Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tarot: Magical Mystery Tour

There are men who have the world by the tail and then there are men who just think they do. Which one are you? Oh, it goes for women, too.

Some women project an aura of confidence and expertise; they don't feel it inside. In the deep recesses of their hearts and minds, they are weak, ineffectual frauds who have learned how to fool the world, and sometimes themselves, into believing they are more competent, more self assured, more real than they are. They are magicians. If you look closely, you'll see these magicians aren't really good at their tricks. There's a card peeking out of their sleeve or the tail of a handkerchief cooing softly. Their magic is nothing more than illusion, not like the beginning of today's tarot post.


Look closely at the magician. He is he second card in the tarot deck, behind the fool who begins his journey will little experience and knowledge, but is game for anything. However, the magician's number is one (1) and he knows the secrets of the universe, can balance all four elements -- fire, earth, air and water -- and knows the best way to mesmerize you and put you under his spell. Or does he? Never forget the reversed card signifies a scoundrel, con-man, grifter or incompetent magician who just cannot seem to get his timing or his tricks straight.

The compelling gaze of the magician assures you he is aware of the laws of cause and effect and that he is in control. He is disciplined and responsible with the power he controls withing and between his hands with the tools at his disposal. He is focused and has honed his skills to a keen edge, yet he is aware of how much control to exert and that manipulating such power can blind him to the realities around him.

The magician is the messenger of the gods and he embodies the spirit of Mercury with his winged heels and hat as he flits between earth and the Olympian heights. When he delivers his message he never stammers or fumbles over the words; he has the patter down cold. He is a master of misdirection with the self confidence, talent, will and cunning to turn the world upside down, turn lead into gold and hearts to putting in his capable hands. Be careful how you deal with this magic man because he can see through your tricks and behind masks. The master magician knows the difference between illusion and reality whether it's his own or someone else's.

7 of Wands

Even though the man in the Seven of Wands faces danger and a strong opponent, he is strong and brave and can face the odds in any conflict. He is practiced in the art of war and he will succeed in whatever war he enters. Though the enemy threatens, this warrior is certain of his strength and will, but don't look beneath the surface. The strength he projects covers his deep lack of understanding of what he guards. Behind the door is a balcony and night has fallen. He has nowhere to go but down and he probably doesn't realize it as he focuses on his opponents and relies on his mastery of the weapon he wields. This warrior doesn't fear attack to his beliefs. He is on solid ground. His beliefs are simple: serve, protect and don't question, and yet he is capable of change. He knows it never hurts to examine his position because it will add to his knowledge and his ability to defend his position, his beliefs or his country. He is not an obstinate child. He is willing to admit defeat when he's wrong and refine his position and he never gives up because he's afraid. There is nothing to fear in knowledge, except the lack of it. He is a staunch ally.

The Chariot

It is said that opposites attract. The Chariot could be seen as the opposite of the Magician.

Here is a woman of power so profound that she moves forward through all obstacles. The sun above her is the sign of immense power and focus and yet she is busy looking off in another direction. In her royal purple robes, she is ruler of all she surveys, but she is distracted, a little off balance, as she looks away from her chosen path. Don't get the idea she isn't in control; she is always in control -- most of the time. She is a woman with a strong will, but she has achieved her strength and her position without really understanding it. She has the ability to maintain order in the midst of chaos, but she lacks focus.

The sphinxes that pull her chariot are adept with riddles. One is silver and the other gold, opposites or opposing ideas, but they continue to move forward, posing their riddles to all who cross their path just as Oedipus once did. Oedipus was luckier than most. He solved the sphinx's riddle. Will you be so lucky when you find yourself in the path of this juggernaut?

Don't worry. You can do more and are more than you know. Set your goals and keep going. Don't stop moving forward. Don't stop learning because no matter what you know, or think you know, there is always more to learn and accomplish. You are in the driver's seat.

These three cards suggest a story. On one hand, there is a strong and confident man, sure of his abilities who is confident he can achieve whatever he chooses. He is adept and his skills are hard won, but he knows that there is nothing he tries that he cannot achieve, that is until he meets with a woman who is as strong and confident as he. She is his match in almost every way, but one. She doesn't want to settle down. She is a traveler, a seeker, a woman of power and privilege who intimidates most people, but not him. She is independence and spirited with a taste for adventure and conquest. He understands conquest because he has conquered himself and the elements. He is a scientist or doctor at the top of his profession. She is earthier and more basic, goal oriented, but easily distracted, and he finds that he wants to catch her attention. This is a mystery he is anxious to solve, if he can just get past her defenses and gain her attention long enough to get her focused on him so he can discover the secret she is determined to guard -- from him and from herself.

The thing about using tarot cards to help lay the groundwork for writing is that the cards provide the seeds and you determine how and where they grow. What these particular cards suggest to me this morning may not be what they will suggest tomorrow, next week or even next month. Each moment, each experience changes us and how we view the world around us. A casual conversation, a phrase or an idea can grow into so much more. When it happens to me I write it down, especially when I'm working on something else (I don't want to lose it), and sometimes I find a way to fit it into my current work in progress (WIP). Stretch your mind and the possibilities. Don't be afraid to step back or look away for a few minutes. There's now way to know what will change or how it will change if you're willing to stop and take a breath before continuing on your way.

For instance, Mary Ann and I were talking the other day and she mentioned that athletes inhabit their bodies differently than non-athletes. As I watched part of Brideshead Revisited last night a stray thought burrowed down and came up this morning into a new thought. It's not just athletes, but people from all walks of life that inhabit their bodies -- or skin -- in a palpably different way. You can tell the difference between someone who is comfortable with wealth and someone who recently became wealthy just as you can tell when a couple are close and when they're at odds. They don't have to say anything. It is in the way they move -- alone or together. Body language is more accurate than words most of the time. The trick for writers is to take body language and infuse it into their characters, help them inhabit their bodies more believably. Writers are magicians, but they can be adept or fumble their tricks. It's all all about practice and observation and knowing how to inhabit your body and how your characters inhabit theirs.

Until next week, what will the tarot cards reveal about your characters?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

True life romances

The first time they saw each other, they were eleven years old. He wore horn rimmed glasses and a boy scout uniform and she wore a dress and pressed her sweaty palms together as she struggled for a smile. Out of the whole class, he was the only one she saw. She didn't know what he saw, but he looked at her; the whole class looked at her.

Over the next few months he gave shy signs that he liked her. He even talked to her while she was on safety patrol duty. He never said anything out loud or gave her a clear sign. He thought she was out of his league and she thought he didn't like here that much.

At the end of the year, they went to different junior high schools and spun into different orbits, until one day they met by accident and he talked about John Denver's songs. She was interested and he offered to bring over his albums. She agreed and he came over.

Focused on the music, he didn't notice she kept looking at his lips and wondering why she ever thought he couldn't kiss. That disastrous party a few years ago when he chose her while playing This and That and she described his kisses as a wet washrag were forgotten. Something about the way he smiled, one side of his lips quirked higher than the other, giving him a sweet, lopsided grin, convinced her that he knew how to kiss, but he didn't offer. She didn't offer either. She listened to the haunting strains of Rocky Mountain High and the evocative call of Take Me Home, Country Roads and wished that he would sing Annie's Song to her. He didn't offer. She didn't ask. And he went home.

High school was a blur of activities and whenever they met, they smiled and nodded, muttered a few pleasantries and spun into different orbits. She usually knew where he was, but was caught up in the trials and tribulations of raging hormones and high school social and academic politics. They spun into farther orbits when high school ended, she to marriage, children, divorce and work and he into another galaxy.

Little did they knew that their orbits spun closer together than they knew, like comets traveling similar vectors or binary stars without a clear line of sight. Time and tides brought them withing miles of each other time and again until the Universe, tired of waiting for the inevitable collision, pushed them closer.

Traversing distance, time and circumstance, he reached out and she responded, finally traveling an orbit that would lead to a closer orbit, and they orbited with joy, surprise, and unspoken passion that crackled in the air between them until a death brought them closer. It took over forty years, but they finally collided and the sparks flew.

People, unlike celestial bodies, have a mind of their own, and tend to change course when you least expect them. People don't realize the necessity, the inevitable and inescapable magnetic attraction of two souls in harmony. It frightens them and leads them to race to escape orbit. Some comets and stars are meant to collide, to share the same orbit, and so are some people.

This couple were meant to share the same orbit and eventually they did -- and do. Other forces pull them in opposite directions, but they keep coming back together, the attraction too strong to resist. That's the way it has always been and will always be. Some things -- and relationships -- are inevitable.

Back scratching

I'm still a little high from seeing and handling the copies of my novel. It's a heady feeling seeing my name on the cover of the book, reading the acknowledgments and the dedication and seeing the cute little airplane at the end of my bio on the last page. I always believed it was real; holding the book in my hands makes it even more real. It's a feeling I hope I never lose no matter how many of my books are published. It's better than drugs and almost better than sex. Sex while holding my book and reading from it might just be the best of both worlds. Now the real work begins.

I've always believed that a writer's work ended with the finished manuscript and once it was in the hands of the printer and publicist I could go on to the next project. I'm hopelessly old fashioned in that belief. This should have happened to me when I was in my twenties and early thirties because I was more amenable to public appearances and doing stints as a carny barker. I'm not so interested in the limelight, preferring my words to take center stage while I hang out in the wings. That's not the way it works nowadays because the world is upside down and inside-out.

The mere whisper of rumor that Stephen King, David Baldacci, Stephanie Meyer or J. K. Rowling has a new book out is enough to send fans to the bookstores to camp out and line up around down the street and around the block for miles the day before the release. Online book buyers order copies well in advance of release. There is no need for the publishers to throw tens of thousands of dollars at public relations firms and publicists to promote the books. The market is there and it's a strong market. That is not so for the up and coming or mid list writers. PR dollars for their books are in short supply, and no wonder since publishers offer six- and seven-figure advances at celebrities who seldom, if ever, make back their advances and the big PR dollars go to authors who've already made international names for themselves. Who would want to miss a new book by David Eddings or Christopher Moore or the latest Harry Potter adventure, sadly now finished? That's where the upside down and inside-out focus comes in.

If publishers spent their PR dollars wisely, they would realize that the big name writers who've been selling millions of books for a few decades aren't going to be around forever and when they are gone the mid list and up and coming authors are all publishers will have left. It's only good business to look to the future and that future is in the hands of mid list and new writers, so why not spend those megabuck PR funds on promoting the next generation of writers? Put a little power behind them and publishers would have a growing list of writers who soon will be on a level with best selling authors and be the fuel that keeps the publishing engine humming at a brisk pace. There is no sense promoting authors that need no promotion and denying promotion to authors whose work is good, but needs a bit of marketing. All that is left is for authors to give up their precious writing time to promote their books if they want publishers to continue to buy their writing.

That's what I'm facing right now. L & L Dreamspell is a small publisher, but a legitimate royalty paying publisher. They don't have the budget to put on splashy PR campaigns and it's up to the authors -- to me -- to promote my books and make money for the publisher and for me. I already have a day job, review books and do critiques in addition to my writing and I don't have time for promotion and yet I have no choice if I want my book to succeed. That means contacting reviewers, bookstores, book clubs and anywhere there could be a market to publicize and sell my novel. That takes time, time I don't really have to spare if I am to keep on top of my other obligations and continue writing and editing more books to be published. There are only so many hours in the day and I do have to sleep to continue to function at a level anywhere near normal. Getting older means I need less sleep, but some sleep is still required.

I spent a good part of last night and this morning contacting reviewers and bookstores and sending out releases, scheduling chats and interviews, and doing all the things a publicist should do so I can get back to the business of writing. Something has to give. It will probably be housework and laundry because I cannot shirk my other responsibilities and stay afloat. So, I turn to you for suggestions and to help me get the word out. For those of you who are writers, what goes around comes around.

Since the publishing community has put us on the back burner in favor of the big name, best selling authors, we have to band together and promote for each other. As you promote my books, I will promote yours. Get the word out. Send links, talk about the book, get people interested. Every little bit helps. I only wish I could follow Mark Twain's lead and put books in the hands of door-to-door salesmen working on commission who will crisscross the nation selling my novel. Unfortunately, most people have "no salesmen" signs on their doors or aren't even home and they're all tired of telemarketers, and we're back to helping each other. If a couple videotaping their creative and fun dance down the aisle at their wedding, it shouldn't be too difficult to get the word out that books are not just for geeks.

Past Imperfect is already for sale at Amazon (and it's been discounted) and will be available on Kindle within the next few days. It will also be available as an e-book to download from Fictionwise on Monday, August 3, 2009 and will be available through Barnes & Noblesome time in the next few days.

Reviews help, but the only real way to make a book successful is to get the news out to the public. We don't have big publishers or their megabucks for PR, but we can go viral one writer and one book at a time. It all adds up. In the meantime, while you're scratching my back, let me know where I need to scratch yours. As always, we're all in this together.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Broke but happy

Friends and family have called and emailed to tell me they got their copies of Past Imperfect. Seven minutes after Beanie called Mom called to ask where hers is. She didn't buy one yet, so she won't get it until she does, but I got mine. Actually, I got five copies of my novel and a t-shirt and a the cover and a brand new, freshly minted dollar bill in a frame (the glass was trashed) and a little bag of goodies and 50 posters and a big neat dark blue canvas bag and an advance check. Not a bad haul, but I'm a little bummed about the glass, especially since the box was marked FRAGILE and it looks like someone stomped on the box and destroyed the glass. I'll have to see if the USPS will buy new glass or if I will have to do it, but as soon as I do tomorrow, it goes on the wall. My first dollar earned from my first published novel -- and there's more to come.

You can get your copies of Past Imperfect at Hurry while the supplies last.

That is all. Disperse.