I promise you that both cards in the photo are right-side up.

Today's cards are Justice and the Hanged Man.

Two tarot cards, depicting a stern figure with a sword and scales, and a figure suspended upside down from a pole.

I'm pleased that we're getting around to the serial killer cards of the deck. You know: the cards that the killer in the movie or the book would leave behind as a signature. This one is perfect for your thriller novel because both the picture and the name of the card could describe the fate of a victim, and it's not quite as on-the-nose as the Death card. And then, later, there's a scene where the detective marches into a kitschy little New Age shop, slaps a tarot deck on the counter and growls, "Did you sell a deck like this recently?" and the cashier says, "Why yes, I was conveniently on-shift when your suspect came in, and I distinctly remember them, despite the fact that I must sell a dozen of these to psychics and roleplayers every day, and here, let me write down a clue that will undoubtedly lead you into a life-or-death struggle with the killer which you could have avoided if you'd called for backup."

But anyway. I'm sure you're seeing the same thing I am when we look at these cards.

America's Got Talent.

Or, you know, whichever version of X's Got Talent is appropriate for you, where X is the country where you watch reality TV talent shows. Because this is clearly one of those shows. On the left, the judges. In this case it's just one judge, and since the way these shows work is that you always have to have one judge who's a stern-faced jerk, that's who we're stuck with. (By the way, this is one of the reasons I prefer The Voice, but we can have that conversation another time). And instead of a buzzer and a light-up X, the judge has a set of scales and a sword. When you get eliminated on this show, they aren't taking half measures.

On the right, the contestant. It's a one-person acrobatic act, so we know they have virtually no chance of winning this thing, especially if a ten-year-old girl who sings opera is in the running. Still, one hopes that we're only seeing the dramatic pose at the end of of a really impressive acrobatic routine. Because if the performer just climbed up there and hung by their ankle and stared at the audience until they got the buzzer (and by "buzzer" I mean "sword"), then it's one of those pointless "what the heck?" acts they only include in the televised broadcast so everyone can feel good about laughing at it.

So, yeah, obviously a reality TV talent show, and the only way it could be more obvious is if the rightmost card showed the phone number where you send a text if you want to vote the acrobat through in the finals, which you won't do, because the ten-year-old opera singer is adorable.

And I think the message is that sometimes, talent isn't enough. Whether you're an acrobat or a musician or, I don't know, let's just say you're writing fantasy genre fiction, you need a little something extra to make you America's darling. You need a tweet to go viral, or you need a talk show host to mention you on-air, or you need a major publishing house to go all-in on you and move heaven and earth to convince the buying public that the release of your book is a once-in-a-lifetime cultural event and what are you looking at? It's just that the sun is in my eyes, all right?

I'm going to turn this ship around and point it somewhere positive. Yes, maybe the acrobat from our card reading isn't going to be the last one standing on stage, but look at the expression on their face. They're literally glowing. They're not doing this just for the fame or the riches. They're doing this for the thrill of the performance. The art is its own reward.

Whatever art you're creating might not bring you wealth and glory, but still, you did the thing. You started it, you carried it through, and you finished it. That's an achievement. It takes effort and discipline. You did it. Be proud.

And don't join talent shows where they use swords instead of buzzers.

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