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.”

Weekend Update: Busy and Wonderful!

It was, I won’t lie, an exhausting weekend here. Mumfest happened in a big way! I had a chance to connect with a lot of readers and potential readers, a few aspiring writers, old and new friends. Fantastic!

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With the help of my friend Noel, my purple tent was transformed from this…

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…to this magical place!

I was lucky enough to be able to partner with a very talented artist, Noel McKelvey of Blissworks. (You can see some more of her lovely creations on her Facebook page.) Her artwork grabbed a lot of attention, and I’m thrilled to say she sold several of her lovely paintings! Yay, Noel! Added bonus, some of the folks who stopped to admire her art also took a moment to check out my books. So good for me, too, right? I sold a few, talked to lots of neat people and basically regained a little of my ambition, which can easily be lost when you sit in your office day after day writing words and wondering if anyone will ever read them.

Added added bonus, theater friends also stopped by. I reconnected with several cast and members of Anne of Green Gables and A Christmas Carol. Which was timely since Dickens Magic, which is set in Rivertowne Players’ Masonic Theatre, comes out in just over two weeks!! Though I swear I never base any of my books on actual events in my life, I will say that those two plays gave me the experience I needed to write a story from the point-of-view of an actor/director. Sort of intensive research, I suppose!

So, overall, a great experience. I hope “The Artist and the Author” will make another appearance at another location one day. Noel and I made a good team. Plus, we now have the banner and the tent!

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In other news, my virtual tour for Becoming Magic continues today. Check out my interview on Bookaholic where I discuss the difficulty of writing a romance with a #metoo theme—and why I wanted to do it in the first place.

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.

 

A Christmas Carol: A new adventure, an old love

7A241F6E-D057-4BE3-8D35-3CB616A54869.jpegThis is my father’s copy of Dickens’ Christmas Stories. It’s seen better days. It was old the first time I laid my hands on it, when I was about nine or ten. Someone—probably me—drew on the first pages. You can see the binding is loose. It wasn’t a well-made book to begin with and many readings have pretty much destroyed it.

It’s one of the most precious things I own.

My father gave me this book when I left for college. I’d read it many times during the years and he knew how much I loved it. The very first story in it is A Christmas Carol. Has there ever been a better first line than this one?

Marley was dead, to begin with.

If ever it was necessary to end a sentence with a preposition, this is the one. From the first line to the last, “God bless us, every one!”, I was hooked. And the description of the Fezziwig party! “…three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were  not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.” I always felt as if I were there, dancing and singing and reveling, and I always wished I really was.

When I heard our local theater was going to do a musical production of A Christmas Carol, I knew I had to be involved. This was my chance—or as close as I was likely to ever get—to join in the parties Dickens described. I have no experience at all acting. I can’t sing. I didn’t know, at the time, if I would be able to dance. But my daughter convinced me that we should audition together, so I threw my hat in for a non-singing role.

Now, less than a month away from the first show, I’m glad I did. I’ve learned most of two dances, one of which is in the Fezziwig party. I’m enjoying the company of the rest of the cast, all of whom have more experience than me in this sort of thing. They’re wonderful people, every one of them, and they’ve taught me a lot. Even the ones who are younger than me.

But mostly, I’m loving experiencing first hand a new (to me) way of storytelling. I imagine when Charles Dickens sat down to write A Christmas Carol, he never imagined it being adapted to the stage. He never thought of the way his beautiful story of self-discovery and redemption could be told through song and dance, visualized by a director and translated by actors on a stage.

I’m sure he never thought of it, but I believe he would have liked it.