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  • Shelley Dark

#8 the tarot cards don't lie


malus floribunda in Tassie, at the recent writers' retreat

I'm sorry I haven't updated you about the novel lately. I thought you'd think, Oh for goodness sake, aren't you published yet? And now you say it's still not finished? I thought you finished it months ago! You were pitching it to publishers, weren't you?


Yes I did, and yes I was. But now I'm not - I'm not finished, nor published.


I pitched two three publishers and one agent, and all asked for material. I've had one publisher rejection, but deafening silence from the other three. I know that's not a lot, but I just know deep inside, that this novel is not yet 'right'. And this time, I am going to stick at it until I feel sure it's a winner. Or blow up trying.


And there you are, you see, I was right. You are thinking, Oh for goodness sake. 🤣


Smith-Waite Tarot Deck


Rather than bore you with narrative detail, I'm going to tell you instead about a tarot card reading I had the week before last. It was on Saturday afternoon in the thick humid heat of Cairns, in a spiritual centre on a suburban street. We were standing outside. ‘I think it’s closed,’ said my sister-in-law. My heart sank. I’ve only had my fortune told four times in my life, and each time it was spookily accurate. While we were wondering, the front door of the centre opened, and a bright open-faced woman greeted us.


‘It’s lovely to see you.’


A payment of $8 later and I was in a curtained-off booth with Lindsay, his bare white feet and brown legs the result of a recent 800km hike on the Camino. Some feat. I wriggled on my seat in anticipation, ready to listen and remember.

First, he slid this card off the deck and lay it on the table: a man lying face down with all those swords standing up in his back. Eeek. Obviously murdered. Definitely dead. This wasn't promising.
























Then this one. Lots of swords too, but hanging horizontally, not in anyone’s back. But look at the person in a dead funk. Definitely not having a good day either. Doubt flitted across my mind. Did I really want to have my tarot cards read? It only lasted a second. Of course I did. I’m a natural optimist.


Cards followed in quick succession and Lindsay sat studying them, poker-faced.


Before he could tell me anything bad, I jumped in. ‘Lindsay I think I should tell you what I’m looking for today. I am writing a novel and I’ve been confused about which direction to take. I’ve agonised over the answer, but I have just decided I have to rewrite the whole thing. I’d love to know how that’s going to go.’


The barely perceptible sag of his shoulders had to be relief. ‘Ahhhhhh.' He exhaled. 'So the dead body is the last version of your novel. The one you've abandoned. You're feeling a great sense of loss.' I nodded. 'And this one,’ he pointed at the depressive maniac, ‘ is you, depressed at how much work you have ahead of you.’


Well he was right about that. My head is in my hands at the thought of a total rewrite.

Then he pointed at this third card, Justice: he said the sword pointing upwards represents my firm decision to rewrite, and the set of scales is my choice between two options.


He's right. I did have a choice of two ways to proceed, and I've decided.





















Next card.


'The Hermit.' Lindsay said, 'This is you, and you know what you must do. Put aside distractions, use your inner wisdom. Lock yourself away, like a hermit. You have all the answers within you. No one can do it for you.'


Oh great. At least I have the answers. I wonder where.

















He looked at the next card. 'The Six of Pentacles.


'Here you are, offering your time, energy, love and support to others who need it, knowing it will be appreciated. And you will in turn need and receive the same support.


Oh my gosh! He must be talking about my best buddy John, and my writing group - the ALLWRiTE Club. Both are unfailingly cheerful and supportive, and I support them in return.


They're already my lifeline. Aren't I lucky?













Now he was smiling broadly.


'Here you are, the Knight of Wands, off on your charger to slay the dragon. He symbolises the impetuous youthful energy and enthusiasm you have for your mission.


'This card is also cautionary. Don't charge ahead without thinking. Plan what you are going to do, before you take off.'


Don't worry Knight. That's one thing I've learned on this journey. I'm a plotter, not a pantser.














He tapped this card.


‘The Ace of Pentacles. See the coin in the palm? While you have to climb that mountain in the background, and it won't be easy, you are going to reap the rewards of financial success.'


At this stage, I almost laughed. I was starting to doubt the cards. All along, I've been laughing at John for telling me to keep my receipts for the taxman. 'As if I'll ever make money from writing,' I've said.















'Interesting,' said Lindsay. 'The Judgment Card. This means don't just rely on your intellect which you tend to do. Trust your intuition as well.'


This is what my tutor in Tassie, Nigel Featherstone kept saying. Write from your gut, it's a whole body experience. It's not just your brain.


'Trust you own judgment,' Lindsay went on, 'because you are on the right path.'
















There were only three cards left.


Lindsay didn't have to think about the King of Pentacles. 'Look at that. That's the top of the tree, in financial abundance. Your book will be a runaway success.'


Crikey.


I looked The King up on my phone when I left the centre. 'The King of Pentacles often represents the final fulfilment of a creative task. Through diligence, responsibility and attention to detail, you have achieved great things and can finally say that you have attained your goal.'












And the Devil? Lindsay shook his head.


'He's self-doubt. Get rid of him. Pin the King of Pentacles on your office wall with a list of things you know about yourself. Why you are capable of writing this novel: your natural writing ability, your research, your study, your support group, your determination; you have the time to write; you are driven to tell this story, and only you can do it.'


You know what? On the last day of the retreat, Nigel asked us what practical thing we would change at home: I said I would remove the writing prompts on my wall from the last four years, and write fresh stimuli. Spooky huh?













And the last card of all, just in case I hadn't been paying attention: the apprentice, the VIII of Pentacles. He is ignoring all distractions to fully dedicate himself to learning to be a skilled super master of his craft.


Oh please let that happen!






















And there they are, as Lindsay read them, as I photographed them on the table, in all their textured purple velvet glory.













That's it buddies. I hope the tarot cards don't lie. Although it doesn't really matter if they do. I'm going to go and lock myself up for the duration. Might have to get in a supply of cream buns and freeze them. And... better make a lockdown list.


But remember, even when I'm locked up, I wait you.















PS. I'm sorry, but I can't seem to fix the big gaps between the images.

I'm a writer not a techie. 🤭