The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 149, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Tem Tarriktar
Episode originally released on March 27, 2018
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Sousa Jefferson and Sheila Roher
Transcription released July 22, 2019
Copyright © 2019 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
Chris Brennan: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode was recording on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, starting at 3:20 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 149th episode of the show.
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In this episode I’m going to be talking to Tem Tarriktar, who is the creator of The Mountain Astrologer magazine, and we’re going to be discussing the history of the publication and some interesting stories surrounding its publication.
Hi Tem, welcome to the show.
Tem Tarriktar: Hi Chris, thanks so much for having me on.
Chris: Yeah, this has been a long time in coming, and so I’m glad I was finally able to get you on the show because The Mountain Astrologer magazine has become such a mainstay in the astrological community over the past few decades, that I’ve really been wanting to do a show to talk to you about its origins and how it came about, and how you originally got it together, and then just some of the things that you learned in the process. So you’ve been doing it for over 30 years now, right?
Tem: Yes, 30 years last November.
Chris: Ok, so you just celebrated the 30th anniversary a few months ago, and you’re actually coming up on the 200th issue in just a few months, right?
Tem: Yes, that will be the August/September issue, 2018. That will be issue number 200.
Tem: It’s hard to believe. It’s really hard to believe.
Chris: So, you put out an issue every two months, and so there’s six issues a year, and you’ve been doing that same rate for 30 years now, right?
Tem: Well, six issues a year now, [but] from 1992 to 1996 we were doing nine issues a year, and one year we actually did ten. That cured the general insanity of doing so many. The ten was the cure. So we went to six. It just became necessary. (Laughing)
Chris: Right, yeah, I can imagine.
Tem: Yeah. So, that’s why in 30 years there’s 200 issues, because we were doing more for a while there. But six is the general rhythm, and it’s been a good rhythm. Sometimes I’ve thought we should do more, and sometimes I’ve thought we should do way less, but it always kind of stayed on six issues a year.
CB: Yes, that seems pretty good. And given how much is in each issue, and how many articles there are and how much work it is to get out a single issue, I can imagine that even that, doing it every two months, can be a pretty hectic rate.
TT: Yeah. And there’s a lot of overlap. I’ll be putting one issue out into the stores [while] another issue is being laid out [and] another issue is being planned. There’s usually about 4 different issues that are in process at once.
CB: And in terms of just the reach: for some people, like for me, ever since I’ve been in the astrological community I’ve been aware of TMA. I’ve just known it’s a thing that’s been around, that’s just a great publication that most of the astrologers I know read. But for those who are just coming into the community or haven’t heard of TMA before, how would you describe it? And what is the circulation of the publication?
TT: TMA started very slow and humble, very slowly over the first 10 years, especially over the first 5 years. The peak of our print run was in the early 2000s. Especially after 9/11, there was a lot of interest and quite a few orders for subscriptions in the year following 9/11. So in the early 2000s, we printing maybe 26,000 copies, 25-26 thousand copies, somewhere in there. And over the course of that decade it started eroding because of the trend of people getting information online. We didn’t go digital until– I threatened to go digital in 2006 and my staff threatened mutiny, and the readers said ‘no, no!’. So my staff made me do a survey because, being a fire sign, I was like ‘this sounds like a good idea, I think I’ll do it!’. But they said ‘take a survey’, so we took a survey and about 80% of the readers said ‘don’t you dare go digital’. And they meant only digital, not print and digital.
TT: But I was ready to go completely digital, because of the environmental concerns about paper, fuel, energy, and so on. But I backed off that, and in 2011 we went digital and kept the print. And we’ve been offering a digital edition ever since.
TT: So there was erosion throughout that decade. The digital– I’d say about 10-15% of our subscribers are really into digital only and the rest are still interested in print as well as digital.
CB: Sure. And over the past decade it seems as if the format has been relatively stable or relatively standard in terms of what each TMA offers and what it does, with some modifications and, you know, with some different columnists coming and going. But for the most part, I mean, it’s like- what is it, like 130 pages? Or how many pages is it normally?
TT: Well, it used to be 140 pages. But in recent years it’s 112, sometimes 104 pages, usually. And there’s a student section in the beginning, and 6 or 7 feature articles. There are book reviews and software reviews, and then there’s a forecast section in the back, as well as some humor peppered in, some cartoons, and occasional other interesting features.
CB: Sure, and that format has been relatively standard. And one of the things that’s unique about it as well [is that] you seem to strive or push for a certain diversity of astrological voices, and it almost seems like that’s been relatively constant, at least since I’ve been following it. Has that largely been the case? I mean, I realize that in the early days– which we’ll get to in just a little bit– there weren’t always necessarily that many authors. But it seems like you are consistently trying to make the magazine and publication open for different approaches to astrology and almost acting like a showcase for different approaches in some sense.
TT: Yeah, that’s true and that’s been true pretty much from the beginning. I myself have been interested in almost all types of astrology, different schools. I’ve been very curious. And I’ve done not a lot of in-depth research or study but a lot of horizontal exposure. So I’ve been checking out all these things, all these different ways of astrology happening, and different schools of astrology over the years. And so I feel like TMA’s role is to be one of the hubs of astrological information. And there’s a responsibility to be fair and to be inclusive and kind of Aquarian about it, so I’ve just always naturally wanted to do that.
CB: I think that’s a great way to describe it. And that’s why I was interested in talking with you today, partially because doing that for 30 years and trying to create a platform– I mean, TMA, that’s very similar to what I’ve been trying to do with this podcast., just in terms of showcasing and giving a platform to talk about and have in depth discussions about many different approaches to astrology. And doing that for 30 years, I think that gives you a very unique view, probably, of the astrological community, sort of being privy to all the different approaches but also some of the different debates and even fads or eras. Like that was one of the questions I had that maybe I can ask you right now, which is: have you seen distinct eras or fads come and go in the astrological community that have been distinctive for a period of time? Or had a lot of excitement behind them compared to a different decade where something else was going on?
TT: Well, yeah. TMA started in 1987. By the early ‘90s, it seemed like there was a lot of attention being paid to Chiron and the asteroids, the 4 main asteroids at the time.
CB: So Demetra George’s book would have come out in the mid-80s, Asteroid Goddesses. And so in the early 90s when TMA was coming on the scene, that was one of the big things, studying asteroids.
TT: Yeah, that was one thing we put more front and center for a while. Of course there’s always been interest in Pluto from day one. I wouldn’t call it a fad but there was a period of real strong interest in Vedic astrology in the mid-90s. In June of ‘95, I believe it was, we did a theme issue on Vedic astrology which was received really well and sold out fairly quickly. And then we decided that since there are a billion people in India, and Vedic astrology is the primary astrology there, why don’t we devote at least one article in each issue for while to Vedic astrology. And there was mixed reception to that. Some people, some readers were thrilled. Other readers accused us of running nothing but Vedic astrology in the magazine because they read one article and didn’t like it. So that was a strong time for that in the mid- to late ‘90s.
CB:That’s really funny. And it makes sense because it was in the late 90s that a lot of Western astrologers started getting interested in Vedic astrology. I think one of the main Western organizations, the American Council on Vedic Astrology was set up around that time, like 1994. So that would make sense then that would be one of the times when a lot of people were talking about that. And that would have shown up in TMA in that special issue
TT: Yes, if we saw something interesting or new or emerging, we tried to cover it throughout the years. We’re trying to reflect the astrological community back to itself as best we can.
We don’t always have the editorial firepower to edit. For instance, statistical research articles are difficult for us. We don’t have someone on staff who can reasonably well edit that. Occasionally if the article is juicy enough, we’ll find someone outside the staff to work with on projects like that. So we’re limited but we try to reflect as many facets as we can of what’s going on in astrology. It’s difficult when you have limited space, limited budget, limited time but we do our best.
CB:Yes, I was just talking recently to someone about that [it seems like] scientific testing and attempts to validate astrology scientifically was much more popular or there was more energy behind that in the 1980s. It sort of died out in the 1990s. Is that an accurate perception from TMA’s perception?
TT: I’m not sure. I don’t know about ‘died out’. I think it just kind of has its ebbs and flows. I remember we did an interview– actually we didn’t do the interview directly. Bob Elko (so?) did an interview with Dr. Percy Seymour who was trying to show a mechanism through which astrology worked, a physical mechanism. And that was a big splash. I think that was in the late ‘90s that we ran that. It was run on the internet quite a few times after that in various places. The scientific approach and trying to prove that is alive and well, it’s just that there are times when it’s more in the air and times when it’s receded.
CB: That makes sense. That is interesting in and of itself, the notion that there are trends in the astrological community or different periods when the astrologers are more focused on something or more excited about something new, like a new concept like the asteroids. Until a few decades ago, you couldn’t buy an ephemeris for the asteroids so it was something you couldn’t really use or you’d have to go to great trouble to do so. Whereas by the 1980s it was something you not only could do but there were astrologers writing books on it. It was becoming a common technique. And then other things that seem to cycle in and out.
TT: Yes. I remember Al H. Morrison did a lot– he was very supportive of the research into asteroids and Chiron. I remember Elinor Bach had an ephemeris out for the 4 asteroids that I used quite a bit in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. [NB–I think Tem is referring to Chiron, Ceres, Pallas, and Juno and it might help readers to know that. SheilaR.] It’s really interesting the way things emerge and sometimes they stick. Chiron stuck pretty well. And sometimes they don’t stick and you never hear about them again.
CB: Can you think of anything like that over the past 30 years, where it seemed like it was going to become more popular but didn’t stick around as long as you had expected?
TT: I’m sure I can, but not right at this moment. I’ll have to send part of my brain right into my file cabinets to retrieve that!
CB: Sure. So in terms of other trends, you would have seen the revival of traditional astrology in the mid-to-late ‘90s going into the 2000s as well?
CB: And that had some weird and interesting side effects. I think Rob Hand [in] one of his first efforts to promote whole sign houses and talk about a recent discovery where they had gone back and translated [many] Greek and Latin texts from 2000 years ago. And they found that the original, or the most prominent and popular system of astrology was whole sign houses. I think it was in TMA that he published his first article on it which eventually became his little monograph, titled “Whole Sign Houses” or something like that. That article first appeared in TMA, right?
TT: Yeah, I think it was in 1999. That was a two-part article, quite hefty and thorough. That was a good one for us. The nice thing is, you get your education through these articles (chuckling), just reading them and editing them, you learn a lot.
At that point, we were busy enough– I should speak for myself, not for my staff– I was busy enough so that I wasn’t able to keep up with what’s new in astrology except what came through the stuff we were working on. I suffered from that for about 20 years, not being able to keep up, not able to research and study the way I would have, otherwise. But that’s just part of my role and that’s fine.
CB: I can increasingly relate to that. Now the main books I am reading [are] … specifically for episodes of the podcast or interviews I have to do. It’s interesting, it’s really humble origins in some ways having Rob Hand publish an article where he’s trying to present [not just] the history of whole sign houses but also make a case for it being a useful technique or approach. And that wasn’t, from what I can tell, something that took off that quickly. When I came into the astrological community in the mid-2000s, it’s not like a lot of people were using whole sign houses. Here we are, almost 20 years after that original publication in TMA. And I’ve seen 3 or 4– I just saw one on Facebook– a poll of ‘what is your primary approach to house division?’ Placidus of course was the first. But consistently these days I’m seeing whole sign houses as the second most popular answer in at least 3 or 4 polls. So it’s interesting to see such a gigantic shift in a major technical doctrine of house division just over the course of a 20-year period, with its origins in a TMA article from 1999.
TT: Right on.
CB: And over the past decade there’s been the discovery of other planetary bodies, and I know you’ve featured some articles on that from time to time, like Eris, for example.
TT: Right, and before that, Sedna. To me, it looks like Eris is going to stick, and be researched more and utilized more. I know there are people out there using all of them, and that’s great. Maybe some of the other ones will stick too.
CB:Yeah, I talked to Kieron Le Grice in the last episode, and he mentioned his book on Eris and what his approach was in trying to write this book and understand [Eris]. And that was the first time I felt interested in [Eris] and I will follow up and do an interview with him on that.
TT: There’s also a book coming out on Sedna, a big thick book. I haven’t seen the book but I’ve seen the ad for the book, which is in the June/July issue of TMA.
CB: Okay. So let’s back up here. I want to get an oral history of the magazine and the origins of it. From my perspective, by the time I came to the community, this was the premier publication in the astrological community and it still is to this day. And when you come from that perspective, it’s easy to take it for granted and assume it’s always been that way, and always been around. But it actually did have a specific starting point 30 years ago in 1987. So tell me a little about your background, where you’re from and how did you first get into astrology?
TT: I was born in Cleveland and did a little travelling in my early 20s. I got interested in astrology suddenly when Uranus transited over my North Node in the 4th house in Sagittarius.
CB: Is your data public?
TT: Yes. Aug. 7, 1956. 5:40 AM, EDT, Cleveland OH.
CB: So you’ve got 16 Leo rising?
TT: Right. Anyway, I had had my chart done once for 15 minutes at a party, so that’s all I really knew about astrology. I didn’t know much, just what a lot of people know who haven’t studied it yet. [Under that transit] I got on a bus, went to the library, got a shopping bag full of books– Rob Hand, Alan Oken, various others– the books that were available in the late ‘80s from libraries and just started studying.
CB: When was–
TT: I’m sorry, this was in the early 80s. This was in 1982.
TT: So I started studying everything I could, started doing practice charts on friends, just plunged in. I had a part-time job as a waiter then, but there was a recession going on and jobs were hard to find. I was living in Rhode Island at the time. I got back to Cleveland a few years later and Buz Myers and Sandra Leigh Serio [and I] were hanging out and going to the local astrology groups, getting steeped in it and learning more and more. Then I ended up going out to Colorado in early ‘87. I was floundering around, doing a couple of charts a week, not making much money. And not having much money at all, just getting by. And then I decided– I was at that point 31 and Saturn was working on me still–
CB: Why did you move to Colorado?
TT: It’s just beautiful there! Mountains, the whole thing. Ended up in a little town above Boulder called Nederland– pretty windy and snowy in November! I used to sit around and drink coffee and do this intuitive astrological research with the zodiac, dividing it different ways, thinking about rulerships, about asteroids, about harmonics. (Laughing) So that doesn’t pay very well, right?
CB: I wish it did! Maybe you can start a Patreon for something like that today, I don’t know!
TT: Well, in a sense it paid well, because everything I did after that came out of that. One day I went to have some coffee and french fries at a burger place. And I had a college paper, the University of Colorado newspaper that had an article about the Rocky Flats nuclear facility where they made plutonium and triggers, and the protests and the history. And I brought my ephemeris and was looking it up and said, ‘oh, this started really close to a lunar eclipse.’ Not a big surprise. So I looked at the chart for that and said, i’m going to write an article on this. But before that, I was trying to promote my services and I made a flyer, trying to do more charts. ‘Course you put a flyer up, 10 minutes later it’s covered up with lots of different flyers, especially in Boulder. So I thought, I need something to make a bigger splash, so how about a newsletter? And I only had 50 bucks to spend….So as I was sitting there, working on this first article– I had just had this idea, I’ll do an article, I’ll do some forecasts, I’ll make it a newsletter, and I’ll print some, put it out and call it The Mountain Astrologer. So that’s what that chart is for, that moment.
CB: So the moment you started writing what ended up being the first article for TMA– what was the data for that?
TT: It was also the first time I got the name of it and the first time I decided to do a newsletter. So it was a conceptual moment as well as the start of the work. That was Nov. 24, 1987. I use 12:05 PM but it could be plus or minus 5 minutes. And that’s Nederland, Co, MST.
CB: And that’s 18 Aquarius rising?
TT: Yes, somewhere around 18 or 17 Aquarius rising.
CB: Ok, got it. Just looking at the chart, we can mention a few things. Aquarius rising, with a conjunction Saturn, Uranus and Venus in late Sagittarius. The Sun is also in Sagittarius. Mercury is conjunct Pluto in Scorpio. The Moon is in Capricorn and Jupiter is in Aries.
TT: Yeah, Moon squares Jupiter.
CB: Right, the Moon’s applying to a square within a degree and a half or so to Jupiter.
TT: And the North Node is right around 0 degrees Aries, I believe.
CB: Yes, it’s just getting ready to shift into retrograde back into Pisces, but it’s at zero degrees Aries.
TT: Yeah, the true Node, I think. Chiron is over in Gemini in the 5th house, I think. What’s interesting about Chiron– in my chart, I have Chiron in the 6th house in Aquarius– 7th if you use whole sign houses– but 6th if you use Placidus or Koch. And my workplace is pretty well described by Chiron in the 6th. Chiron was kind of a mountain astrologer himself, holing up in a cave and doing all this stuff. And Aquarius being the rising sign of the business, the magazine itself.
CB: It’s funny, it’s almost exactly reversed from your chart where you have 16 Leo rising and TMA has 17 or 18 Aquarius rising.
TT: Right, from the magazine’s point of view, I’m the main relationship. I’m a triple Leo so I guess we have karma together, me and the magazine.
CB: It’s also funny because that whole Sagittarius stellium that the magazine has is in your 5th house, so it’s kind of like your child in some sense!
TT: And at the time it was a transit for me, so it was a creative project. Fits the 5th house pretty well!
CB: Definitely! And you have your Saturn at 26 Scorpio so you had your Saturn return in the 4th house right before this. But you started TMA just after completing your Saturn return?
TT: I’d say the energy shifted right around my 31st birthday where I was getting more serious about interfacing with the world in a way that was going to be more viable and sustainable. I had lived for a long time just making enough money to get by and being dependent on some people. And that gets old, especially when you turn 30 or 31.
CB:That’s what relatable to me! I was going through my Saturn and for years leading up to it, I was working on my book. Friends were taking bets on whether I’d finish it during my Saturn return, but I didn’t! I actually got through my entire Saturn return without finishing the book but I finally did, post-Saturn return, around the age of 31 or 32. So basically the same age you were, post Saturn return when Saturn went into Sagittarius and [I was] publishing my book …And it sounds like for you, it set you up to be able to do TMA. You ended up being in the time and place, right location to actualize that. So the Saturn return was more of a realignment, laying the foundation for that, rather than actually accomplishing that thing at that time.
TT: Yeah, I would view the Saturn return as a window, a 2 or 3 year window. There’s something called the shadow Saturn return when transiting Saturn reaches the return of your Solar Arc, which is about 30, 31 degrees past your natal Saturn. That’s when the Saturn return can jell or finish or there’s some important event connected with it. So that idea is out there. I can’t recall where– I might have heard it in a couple of different places. There may be a TMA article on it. If you go to the TMA index and type in ‘Saturn return’ you might come up with it!.
[time stamp 31:36 .]
CB: That’s actually a good tip because most people may not know about that. You have an online pdf that is an archive of every article, and [you can search by] author, and topic that appeared in print in the magazine, right?
TT: I think it goes back to 1990 or perhaps ‘92, not the first couple of years. But everything after that is in there, and it’s sorted by author, and subject, and issue date. So we just make pdfs and post them. And you can do [searches for] authors, topics.
CB: And a bunch of issues are available for backorder, that you can buy specific issues that are still in print?
TT: Yes we have print magazines going back to 2002, and a couple of issues before that. But mostly 2002 to the present. But some are sold out. And digitally we just made 1997-2006 available [by scanning them]… And those are available to purchase. So we have digital available from 1997 all the way to the present. They come in sets–
CB: That’s amazing! So people can buy backorders digitally?
TT: Yes. They come in sets so you can’t buy individual issues from that time. Our digital infrastructure is somewhat limited. From ‘97 to 2011 there are pdf files. From 2011 forward, they are flip books with clickable links and search capability. We started doing our digital issues in 2011 so they’re a little more sophisticated.
CB: Awsome. Speaking of sophisticated, or the opposite of that– your first newsletter was not that sophisticated. Can you describe it?
TT: The first issue was typed on a manual typewriter, using WhiteOut. And to get the headline of TMA at the top –which had to be bigger than typeface! I had my standards back then, even though it was humble beginnings–I went down to the library. And they had a dot matrix printer. And I was able to type out the kind of pixelated, maybe 48-point font size of The Mountain Astrologer. And I pasted it on with Glue-stick and took it round to Kinkos. I think I made something like 80 copies of the newsletter, 11” by 17” folded. So two of those, nested, made an 8-page newsletter. Fortunately I didn’t have to know how to do a magazine because this was basic stuff. Anyone could figure it out. I just had to be able to write a few things, and have $50 to pay Kinkos, right?
TT: So I took those 80 copies and started going around to stores. A typical Leo, I thought that since it was my project, I thought it was the greatest thing in the world! So I had some enthusiasm for this scrawny little newsletter. It wouldn’t even stand on the rack, it would flop over. There were no staples! Who needs staples when you only have two sheets tucked in? I decided that if I just put them out, a stack of them at Alfalfas or some store in Boulder, people would pick them up, put them in their bag but never look at it. Or they won’t have time. But if I put a price on it, maybe someone would pay attention! But I have Mercury and Jupiter in Virgo, so it wasn’t going to be a high price. So I put 59 cents. I figured anyone could shell out 59 cents for some forecasts. I told the store owners they could keep 40% of the profit, which is (chuckling) a whole quarter. At the time i thought that was perfectly reasonable. I had 5 or 6 stores that agreed to take it. One of them put it in their magazine rack. Another one– I think it was the college bookstore–put it next to the cash register. And there was a little coffee shop called Penny Lane, and he took some. And a bunch of them sold! Maybe twenty. That was encouraging enough to a Leo to do it again.
CB: What did the first one contain? What articles did you write for it?
TT: That was the article on Rocky Flats nuclear facility and the chart of that facility. I didn’t have a time so I used the lunar eclipse that occurred on that day as the chart. I probably wouldn’t do that today, but I did it then. Hand-drawn charts, and the circles weren’t perfect but not bad. And then I did a 12-sign forecast [with] two long paragraphs on each sign for each month. And I called it the December-January issue and I put it out there! Plus on the back cover, my ad for my readings. And I probably got a few readings from it.
CB: So this came out in December, 1987?
TT: Yes, probably in early December, in the first few days.
CB: And you sold at least twenty copies, and it was encouraging enough so that you decided, after that first issue, to do another?
TT: Yes. For one thing, it fits my chart pretty well to do this. It was a personal creative project which was feeding the Leo planets in my chart. And it gave me exposure for my readings, so it met all those goals. And then after I did a couple of issues that way, a friend lent me his electric typewriter. I did another issue or two on that and expanded it to 16 pages and put some humor in it, which turned out to be a popular feature of those early magazines.
CB: You started doing astrological cartoons or comics?
TT: Yes. I had a friend [with whom] I co-invented these little glyphoid characters, glyphs with hands and eyes. We co-developed this style of cartoon and there were a lot of them [in] the first five years in the magazine. Plus, I did some articles that were humor, like ‘gift guide for the 12 signs’, ‘the perfect comfy recliner for Taurus’, that sort of thing (chuckling). It was a lot of fun.
CB: So even from the beginning there was a blend of serious, almost investigative articles versus something lighter and comical in order to have a full spectrum of different approaches to astrology in some sense?
TT: Yeah. Basically the early TMAs were like a baby version of the current energy. So “Where’s that moon”? That column that tracks the moon has been there almost from the start, after the first couple of issues. The 4th house section has been from the start, articles have been there from the start, humor has been there almost from the start.
CB: In the first few issues, you started pushing to expand relatively quickly after that point. And pretty early on you had a supporter who helped you and almost mentored you in that process. Al H. Morrison, is that right?
TT: Yes, It hadn’t occurred to me that I could sell subscriptions to this. I was just selling through the stores. One day one of the distributors contacted me and said “hey, your magazine is in our racks at the health food store in Boulder.” And I said, “oh I didn’t realize people owned the racks. I thought it was the store [who owned them].” He said, “No, it’s ours. Why don’t you just let us distribute it for you?” I said “Great!” because they were doing 35-40 stores in the Boulder-Denver area. So he said yes, send us 350 copies and that’s how it started expanding. And I guess one of Al H. Morrison’s relatives came across it somewhere in Colorado and sent him a copy because she knew he would want to see it. And he sent me, unsolicited, a $10 subscription check, even though I wasn’t advertising subscriptions. So he was the first subscriber. And that gave me the idea– subscriptions! Good idea! (Laughing) That’s how clueless I was about any of this. Basically, I was a researcher and writer. I had to learn everything else.
CB: Right. So he became one of your biggest proponents in helping you to expand rapidly?
TT: Yes, he was supportive. He wrote articles for us in the early days. At one point, when I was telling him I needed to reach more people and get the word out to other astrologers, he smuggled me a list of the NCGR membership names and addresses. At the time I wasn’t a member of any of the organizations. He said “don’t tell anyone”. (Chuckling.) So I used that to do a big mailing, about two or three thousand copies of the magazine. I had a friend in Cleveland who was an astrologer who loaned me some money so I could do the extra print run. This was in ‘89 and I did a 36-page version of the magazine. There was sort of a big splash at the time. That’s how the magazine started growing.
CB: So you sent out free copies of the magazine to basically a large portion of the NCGR membership?
TT: Yep, and that got a lot of subscription checks back in the mail. Then it started rolling from there. I could take that money from the subscriptions and invest it in the next issue, and so on and so forth. It was rocky. It wasn’t financially smooth at all. It started getting more stable by 1992. It [became] a little more financially secure.
CB: But you kept investing back in the business. And one thing you did, pretty early on, was to incorporate other writers, and contacting some established astrologers and asking them if you could use excerpts from their books, right?
TT: Correct, yes. I think maybe in 1989 I started doing that. But as far as articles by other writers, that was early on by issue number 3 or 4 in ‘88. I interviewed Buz Myers in ‘89. There was one woman I interviewed, an astrologer– her name was Nan DeGrove — and I think she was sometime during the first year. She is a local astrologer. I said I couldn’t pay her but I’d give her a lifetime subscription of the magazine, and she said okay! So she’s been getting it for 30 years (chuckling)!
CB: Wow! (laughing) That’s great! So you were already doing interviews. Who were some of the people whose book excerpts you [published]?
TT: Demetra George, I believe. Donna Cunningham. I don’t know if Steve Forrest was a book excerpt– it probably was. I know he provided an article, if not a book excerpt, pretty early on. Steve was a strong influence when I was studying astrology. The Inner Sky, The Changing Sly, his early books. So I was thrilled to get an article or anything from him. And also from Donna and Demetra. And Bill Herbst was particularly supportive in the early days and provided some articles. Al H. Morrison, and a number of other people.
[Time stamp: 45:44]
CB: Okay. We’re basically in the late ‘80s, 1989 time frame. It seems like, in terms of your chronology, there was also an important turning point in 1989 with the 2nd United Astrology Conference that took place in New Orleans that year, right?
TT: That’s right. That was my first exposure to the astrological community aside from the Cleveland community and the Boulder/Denver community. So I met a ton of people. I barely made it there. I had enough money to get there but I didn’t have enough money for a room. I had maybe enough for a few meals. An astrologer named Ron Pearce (Sp?) had a trade show table that he was willing to share with me. That’s how the larger community started becoming more aware of the magazine.
[Time stamp: 46:37 ]
CB: OK, so you basically didn’t have a lot at that point. But the magazine was growing and it was almost two years or a year and a half old, and you decided to go to this big astrology conference. It was only the second United Astrology Conference, where all of the major organisations pulled their resources to hold one big mega conference. You showed up there and you were able to share a trade show booth with another astrologer in order to promote the magazine. It ended up being a hit, right?
TT: Well, I don’t know if it was a hit. But certainly people were talking to me, picking it up. Ya know how it is, when astrologers see something new, that they haven’t seen before, they want to check it out. So, they did. Also, mostly, it paved the way for a lot of new articles. I remember riding this shuttle back to the airport with Bruce Scofield. On the way to the airport, we talked about an article he could write for us. So, it was a lot of fun. It was great.
CB: You were sort of scraping by at this point. One of the things that was funny was the editorial that you wrote for NTMA on the 30th anniversary, late last year, just a few issues ago. You talked about how you were kind of broke during that period, so you slept under the table at the trade show, to just get by at that point.
TT: Yes, it was kind of like a canopy bed because the drapes came down from both sides of the table. The rug was very plush. It was a thick plush rug. There were security guards at the trade show who knew I was doing that, but were cool with it, because this was New Orleans. I’d slept there the first few nights and I think after that Alexandra Carracosta and her sister allowed me to crash on the floor in their hotel room. I hadn’t known them before the conference. They were just very open people and they were willing to do that. So things started looking a little better as the conference went on.
CB: That’s so funny. It’s just one of the things people do sometimes in order to get to one of the conferences, when you’re younger, is just whatever it takes. It’s funny how sometimes this can lead to great connections and making a life-long connection, like I think you did with Alexandra. She’s been a columnist for a long time now for TMA, right?
TT: Yes, we fell out of touch for a while after that. But then we became friends and she ended up writing for us regularly. Yes, a lot of friends were made from that conference. Bruce Scofield for instance wrote a column for us, and still does. On and off for many years, he’s been one of our main contributors and I’ve really enjoyed working with Bruce.
CB: So at this point, the magazine is taking off in the early 1990s. In terms of your personal life, you met your wife around this time period, around 1990 right?
TT: Yes, I was in Michigan. I did a lot of back and forth to the Midwest, to Cleveland. I started in Michigan in Northern Indiana. I was living near Ann Arbor and I met Kate on the phone because she had decided to try to help me get the magazine into more stores in Berkeley. She heard about the magazine through a friend of hers who was also doing that in the Bay Area for me. Back then, I relied a lot on people to do the stores in their area, including stocking the shelves, collect the money and all that stuff. She was offering to do that. That’s how I met her. First, we had some brief conversations, but later in early 1990 we started having longer conversations. One thing lead to another and by the middle of 1990, I was living in Berkeley, sharing her apartment. We’ve been together ever since. So, it was great. She also had editing skills which I did not. For the first two and a half years of the magazine I was doing very light editing; spell checking, commas, does this make sense, can I follow the article, that was about it. She had some more skills, so she became the first Editor. We did it together until 1992/1993 when we started hiring other employees.
CB: So she was literally the first editor of TMA?
CB: By this point, the early 1990s, the magazine is really taking off. You started organising a series of conferences, right?
TT: Yes, I had an idea. It was actually on a train ride out to meet Kate in person for the first time, after talking to her on the phone for a few months. As the train was passing through Utah, I had this idea for a conference. People would come and anyone could present. It was very Aquarian again, very open. I would call it Planet Camp and it would be in some retreat centre somewhere, in nature. I did that in 1991 and had just 40 people show up. It was pretty skimpy, but it was fun. So I decided, three years later, to do it again in 1994 at the Shenoah Retreat Centre near Philoh California. We had a 100 people that time and it was beautiful and I would say at least half the people did presentations. We did some panels that were pre-arranged. But it was like, “If you show up and you want to teach, there’s a space over there by the picnic table or there is a room over here”. We had cabins and camping and it was gorgeous weather. We did a talent show, camp-fire circles and things like that. It was a lot of fun. It was great. But it was a ton of work. At the time we were doing nine issues a year, so I think that cured me of doing conferences too.
CB: Yes, I think everyone has this idea of how great it would be to put on a conference and how much fun it would be. Then you start organising it and you realise how much work goes into versus whatever the payoff is at the end.
TT: Yes, exactly. There’s a little glory, but you have to really pay for it.
CB: Yeah, it’s a lot of work and a long time coming building up to that. I’ve seen how long it’s taken the 3 organisations to get together a UAC this time, over the past several years, has been exhausting even just watching that. I have no idea how they are even doing that, putting it on, and now it’s almost there, we are just two months away now.
TT: Yes, it’s amazing.
CB: So you did that last conference in California and You and Kate then relocated to California then, right?
TT: Yes, we ended up in Grass Valley/Nevada City area, California and we’ve been here ever since. I moved a lot before that. But the business just got large enough with employees, we were fortunate that we really liked the area and so we are happy to be here.
CB: Sure, so the name was originally the The Mountain Astrologer, because you were in Boulder when you started it. Are there any mountains near you now?
TT: Yes, we are in the foothills and the Sierra Nevada is just a short drive up. We are 20 minutes from some real mountains.
CB: I guess that still counts then. So by that point we in the mid-90s and as you said earlier, the peak print circulation occurred in the early 2000s, after 9/11, right?
CB: What was the circulation then?
TT: We were printing about 25,000-26,000 copies at that point. It all depended on how many would sell in the stores too. The maximum number of subscribers was about 10,000 in maybe 2003-2004, somewhere around there. As I said, with the internet, an amazing amount of information was available on the internet and facebook, it definitely took a bite out of the magazine. So, we had a period of contraction. One astrologer explained to me that the progressed Moon’s declination for the magazine had a cycle that was going from North to South. The moon hit maximum South declination and then it starts coming up again. It kind of fit the expansion and contraction of the magazine. At some point about 2009/2010, the contraction period levelled out and it’s just in a stable place for the last 4-5 years. It’s not growing a lot and not declining a lot. It’s just kind of humming along at a comfortable level. It’s certainly enough to pay the bills, pay the employees, and keep it going. But it’s a little more modest than before, a few less pages than before. Still, there’s a lot to read, as you know, in each issue.
CB: There’s still an amazing amount of content in each issue. You guys have definitely continued to grow and adapt to the times. I think this is one of the reasons it is still a mainstay in the community. It is still one of the main hubs for communication and for finding out what is going on in the community, what people are focused on, and figuring out what the pulse of the community is. The fact that you guys have been offering the digital version since the late 2000s definitely helps that. Your estimate is that 10-15% of your subscribers are digital only?
TT: Yes, it’s about 15% maybe. The rest get print subscriptions with digital included. They can access it if they register for it. But a lot of people want digital only and that’s what they want. It’s great for overseas subscribers because the postage is so expensive. They can just be digital only and not pay as much.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. TMA is unique in the community because it is very high quality. You actually hire professional editors to help authors to improve their articles and work through them, with them, instead of just printing anything. You have a serious focus on good graphic design, layout and aesthetic appeal. Compared to some of the publications that the organisation put out, because they are non-profit organisations who don’t put a lot of money into them, you can tell the difference between a TMA article or an issue of TMA versus something else, I feel.
TT: Yes, if you can pay editors a decent amount and you’re not relying on volunteers, you can put more energy into it and the quality will reflect this. We have a great editorial staff. One person in particular, Nan Geary, who has been with the magazine since 1998, 20 years, she’s been an amazing force in keeping the editorial department organised, applying quality control and just working with the writers in a great way. She is a huge reason why the magazine is still going.
CB: I know with any articles that I published with TMA back when I was still doing the electional column, the article was always 10 times better than what I originally submitted, as a result of her serious editorial input. This was really my first experience working with a professional editor and seeing why this was important and why you need to hire an editor when you are publishing an article or book. It’s a crucial experience in some ways when self-publishing is becoming more common in this age. When people dive right in to this, they don’t know what the benefit is of having a professional editor or layout person working with you and help you.
TT: Yes, totally, definitely. You can always tell people who are experienced with writing and are more open [and] receptive to the editing. Whereas, people who haven’t done it a lot are more fearful and in some cases really controlling about their commas and sentences.
CB: That’s really funny and ties into one of my listener’s questions that I wanted to ask. That is, has TMA helped launched any careers, or has TMA featured any younger and up and coming Astrologers earlier on in their careers, that later ended up becoming more prominent in the community?
TT: Well, I would say yes we’ve helped launch a lot of careers. Launched by ourselves? No, I doubt it. But helped launch. There’s probably a few along the way that used TMA as a major springboard to prominence in the community. But usually it’s just that we’re helping and a part of that person’s publicity or drive or effort. I would say that I am probably the only one that has used TMA exclusively to become more prominent. The rest, we’ve just helped them along.
CB: I know for me, I published articles there. You re-published an article of mine on sect on around 2010 from one of my websites. We did a 2-part series together in 2011 or 2012 which was my Introduction To Hellenistic Astrology. If you read that, it really is a shortened condensed, 20-30-page version of my book, which took another 5 years to come out. But you can see glimpses of that in that series which I did for TMA back then.
TT: Another person who has really contributed a lot and hopefully it has helped his career, is Frank Clifford. He’s done an amazing amount of work with us in the last 5-7 years, including supervising some great theme issues and creating some themed sections in the magazine. The music issue was his idea in 2014, where astrology and music was the theme. Also, a lot of articles on technique and he’s been really helpful, a really important person in what we’ve been doing lately.
CB: Sure, those themed issues have been really interesting. I think he did one on modern psychological astrology. Those have always been really interesting.
TT: He’s working on a project for issue number 200. He contacted 11 astrologers and asked them to write about an astrologer who greatly influenced them. Most of them are deceased astrologers. There is one who is still living. We are primarily looking, in this particular project, for deceased astrologers who were either legends or mentors to these people. So, that project is going really well and all of the articles are in, and they are going to appear in the August/September issue.
CB: OK, wow, that sounds great!
TT: Do you want to hear the names of some of the astrologers who are being written about?
CB: Yes, definitely.
TT: OK, Isabel Hickey, Dane Rudhyar, Andre Barbeau, Alice Bailey, William Lily, Lois Rodden, Linda Goodman, Vettius Valens, Cyril Fagan, Al H. Morrison and the Gauquelins.
CB: Wow, that should be an amazing issue. So that’s going to be a themed issue? That will be the whole focus?
TT: Well, no. It’s about half of the content of the magazine. It’s about a 24-page section in the magazine. Each contributor will have a 2-page spread with, in most cases, the chart of the person being written about.
CB: Wow, awesome!
TT: Yes, so Frank pulled that together for us. It was a really good idea. So we might do more in the future with maybe living astrologers. We’ll see how this one is received.
CB: Yes, it’s really important to collect some of that history and identify some of those connections. Even your connection with Al H. Morrison, and his helping you and playing an instrumental role in getting TMA together, is a really interesting, unique and important piece of history that otherwise people might not know about. So I was glad we got to talk about that a little bit here.
[Time Stamp 1:06:04 -]
CB: As we are hitting into the home stretch of this, I had some general questions that I came up with and some from listeners. I was hoping that I could run these by you, if that works for you?
TT: Sure, why not.
CB: I don’t know if this is one you can remember. I’ll just start throwing these out. If you have a good answer, great. If you don’t, then we can just pass, and go on to something else. You’ve done a lot of interviews with TMA over the years. I was curious if you have a notable interview that you really remember doing, or that stands out to you?
TT: I have enjoyed my interviews with Rob Hand. I’ve done a few of those and actually I did one of these with you, together, a few years ago. That was a lot of fun.
CB: Yes, that was fun. We met up with him at NORWAC and sat down and recorded the interview in person, verbally, and later transcribed it.
TT: I remember some from the 90s I really enjoyed. I enjoyed Mary Plumb. She is our book reviewer. She’s been a TMA editor for a long long time. I think Mary first started working with us first in 1993. Mary and I sat down and interviewed Charles and Suzie Harvey back in 1997. That was really a lot of fun. We also interviewed Steven and Jodie Forrest together back then. I think that is in the same issue, June 1997, which is one of the ones that is digitally available now.
There are so many interviews that I have enjoyed or I thought were really great. The TMA index online has a whole different pdf file for just the interviews. So people can get an idea of how many people we’ve interviewed over the years. For a long time, we were doing one interview in every issue. But lately, we are doing less, because of our limitations.
CB: One of the other questions I have is; what are some of the biggest debates that you’ve seen in the astrological community or the most contentious issues that people have written letters to the editor about?
TT: Well, let’s see. There’s the tropical versus sidereal zodiac. That’s always a hot debate. House systems is always a hot debate. What else?
You know, let me just kind of diverge a bit here a little bit. The thing I noticed over the years, there seemed like a lot more competition and divisiveness in the astrological community. Now it seems like there is a lot more cooperation and support going on. It seemed like it change maybe 10 or 15 years ago, or maybe it just steadily evolved. So that’s a huge difference.
CB: That’s interesting because I would think that the community is more diverse at this point because there are more different approaches and different traditions going on. So, there are almost more differences in some way. But it’s interesting that you think there is less competition now or more openness now than there was 20-30 years ago.
TT: There is definitely more openness…more cooperation and more mutual support. There might be more diverse opinions and diverse ways of doing it and diverse techniques. But the spirit of inclusiveness is much stronger I think. The organisations were maybe more competitive with one another back then.
CB: Sure, maybe the organisations get along a little bit better. But, sure that is not always the case. But the fact that they are doing a UAC together is definitely a good sign.
TT: Yes, I am not close to any of the organisations but I am a member of a few of them. So I don’t have a real close up look at that. But that is how it seems to me.
CB: There are a few listener questions. One of them, I am paraphrasing, Dawn Champine, on Twitter, at Goddess Astrologer [wants to know] what is the future of print publishing and how have you managed to adapt and stay relevant over the years in digital times?’ A part of that of course, is doing the digital edition …[and] you also launched the TMA website…[with frequent] blog posts by Mary Plumb….[so that’s] some of the ways that you have tried to adapt a little bit as well, right?
TT: Yes, to keep at least one foot in the digital world. Mary edits our blog and it comes out every other Monday. But I would say the main way to stay relevant is to just provide what people want. Just doing good content. People will find a way to get it. If they have to get the print magazine, even though they prefer digital, if the content is good enough, a lot of them will do that. Some won’t, but a lot of them will. So, being behind the curve technologically, isn’t a deal killer. It’s just that you’re not reaching as many people as you could. That’s how I look at it.
CB: Yes, it seems like you guys definitely continue to stand out because you have never let the quality drop. It’s always a consistently high quality in what you are producing in what you are producing and putting out every two months. I think this is one of the things that stands out to people.
TT: I hope so.
[Time Stamp 1:12:22]
CB: Definitely. Another question was from S.J. Anderson on Twitter @sjanderson144. He said “I would be curious to hear his thoughts on the biggest changes he’s seen in the astrological community over the years of involvement. And too, what are your thoughts on the recent discussion on the waxing or waning popularity of astrology?” So this is an episode I did a few months ago [about] a bunch of media coverage recently. The New York Times, the Guardian, and a bunch of other news organizations published articles saying that astrology appeared to be getting more popular, especially with Millennials. We had a discussion a couple of months ago trying to figure out if that’s true that astrology’s getting more popular or if it’s gotten less popular in some ways. Because one of the things that’s hard for me when I try to think about that question objectively is seeing how, for example, the book publishing industry is going through such massive changes. So there’s not as many astrology books being published…[compared to] 10 or 15 years ago. So in some areas it almost looks like there’s been a decline, whereas in other areas it does seem like it’s surging in popularity. How does it look or where do you stand on that?
TT: I don’t know. Especially in the last 8 or 9 months, I’ve been pretty consumed with keeping the magazine going as well as supporting my wife who’s going through some pretty serious health challenges. So I’ve been barely following the news at all. I’ve been not able to keep up with some of these debates in astrology or some of the media coverage lately. So I really don’t know. I hope it’s becoming more popular. I wouldn’t be surprised. The biggest changes of my years of involvement in the astrology community, besides what I already mentioned about the cooperation, is just the interaction. The communication level is just so massively more intense through Facebook in particular, and other online mechanisms. So I’d say those are the biggest changes. There used to be a magazine called The Mercury Hour, edited by Edith Custer that came out monthly. And it was like the internet for astrology– just letters that people were writing to other astrologers. You had to look through this magazine to see what astrologers were saying to each other. That went on to about the year 2000 when I think Edith passed away around that time. So that’s how far things have come.
CB: Right, that’s a huge shift in terms of that, of astrologers’ ability to communicate and have conversations and debates and other things like that. Another question I had from a listener, Sheila Roher, is what kind of articles do you wish you had more of? Is there any area where you wish you had article submissions of a different type but you never seem to get them or not as much as you’d like?
TT: That’s a great question. The kind of article we wish we had more of is well-written articles, well-organized and well-written, regardless of the astrological topic. Because, as we talked about, we try to cover all the bases in astrology. And sometimes we get a lot of Pluto for a while, and then we’re saying “no, no, no Pluto for a while (chuckling), it’s enough for now.” For a while, it was Chiron.
Most of what we publish– I’d say two-thirds of the feature articles–are just from things that come in, just from queries that come in. Writers query us. We have writers guidelines on our home page online that people can read. So we get a query or article proposal and we’ll look it over. It will take us a little while and we’ll get back to the writer and say yes or no in terms of whether we want them to send the whole article for consideration. Two-thirds of what we publish is from that mechanism. And some of what we publish is from, oh, I’ll say ‘we’ve got to cover Uranus going into Taurus!” We haven’t had any proposals for it so we have to go out and find a writer. So we’ll contact a writer that we know and worked with before who will be able to produce a decent article, and we approach them. And that’s how the rest of the features get filled, unless we’re doing a theme issue or Frank is doing something special, and then we schedule that in.
[Time stamp 1:17:13]
CB: So generally you do take article submissions? If listeners or up-and-coming astrologers interested in trying to get something published with you, is it better to contact you with a finished article or is it better to make a pitch for a potential article first to see if there’s even interest in publishing it?
TT: It’s better to make a pitch, way better, and that’s for a couple of reasons. One is, if it’s a topic or approach we know we’re not interested in for whatever reason, we can tell the person right then and save them the trouble of writing it. Usually, we also ask for a few paragraphs of their writing so we can see what kind of writer they are. So it’s important to read the query guidelines online and to send a two-page proposal, including some sample paragraphs from the article. That really streamlines it. Also, if there are any course corrections, [we might] say, “oh, we’re interested in this but you didn’t mention, if it’s an article on the 12 houses but you’re only talking about the first 3, what’s up?” That kind of thing. So we can help them increase the chances of getting an article accepted by using that process.
CB: That makes sense. Let’s see, last two questions, really quickly. One of the questions from Demetrius on Twitter is what keeps you going, what keeps you motivated? Especially, I’m thinking — this is me personally–when you have those deadlines every two months, what keeps you pushing through? Have you guys ever missed a deadline… or have you been pretty consistent with that for a while now?
TT: We never missed a deadline, and we’ve never been seriously late. A couple days late, maybe, once in a while. But we’ve been very fortunate because we have a very small staff. And anything can happen to people. So we’ve been very lucky. What keeps me going is partly responsibility. I mean, I’m taking subscribers’ money, right, so I better make some more magazines (laughing). Also, just that my job fits my chart and so its been relatively easier to do because of that. Also, it could be my karma to do this. It feels like a mission, my role in the community. It’s an opportunity. Once you’re in this position, you just want to keep doing this because it’s helping people connect, it’s helping writers, it’s helping readers, it’s helping advertisers, it’s helping everybody. And it’s helping us pay for our house, right?
CB: Was there a moment when you realized at some point– I’m guessing in the ‘90s– that it was playing an important role in the community and… fostering a lot of discussions that might not otherwise be able to happen in the same way?
TT: Yeah, sure. And people were telling us that. It was nice to hear that.
CB: Sure. And that’s a good point that you mention. It’s not just the people writing articles but the advertisers is actually a huge component of TMA… That’s often been for me– when I pick up TMA– that’s actually one of the first things I look at in order to see what’s going on in the community. It’s not just what people are talking about in feature articles or whatever but actually looking and seeing who’s doing advertisements for consultations, products or conferences or what have you. TMA, because it’s become the main community standard in terms of astrological publications is also probably one of the primary places where people buy advertising to get the word out about things. So that’s another thing I use it for and that’s another important community role that it plays. It’s providing a space for that.
TT: Yeah. We have a professional directory so readers who are looking for astrologers can go to that section and kind of shop through the listing of astrologers, and find someone who hopefully will work for them in terms of getting a reading.
CB: Yeah, I think that’s crucially important. And that’s one of the additional pieces that makes it so good, especially for newer astrologers who are still getting oriented in the community and trying to figure out what’s out there.
TT: Yes. Because it’s out there in the stores, it’s out there in Barnes and Noble, in a lot of those stores, and in some of the Whole Foods stores. It’s in a lot of metaphysical bookstores, news stands. So people are stumbling across it. Just think of when you first started getting interested in astrology. You went to a bookstore and you saw a book and thought, ‘oh, what’s this?’ Some people are doing that with the magazine. And that’s their introduction to the whole community.
CB: Which is just amazing to me, because it took me a few years before I found it. I wish I had found it earlier in my studies rather than later, just because of the great cross-section it gives of different things that are going on right now…And the last , Adam Madison asks, “what are TMA articles/magazines that are must-reads?” Have you ever thought of doing like a ‘top ten’ issues or major articles from the back catalogue that people should check out?
TT: It’s kind of like asking a parent who their favorite kid is.
CB: Right! (laughing)
TT: They’re all good. Actually, I don’t remember the last time where we did an issue and I thought “oh, this one’s kind of flat” or “this one didn’t work”. There’s just so much energy that goes into each issue. Editorial energy, writers’ energy, advertisers –it’s just like a little bomb that goes off (laughing) when people read it. So I can’t any particular issues. I mean, I have some personal favorites that I’m kind of prouder of– like when we did, back in 2005, an issue on Uranian and cosmobiology, which was a really difficult issue for our staff to do because they weren’t really that familiar with it. And it turned out really well. The Vedic-themed issue in ‘95 was a lot of fun. Some of the theme issues are, I guess, a little more fun, a little more creative than some of the others. The music issue was great (that was in 2014). I really enjoyed that. And you know, Shannon Garcia was helping us illustrate at that time. And she did a great job of giving the magazine a little more of a modern look, and helping that way. So that was a nice development.
CB: Yeah, I really appreciated Shannon’s efforts in updating some of the layout and design. She pushed you guys into using Adobe InDesign a few years ago, right?
TT: Well, we were using InDesign but we didn’t– basically we had a designer who was on staff until 2007, and she passed away, sadly. I had to take over the job of design, which I had done earlier for the magazine. But I don’t have skills. I’m a horrible person to be doing design but I did it anyway for about 4 or 5 years. So the magazine sort of deteriorated in terms of design. Shannon came along and rescued us and brought a lot of stuff up to speed. And now, we’re working with Sara Fisk, who’s a great person to work with, and who is, for the last 3 or 4 years, doing the design primarily. It’s her work. We definitely paid more attention to design in recent years.
CB: Oh yeah. And I just remembered on the best questions I forgot to ask! The covers of TMA are always one of the most striking and unique things that always stand out. When did you guys start doing that elaborate, colorful covers?
TT: Our first full-color cover was back in ‘95. Then we went to coated paper a few years later. So, everything’s taken forever with this magazine. It’s got a tortoise quality to it. It’s probably my Taurus midheaven, where things just plod along and slowly better and better as time goes on. The covers are funny, because a lot of times we’ll pay a lot of attention to the content. We’ll throw a magazine together, we do it backwards. I think a lot of magazines are like, “here’s the cover we want to sell for the magazine!! Now what do we put inside to support the cover?” We’re the other way around, like ‘what the heck do we do for a cover?” We’ve got 7 or 8 disparate articles, some of them nerdy, some less nerdy. What are we going to do for a cover?? (laughing) So we get desperate and as deadline approaches, either we contact an artist and find something. Or in some cases, I go to NASA and say, ‘what galaxy would look good? What’s generic?” (laughing) So there’s a lot of desperation with covers. And a lot of times the cover doesn’t even get addressed until a week before press time. Or even in some cases, 3 or 4 days before.
[time stamp: 1:27:22]
TT: So if you like the covers, that’s a good sign. (laughing)
CB: I know it varies but your process sounds similar to my process of trying to pick the cover art for each episode of the podcast. It’s where sometimes you’ve got an idea in mind, sometimes it’s really inspired and comes together well. And other times, you’re just scrambling to find anything at the last minute because that’s the final thing you have to do before releasing it.
TT: Yeah. I guess this upcoming issue we’re working on, the June-July issue, we’ve got a lot of different stuff. We’ve got an article on structural astrology by Charlotte Wenner, which is a system that came out of the Netherlands using the Black Moon and the Black Sun, or the Black Luminaries. That’s something new that we’re learning about. We’ve got an article on horary. Chet Sadowski’s [sp?] writing on Saturn in Capricorn. We have an article on quintiles and quincunxes. We’ve got an article on the Sun, and a think piece about symbolism and astrology by Brian Clarke. Did I mention Samuel Reynolds is in it? The first lunar nodal return at age 19. So we’ve got all this diversity! So how do you do a cover for that? (laughing)
CB: Right. You’ve got to pick out one theme or try to do some overarching thing but usually it just ends up being reflective of one specific article?
TT: Yeah. It might end up being Saturn in Capricorn. I don’t know, I haven’t got it yet. Obviously I haven’t started thinking about that too much yet.
CB: Right. Well, I think we’re about out of time today. So I wanted to give some information where people can learn more about TMA or sign up. The biggest thing people can do to follow the magazine is basically to subscribe, right?
TT: Yes. That’s definitely the most helpful to us. When you buy a magazine at the store, the distributor at the store gets a big chunk of that. Subscriptions are a direct way– plus, you pay less if you subscribe. You get the magazine directly. You don’t miss an issue. You don’t have to hunt around for it if the store happens to be sold out. And you can get digital only, or print which includes digital access, so it’s a good way.
CB: And it’s only $46 to subscribe for a year, which is 6 issues. You get a new issue every 2 months. And as a subscriber, I always get mine super early, definitely. Before it’s ever on the stands, it seems like I end up getting mine in the mail.
TT: It can vary. Sometimes the stores get it a little before certain people, but it’s all pretty close. And once they subscribe, they get digital access. So for the June-July issue, for instance, the digital issue will go up at the end of April. The stores won’t even get it until the 1st or 2nd week of May at the earliest. So you get the digital access first, and then your print copy comes in the mail.
CB: That’s usually what I do. I scan through my digital version first, as soon as I get it. And then I go through more thoroughly once the print one shows up. And [subscription is] a good way to support you guys directly and the work that you’re doing…It’s a more direct way of making a point that you want to support the work that’s being done …Buying one-off magazines in a store is okay, and that’s obviously another option. Most Barnes and Noble or sometimes other large local bookstores will carry TMA and you can pick up an issue there. But sometimes subscribing directly is actually a better way of supporting the work that’s being done.
TT: It’s kind of the original Patreon, isn’t it?
[time stamp: 1:31:31.]
CB: Yeah, exactly, to the same extent that people support this podcast by subscribing, and that’s been the way I’ve been able to do it, especially to the extent that I have. You literally started something similar with this magazine that just took off and became a sensation and became an important touchstone in the community, sort of following a very similar path but just in print.
TT: I’d like to think that the magazine has influenced public perception of astrology because so many people have stopped, looked through a few pages of it, never bought it, never subscribed but maybe it influenced them and gave astrology a little bit of a professional flavor for them.
CB: Not to dismiss some of the other sort of pulp astrology magazines like Dell Horoscope or whatever the other ones are that are maybe somewhat higher circulation from being in the magazine sections of grocery stores and stuff like that. But when you have TMA out there being a representative of what astrology is really about and what astrologers are doing on a normal magazine rack– or occasionally it seems like Whole Foods or something will pick up some issues of TMA and you’ll see them there very prominently. I remember being very excited about just standing around in a checkout line in 2012 and [seeing] a stack of TMAs right there! I thought that was really good coverage for astrology.
TT: Yeah, we did an article on Monsanto that Eric Francis Coppolino wrote and one of our distributors decided that Whole Foods would really want that topic to be featured. So a large number of Whole Food stores took that particular issue. So that happens once in a while, sure. But you know, Dell Horoscope is a good example of a magazine using really good writers. And they have a different market from us a little bit– they’re out in grocery stores and so on. But they’re doing a really great job, and some of the other ones too…We’re all in this together, right? I think it’s important that we as a community really stick together, support each other and really be a community.
CB: And you’ve been really good about doing that. In terms of supporting other magazines or other start-ups…I think a few years ago there was another start-up magazine and I think you guys actually took out an ad in the first issue.
TT: Oh sure. Hexagon, it was called. I try to be very supportive because I know what he was getting himself into, how difficult it is to do that. So, yeah.
[time stamp 1:34:30 .]
CB: Sure. Allright, so people can find out more information about the magazine at Mountainastrologer.com and there’s a subscription button over on the left where you can find out more information about the different subscriptions available —
TT: There’s also a free sample issue on the top orange bar on the front page. You can look through– I think it’s the June issue from last year. You can just see what the digital flip-book is like.
[time stamp 1:34:59]
CB: And you guys also have a bunch of internal articles on your website as well, right?
TT: Yes, they’re great. And they’ve been there for 25 years! (laughing)
CB: Okay, oldies but–
TT: Oldies but still there!
CB: Yeah. You also have some back issues on CDs. And it sounds like you’re making the most of your catalogue available in digital editions as well.
TT: Yes, people can get the back issue sets as part of their digital library so it will all be in one place. It’s not a download but it’s accessed online. Whenever they’re online, they can access it and they can download from there. It’s not a direct download but you can download from there. TMA has a funky way of doing things sometimes. Been so busy making a magazine that I haven’t had a chance to be modern. (laughing)
CB: Sure, I like it, it’s a nice blend between the two. So everybody can find out more about that at mountainastrologer.com. And lately, recently and more personally, there was a campaign– you and your wife have been going through some stuff. And a friend of yours actually launched a YouCaring campaign at youcaring.com in order to help you guys get through some stuff you’ve been going through, right? [Note to readers: YouCaring became gofundme]
TT: Yeah, medical expenses. My wife has been going through a big health problem. We’re trying to turn it around and so. The fundraiser has a few days left and it’s been really supportive. We really appreciate all the support. A lot of people listening to this have contributed and I really appreciate it.
CB: Yeah, a lot of astrologers have shared it and contributed to it. But if anyone else wants to contribute, I’ll put a link to that on the description page of this episode at theastrologypodcast.com. And people should definitely chip in to help you guys out since you’ve done so much for the community at this point. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to have you on today, to say thank you for the important and valuable role you’ve played in the community over the past 30 years and for raising the bar on astrology. I really appreciate it and I know a lot of other people do as well.
TT: Thank you, Chris. I really appreciate you having me on. I really also appreciate your podcast. It’s amazingly good quality, and whenever I’ve had the chance to listen, I’ve really enjoyed it.
CB: Awesome. Well, I’m glad to talk to you today. So thanks for joining me.
TT: Thank you.
CB: Allright. And thanks everyone for listening. And we’ll see you next time.