I was ten when I first felt it. I’d been reading The Long Winter, and became so immersed in blizzards and hunger and Pa Ingalls’ struggle to keep his family alive, that I was astonished when I looked up and discovered that it was summer outside my bedroom window!

At twelve I discovered Jane Eyre, and Rebecca, and other lovely gothic tales. I became the heroine wandering in those dark, mysterious, mansions.

That’s the magic of good fiction—that delicious sense of being someone else, someplace else, being taken to a place we’ve never seen.

Unfortunately, that becomes harder as one studies writing techniques. We go to workshops, study books on writing, learn about plot twists, repetitive words and the all-important conflict. We pick up a novel and immediately start to analyze technique, word tricks, plot holes and weak characters. Losing ourselves in the story becomes rare.

I miss it.

And so, I’m extra grateful when I stumble upon a book that, once again, gives me back that elusive feeling of story magic. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield managed to do that for me recently. There’s a bookish, plain, heroine hired to help an elderly eccentric author write her biography, while living in a creepy old mansion.

I forgot who I was, or where I was, and was a bit shocked when I emerged from the pages and discovered that I was still here, living in a sunny farmhouse in Ohio. I enjoyed it so much, I kind of wished I could push a “delete” key in my mind and experience it all over again.

Another book I highly recommend is Annette Smith’s A Bigger Life. In my opinion, hands down, the best-written, most honest inspirational novel I’ve ever read. I’m still thinking about it a month later.

Stories that make you forget who you are, and where you are, don’t happen accidentally. The authors spend years studying craft, writing and rewriting. And if they’re very, very good–it all looks effortless, and the reader isn’t even aware of the smoke and mirrors behind the magic.

Now, to go practice my own magic some more. My goal is to finally get those slight-of-hand word tricks down so well, no one notices the white rabbit stuffed up my sleeve.

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