Archive for December, 2012

Being Richard Cover2I’ve been working hard on getting the paperback version of Being Richard finalised and my proof copy arrived just before everyone shut down for Christmas. Everything looks tickety-boo apart from a colour bias on the cover, and, as you can see, the cover is predominantly black and white so a magenta cast does make it look pretty weird. I’m checking out with Lulu that this is a one off printing error and no doubt they’ll get back to me as soon as the holidays are over.

I trained in photography and have spent a life-time fiddling around with images in all formats, including fine art and design. Hence I prefer to create my own cover images. They say that people judge a book by its cover, and I’m pretty sure that’s the case in most instances. I say most instances because with well publicised books the hype takes over and often the cover becomes pretty meaningless. Take Fifty Shades of Grey as an example. I first took the book of a shelf in a supermarket while my partner was browsing the magazines. I read a couple of pages, didn’t think much of it and put it back on the shelf. A couple of weeks later I heard all of the hype about its content and went, ‘Wow! Did I miss something? The cover never suggested it was about that!”

So, here I am mulling the colours on the cover of Being Richard and emailing For men only - coverLulu to get some clarity on the issue when a newsletter comes through from one of my favourite websites www.creativepro.com and they just happen to be running an article about Men’s Pulp Magazines from the 1950’s that has a great display of cover artwork. Here’s the link to the article Men’s Pulp Magazines

Some of the cover designs are pretty aggressive, and certainly very macho, giving the reader a clear signal as to who they’re directed at. There’s no doubt that the stories in these magazines were written with strong men in mind. Women were often treated in a sexist manner, as something to be won, saved or used, but hardly ever as equal.

They come from a different time and many of the covers would probably never be Woman in doorwayused now. Women are no longer permitted to be seen as alluring sex objects in the voyeuristic manner that many of these covers depict them as. The women are distant femee fatales, alluring yet remote, embroiling the male protagonist into dangerous and deadly situations. Sixty years on and we’re more likely to see the man and woman in a tight embrace indicating that these people somehow have a connection and, even though they may lead each other into danger, are less likely to be the other’s ultimate undoing.

With Stephanie Meyer’s cover art for Twilight we don’t even see a man or woman, let alone a vampire, but we do have the allusion of temptation with the rosy red apple. Is this the temptation of Eve or the seduction of Snow White by her wicked step-mother? Either way it symbolises a fall from grace and that by eating the apple we are either removed from Eden and perfection, or must face up to the challenges of puberty and take our place amongst the grown-ups.

Does all this mean that the reader has become more sophisticated or that we’ve become more secretive about what lies inside the cover?

I’ll leave you with a final image from Raymond Chandler’s hard boiled detective crime novel The Big Sleep featuring the famous down at heal detective Philip Marlowe. It’s a classic. This is the cover art from the first edition as referred to at Wikipedia. It has no picture, only words.RaymondChandler - TheBigSleep We know that ‘the big sleep’ is a euphemism for death; so do we need to be told more?

You can find more Pulp Fiction cover art at Pulp Covers

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Nativity SceneChristmas, the season of goodwill and cheer is nearly upon us. Whether one loves it, or hates it, there is no avoiding it.  Many people try to escape it by flying off to warmer climates in an attempt to rid themselves of tinsel, mayhem, and misery.  Yet try as they might they are still dealing with Christmas, still acknowledging its inevitable existence and making plans to avoid it.

Any time from August onwards Christmas starts to show itself in many, many readings.  What I’d like to share with you are which key tarot cards to look out for that can depict Christmas, and the type of events going on around it.

One of the most pertinent tarot cards for depicting Christmas is the Ten of Coins as it symbolises what I call the “hierarchical family”. This is Mum, Dad, brothers and sisters, grannies and grandads, aunts and uncles, the cat, the dog, the new boyfriend, the difficult wife, the screaming babies, the noisy toddlers and the long lost relatives.  If they are in any way related to your family, whether through blood or marriage, then they are symbolised by the ten of coins.

Marseille Tarot Ten of CoinsThe Ten of Coins tarot card not only depicts the people but also the Waite 10 Pentaclesfamily values, beliefs and dynamics. This, along with the actual people, is what starts to become important when predicting what type of Christmas any individual is likely to experience.  One member of the family might desire a traditional Christmas dinner while another might want completely different.

The next most important card is the Nine of Cups.  This tarot card symbolises parties and get togethers in which people generally have a few drinks, socialise, and are friendly and animated.

Put the Ten of Coins together with the Nine of Cups and we find a lovely fun filled Christmas.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one of the funniest Christmas films ever made. It paradies all that is good and bad about Christmas: Chevy Chase as the hard working husband Clark Griswold who wants everyone to have fun, the boss who won’t give him a bonus (Scrooge),  and univited guests they have to be polite to in the form of Uncle Eddie and his family arriving in their clapped out camper-home, which spoils the look of Clark’s smartly decorated front lawn.

In a Tarot reading one next needs to take into consideration which family member this reading is for and what part are they playing in the family festivities?

Waite Tarot 10 WandsOne woman had the Ten of Batons leading up to the Ten of Coins and the Nine of Cups.  The Ten of Batons in Tarot symbolises excessive burdens and responsibilities, running around after other people and forgetting about oneself.  This woman was the mother of all mothers, from October until early January; busy shopping, cooking and organising so that her large family could have a wonderful Christmas.  When I suggested that she might wish to share the burden she came up with two comments: that she preferred to have people come to her home, and that she was the only one who was capable because no-one else would bother.

Looking at Christmas from another perspective was a reading for a woman whose sister-in-law was much like the previous woman.  She had her Christmas day shrouded by the Three of Coins reversed.  This card symbolises being weak willed and subservient, an unwilling servant who does not have the ability to stand up for their own needs. “My husband wouldn’t dare defy his sister and not go to her Christmas ‘do’,” she said wearily.  “I just keep quiet and get on with it.”

There are many other characters within any family. Here are just a few examples of what I have seen, and what kind of gifts they might, or might, not appreciate.

The Queen of Swords: This card is traditionally “The divorced, widowed, embitteredMarseille Tarot Queen Sword woman.” Around Christmas time she generally shows her face as the unpopular wife of a much loved son, the mother-in-law, or a much older woman, such as a grandmother, who is on her own in life.

Gift type: Usually this type of person is never satisfied with anything. If you give them a gift voucher they say you haven’t bothered and if you give flowers they complain that they will die and shed on their floor.  Best to take them a bottle of wine and get them drunk.  This might exacerbate their poison tongue, but hopefully it might also send them to sleep.

The Queen of Cups: This is the tarot card of the perfect mother and good cook!

Gift type: Take her something personal and special.  She has enough pots and pans and homely type things, so something beautiful that she wouldn’t buy for herself.  Anything from perfume, to a silk scarf, to a pamper day at a local health spa.

The Emperor: A powerful father figure who likes to have his family gathered around, more for show than love.

Gift type: Something expensive!  It need not be large but must have taste, quality and usability.  This man has not built his life up on trivia.  Does he need a new wallet, or set of golf clubs?  A year’s membership to his club?

Marseille Tarot Page BatonsThe Page of Batons: Of all the tarot court cards this page is the one who symbolises the child.  When upright it is a capable child who enjoys having a go at most things, but when reversed the Page of Batons depicts the kind of child who is not very self-confident and constantly requires help and reassurance, and is prone to temper tantrums.

Gift type: Depending on age the Page of Batons will enjoy most toys which have an element of exploration and fun, whether a construction type toy or game.  However, the reversed Page, needs something less complicated which does not require such a long attention span. Musical instruments which give instant gratification would suit, as well as any toy which speaks back, either as a learning aid or simply for fun.

With the people come the problems.  Here are a few simple examples of which cards can show typical Christmas problems.

The Three of Swords: With the three of swords tarot card we find envy, jealousy and rage.  Anything which isn’t love.  Upsets all round.  Often over the festive season this can be aroused by the attitude of “He/she has a bigger, better gift than me,” or by excessive alcohol. (see the nine of swords below)  Arguments always abound with the three of swords.

The Four of Cups: This card when upright symbolises being rejected, which can be triggered by feeling left out, or simply by not being invited!  When reversed the four of cups tarot card represents, amongst other things, the need for a hug and physical attention.  This is not sexual attention, and therefore, especially when next to the Page of Batons, will depict that the child needs a cuddle as well as their new toys.

One card which can symbolise various Christmas difficulties is the nine of swords. Waite Tarot Nine SwordsThis card is where stress has stress and situations potentially become so complex and fraught that some folk will start to seriously hit the bottle.  Drinking is generally accepted around the festive season but when alcohol intake becomes excessive, nastiness, bad feeling and sometimes even violence can ensue.

Not everyone has a large family or group of friends to spend Christmas with.  In a reading you will often find the four of swords representing someone being on their own.  For some people the isolation represents a pleasant type of solitude away from the potential arguments and bad feelings that family gathering can so often instigate.  For others it represents loneliness and invokes feelings of desperation and despair.  If the separation from society and socialness is not chosen, but forced upon the individual through unpleasant circumstances, then the Star card reversed may well be seen next to the four of swords. The Star card reversed symbolises the hopelessness of their situation.

And what of all those folk who like to bunk off to freedom for the festivities?

The World: Quite literally escaping into the larger world of opportunities.

The Eight of Cups: Envisaging something better far, far away.

The Sun: For those who like to escape the cold and bask on a beach.

Marseille Tarot Knight CupsThe Knight of Cups: This is an intrepid traveller, eager to seek out new places, people and situations.  Most likely to spend Christmas climbing a mountain or sitting painting it…from a tent with a view!

When interpreting the Knight of Cups do pay special attention to surrounding cards because it can also mean someone you don’t see often suddenly turning up. A surprise visitor at Christmas!

For many people Christmas is a pleasure, a time to draw the family together and be close to friends.  For others it’s a lot of fuss and bother for one day.  The Six of Coins reversed symbolises overspending, so remember to budget carefully. Take the preparations in your stride…and whatever you do…enjoy a very wonderful Christmas day.

Christmas Scene by Toni Allen

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I work as a professional astrologer and tLion pantherhrough years of practice have a knack of obtaining detailed birth data, or at least a sun sign, from just about everyone I meet. Some people rush to give me their details as soon as they discover I’m an astrologer, often in the hope of obtaining a quick freebie reading, while others are cautious and wary of what secrets I might unearth regarding their lives.  All of these ‘people in passing’ have given me lots of quirky stories, so I thought it would be fun to write a few bits and pieces about astrology. Nothing too serious, just observations from everday life.

The first snippet is about a guy named Paul who recently did some work on my bathroom for me. In conversation he mentioned that he was a sun sign Leo, and I explained that one of Leo’s main issues in life is pride. I pointed out that all the time he worked for me he kept saying things such as, “Can’t rush it, a good job takes time,” after every phone call from his foreman urging him to get a move on. This was him taking pride in his work and not wanting to rush and spoil it.

One day he answered a phone call while we were chatting and said his surname. I could not believe it. His surname was Panther. As soon as he’d finished I said, “You mean to tell me that you’re a Leo and you’re surname is Panther!” He grinned and shrugged, threw his head back a little as if shaking out a mane and said, “Never thought of it like that before.”

If I used the name Paul Panther for a Leo sun sign character in one of my novels you’d think I’d made it up…now wouldn’t you?

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