fiction

If You Gave Your Mom a Snake Party: A Flash Fiction Piece

I don’t know about you, but my mom is super-grossed out by snakes. She has freaked out around them every time.

            A few memorable times include my brother’s eighth birthday party, when he got his picture taken with a snake around his neck. My mother ran away, saying, “Ew, ew, gross,” several times.

            Another moment that stands out to me is when we were buying food and supplies for our dog. The cashier had a tiny snake around his fingers. My mom asked if it was fake or real. The guy said, “It’s real.” My mother freaked out.

            The event that stands out to me the most is when we watched the news and they announced a snake massage at a zoo in Australia. My mom sent me the link to my email. Her personal message was, “Ewwww! Gross!” It cracked me up so much that I almost lost my breath.

            Anyway, last year, I thought it would be funny to throw my mom a snake-themed party for her birthday. I decorated the house with snake streamers, snake-balloons, jungle trees with fake snakes, and a game called pin the rattle tail on the rattlesnake.

            So, I invited some friends and family to our house. When my mom came, we all yelled, “Surprise!” My mother was speechless when she saw the snake decorations. She said to me, “Rayna, you know I don’t like snakes.”

            But the funniest part of all was when we sang “Happy Birthday” and I carried a cake—that resembled a live snake—literally. My mom deepened her frown, making the inside of her bottom lip come out. My brother videoed the whole moment. Everyone kept singing as my mother looked more grossed out than ever. After we sang, I told my mom to make a wish. But she was too grossed out to blow out the candles. My brother laughed. He blew them out instead.

            The inside of the cake was red velvet filled with cream cheese. My mom wouldn’t eat the cake.

            While I planned to consider the party a silly prank, my mom banned us from hosting her surprise parties ever again. She then gave us a lecture on how a snake-themed party was very inconsiderate. From that point on, I learned to respect her dislikes, including snakes.

            My mom is fine with turtles. But I will not buy her a turtle gift for her next birthday, Christmas, or any other occasion. I promise to treat her birthdays with respect and consideration from now on.

fiction

Mice and Rats: A Flash Fiction Piece

I sat at the train station. Something moved on the tracks. It was nighttime, so I couldn’t see what it was. It might have been a rat.

            Unlike most people, I’ve always found mice and rats fascinating. I stood up and stared at the movement. Yup—it was a rat.

            I wished I could take a picture of the critter. But everyone would’ve consider me crazy. While I still didn’t mind mice and rats, I couldn’t pull my phone out of my purse.

            Just a few weeks ago, my husband had called an exterminator for a rat. He had fit in with the majority, who disliked mice and rats.

            Anyway, the exterminator had come. He’d been about to put out rat poison when I’d seen the rat and had said, “Before you put out that rat poison, I’d like to take a picture of the rat.”

            The exterminator had looked at me like I’d had five noses. He’d put out the poison before I could even photograph the rodent. And I hadn’t wanted to take a picture of it after it’d died.

            Not only had the exterminator considered me crazy, but so did my husband. I was aware that mice and rats carried disease. Nevertheless, I’d still considered them interesting.

            If I were ever alone, and I saw a mouse or rat far away from me, I would love to photograph it. But I was never alone in Queens, not even in my home. I lived in an apartment. While the others were in their own sections, I could still hear their voices, TV’s, music, and more.

            I hoped to move out and live on Long Island at some point—in a place of my own. Purely for me.

fiction

The Spelling Assignment: A Flash Fiction Piece

I stood in the classroom and observed the second graders as they presented different stories. It was my first time student-teaching. I was a college sophomore, which is the youngest you can observe classrooms in schools.

A familiar little girl stood up and presented her story. I looked at her as her bangs covered her eyes and her thick bobbed hair covered her cheeks. She reminded me of someone I’d babysat from four years ago. It couldn’t be Emma Da Silva, who used to play with a stuffed polar bear she’d called Spike.

The child faced the class and read the story. “For our spelling homework, I wrote about a polar bear named Spike.”

I gazed at her.

“Once upon a time, there was a polar bear named Spike. Spike wanted to play with the otters and the elephant seal on the glacier. There was a rainbow in the sky, which made Spike happy. But the other animals said no when he asked if he could play. Spike was sad and cried. His mommy came and gave him company. She walked with him back to the other animals and made them say sorry. Spike ran toward them and they accepted him. They lived happily ever after. The end.”

The class applauded. Mrs. Jackson, the teacher, stood up. “Wait to go, Emma. But you missed some of the spelling words.”

“No, I didn’t,” Emma said.

“You missed the words, bitterness, community, social, alligator, and cooperate,” said Mrs. Jackson.

“Aw,” said Emma.

“Sit back down,” said Mrs. Jackson. “We’re going to move on to something else.”

I approached Emma as she returned to her desk.

“What is it, Miss. Whitney?” Emma asked me.

I hesitated. “That was an interesting story you wrote.”

“But I’m going to get a zero,” said Emma.

“Well, I remember a little girl who also had a stuffed polar bear named Spike,” I said.

Emma tilted her head. “Are you talking about me?”

I flushed.

“You used to babysit me?” asked Emma.

“Is your last name Da Silva?” I asked.

Emma nodded.

“I… I did babysit you.”

Emma brightened her eyes.

“Jaylin, get back here,” said Mrs. Jackson.

I returned to the chalkboard but continued to gaze at Emma. That story made me smile.

Writing

Why I Differentiate My Characters from Myself

Image from Pixabay

Many authors base their characters off of people they know. A high percent of people also base their stories off of real-life experiences. However, I am different. I rarely or never do any of those things.

One: I find my life experiences too ordinary and straightforward. Two: I find it more exciting to make them very different from me.

For example, the MC of my novels is Irish Catholic, blonde, and has had a tragic life. I am Indian and Hindu, dark-haired, and has lived a typical life with hardly any tragedies. I lost my paternal grandpa when I was 2, so I don’t remember him. My maternal grandpa died when I was 22 but I didn’t cry. I only experienced shocking pain for a few hours. That’s really it for the sad moments in my life.

I could explain my MC’s tragic life. But that is within the novels. You can find them through reviews, excerpts, or if you choose to purchase the books.

Anyway, I find varying and differentiating things far more fun than making them like me. After all, the world would be a boring place if we all thought the same things, even if that meant little to no conflicts. I could be wrong, though.

Differentiating characters from myself also opens more room for growing knowledge, even if that means extra research. If I wrote about Hindu characters, I probably would not have to do as much research. But I would also get bored. And if it’s boring to write, it’s usually boring to read.

While I rarely make characters similar to myself, I never base them off people I know. But that will be for another post. That being said, I do give some similarities occasionally, such as food tastes. Overall, though, I differ from other writers.

fiction

Rudy’s Racoon Birthday Bash: A Short Story

My brother, Rudy, turned six today. Unlike many people, Rudy admired racoons. That’d led him to wanting a racoon birthday party.

            I’d assisted my mom in buying supplies, such as those racoon hats. The party stores sold no racoon balloons, plates, or anything related to them. So we had bought black and silver balloons and had placed racoon faces on them—printouts from the internet.

            Rudy had also wished for a pin-the-tail-on-the-racoon game. So my mom had made that on her own.

            We set up the house. My mom had asked me to assist in the event, even though my friend, Alice, had invited me to her pool party.

            At fourteen, that intrigued me more than a small child’s birthday bash with an unusual theme.

            The doorbell rang. Rudy’s friends showed up and put on the racoon hats. Then they ran around.

            Once all the little kids arrived, my mom said to me, “Esme, you’re in charge of the kids.”

            “Why? What are you doing?”

            “I’m teaching you responsibility.”

            I blushed, recalling the poor grades I’d received in school that’d almost made me fail eighth grade.

            As Rudy’s friends played the games, Alice called me.

            “I can’t talk right now.”

            “I’m going away tomorrow and won’t be back for two weeks.”

            “Alice, I already told you that I can’t make it.”

            A boy fell and cried.

            “I’ve got to go.” I hung up and rushed over to the kid. “What happened?”

            “I tripped,” he sobbed.

            “Hang on, I’ll get you a Band-Aid.” I hurried to the bathroom, only to run into my mom, who walked out.

            “Who’s crying?” my mother asked.

            “Dylan,” said Rudy.

            “Where was Esme when this happened?” asked my mom.

            “Talking on the phone with her friend, Alice,” Rudy answered.

            My mom glared at me as I gave Rudy a dirty look.

            “Esme, I told you to look after them,” my mother said.

            “I’m sorry. But Alice was the one who called me.”

            “Give me your phone.” My mom held her hand out.

            I gave it to her and dragged my feet into the room.

            “You’ll get it back after the party.”

            I flushed and gave Dylan the Band-Aid. “All right, who wants to play a game where you don’t run around?”

            The children groaned.

            “We can come up with something.” I gasped. “How about arts and crafts?”

            “Can it be about racoons?” Rudy asked.

            “Yes, but let your friends make whatever they want too.”

            I gathered some paper, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, and googly eyes. Then I brought it to the playroom.

            “What can we make?” asked Dylan.

            “Anything you want,” I answered. “Just be careful with the scissors and don’t run with them. No grabbing things from the other children, no coloring on anything other than the paper, and clean up after you’re done.”

            The kids engaged in drawing, coloring, cutting, and pasting. They made rainbows, houses, butterflies, and other cute creations.

            After they tidied up, they showed my mom their crafts.

            “Very nice, everyone,” she said. “Did Esme watch you?”

            They all said that she did.

            “She helped us,” said Rudy.

            “Wow.” My mother turned to me. “Thank you, Esme.”

            “You’re welcome.”

            I assisted in serving pizza, cake, and goodie bags. Then my mom returned the phone to me. Alice had texted me.

My pool had an issue. So we can’t swim today. Do u want to come in 2 weeks?

I replied.

Yes. TY so much. See u then.

“Thank you for helping out today, Esme,” my mom said.

“Thank you,” Rudy added.

“You’re welcome.” I grinned.

Writing

Characters: When All of Their Flaws Are Too Hard to Apply

Image from Pixabay

Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.

However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At most, she may do a few wrong things and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.

Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.

One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling her emotions. But I will stop there on that.

Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.

Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However, you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.

Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.

I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.

In Beauty and the Beast, after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her and forces her out.

Spoiler:

At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human, Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.

If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.

So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let that help you.

Writing

The Dialogue… It’s so Incredibly Difficult!

Image from Pixabay

Why is it so hard? Because it needs to be relevant to the storyline, not offensive, and sound natural to the person speaking it, taking their age, time, where they live, and other demographics in mind. You need to listen to how people speak.

Yet, many people, especially those the ages of middle grade characters, have said little to nothing in my presence. Yup—people watching is tougher than you think, excluding the risk of those folks thinking that you’re stalking them. You could watch movies too, but that doesn’t really help, either. Another option is to read books and see how other authors write their characters’ dialogue.

But the hardest challenge with dialogue, overall, is having characters react believably to extreme situations, especially in fantasy. I write fantasy and I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to make characters react naturally to high levels of danger. No matter how hard I try, readers have said that the characters’ reactions were muted, unnatural, and too accepting. It’s so frustrating!

However, I found a solution, besides receiving help from editors. I print out the story and read the dialogue out loud. I was surprised to discover how unnatural some lines were—just by reading them out loud. So I changed the words.

Observing others is fine up to a certain extent. Also, a lot of people are quiet in public. Many even put on faces in public and might behave differently in their homes. Reading other books could work, as well. But I find reading the dialogue out loud helps the most.

Writing

On Writing my Third “Magical Missions” Novel

This process has been SUPER difficult for me. I meant that. For two years, I couldn’t finish a single darn draft. Then, last year, I discovered that I needed to start shorter and sloppier. I realized that my progress differed from other writers. I needed to simplify things drastically. While others write 100,000 words and have to cut, I will have to write 10,000 words and then expand. But that’s another post.

Anyway, the first installment “The Frights of Fiji” is available on Amazon here. The second installment, “The Uncontrollable Curse” can be pre-ordered right here. The third novel is currently titled “Enchanted for Eternity” (which might change) and still has a ways to go. I am writing a synopsis for the current draft. I’m hoping that plot can work for the final draft. Really—I just want this project to be done. About 3.25 years of this WIP have passed and I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to quit.

Yeah—finding an exciting plot was sooo hard. Even recently, long after I completed a full first draft from January to February last year (2018), I have gotten bored with some of my plots. However, the one I’m working on actually sounds pretty exciting, even though I’m not done with the synopsis.

But the idea has stayed the same. My main character, Alyssa, is cursed with magic that she needs to learn to control and keep permanently. I’ll release more information once the story’s pretty much done and nearing publication, which might be early fall, as of now.

fiction

Excerpt: The Frights of Fiji (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book 1)

The raindrops darkened into black, looking as if ink fell from the sky. Alyssa leaned closer to them. She squinted to determine the shapes they formed on the kitchen window… letters.

            No! That couldn’t happen. Yet, a message spelled out as more pigments plopped onto the glass. Alyssa gasped at what it said.

            Your life will never be the same again, Alyssa McCarthy, as magic will interfere.

            What? Magic didn’t exist—at least that’d been what others had told her when she was little. No one on Orion Street could possess enchanted abilities.

            Alyssa had lived here since she’d lost her parents in that car crash five years ago. She’d only been seven then. How would she tell her uncle, Bruce, about this? He’d consider her crazy. He’d already toughened up his attitude and rules. So he might consider it an excuse to escape this house.

            Although Alyssa’s parents had designated her godfather as the first priority guardian, Uncle Bruce forbade her to try and contact him. He’d hidden the phone number and other information about him.

            Since Alyssa’s aunt, Laura, had died three years ago, Uncle Bruce had required fun to be earned. And that took more effort than Alyssa could often accomplish.

            Turning around, she spotted her babysitter, Mrs. Hutchinson, examining the kitchen floor. Alyssa’s eleven-year-old cousin, Hailey, watched the progress. Hailey had mopped the floor. Would she earn a break now? Ever since her uncle, Bruce, had hired Mrs. Hutchinson, Mrs. Hutchinson had admired the way Hailey had done her chores more than Alyssa.

            “Hailey, you can take a break until your next chore,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, get back to work. You’ve been staring at the rain for too long.”

            “Okay.” Alyssa turned back—only to see the message gone and the rain back to its normal transparency.

            “What did I say?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.

            Alyssa sighed. “Fine, I’ll finish washing the dishes.”

She scrubbed her dish and glass with soap under warm running water. Her eyes focused on just those. No way would she want Mrs. Hutchinson to catch her looking out the window again. Mrs. Hutchinson was only in her sixties, but she’d sometimes seem to forget that was 2010 and not 1960 with her guidelines. Yet, it had taken Alyssa a while to realize that she wouldn’t even tolerate the mildest kind of nonsense, such as getting distracted by a windowpane when having to perform chores.

            Now that she finished washing her dishes, Alyssa put them to the side and grabbed some paper towels to dry them.

            “What do you think you’re doing?” Mrs. Hutchinson asked.

Alyssa stopped. “I’m just—”

            “The last few times I was here, you left little bits of food on your dishes.”

            “But they were stuck.”

            “Let me inspect them. Also, if something is rubbery, you have to wash it again.”

            “Why?”

            “Because clean dishes aren’t supposed to be rubbery. And boy, did you do such a sloppy job. Look at that stain on your sweater.”

            Alyssa looked down.

            “That looks like chocolate.”

            Alyssa blushed and arched her eyebrows.  “Hey—it’s just water.” She covered the stain at the bottom of her sweater’s V-neck.

            But Mrs. Hutchinson waved her index finger. “Don’t you ‘hey’ me, Alyssa. That’s rude. In my days, kids respected their elders. We never would dare talk to them that way unless we didn’t mind them smacking our bottoms.”

            “Things change.”

            “Not when I’m here, they don’t. Now let me do my inspection.”

            Great—an inspection! How long would Mrs. Hutchinson take? She might spend a couple minutes or maybe twenty. Alyssa crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She wanted her break now. She wished to read, rest, do a small craft, like lanyards—anything but wait for Mrs. Hutchinson to finish her task.

            “Mrs. Hutchinson?” Alyssa asked.

            “Whatever you need to say, wait till I’m done,” she said.

            Alyssa sighed. She continued to watch Mrs. Hutchinson run her finger down the middle of the front of the dish. She then rubbed it back and forth. When she put it down and nodded, Alyssa figured out that the dish had nothing on it.

            Mrs. Hutchinson spent a few minutes of running her finger down the glass. She put it down and turned to Alyssa. “You’re good. Now what did you want to tell me?”

            “Um . . . if I tell you, can you not give me a hard time?”

            “Okay.”

            “There was writing on the window.”

            Mrs. Hutchinson pursed her lips and tilted her head. “Really?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Nonsense.”

            “No, really, it was there.”

            “There was nothing there when I came, and there’s nothing there right now. So don’t tell me stories.”

            “But it’s not a story.”

            “I don’t want to hear any more. Now it’s time for your next chore.”

            “Aw, but I wanted my break.”

            “Too bad. You have to go vacuum the living room.”

            Alyssa dragged her feet toward the living room and took the vacuum from the corner. She cleaned and thought about that writing as well as how Mrs. Hutchinson wouldn’t believe her. Would a nicer babysitter have believed her? Mrs. Hutchinson had watched her and Hailey for three years, and not once had she smiled or assisted with anything.

            After vacuuming the carpet for about five minutes, Alyssa decided that she had tidied the floor enough. So she stopped and put the vacuum away.

            “Hailey, you and Alyssa need to go get the mail now!” Mrs. Hutchinson called, facing the staircase.            

“Coming!” cried Hailey.

Another rule Uncle Bruce had placed on Alyssa and Hailey was they could only go outside together. He worried about people taking them or something, even though Alyssa would turn thirteen next month. But that rule had been placed because a few months ago, Uncle Bruce had heard about a seventeen-year-old boy who had been shot while skateboarding in his neighborhood. Violence could even happen here in Bursnell, New Jersey.

            Hailey and Alyssa headed to the closet and put their raincoats on until Mrs. Hutchinson said, “It stopped raining outside.”

            “Already?” asked Alyssa.

            “Yes.” Mrs. Hutchinson went to the bathroom.

            The girls walked outside toward the mailbox. Alyssa pulled the mail and headed back toward the door. But mud bubbled from the ground near the house. It piled up, looking like horse manure, and grew as more soil emerged. Alyssa dropped her jaw and stared at it.

            “Alyssa, what’s going on?” Hailey asked.

            “No idea,” said Alyssa.

            The dirt stopped piling up, but it continued to bubble, and the effects spread throughout the whole pile. The bubbles stopped popping up and down. Alyssa and Hailey gasped as they expanded. They kept their mouths open as the bubbles merged together, each one attached to another, forming a single bigger shape. Alyssa and Hailey stepped back as the now giant bubble swelled. And it . . . popped! Particles of exploding mud landed on the girls. They shrieked.

The front door opened to reveal a glowering Mrs. Hutchinson. “What the heck have you two been doing?”

            “T-the mud . . . it e-exploded,” said Hailey.

            “Nonsense!” growled Mrs. Hutchinson. “Get inside!”

            The girls returned inside, pulling and wiping the mud out of their hair. Alyssa could spot the mud in her straight pale-blonde tresses, unlike Hailey, who likely needed more patience to search for globs in her elbow-length red locks. But Alyssa’s hair fell a few inches past her hips, so cleaning out the mud would take longer, even with the shorter layers in the front.

            “How could dirt explode?” Mrs. Hutchinson stomped.

            “I-I think it was magic!” exclaimed Alyssa.

            “There’s no such thing as magic!” screamed Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, you’re twelve years old. You’re too old to say things like that!”

            “But nothing else can make mud explode!” Alyssa said.

            “Mrs. Hutchinson, we swear it did!” whined Hailey.

            “Enough!” snapped Mrs. Hutchinson. “You and Hailey—go upstairs and take showers!”

            Alyssa followed Hailey up the stairs and heaved a sigh. How else would the mud have splattered all over them? Mrs. Hutchinson couldn’t have thought they’d play in the mud like small children.

            “Alyssa, can I shower first?” asked Hailey.

            “Sure,” said Alyssa.

            As Hailey strode into the bathroom, Alyssa walked into her room. She scratched more mud off her skinny jeans (the only jeans she’d worn ever since they’d come into style) and the back of her hand. She stood by her bed since she wanted to keep it clean.

She considered the writing on the window and the exploding mud. Someone wanted magic to interfere with her life, but who, and how come?

            Also, why hadn’t she ever seen wizardry before? Why would her parents and others tell her that it hadn’t existed? Did sorcery just start on earth? Had it hidden somewhere? There had to be some reason why no one had ever believed in it.

Enjoyed the excerpt? Click here to purchase the book.

fiction

The Uncontrollable Curse (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book 2): Presenting… an Excerpt

Alyssa inhaled a lavender scent that tickled her nose. She opened her eyes to see lilac-colored vapor enveloping her face. Gasping, she hopped off her bed. But the mist followed her and covered her body.

            It touched her straight, pale-blonde hair and formed droplets that dripped off the strands that fell to the middle of her butt. The mist also sank into her skin through her muted purple T-shirt and leggings. Grunting, Alyssa squeezed her aching, narrow shoulders. The vapor drifted away through the closed window, without staining anything.

            Where did this come from? Alyssa thought.

            Normal mist would have marked a closed window, so the vapor had to have come from… wizardry. Alyssa’s breathing grew faster. Six months had passed since magic had left her life. It was October! Magic should have stayed out, leaving Alyssa to live sorcery-free.

            On April eighteenth, the day after Alyssa’s thirteenth birthday, her wizard mentor, Mathias, had provided two enchanted objects meant to protect her from magical peril. She’d brought them with her to Illinois after her godfather and legal guardian Alex had lost his job in Ohio and had been offered a new one in Cook County, minutes away from their home here in Will County. And yet, somehow, somebody had found a way around the artifacts’ protections today.

            That did it! Alyssa’s eyes drifted to her closet. The door was cracked open. Duct tape hung from a shoebox. Alyssa covered her mouth. Somebody must’ve broken in and opened the door while she had gone to Chicago today. The city was about an hour away from here, Will County, and Alyssa had taken a nap after returning here in the afternoon. Something should’ve woken her up earlier.

            Alyssa crept over, breathing faster. Her hands sweated and trembled as she opened the door. She jumped back. The objects were missing from that shoebox.

            Why hadn’t the magic light stick steered the thief away, especially if he or she were magical? It must have been a sorcerer. Otherwise, the window would’ve broken or Alyssa would’ve noticed other clues. And shouldn’t the warning dome have glowed orange at some point today, even if the criminal had taken hours to prepare to steal it and the stick? They couldn’t have been disabled. There had to be a way to get them back.

            Earlier today, in the morning, Alyssa had left to go shopping with Alex. Perhaps Alex needed to install an alarm system. Couldn’t he have hired someone to set it up and have it ready by now, at around six PM?

Alyssa searched the closet, but she saw no signs of her objects. She groaned.

            Whoever had started that mist either must have taken her objects or had sent somebody to do so. She looked around her room.

            The walls remained their mauve color. The furniture stayed where it had always been. Her poster of celebrity, Sapphire Silver Button, hung next to her bed. An airbrushed picture of her name hung across her closet. Everything on her desk and dresser stayed still. But no clues suggested any sign of somebody else here.

            A swish sounded, suggesting a wizard had appeared here. But he or she made no sounds.

            Alyssa picked up her Android phone and contacted her previous mentors – from when a magician named Master Beau had kidnapped her and taken her to Fiji in late March, so that she could’ve helped him rule France.

            First, she searched for Mathias’s in her email. No results came up. The same thing occurred with her other helper, Isabelle. That left Simon, the English marble figure, the third mentor. Nothing.

            Alyssa exhaled. Simon should know better. If he hadn’t warned Alyssa about Master Beau or had asked Isabelle and Mathias to guide her in Fiji, would she have made it today? Because he knew a lot about different subjects, especially technology, Simon should’ve emailed her. As a marble figure, even if he resembled a mini angel, he could gather information from people’s minds and signal people, as well as animals, as quickly as the speed of sound. Even when he’d frozen in Fiji, he hadn’t lost that skill.

            Even if Simon had too much to do now, he would have found Alyssa another mentor. Alyssa sighed and put her phone down.

                Something tickled her palms. She gasped and swung them back. White light glowed from within her hands. Her jaw dropped, and the rays shot out and landed on the floor by the door. The beams vanished, revealing bouncing tiles.

            Alyssa’s chest constricted and her skin tightened. She gaped at the leaping pieces, her mouth still open. Shallow breaths came out of her mouth. This had to be a dream. She couldn’t have performed magic. Ordinary people without sorcery in their blood couldn’t do that.

            Alyssa kept her eyes open and focused her attention on the tiles. Her heartbeat sped up. Without any magic in her blood, she could never become a sorceress. Everyone who’d ever been related to her had zero supernatural powers. She would’ve found out by the age of nine, when wizard children learned to control their sorcery, that she was an enchantress. But—magic did advance like technology over time and gained new possibilities.

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