I’ve been writing novels for decades and never published a thing. In truth, I spent 10 years rewriting one chapter for awhile there and have only gotten serious in the last 5 years or so. But still. Why can’t I close? (This is where we could get all deeply psychological and talk about how my dad’s many failed creative projects bred in me a profound fear of success blah-de-blah-de-blah. But I say rhubarb to that, I’m a grown up for god’s sake.)
What I’m working on now started out as one book then turned into 3 and has now mutated into a 22 part series. Ridiculous I know. But then again. Each part is focussed on a different card in Life Lessons Tarot (aka the Major Arcana). So there is method in the madness.
This has been a tough year for me personally. Lots on my plate. Hard core stuff. And tonight is the first time I’ve worked on my Tarot series since god-knows-when. The nice thing is that every time I come back to it I like what I’ve done (phew!)
I’ve spent quite a bit of time this year researching the writing process. Publishing options. And tonight as I was writing my path suddenly became clear: I should start independently publishing my Tarot Teaclub series as e-books next year. So. I’m just gonna do it.
To celebrate this moment of clarity, and put my money where my mouth is so to speak, I’m publishing the opening chapter of the first book below. Let me know what you think. Cheers!
Elizabeth stared down the void resisting the urge to jump. How easy it would be to let go. Float away. The line between something and nothing was hair thin. Hadn’t she seen the whisper of it with her own eyes? Felt the rush of its wings when she turned her back for just a moment all those years ago? An ancient darkness rose within, blanking out the view, and the laughter of young children rang in her ears. One step, two steps, tickle you under there. You put one foot in front of the other, that’s what the rhyme had taught her. That’s what she’d done back then to keep the shadows at bay. That’s what she did still. First step. Do something practical. Elizabeth took a sip of champagne. Second step. Make up your mind, dammit. The clock was ticking. There were only a few minutes left to decide her future.
‘Have you thought of one?’ her husband asked, as if reading her mind.
‘No,’ she squeaked.
‘Not long to go now.’
‘Doesn’t worry me but I know how you care about that stuff.’
Superstitious nonsense, was that what he meant? Was that what he thought? Her brow furrowed. There was no question. She knew what she should resolve, had seen it written in the cards, yet she hesitated to frame the words. Her head pressed against the glass of the gold plated window that stretched its arms from carpet to ceiling 360 degrees around the tower in which she stood, the city of Melbourne spread at her feet. Pinpricks of light fanned out below, stretching far into the distance. Ley lines to the suburbs. The straight grid pattern a testament to the conservative nature of its founding fathers with an occasional twist that made Elizabeth smile. Not even the powerful could resist the curveballs life threw. It was like standing on a cloud up here. You could see everything mapped out, were privy to secrets you’d never guessed at. Tennis courts and gardens winked at her from skyscraper roofs across the river. Once upon a time she’d thought she knew every alleyway, every hidden alcove down to the darkest corner. But here she was in her fifties surprised to discover fresh angles to the vista, which opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Not that she wanted to play tennis on a rooftop. Standing here made her dizzy as it was. The view inside as well as out. Not for the first time she felt how she didn’t belong, a beggar in a rich man’s world.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen ten minutes to go!’
Frissons of excited conversation and laughter rippled through the haute couture crowd behind her, drowning out the string quarter playing God’s music in the corner. Ray didn’t seem disappointed by this development, distracted as he was by the toy in his hand, as if staring at the darn thing would force the beeper to go off. On fat sofas to either side Elizabeth could hear promises being made and felt an unexpected bond develop with her fellow partygoers. More than anyone she understood the pressing need to give up old habits, try something new. Had learnt the hard way that no matter what happened you had to keep moving forwards. This was the moment to put intentions into action, the sticking point at the start of the year.
‘What’s your resolution?’ someone asked a pretty young thing nearby.
A shrug. ‘The usual.’
Elizabeth could read the laughter in Ray’s eyes but before the joke could be shared a beeping sound erupted from his machine.
‘That’s us!’ he said.
‘But it’s right on midnight.’
‘I know! What better way to see in the New Year than from the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere!’
She was all light-hearted smiles belying the sinking feeling in her stomach as they scurried around the deck to locate a raised platform closed to the general public. A sign read: ‘Eureka Skydeck 88 strongly recommends that you do not ride The Edge if you have any of the following conditions: epilepsy, fear of enclosed spaces, sensitivity to loud or sudden noises, pregnancy, heart problems.’
What about if you were just shit scared, wondered Elizabeth.
‘Ready?’ Ray asked.
‘As I’ll ever be!’
A door she hadn’t noticed parted the wall ahead and they stepped through into a gloomy cavity. Elizabeth placed her handbag in the allocated spot and followed her husband into an opaque glass box, wrapping her hands around the side railings once inside. Was it a good thing or bad that she couldn’t see through the windows? Invisible wheels began to turn making the cage shake and grind and the shadow that enclosed the box receded.
‘That’s the building disappearing!’ Ray crowed.
Their cocoon – or was that coffin – rocked to a halt. What now, she wondered as the seconds dragged by. Without warning the smoky tinge that had obscured the view vanished and their predicament became crystal clear. Beneath their feet the ground dropped eighty-eight stories to the earth below. They were out on the edge alright, stuck three metres outside the top of the tallest building around, standing on thin air. She gulped down her terror.
Ray meanwhile appeared unperturbed.
‘Amazing isn’t it!’
‘You have to open your eyes darling!’
‘What do you think?’
What did she think? Not for the first time in her life that there was such a thing as too much information. ‘It’s a long way down.’
‘How far up do you reckon we are?’
‘300 metres maybe?…Are you alright?’
The genuine concern in his voice shamed her.
‘You know me. I’m made of tough stuff.’ It wasn’t all bluff. In her youth she’d been fearless, done anything, everything, and they both knew it. But something had shifted in the intervening years. Age and experience had a way of pushing you back in on yourself. Encouraging you to choose comfort over adventure, sofas and champagne over the push and shove of the 100,000 strong crowd in the streets below. Or was it something else giving her vertigo? A longing to taste oblivion that she instinctively backed away from. Either way, she should make an effort. The cube felt solid enough. She was safe from temptation.
But invisible forces behind the scenes were against her. No sooner had she come to terms with being stuck out on a limb than the lights began to flicker. Creaks and groans and bangs erupted from every side of the container.
‘The loudspeaker. Clever huh? This isn’t any old viewing platform, it’s a thrill ride as well.’
‘Had me fooled!’
‘Do I have to?’
‘No. I mean inside the building.’
From far away she caught the murmur.
‘7, 6, 5…’
‘Well?’ he asked. ‘Have you made up your mind?’
Her life hung in the balance but the cards had been clear.
‘I’m gonna do it.’
‘Good for you!’
She made a face. ‘I’ll probably make an idiot of myself. It’s not like working with animals.’
‘Therein lies the challenge.’
‘But I feel such a fraud. I don’t have any official qualifications for this kind of work.’
‘Darling, you’re more qualified than anyone I know.’
She threw him a sharp look. ‘Why? Because I’m such a good liar?’
He smiled, leaning in for a kiss. Was he laughing at her? But she was disarmed by the tenderness of his embrace and by the time she resurfaced it was too late to change her mind. The New Year had well and truly begun.