About the Books

self-d’illusional

A few years ago, I got caught up in Mindfreak, the Criss Angel show with with all the impressive street magic a dork like me could ever hope for. As a fan of things that don’t easily fit into the everyday world, I flipped out. Every next illusion was more brilliant than the last – even the little ones.

Especially those, actually.

When a magician requires a fully-constructed stage and theater lights and pyrotechnics and a small crew of technicians running the show to turn a tiger into a woman under a silk sheet in front of an audience who blew their grocery money for the week on a set of tickets, there’s obviously something more to the illusion than simple sleight of hand. But when a magician can pass a rolled-up dollar bill through a solid pane of glass at a storefront window on a busy street in plain view of anyone walking by who didn’t pay anything to see it happen?

To me, that is truly magical.

And so it was that Mindfreak was a most brilliant illusionist experience, even though it was captured on video and broadcast over cable (another set of technicalities, but I couldn’t make it to Vegas to see it happening live, so…). My wife would remind me repeatedly: he’s not *really* levitating (or catching on fire, or disappearing, or pulling a woman into two pieces).

Um, yeah. I knew that part.

What captivated me was the absolute showmanship and consummate proficiency with which the illusions were executed – largely in 360 degree view-range of those watching on. I watched for camera trickery, and to be fair, there was some of that, though it was mostly for the larger pieces. It was the smaller illusions that won me over most.

Anyone can fool me by levitating between buildings with some well-executed though imperceptible mechanical assistance.

It takes honest-to-goodness magic to blow my mind by shoving tube-shaped money through a solid pane of glass with an audience two feet away.

The mundane made magnificent: that’s how I see it.

For me, that’s where the real magic lies.

Recently, I’ve been researching street-style magicians while creating an antagonist to trouble Sid Handelman in the new book. Criss Angel is a bit too theatrical for what I’m thinking. No offense to him at all; he’s a genius at what he does, and I’m always floored by what he comes up with. And David Blaine sitting in plexiglass while not eating for two weeks is a different type of magic altogether. It makes an appearance in the story, too…hopefully in a hilarious way, if I execute that section correctly. But this guy, while not at all cocky, captures the easy-going essence of small-yet-grand magic that I think this character needs. His name is Justin Flom, and he’s contemporary street magic all the way. Check out his Starbucks coffee refill trick, and then dig around and watch some of his other crafty illusions using commonplace materials. He’s the un-flashy reboot of the classic sleight-of-hand illusionist.

Sid Handelman should take a lesson.

 

 

 

 

armchair physicist

In spite of being fascinated by the subject matter, I know very little about physics overall. Things move; things fall down. Things catch fire. Motion and gravity and heat: that’s about the extent of it…and I think that third one might actually be chemistry.

Why, then, would I choose to feature physics so prominently in the novel I’m writing?

I didn’t do it on purpose. It just sort of happened.

The new work in question is the story of a contemporary magician, a sleight-of-hand illusionist who, as it turns out, has honest-to-goodness magic in those hands. It fluctuates depending on his emotional state; it evolves with him as he grows from an awkward boy largely ignored by everyone around him, to a quiet, slightly more confident young man who learns to use his power to draw favorable attention from others. And it disappears altogether when he loses his one true happiness in life. So he goes on something of a quest to learn from the masters how to get it all back. It’s a fun write so far.

Hopefully it’ll end up an equally fun read.

 

Image

This is your hand on magic. Any questions?

By and large, what I’m discovering as I write—which everyone who writes about magic maybe knows already—is that magic is the manipulation of the physics of things: things that disappear and reappear; things that move from here to there, with no visible means of motion; things that shouldn’t levitate but do, and things that suddenly exist where they hadn’t before, with no discernible cause.

Things that readily transform from one shape into another and back again.

A lot of this sounds like personality to me. Feelings that come and go without warning; emotions that rise and fall at a moment’s notice without those who experience them realizing why such a thing is happening. Moods that shift and alter and turn from this to that, without immediately notable cause or readily discernable stimulus.

Pretty similar.

It occurred to me after all this unqualified consideration that the physics of feeling are really the physics of magic. That the possibility of a human being altering the physical world around them arises first from an equivalent alteration in their state of emotion. Happiness that begets creation through acts of kindness; anger that begets destruction through acts of violence.

In essence, we end up being our own magic. And each other’s too.

That’s powerful stuff to think about.

And so, my magician is very much grounded in reality. He doesn’t dwell among dragons or wizards or other supernatural entities; he wasn’t born of the gods, and he hasn’t come back from the dead. He lives in a contemporary world. He grows up with a single mom who has other things to tend to; he goes to college and fumbles around figuring out what he wants to do with his life. He’s shy around girls, even when they seem to like him. And in his efforts to please people, he ends up changing himself and things around him in ways he doesn’t intend. His magic is quiet and common and simply a method by which he deals with the world to better understand who he is, even as the world resists understanding him. Even with magic, it isn’t an easy road for him; he makes all kinds of mistakes that end up setting him back about ten steps every time. But none of the interesting ones to write about have it smooth all the way through. I thought this one deserved a fable made of sweetly absurd magical realism. So I’m telling his story, on his terms, using the language of physics and feelings and magic.

Sleight of Handelman is the title.

Working tag line: Eat. Pray. Saw a woman in half.

That’ll probably change, depending on the mood I’m in by the time I finish writing it.

See?

Poof!

Magic.

 

My other books are available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble…check them out here.

 

of note

There’s something that fascinates me about rock stars and musicians, something that doesn’t seem to want to go away. They crop up in just about everything I’ve written so far. Being a musician myself, using the theme of music isn’t so mysterious; it’s just one of the go-to methods I use for my characters express themselves. But people who choose to build careers around music — and those who are captivated enough by them to emulate their ways — are entirely different creatures from the rest of us. I’ve been trying to figure out why this strikes me as something worth writing about, other than the obvious road stories and rags-to-riches fable of it all. The world just seems to love its rock stars, regardless of how faulted and flawed they might be.

And I actually think I might love them because of the faults and the flaws.

I think I understand a little better how it is now that I’m on the other side of the new book.

What contemporary character better personifies the mythic god-hero figure at the heart of every epic story ever told? One of humble birth who overcomes a youth fraught with obstacles and challenges to ascend and become seen as something more than mortal. One who sings the songs of us all, whose voice resonates with the pain and triumph of whole of the human experience, who has seemingly reached into the void and filled the chasm between the sacred and the mundane.

Rock stars and musicians are voyagers between worlds, traveling the channels where mere folk cannot hope to set foot, capturing the life essence in words and sounds and giving it to us as a gift. Right or wrong, we exalt them for it.

And then, when they screw it all up and fall right back into the gutter with the rest of us?

Holy whoa…is that ever a hotbed of storytelling material right there!

So far, though I’ve tried to make them all relatable, none of my rock stars or my musicians have been simple souls, and none have turned out to be literal heroes—not in the vampire books (there’s another one coming in Joe 3…he’s more flawed than just about any of them, and I’ve never had more fun writing a character than I’ve had writing him), not in Starstruck (probably the most “rock star” of the rock stars, actually) and not in the new book (in which the rock star is actually the most human of any I’ve written). They’ve all been nothing so much as wayward souls in search of themselves, yet they end up empty and shallow and humble again —and, ultimately, thoroughly self-aware.

Maybe that’s what makes them so write-able for me: if I can give them enough knowledge of their own hopelessly-flawed existences, maybe they emerge at the bottom more heroic than they ever were at the top.

Whatever it is, I’m sure there’s more of it to come.

Next book, though? No rock stars, and no musicians. Not a one.

I don’t know how I’m gonna handle it.