Dickens Magic: My Exception Proves Nothing


This picture has nothing to do with this post. It’s just a pretty picture I took and posted here to catch your eye. Do you like it?

I’ve never liked that phrase “the exception that proves the rule”. If there’s an exception, then it proves the rule is faulty, right? Or does it prove that there is a rule to begin with? Or is it that you’re “testing” (proving) the rule with your exception?

No matter what, the expression is rife with possibilities for misinterpretation.

Which is why I’ve decided that Dickens Magic, which is most definitely an exception to my normal formula for Sleight of Hand books, proves nothing. Nothing except that I will go where my characters and their story lead me.

But how is Dickens Magic different from my other books? First of all, the hero and heroine are not magicians. Neither one of them. They aren’t involved in magic (at first, at least) in any way.

Second, Dickens Magic does not take place in any exotic locales like Las Vegas or the Caribbean or Hollywood. There is one very brief scene in New York City. The rest of the book is set entirely in New Bern, N.C., one of the least exotic locales you could ever want to visit.

Third, Dickens Magic’s setting centers around a building. It’s actually a building I love. The Masonic Theatre where RiverTowne Players performs. And it’s based on my own theatrical exploits. I tell everyone my recent desire to be an actress is my midlife crisis. And I’m good with that. But the truth is, if I had never walked into that theater with my daughter when she auditioned for The Little Mermaid, Jr. at the age of five, that midlife crisis would probably have lain dormant forever. I couldn’t do it anywhere else, I’m pretty sure.

Finally, I never put myself in my books. I can honestly say I’ve never read one of my books and seen myself in it. But this one, I kind of did, although I didn’t realize it until the final round of editing. It startled me at first when I noticed it, and certainly it’s not a real clear portrait of who I am, but it’s there. I’m not one of the main characters, though, so don’t think I think I’m the multitalented Kate.

So, my exception is out there. It doesn’t prove a thing. I’ll return to the rules (or most of them, at least) next time. Though maybe I’ll decide it’s more fun breaking the rules, especially the rules I’ve made myself.


The Blue Cord: Tale of an Evacuee

Yesterday, my family and I fled our home on the coastal plain of North Carolina. We made the decision on the spur of the moment, and if my son hadn’t started college this fall and I wanted so badly to be with him, we might not have made it. So I know why others stayed.

I’ve heard it over and over. From well-meaning people and authorities and news reporters. Why would you stay? Why would you risk your family’s lives that way?

Indulge me in a little story. It’s a different story than most that you’ll hear about evacuating, but to me, it gets to the heart of why it is so difficult to leave. It takes place after we’d spent days getting our house ready for the hurricane that we anxiously tracked day after day after day.

It takes place after we packed our most precious photo albums and possessions and what we’d need to survive a week away from home into the cars with two kids, two dogs, two cats and a bearded dragon and set off for the Airbnb we’d found that would allow our small farm to take up residence.

It takes place after we arrived safely and told our family and friends that all was well and walked the dogs and fed the cats and ate a frozen pizza at midnight, smiling because we knew we’d see my oldest son soon.

It takes place after I got ready for bed and as I reached into my bag for a charge cord for my phone and found the one I’d brought—and suddenly my world felt like it might just fall apart. A blue cord, that I’d bought because it matched my bedspread so well. It was usually plugged in by my nightstand. It didn’t belong here in this little house and I desperately wished that I’d left it at home.

And that’s when it hit me. Home really might not be there anymore. That charge cord might be all that was left of my bedroom decor. And yes, it’s a trite thing when compared to life and limb, but the nerve-wracking week of preparation and vacillating between staying and going, the exhausting drive to unfamiliar territory where all we can do is wait until we find out if and when we can return home all coalesced for a moment in that blue charge cord I held in my hand and I wished with all my heart that I could be back home.

We know we did the right thing. We heeded the mandatory evacuation order and left. We are not in danger of anything except being inconvenienced as we wait and worry about friends and possessions we left behind. We are together and that is what matters. But every time I look at that blue charge cord, I am homesick, and I know why those who stayed did so. It’s not about possessions or greed or foolishness. It’s about home.

They stayed because they needed to be with the world they knew.

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!

Cover Reveal: Movie Magic!

Anyone want to see a magic trick? Ta-daa!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]

Okay, not so much a magic trick, but I sort of feel like this entire book is magic. It started out as something totally different. It was a book called Pirate Magic. Yeah, I know. Goofy. Although maybe not! I might actually write that one someday! Anyway, I digress. That was back in 2014. I had an idea set in Beaufort, N.C., and it was all about pirate cosplayers and it was a lot of fun. But it had too many problems, so then I started writing Movie Magic in 2015 and I set part of it in Beaufort and put some of my pirate cosplayers into this book…and it was a mess.

So obviously I abandoned the whole concept. Went off and wrote and published the first two books of Synchronicity and never looked back…

…Until this summer. I published Time Being in June and turned to the third book of Synchronicity. But, although Timeless is written and waiting for editing, I couldn’t get into it. And I can’t stand to NOT have some sort of writing project going on, so I picked up Movie Magic, and I fell in love with the characters all over again and I edited and rewrote like a madman for a couple of weeks and bam! It was done, the story was told.

I then formatted and edited again and then I called on the fabulous Farah Evers for a cover. For this one, I had such a definite idea of what I wanted, it took no time at all for her to come up with the beautiful cover you see above.

So now what? I have the book. I have the cover. But I always try to release my magic books on October 31, the anniversary of Harry Houdini’s death. So I guess I’m just going to have to start pulling out some magic tricks to entertain you guys for three months!

Stay tuned!

Magic in the Wings…

I seem to always have about three novels in the works these days. So after Time Being‘s release in June, I took a couple weeks off and then I picked up one of my previous projects, a Sleight of Hand novel I wrote way back in 2014 during NaNoWriMo.

If you’ve ever completed a National Novel Writing Month novel, you know what you tend to end up with. It’s usually a huge mess. This one, in particular was a bit of a mess to begin with because I’d taken two ideas, Pirate Magic and an untitled novel about a children’s magician, and thrown them in together. The result couldn’t be pretty, right?

Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I’d first thought. I actually enjoyed unraveling the knots I’d tied my plot into and filling in the holes. I really fell in love with my characters all over again. If you’ve read Island Magic, you’ll recognize Sabrina Parker, the tough and talented special effects expert who helped magician Ian Logan fake a plane crash on a remote tropical island. And Walt Bryson, children’s magician, makes a perfect love interest for the intrepid Ms. Parker.

It’s a match made in the stars—Hollywood stars, that is!

Anyway, here’s the blurb, which may change a bit before I’m done. I’m always tweaking these things, right up until I’m ready to publish it. I’m hoping to have this one out by October. It still needs another copy-editing run-through and maybe even a little light editing, but for the most part the story is done, and here it is:


Sabrina Parker has spent her professional life creating unbelievable stunts and magical effects for movies and stage magicians. Now she needs a magician to help her bring a very special movie to life. Her search leads her to the very unlikely stage of Walt Bryson, host of a long-running children’s television show in Beaufort, North Carolina.

Walt isn’t terribly happy about taking Hollywood’s call. He’s never sought the same notoriety as his Ian Logan and Andre Hawke. But there’s something about the beautiful, levelheaded Ms. Parker, and when he reads her screenplay, he knows he wants to work with her. For the first time in years, he’s willing to put tragedy behind him and make real magic.


Can Walt and Sabrina use love as their guide or will their past mistakes haunt their future?

The Day After: Earth Day for the Rest of Us

Earth Day is over, so I feel a little safer making a confession. My carbon footprint is huge.

It’s not on purpose. I love animals. I’m concerned about the environment. I vote Democrat (although at times I’m not sure this helps a WHOLE heckuva lot). I truly believe that we humans damage the planet and someday we’ll regret it.

I also drive an SUV (mid-size, not huge) because I have three kids and when we’re on a family trip, that third-row seating is invaluable. And though I try to make it to the Farmer’s Market or stop at the roadside stands to buy local, it’s often more practical to buy my veggies at the grocery store (I do pay the extra buck for an organic avocado, though).

I’m repulsed by bugs and terrified by spiders, so I don’t garden. Well, except for container gardening. I have made a few ventures into that arena. I donate often to charities that say they support endangered wildlife, but I often wonder if their frequent mailings don’t use most of the money I send them. (I would opt out of that junk mail, but, really, have you tried to opt out of junk mail? It should be simple, but it’s really not.)

I make purchases from Amazon instead of going to the store. That way I can indulge my natural disinclination to make contact with other human beings. And I buy books. Lots of books. Because when the EMP goes off and ebooks are no longer available, I’m going to need something to read.

I feel guilty about these things I do wrong—and not just on Earth Day—but I can’t promise I will change. I probably won’t ride my bike to work or walk to the store because it’s impractical for me as a mother of three. However, in honor of Mother Earth, which I love even though I feel certain she will wreak her revenge on humans one day, I make three resolutions:

1. I will buy 99 percent of my wine from vineyards in North Carolina. When I don’t buy local, I’ll buy European wines because shipping from Europe causes less environmental damage than trucking across the U.S. from California.

2. I will buy organic produce as often as possible. Even when it’s not necessarily better for me, it’s better for the environment if it is grown by a farmer who doesn’t use poisonous pesticides that kill honeybees and other beneficial insects.

3. I will no longer renew or purchase magazine or newspaper subscriptions. These are unnecessary as most of them are available either free or for a comparable price online.

These are tiny things and many, many people could look at my life and tell me of SO many other places I could change to reduce my carbon footprint. And maybe I will, but for now, this is what Earth Day for the rest of us is like.

Special Guest Donna Steele Talks About Inspiration

Please welcome my guest today, fellow North Carolina romance author Donna Steele, talking about her new book Wraith’s Heart. Oh, and if you want a post from me after reading Donna’s, check out her blog, Steele Stories: Do I Believe in Magic?

Where did that come from?
By Donna Steele

WraithsHeart_finalCoverHow many times have I been asked that? Another good one is, were you this weird when we lived together? The roommates are amazingly honest with each other.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure myself where all the ideas come from. I do know that I have been fascinated by arcologies (self-contained cities where one never has to go outside) since I was first introduced to them by Larry Niven. But what if you wanted to go outside? That’s what brought about Rth Rising.

I walked into one of the most beautiful lake houses I’ve ever seen and spotted the picture window looking out over the lake. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write, but I wanted it to take place in that setting, and Learning Trust was born.

My publisher put out a call for stories for Memorial Day, for men in uniform. Not a normal topic for me, but when I sat down Welcome Home was already written in my head, from my memories of the Vietnam War.

I understood about Homecoming. I did have to clean out the family home when my parents were gone. Fortunately not alone, like my heroine. We really did find some of the things I mentioned. The story was therapeutic for me.

But I’m drawn to the paranormal, science fiction worlds. So now there’s Wraith’s Heart. I had the idea of someone waking up in a dark place with no memory of how or why they might be there. I write strong women, so I had to make her angry rather than scared but I had no idea what I was in for. That’s why we’re called pantsers. Gail grew with the story. I thought it would be a much shorter tale, but when I got to the point that I thought would be the ending, she wasn’t ready to go and started telling me all about what else she could accomplish. I finally decided not to argue.

I hope you enjoy!


“Ryan, come on in.” Doc motioned to him and he moved inside. Another death to investigate. Gail took one look at the woman on the table and decided it would be a wonderful time to check in with Hank. Ryan might not be here long and she didn’t want to miss her ride. She slipped out and headed upstairs.
She found Hank sitting patiently in the corner of the waiting room, watching as a family waited for word.
“Gail, I’m surprised to see you.” He stood to greet her and she gave him a quick hug.
“You are? Why?”
“I figured you would’ve moved on.”
“Not yet. I want to ask you about some stuff.”
“Sure, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer everything.”
Gail grinned at him. “I don’t think anyone can.”
“Shoot,” Hank nodded.
“Can you touch anything?”
“Touch? You mean people? No.”
“Actually I mean like the magazines on the table or that ugly fake tree.” She indicated the dusty plastic green thing in the corner with her chin.
“No. My hand just goes through them. Why?”
“I can touch things.”
“What kind of things?”
Did she blush at her first thought? He made no comment, so she continued. “Computer keys, papers.”
“Show me.” It wasn’t really an order, but he was obviously surprised.
She stepped over to the side table. Several older copies of People Magazine and Time were spread out on the surface. Gail glanced around to make sure no one was paying attention, then reached over to lift the cover on the top one.
Nothing happened.
She looked over at Hank, who was watching with a “Sorry, honey” look on his face.
“No. Really, I can touch things. I have been touching them at the police station and the apartment.”
“Then why can’t you touch that?”
She was silent a moment, thinking. “I need to get back downstairs. Can you come with me?”
“Sure. I’m not bound to this floor and you obviously aren’t.” He walked with her toward the stairs, to avoid disturbing the live people using the elevator.
“There’s more I wanted to ask you. Why am I still here?” She took one last look at the offending magazine, then followed Hank into the stairwell.
“Well, as far as I know it’s different with each person. Maybe you need to hang around until they catch your killer. You were murdered, right?”
She nodded. “But what if they never find out who did it?”
“I wish I could answer that, honey. Are the police still working on it?”
“Yes. I’m staying with the detective in charge of the case.”
“Staying with him?” Hank stopped right there on the stairs as a young orderly swept past them, then turned to look at the “empty” spot as he shivered and picked up his pace to get to the next floor. “Is that the apartment you mentioned? Isn’t it uncomfortable for him?” He cocked his head at the retreating back of the orderly.
“That’s another thing I wanted to ask you. He doesn’t feel the cold when I touch him. He never shivers and pulls away. It’s almost like he’s aware of me.” An understatement after last night, but she didn’t want to share any of Ryan’s revelations to her. And she certainly wasn’t going to confess her role after Ryan had fallen asleep.
“Aware of you? Are you sure?”
Okay, be careful how you phrase it, Gail.
“Not exactly. His hand has brushed against me in the car and in his office and he never shivers. He almost seems to look for me. And I have touched things in his office and apartment. I’ve typed on his computer. Is that normal?”
“Well, I’ve never heard of it. Of course, I’m not really an expert. I’ve been here for a relatively short while.”
“Do you know why you’re still here?”
He chuckled. “I think of myself as one of those Wal-Mart greeters. Hi, you’re dead. How can I help you?”
She chuckled with him. “It did help me, because I was in deep denial.”
“Most everyone is when it’s an accident or murder. The ones waitin’ for it just go on as soon as someone from the family or friends come to pick ’em up. In cases like yours it seems to take a little longer, like they’re caught off guard. You must have an assignment you haven’t handled yet.”
“Great. Think I’ll get points taken off for being tardy?”
“No, you’re doing fine. And if this cop really is aware of you, he probably has something to do with it. I haven’t heard of that before.” They continued on down the stairs, meeting no more of the live inhabitants of the hospital.
“Ryan’s here about another case. Another DB—see, I’m picking up the jargon.”
Hank chuckled and patted her on the shoulder. They’d arrived at the morgue and he looked around. “I haven’t been down here in awhile.”
“Yeah, I don’t much like it, but when Ryan gets called here I come along.” Her head came up as an idea occurred to her. “I’d like to try something.”
“Okay, what?”
“Do you mind coming in with me?”
Hank shook his head and they stepped through the door together. The doctor continued to talk but Ryan’s head came up and he glanced toward the door. His lips lifted into a small smile.
Gail stopped just inside the door. She knew her eyes had to be big and round with surprise. He had sensed her come into the room. It wasn’t possible, but he had turned instantly and he’d smiled. There was no way he had heard her, there was nothing to hear. By her estimation she hadn’t reapplied her blueberry body splash in at least a week.
But it had felt like they were looking into each other’s eyes for a moment.
Should she admit she felt very warm and safe?
“Gail, he knows you’re here.” The wonder in Hank’s voice drew her back.
“Yes, he does.”
“That’s what I asked you.” She shook herself. “Watch.” When Ryan turned back to the doctor, she carefully raised the corner of one of the reports on the counter.
Hank stared at the paper. “You couldn’t do that upstairs.”
“I know. But I’ve been able to every other time.”
“Have the other times been when you were near him?” Hank looked over at Ryan who now had his back to them, listening to the doctor.
“He doesn’t feel the cold from you?”
“I have no idea.” Hank shook his head. “But I bet if I touched him, it would be cold.”
“Please don’t try.” Gail spoke immediately.
“I won’t.” He moved to the report and attempted to move the same page. Nothing happened. “How well do you know him? Were you friends before?”
“No, I’d never met him before he came here to begin his investigation.”
“So you don’t know if he maybe had a near death experience?”
Gail looked up at him. “I think that might have happened.” She spoke slowly, thinking hard. “Do you know anything about something like this?”
“Not really. I’ve not had anything like it happen to me. It’s a puzzle, but I don’t think I can find any answers for you. You’re going to have to get them from him.” He looked toward the door. “I’m gonna get out of the way. It could get too crowded in here and I don’t want to freak anyone out. Keep me up on what’s happenin’ with you. Let me know if you figure out your assignment or what’s going on with him. I’m learning as much from you as you did from me.”
“Of course I’ll check back. Guess there’s not a better way for us to keep in touch?”
“Not that I know. But it was good seein’ you.”
Gail gave him another hug and watched him slip through the door.