After various final checks, proof readings, squintings of eyes, and deep breaths. the book for The Burning Serpent Oracle has officially gone to the printers. Here is an advance look at the cover.

72dpi Final Cover for Book

for more information about The Burning Serpent Oracle go to

Meanwhile, I’ve also just been looking at the cover description for my novel, The Child Eater, due out this Summer.

It’s exciting to me that the two works are coming out around the same time, because my first novel, Golden Vanity, and my first Tarot book 78 Degrees of Wisdom, came out at the same time. I still remember how thrilling it was to get a look at the cover for Golden Vanity.

This was back in 1980, when books were typed on a clickety-clack typewriter, and sent in bulky envelopes to editors, who usually had stacks and stacks of pages on their desk. You had to remember to number each page of your book, and include the title and your name at the top of each page (all this done manually, character by character) so that when someone knocked over your particular pile, and picked up all those loose pages, they could put them back in correct order.

What a different world it was! 78 Degrees of Wisdom and Golden Vanity were my first and second books (unless Golden Vanity came first!). The Burning Serpent Oracle and The Child Eater are 35 and 36.

What an amazing, thrilling, thirty-four years, and all of it made possible by the wonderful people–readers first and foremost, but also editors, agents, colleagues, teachers, students, both of Tarot and writing, and all the brilliant Tarot readers, artists, creators, storytellers and fans I’ve had the joy to meet.

Here is the front cover for The Child Eater.


Published in: on March 21, 2014 at 10:13 pm  Comments (3)  

Interviews With Robert Place and myself about The Burning Serpent Oracle

Here are some interviews Robert and I gave about our new deck, The Burning Serpent Oracle.

I love the title she gave it, “Igniting The Serpent.” It conveys the process of bringing the deck and book to life. It reminds me of the golem, in which you fashion a body out of sanctified dirt, but then have to magically make it come alive, a spell which includes inscribing the Hebrew word for “truth,” emeth, on the golem’s forehead.

Published in: on March 13, 2014 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Nine Card Reading With The Burning Serpent Oracle

In honor of The Burning Serpent being sent off to the printers, I did a reading for the deck itself, using one of my favorite spreads, the Nine Card square or grid.

2014-02-16 18.35.08

There are various ways to read the 9 card spread, but I am going to focus on the ways specific cards work together. The very first thing to notice is that the title card appears in the center. This was not pre-determined, but the result of the shuffle. Because The Burning Serpent is quite literally the subject–the center–of the reading, we do not have to interpret it, the same as when the card of The Woman appears in the center of a reading for a women subject.

At the same time it forms a triangle with the bottom row, and these cards are part of what I might call the “mythological” strain the deck hints at. The Path shows a shrine to Hecate, Greek Goddess of crossroads, and thus a figure important to divination. On the Scythe card we see another goddess, Demeter, goddess of the grain, holding the scythe, and some harvested wheat. In the myth of Demeter her daughter is abducted by Death to be his bride–the poisonous aspect of the Serpent can represent this–and it is Hecate who tells Demeter what has happened. One of the meanings of The Owl and Mouse (“Birds” or “The Owl” in traditional Lenormand decks) is conversation. Usually the conversation is light, not always.

Stars–upper left corner–can signify the internet, and when we add Owl and Mouse can we get social media, the primary way we have been presenting The Burning Serpent Oracle to the world. This is reinforced with the middle line, Bouquet, Burning Serpent Letter. Bouquet means an invitation, with the Letter a suggestion of sending out messages (Stars + Letter can be email) and we have invited everyone to join us in launching The Burning Serpent Oracle.

Another way to look at the bottom row: The Path usually means a choice but we also can see it as two people’s paths uniting. Similarly, the Scythe normally has a negative quality, something cut down or ended, but it also can mean harvesting. Robert and I followed two paths–art and text–to create the Oracle. Now we are harvesting our work by bringing it to the world, as a farmer brings the grain grown with great effort and dedication. In between, the Owl and Mouse represent our many many (!) conversations about the project.

If we look at the top left corner we see the Voyage (Ship in traditional decks), with the Letter below it, and the Book of Life to the left. In a number of readings regarding projects, especially writing or art, the Letter means a project in development–a manuscript–while the Book signifies the finished, published, work. The Voyage often means something positive, as when we say a person’s “ship has come in.” Here it is extremely literal, for the actual copies of the deck and book will be arriving by ship!

There is MUCH more that can be said about this spread (for example, looking at all the lines, vertical and horizontal and diagonal, or looking at the corners, or the four that form a diamond around the middle), but I will stop here, and offer a Bouquet of invitation to others to add their comments.

Join The Burning Serpent Oracle!

Published in: on March 2, 2014 at 10:21 pm  Comments (2)  


Here’s an announcement we put up yesterday on the Indiegogo site for THE BURNING SERPENT ORACLE

Special Announcement!

We have actually met our initial goal, and in under 24 hours!! We are so grateful to everyone who’s joined us so far. However, this does NOT mean the campaign is over. Far from it. We are continuing to our final day of April 24, to make sure that everyone who wants this deck and book can pre-order their copy, so that as soon as it arrives we can send it out to them. And the extras continue! We also plan to add some new ones, so check back.

The “official” goal in a drive like this is to cover the basic costs. Since Robert and I have immersed ourselves in this project for over a year we obviously hope to go beyond that. More important, we want to make sure that everyone has a chance to join us in the world of the Burning Serpent, where we ourselves continue to make new discoveries every day. We also might point out that The Burning Serpent is NOT available on Amazon or other online sources at this time. It might be later, but at a higher price.


Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 8:03 pm  Leave a Comment  


THE BURNING SERPENT ORACLE is finally on its way to the printer. As many people here know, Robert Place and I have been devoting our lives to this project for months now, and are incredibly excited that the time has come to ask everyone to join us.
Here is the link to our Indiegogo announcement, and the link for The Burning Serpent website.
To preorder at the campaign go here:

To learn more about the project:

Please, everyone! Pass this on! Share it, tweet it, take a selfie with your face next to the screen… Seriously, folks, we’re asking your help getting the word out. Thank you!

In the next few days I will be posting readings from the deck, images, stories, ideas, history. But right now it’s all about the launch. Please join us!

Published in: on February 27, 2014 at 1:47 am  Leave a Comment  


Readers Studio, the great annual Tarot event, is coming up, and I will be presenting an evening study group. In preparation Wald Amberstone, who with Ruth Ann Amberstone, created and runs RS, has done a series of fascinating 7 minute interviews with the presenters, in which he took the trouble to really consider a worthwhile question for that person. I really enjoyed my discussion with Wald.

As part of the question he asked if I had a secret identity. As an old comics writer, I had fun with that.

Here’s the link.

Published in: on February 24, 2014 at 4:17 am  Comments (1)  

THE HOUSE ON THE HILL, from The Burning Serpent Oracle

THE BURNING SERPENT ORACLE, created by Robert M. Place and myself, is based on the Lenormand tradition from 19th century Europe. For each card, we knew the traditional name and image but wanted to create our own version. When it came to the card titled The House, which in the old decks shows an elegant European mansion, I suggested to Robert that it would be nice for it to have a fairy tale quality. He looked through a great number of houses on Google Images and found a model that both of us thought was perfect. Just a couple of days ago he came across an article about that very house, and we discovered just how perfect it was. To see the picture and read the article, take a look at

Published in: on February 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  


On the blog page for The Burning Serpent Oracle I’ve just posted an amazing reading. The client wanted to plan her funeral but the cards seemed to want to go beyond that.

The passage is actually an excerpt from the book.

Published in: on January 29, 2014 at 1:17 am  Comments (2)  

The Burning Serpent Rises

The Burning Serpent Oracle, the deck created by Robert M. Place and myself, is just about complete and ready for its official launch.  To celebrate, Robert and I have created a web site/blog,

Along with pictures of the cards, and some introductory material, we’ve started to add excerpts from the book for the deck, and comments on readings. The Burning Serpent is based on the Lenormand tradition of 19th century divinatory cards that have had a revival in recent years. What Robert and I have tried to do is stay very close to the tradition while adding some deeper layers. The text for each card is on four levels–key words for readings, a deeper look at the traditional meanings, a wider context for that tradition, and finally the specific version that appears in the deck. Lenormand is fascinating because its images are so primal. There are House, Tree, Man, Woman, Fish, Mountain.

The excerpt I’ve put up, with a short comment about a reading, is for a card called The Letter.

Published in: on January 5, 2014 at 3:10 am  Comments (2)  

My novella, The Queen of Eyes, was just published by the magazine, Fantasy and Science Fiction, one of America’s longest-running magazine. Tomorrow–Labor Day, Sept 2, 2013 as I write this–the brilliant Paul Nagy will be interviewing me for his radio show. In honor of that, I thought I would put an excerpt here. In the story, the mysterious figure known as the Queen of Eyes, a woman who holds all the world’s oracular power, has gone missing, and her daughter has turned to Jack Shade, shaman/magician for hire, to find her. This is the second in what I hope will be an ongoing series of stories about Jack. The first, “Jack Shade in the Forest of Souls” was published last year, also in F & SF, and was included in the anthology, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, edited by Jonathan Strahan.

And now the excerpt–

Jack had met the Queen once, on a California beach just before dawn.
After all his years as a Traveler, after the poltergeist killed his wife and got his daughter banished to the Forest of Souls, after he came close to losing himself in the Ibis Casino, Jack had thought he’d seen everything. Implacable Jack, some called him. But it wasn’t until he met the Queen that Jack understood what it meant to see at all.
It was right after the Sibyl War, the battle between oracular email services that Jack got stuck adjudicating. Jack hadn’t wanted to be involved. These things always ended badly, he told himself. Hermaphrodite Teiresias having to tell Zeus and Hera whether men or women enjoyed sex more—Paris of Troy having to judge a goddess beauty pageant—disasters no matter which side you picked. So he’d really wanted to say no, and in fact, no one had come with his card that time, so theoretically he could have, but the case had come from COLE, the Committee Of Linear Explanation, and they didn’t need his card. Jack owed them.
After Layla’s death, and Eugenia’s disappearance into the Forest, Jack had had no choice but to contact COLE to cover it all up so he wouldn’t have to tell any Normal Police what had happened to Mr. Shade’s family, and where did he get that very nasty cut down the right side of his jaw? So when the Shadow Man stood in Jack’s bedroom and told him the Committee would very much appreciate it if Mr. Shade would act as judge in the conflict between Ghostmail and Jinn-net, what could Jack do? Luckily he’d managed to survive the experience, suggesting that the two systems each launch an IPO and let the market decide. Grateful to not have his insides boiling, or his eyes turned to cockroaches, Jack had left the Night Castle, the Travelers’ hostel on the coast just south of San Jose, and decided to take a walk along the Secret Beach.
He’d been up all night, and the sky was just growing light enough to streak purple and orange and reveal the odd little figurines hidden among the pine trees, when Jack heard a wail, a short, high-pitched blast of sorrow that knocked him backwards. He’d looked all around until he saw a young woman in a tattered black dress kneeling before an older woman whose long hands rested on the young one’s shoulders.
Jack stared and stared at the older figure. She kept changing. One moment she seemed a 50s suburban housewife with brassy hair, the next a businesswoman in a light blue pantsuit, and then something else entirely, dull and wood and covered in leaves, or else with water constantly running down her body, like one of those urban fountains where water streams down a marble wall only to be pumped back to the top to do it all over again.
Jack couldn’t look away. His teacher, Anatolie, had always told him that the main attribute of a Traveler was True Sight, the ability to see things as they really are, and after her training, Jack had considered himself pretty good at it. During his apprenticeship she would send him places—Macy’s ground-floor escalator on Christmas Eve, Herman Melville’s house on Long Island across from the Walt Whitman shopping center, a biker bar on N. Moore Street—and tell him to say what he saw. If he’d reported frantic shoppers checking their lists, Anatolie would bark into his bluetoothed ear “Look again!” and, “Again,” and, “See what there is to see,” the first line of the ancient Traveler’s Directive: See what there is to see/Hear what there is to hear/Touch whatever you touch/Speak the thing you must speak. Only when he could tell her that for some riders the escalator did not end at the 2nd floor, but rose and rose until they were swallowed in a green cloud would Anatolie grunt and say, “Good enough, Jack. Come home now.”
So Jack had stared at the woman, trying to figure just what the hell she was, until the younger one, the one on her knees, the one who didn’t change shape but only bent forward and wept, suddenly cried out, as if something had burned her. “Hey!” Jack called, “what are you doing to her?”
The young woman didn’t move but the older one lifted her head, and without looking at him, she’d said, “John Shade, you have no stake here. Leave now, without blame.”
Confused, Jack had wondered if he’d met her. It was never good when someone knew your name and you had no idea of theirs. Was she some kind of Power? But it didn’t matter, he’d decided, he couldn’t just walk away. He’d done that too much in his life.
“No,” he’d said, and hoped he sounded confident. “Not until you tell me what is going on.”
For a moment, the woman had stayed still, but then she nodded, as if to herself, and turned to face him. She looked now like some ancient forest creature standing on its hind legs, for leaves swirled all around her body. Then she raised her hands to frame her face, palms facing Jack, with her fingers together pointing at the sky. “John Shade!” she called, and her voice had cut him like the wind on the stretch of Avenue D that Travelers called The Empty Window. “See what there is to see!”
Jack stared at the hands. The skin appeared to move and shift, to reveal something hidden. Eyes. A large, unblinking eye watched him from each palm, and he wanted to turn away but he couldn’t, he could only look, until eyes appeared within the eyes, and more eyes on the fingertips, and Jack discovered he could see out of every one of them, see everywhere, everything, all at once.
Around the world, so-called psychics were looking, searching—cards laid on silk cloths, hungry faces staring into crystal balls, nervous hands casting cowrie shells or bamboo sticks, fingertips on photos or trinkets of the dead—they were all trying to see. And most had no idea that it all passed through her. The open channel, the transformer. Mariq Nliana. The Queen of Eyes.
When Jack tried to look away, he’d discovered the eyes were all over his body, like a swarm of spiders. He wanted to swat them but didn’t dare, for fear of what they might show him if he got them angry. And then it was over. He was himself again, standing on a rocky beach with pine trees behind him, and hidden in the high grass the small grimacing figurines that may or may not have been carved, but were certainly far older than the trees.
The Queen had settled on her corporate woman-of-the-world-look. Pant suit, smart, expensive shoes, shoulder-length blonde hair. She looked, oddly, like a former Secretary of State. The young woman was still on her knees but now rested her head against the Queen’s belly while the Queen stroked her hair. Looking past the girl, the Queen said gently, “You did well, Jack. Go home now and rest.”

Published in: on September 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm  Comments (5)  

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