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!

Time to let go, move on…and give out some prizes!

So my Magic Fun Week Celebration is drawing to a close, and I’m waxing a little nostalgic. It seems like just the other day I gave you a list of some surprising Houdini facts. And remember the time I listed the five female escape magicians who were a little like Lady Lydia? Sigh. How does time fly so fast? Why it might have just been yesterday that we were talking about the greatest escape magic tricks!

But it is time to let go, move on to the next project. It’s waiting on my laptop right now. The edits for Saturday Love, the highly anticipated sequel to Ducks in a Row. But before I do, I want to leave you with this one rather startling statement (and the winners of my magical prizes–I haven’t forgotten):

You are within a mile of an aspiring writer right now.

No joke. There are a lot of us. And by aspiring, I mean a writer who hopes to one day have a bestseller on the shelves. Maybe they’re in the process of writing their first one, maybe they’ve got seven books already floating around out there in the ether. Maybe they have yet to put pen to paper (sounds better than fingertips to keyboard), but they do plan to one day write a book.

My point is, there are a lot of people out there writing books, and some of us are even publishing them. Readers have a lot to choose from, and they’re going to choose a book with twenty to a hundred favorable reviews over a book that has just one. So how do these aspiring writers obtain those reviews?

No clue. But I’m not too proud to beg.

Please, please, please if you’ve read and enjoyed one of my books, leave me a review on Amazon! It might just help the next reader decide if she wants to take a chance on me or go back to her favorite best-selling author.

Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

I don’t actually have a chicken dinner to award anyone, but I do have some pretty cool stuff. Without further ado, here are our winners and what they won.

Winners! Richard, Scotch & Soda; Cheryl Rhodes, Linking Rings; C.J. May, Love Me deck; John Hinson, Archangel deck; Sherry Thompson, Escape Magic; Sal, Escape Magic.

Winners! Richard, Scotch & Soda; Cheryl Rhodes, Linking Rings; C.J. May, Love Me deck; John Hinson, Archangel deck; Sherry Thompson, Escape Magic; Sal, Escape Magic.

Thanks to everyone who participated, and also everyone who has given Escape Magic a warm welcome into the world. Escape Magic will remain a cool 99 cents for Kindle, but the special 99 cent price for Close Up Magic for Kindle will expire on Monday. So if you haven’t gotten your copy of Book 1 of my Sleight of Hand series, do it now!

Greatest Escape Magic Tricks and Your Last Chance to Win!

Today I wind up my week-long magic celebration and I figured what better way to do it than by counting down a few of my favorite escape magic tricks. Actually, it’s not really a countdown because they’re just in the order I happened to think of them in, but these are the ones that stuck with me. Maybe you have one of your own that you’d like to add to the list.

1. Houdini’s crate escape. I’ve seen pictures of this one. Houdini shackled in a packing crate that is padlocked, nailed shut and bound with rope before being dropped into a river. Of course, he escaped!

2. David Copperfield’s escape from Alcatraz. It’s like a mini-movie and really just fun to watch. Copperfield uses what’s available (surely not props left there for him) to escape Alcatraz in (spoiler!) the police helicopter!

3. Criss Angel’s “Buried Alive”. Give him his due, it takes a lot of guts to allow yourself to be padlocked in a glass coffin and buried in cement.

4. Dorothy Dietrich straitjacket escape while suspended from a burning rope. Enough said.

5. Kristen Johnson’s Full View Water Torture Cell Escape. Houdini was suspended upside down, but his audience could only see him from the front. Johnson’s audience can see all around, witness her efforts, hold their breath along with her.

Don’t forget to leave me a comment below! Today is the last chance to win one of my fabulous magical prizes. 🙂

My Favorite of Houdini’s Magic Tricks

I’ve always said that half the reason I write about magic is so I can spend hours on Youtube watching magic. And it’s true. I do love watching magic, and if it’s part of my research, then I have a viable excuse, right?

Escape Magic was particularly fun to research because I’ve always been fascinated by Harry Houdini. He’s a legend and you can actually see him perform on Youtube. It’s sort of like he really did find a way to reach out from beyond the grave. Houdini was known for his water escapes, but I think my favorite will always be the suspended straitjacket escape. He would perform this trick outside, sometimes in front of the local newspaper office of whatever town he was performing in. Of course he made headlines, thus generating free publicity for his shows, which then sold out. The pure genius of the marketing strategy is what really gets me, but the ease with which he slipped out of the straitjacket is also pretty impressive. Check it out here: straitjacket escape.

How about you? Do you have a favorite escape magic trick (by Houdini or someone else)? Leave me a comment below for a chance to win a magic trick, special deck of cards, a magic wand or one of my Sleight of Hand books!

And the magic for today…an excerpt!

Yeah, I’ll be back with some more fun magic facts tomorrow, but it’s Wednesday and my brain is starting to feel a little fried. If you missed them, I counted down 10 Intriguing Things I’ve Learned About Houdini and Five Female Escapologists Who MIGHT Have Inspired Lady Lydia. Today, I’m going to let myself off easy and give you three reasons I like to write about magic:

1. Magic is fun. If there’s a good magic show in the area, I’m right there.
2. Magic can be romantic. Handsome magician producing a red rose out of thin air, anyone?
3. Everyone needs to believe. Really, you’ve got to believe in something or life is like an arid plain with nothing growing on it. Whether it’s God or love or aliens or magic, human beings want to believe. Stage magic is just an extension of that.

In the meantime, remember both Close Up Magic and Escape Magic are currently on sale for 99 cents for the Kindle! And if you want to spring for a paperback, those are available, too. And just to get you in the mood, here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Escape Magic:

Chapter 1

It looked real. The bride and groom posed in front of the waterfall, palm trees and beautiful tropical flowers framing them. Her smile was radiant, and her groom couldn’t take his eyes off her. The wedding photographer—the only photographer allowed past the yellow tape barrier that held back the paparazzi—directed them to face each other, and when she tilted her head to look at her husband, it was obvious to anyone within sight that these two were for real. What they had would last.

Of course, not all of it was real. Bride and groom, paparazzi determined to capture something of their happiness in their cameras…those were real. The waterfall and palm trees and lavish surroundings were part of a garden in a climate-controlled, high-end mall outside a Las Vegas casino. But in that moment, it was an oasis of perfection. Maybe it was the solid reality of the love between the two that made it easier to accept the practiced falsity of Vegas.

Tony looked on at the happy couple, and his heart swelled with satisfaction for his brother. Three years and lots of trust-building and soul-searching had passed since Andre met Stacey. If they didn’t have a solid foundation to base a relationship on, Tony felt certain no one did.

“Say, man, you know who’s getting married?”

Tony glanced to his side. A heavyset man in a gold suit with pompadour-style hair and dark gold-rimmed sunglasses stood next to him. He must have ducked under the barrier. Tony shrugged. Didn’t really matter. Andre and Stacey were so happy they wouldn’t mind sharing a little of it… even with an Elvis impersonator. That actually was why they’d chosen Vegas for the wedding. They both loved its unpredictability and unique aura.

Not to mention the fact that they’d met there.

At least something good came out of my failure. Shaking off the feeling of uneasy guilt those memories always brought with them, Tony smiled and gave the beautiful couple by the waterfall a last look. Then he took Elvis by the arm and led him back behind the barrier. “My brother. Andre Hawke. If you don’t mind, though, we’d prefer you watch from back here.”

“Sure, man. No problem.” Elvis watched in silence for a few minutes. “Hawke? Isn’t he that magician fellow? Saw his show once. The one where he pulled her on the stage, I think. Did an amazing card trick with her. And everybody was in tears by the time he was done. Really cute. So he’s marrying her? Finally?” At Tony’s nod, Elvis shook his head, dark hair flopping over his eye, rhinestones catching the glimmer of the mall lights and reflecting back rainbows. “Vegas, man. You never know what’ll happen.”

Tony couldn’t help but grin as the other man melted into the crowd. As he turned back to his brother and sister-in-law, his eyes were caught by a flame-haired, leather-clad figure standing on the upper level of the mall. He paused, frowned, and the truth of Elvis’s words hit him. “Nope. You just never know.”

What do you believe in? Leave me a comment below to enter to win one of the fabulous prizes (all magic-related) I’m giving away this week!

Five Female Escapologists Who Might Have Inspired Lady Lydia

I say “might” because Lady Lydia sprang fully formed from my own head, but in the process of researching escapology, I discovered the field of escapology is mostly dominated by men. However, a few beautiful, brave women have gone before Lydia. Here’s my tribute to them:

1. Dorothy Dietrich. In addition to successfully escaping from a straitjacket while suspended from a burning rope fifteen stories up and no net beneath her, Dietrich is one of the few magicians to successfully perform the bullet catch.

2. Kristen Johnson. Part of the husband and wife team of Ridgeway and Johnson Entertainment Inc., Kristen has mastered the “Full View Water Torture Cell” in addition to many other feats of escapology.

3. Alexanderia the Great. Specializing in water escapes, Alexanderia has been dubbed a “Modern Day Houdini.”

4. Minerva. A contemporary of Houdini’s, Minerva performed throughout the world and was known as the “American Queen of Mystery.”

5. Morgan the Escapist. Known for her 55 Gallon Underwater Challenge in which she escapes from a barrel of icy cold water after being chained, handcuffed and padlocked, Morgan has won awards for her magic.

Do you know of another female escape artist, past or present? Leave me a comment for a chance to win one of the fabulous prizes I’m awarding during Magic Week!

Magic Fun Week Celebration Kick Off! Win a prize!

Today I kick off a week-long celebration of magic, in particular escape magic, in honor of the launch of my novella Escape Magic. Escape Magic is Book 2 of my Sleight of Hand series, in which either the hero or the heroine is a magician, so I’m not going to limit myself to celebrating just escapology. However, I did want to kick off the week with a list of the ten most intriguing things I’ve discovered about Houdini during my research on escapology:

1. Houdini was not an instant success and after years of trying various magic bits and tricks, he actually ran an ad offering to sell all his tricks and equipment for $20. Fortunately, no one took him up on it.

2. Houdini began his career as the greatest escape magician very humbly. He started out by challenging the crowd to present him with a pair of handcuffs he couldn’t get out of. Houdini’s “Challenge Act” quickly became a success and launched his career as an escapologist.

3. Houdini was fascinated with the occult but also dedicated to debunking every “spiritualist” he encountered. Being a magician and a former “spiritualist” himself, he knew all the tricks, would attend seances in disguise, then expose the illusions in his own shows.

4. Magic tricks could not be copyrighted, so Houdini introduced his “Chinese Water Torture Cell” in a one-act play, which he copyrighted, thus preventing other magicians from using the effect.

5. Houdini was one of the first movie stars, having starred in an experimental film in 1901. He later went on to produce, act and in many films through his Houdini Pictures Corporation.

6. Houdini’s interest in water escapes led to his development of a diving suit that a diver could take off quickly in case of emergency.

7. Although a great deal of controversy surrounds the events leading up to Harry Houdini’s death on October 31, 1926, the actual cause of death was peritonitis, brought on by untreated appendicitis.

8. Several days before his death, Houdini is rumored to have been punched in the stomach several times by a university student, who had heard that Houdini could withstand any punch to the abdomen.

9. Houdini and his wife, Bess, had made a pact to try to contact each other from the afterlife. Bess remained true to her husband, holding seances for ten years after his death. Finally, however, she gave up. Seances continue to be held by Houdini afficionados and fans every year on the anniversary of his death.

10. Houdini was buried in a bronze coffin he planned to use in a new underwater effect he was never able to add to his act.

Sources:
Wild About Harry
Harry Houdini Biography
10 Facts About Houdini

Now it’s your turn. What do you know about Harry Houdini? This week I’m awarding prizes to my commenters! These prizes include a pack of Archangels Bicycle playing cards, a pack of Love Me playing cards by artist Curtis Kulig, the famous Magic Rings trick and one of the best coin tricks I actually know the secret to, Scotch & Soda, which I actually purchased at the Houdini Magic Shop in Las Vegas. I also have magic wands and several paperback copies of both Close Up Magic and Escape Magic, although you get either one of those for only 99 cents for the Kindle!

Crud and Halloween and Book Launch…oh my.

Okay, so I decided to release Escape Magic on October 31, the anniversary of Houdini’s death, right? Pretty good idea. Great idea, in fact, except for the fact that I am the mother of three, two of whom are still young enough to trick-or-treat on Halloween. Which means costumes and candy and, well, you know. And that would not be enough to keep me from launching Escape Magic properly, so I went ahead with it, and came nose-to-nose with something that did keep me from doing it up right.

The crud.

Whether it’s the flu or a bad cold or what, I don’t know, but it has totally sapped my energy. I haven’t tweeted about Escape Magic properly, and I promised some neat Houdini facts on here that I haven’t organized in my brain well enough to write. Whatever it is, the crud sucks.

The fact is, there are some things I have to keep doing in spite of everything. And Escape Magic would be right up there if this hadn’t been such a busy week. But it has and I have no energy left for Twitter or Facebook or even my blog. In fact, I’m going back to bed as soon as I finish this post.

But before I do, I wanted to announce that beginning Monday I’m going to do a week-long celebration of Magic right here on my blog. There’ll be giveaways and balloons and champagne—all right, the balloons and champagne will be imaginary, but the giveaways won’t. I’ve collected a number of cool magic tricks over the past year or so and some very pretty decks of cards. And by next week I should have hard copies of Escape Magic to giveaway (I already have some copies of Close Up Magic). And if all that doesn’t appeal, I’m also going to give away some $5 Amazon gift cards, good to buy anything you want on Amazon (including any of my books–you could probably get more than one of my ebooks!).

So that said, remember Escape Magic is for sale NOW at only 99 cents for the Kindle ($6 or so for the paperback version). If you buy it and love it, leave me a review! I could use a pick-me-up.

Lady Lydia Fires Back: Her Interview with Me!

So today I celebrate the release of ESCAPE MAGIC, Book 2 in the Sleight of Hand series. Just for your reference, you can BUY IT NOW HERE. To sweeten the deal (and hopefully get you hooked), I decided to make CLOSE UP MAGIC free today only (GET IT WHILE IT’S HOT). And of course, I’ll be awarding prizes to commenters here and over on my Sleight of Hand Facebook page. But then I had to figure a good way to REALLY celebrate, and I figured, why not invite Lady Lydia, the heroine of ESCAPE MAGIC, into my office to interview ME?

I’ve never done it before, but if you’ll take a moment and step into my imagination, I’ll do it now.

She’s sitting here now, behind my desk, of course. I’m in the easy chair because Lady Lydia’s always in control. Well, almost always. Except where Tony Hawkins is concerned, of course.

LADY LYDIA: I thought I was conducting this interview.

MGF: Of course you are. You’re my guest.

LADY LYDIA: Good. Because I want to know who you are and why you think you’re qualified to tell my story. How long have you been writing?

MGF: I started writing stories when I was in the first or second grade. I still remember my mother telling me that someday I might be an author, and I decided right then that I wanted nothing more. Of course, I got sidetracked into the whole journalism thing, which wasn’t really for me, and then I got my library science degree, and that was a little more my style…

LADY LYDIA: That’s not what I meant. How long have you been writing romance?

MGF: Oh. Well, if you want to be specific about it—

LADY LYDIA: I do.

MGF: Well, I guess, officially, about four years? My first romance novel, SECRETS OF THE LOTUS, was published in 2010, but I know I’d been writing romance a while before that. In fact, most of my more successful short stories and flash fiction were women’s fiction. I know so many brave and courageous women, and they never cease to inspire me.

LADY LYDIA: How many novels have you written?

MGF: I’ve written five novels that fit into contemporary romance or women’s fiction, and one coming-of-age novel. And Escape Magic is my first novella.

LADY LYDIA: Which makes me wonder…how come Tony and I didn’t get a full-length novel?

MGF: I could tell you that it’s because your story fit nicely into the novella box, but the truth is, I wanted to experiment with a different format. I’ve written short stories and I’ve written novels, but I’ve never tried to make a story fit into fifteen to twenty thousand words with a complete story arc and conflict and everything.

LADY LYDIA: Conflict? What conflict?

MGF: Your conflict and Tony’s were both internal. They come from different sources, but they boil down to fear.

LADY LYDIA: I’m not afraid of anything. But moving on. Why on earth did you decide to write about magic?

MGF: If I had a penny for every time I’d been asked that question…well, I’d have a handful of pennies, anyway. I love magic. I believe in magic, and stage magic is, to me, just an extension of that. I love that I can watch a really good magician and never see the trick. Of course, even a mediocre magician has a pretty good chance at fooling me because I don’t WANT to see the trick. I want them to help me believe. That is the magic.

LADY LYDIA: And that’s all sweetness and light, but escapology is a whole different ballgame. It verges on revealing some tricks of magic.

MGF: Not if it’s done right by a good magician. Like you.

LADY LYDIA: I can’t be sweet-talked. Well, maybe a little bit. Finally, you’ve been calling ESCAPE MAGIC “the anti-50 shades bondage romance”. Is that really how you see it?

MGF: I didn’t set out to write it like that, but, yeah. I do. I mean, you and Tony definitely have a little fun with a certain silk scarf, but you know all the tricks of escapology, so that empowers you to a degree that I’ve never seen in a bondage romance. In fact, there’s no dominant or submissive, just a meeting of equals. Ahem. So to speak.

LADY LYDIA: Yes, well, speaking of silk scarves…I should probably be getting back to Tony now. Not to spoil the ending of the book, but your readers know it’s got an HEA.

MGF: I understand, and yes they do, but one question before you go, Lydia. Do you think you and Tony really have an HEA (happy ever after) to look forward to?

LADY LYDIA: Well, we have just as much chance at one at the end of our book as Stacey and Andre had at the end of CLOSE UP MAGIC. And you saw how they ended up in ESCAPE MAGIC. Maybe you’ll give everyone a hint at our fate in Book 3 of Sleight of Hand, huh?

MGF: Maybe so.

And she’s off, back to Vegas to practice for her show and work on her relationship with Tony (hopefully with a little bit of play, too). But I imagine if any of you have a comment or question for her (or me), she’d be happy to pop back in, especially since, in my imagination, she can get from Vegas to NC in the snap of my fingers. So leave us a comment below and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win a fabulous prize!

Escape Magic is only one week away! Enjoy an excerpt NOW!

So I realized today that I can now start a one-week countdown to the release of Escape Magic, the novella that is book 2 of my Sleight of Hand series, and I got really excited! I actually love this book. The characters are fun, the storyline is fun, and the ending…well, it wouldn’t be a romance if it didn’t have a happy ever after, would it? Plus, I got to revisit Stacey and Andre from Book 1, Close Up Magic, and there’s even a glimpse of my tragic hero from Book 3, Island Magic (see if you can spot him!).

Next week you’ll be able to purchase Escape Magic for 99 cents for the Kindle or in paperback (can’t remember how much, but it’s less than my others because it IS a novella). Which means short. Both paperback and Kindle versions include the first chapter of Close Up Magic, just in case you missed it. And, for a limited time, Close Up Magic is only 99 cents for Kindle, so if you want to read Book 1 first, get it right away!

But for now, I thought I’d give you a little taste of why I love this little book. For your exclusive reading pleasure, here’s an excerpt from Escape Magic:

Lydia was not easy to find. Tony finally located her in a knot of cheering men. She was seated on a table with her legs crossed and her arms bound behind her. A handsome, dark complected man teased her with a wine glass. “C’mon, Lady Lydia! Get loose and it’s all yours.”

Lydia pretended to have trouble with the knot. “Oh, you might just have me with this one.”

The dark man smiled a little lasciviously and leaned on the table so his body half covered hers. “Oh, I really hope so. But give it a try anyway.”

Lydia remained perfectly calm. Tony knew she’d probably already worked her way out of the knot, or at least knew how to, but she gave no indication of it. “How on earth could I possibly—oops!” She held up her hands with the rope dangling from one and gave him a little push away from her. “Did you lose something, Samir?”

“Just his pride.” Tony recognized the little toadlike man who spoke as Phil, an illusionist. He frowned, searching his mind. Had Phil even been invited? Before he could speak, Phil made a beckoning motion. “Everybody pay up.”

“Not the right venue, Phil.” Tony stepped forward as Lydia took the wine from the handsome magician’s fingers. Tony noticed a line of empty wine glasses on the table next to her. It wasn’t the first bet, then. His resolution to put a stop to the illicit activities strengthened into an almost protective resolve. “Lydia.”

She glanced at Tony as she sipped the wine. “What? You want to go next?” She dangled the rope in front of him. At his disbelieving look, she laughed. “Sorry, don’t have any cuffs. You have to bring your own.”

He gave her a suspicious look. “Are you drunk?”

“Probably not nearly enough.” Her voice sounded clear, but her words made him uncertain.

“Well, I’m not playing, and neither are any of you.” He glared around at the others in the group as he took Lydia’s arm and half helped, half lifted her off the table. “You’re not messing up my brother’s wedding day this way. And Phil, were you even invited?”

“I figured my invitation got lost in the mail.” Phil grinned toothily.

Tony understood. Dear God, there but for your grace… He stopped himself. “Get out. Quietly. And the rest of you should call it a night, too, probably.” He gave them all a scathing glare then turned away, pulling Lydia along with him. “Stupid sons of bitches. And what the hell, Lydia? I thought you had better sense.”

They were in the lobby by this point and she yanked her arm away from his grasp, turning to glare at him. “What’s your damage? I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It was just a little fun.”

“A little fun that looked like it was well on its way to being a gang rape.”

“It was no such thing. You’re projecting.” She glared at him, her hands on her hips.

“Projecting what? Disgust?” He faced her.

Just then, a door opened to the side and a couple came out. Lydia’s head swiveled to watch them and they both ducked, half hiding their faces. Tony frowned at the cloakroom door as it swung closed behind them. “You’re joking.”

She chortled. “Nope. Looks like they were having a little fun, too. C’mon.”

“What?” He held back as she grabbed his hand and started that way.

“Come on.” She tugged at his hand. “If they’ve just come out, it’s available. Let’s go.” She grinned, waggling her eyebrows at him. “I’ll show you what you were projecting. You can’t tell me you don’t want to.”

Her words brought on a surge of unexpected desire. “Jesus.” He hesitated a second more. Why the hell am I hesitating? He let her pull him in the door and shut it behind him.