The breakdown of this blog is going to be as follows:
- What is tarot?
- Why incorporate tarot into writing?
- Should you pick cards or draw each time?
- What decks do I use?
- Breakdown of readings I’ve done
If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is, so let’s dive right in.
What is tarot?
This is a multi-faceted answer that I’m not equipped to answer in full, but I can tell you what tarot is as a general art, and what it means to me. Tarot is the art of interpretation. It asks questions that we already have the answers to, but may not be able to see. There is nothing actually magic about tarot, which is why I love it so much. This isn’t some spell or otherworldly thing. It’s literally looking at a set of cards and interpreting them how you want to interptet them.
But what is tarot?
Tarot, physically, is a deck of cards, which have been split into the major and minor arcana. The major arcana consists of grander themes, and are much less specific than the minors. (IE: instead of specifically looking at what kind of betrayal you may be experiencing, whether it’s from outside or inside, whether it can be avoided or met head-on, the Tower just tells you that betrayal is nigh.) The minor arcana are split into four branches–pentacles, wands, swords, cups. Beware: sometimes these change. (IE: cups are sometimes coins.) Within each of those branches are a series of ten cards that pretty much talk about the cycle of life.
Now, I’m not going to go into what each of the four branches mean, or what you might find in the major arcana. That’s not what this blog is. If you’re curious about these things, find and buy a tarot deck that calls to you, and start learning.
There are also several different spreads that you can use with tarot, but again, I’m not going into specifics. There is one spread I use for every story–the past/present/future–which pretty much explains itself, and I’ll also occasionally pull a single card for each character, which people sometimes refer to as weather reports.
The thing about tarot that you have to remember is that you can pull the same card for the same person over and over again, and interpret it a different way each time. Pulling the Death card does not mean you’re going to die. It could mean that you’re at the end of something in your life. It could mean that you’re in the middle of rediscovering yourself. It could mean that a relationship needs to end. It could mean a million different things. Tarot is about how you interpret a set of vague meanings that are placed in front of you. It’s about asking a question that you already have the answer to. I know I’ve already said this, but tarot always has this mystery and magic surrounding it, and it’s really nothing more than having a conversation with yourself.
Why incorporate tarot into writing?
Let me be clear up front: you don’t have to. However, if you want to, there are two times when using tarot may improve the story.
Are there witches?
Oh my gosh. If there are witches, especially if they’re modern, you should probably be including tarot. I’ve read one (yes, one) novel (The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater) with tarot in it, and that is an actual tragedy. If you’ve ever gone into any kind of magic shop, or even a spiritual shop, there’s probably someone reading tarot. Don’t think so? You know those areas in a shop that have been closed off by curtains, usually in the back or front corners, that usually have two chairs on opposite sides of a circular table? Yeah, those are for tarot readings. Tarot is used by witches everywhere, and has been used for centuries
probably, so if you’re going to write about witches, you should probably give them a deck of cards.
Do you have no idea what’s coming next?
Often times, when I’m stuck, or when my characters aren’t quite progressing the way I’d like them to, I draw a past/present/future for them. Three cards–one to look at what’s behind, one to look at what’s ahead, and one to look at what’s going on right now. Usually, this will tell a story (which we’ll get into in the last part of this blog), and it will help me decide where I need to go next.
Should you pick cards or draw each time?
This is entirely up to you, but if you pick specific cards, the reading is not going to be authentic. By deciding which card you want to write about, or which card you think will help you the most, you aren’t interpreting the future, you’re choosing it. Picking a specific card does not lend to the creative side of tarot. It’s just you following the most obvious path. By drawing each time, you’ll still be following your path, but it may not be one you expected, which of course means it’s the right one.
What decks do I use?
At the moment, I only use three. My favorite, and my first, is The Raven’s Prophecy by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s modeled after her series, The Raven Cycle, and the artwork is beautiful. She’s teased that she’s currently working on one for The Scorpio Races, and I will definitely be buying it when it comes out. The TRP deck is one that I use for pretty much everyone. I almost always use it for myself, and I use it exclusively for Ronan and Alex. I was going to say that I also used it exclusively for Mason, but that may change.
For the Pen boys, I only use Kim Krans’s decks. I’ve used both The Wild Unknown and the Spirit Animal decks for them. I’ve never drawn from the TRP deck for the Pen boys, and I don’t think I ever will. TWU just feels right for them. (Update: as of last night, 9/11, I used the TRP deck for them.)
Breakdown of readings I’ve done
Oh boy. This is the long part of the blog. I’m going to post a picture of each reading, and then take apart the why, what, and where–why I was drawing these cards, what they mean, and where they were used in the story. Some of them don’t have a where because they were pulled for my own benefit.
Chronicles of Kings, aka Ronan
This was the first time I ever started reading tarot for my words.
Why: This was one of the first cards I ever pulled after I started learning about tarot. I’d done a few readings for myself, which took forever to figure out, but this was the first one I ever pulled for a novel. Fittingly, it was for Ronan. I knew that I wanted to start writing him again, but I didn’t know how. I just knew that his name was a mantra on repeat in my head, and that I couldn’t stop thinking about him. But I kept sitting down in front of my laptop with no idea where to begin, or even how to begin. This card didn’t even tell me that, but it did tell me that I was ready.
What: The Sun represents clarity. It is time to pay attention to all that fire building inside of you, and to put it to good use. It is time to play, to heal, and to love. Be grateful for your fire, and nourish it. For me, this meant that I was ready to step into Ronan’s world again. I remember, very clearly, Jack’s response when I sent this to him. “The universe is telling you to write this.”
Why: This was the first time that I pulled cards for a scene in a story. This was also the first time I realized how weird tarot could be. I drew the Sun originally on the first day of June 2016, and then these three at the end of August the same year. I didn’t start writing Ronan again until August, but at the beginning of June, I knew that I wanted to. The Sun confirmed that. And then, when I was drawing for him again, it came up again. The world works in mysterious ways.
What/Where: This was for a reading that Ronan gets in the middle of his birthday celebrations. A witch that he doesn’t quite trust draws three cards for him. For the first six chapters, we see Ronan and Liam flirting their way through literally every scene, but there’s that underlying current that nothing is going to happen. It can’t, right? Ronan is king, and Liam is his righthand man, sure, but this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. But Ronan is desperately in love with Liam, and wants nothing more than to spend his life with him, so when he sits for the reading, his question is if love will ever find him.
His past, the page of coins, is the dreamer. It is hard for them to stay grounded, to engage in conflict of any kind, and is very emotional. His present, the Sun, is the ease with which he lives his life now. It is the breath of air he’s been waiting for, the sigh of relief of everything finally settling. His past, the ace of coins, is about the beginnings of love. It’s about the birth of a new relationship, whether romantic or platonic, and how exciting this can be.
Translation: he wasn’t ready to start anything with Liam. He had a kingdom to figure out, and enemies to conquer. But now, things are finally settling, and he’s able to start setting his sights on what he wants, rather than what the realm needs. And soon, something wonderful will happen.
The Madhouse Adventures, aka Mason
Suffice to say, the Ronan rewrite didn’t last long. I got about eight chapters in before I realized that it just wasn’t working anymore, and put it down indefinitely. There would be no more coming back to it until I knew what it needed to be, and instead, I would start work on something new, for the first time ever.
Oh, Mason. Mason, out of all my boys, uses tarot the most. He uses it like I do, whenever he’s unsure of something, or if he needs a little clarification on the situation at hand. The Pen boys also use tarot, but not quite as much as he does.
Why: This novel only took me 18 days to write. That alone will tell you why I’m scrapping the whole thing and starting over. A lot of it, I will be keeping (whenever I eventually get around to writing that section of Mason’s story again), but specifically, this scene. Yes. When I got to this scene, I did that thing where I was going to pick cards instead of draw them naturally. They were the queen of wands, the Emperor, and the High Priestess. After I picked them, I didn’t immediately write the scene where these cards would appear, but instead went out to Life Alive. I was starting to think that maybe drawing the cards naturally would be better when I looked up and saw there was an Emperor bowl on the menu. It didn’t end up being the right card for Mason at the time, but it freaked me out. There it was. I had just decided to use that one. When I got home, I drew cards for him, and well, there was the High Priestess. Two out of the three I’d originally picked had shown up. Uh, what? Like I said, tarot gets weird sometimes.
What/Where: This takes place during a ritual. The twins are trying to help Mason figure out where his life is going. He’s been through a heck of a lot up to this point, and he needs some guidance. Because this story revolves around the elements, the ritual has four candles set at the cardinal points in the element’s given color. The reading revolves around Mason’s current life, but also how he affects the rest of his elements. It’s a pretty big chapter for the novel, and really kickstarts the action.
His past, the two of cups, is about connection and love. This connection is open and honest, and it’s often times romantic. His present, the ten of swords, is rock bottom. It is a person in ruins, and often ruined by themselves. His future, the High Priestess, is all about intuition and the Something More. It acknowledges the shadows.
Translation: before all this bullshit, Mason was okay. He was thriving, even. And then, the fire (his element) started to consume him, and he fell victim to addiction. His life came apart rapidly, and was in shambles for a couple years. As he starts to pick himself back up, though, and glue the pieces back together, there is something lingering on the horizon, some light, or magic, that is calling to him.
Why: Right after I finished Mason, I knew that I didn’t want to be done with his story, but I couldn’t quite figure out which direction I wanted to go in. I’ve talked about this a few times–I flip flopped through what would come next, and ultimately decided to leave him at one. Before that, though, Miriam had her own novel. It would still be heavily influenced by Mason, but would primarily be about her. It came as both a huge surprise and no surprise at all to me that I pulled the High Priestess for both of them.
What: Her past, the two of pentacles, is about balance and change. The world is full of possibilities, and change is inevitable. Her present, the nine of wands, is about strength and confidence. The end is in sight, so rally your strength, and keep going. Her future, the High Priestess, held much the same meaning as Mason’s. They were both at their end of their journeys, and were ready to take on the world.
Translation: again, before her element (water) started to consume her, Miriam was in a good place. She was starting to find her footing in the world, and starting to figure out how to separate herself from the childhood that was trying to suffocate her. When she did finally start to succumb to her element, it was nearly as terrible as Mason. Of the four of them, however, Miriam was the most in danger of dying, and only managed to come out of it because of her friends. And again, that magic on the horizon is calling to her, begging her to welcome the shadows and strangeness all around.
And somehow, that’s it for Mason. There are a ton more in the novel, but these were the only two I ever posted about.
Comet Children, aka comet novel
Why: This was the first time I ever drew single cards for each individual. I knew that I didn’t want to do a full reading for each character, or even one for the group, so instead I drew one for each of them and gave each of them a chakra stone. This was really more so I could get to know them better rather than understand anything about their upcoming story. They are also paired together with the character they spend the most time with.
What: The Chariot (the aware) is the inner warrior. Fitting, considering she is the one in captivity, the one reaching out to her brothers and sisters for aid. She has survived all these years waiting for them, and never given up hope that they will someday arrive.
Justice (the monk) is karma. Again, very fitting. Tarot always seems to do this when I’m drawing individual cards. The monk’s biggest dilemma is whether or not to answer the aware’s call, whether or not he should help the mysterious soldier that shows up at his temple, whether or not he should abandon his home, and possibly his faith, to save the world.
The Sun (the soldier) is enlightenment. He has spent all of his life fighting for a war he doesn’t believe in until he hears the aware’s call, and is left staggering under the weight of what true importance feels like.
Temperance (the wanderer) is healing. After years of living under the shadow of her family, the wanderer has finally begun to break free. She is in the middle of traveling the world, living on the road and out in the world, and just trying to let go.
The father of wands (the free spirit) is compassion. Every story needs a bit of comic relief, and this is definitely the free spirit’s job. He’s had a rough go of it growing up, but this has only proven to make him stronger, fiercer in his love, and full of joy. He helps the wanderer find peace, and is the biggest advocate for all of them finding one another.
The four of swords (the healer) is mental power. Funny, really, considering the healer is our resident astronaut. One of the most important things about space flight is maintaining a clear head and focusing on the job at hand. Not exactly easy when you accidentally intercept a broadcast of a teenage girl summoning a demon to kill her entire family.
The seven of pentacles (the witch) is uncertainty. She is one of the most unstable characters I’ve ever created. She doesn’t know where she is, or where she’s going, or how to survive either. She is a mess of a person, and is stumbling blindly with bloody feet.
Alex the Destroyer
Alex is perhaps my only character that doesn’t use tarot. I use it for him all the time, but he’s probably never even heard of it. Or, if he has it, he probably makes fun of it because he’s a punk.
Why: When I finished Mason, I didn’t really know which direction I wanted to go in yet. I was working on edits for him, prepping a first draft for queries. After I started querying, there wasn’t a whole lot to do for him yet. I was waiting on the rest of the edits, and so was kind of in limbo. And then, it hit me–or rather, Alex shook off the cobwebs and said, “I’m ready.”
What: The five of wands is exactly what it looks like. Chaos. Conflict. Lost. Scattered. All of those words apply to Alex. It is a warning to find ways to bring calm and focus to your mind, a warning that the conflicts probably resides within. Alex’s entire story is about his inner struggle with his demons. And this confirmation was all I needed to jump in.
Why/What: I always think it’s both hilarious and very, very weird when I pull a card twice for different people, particularly when it has the same exact meaning. I posted in detail about this card when I first pulled it, and I’m going to copy that here.
I didn’t think twice about it, just went to class where I laughed and danced and played. At the end, we settled in for savasana, and my mind went dark. I wasn’t in the studio anymore, wasn’t anywhere that I could see. I couldn’t feel the ground beneath me, couldn’t feel my body around me. I could hear his voice, though. It was nothing profound, and really, nothing coherent. Just an overheard conversation. When I started to come back, I could feel a card in my hand. I KNEW it was his card. I knew I needed to pull one as soon as possible. I could feel the edges of it digging into my palm. I could feel my fingers wrapped around it. I drove home trying to find his song on the radio, knowing that he was calling to me. He was waiting for me. The sun is hope. It is understanding. Is it my truth. It is possibility becoming reality. It is joy. It is the light after dark. And oh, if you knew his story. One day soon, you will.
the Pen boys
These boys. I can’t with them. Their story is filled with more magic than I’ve ever written, which is sometimes odd considering there’s not a whole lot of the expected magic on the surface. A lot of it is energy work, tarot, crystals, and breathing with the universe.
Why: As has become habit, when I first started thinking of the Pen boys, I drew cards for them. These are, again, cards to get to know my new characters. I drew these four days after I first thought of them, right before I started writing them.
What: The ace of cups (Oliver Hollands) is new beginnings. Oh, Oliver. He is so sad at the beginning. He doesn’t know how he’s ever going to make it through this year, and he certainly doesn’t want four new friends to help him, which is, of course, exactly what he needs. I just pulled cards for the second book, and he was the only one not about to fall apart, and Erin said, “Well, it’s because he’s already lost everything.” And he has, but he’s lighter because of that.
The five of swords (James Goddard) is turmoil. HA. Guarantee I’m just going to pull this card for James for the rest of his life. This boy is a literal mess. He is one of the angriest characters I’ve ever created. He just wants to set the world on fire, purely to watch it all burn.
The two of swords (Harrison Eldridge) is worlds colliding. Harrison is the dad. I don’t know how it happened (I do, and I’m not telling), but it did, and I can’t stop it now. He is the glue that keeps all of them together, the center of their world. When Oliver comes into the picture, things start to change, and he is the one that keeps them grounded.
The daughter of pentacles (Jensen Marlow) is sensible and full of wonder.
For now , she whispered ominously. Jensen is a no nonsense kind of kid. He studies hard, makes sure their adventures are practical, and keeps them from being boisterous and making stupid decisions.
The mother of wands (Jasper Marlow) is fiery and fiercely protective. Jasper is, perhaps, my favorite character, which is a very weird thing for me to admit because I love Olly and James something fierce, but there is a side to this boy that he’s hiding from everyone, one that’s darker and more beautiful. He would fight to the death for his friends, and won’t give up, no matter the cost.
Why: I think I was writing fanfiction, and I’d stepped away from the Pen boys for a while. Yes, James Bond fanfiction, hello. I was nearly done with it, and I was feeling the pull again. I dreamt of Oliver, woke up on a Sunday, and spent all day with him curled up in a corner of my soul.
What: Again, another set of individual pulls. These were done about midway through the novel, so the boys had changed considerably, but still had a long way to go. Each card is also paired with a crystal that felt right at the time. I like to pair cards and crystals, either when I need more clarity on the reading or grounding during it, or when I just want to strengthen the reading that I’ve interpreted and give my characters a little extra love.
Oliver (nine of swords) is despair, which he had in spades. Toward the middle of the novel, Oliver was really starting to come apart. Shadows lurked around every corner, he wasn’t sleep well, if at all, and his mind was a traitorous place. By the time winter break finally rolled around, he spent most of it in bed, and only returned to school by sheer force of will. This was definitely his breaking point.
James (seven of wands) is courage, which just made me grin idiotically, right this very moment, because wow. Yeah. It’s interesting looking back at these and seeing how accurate they really were. James, at this point, was starting to realize that to stand on his own two feet, he had to stop depending on others.
Harrison (the Moon) is the shadow realm. Harrison’s cards always take me by surprise, mostly because they’re always predicting his future. A lot of the time, when I do individual pulls for these boys, it talks about their present or their immediate next scene. For Harrison, it’s always several weeks, even months, ahead of time. Harrison was in a good place when I drew this, but would not be in the coming months. His family is starting to fall apart, his brother was nearly killed, and the novel I have yet to write will see him truly starting to unravel.
Jasper (eight of wands) is change. This is the kind of card that I think I’ll be pulling for Jasper for a long, long time. He is always in the middle of something wild and unstable. He’s always surprising me, and his friends, and he’s going to do a lot in the next novel.
Jensen (six of cups) is memories and childhood. Some of this is spoilery, so I’ll be vague, but Jensen’s place in the Pen boys was not being questioned necessarily, but shifting. He didn’t spend a lot of time looking back, but I think, perhaps, that he should have to avoid what’s coming.
Why/Where: This is actually the only ritual that the boys perform during the course of the novel. There are sure to be more in the next one, and really, the do little ones here and there, but this is a very specific set of chapters. They are working to banish demon energy, so they build as much light as they can. I used only white and blue crystals, as well as one piece of sunstone, I burned palo santo and set it in the middle, and I drew cards for the cardinal points. This is, personally, how I like to do ritual readings, by setting them on the north, east, south, and west points, and how my rituals will almost always be performed in my books.
What: This was one of those readings that freaked me out when I drew it because it was primarily wands, and being heavy in one suit is always a little strange.
In the north, we have the two of swords, which is about opposing forces. There is a stalemate happening, perhaps even between good and evil, light and darkness, though this also can point at truth versus lies. Are you telling the truth? Or are you avoiding it? To move forward, you must come to terms with the world around you and be honest about what you see. (Translation: the demon energy they are trying to banish is obscuring the way they view the road ahead, and to proceed with a clear head, they need to be rid of the darkness. Unsurprisingly, Harrison was seated in the north for this.)
In the east, we have the mother of wands, which is all about family. She is vibrant and attractive in her love, and very protective of her children. She is full of grace and beauty, and a wonderful bringer of light. (Translation: she is everything these boys needed right now. Jensen was in her position.)
In the south, we have the six of wands, which speaks to standing strong against the odds. Even in darkness, we must persevere. There is new life in taking flight, in shaking your fist at the world. This is about rising up, about victory and success. Don’t look back. Instead, use your new set of wings to find new adventures. (Translation: shockingly, this was Oliver’s position, and I think pretty self explanatory for the situation.)
In the west, we have the eight of wands, which was where Jasper sat. I think that about sums it up.
And that’s it! I know that there are four other tarot readings that I’ve done recently, but, for reasons below, I’m not going into them.
The Animal Spirit reading that I did for the Pen boys, I don’t actually own the deck, and I’m not well-versed enough in the meaning behind each card to break it down. The two for the vampire detective, that story doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, so I’m not pulling it apart right now. And the latest Pen boys reading I did, I’m going to blog about later in a separate post.
I hope you enjoyed, and feel free to ask any questions if you have them! I’ll do my very best to answer.