 19, 1999 - 01:12 pm
correction. . . not thirty degrees but twenty four bettween sidereal and tropical astrology if it mattered.

Barbara Shafferman
September 19, 1999 - 02:02 pm
Everyone seems to be curious about Livonia--did she really exist, was she my mentor? This really pleases me, because it means I successfully created a living, breathing character purely from my imagination. You see, there was no actual Livonia. I never had a mentor, but if I had, Livonia would certainly have been my choice. And Charles, it was not difficult at all to kill Livonia, even though I admire her tremendously. She still exists in my mind, and I can always resurrect her in another novel under a different name.

Larry: I'm delighted my novel is getting you curious about astrology. One site that gives some interesting information is the American Federation of Astrologers, an organization to which I have belonged for many years. The url is I'm looking around for others, and I note that Marylou gave a site with which I'm not familiar. I'm delighted that she also is interested enough to investigate. I think you'll both me surprised with what you find.

readerdoc: Thanks for the Agatha Christie comparison. Very flattering, indeed. Yes, all information is kept absolutely confidential by astrologers. I can't recall Addie talking about the charts to anyone except Livonia, and then she was terribly lonely and confused and really needed her help. Otherwise, she only discussed the charts with the people to whom they belonged. Please tell me where else she disclosed confidential information, because it's something I should never have let her do.

Claire: Yes, astrology is a wonderful personality shorthand, and it's the way astrologers often talk to one another. Sidereal astrology is used primarily in the East. Western astrology uses the tropical zodiac. Trying to put the two together, the way you did, is unrealistic and very confusing. You certainly investigated it before reaching a conclusion, and that is the right way to make a judgment. My only quarrel with what you say is that astrology cannot "be rationalized to mean anything you want it to". If you have a person's chart, based on accurate birthdata, and you are knowledgeable in interpretation, it describes the individual very clearly and cannot be rationalized away.

Marylou: I think that the most effective characters reflect the inconsistencies and doubts we all have in real life. Also, it gives them room to grow and change, unlike cardboard characters who lack dimension. The growth and development of a character is as important and as interesting, I believe, as the evolution of a plot.


Larry Hanna
September 20, 1999 - 09:19 am
Marylou and Barbara, thanks for the links. Will try to look at them as soon as I have time.


September 20, 1999 - 11:12 am
I was just beginning to play with charts and doing them by hand. everyone in the real estate office where I worked wanted to be DONE. One gal had such a mess of negative aspects I didn't want to to tell her, but eventually did and she accpeted most of them as being true. Then I realized I'd done the chart for the wrong lattitude, for the southern hemisphere. When done properly is was a bland ordinary thing with no negatives at all. We laughed over it, but I decided I needed to use a computer program or something more reliablethan my abilities before proceding. The point s she would believe and accept anything I told her.

Astrology is a great party game too. People open up and tell you all about themselves within the framework of their sun signs. Gerda, my friend, says the rising sign is how the world see yous (the front porch) and treats you and therefore is very important also, but most of us don't know our birth times. We guessed at mine until I sent away for my birth certificate. It was almost diametrically opposed to what we thought . . . so much for Gerda, my friend the pro, who makes a living doing charts in London.Astrology is very big in Europe.


Louise Licht
September 20, 1999 - 02:49 pm
Now that's what I call a fun read, and with such an different perspective on it all. Our imaginations took over, skeptics and believers alike just had to have a ball.

If this is a first novel - please let us know when numbers one,two and three come out - looking forward to them all.

This is a Taurus, not that I have any idea what that means. Glad to be joining you all.


September 20, 1999 - 07:50 pm
HelloLouise!! – I have read somewhere that Barbara IS working on a new novel ( I hope we’re not delaying her work too much!!). Maybe later she’ll tell us if it’s a “sequel” or a departure.

Claire - Have you read the book? If so, the author seems to use the “scientific mind” (Jonah) as a foil (a romantic foil) to Addie – the “physical plane” vs. the “metaphysical plane.” Now the thought occurs to me – I’m wondering if ‘women’ are more open to things like astrology, tarot, etc – this metaphysical plane? (Now I’m not lumping them all together at all or placing an equal value on each…). What do you think? It doesn’t seem that the AUTHOR is making this point (after all The President is a believer and HIS wife is violently opposed)

Larry - Ellen Wycliff put me in mind of Martha Mitchell (“gracious Southern belle to screeching shrew”). And Simon Furst? Well, if he’d lighten up a little, Al Gore could pass for an an…….but not everyone has gotten this far yet…

Any comments:
Addie’s collection on unicorns?
Livonia living in The Watergate?
Addie liked the idea of being called a writer, “any kind of writer”
This attraction/repel/attraction/repel between Addie and Jonah are like two spinning magnets that finally come to rest with their poles in place
The President and Ellen Wycliff are also “enmeshed in a web of attraction and repulsion that neither one could break.” One understands that they’ll never come to rest.
In Chapter 6, President Wycliff gives a perfectly timed speech based on Addie’s advice. It was often remarked that Reagan was the Great Communicator – and his timing was impeccable.

Chapter 9 reveals, the supposed suicide of Bruce Hanover in an almost off-handed way that very nicely kind of shocks the reader, don’t you think?. Well done.

What say that through next Monday, we take it up through

Chapter 24 (Page 264)

Addie’s kidnapping?

Joan Pearson
September 21, 1999 - 06:15 am
Oh my, what fun! I must admit, I'm a convert, and I've only read the first 12 chapters - and fully realize that this is fiction! Yet it is fiction written by an astrologer. I have a raft of impressions and questions, but will try to contain myself and stay on topic. But I do have one question for Barbara first.

As an astrologer, you must be accustomed to skepticism by now. People dismissing your hard work and experience as palm reading...and party games. In other words, you must be used to not being taken seriously.? Your heroine must have the same experience, right? She makes it clear from the beginning that she does not want to waste her time with those who do not regard her work as valid and meaningful. Yet, she flares up at Jonah, seems hurt and even surprised at his suggestion that they skip the charts of the other characters...that she just humor the pres.,let him talk and tell him things he wants to hear to keep him happy.

Does an astrologist ever become accustomed to skepticism?

Barbara Shafferman
September 21, 1999 - 09:16 am
First of all, I realized that I had forgotten to answer some of Larry's questions in my last posting. The charts in the back of the book are exactly how astrological charts look, and yes, they are universal. The symbols for the signs and planets are the same, whether you are an Italian, German, British etc. astrologer. Thanks to e-mail lists, we are in touch with astrologers from many countries. Happily most of them speak English.

The charts in the back can give you an inside view of an issue that cropped up during publishing "The President's Astrologer". After I knew my characters very well (and before starting to write the book), I did what I call backwards astrology. I went back in time and found an actual date, location and time that would give each character a chart embodying his traits. I did this for six of the main characters. My publisher wanted to include all of these charts and put them in the front of the book. I was afraid that this would make the book look like a piece of nonfiction designed for astrologers and would turn readers off. We compromised by including only the president and the vice president and putting the charts in the back of the book.

As far as the president's drinking problem--I wanted to give him some character defining problem, and obviously it wasn't going to be a predilection for sexy young interns. Drinking seemed like a good idea. Then I found a date for his chart which showed the problem quite clearly, and that definitely became his problem. In appearance, the First Lady is somewhat like Nancy Reagan--small but very powerful--although her attitude toward astrology, obviously, is quite different. Interesting that Charles mentioned Martha Mitchell in a later message. She never entered my mind at all, but now I can see the connection. All my characters are largely products of my imagination and not based on real people at all. However, once they have emerged, they really exist in my mind, and while I'm writing a book they often become more real to me than the long-suffering people around me.

Here are a few more web sites for beginners that people on one of my astrology mailing lists provided. I checked them out and they're very informative.

Claire: It's true that some people will accept anything you tell them, whether or not it's accurate, but that's indicative of people's gullibility, not the value of astrology. When you have a chart properly drawn up--and even with a computer you have to be sure you've input the data properly--then the information is totally valid. Of course, interpretation is not easy--it takes years of study--and amateurs can often botch it up even when the chart information is correct. And guessing an ascendant, sun sign or moon sign is strictly a parlor game. Don't take that as a validation or disproof either.

Louise: Thanks for the kind words. It is a first novel, and I have just completed number 2. However, this has nothing to do with astrology. It's about a kidnapping, and the relationship that develops between the kidnapper and kidnappee. Actually, the idea began to germinate when I was writing about Addie's kidnapping.

Charles: You're not delaying me at all. The second novel is done and starting to make its way into the world. The timing for this is perfect, because I'm not quite ready to start on the third. That's germinating right now.

Joan: Yes, I think all serious astrologers develop a bit of an edge when their hard work is dismissed by people who know nothing about the subject. Like Addie,I don't waste my time trying to convince people about the validity of astrology--I am not in the business of converting anyone to my ideas and never have been. Yes, I am completely accustomed to skepticism and can understand it if someone regards astrology as what is presented in the newspaper horoscope columns. After all, I approached the subject initially as a skeptic myself.


Joan Pearson
September 21, 1999 - 11:20 am
This is so grand...immediate curiosity gratification! I have so many questions, but will restrain myself to one per post.

I very much enjoyed the first sentence of the seems to paint the main character from the git-go.

"On a rainy April morning in the year 2006, life came stalking Addie Pryce."

Later on, when the unicorn collection comes up (I paused at that too, Charlie) Addie says...

"Wherever I go, I seem to meet unicorns looking for a home."

Addie is not looking for anything out of life. She's still hurting from the first marriage and disillusioned with life. But life stalks her...unicorns come looking for her.

The unicorn is an interesting choice here. Isn't the unicorn a mythical creature?...certainly not real. Addie believes in the reality of her charts. She demands they be taken seriously or she doesn't wish to waste her time. Yet, there sits the whimsical collection of unreal creatures...which she was unable to resist.

Please tell about the unicorn, Barbara. A constellation...what is the meaning of the unicorn to the astrologer?

I see a strong parallel here between the unicorns making their way to Addie's door and other troubled, curious creatures who seek her "mystical" company.

Do you have a collection of unicorns, Barbara? Or is that fiction? It is quite a touch! Do you find yourself besieged by requests for your powers, wherever you go?

Eileen Megan
September 21, 1999 - 01:26 pm
I found "The President's Astrologer" to be a good "read", interesting and fast paced, just the way I like it. The description of how complicated it is to do a person's chart dispelled any notion that astrology was "mumbo jumbo" and to be lumped in with tarol cards and crystal balls. I was very intrigued with the fact that Ms Shafferman made charts to "fit" her characters, what a clever idea.

Eileen Megan

Larry Hanna
September 21, 1999 - 02:00 pm
Barbara, thanks for the additional information and answers to my questions. Your participation in this discussion adds so much and really helps bring the book alive. Will your new book be published by the same company and will it be available in bookstores?


September 21, 1999 - 02:05 pm
Hi to all. Goodness I think I've missed the discussion. I had to leave due to Floyd and was gone a week. Am now back home but I have lost my book. I guess its somewhere between home and Atlanta.

I did enjoy reading about half of the book and if I ever find it, I will finish reading as I really did enjoy it. Barbara, I did like you style and am looking forward to finishing the book one day and also reading whatever else you write.

September 21, 1999 - 02:56 pm
I finally came to the conclusion that astrology interpretation is related to the psychic ability of the astrologer as is tarot etc. My friend was very psychic. even that I think (having taken a six week psychic workshop with a los angeles psychic --bob burns) is a natural ability we all share in different ways. Yung referred to this kind of thing as a "bridge to the subconscious".

I have very meager gifts in that area, but found that they do exist, even in this skeptic person -- ME.

I found doing the charts to be hard work, time consuming and seductive, so I finally gave all my books to m friend and swore off. I didn't want to put anymore time into it. She kept them for her library which is extensive. Only a couple of them were new to her.

BTW charles question about the resistance of men makes sense to me. at lease that's what I found in my offer to do charts for almost anyone I knew. Mostly the women loved it and the men smiled and pooh pooh it. What is your experience?.


September 21, 1999 - 06:34 pm
Eileen - I too found the “backwards astrology” very interesting. Creating a character and then assigning appropriate dates, times and locations of birth…The opposite would be quite an exercise – taking three or four random charts and drawing consistent characters from that and melding them into a novel…

And the theme of Barbara’s next novel - I’m wondering how often that occurs: One specific event in a novel becomes a departure for the next novel. I can see how that could happen a lot as part of the creative process.

Joan - The unicorn collection brought to mind The Glass Menagerie. But I hadn’t thought about its connection to the constellations or Astrology. Wonder if Addie’s affinity for unicorns somehow point to her view of herself – a solitary, lonely creature of grace and beauty….

southcoast - gosh, did you have to evacuate? Hope you suffered no losses – and you haven’t missed the discussion at all. We’re meandering right along.

I very much like the way Addie has a strong belief in Astrology, is grounded in its value. She never wavers in this. Acts on the dictums of what her ‘value system’ shows. This not only fleshes out the character, but also moves along the plot. This is most manifest in her suspicions of the character of Simon Furst and the unexplainable suicide of Bruce Hornsby (make that Bruce Hanover)!! This is very….economic writing.

Barbara Shafferman
September 22, 1999 - 01:42 pm
Addie's unicorn collection really seems to intrigue people. So to Joan and everyone else curious about it, here's how it came about. I wanted to give Addie something distinctive in the first chapter, and since we were in her apartment, I decided it would be some sort of collection. I have always felt an affinity with unicorns. Mythology has always fascinated me and, perhaps as Charles mentioned, "The Glass Menagerie" may have had something to do with my focus on unicorns, since Tennessee Williams is a big favorite of mine. Whatever the reason, unicorns have always struck me as glorious creatures, and I own several. Therefore, Addie collected unicorns. Interestingly, unicorns figure in my next novel as well--also as a character defining device. It's not a collection this time, but the subject of a poem I wrote that my kidnapping victim quotes.

Eileen: I was delighted with your comment. I hope that many readers like yourself discover through "The President's Astrologer" that astrology has far more substance than they ever suspected.

Larry: No, I don't think it will be the same publisher. I sold "The President's Astrologer" without the aid of an agent, but I am trying to get a good agent now to represent my new novel and perhaps sell it to a really big publisher. It's as difficult to get a reliable agent as it is to find a publisher. One agent has the manuscript now, and another one is waiting for it. It takes a lot of time between finishing a book and seeing it in print.

Southcoast: Funny to think of my book as a victim of Floyd. Hope you've gotten your life back together by now.

Claire: There's a paradox in the situation of men and women in astrology. Women outnumber men by a tremendous ratio. I'd guess about 30 to 1. Yet, most of the top astrologers are men. Perhaps it has something to do with drive and testosterone.

Charles: The opposite of my backwards astrology would be an interesting exercise. It gives me something to think about. The theme of my second novel did arise very specifically from my first. Sometimes things my characters say surprise me, and when Addie said to Janice that she had been so frightened and lonely that she had almost wanted something to happen between Andrew Granit and herself, it started me wondering about how strong the Stockholm Syndrome really is. From this, the whole second novel developed. Unfortunately, however, I did not repeat this experience while writing the second novel, and I'm still not quite sure what my next one will be about.


September 22, 1999 - 06:51 pm
Barbara - When you mention your new novel and “the Stockholm Syndrome” I was reminded of a passage that puzzled me a bit. After Addie’s luncheon with Senator Granit – and this guy is really a sinister, manipulative, game-playing character – I had trouble reconciling her reaction to his attempts to force himself on her: “panic overcame desire”. I guess I had trouble understanding the ‘desire’ part. Perhaps this is somehow related to your references to “Stockholm Syndrome” although she is certainly no captive ….yet. She is marked as a prey. That’s for certain.

September 24, 1999 - 09:16 am
There are lost posts here. Anyone else missing any??

Eileen Megan
September 24, 1999 - 01:38 pm
Charles, I was just in "Summer Sharings" and a post I made on 9/22 was missing so maybe all discussions were affected?


betty gregory
September 24, 1999 - 04:20 pm
Since Charlie opened the door to this, I must say, Barbara, that I was disappointed to see an old myth revisited---that is, being forced or strong-armed or treated a turn on for women. That Addie felt "desire" doesn't match the volumes of study and direct documentation from women that what they feel at such a moment is terror. I suppose what worries me most about running across such repeated myths is the effect on readers. Boys/men need to know that overpowering someone is not a turn-on. It is just as harmful for girls/women to read something that is at odds with what their bodies tell them.

I don't know if there have been gender specific studies of the Stockholm syndrome, but there are some related and interesting studies of young girls' behavior toward their abusers. Viewed as a mystery until the 1950's, finally some child abuse experts began to look at this perplexing behavior of an abused child's need to seek approval from the abuser. From the classic studies of the '60's and 70's we learned that this approval seeking behavior of girls is their way to stay alive, that they fear being killed, therefore they seek approval.

I don't feel easy about leaving such blunt comments, but on this subject of as yet unchecked danger to women, I don't know how to soften them.

Barbara Shafferman
September 24, 1999 - 05:06 pm
Whoa--wait a minute, readerdoc. There's a major misunderstanding here. There's no question of strong-arm behavior or rough treatment of women. What Charles was talking about was Addie's initial reaction to Andrew Granit in his car, not when she was kidnapped! He questioned her feeling of attraction and then panic. I was trying to show in that scene that Addie, in spite of the walls she had built around herself and in spite of her protestations to Livonia, still experienced feelings like desire. She was attracted to Granit, because of the strength, complexity and power he emanated. However, panic won out over this because she had been hurt so badly in the past. There was no incident of rough behavior there, and Addie would be the last person to be attracted to that.

The Stockholm Syndrome rears its head because after Addie was kidnapped, in spite of her hatred of Granit, she almost wished for something to happen between them because of her fear and loneliness in that isolated room. This intrigued me so much that I researched the Stockholm Syndrome after I finished the book. It has nothing at all to do with rough behavior or strong-arming the victim as a turn on. What happens is that because of the disorientation and terror that a kidnap victim feels, he/she begins to identify with his/her captor. This was first noted in Stockholm during a bank robbery, where the burglars took hostages. By the time, the hostages were released a few of the women were in love with the bandits, corresponded with them in jail, and one of them subsequently married one of the robbers. In my new novel, the feelings stirred up by the Stockholm Syndrome develop into a serious relationship between kidnapper and kidnappee--without any violence apart from the amount necessary to effect a kidnapping. Believe me, I would never glorify violence to women or children--or to any helpless person for that matter.


betty gregory
September 24, 1999 - 06:52 pm
Yes, Barbara, I, too, was talking about the incident in the car and her reaction of panic and "desire."

September 24, 1999 - 07:12 pm
Honestly – that “panic overcame desire” phrase made me uncomfortable. However, I fully accept the authors’ explanation of what she meant to convey.

I must admit that I lost my patience about Chapter 15 with Jonah and asked myself – why does she keep giving this guy another chance? He always seems so impatient with Addie and never really seems to give any credence to her fears – the people following her, the fear she feels at the mysterious inability to reach Livonia. I was reminded of movies you sometimes see where the heroine (and the audience) know what’s going on, but no one else seems to believe her…”Look Addie – be logical” Jonah says. It’s that male (logical)-female (intuition) thing.

I was also curious about the repeated use of precise times:
“Jonah looked at his green marble desk clock 4:22” (pg 157)
“She looked at the clock. The glowing numbers flashed 5:53” (pg 107)

There are many, many more examples. I know we’ve talked about the importance of precise time in Astrology Chart reading, so I was led to wonder if these times were purposeful and meaningful (astrologically speaking!) to the characters at that time. Or was this just a manifestation of the authors’ unique perspective regarding time itself. Just wondering…

betty gregory
September 26, 1999 - 03:07 am
7th Rewrite. (How Virgo)

Ok, Barbara, this has taken up the better part of an evening and I'm not willing to give up. I thought I'd switch from content to process to see if you can shed some light. I joke around that since I'm on the cusp of Virgo and Libra (Sept. 22, 8:01, 1948), that I often have a first response of sharp focus and a second response of a more global, contextual focus. I don't have 2nd thoughts, per se, about my post to you, but (as usual), I have many more thoughts. Let's see if I can remember what some of my 1st through 6th attempts to write a post to you today were:

1. Everybody does it. (You're in good company with other good authors.) 2. A full apology. (Nah) 3. I'm trying to get used to using a scooter inside my house. (Going for sympathy here--can't remember the connection I dreamed up.) 4. My dissertation was on how male and female psychologists rely on female sterotypes, therefore deliver poor therapy to female clients. (theme--I accuse everyone of using female sterotypes.) 5. Don't remember 6. Even men would be offended at how you wrote that car scene. (Now, that's a load of crap. Except for Charlie and Alan Alda and my brother Dan (who has had to listen to this feminist stuff from me for 20 years and says he finally gets it), I expect no one noticed but yours truly.

So, and I'm being serious here (well, as serious as someone can be at this hour--check the time), is there something, astrologically speaking, to this sooooo familiar thing I do of close-in focus, then pull back to see the larger picture? Are we talking Virgo, then Libra?

Unapologetically yours, Betty (Readerdoc)

Joan Pearson
September 26, 1999 - 04:19 am
Panic and desire...hmm. I haven't read past p.290 yet. I'm saving the rest for this week. The oddest reader you ever met! Anyway, I don't know how Addie will react toward her captor.

So my "take" on the situation has nothing to do with any Syndrome...but simply the wine- soaked lunch, during which our Addie is finding herself drawn to this man, yet aware of danger- his motives, and his chart! (Did I read that Addie senses something not right with Andrew's chart too? It seems to be right on, so maybe I didn't.....)

Addie finds Andrew incredibly attractive..She thinks immediately of his chart...loaded with personal magnetism...but she reminds herself of his Pluto, which indicates the need to control the expense of his own feelings. She tells Andrew this. His reaction is to abruptly change the subject, telling her he's tired of her astrology. Is he uncomfortable that his vulnerable self may be apparent?

He continues to pour the Chablis (note that she isn't being forced to drink it.). He urges her, the "poor innocent" to "join the winning side."

I see a strong parallel here between the seduction of his grandson to come live with him. ( I really detested Granit's (granite...hard as rock! Let's talk more about some of these names -ie. Livonia !) attitude toward his daughters...didn't even want to see them! But he "sees himself in his grandson, before he made bad choices." And the boy seems to see him as he really is...and really loves him - puts his arms around his neck and kisses him. He see the side of Andrew no one else does. Is Andrew attracted to Addie because she comprehends his loneliness - that he is out of touch with his feelings?

So here sits Addie, with four+ glasses of chablis and mellowing.. . She feels "foolish, naive" listening to this powerful Senator, whose mouth smiles at her...but not his eyes! Sure, she feels herself weakening...but stops herself...her better judgement, her common sense - comes into play...and she suddenly pulls away from her feelings for him...she panics! What other word could Barbara have used here to describe Addie's very real fear that she was doing something irrational! I've panicked with some real smooth talkers myself...and I can remember one very much like Andrew! I can't explain the attraction, but the panic comes from the realization that things are not right and you better get out fast! Can't think of another word for the panic, but I relate to Addie on this one!

betty gregory
September 26, 1999 - 04:32 am
Joan--so she reacts with panic to her own feelings, but has no reaction (except desire) to Granit's forcing a kiss?

Joan Pearson
September 26, 1999 - 04:42 am
readerdoc, I am trying to pinpoint the source of your obviously strong feelings - the fact that you have rewritten your post so many times is proof of this!

I have heard you react to the phrase, "desire and panic", (referring to the senatorial seduction scene.)

But now for the first time I feel you are referring to the violent scene in the car when those goons kidnapped Addie. I am truly trying to understand your agitation, but am puzzled at the cause. Sometimes when you rewrite your thoughts so many times, the original prompt becomes obfuscated...


Gemini-Joan (on both sides of every issue)

Joan Pearson
September 26, 1999 - 04:51 am
I think she felt somewhat responsible for getting herself in such a situation...for drinking so much wine, and letting his good looks and seductive talk overcome her real concerns about his motives. She knew he wanted her to turn on the President, she knew his eyes weren't smiling and yet she was reacting with warm fuzzy feelings - which were obvious to the Senator. He was aware of the conflict, sensed a wavering, and kissed her. I didn't think this was abuse. Should I have?

betty gregory
September 26, 1999 - 05:26 am
From the book--

"He moved after her, until she was pressed against the door."

Red flags are going up, for me. Then

"His lips pressed against hers, hard, forcing them open.......She felt a sudden surge of desire and pressed her body against his.......Instantly, panic overcame desire, and Addie began to struggle. Granit loosened his grip...."

The myth is that it is a turn-on for a woman to be manhandled. That any kind of "forcing" is a turn-on. It's a dangerous myth.

There is more going on here than sweet talking.

I do feel strongly about certain stereotypes and myths where women are concerned. I don't always speak up about it, but some instances are more insidious than others and this one seems just subtle enough to be more harmful than something more blatant. Everyone who reads has sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters; the subject of any level of forcing...all the way up to date rape is still part of the conversations with those we care about.

I haven't read about the kidnapping yet.

betty gregory
September 26, 1999 - 05:54 am
Joan, this is great. I'm having two entirely different conversations at the same time, one with you here, and one with Ginny by email.

The rewriting and rewriting is because I know this is a lousy way to treat a guest. Somebody should ground me and send me to my room. Betty

Joan Pearson
September 26, 1999 - 08:31 am
AHAHAHA! Betty dear, you are in your room!!!

Poor Barbara, she's trying to show us a cold-hearted, self-centered, power-hungry monster! Making sure we all understand how dangerous and powerful he is!

You object to Barbara's portrayal of Addie, though? I don't think at all that Addie is turned on by Andrew's moves. Au contraire. Absoluement au contraire! She comes to! Her panic and fear overcomes the alcohol-induced romantic feelings, desire and she is revolted! The "man-handling" does not attract her. She does not respond to it. She wants to bolt!!!

The lesson for any grand-daughter here is...beware the booze, I would think! Take responsibility for your own behavior!

What interests me is this relationship with Jonah. I don't grasp what she sees in him! His candor, I suppose. The fact that he doesn't appreciate her life work seems to be a major problem, which she is obviously trying to overlook. Perhaps he will become a believer by the end of the story? Perhaps Barbara can tell us what it is in each of their charts that makes them a viable match?

I've been sitting on a post about Geminis...since reading about the President's Geminian traits, of which I share many. And just now, talking about the stars as indicators of compatablily...I'll have to get up the courage and carefully word another post...

Eileen Megan
September 26, 1999 - 09:49 am
I too was puzzled by the "attract-repel" attitude of Addie to him, I had never heard of the Stockholm Syndrome. Although readerdoc's comments provided much food for thought on the subject, I thought Barbara answered her misgivings very well.

I tend to take the simplistic view of the Jonah/Addie situation as in the old saw "opposites attract." Countless books, movies etc. use this device.

Another Virgo,

Eileen Megan

betty gregory
September 26, 1999 - 11:10 am
Joan -- So, what you've written is that drinking alcohol helps you feel sexual desire for a "cold-hearted, self-centered, power-hungry monster" who pins you to the car door and forces himself on you.

What's troublesome for me is the absence of alarm when she was being physically held down and kissed. The author explains that her panic comes only from her resistence to get involved with someone romantically, al la previous hurtful relationships.

Joan Pearson
September 26, 1999 - 11:55 am
I think Addie was attracted to Andrew before all the wine, but even then she was aware of the dangers involved. Of course she was clear-headed then. The glasses of chablis dimmed those rational warnings until he put the moves on her and she realized she was in trouble, over her head and had to get out.

Eileen, of course, you're right! We must accept it...opposites attract! But sometimes Geminis are attracted to one another- who are not opposites at all. Sameness also attracts? Universal attraction! Anyway, you are right, will just accept that they have fallen for one another, for whatever reasons.

But the great thing about having an author-guest is that we are able to ask questions, even little questions such as the frequent references to time. I'll bet Barbara tells us that time is very important to an astrologer...

For instance, here's a really trivial question that I would wonder about if reading by myself, but Barbara may have a simple answer...

This is a minor detail, but I'm truly into color, ever since James Joyce's Portrait There are many references to the color of Addie's eyes. "extraordinarily sapphire", "blue as the sky"...Shafferman's blue-eyed Athena...

Here's my "turquoise" your favorite color, Barbara, there is so much of it here...the White House chairs, Addie's clothes, the peacock feathers in her apartment, the new silver turquoise pendant she's wearing. If I had those impossibly clear blue eyes, would I be wearing turquoise? I don't think so. Just wondering what you were thinking, or did this just happen? Do you have those true, blue eyes? Do you wear a lot of turquoise?

The other question I always wonder about is the author's choice of names. I think that would be quite a difficult task, and would love to know the thought-process that went into your choice for these characters. I had been playing with Livonia's name in the back of my mind, but as soon as I connected Andrew Granit's name with his personality, I pulled out Livonia again. Is it a real name? Perhaps you made it up? Could it be:
live + on = Livonia? After death, she lives on as Addie's mentor and sends messages which will solve the Salazar mystery?

Must add, that we must all stop taking you literally and get ready to suspend reality to just plain enjoy the rrrrest of the story! You really do have an imagination, lady!!!

betty gregory
September 26, 1999 - 12:15 pm
Yes, I wondered about the name Livonia, too. Kept saying it aloud. Didn't catch the Granit name, but now I'm curious, too.

September 26, 1999 - 02:14 pm
Well – this “attraction to power” thing keeps coming up (in life and literature – as well as in a few recent B&L readings). This is one of those “true” concepts that I resent, I suppose, for being true. Being typically “powerless” and all. The classic scratch-my-head one (from my era) was Dr. Strangelove….er, Henry Kissinger. So I always scratch-my-head when they rear theirs – heads that is.

readerdoc - I can relate to your being on the cusp of something as I always feel I’m on the cusp of true understanding….then wake up.

The name game is always fun when reading a novel. The pairing up of Jonah and Stern must have been thought out. And Simon is a good robotic name…Simon says….wasn’t there a Simon kids electronic toy the point of which was to mimic/repeat the sounds of or something?

In a recent study (or survey) it seems that what Americans most resent or are unprepared to forgive in their politicians is the manufacturing of resumes or pumped up participation in the armed services. NOT their sexual indiscretions or their private life. The creation, in other words of a false persona in any way. The politicians don’t seem to have gotten this message. For them, it’s all about power and control – and electability. Andrew Granit seems to be the logical extension of this. And Simon Furst, the logical extension of Andrew Granit’s will to power.

Barbara Shafferman
September 27, 1999 - 05:39 pm
Your comments have all been fascinating. Hope I cover everything here. If not, please ask again.

First of all--Joan, I love you! You are reading everything exactly as I meant it to be read. Even, the comments you make in bold face are just what I would emphasize. I looked hard to find a heavily Gemini chart for President Wycliffe, because I wanted him to be a non-ivory tower intellectual, a man with a quick mind and a grasp of people, who could communicate effectively. You, Joan, demonstrate a lot of these Gemini traits. You immediately grasp exactly what I'm saying and describe it so well.

I am surprised that the brief moment in Granit's car caused so much discussion. I can only say again, there was no violence there. Addie, who had been fighting her own battle of self-esteem since her disastrous marriage, had her defenses lowered by too much wine. She was flattered by the attention of an important senator, intrigued by the lunchtime conversation and attracted to Granit's aura of power and confidence. And, I don't think he committed any sin against womanhood when he made that pass in the car. Addie responded, and then when she pulled away, he released her immediately. He used no force in any way. She panicked because she suddenly realized she was not as emotionally invulnerable as she thought and also because she knew what a dangerous person he was.

Betty: You say you're on the cusp of Virgo and Libra, but I looked up that birthdate, and your Sun is definitely in Virgo. However, the reason you display a lot of Libra traits is that Mercury (symbolic of one's mind) is in Libra. Therefore, you are going to think like a Libra. All the rewriting, for example. Also, 6 possible responses--all of them potentially valid. That is so Libran. Astrologically, we're a combination of all the planets and the signs they are in at birth. You have quite a variety of signs in your chart.

Time: It's interesting that Charles and others have noticed how often precise times keep popping up in the book. I have to admit I wasn't aware of that at all. This must be caused by my astrological orientation, because whenever important things happen, I immediately look at the clock. Later I check my ephemeris to see where the planets were at that moment.

Names: I have never sat and consciously thought up a name for a character. As a character develops in my mind, a name for him/her suddenly pops up. It's almost always the one I go with. I'm probably working out the name in my subconscious, but I'm totally unaware of it. I didn't even appreciate the symbolism in the names until I was almost finished with the book--they just sounded right. Granit was the most obvious, but then there was Simon Furst. In case someone hasn't finished reading the book, I won't give anything away by dwelling on it, but that last name is really telling you something. Yet, I didn't appreciate it until I was through writing. I love Joan's interpretation of Livonia (live-on), but I never even thought of it. Livonia was a name that just popped into my head. I think I made it up--I've never seen it anywhere--but it just seemed so right for her.

Color: Blue is my favorite color, and I have a definite weakness for blue eyes. But I'm not fond of turquoise. The only reason Addie had that turquoise pendant, was because turquoise is absolutely ubiquitous to New Mexico. I was trying for authenticity, and it's almost impossible to visit New Mexico without leaving with something turquoise.

It is not always easy to analyze why people are attracted to each other. In the case of Addie and Jonah, I guess one can always fall back on opposites being attracted. Also, Addie had qualities of sincerity and honesty that a cynical person like Jonah, who was used to the opportunistic values of the Washington scene, found appealing. For Addie, Jonah was there for her--someone she could finally learn to trust. His feelings about astrology, of course, pose a potential problem, and I have thought that if I ever do write a sequel, I will probably use this as an issue between them.

I think I've covered everything so far. Let me know if I haven't.


September 29, 1999 - 07:43 pm
Unless there is objection, I'll assume that everyone who's reading, has finished by now. Let's throw the disscussion open through to the end without regard to revealing plot??

When we learned of Granit's sort of repression of his feelings and his former love Sarah, did this explain to you his attitude toward Addie? What were your reactions?

Joan Pearson
October 1, 1999 - 06:03 am
Where is Sarah? Something about Andrew/Sarah/Alicia/Addie is nagging at me... I don't know if I can put it in words.

Let's see...Andrew is attracted to Addie because her blue eyes remind him of Sarah's. Ah. lost love...the path that might have been. Don't we all have one of those lurking somewhere in memory?

Andrew's bad decision referred to earlier in the scene with grandson...who reminds him of himself before he made ...this decision? (the grandson does remind me of Andrew...he is willing to walk away from his parents and sister for the exciting life with grandpa in Washington DC. I was waiting for him to turn down Grandpa's offer, but when he didn't he proved himself his grandpa's boy...ambition over feelings!) Andrew chose Alicia, the girl with the power, money and connections over his love for Sarah. He's got it all, but cannot forget Sarah. I think that's what isn't making sense.

I'll assume that Sarah is alive somewhere. Andrew is painted as controlling, powerful and one who stops at nothing until he gets what he wants. He wants Sarah. He doesn't want a life with Alicia, or even his daughters. Sarah, the wine-colored tears...Sarah crying for Andrew! I can't imagine Andrew accepting the situation, with all his cunning! Where is Sarah? Are we to understand that Andrew is a man of his word and once the choice was made, he is honoring his marriage vows? Or are we to understand that Andrew so loves Sarah that he wants her to have happiness in her life without him.

I'm trying to understand his "chart"...and I guess the driving ambition at the expense of his own feelings is the explanation I'm looking for...and could accept. And yet, that doesn't explain the seduction of Robby from his family. What is that about? Does he really believe his grandson would be happier living with him in Washington and not with his parents? Really? Then why doesn't this hold true for Sarah? Where is Sarah? Where is your lost love?

Yes, in response to the question du jour...the introduction of Sarah into the equation does explain Andrew's attraction to Addie... But it also raises more questions that don't get answered. Tantalizing!!! The imagination takes over...

Larry Hanna
October 1, 1999 - 01:46 pm
It seemed to me that Andrew Granit was the type of man who was basically willing to sell his soul for political and personal power. The price turned out to be very high and it appeared that Sarah was perhaps his one thread with reality as to what the power grabbing had cost him.

Barbara, will Addie appear in your next book or will we see a new cast of characters?


Barbara Shafferman
October 1, 1999 - 02:10 pm
This is really interesting for me. A large part of the discussion has focused on Andrew Granit, who was the character I enjoyed writing about the most. He seems to have made the strongest impression on readers as well.

In writing, one of the strictures an author must observe carefully is point of view. In other words, you can't jump from one character's mind into another character's mind--at least not if you're a decent writer. You should stay in one character's mind for at least a whole scene and preferably for a whole chapter. A novel usually has three or four point of view characters--sometimes, if you're writing in the first person, there will only be one. In "The President's Astrologer" there were four point of view characters: Addie, Jonah, Walter and Andrew.

When I started writing the book, I never intended to make Andrew Granit so important. But from the time I introduced him at the party, he insisted upon becoming a point of view character. I know that sounds strange, but while I'm writing, my characters are talking inside my head. Andrew's thoughts really took over, and I knew I would have to go inside his mind to make the book work. I ended up giving him the point of view for three whole chapters and two scenes in two other chapters.

I tried to limit his space a little, so perhaps I was guilty of not explaining Sarah's role in more detail. As Joan noticed, one of the key sentences describing Andrew's character was "before he made all the bad choices". He's achieving all his goals, but he's getting no real satisfaction from any of it. He is chafing in an emotional straitjacket, which is why he reacts so angrily to Addie when she tells him he has no more emotions than one of his robots. As Andrew looks back, Sarah is symbolic of his first bad choice. That's all she is--a symbol of innocence and ideals that he has lost forever. He made the choice and never looked back--until it was too late. Robbie is the only person he has any feelings for in the present, and he needs him in Washington to keep some of his feelings alive.

I just saw Larry's message, and he summed up the symbolism of Sarah very well. To answer his question, my new book has a completely new cast of characters. It's set on Long Island, and has nothing to do with politics or astrology.


October 1, 1999 - 03:25 pm

Barbara Shafferman

When Barbara Shafferman graduated with her degree in English, she had dreams of writing fiction. She put these aspirations on hold while she faced the challenges of raising her developmentally disabled daughter and advocating for the mentally handicapped. Instead of writing fiction, she crusaded to improve educational and recreational programs by writing for newsletters and to politicians.

In 1972, when most of the battles had been won, Barbara discovered astrology. Skeptical at first, she soon realized that she had embarked upon a lifetime of study. When she felt secure enough in her knowledge, she began to interpret charts, lecture, and teach astrology in adult education classes. Early in 1988 she found a significant configuration in her own astrological chart. The message was clear: if she was ever going to write, now was the time to start. Since then she has published over forty articles on astrology in "American Astrology" and "Dell Horoscope". As Barbara wrote "The President's Astrologer". she discovered to her delight that she really is a novelist and plans to concentrate most of her writing in this area.

Want an autographed copy of THE PRESIDENT'S ASTROLOGER? All you have to do is tell me "Which president of the United States do you think could have profited most by using the services of an astrologer and why?"

Page One "What stirs your imagination and why?"

Barbara Shafferman "Imagination is a strange and perverse thing. You can sit in front of a blank computer screen for hours, waiting in vain for inspiration, while your thoughts center around nothing more imaginative than tomorrow's shopping list. Then the next day you can be in a restaurant with a friend, concentrating on what she's saying. Suddenly a heated discussion breaks out at the next table, and, completely unbidden, your mind begins to fly in all directions. An unfamiliar odor, an unusual facial expression, a startling news bulletin--all these things stir my imagination. Waiting rooms anywhere--hospitals, airports, doctors' offices--are guaranteed to churn up imaginative ideas. I'm never without a notebook in one of those places."

Page One

"Tell us a little about THE PRESIDENT'S ASTROLOGER and what's the story behind the story? (How long did it take you to write this book? Why did you write this story? What was the road to publication like? Rejects/accepts?)"

Barbara Shafferman

"People usually ask if President Reagan's use of an astrologer was the inspiration for THE PRESIDENT'S ASTROLOGER. It had a lot to do with it. I was fascinated at the time, but I filed the idea away in my mind as an interesting plot for someone--certainly not for me, since that was 1988, and I had just begun to write seriously. I never dreamt of undertaking a novel. However, by 1995 I had gained enough self confidence from the publication of articles and short stories to think: "Why not try a novel?" With my knowledge of astrology, I felt I could write an interesting and unusual book, and the idea of the president of the United States using an astrologer came barreling up from where I had buried it. A chance conversation with a friend gave me the plot, with its unusual surprise twist that no one (to my delight) seems able to guess, and I was on my way. It took about a year to write the novel, and almost two years to find a publisher. I spent a lot of time trying to find a good literary agent with no success. Then I started contacting publishers directly, doing my homework to find out who was looking for what. When I learned that Llewellyn was looking for fiction with a new age flavor, I felt this might be a match made in heaven. And it was. After months of consideration, Llewellyn sent me their contract, and THE PRESIDENT'S ASTROLOGER was released in December 1998."

Page One "Are there similarities with your main character Addie Pryce and the author and if so what are they? Differences?"

Barbara Shafferman "I like to think there are similarities between Addie and myself, as I believe she's a pretty interesting character. For starters, we're both Virgos and approach life in much the same way. We're both very private people and enjoy being alone. Addie had been an English teacher before becoming a full time astrologer, and that was something I had considered doing when my children were small. I think we're both tough, resilient people who enjoy our work. However, life treated us very differently. While I was besieged with family obligations, Addie's path became more and more solitary. And, of course, an author can give her alter ego all the physical characteristics she wishes she had. Addie is much, much younger than me, and she has the gorgeous blue eyes that I always wanted."

Page One "An interesting aspect of this character is that she is thrilled by being picked to work for the President of the US but on the other hand she feels a little used. She has to be kept in the shadows. Was this part of your character development and for aspiring writers what do you think makes strong characters?"

Barbara Shafferman "In spite of her need for privacy, Addie craves the recognition we all want, and being known as an astrological advisor to the president would have put her at the top of her profession. So she chafes at the need for secrecy that relegates her to the shadows. I think this reveals a lot about Addie's character and the importance of work in her life. She becomes increasingly lonely and acts in ways she might not have otherwise: meeting with Senator Granit and reaching out to Jonah, for example. Dimensional characters are, I believe, what makes writing come alive. We all feel conflicting emotions. It's what makes us human beings, and showing these conflicting feelings is one way I develop a character. Knowing a character's tastes, preferences, fears, etc. is vital to creating strong characters. Before I start developing a plot in detail, I fill out a complete questionnaire--about 6 pages--for each of the main characters. By the time I finish the questionnaire, I really know the character, and I also have a reference to go back to, if I lose sight of the character in my excitement over the plot. I think this keeps characters acting believably."

Page One "What is your favorite part about being a writer?"

Barbara Shafferman "For me, it was that first moment when I held the book in my hands. Suddenly it had a life of its own, ready to go out in the world and, hopefully, cast its spell over others. Also, although writing can be painful at times, I love being surrounded by words."

Page One "Is this your first novel? What's next? What's in the stars?"

Barbara Shafferman "Yes, THE PRESIDENT'S ASTROLOGER is my first novel, and no matter what happens next, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I have just finished my second novel, tentatively titled THE LAST ISLAND, and am currently trying to connect with a literary agent. Even though my first book was a finalist for the Benjamin Franklin award for fiction and received enthusiastic reviews, it seems to be just as difficult to get a good agent the second time around. However, as Addie Pryce points out to me, astrologically I have a good year coming up in 2000, so I'm pretty sure THE LAST ISLAND will find its proper home by then."

Larry Hanna
October 1, 1999 - 04:46 pm
Charles, thanks for sharing that fine interview with us. I found it very interesting and it made we realize that we really had not asked Barbara to share some of her background as to family and her earlier experiences such as writing short stories and articles. Barbara, I sure hope you realize that was just an oversight, at least on my part, and that in addition to be very interested in your story we are also interested in you as a person.

I feel this has been such a unique discussion because of your participation. I sure hope you are enjoying participating with us. Your comments have added insights into the story and characters that just reading the book would not give us. Since I am not a writer I have no idea what the process really involves. Your comment about using the 6 page questionnaire to develop your characters is very interesting.

I will hate to see this discussion end.


October 1, 1999 - 07:28 pm
The idea of "dedicated androids" like Marius has always been for me a fascinating one. Although I'm not a science fiction "reader" - I do like a good sci-fi movie from time to time. And the idea that these types of nearly human androids are created for one purpose for some reason holds a special fascination. Many times it seems that they manifest some hidden will to become human by showing a hint of human emotion: love, sentimentality...sometimes this will to humanity overcomes their "programming." Many times they end up "doing the right thing." They become sympathetic villains. Such was the case with Marius.

Eileen Megan
October 3, 1999 - 07:47 am
Thanks for posting the interview, Charles, it was most interesting, plus the added fillip of having Barbara Shafferman join in the discussion of her book gives us such added depth to this discussion.

I just saw the beginning of the movie "Matrix" where the world is taken over by androids who use us a "batteries". It's more complex than that but your mention of Marius brought it to mind. It was a little gruesome for my taste so didn't see the ending which, I'm sure, humankind will win out.

Eileen Megan

October 3, 1999 - 05:00 pm
I think Barbara did a good job of tying everything together. Don't believe there were any loose ends left uncovered. The plot was FAIRLY complex, so that musn't have been easy. And then to have Janice, her OTHER alter-ego come up with the idea of writing The President's Astrologer was pretty clever. AND she left room for a sequel ("That story is just beginning"). That brought a smile to my face. Good job, Barbara.

betty gregory
October 3, 1999 - 05:41 pm
What a wonderful idea to have the author on hand during our discussion. And, thank you, Barbara, for sharing so many insights and details of the writing--what a treat for those of us who always wonder about the writer and the writing process. Let's do this again. Betty

Joan Pearson
October 4, 1999 - 02:06 pm
Wait! Wait! Are we saying good-byes at the door already? Barbara, "guest", please say you will stay...forever! Not as a "guest", but as a friend - family! Login- register! Stay! Please do.

I enjoyed the book, for many different reasons, some of them already expressed so well.

I liked the little details which provided a sense of place, of time - from the turquoise earrings of NM to the ergometric contour chair that molds to your body shape! I'd LOVE one of those! Can't wait for 2006! Did you dream them up or do you have access to futuristic catalogs? Order me a chair...turquoise would be fine...

I was impressed by your belief in the stars. It is contagious - or infectious...I love how you used it to get through difficult situations...well Addie did, and I bet you both carry an ephemeris (what's an ephemeris?) in your purse. You never once wavered in that faith! I sense something approaching the religious in this belief in a higher power governing the universe....nope, I can't articulate on that, so I won't go there...

Finally, I loved your injection of astrological traits into your characters...and it was so easy to identify with all of right on! Especially the President's Gemini! Somewhere cooking in the back of my mind is a Gemini challenge...but I'd need coaxing to articulate that and it is very personal!

Your patience, kindness, willingness to clarify, to answer personal questions about your life, Astrology and writing habits - we all appreciate! You really a Good Sport and FRIEND!

Larry Hanna
October 4, 1999 - 02:30 pm
Barbara, I want to echo Joan's comments and the others that have expressed our appreciation for your participation in the discussion.

I do have another question for you that has been in the back of my mind throughout our discussion and that is how astrology relates to established religions? Are they in conflict or is that perspection one based on lack of knowledge as to what astrology is and isn't. If you prefer not to delve into this question, just say so as am not trying to create a controversy. Just wondering.


Eileen Megan
October 5, 1999 - 02:17 pm
Larry, while searching for authors for another folder I came across the following books written by a Shirley Ann Miller that apparently addresses the astology/religious question. Maybe Barbara can enlighten us about these publications.

Sorry I didn't put it "clickable", I lost my directions on "how to" (:

Eileen Megan

Barbara Shafferman
October 5, 1999 - 05:38 pm
Larry: I'm just as glad you didn't ask me about my own background. I much prefer to talk about my characters. They're far more interesting than I am. And I, too, will be sorry to see the discussion end.

Eileen: I never saw "Matrix". Was there an android named Marius in it?

Charles: About the ending--perhaps you'd all like to hear a sort of behind the scenes story about that. I had the book ending with Janice (who, by the way, is my favorite character)saying that her next book would be "The President's Astrologer", but I wasn't satisfied with it. The ending seemed to fall flat. Then my editor pointed out that when you end a book with a line of dialog, it's more effective to have one of your main characters speaking. She felt Jonah or Addie should have the last word. So, after much thought, I had Addie saying "That story is just beginning". It made a big difference, really rounded it out, and I learned something for the future.

Joan: Thanks for your kind words, and I'd love to stick around. I dreamed up most of the futuristic stuff, but did get technical things like the 3-D television from books. And yes, I do carry around an ephemeris in my purse. An ephemeris is a listing of the zodiacal positions of all the planets for every day--sort of a calendar of the solar system. The purse-size ephemeris covers one year. The ones on my bookshelf cover 50 years.

Larry: There is absolutely no conflict between astrology and religion. Most astrologers I know observe one of the established faiths with no problems. In fact, when one really studies astrology and sees the order that exists, it's impossible not to believe that there is some guiding intelligence existing to make this all possible. The old Einstein quote that "God does not play dice with the universe" is underscored by astrology. I checked the site that Eileen mentioned. I'm not familiar with any of the books there, but they look interesting.

Now that everyone knows the ending--that the vice president was an android--I can give you some insight into how a plot for a book can evolve. When the news came out that President Reagan used an astrologer, I thought it would be an excellent idea for a political thriller. The problem was that all I had was an astrologer working for a president sometime in the future. I set it in the future, because I didn't want anyone to claim I was writing about him. (See, I'm a very cautious Virgo). I just couldn't think of any plot I wanted to use, so I put the whole idea away for years. Then, one day near the end of Bush's term of office, I was having lunch with a friend. She said, "You know, sometimes I think Dan Quayle is a robot." I stared at her in amazement and said, "You've just given me my plot." When I started writing, I wasn't sure exactly how things would happen, but I knew that the first sentence of my last chapter would be, "Simon Furst's body lay in state in the Capitol rotunda."

The funny thing is that history imitated art. When I began writing the book, I had Dan Quayle in mind. Then we got a vice president who really seems robotic. In fact, Al Gore visited a factory a couple of years ago, and in his speech, trying for some humor, he said, "It's not true that I'm a robot." This is a fact. Of course, Andrew Granit doesn't exist. Or perhaps he does, and we just haven't found out yet.


October 5, 1999 - 06:55 pm
Great story, Barbara. I remember the Dan Quale comparisons to the movie, "The Candidate". As I recall there was talk that he had actually patterned himself after the Robert Redford character in the movie.

Larry Hanna
October 6, 1999 - 04:39 am
Barbara, thanks for the explanations on the plotting of your story and the comments on religion. I feel that we often lack knowledge, such as my lack of knowledge and the necessity to ask that question about religion and astrology. Your insights into how some of your plot came into being was so interesting and also the role that your editor played in helping you find the perfect ending.

Again, a big thanks to you for participating. You have brought a new focus on a book discussion for us here in the Books and Literature section of SeniorNet.


Eileen Megan
October 6, 1999 - 08:57 am
Barbara, I never did see all of "Matrix" so I don't know if there was a Marius in it. That was funny, your idea about a robot vice president and what happened, we had poor Al Gore who looked the part!

Eileen Megan

October 6, 1999 - 07:30 pm
There is another Marius - one of Anne Rice's vampires.

Barbara Shafferman
October 8, 1999 - 12:42 pm
Charles: Funny--Quayle patterned himself after "The Candidate" and now I patterned a robot after him. The next step will be for someone to pattern himself after Simon Furst. We'd better scrutinize the upcoming vice presidential candidates with care. You're right about Marius the vampire. I had forgotten all about him when I chose the name.

And, you're welcome to all who thanked me for participating. I enjoyed it immensely.


Ruth W
October 26, 1999 - 07:00 pm
My library in its usual provencal fashion had to order the book from interlibary loan, did not get it from County library, but finally got it from Birmingham, Alabama. And I got it last weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and felt it was a page turner, didn't put it down until I finished it. (I am a fast reader anyway) Excellent in it's approach to astrology, but a very good mystery as well.