Baby, it’s cold at Christmas-time these days

Have a holly, jolly holiday and be very careful to maintain your politically correct language if you want to continue to hand out your bona fide liberal card. Because there’s a very thin line liberals must walk these days. And for this blog entry, I’m going to wobble off it a bit.

Please understand, I’m a Democrat. I’m liberal. I have a woman card and I voted for Hillary Clinton, and not just because she was running against the worst human being on the planet, either. I honestly believed she would do the best job. With all that said, I’m getting really tired of the liberal war on Christmas this year.

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Photo by Meve R. on Pexels.com

You can’t watch Charlie Brown because the kids yell “Merry Christmas” and read about Jesus’s birth from the Bible. You can’t listen to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” because it’s a trigger for some people who have been date raped (I know. It’s creepy. But just don’t listen, maybe?). You can’t watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” because Santa (and most everyone else at the North Pole) is kind of a dick. (Please note I realized this when I was a kid but I was—and still am—more bothered by the fact that the dolly on the Island of Misfit Toys had NOTHING AT ALL wrong with her.)

It reminds me of some recent feedback I’ve received on Becoming Magic. Readers are not all happy I took on a #metoo storyline with this one. And some are not happy that (slight spoiler here) I didn’t have my character report her assault from the beginning. I’m not saying these readers are wrong…completely. Maybe I should have written this story from the POV of a strong woman who reports her assault and brings her attacker to justice.

But is that the only way to write a story from a strong woman’s POV? Isn’t it possible that you can be a strong woman who is attacked and is so shocked by the fact that you were attacked that you don’t immediately report it? Isn’t it possible that you can employ all your strength into rebuilding your life and moving on after the attack?

Isn’t it possible that every survivor has a right to their story the way they wish to live it—not just the way liberals tell us is the correct way?

And by that same token, maybe you need to stop and think about Rudolph. Rudolph is a freaking survivor if ever there was one. He is bullied by everyone from Santa to his own father, and he still battles the yeti and saves his friends and Christmas. And I got all this when I was about eight years old, so I’m thinking  there’s nothing wrong with the way the story is told.

That doll still bugs me, though. She’s too perfect. I’m thinking she’s a spy.

No apologies: I write what I write.

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Romance is a window on the reader’s soul, not the writer’s. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s a truth for most romance writers, I think. Our friends and family are almost afraid to read our books. As if they might find out something more about us than what they want.

Why don’t you write something else? I have this great idea for a book you could write.

It could be funny.

I could almost laugh.

Why am I amused? The reason is simple. Any good writing lays your soul bare because you do tell secrets about yourself. It’s the only real way to make your writing read true to another person’s soul. The trick is to write it so no one knows what is true and what is fiction. And I can guarantee you, even those who know me best don’t know what’s true and what’s fiction in my books.

I always say I’m never in my books. And it’s true. I’m not a character in my books. But I am in there. I’m in every word and phrase I write. When you hold my book, you are holding a part of my soul. Is it a window onto my everyday wants and desires and loves? No. Like all writing, and especially fiction, my words are filtered through the reader’s experiences and is more likely to reveal something about them than me.

I guess that’s why I say, no apologies. I write what I write. If you  have the courage to read it, that’s great. If not, please understand when I chuckle a little when you suggest I write something different. I love you, but my visceral answer to such a suggestion is an unequivocal “no.”

In other news…

I’m on Book Reviews by Jasmine today promoting Becoming Magic by talking about what I’d do on my day off if I worked in show business in Hollywood. As you might expect, it’s magical!

And on Smashwords and its affiliates, Close Up MagicBook 1 in the Sleight of Hand series, is FREE just in time for the holidays! Read it if you dare!

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.

Shout it from the rooftops chimney-sweep style!

Three days to publication of Dickens Magic, book 6 in Sleight of Hand, and I’m doing all the normal stuff. Facebook, Twitter, blog… I’ve currently got a web tour going for Becoming Magic, and I won’t lie, I’ve plugged Dickens Magic several times in that tour.

But how do I get you guys as excited as I am?

Whenever I publish a new book, I think of the chimney sweeps dancing on the rooftops of London in Mary Poppins. If I could convince Dick Van Dyke to shout the news from the rooftops on Wednesday, would that get the word out? That’s what I feel like doing when a new book comes out. I want everyone to know!

It’s a strange world, the publishing world of today. It’s easier than ever to put your words out there, harder than ever to convince someone to read them. The best way to accomplish this now is word of mouth. So, if you’ve ever read any of my books or short stories or poems and liked them, consider telling someone I have a new book out. It’s called Dickens Magic. Shout it from the rooftops!

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Not London… But imagine me standing on the roof shouting about my new book and dancing the chimney sweep dance from Mary Poppins. That’s how I feel when a new book comes out!

 

Music and the Writer

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

It’s a fact of life that music affects humans in a way that very little else does. Throughout the ages, music has developed with human beings. Today, the history of music is studied along with the psychology of music, musical therapy and ethnomusicology—and many other branches of music studies. All because we like to hear pretty sounds.

I’ve never met a writer who doesn’t have a playlist for writing. It varies, and sometimes one song is more strongly featured than others, but almost all of us have music playing in the background when we write. Why is this? Music can inspire and lift the spirits. Music can remind us so strongly of where we’ve been and make us long to go somewhere completely different. Music sets the mood.

Most of the time, my playlist is pretty eclectic. For six months after David Bowie died, I remember I only listened to his music. And then other songs began to sneak in. He’s still pretty heavily featured on my playlists, but it’s not all Bowie all the time like it was. I have some country, some pop, some classic rock, even a bit of classical. Recently, Enrique Iglesias has snuck onto my radar, possibly because of my most recent work-in-progress (more about that later).

Today, I’m over at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews promoting Becoming Magic with ten of my favorite playlist songs. Guaranteed, I listened to all ten while writing Becoming Magic. I’m probably listening to them today, too.  Join me over there and leave a comment with your favorite song. I’d love to know what inspires you!

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