Four of Rods, Reversed; The High Priestess; Seven of Pentacles, Reversed
Another week with multiple reversed cards. The Four of Rods represents peace, tranquility, and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. Reversed? Nope, not yet—our work isn’t complete. The Seven of Pentacles is also associated with hard work and its rewards. Reversed, it suggests impatience. See a pattern here?
The High Priestess, our central card for the week, is the card of feminine intuition. She represents wisdom, serenity, and foresight. On a personal note, the image portrayed in this deck (the Hanson-Roberts, my favorite for its lush and detailed illustrations) has always reminded me of a young “Saint” Carrie, Space Mum, patron of geeks battling mental disorders, and disruptor of the patriarchy.
We are all exhausted by 2020, and would really like to stop struggling. But the battles, whether personal ones known to each of us alone, or wide-ranging, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, aren’t won yet. The High Priestess assures us we can get through this. Take your meds. Hydrate. Get support from your friends. Live to flip off injustice another day.
*Since Halloween may very well be my favorite holiday, I’m going to be celebrating all October by posting more YouTube videos. This month, I’ll be reading a short Edward Red Mage novella, entitled “Snowblind,” previously published in installments on my blog.
Love to you all, Angela
Obvious, right? I mean, I sound like an idiot even saying it, but it’s an important thing to remember writing speculative fiction. And think about it—how many writers have first-hand experience with horses? In the late 20th Century, maybe many, if the pool of fantasy/historical writers was limited to upper-middle-class college-educated suburban white* girls with Black Stallion fixations and the money to join pony club. But as the writing field expands to include more than just the wealthy elite, and the middle-class shrinks to almost non-existence, the number of authors who’ve actually been on horseback is likely shrinking. If you are writing historical fiction, fantasy-medieval fiction, or post-apocalyptic-cars-don’t-work-anymore fiction, chances are, your characters will be riding horses or in horse-drawn vehicles. Which is a hell of a lot different from putting a key in a car, or weaving a motorcycle in and out of traffic. So here are a few observations on how horses behave and fit into world/scene building, from my long studies of history and my life as a (formerly) rich, (still) white girl.**
1. Horses are not cars/motorcycles: You don’t just point them in the direction you want them to go in, and expect them to get there, unless they are REALLY used to the route and could pretty much do it in their sleep. And you don’t just hop on and relax. You WILL fall off if you don’t actively maintain your posture and adjust your body position with the movement of the horse. You WILL get slammed in some inconvenient places if you don’t learn how to “post” (rise up and down in the stirrups as the horse moves). You WILL get tired. And you don’t yank a horse around by the reins, unless you are a crap rider on a horse that has been ridden by many crap riders and has therefore developed scar tissue all over its poor mouth (aka “has a hard mouth”). Once you know how to ride, you will know how to handle your body while on a horse, and how to use your posture and legs (not your hands, at least not exclusively or roughly) to let your horse know when to go, when to stop, and which direction to take.
2. Horses are not stupid, under certain circumstances: They are prey animals who have evolved to run the hell away from predators. When given the option, they will flee back to their barn/home when threatened. They will not walk/run into dangerous circumstances, unless they trust their rider very well, and/or have been trained to do so.
3. Horses are stupid, under certain circumstances: A horse’s idea of a “threat” is pretty much “anything large, loud, bright, smelly, or unfamiliar.” This includes large women in purple track suits. True story. Training horses for warfare is something that was, in the past, begun very early in the animals’ lives, and included not only training horses to be ridden but also exposing them to all kinds of loud, smelly, scary stimuli, and teaching them to trust the human on their back to get them back to the barn safely no matter what kind of hell they put them through on the way there. Horses also do equate their home/barn with safety. It is, in fact, sadly true that a horse will sometimes remain inside a burning barn.
3. Stallions are not majestic creatures, no matter what Walter Farley*** may have told you: Male horses, un-neutered, are rage-filled sex monsters. Their entire outlook on life is “screw it, eat it, or kill it.” Their evolutionary purpose is to first, make as many little horses as possible with as many female horses as possible, and second, kick and bite the life out of anything that comes anywhere near above-mentioned little horses and females. They are nervous wrecks. They have no sense of self-preservation when it comes to a fight. They will hump anything that doesn’t stay still. Yes, they CAN be trained past these instincts, or trained to employ them as humans wish, ie, war horses being trained to bite and trample the enemy, but it is about 1000% harder to deal with a stallion than with a gelding. A gelding is a neutered male horse, preferably one who has been neutered young, before entering “horse puberty,” so that he doesn’t have any residual hormones or bad habits. Geldings are probably the best horses, all-around, for domestic use. Apply these observations to contemporary politics as you will.
4. Mares are not delicate visions of girlyhood: Female horses (which are highly impractical to neuter, even with modern technology) can, most of the time, be equivalent to geldings in temperament; in other words, ranging from lovey-dovey cinnamon rolls to utter bichtacular drama queens, depending on the individual creature (usually leaning towards the “bitch” end of the spectrum). However, they go into heat multiple times a year, and when they do, they become, like stallions, sex monsters: squirting their urine hither and yon to attract prospective mates with the scent, whinnying “Hey, Big Fella!” to every horse that passes, and generally behaving like prostitutes looking for work. Do not shame them for this; like stallions, their purpose in life is to make little horses and then kick the crap out of anything that comes near them.
5. Horses can’t barf: OK, I’m not going to go into a full course of equine veterinary medicine here (I’m not that much of an expert, and y’all don’t want to read it anyway), but it’s downright amazing the number of seemingly simple things that can kill a horse. Indigestion can kill a horse. Constipation can kill a horse. Diarrhea can kill a horse—all of the above can be loosely labeled as “colic,” and all are an equestrian’s nightmare. Horses can even develop a condition similar to diabetes, called “foundering,” due to over-feeding, in which their hooves can fall off in extreme cases. Again, fatal. The upshot of this is that owners of fine domestic horses (feral/wild horses are tougher than, and less-highly “bred” horses are not as persnickety as, race horses or war horses) are incredibly fussy over what their animal eats, when they eat it, and how much water they get (hint: a LOT of water, because not enough water = constipation = death).
6. Due to the above-mentioned incredibly demanding nature of horses as domestic animals, even in Ye Olden Days, unless you were part of a nomadic culture where every man had a horse and loved it more than his wife, only the rich and elite had horses—and they probably loved them more than their wives, too. Who ruled the Middle Ages? The knights. Why? They had horses, and could trample your peasant ass into the mud. Many weapons of the late Middle Ages—spears, lances, all those gruesome left-handed can-opener looking things—were designed expressly to disembowel horses and take away the knights’ tactical advantage. But until the advent of reliable tanks (I say “reliable” because some tenacious Polish cavalry took out some German tanks in WWII by riding alongside them and shoving spears into the tanks’ treads), horses were a superweapon, and one that not everyone had. The present day military divide between officers and enlisted men had its roots in the distinction between the medieval nobility, who were rich enough to own horses, and the peasants, who weren’t.
I work this information into my fantasy writing to try and give it a more believable feel. When the Edward Red Mage series opens, Eddie is common-born; even though he has the ability to use magic, he still doesn’t have the wealth or social standing to own or ride a horse. When he needs to get across town, he walks, just like the rest of the peasants. As the series progresses and he’s granted a title, he’s also given a horse, Rowan, to go along with his new rank. Eddie has to learn how to ride him, and he falls off a lot at first, because he’s a shlub with a beer gut and no core strength. Eventually he does learn to stay on, but he gives most of the credit to Rowan, who is a very well-trained and experienced gelding—I couldn’t write Eddie handling a stallion, or probably not even a mare, because he’s just never going to be as good at handling horses as someone who was born noble and learned riding from childhood. Frequently Eddie trusts Rowan’s experience to get them through difficult terrain, while Rowan trusts Eddie not to point him towards certain death. But Rowan’s training and experience can also lead to trouble; if a situation arises that reminds Rowan of battle, by sight, sound, or even by smell, he’s going to become tense and aggressive, ready to fight. Eddie simply doesn’t have the experience to control Rowan under those circumstances, and I have to keep that in mind while plotting. A horse in a historical or fantasy novel isn’t a vehicle; it’s a character, with motivations, intentions, fears, and quirks like any other, and a good writer needs to remember that.****
*I’m not saying Persons of Color don’t like horses, or don’t ride them. Native Americans were better to horses, once the Europeans brought them to the continent, than the Europeans were. I’m saying that as the automobile became widely used for basic transport/hauling, horses became mainly pets for the upper-middle-class. Therefore, in the 20th/21st centuries, race-based economic status precluded and still precludes many Persons of Color from having horses (and if you were/are rural and still had/have horses, you were/are unlikely to be rich enough to have the time to write fantasy novels).
**None of this applies if you are Mercedes Lackey, in whose world horses are reincarnated magic-users and more intelligent than most people. Nor does it apply to Tolkien or Lewis, because they are Gods among authors, and They Do What They Want. If you are writing magical, talking, or otherwise super-human horses, in other words, ignore all of this.
***Prolific 20th C. author of romanticized “boy and his horse” novels, bane of parents who don’t like going bankrupt.
****Thanks to my sister, Eleanor Anne Phillips of Blackwater Farm, for sharing years of experience with horses-as-definite-characters. She trains horses and their riders in advanced equestrian techniques derived from cavalry training; she works too hard to support her horses to have time to write fantasy novels, though she has been known to yell at the screen when fantasy movies get stuff wrong.
1. The Fool: God’s own idiot, this card represents innocence and beginnings, as well as just plain having no idea what’s going on.
2. Two of Air, Reversed: This is the second week in a row this card has cropped up. Whatever issues were suspended before are still undecided.
3. Eight of Water, Reversed: Usually, this card indicates turning away from familiar patterns and relationships to seek wisdom in far places, but it’s reversed position indicates we might find our solutions closer to home.
Couple weeks ago, I was discussing the fanfic I used to write back in college with a friend. She asked me was I ever going to do anything with the first novel-length piece I’d ever written. I said:
I was only half kidding. The piece is a hot mess. It has almost everything bad you’d expect to see in a fanfic, with the exception of weird, awkwardly worded sex scenes (because it was a Doctor Who fic, and according to series canon at the time, the Doctor was asexual). It still had excessive adjectives, the female protagonist crushing stupidly on the hero, random pop culture quotes that only I could understand, and cameo appearances by characters from every nerdy fiction series set in New York City. Well, maybe not the Ninja Turtles, I don’t remember. Currently, it only exists as a photocopy of a dot-matrix print-out, and a match would certainly rid the world of its dreadfulness.
But it’s not bad because it’s fan fiction.
It’s bad because I’d never written anything that long before. I was learning. Everyone starts out learning. Even Tolkien had to start. Sure, he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which are genius, but he wrote a lot of other things beforehand. After his death, his heirs published a lot of his drafts. Some of them made it into The Silmarillion, which reads like an elf-infused remake of the King James Bible. Others were collected into books of “lost tales,” some of which tales might have been better left lost. My first point is, no one starts out writing an epic.
My second point is, almost everyone starts out writing fanfic. Some people are even best-known for fanfic. Shakespeare rarely used an original plot when he could re-tell someone else’s. I could make a pretty good case for Vergil’s Aeneid being Illiad/Oddysey fanfic. I’ve read someone describe Milton’s Paradise Lost as a Genesis fanfic. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series? It’s a straight-up Jesus-AU-Fursonna-fic *. (I’ll pause for a moment while y’all reach for the brain bleach.)
Now that I work in a public library, I am flat staggered to see how many published books out there are derived from earlier works. I think the top two works for inspiring novels would be the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and Pride and Prejudice. And then we get into the whole area of tie-in novels based on TV and film series. That’s fanfic that went pro—presumably because someone was writing fanfic long enough, and working diligently enough on improving their craft, that what they were putting out no longer sucked dead bear fat through a crazy straw.
Which brings me back around to the title of this piece: Wookiepedia. It’s a real thing, a Star Wars wiki website. I wrote Doctor Who fanfic for so long that I was good enough to be included in a juried in-print fanzine. The fact that I did that allowed the editor of the Star Wars Adventure Journal to hire me to write short stories for pay, and that’s why if you go to the Wookiepedia site and type in my old name, Angela Phillips, you’ll find a mention of me and summaries of my work. Oh, and if you feel like going to fanfiction.net and search for Angela P. Wade, you might even find some of my Doctor Who stories.
Just not that first one.
*For those of you who don’t spend your internet time reading the Tumblr posts of teenaged girls the way I do, “AU”= “alternate universe” and “Fursonna” = “Furry Personna.” So the Narnia books are an alternate universe where Jesus is a furry. If you read The Magician’s Nephew, it’s pretty much spelled out in canon
Just because I haven’t posted lately doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. The fourth Edward Red Mage novel, Lord Cailean’s Tower, is now in the hands of my editor, Leona Wisoker. Once again, my Eddie will be out of his depth when he’s summoned to a convocation of wizards, most of whom are older and far more powerful than he is. One of them, at least, is also homicidal.
There is no firm date as to when the book will be ready for publication; I’m going to say “2019” and leave it at that. In the meantime, I have made purchasing and reading my previous books easier by providing folks with more places to find them. Because “Are you on Amazon?” is the third most FAQ I get from readers (right after “Will there be a sequel?” and “Will Eddie ever stop being such a putz?”), I now have my own author page on Amazon. There you can download digital copies or order a print on demand edition of all three Edward Red Mage books. I have also published the series through Draft2Digital, which means Book Three is now available online at Barnes and Noble and other digital venues. The books are also on Overdrive now, which means that public libraries can buy digital copies to loan. Ask your librarian if they offer e-books, and, if so, if they can get mine. Just ask politely, we work hard!
Books One and Two are still available digitally through Smashwords, as well as the free short story “Justice is Served.”
For those who like the personal touch of brick and mortar stores or convention dealers’ rooms, the Ingram Spark print editions (with the lovely full-color covers) of all three books can still be had at the Scribbling Lion table, year-round at Retro Daddio’s in Williamsburg, VA, or at select conventions along the East Coast.