Monday, September 10, 2012

Act now and you can have your tarot cards read for free! Also, a wee chat with Mizz Helen Howell

 Good  morning everyone! Of course it's not morning everywhere in blogland, especially in Australia where author Helen Howell is probably just crawling into bed as I'm polishing off my first cup of joe. You know Helen, right? She's one of my Friday Flash buddies, a writer who has just published her first book, a young adult novelette called Jumping At Shadows.

Not only have I read it, I had the distinct honour of being one of Helen's beta readers. I had never beta read an entire book before and, whew, I have new respect for all editors of all books (especially the lovely Mizz Laurita Miller who is currently editing my own). It's a lot of work! I mean, it's fun work, but it's still work, trying to help the author make it the best work she possibly can. Luckily Helen's book didn't need much polishing up and her story made the task a joy. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, you can find it at Smashwords and Amazon.

In the meantime, did you know Helen reads tarot cards? Not only that, she's willing to give free readings to the first five people who speak up in the comments. FREE READINGS. I know, right? How cool is that? 

So go get your glass and put it up to the wall and listen in as me and lovely Helen have a wee chat.



Hey Helen!
How are things on your side of the world?
So I've put together a few questions for you and am hoping you'll have fun with the answers. Ready?

Okay here we go! ^__^

You're a magical woman, Helen Howell. Your new novelette, Jumping At Shadows, has a lot to do with magic and mystery, and it features a crystal ball on the cover. In real life you do tarot card readings. Which makes me wonder – how big a part does magic play in your own life and did your experiences play a part in the writing of your book?

Ah, life is full of magic! You just have to look around you to see. ^__^ I've always been, right from the start, what I suppose others call psychic. I don't like to use that label. But I have through different periods of my life seen ghosts, and sometimes just known when things are going to happen. I like to think of it as a tuned in intuition. Magic or the concept of magic and the imagination to believe in it, has always been part of me. I guess that's why I like to read among other things, middle grade fantasy. Hey what little girl doesn't want to believe there are fairies at the bottom of the garden?

My novella was not influenced by my belief in magic but rather by those books in the fantasy fiction genre I like to read. Alice in Wonderland being one of the first and I recently got a new illustrated edition of this. Harry Potter - read 'em all. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe just to name a few.

Jumping At Shadows is described as a magical adventure. My heroine Belle and her side kick Rosy, both love to read magical books. When they find themselves in the alternative world what they experience does seem like magic to them. But in reality all the gadgets that make things happen, with the exception of the crystals, were invented by Rhubost, (Belle's distant relative). So although the book has a strong magical feel to it, it could also be described as soft science fiction.

How DO you do a tarot reading and how much faith do you have in the results?

There are two schools of thought about how one reads tarot, that is the predictive reading or proactive reading. Predictive sort of speaks for itself. You tell the person what is going to happen. Proactive is where you help the seeker to make the best decision for themselves. Having said that, there is always a certain amount of prediction within a reading, but by doing proactive you help the person to see the advantages or pitfalls to certain directions. With proactive reading you encourage the seeker to ask open ended questions - for example, what, how, where - What do I need to do etc? or How can I improve my relationship with x? As opposed to asking: Does Fred love me? or will I get the job? Both these last two questions tend to need a yes no answer, which of course tarot can do, however it would be far more productive for example to ask What do I need to do to give myself the best shot at this job?

Tarot has long been thought of as a 'fortune telling' tool but it's so much more when used well. It can be a tool for self growth and one that helps you gain insight in order to make the best decisions for yourself. When I had a tarot reading website this is how I describe how I felt tarot worked:

I believe that the Tarot works in a way that connects to our energy and becomes a tool that enables contact with our higher self. This helps us to become enlightened about the choices we have and the possibilities that may be available, but remembers that we also have free will so those possibilities are changeable and depend on the choices we make.

When you have a reading the influence it may have on your life is that it can cause you to look where you have not thought to look before. By exploring beyond normal perception you can gain a more positive outlook, facilitate a greater understanding of yourself and your situation and in turn, empower you to make a better choice for yourself.
I have seen tarot help people to gain clarity and to go forward with more determination and direction in their life. So I certainly have faith in its ability to help people. But you know one should remember that tarot cards are just that, pieces of cardboard with images. Yes, the images do have a long history and within them are core meanings. But a reading is only as good as the reader. What I am saying is the magic is not in the cards but in the readers ability.

Belle and Rosy, the two main characters in Jumping At Shadows, are feisty, happy, charming girls living adventurous lives. Was your own girlhood similar to theirs? Are you more like Belle or Rosy?

I was more like Rosy I think. Rosy's a bit of a tom boy and so was I. Always willing to climb that tree and scrump those apples. ^__^ I've drawn on my own memories of school days in order to write this story, and it is set in around the early 60's. The tunnel they go through to get to the gym is the one I use to have to go through. I think even when we write fiction, there has to be some reality in it to be believable. That is where the similarity begins and ends.

How was the novel-writing/publishing experience for you? Would you do it again? Are you working on a sequel? Are you happy or disappointed with the self-publishing process and what pitfalls are there you would advise other writers to avoid?

This novella, (well it's a novella now but the original draft was around 60,000 words which I reduced to just under 50,000), took around 4 years from beginning to end. I worked on the first draft for 12 months, but took lots of breaks to write short stories and flashes etc. This helped me not get bogged down in it and come back each time with fresh eyes. I formed a plot outline but a fair way in I found it wasn't going to work, so had to sit down and rethink the plot. Having an imaginative son helped a lot at this stage. He and I had a brainstorming session to get it back on the road. Then came the edits, 6 times in all, but you can't escape the process.

I've left the book so that it can have a sequel, but right now I have another fantasy fiction on the back burner about a boy who thinks he has what it takes to be a wizard ^__^

Publishing was a learn as you go process. Fortunately I enlisted the help of my husband to do the formatting, but there still were kinks to iron out and the meat grinder at Smashwords thinks that people only use word - most frustrating when you work on a Mac. I think putting the thing together is the easiest part. As an Indi author the hardest part is promotion, you have to do it for yourself. Trying to find the fine line between getting your book out there and not annoying the public too much is tricky.

I think my advice to anyone who was planning to do this is, make sure you have your manuscript edited and polished, enlist beta readers to help you see where you may need to improve it. Don't try to skip the editing step, a first draft is rarely the best. Then when you're ready to publish, plan it and make your launch noticeable. Good luck.


I was wondering if you'd be willing to do tarot readings for those who would ask for it in the comments? You don't have to, of course, and I won't mention it if you'd rather not, but it might be fun.

Okay I would be willing to do 5 one card readings for the first five to put up their hands - they can only ask one question and preferably not one that requires a yes or no (difficult to do with one card) so perhaps you could guide them to ask their question with an open end like: 

What do I need to - or How can I etc. or Where should I etc. will get them the best results.

ALSO - Tell me a little bit about your fascinating life, what it's like to live in Australia (whereabouts exactly are you?); what it's like to live life a day ahead of the rest of the world (it kills me that you're going to bed when I'm waking up), what your family life is like (happy anniversary!) and what's UP with all your baking!!!! Geez, you're making the whole world hungry over there!

Thanks for the anniversary wishes, 39 years how time flies! Well, I was born in England where I stayed until I was 31 before moving to Australia. I started out my working life as a secretary, until I came to Australia then I moved into age care. fter that I became a massage therapist, then an instructor in an Adult Education Facility for intellectual disabilities. Left that and went to work in a spa as a remedial massage therapist. Now retired. I have done various things in my life, in England taught in a ballet school on Saturdays. When I came out here I joined a wine makers association and made my own country wines, for which I won two bronze and one silver medal. (Don't make wine any more, you can buy it by the cask these days ^_^). I was also a watercolour painter and exhibited my work for around 18 years. No longer do that. Around four years ago I took up fiction writing and that is what I put my energy into these days.

Australia was always called the lucky country, it has wide open spaces, beaches and for the most part a fair bit of sunshine. Coming from England I loved that fact that I could grow things in this climate outdoors that would only be seen in a hot house back home. I adore some of the wild life, (not the spiders or snakes) but the parrots that come visit my garden, that is until they eat my apples instead of their bird seed! The thing I really like about Australia is that you don't need lots of money to enjoy life. Our parks are free, our beaches are free, so all you need to do is pack up some sandwiches and head on out into the fresh air.

 Sometimes I feel living in the future makes me miss out on some fun chats! It's strange that I am waking up here when all of your are going to bed and I read the tweets and games and conversations that have gone on while I sleep.

Baking - I've always loved cooking. Not everyday meals that's boring stuff, but making special cakes or bread or preserves. There is nothing more satisfying that looking at a shelf filled with jars of things that you've made yourself. I've recently done a batch of orange and lemon marmalade - the lemon trees are dripping here at the moment. ^_^

Thanks for asking me over Cathy, I've enjoyed chatting and I've left you a jar of marmalade on the table over there!

MARMALADE! My favourite! (Can you imagine having lemon trees in your backyard? I certainly can't.) Thanks for that, Helen, and thanks for dropping by. It's always a pleasure having you here and best of luck with Jumping At Shadows. I hope you sell TONS of copies.

Now, the first five people who ask for it in the comments can have their tarot cards read by the illustrious Mizz Howell. She read mine a few months back and was bang on with everything she said. How much fun is that?

46 comments:

  1. Thanks Cathy for inviting me over for the chat! ^_^

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    1. Any time, Helen! You are always welcome here! And good luck with your book!

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  2. Yes please Helen ! and thank you Cathy xxx

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    1. Congratulations also on your Novella, I like the sound of that. My question should be posted where or how to you, please? My email is justnorthofwiarton@gmail.com . Thank you in advance

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    2. Hi Cindy I'll contact you at the email address you gave me. ^_^

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    4. Cindy my mail returned my email as that address is faulty so perhaps you can contact me with your question - if you don't have a question then we'll ask the tarot 'what do you need to know right now?' The reading will be done with just one card.

      email me at helen281@gmail.com

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    6. Silly me I hardly use this email address, it should have read:
      helenh281@gmail.com - sorry missed the h out you'll have to send again.

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    7. Re-sent, I haven't heard back from the first address so maybe they are having a chuckle at my email sent to them in erro.

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  3. Another one to add to the ever growing reading list. You know, a few years back I had my cards read and asked my guide if she could see anything about my mom (she had cancer). She looked at me and asked me if I was ready to hear what she had to say. She was right on with what she told me. I would love to have a reading again.

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    1. I know what you mean about the ever growing list. I wish, wish, wish I had more time to read. Some day!

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    2. Hi mybabyjohn/Delores would you like to give me your email and I will contact you ^_^

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    3. Or you can you can contact me with your question - if you don't have a question then we'll ask the tarot 'what do you need to know right now?' The reading will be done with just one card.

      email me at helen281@gmail.com

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    4. My baby - Delores Silly me I hardly use this email address, it should have read:
      helenh281@gmail.com - sorry missed the h on the original.

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  4. Okay, I have some real catching up to do on your blog, Cathy, now that my brain has decided to operate again (what is that about, anyway?).

    Middle-grade is a grate age for books; I enjoy reading them now, especially as we didn't have that much choice when I was a lass. It's so good now! Set in the 60's is intriguing. Best of luck with that, to the author, and thank you for the advice!

    Now on to your last post, Cathy, as the title of that was calling me from my email inbox. :)

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    1. Thanks for your good wishes Carrieboo. If you do read it I hope you enjoy it. ^_^

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    2. Carrie, your brain started working again? Huh. Mine needs a good reboot. If you have any tips, I'd love to hear 'em.

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  5. Enjoyed reading this interview, even more so as my stepson and his lady are living Down Under these days. Haven't had my cards read in ages but would appreciate it!

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    1. Hi Texas you're number three on the list, if you would like to give me your email I will contact you. ^_^

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    2. Or Texas you can you can contact me with your question - if you don't have a question then we'll ask the tarot 'what do you need to know right now?' The reading will be done with just one card.

      email me at helen281@gmail.com

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    3. I love it when Texas visits... I was singing the Yellow Rose of Texas all day yesterday!

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    4. Texas Silly me I hardly use this email address, it should have read:
      helenh281@gmail.com - sorry missed the h on the original.

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  6. I prefer to think of it as "it's always morning somewhere."

    Off to look at the book.

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    1. Hi Andrew, if you get it I hope you enjoy it. ^_^

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    2. Like "it's always five o'clock somewhere?"

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  7. Great post, Cathy (as usual!). Helen, if you haven't reached your quota of 5 yet (apparently I'm challenged at counting today), I've never had a Tarot reading and would love to hear what you have to say :)

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    1. Hi Dawn you're no. 4 on the list- give me your email and I will contact you. ^_^

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    2. Or Dawn you can you can contact me with your question - if you don't have a question then we'll ask the tarot 'what do you need to know right now?' The reading will be done with just one card.

      email me at helen281@gmail.com

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    3. Oh! Have fun with Dawn, Helen. She is an extra special friend of mine, one of the lovely and talented ladies in my writers group.

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    4. Dawn Silly me I hardly use this email address, it should have read:
      helenh281@gmail.com - sorry missed the h on the original.

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    5. Thanks Helen! Just checking back in now (and emailing you next!)

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  8. I am a firm believer that there is magic in every day so Helen's responses resonated with me to the hilt. Thank you Cathy, thank you Helen. And good luck with both of your writing projects (says the woman whose unread pile is already way too big).

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    1. Thank you for your good wishes. ^_^

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    2. Awwww, thanks EC. (She's adorable, Helen, isn't she?)

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  9. Okay Delores and Cindy have had their one card reading, I've still to hear from Texas Yellow Rose and Dawn - Hey ladies don't forget to contact me at helenh281@gmail.com

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  10. Dawn has collected her reading and Cathy had the fifth one, so just waiting for Texas to contact me now at
    helenh281@gmail.com

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  11. Excellent answers, Helen!

    Cathy, I've done beta reading several times. It can be a challenge, but it's also productive and good work to do.

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  12. Greetings Helen/Cathy, congrats Helen on the release of your book. Best wishes. xx

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  13. Hi Carrie! Thank you so much for your good wishes. ^__^

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How's it going, eh? It's SO good to hear from you. Tell me every darn thing...