GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Author M.F. Sullivan: Top 10 tips on reading the tarot + excerpt + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Author M.F. Sullivan: Top 10 tips on reading the tarot + excerpt + giveaway


Of all the many forms of divination in the world, the Tarot is perhaps the most intriguing to the Western mind. Its active, visual use of symbolic archetypes resonates deeply, for we adults are frequently disconnected from our gateway into the collective unconscious without a great deal of effort. Modern Eastern culture—particularly Japan, with its culture of overworking the salaryman to death by the age of 35—seems headed in a similar direction. This is part of he overall view of the future I present in my forthcoming LGBTQ+ cyberpunk/horror series, The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy: we are being disconnected from our higher selves, and must take action to rectify this.

Before I sat down to write the trilogy—back when I thought the trilogy was only one book, in fact—the one character I knew anything about was its villain, the Hierophant. From his title, I worked a tarot theme into my initial envisionings of certain characters who would live up to, and frequently outgrow and expand, their roles within the story’s proverbial tarot deck. And, rest assured, I drew the tarot more than once over the course of the trilogy while trying to solve this or that plot problem. I recommend a deck, not just to the occult-curious, but also to the budding artist who would like to tap into that side of himself which, as if from nowhere, produces great works of creativity.

To honor the tarot’s role in the creation of THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER (out May 19th) and its forthcoming sequels, I’d like to go through some of the basics of tarot interpretation. I would strongly encourage beginners to start their practice with the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, surely the most ubiquitous of all decks—the deck we think of when we think of tarot. To encourage new readers of both cards and General Dominia di Mephitoli’s journey to resurrect her wife, I’ll be offering a giveaway at the end of the post: a special gift package consisting of 1 Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, as well as a paperback copy of THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER! 

But, first, those tarot tips:

1. When I buy a deck, the first thing I like to do is go through the cards one by one and savor the artwork. That’s the best part! It’s also your first opportunity to become acquainted with the cards, and to build associations with their symbols. What’s your personal, kneejerk reaction when you look at the images, and the symbols they consist of?

2. Find some good texts and websites to help you interpret! Interpreting is an art, and it takes practice—first, you have to learn the cards, and then you have to go on and learn how to apply them to a given situation. Don’t bother buying more than one book—in fact, don’t even bother buying a book for Rider-Waite. You can get a surprising amount out of the wealth of information on the Internet. I’ve also recommended in the past that new readers try one of the tarot apps available on the app stores, which give you a card and its interpretation once a day every day. You’ll be surprised how often throughout that day you find yourself in a situation which suits your card, and these experiences will help build personal associations and knowledge about the meanings of particular pulls.

3. When I’ve looked through a deck for the first time, I find that the only way to fully shuffle them is to spread them out on the floor and (carefully, so as not to bend them) whisk them around until they’re thoroughly shuffled. If any particular one or two pop out from the rest, set them aside and use them as the first few cards of your chosen spread.

4. Speaking of spreads…though the Celtic Cross is the classic, I often find I achieve greater clarity with a three card spread. During a specific point in my life where I was going through a lot of changes and trying to win the heart of a particular person, I consulted my cards via three-card spreads very frequently. However, a little research on the Internet will soon uncover a wealth of custom spreads to you, and of course you always have the option of designing your own.

5. Never be afraid to augment spreads, either. That is—if you are pulling ten cards, and card seven comes with another card stuck to it, consider the possibility that you have two card sevens on your hands, and place them side by side.

6. Learn how to phrase a question. As we all learned from “The Monkey’s Paw,” occult devices and paranormal entities are a little like a jerk at a party, waiting for you to misspeak or slip up so they can jump all over you. Also understand that the best questions are self-motivated ones. So, not something like, “Will I get xyz job,” but, “What can I do to land xyz job?”

7. Follow your instincts. If you feel the urge to practice tarot a certain way, to shuffle or cut a certain way, your subconscious mind is creating that urge for a reason. This is sort of an extension of going with any card which springs out at you. Go with the flow and you’ll get good results!

8. Before you shuffle for your next spread, hold the deck in front of your eyes and quickly thumb through all the cards just once—fast enough so you can’t consciously see or keep track of the individual cards and their order, but so your subconscious mind can absorb contents it will make relevant later.

9. As you become acquainted with the basics of the cards, consider getting into more general forms of interpretation, like the work of Carl Jung, who studied dreams, synchronicity, and many other strange and interesting phenomenon which erupt from the human mind. This will help not only your tarot interpretation but your literary interpretation.

10. Finally, consider using the tarot to write a story of your own. Even a short story. Doing so can help you understand the nature of various archetypes within the tarot. Even the Major Arcana of the tarot (the unique cards which make up the first portion of the deck) tells a story, routinely called “The Fool’s Journey”. This archetypal journey was a heavy influence on THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER, but the truth is that “The Fool’s Journey” is a journey enacted by each of our souls as they climb toward their highest potential. Filtering those archetypes through you into the form of your own personal story can have some very intriguing—and often prophetic—results!

Be sure to check out the giveaway—and add THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER to your Amazon wishlist, so even if you don’t win, you can still remember to get a copy of the most exciting LGBTQ+ cyberpunk/horror trilogy yet to hit bookstore shelves!
by M. F. Sullivan
May 19th, 2019
Genre: LGBTQ Horror/Cyberpunk
Publisher: Painted Blind Publishing
ISBN: 9780996539579
Number of pages: 298 (Paperback)
Word Count: about 100,000
Cover Artist: Nuno Moreira
Dive into the first volume of a bleak cyberpunk tahgmahr you can't afford to miss. What would you sacrifice to survive?

By 4042 CE, the Hierophant and his Church have risen to political dominance with his cannibalistic army of genetically modified humans: martyrs. In an era when mankind's intergenerational cold wars against their long-lived predators seem close to running hot, the Holy Family is poised on the verge of complete planetary control. It will take a miracle to save humanity from extinction.

It will also take a miracle to resurrect the wife of 331-year-old General Dominia di Mephitoli, who defects during martyr year 1997 AL in search of Lazarus, the one man rumored to bring life to the dead. With the Hierophant's Project Black Sun looming over her head, she has little choice but to believe this Lazarus is really all her new friends say he is--assuming he exists at all--and that these companions of hers are really able to help her. From the foulmouthed Japanese prostitute with a few secrets of her own to the outright sapient dog who seems to judge every move, they don't inspire a lot of confidence, but the General has to take the help she can get.

After all, Dominia is no ordinary martyr. She is THE HIEROPHANT'S DAUGHTER, and her Father won't let her switch sides without a fight. Not when she still has so much to learn.

The dystopic first entry of an epic cyberpunk trilogy, THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER is a horror/sci-fi adventure sure to delight and inspire adult readers of all stripes.

The Flight of the Governess
Ah, not Cassandra! Wake not her
Whom God hath maddened, lest the foe
Mock at her dreaming. Leave me clear
From that one edge of woe.
O Troy, my Troy, thou diest here
Most lonely; and most lonely we
The living wander forth from thee,
And the dead leave thee wailing!
—Euripides, The Trojan Women

The Disgraced Governess of the United Front was blind in her right eye. Was that blood in the left, or was it damaged, too? The crash ringing in her ears kept her from thinking straight. Of course her left eye still worked: it worked well enough to prevent her from careening into the trees through which she plunged. Yet, for the tinted flecks of reality sometimes twinkling between crimson streaks, she could only imagine her total blindness with existential horror. Would the protein heal the damage? How severely was her left eye wounded? What about the one she knew to be blind—was it salvageable? Ichigawa could check, if she ever made it to the shore.

She couldn’t afford to think that way. It was a matter of “when,” not of “if.” She would never succumb. Neither could car accident, nor baying hounds, nor the Hierophant himself keep her from her goal. She had fourteen miles to the ship that would whisk her across the Pacific and deliver her to the relative safety of the Risen Sun. Then the Lazarene ceremony would be less than a week away. Cassandra’s diamond beat against her heart to pump it into double time, and with each double beat, she thought of her wife (smiling, laughing, weeping when she thought herself alone) and ran faster. A lucky thing the Governess wasn’t human! Though, had she remained human, she’d have died three centuries ago in some ghetto if she’d lived past twenty without becoming supper. Might have been the easier fate, or so she lamented each time her mind replayed the crash of the passenger-laden tanque at fifth gear against the side of their small car. How much she might have avoided!

Of course—then she never would have known Cassandra. That made all this a reasonable trade. Cold rain softened the black earth to the greedy consistency of clay, but her body served where her eyes failed. The darkness was normally no trouble, but now she squinted while she ran and, under sway of a dangerous adrenaline high, was side-swiped by more than one twisting branch. The old road that was her immediate goal, Highway 128, would lead her to the coast of her favorite Jurisdiction, but she now had to rediscover that golden path after the crash’s diversion. In an effort to evade her pursuers, she had torn into a pear orchard without thought of their canine companions. Not that the soldiers of the Americas kept companions like Europa’s nobles. These dogs were tools. Well-honed, organic death machines with a cultivated taste for living flesh, whether martyr or human. The dogs understood something that most had forgotten: the difference between the two was untenable. Martyrs could tell themselves they were superior for an eternity, but it wouldn’t change the fact that the so-called master race and the humans they consumed were the same species.

That was not why Cassandra had died, but it hadn’t contributed to their marital bliss. And now, knowing what she did of the Hierophant’s intentions—thinking, always, what Cassandra would have said—the Governess pretended she was driven by that ghost, and not by her own hopelessness. Without the self-delusion, she was a victim to a great many ugly thoughts, foremost among them being: Was the fear of life after her wife’s death worth such disgrace? A death sentence? Few appreciated what little difference there was between human and martyr, and fewer cared, because caring was fatal. But she was a part of the Holy Family. Shouldn’t that have been all that mattered? Stunning how, after three centuries, she deserved to be treated no better than a human. Then again, there was nothing quite like resignation from one’s post to fall in her Father’s estimate. Partly, he was upset by her poor timing—she did stand him up at some stupid press event, but only because she hoped it would keep everybody occupied while she got away. In that moment, she couldn’t even remember what it was. Dedicating a bridge? Probably. Her poor head, what did the nature of the event matter when she was close to death?

That lapse in social graces was not the reason for this hunt. He understood that more lay behind her resignation than a keening for country life. Even before he called her while she and the others took the tanque to the coast, he must have known. Just like he must have known the crash was seconds from happening while he chatted away, and that the humans in her company, already nervous to be within a foot of the fleeing Governess, were doomed.

Of the many people remaining on Earth, those lumped into the group of “human” were at constant risk of death, mutilation, or—far worse—unwilling martyrdom. This meant those humans lucky enough to avoid city-living segregation went to great lengths to keep their private properties secure. Not only houses but stables. The Disgraced Governess found this to be true of the stables into which she might have stumbled and electrocuted herself were it not for the bug zaps of rain against the threshold’s surface. Her mind made an instinctive turn toward prayer for the friendliness of the humans in the nearby farmhouse—an operation she was quick to abort. In those seconds (minutes?) since the crash, she’d succeeded in reconstructing the tinted windows of the tanque and a glimpse of silver ram’s horns: the Lamb lurked close enough to hear her like she spoke into his ear. It was too much to ask that he be on her side tonight.

Granted, the dogs of the Lamb were far closer, and far more decisive about where their loyalties stood. One hound sank its teeth into her ankle, and she, crying out, kicked the beast into its closest partner with a crunch. Slower dogs snarled outrage in the distance while the Disgraced Governess ran to the farmhouse caught in her left periphery. The prudent owners, to her frustration, shuttered their windows at night. Nevertheless, she smashed her fist against the one part of the house that protruded: the doorbell required by the Hierophant’s “fair play” dictatum allowing the use of electronic barriers. As the humans inside stumbled out of bed in response to her buzzing, the Disgraced Governess unholstered her antique revolver and unloaded two rounds into the recovered canines before they were upon her. The discharge wasn’t a tip-off she wanted to give to the Lamb and her other pursuers, but it hastened the response of the sleeping farmers as the intercom crackled to life.

“Who is it?” A woman’s voice, quivering with an edge of panic.

“My name is Dominia di Mephitoli: I’m the former Governess of the United Front, and I need to borrow a horse. Please. Don’t let me in. Just drop the threshold on your stables.”

“The Governess? I’m sorry, I don’t understand. The Dominia di Mephitoli, really? The martyr?”

“Yes, yes, please. I need a horse now.” Another dog careened around the corner and leapt over the bodies of his comrades with such grace that she wasted her third round in the corpses. Two more put it down as she shouted into the receiver. “I can’t transfer you any credits because they’ve frozen my Halcyon account, but I’ll leave you twenty pieces of silver if you drop the threshold and loan me a horse. You can reclaim it at the docks off Bay Street, in the township of Sienna. Please! He’ll kill me.”

“And he’ll be sure to kill us for helping you.”

“Tell him I threatened you. Tell him I tricked you! Anything. Just help me get away!”

“He’ll never believe what we say. He’ll kill me, my husband, our children. We can’t.”

“Oh, please. An act of mercy for a dying woman. Please, help me leave. I can give you the name of a man in San Valentino who can shelter you and give you passage abroad.”

“There’s no time to go so far south. Not as long as it takes to get across the city.”

It had been ten seconds since she’d heard the last dog. That worried her. With her revolver at the ready, she scanned the area for something more than the quivering roulette blotches swelling in her right eye. Nothing but the dead animals. “He’ll kill you either way. For talking to me, and not keeping me occupied until his arrival. For knowing that there’s disarray in his perfect land. He’ll find a reason, even if it only makes sense to him.”

The steady beat of rain pattered out a passive answer. On the verge of giving up, Dominia stepped back to ready herself for a fight—and the house’s threshold dropped with an electric pop. The absent mauve shimmer left the façade bare. How rare to see a country place without its barrier! A strange thing. Stranger for the front door to open; she’d only expected them to do away with the threshold on the stables.
But, rather than the housewife she’d anticipated, there stood the Hierophant. Several bleak notions clicked into place.

One immaculate gray brow arched. “Now, Dominia, that’s hardly fair. Knowledge of your disgrace isn’t why I’ll kill them. The whole world will know of it tomorrow morning. You embarrassed me by sending your resignation, rather than making the appearance I asked of you, so it is only fair I embarrass you by rejecting your resignation and firing you publicly. No, my dear. I will kill these fine people to upset you. In fact, Mr. McLintock is already dead in the attic. A mite too brave. Of course”—he winked, and whispered in conspiracy—“don’t tell them that.”

“How did you know I’d come here?”

“Such an odd spurt of rain tonight. Of all your Jurisdictions, this one is usually so dry this time of year! Won’t you come in for tea? Mrs. McLintock brews a fine pot. But put that gun away. You’re humiliating yourself. And me.”

About the Author: 
M.F. Sullivan is the author of Delilah, My Woman, The Lightning Stenography Device, and a slew of plays in addition to the Trilogy. She lives in Ashland, Oregon with her boyfriend and her cat, where she attends the local Shakespeare Festival and experiments with the occult.


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  1. Good morning Sharon! Thanks for hosting! Actually, that second giveaway was an erroneous one--I hoped Roxanne would replace the code with the new one I sent her, but oh well! The real giveaway is the $50 Amazon card one.

    1. Sorry about that. I don't have the new one. I'm sending an email to get it! Thanks for letting me know :)