AMMA, Second Edition Available Now!

A brand new edition of my second novel AMMA is available today! Includes cover art by T.H. Kainaroi and a preview of “Rough Magic.” Digital edition is just 2.99!

“Sand and sorcery. Spurs and swords. Welcome to a Wild West you’ve never seen before. Meet Griffin Page, an Albuquerque teen with two deep secrets, as he steps into the comic book world of AMMA.

Queer Fiction meets the Fantasy West in AMMA, from the author of the magical realism novel Rough Magic. AMMA takes readers to Shift, a realm of gender-bending gunslingers, femme fatales and flying monkeys. Of course, Shift is just a place from a comic book… unless you’re a transgender teenager named Griffin Page.

Includes a preview of Rough Magic.”

For original content and prints by T.H. Kainaroi click here!

Saint Joseph for Mystics

“Joseph, Joseph,” the high priest said, “you’ve been chosen by lot to take the virgin of the Lord into your care and protection.”

-Infancy Gospel of James 7:7

San Giuseppi,  Yosef,  Patron of Carpenters: today I’m writing about the gentle powerhouse, Saint Joseph.  Evangelical and Orthodox Christianity regards Joseph as the stepfather of Jesus and husband of the Virgin Mary.  There’s an abundance of literature concerning his attributes, folk customs and traditional prayers; largely related to the Catholic Church.  But I’m here tonight to share a different angle of Saint Joseph, one steeped in Christian Gnosticism and therefore universally accessible to people of many faiths: the mystic’s Saint Joseph.

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Phillip the messenger said,

“Joseph the carpenter planted a garden of paradise

because he needed wood for his trade.

He made the cross from the trees he planted,

and his seed hung from what he planted.

His seed was Jesus, and the plant was the cross.”

The tree of life in the middle of that garden

of paradise is an olive tree, and from the olive tree

comes chrism, and from that oil

comes the resurrection.

-“Joseph and the Wooden Cross,” The Gospel of Philip

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Don’t get me wrong, without the canonical (or Orthodox) Gospels, you and I wouldn’t have a concise, foundational narrative for the life of Jesus and his relation to Joseph the Carpenter.  But the Nag Hamadi library and the Gnostic Gospels, especially the so-named “Infancy Gospel of James,” offers a deeper, symbolic understanding of the man called Yosef.

Twelve years before his marriage to Mary, she was installed by her parents Anna and Joachim and the high priests in the Temple, where she is fed by hand from a “holy messenger.”  Eventually, the priests hope to choose a husband for her.

“…go out and assemble the widowers of the people and have them each bring a staff.  She will become the wife of the one to whom the Lord God shows a sign.”

-Infancy Gospel of James 8: 7-8

     After collecting the staffs, the high priest prayed.  Afterward, he left the temple and handed the staffs back to the widowers.  Joseph’s was returned to him last.

Suddenly a dove came out of this staff and perched on Joseph’s head.

-Infancy Gospel of James 9: 6

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     The dove being the symbol of the Holy Spirit or Divine Wisdom, Sophia, of whom Mary is considered the incarnation in Gnosticism, a role she shares with her predecessor, the Ancient Egyptian Goddess Isis.  Saint Joseph, as her protector, corresponds beautifully with Osiris, the brother and husband of Isis, father of the Egyptian Christ Horus.  When I pray to Saint Joseph, I remember this, and address him as the protector of the Christ and the Sophia within us all.

On a familiar level, Saint Joseph is the protector of families, a man who supported his wife and son as a carpenter and passed down his trade.  When I look at images of Saint Joseph, I don’t see the stern stepfather archetype.  I see a loving man fond of flowers,  a carpenter and an artisan, who likely has a fondness for the arts.  My boyfriend and I work part time jobs during the day, but we also work daily as independent writers and artists.  I like to think Saint Joseph can appreciate and identify with us.

I do recite his traditional novenas when I need to.  Historically, Saint Joseph has helped me find stable employment.  He’s also helped bolster my finances.  But my prayer to Saint Joseph on his sacred weekday, Wednesday, arose slowly:

O, Saint Joseph,

You are the father of Jesus and husband of Mary.

You nourish the Christ and the Sophia within us all.

Please accept this gift.

May it merge with you,

May it offer you energy, strength, life and power.

Saint Joseph, my patron,

You are welcome with me at all times,

And in all places.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen.

     My gift of choice, by the way, for San Giuseppi is frankincense with powdered or pulverized cinnamon on charcoal.  I feel sandalwood also resonates with him, and it’s highly accessible in a pinch.  He is shown with lilies in iconography.

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BREAKING SILVER Will Explore the Struggles of Nonbinary Gendered Folks, Multiracial Families in Rural America

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Journey back to the Land of Oz in Breaking Silver, a revisionist novel from Jade Crawford, author of Rough Magic and Amma.   Slated for Autumn 2017, Silver returns to Oz’s humanist roots.

“‘We wish to go to the Emerald City,” said the child, “and we have lost our way.”
-L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Drawn primarily from Baum’s earliest Oz books, my third novel explores rural America through the eyes of the Gales, a family of outcasts haunted by demons within and demons without.   The Silver Shoes return come fall.

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The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer (Book Review)

 

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A well-paced coming of age novel, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer was Jennifer Lynch’s Twin Peaks companion published between the first and second seasons of the original series. Thematically, the book emerged as a Girl versus Self saga.  Unsettling, yet completely relateable, Lynch’s Diary gave us the most character driven Twin Peaks installment.

The following review will give you my two cents on Palmer‘s readability with an added bonus: In the aftermath, I’ll discuss how Jennifer Lynch’s 27 year old book ties into the latest episodes of the ongoing series.

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what worked for me

Ultimately, I’m a sucker for dysfunctional, girl meets world stories.  My favorite novel is Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, the sleeper-hit about a jailed poet’s daughter touring the Los Angeles foster system.  At times, I felt like I was re-experiencing the novel.  It wasn’t just in terms of writing, or Lynch’s voice.  The Secret Diary takes the readers to some gritty, erotic places.  Our protagonist might be a teenager for most of the story (the journal opens with Laura at age twelve), but it’s by no means teen fiction.

I spoke earlier of the book feeling relateable to me.  During some essential scenes, Laura discovers masturbation, experiments with peers and indulges in drugs and alcohol for the first time.  Lynch treats these scenes tenderly.  They’re in no means placed for shock factor.  They felt to me like core pieces to a rite of passage section of the novel.  Jennifer Lynch had full control of her project, and she knew exactly where the character was going to go.

I can certainly speak about the nostalgia factor.  Characters like James, Bobby and Margaret “the Log Lady” Lanterman are of course revisted, but it’s more about fleshing out the world of the heroine and expanding the source material’s back stories than name dropping for emotional brownie points.  Key meetings between Laura and her world of friends, enemies and lovers are described before they are even referenced on the show.  We go as far as to visit Blackie–always an overlooked favorite of mine–and the mysterious Tremonds (who I’ll be referencing later in the article).

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what didn’t work for me

I guess it’s a good thing I have to think about this.  It’s not a perfect story, but anything critical I’d have to say by this point would sound overtly subjective, so I’ll just leave this blank, more or less.  You’ll find your own shortcomings and peeves with Laura’s secret diary.  Perhaps they’ll be more credible than mine.

overall

Secret Diary is pleasantly linear.  If you want a break from literary fiction, but don’t feel like sacrificing story for genre, pick up Lynch’s Twin Peaks companion.  If you want to bone-up for the new installment of the franchise, read this book.  If you want a novel that feels like it encompasses all the basics of human life (contact with the spiritual included), pick it up.  I gave Laura Palmer five stars on Goodreads.

…and now…

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how it relates to Twin Peaks (2017)

Most noticeably, Laura Palmer’s secret diary became the subject of two episodes of Twin Peaks’ newest arc.  The missing pages referenced in Jennifer Lynch’s book are discovered in the Sheriff’s station by Deputy Hawk.  They contain the warning issued by Cooper’s lover Annie Blackburn about the fate of the FBI agent and his doppelganger, as referenced by the Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk With Me.  However, there is still one missing page undiscovered.

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   The latest episode, “Gotta Light?”, tied into Lynch’s book more subtly.  By now, we’ve all seen the mystifying scene featuring the unnamed Giant, during which a gold globe is selected by a female entity bearing Laura Palmer’s face.  The sphere is kissed lovingly and sent to North America on Earth.  This is a follow-up scene to the 1945, White Sands, New Mexico atomic bomb testing sequence, during which we presumably witness the birth of Laura’s oppressor Bob (or “BOB.” I’ve seen it typed both ways).  The consensus, at the time I’m writing this, seems to be that Laura was created to counter-balance or oppose Bob.  If this is the case, it was first stated by The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, where the protagonist determines to defeat him and do everything within her power to break his control over her.

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No, I haven’t forgotten young Chalfont’s connection to the mysterious Jumping Man…

And now we return to those troubling Tremonds (also known as the Chalfonts, but that would be better suited by a further entry).  Laura encounters the boy and his grandmother during Fire Walk With Me, but they are also referenced in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer before they ever appear on screen.  During the last pages, while Laura is trying to better herself by organizing the Meals on Wheels program, she has an encounter with the grandson, here called Pierre.  The name Pierre is applied to him elsewhere, like the non-canonical trading cards.  During the scene, Pierre performs a magic trick, pulling a coin from behind Laura’s ear.

Fast forward to Twin Peaks (2017), to the episode entitled “Don’t Die.”  Here we witness an unsettling scene between two characters credited as Red and Richard Horne.  Red, played Balthazar Getty of Lost Highway, performs a magic trick with a dime in which he breaks the laws of physics and performs transfiguration, apparently.  While it’s established the gangster Red is from out of town, Richard Horne is skeptical, seeing as the older criminal seems to know Twin Peaks so well.

Here’s my theory: I’m proposing Red and Pierre are essentially “one and the same,” to quote the Giant (or the Giant’s doppelganger; I was never quite clear).  Red is either Pierre grown up or plays host to the child a la Mike Gerard and MIKE.  Most likely, it would be the latter.  Regardless, I feel there must be some connection, as Red’s most pivotal episode thus far happened to be the first time we saw the (New) Fat Trout Trailer Park in 2017, sight of the missing Chalfont trailer.  Ultimately, time will have to tell.

Dear Mr. You, by Mary-Louise Parker (Book Review)

“We know there exists a planet with four thousand different versions of songbirds. Because that is possible and because on that same planet can exist sentient beings made up almost entirely of stardust, and because bonafide poetry erupts mightily from some of those beings, and there is music, sex, and babies that laugh in their sleep; because we are roaming a universe that may be a hologram, with another dimension consecutively projecting itself outside this construct of reality and gravity; because of all that, there is no reason why my prayers shouldn’t be able to reach your mother whose name I don’t even know.” 

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Well, this was long overdue.  I finished Dear Mr. You late last summer, when it was still warm enough to get lost in an audio-book and entranced myself with changing foliage, bird songs, soft breezes and the scent of curry fueling my neighborhood.  Put simply, Dear Mr. You was that kind of book.

I started with the hardcover on an inter-library loan.  I don’t remember what else I was reading.  I think it was Nanowrimo season.  I got about halfway.  In the end, I was glad I ran out of time, because the audio version was so charming.  The recording opens and closes with, I believe, an harmonica solo.  I think that was done to put us in mind of Fried Green Tomatoes, which Parker had a starring role in.

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   Well, before I get off topic, let’s move on…

what worked for me

I’ve read that Parker has written magazine articles, but aside from this book, I haven’t tracked down anything else she’s published.  Unless she’s just been a closeted writer all her life, I’m doubly surprised this was her debut book.  Maybe I shouldn’t be. Basically, I’m saying the author has a stunning literary voice, a thoughtful but accessible vocabulary and a tangible sense of empathy.  All in all, she has the voice of an author I want to read.

I don’t know how clearly her experiences would translate to most readers, but I found Parker’s experiences and the way she navigated them relateable.  Bare in mind, I’m not an actress or a performer.  But many figures in her life from mentors to boyfriends to family and friends put me in mind of figures I’ve encountered on my road through Bohemia.  Like they say in esoteric and magical circles, “like attracts like.”

Parker managed to scrawl herself on the page as a well-rounded, dynamic character without coming across as conceited or arrogant.  And even though she is the central character in this unfolding story, we have full access to a world of equally dynamic, real-seeming characters.  For me, her book is unforgettable.

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what didn’t work for me

Perhaps there were times I felt the narrative seemed shoe-horned to fit the format.  For instance, during the final pages she “writes” to the ambiance driver who removed the body of her well-loved father.  I felt the stories she had to relate to the driver would have been better addressed to her father, except we already had a chapter on him earlier.  So maybe the order of messages and narratives could have been shifted around.  Though, I feel it was right to end the memoir with some well-placed words on her father, yes.

   Certain letters like “Dear Cerberus” fell outside the mold too.  Not that mold-breaking is bad.  But in the course of the rest of the memoir, it left the finished product feeling a bit uneven.  These are relatively small complaints, and as a writer, I can see why she made these decisions.

overall

What can I say? Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You exceeded my highest expectations.  If you get the chance, and audio-books are your jam, listen to said audio version.  Did I mention she reads it?  Made the book more personal for me.  I hope we see more of Parker in the literary world, I truly do.

This book earned a 4 star review on my Goodreads page.

 

The Mystery and the Mastery: Some Essential Decks

Let’s start by reiterating my thoughts on reviews: everything is subjective.  What I am presenting here are Tarot, Gypsy, Lenormand and oracle decks which meet a standard I am drawn to.  They are my own personal standard because they work for me, and because they are not cluttered or difficult to read.  They are also up to par with me because they are not gimmicky, crude or cliche.  They are, in short, passion projects of the men and women, writers, poets, artists and philosophers, who created them.

Here’s what I choose to read with:

For daily draws, I usually srart with a Lenormand reading.

What is a Lenormand reading?  The Lenormand is a system of 36 cards inspired by the French cartomancer Marie Lenormand and her methodology, though that’s almost impossible to prove.  What can be proven, more or less, is that the Lenormand cards represent a culmination of long term European cartomancy (divination with cards or playing cards).  Like their cousins the “Gypsy” cards, they came from a specific culture, in this case, the culture of French card readers.

Where the Lenormand cards differ from well known card decks like the Rider Waite Smith Tarot is in the way they are read.  Typically, the Rider Waite Smith is read in a three card spread representing past, present and future.  The Lenormand cards are read like separate words in a sentence.  There is a Dog card representing loyalty or a friend. There is a Rider card representing a message or progress. There is a Heart card representing love, and so on. If you had a three card response laid out as Man, Heart, Letter, you can probably bet your boyfriend is sending you a love letter or text.  It’s as simple as that.  The Lenormand system is slightly less esoteric than the Gypsy or the Tarot.

My first and favorite was Laura Tuan’s Lenormand Oracle, by Lo Scarebo.  Lo Scarebo usually puts out stellar work and this is probably one of their best sellers.  The cards themselves are sometimes referred to as over sized. The same artwork also appears on other decks, like the Classic Lenormand. The Classic Lenormand is a smaller size, and perhaps more durable, but I’ve always loved the feel of the larger deck, even if they will be more prone to bending over time.  The images themselves are beautiful and the coloring sits well with me because it is not what I would consider abrasive or  distracting.  Everything is fluid and minimal.

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A close second to the traditional Laura Tuan decks would have to be the so-called Blue Owl , a fantastically durable, and classical looking deck, slightly smaller than Poker cards.  The imagery is more or less Victorian.  The coloring is a bit duller than the Tuan decks, but it fits with the bygone mood.

 

Of course I enjoy using the Tarot as well.  For a simple three card, run of the mill scenario, I will usually employ the Rider Waite Smith. But what could I say about the Rider Waite Smith that hasn’t already been said?  They allow me to gauge the past, present and future of a situation.  They may present a deeper, below the surface look of a situation.  They might grant me insight into the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of a situation, which the Lenormand, typically, does not.

 

I’m also a big fan of the Tarot de Marseilles, specifically the Convos decks.  I’m just partial to the minimal, clean coloring and the dimensions of the people and objects who populate their world. The court and Major Arcana cards seem to communicate with one another for me, in a way that the Rider Waite Smith decks do not.  I typically read them as a scene with a four card spread.

Halfway between the Lenormand and Tarot systems are the Gypsy cards.  The Gypsy decks have a special place in my heart.  They are the unsung heroes of cartomancy.  I’m sure I’ll elaborate in future blog entries, but the Gypsy system should never be confused with the Lenormand, just as the Lenormand should never be confused with the Tarot.  One of the biggest differences between the Gypsy and the Lenormand is that the Gypsy decks typically employ about twenty more cards than the Lenormand decks.  They have a larger vocabulary. While the Lenormand may have two finance and budget cards (the Fish and Bear, depending), the Gypsy cards can have up to six (Fortuna Major or Fortuna Major,  Some Money for smaller sums, and a Safe for lump sums of cash). I find this extremely useful, as not all financial situations you’re going to read about for a client will be the same.  The Gypsy decks can get a little more specific.  They sometimes include emotional cards, which the Lenormand  (aside from the Heart or, arguably, Cloud cards) lack. There are Sadness cards, Anger, and Jealousy.  They include the emotional aspects of everyday life.


I have two Gypsy decks to share with you, which I may expand upon on later entries:

Piatnik’s aptly named Gipsy deck is probably my favorite, though we are still getting to know one another.  Most of the positive points I made about Gypsy decks in general (more emotion cards, financial cards, etc) apply here. There are also a number of portrait cards, giving insight into specific people in the reader or querant’s life.  While the Lenormand simply employs a Man and Woman card, Piatnik’s Gipsy deck employs male and female lover cards as well as cards like the Officer, Judge and Priest.  Everyday life is captured very well here.

I am also a fan of Lady Lorelei’s Gypsy Fortunes.  I plan to do a full scale review of these cards, but they are at home in my essentials chest.  The coloring is beautiful. They remind me of circus and carnival posters.  The images are so semantic there’s no need for a titles.

Of course, my collection continues to grow.  I’m curious to see how my essential roster will have changed if I do a follow-up this time next year!

The Angel Spread (Tarot and Lenormand Tutorial)

Today’s post is a simple one.  I’d like to share a cartomancy spread with you that’s ideal for Lenormand, Gypsy and playing card systems, but easily applied to the Tarot.  I haven’t found it anywhere else online, but it’s so easy but in-depth, I feel a lot of us can benefit from it!  It’s called the Angel Spread.

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The layout is simple.  Draw nine cards after you’ve shuffled your deck.  The spread is laid out in three groups.  The middle group makes up the core, the left group represents the past, and the right represents the future or eventual outcome.  Pretty straight forward.

You lay the first group, as I said, in the middle.  The first card belongs in the center.  This is the heart of the matter.  Often, it reflects the subject of the reading or the root cause.  Beneath the heart card you lay the second.  This is what your gut is telling you.  Over top of the heart card, you place the third card.  This is what your head is telling you.

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Cards four, five and six are laid in descending order.  Those of you who read Lenormand or Gypsy cards know that the cards are typically read together, not separately (like we did with the middle spread).  Here you would read The Park, The Mountain and the Key together.  If I were reading these cards I would say, “a public emotional hurdle leads to success, opportunities or access. ”

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Ultimately, cards seven, eight and nine are laid in ascending order, to the right of the middle cards.  If I were the reader, I’d say, “a loyal romance brings relocation or movement,” or possibly, “a noble spiritual calling warrants relocation.”  With the Moon card meaning long-term luck sometimes, I could also say, “loyalty and good fortune open the way to momentum.”

Now the three card grouping structure makes the Angel Spread ideal for use with Lenormand cards and their cousins, but you could also use your favorite Tarot deck.  I prefer the Marseilles when it comes to Tarot more than the Rider Waite Smith, but because I use the two decks differently (the Marseilles is more of a four card structure for me and the Rider Waite Smith responds to a simple three card Past, Present, Future spread best), I only use the latter with the Angel Spread.  Use what works best for you.   As you can see below, the cards still tell a sturdy narrative.

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Let’s assume Sally wanted to know if her boyfriend was a good match.  The center card, THE KING OF WANDS, would be indicative of the boyfriend, possibly an artistic, red haired man.  Sally’s gut would be telling her the boyfriend is THE DEVIL, or the situation could become manipulative or controlling.  Her head is focused on the KNIGHT OF PENTACLES, (I usually say “Coins,” instead of Pentacles.  I feel it’s more representative of the suit’s nature.), meaning she thinks the progress he’s making will lead to money or financial opportunities.  Now in the past Sally saw the relationship going somewhere, propelled by pure will.  Perhaps she or her boyfriend are esoterically gifted.  But the boyfriend was a bit wishy-washy and had trouble juggling his material, physical life in regards to his relationship with Sally.  Looks like he had a lot going on in the background too and it was just an unstable time.  Ultimately, Sally found a balance, mostly within her own life.  In the near future, Sally and her boyfriend will form a more structured relationship, but many hands are at play.  It looks like the boyfriend just has too much drama surrounding him or spends too much time rough-housing with his friends.  Ultimately, he may grow rigid and stubborn, as well as guarded.  I don’t see him going anywhere if Sally wants him, but she has to ask herself if she wants an emotionally unavailable partner.

0604172017a.jpgSo that’s the Angel Spread, ladies and gentlemen.  I hope it serves you as it’s served me.  I’ve had a lot of success with this spread, especially using the Lenormand cards.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!