New Facebook and Instagram Accounts

You may remember that a little over a month ago, my Facebook and Instagram accounts were suspended for no reason that I can guess. It could have been that someone reported me, that something I posted tripped a bot/algorithm or they found out I write under a pen name, which is against their TOS for a profile (but not a page, a famous person or a drag queen, go figure).

Anywho, today they disabled them completely, so I started new profiles and pages: Facebook and Instagram. It’s going to take me a while to catch up on all the news that happened while I was away. So please be patient as I rebuild.

While it sucks to lose all my friends and followers, if they are true friends or fans, they will find me again. I am choosing to look at this as an opportunity to start over and have more control over who I friend and what I see. I was in way too many groups anyway. 😉

What I Have Learned from This Experience

  • Build your email list as much as you can. Social media can be taken away from you at any time. (Have you signed up for my newsletter? If not, please do so now in case this happens again–I don’t want to lose you twice! It just might.)
  • Tighten your security as much as possible. FB lets you designate three to five people who can help you recover your account if something happens and I’m sure there are other ways of locking it down. You bet I will investigate every one of them.
  • If you have a page, set someone you trust as an administrator. Any way you can have other people will access to your account (within reason, of course) will help you if you ever get in trouble with our social media overlords.
  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you can’t trust. I don’t want to believe it, but it could have been a friend, family member or fellow author who reported me. So I’m going to be extra careful who I friend. There’s no guarantee it won’t happen with the new accounts. If we know each other well, you are welcome on my profile. If not, everyone is welcome on my page!
  • Be careful what you post. I’m not saying to not have opinions or censor yourself- I certainly won’t because it isn’t who I am. But just to give one example of the world we live in, apparently you can’t use the word “suicide” on any social media anymore. I had the word in a poem. That could be what got flagged. I don’t know how one is supposed to keep up with banned terms, but they do exist.
  • Think twice if you write under a pen name. FB allows drag queens and famous actors/authors to use pen names, but not the rest of us. Just go in knowing this may happen to you. One of my fairly famous author friends has been banned from FB four times for that exact reason. She just keeps coming back.
  • These companies don’t respond to their users. I spent a month and at least a dozen email and form exchanges with them to no avail. I provided multiple forms of ID and proof that [insert legal name here] really is Nicole Evelina. I sent them a “proof of life” photo with things they requested visible on a piece of paper. Yet this morning FB was still claiming I never protested my suspension. FB has no real person you can call and most of FB/Insta’s emails are no reply. Even if you do get an email that looks like it is from a real person and reply back, you won’t hear anything. Plus, the emails you do get will contradict each other. Or at least that was my experience.

So, anyway, here we are. I hope you will follow me on my new accounts. And have you signed up for my newsletter yet?

Just to be clear – I am only calling out drag queens in this post because they are a rare (and hard-fought) exception to the rules. I really like drag as an art form and would never want to disrespect anyone.

Reading Tarot Spreads to Help With Your Writing

This is the second part in a series on the tarot. If you’re new to it, please start with part one for an introduction to the cards, how they work and what they mean, then come back to learn how to use them in your writing.

Before you read, you might like to find a quiet place where you can be alone with your thoughts and really think about what each card is trying tell you. Have a notebook and pen, or your computer handy so you can jot down ideas as they come to you. Some people choose to lay out a special cloth (usually a solid color) on which to place the cards because it helps focus the mind. If you are religious, you might want to ask your guardian angel or the muses or whatever god(s) you believe in to guide your reading, but that is totally optional.

To begin, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Think about your question. If you are using your reading to build out your plot from the beginning, you might ask a question like “What is the framework of this book?” or “Show me how this plot should progress.” If you’re trying the work through a block, think about it as specifically as you can, something like “what happens to X character next?” or “How does X get out of [name the jam you put them in].” If you are building a character you could start with “Show me X’s progression throughout the book.” Keep repeating your question in your mind over and over as you shuffle the deck. You’ll know when to stop. Sometimes you will feel a card get hot or cold or your fingers will tingle. Other times, you just know to stop. Sometimes nothing at all happens and you just get tired of shuffling. Trust your instincts; there are no wrong answer. Once you feel ready, draw your first card from the top of the deck.

Because of their unique symbolism, you can always do readings using only the major or minor arcana cards if you want to. But I have found that using both major and minor arcana (which is the standard practice) gives you a more complete picture. There are three basic types of spreads, which I’ll explain from the easiest to the most complex.

One Card Spreads

This involves drawing a single card and is the fastest and easiest, It allows you to be very focused in your question and answer, but it also provides you with the least amount of information because you don’t have the influence of surrounding cards. But if you are in a hurry or just need a prompt to get you going, one is all you need. Potential uses:

Getting to know your characters – Draw a card for each major character in your plot. This will tell you a lot about them, since we each have a card that best symbolizes who we are. (Mine is Strength.) This is best determined over time through multiple readings when the same card keeps showing up over and over again, but can also be done with a single reading.

I recently did this for a book I was plotting. It is biographical historical fiction set in WWII Poland and the card I drew was the Knight of Wands . This card symbolizes someone clever, with a strong sense of humor who is good with words and has sound instincts and a gift for seeing things others may have missed. This describes my heroine (who was a real person) to a tee. Because of this card, I learned what key aspects of her personality to focus on when writing.

Get to know the overall “vibe” of your book. A single card can also tell you about the theme(s) of your book. As I was writing this article, I pulled a card for my latest project, another biographical historical, this one set the colonial United States. My card was The Five of Wands I was immediately struck by the image, which shows five people fighting with staves, because while my book written in a single first-person POV, there are multiple competing timelines and storylines to keep straight, so much so that I needed to make a chart.

The meaning of the card is competition and being obsessed with material things or as the book that came with the deck puts it “keeping up with the Joneses.” That is certainly relevant because there are many men competing for the affection of my heroine. She also a very well-to-do woman who was known historically for her lavish parties and spending that, combined with her husband’s gambling, eventually drove them deep into debt. The card can also mean a clash of ideas and principles and hurting others by giving mixed messages. My main character is in love with her sisters’ husband and both are tempted to have an affair. Much of their relationship takes place via letter and because of both, they often wonder what the other really feels.

(While I was writing this, I accidently knocked the next card off the top of the deck. It was The Lovers which is what I was expecting the main card for the book to be because it is essentially a story of forbidden love. Always pay attention when cards fall out of the deck as you shuffle or otherwise make themselves known—it happens for a reason.

Find the answer to a plot problem or writer’s block. All you have to do here is ask what the problem is. Pay close attention to what the card symbolizes. It may tell you where you’ve gone wrong in plotting in another part of the book, directly answer your question, or even tell you about something in yourself that is causing the block (such as being overworked and needing to take a break).

Three Card Spreads

There are many variations on three-card spreads, but the most common is past-present-future, which can be used for both plots and characters.

  • If you write to a three-act structure, you could use this spread to learn about the themes of each act.
  • You could take each of your major characters and do a past-present-future spread to learn about their backstory, where they are when the book begins, and how they change as the novel progresses.
  • For character arcs, think about one card as being where the character is now, the second as where they want to be, and the third how to get there.
  • If you are experiencing a writing problem, you can have one card symbolize the nature of the problem, one the cause, and one the solution. Similarly, you can have the cards stand for what the character wants/what will help them, what is standing in their way, and how to overcome it.
  • We’ve all heard about MRUs (motivation reaction units), right? One card can be your character’s thought/feeling, one their reaction, and the third, what he or she is going to say or do in response.
  • If you are mulling over the relationship between characters you could have one card stand for each character and the third for their relationship. Or you could use one for what brought them together, one for what pulls them apart, and the third for the resolution. (This one is particularly good for romance novels and romantic plotlines.)

You could seriously go on forever with these. There’s a long list of three-card spreads online here.

The Celtic Cross Spread

This is the classic tarot spread, the one you’ve seen in every TV show and movie with a fortune teller and the one you will see if you go visit one in real life. This is because it is the most comprehensive. I’m going to explain it first, and then show you a few ways to use it.

The Celtic Cross spread involves 10 or 11 cards. Some people choose to designate one card that is set off to the side to symbolize the question or the person asking the question. If you choose to do this, you will draw that card first after you have finished shuffling the deck. Then draw the cards from the top of the deck and lay them out according to the pattern above.

Once you’ve done that. Take a look at the overall spread. Is your gut telling you anything? Does the spread feel inherently happy or sad, positive or negative? Does anything immediately jump out at you? It can take some time to develop the ability to get the “feel” for a spread, so don’t worry if you don’t come up with anything right away.

Next, take a look at each card individually. Write down your impressions of each one. I did a reading for my colonial American book while writing this using the question “show me what I need to know about X book” and I’ll give you my cards as well as an example.

My overall impression is that this is a positive reading with five major arcana cards (which is a lot) and no dominant suit (two swords and two pentacles, which neutralize each other’s negative and positive elements). It’s going to be an interesting reading.

  1. Relationship to the Present Situation. Queen of Swords – An impressive, trailblazing woman of courage and intelligence who will not be held down by convention. This is my main character very clearly summed up.
  2. Positive Forces in Your Favor. The Chariot – Triumph, balance, holding opposing views in equal tension. Enjoying life. This describes my character’s approach to life pretty well, though she’s more known for extravagance than balance.
  3. Message from Your Higher Self – Queen of Pentacles – Female strength and success in business and with money. A caring woman concerned with the lives of those around her. Again, you have to trust me that this fits my character very well.
  4. Subconscious/Underlying Themes/Emotional – The Priestess – Inspiration and advice from a woman who is wise and mature. Can also represent isolation. That last part is interesting to me because my heroine spends most of the book in another country than the rest of her family. Her best friend could easily be represented by the priestess and would provide calm to her boundless energy.
  5. The Past – The Fool – Setting off on a journey unaware of an uncaring of the consequences; innocence and foolishness. My character married very young and regrets it almost immediately when her husband turns out not to be who she though he was (quite literally) and she falls in love with someone else, but can’t have him because she is already married.
  6. Relationship with Others – The Two of Cups – The minor arcana card most like The Lovers. Represents relationships, attraction, engagement/marriage and emotional bonds. Perfect for describing the forbidden love she experiences for most of her life.
  7. Psychological States/Forces That Can Affect the Outcome – The Six of Swords. Ugh, the swords. Movement, alignment of heart and mind, a declaration of love, focus and follow-through with unpredictable results. Funny that this one depicts a journey across water because my character travels back and forth between America and Europe a lot. Again, I see shades of the forbidden romance in this card, especially since it comes right between the Two of Cups and The Sun
  8. Environment/Unseen Forces – The Sun – Triumph, bounty, enjoying life. It is interesting that the book that comes with this deck mentions “summer love” in connection to this card. If my two historical people ever actually consummated their affair, it would have been a particular summer while his wife was away.
  9. Hopes and Fears – The Magician – A man of creativity, power and strong voice who is eloquent and charming. This could be my hero and describe what my heroine sees in him. This card can also mean someone who is manipulative and at times untrue, which applies to her fears about him just being a flirt and not really loving her since she is already married. (Which is something historians haven’t even figured out.)
  10. Outcome – The King of Pentacles – A proud, self-assured young man of status and wealth, a supportive husband who recognizes the value of culture. This card could represent either her husband or her lover. Her husband is proud and wealthy, but he is not exactly supportive, while her lover is. I see this as the outcome she wants; her ideal man. Unfortunately, he does not exist and history does not bear out a happy ending for her or her lover. However, as a writer, I see this as an opportunity to really amp up the tragedy of the ending. Outcomes are even more powerful when the hero and heroine don’t get what they want because readers have been rooting for them the entire book and now will mourn with them as well.

Finally, look at the cards in groups of three or four. Do they affect each other or change the meaning of surrounding cards? Make notes of anything that notice. Again, it may take time to learn this part. In my example, as you can see from the explanations above, the first four cards agree with each other and strengthen one another in a description of my heroine. In the same way, cards six through nine all play on the same theme of forbidden love. Taken together, these influenced my interpretation of the Outcome card.

Of course, everything is subject to interpretation; I may read a spread totally differently than you do, which is why some people don’t put any stock in tarot readings. And that is fine. I’m only here to advise you on how you can use them as a tool in your writing; whether or not you believe they will work for you is a personal decision.

Once you get comfortable with your cards you can also make up your own spreads to fit your questions. They can be circular, triangle, any shape that works for what you need. You could even take the major archetypes and draw a card for each one or take your favorite plot arc or character arc tool (I’m a fan of Michael Hauge’s “Six Stage Plot Structure” and Larry Brooks’ Four Part Structure) and make up a spread to fit it. The sky is the limit.

I hope this series of articles has given you a new tool in your writing toolbox. If you are familiar with other systems of divination like runes, wisdom sticks, or even astrology or dowsing with a pendulum, you can employ those as well. They all tap into your subconscious mind in a similar manner. Best of luck!

How to Use the Tarot in Your Writing

Two weeks ago at the Historical Novel Society conference, I participated in a brief lecture from my dear friend Kris Waldherr on how writers can use the tarot to help plan their books. It not only re-invigorated me in my study of tarot and inspired me to create my own deck, it reminded me I wrote a series of two articles about it a while back for Novelists’ Inc. that I have never shared here. 

This first article covers the basics of what tarot is (and is not), what the cards mean and how they are used so that readers who have no familiarity with the tarot can catch up. The next article, which I will publish tomorrow simultaneously here and over at my second home on Spellbound Scribes, will go into detail on how to use it in your writing.


We’ve all heard of tarot cards and seen then used by witches and fortune tellers in the movies and on TV. Unfortunately, the persistent use of them by Hollywood to evoke fear and evil has led to many people thinking the tarot is something it is not. Before we begin, I want to address some common tarot misconceptions:

  1. The tarot is not evil. It is just a set of cards with pictures on them. That’s it. A tarot deck is no more or less powerful than a regular deck of playing cards.
  2. It will not summon the devil or any evil spirits. The tarot actually has nothing to do with any religion. You can choose for it to be part of your spiritual practice, but it doesn’t have to be. The cards are neither positive nor negative; it is your intent that makes them one way or the other. You’d have to be very intentional and work really hard to summon anything evil with them. And I don’t recommend trying.
  3. If you are Christian and you use it, you will not go to hell. Well, you might, but not for that! In fact, there is even a book on how Christians can use the tarot called Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. I highly recommend it. There are also several Christian tarot decks.
  4. You don’t have to be religious to use it. Even though divination using playing cards pre-dates modern psychology, tarot really is all about your subconscious mind, so you can be an atheist and it will work just the same as if you are religious.

If you’re not comfortable with tarot or think it is wrong, by all means don’t use it. I would never want you to do something that goes against your beliefs or makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong. But if you’re curious, read on.

What the Tarot Is

So, if all of that is true, how exactly does the tarot work? The easiest explanation is that it is a way to tap into your subconscious mind, which holds a lot of information and answers we don’t normally access with our conscious brains. As we know from dreams, our subconscious works in symbols, which is why there is standard symbolism on each tarot card, regardless of the specific artwork.

The tarot’s symbolism is heavily based in archetypes because these are pretty much eternal and unchanging. The most common archetypes include:

  1. The Hero who is undertaking the quest.
  2. The Mentor who guides them.
  3. The Ally who accompanies them.
  4. The Herald who says “hey, hero, it’s time for a change in your life” and kicks off the quest.
  5. The Trickster, who is the comic relief and mischief maker.
  6. The Shapeshifter, who is kind of like a frenemy and could be friend or foe or both.
  7. The Wizard/Guardian who tests the hero
  8. The Shadow, who is the villain.

If these roles sound familiar, that’s because they are also the building blocks of storytelling. Each of these, and more, are reflected in the card’s symbolism. More on that in a minute.

The System of Tarot

Every tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards divided into the major arcana (22 cards) and minor arcana (56 cards). The major arcana are like the face cards of a regular deck of playing cards. Major arcana cards are more significant and helpful in understanding your characters and plot because these cards represent powerful forces and events which can shape them. Major arcana cards can identifying the major plot points of your book and the basics of your outline.

There are countless ways of interpreting these cards (here’s a good online resource), so we’ll take a brief look at each and how they might be used to indicate a character or plot point. (Click on the image to see it larger.)

The Major Arcana

  1. The Fool – This is the hero of our story, the unwitting innocent setting out the journey of your book. He symbolizes being open to new possibilities and sometimes being foolish in your ignorance. If your hero is otherwise represented, he or she could be an ally to the main character. This person is usually well-intentioned, but can also be bungling.
  2. The Magician – The magician symbolizes intelligence, talent, intuition, freedom and confidence, but he can also be a tricky showman. His message is that you already have everything you need to accomplish your goals. Depending on the story, he could be the mentor for your hero, the herald who kicks off the quest, a trickster or possibly the wizard who tests your hero. Study the surrounding cards for clues.
  3. The High Priestess – She is a woman of great power and strength and symbolizes the inner voice or intuition. She also represents spiritual forces like wisdom and insight and is a wise counselor who may live at a remove from the rest of the world. She could also be the mentor of your main character or even the herald if used with prophecy or magic.
  4. The Empress – She is the ultimate feminine figure and powerful ruler. She is a strong role model and peacemaker, a guide, and example of dignity. She is often associated with fertility and Mother Earth. Another mentor possibility, but she could also take her power too far and become a dark figure.
  5. The Emperor – This is the card of hard-won leadership and power, an authority figure who knows his stuff. He represents masculine energy that is stable, reasonable and ethical. He is another possible mentor figure, but he could also be seeking to hold your hero down, just like some rulers seek to oppress their people.
  6. The Hierophant/Priest – This figure represents tradition, authority and adherence to established rules and customs. He is also a powerful spiritual force and you would do well to listen to his wisdom. It’s possible this card could represent the mentor, but depending on the circumstances, he could also be the shapeshifter or even the shadow. He would be a fun villain to write and would pose a formidable challenge for your hero, who is usually seeking to overthrow all he represents.
  7. The Lovers – The lovers are all about relationships, and not necessarily just sexual ones, friendships too. They also guide values and decisions and symbolize intense emotions such as the blindness and irrationality of love. They often appear in reading when a decision is needed and can indicate a positive past choice. This card could be the ally who helps the heroine in her journey or could represent a love interest or romantic aspect to the plot.
  8. The Chariot – Represents triumph, victory and success and is connected to natural drive and determination. But the Chariot warns you can’t just depend on your dreams; you must take action to make them happen. As such, this is a card of agency for a character and movement/momentum in the plot.
  9. Strength – This card is all about inner strength—fortitude of heart and mind that enables you to overcome any obstacle. It also symbolizes perseverance and facing your fears head on. A character with this card would be strong, but could also be stubborn, which could lead to difficulties with other characters or obstacles in the plot that the hero will have to fight to overcome.
  10. The Hermit – As his name implies, the Hermit represents solitude and listening to the voice within. He could be the guide to your hero, or he could be the trickster, falsely be urging them to withdrawn when action is required, depending on the surrounding cards. If he comes out of isolation set up the quest, he can also function as the herald. He represents a place in the plot where introspection is needed before the hero can make a decision/move on.
  11. Wheel of Fortune – This the wheel of fate, representing the ups and downs of life. The card reminds us that the only permanence in life is change and that we must be open to learning the lessons of the present moment. Usually it is interpreted as a card of good luck, but depending on the surrounding cards, it could also indicate a reversal of fortune. It is a good card for plotting points of major change or evaluating how your character handles it.
  12. Justice – As the name implies, this card is about karma and getting what you deserve. If that is a main theme in your book, play close attention to this card. It can also be about acting as a judge and weighing choices in order to make a decision or needing to be impartial. This card could indicate a character who is judgmental (or who teaches others not to judge) or it could represent a moment your main character is called to account for their actions, either within their own mind or by someone else.
  13. The Hanged Man – The hanged man is all about being stuck or being in the in between. He usually represents needing to make a decision or being at a crossroads in life. Usually a sacrifice is required to be able to move on. This card can also mean punishment for a crime. This card can represent where your character is before he/she takes up the call for change at the beginning of a book or any point where they feel unable to move forward. In the latter case, look at surrounding cards to see who or what might able to help propel them forward.
  14. DeathThis card does not usually mean literal death! It can, in rare cases, but usually instead represents transformation, the dying of the old so the new can be reborn. It can indicate the end of a cycle or the end of relationship and can symbolize your fears or even the end of suffering. As such it is versatile in revealing a character’s weakness and vulnerabilities, but an also be used to point points of change in a story.
  15. Temperance – As the name indicates, this is a card of moderation. Patience is her virtue and she can represent grace under pressure, good manners, the ability to adapt or be creative. She is symbol of balance and harmony. She can represent an advocate or ally or your character or a warning not to get out of control.
  16. The DevilThis card is not evil, no matter what Hollywood says. When you are using tarot for writing, this card will usually indicate your shadow or villain character or forces working against your main character. It represents our baser instincts and can symbolize obsession, abuse and addictions. It can also symbolize a positive character embracing their wild or vengeful side or feeling trapped.
  17. The Tower – This card is not a fun one to see in a reading because it represents destruction and major change. But that isn’t always bad; it can mean the breaking down of the old to begin anew, as in a desired divorce. Usually the best solution is to give in and then pick up the pieces and start over. This often appears to represent the “black moment” in a plot – the point where all seems lost for the hero.
  18. The Star – The star represents hope, peace and freedom, inspiration and enlightenment. It can mean relying on yourself and taking steps to improve yourself or your situation. It also symbolizes healing and following your destiny or the will of the gods. For characters, it can mean agency or following a force greater than themselves.
  19. The Moon – Just as the moon rules the tides and can affect human sanity, this card represents powerful emotions and vivid dreams. It can mean a time of disorientation, anxiety or repressing things into your subconscious. Because it can indicate a shadowy person or situation, insanity or obsession with the macabre, it can represent your villain or something involving deception that will happen to your hero. Or it can mean something underhanded he or she is doing, willingly or not.
  20. The Sun – This card is the opposite of the Moon. It indicates things done out in the light of day, triumph and victory, glory, safety and well-being. It can also represent the innocence and joy of childhood. It is an uplifting card that indicates all is well in the world. In characterization, it is associated with genuinely good, innocent people, like Forrest Gump, for example.
  21. Judgement – Like the Last Judgement (which is often depicted on the card) it represents resurrection and rebirth, a reawakening and new opportunities. It can also symbolize a rite of passage, a positive change, or a new way of thinking. In plotting a book, this card would naturally fall between or at the beginning or end of an act or section because that is where major changes occur.
  22. The World – This card represents seeing beyond oneself into the interconnectedness of all things. It represents mystical insight and faith and being in control of one’s fate. You are exactly where you are meant to be. In character development, this would be a very confident character who understand their destiny and is actively seeking it. In plotting, it could represent a happy ending or being ready to move on to something new.

The Minor Arcana

The minor arcana are like the numbered suit cards in a deck of playing cards. They are even divided into four suits, with ten regular cards and four face cards: the prince/page, knight, queen, king. While the major arcana represent the “big” things in life, the minor arcana fill in the humdrum, daily details and can be especially helpful in fleshing out the outline that major arcana cards give you.

The suits all have different symbolism:

  1. Wands/Staves/Staffs – are associated with the element of air and the ideas of movement and growth. Wands represent ideas, creativity, hopes and dreams. My experience with readings heavy on this suit are usually positive, but variable. Like the wind they represent, they are changeable and sometimes fickle.
  2. Cups – are associated with the element of water and your mental and spiritual state, as well as your relationships. Cups are highly emotional and can be either positive or negative, depending on the surrounding cards.
  3. Swords – are associated with the element of fire and with conflict. Like a blade, they can be sharp and deliver messages we don’t really want to hear, especially about our health and relationships. They can be harbingers of ill tidings, but they can also make us face realities we want to deny, leading to wisdom and healing. I cringe when I see a reading heavy on swords because they are generally negative cards, unless you work really hard to find the silver lining.
  4. Pentacles/Coins/Disks – are associated with the element of earth and the material world, primarily dealing with matters of money, career and all forms of prosperity: emotional, physical and spiritual. I have found that if your reading contains a lot of this suit, it will be generally positive.

Some people also read “reverse” cards, meaning a card laid upside down when dealt. Generally, that reverses the usual meaning of the card. Most books will provide you with both regular and reverse meanings for each card. I don’t personally read reverse cards because I think the tarot is complex enough without it.

Almost every tarot desk comes with a book, so if you don’t want to invest in additional materials when you’re first starting out, you don’t have to. Those books are enough to teach you the basics and help you to interpret the cards.

I suggest searching online or visiting your local New Age store and seeing what decks speak to you. It’s usually wise to look at a deck in person and get a literal feel for it, but when that is not possible, this a good place to start.

The classic tarot deck is the Rider-Waite Tarot. (I don’t personally like that deck; it freaks me out for some reason.) There a deck for literally every personality from Victorian to Goth to faeries and unicorns, as well as every culture and sexual orientation. There are even decks to tie in with movies like Lord of the Rings, TV shows like Game of Thrones and books like Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea.

If you decide to purchase a deck, take some time to get to know the cards. Study each one and note what it says to you and it makes you feel. That’s the first step to learning how to read them. Then, if the deck comes with a book, read it and study each card while reading its definition. Over time, you’ll learn what to associate with each card.

One last note: If you aren’t comfortable with tarot cards, you might want to consider oracle cards. These are similar to tarot, but they don’t have the formalize structure around them that tarot does so they can be used in any way you want. I like them for single card readings. Many Christians also find these less daunting because they don’t come with the evil stigma that tarot does. Here’s an article on the differences and a Christian-based list.

In case you’re wondering what I use:

Tarot: I started with a basic set for beginners  and then moved on to Legend: The Arthurian Tarot. After a while, some of the cards became so associated in my mind with certain people who were no longer in my life that I couldn’t read with that deck anymore. I bought the Llewellyn Tarot and have been using that for years now, but I just realized yesterday that I have lost a few cards so I have to order a new deck. Not sure what I want yet. I also own the Mysteries of Mary tarot.

Oracle Decks: I personally own several oracle decks, though I don’t use them as much as my tarot cards: The Mists of Avalon Oracle, Queen of the Moon Oracle, Notes from the Universe on Abundance Cards, The Wisdom of Avalon Oracle, Archetype Cards and the Goddess Guidance Cards.

International Domestic Workers Day

In the 10 years I’ve been blogging (10 years today, actually!), I’ve never done two posts in one day because I don’t want to annoy you, my lovely readers. However, I am making an exception today because it is not only publication day for my new novella, Consequences, but also International Domestic Workers Day, which ties in closely with the plot and themes of the book.

Did you know that the men and women who clean our houses, tend our gardens, care for our children, aging parents and the disabled have practically no rights under U.S. Law? As such, many live below the poverty line and they are still routinely subject to unfair labor practices, abuse and even human trafficking. Read my op-ed in The Hill to learn more.

I knew nothing about this before I started research for this book. But since, I have become very passionate about it. I’ll be posting updates as things in Washington D.C. and other states happen because I intend to stay involved in this issue.

What You Can Do
If you employ domestic workers, know the law where you live and be sure they are paid and treated fairly. If you need help, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network is there to guide you.

Contact your representatives and urge them to fight for a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, especially Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Jayapal, who sponsored the 2019 bill. Congress holds the keys to a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights moving forward. Let them know that you support fair labor and employment practices for all and will no longer be silent while domestic workers are treated like second-class citizens.

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray – Out Today!

My friend and fellow historical fiction author, Stephanie Dray, has a new book out today! She calls The Women of Chateau Lafayette a seven-year labor of love. I know all about books that take years to come to fruition so I can’t wait to read this one. I’ve read her previous books, America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton and loved them, so I’m sure this one will be excellent as well.

Oh and it was picked as one of OprahMag’s most anticipated historical fiction novels, so….Be sure to check it out!

✭✭✭ ABOUT THE BOOK ✭✭✭

An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy.

Most castles are protected by men. This one by women.

A founding mother…

  1. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband, the Marquis de Lafayette’s political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary…

  1. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing—not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France firsthand, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what’s right.

A reluctant resistor…

  1. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan’s self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.

Intricately woven and powerfully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we take from those who came before us.

✭✭✭ADD TO YOUR GOODREADS LIST✭✭✭

✭✭✭SIGN UP TO BE NOTIFIED✭✭✭

✭✭✭ FOLLOW STEPHANIE ON BOOKBUB ✭✭✭

✭✭✭ BUY NOW ✭✭✭

Amazon | Apple Books | Audible | Book Depository | Bookshop.org | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | IndieBound | Books-a-million | Target | Kobo

✭✭✭ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ✭✭✭

STEPHANIE DRAY is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. Now she lives in Maryland with her husband, cats, and history books. For more, see: StephanieDray.com

2021 Word of the Year and Goals

I feel like in the last six months, and especially in the last two to three weeks, I have popped out of some kind of opaque chrysalis that I didn’t know I was living in into a new life, a new me. I have a new outlook on life, a greater feeling of maturity (I’ve always been a little emotionally behind others my age), and an energizing feeling of direction and purpose.

I know with crystal clarity what kind of life I want to live and am taking steps in all aspects to get what I want.

I feel like there is no limit on what I can do. That’s why I chose the phrase “infinite possibilities,” as my Word of the Year for 2021. I am optimistic that this year will bring me endless possibilities for success, growth, money, and all good things. And I plan to take advantage of every one of them.

To that end, I’ve established both author and personal goals for 2021. I’m fine with sharing both here because I am the same person whether you are talking to me as an author or a regular person and I aim to be authentic in all I do.

Writing Goals:

  • Get a contract for Minor bio. (Okay, that’s more in my agent’s hands than mine.)
  • Finish Colonial/Revolutionary War histfic by end of July.
  • Finish WWII histfic by end of July.
  • Write female inventor histfic by end of 2021.
  • Start on modern retelling of a classic (I’ll be working on ideas for this while I am writing the other books) by the end of the year.
  • Write poetry again. (I did this as a child and teenager, but I’ve lacked the confidence as an adult.)
  • Attend the Biographer’s International and Historical Novel Society virtual conferences.
  • Hopefully the Ethics in Arthurian Legend book a I wrote a chapter for will be published. (That is out of my hands.)
  • Do what I can to get Madame Presidentess and Daughter of Destiny optioned.

Personal Goals:

  • Lose 40-50 lbs by June 1.
    • Walk outside when the weather is nice. Swim if the pools open again.
    • Dance, barre, basic cardio, weight lifting indoors.
    • Eat a mostly pescatarian/Mediterranean diet.
    • Stop eating delivery.
  • Pay off debt.
    • Focus on paying off credit card.
    • Every time I have the urge to buy something, put that amount of money in my savings account and use it to pay on credit card that month.
    • Continue to pay off loans.
  • Continue working with the League of Women voters to fund a permanent suffrage memorial of some kind in St. Louis.
  • Learn to read French.
  • Teach myself to sew.
  • There’s another one that I’m not ready to talk about yet, but I will if it ends up working out.

I realize this is an ambitious list, but I always set high goals for myself. That is the way I am happiest. I plan to achieve them all but if I don’t, that is fine too.

What are your 2021 goals?

2020 Year in Review

Like everyone else, 2020 was a year unlike any other. My word of the year was Flow, which could not have been more apt, as COVID-19 taught us all to “go with the flow,” more than ever before.

Some of my struggles:

  • I worked harder at my day job that I ever have.
  • I transitioned to full-time working from home.
  • I hid from COVID-19 and worried about the future.
  • I dealt with burnout in my day job.

But for a crazy year, it had some amazing moments:

  • I signed with agent Amy Collins.
  • Daughter of Destiny did extremely well in a book-to-movie contest.
  • I finished the Minor biography.
  • I took a big step in the future of my day job, even if it ends up not going anywhere.
  • I started a new blog – I’ll be telling you all about it in the New Year.
  • I re-did practically my whole house myself (with a little help from dad).
  • I found my personal style/brand.
  • According to Goodreads, I read about 85 books (my goal was 100), not including research, which would have put it closer to 200.

And how did I do on my 2020 goals?

  1. Finish chapter for non-fiction Arthurian book (due March 2020). Nailed it!
  2. Finish and sell/self publish Minor biography. It’s finished and Amy is doing her best to sell it.
  3. Work on WWII historical fiction book. Wow, this one came in under the wire. The main character started talking to me again maybe two weeks ago (after more than a year of silence) and I have not quite 10,000 words written.
  4. Help with human trafficking anthology. Wrote my short story for this, but the anthology never got off the ground. I don’t think it is going to. Hopefully I will be able to share the short story in another way someday. I’m really proud of it. It’s in a contest right now, so we’ll see what others think of it.
  5. Continue working with local League of Women Voters chapter on Centennial Committee. Did this and had SO MUCH fun working with these women, attending events and getting the word out.
  6. Speak locally about the August 2020 centennial of women getting the right to vote. I was honored to be asked to speak about both Virginia Minor and suffrage in the state of Missouri. One of my audiences was the Missouri Chapter of the League of Women Voters, which was amazing!
  7. Adjust to new role of assistant editor for Novelist’s Inc. member newsletter, NINK. This was the worst possible year to take on this role, but I made it. I have to admit, I’m glad that it is over. It is not a hard job, but it is tough to handle when my day job is constantly in crisis mode.
  8. If we end up with a female presidential candidate, promote the heck out of Madame Presidentess. (This is no reflection on my personal political choices. I will, however, use it to my advantage if it becomes a reality.) This didn’t come to pass.
  9. Side projects to be worked on when/if have the time: Hallmark book, devotional, musical based on Kill Hannah songs. I thought about them. Does that count?
  10. Option Madame Presidentess again as well as the Guinevere Trilogy. (I realize this is out of my control, but I can have it on here in an effort to think positively, right?) This did not come to pass, but Daughter of Destiny did very well and is now in a second contest, so who knows what the future will bring?

Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone for your support this past year and always. I couldn’t do what I do without you and some days knowing that you are out there cheering me on is what gets me though. I wish all of you a safe, healthy and happy end to 2020 and a wonderful 2021. I’ll be back tomorrow with some thoughts about the New Year!

Preparing for 2020

I sat in my favorite local coffee shop the other day and tried to do a little planning for 2020 and it only kind of worked. I mean, I have a list of goals and to-dos, but I don’t have a clear-cut plan like I have in previous years. At first, this worried me, like the driven part of me was broken, but then I realized, it’s okay. In 2020, I’m just going to go with the flow. Which is why I chose flow as my 2020 word of the year.

I’ve pushed myself so hard for the last six years or so in order to build a career. Now I am at a point where I can reap the benefits and take opportunities as they come. Yes, I’ll still make things happen when I need to, but I don’t know that I need to be as intentional about it.

Looking Back at 2019 Goals
I did a fair amount of this in my post on nearly driving myself to burnout (which I am proud to say I am emerging from – I’m back to working on the Minor biography after a month of rest), but I wanted to specifically examine my goals for 2019. I’m shocked to see I did better than expected, especially for a year in which I didn’t publish anything.

  1. Finish the proposal for, successfully pitch and sell a book I’m co-writing with another author. We did our best to pitch this book, but were unable to get a contract for it due to circumstances outside of our control.
  2. Finish the proposal for, successfully pitch and sell another book on the suffrage movement (different angle from above) I’m working on. After the experience of the book mentioned above, I shelved this. But the good news is that I might be able to use it for my dissertation when I go back to school in a few years.
  3. Write both of these books by their deadlines (I’m hoping both will be traditionally published by August 2020). N/A
  4. Finish the biography I’m working on (not Rose, someone else) and sell it. I think I get half credit on this. Research took a lot longer than I expected because I found so much more material than I thought would be available. I have a proposal and sample chapter done and am still querying agents. I’m nearing a second finished chapter.
  5. Attend three conferences and have successful speaking engagements at the ones I’m booked at. – Woot! Did this and it was FABULOUS!
  6. Possibly work on either Isolde or the gothic fiction book I’m planning. I’ve thought about both, does that count?
  7. Keep up to date on the progress of Madame Presidentess as it makes its way toward becoming a TV show or movie. – Yeah, this was a disappointment, but I knew going in that it was unlikely to happen. But there is still hope for the future!

2020 Goals

  1. Finish chapter for non-fiction Arthurian book (due March 2020).
  2. Finish and sell/self publish Minor biography.
  3. Work on WWII historical fiction book.
  4. Help with human trafficking anthology.
  5. Continue working with local League of Women Voters chapter on Centennial Committee.
  6. Speak locally about the August 2020 centennial of women getting the right to vote.
  7. Adjust to new role of assistant editor for Novelist’s Inc. member newsletter, NINK.
  8. If we end up with a female presidential candidate, promote the heck out of Madame Presidentess. (This is no reflection on my personal political choices. I will, however, use it to my advantage if it becomes a reality.)
  9. Side projects to be worked on when/if have the time: Hallmark book, devotional, musical based on Kill Hannah songs.
  10. Option Madame Presidentess again as well as the Guinevere Trilogy. (I realize this is out of my control, but I can have it on here in an effort to think positively, right?)

So, yeah, I think that is plenty for one year, especially in addition to my more personal, non-writing goals. I’m excited to be headed into the ’20s. Let’s hope those flapper dresses make a comeback and that these ’20s don’t have the economic depression the 1920s did!

Long-Term Goal
I made a big decision the other day. I’m not sure when or where – it will depend on finances and what life has in store – but I’m going back to school to get my PhD in American History and Women’s Studies. My specialty will be the U.S. women’s suffrage movement. This will help me gain credibility in the non-fiction publishing world, as well as hopefully improve my fiction writing as well. What will I do with the degree? I would love to be a research professor (assuming I need a full-time job that isn’t writing).

What about you? What are your goals? Do you have a word of the year for 2020?