Tuesday, October 30, 2007

2 Pentacles - Affairs of Wizards

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students of Tarot, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers looking to learn World Building and Alien Character building.

It should eventually be titled: The Biblical Tarot: The Not So Minor Arcana by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, but who knows? It has no publisher yet.

Linnea Sinclair in her October 29, 2007 post, noted how the appeal of Alien Romance lies in the Romance itself when the female lead does not share our cultural expectations of gender roles.

The study of Tarot via the Jacob's Ladder model should give writers a leg up on this difficult task as it delineates the raw experiences of life that would be common among all creatures in all galaxies -- the shared background upon which Romance can be built.

For an example, see my duology, Molt Brother and City of a Million Legends, available on Amazon.com. The alien culture is built on the Tree of Life "Lower Face."

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And Remember: The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) integrated with the "World" or Suit of the card.

For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see:
http://web.onetel.net.uk/~maggyw/treeladder.html

I don't really go with the way this page explains the Tree, but it is worth thinking about. There are many other ways. For now, ponder the diagrams on this page or Google up some others.

I have been posting here since August 14th, every Tuesday, the 10 minor Arcana of the suit of Swords. The Ace of Pentacles was posted Oct 23, 2007.

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2 Pentacles

If the Aces are origins, the condition before anything happens, the point where the entirety of the elemental substance exists as a point, the 2's are the very next moment when differentiation begins to appear.

The 2 of Swords was the moment when the writer who had decided in the Ace of Swords to write a story first sees her words before her eyes. She has externalized something that had formerly been formless and internal.

The 2 of Pentacles is the moment when the writer first feels the impact of the materialization of that idea. (Wands are Ideas.)

Think about what happens when you've sold your first story or novel. Or what happens when someone reads and likes your story.

Think about how that is a moment when your story has become "real" to you on a level you never knew existed before.

This is a moment when what you have created splashes back and changes you. The 6 of Swords which underlies the 2 of Pentacles is the action of striving for change on a soul level.

The change that is striven for was instigated by criticism in 5 Swords and sought in 6 Swords as a new start impelled by Love. In 7 Swords the perception of the values of others, the beauty other people see, impacts and motivates actions anywhere from stealing what others have to copycatting their actions. (think HS girls adopting the dominant girl's dress and accent to don her popularity) And in 8 Swords the results scare you stiff.

Pentacles are Reality, the substance from which all our world is molded and crystallized.

2 is a moment of perception of a division, a dichotomy. The single thing that was so complex you couldn't explain it is now two things.

Yes, that's what happens when you get positive feedback, validation, from another person about something which previously only existed inside your mind. You see your creation through the eyes of another person and it's not the same! (try the feeling when a fan writes a story in a universe you created! Eeerie!)

That vision through the eyes of another sparks your creativity, and suddenly, you get another idea, desire to present that idea, swift decision to do it, and presto you are now juggling two projects.

The Waite Rider deck nailed this one too. It uses a figure juggling two pentacles in an infinity sign. The two projects are related, bound together, but require extreme discipline to balance them against each other.

This is the point in the process where things get really complicated because as you do things that materialize, those things change you -- and you hardly know "who" you are anymore on the ladder of success. It's easy to lose discipline then.

Projects beget projects, complications mount, you get involved in other people's affairs, office politics, messy divorces and even messier marriages, and you find yourself dancing as if in a fairy circle (where they make you dance to death).

This is the quintessence of Multi-Tasking where you may try to be all things to all people and (2 Pentacles Reversed) lose yourself.

The novel plot structure based on this is used in The Dresden Files novels (and TV Series) and is most clearly exemplified in the TV series BURN NOTICE. You also may have seen a more tame version in the TV series THE WALTONS.

Two or more plots going on simultaneously, side by side, each a plot by itself but each also a complication to the other plot. Each simultaneous plot is a sub-plot of the other plot.

Think of the story where a guy has dates with two different girls at the same time on the same night. That's a Two Pentacles moment where the tinge of duplicity from 7 Swords shows through into the materialization (actually getting the dates) of the desire for popularity.

That's what the 2 of Pentacles is about -- complications vying with each other to become main plots. You have a tiger by the tail and there's nothing to do but swarm aboard and ride it.

Thus I call 2 Pentacles getting caught up in the Affairs of Wizards.

And there is an element of magic behind it, an esoteric connection among the plots. That connection is the Theme of the novel or story.

The "theme" of a piece of fiction is what the story is about, what the story says about "life, the universe, and everything." About matters of ultimate concern (i.e. death, immortality, the meaning of life.)

Why do stories have themes?

Ever thought about that? Why do we want to read stories that say something, especially if we might not always agree with what the story says?

Isn't action enough? Isn't character and relationship enough? Why does a story have to say something?

Well. The only reason I can think of is that life itself "says" something, so a story wouldn't seem realistic if it didn't "say" something too.

Each of us lives our life to a purpose, whether we know it or not (as discussed in Wands and Cups). We sometimes look at the lives of others (read biographies of famous people or just talk to people sitting on the benches in the park) and feel they have a purpose and a shape to their lives but "I don't."

Well, from the inside, it's very hard sometimes to see one's own life as purposeful.

I've known writers who struggled to write biographies and were astonished to learn that in order to sell a biography, you not only had to have a famous subject to write about, but you had to have a theme you had found in their lives.

That's right -- biographies get written about people whose lives actually do (or can be made to seem to) exemplify some theme.

That's why you usually see biographies about older people - those who have lived long enough that you can see a pattern in their lives that repeats or moves to a goal. You need a long sample to see the poetry, a whole stanza to hear the music.

But we write novels about young people, and we spend most of our lives as young people! Really! Old age doesn't set in until you stop learning and that's usually only a few years before you leave this world.

So we learn the patterns that life tends to follow from talking to other people, from watching TV and movies, reading books, but usually it isn't obvious what those life patterns are, how they change through life, and what they mean.

Tarot and Astrology chart and follow the change and meaning of life patterns. That's why it seems they can tell you "the future" -- but they can't, not really. They can only tell you the average person's experience with the issues you are dealing with because both techniques are based on empirical research summarized over thousands of case files.

Are YOU an average person? If you're reading this, you probably aren't.

In 2 Pentacles, we first come to grips with a change in our life-pattern that has happened because of the project started in Ace of Wands and brought all the way down.

Remember, in 5 of Swords we confronted criticism, internalized it and either fled or embraced it in 6 Swords, then came to 7 Swords and entered the process of real change.

As noted above 7 Swords underlies the 2 of Pentacles. Check the Jacob's Ladder diagram.

2 Pentacles is the way out of the difficulties of 7 Swords.

2 Pentacles can be thought of as Responsibility, personal responsibility for the concrete results of your own actions and decisions.

Thus 2 Pentacles is the function of taking charge of a matter, issue, affair, deal, project. Or all of the above. That's why it's a juggle.

Why are the 2 Pentacles bound by an infinity symbol though? I'm sure you'll read many explanations, but try this idea out and see if it takes you anywhere.

If the Pentacle is the symbol for crystallized Godshine energy, crystallized Divine Will, and 2 is the awareness of the factoring of a single thing into two things, then perhaps the infinity sign binds the 2 things so we will remember that they are of the infinite and not actually separate from it.

The Universe was Created in balance and always defaults to the balanced condition - "good" balances "evil." The 2 Pentacles is the effort to mix and match our affairs to balance them against each other (playing both ends against the middle; one woman dating two men on the same night when one of the men she's dating is dating two women on the same night) in such a way that we can travel our own path.

That underlying 7 of Swords holds the clue. Venus, the planet of Relationships, of Love, is associated with the 7's. The lesson of the 7 of Swords is all about what is mine and what is yours, about what I may or may not copy or take from you, what you teach me, what I learn, and how it changes me. It's about Relationships and Values. And so is 2 Pentacles.

Which brings us back to the Character Arc -- how characters are changed by the events in their story.

In story as in real life, it's not just people doing things. It's the effect the things people do have on themselves and others. Every thought, word or deed etches its permanent effect on all reality. You are changed by your choices, just as your choices change your world.

That Character Arc of change bespeaks the Theme most closely, most artistically. A novel will stand or fall on whether the Characters change in believable ways.

And so does your life.

However, we learn from watching others live that there are very real limitations on who can change into what, how fast. Thus novels fail if the characters change too fast.

We learn from Astrology that people can become a better (or worse) version of themselves, but they will always be the same Self.

As we age, we don't become different -- we become more-so.

If this is true of humans, I'm betting its true of any aliens we might meet, too.

So in 7 Swords we begin to act on what we learned of love in 5 and 6 of Swords. We let change ripen within us, we try to re-model ourselves after the habits and values of others. We steal, or copycat, actions of others.

Those efforts in 7 Swords can produce a proliferation of affairs, a multiplying of concrete effects in 2 Pentacles.

For example, you set out to write a book on deadline, renovate a house and flip it, or finish a degree in college to get a raise -- you take on a project appropriate to the New You that will improve you and your life.

And as a result you meet someone who needs help moving because he can't afford to hire Two Guys And A Truck, so you help. That strains your back, so you can't work on your project.

So the person you helped brings you groceries and stays to help on your project. "You dictate; I'll type it for you."

Leaving, your new friend can't get his car started. Helping him, you accidentally set his car on fire. You tell him you'll pay for the uninsured part of the damage if he'll help you get your book to the publisher on time, or fix the house to sell it, or finish your degree work so you can get the raise.

That's a 2-Pentacles situation where you get deeper and deeper into juggling the affairs of others as you take personal responsibility for the changes in the world wrought by the New You.

Because of the change inside you, you attract people who take responsibility for the changes they make in your life.

That reciprocity is represented by the 2-Pentacles bound by infinity. Reciprocity balances the world's affairs.

2 Pentacles Reversed will be very familiar to most who have been members of organizations -- a garden club, a dance troop, a choir, a critique group.

There is always the newcomer who arrives and volunteers for everything, works up a furious storm producing wonders for the organization, then poops out, drops out, disappears leaving responsibilities unfulfilled in an organization that is now larger than the available workforce can handle.

That over-loaded volunteer suffered a 2 Pentacles Reversed when things happened in life that should have been budgeted for in time and energy, but weren't. Very often, in a 2 Pentacles Reversed moment, all responsibilities get dropped instead of just the excess ones.

2 Pentacles Reversed happens because of too many irons in the fire, an unrealistic (Pentacles is reality) assessment of the extent of resources to cover obligations. A lack of BALANCE between commitments and resources.

If the person hasn't internalized the changes from 6 of Swords, and hits 7 Swords with the same habits in place, a side-step into 2 Pentacles will result in this sort of disaster.

The remedy is in the 8 of Swords -- facing fears, assessing hazards realistically, learning to take damage to achieve an objective, working the equation of ambition vs. ability so it balances and can stabilize you through the 9 of Swords.

Sometimes that damage you have to take is simply saying "no" when someone asks you to volunteer for one more thing than you can handle. The damage is to your self-image.

The test of 2-Pentacles is of your ability to assess the changes wrought via 6 of Swords (which is also the Ace of Pentacles - a new start) -- and realistically measure your ability to take on responsibilities in the material world.

If you fail the test (we all have; don't be embarrassed), take your project back to the 7 Swords process and move it through 8 Swords and on into 9.

Of course, at 8 Swords you have the option of skipping over to 3 Pentacles, if you're brave enough, strong enough, committed enough.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/

Monday, October 29, 2007

She’s Got Clout and Class..and knows how to Kiss

One of the things drawing readers to science fiction romance is the heroine with clout. The strong female protagonist who kicks butt, takes charge and still makes love with a palpable passion. Now some of you—how bright you are this morning!—are saying that's nothing new. Books by such authors as Suzanne Brockmann, Lindsay McKenna and others have long featured military heroines who face danger with equal aplomb to their male counterparts. Then, of course, there's long been traditional (ie: non-romance) SF from the greats like Catherine Asaro, Elizabeth Moon, Anne McCaffrey and CJ Cherryh that feature strong women in up-front roles.

What's different with SFR?

::Linnea points to the blog title:: The romance element.

Granted, that element is there is Brockmann's works (and other military action/adventure romances). But the heroines' backstories are based in our definition of and experience with women in our militaries. In our culture, women in combat are still not the norm.

With SF and SFR, your norm is what you care to make it.

Cherryh's CHANUR series posited some terrific female—if felinoid—heroines, starting with Pyanfar Chanur. A matriarchal culture. Females long in command of starships and starfaring. But this is pure SF with any romance element deep in the background. Same is true of Moon's, Asaro's and more. Wonderful, terrific, inspiring reads.

Not enough kissing for me.

That's why I designed Commander Jorie Mikkalah the way I did. Jorie, as most of you know, (unless you're been hiding under a rock for the past six months) is the female lead in my release next month, THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES. In her late thirties, Jorie's a war veteran, was a prisoner of war, and now commands her own tracker team assigned to the zombie hunting ship, Sakanah. She's one of many females in various positions of command on the ship. It's her norm. She's been trained in the same manner as any other gender or species her people have encountered. She's quite adept at kicking intergalactic butt.

She also falls head over heels for a Florida cop. As does he, not surprisingly, for her.

Digressing for a moment (this will make sense, stay with me), when researching and writing homicide detective Theo Petrakos, I spent a lot of time talking to and emailing with several (patient, kindly) guys in various law enforcement positions. I wanted to know not only how a male cop acts in certain situations, but how he'd deal with 1) being kidnapped by extraterrestrials and 2) falling in love, against his better judgment.

Cops are different people. Actually, they're much like outer space aliens in many ways. They've been trained—ingrained—to deal with situations most of us (God willing) will never have to experience. They have a tight, tough brotherhood (or sisterhood). There's a strong, silent code of conduct, code of honor. They truly have their own little universe, right here.

Theo was far more like Jorie than he realized.

So his issues with falling in love were pretty much hers, as well. The military environment that shaped her and her thinking was very much like his. Her desire to protect and serve was very much like his. Had Theo been a Mercedes-Benz salesman that parallel wouldn't have existed.

What I did with Jorie was to create a women with what we here would term a male mindset (she wouldn't, however). But she was also completely feminine. I based her a lot on the law enforcement mindset because I personally don't know what it would be like to be raised without culturally-imposed expectations based on gender, as she was. I'm not even sure I portrayed that one hundred per cent correctly because it's still me, writing the character. But when I wore Jorie's skin I had to divorce myself from all the "you can't do that because you're a girl" or "girls don't do that" thinking I'd heard since I was a wee kidling.

And I still had to make her want to kiss Theo. A lot. As she finds out when she comes upon him sleeping in the recliner in his living room:


Petrakos shifted in his sleep, his hands fisting, the blanket sliding off his legs to the floor.

Jorie picked it up and studied him for a moment. His short hair was still damp. He was probably chilled, with no shirt on. She could see the slight redness on his shoulder from the implant. And the hard curve of muscles on his arms and chest, both sprinkled with dark curling hair.

But it was his face that drew her gaze again. She couldn't say exactly why she found it pleasing. Other than it was an intelligent face, a hardworking face—a face that had laughed and a face that had wept.

The man and the female on the vid resumed arguing, but she ignored them and leaned over Petrakos, fluffing the soft blanket over his chest.

Strong hands slammed against her shoulders. Jorie flew backward, landing on her rump with a yelp of surprise. Her elbows hit the floor, pain shooting into her arms as she went flat on her back, one large hand on her throat. Hard thighs locked her legs to the floor.

Then dangerously narrowed dark eyes widened and Theo Petrakos gave his head a small shake."Ah, Christos. Jorie." He removed his hand carefully from her throat and sat back on his haunches. "I'm—regrets. You okay?"

She unfolded her fingers from around the G-1 on her utility belt with no memory of how her fingers had gotten there. But then, from the look on Petrakos's face, his reaction was the same. He hadn't intended to hurt her.

She could have killed him.

She relaxed her body. "Optimal," she said. "But better if I'm not on the floor." She levered up as he grabbed her arm, pulling her toward him. Her face ended up brushing against his neck. He smelled warm and male and slightly soapy. More than slightly blissful.

And it was insane, crazy for her to even think this way. She scooted back and was pushing herself to her feet when he cupped her elbows, drawing her up against his so warm, so very bare chest.

She knew if she found her face in his neck again, she would be sorely tempted to take a taste of him. So she looked up instead and found in his dark gaze an unexpected confusion. Did he know she had this overwhelming, frightening desire to nibble her way down his half-naked body?

"Theo," she said, wanting it to sound like a reprimand but, hell and damn, it came out sounding more like a plea.



Competent and kissable. That applies to both Theo and Jorie. And I like the fact that science fiction romance gives me the opportunity to experience that.

Blissfully—as Jorie would say—Romantic Times BOOKreviews gave THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES not only 4-1/2 stars (their highest rating) but named it the magazine's Top Pick:

"Quirky, offbeat and packed with gritty action, this blistering novel explodes out of the gate and never looks back. Counting on Sinclair to provide top-notch science fiction elaborately spiced with romance and adventure is a given, but she really aces this one! A must-read, by an author who never disappoints."

I'm thrilled and hope you have fun with Jorie and Theo in November.





~Linnea
http://www.linneasinclair.com/

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A different view of flowers

appeal to me because I love to take an anarchic view of human romantic traditions... as do many of the other authors on this blog.

Have we talked about Flowers?
Why do Anglo-American males give cut flowers (and chocolates) to females?

For us, flowers are an all-purpose "I'm sorry", "I want to have sex with you", "I love you", "I remembered your special day" token.

But what happens if you are on a space ship, and the only flowers come from the farm, and the extravagant giving of them means that the food crop has been depleted? Is the gorgeous alien female going to be flattered or appalled?

Here's an excerpt from KNIGHT'S FORK (the next in the series after FORCED MATE and INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL)

In the thoroughly romantic tradition of abduction romances, the hero (Rhett) has imprisoned the heroine in his bedroom while furious with her .... usually either for rejecting his advances or else for making advances when it is not her place to be sexually aggressive.

Now, after thinking things through, he has returned to make peace (and sometimes babies). As usual, they begin by talking at cross purposes. She apologizes for whatever is uppermost on her mind, he expresses condolences for whatever he thinks is her problem.



“I should be more careful,” ’Rhett’s harsh whisper interrupted her guilty pleasure.
Electra looked up and her irrational heart leapt to welcome him.

He’d come back!

Glad, nervous, guilt-stricken and afraid all at once, she stared across the length of the suite at him. One of his hands was bent behind his back. He glared as if he’d never seen her before. A peculiar odor had wafted into the suite with him. His ambiguously reddish aura warned of rampant sensuality. Probably. One could rule out any foolish notion of ’Rhett being violently in love. The only other strong possibility was that he was in a state of noble indignation.

No doubt he was furious to find her prying into the Empress Helispeta’s papers.
Caught spying, there were few diplomatic options.

Wait and see, and if challenged say
Oh, is this private? I just picked it up
. Or, denial
I was not doing whatever you thought you saw me doing.
Or, apologize right away.

“I’m sorry…” she began.

“So am I!” he said.

With an expression of shame, he brought his hidden hand into sight and she saw the damage.

He held a fistful of broken-off legume flowers. They were as delicate, as colorful, and as inedible as insect wings. Impulsively, she moved toward him.

“Oh, what a shame! What happened?” she blurted out, before it occurred to her that perhaps in some rage he’d deliberately destroyed her future rations. Had the growing tips not been severed from the body of the plants, in time there would have been enough temper-suppressing legume fruits to provide three healthy side-dishes at least.

“We should put them in water,” he said remorsefully.

Electra shook her head. “It’s too late. They can’t recover. They’re flowering. They won’t have the energy to take root. But never mind. I should take liquids,” she said reluctantly. “If I remain in a state of near fasting, I shall be less…” she hesitated, “…inconvenient.”

He gave her an enigmatic half smile.

“How, Your Majesty, could you possibly be less inconvenient?” His husky voice deepened. He sounded almost playful if not sexually playful. She marveled at his self control, so far.

When had he started calling her “Your Majesty”? Perhaps it was only her imagination, but it seemed that he’d addressed her –correctly—as “Princess,” which was the higher title, until he’d discovered that she was in his power and sexually available to him.
Would he call her “Your Majesty” while he held her face between his beautifully symmetrical hands and (mildly sexual content...censored)

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I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that my newsletter is up on my website, also that I am part of a Halloween scavenger hunt contest

I'm also "doing" mermaids and manatees on Passionate Internet Voices Talk Radio from 9pm to 11pm on November the first in honor of the Defenders of Wildlife Manatee Awareness Month.

On Oct 31st, I'll be interviewing Ghost Hunter Jeff Dwyer, and also C. L. Shore
Passionate Internet Voices Talk Radio from 9pm to 11pm
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Happy Halloween, everyone!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Star Shadows part two

Fear comes from the unexpected.
He knew what to expect now. The screaming crowds. The smell of fear. The blood. He knew it better than he knew himself.
And all he knew of himself was that he was a glorified assassin.
Blood dripped from the arena above. He held his arms out to his side to protect his body from the blades that hooked down the gauntlets he wore. His eyes did not move beneath his mask to look at the droplets that spattered upon the vicious metal. Instead they turned inward, as they always did before a battle, to the first thing he remembered.
A woman with eyes the color of his. The woman who condemned him to fight in the pits as a tribute to his father.
The woman who condemned him to never know himself.
Who was he? Who was the woman who sent him here? Who was his father? Did he fight in the pits? Did the woman hate him? Was that why he was sent here?
What horrible crime did he commit to deserve his sentence?
And why, after six solar years, was he still alive?
At least that question he could answer on his own.
It is hard to die when your wounds heal over night.
“Phoenix. Phoenix.” The crowd began the chant. The lift would not move until the people were whipped into a frenzy.
Like the fabled Phoenix his wounds healed and he arose once again to fight.
And since he had no name to speak of that was what he was called.
Could not the woman who sent him here tell them his name?
What difference did it make after all this time?
He focused on Laylon. The woman who trained him. The one who counseled him. The only person he knew. The only one he trusted spoke as the lift began its ascent.
“You know what to expect,” she said.
“Did you expect them to take your eyes?” he asked as he rose above her.
He saw her head tilt in confusion. In all these years it was the first time he spoke of her blindness.
He couldn’t help but grin wolfishly as the floor to the arena parted above him. At least now he was guaranteed some interesting conversation after the battle.
As soon as he was done with the latest victim.
He mind had ceased a long time ago to worry about the men he killed. When Laylon first began his training he had several questions but she could answer none of them except for the ones that dealt with the Murlaca. Her life outside the pits had ended long ago when she was blinded in a battle. But she taught him one thing.
Kill or be killed.
He soon learned that some of the men and women in the rings were professional fighters. And some were prisoners, sent there for assassination. The professionals were treated like celebrities. They wore special armor, had trainers, medics, entitlements.
The prisoners were different. They weren’t there long. Some of them were good fighters, some of them survived to fight another day but they all died eventually.
The rules were simple enough. You were thrown into a ring and you fought. The winner moved on. The losers were carted off. Some of them died in the ring. Some of them bled to death as they were waiting for their bodies to be incinerated. If they were lucky.
He was the only prisoner to survive this long. He had beaten all the champions. They did not have to die, although some did of their injuries. Now there was none who even challenged him.
And after each battle he returned to his cell because he had no choice but to do so. At first he rebelled against the handlers who were all selected for their size and cruelty. But they had ways of controlling him.
They stunned him with their long prods
They kicked him viscously when he collapsed. More so when they found out how quickly he healed.
He hated them for it.
He hated the crowd that erupted into screams and more chants of Phoenix as he rose to floor level in the caged arena where he was supposed to fight.
He hated the lights that flashed in his eyes and whoever controlled them. He was certain that one day whoever awaited him in the ring would take advantage of his temporary blindness when he appeared through the floor and use that instant to kill him.
Even though he couldn’t die.
He still felt pain. He knew it when his flesh was ripped open by the blades. He felt it when his ribs broke from the violent kicks of his handlers.
He felt everything.
Yet he had no scars.
He quickly found his opponent once the light left his eyes.
His blood quickened as he turned his head to where the man stood, his sides heaving in anticipation. Tonight he would have a challenge. The man had some size on him, a wide chest, thick muscular arms and sturdy legs. There was intelligence in his face, more so than the usual fear. And it seemed as if he were used to the blades. His arms were relaxed at his sides instead of clenched. Clenching them just made the muscles weary. Made the blades heavier. The match shorter. He was also wearing the armor of the champions. Thick leather covered most of his body as it did his own. But it wasn’t thick enough to stop the blades. Nothing could stop the blades.
He wondered briefly what his challenger’s crime was. Or maybe he just crossed the wrong person. The man waiting to fight him must have done something to someone to be sent here. Just as he had. Was it the woman with the pale eyes?
He knew the mask made him look more intimidating. Heartless. Cruel. The hooked crest that arched over his forehead and covered the bridge of his nose gave him the appearance of a predator.
For some reason the woman who gave him his sentence to this place did not want his face to be seen and as he did not recognize himself it made no difference to him whatsoever. It gave him an advantage so he took it.
And it wasn’t as if anyone would claim him since he was nothing more than a glorified assassin.
As usual he raised his arms above his head in a show of strength, watching his challenger to make sure he didn’t attempt to attack him. Then he crossed them in a slashing motion as he brought them down.
The crowd screamed louder.
He hated them. All of them.
He heard the announcer amplify his name over the screams of the crowd.
He hated him. He was the one who first called him Phoenix. And since he had no other name it became his title.
He rose from the ashes of his blood and the blood of his victims to fight again another day. Just like the fabled bird of ancient times.
But the bird was able to fly away eventually. And death would be an easy flight to take.
Too bad he couldn’t die.
He bounced up on the balls of his feet three times. Then he leaned his head to one side until he heard the familiar pop.
The crowd screamed in anticipation.
His challenger was not as intelligent as he first thought. His came at him as if he thought to overwhelm him with his greater strength.
Phoenix moved aside gracefully and watched in amusement as his challenger waved his arms in an attempt to stop himself from careening into the side of the cage.
Should he prolong it? Or simply but the man away so he could return to his cell?
His cold, lonely cell.
He was bored so he decided to make it last.
Make him bleed a lot.
Maybe he’d get a reward for his trouble.
Sometimes they allowed him a woman. And the luxury of the baths.
His challenger realized that his greater strength wouldn’t work. Not when Phoenix had speed and agility on his side.
The challenger circled him. Phoenix kept his eyes trained on him, turning with him in an almost casual manner. He held his arms out at his sides, the blades ready.
The challenger grinned, as if he suddenly saw a weakness but Phoenix knew it was nothing more than a ruse.
He had no weaknesses in the ring.
But he might let him think so, just to make it interesting.
The floor was wet from the cleaning it received between matches. The blood was sprayed into the crowd to keep the next combatants from sticking and slipping. The crowd loved it.
Phoenix took a step back as the challenger circled. As if he was afraid. His foot moved awkwardly. As if he slipped.
The challenger came at him. As he expected. He raised his right forearm up to slash downward at Phoenix.
Who ducked under the strike and slashed his left forearm across the challenger’s belly.
The man was softer than he first thought. What he thought was solid muscle was nothing more than thick layers of fat that oozed a thick stream of blood.
He seemed surprised that he was injured. But no more so than Phoenix who saw rather than felt the blood on his hip.
Phoenix realized that there wasn’t a mark on his opponent until now. He must have fought well to get to this level without injury. Or else this was his first battle of the day.
It made no difference. It would soon be over.
The wound wasn’t deep for either of them. Nothing more than an annoyance.
But it sent a clear message. Neither of them was to be trifled with. Or easily dismissed.
Phoenix saw the impact of it in the challenger’s eyes.
“What are you hiding under that mask?” the man said.
It was the first time, in the solars. In all the matches. In all the deaths. That anyone had every said anything to him beyond please.
He was not prepared for it.
And his challenger knew it.
The man saw the doubt in his face and came at him with a roar. Phoenix threw his left arm up in defense just in time and heard the crowd’s joint intake of breath as the two arms collided in mid air, the blades tangled as the combatants tested each other’s strength.
The challenger’s was greater. But Phoenix had not survived this long on strength alone.
He bent backwards under the pressure. He used his right arm to block the slashes aimed at his thigh.
As soon as he felt his attacker shift his balance Phoenix kicked upwards with his legs. His armored plated boots struck the man in his chest as Phoenix flipped backwards. He landed in a squat and slashed with his right arm along his opponent’s thigh. His aim was for the back of the knee but the man knew it was coming and managed to turn his leg in time to take it on the armor.
Phoenix did not expect his blow to be deflected. Every other time he struck in that manner he crippled his opponent and it was just a matter of time to finish him off.
He knew he was vulnerable in his crouched position so he swung his leg out in a sweep kick, hit his opponent in the ankles, and sent the man toppling as he rose to his feet.
The impact of the man hitting the mat bounced the floor. Phoenix flexed his legs to absorb the vibration and looked down at the man. He should finish him now. Just a strike across the exposed throat and it would be over, but he was curious.
The crowd roared for him to strike a death blow but he ignored them, as he usually did. “Why are you here?” Phoenix asked. “What was your crime?”
“I have to admit you are as good as they said you are,” his opponent said as he moved to his feet, his eyes on Phoenix the entire time.
“They?” Phoenix said. “Who are they?”
The man swung his arm out to encompass the crowd. “Everyone. You’re a legend of the Universe. Unbeatable. Indestructible. A slave who’s the master of the game. Until now.”
He feinted with his right and swung with his left. Phoenix saw it coming and blocked with his right then swung his left straight up. The blade on his wrist buried itself in the soft skin beneath the man’s chin and pierced through to his tongue.
The man gagged and staggered back as Phoenix wrenched his blade free.
He missed the artery.
“Who are you?” Phoenix asked.
The man spat out a gob of blood. Phoenix saw the slice in his tongue; saw the hole in the bottom of his mouth as he worked to speak.
He couldn’t form a word but his eyes spoke volumes. He meant to kill him and he meant to kill him now.
With a cry from deep in his belly he came at Phoenix. Arms slashed as he sought to run over him and over power him with his strength.
Phoenix met him head on, his own blades slashing. Blood poured from the man’s chin and down his front, slicking both of them, covering them, making them slide as if spilled onto the floor.
Was it possible that the screams of the crowd were even louder?
Phoenix strained against his opponent as their arms locked into each other, the blades capturing them and keeping them attached as they fought for balance, for a superior position.
But Phoenix was flexible. He pushed against the man with one leg planted and was able to open enough room between them to bring his knee up into a snap kick as he pried his opponents arms open wide. The toe of his boot hit the gash and his head snapped back, exposing the vulnerable throat.
With a roar from his gut Phoenix slashed the man’s throat, ripping out the larynx and the main artery. Blood gushed forth in a heavy shower. Phoenix caught the man as he toppled and turned his body towards one side of the arena so that the blood spouted out upon a dark haired woman who looked at him in fear but screamed in absolute ecstasy.
He hated her too. For a very good reason
He looked down and saw the life leave the man’s eyes, along with his unanswered questions. He dropped the body to the floor and went back to the center of the ring where the lift would take him down to the cells.
He didn’t even bother to lift his arms in victory. He had too much on his mind.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

LOVE UNLEASHED, continued:

Since next week is Halloween, a good time for witchcraft: Here's a later scene from my forthcoming erotic paranormal romance, LOVE UNLEASHED. The hero, Stefan, having received his just deserts by getting changed into a dog, collides with a car in which the heroine, Vicki, is riding. After her boss, a veterinarian, checks over the dog, she takes him home to keep an eye on him until she can find his owner. When the sun sets, Stefan, who's been shut in the garage, turns back (temporarily) into a man. Note: This is the unedited version, not the final:


Stefan dropped the quilt and dashed into the woods, burning with humiliation. Waking up naked on a garage floor had given him a severe shock. At first he hadn't known where he was or why. Then all the memories of the past few hours had come flooding back. His attempt to bend Diana's spell to his own purposes must have worked at least partly, since he'd become human again. But for how long? No matter how fervently he hoped for a permanent cure, he knew he couldn't count on escaping the curse that easily. The confrontation with the woman, Vicki, had jolted him with sickening disappointment. When he tried to cast a veil of invisibility over himself and she had no trouble seeing him, he felt as if he'd fallen over a cliff. Diana must have bound his powers.

He ran until his ribs ached. When he collapsed, gulping air, onto the ground, he noticed he'd scraped his feet on twigs and pebbles. His stomach roiled. Hunger had driven him to sample the dry dog food, which felt like a hard lump in his gut. He swallowed, determined not to add vomiting to the rest of his misery.

If he could retrieve his amulet, he felt confident his magic would come back with it, now that he'd had some time to recover from the onslaught of Diana's spell. But Vicki had taken off the necklace, and he had no way of knowing exactly where she had stashed it. The easy solution, that she'd kept it in her purse where he could steal it back with minimal effort, seemed the least likely. She'd struck him as too conscientious for that.

Huddled under the trees with his arms wrapped around his bent legs, he mulled over every detail of the evening. His clear memories started with barreling into the side of Vicki's brother's car. Before that, all he could recall were blurred images of fleeing from Diana's basement and racing along the road, dodging cars and panting in the heat, his chest painfully heaving. From glimpses of his surroundings in the parking lot and through the car window on the way to Vicki's, he figured out he had run from Diana's house on the Annapolis Neck peninsula a couple of miles to Bay Ridge near Forest Drive. To reach his own home, a waterfront townhouse on the Eastport side of Annapolis across the creek from the historic downtown, would be an easy walk of less than an hour. Except that he couldn't go home, even if he had clothes and keys. That would be the first place Diana would search for him, and until he got his powers back, he had to stay out of her clutches.

Shifting his legs to relieve the itchy sensations of pine needles and dry leaves under his buttocks, he sorted through his memories of the conditions he'd tried to attach to the spell. He'd begged to retain some humanity. He had that, for what it was worth. He'd raised a shield against hostile magic. That had apparently worked, because the bolt of energy Diana had cast at him had bounced off. He remembered asking to be sent to a place of refuge, and obviously Vicki's house was it. No, not so much her home as the woman herself. His impromptu spell had created a magnetic attraction between them. Furthermore, she had been the first person to touch him after his transformation, and and he'd imprinted on her. He shivered at the memory of her soothing touch, her strong yet soft hands running over his canine body. And then the brief but intense dream they'd shared when he'd dozed off—only residual magic could have generated that. If he reverted to dog form, he knew he would have to return to her place for shelter, but that prospect was more than a matter of necessity. He *wanted* to go back to Vicki. When he'd heard her calling in the distance a few minutes ago, he had yearned to answer, to throw himself at her feet and beg for sanctuary. That had to be a side effect of the spell. He would certainly never feel drawn to a woman that way in normal circumstances.

Heaving himself off the ground, he limped to the nearest hiking trail, where the smoother earth wouldn't hurt his feet so much. He crept to the edge of the woods and stalked parallel to the mostly fenced yards that bounded the undeveloped area. Not that he had any clear idea of where he was headed. He certainly couldn't return to the woman, not like this. She'd have him arrested. Yet his mind couldn't stop gnawing on the memory of her face and voice. Why had the magic fixated on her?

-end of excerpt-



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ace of Pentacles - Setting up Housekeeping

I am prepending here a comment to Linnea Sinclair's post just prior to this one, so this post is huge.

She Wrote in response to my statement in my April 2008 review column (I sent her a copy because her book is in it) "Reading SF Romance is a good exercise for learning to judge character."---But doesn't reading any kind of fiction accomplish that? you ask.

Good question. My goodness, you're bright. Yes, it does. Reading fiction puts you in the driver's seat of someone else's feelings and experiences and—if you've half a brain and even a quarter of a heart—builds empathy and compassion.

I just think SFR—because of its very otherness—does it better.
---
And Linnea's correct, of course -- fiction per se is for me one of the necessities of life, along with air, water, and food. Fiction is food for sanity.

Fictionalizing is a form of hypothesizing which is the higher cognitive function that distinguishes "us" from animals. It is how we will identify humans from other planets who aren't even remotely anthropoid.

And she's right that the secret of SF is that it, like Fantasy, allows the "lesson" to angle into our eyes from a distance. Psychologists and Literary Analysts call that "distancing."

However, SFR, as a cross-genre hybrid, has unique properties that make my statement significant in even more far reaching ways.

The essence of SF is "meeting the unknown, possibly unknowable" -- SF depicts a human attitude of fearlessness in the face of the unknown, and how you acquire that attitude.

The essence of Romance is embracing the alien (all men are alien to women; women alien to men). We can embrace at the intersection point where we have things in common, like an overlapping Venn diagram.

The essence of SFR is FEARLESSLY EMBRACING THE UNKNOWN/UNKNOWABLE.

Where does that kind of fearless embracing attitude come from? How do you acquire it rather than just admire it from afar?

Well, that is precisely what this series on the Swords and Pentacles of Tarot is actually all about.

For writers, grasping the underlying patterning of the kind of thinking I am demonstrating here (NOT, G-d Forbid! MY ANSWERS, mind you -- but the process of generating these outrageous thoughts) will imbue your novels with a sense of philosophical adventure into the unknown, mapping the edges of the unknowable and finding the fearlessness within your own core of fear.

It is not any one Card that will help us communicate SFR's charisma to non-initiates. It is the underlying pattern, the relationships among all the components and how those components synthesize into specific meaning.

Specifically with regard to SFR, the study of this pattern is vital because the pattern reveals how the whole of creation is held together BY LOVE! And knowing that Love is what dispels fear and allows adventuring.

For readers, learning these patterns will allow you to fully benefit from walking a novel's pathways within the head of a person who is nothing like you -- but has everything in common with you.

Writers communicate with specific readers best when the writer shares a perception of the shape of reality or the universe with the reader -- shares a philosophy.

The secret behind all ART is that kind of philosophical shared communication.

It's like the sounding of one guitar string that by resonance transfers energy to another string an octave higher -- and MUSIC HAPPENS.

One fundamental of human nature is that we all have a "philosphy" -- but we keep it in our subconscious minds.

To broaden the reader-base of SFR, we as writers must embrace the philosophy in our readers' subconscious and communicate with it via art.

No two people are alike. We are each unique. But we are embedded in the same universe, and that universe does indeed have an underlying pattern which we all percieve and use. These 20 articles on the Tarot may provide writers and readers a "universe of discourse" in common, and allow writers to hit the right notes to resonate with readers on a more abstract level than the usual novel allows.

So the "magic" that SFR has over all other genres or types of literature lies at the intersection of SF and R. No other hybrid genre has that intersection -- though many others have different kinds of very beneficial intersections.

What has this all to do with the Suit of Pentacles at the ACE level?

It's all very abstract, and that's what the 4 Aces of the Tarot represent -- a notion that is so collapsed in on itself (like a neutron star or black hole or white hole), that everything is packed into it, and therefore it is what people call "abstract" which usually means difficult to understand.

So, put another way, the point of writing this sequence of 20 explorations of the Sword and Pentacle Minor Arcana is to discover how to use the master keys of the universe to empower SFR to reach and energize more readers, to connect at levels most people aren't aware exist, and to empower love through that channel.

OK, my objective also includes finishing the book I started 10 years ago! But I wouldn't be doing this if Rowena hadn't started this blog. So blame or thank HER for all this abstraction.
-----------------------------

ACE OF PENTACLES

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers.

It should eventually be titled: The Biblical Tarot: The Not So Minor Arcana by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, but who knows? It has no publisher yet.
---------------
And Remember: The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) integrated with the "World" or Suit of the card. For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see:

http://web.onetel.net.uk/~maggyw/treeladder.html

I don't really go with the way this page explains the Tree, but it is worth thinking about. There are many other ways. For now, ponder the diagrams on this page or google up some others.

Each person must find a synthesis of those 2 components of meaning for themselves. These essays are mine, not yours. Watch the methodology, do it for yourself, and find your meaning.

You will have to re-do this periodically through life -- because you change, things change, and your ability to synthesize multiple parameters changes. What is true for you today, may or may not be true for you tomorrow. This underlying pattern, though, never changes.

I have been posting here since August 14th, every Tuesday, the 10 minor Arcana of the suit of Swords. Here we start again with the Ace of Pentacles.
----------------
Ace of Pentacles

Or the 1 of Pentacles.

So what is 1?

We covered some aspects of 1 in Ace of Swords, which you should review.

The Aces are beginnings, origins, the number ONE -- the unity behind all reality.

Let's call the Pentacles "Reality" -- the material existence we live in.

Aces exist at the level of reality where all things are just one thing, and haven't yet been divided into many things.

The esssence of One is "unity" -- or the fact that nothing can really be distinguished from anything else. There really ultimately is only ONE thing.

But let's look at it a different way. In this Intermediate level of Tarot we have to explore different models of the universe to discover what model works best for us today.

The model of the universe behind the structure of the classic Tarot deck is Jacob's Ladder from the Torah, and so a good place to start is with the story of Creation in Genesis.

Most all of Kaballah is the study of the moment of Creation in Genesis and the current mortal world implications of how our mortal world was Created.

Jacob's Ladder is the symbolic diagram of the "Ladder" that Jacob saw when he slept with his head on a stone. Angels went up and down the Ladder from Heaven to Earth, bearing messages.

To figure out how (and why) the Tarot works, and therefore what it's good for and what it's not good for, we have to try to build a model in our minds of what Creation is and what that has to do with us and our lives. I mean who cares?

That "Who Cares" level of abstraction is just what the 1's or Aces are all about.

Once again, remember that what you're reading here is your misunderstanding of my misunderstanding of dozens of Kaballistic Sources (hence I don't generally attribute my sources because I know I'm not faithfully representing them and there are literally hundreds.)

All this is my understanding at this moment in time, and I keep changing. What I'm showing you here is not "the" answer -- but how to blend all these symbols into your own personal answer which will then evolve as you evolve. You can't use my answer any more than I can use your answer -- but all of us can use the process of figuring out.

At the level of the Ace of Pentacles then, we need to figure out what "reality" is -- what's a Pentacle, where it came from, where it's going, and what it has to do with us.

So what happened that ended up creating "reality"?

According to the text, G-d SPOKE, and it was so.

It was a WORD that instigated Creation.

It wasn't a written word, but a SPOKEN one. It was a vibration.

The emission of a vibration created reality.

Hmmm.

The Kaballists also say that G-d "creates" AND "sustains" the Universe, present progressive tense. That G-d recreates all reality continuously in every instant. The Divine Will causes all this to continue to be. Existence itself is a miracle that re-occurs every instant.

I think of it a little differently. Suppose the Word G-d Spoke is still being spoken?

Physicists know now that physical reality is made up of particles that vibrate -- everything down to the smallest particle vibrates if it's above 0 Degrees Kelvin. It can be argued that it isn't "vibration" when a particle's location is statistical.

And at a certain level, those particles actually aren't anything but energy which is vibrating. There's no such thing as solidity. There is only vibration at different rates. There isn't even a "thing" that vibrates -- but only the vibration itself. (physics is incredible)

So the whole of our mundane reality is nothing more than a Word the Creator is Speaking. The vibration of that Word is "hot" and therefore emits brightness which we call Good.

Yes, you remember there were several utterances that projected our world into being and it took 6 days, and a 7th to rest and observe.

Kaballists say that when G-d gave the 10 Commandments, all the words in them were co-vocalized, all collapsed into one single Word. We couldn't understand it, so we sent Moses up to get it straight.

Well, suppose (who knows if it's true?) that Creation is actually a single utterance, the co-vocalized version of all those Words that begin Genesis. Maybe that's not true, but it's a "model." Physicists routinely create "Models" of processes they want to study -- the "Model" is a mathematical fiction that works like the process and by using it, you can learn things you wouldn't learn from the actual process.

So let's use this model to study Pentacles.

From our mortal point of view, we can clap our hands, or sit on a chair -- reality is solid, not vibrating. This is the macro point of view -- we know it's not true, but it's a useful model.

Let's say Reality and the material in it consist of crystalized vibration.

If you study crystals, you see that chemical bonds hold atoms in a structured relationship to each other. In some crystals, electrons can break loose and flow between the latticework.

The latticework of a crystal is hollow, and everything forming it vibrates -- all the particles simply have a certain probability of being where they are, and sometimes they aren't there. It really makes no sense to talk of particles -- actually they're waves. Well, maybe not.

That's what the Pentacle in the Suit of Pentacles represents -- Reality as a Crystalized Latticework of Vibration where everything is "hmmm well, maybe not" probable.

That means that Pentacles are the Words and Thoughts and Deeds of Swords brought into a STRUCTURE, or solidified. Constructed.

The Pentacles represent the universe as a housing for the abstraction of Ideas, Emotions, Thoughts, Words and Deeds. Thus the Universe is a house and we are builders and housekeepers.

Or put another way, Pentacles are Structured Thought, Constructed Words, Deeds Done.

The Ace of Pentacles on Jacob's Ladder overlays the 6 of Swords.

Remember (or refer to) the 6 of Swords discussion.

We've been tracing the project of writing a book down from a beginning moment in Ace of Swords through creating a First Draft in 4 Swords, to showing it to a beta reader in 5 Swords and getting whacked with criticisms, to rewrite in 6 Swords.

The 6 Swords is a journey to another place. It is a leaving of where you are -- and a seeking of someplace to START NEW.

One essence of 6 is venturing into the foreign, the UNKNOWN, battered maybe but fearless (either because your adrenals are burned out from terror and you're fleeing, or because you finally understand what you did wrong and you're going to start over.)

Either way, it is the essence of both SF and Romance, the meeting place where Love is given, sought, and found, and started anew.

That place where you START NEW is the Ace of Pentacles.

Aces are Beginnings.

But by the time you've pulled your project down from Ace of Wands (the beginning of an Idea) through Ace of Cups (the budding desire to write the thing), then all the way through the tedium of Swords, the project is well-worked, rich with ideas and artistic potential. You have many versions, much rewriting.

The Ace of Pentacles contains within it all those false starts, complete but unusable drafts, and all the material you never put into the novel -- the character's backstories, the history of the World you've built, the tons of research you've done. It's all there compressed into the Unity of the Ace of Pentacles.

The world you've created has become real to you. You know it all, from start to finish, just as the Creator of this universe knows it all.

Have you ever tried to explain a novel you're writing to someone? You get tongue-tied not knowing what to put first, and you try to say everything at once along with all the details about what happened before the story starts. You LOVE that novel -- 6 of Swords, Love.

You KNOW that novel, but you can't SAY it in a way that conveys it to your listener in one sentence.

That KNOW is the Ace condition.

Now you turn your idea every which way looking for a new way to get into the idea, a new entry point, a new avenue to explore in your Universe.

If you haven't taken your old habits with you from 5 of Swords, you will be able to move from 6 Swords into this new beginning and not repeat the mistakes that drew criticism before.

Think of it this way. If you finished the novel started in Ace of Swords -- bringing it through all the way to 10 Swords -- then now in Ace of Pentacles you can start writing ANOTHER novel, one that won't contain those same mistakes and require rewriting (don't worry, you can always invent some new mistakes, and chances are you will.)

If, however, you have taken your old habits with you through 5 Swords, this new beginning will start to look very much like the old treadmill very quickly.

Being human, when we make "new starts" we usually just recreate the world as we knew it.

Sometimes that's OK because we're just not ready to change because we haven't finished what we're doing yet. But the result is depicted usually by the Ace of Pentacles reversed -- a process that is an attempted beginning without enough energy behind it to produce results.

You can be stuck in the "I'm going to write another book," process for a very long time.

Trying to break free too soon will only result in more partial drafts and failed attempts.

Where does the energy come from that gets you through the Ace of Pentacles reversed?

Again, remember it overlays the 6 of Swords, and 6 is Love. The beginning, the origin of everything (thing=Pentacles) is love.

The way I look at it, this whole universe we call reality is a love song. All we have to do is hear it.

Once you hear your song, you'll be able to sing it for us.
But this is a folk song. It changes constantly, gets new verses, new grace notes, new arrangements, new instruments.

And that's what a character-arc is -- the changes within a character because of the story that's happening. The character adds a new stanza to the love song of the universe.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/

Monday, October 22, 2007

Walking a Mile in Another’s Gravity Boots

I've spent a fair amount of time lately thinking about science fiction romance and why I (and others) write it. Partly this is because that topic is simply something I normally think about. I'm a ruminator, if there is such a critter. I love to mull things over, play with ideas in my mind. I don't know if I was one of those annoying children who continually asked "why?" but I certainly do that a lot now.

The other reason is that on this blog and elsewhere, the topic of science fiction romance (what it is, where it's going, why it does what it does) is hot. To get a recent sampling beyond this blog, go here and here and here. And the one from last year which I still get emails on, here. This doesn't include the four-day Science Fiction Romance/Futuristic Workshop at Romance Divas two weeks ago. (You have to register to read the forum posts but it's worth it.)

So why do I write it? If you've been following any of these discussions you know that the genre is still experiencing growing pains, it gets dissed from various camps for things the other camp loves, no one's really sure where to shelve us and publishers aren't sure how to market us. So why write for a genre with so many inherent issues when I could write something already defined, established and easily available everywhere paperbacks are sold?

Because of something Jacqueline Lichtenberg noted in an upcoming column (yeah, a bit of time travel here—she sent me an advanced copy of her monthly column because my book, The Down Home Zombie Blues, is mentioned in it). The esteemed Jacqueline wrote: Reading SF or Paranormal romance is good exercise for learning to judge character – and learning to trust.

And that just smacked me right in between the eyes with a gosh-golly-dang it all with the absolute truthfulness of that statement. Reading SF Romance is a good exercise for learning to judge character.

We're not talking literary characters here, although that's how that's achieved. We're talking the everyday attributes of those within your sphere.


But doesn't reading any kind of fiction accomplish that? you ask.


Good question. My goodness, you're bright. Yes, it does. Reading fiction puts you in the driver's seat of someone else's feelings and experiences and—if you've half a brain and even a quarter of a heart—builds empathy and compassion.

I just think SFR—because of its very otherness—does it better.

Sometimes we don't want to specifically face how unsympathetic we are. How we lack compassion. And if the characters we're reading about are like us in thought, actions, deeds and experiences, that lesson might be a bit too much "in your face" and not be accepted as easily. Or it might be more easily overlooked. "Hey, stockbrokers (or gym teachers or real estate agents or soccer moms) don't act that way here in (fill in the blank with your locale)." So the vicarious experience goes flat. We reject the experience because we all know some gym teacher or veterinarian or store clerk who wouldn't feel that way or say those things. So we don't. The lesson cut too close to the bone for us to comfortably assimilate it.

But ah, science fiction and more so science fiction romance. Since none of us are Stolorth or Wookiie or Kif or furzels or fam, there's just enough of a disconnect, of a distance that we can step into the "other's" skin and accept the experience without feeling that it's, well, really a lesson in compassion aimed at us. Because, well, we really don't need one, right?

Once a lot of the hard-SF purists stopped dissing "media SF" like Star Wars, the realization surfaced that issues of racism, cultural taboos and ethnic diversity were at the heart of many of the shows. When Kirk kissed Uhura, viewers sat back and said, wow! He's handsome, she's gorgeous… was there a message about interracial relationships there? Maybe. If you wanted to see it. But Star Trek also taught us (well, those of us who were listening) to see beyond skin color and country of origin. It was hot dude kissing sexy gal. Wow.

I often get asked if there are "messages" in my books. I occasionally (well, more than occasionally) get emails from readers who've noticed certain messages. Are they there?

My answer is always the same: if you want to see them, they are. Lightly layered in, sometimes more heavily layered in.

In science fiction romance, you can do that. In Gabriel's Ghost, there's the reaction of humans to Stolorths. The treatment of Takas. In An Accidental Goddess, there's the problem Gillie faces when confronting her own image enshrined in a temple. And in my upcoming The Down Home Zombie Blues, watch how Commander Jorie Mikkalah views us here on Earth.

I'm not the only author who plays with this. Read Robin D. Owens fantasy series for Luna, read Susan Grant's Otherworldly Men books. Read Colby Hodge and Stacey Klemstein—the latter especially for dealing with "the other," especially if the other is us. Rowena Cherry couches her messages in humor. Then there's Catherine Asaro, Patti O'Shea, S.L. Viehl, Susan Kearney, Lisanne Norman… all authors who certainly could write to easier plotlines and markets (and some, like Kearney and Viehl, already do, branching out to non-SF genres). But here we are for the most part, hip-deep in SFR.

Science fiction permits an author a palette of far more intense and diverse colors than contemporary fiction does. It also permits a buffer called "other" than does make lessons or messages feel so much less like lessons or messages. It's a larger than life venue. Exaggeration doesn't feel quite so much out of place. So the experience is deeper, richer, more intense and yet, in many ways, less confrontationally obvious.

Yet it makes us think, makes us feel. The very vividness with which we create our worlds and characters stays in the brain and the heart. They are often so different. So we, readers, think about them a little more. It's fun to explore that difference. Even if in the process, we learn something about ourselves.

~Linnea

PS: that pencil sketch above was done in the early 1980s. Just shows you how long I've been thinking about these things...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Looking below Orion's belt

At five this morning, I glanced up through a bathroom skylight, and saw stars.

"Oh, good," I thought. My view across the lake from the living room window wall had shown sullen, reddish cloud cover, but my aspect is toward the East and South. The sky is often very different at the front of the house.

Wrapped in an old duvet, I went to lie on the driveway, to make a few wishes on shooting stars.

Orion is the only constellation I am confident in recognizing.
I freely admit it.
It's the alignment of his kinky belt that draws my eye every time.

Anyway, oh joy! I was able to see the Orionids. Meteors ejaculating from the general region of Orion.
I wasn't able to wish fast enough --for romantic inspiration-- there were so many.

I wonder why we wish when we look up at a combusting grain of sand but not at a flash of lightning?
I wonder how or whether a meteor shower would mess with an alien spaceship's "cloaking" or "Virtual Invisibility".

Having wished, I now must get back to work, because wishes don't make word count, not even when one is writing an alien romance.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

PS
I may edit this blog to unrecognizability in the coming days.
I'm working in Safari, so I cannot add links. However, my latest newsletter went live last Tuesday and can be found at
http://www.rowenacherry.com/newsletter/index.php

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Star Shadows Review

From Fresh Fiction


Star Shadows by Colby Hodge

"Futuristic adventure means love among the stars."
Reviewed by Mandy Burns
Posted October 19, 2007


Three friends living in a dangerous world of paranormal phenomenon and mind-controlling enemies are bound to protect each other at any cost. Arielle and Zander Phoenix and Boone have been friends since they were kids. Arielle and Zander are forbidden to leave their home; neither one of them understands why, while Boone claims the freedom they wish they had by being part of the academy and becoming a fighter pilot who travels the galaxy.

Zander becomes frustrated with his lack of power and wants to experience what his friend has seen in other worlds, so he rebels against his parents' judgment. He steals Boone's ship and takes off into a dangerous world he knows nothing about. The secret that Zander's parents have kept from both him and his sister is coming full circle and will affect them all.

STAR SHADOWS, the third book in this futuristic adventure series, casts a fabulous spell over the reader. Colby Hodge has an uncanny knack of connecting readers to the characters in a way that leaves you crying and laughing right along with them. I am excited to read the other books in this series.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Here's an excerpt from the first scene of my paranormal erotic romance, LOVE UNLEASHED, recently accepted by Ellora's Cave. The hero experiences what it's like to lose his proper form and wear the body of an animal:

If human eyes could flash, Diana's would be shooting sparks. “You're the priest of her coven. She looked up to you. Of course you had no trouble seducing her.” She moved on to the third knot. Shadows deepened in the corners of the room.
*Illusion. She's trying to spook me.* “Seducing? You sound like a Victorian novel. She needed comfort, and I happened to be around. It was mutual.” He sighed aloud this time, spreading his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “What are you so worked up about anyway? It's not like she was a virgin."
The girl had at least one prior relationship that Stefan knew of. In fact, she'd been going with another man in their circle, one closer to her own age. After she'd had a fight with him, she had accepted Stefan's shoulder to cry on. When comfort had heated to passion, he hadn't hesitated to take advantage of the opportunity. He and Tanith had enjoyed two months together. At least, he'd enjoyed it, he reflected with a reminiscent smile. He hadn't noticed any indication that she'd felt otherwise.
Diana's face momentarily contorted with rage. Unclenching her teeth, she smoothed over her expression, although her fingers kept untwisting the cords. “Yes, and thanks to you, Rob won't have anything to do with her. He was good for her, and they would have gotten back together if you hadn't interfered.”
“Damn it, I'm not responsible for Tanith's love life. We had a casual thing. That's perfectly legitimate in the philosophy this coven follows, or have you switched the rules and I missed the memo?”
"It's legitimate between equals. Tanith is twenty-four. You're thirty-five and far more experienced. She thought you meant something by it. I could have told her different, but of course she wouldn't listen to her mother. Even when her mother is also her priestess." By now Diana had worked her way up to the sixth knot.
"I never made any kind of commitment. I didn't lead her astray with false vows like a helpless maiden in a melodrama. Crawling Chaos, next you'll try to force me to marry her." He glanced up at the patch of daylight visible through the nearest window. The longer this conversation went on, the more trapped he felt. He hoped Diana would finish her tirade soon so he could escape.
"That's the last thing I'd want to foist on her. But I'm not about to let you get away with this." She finished unbinding the seventh knot. Her magic blew past him like a gust of wind.
He ignored it and smirked at her. "Breach of promise lawsuits are out of style, too."
The darkening of Diana's aura warned him that mocking her was a mistake. "My daughter's been crying her eyes out over you for the past week. Granted, I think she's acting like an idiot. You aren't worth it. You don't know how to care about anybody. I believe the only creature you've loved in the past twenty years was that scruffy cat of yours that died a few months ago."
He winced inwardly but kept his face carefully neutral. Damned if he'd let Diana guess she'd succeeded in wounding him. One reason he'd stopped hanging out with Tanith was the well-meaning way she kept nagging him to find another cat. She insisted he needed a new pet in order to "get over" Caesar's death. "Animals don't lie to you. They don't make unreasonable demands. They seldom let you down, and they're much more relaxing company than people."
"Just the kind of thing I'd expect you to say.” The chill in her voice seared him like dry ice. “I've watched you jump from one woman to the next like a dog chasing bitches in heat. For a powerful magus, you have a worse case of arrested development than any other man I've ever met. But it wasn't any of my business until now." The eighth knot came loose.
“I don't see how it's your business now, either. It's between me and your daughter. Why don't you bring her down here and let her speak for herself?”
“I wouldn't force her to set foot in the same room with you. You've done enough to her already.” Power shimmered around her, and an aroma like wood smoke scorched the air. “Did you know she's pregnant?”
“What? Wait a minute! Surely you don't think it's mine?” Impossible, he'd been much too careful.
Diana snorted. “Don't be ridiculous. I know it's Rob's. But it's his belief that matters. His doubts make things that much worse between him and Tanith.”
Stefan fingered the silver amulet, engraved with a pentacle, that he'd worn ever since his old mentor had presented it to him upon his initiation. It served as a reservoir for his magic, and he felt the need for its occult energy now. "Look, Diana, I'm sorry she misunderstood my intentions. She'll get over it. Just one of those things everybody goes through sooner or later." He meant that statement sincerely enough. He'd never wanted to make Tanith miserable. He liked her. He just couldn't fathom why Diana had to turn the situation into such a big deal. Women!
"So you don't intend to apologize?"
"For what? Like I said, she's a big girl. What are you planning to do about it? Put a curse on me?" His smile faded as the mist of power around her coalesced into a thundercloud. *Loki and Hermes help me! That's exactly what she's going to do!*
"You're going to pay. You will become what you are. You will stay in that form until you learn to care, until you become truly human. So mote it be." She released the ninth knot, then tied the ends of the rope together into a circle. Arcane syllables poured from her mouth.
Powers of Chaos, she had a spell stored in it! Cramps seized his arms and legs. His stomach clenched in agony. His whole body doubled over in painful contortions, while an itch like a thousand fire ants swarmed over his skin. He collapsed onto hands and knees in the middle of the circle. Blinded by a dark cloud that churned before his eyes, he struggled for breath against a weight that crushed his chest. In the midst of the torment, he was dimly aware of his clothes ripping and falling off. *Gods, I had no idea she was this powerful!* Naked, he clutched the silver disk hanging around his neck. Focusing on it, he groped for the dissipating threads of his own power. Through the confusion howling inside his skull, he realized his only hope was to shape the spell Diana was casting on him.
As the magic ensnared him, he grasped and twisted it. He sensed he had little time left before she completed the curse. *What is she trying to do?* The next moment, he knew. He felt his nails turn to claws, his teeth and ears lengthen, fur sprout on his skin, and something rip from the base of his spine in a final burst of pain. He was becoming a beast, a literal one. Become what you are, she'd commanded. He diverted as much of her power as he could through the channels of his own will. *Let me keep my humanity, some of it at least. Don't let me lose myself. And don't let her hold me captive. Shield me from her magic. Guide me to a place of refuge.* Darkness thickened around him.
When his vision cleared a second later, colors had faded to grays and pastels. Odors, on the other hand, had sharpened to stinging intensity. With no effort he recognized the bayberry fragrance of the candles, the dust under the altar, Diana's Chanel perfume, the musky aroma of her flesh, and the charred scent of her anger. He glanced down and saw his arms transmuted to legs covered with white hair. He opened his jaws to scream, and the sound came out as a howl.
Panic flooded over him. Diana's invisible web entangled his limbs. With a surge of terror, he shredded the strands of power and dashed out through the adjoining room to the stairs. Her shriek of rage pursued him. He felt a bolt of magic strike him and dissolve on contact. *Good, the shielding worked,* he thought in the small corner of his brain that remained rational.
Mindlessly barking, he charged up the steps to the kitchen, redolent of a spicy bean soup simmering on the stove. The tiny human compartment of his mind noted an open window with an exposed screen. Diana's footsteps clattered up the basement stairs after him, while Tanith's scurried down from the second floor. As she ran into the kitchen, Stefan heard her yell, “Mother, what have you done now?” He ignored her, pouring all his strength into a leap onto the edge of the sink. His momentum propelled him into the window and knocked the screen out.
He hit the ground with his front legs, rolled onto his side, and sprang to his feet. The noise of his own barking made his ears hurt, but he couldn't stop. Fear and the urgency of escape consumed him. Although no longer able to form coherent thoughts, he sensed how important it was to evade the woman who chased him, bristling with magic. He rushed toward the back fence, solid redwood, four feet high. He jumped, snagged his front paws on the top, and braced his rear paws on the crossbar halfway up. He scrambled over, dropped onto the ground on the other side, and stretched his legs to their top speed.
The shore cut off his escape behind the fence. He circled around the side yard of Diana's waterfront lot and ran parallel to the street. He needed a refuge, somewhere to hide or someone to shelter him. That place or person called to him, though he had no idea what or who it might be. It drew him like an irresistible scent. The afternoon heat smothered him like the inside of an oven, but he didn't dare slow down. Panting, his lungs aching and his heart pounding, he raced toward that call.
* * * * *

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

10 Swords - Your Chickens Come Home To Roost

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers.

It should eventually be titled: The Biblical Tarot: The Not So Minor Arcana by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, but who knows? It has no publisher yet.

---------------

And Remember: The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) integrated with the "World" or Suit of the card. For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see: http://web.onetel.net.uk/~maggyw/treeladder.html

I don't really go with the way this page explains the Tree, but it is worth thinking about. There are many other ways. For now, ponder the diagrams on this page or google up some others.

Each person must find a synthesis of those 2 components of meaning for themselves. These essays are mine, not yours. Watch the methodology, do it for yourself, and find your meaning.

You will have to re-do this periodically through life -- because you change, things change, and your ability to synthesize multiple parameters changes. What is true for you today, may or may not be true for you tomorrow.


----------------

10 Swords:

Whee-ha! Whoopie! Yippie! Huzza! GO!GO!GO!

The first copy of your printed book has arrived in the snailmail. You rip the cardboard packing, break a nail, run around in circles screaming for a scissors, jump up and down until the downstairs neighbor yells -- and finally get the package open.

You know there has been no publisher publicity and won't be. You can't afford to do it yourself. But you hoped and prayed and imagined and dreamed through 9 Swords. It's going to turn out fine!

OH GAWD!!!!

"They spelled my name WRONG on the cover!!! We fixed that last month!" or "They changed the cover! There's no naked, chained up woman in MY book!" or "Why-oh-why did they put that wimpish quote on the back cover. I never wrote that!" But checking the printed text, there's the wimpish quote -- checking the manuscript, it's written powerfully. Someone changed the words!

And you're scheduled to do a local access TV appearance tonight with the book in hand and smile evident.

AAAAHHHHGGGGG!

We are now focused on the 3rd circle up from the bottom of the middle pillar of Jacob's Ladder.

It is the 10 of Swords.

Note it overlays the 6 of Pentacles.

Remember, there are no bad Cards.

The Waite Rider deck depicts the 10 of Swords as a figure prone on the muddy ground with 10 Swords piercing the body. It really looks like disaster and death and a lot of people do read it that way -- but that isn't really what this one is about.

10's are about culminations, consequences, results. Finality. Completion.

Swords are thoughts, actions, deeds, plans, and words.

The culmination of your deeds, how exactly your project comes out in the end, depends on several independent variables plus the imponderable of Divine Will.

Now remember, this is mysticism. In the world of magic and mysticism, the outcome of any action depends (after the Divine has a sayso) more on who you are than on what you do.

In the world of science, two different people doing the exact identical thing get the same result, which proves a theory. But in the world of Mysticism, two different people doing the exact identical thing get different results, which also proves a theory.

For example: a guy may have an important job interview, and remember to put gas in his car, get a new suit, a haircut, research the company to a fair-thee-well, and still miss the interview appointment because he had a flat tire (which happens when you've been out of work for a while). He's done every action he can to assure success -- but he misses the interview.

A different guy out of gas by the side of the road would get picked up by a friend and whisked to the interview on time, get the job on the spot -- then put a new tire on the credit card and pay the fine for abandoning the car, and never look back.

It is not possible, from our everyday perspective, to chart the direct cause-effect connections in events like this. If both job applicants have as many friends with cars, why does one get picked up and the other stand alone?

The reasons for that (other than Divine Will) are detailed in the first book in this series, Never Cross A Palm With Silver.

http://www.amazon.com/Never-Cross-Silver-Bible-Tarot/dp/0963749854/rereadablebooksr/

But remember, there are no bad cards. In 7 Swords we learned how to make amends for what we've done wrong, and in the process actually change ourselves on the soul level, which changes how things happen around us. You can argue with the Supreme Being, and Apparently you can win one.

And maybe more crucial, we should think about the two guys above: which outcome is "good" and which "bad?"

Even a very psychic Tarot reader can't tell you exactly what will happen when you pull your latest project through the 10 Swords process. An astrologer might tell you when the crisis will come; a Tarot reader might tell you how it will FEEL to you personally -- but nobody can tell you what will happen or what, ultimately, it will mean for you, good or bad.

That's because there is always the imponderable of Divine Will, and the even more inscrutable issue of human Free Will (yours and others')

Off the top of your head, which job applicant above would you say has a soul at a higher level of development? Which has better karma from good deeds in past lives?

Think about that really hard before you answer.

Now let's look again.

Applicant 1 gets stuck by the side of the road all dressed up, misses the interview. A cop car stops. A beautiful woman in an officer's uniform gets out, calls the tow truck, chats while they're waiting, sparks fly but professionalism is maintained, then she drives away.

At the church social hour the next week, he spots that same woman out of uniform and six months later, he has an even better paying job and they're married.

Applicant 2 who made it to his interview, finds he's now trapped in a dead-end job under the boss from hell, is in debt to his eyebrows and can't quit. His girl left him because his temper is in shreds. Now he's drinking himself to death.

Which one of them did a better job shaping the astral plane foundation of their lives during the 9 of Swords part of this process? Can you even tell from the evidence presented here?

Now back to the writer with a totally screwed up book packaging.

She pastes on a brave smile and presents her book on local access go-nowhere talk show on cable, instantly adopting the misspelled name as her new byline, her pen name as if it were done that way on purpose.

She called her editor and was told the story of the changed cover. The artist who submitted the sketches she had seen didn't deliver (maybe she suddenly got married to the guy she rescued at the side of the road during her day job as a cop). So the publisher had a cover left over from a book that wasn't delivered and they used that cover on her book. Sorry about the overprinting typo, but stuff happens when done at the last minute.

The writer tells this whole horror tale on TV with a chuckle, then exuberantly sketches what her book is REALLY about. Dozens of women log onto Amazon and order the book. (It doesn't take much to send a book to the top of Amazon for a few hours, if all the sales are simultaneous.)

The story of the raunchy cover gets picked up by the big networks. Oprah uses it as a "What's Wrong With Publishing Today" piece. A TV Network exec wants to base a TV series on the novel for Lifetime. The publisher offers six figures for her next book.

Later, she finds out the misspelled byline actually has a numerological advantage over her real name, in addition to attracting attention.

Apparenty, during the 9 of Swords process, this author shaped the "Foundation" of this project on the Astral plane for publicity, and she got it (which may or may not be a "good" thing). How was she able to do this (other than Divine assistance)?

Because in 6 Swords, love opened her to change, in 7 Swords she did what Kaballah calls tshuvah, returning to the connection to the benevolent power behind the Universe by doing good deeds, amending bad habits, cleaning up the messes you have made. In 8 Swords she behaved in a substantially improved way, proving she had changed, and in 9 Swords she was therefore able to shape the Astral in a way very different from what she had done before in other projects in life.

She probably did all that in both the text of the novel itself and in her own life and attitude toward the world in order to get such explosive results.

And don't ever forget the imponderable intervention of the Divine Finger that stirs lives. Her writing career boost might have little to do with rewarding her, little to do with her own skills on the Astral, and everything to do with reaching out to some soul she's harmed in a past life with a healing message of love.

Or perhaps she is merely the vehicle carrying a message to someone who needs to hear it.

The thing to remember through all these processes is that you, yourself, don't control these energies. You don't work the energies to your will. You're not helpless, but you're not in charge of the whole universe, either. You're only in charge of you, and you are very complex.

How any project begun in the Ace of Swords turns out in the 10 of Swords also depends on what your subconscious and your SOUL does during each of the other 9 processes.

Now here's the real problem with this ticklish and difficult 10 Swords process.

Evil.

I did say there are no "bad" Cards. And that's still true.

I did say that you have a choice between living in a zero-sum universe and an abundant universe. And that's still true.

However - there is sticky-nasty stuff out there, and the abundant universe does, (when manifesting on our everyday material level), obey the laws of Conservation (as in thermodynamics).

Conservation of mass and energy, conservation of momentum, all the conservation laws of physics describe a zero-sum universe at least "down here" where we live, the only universe "science" studies.

We can't just dismiss the zero-sum model of the universe if we operate entirely within physical reality. Thankfully, though, we don't have to operate entirely and only within the confines of material reality because we have souls.

You can draw abundance down into physical reality, yes, but you can't have everything you want as long as you live. The rule is you can have anything you want -- provided you're willing to give up everything else for it.

But there are other rules that govern the importing of abundant energies into material reality.

We're going to touch on them here, but they really belong in the advanced level of discussion.

So let's reconstruct our model of the universe to include the interface between our material reality that science studies, which contains all the 10 processes of the Tree of Life, and the much larger reality that is the whole of creation, which is depicted by Jacob's Ladder and the higher levels above the Ladder.

In 10 Swords we come to the level of existence, above the universe science studies, where our actions produce consequences. So far as I know, nobody has ever figured a way to look at an action and determine what consequences it will cause.

There is a postulate about the structure of creation that explains why cause-effect doesn't work above the material world. And that's a postulate about Evil.

What most people mean by the English word Evil isn't exactly what is referred to in this postulate. And this is just my best understanding of the situation at this time. I too am always growing, changing my mind, and gaining new perspectives. I may not have understood what I've been taught; I may not articulate it in a way that you understand it either as what I mean or as what I was taught.

Language is just not the tool to use to convey these ideas. A life of practical actions is the only way I know of to propagate this view of the universe from one mind to another.

OK, so here's the postulate, which by no means belongs to the Intermediate level of study, explained in my own pitifully inadequate words.

In the Beginning, G-d created creation -- the first time He generated the Jacob's Ladder structure, He filled the Sepheroth, also known as Vessels, with Divine Light. And filled and filled to abundance and more.

And the "Vessels" shattered from the pressure.

This produced a kind of amorphous plasma, a roiling boiling fog, a heaving sea consisting of shards of shattered Vessel walls, all dark, dead and sticky dross, plus gazillions of tiny bitty little glowing sparks of pure, glorious, bright (too bright) blazing, stunning Goodness of what I term "Godshine."

All the dross and the Goodness were seethed and boiled and mixed up together.

The Nature of the dross is to "contain" Goodness. These shreds are bits of the Vessel walls.

They are naturally attracted to bits of Goodness. So every bit of Goodness gets plastered with this opaque, sticky mess.

Then G-d created a second Jacob's Ladder structure, the Creation we're in now, plopped right in the midst of the mess. The second one held together and here we are.

In this view of reality, the purpose of human life is to uncover the sparks of Goodness, separate out the dross, and elevate the Goodness back into contact with the Source.

The more goodness we free up to rise and shine down on us, the "brighter" our environment becomes, the easier it is for people with dim sight to see right from wrong, good from bad.

It is our job to find the Good within everything around us, but most especially within ourselves.

Meanwhile, because of the simple nature of the dross, every time we uncover some Good, all the dross in the neighborhood plasters itself around the Good, making our job harder.

Another principle of Reality in this postulate is like the Laws of Conservation in Physics. The Creator made Creation in balance. For every action, an equal and opposite reaction, right? For every Goodness, there's an equal amount of yucky.

The goodness inside a person is likewise balanced by bad tendencies. The "better" a person is at being a person, the stronger the temptations and opportunities to do bad.

Look at Jacob's Ladder again and you will see that the three pillars are in balance -- thesis, antithesis, synthesis in the middle. Creation is Symmetric. Likewise in Physics we find the material universe likewise has laws of symmetry. As Below: So Above.

We are awash, floating in a plasma of Good and Bad, mixed to neutrality.

Now, here's the trick of surviving and functioning in this mixture.

Move slowly, easily, gracefully, gently, just like when swimming. Don't disturb the plasma and it won't slosh back in your face and overwhelm the Good and drown you in sludge.

That dross sludge is what this model of the universe uses for Evil. The dross is not conscious, doesn't have an agenda, and can't initiate anything. It's just a heaving, sticky, mess you are swimming in, and there's a part of you inside you that has an affinity for it.

The whole trick is balance. (that's why we love Circus acts -- they are "life" in a nutshell).

So what happens when you start a project in Ace of Swords, bring the energies down and down, and finally get to 10 Swords? Why is 10 Swords so often experienced as a traumatic and horrible event if it's just "your chickens coming home to roost?"

10 Swords is just the consequences of your actions. But what if your soul took a quantum leap upward because of this project, (as the writer we've been talking about did). Suppose you strove and grew and improved and you deserve a REWARD -- but you get "this!" (bad book packaging as above; or worse)

Why do bad things happen to good people???? Or to a not-so-great person who finally did something magnificent and gets smacked down for it.

Does that negative consequence necessarily indicate that you aren't a "good enough" person, you didn't take a lesson of Love in 6, pay the piper in 7, learn your lesson in 8, and reshape your reality in 9? Is that failure why this nasty thing happened to you instead of success?

Why does no Good Deed go unpunished? Why? Why? Why????

There's the beauty of this postulate about "Evil" being just a sludgy sea of dross we swim in.

It explains in graphic terms exactly what happens when you strive magnificently, actually exceed your personal design specs, achieve something totally heroic, and get sandbagged.

When you make some soul-level progress by pulling a project down through the Swords processes, you are, in the language of this postulate, uncovering a spark of Divine Light within yourself, or those around you.

That newly exposed Spark instantly attracts a new coating of dross.

The Event that sandbags you in 10 Swords is the speeding dross smashing into the Spark you uncovered. SPLAT! And down you go.

It's part of the natural structure of the Universe -- dross splats.

So how do you avoid getting flattened by the dross your Good Deeds and totally warranted Successes attract?

Don't make waves. Don't stir the plasma. Don't splash. Swim.

Think of a little kid jumping feet first into a swimming pool that's sitting there smooth as glass.

Then the kid leaps and dives and sprays water, and gyrates -- eventually, the waves he's made reach the far wall and come back. If he's energetic enough, he can make a wave big enough to drown himself.

Now consider an adult who slices into that glassy smooth swimming pool, surfaces and sidestrokes across with clean, coordinated strokes and kicks that don't break the surface. There are waves, yes, but they don't impede him.

We are in a closed container - the Material Universe. The more energetically we splash, the more the dross splashes back. When you've splashed all your life, your first Good Deed designed to change your course in life will immediately be awash in waves of dross created by your past deeds.

And always remember, you're not the only one splashing about.

Let's step sideways into another model of the universe.

It is well known in Magickal circles that the way to tell whether a Candidate's first Initiation "took" is to watch the Candidate's life for the next year or so. Very often when a major Initiation takes hold in a life you will see divorce, job changes, change of residence, ill health (or sometimes amazing health recovery), job promotions, and all kinds of improbable things going wrong or swerving into uncharted territory. It usually makes a good soap opera plot.

These Initiates are observing the splash back of sticky clinging dross long stirred by the actions of the Initiate who was formerly operating on a much lower level of understanding.

The mark of the highest Initiates is that they move through the world without leaving a trace, not a ripple, in their passage. They are not famous. Nobody knows or remembers their names.

They make no effort at secrecy - but nobody notices them. Yet goodness and Light spreads everywhere they touch.

So back to our dross vs. Light model.

This dross vs. Light model of the universe is what those Highest Initiates finally get a handle on.

Remember the TV Show Kung Fu? That test of walking the rice paper runner to get out the door without leaving a trace? That's what we're trying to learn.

You can now see what happened to our Writer with the messed up packaging, and the two job applicants when their projects came down to the process of 10 Swords.

The writer had done quite a lot of splashing on the way to 10 Swords, but the bits of dross that smacked into her got "elevated" to become bits of light and goodness. She might have managed the trick a bit more smoothly, with better balance, so that every "bad" thing that happened turned out to help materialize her astral plane vision in 9 Swords. (and don't forget Divine Assistance) But she did an incredible job for a first try.

Job Applicant 1 got a tire flattened by a tidbit of dross, but again because his 9 Swords work (getting a new suit, doing his homework etc) aimed him toward success -- he got the love of his life and a much better job.

Job Applicant 2 got the job he thought he wanted, but it's a disaster. He didn't do his astral plane work well, quietly, smoothly. He splashed too much and waves of dross flowed back over him. Every good thing he did got plastered with sticky-yucky mess and he's overwhelmed by the side effects of his actions, even though he didn't do anything wrong and really isn't a bad sort of person.

At least it looks, at the point where we left them, that Applicant 1 has it made and Applicant 2 is lost forever. Just wait 20 years and look again.

These are processes not static situations.

Wherever you are in life, whatever your level of soul growth, and in your mastery of swimming in muck without splashing yourself and everyone around you with dross, there is always an opportunity to change, to improve, to fix your life.

So how do you do that? How do you quiet down the heaving ocean of dross, peel the stuff off the Good and send it on up the Ladder, and get your life in order so you can really do some heavy lifting?

What is the secret of dodging the tsunami of sticky-yuck heading toward you?

Suppose you really get it now, suppose you know what you did wrong and why and you really REALLY find yourself changing deep down inside. What can you do to climb out of the way of the consequences of your actions?

And if you do manage to avoid the consequences of your actions, isn't that dishonorable and only the source of more trouble?

Wellll -- there is a way, and it's so simple most people just don't comprehend the power of it.

Remember, the 10 Swords overlays the 6 of Pentacles. We haven't walked down the Ladder of Pentacles yet, so we don't quite grasp the entirety of what 6 of Pentacles is about, but we did learn 6 of Swords.

The 6's are about Love and Beauty and the love of beauty, and how percieving beauty ignites love within us. Reread the 6 of Swords

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/09/six-of-swords-love-conquers-all-as.html

In 6 Swords, we encountered something through Love that jarred us out of an old rut and sent us packing for new shores. Love inspired real change, though we took our habits with us.

In 7 Swords we attempted to do tshuvah, to pay for our sins and make it right with the world, somehow to achieve inner peace.

This is the Path toward becoming a Tzadik, a wise person so at peace within that his steps through the world leave a wake of spreading peace.

In 8 Swords we had to get over the yes-buts, ammending thinking so that in 9 Swords the new attitudes bought so dearly in 6, 7, and 8 could now be applied to re-shaping our reality.

Now in 10 Swords comes the result of all that, the result of the good progress we've made along with all the dross stirred up and attracted to that good.

So how do we dodge the dross and cling to the Good?

We make the transition down to 6 Pentacles -- note the Waite Rider deck nails this one. It is a person giving away "Pentacles" in Charity.

And that's how you do it.

If you've realized where you were wrong, paid the price, braved the damage you had to sustain to get out of the trap of your own making, and transformed your nightmares to dreams, the way to slide right through 10 Swords is GIVE CHARITY.

Doing a Charitable Deed (not always giving money -- sometimes it's visiting the sick, opening up opportunities for others to do good, forgiving a bad driver for cutting in on you). Charity is the most powerful of all spiritual actions.

Even when your motive is not so pure, an act of charity can whisk you out of the path of the sticky-yuck tsumani.

Note in the example of the Writer whose packaging got messed up; what did she DO?

She took her misfortune and GAVE IT AWAY on TV, to explain to readers how these things happen, to entertain viewers with a truly amazingly silly story, to warn would-be writers of how things go in this business.

Putting her ego on a shelf, she took on the byline typo'd on her book. She gave herself. She exposed herself. She served others by not cancelling her appearance at the last minute. With those acts of Charity, she sidestepped all the dross splattered on her book.

She transformed the event down into Love (6 Pentacles) on the concrete level of reality. If you think that's easy, you just try it!

Now, of course, having skipped the Ace, Two, Three, Four, and Five of Pentacles, she will now find herself in more trouble than she knows how to deal with and will likely have to backtrack and scramble.

Marion Zimmer Bradley always quoted the saying, "Every ending is a new beginning," and that is so true in life and in Tarot.

When contemplating 10 Swords, think Frying Pan and Fire, and accept responsibility for the results of your actions.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/