Tarot Tuesday with Hollie Smurthwaite #TarotTuesday

Tarot Tuesday: Tarot and Fiction
By Hollie Smurthwaite

What makes tarot so great is the many ways it can be used: predicting the future, gaining clarity, and making fiction a bit more alive. 

I was working on a story with a psychic protagonist who often uses tarot for divination. The premise was that the mother (Vadoma) of an escort (Nico) is a psychic who doesn't like his girlfriend, and she seeks out another psychic (Eva) at a fair for confirmation that the current girlfriend is bad for him and to gain some insight on what she should do. Eva will end up hiring Nico as a fake date to her sister's wedding (secretly paid for by his mother, Vadoma). 

So, when I wrote the fair scene where Vadoma sits down at Eva's booth, I decided to actually draw the tarot and use whatever came up as the cards in the story. Fun, right? 

Vadoma informs Eva that the reading is for her son. Her first request is a one-card yes/no question, followed by a three-card general spread. I set up the moment: 
Eva shuffled the cards, letting her energy seep into them. They were already steeped in her aura, but she always topped off before a reading.
I took a break from writing in that moment and shuffled my Mystic Dreamer Tarot deck, and pulled one. 

Page of Cups. 
According to my handy guidebook, "This page is sweet, sensitive, and creative."

In the story:
Eva turned the card. Page of Cups. "That's a yes."

"Clearly." Vadoma closed her eyes, as if absorbing a blow, then grinned. "Eva, my dear, I think you are exactly what I need."
Vadoma's silent question becomes: Should she interfere in her son's love life. Yes. This is the beginning of the setup of the plot for the novel. 

Now in the story, Eva moves on to the three-card spread. I reshuffle my deck, concentrate on my story, and pull three cards. 

I turn over the first: The World, a major arcana card about success and accomplishment. This is what Eva tells Vadoma:

"There is a goal recently achieved, through much struggle and strife. A culmination of desire. Success."
"Yes," Vadoma agrees, with a decisive nod. 
Eva flipped the next card: Eight of Swords, reversed.
To make my storyline work, I didn't go with the reversal explanation in my guidebook. Yet, I wanted to keep every card I pulled, so I tweaked Eva's perception and sense to make an interpretation that will work with the plot. 

Eva didn't interpret reversals quite like others did. Some called it an opposite meaning, but Eva didn't believe that. There were other cards that could mean the same thing. For her, a reversed card meant a struggle to achieve the card's promise. Since the Eight of Swords depicts entrapment and helplessness, Vadoma might want the card reversed, but Eva never read for what the client wanted. She read the truth, always. 

Then I needed one final card. This one turned out to fit perfectly. 

Eva flipped over the last card: Seven of Wands, a warrior card. Eva looked at it, let the coming battle settle into her mind, then she looked back to the present, the reversed Eight of Swords, the entanglements of the present growing out of The World of the past, the success, the end of the era. "There's danger. A fight is coming, and the result will determine if he's able to salvage what he needs of his past to have a fulfilling future. It can also be read that though he's achieved his goal, it might not be what he really wants or needs."
Vadmoa slapped her hand onto the table. "I knew it."
"Keep in mind that this is your reading, not his. You were the one shuffling and choosing the cards."
"You are right to warn me, Eva, but I know what I'm doing." She put a fist on the table, then uncurled her hands. There was a lock of black hair tied with a thin blue ribbon, a baby's hair. 
 The sweetness of the curl. A mother's love and devotion. 
Dread kicked Eva between her ribcage and gut--heart and intuition together. The stakes were high for this woman's son. Eva knew better than anyone that the gift of foresight didn't mean anything, if the other person wasn't willing to listen. 
Thus, the events of the novel are set in motion, the tarot reading spurring Vadoma to make Eva a bold proposition, in order to save her son. Tarot plays a large role in that particular story, and I think using tarot cards I actually pulled rather than orchestrating a spread brings authenticity and a sense of fun. 
Tarot, it turns out, is a great tool for people both real and imagined.

The Color of Betrayal
The Psychic Colors Series
Book Two
Hollie Smurthwaite

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Suspense
Publisher: Hollie Smurthwaite
Date of Publication: 10-31-2022
ISBN: 978-1-7371189-6-1
Number of pages: 344
Word Count: 98,000
Cover Artist: Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations

Tagline: No Secret is Safe . . . 

Book Description:

As a memory surgeon, Jolene can slip into other people’s memories. She can see them, experience them, even steal them. To atone for her past, she’s been using her gift to help the Agency, a secret government entity, taking out drug lords across the US. After a screw-up on an assignment, she’s back in Chicago, where her own worst memories live.

The last thing she needs while trying to make up for her mistake is a sexy distraction.  Cass is a little sweet and a lot gorgeous.  The only problem: she can’t have him and the job.  But when he offers his friendship, she can’t resist. 

While Jolene and Cass try to pretend there is nothing beneath their friendship, her mission spins out of control. Now, both their lives are on the line. Will her growing powers be enough to save her? Or will secrets send her right back to the darkest depths of her past?

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After only three weeks of dating, Jolene and Colton had fallen into a routine: dinner (both) and drinks (him), binge-watching various flavors of CSI at his downtown Boston condo (him), and a few hours of surreptitiously delving into Colton's memories (her). Jolene's practice run as a spy in the field was going well.

The late August night was cool enough for Colton to crack open the sliding glass door to the balcony to let the night air clear his lingering cigarette smoke. Jolene kicked off the stiletto heels and inwardly sighed. After some complex maneuvering, she managed to tuck her aching toes under her too-bright skirt.

The next part of the evening promised to be worth the discomfort of a thong up her ass crack to avoid panty lines.

Without asking Jolene what she would like, Colton switched on the obscenely large TV and pulled up Hulu, lounging like a czar on his pristine white couch, which was a stupid color for anyone but particularly ludicrous for a smoker who drank too much and worked with dangerous people.

In another life, he would have been regal with golden hair, long limbs, straight nose, and a boyish, charming smile. But this wasn’t another life.

As a midlevel lackey in the Red Flames criminal organization, he was not proper boyfriend material, even if he made enough cash to buy a downtown place on a high floor and have it professionally, if foolishly, decorated all in white.

Jolene wiggled her toes into the plush cushion and ignored the stale-smoke smell mixed with Colton’s spicy cologne. Any moment, Colton would slip into a CSI coma, and she would slip into his memories.

“This looks like a good one,” she said. What she always said, because why mess with what worked?

“Yeah,” Colton agreed, as he always did. He lit a cigarette and “politely” blew the smoke toward the balcony doors, tapping the ash into an antique crystal ashtray on the glass coffee table already holding three butts.

The first week, she'd been terrified he'd somehow feel her inside his mind, though she'd never had that happen before or heard of anyone sensing the process. Not that Jolene still had contacts in the memory-surgeon community, small as it was, but that sort of revelation would put memory surgery back in the 24/7 news cycle, like when they’d first been legitimized. Semi-legitimized.

This first assignment was nothing more than an exploration of what she could do on a real mission. Since Colton was a gangster and she had no close backup, fear nibbled, but confidence had outpaced her worry.

Jolene rested her head on his shoulder, slipped her arm through his, and slid her hand down his button-down shirt to rest on his hand. As soon as skin-to-skin contact was made, she mentally reached out to him. Colton's mind rose up inside her own. To boost her concentration, Jolene closed her eyes.

Within the blackness, bubbles sharpened. The different shapes and colors bobbed and slid around one another. In her mind's eye, she moved into the middle, staring at them as if in an aquarium. The memories never touched her, but she could reach out and sink into any of them. If she did, she experienced the memory in its entirety, exactly as Colton had lived through the event at the time. If she wanted, she could remove memories, but that was a level of violation she resisted unless absolutely necessary. Besides, if she took something, she had to keep it, and she didn't want to keep anything of Colton's.

Jolene already had an entire dossier in her head of all things Colton. She’d cataloged his fears: multilegged insects like millipedes terrified him, as did his brother when his eyes went icy, and his jaw shifted to the right.

Shame occupied its own section: bed-wetting for a month when he was twelve. The time he'd slapped his girlfriend after she'd gotten pregnant and decided she didn't want it. Red Flames passing him over for job after job.

Still, inside, people were infinite, and she had more to learn. She avoided the pink bubbles, as they were filled with his worst memories, and her reactions to living them were difficult to hide. Reds gave her the best intel so far. Angers, suspicions, smackdowns.

Truthfully, she should have wrapped up the mission a week ago since she wasn’t finding anything new. But playing spy and the unfettered access to Colton's recollections had been too enlightening to quit quite yet. Her skills had grown, and she didn’t feel guilty about messing in his brain because of his criminal history. She was three weeks into her two- to three-week mission, so she needed to skip out soon.

Jolene decided to make a game to test her memory-reading skills. She had recently learned how to peek and not immediately experience a memory. It allowed her to see more since she didn’t need any emotional recovery time, and she processed what she encountered more quickly.

Tonight, she wanted to test how many memories she could scan during commercial breaks, since Colton was too cheap to pay for the commercial-free version of Hulu. She’d hop through his memories like jumping into puddles.


A mahogany memory: his brother, Walther, stood over him, watching over his shoulder as Colton did algebra homework. Whenever Colton squirmed in his chair, Walther flicked his ear. It didn’t hurt much, but Colton’s face burned every time, and his muscles shook with the stress of not moving to avoid Walther’s attention. “Knock it off,” he grumbled, earning another sting. Colton tensed—

A buttercup-colored memory: “Mama, Mama, Mama,” Colton said, running around his mama as she walked in the park. If he ran fast enough, he would fly, his head already lightening. He stumbled and giggled, his mama laughing. Something shiny glinted in the sun. What was it? His mama scooped him into her arms before he grabbed it. She smelled of flowers and oranges.

About the Author: 

Hollie Smurthwaite is a paranormal romantic suspense author of The Color of Trauma and The Color of Betrayal. The Color of Trauma was the winner of the 2020 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project in adult fiction. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and too few pets. In past lives, she's been a checkout clerk, massage therapist, office manager, recruiter, magazine staff writer, pepper spray hawker, and belly dancer.

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