Time to Get Excited about Dickens Magic!

I’m super excited to share Dickens Magic with you all in a few days! It comes out on October 31 and it’s set in a place that’s become very special to me. The historic Masonic Theatre where Rivertowne Players performs is a very old building with so much history it’s practically got a personality of its own. The people inside the building are awesome, too, but it’s the place itself that has magic for me. I’m convinced that if the Masonic Theatre were a person, she and I would be the best of friends.

That’s probably a result of all the creative energy and wonderful people who have filled

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Me, backstage in my party dress, ready to go to the Fezziwig’s!

the building through the years, but whatever it is, I’ve wanted to set a book there for years. When I finally gave in and auditioned for a part in A Christmas Carol last year, I got my chance to see how the theater’s magic really works first hand. The spirit of that old place got into my blood and I started writing Dickens Magic almost as soon as A Christmas Carol wrapped up.

It’s difficult putting into words what that theater is actually like. And I’m sure some can go in and just see an old theater. Others can admire the architecture and history, but not really feel the magic. But if you go to a play there, let yourself open up to the magic…it’s an amazing thing. And if you can’t make it there, try my book, Dickens Magic. See if I did my friend justice.

To get you started, here’s an excerpt from the book, before the romance between hero Alex and heroine Kate really gets going. For fans of Close Up Magic, yes, the Andre in this excerpt is Andre Hawke!

dickens-magicAs though energized by the way they had begun, the cast fell together almost instantly and the resulting rehearsal was one of the best Alex could ever remember being involved in. Especially considering no one was actually off-script, the run-through went smoothly, as if everyone already knew the blocking that hadn’t even happened yet.

Wisely, Kate let it happen, stopping them only between scenes to make notes about performance and blocking. As Scrooge, Alex was on stage nearly the entire play, which afforded him plenty of time to take note that Andre stayed for the rehearsal. He sat comfortably next to Kate in the front row, his long legs crossed in front of him. From time to time, he’d say something to her that almost always made her smile.

And every single time, Alex felt a jolt of jealousy that threatened to push him out of character. He managed to hold it in check, incorporating it into his character of Scrooge. At least it made it easier to play a jealously guarding old man. And besides, Kate hadn’t given her script to Andre, had she? She’d given it to him. And tonight, he’d read it.

In a strange way, he felt very much like a miser—a kinship with Scrooge he hadn’t expected. But it wasn’t money he wanted to hold tight. If he really had any money, he’d give it all to her to erase the worry lines from her forehead. But he hadn’t really been able to do that, in spite of the fact that he had called Andre to get him to come early. No, Andre had done that. And now Andre was cuddled up with Kate in the front row.

Except he wasn’t. When Alex looked again, Kate was alone. She looked tired though. Her face was pale, and he could see lines of pain around her eyes. Just as it struck him that it must be nearly nine o’clock, Andre reappeared next to her with a glass of water. She gave him a quick smile and took a sip of the water. He bent down next to her and she nodded, looking back at the stage. “We’re going to call it for the night, guys. Sorry, this has been one of the best run-throughs I’ve ever seen so early in rehearsals, but I’m fading fast.”

Begin at the Beginning

IMG_5147You know how you have a story to tell sometimes and you can’t figure out where to start? And then some smartass says “Begin at the beginning.” That’s not always easy, is it? Because maybe you start with waking up that morning and then you realize that you were late because you had a hangover and you had a hangover because your best friend from college was in town last night and you met and had drinks, but to begin with she was in town because she’s getting married… Well, maybe you get the idea.

My point is, finding the beginning of a novel is sort of like that. Sometimes you kick off your novel with a great first line. Like I had this awesome first line for my current work-in-progress. At least, I thought it was pretty good. Want to hear it? “I’m doing Dickens.” So I started there and proceeded…and realized pretty soon after that, damn it, that’s not the beginning of the story. It’s actually about a chapter in.

I tried flashbacks and having the characters discuss how they got to the point they were at, but I knew it wasn’t going to work. I would just have to sacrifice that perfect first line.

So now I no longer have the perfect first line. However, I do have what I feel is a pretty good beginning. I thought I might share it with you. This one will be a Christmas romance. It’s tentatively titled Dickens Magic, and may or may not be a part of the Sleight of Hand series. It’s still early, and I’m toying with making it a standalone. Tell me what you think in the comments!

Kate Joiner pulled another tray of hot biscuits from the oven, tossed four into a basket, and hit the bell for the waitress to pick up before turning back to make sure everything was running well in the rest of the kitchen. It was. Like a well-oiled machine. Her well-trained kitchen staff knew the drills perfectly. Even a busy summer brunch rush couldn’t throw them off.

If only her wait staff were as dependable. She frowned at the basket of biscuits still sitting on the counter, picked it up and stalked around the partition ready to scold whichever teenage waitress was neglecting her duties. However, as she rounded the corner, a young girl dressed in jeans and a “Book Marker Café” t-shirt almost ran into her.

“Quinn!” Kate gasped, stumbling backward and catching the girl in the same movement. “What’s the meaning of this? You guys all disappear during the busiest hour—”

She stopped, her eyes narrowing. “Why are you giggling?”

Quinn was undoubtedly laughing, but her eyes wore a more cautious, almost shocked look. As if she were amused but wasn’t sure she really should be. She got control of herself at Kate’s stern look, however, and swallowed hard. “It’s just—the…out there. There’s a woman in her nightgown.”

“Her nightgown?” Kate peered past the girl and her heart collapsed. There was indeed a woman in her nightgown. Alex’s mom. Mrs. Lawrence. One of the most fashionable women in town who seldom ever left her home without lipstick now sat at one of Kate’s front tables in a lace nightgown, her hair unbrushed and no makeup at all on her translucent skin. Kate nearly dropped the biscuits. “Oh my God.”

“We didn’t…know what to do. The other customers are pointing and whispering and some of them are leaving.” Quinn’s voice held no trace of laughter now. Evidently Kate’s reaction had convinced her which side of amusement she needed to come down on.

Kate took a deep breath. “Get the others in line. Take care of the other customers. Pack up orders to go. Give it to them for free if they don’t want to pay. I don’t care. Just, for God’s sake, don’t let anyone else point and laugh at her.” A lump rose in her throat and she swallowed hard. Then she straightened her back and hurried over to Patty Lawrence’s table, thinking the whole way about the mother of her best friend who’d made her chocolate chip cookies and given her rides to play rehearsals with Alex and had, more than once, organized a cast party for them. The sweetness of the memories gave her strength.

“Mrs. Lawrence.” She smiled as she set the biscuits on the table in front of the woman. “It’s so good to see you.”

Mrs. Lawrence looked up, blinked once and then smiled back. “Katie! It’s been ages.” She looked around. “What are you doing here?”

She doesn’t know where she is. She doesn’t know this is my café. Kate struggled for control. “Oh, Mrs. Lawrence. Don’t you remember? I went in on the business with my mother. She runs the book store and I run the café?”

“Oh. Oh, yes. Of course.” Mrs. Lawrence nodded, but she still looked a little befuddled. “Strange, isn’t it? Having books and a café? All…mixed up. Sort of like New York.” She spread her napkin primly over satin lap. “Well, I’ll start with coffee. The biscuits smell wonderful. Did I order them?”

Katie reached across and touched the woman’s hands. “Those are on the house. My specialty, Mrs. Lawrence. Tell me, have you spoken to Alex recently?”

“Oh, he’s so busy with his plays and things on Broadway.” The older woman fluttered her hands as if speaking of her son’s foibles and hobbies and not the Broadway career he’d built for himself. “I keep saying I’m going to go up and see this last one.” She leaned across the table, lowering her voice confidentially. “You know he plays a gay man, don’t you? But he’s not gay.”

“No, he’s not gay.” Katie squeezed her hands gently.

“This is a very nice place you have here, dear. It’s a little drafty, though.” Mrs. Lawrence shivered. “Maybe you could turn up the heat?”

“Turn up the heat?” Katie blinked. It was June and the thermometer was already at seventy-five degrees when she got up that morning. “Um…sure.” Seeing her chance, she half rose. “But maybe I can get you a sweater or something, Mrs. Lawrence. To keep you warm until—”

“A sweater? Don’t be ridiculous. I’m wearing my winter coat.” As she spoke, Mrs. Lawrence looked down and a horrible change came over her face. She looked back at Kate, then back down at her nightgown, covered her face and began to sob quietly. Kate helplessly knelt in front of her, put her arms around the woman and held her. And even as she did so, she thought, Now I have to call Alex.

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