Author: Willow Croft

May 2022: Tarot Cards for Writing Inspiration

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(Although this fictionalized tarot card reading is, as usual, purely for creative and writing inspiration, and should not be taken as any sort of reflection, critique, diagnosis, classification, or judgment pertaining to actual mental and emotional conditions, this month’s reading is, however, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. If you find yourself in need of help and support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional or to a crisis line.)

Sometimes, the enemy lies deep within oneself. Sometimes it’s external forces that can’t readily be seen, or identified. Sometimes one may not even be sure they exist at all. Are they even real, or simply a figment of someone else’s imagination? Perhaps one of the most terrifying situations in horror fiction is when the character’s reality is deliberately distorted by those around them, and they simply have no way of knowing which way is up, or what the truth actually is. They’re faced with a situation where they’ve been taught that their own perception, knowledge, and intuition can’t be trusted. Such is the situation our fictionalized main character is facing.

 

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Character: Knight of Swords. This character is the royal heir to a wealthy and expansive kingdom. The kingdom is so widespread that the regents, the main character’s parents, have difficulty in holding onto their power. These regents face challenges both without the castle walls, where war and bloodshed is almost a constant presence, and within, where not even the regents’ inner circle can be trusted. As a result, the royal heir, as the regents’ only child, lives a life of near-total seclusion. In fact, the only people the heir has come in contact with are his parents. Within their suite of rooms, the heir knows only luxury, peace, and security, despite the wars raging outside the castle.

 

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Setting: The Tower. As the heir comes of age, however, the regents provide them with a companion, thought by all to be trusted, and the pair become very close. It’s a blow to the heir when the regents inform their child that the companion was involved in an attempted assassination and the heir is left with a broken heart, having fallen in love with the companion. What the heir doesn’t realize is that, even with his once-trusted and once-beloved companion gone, the danger is closer than anyone realizes. The heir awakes one evening to the smell of smoke and the sound of screams and running footprints from inside the castle itself. Gone are the flowery scents and the soft music the heir is usually surrounded with day and night. Instant terror replaces the heir’s complacency when a series of loud bangs sound against the door to his suite.

 

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Theme/Development: Nine of Pentacles (Reversed). The door splinters into pieces, and a cadre of masked people rush into the room. The heir is forcibly seized from his bed, and as he’s thrown over the shoulder of one of the heavily armored intruders, he sees the others set fire to the velvet drapes that line his bed. The heir, despite his sheltered existence, realizes that the betrayal his parents have always feared has finally happened. The heartbreak over his lost companion doesn’t compare to the pain he now feels. Outside the room, the smoke is even thicker, and he can barely make out dark masses scattered over the floor. Once outside, the smoke clears, and the heir realizes the masses are bodies. He looks up to see flames shooting up out of the castle’s roof and windows. He closes his eyes, afraid that he’ll see the bodies of his parents among the slain masses. He’s tossed up on into a horse, and he struggles to get away before his captor mounts. There’s a curse, a sharp pain, and true blackness overtakes the heir.

 

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Conflict/Climax: Two of Swords (Reversed). The heir comes to, and he hopes that all of what has happened was nothing but a bad dream. Although everything is still dark, he feels warmth off to his left. The fireplace in his room, and he snuggles down deep into his sheets. Instead of the finest silk, the sheets are of a coarse fabric that rasps against his skin. Before the heir can register that he wasn’t dreaming after all, light pours in abruptly. A shadowy form blocks out the light, and the heir scrambles backwards until he hits a solid wall behind him. The form grabs him and hauls him upright and pushes him out the door and into even brighter light. As his eyes adjust, colours flood in. Colors only nature can provide. Vibrant greens of trees stretching out to the horizon, even brighter flowers growing at their base, and the prince’s breath catches in his chest, followed by a swift, sharp, yet oddly pleasurable pain. There, in front of him, is his companion. And nowhere, as far as his eye can see, is any trace of the dangerous and war-ruined landscape he’d been told existed outside the castle walls.

May 2022 Horoscopes: [Undead] Party Like It’s . . .

Nope, not that beloved immortal!(Canva.com)

 

Read on to see how each undead zodiac sign will fritter away their eternal time!

 

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Party like it’s…1940s: The WWII-Rationed Dinner Party with Taurus (April 20—May 20). The trusty Taurus has spent its undead eternity planning perfect dinner parties. As much as this sign likes everything the same, even the tradition-bound Taurus fears the day their parties will be labeled a “one-note” after so many centuries. Therefore, they’ll seek out new ways to challenge their party-planning skills—such as designing a full wartime-rationed menu for their nearest and dearest bloodsuckers. And who cares if the meal that the hard-working Taurus slaved over goes uneaten? The vampirific digestive system won’t be a problem when it comes to the alcohol-free, blood-infused mocktails served as an accompaniment to the traditional, and also more digestible, fruit gelatin. And no 1940s-inspired party would be complete without a rousing game of charades. Because when the Taurus and their guests have lived for over a thousand years, the possibilities are endless, even though the evening is not! After all, there’s no risk that the Taurus’s fellow nocturnals will overstay their welcome, right?

 

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Party like it’s…March 2, 1699 to Present: New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Celebrations with Gemini (May 21—June 20). After all these years, one would expect the Mardi Gras festivities to wear on the chimerical Gemini. But it doesn’t, because the Gemini has the opportunity to present a new “face” by virtue of their costume and mask that always changes to match the current theme of the float they’re on that year. Plus, the flood of new people victims to the French Quarter provides the Gemini vampire with an endlessly varied and diverse menu to choose from. And, in this town steeped in old-world magic and honorific celebrations of death, Gemini’s status as an immortal will barely begin to be remarked upon by the time the next generation replaces the local old-timers. The only attention this sign will attract in the “anything goes” party culture is its attachment to the non-traditional red color of the beads they toss into the crowd from their float. Red for blood, of course!

 

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Party like it’s…1990s: The Goth Scene Redux with Cancer (June 21—July 22). Where else would you find a moody undead Crab then hiding in the dim shadows of a goth club? Even if it is a 90s reboot, it’s a reboot spawned by a new generation of black-eyelinered, black-velvet-clad maudlin types. This was the generation of twenty-somethings that had embraced not only “coffin classics” like Bauhaus and The Cure, but welcomed the fictional vampires of Anne Rice into their gloomy midst. Surely, the Cancerian feels, they’ll similarly welcome a real-life vampire. Or so the Cancerian hopes anyway, as they strike a poetic pose with their pitch-black cloves and their glass of blood-rich (literally!) red wine. For this nostalgic Cancer, the goth club is a modern-day version of the old-world see-and-be-seen high society—at least until the rave scene strips the atmospheric mystery from the club with their glow sticks and urban-baggy pants. The poor undead Cancer will have no choice, then, but to retreat to their desolate and crumbling estate to await the next reboot of an elegant, Victorian-inspired subculture to appear.

 

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Party like it’s…1600s-1700s: Louis XIV’s Palace at Versailles with Leo (July 23—August 22). For the flamboyant and dynamic Leo vampire, there is no gothic-styled waiting in the shadows. This vibrant sign lives for the sun, even though they can no longer be out and about during the day. And the Leo makes the day happen with advancements in electric lighting that mimic natural sunlight. It’s expensive, sure, but money is never an issue for the Leo, as they do in post-death just as they did in life, which is to surround themselves with the best of everything. And the best of everything, in this case, is to rent out the former Louis XIV’s Palace at Versailles, and replicate the grand events the old Sun King used to host back in the day. While the Leo’s wealth buys a lot, it can’t quite buy authenticity, and every so often, the Leo misses the excitement when all of this was new and yet familiar. People today, the Leo undead has found, just smell—and taste—different. But the Leo would never appear in public at less their personal best, so they touch up their face paint, fix their wig, make sure there’s not a loose thread to be found on their luxurious garments, and hope tonight will be the night they’ll find someone that tastes as exquisite as a French blue-blood once did.

 

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Party like it’s…1980s: The Roller Skating Rink with Virgo (August 23—September 22). As they did in life, the Virgo undead continues to relish the simple things. And that no-frills simplicity is best represented by evenings spent in the innocent haven of the roller skating rink. Rainbow socks, day-glo neon, and stacked bracelets that merrily jangle as the Virgo vampire zips around the track—much faster than they did when they were alive. Things are now even more simpler with their undead state, because they can’t be hurt when they wipe out after taking a turn too fast. However, even a vampire needs a breather, and Virgo skates off the rink to snag a churro, or breathe in the heavenly smell of nachos with gooey, drippy cheese. Luckily, the pink lemonade is tart enough to hide the taste of blood the Virgo has never quite gotten used to. The Virgo undead, as opposed to when they were alive, has no hesitation about wasting all their quarters at Skee Ball, or by beating their top scores in their favorite arcade games. Just as they’ve exchanged all their tickets for the latest in plastic mementos and jelly bracelets, the disco ball starts to sparkle, and the Virgo grabs their latest victim love of their life, and skates into a happily-ever-eternal-after, hand in hand.

 

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Party like it’s…Late 1880s: Coney Island, the “Playground of the World” with Libra (September 23—October 22). For the vampirean Libra, Coney Island has a midway feel to it in more ways than one. The sheer number of people it draws allows the Libra to feed almost undetected. Even if the careful Libra were interrupted in the middle of a meal, who would believe such a thing of the philanthropist who contributed a sizeable amount of funds in not only restoring, but preserving, the Coney Island site? As far as anyone knew, the Libra was a born-and-bred New Yorker. Which was true, just not in anyone’s current lifetime. Still, even after all these years, the Libra’s undead heart had its’ childlike playfulness restored the minute they set foot within the chaotic energy that characterizes Coney Island. And it’s exactly their status as one of the main benefactors of Coney Island that allows Libra an all-access pass long after the sun goes down for not only them, but all of their suspiciously gaunt friends. Which the staff of local carnies think is just due to them being from somewhere upstate. A very rich, posh somewhere upstate.

 

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Party like it’s…1920s: Prohibition Era’s Speakeasies with Scorpio (October 23—November 21). Even though the Victorian era was probably more unconventional than originally depicted, it’s still too tame for the walk-on-the-wild-side Scorpio vampire. They want something more exciting and dangerous than the artfully melancholy Victorians and their more modern subculture counterparts (like Goths). These undead scorpions find their thrills in banned and illegal undertakings. And, of course, nothing represents this better than the sometimes seedy, sometimes upscale, environment that defined the speakeasies of the 1920s. Within these tucked-away dance clubs and bars, the Scorpio once found liberation from societal mores. While the Scorpio vampire is now eternally liberated from the dramas and the rules of human society, their undead existence is a long one. These Scorpios still seek the feeling of being alive, and they recreate this sensation by embracing all things back-alley. They’ll set up shop in the most conservative state (which could also be a dry state) and flaunt everything from banned books to their non-conservative flag of choice. And they’ll be running their modern-day version of a speakeasy right under the noses of the local authorities—just as they did in the old days. The really old days, in fact.

 

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Party like it’s…1500s: The Ottoman Empire during its peak under Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent) with Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21). Even as an undead, Sagittarius never gives up their quest to reach the highest state of evolution a human can obtain. Throughout history, this noble archer can be found hanging around human civilizations at the height of their political, cultural, and societal accomplishments. While the Sagittarian vampire may eventually conclude that humanity can only evolve so far (in comparison to themselves and their fellow vampires), they still seek to absorb more from the human race then the warm blood that runs in their veins. These higher-minded vampires hope to distill their essence, their knowledge, and their entire history, if they can. And a good example of where to find the best and the brightest of humanity is in places like the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman I. While no society (or its leader/government) is perfect, Suleiman I did have a vision that fostered political, cultural, scientific/technological, and artistic growth under his leadership. Essentially, the Sagittarius is a collector, and they are preparing themselves for the day when they, alongside their other vampire brethren, will be the leaders that launch a new “Golden Age” on Earth.

 

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Party like it’s…1970s: The Disco Clubs with Capricorn (December 22—January 19). It’ll probably seem strange to find the oft-conventional Capricorn (even in their unconventional undead form) embracing the anti-establishment, anti-status quo movement of the 1970s. But within disco music, anyway, there’s a certain structure to the rhythm and to the dance steps that accompany the music. Although disco couture also stood out, there were underlying rules to creating the disco look, just as there were rules to the dancing style the music inspired. Certain other elements that belonged to the party scene of the disco movement made it easier for the Capricorn to go on the undead prowl, and avoid detection once it fed. Besides, what would a Capricorn vampire be if they didn’t think everything through completely and methodically? This old goat never acts on impulse, which is why it is probably among the oldest vampires in existence. And, millennia from now, they’ll still be on the dance floor, strutting their stuff while the young whippersnapper undeads gawk in horror.

 

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Party like it’s…1960s: The Hippie Movement with Aquarius (January 20—February 18). Peace, love, and the cosmic transformation that comes from imbibing humanity’s most ethereal red-hued substance, right? After all, red is a sacred color, the Aquarian vampire will tell you,. representative of both birth and death. Welcome to the heady world of the most enlightened of all the undead zodiac signs. Or so they like to think, anyway. These hippie-styled vampires will be both old in spirit but young in character. They’ll probably always need an undead elder to watch over them. You know, in case they go so deep into a meditative state that they aren’t aware of the first pink touches appearing in the morning sky. Or they accidently consume an elixir of garlic because they’ve learned it can be powerfully healing. Paradoxically, their deep spiritual connection to everything around them, even after their bodily transition, will protect them if they wander into a church while on a nighttime hunt. Eventually, though, the undead Aquarian is determined to see what awaits them in a higher dimension, and not even the most dedicated elder can protect them from their human-like curiosity.

 

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Party like it’s…1910s: Paris Art Salons with Pisces (February 19—March 20). It’s a certainty that an undead Pisces will be at the forefront of any and every major art movement throughout the course of history. They see the world through different eyes, and becoming a vampire only increases that creative vision. The good news is that, being undead, the Pisces will never freeze (but they may starve!) in a cold Parisian garret. They’ll be part of every group exhibition that has ever been held at a notable 1910s-era (and beyond) Paris salon. These sensitive souls do run the risk of another unfortunate fate that befalls many artists…the line between “reality” and their creative imagination becomes blurry. Like the Aquarian, the Pisces may need extra looking after by its vampire family once it becomes the stereotypical “mad artist”. But even the most ancient, cold-blooded vampire will be unable to resist the sweet charm of the dreamy Piscean vampire. They’ll indulge the Pisces when it breaks with vampire protocol, and allow the Pisces to decorate the walls of its crypt with pictures of frolicking animals and pastel-hued draping fabrics. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that the Pisces undead extinguishes all of their scented candles before they are allowed to crawl into their coffin for the day’s rest. Nobody wants to live out the rest of their undead existence as a charred husk, of course.

 

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Party like it’s…1950s: Rock ’N Roll with Aries (March 20—April 19). The Aries will probably “live fast and die young” and are poised to become the eternal rebellious teenager of the undead community. Luckily, as an undead, there’s little risk to all their rebelling—unless, of course, they’re arrested and put in jail, where their inability to age normally becomes markedly apparent. And these anarchistic-minded vampires may only shift sideways as they age…trading the tight white t-shirts and greased-back hair, and the tight skirts and shirts/sweaters characteristic of the rock ‘n roll era for the tattered clothing and more brightly coloured haircuts of the later punk rockers of the 1970s and 1980s. They could even embrace the heavy rocker/glam rocker look for a while until they discover that their makeup doesn’t stand up too well to their constant brawling. There are other, more recent versions of rebellious teen stages and culture, of course, but the Aries vampire will always prefer teenage-esque subcultures that allow them to express their more aggressive, confrontational, and combative sides.

April 2022: Tarot Cards for Writing Inspiration

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This month’s tarot card draw falls quite outside my area of expertise (I’m largely secular in my own belief system), as they revolve around a character base, and a world, that is steeped in a (unspecified!) spirituality/religion/faith. Please note that my interpretation of these cards is not intentionally modeled after, or deliberately representative of, any actual spiritual, religious, or cultural practice in existence today. Happy Spring!

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April 2022 Horoscopes: Portents, Omens, and the Curse of the . . . Trope!

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With the advent of Spring comes budding flowers, chirpy birds, frisky squirrels, and days full of sunshine and warmth. Sounds absolutely dreadful, doesn’t it? But, no worries, this month’s set of horoscopes whisks you away into the devilishly delicious Gothic- and horror-inspired setting of your fondest literary nightmares! Let the astrological tropes begin!

 

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March Horoscopes: What Grows in your Spooky Garden?

As a lot of green-thumbers out there seem to be planning and prepping for their Spring gardens, this month’s batch of horoscopes digs into which plants are most likely to be sprouting up in your own garden of dark delights!

(Disclaimer: Please note that these mock horoscopes, and any other information included within, are meant for entertainment only, and are not meant to be taken as actual advice, past/present/future predictions, or in any factual, accurate, scientific, or truthful context. Also, not being an expert on horticulture or other areas included in these fiction-based horoscopes, and any mistakes in the plant/tree representations are my non-horticultural-expert own. Still, it should be said that these plants may be highly toxic and poisonous and can harm not only people, but pets/animals as well—not to mention potentially invasive and/or non-native. Use caution, do your own research, and consult an expert if you decide you want to plant any of these potentially poisonous/venomous plants! And definitely, absolutely don’t consume them!)

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WIHM 2022: The Fear of the Fallow

Get your butt in the chair (BIC).

Treat writing like you’re going to work.

Write every day.

Write at the same time every day.

Write X number of words per day.

(Sigh.)

We writers have heard these sayings, and more, and they’re all valid ways to be productive as writers; to combat the dreaded writer’s block.

Except, are they really?
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February 2022 Horoscopes: Dead in the Water

(Disclaimer: Please note that these mock horoscopes are meant for entertainment only, and are not meant to be taken as actual advice, past/present/future predictions, or in any factual, accurate, scientific, or truthful context.)

Our belabored astrological signs have found themselves “dead in the water”—adrift at sea on a sight-seeing expedition ship that has mysteriously ceased working, along with the ship-to-shore radio and the cell phones of everyone on board. Read on to see how each sign deals with this latest catastrophe!
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