Saturday, January 30, 2010

Buying a Tarot Deck...

So yesterday I showed off The Fairy Ring Oracle, which I think is totally amazing. But when I was surfing the net last night I found a book on called Tarot For Writers. After reading the reviews, I decided that I had to have it. I had already planned on using The Fairy Ring Oracle to help me with my writing anyway, as I think that I mentioned yesterday. There is just one tiny little problem, though... This book requires a tarot deck, which is 78 cards that are broken into various groupings. The Fairy Ring Oracle is an Oracle, not a Tarot, and only has 60 cards. Uh-oh!

I've owned Tarot decks before, most commonly the classic Rider Waite tarot that was the only mothod of tarot for a very long time. But the Rider Waite set is very boring in my opinion and I never managed to connect with it. The rules are different now, too. No longer am I fifteen and buying my deck for $1 from a flea market. I now have the internet at my disposal, and as such thousands of decks are just waiting for me to click the Order Now button that will take me to their site's checkout counter.

With the power of the internet, however, also comes dangerous levels of temptation and disappointment, as well as such an overwhelming set of options that it would be easy for one to become confused. For example, I cannot purchase the exquisite Bohemian Gothic Tarot because it is out of print, was a limited set to begin with, and now retails for anywhere from $250 on Ebay to $900 on Such a shame!

The Bohemian Tarot -- Proof the life is not always fair. Isn't it *beautiful*? I do -- but not for $900!

No, the most that I will be spending on my thrilling tarot adventure is $35. At least if I select anything off of this list, that is. That does not include the writing book I listed at the beginning, or the other odds and ends I will likely pick up from Amazon when I do eventually order. (Unless, of course, I split my order to pick up the one Llwwelyn only deck on my list -- yet another shame as I have a good history with Amazon and do not like buying from other sites as much.

At any rate though, here are the tarot decks that are battling it out for a chance to arrive at my front door -- ideally in time to go to Florida.

Legacy of the Divine Tarot: Rich computer generated imagery with black borders that are labeled with gold text. The set focuses on a jungian fantasy apocolypse. This deck is "Tarot In Motion" -- The cards are busy and the colors are rich and vibrant. The lesser arcana has images, not pips, but the deck keeps pip symbolism in the pictures, making it a Rider Waite equivelancy deck that has a lot more artistic punch. $20 on Amazon. Cards Only; no book.

Tarot for Hip Witches: Cute and edgy, modern and ancient, youth and wisdom. This girly cartoonish tarot is an interesting mix of ancient symbolism and modern girl power. Could be really fun for giving me the YA feel that I want for my book, although it goes a wee bit overboard with magical hats, etc. I love the color pallette but I am concerned about whether or not this has designed pips or not. $25 on Amazon, cards only, no book.
Necronomicon Tarot: Based off of an author's books. Dark, edgy and somewhat morbid. Darkly shaded cards with a black border. This is NOT a deck I would want to read from but it may be a good deck for creative meditation if I need to create certain moods in my wortk. $20 on Amazon for deck and 200+ page guide.

Sensual Wicca Tarot: Rich colors, lots of deep purple, detailed and busy cards and a theme of both Wiccan Magick and sensuality draw my attention to these cards. These would be the perfect cards for writing paranormal romance to get one's mind into the right set of frame. Not sure how hot they would be for Young Adult fiction, but I love 'em anyway. $24 on Amazon, comes with its own tarot bag. No book though.

Easy Tarot: This is a book and deck set, and the deck that it offers is The Gilded Tarot, a lovely black and gold bordered affair with rich central imagery that is related strongly to the Rider Waite tarot system. I noticed that there was an extremely heavy prominence on the suit themes but they still look striking and beautiful. Probably a fantasy divinatory tool. Not 100% sure on its validy as a writing one, but who knows? Book and deck $16 on Amazon.

Tarot of the Elves: This set offers beautiful fantasy art of Lord of the Rings styled elves done in computer photo imagery. It does not label the cards, but rather uses symbols and numbers for the minor arcana with traditional comor elements (yellow, red, blue, green) and roman numberals to mark the major arcana. Despite its labeless style I totally love it. This would be a good solid all around tarot for me, as I love elves and this tarot is very busy and thought provoking. $16 (cards only) or $28 for Cards and Book Kit on Amazon.

Universal Fantasy Tarot: I usually do not like decks that look like they are pasteled or painted. I will make a massive exception here. I really like this deck. The cards are action oriented, the borders are black and gold allowing the emphasis on the imagery. And the imagery is awesome. The Death Card, for example, depicts a dark and mysterious man leading a dark horse along a forelorn road at sunset. He comes across a wounded man along the side of the road. Extending his hand to the wounded stranger he begins to speak, his calm expression and ageless eyes bathing the wounded one in warmth and tranquility. " Come with me. Renew yourself within heaven's light. Fear not the moon, nor the setting sun. For where the sun sets it must also rise again, as shall you. " $17 on Amazon, cards only.

Witchy Tarot: Another varient on the Tarot for Hip Witches deck that I showed off above. I think I prefer that one for its pink borders, but this one is still cute. $16 on Amazon, cards only.

The Fey Tarot: Awesome mixed painting / CGI artwork of different fae creatures. It has clear labeling and seems to follow the Rider Waite tradition of tarot design. I was not sure whether this deck would have enough going on for me, but after seeing more images it would be just fine. A nice colorful option worth considering. $28 for book and cards from Amazon.

Gothic Tarot of Vampires: A hand painted vampire tarot with dark borders and rich imagery. I have read that this deck can be confusing since it is a thematic deck that bases things on the rules of its denziens, not the rules of humanity. For example, the Sun card in this deck is negative. Still may be an interesting deck to own eventually. $17 on Amazon, cards only.

Quest Tarot: This tarot is pretty cool. It is done with 3D computer graphics. The art style is clean and crisp with good color design. Another cool feature is that it labels both the card name and a word to describe the meaning of the card. This would be a fantastic deck to use for divination work. Since it has symbol pips rather then action pips, though, I'm not so sure if it would be all that hot for writing. $33.82 for book and cards on amazon

Olympus Tarot: I have been into Greek Mythology since I was thirteen. I even took courses on Greek Drama in university, writing a thesis on the play Alcestis. I know my Greek Myths, and I know them Very Well. That could be a blessing or a curse working with a deck though. I already have my own perceptions on how the varying Gods and Goddesses look, on how things appeared in the different stories. Can any tarot deck live up to the imagery of my imagination? This one looks like it wants to try. The cards are labeled, there is action going on, and the art style, while not as sharp and vivid as I usually prefer, is still solid. $22.95 at Amazon does not carry it.

Shining Angels Tarot: This is a deck that I would actually work with for meditation and spiritual study. Not sure how hot that it would be for a writing tool, but I love the fact that the cards are clearly labeled and that they name the angels in each image as well. The rounded shape of the cards is also fun and unique. $17 on Amazon, cards only.

The Fairy Tale Tarot: This set is done in soft water colors, which is unusual for a deck that I have chosen. But I am very into fairy tales and this deck is awesome and the softer colors suit the thematic subject matter well since this is Little Red Riding Hood, not Wizard's First Rule. Along with the deck you get a book that retells every fairytale associated with it, explaining their symbolism and its connection to the Rider Waite method of tarot. $21 for cards and book on Amazon.

So there you have it. I have a ton of different decks that I can choose from that are nice. It is a crying shame that the two that I was instantly drawn to are not going to be suitable for this project. Although I am going to get The Fairy Ring Oracle before it can share The Bohemian Gothic Tarot's fate. Still, that does not help me decide which of these decks to get to go with my new book. I am not sure the best way to make up my mind. Anyway, I will be writing about this again and telling you all which deck is the lucky winner. Thank you for reading. And feel free to tell me which deck(s) you like here. I bet my choices look pretty bizzarre all together like this. Bye!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Faeries, Faeries Everywhere!! :D

I am looking into buying some faery / fairy books since I am starting to notice that certain aspects of my book CHOSEN has fae elements. I have decided that I should get "Wicked Lovely" by Melissa Marr, "Tithe" by Holly Black and possibly "The Iron King" by Julie Kagawa. The items that I am debating whether to get are The Fairy Bible (Which is losing in big ways as I cannot find reviews), A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and other Subversive Spirits and lastly (and most heavily debated) The Fairy Ring Oracle, a tarot like set of cards with what looks like a solid history and mythology portrait system of different fae beings from the U.K.

Anyway... I am so TORN!!! I do not know what items here will really be the most helpful to me. However, I did find a totally WOW video that shows off the cards in The Fairy Ring Oracle on YouTube. Enjoy!

My evidance that these images are from the set can be found here.

And here are a couple more reviews of the deck as well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Dangers of Naming Mary Sue

So my last post was about my hunt for an ideal netbook or notebook. But I am not sure if I really went into detail about why I want it. Well, I have had this concept for a series for several years and I have finally decided to nail my butt to a chair and actually get to the writing of it. Of course there is the fact that I am going to be in Florida this February -- from the 11th to the 27th -- which is the reason for wanting a portable writing device. But with that preface out of the way, lets move onto the topic at hand.

Since I cannot just wander down to the local walmart / future shop / whatever and get my new netbook or notebook, I decided that I would try to get the research aspects for my book finished before I was ready to head off to Florida for two weeks of no World of Warcraft, no Final Fantasy XI, and no telephone calls that I need to become a speed demon to race downstairs and answer. (It also means no Jay, and while this is sad in a way, the fact that he is not coming is part of what has solidified my resolve to write my story while I do not have the (charmingly) distractive pleasure of his company.)

I am a weirdo in how I go about figuring out a market that I want to write for. Once I have decided what I do is read novels from that market and then go to -- to read reviews from people who did *not* like it. I do get around to reading the good reviews so that I can clarify issues, but I find that reading what people -- especially if the issue is repeated by reviewers time and again -- don't like can help me in not repeating careless and needless mistakes in my own story.

For example: In "City of Bones" by Cassandra Clare a lot of people seemed to feel that the story was predictable and that it borrowed way too heavily from well known series like Harry Potter and the Star Wars movies. Meanwhile, "Chosen" a novel in P.C. and Kristen Casts' House of Night series, obtained a large number of negative reviews for a scene of the heroine losing her virginity to one of the teachers at her school. While I might not have had any intentions of going in that perticular direction with my own work, knowing that I need to test my limits when writing a Young Adult novel -- but also knowing that times have changed since I last read The Bab Sitters' Club books -- is important.

But the one thing that really got to me, the thing that made me scratch my head in utter and complete confusion, was the concept of the Mary Sue / Gary Stu. I am no stranger to the term. I use to write a lot on as Kianna Starling and Professor Issabelle Snape. It was a prevelant concern then in the FF genre. It is shockingly a common stone thrown at authors on as well. What I find a problem after this evening's research, however, is that the general concept and definition of Mary / Gary have grown and changed.

The initial understanding that I had of the concept of Mary Sue was that she was a proxy, placeholder, replication or avatar for the author. But what does that mean? Taking myself as an example, does it mean that I should avoid any character that is female with a name starting in C or K that is a derivitive of Katherine (of which my name, Kathleen, is an offshooot?) In that case, my character Cait McClure would need a namechange. Furthermore, does it mean that my heroines should avoid having brown hair, brown eyes and having anything resembling physical disability or weight issues?

Now I realize that having one of these things is not the end of the world. Even a second or third can be acceptable. And truth be known, most people are not going to really notice if you do genuinely write solid characters (and not barbie doll immitations of you, family and friends).

At the same time, the thing that I found troubling and disturbing was that the definition of Mary Sue has been extended. It would seem now that any character with a unique destiny risks being a Mary Sue. Any character who has an extraordinary talent discovered after the story begins is a Mary Sue. If your book has anything resembling a love triange (really not a fan of these, but still...) your character is a Mary Sue. Are you putting a rare being into a world in which he or she is not of the dominent species? If there is anything about this that goes with any type of fortune or ease s/he is a Mary Sue / Gary Stu. Hell, even being a generally likeable / liked character could put your hero or heroine in danger.

It has gotten much too far out of hand. Like a guy telling a girl that she is clingy, Mary Sue has become a catch-all phrase that covers a broad spectrum of things without *necessarily* forcing the unsatisfied party to actually identify the problem and, *more importantly*, to provide what s/he would have viewed as a better alternative.

When is a character too nice / likeable / liked and why does that bother you? (The general answer would be that if a character is loved by all the potential for conflict decreases. A decrease in conflict results in weak plot which results in a boring story.)

Why does having a power or gift destroy a character? Luke Skywalker; Zoey Redbird, Harry Potter, Buffy, John Crichton... Each of them has something special about their character that equips them for what their story will require. Can you spot the odd one out here? As much as I love the HoN books, it is Zoey. While Crichton, Luke, Buffy, Harry, etc. have to spend time working and honing their skills, something has pre-determined their ability to have them. (Crichton is a scientist studying wormholes, Buffy knows she is a Slayer, Harry goes to school to learn magic without which the fact that his and Voldemort's wands both have phoenix tails would not matter...

Zoey, meanwhile, discovers her powers in a much more instantaneous (and potentially, to the Casts' target audience, much more gratifying?) manner while attending a ritual of the Dark Daughters. The problem that creeps in is that Zoey, aside from being way too horny for her own good, has no faults that result in perminent and jeopardy-indusing reprocussions. Stevie Rae does not die -- she becomes undead. She cheats on Erik and he takes her back. She cannot decide what she wants from Heath and yet he puts up with her. Yet despite all this, HoN sells well and -- depending on one's tastes -- is an enjoyable read.

I have certain things that I expect from myself as a writer. I expect to tell a story that people beyond me, myself and I will find interesting. If my testers (usually family and friends) find something wrong with what I am writing and can tell me what it is and why -- or at least try to point me in a direction -- I am going to look at it. Especially if the issue is one that is recurrent in people reading my work. If my main character is the same on page 300 as she was on page one, I have failed miseribly as I like to see character growth. If my character has obtained something for nothing, I did something wrong because (as I said earlier) story without conflict is boring. (Speaking of which developing a villain for my newest project is proving a pain.)

All in all, my point is this: there are no new stories, only new interpretations of what has already come. True Love, Revenge, Rags to Riches, Natural Disaster / Survival, Fantasy, Sci-Fi... Its all been done by somebody else. It is your take, your slant, your voice that must be unique. I just find it interesting that for decades people have said "write what you know" and yet now writing anything related to one's own areas of knowledge is suddenly passe and frowned upon. Yet again: I do not think that putting myself into book form would sell or be interesting. But a character is not instantly me if I make her interested in the Beatles.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Netbook or Notebook? I can't decide!

As my Florida trip quickly approaches I am quickly becoming aware of three things:

(1) I want to re-open my Mystic Guardians concept from 2004 and my Holly Knight Chronicles from 2005.

(2) I am going to have nearly two full weeks of 100% no destractions -- minus a bit of shopping, karaoke and going out to dinner / to the pool.

(3) As it stands the only "notebook" I possess is the old fashioned paper kind.

This is not a great thing to realize when I only have about 4 weeks before I leave for my trip. Now, I did consider taking Beaster -- my old 1987 (or something equally ancient) laptop that is an IBM with nada but floppy disc drive and Windows 3.1 or 95 or something else equally grotsque and decaying. But the problem is, Beaster's floppy drive is defective. Forgive me, Beaster, if I do not want to spend two weeks on a manuscript and not be able to retrieve it.

My next option is to use my sparkly new iPod touch to write my novel. But... Hello?! 23.5 inch screen, tiny touch keyboard and 50,000 -- 100,000 words do not mix any better then beer and cheesies. (Just ask my parents. Seriously.)

Add to this that I am not really in the market for a mobile pc as a main computer either. I have a fantastic desktop that I actually plan to swap for a newer and far more custom designed model later this year -- Dad or Mom can have this one. Point being, I do not need a Super Laptop or a Mobile Desktop / Desktop replacement. I use my fabulous 37" Acer TV / Monitor for my PC and my Xbox 360, it works absolutely DIVINE, and I love it.

So what do I need? I need Baby Bear's Porridge. A machine that will do Beaster's old job, but that will not have me paying as much as I will likely spend at Canada Computers this summer when I get my new tower designed. Which begs the question -- do I need a cheap / budget laptop, or a netbook?

There are some key differences. Notebooks have a CD / DVD drive -- netbooks don't. Notebooks tend to have larger hard drives and more powerful processors and (in comparison, at least) more powerful graphics chipsets. There is much more room for a large screen on a notebook then on a netbook and the keyboard is also much more likely to be full (or closer to full) size.

But I suppose that the best way to determine what I need for my portable PC is to think the same way that I do when I buy for my home PC. "What do you plan to use it for?" Lets see...

-- Writing my novels (Duh.)
-- Checking e-mail / general web surfing
-- Charging my iPod
-- Storing wanted footage off my video camera until I can transfer it & edit it on my big PC (What will I need for this? Need to check.)
-- Ventrilo & MSN

In comparison here is what my Mobile PC's "Big Brother" does:
-- Playing MMOs (Must meet current game requirements; built my last PC for WoW raiding.)
-- Editing video footage (I like Pinnacle VideoSpin personally)
-- Watching stuff on YouTube (I have my Touch for this when traveling -- although I can certainly take advantage of and iTunes if I want to put new stuff onto my iPod. Quite handy!)
-- Watching DVDs (Little guy is likely not going to be used for this. If I *really* want to watch DVDs I could always spend the $20 on a cheap DVD player. It would be nice, but its not *necessary.*)
-- Editing artwork (37" screen > 15" screen > 10" screen. Unless I am DESPERATE with a big capital D I am sure my totally badass home setup will be my editing PC of choice.)

Soooo... I need to find a suitable PC. I have done some looking around and some of the things that I have seen have been pretty cool, ranging from cheap to chic. What have I made up my mind that I would ideally like?

If I buy a netbook:

Must run Windows XP. Why? First off, I am not versed in Linux -- it was Greek to me at my ICSP (Independant Computer Stuidies Program) in 1999, and I would wager it is still Greek now. Why not take a shot on Windows 7? Because (a) I have heard that for Netbooks it sucks, and (b) I am more inclined to go with the least resource stealing OS I can that I am ***familiar*** with.

Must have a good keyboard. This is vital. If it does not have a good keyboard I might as well be using my iPod Touch since I already own it. I plan to take a look at Beaster's Keyboard and screen before I make a final purchase. He is not perfect, but he served me well for quite some time and I did a couple fan fic novellas as well as my first novel "Ring of Darkness" quite contently before his floppy disk drive died on him.

Screen must be ledgible. I will have to go and check out these machines to see whether I can physically see the screen on them. I don't have any qualms about pumping the print on my MS Word to 14 or 16 but if we get into 72 territory for me to be able to see, forget it! It would not be worth it.

It must be a liveable colour. Black, red, white, pink... I could handle one of these. Lime Green? Unless I want that to be The Colour of my machine, the answer is *not so much*. Why? Because I can easily (and affordably) get a skin for my new netbook from . For example, this one:

Isn't it cute? Anyway, as you can see there are oodles of ways to make the thing look cute and personal without deliberately paying a small fortune or sarcrificing goods under the hood in the name of fashion. For instance, there was a cute HP Netbook at BestBuy that caught my attention but it is running Windows 7 and is $349.99 before tax, which is a bit more then I can afford comfortably. (Click Here.)

In essence, it comes down to a debate between two machines: either a netbook or a budget laptop. I found these examples on and feel that they pretty much sum up the general idea for option a or option b of what I will end up buying. (Although individual store stock and a bit of luck must obviously be taken into account.) Anyway, here they are:

A Potential Notebook

A Potential Netbook

Which will I end up buying? Only time will tell, but your opinions and suggestions are very welcome. Thanks for reading!