It's always an honor to be mentioned in a book's Acknowledgements. So humbling! The latest one mentiong yours truly is The Gypsy Ribbon, the second book in the Arcana Love series. Huge thanks to my author pal Shannon MacLeod for including me in the acknowledgements!
I have an essay in a new anthology called A Mantle of Stars: A Devotional for the Queen of Heaven, and Ron's paintings of Lucia and Hulda are in there, too. It's published by Neos Alexandria/Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and edited by Jen McConnel. You can get it on Amazon at this link. (I just ordered four, and will be giving one away on my blog sometime in January.) Here's a summary:
Peel back the layers that comprise the Queen of Heaven. She is Mother Mary weeping at the cross, and Hathor dancing in the sky. She is Freyja with her wild eyes, and Frigg with her open arms. She is Yemaya, keeper of the sea; compassionate Kuan Yin; and she is winged Isis. Her starry body stretches across the sky in the guise of Nut, and she is Saraswati’s gentle song. She is Juno, and Hera, and Tanit, and a thousand forgotten names, and she is Inanna, descending to the underworld to be reborn.
The voices in this anthology are as diverse as the different goddesses who have claimed the title Queen of Heaven, but each sparkles like the stars in Our Lady’s mantle.
My essay is called "Queen of Swords, Queen of Heaven".
Below is an excerpt:
When it comes to the Tarot, authors spill the most ink on the 22 Major Arcana cards. The 40 Minor Arcana cards—Aces through Tens—are lucky to get a handful of keywords ascribed to them. Getting the shortest shrift of all are the 16 Court Cards, often relegated to assignations of mere age, gender, eye color, hair hue and elemental Zodiac group.
Many authors explain such emphasis on the Majors for archetypal reasons. They maintain only the Fool through the World reflects the universal “big” picture themes within Tarot. In fact, according to some, the Majors should be more heavily “weighted” in a reading—overshadowing the messages of the number cards (Minors) and face cards (Courts). Minor Arcana cards signify “just” daily minutia, while the Courts represent individuals weaving in and out of our lives.
Allow me to disagree with my colleagues by saying that every card in the Tarot—all 78 images—reflect archetypal motifs found in myth, folklore, religion, literature and song, spanning every era and culture.
Viewed through this expanded cosmic lens, the Minor Arcana and Court Cards shine magnificent, begging for closer examination, deeper exploration and—more importantly—broader application to our earthly journey and nagging questions.
This brings me to the theme of this anthology: the Queen of Heaven.
Of all the cards in the Tarot, the one that best embodies this theme (in my estimation) is a Court Card—the Queen of Swords.
Can't wait to read what the other contributors have written for the A Mantle of Stars: A Devotional for the Queen of Heaven!
I love the teachings and books of Pema Chodron. I just received a quote about laziness in my inbox, excerpted from her book The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.
This is so timely for me, because I made the crazy statement on Facebook that one of my goals for 2014 (in addition to finishing two Tarot books before summer)--is to blog every day of the year.
WTF was I thinking? I mean, really.
I know that one of my mottos is "Go big or go home", but that was just ridiculous. (Timothy Martin got inspired by my cray cray and said he's going to blog daily for 2014. Go, Timothy!)
I never compete with other people, only myself (hell, I'm too busy to even pay attention what anyone else is doing). So I tend to reach for bigger, longer and better with my creative projects...when, in fact, 2014 is about going deeper and slower.
D'oh! Old habits are hard to break...
So here's the incredibly wise Pema Chodron on the topic of laziness...something I think I should try. Because for me, being brave isn't accomplishing crazy goals (I can do that in my sleep)--but ratcheting down my output in a more focused way. And, daring to be, feel and (gasp!) appear lazy.
Laziness is not particularly terrible or wonderful. Rather it has a basic living quality that deserves to be experienced just as it is. Perhaps we’ll find an irritating, pulsating quality in laziness. We might feel it as dull and heavy or as vulnerable and raw. Whatever we discover, as we explore it further, we find nothing to hold on to, nothing solid, only groundless, wakeful energy.
This process of experiencing laziness directly and nonverbally is transformative. It unlocks a tremendous energy that is usually blocked by our habit of running away. This is because when we stop resisting laziness, our identity as the one who is lazy begins to fall apart completely. Without the blinders of ego, we connect with a fresh outlook, a greater vision. This is how laziness—or any other demon—introduces us to the compassionate life.
What kind of plans are you making for the New Year?
In the video below I share some tips for surrounding your space with empowering words, creating a Blessings of Ideas Jar, coming up with your "3 Words" for the year (ala Chris Brogan's Brave New Year) and more (including a tour of my Zen Room, where I broadcast from during radio shows).
I admit, I had to consult the Tarot to help me with my 3 Words for 2014--but Commitment came up anyway!
I'm sure Mr. Ron will be thrilled that I toured his bathroom, too... (Sorry I tilted the camera at the end. Brand new Christmas gift and I'm trying to get used to it. Teehee!)
Recently, I finished a fantastic book by by Polly Campbell called Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightement for Ordinary People. It contains many great quotes, but this one reminded me of the Completion card in the OSHO Zen Tarot, aka The World:
You don't need to discard, fix, or hide from the pieces that are less than perfect. Notice them, see how they've served you, and give them thanks, or at least a bit of compassion. Then use your courage and creativity to live close to your values, to accept what is and create the beliefs that empower you to find meaning and sacredness in the moments of your life.
Go on now. Pull on those sweats and your favorite old T-shirt and go forward with awareness and curiosity. Connect to your spirit. Tap into your divine energy. Be all that you are, and know that that is enough.
Next summer, Doreen Virtue will be coming out with "the definitive guide to the mystical art of tarot"--titled The Big Book of Angel Tarot. The Amazon.com description goes on to say "By removing the fear, worry, and secrecy, Doreen and Radleigh have reintroduced the world to this language of the Divine without diminishing any of the amazing accuracy and detailed information that tarot is known for."
Thoughts about this? Do you feel Doreen is qualified to write a "definitive" book on Tarot (consisdering she just entered this genre last year)? Did her Angel Tarot "re-introduce the word" to Tarot--or have others already been doing that? Or has she tapped the angel market dry...and now wants to get in on some Tarot action?
Have you filled up on spooky stories yet in time for Halloween? If not, I created, edited (and contributed) to Spooky Tales Volume 1. The neat thing is that all five of us (including Mr. Ron!) wrote a story using the SAME 5 words: Tooth, Rust, Cope, Whippersnapper and Ghost. Get it on Kindle for only $1.99 at this link.
As an editor, it's a fascinating process to read different stories--all required to use the same five words--and watch how each author decides to use those words. It would be easy--lazy, really--to just toss in the mandatory words as one would throw parsley on top of spaghetti as a decorative afterthought.
Not these writers.
From Craig Conley taking amusing liberties with the word whippersnapper in his tale "The Toothsayer" to Jennifer Wheeler's stomach-turning placement of tooth in "A Bird Named Murder", each of these authors offer considered and surprising uses for the five required words.
They read like meat, not like garnish. Something you can sink your tooth into, so to speak.
Speaking of meat, wait until you read about the delicious "meatcakes" in Ron Boyer's "The Discovery"...
Well, I'm getting ahead of myself! As you can see, I'm very excited to present these five short stories to you--five entertaining reads that will leave you feeling off-kilter and, hopefully, spooked enough to want more from these talented writers.
Table of Contents:
"Aggressive Life Partner" by Janet Boyer
"The Toothsayer" by Craig Conley
"A Bird Named Murder" by Jennifer Wheeler
"The Discovery" by Ron Boyer
"Fear" by Michelle Bowser
I'm pleased to report that I've signed another contract with Dodona Books!
This Tarot book will be much different from my other ones, in that it will be a daily devotional, not instructional.
What is that?, you might be asking.
Daily devotionals provide bite-sized thoughts for contemplation, inspiration and encouragement. Once the realm of only biblical passages, devotionals have now expanded to topics like Celtic mythology (366 Celt), Taoism (365 Tao), writing craft (A Year of Writing Dangerously, The Writer’s Devotional, etc.), the Dalai Lama (365 Dalai Lama), Creativity (The Artist’s Way Every Day, 365: A Daily Creativity Journal, etc.), goddesses (Goddesses for Every Day), self help (A Daily Dose of Sanity, 365 Prescriptions for the Soul, etc.) and other themes.
However, one subject for the daily devotional format that has never been attempted by any writer is the Tarot.
Until now. ::curtsies::
Below are three sample chapters from 365 Tarot (estimated release date: Fall 2014):
Assumptions and Paranoia
The untrained mind jumps to conclusions and worst-case scenarios at an alarming rate, setting off a landslide of anxiety, suspicion and paranoia. Convincing, catastrophic images play on a mental loop so realistic, these anticipatory movies cause the same emotional and psychosomatic turmoil as if they were actually happening.
But they’re not.
In the Rider-Waite Smith version of this card, nine horizontal swords crowd the wall above a figure sitting upright in bed. Those swords are not pointing down at the figure in some over-the-top reenactment of Damocles’ sword, so there’s no actual danger.
No, they’re just swords piling upon one another, like a game of Tetris about to “top out”. They represent accumulated fears and anticipatory anxiety.
In the Snowland Tarot, a snowman teen sporting a carrot mohawk loiters under a streetlight while listening to his mp3 player. A paranoid elderly woman—literally “wound tight” (as evidenced by both her hair curlers and the old-fashioned telephone cord coiled around her body)—gasps in horror at his presence, either calling a friend for a gossip session or, worse, the police.
The generation gap begs to be bridged between these two, but her assumption that “different” means “dangerous” or “up to no good” results in the busybody tied up in the knots of her own making.
What are you assuming?
Happy and Burning
Arguably the most utilized symbol for happiness, a bright yellow sun with reaching rays portends clear skies and big smiles. In late spring and summer, the sun’s heat encourages garden growth, picnics and swimming. During fall and winter, the lowering sun almost appears white, offering a brief respite from iron clouds and the hope for the return of longer days. For those who suffer from the traditional version of SAD (Season Affective Disorder), the sun’s rays (or a close facsimile, like a light box) provides literal joy: without the necessary UV rays, life becomes bleak and melancholy.
Interestingly, there’s a “reverse” SAD condition where sufferers prefer rainy days and cooler temperatures. The sun, a colorful balm for their fellows on the other side of the spectrum, becomes a source of irritation, lethargy and anxiety. Individuals with photosensitivity, often caused by medication, also suffer from the sun’s rays…sometimes, with life-threatening symptoms. And, of course, too much sun can result in sunstroke and sunburn, the latter—with repeat performances—causing skin cancer.
This goes to show how even the most glorious of symbols and celestial bodies elicits a range of effects. Likewise, the Sun card, which often indicate supreme gladness and effervescence, may also hint at “too much of a good thing” when reversed or ill-dignified in a Tarot reading.
How do you handle the heat?
Today, my son and I shared the very first strawberry of the season straight from our backyard. The luscious red fruit, puckered with tiny green seeds, tasted delicious. Noah exclaimed that it “tasted just like from the grocery store!” which it did…but even better. There’s something magical about the first fruits of a garden. The first ripe blackberry, the first shiny green pepper, the first bumpy cucumber—all promises of a bountiful harvest to come. Even the first cheerful dandelions of spring make me smile, let alone the flowering dogwoods, blooming crabapples, purple hyacinths, white crocuses and screaming yellow daffodils.
Some say the Aces of Tarot are the seeds of potential, the mere suggestion of what may become under the proper circumstances, encouragement and nourishment. I get what they’re saying, but I can’t help but think such invisible possibilities belong to the domain of The Fool, where nothing has yet to be germinated, let alone gestated.
An Ace, though, is a singular something—one fruit, one coin, one step, one brick—that can be eaten, spent, measured and built upon. It has already penetrated the material realm, especially in the earth suit of pentacles. It’s the tiny, plump, pale green tomato which—given proper nutrients, water and sunlight (and absent any disastrous blight or infestation)—promises to grow into a red, juicy, delectable fruit.
What new fruit do you see?
I hope you enjoyed this preview of 365 Tarot! What did you think of it?
If you'd like to become an early fan of my upcoming book, I have a Facebook page here.
“I was becoming painfully aware that I didn’t understand the Bible, the bedrock that everything in my life was built upon. I had investigated concepts like eternal punishment but I had never broached the idea that the Bible might contradict itself or promulgate ideas that I didn’t believe in… It was like a tornado had torn down every structure I inherited and built upon. I was not even standing on a slab but on bare dirt.” – From Hope After Faith
In his fascinating spiritual memoir Hope After Faith, ex-pastor Jerry DeWitt (along with co-writer Ethan Brown) shares his tumultuous experience as a devout Pentecostal, hungry to be close to God and see the fires of revival sweep the South, and the crash/burn that resulted from witnessing too many unanswered prayers, ineffective ministrations, clergy hypocrisy, denominational infighting and Biblical contradictions.
From a salvation experience in the lush amphitheater of Jimmy Swaggart’s Family Worship Center in its heyday to tiny, destitute churches of Louisiana, the author details the dizzying heights of frenzied revivals—and the crushing lows of personal rejection (after getting saved, his grandmother asked if he spoke in tongues—and because he didn’t, his experience was negated), extreme poverty, dashed expectations and persistent doctrinal doubts.
Jerry’s countless attempts to survive as a traveling evangelist—including trying to “sell” himself to pastors to get a booking, dealing with legalistic ministers with bizarre beliefs and attempting to reconcile the various doctrinal differences between Pentecostals—is heartbreaking to read. As a former Pentecostal minister myself, so much of Hope After Faith mirrored my own experiences—so while I couldn’t put this memoir down, it stirred up some uncomfortable memories.
The first half of the book focuses on the numerous personalities within various churches and the author’s own family—pastors, congregants, cousins, aunts, former schoolteachers, bosses, evangelists, etc.—and how each affected Jerry’s personal doctrine, self-esteem and desire for fierce devotion to God. There’s so many names, not to mention doctrinal minutia, that some readers may feel overwhelmed with details at first.
But stay with the book.
Once Hope After Faith reaches about the halfway mark, I realized why all this information was necessary: to show that Jerry was, indeed, a kind-hearted, servant of humanity who “searched the scriptures” just as the Bible admonished, sacrificed enormously (as did his longsuffering wife, Kelli) and strove for purity.
Except, when Jerry started to investigate the Bible, itself, instead of swallowing the Pentecostal doctrine du jour—going so far to delve into church history and the work of Joseph Campbell—the rational, sensible answers that surfaced shattered his world.
Jerry realized that he was an atheist.
The last half of Hope After Faith chronicles Jerry’s anxiety and confusion as he continues to feel the magnetic pull of evangelism and desire to minister to humanity’s suffering, yet realizes that that he no longer adheres to supernaturalism (the intervention of God or supreme beings in the affairs of men, especially in the form of healing, prophecy and miracles) nor believes the tenants he once cherished.
It then dawns on the author that ministers are “meaning machines”, required to provide a sense and purpose to suffering humanity. When Jerry experiences a series of deaths—including a preacher’s callous attempts to explain it (a beloved, smart teenage boy was killed in a car accident because, had he lived, he would have been tempted by worldliness and eventually lose his soul)—and advises a man to get surgery (he dies the next day, leaving the author wracked with guilt), the final, tenuous connection to Christianity (and its trappings) evaporates.
But what happens when a Pentecostal minister attends a Freethought Convention, gets his picture snapped with prominent atheist author Richard Dawkins and uploads it to Facebook?
Jerry thought he was actually going to get away with atheism in his hometown of DeRidder, Louisiana—but if you know anything about vengeful, shunning Pentecostals…
If you want to know what happens—and believe me, Hope After Faith is one helluva ride—then you must read this book. It’s one of the most engrossing memoirs I’ve ever read (and I’m very picky). If you’re a believer, it will have you reassessing what it means to be an atheist, especially a humanistic one (silly me, I assumed you had to be offensively pugilistic like Christopher Hitchens, Penn Jillette or Ricky Gervais to be one!).
And yes, if you have an open mind, your faith will be challenged…as it should be. Because as Jerry said at a NOSHA (New Orleans Secular Humanist Convention) banquet in October 2011:
“Reason and science have done more to ease human suffering in the last two hundred years than all the sermons put together have done in the last two thousand years.”
“The interviewees share their thoughts on ways to tell the truth of our lives, access creativity, and balance magic and craft.” – Donna Baier Stein (from the Introduction to The Tiferet Talk Interviews)
Featuring edited, transcribed conversations that occurred between host Melissa Studdard and her guests on the Tiferet Talk Radio show between June 15, 2010 and July 24, 2011, The Tiferet Talk Interviews offers a soulful feast for readers.
The idea of transcribed radio interviews may sound like boring stuff for a book, but I assure you that the dynamism of such an outlet translates magnificently in interviewer Melissa Studdard’s thoughtful hands.
It’s evident that Ms. Studdard came to each interview supremely prepared, not only with a thorough knowledge of her guests, but also their work and—perhaps more importantly—how their creative contributions added to the larger conversation of what it means to be human, to be creative, to find meaning, to live our personal truths.
There’s so much ground covered in The Tifert Talk Interviews—each author, artist and poet talking about their books, poetry, music, designs and purpose—and yet, there’s an intimacy here, too. In fact, there’s great depth in this book, which surprised me. I wouldn’t have imagined that transcribed radio interviews could translate so well into book form.
Here are but a few of my favorite passages from the book:
Marc Allen (on dealing with doubts and fears):
“One thing that helped me was the knowledge that a plane is off course over 95% of the time, but a pilot keeps correcting over and over, and they reach their destination…Once you set a goal, once you dare to dream, you set a course, and whatever you do, you move toward it. It’s always just small obvious steps. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step, and then just another small step. There’s no huge leaps you make. You just take the little obvious steps in front of you when you set your course…We can be off course most of the time, but if we just continue to return to our goal, our dream, our plan and take the next obvious little step, over time we will reach our goal.”
Edward Hirsch (on writing poetry):
“You can’t be sure you’ll get hit by lightning, but you need to go out and stand in the rain, or you won’t get hit at all. You need to do your work. So, one of the constants is that you need to fasten your behind in the chair and sit down and do some work and try to consciously practice your craft.”
Robin Rice (on how she does so much):
“I do work from early in the morning until I can’t go any more most days. You could say I’m a workaholic if you really want to be pathological about it, but the truth is that this is what I feel the time is for. We are here now to do all we can. To usher in some kind of change in this world. And it’s desperately needed, and anybody who can do anything I feel should get out there and do it.”
Jeffrey Davis (on how writing is like a self-portrait):
“I don’t have anything in common biographically with these characters, yet there are parts of my personality that I can also explore…I overheard a conversation in the waiting room of the family clinic where we go, and it was just myself and this woman on a cell phone, and I got to hear her half of the conversation, and at first I was annoyed, and then I realized I had something really good, and I pulled out my notebook and acted like I was making my grocery list, but I was really quoting her.”
Bernie Siegel (on behaving like a survivor):
“Do I have a sense of meaning in my daily activities and relationships? And you know, that relates to the mortality rate of Monday. I mean, if you work, your life has meaning in it, and you will be a lot healthier and live longer. Well, I always say, find your way of contributing love to the world. So, it isn’t about what job you take; it’s about how to contribute to the world. Because people are everywhere, whether you are landscaping, plumbing, or a veterinarian, people are attached to what you’re doing and you have to really relate to those people.”
Below is a list of contributors to The Tiferet Talk Interviews:Melissa Studdard (Author)Donna Baier Stein (Introduction)Robert Pinsky (Contributor)Anthony Lawlor(Contributor) Bernie Siegel (Contributor) Lois P. Jones (Contributor)Julia Cameron (Contributor)Robin Rice (Contributor) Edward Hirsch(Contributor) Marc Allen (Contributor) Jude Rittenhouse (Contributor)Floyd Skloot (Contributor)Arielle Ford (Contributor)Jeffrey Davis (Contributor)
The Tiferet Talk Interviews is a fascinating collection of twelve interviews transcribed from the Tiferet Talk Radio show, hosted by Melissa Studdard. Some of the world's most notable writers and spiritual leaders share their thoughts on writing, tolerance, and the world we live in today. Gain incredible insight into their perspective on ways to tell the truth of our lives, access creativity, and balance magic and craft. The Tiferet Talk Interviews includes a special introduction by Donna Baier Stein and interviews with Julia Cameron, Edward Hirsch, Jude Rittenhouse, Marc Allen, Arielle Ford, Robert Pinsky, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Robin Rice, Jeffrey Davis, Floyd Skloot, Anthony Lawlor, and Lois P. Jones.
Melissa Studdard is the author of the bestselling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah, and its companion journal, My Yehidah (both on All Things That Matter Press). Since its August 2011 release, Six Weeks to Yehidah has been the recipient of many accolades, including the Forward National Literature Award, the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and January Magazine's best children's books of 2011. It was also named a finalist for the National Indie Excellence Awards and the Readers Favorite Awards. Along with Scott Lutz, Melissa is co-author of For the Love of All (Trestle Press), which is the fifth story in the Mark Miller’s One series and debuted in the number one spot for Hot New Releases in Literary Criticism and Theory in the Amazon Kindle store. As well, her poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in numerous magazines, journals, and anthologies. Melissa currently serves as a Reviewer-at-Large for The National Poetry Review, an editorial advisor for The Criterion, and an editor for Tiferet Journal, where she hosts the journal's radio interview program, Tiferet Talk. Melissa received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is a professor for the Lone Star College System and a teaching artist for The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative. She loves anything related to writing and reading, whether it's sitting alone with a book and a cup of hot tea, or attending a large poetry reading or literary festival. She also loves travelling, meditating, going for walks, bicycling, practicing yoga, and spending time with family. She currently resides in Texas with her wonderful daughter and their four sweet but mischievous cats. To learn more, please visit www.melissastuddard.com.
Donna Baier Stein’s writing has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Kansas Quarterly, New York Stories, Prairie Schooner, Washingtonian, many other journals and anthologies from Simon & Schuster and The Spirit That Moves us Press. Her short story collection was a Finalist in the Iowa Fiction Awards and will be published, as Sympathetic People, in 2013 by Serving House Books. She has received the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction, a Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars Fellowship, Bread Loaf Scholarship, a grant from the New Jersey Council of the Arts, prizes from the Poetry Council of Virginia, two Pushcart nominations, and an Honorable Mention in the 2013 Allen E. Ginsberg Poetry Awards. Her poetry chapbook Sometimes You Sense the Difference was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press. One of her stories was performed by Tony-award winning actress Maryann Plunkett at Playwrights Theatre in Madison, NJ. Donna was a Founding Editor of Bellevue Literary Review and founded and currently publishes Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature (www.tiferetjournal.com.) She is also an award-winning copywriter. Her website is www.donnabaierstein.com.
I've already reviewed this book (7 years ago, no less!), but thought I'd share the ten reasons underscoring Cohen's premise of suckage:
Reason 2: You expect it to suck
Reason 3: You get fooled by appearances
Reason 4: You waste your energy on things that suck
Reason 5: You keep trying to prove yourself
Reason 6: You say yes when you mean no
Reason 7: You think you have to do it all yourself
Reason 8: You try to fix other people
Reason 9: You starve your soul
Reason 10: You forgot to enjoy the ride
If there's a Bible to contentment, I'm pretty sure this book is it.
A little while ago, Amazon.com announced that it was acquiring the social reading site, Goodreads.
Author Jami Gold mused:
In their official statement, Goodreads assured users:
It's important to be clear that Goodreads and the awesome team behind it are not going away. Goodreads will continue to be the wonderful community that we all cherish. We plan to continue offering you everything that you love about the site—the ability to track what you read, discover great books, discuss and share them with fellow book lovers, and connect directly with your favorite authors—and your reviews and ratings will remain here on Goodreads. And it's incredibly important to us that we remain a home for all types of readers, no matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even stone tablets.
Going on to say that Goodreads will now be integrated to the Kindle experience, a top priority, they also assured users that Amazon supports growing their vision "as an independent entity under the Goodreads brand and with our unique culture. "
In response, and echoing my thoughts exactly:
Then proceeded to screech:
Tickling my funny bone, Jeff O'Neal (editor at Bookriot.com) tweeted:
Amid the fray, book blogger Jennifer Messner confessed:
Dare I say that I never got into Goodreads, either? Maybe now that Amazon.com has acquired them (a site I do use and enjoy--as a reader, writer and Hall of Fame Reviewer), I may have to take a second look.
So what do you think, dear readers? Is Amazon.com a big dog pissing on everything with words on it? Or are they the salvation of books and reading? Will the merger with Goodreads be a good thing for readers? Traditionally-published authors? Self-pubbed writers? Might it be "incestuous" as Jami Gold suggests...and if so, how?
Speak your mind in the comments section below. I'm listening...and curious about your thoughts.
You can read a sneak peek of one of the chapters here.
ISBN 978-1-78279-213-0 for the paperback, 978-1-78279-212-3 for the eBook.
As you'll read in the sample I linked to, my book ain't gonna be your Grandma's Tarot (like 99% of the stuff out there).
I also have a FB page for the book if you'd like to "like". It's here.
Why? Because a few self-appointed loudmouths in the online Tarot world think it's awful for me to continue reviewing Tarot books and decks on Amazon after becoming an author. (Never mind that I'm a Hall of Fame Reviewer with over 1,000 reviews to my name who has helped promote many a Tarot author and deck creator via my volunteer efforts.)
Because of this mindless mob, unchallenged by others in the online Tarot community for fear of the same type of reprisals, I've soured on writing Tarot blogs, books or reviews...and am moving away from it altogether.
For you clueless Tarot twits, read what Anne R. Allen has to say about authors reviewing other authors:
If authors weren’t allowed to review, there would be no New York Times Book Review. No New York Review of Books. No Times Literary Supplement.
Can you imagine the San Francisco Chronicle asking some random tourist at Fisherman’s Wharf to review the latest Michael Chabon instead of hiring National Book Award finalist Jess Walter?
Or if the New York Review of Books had told John Updike he would be “unethical” to review Philip Roth?
Or if the New Yorker had banned Dorothy Parker from reviewing The House at Pooh Corner because they suspected she’d be “too nice” to A. A. Milne after meeting him at a cocktail party? (Her famous review under the byline "Constant Reader" said "Tonstant Weader fwowed up.")
Here's the link to the rest of Anne's brilliant, thorough post: Online Book Reviews: Games People Play.
A few months ago, I envisioned an eBook series that would feature quotes or facts about a particular topic.
I got the idea as I was looking through my 100+ writing craft books, noting the passages that were highlighted.
Then, I began considering how I love coming across great quotes--often sharing them on Twitter or Facebook. And, of course, I've been a life-long trivia buff...
With Kindle, you can easily highlight quotes from eBooks and share them with your friends or followers, posting a passage right to Twitter or Facebook.
The rest is, as they say, history. Well, at least, it's history in the making!
I have dozens of topics mapped out for my new Call 111! series, but the first three will be 111 Facts About Christmas (almost done!), 111 Quotes for Writers (halfway done!) and 111 Quotes for Tarot Lovers (30% done!):
Each of these eBooks are meticulously researched from source material. Hey, I have to use my huge personal library for something, right? What this means is that I'm not getting quotes from Bartletts, Bartleby or Oxford.
No, I'm going through all my books--reading up a storm--and culling the very best quotes related to a topic. Most of these won't be one-liners, either. We're talking a decent portion you can really chew on (and which still falls under copyright's "fair use" laws).
With the 111 Facts About Christmas book, I'm doing extensive research into all aspects of Christmas using my personal library and direct sources--symbolism, movies, songs, statistics, myth and more. And how cool is this? All Call 111! eBooks will be priced at only $1.11!
Have a particular topic or focus you'd like to see covered in my Call 111! eBook series? By all means leave your suggestions in the comments section! I'd love to hear what you would like to read.
For now, here are some topics I have on my list:
111 Quotes for:
Finding Your Purpose
Living Your Passion
Banishing Your Fears
Loss and Grief
Getting Back Your Mojo
Dealing with Idiots
"As he walked up the aisle of his church, broken glass crunched beneath his boot. He spotted a brick on a nearby pew. "Not again", he sighed. "Lillie, be careful."
"Why would anyone break our windows?" his daughter asked. "Well, some people don't like our church because we don't believe in slavery", Mr. Pierpont said. "Someone is probably angry because our congregation has four members who once were slaves. Four members who are much more likely to go to heaven than the person who threw that brick, I might add." - From the book Jingle Bells: How the Holiday Classic Came to Be (Peachtree Publishers)
Attempting to recreate the sound of sleigh bells from his native Boston, John Lord Pierpont climbed the stars to the church pipe organ and began to plink out some notes. He begins to sing "jingle bells, jingle bells..." and, recalling that his parishioner Mrs. FitzHugh said "oh what fun", realizes he may have the beginnings of a song.
During the sweltering Georgia heat at Thanksgiving time, undaunted by racist vandalism, Mr. Pierpont and the children's choir introduce a new song to welcome the holidays, as was their yearly custom.
Two girls stroll up the aisle shaking strands of bells, and Mr. Pierpont calls down from the organ loft for the congregation to join him in singing the new song One Horse Open Sleigh. When the song is over, the rest of the children throw white feathers in the air as the congregation bursts out in applause.
Although the story is fictional, author John Harris did extensive research in Savannah, Georgia, including interviewing the folks at the Unitarian Church on Oglethorpe Square where John L. Pierpont served as music director. AT the end of the book is a two-page spread relaying some facts about Pierpont, as well as actual photos.
Sumptuously illustrated by Adam Gustavson (Snow Day!), Jingle Bells: How the Holiday Classic Came to Be is a beautifully told tale that not only brings a slice of Christmas history to life, but also lifts the spirits of readers young and old.
Today, the new Kindle Fire (7" LCD Display, Wi-Fi, 8GB) is $30 off! Instead of $159, it's $129. I just bought our teenager his very own. (The Kindle Fire without special offers is $174, but the $30 off code applies to that one, too).
Click here to go to the Kindle Fire's Amazon page. Don't forget to put FIREDEAL in the "Gift Cards & Promotional Codes" box, then click "Apply".
My friend and colleague, Ócháni Lele, posted the following to his Facebook page. I was so moved--and felt it echoed the experience of many spiritual teachers--that I asked him if I could re-post it to my blog. Happily, he graciously agreed.
For those of you who don't know Ócháni Lele (penname of B. Stuart Myers), he's an author, teacher and lecturer on Afro-Cuban folklore and spirituality, specifically the Yoruba-derived Lucumí faith (known as Santería to outsiders). His work focuses on the diloggún, which is, traditionally, an orally transmitted book of wisdom used for both religious instruction and divination. At the end of this post, I'll provide links to his six books by Destiny Books, an imprint of Inner Traditions Publishing.
Why Do You Love Teaching?
One of my facebook friends just sent me an email, and in it they asked a simple question: Why do you love teaching so much? Is it the money involved?
I’ll admit that I love to teach, and when you can earn at least a meagre living doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like work. It’s pure enjoyment. But the money isn’t the primary factor. Honestly. I spent about 36 weeks teaching the basic diloggún course (that’s nine months) – and since each class is an hour and a half (sometimes they run over); I spend at least 54 hours actively instructing just my basic divination students.
Add to that the hours that go into lecture preparation, answering questions by email, and taking phone calls from students who need extra help, and the hours I spend teaching add up quickly. Our interactions continue outside the classroom. Now do the math for just the 54 hours of in-class instruction: my basic class costs $400.00, and the in-class time alone (the promised 54 hours . . . which often run over) means that each student is paying me $7.41 per hour for their instruction. Also, I keep my classes small. There are never more than 8 students in a class, sometimes fewer. So everyone gets plenty of individual attention.
Obviously, I’m neither price-gouging my students nor am I getting insanely rich by teaching divination. So why do I love it? Why do I do it when there are other things I could devote my time to, things that could, theoretically, have greater financial rewards for me?
I do it because I love watching people grow spiritually. I give more than a series of lectures on casting the diloggún and interpreting odu; I offer empowerment to olorishas who have spent their lives (secular and spiritual) feeling powerless. I love gathering a group of open minds, moulding them carefully with knowledge until that proverbial “light bulb” goes off over their heads, and they begin to understand that the universe is a living, vibrant place filled with infinite possibilities.
And I love watching them grow as they realize that, as olorishas, they are vessels of ashé with the potential to not only change their lives and the lives of their godchildren, but are vessels with the ashé to change . . . the world.
It’s about growth, and the satisfaction I get from helping others grow and achieve their potential in life is immense. I find empowerment . . . in empowering others.
And that, my friends, is the real reason that I teach. I believe that everyone deserves the chance to reach their full potential in life, and in this religion, knowledge is power. Knowledge is enlightenment. Knowledge is also the light that helps us destroy the darkness; and the bigger that light grows, the better this world, our world, becomes.
Oyá knew what she was doing when she put me on this path. And I am eternally grateful for her blessings.
Ócháni Lele has been a personal blessing to me and it's apparent that he's one to his devoted students, as well. I'm thankful for his presence in my life and on this Earth.
From Pema Chodron's No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva:
Emotional turmoil begins with an initial perception—a sight, sound, thought—which gives rise to a feeling of comfort or discomfort. This is the subtlest level of shenpa, the subtlest stage of getting hooked. Energetically there is a perceptible pull; it’s like wanting to scratch an itch. We don’t have to be advanced meditators to catch this.
This initial tug of “for” or “against” is the first place we can remain as steady as a log. Just experience the tug and relax into the restlessness of the energy, without fanning this ember with thoughts. If we stay present with the rawness of our direct experience, emotional energy can move through us without getting stuck. Of course, this isn’t easy and takes practice.
When I read this, I thought of the 4 of Swords Tarot card. Numerologically, the four brings stability and equanimity to the realm of thoughts, judgements and assumptions. After all, it's really a thought--a story we tell ourselves (including "for" or "against" attitudes) that generate powerful emotion in the first place.
In fact, in her newest book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, Chodron writes:
In My Stroke of Insight, the brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor's book about her recovery from a massive stroke, she explains the physiological mechanism behind emotion: an emotion like anger that's an automatic response lasts just ninety seconds fromt he moment it's triggered until it runs its course. One and a half minutes, that's all. When it lasts any longer, which it usually does, it's because we've chosen to rekindle it.
The fact of the shifting, changing nature of our emotions is something we could take advantage of. But do we? No. Instead, when an emotion comes up, we fuel it with our thoughts, and what should last one and half minutes may be drawn out for ten or twenty years. We just keep recycling the story line. We keep strengthening our old habits.
And, unless we examine the ways we get "hooked" by our emotions--fueled by our need to be "right" or "justified"--we'll just keep repeating the same old patterns...missing what's present, what's real and what's fresh.
You may be interested in a previous blog I wrote on this topic, especially as it relates to this card, called 4 of Swords and Painful Thoughts.
So often we hear the same tired meanings for this card that don't range past interpretations like "rest", "recuperation", "taking a break" or "seeking peace and quiet".
While this card can certainly mean those things, it can mean so much more--especially when we factor in numerology combined with all that falls under the realm of the swords suit.
If you consider reversed Tarot cards, as I do, then the 4 of Swords, reversed can indicate being "hooked". Thus, this card upside down offers us a choice point where we can decide to just let it go and move on (given the 90 seconds has already passed, of course). Depending on what other cards surround it, the 4 of Swords reversed can indicate areas where we have chosen to fuel negative thoughts and emotions by extending a 90 second incident into days, weeks, months or even years.
Here are some combinations with interpretations to give you an idea of what I mean:
Fool + 4 of Swords, reversed = Refusing to forgive a foolish act
Empress + 4 of Swords, reversed = "Hooked" by something your Mom said or did
Tower + 4 of Swords, reversed = Refusing to let go of things surrounding trauma
3 of Swords + 4 of Swords, reversed = Assuming you'll always be marginalized as before
6 of Cups + 4 of Swords, reversed = Refusing to move on from nostalgia. Longing for "the way things were".
8 of Wands + 4 of Swords, reversed = Beating yourself up for something done in haste
See how it works? If the Wheel of Fortune shows up, you can be sure that "chewing the cabbage twice" or bitterness is a long-standing life pattern. If Judgement shows up, as well, we now have a karmic aspect to the situation. Regardless, we always have a choice about what we think. We can always choose again. We can always choose differently. We can choose according to our own heart and intuition rather than "the crowd".
Does it take courage? A lot of inner work? Yes, especially if "stinkin' thinkin'" in an igrained habit.
But it's not impossible. And that's why teachers like Pema Chodron, Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle exist: to get us past our painful stories into freedom.
What about you, dear reader? How do you see the 4 of Swords card? What about the combos I shared? Would love to hear your insights!
To celebrate NaNoWriMo, HarperCollins is featuring ten of its writing eBooks for only $1.99 (just bought seven, myself!):
Here are the ten writing books on Kindle with links directly to their Amazon pages:
Beginning (around) midnight tonight, Spooky Tales Volume 1 will be FREE for three days. The gifting madness will be from October 29-31. (Wait until it says "free" though, to get the gift).
In the meantime, feel free to "like" the Amazon page, share this post on your Facebook wall, Tweet about it and tell your friends who like spooktacular stories.
And, when you're done reading, a review on Amazon would be most appreciated, too! Don't have a Kindle? You don't need one! You can download free Kindle apps on Amazon for your PC, Android, Tablet or other device at this link.
Spooky Tales: Volume 1 is now live on Amazon.com!
I’m pleased to introduce you to five entertaining short stories that have five things in common: each contains the words tooth, rust, cope, ghost and whippersnapper. Among the submissions, I chose five of the best tales to include in this anthology.
As an editor, it’s a fascinating process to read different stories—all required to use the same five words—and watch how each author decides to use those words. It would be easy—lazy, really—to just toss in the mandatory words as one would throw parsley on top of spaghetti as a decorative afterthought.
Not these writers.
From Craig Conley taking amusing liberties with the word whippersnapper in his tale “The Toothsayer” to Jennifer Wheeler’s stomach-turning placement of tooth in “A Bird Named Murder”, each of these authors offer considered and surprising uses for the five required words.
They read like meat, not like garnish. Something you can sink your tooth into, so to speak.
Speaking of meat, wait until you read about the delicious “meatcakes” in Ron Boyer’s “The Discovery”…
Well, I’m getting ahead of myself! As you can see, I’m very excited to present these five short stories to you—five entertaining reads that will leave you feeling off-kilter and, hopefully, spooked enough to want more from these talented writers.
Table of Contents:
“The Toothsayer” by Craig Conley
“Aggressive Life Partner” by Janet Boyer
“A Bird Named Murder” by Jennifer Wheeler
“The Discovery” by Ron Boyer
“Fear” by Michelle Bowser
Click here to borrow or buy your Kindle copy from Amazon.com. Enjoy!
Back in August, Shaheen Miro interviewed me about Tarot. Here is that interview:
Shaheen: Hello, Janet. To begin, you’re a bit of a Tarot know-it-all, so what got you hooked on Tarot?
Janet: No mysterious, elaborate stories I’m afraid: quit simply, I felt to learn the Tarot about 12 years ago. Most of it has been trial-and-error self-taught experience…especially figuring out how to mesh my natural psychic ability with the cards.
Shaheen: Have you explored any other divination art forms with the same tenacity as Tarot? Or are you a one-system type of lady?
Janet: I've explored several divinatory practices, but none is as versatile as Tarot. In fact, my use of the cards is mostly NON-divinatory. I’m naturally psychic, so I have the whole claircognizant and clairvoyance thing going on. I don’t need Tarot for divination, but, apparently, I need it as the medium for most of my current creative work.
Shaheen: You’ve contributed so much to the Tarot community, and I am always interested to know, how has Tarot enriched your life (personally and professionally)?
Janet: It’s provided an interesting playground for trying new things with the cards. I love how the cards allow for “mashups” with other disciplines. Of course, without the Tarot framework, my husband and I wouldn’t have our Snowland Deck…and this has been a very rewarding creative opportunity for us both.
Shaheen: At one point you declared to never write about Tarot again and you’ve mentioned many times that you have been black-balled from different Tarot related forums and outlets. So what made you give Tarot a second (or third or fourth or fifth :-P) chance?
Janet: There’s so much NOT being done with Tarot. The field begs for innovation and, sadly, hardly any are willing (or able) to answer the call. I can’t leave it alone because there’s more work for me to do within the field. It’s like an unfinished sentence: how can you walk away from something so incomplete, especially when you’re holding the words that will cause it to make sense or change the meaning altogether?
Shaheen: So tell us why you felt there was a need to write about reversed meanings in the Tarot in your book Tarot in Reverse?
Janet: Actually, it was my editor’s idea. I was on the phone with Dinah from Schiffer Books and she had just performed a Tarot reading…and asked how I’d interpret the cards that came up reversed. So I interpreted her reading for her. She exclaimed “Someone should write a down-and-dirty guide to Tarot—Tarot in Reverse!” I told her that I had just finished teaching an audio course on the topic and my notes were right next to me…and that I could easily write such a book. She told me to hurry up and write a proposal. So I got off the phone and did. It was accepted by the publisher and within a few weeks, I had a book contract.
Shaheen: What will we find in Tarot In Reverse that we can’t find anywhere else?
Janet: Most books on Tarot contain the same irrelevant, ho-hum, dry esotericism. That’s not how I “do” Tarot, so my book provides modern anecdotes showing how each reversed card plays out in real life (especially via pop culture), as well as dozens of unusual, accurate meanings for reversals. Oh, and 1,560 affirmations (20 for each card).
Shaheen: Do you think that reversed Tarot reading is for beginners? Or is it an added, but not necessary, layer to reading the cards?
Janet: If someone is completely new to Tarot and hasn’t been tainted by the good cards/bad cards BS—or the belief that a reversed card indicates the opposite of the upright meaning—they could absolutely learn about the Light/Shadow Continuum (that I talk about in Tarot in Reverse)…which makes understanding and interpreting reversals pretty easy. However, if they’re new but indoctrinated—it may be best to ease into reversals only after truly absorbing the energy and import of each card.
Shaheen: What did you struggle with while writing this book?
Janet: Time! My editor loved what I had written so much, she asked the publisher if Tarot in Reverse could be made into a full-color, glossy book. This gave me almost double the word count that was originally allotted to me. Thrilled to go beyond just a comprehensive listing of reversed meanings, I then decided to add modern anecdotes for each card to further illuminate and cement how reversed cards “look” and manifest in the real world, as well as 20 affirmations for each card, a quote that encapsulated its energy and advice. So what was intended to be a 20,000 word book was expanded to around 43,000 words…but with the same deadline!
More importantly, I was also dealing with personal attacks, stalking and harassment from several online Tarot talking heads at the time. It was utterly insane. After I wrote Tarot in Reverse, I was so fed up at what they were doing behind the scenes—defamation, insinuation, baiting, stalking—that I wrote a short story to vent my feelings.
Shaheen: With a creative mind like yours you have to surprise yourself sometimes! What were some of your “ah-ha” moments while writing Tarot In Reverse?
Janet: Thank you, you are too kind. :o) Gosh, it was almost a year ago since I finished the manuscript…so I don’t remember! More than anything, I think I was surprised that no one had written a book like this before. But, then again, not much new is being doing with the Tarot in a fresh, innovative, contemporary, bold way, so…
Shaheen: I really loved the long list of affirmations you included in this book. What inspired that? Are affirmations something that you use frequently?
Janet: I feel that if any endeavor or tool doesn’t expand perspectives, foster growth, encourage self-examination or promote personal responsibility—then it’s not worth much at all. It’s just a form of mental masturbation or a way to avoid taking charge of your life. Affirmations were my way of helping the reader integrate the energy of each card or serve as a form of closure for dealing with it.
Shaheen: I’m interested to know, when you personally conduct a reading, how do you piece together information from the cards? I know you do “intuitive” readings, but explain a little bit about how the Tarot factor into the process.
Janet: I feel that if you want a specific answer from the cards, then you need to ask specific questions. I encourage my clients to tell me what is bothering them and ask me direct questions. When they are unable, I create the questions FOR them. I create custom spreads for every client; I don’t rely on any pre-made formats. Why would I ask of a card the silly, vague question “What crowns this client?” when I could ask “What is going on with his mental attitude?” or “How can she attain mental clarity?”.
Shaheen: I know you’re a total badass, but do you ever get stumped? I know there has to be more than a few readers who have had a “WWJBD” moment lol! How do you pull it together in those situations?
Janet: I’m more stumped by the stupidity and groupthink I see among online Tarot groups, to be honest! Seriously, though, sometimes the cards refuse to be specific—and that’s because the situation is in the hands of another, it’s being worked out or the energy hasn’t yet solidified in order to “read” the likely trajectory. You can’t get a fix on something that has yet to be set in motion by actions and decisions, for example.
Shaheen: Janet, Tarot In Reverse is an amazing book and you can see all your hard work shining through. I’m happy to see that you haven’t give up Tarot yet and I hope that people see the treasure that you have created! It is sure to be a classic. Do you have any last words of sage advice?
Janet: Why thank you, Shaheen! I’m thrilled that you appreciate my Tarot work. My advice on the Tarot is that here is no wrong way to read, create, understand or use the cards. For life in general, the most brilliant person I had the pleasure of knowing once told me “Trust Self first, last and only”. Works for me.
Shaheen: Thanks again, Janet. It’s so great to speak with you. I’m anticipating what you’ll do next... Tarot and otherwise!
Janet: My pleasure, Dear One.
"El Dia de los Muertos is not a time to feel sad or afraid of death. It is a time for familias (families) to come together, share memories of past loved ones, and celebrate the joy of being alive!" - From the book
Up we go!
With colorful hats, sweeping dresses, bow ties and festive garb, author and illustrator Richard Keep commemorates the Mexican celebration known as the El Dia de los Muertos in the book Clatter Bash!: A Day of the Dead Celebration.
Happy skeletons climb out of their entombment to frolic about the graveyard, driving in cars, splashing in fountains, watering marigolds, singing songs, telling stories and feasting at picnics.
Replete with vibrant images in greens, purples, oranges and yellows, the first 26 pages of Clatter Bash! depicts a simple, rhyming, alliterative poem showing the fun that the dead have when the Day of the Dead begins (usually November 1 or 2).
A mix of English and Spanish phrases underscores the clanking and jittering antics of the smiling skeletons that have risen for this special fiesta.
In two pages at the end of the softcover story, the author explains the late-October celebrations that occur in the villages of Mexico and many places in the United States, as well as the meanings of several Spanish words and phrases.
For example, children dress up as angelitos (angels), diablos (devils) and calacas (skeletons) to parade around the village with their parents, yelling Hola! amidst music and merry-making.
From ofrendas (home altars) to traditional foods, graveyard picnics to common greetings, Richard Keep describes the mood, purpose and accoutrements surrounding this special holiday.
As the author/illustrator says, "El Dia de los Muertos is not a time to feel sad or afraid of death. It is a time for familias (families) to come together, share memories of past loved ones, and celebrate the joy of being alive!"
Clatter Bash! not only offers a wonderful opportunity for cultural education, but also a reason to explore the topic of death. In fact, its upbeat tone and pictures would likely bring comfort to those mourning the loss of a loved one. I lost my Dad in March of this year and haven't really properly grieved yet, but this book gave me a smile and a new way of seeing his passing. Perhaps I may even make my own little Day of the Dead celebration this year.
On a poignant note, the author/illustrator dedicates Clatter Bash! to Joe Lucas, who inspired this book on his deathbed.
"Everyone thinks that dogs have it easy. But I work from morning till night. As soon as I get up...I make sure that no one oversleeps. Ruff! Ruff!" - from the book
In one of the most delightful children's books I've ever read, author Caroline Sherman offers us a dog's eye view of life.
What humans may categorize as accidents, messes and annoyances have, at core, noble motivations--from a dog's point of view.
"I wash dishes. Slurp! Slurp!" (A dog sneaking licks on a finished dinner plate).
"Then I go outside to tidy up the yard. Splish! Splash!" (The dog wrestles a spouting water house in its mouth).
From page one of A Dog's Life, I was smiling. By page three, I was chuckling. Who knew what a dog REALLY thinks going about its daily "chores"?
And that howling at night? Why, singing lullabies until everyone is asleep, of course!
Brought to playful, animated life by illustrator Donald Wu, A Dog's Life offers a comical perspective on canine antics. The dynamic close-ups will likely engage children, while the fresh perspective of what may be classified as drawbacks to dog ownership will amuse adults.
My husband saw this on the table, read it and asked me "Did you read A Dog's Life yet? It's funny!"
And honestly? I can't see how anyone who reads this 22-page hardcover book would think any differently.
"There once was a time I was frightened by numbers.
They scared me at school, and they haunted my slumbers.
My brain had some kind of allergic reaction
My blood would run cold at the thought of division
And decimal point would put spots in my vision.
But now I see math from a new point of view.
This is my story. I swear it's all true." - From the book (Hardcover, 30 pages)
When the clock strikes twelve with hollow tones, a monster appears to an arithmetic-phobic boy. With red horns, black cape and pencilly fingers, the monster offers him a contract, guaranteeing that he'll do all the boy's dreaded math homework.
The boy receives several As on his math homework...but what happens when he's called upon in class to solve a problem on the chalkboard? More importantly, will he have the math skills to "pay up" what's owed the monster?
With brilliant, clever rhyming verse, award-winning author Danny Schnitzlein shows what happens when kids become lazy thinkers and attempt to take short cuts with their homework in his book The Monster Did My Math. Reminiscent of TV cartoons from the 30s, exaggerated and lively art by Bill Mayer adds up to a hilarious, but instructive, tale on why math is important.
A fantastic tale for numerically-adverse kids, The Monster Who Did My Math shows the all-too-real cost of not knowing how to do simple math--and how perseverance may not only result in mastery, but also actual enjoyment.
"How do you do?
I'm Professor LeGrand,
Of LeGrand University,
The world's foremost expert
On monster diversity.
Pay careful attention to my
Lecture this morning,
Take meticulous notes,
And remember this warning.
I have worked forty years on this neatly typed list
Of mischievous monsters whose natures consist
Of conduct I best can describe here at present
As something far less than what most would call pleasant." - From the book (Hardcover, 29 pages)
Thanks to Professor LeGrand, you can be forewarned of the Hedge-Standing Snit, Whichwayawawa, Three-Toed Albanian Sock Bats, Snurps from the Gamma-Goon Stars and nine other monsters in his revealing book 13 Monsters Who Should Be Avoided (transcribed by Kevin Shortsleeve and illustrated by Michael Austin).
And to be forewarned is to be forearmed, should you encounter one of these thirteen beasts!
With Seussian prose, author Shortsleeve takes readers on a curious tour that's more amusing than scary, aided by Austin's colorful illustrations.
Children who enjoy the poems of Shel Silverstein or the musicality of Dr. Seuss' verse will likely enjoy 13 Monsters Who Should Be Avoided, as would parents, teachers and caregivers who like a bit of tongue-twisty mouthfuls in their storytelling palates.
"Eat your peas," said my mom, "or you won't get dessert."
I said, "Before peas, I would rather eat dirt!"
"I know you don't want to", she said with a glare,
"But until they get eaten, you'll stay in your chair." - From the book (softcover, 30 pages)
Ah, childhood food aversions. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mashed potatoes, liver--most kids have one (or ten) foods that they dread.
In The Monster Who Ate My Peas, written by Danny Schnitzlein and illustrated by Matt Faulkner, a little boy wishes that the peas on his plate would disappear...and a monster suddenly appears to take care of that.
This grotesque creature largely made up of hated foods (A squash nose! Spinach beard!), happily slurps up the peas...but he exacts a price.
The first time, he demands a new soccer ball. The second time, a new bike.
So what happens when the monster demands the child's puppy in exchange for the eaten peas?
Well, you'll have to read The Monster Who Ate My Peas to find out! Let's just say the little boy's love for his dog prods him to make a surprising discovery.
Illustrated in muted, muddy earth tones, this fanciful, award-winning book features clever rhyming prose and emotion-laden imagery. It's a great book for encouraging kids to try new foods.
My only problem with it is the beginning: I've always disagreed with the notion of forcing kids to "clean their plate" by eating foods that make them gag. TRYING a food at least once, yes. But not attempting to force them with threats.
However, the ending of The Monster Who Ate My Peas may very well help a child re-think swearing off reviled foods without trying them...but creating a monster made UP of hated foods might reinforce the notion that certain foods are to be feared or avoided.
"I used to be a scaredy cat
afraid to sleep in my own bed.
Late at night, when things went bump,
I'd conjure monsters in my head.
My brothers knew my weakness well.
Every time they got the chance,
They'd think of ways to make me scream,
And laugh when I would wet my pants." - from the book (Hardcover, 29 pages)
Created by the same team that made the award-winning The Monster Who Ate My Peas (author Danny Schnitzlein and illustrator Matt Faulkner), Trick or Treat on Monster Street tells a "turning-the-tables" story about fearful boy forced to go Trick or Treating with his two older brothers.
Stopping to tie his shoe, when he stands up, he realizes he's all alone.
With trees ripping at his costume, he wanders blindly through the dark--until he ends up on Monster Street. He begins to trick or treat, but knows something is amiss when he receives a smelly trout from one house...and some spiders from another.
Coming upon another trick-or-treater, he thought the kid didn't look quite right...confirmed when its green fingers peel off the "human" face!
This book encourages diversity via not judging by appearances, with a good dose of sibling revenge when the older brothers see what he brings back from trick-or-treating on Monster Street.
The verse in Trick or Treat on Monster Street reads clunky compared to Schnitzlein's The Monster Who Ate My Peas. In addition, the illustrations--while much more colorful and varied than in The Monster Who Ate My Peas--lacked that "shiny" realism until the last few pages of the book...making most of the pictures look hurriedly drawn by comparison.
The "monsters who are afraid of humans" is a familiar trope, but when the human kid befriends monsters--and they help him get revenge on his tormenting older brothers--it adds a nice twist...especially as the kid loses a lot of his fears.
Trick or Treat on Monster Street is an OK book, but there are better Halloween-themed ones out there for kids.
Love his closing remarks:
I'll always be grateful to everything my legacy publishers have done for my books, and my career. That's why I'll drink a sincere toast to them when they all go out of business. Which, if they aren't smart, will happen a lot sooner than they expect.
The windmill needs the wind to turn. The wind doesn't need the windmill to blow.
After years of the Fear: A Novel of Terror being held hostage by Grand Central, Konrath (writing as Jack Kilborn) really wanted the freedom to give it away, so he opted into Amazon Select for 3 months. It's free on Kindle from October 11-15. Enjoy!
Boss, coworker, spouse, roommate, mother, father, child—who are the people you really dislike and wish would simply go away? Be grateful to them: they’re your own special gurus, showing up right on time to keep you honest. It’s the troublemakers in your life who cause you to see that you’ve shut down, that you’ve armored yourself, that you’ve hidden your head in the sand. If you didn’t get angry at them, if you didn’t get fed up with them, you would never be able to cultivate patience. If you didn’t envy them, if you weren’t jealous of them, you would never think to stretch beyond your mean-spiritedness and try to rejoice in their good fortune. If you never met your match, you might think you were better than everybody else and arrogantly criticize their neurotic behavior rather than do something about your own.
I can use design my own, but visual arts are NOT my strong suit! Wanna try? You'll get full credit as the cover illustrator (publishing cred!)
For inspiration, the five words that MUST be used in the story for this anthology are: RUST, TOOTH, GHOST, WHIPPERSNAPPER and COPE. Please have your submission to me by October 22, 2012 ([email protected]).
Two years ago, author Neil Gaiman started All Hallow's Read. This annual event encourages people to give away scary books on Halloween.
Boy, how I wished I had gotten books in my Trick-or-Treat bag as a kid!
Here's Neil explaining All Hallow's Read:
I plan on posting some scary book reviews (er, reviews of scary books) all through October, as well as sharing some of my favorite scary reads. So if you need any ideas for your All Hallow's Read celebration, stay tuned!
I know this guy, see. To say he's brilliant is an understatement. He blows me away with what he knows, and what he grasps. I've been tested as having a genius IQ (via a psychologist)...but him? Into the stratosphere. He's like a walking illuminated manuscript.
He's also kind, thoughtful and enlightened.
It's about time you meet my friend Craig Conley. And hear some of his unbelievable stories about writing, publishing and the creative life--including internet crazies, Tarot, censorship, social media and prolificity.
Janet: How, as a relative unknown, did you convince HarperCollins to take on something as offbeat as a dictionary of one-letter words? And what's your feeling about working with big publishing houses?
Craig: The HarperCollins deal was a glorious fiasco. Interestingly, it was the very day that I officially gave up calling myself a writer that I found the literary agent who sold my book to HarperCollins. (I think I was trying to follow Ram Dass' wisdom that we spend the first half of our lives becoming somebody, and now we can work on becoming nobody: "For when you become nobody there is no tension, no pretense, no one trying to be anyone or anything. The natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed.") I recall thinking, "Well, if I'm not a writer anymore, there's no need to dread another rejection from a literary agent." So I casually sent off an e-mail to the first agent who came up on Google. Who was it who said that one is never more attractive than when one isn't desperate? The agent accepted my book instantly, and days later he'd generated a bidding war among several top publishers. The deal he secured was lucrative -- fully fifty times the dollars for the number of one-letter words I'd collected.
Working with HarperCollins was like climbing aboard a grand roller coaster that broke at the top of the first lift and then tumbled out of control on its way down. On the bright side, the big publishers are giant cogs in the machine, and they generate big publicity. There's no way my one-letter words dictionary would have been scooped by Page Six, for example, had it not been associated with a major publisher. I was covered by NPR, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New York Post, the Dallas Morning News, Publisher's Weekly, and dozens of other major outlets. The difference between my publicity for One-Letter Words and my publicity for Magic Words: A Dictionary (through Weiser) is like night and day. The smaller company's voice struggles to be heard in the market. The larger publishers, like any larger corporations, are less personal, however. If you're not a bestseller, you fall out of the publisher's radar quite quickly. (It's just business, of course, but it can feel brutal just the same.)
One-Letter Words was intended to be HarperCollins' answer to the phenomenon Eats, Shoots & Leaves. A variety of circumstances (including Barnes & Noble's 11th hour surprise decision not to carry the book, Restoration Hardware inexplicably dropping out of a marketing deal after demanding a supply of books months before the official publication date, the editor of my book going on maternity leave before publication) all decimated my book's initial -- and vital -- Christmas season exposure. Once that first Christmas is over, everyone moves on to the next big things. Anyway, glamorous as it is to snag a big contract, so many more forces conspire to break a book than to make it. Everyone involved desires success, surely, but the inner workings of the marketplace are as complex and unpredictable as the weather.
My experience with HarperCollins solidified my preference for self-publishing. With self-publishing, you retain ownership and control of your work. When HarperCollins bought One-Letter Words, I was forced to undo the highly successful marketing I had established on the internet. For years I had been providing a free web version of my dictionary, and this unusual resource had been linked by hundreds upon hundreds of schools, libraries, and other institutions around the world. All of that invaluable networking became dead links because of HarperCollins' old-fashioned business model. Years later, I've still not been able to restore the level of worldwide linkage I once enjoyed. The internet grows exponentially by the moment, and every day, every hour, it becomes more challenging to make one's mark.
My own fan base actually doesn't buy much of my self-published work, but over time my titles have garnered a decent number of sales from strangers. What's neat about the internet is that one's proper market can find one's work. For example, my books apparently have more of a European sensibility than an American one, and a great many of my sales go to Europe. Since this summer, Amazon allows authors to list CreateSpace-published books in its various European catalogs (to be sold in Euros), and I started enjoying increased sales immediately.
Janet: Craig, you deleted your Facebook account several months ago. I’m finding it a cesspool, myself (especially the Tarot-related groups which I won’t go near). It’s worse than high school in terms of cliques and gossip! Would you share why you deleted your account? And, in your estimation, how important is social media—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.—to a writer’s or artist’s career? Well-being?
Craig: Just as a blueprint reveals the underlying structure of a building and the intention of the architect, the history of Facebook reveals that it was rotten from the beginning. In his book Accidental Billionaires, Ben Mezrich lays bare that Facebook originated as an ignoble tool for Harvard students to vote on the "hotness" of their female classmates. That base mentality of ranking and objectification is inseparable from the website today. It's like walking into a peep-show facility intending to make some genuine friendships -- the building itself is designed with holes in the wall, and if you step under a spotlight then others will be viewing you in a certain way regardless of your own motivations. It's difficult to circumvent an existing structure when its very design is intended to promote very specific sorts of interactions.
One day I realized that every time I opened Facebook I felt worse than I did previously. I realized that I was unnecessarily learning too many intimate details about my friend's lives (and vice versa, surely). One of my friends assures me that he has countless meaningful interactions on Facebook, and I have no reason to question his experience, but I must admit to having failed miserably to generate my own meaningful interactions on Facebook. Heck, looking for meaning in the mundane is all I ever do -- it seriously is my job description boiled down to a sentence. But Facebook left me utterly stumped, and I finally quit it cold turkey and haven't looked back.
The importance of social media -- that's a good question, and I'm not sure I have tangible evidence either way. So many successful people don't have any social media accounts whatsoever. Ideally, those sites would be the equivalent of the Parisian sidewalk cafés where, in the aftermaths of both World Wars, expatriate writers, artists, and intellects searching for a voice would gather to inspire one another and to foster innovation and experimentation. The social media site that comes closest to that ideal is surely Tumblr. But like Parisian cafés, social media sites come and go. Remember MySpace? Feeling connected to other artists is vital to one's well-being, yet I have to wonder whether too many folks are forgetting the gifts of solitude. As Hans F. Hansen said, "People inspire you, or they drain you; pick them wisely."
Janet: You’re familiar
with myriad forms of divination, including creating a few of your own systems.
I’m finding that Tarot, in particular, seems to draw what I call “low level”
energy; that is, readers/enthusiasts who are insecure, immature, needy,
desperate, petty, greedy—rampant dysfunction in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd chakras. In
fact, it’s why I’m now retired from Tarot writing, blogging and reviewing. I
felt like the bulk of my innovative work was going into an insatiable black
hole, so to speak. And, I now suspect it’s why Tarot—unlike other forms of
divination—can’t seem to crawl its way out of the dark cloud that surrounds it:
the people who practice it are “dark” (unaware, ignorant and
Have you noticed that Tarot draws a different “crowd” than other esoteric disciplines? Or is this just my perspective?
Craig: Your mention of Tarot seeming to activate the lower chakras reminded me of this: "If Freud had lived before the Tarot was created, it would have been a reasonable bet to have suggested that he was responsible for the cards and their meanings" (Lionel & Patricia Fanthorpe, The World's Most Mysterious Objects, 2002). Though I've created several Tarot decks and written two books on the subject, I've remained an outsider to the community. I'd like to say I'm of the Groucho Marx school: "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member." But in truth I'm more like Marshall McLuhan (via Timothy Leary): I tend to tune in and then drop out. The group mind invariably leaves me feeling alienated. To this day, all my favorite television shows have been cancelled due to unpopularity.
Janet: What advice can you offer to creatives that are simply unable to play the “politics game”: trying to play nice, be likeable, join the team, etc.? It’s no secret that this world is not a fair one, tending to reward those who take shortcuts, brownnose and are willing to enter a popularity contest. What hard-won wisdom can you share with those who love to create and innovate, but don’t have the desire (or ability) to play the “social games” that many say are necessary for “success”?
Craig: The only game to play is the one you're making up right now. I just heard screenwriter Joss Whedon reveal the great secret of his success: you put ALL your cards on the table at once. And then you're forced to create another whole set of cards for your next move. That's how he writes movies, and it can be a philosophy of life. There's a school of thought that a work of art generates its own rules, making it self-contained and therefore placing it outside of history. I wonder how many artists have felt "ahead of their time." That sentiment is no mere copout -- it's a terrible, despairing sort of Limbo. The great challenge in the wasteland of inconspicuousness is to fend off mortal discouragement.
In Porius, a novel about Merlin, John Cowper Powys refers to "Destiny, that great god, [and] Chance, that still greater one!" That's a tremendously encouraging worldview, in which no miserable fate is set in stone because Lady Luck can always intervene. The world is indeed not fair, and success is hardly merit-based, yet no innovator is irremediably doomed to obscurity. Still, if one is to stay sane along the way, the work must be a reward in itself. If one's lofty goal is to give people what they don't know they want (à la Steve Jobs), in all fairness there might be quite a climb involved.
Craig: Oh yes, my homeschooling experience affected me profoundly. When we started, back in the mid-1970s, homeschooling was illegal in most states. In fact, it wasn't even called "homeschooling" back then, but rather "unschooling" (coined by John Holt in his "Growing Without Schooling" newsletter). We had serious fears of truant officers in those days! My family used the Calvert correspondence program, in hopes of satisfying the authorities with paperwork, but my true homeschool education was free-form. I pursued my own interests, at my own pace. I quickly came to understand that learning and independent thinking are one's own responsibility. Though I tried a high school for the performing arts, midway through the 10th grade I dropped out, took the G.E.D. exam, and entered college early. After teaching college writing and literature for nine years, I again dropped out and pursued my research as an independent scholar.
Janet: To quote a line from Napoleon Dynamite: Lucky!
Craig, I was mortified to find out that hackers are diligently erasing your work from the internet. How can an
author protect his or her online presence from being erased? And just how
threatening is your work, anyway?
Craig: I suppose it qualifies as a Retroactive Lifetime Goal (to borrow a phrase from humorist Jonathan Caws-Elwitt) to be such a "dangerous" artist that my work must be obliterated from existence. For the second time this year, a hacker unknown to me wiped out a chunk of my daily Abecedarian blog. This time it was five full months' worth of postings. What a peculiar feeling; having the contents of one's mind destroyed feels even more personal than having one's house ransacked. Lady Luck, in her cruel aspect, saw to it that my back-up server was on the blink, but a night's (eternity's) worth of virtual jigsaw puzzling brought the menace of my work back online. Eerily, I felt *really* lousy -- even before I discovered the erasure in progress -- but, like a character in some Philip K. Dick novel, I could hardly put my finger on what was being erased from my virtual brain. Perhaps I need to embrace being too dangerous to exist on the internet?
My advice to other authors with websites is to build in at least two levels of authentication for your content management system. In addition to the password login, restrict the IP addresses of who can access the back-end, if you can, and limit it to your personal home network. Never rely on the fact that what's supposed to be restricted definitely is. Back up your content daily, keeping at least three months of snapshots. (I recommend Amazon S3 as a cost-effective storage platform.) Presume that someone can and will guess your password. Presume that anything you put online could be lost, and plan accordingly. If Murphy's Law hits and everything that can go wrong does go wrong, Google's cache server and Archive.org's Wayback Machine can be a blessing as you piece your site back together from scratch.
Just how threatening is my work? I have to allow that I'm not simply a victim here. I have to shoulder some responsibility for delving into areas that are perhaps best left untouched. My research takes me into gray areas that turn out to be quite volatile. There's superficial humor in my pursuits (like collecting one-letter words, studying blank maps, tracing genealogy to fairy folk, using punctuation marks for divination, listening for unicorns, locating genuine ghosts trapped by Google's book scanners), but underlying that humor is a serious threat to the neatness and tidiness of the establishment. One might think my several dictionaries are benign entities (including magic words, words without vowels, words without consonants, the meanings of chess pieces, and words of one letter), but recall the audacity and profundity inherent in the act of defining. "He who defines dominates and lives," as Thomas Stephen Szasz has noted. "He who is defined is subjugated and destroyed."
Janet: How many websites do you have, anyway? (Because, I swear, you deliberately hide them!)
Craig: Let's see ... here they are, and you might want to check them out ASAP because they could be hacked into oblivion at any moment.
I hunt for magic words and Tarot archetypes in the wild, and here are the trophies, so to speak:
I have a Zen conversion of the Rock-Paper-Scissors game:
My most esoteric books and articles are here, most with extensive or full web versions:
My most unusual reference manuals are here:
Here's my daily blog that covers the broadest range of my eccentric research:
I was the first to recognize the village of Portmeirion (Wales) as a pop-up book of Tarot cards. Here's the story on that, as well as the Tarot of Portmeirion I created:
Janet: Your Tarot of Portmeirion (which I love!) is Majors-only; any plans on publishing the Minors, too, so we can play with a full deck?
Craig: Yes, I do need to find a card printer to take on the full deck! For now, the Minors are all represented in the free online version.
Janet: Speaking of Tarot, how and when did you get involved in the cards, anyway?
Craig: It all began with a moment of slapstick. My first step into the Tarot world coincided with a Rider-Waite deck falling on my foot while I was browsing in a bookstore. I try to be cognizant of signs that occur in daily life, if only to participate in a waking dream. For a lifelong student of comparative religion, Jungian psychology, and magic (both stage performance and shamanism), the history and symbolism of Tarot meet every criterion of fascination. Marie-Louise Von Franz's On Divination and Synchronicity solidified my love for the field.
Janet: Craig, what is your take on "evil" or, at least, "crazy online people"? You and I have seen our share of truly jaw-dropping, over-the-top reactionary behavior--especially in the metaphysical community (especially, for me, the seedy online Tarot world). What do you make of this?
Craig: To paraphrase a popular saying, people encountered via the internet are not only stranger than we imagine, they're stranger than we can imagine. The more an author puts himself or herself "out there," the more weirdness gets invited in. I have a "What fresh hell is this?" moment on almost a daily basis. Here's just the latest insanity I've been dealing with: a few years ago I created a silly little crossword puzzle inspired by the film Dr. Strangelove, in which every answer across and down was "purity of essence" or "peace on earth." I put the puzzle inside a winter holiday card and had it printed at Zazzle here. The other day, Zazzle removed the card from their catalog on the grounds of copyright infringement. I marveled at this; even assuming that a film studio had filed a complaint, I couldn't fathom how my puzzle constituted any sort of infringement. I asked Zazzle for information on how, exactly, my puzzle infringed. Their answer took me by the maximum surprise possible: it wasn't a movie studio at all, but the estate of Martin Luther King, Jr. who had demanded the card be removed.
It turns out that I refer to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the clue to 2 Across. Apparently -- and I will admit that this was news to me -- one doesn't have the right to print the name of Martin Luther King, Jr., not even in a crossword clue. As Zazzle explained, "Unfortunately, your product contained text 'Martin Luther King, Jr.' which infringes upon the intellectual property rights of Estate of Martin Luther King Jr." I feel like I'm living in some sort of George Orwell novel (well, a very particular George Orwell novel, but now I'm afraid to type most anything lest a deranged attorney contact me!) It's not that I give a hoot about the greeting card in question -- it's not a huge seller, anyway. It's the sheer perversity of it all. Unwilling to accept having my own creation removed for so ridiculous a reason, I reworded the clue to 2 Across in Pig Latin. I wonder if the MLKJ estate attorneys are scouring the web for Pig Latin mentions of the unwritable (and, I presume, forthwith unpronounceable) name. Time will tell.
I'm coming to realize that when one's work explores fringe topics, one is destined to encounter other weirdos who have likewise strayed from the mainstream. Immersed as I am in the world of linguistic oddities, esoteric imagery, cryptozoology, and blank maps, it's easy to forget that I'm essentially on another planet from everyday folks. My pursuits are normal to me, but no doubt my average day would blow the minds of most. So I'm trying to take in my stride the craziness I encounter along the way. But the thing about craziness, of course, is that one can't technically prepare for it, by definition.
Janet: Unfreakinbelievable, Craig. I mean, really.
Because you tend to be an
unintentional Hermit, I'd like you to list all the books and goodies you have to
Craig: Let's see:
Pomegranate's One-Letter Words Quiz Deck
One-Letter Words: A Dictionary
Collected Lost Meanings of Christmas
Oracle of the Two-Fold Gods
A Field Guide to Identifying Unicorns by Sound
The Carte Blanche Atlas
The Minimalist Coloring Book
Magic Words: A Dictionary
Moon-Fish-Ocean: A Zen Conversion of Rock-Paper-Scissors
If a Chessman Were a Word: A Chess-Calvino Dictionary
Heirs to the Queen of Hearts: Tracing Magical Genealogy
Astragalomancy: A Loaded Guide
Divination By Punctuation
Franzlations: The Imaginary Kafka Parables
Wye's Dictionary of Improbable Words
The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine
Not Rocket Science
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Human Diversity: A Guide for Understanding
Diverse Learners in the Classroom
The One Minute Mystic
Six Degrees of Jubilation
Your Ship Will Come In
A Fine Line Between ...
The Skeleton Key of Solomon
Unity Symbols Coloring Book
And dozens more titles, which are listed here:
And there you have it, dear Readers. One of the most brilliant, unique creatures on this gorgeous planet. I'm pleased as punch to call Craig my friend; he's truly a very special soul. Incidentally, he's also Snowland's official vintage image curator, so he's responsible for all the lovely whismy he gathers for us here.
I regret to say that I'm a lazy ass. I bet you are, too.
Considering my creative output, you may find that hard to believe.
Let me explain: when I was in Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago, I almost bought a book titled Now Write! Mysteries by Sherry Ellis. Packed with writing exercises, this book looked fantastic for anyone wanting to up their fiction writing game.
I carried the book with me. Placed it on the table in the cafe where my son was reading. Kept coming back to it, debating.
Finally, I decided not to get the book.
It was then that I had an epiphany about my first book, Back in Time Tarot (and a recent "review" of it on Amazon.com).
I'll get to that in a minute.
It could be argued that I'm just too busy with my non-fiction writing--eBooks, blogging, a deck companion book--to tackle the rigors of fiction writing exercises. After all, even though I have two novels mapped out (one that a publisher offered me a contract for)--and several short story ideas--full-out fiction writing is just not on my agenda for the next few months.
Being a first-born perfectionistic over-achiever, I call it being a lazy ass. (Ha!)
So, back to the "review" on Amazon.
Here's what Jeffri Harre wrote:
I stumbled across Janet Boyer's Back in Time method during a web search. It sounded like the Theological Reflection process used in Sewanee's Education for Ministry program. What I read on her web site confirmed the similarity, so I ordered the book.
The book does not really expand on the method of using the Back in Time method. In fact, all you really need to know about using it is on Ms. Boyer's web site. The bulk of the book is collection of examples of the method done by a wide variety of well-known Tarot practitioners. If you enjoy that kind of reading, go ahead and order the book. If you just want to use the method, go to the web site.
As you probably know, I'm a big fan of honest reviews placed on Amazon.com. So much a fan, that I'm a Hall of Fame/Vine Reviewer there. I'm not sure why, in over 11 years of reviewing at Amazon, Jeffri chose to review my Back in Time Tarot as his 6th one. I applaud Jeffri for being brave enough to write a review under his own name (note the Real Name badge). That's awesome!
But...I suspect Jeffri's a lazy ass.
And, I think that's why some people don't "get" (or get) my BIT Tarot Method. In fact, about a year or so ago, I noticed at Goodreads that Back in Time Tarot received 2 stars from Diane Wilkes on May 25, 2011 (she's the former webmistress of Tarot Passages). No actual review, just a click for 2 stars.
Knowing her review reputation, I was curious why she didn't like my book. I sent her a polite message via Goodreads, asking why the 2 stars. (Hey, I'm a writer that values constructive criticism about the writing craft...I really wanted to know! And I can take it.).
She was nice, but acted befuddled. She said she didn't remember why she gave my book 2 stars just a few months prior. I replied back, nicely, "Did you read the entire book? Or try a few of the 100+ BIT Snapshot exercises?"
Another bewildered reply came in, one that didn't give me a straight answer. I asked her if she'd give my book another go, perhaps trying a few of the exercises. She sorta agreed to...and that was that. A few months later, I noticed that she inexplicably blocked me on Facebook.
Was she a lazy ass? Dunno. You'll have to ask her.
You see, my BIT Tarot Method actually requires people to work for their card associations. I don't coddle readers, nor do I force-feed them rote meanings that have been passed down and around ad infinitum.
For individuals to benefit from the BIT Tarot Method--especially in terms of the point of the book, which is to create a solid cache of associations you won't easily forget because they're hard won via your own memories--they must be done. You know, practice. You can't just "look" at one or two or ten of the exercises and say "There's no value in this. It doesn't work."
No, you must sit down, come up with a memory, story, world event, and then break it down, pairing Tarot cards with each component. It's not for the faint of heart nor lazy of ass, to be sure.
And, contrary to what Jeffri wrote, you won't get that at my website. In fact, the BIT Tarot Method is clearly laid out right on the Amazon product page. It's not a secret. The benefit isn't in knowing what the BIT Tarot Method is...the benefit lies in doing it. That's the point.
If Jeffri had actually used Amazon's Look Inside feature, he would have known exactly what he was getting. (Note: I just realized that his review is on the Kindle version of Back in Time Tarot. Well, he could have had a sample sent to his Kindle...or went on an actual computer to see what he was getting. Still, Kindling isn't the best way to "do" my book since you need to actually write down things to perform the BIT Tarot Method).
But, even if he did go to my website--which he said he did (and complained that the information there is an actual substitute for my book)--he would have had everything spelled out for him on what he was in for.
I sympathize with the tired and overstimulated masses, I do. Hell, I don't even have a TV squawking at me 24/7 like most people and sometimes I feel overwhelmed!
But let's get something straight: if you want to be a good Tarot reader--or one that uses the cards for any type of spiritual therapy or psychological counseling as Jeffri seems to want to do--you have to know (gnostikos) the cards...and you do that by practicing them (praktikos).
That is, not by pondering the esoteric meanings you found in a dusty book, nor the list of keywords the newest Tarot kid on the block is barfing up on her blog.
You learn the cards (well) by living them.
You can't be an adept and a lazy ass. Choose one...or the other.
Yesterday, I went on an "adventure" with Ron and Noah (that's what Noah calls them, anyway!)
Despite getting heaps of books for free as a reviewer, I spend a great deal of coin on books via Amazon and, when I'm in the vicinity, local brick-and-mortar bookstores (sadly, none are close).
So we were at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Morgantown, West Virginia, right? Now, when we go there, we usually spend about 2 hours or more there...and $100-$200 (hey, everyone has to have a vice!)
Noah spent probably 40 minutes selecting a guide to France (his newest interest). I spent about 40 minutes collecting various books (at least $100 worth). I asked them up front if I can keep my stash there (who wants to lug around tons of books while browsing?) and they kindly allowed me to.
Another 20 minutes goes by, and I add more to the stash. They just smile as I reach over and place more on the towering stack (well, the female clerks do).
We then commence to the cafe to look over/read about a dozen more books we want to get, erstwhile drinking Starbucks Mocha Coconut iced coffee and noshing on Candy Bar Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. After about 20 minutes, and winnowing down our choices, we go to check out.
I ask for my stack, please.
The young female clerk's eyes go wide. She stammers..."We...put them away."
Blood pressure goes from 120/70 to ballistic.
A bald-headed, faux-hipster 50-something jerk of an associate begins laughing (he was conversing with two other employees at the end of the row of registers). They were looking horrified (not sure if it was at him...or me).
I ask loudly, "This is funny to you?"
I then exclaim, "This...this is why I am a loyal Amazon fan. Why I use a Kindle. Why I spend most of my money there." (In fact--and I didn't mention this because I didn't want to deflate the import of my diatribe--it's also one reason why I ePublish exclusively through Kindle.)
The young clerk checking me out apologizes profusely. I'm just shaking my head, trying not to lose it.
One of the other associates, a cool guy I had the pleasure of chatting with earlier about Transcendalist Spirituality, Marxist economics and "everyone's right to a public defense--it's a constitutional thing" (he just got his JD and was waiting to pass the bar), comes up to me with a book and bookmark I had picked out.
"Are you psychic?" I couldn't believe it! (Hey, I'm a New Ager...I tend to look for far-out synchronicities...so sue me).
"No", he replied sheepishly. "We're trying to remember what we put away and get them back for you." (Did I mention I'm pretty fearsome, even when I don't try to be?)
I told hm not to bother. Really.
What irks me is that I was almost out the door when I remembered one of the major things I wanted to get at BN: a French kit so Mr. Noah could learn le français.
So I had to go back, find it and buy it.
Once in the car, I started to remember all the books I had on my stack...
One of them was the coolest Sherlock Holmes Casebook thing that I wanted to get Noah for his birthday.
Le sigh. Arguably the worst rub? I walked out of there $170 poorer... ::face palm::
This isn't the first time I had a bad experience with that over-the-hill hipster douchebag, either. And, the Greensburg, Pennsylvania Barnes and Noble isn't without blemish: I remember when there were lines for Harry Potter releases and a 40-something male associate was rude to everyone and positively hostile.
This is one reason I didn't feel sorry when Borders closed (they had some real idiots, too), nor do I feel bad that most chain bookstores are (hopefully?) hurting: they don't GET customer service. They thought they all had us in the (book)bag, free to treat us bibliophiles like shit.
Well, dumbasses, Amazon.com--and the eBook and indie revolution--has shown you otherwise.
May your rotting corporate corpse be littered with deckle-edged toilet paper wiped on Jonathan Franzen's self-important ass.
With all the uproar over the recent New York Times article The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy--especially the admission to buying 300 hundred reviews by "bestselling" indie-turned-traditional-author John Locke--people are wondering if Amazon.com reviews can be trusted at all. (Not to mention all the gushing reviews that authors bribe encourage from friends, family, neighbors and publicists...)
I'm here to tell you that yes, they can. Here's how to spot them (as well as bogus reviews):
1. Look for the Real Name badge
In order to have a Real Name badge as an Amazon.com Reviewer, an individual must VERIFY her identity via credit card. When an individual puts her name on a review, she is saying "I stand by my review and will put my reputation on the line for it."
2. Hall of Fame Reviewer or Top Reviewer badge
In order to reach this status, a reviewer will have chalked up hundreds (or thousands) of reviews posted...with TENS OF THOUSANDS of "helpful" votes for the total. Unless the reviewer doesn't have a life outside of reviewing, this signifies passion and dedication to the art and craft of reviewing (rare suspect reviewers like Harriet Klausner aside).
3. Quality and depth of the review
It's a no-brainer that anyone can type "This book sux". While a review doesn't have to (and shouldn't) rival the word count of the book being examined, a quality criticism contains examples of why the reviewer didn't like a book. Generalities such as "this books lack any inherent value" are meaningless. Quality reviewers (and thinkers) back up their assertions. Quality reviewers usually know how to spell and use good grammar, too.
4. Comparison with other posted reviews
One book. Thirteen 5-Star reviews. One 1-Star review. No 2, 3 or 4-Star reviews. You do the math.
5. Stars given over the long haul
In 2009, the FTC told bloggers and reviewers to disclose freebies from publishers or financial interest in a product--or face fines up to $11,000. This ruling was supposed to ameliorate the distrust of netizen reviewers. However, most bloggers and Amazon reviewers still do not post full- disclosure notices. So, how do you know if an Amazon reviewer is on the up-and-up...or just a publisher's go-to gusher because 5-Star reviews are the only thing she cranks out? Here's how: Scroll through the reviewer's profile on Amazon.com. Criteria 1-4 above being met, check to see if there's a mix of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5-Star reviews. Pages and pages of 5-Star reviews are to be taken with a grain of salt.
So, what about you, readers? How do you determine if a review is worth your consideration? What rings your alarm bells?
You’ve worked hard on your book or deck, lovingly dedicating yourself to your craft, your creation, your…baby.
Doesn’t he have Daddy’s chin?
Isn’t she the most adorable thing ever?
Thing is, books and decks aren’t babies…they’re products.
While the rare artist creates just for the sake of creating, most make art because they want to delight, entertain, inform, encourage and heal others.
This means most artists want, and need, an audience.
Otherwise, they’d be content to paint pictures, push pixels or massage words in obscurity.
Oh, and there’s this thing about paying the rent and eating at least one meal every 24 hours…
And maybe, just maybe, acquiring the ability to actually make a living at one’s art or—dare we dream—even become financially comfortable one day?
This takes coin. Serious coin.
In this day, even traditionally published authors need to promote their work as much as their indie brethren.
So, inspired by their colleagues who make it look oh-so-easy, these proud parents hop on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn—hoping to connect their progeny to a buying welcoming world…expecting perfect strangers (or even past fans) to lavish it with praise and PayPal transactions.
A week goes by. Then two. Then a month.
Why hasn’t the world fêted my newborn with the cyber-equivalent of a baby shower, replete with Twitter RTs rattles, FB shares stuffed bears and Amazon purchases tender congratulations wrapped around a financial gift?, the creative mother quietly asks herself.
The new parent becomes nervous. The world isn’t jumping on the “my kid is great” bandwagon.
Weeks go by.
Hell, they haven’t even helped with the baby announcements!
Staring at the computer monitor, heartbeat caroming the ribcage like butterflies hepped up on coke, the parent cries Where are my friends? My family? My supportive colleagues?
The parent begins Googling the baby, hoping to find a book blogger’s mention an announcement in the local newspaper or an Amazon review old-fashioned card of congratulations delivered snail-mail.
Desperation ensues, and a thick miasma of mixed feelings descends on the once-thrilled mama artist.
And the social media whoring begins.
Sample an excerpt!
Follow me and I’ll follow you!
Now free on Kindle! Three days only! Don’t MISS IT!
See my new painting! Here’s a coupon code worth 10% off!
My new book on Smashwords! It's a cross between Stephen King and Nora Roberts!
Suddenly, internet acquaintances are bombarded with these kinds of anxious posts birth announcements from you…the frantic proud parent.
Facebook groups that you’ve not posted to for a year or more suddenly see chirpy greetings from you, complete with a link to your product page baby photos. Colleagues that you have ignored when they launched a new Tarot deck birthed new babies get surprise messages.
Radio silence for months—even years—and BOOM, you and your “baby” are everywhere.
Some are happy to see you. Others wonder where you’ve been.
Colleagues who could have really used your encouragement and support when they were trying to get pregnant—eventually getting that baby baking in the oven and finding themselves in their own new-parent boat—begin to resent your sudden chumminess.
They see what you’re doing.
You’re using them. And, sometimes, their groups.
And whoring your baby, to boot.
People begin to feel icky around you and about you. You’ve not engaged with these acquaintances and former colleagues for months and months. You’ve not been there when a Dad has died, a pet was lost or a child has graduated High School.
You were nowhere in sight during Facebook “dance parties” when we gathered to post our favorite YouTube videos—chatting a running commentary on times past.
No replies or “likes” for the funny posted cartoons, the aired angst of a working creative or the new coffee creamer that’s to die for.
In short, you don’t really care about relationships. At least, it doesn’t look that way.
Because if you did, you’d be there for all the “little things” (or, at least, one little “thing” a week)...as opposed to, you know, only showing your face when you want something have a baby announcement.
Let me be clear: it’s about relationships.
These days, content may still be King…but relationships are Queen. You are no Queen if you forget or dismiss the “social” in Social Media.
Given two equally lovely Tarot decks, informative books or helpful services, consumers will likely support the artist/author/maven who has been engaged with them for the long haul. Who chatted them up in the wee hours even when no product was being launched. Who cared enough to answer a FB post, Tweet or email. Who provided helpful information, reviews or advice when they were trying to get “pregnant”.
But, you may be whining saying, I don’t have time to do that! I’m busy creating!
Look, I write traditionally published books and eBooks. I own four blogs, and write for a fifth. I conduct Tarot webinars and radio interviews. I’m a professional Tarot reader for a worldwide clientele. I'm an Amazon.com Hall of Fame/Vine Reviewer. I’m co-creating the Snowland Deck, and forming a cottage industry around it (including designing jewelry, picking out fabrics, procuring crystals). I am my own webmaster (always have been), and handle all my personal correspondences, bookings and social media.
This, on top of owning a 12-room house to take care of with my husband, domestic duties and homeschooling our almost-14-year-old…not factoring in other “life issues” like losing my Dad in March, illness and dealing with a terrorizing neighbor who’s out on bail for attempted murder (thankfully, not mine!).
So don’t tell me you don’t have “time” to make connections, foster friendships and remain engaged with your potential fan base…even for only a few minutes a day.
If you have time to smoke a cigarette, watch reality TV for hours on end or drink a cup of coffee, you have time to interact with people online.
Simple as that.
Don’t think you can ignore people for months (or years) and expect them to throw a full-on party for your newest creative baby.
We don’t live in that kind of internet world.
Well guess what? An Appetite for Murder, the first book in the new Key West Food Critic Mystery series, features Tarot reading!
Penned by Roberta Isleib under the pseudonym Lucy Burdette, here's the scoop on this cozy culinary mystery:
Hayley Snow's life always revolved around food. But when she applies to be a food critic for a Key West style magazine, she discovers that her new boss would be Kristen Faulkner-the woman Hayley caught in bed with her boyfriend! Hayley thinks things are as bad as they can get-until the police pull her in as a suspect in Kristen's murder. Kristen was killed by a poisoned key lime pie. Now Hayley must find out who used meringue to murder before she takes all the blame.
I've read the first few pages of An Appetite for Murder, and it's an interesting, entertaining read. I can't wait to read the whole thing!
Roberta has also written the Advice Column Mystery series (I have them all!), as well as the Golf Lover's Mysteries.
-- Janet Boyer
Who wants to win Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints & Sages by Judika Illes and/or Tarot Spreads: Layouts & Techniques to Empower Your Readings by Barbara Moore and/or Journey Oracle by Adrienne Trafford? You can win one, two or all THREE (if you want), no matter where in the world you live.
Just stroll on over to my Tarot in Reverse Facebook page at http://fb.me/TAROTinREVERSE to see how you can earn scads of entries to win any one (or all three) of these wonderful goodies. Good luck, and thanks for helping me to celebrate the launch of Tarot in Reverse (pub day in 9 days!)
-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Hall of Fame/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)
Writer's Digest author Christina Katz is giving away my new Tarot in Reverse on her blog today--Day 17 of her Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway 2012!
And while you're in a bookish/writing mood, do check out Christina's fantastic books The Writer's Workout, Get Known Before the Book Deal and Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids.
Best of luck!
-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Hall of Fame/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)
Please vote for JanetBoyer.com in the Independent Book Blogger Awards!
If you like my reviews (I've written over 1,000!), would you be so kind to head on over to Goodreads at this link and click the VOTE button? No registration necessary...just a click.
Thank you so much!
Today is dedicated to the letter "I", brought to you by the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.
-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Hall of Fame/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot,Tarot in Reverse and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)
“Earth Day celebrates all the life on earth, from apricots to junebugs to zebras. The wonders of nature leap from the page, reminding us that every day is a reason to say thank you and that miracles are as simple as ABC.” – From the book jacket copy
According to BookLamp.org, the question “How long should my book be?” comes up fairly often when working with early writers. It is a deceptively simple question that’s historically had very little data to help answer it.
Behold, an infographic from the Book Genome Project!
-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Hall of Fame/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot,Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)
Rather, it depends on what the retailer (the one selling you the product) pays for the deck or book!
My advice as a Tarot author and deck creator? Buy your decks or books at Amazon.com or some other place that gives you a discount (we can all use the break, right?). Please note, though, that if you buy a Tarot book or deck used or at the "remainder table" (it will have a black mark on the outside pages), then authors/artists do not get royalties on those sales.
Supporting a retailer, especially one that charges full price for decks (plus shipping and handling), does not mean more money for the author/artist in terms of royalties! In only means more money for the retailer.
So next time you're about to pay retail price for a Tarot book and deck, think long and hard why you're doing it...because a Tarot author or deck isn't benefiting from your paying full price.
-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Hall of Fame/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot,Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)
Delightfully illustrated by Alison Oliver and conceived by Jennifer Adams, Little Miss Bronte: Jane Eyre features characters and objects from the beloved classic in the form of a counting primer.
We’re presented with 1 Governess, 2 Trunks, 3 Candles, 4 Towers (Thornfield Hall!), 5 Trees, 6 Chalkboards, 7 Insects, 8 Drawings (Adele! Mr. Rochester!), 9 Pears and 10 Books.
Admittedly, I haven’t read Jane Eyre since Junior High, but it doesn’t take a Janeite to realize that calling this book BabyLit is more than a stretch (and an insult to literary types, really).
If you’d like to introduce literature to toddlers in the most basic of forms (a few characters, general setting and a classic book title), then you very well may enjoy the BabyLit Jane Eyre Counting Primer. I can see how it might be a big hit at an upscale baby shower (or among intellectual wannabes).
But if you’re looking for a basic re-telling of Jane Eyre to pass on to little ones, I think you will be greatly disappointed.
-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Hall of Fame/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot,Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)