Paranormal Interests: Dickens and Me

7A241F6E-D057-4BE3-8D35-3CB616A54869I’ve mentioned before that I loved A Christmas Carol from an early age. I first read this copy, which belonged to my father and is one of my most treasured possessions.

Looking back, I’m not really surprised that I fell in love with that story. It starts out with a ghost, and that’s a definite interest I’ve always had—along with magicIt’s an interest I evidently shared with Charles Dickens, a famous skeptic who helped found The Ghost Club, a club dedicated to investigating the paranormal.

As for me, I rabidly consumed those little dime store pulp magazines—the ones that told of the bloody history of the countess of Bathory and explored creepy urban legends like the spiders in the wig and the vanishing hitchhiker. This obsession grew into a full-fledged love of local legends and lore. I have a jampacked shelf with ghost stories from every place I’ve ever visited.

I figure Dickens and I don’t have to be too reserved about our interest in the paranormal, though. It was, after all, shared by notables like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, among others. And while Doyle was known to be a believer, Houdini and Dickens were both skeptics. And me? I’m somewhere between. I don’t know what I don’t know, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Have I mentioned that Dickens Magic is available today?

 

Happy birthday, Dickens Magic!

dickens-magicHappy birthday, at long last, Dickens Magic! I feel like I’ve been waiting forever! And what better way to celebrate my latest book in my magic series than by indulging in a little of the magic of the day?

I try to release my magic books on Halloween for a couple of reasons. First, it’s Samhain, the day the Celts believed the veil lifted a little between this world and that of the dead. It’s a sort of “in between” time and magic abounds. For instance:

  • Bat magic. Bats are messengers. Did you know you can send a message with a bat to the other side of the veil on Halloween? Just ask when you see one out and about tonight.
  • Spider magic. Don’t squash spiders on Halloween! If you find one inside, it’s probably a dead relative come to visit.
  • Black cat magic. If you find a stray black cat curled up on your doorstep, don’t scare it off. It’s there to guard your house against evil spirits. Or it’s a witch’s familiar sent to spy on you.
  • Jack-o-lantern magic. You probably have one guarding your front door. My favorite legend of the jack-o-lantern comes from the Southern Appalachian Mountains where I grew up. One of many “Jack Tales” I read and heard over the years. I especially like the one from Richard Chase’s timeless collection. In this version, Jack the troublemaker made the first one when, after tricking the devil into agreeing not to take his soul to hell, he was also refused entrance to heaven. The devil, taking pity on poor, homeless Jack’s soul, tossed him a coal from hell and Jack put it into a hollowed out gourd to light his way as he wandered the earth. If you haven’t read the Chase collection, it’s available here: Jack Tales.

Second, it just so happens that the master of escape magic, Harry Houdini died on Halloween. Even he couldn’t avoid the inescapable clutch of death, it seems. Or could he? Toward the end of his life, Houdini was alternately fascinated and disgusted by the “mediums” of the day. He spent a large amount of his time studying their tricks and exposing them.

And yet, he and his wife Bess promised each other that whoever passed away first would find a way to contact the other with a secret code that spelled “Believe”. So, after Houdini’s death, Bess arranged a seance on the anniversary of his death every year until her own death, after which it was taken up by other believers.

I wonder about the death of Houdini. What better way for an escape magician to cross the veil than when it is, by Celtic belief, at its thinnest? And surely, if he so desired, he could escape that veil. Yet so far, no one has heard from him. If you’re curious about this year’s seance, you can find out more here: Houdini seance.

Maybe this year he’ll tell everyone to buy Dickens MagicIt’s not totally out of the realm of possibility, you know. He and Dickens shared a real interest in the paranormal. More about that later.

What’s the Date? Writing for a Different Season

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Charles Dickens began writing A Christmas Carol in October 1843. It was published December 19, 1843 and sold 6,000 copies by Christmas.

One of the things I used to love about reading Stephen King books was the way he would put in the dates of when he started the book versus when it was published. Cujo, for instance, was September 1977 through March 1981. Three and a half years he spent on that book.

I think I must know how he felt when he got the idea. It was September and, in Maine, at least, the season is fall. (In eastern N.C., it’s hurricane season.) The dead leaves were skittering across the pavement leaving a wet smell of decay behind, and all the sounds were louder, crisper. Like the bark of a dog. A really big dog.

Of course, that’s all conjecture, and far from how I conceive my own ideas. I decided to write Dickens Magic right after I starred as “Woman 3” in our community theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol. One problem. There’s no time to write around Christmas. Seriously. National Novel Writing Month takes place in November for a reason.

So I ended up putting it off starting the book until spring. By then I’d gained some more stage experience but the Christmas spirit was worn down and put away until this year. I’m only starting to want to put that spirit back on. So how do you write about Christmas in seventy-, eighty-, and ninety-degree weather?

It’s a question every writer eventually has to answer. How do you put yourself in another time? It helps to think of the things you like about that time—sights, smells, sounds. I listened to a lot of Christmas carols, which actually helped me with the magic show at the end of the book. It also helps that snow isn’t really a thing here in eastern N.C., and especially not at Christmas. You might see some in January or February, but not December.

And of course I have to thank Charles Dickens. His story is timeless in more ways than one. It does the soul good no matter what time of year you read it. Considering he sort of self-published it (and did not make the fortune he should have), it does make sense that I would feel a sort of kinship with him about this story.

So, though I didn’t keep exact track of my writing, I think I can guess what the dates at the end of Dickens Magic would be. March 2018-October 31, 2018.

Five stars on Amazon and an excerpt from Movie Magic

Currently Movie Magic has five stars on both Amazon and Smashwords. If you enjoy romance (and possibly even if you don’t), you’ll like Movie Magic. I’m confident about that. It has everything. I realized that when I was coming up with tags for searches on Beaches, small town, Hollywood, contemporary romance, movies, movie making, California…the list goes on. I could even have included “pirates” in it, but I didn’t. What are you waiting for? It’s only $2.99 for an ebook! Here’s an excerpt to help you make the decision to commit to reading Movie Magic:

During a lull in their work, she laid her head on the sofa arm and closed her eyes. The storm raged on outside. She opened her eyes to see Walt sitting beside the sofa, his gaze locked on the fire. He held a beer in one hand, his elbow resting on the knee of one long, denim-clad leg. She smiled a little, watching the dance of the firelight on his beard. “A sandy cowboy and a sexy pirate.” She yawned. “Hollywood really would love you.”

He glanced at her. “I thought you were asleep.”

“Mm. Maybe I will. I bet my dreams will be sweet.”

“Did you have more wine than I thought you did or are your internal censors busted?” He took a sip of the beer.

“Just sleepy and a little high off a job well done.” She reached out to touch the stack of crumpled paper on the coffee table.

He smiled, turning back to the fire. “Get some rest.”

“Where will you sleep?”

Did his smile deepen a little bit? His voice rumbled with amusement when he answered. “Everything you say right now sounds like an invitation, you know.” He took a sip of his beer. “And I’m having a really tough time not replying in the affirmative.”

Four magicians who’ll make you believe

Seriously, in today’s world, why would you NOT want to believe in magic? When I started writing the Sleight of Hand series, I knew very little about the stage magicians I was writing about. I found magic entertaining and fun and I always had, so I figured why not write about it? I tried it and the result has been incredibly entertaining for me.

My fourth book in the series, Movie Magic, will be out October 31. I’m planning a day of festivities for its release, but I love this series so much, I decided I should re-introduce my magicians here.

So I started with Close Up Magic. Andre Hawke is the magician hero in this one, and he’s your typical tall, dark and sexy with a family he’s devoted to and protective of. He’s already got a lot going on in his life when Stacey Matthewson, a talented entertainment reporter with a checkered past, shows up. How does he deal with her? With a little magic, of course.

Excerpt: Her chest felt tight and she found it hard to breathe. Was he going to kiss her? Dear God, she felt paralyzed. Was this really just desire or did he actually know enough magic to CloseUpMagicEbookRevhold her immobile while he considered whether or not to kiss her? Or did she want his kiss so bad she was willing to sacrifice what was left of her career to get it?

She cleared her throat and fought her way out of whatever spell he’d cast. “I, um, do have another reason—” She reached into her purse.

“Save it.” He dropped her hand. “I don’t talk to the press before shows.”

She couldn’t disguise her astonishment. “How do you know I’m a reporter?”

“Fresh off the plane. I recognize the smell of the soap. Congratulations, you’re the first. This evening, anyway.” He glanced at his watch. “I’m not expecting any more for at least a couple hours.” His glare was sharp. “They probably won’t catch me until after the show.”

Keep in mind that throughout the writing of Close Up Magic, I refused to look up how magic tricks were done. I didn’t want to know. I made up my own magic tricks for the books and tried to imagine ways they could be done, but I didn’t want to spoil the magic for myself.

When I started writing Escape Magic, I figured I better change that. Escape magic is very different from close up magic in that the performer relies on a lot of physical strength and dexterity to accomplish their tricks. I’d been challenged to make one of my magicians a female, and, to my surprise, escape magic lends itself very well to female performers. When I started researching the subject, I was surprised at how many women escape artists there actually are. This led me to create Lady Lydia, a friend of Andre who becomes the love interest of Andre’s brother Tony.

Excerpt: Lydia was not easy to find. He finally located her in a knot of cheering male magicians. 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.”Escape MagicEbook

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.”

Of course, after all that partying in Las Vegas, I was ready for a change of scenery with my next book. That resulted in Island Magic and its reclusive magician hero Ian Logan. Logan is in a sort of self-imposed exile from magic, but when he encounters an old friend in trouble—sexy and damaged divorcee Rachel Duvall—Logan just can’t help but slip back into his magic ways to help her heal.

“I’ll tell you a secret.” He brushed her hair back and leaned over, his lips close to her ear. “Real magicians never have to prepare—as far as you know.”

A pleasant shiver went through her. A vague memory stirred. Her mother in the kitchen prIsland Magic eBookeparing for a dinner party. A good hostess has all her preparation done before the party so it looks like she gets to enjoy everything as much as her guests. She pushed the memory away, knowing it would lead to others where she was the perfect hostess with everything prepared ahead of time. She’d already broken her vow never to cry again once that day. She steeled herself against doing it again.

Lifting her chin, she stepped past him onto the deck. Her hands gripped the white-painted wrought iron railing. His body was solid and warm behind her, but she clung to the cold metal rail as if to keep herself from flying up into the stars. She felt almost certain whatever he was about to do—whatever she was about to see—would surely turn her world upside down.

The tropical sun had set long before. She wondered what time it actually was but didn’t really care enough to find out. Diamonds peppered the velvety black sky, and he wanted her to pick one. She lifted her hand and pointed. “That one.”

He rested his chin on her shoulder, bending his legs so his tall frame molded against hers. She watched his hand the entire time as he reached past her arm, closed his long fingers and brought them back to the glass, releasing the light into the bowl of the wineglass. She stared in wonder at the blue light.

“Did you see a trick?” He smiled at her, offering her the glass, his hand still firmly on top of it.

Finally, we come to Movie Magic. This may be my favorite of the Sleight of Hand books so far. I love the heroine, Sabrina Parker. She’s a plucky, ambitious woman in the Hollywood special effects business. She’s befriended all the other magicians we’ve met so far, using their expertise to create effects for movies that go beyond CGI. But when she needs help on a very special movie, her old friends fail her. They’ve all got projects of their own. What’s a girl to do? Our girl finds Walt Bryson, a sexy, talented children’s magician who lives on the coast of North Carolina. And magic ensues. Magic that involves everything from pirates and Carolina Beaches to the Magic Castle of Hollywood.

She missed the pleasant buzz from the rum. The coffee cleared things up for her too much. Half of her really wanted nothing more than to drink rum and make out with him on this couch in the late afternoon sun while the deck below them bustled with waiters anPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]d the other pirates cleaning up from the afternoon. She really wanted to give in to some crazy impulse. She glared at the innocent cup of coffee. “I miss the rum.”

He laughed softly, brushing her hair back from her face, his fingers tangling briefly in the soft curls. “So do I.” His gaze flickered to her lips and she knew in that moment that she wouldn’t need the rum buzz to kiss him. Oh please, just kiss me already. The thought whispered in her heart, and all she could see for a breathless moment was his lips.

He brushed his thumb over her lips, so tenderly her belly filled with a melting fire. But then he backed away with a reluctant smile. “But maybe we don’t need rum, huh?”

All of my Sleight of Hand books are available at Smashwords, Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and many more of your favorite online book retailers. Pick up one and be ready to believe!

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Movie Magic (Book 4) Available October 31!

Magic and Love…

I’ve discovered something rather important about magic since I’ve been writing the Sleight of Hand series. It’s harder to believe in magic when you know how it’s done. And to write about magic in the way I do, I had to do a lot of research and some of that included learning how basic tricks are done. I make up most of the magic tricks in my novels, but I have to be able to imagine ways that these tricks could be accomplished if they actually existed, right?

So yeah, I have studied a little magic and watched a lot more. And yet, somehow I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for stage magic, despite the fact that I am now able to at least begin to imagine ways that most tricks could be performed. In fact, if anything, I love the challenge, especially when it’s sleight of hand. I like to try to figure out how I’m being misdirected, and I love when I can’t spot the trick. I love to be left wondering if magic really could exist.

But what does this have to do with love and writing romances?

This is where I wax philosophical. We all know how romantic love works, right?

  • Attraction: you spot that special person and eventually find they’ve spotted you as well.
  • Adoration: you can’t get enough of each other, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
  • Contentment: you’re used to each other, enjoy doing stuff together or just being together.
  • Commitment: whether it’s marriage or living together or just saying you’ll always come back to each other.

And this is where magic and romantic love are very similar: We all know these stages (just as I now know how many magic tricks are performed), but somehow some people are able to make them work and others…aren’t. Boredom sets in instead of contentment or commitment frightens instead of inspiring happiness. Where’s the magic that made everything glow in the first place? What trick enables some to stay together for the long haul while others search endlessly?

The couple married fifty years went through the same initial stages as every other couple, but somehow they made it last. They sit together holding hands while their family celebrates and admires them, leaving us all to wonder: What’s the trick? Where’s the misdirection?

Is it magic?

 

 

Two Months to Magic!

I just realized it’s August 31, exactly two months until Movie Magic releases! I’m very Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]excited about this one. I really, really love the characters and the circumstances, and the setting ranges from Beaufort, N.C., to Hollywood, California, so you get plenty of variety there!

Plus, as you can plainly see, the cover is super beautiful. (Thanks, Farah Evers!)

Anyway, I’m trying to build excitement about the book over the next couple of months, and the best way I know how to do that is to blog about magic and my book and more magic and more book. I’m kicking it off today with an excerpt. Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

The festival was what she’d expected. Crowds of people and stalls all along the roads. As she neared the square, the crowd on the sidewalk became nearly unbearable, but the groups clustered around the booths were much sparser. Spotting some colorful scarves at a booth, Sabrina stepped off the crowded sidewalk into the nearly empty street. Why were so many people sticking to the sidewalks when there was so much to see at the booths? Shaking her head again, she walked bravely toward the stall she’d spotted. Two giggling young women dressed in very short shorts passed her. They both gave her dubious looks and shrugged.

Ignoring them, Sabrina entered the scarf stall. The scarves might be handmade, but they were gorgeous enough to be found on Rodeo Drive. Sabrina ran her fingers over the smooth, silky texture. She turned to ask the slightly grizzled looking woman about the material she’d used and found her looking as dubious as the young women she’d passed. “What?”

“Honey, is that really what you’re wearing for this?” The stocky older woman gestured at Sabrina’s silk blouse and pencil skirt.

Sabrina rolled her eyes, deciding she didn’t want one of the scarves after all. “Look, I know I’m a little overdressed. I didn’t bring clothes for a street fair, okay?” She turned to stalk away.

Someone whooped from the far end of the street and then a chorus of screams sounded from around the square. Sabrina stopped, puzzled, noticing the people on the sidewalks were laughing and pointing. At me? No. Something behind her. Before she could turn, another loud whoop from directly behind her drew a scream of her own, and then a strong arm swooped around her waist and scooped her up and over a shoulder. She gasped, surprised to find herself hanging over the shoulder of her attacker, who smelled strongly of some sort of male cologne meant to stimulate female pheromones. She screamed again and kicked, smacking at her attacker’s back ineffectually as he plowed through the stalls and into an alley.

Find out more on October 31!