Island Magic excerpt: Leave a comment for your chance to win an autographed advance copy!

Magic week has been grand, but now it is finished. To celebrate, I’m posting below an excerpt from Island Magic. Island Magic, book three of my Sleight of Hand series, won’t be released until October 31, but if you want more than the prologue posted below, leave me a comment. One lucky winner will receive an autographed advance copy of Island Magic!

Prologue

Night fell slowly in the Caribbean, and when it came, it was complete. Especially in the little bar on the beach that Logan loved. Even the tiki torches on the boardwalk only spread small radii of flickering glow around their poles. The rest was a dark, secret haven.

From his lighted oasis beneath the thatch-roofed bar, he watched the patrons of the resort milling around, coming in from the dark beach, usually hand-in-hand with someone else. Occasionally a group of young men would collide with a group of young women and soon they would pair off and head into dark corners. All Logan had to do was make their drinks and chat. No interference required on his part. He was like a voyeuristic benefactor, watching them leave with nothing but good feelings.

When he first spotted Rachel in the bar, then lost sight of her in a crowd of college kids, he thought he must be mistaken. He frowned, craning his neck. It certainly had looked like Rachel. Nora’s best friend, the maid of honor at his wedding to a woman who was now dead. But what would Rachel be doing there? He hadn’t seen her in years, but he didn’t believe in coincidence. Magic, but not coincidence.

He recognized the long, luxurious hair and the lovely features, even though they had a hard edge he didn’t recall. And what was up with the slinky dress? Rachel had always seemed so strait-laced he’d figured she would be a suburban soccer mom by now. This was no soccer mom. This wasn’t even the beautiful, gentle woman Nora had known in the years after their marriage.

She sat at a table not far from the bar. She was alone, but everything about her said she had no intention of remaining that way. Logan noticed several men glancing her way. He couldn’t blame them. Her raven hair fell over one bare shoulder, her sleeveless red sundress setting off her tan. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, and he shouldn’t be looking at Rachel that way. Not Nora’s best friend.

When the waitress took her order for a frozen margarita with salt, Logan intercepted it from Ramon. “Sorry, man.” He grinned at his friend and fellow bartender. “I’m gonna deliver this one personally.”

Ramon gave him a mock growl. “Earn me a good tip if you’re gonna pull rank on me, amigo.”

Logan flashed him a smile and vaulted the bar neatly, landing on the other side to appreciative looks from a group of young women. He saluted them, picked up the margarita and crossed to the table. “Your margarita, señorita.”

She raised beautiful dark eyes to meet his. The raw sensuality in that gaze left him breathless. She smiled, playing along as if she had no idea who he was. “Muchas gracias, señor. To what do I owe the special delivery?”

He glanced left and right, then sat across from her, leaning over the table as if to keep their conversation covert. “Between you and me, I’ve been told I’m overly concerned with our guests’ satisfaction.”

The curve of her lips deepened and he knew she’d sensed a double entendre in his words. He wanted to laugh but didn’t give in to the impulse. He wasn’t even certain he’d meant to flirt with her, but it had come out that way. He’d spent so many years on stage, his career so dependent on reading his audience, yet he couldn’t seem to see through Rachel’s carefully guarded exterior. She was so unlike the woman he remembered, it worried him. Enough so he stepped over a boundary he hadn’t crossed in years.

He beckoned her closer. When she obliged, her expression highly amused, he said quietly, “Do you believe in magic?”

****

The light touch of his breath on her ear sent a pleasant tingle of electricity through Rachel’s body. Maybe it was the way he pretended not to know her instead of demanding instantly what she was doing there and why she looked the way she did. He’d have every right, of course. She probably shouldn’t have just shown up this way. Why the hell did I? There are thousands of resorts in Cancun, but here I am on his island, a hundred miles away from those resorts and reachable only by plane. I might as well be on Fantasy Island.

The idea of this exceptionally tall, dark-skinned, very handsome man as a modern-day Mr. Roark was close enough to the truth of what Rachel knew she’d come searching for so she shied away from it. Magic wouldn’t help her now. Even if she did believe in it.

But maybe it had been what had brought her here to Isla Foriscura with her life in shambles around her. She’d told herself she wanted nothing but fun and a chance to spend her alimony, but in her broken heart, she knew the truth lay in the question the widower husband of her dead best friend had just asked her.

Do you believe in magic?

To the best of her knowledge he hadn’t performed magic since Nora died. Since he’d retired to his private island turned reclusive resort in the Caribbean. But she had no intention of asking him about it because that would break the little spell of pretense between them.

Instead she sipped the margarita, enjoying the tangy drink mixed with the salt from the rim. She let her lips part a little just before answering, noticed the way he focused on her mouth. “Should I?”

“Maybe.” He snagged an empty glass from a passing waitress and set it on the table in front of her.

She frowned. “Am I supposed to do something with that?” She glanced around, noticing that a little crowd of interested onlookers had gathered, including the waitresses. Did they know something she didn’t?

He shook his head, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet. “Not that.” He twirled her around so she stood with her back to his chest, one of his hands on her waist. She wasn’t a short woman and she was wearing heels, but Logan was exceptionally tall. Over six feet tall and well built, he dwarfed her, but he adjusted his stance so his head was just over her shoulder.

She could feel the heat of his breath on her neck and she closed her eyes. If he weren’t Ian Logan—if she really didn’t know him—she would have enjoyed this. She would have let her body mold against his, felt his response, reveled in the feel of his firm body…

She forced herself to open her eyes, maintain her distance. Dear God, how had she forgotten what a sexy man he was? Ian Logan had everything. Money, talent, looks, confidence…and a broken heart the last time she saw him. Still, she wondered what it would be like spending the night in his arms. Would it be different from all the other nights? She remembered Kevin and her heart shuddered. Her voice came out sounding slightly more acidic than she’d intended. “What, then?”

Unperturbed by her change of tone, he raised his free arm and pointed at the stars. “Those.”

She frowned. “I beg your pardon?”

“Pick one.”

“Just one?” His gentle mysterious tone intrigued her, but she couldn’t help mocking him a little bit.

He laughed. “Just one. I can only catch one at a time.”

“Oh, you can catch one, can you?” She snorted, scanned the skies and decided to play along. Obviously she’d been wrong about him not practicing magic. He had a little bar trick he used to amuse the crowd and probably to pick up women. Well, it wouldn’t work well on her unless she wanted it to. She chose a bright star low on the horizon. “That one.”

“Perfect.” He moved away, leaving her bare back surprisingly cool in the evening breeze. He handed her the glass. “Hold that.” He gazed into the distance for a moment, then reached out as if plucking something from the air in front of him. It reminded her of the days when she used to catch fireflies as a child and she fended off the jolt of nostalgia with difficulty.

He turned back, his hand closed and a mischievous expression playing on his features. She’d forgotten the other people clustered around them. She’d almost forgotten that she knew Logan and he knew her. They were two strangers in a bar and she wanted to believe the expression in his warm brown eyes was just for her. That he wasn’t still a showman and that all of this was for her benefit alone.

He raised one eyebrow, holding his hand close to his face. “You didn’t answer my question earlier.

Do you believe in magic?”

She thought of everything that had brought her to this point, everything that had gone wrong in her life and what she’d lost. How could she believe in magic now? Without pausing to doctor her answer, she replied honestly. “No. Not anymore.”

His smile faded, but not as if he’d lost confidence. More as if he felt her pain. She looked away, uncomfortable, wishing he hadn’t spotted her. Or maybe that she hadn’t come. He didn’t falter, however. Instead he placed his closed hand over the glass and took her free hand, placing it on top of his. In a swift, practiced movement, he opened his hand and pulled it away, pushing hers down on top of the glass. “Do you believe now?”

She gasped, looking at the blue-white light hovering in the glass. What could it be but the star she’d requested? She turned the glass in her hands as the little crowd applauded and he bowed. No matter which way she turned the glass, the light shimmered back at her. She stared in amazement, barely feeling it when he led her back to the table and helped her put the glass down without taking her hand away.

She tore her eyes away from the glimmering light, trying to focus on him. “This is a trick, right?”

“The best magic always leaves you wondering.” He smiled a little, but she could see the shadow of sorrow still hovering in his eyes.

“What happens if I move my hand?” She glanced back at the glass.

“The light goes out.” He shrugged. “You can’t keep a star captive forever.”

“No. You can’t.” His words filled her with sadness and she knew why she’d come there. To his island. To him. Because of all people, Ian Logan knew that nothing lasted forever. Love, life, stars. She gave the light in the jar a final look of regret before taking her hand away from the top. It flickered and died. She raised her eyes to Logan’s. “It’s a neat trick, Logan. And thanks, but I stopped believing in magic a long time ago.”

Summoning a flirtatious smile and a little wiggle into her hips, she moved out of the circle of light around the bar, feeling the darkness descend in a wave of welcome obscurity. She knew another bar down the beach where the young men were sexy and ready to get laid and didn’t bother making her feel like she mattered to do it.

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So where did Lady Lydia come from, anyway? Escape Magic Free Today!

Escape MagicEbookWhen I started out to write Escape Magic, I knew I wanted my hero to be Tony, brother of Andre in Close Up Magic. Tony’s a much more serious character than his talented magician brother. He’s managed Andre’s career and helped him achieve stardom, but he’s always in the background. Tony struggles with substance abuse issues, which figured heavily into the plot of Close Up Magic, but by the beginning of Escape Magic, he’s got those issues under control and is a much stronger man because of it.

Of course, though Tony has been associated with the magic world for a large portion of his life, he’s not a magician. And my Sleight of Hand books need a magician. So I created Lady Lydia, escape artist. She’s got a past with Tony and Andre. She’s performed with them, and—not being the most honest heroine I’ve ever written—she’s “borrowed” tricks from them. She’s fiery, talented, strong and stubborn. And when she meets the new improved Tony, sparks fly!

I often call this my anti-50 Shades of Grey bondage romance. I mean, hey, my heroine is an escape magician. She’s about as far away from Anastasia as you can get. And Tony, though he is a strong male hero, has a major weakness when it comes to addiction. It frightens him that he could fall back into that same trap again. He needs a strong heroine like Lady Lydia to show him that not all addictions are bad for him.

The one complaint I’ve gotten about this book is that it is too short. It was my first attempt at the novella format. And I truly did feel that I told Lydia and Tony’s story completely in it. Anyway, it’s free today and tomorrow and if you don’t get enough of Lydia and Tony, rest assured, they (and Andre and Stacey!) make an appearance in Island Magic, too!

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Close Up Magic and my crush on David Copperfield

Okay, so now you know. That’s the real reason I wrote Close Up Magic. I had a crush on David Copperfield.CloseUpMagicEbookRev

I shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it now. I mean, I’m 44 years old. And my crush started when I was about seven. And who could blame a little seven-year-old girl for crushing hard on a suave, cute twenty-something magician? I’m quite certain I wasn’t the only one, either. (I might be the only one of those seven-year-olds who then went on to write a romance series based on that crush, though…)

I did get over that crush. Mostly. (Though seeing him live was one of my bucket list items I marked off with a great deal of satisfaction.) But I can without doubt say that David Copperfield began my lifelong love affair and fascination with magic. And though I’m all grown up and happily married with three kids and nowhere near the figure I used to have, I continue to live out my magical fantasies through my Sleight of Hand series.

In case you haven’t heard, Close Up Magic is free for the Kindle today. Tomorrow, Escape Magic, the second in the Sleight of Hand series, is free for two days and then on Friday, join me here for a special preview and a chance to win a free Advance Release Copy (ARC) of Island Magic, Book 3 of the series. Join me in my magical obsession. And know it was born on a quiet evening in my childhood home while I watched on a little black-and-white tv set while David Copperfield pull a rabbit (or was it a duck?) out of a hat.

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Magic Week: Announcing, Free Books and a Preview!

I’m getting very excited about the upcoming release of Island Magic, and I thought I’d share some of that excitement with you guys. This week, Close Up Magic and Escape Magic are free for Kindle on Amazon. Close Up Magic on Monday and Tuesday, Escape Magic on Wednesday and Thursday. And once you’ve read those two, I’m sure you won’t be able to wait to read the third in the series, so I’ll post the first ten pages of Island Magic right here. And to sweeten the deal, if you comment, you become eligible to win a free autographed preview print copy of Island Magic! Which means you can know what happens before anyone else (except me).

So if you love magic and romance and happy endings, join me here on my blog all this week, download your free Kindle copies of Close Up Magic and Escape Magic, and comment on the excerpt from Island Magic for your chance to win Book 3 of Sleight of Hand!

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What’s in a Cover, or How Writers Judge Books by Them

We writers are very silly people. We show pictures of our covers the way proud parents show pictures of their babies. In most cases, we’re no more responsible for the way the cover looks than the funny expression captured by a snapshot of a baby. But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect our pride in the first concrete proof that our work has paid off.

Congratulations. It’s a book. Island Magic eBookAnd yet. When an author looks at a book cover–whether they designed it themselves or had someone like the fabulous Farah Evers do it for them or got it straight from the Art Department of Harper Collins Publishing–however that cover came into being, when an author looks at it for the first time, it’s going to be one of two things: a huge disappointment or the culmination of every dream the author ever had for her book.

As an independent author (I like “independent” much better than “self-published”), I have a bit more control over things, so I don’t often get one of those huge disappointment things anymore. In fact, as you can see above, my most recent cover falls very definitively into the latter category.

I’ve been working on this story for a while. Ever since Escape Magic, as a matter of fact. Island Magic was a tough story to write. It deals with some more difficult themes than either of the first two books in the series. However, I didn’t want it to lose the magical feel of the first two books, and I wanted my cover to reflect that. With the help of Ms. Evers, the cover did indeed come to life with all the magic and beauty of the first two. And a little indefinable something more, too. This cover is perfect for this book.

So forgive me if I start featuring the cover prominently on my blog so early. The book won’t be published until October 31 (Harry Houdini’s birthday!), but you can pre-order it now for your Kindle. 

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One Thing Writers Never Tell You About Writing

When people find out I write, they ask me, “What’s that like?” Usually I’m at a loss. Writing is so much a part of me and who I am, I can’t really separate it enough to look at it. All I can come up with as a reply, usually, are amorphous answers that I’m never certain of so I always word them almost as questions. “It’s…uh…fun?”

Recently I dug a little deeper. I was actually trying to remember what the last book I read was—other than my own—and how I used to love reading. It drove me nuts to be caught somewhere without a book. When I was a kid in school, I was always the first one to hand in my math test and then I’d pull out whatever novel I was currently reading (or re-reading). And get lost in it. Remember that old line by libraries and teachers and literacy organizations, “Books take you places”? When I was a kid, books took me all over the world.

And now that I’m an adult and a professional (albeit only marginally successful) writer, I realized something that nobody ever told me before about writing. When you write a book, it takes you places, too.

Only it’s better.

Yep, that’s what it’s like to be a writer. It’s like being a reader, only better. Yes, it’s hard work. There are days I despair of ever writing two coherent words in a row. There are days when writing sentence after sentence is more arduous mentally than plowing a field with a mule and a hand plow is physically. Writing can be so exhausting it’s frightening. It can hurt. But it’s good. In fact, it’s wonderful.

It takes you places.

I’ve set my books in places I’ve never been like New York (I’ve been twice since, but I’d never been there before I wrote Secrets of the Lotus) and Greece (part of Saturday Love). And I’ve set them in places where I’ve been and long to go back like the Caribbean in Island Magic and Las Vegas (Close Up Magic and Escape Magic). And I’ve set them in places I’ve lived like Hillsborough, N.C. (Where the Heart Lies) and my hometown of Brevard, N.C. (Tracks in the Sand). And each and every time, when I would sit down to write, my book would take me there.

So now I guess I have a reply. “What’s it like to write? Why do I do it?” Because writing is like reading. It takes you places. What makes it better is that you get to take your readers along with you for the journey.

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Free Today Only!

If you haven’t gotten a copy of Close Up Magic, get it today! It’s free for the Kindle until midnight Amazon time. :) Just click on the cover below:
CloseUpMagicEbookRev
I’m hoping this will help get everyone ready for Island Magic, which should be out in October!

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