Dickens Magic: My Exception Proves Nothing

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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.

 

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.”

New look for a new kind of romance

Everywhere I go now I’m touting my “new kind of romance”, so I thought it fitting that my blog should have a new look. So here it is, complete with a red rose background.

Next month I’ll be attending Mumfest in my adopted home town of New Bern. I’ll be selling my independently published books and giving away a few advance copies of Dickens Magic, which won’t be available until October 31, as well as a complete set of my Sleight of Hand series. I’m super excited about this, and I hope I’ll get to meet a lot of potential readers who are interested in my work.

For those who don’t know, New Bern suffered a great deal of damage during Hurricane Florence. The downtown area, where Mumfest will be held, was particularly hard hit as it is located at the junction of the Neuse and Trent Rivers. Many businesses were flooded, homes were lost. And yet no one has suggested that Mumfest should not happen. And so, on the fourth weekend post-Florence, our downtown streets will be crowded with booths of arts and crafts, food vendors, local businesses and non-profits. Flowers will brighten the corners which not long ago were occupied by storm debris.

And I will be there. I don’t yet know if I’ll be able to sell folks on my new kind of romance idea. I hope so. I truly believe what we read makes a difference. In the same way that what we eat affects our bodies, what we consume through books and other media affects our minds. If it’s good, wholesome and nutritious, so will our minds and hearts be. And good, wholesome and nutritious in the case of romance, does not have to mean not sexy.

I’m going to leave you with an excerpt from Dickens Magic, which takes place entirely in downtown New Bern at the historic Masonic Theatre I have come to love. I think this excerpt, which is from the POV of Alex, the hero, sums up a bit of what I feel about this town:

Alex walked without paying much attention to where he was going. He knew the way pretty damn well, after all. Every crack in the sidewalk, every storefront, every red light and stop sign was ingrained on his heart like a map of his very existence. He’d never felt that with New York, not even Broadway. Broadway was where he worked and his apartment in Manhattan was where he stayed.

New Bern was where he lived.

He paused at a corner. He stood directly in front of the old fire station, now a museum. If he looked right, he would almost see the old theater. It was just two blocks down, set back from the road with an unevenly paved parking lot in front, the crumbling façade of the building adorned with a poster of the theater’s latest production. What was it? Chicago? He’d read the review of it to his mother last week. He’d said maybe he’d take her.

Of course, that probably wouldn’t happen. He knew that.

A trolley passed in front of him and he caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection in one of the windows. Unshaven, his clothes a little more rumpled than he usually allowed them to be, his hair a little longer than he was usually comfortable with. And a worried look that wouldn’t be banished.

I hope you’ll come visit this town I’ve grown to love so much. New Bern got knocked down, it’s true, but she’s getting back up with the grace and dignity you’d expect of a 300+ year old dame. She’s strong. #NewBernStrong

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A view of the Trent River from my back deck.

 

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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#AmWriting: What it means to me

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If only there were a sign that pointed the way. Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

You’ve probably seen the hashtag #amwriting before. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I don’t use it very often because if I’m on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, I’m actually not writing. I’m putting off writing. I’m distracted. I’m looking for a way to get out of writing.

I’m procrastinating, and, as my high school chemistry teacher always said, “Procrastination is the thief of time.”

Today, for instance, I #amwriting. I’m writing guest blogs and interviews for other people as part of my ongoing blog tour for Becoming Magic with Goddess Fish. Meanwhile, my novel writing is at a bit of a crossroads. I have started and stopped several times on my new project. Nicó and Brooke (the heroes of my newest untitled project) have been left wondering what’s to become of them. And poor Galen and Frankie from Magic at Sea! I left them way back last October to finish rewriting Becoming Magic and then realized I needed to write Dickens Magic if I wanted it out before Christmas this year.

Well, Kate and Alex from Dickens Magic are all set. Now I’m torn between the two stories I’ve started, and I have to pick a direction. Or I could always go back to finish up Jack and Kaelyn’s story in Timeless. At least that one’s written. I just have to edit and rewrite and edit again.

That’s what #amwriting means. I #amwriting. I just need to pick a direction. And quit feeding the procrastination thief!

Blog Tours: The Why and Where I am Today

In my first journalism class, I learned about the who, what, when, where, why and how. Today I kicked off my umpteenth blog tour for my fourteenth (?I think?) book. So who is me, what is a blog tour, when is now and how is through Goddess Fish, a blog tour company I’ve worked with successfully before.

Why is a little tougher. Why do blog tours? I already blog. Sometimes I neglect my own blog, so why write guest posts and interviews for someone else’s blog? Why pay a third party to set it up? Simple. Hope.

Hope that somebody who reads these blogs will want to read my book. Hope that they’ll love it enough to tell ten friends and at least five of those friends will love it enough to tell ten more. And so on.

Hope springs eternal in the breast of every born writer. We are made of hope or we wouldn’t keep writing. We exist on hope because we know our writing is never going to support us. We live for hope because without it, there is nothing.

Today, I hope you’ll join me at Edgar’s Books for an interview in which I speak about what makes Becoming Magic different from everything else I’ve written and from much of what is available in the romance market these days. I also reveal what my first reaction is to a bad review. And why I hope I keep getting them.

Find me here: Becoming Magic: Book Tour and Blog Giveaway. Oh yeah, and there is a giveaway to register for, too!

Leaving the backlist behind

Over the past week—especially since Wednesday when I discovered my dog had chewed through my computer cord—I have been working on getting the last three of my self-published books online at Smashwords. Smashwords will make these books available in multiple formats at multiple outlets, so that you aren’t just limited to Kindle if you wish to read in ebook format. In a few days, every one of my books will be available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks—you name it, I’ll be there. Every format.

Revisiting my backlist became less of a chore than I’d imagined it would be. I actually found myself giving my last three books (Weeds and Flowers, Ducks in a Row, and Saturday Love) a thorough proofreading…and enjoying it. I haven’t read those books in ages.

Weeds and Flowers isn’t even a romance like I write now. More of a coming-of-age story that was written in a sort of patchwork quilt way—bits and pieces that I stitched together to make a novel. Appropriately, it was actually probably the first novel I wrote, though not the first one published. I had forgotten how much that book meant to me, though. It’s the only one—so far—that has something in it that actually happened, not actually to me, but to people around me. Re-reading it was like reliving some of my own childhood, even if I was more watching than experiencing at the time.

As for the other two, Ducks was the most difficult book I’ve written thematically. I think of it as sort of an anatomy of both a marriage and an affair. I actually still dislike the heroine, though she did grow a lot during the course of the book. And I fell in love with one of the male characters. So much so that he ended up getting his own book, Saturday Love, because I just couldn’t leave him hanging like he was at the end of Ducks. Regardless of my feelings for the characters, however, re-reading those books was like visiting with family I hadn’t seen in a while. And it revived a past resolve to write a third book in that series. If I can ever get past the two or three other projects I have waiting for me now.

But for now, I am returning to work on Dickens Magic, my next in the Sleight of Hand series and my first ever attempt at a holiday-themed book. I’d reached a sort of roadblock on that one. I couldn’t quite figure a believable way to drive a wedge between the hero and heroine but over the course of the week, I had a brainstorm. I plan to give myself two more weeks to finish the first draft of Dickens Magic, then I have another start on a not-magic-related book and at some point I have to get to work on Magic at Sea… 

But maybe that would wait. Maybe I could start my third book about the Hubbard family, Agape Mou (Greek for “My Love”). There’s a reason it’s Greek. If you read Ducks and Saturday Love, you’ll understand. I have plans for a very good-looking Greek hero for that one, but his ties to the Hubbard family are very complicated and bound to result in some drama. Especially when he gets involved with the daughter of the family…

Oh crap. If I’m not careful my imagination will get stuck in sunny Greek vineyards instead of a theater all decorated for Christmas. Better get back to work! Herete, my friends.