Erin G. Burrell (EGB): I want to share the delightful chat I had with my new friend, and the narrator of my book, Petrea Burchard (PB). We took turns interviewing each other. It was interesting to learn more about Petrea, and the audiobook profession. I hope you feel the same.
EGB: How did you get into narrating audiobooks?
PB: I’ve been an actor all my life, and I’ve worked in voiceover for many years. I had looked into audiobooks years ago, but at the time I was focused on writing a novel and didn’t pursue narration. A couple of years ago, when a major voiceover client decided to “try a different sound,” (a male!) I wasn’t sure what to do next. A good friend who is also in voiceover said, “You should be narrating audiobooks!” and my brain lit up. So I started to study the craft.
EGB: What qualities do you look for in a book to narrate?
PB: I look for good writing that I can relate to. I’m a writer, too, and good writing really speaks to me. As an actor I’ve learned to relate to different people and characters, so the range can be broad. But there are some things that don’t fit my voice, or my style. I wish I could do everything, but I can’t. I love fiction, memoir, history, biography…basically anything that’s well written. It’s no secret that good writing is easy to speak. That’s why actors like performing Shakespeare.
EGB: What preparations do you do, prior to recording any chapter of a book?
PB: I read the whole book before I start recording anything. I might have questions about pronunciation, concepts, etc. If I’m in contact with the author, I can ask them. I also have the internet, the phone, the library. I want to know what I’m talking about before I start talking. I’ve come across interesting historical or geographical references, and I like to read up on those. It helps me to have an image of what I’m talking about.
I also prepare physically. Sitting in a small booth for hours is challenging, believe it or not. So I stay in shape, drink lots of water, watch what I eat, and do vocal exercises daily.
EGB: Your acting background enhances your narrations. What was your favorite acting experience and why?
PB: Oh boy. I’ve had some wonderful ones. My favorite has to be the British/American Drama Academy (BADA) summer program at Oxford. I had a whole month to immerse myself in the study of voice, movement, Shakespeare, and even Samuel Beckett, in the beautiful setting of Oxford and the surrounding countryside. We had wonderful teachers from the Royal Shakespeare Company. I fell in love with England and I always want to go back. It was bliss.
EGB: What made you decide to narrate That’s Why You’re Here?
PB: Your experience and the way you wrote about it spoke to me. Your background and mine are not the same, but it’s as though they criss-cross, and I understood your experiences because of experiences I’ve had. It’s like when you meet a client in the book and discover the connection you have with them. That’s why I’m here!
PB: In “That’s Why You’re Here,” you tell the story of how you got started reading the Tarot. How did you get started writing about it?
EGB: While I was reliving the wonderful experiences I’d had at the Healing Arts Festival, it came to me how frequently I’d been asked, “How did you get involved with the Tarot?” It also came to me how often my clients told me they’d enjoyed and benefited from my personal stories. That was a surprise. Not long after, a voice “dropped in” and said, “Start writing your stories.” I ignored this voice for a time because I wasn’t a writer and thought it was a crazy notion, but the voice persisted. I finally honored that message and began to write . . . nothing was ever the same after that.
PB: Do you read the Tarot for yourself? Is it a regular practice?
EGB: Each morning, I pull cards for myself and I’ve been doing it for years now. I like to see what my day may hold and what I need to focus on. In doing this, I also stay connected to the cards, the meanings, and their images. Working with the cards each day is soothing and grounding to me.
PB: I’d like to know about readings and fairs. It seems like it could be either exhausting or energizing. What is it like to read the Tarot for strangers all day?
EGB: It’s exciting and exhilarating. I’m energized throughout the day and tired when the day is over. I was beyond wiped-out after my first festival, but my energy level has improved since then. I, too, have to stay hydrated since I’m using my voice all day. We have that in common.
As far as reading strangers, we may start out that way, but by the end of the reading there is a closeness, especially if tears were shared. Tarot readings can be very intimate. I’m convinced that there is a divine purpose behind each person who chooses to get a reading from me. We were meant to spend time together. At most fairs and festivals, I am one of seventeen readers, so there is quite a selection. I have been told many times a person was “drawn to me.” I love that. One woman told me that coming into my booth felt good, like she was coming home. That touched me.
PB: What was the most exciting reading you ever did? Has there ever been one that was uncomfortable, or scary?
EGB: My most exciting reading is in my book. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet, but I will say it involved a necklace and doing psychometry, the holding of an object.
I’m happy to say I’ve never had a scary reading, but I will confess that a few readings were uncomfortable at the start. (I’ve included an example of an uncomfortable read in my memoir.) The two I’m thinking of happened with men who said they wanted a reading, but their body language told a different story. They were shut down in the beginning, but ended up in a better place by the close of the reading. It’s gratifying when that happens.
PB: Do you plan to write more books? What’s in the works?
EGB: I continue to write and post pieces to my website. I write about topics that inspire me, and I’ve even done a couple stories about my favorite TV show/book, “Outlander.” I am currently trying my hand at fiction, which is a challenge. I wish words came easy like reading the Tarot. I love to write, and I enjoy the community of writers I’m involved with. You never know, there could be another book in my future.
The persistent drone of a gnat brings me to consciousness. I swat the air; the annoyance continues. After several tries, my eyelids unstick and I see my cellphone, lit and trembling on the nightstand. I stab for it, pull it close, and squint at the numbers. Thank God, it’s no one I know. The device goes dead in my hand. It’s 3:00.
Despite not knowing the caller, my heart smashes against my chest. The pounding gets interrupted when the phone shudders and brightens in my palm. The cell dives into the bedcovers, requiring me to fish it out. Like a worm on a hook, a quivering finger swipes the screen to take the call.
“Hello.” I listen––and I learn . . . my life will never be the same.
My body shivers as if I’m outdoors, coatless, my breath clouding a frigid night. The air-conditioning is fast to remind me it’s summer, and sends a cool breeze my way. The draft only adds to the chills trickling down my spine.
The warm phone is plastered to the side of my head, but I no longer hear the caller. My mom, long passed, takes over the conversation. “I told you,” she whispers, “nothing good happens after midnight.”
Written By: Erin G. Burrell
Author of: That’s Why You’re Here
Due to light traffic, I pulled into Red Hawk Casino’s grand entrance early. I planned to meet girlfriends for dinner and some fun. As I entered the brightly lit casino, I was confronted with deafening noise and a wall of stink. Cigarette smoke caused my eyes and nose to water––unusual to cry before the gambling even started. The blackened doors closed behind me, locking out the fresh air and sunlight I’d just left.
As far as I could see, metal soldiers stood on parade in perfect lines. Bright colors pulsed and blinked, while bells and whistles clamored for my attention.
Slot machines were created to lure and seduce humans. Many paid dearly to be teased to the brink of climax and then left unfulfilled. Some deposited even greater sums, hoping for a rare glimpse of the reclusive Lady Luck.
This sucker planted herself in front of a talking lime-green frog who wore black shades. It sipped a tall cool drink through an oversized straw.
One aisle up and to my right, I noticed a woman staring at me. I did not know her. I smiled and nodded, and resumed my romance with the hip frog who moved to the beat of island music.
As if teleported, the woman was suddenly leaning against my machine.
“Oh . . . hello,” I stammered.
She flashed white teeth, and her skin was the color of my favorite Starbuck’s Mocha. I guessed she was fifty-five to sixty because of the gray strands woven into her dark combed-backed hair. She wore a simple Army-green dress and her hands rested under her bosom. She reminded me of the Jehova’s Witnesses’ who canvassed my neighborhood.
She finally spoke. “You are a beautiful woman.”
Those were not the words I expected. “That’s . . . a . . . kind of you to say.”
She continued to stare, and made no move to leave. Unease gripped my gut.
“Your hair is stunning. I wish I had your color.” She touched her head.
Who wants gray hair? Does she think it’s blonde? “Thank you,” I said.
The encounter edged past awkward. I pushed the button on my machine, but my frog-friend didn’t care about my situation.
“I’m used to noticing people. I lived in Japan when I was young; I’d never seen a Japanese person before. My dad was in the military, so I had to go. I didn’t like living there.”
“I’m sorry you didn’t like the experience.”
She nodded. “We have a house full of things from that time.”
“Do you mean memorabilia from Japan?”
“Yes.” The woman gazed at me adoringly. “You sure are one pretty lady. Do you know . . . all kinds of people are going to walk up and start talking to you. They will be drawn.”
Her words hinted at prophecy, and my unease grew. “No, I didn’t know that,” I said.
The lady grinned, as if she knew something I did not.
I pretended interest in the spinning reels, and willed the lime-green frog to create a distraction. It remained silent. It had abandoned me.
This situation was getting to be too much. I stood. “Mr. Froggy here is not being nice. I need to find a friendlier machine. It was nice talking to you.”
The woman bowed her head. “It sure was.”
Dodging gamblers, I headed for the opposite side of the casino. I pulled my cell phone from my purse and discovered a text from my friends saying they had arrived and were waiting.
As I made my way to them, I went over my “strange encounter of the third kind.” I’d never experienced anything like it before. I hadn’t got the impression I was being hit on––I was familiar with that scenario, and this wasn’t that. The exchange was simply odd.
When I found my girlfriends, I said, “You won’t believe what just happened.”
Two days later, I stopped for gas. I inserted the nozzle and began to pump. I noticed a car in front of mine, but no one was near the vehicle. A moment later, the driver emerged from the car. A woman, older than myself, with dyed black hair surveyed her surroundings. Her sunglasses pointed in my direction and she beelined toward me.
I was on guard. Was she going to ask for money? The woman drew near invading my space.
I couldn’t see her eyes, so I focused on her shiny red lips. The same red warpaint was smudged across her chin. She spoke in a husky whisper. “Have you ever heard that real women don’t pump gas, and real men don’t eat quiche?”
I laughed in relief. “I haven’t heard that for a long time. And yet, here I am pumping gas.”
Throaty giggles escaped her scarlet lips, as she disappeared into the gas station store.
A bell rang; the casino lady’s prediction stood front and center: People will begin to walk up and talk to you. They will be drawn. Was it starting?
Written By Erin G. Burrell
Author of: That’s Why You’re Here
“Your cat has cancer.”
I was gut-punched; the air hissed out of my lungs like a pierced balloon. I stared at Dr. Gray. She obviously grabbed the wrong chart.
“My cat? You’re talking about Pebbles . . . right?”
Dr. Gray nodded. “I’m sorry I have to deliver this news. There is a treatment plan we can put in place to make her comfortable the rest of her days.”
I went numb. The rest of her days? She looks fine.
“How long?” I choked. “How long do you think she has?”
The doctor stroked Pebbles’s head. “Depending on how she responds to the medication, two months to a year.”
My eyes blurred with tears. The thought of my cat not being a part of my everyday life was too much to take in.
We had gotten Pebbles shortly after my husband died. My daughter and I had visited several shelters, and ended up at an animal rescue along the Sacramento River. A woman had turned her home into a haven for cats. Yes, a legit cat-house. Construction was ongoing, as the owner added room after room, large closets really, giving Mrs. Winchester a run for her money.
We searched through all of the enclosures, and it came down to two kittens: a black one and a white one. We played with both and debated. Then, the white kitten, with light-brown markings on her face, tried to crawl up my daughter’s bare leg, as if to say, “Take me home!” And that’s what we did.
During our first night together, Pebbles clawed her way up my bedspread, attacking it like it was Mount Everest. Once she reached the peak, she claimed what had been my husband’s side of the bed. It was reassuring for my hand to find a warm body near me, even one so tiny and furry. The hairy cotton ball soon became not only a family member, but a steady comfort.
As an indoor cat, Pebbles followed us everywhere. Her little paws worked hard to keep up with our longer strides, but traversing the house caused her to drop from exhaustion and fall asleep.
After short naps, she continued exploring her new digs and found a few secret hiding places. In the early days, I’d be in a panic trying to find her, fearful she had escaped somehow. Once I’d discovered her favorite resting places were inside cupboards and in the backs of closet shelves, finding her became a treasure hunt.
Our kitten soon grew to adulthood, with her own distinct personality. Always a clean-freak, Pebbles elevated grooming to another level, especially after a meal. The ritual commenced with an upward lift of a paw that was met and moistened by a rough pink tongue. The paw then moved gently across her mouth, several times, removing unseen morsels. The act was repeated with the other paw, as if it were a starched white napkin and she’d just dined with the Queen.
For the past thirteen years, Pebbles has given me great joy and companionship. How can I possibly say good-bye?
I know how to do grief, Lord knows I’ve had my share, but I have never done “end of life” with a family pet. What makes it all the harder, is that Pebbles is the only member who practices unconditional love. And what she has given me, I cherish.
My job now is to make her happy and comfortable. I do not want her to suffer. I’ve decided to spoil her by doing the things she delights in most. At the top of her list is having her front feet massaged. I take a paw between my thumb and fingers, and rub and apply gentle pressure that extends and contracts her nails. All the while, Pebbles sits in my lap, eyes half closed, wearing a dreamy faraway look.
I don’t know how many days we have left, but when you know they are numbered, each one becomes more precious.
I’m not the only person who talks to their pet, so it should come as no surprise that Pebbles and I have had several tearful exchanges––she, the master of stoicism. With much cajoling on my part, she has agreed to let me know when the good of her days no longer outweighs the bad.
Pebbles is under treatment, and each morning she suffers through my fumbling attempts to medicate her. (Getting a pill down an animal’s throat is no fun for either party.)
My wish is that we will continue being silly and enjoying each other’s company. In the evenings, as Pebbles hunkers down on my chest to sleep, we are heart to heart. Her purr is a vibrating song that echos through my body, connecting us . . . making me pray for a long goodbye.
Written By Erin G. Burrell
Author of That’s Why You’re Here
Giving Tarot readings to strangers still astounds me. The amped-up energy at psychic fairs creates an atmosphere where anything can happen, and often does.
At the last festival, upon exiting the restroom, I weaved and dodged my way up a long congested aisle. Without warning, a man jumped in front of me. My hands jerked up in defense, and with both palms planted against his back, I said, “I’m behind you.”
Startled, the man whipped his head around, then flashed a bright smile. “Sorry,” he said, and stepped quickly to the side.
“No worries.” I waved and continued on, the incident immediately forgotten.
I rejoined my girlfriend at my booth. Joan said, “There was a . . .” she stopped mid-sentence, and I watched her eyes lock onto something to my right. I turned to find a couple standing at the corner of my table. I greeted the woman. Her partner’s head was bent, and he seemed quite taken with something on the cement floor. I waited, but neither spoke. The woman stared at her companion, as if willing him to speak.
I finally broke the awkward silence by speaking to the top of the man’s auburn-haired head. “Would you like to get a reading?”
The head slowly lifted, revealing a sheepish grin spread across a freckled face. Clearly embarrassed, the man said, “I think I’m supposed to get a reading with you.”
I laughed. “If you aren’t sure, it’s okay to walk around and check out the other readers. I’ll be right here if you decide to come back.”
His brows drew together, and he said in a gruff tone, “No, I don’t want to look around. I’m the guy that stepped in front of you, down there.” He nodded toward the other end of the building. “When you touched my back, chills went through me, so I followed you. I had to know where you were going. I don’t know what just happened, but it feels like I’m supposed to get a reading from you.”
I’d never heard this before. (I thought if I could have this effect on more men, I might not be single.) Trying to recover, I said, “I’ve never been told that I’ve given someone chills. Your story is a first for me, and I’d love to give you a Tarot reading.”
He glanced at his girlfriend, and then his eyes met mine. “I’m very sensitive and feel I’m empathic. I don’t usually come to events like this because the energy is too overwhelming. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.” He tilted his head towards his partner.
Now, that, I’d heard before. I was still perplexed about sending chills through this man, as I hadn’t had the same experience, but our unexpected encounter thrilled me. It’s why I love what I do. The unpredictable nature of exchanges, and how people get drawn to my table, astonishes me. I’m living what I used to read about.
I held out my hand. “Hi, I’m Erin.”
He hesitated, then shook it with relief. “Hello, I’m, Rick.”
Rick’s Tarot reading was not only emotional, but it was filled with humor. At one point he asked if I was reading his mind, and at another, he inquired if I did relationship counseling.
During the proceedings, Rick’s girlfriend sat engrossed, and once we’d finished, she said, “Can I get a reading?”
Written By Erin G. Burrell
Author of That’s Why You’re Here
Hearts Of Lace
When I was young, I looked forward to February with anticipation and joy; it was the month of Valentines and love. During art class in elementary school we wrapped red construction paper around shoe boxes, and cut slits into the lids. We glued hearts made of pink paper and white lace around the sides and top of the box. Crayons and glitter were used to write the traditional messages of “Be Mine” and “Valentine.”
During our Valentines party, students raced around the room stuffing store-bought or handmade cards into the tops of our artsy containers. (I secretly hoped for a special Valentine from the boy I liked.) Cupcakes, candied hearts, and punch were served, and the sugar high lasted for weeks.
The 22nd of February marked the day of my birth, and produced another celebration. Sleepovers, being Queen for a day in the castle at William Land Park, and a bowling party were some of my most memorable birthdays. The memory of those childhood parties fills me with delight.
But the fond memories of February were ultimately overshadowed by the deaths of my husband and brother-in-law. It became a month to endure, like running a gauntlet and dodging the blows. I prayed I’d make it out the other side.
With time, and much internal work, I no longer dread February. I will never forget those I’ve lost, and I honor them by living life to the fullest. I’m glad to report that February is once again a month of love.
Recently I received one of those “out of the blue” emails, the kind that boggles the mind. Nothing the email contained would have been conceivable just two short years ago. The content might not seem like a big deal to some people, but to me it was huge, and confirmed the path I’ve been on the last several years.
I’m tickled to announce, I’ve been invited to Face In A Book, a wonderful bookstore in El Dorado Hills, for an evening of “Romance and Tarot Readings.” Two romance authors, Elizabeth Ferry-Perata and Catherine McGreevy, will be sharing their novels. I will have my memoir, That’s Why You’re Here, and will provide Tarot card readings. If there are enough people in attendance, we will each read a snippet from our books. It should be a fun and entertaining evening, and I’m ecstatic! If you’re available, please stop by on February 8, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.; I’d love to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones.
Creativity In Motion
What will be your New Year’s resolution? A popular question asked on television, and now that we have umpteen channels, it plays like a skipping record. The most frequent response was “lose weight.” A battle I knew all too well.
Many people, like me, don’t make resolutions because they tackle challenges as they arise. (I don’t like starting a New Year with a “Should” catalog.) I want to greet the new 365 days with excitement and joy; curious about what’s in store.
So instead of resolutions, I have small daily goals. One is to stay focused on the now; it is much harder to do than one might think. (Ekhart Tolle wrote an entire book about the subject.)
My problem is that my mind dances a two-step between the past and the future, often refusing to plant a toe in the present. To rein in my brain and drag it back into the now, I make a concerted effort to be aware of my surroundings. It’s the whole “Stop and smell the roses” philosophy.
During one recent “now” exercise, while stopped at a red light in Rancho Cordova, I noticed a man pushing a grocery cart at a rapid pace. He seemed hell-bent on a destination only he knew. His hands gripped the silver bar of the cart, and his arms were locked in place like rods. His jaw was set, and there was a brown dirt-smudge on his cheek.
I guessed he was homeless by the grimy appearance of his ill-fitting clothes, and from the manner in which he clutched the cart. The four-wheeled container may have once belonged to a store, but there was no mistaking who owned it now.
White plastic bags, too many to count, draped the entire metal frame in tiered rows. As the man pushed forward, the layers swayed, and I was reminded of a beautiful ruffled skirt I’d worn one Easter Sunday long ago. Each sack seemed weighted, and I wondered what treasures were hidden within. The man sailed past, driving the swift moving cloud of plastic.
The light turned green, and as I inched forward, I said a silent prayer for the traveling soul, and thanked him for sharing his grocery cart creation. Not having New Year’s resolutions works well for me. By staying in the now, I was given a unique image that will stay with me for years.
And one never knows, I may get the honor of doing a tarot reading for a homeless person since I have a desire to team-up with local charities.
The Spirit of Christmas Past
“Tis the season,” as they say, and it gets earlier each year. The endless bombardment of advertisements show perfect Hallmark families who urge us to buy items we can’t live without. The loud family I came from is never depicted in commercials, and it makes me love my people all the more.
As I’ve grown older, the holidays have taken on a different note. I don’t hear the jingle of sleigh-bells I played with when young. I now hear the somber sound of a church bell, muffled by fog. A wistful cry only my ears perceive.
Thanksgiving and Christmas have become times for reflection. My mind is occupied with memories of loved ones who won’t be here to sit around a candle-lit dinner table, engaged in passionate arguments of no consequence. Husband, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends long gone, all dwell on the other side of the veil. I miss them.
Like leaves gently carried on an autumn breeze, my few remaining family members lie scattered across the country, engrossed in their busy lives.
Yesterday, in a small attempt to get into the holiday spirit, I made myself a Peppermint Mocha. When I wrapped my cold hands around the mug to soak up the warmth, I tumbled back to a time when I was ten years old. I braced a rickety wooden ladder that my dad stood upon. The zippers of our winter jackets kissed our chins. I felt so grown up, and the excitement that radiated through my body made it hard to stand still. I was Dad’s assistant as he strung Christmas lights along the eaves. We began our task in daylight, but darkness and fog crept in like wolves to investigate our efforts.
The cold stiffened my fingers, making the flashlight difficult to hold. A stream of mist escaped my mouth with every breath. Dad encouraged me to go inside to get warm, but I refused. Mother came out during our labors and surprised me with a hot chocolate. I held the cup with both hands, and placed my frozen nose over the sweet smelling steam, trying to absorb the heat. In that moment, an endearing memory solidified into crystalline form. A precious gift delivered.
I smiled up at my dad and raised my cup. He grinned in return. Once the last light was secured, he cautiously made his way down the ladder. “Do you want to see our handiwork?”
“Yes!” I shouted.
He plugged the electrical cord into the socket, and the red, blue, and yellow bulbs blinked to life. I was enchanted. Our house was properly decked to greet Santa.
During this time of year, I remind myself of the treasured gifts I still possess, and remember that loved ones are near. They remain lovingly wrapped within the walls of my heart, no matter where they rest.
Written By Erin G. Burrell
Author of That’s Why You’re Here
While shopping the dairy aisle at my local grocery store, I ran into a woman I used to work with. I hadn’t seen her in over five years. We hugged and got caught-up on what we’d been doing since the last time we’d been together. Then my former coworker surprised me by saying, “I see from Facebook that you are now a fortune teller.”
I couldn’t believe this was still happening in 2018. “No,” I said. “I’m not a fortune teller. I give readings to people using Tarot cards, and I absolutely love it.”
In my new found passion, I’ve discovered that people tend to book readings when they are at a crossroads in their life, or they want clarity around a given situation, or they are simply curious about what cards they’ll draw. I still find readings fascinating, and love to meet new people. I’m always honored to be part of the journey of those who seek me out.
I can’t see the future. If I could, I’m sure my own life would look quite different.
Tarot cards can be used to show probabilities regarding the future, but nothing is cast in concrete since humans can exercise free will. The cards reflect a possible future based upon the individual’s energy at the time of the reading. If a reading was not favorable, subsequent changes to the person’s energy can affect future decisions that result in course corrections. The direction taken is not predetermined—it is up to the person getting the reading.
Rather than focusing on the future, my Higher Power uses me in a different manor. My role is to assist people in their current life situations, in the here-and-now. Information drops-in, or I’m compelled to talk about something that ends up being important to the sitter. They leave with an awareness regarding their circumstance that they did not have before, and are able to think more creatively about their issue. They tend to come up with solutions they hadn’t previously considered.
(You can enter for a chance to win a free Tarot reading by subscribing to my email list. Drawings are held monthly.)
Written By Erin G. Burrell
Author of That’s Why You’re Here