fiction

How Magic Shapes My Characters

What is fantasy without magic? My “Magical Missions” does not differ from that.

However, the magic laws and culture do stand out from other fantasy books. One is that they are set in modern-day America, and the other is that wizards have their own enchanted technology far more advanced than the regular kind. 

How does this shape my characters? The protagonist, Alyssa, has grown up not believing in magic… until the start of book 1, “The Frights of Fiji.” Of course, she reacts with surprise as do the other characters. Or they don’t believe her. Those that do witness wizardry are either amazed or scared.

In the sequel, “A Curse of Mayhem,” Alyssa has already gotten used to magic, even though it hasn’t interfered with her life for the past 6 months. Unlike then, though, she is performing it against her will and longs to remove it. Of course, it involves lots of complications.

While Alyssa’s friends stand by her as does her guardian, most of the characters fear and misunderstand her, especially her school principal. He sees her sorcery as threatening and dangerous. Therefore, he gives her detention several times. Alyssa also ends up at risk for expulsion. Of course, I won’t spoil anything.

Wizards and non-magical people (there is no specific term for them) share the same world, although magicians hide their supernatural culture and skills differently. They will either blend their buildings in with security charms, put invisibility shields around them, or disguise things around ordinary people.

I do explain on my website how wizards hide their secret world. But this is how magic shapes my characters.

You can also buy Book 2 here and Book 1 here.

fiction

Review of Book, “Cooking with Caroline” by Katharina Marcus

Sixteen-year-old Kirsty Matthews attends an assembly with her school, where a celebrity chef named Caroline Connelly announces a healthy cooking class for students. She learns more about the program as students ask Caroline different questions related to it. She unintentionally signs up for it as well as gets in a little drama with a boy named Jake Deacon. How will things progress? Read the book to find out.

This novel had a lot of unique aspects. One thing that stood out to me was the protagonist being overweight. It is not too common for main characters to have heavy figures—at least not in the ones I have read.

Another part that I found surprising was that every other chapter switched from third-person to first-person and focused merely on Kirsty’s thoughts. While that did displease me a bit, it did not distract me too much nor did it bother me a lot.

The food Caroline made the kids prepare sounded interesting, such as healthy soup and even pasta dishes. Sometimes, my mouth watered just from reading this fictional story. Lol.

From the teen life to the cooking lessons, this book brought lots of different feelings to me. I would rate this 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to both kids and adults.

fiction

Review of “A Horse to Love” by Marsha Hubler

I haven’t read this book in years. However, I do remember enough to review it. I must also admit that I loved horses as a child and still do. In fact, I used to ride regularly from ages 8 to about 14.

Anyway, let me get to the review.

Thirteen-year-old Skye Nicholson is in court for something. She is assigned to a foster mother named Mrs. Chambers, who makes Skye do farm work, go to church, and has many rules about her home facilities. On the bright side, Skye develops a passion for this horse called Champ.

This book has a lot of memorable moments. Aside from the strong and engaging writing, many scenes stand out to me, such as when Mrs. Chambers comforts Skye and when Skye and Morgan, a physically disabled girl, ride horses together. Another moment that I have strong feelings about is when Skye hurt another girl at school, ran away, and got punished by her foster parents, where she couldn’t use any of the facilities or see Champ the horse. This was obviously wrong for Skye to do.

There are also some parts that I felt were flawed. One is how Mrs. Chambers only allows Christian music and makes Skye go to church. What if Skye were another religion? I considered that insensitive of Mrs. Chambers. It would have been better if the music allowed was something else, such as clean music with no explicit lyrics. 

Another moment that stood out to me was when when Mrs. Chambers first met Skye and said, “You can call me Mrs. Chambers or Mrs. C, but never Eileen.” The third part felt unnecessary to me, especially when an adult talks to a thirteen-year-old. 

Speaking of which, Skye won’t join a teen club Morgan offers her since she still thinks she’s only a kid. But thirteen is a teenager. Plus, most thirteen-year-olds are excited to finally be teens and not younger children anymore.

Other than those issues, I really enjoyed the story and would rate it 4 out of 5 stars. 

movie

I’m Spelling Out This Evaluation of “Hocus Pocus” (1993)

Warning: contains spoilers***

There are so many aspects of this film that stand out to me. It begins where a boy named Thackary is looking for his younger sister, Emily. He finds her being cursed by three witches, Winifred, Mary, and Sarah. They turn Thackary into an immortal black cat, but are then executed by the community shortly after. Three hundred years have passed (which surprised me) and the focus is now on a teenage boy, named Max, in his history class at school. The Halloween adventure begins.

I found Max to be very believable, especially since he moved to a new town from Los Angeles and really missed his old home. The bullies who picked on him made me feel even more sorry for him. However, at some point, the bullies were in danger, and Max wouldn’t save them, which was irresponsible. Just because someone is not nice to you, that doesn’t mean you can leave them in peril.

That being said, Max was a good guy. Although he resisted taking his eight-year-old sister, Dani, out to trick-or-treat at first, and she even screamed about it at some point (which was also irresponsible and could have misled her parents into thinking she was getting hurt), he did it and showed loving care with her as the movie progressed. He also dressed as a “rapper.”

Speaking of loving care, it was so sweet how Dani developed strong feelings for Thackary in his cat form. She even held him while sleeping and fed him cat food. During the part where the curse got broken and the witches perished, unfortunately, Thackary passed on, too, and his last sound was a meow. However, he returned to Dani in his human form as a ghost and comforted her until he was reunited with his sister, who also came back as a spirit. This happened at the very end, and I was expecting Max, Dani, and Max’s love interest, Allison, to get in trouble with their parents eventually. Instead, the adults are partying somewhere, unaware of what the kids did to save the day.

Earlier, though, after the witches have been revived and are performing at the Halloween bash Max and Dani’s parents attend, Max, Allison, and Dani try to tell them that the witches have been resurrected and are dangerous. But the mom and dad won’t believe them, which I didn’t expect. In fact, everybody found the children crazy when they attempted to warn them about the witches. Even a bus driver acted casually with the sorceresses when encountering them.

Even though this is just a movie, I found it odd that the witches were able to function okay in modern times after being dead for centuries. They should have been confused like crazy. Another flaw is how they broke into Max’s school and no one caught them. Yes, it was 1993, when school security was likely more relaxed. But shouldn’t there have been surveillance cameras or even a guard?

When Max, Allison, and Dani celebrated the witches’ “deaths”, I figured that it was the midpoint and knew that they hadn’t really been defeated. This was based on how I studied story structure for years and past movie-viewing experiences.

A couple of moments that also shocked me were when Max was willing to sacrifice himself for Dani when the witches tried to jinx her with a potion and a clueless zombie who had no idea what to do. I have to admit, the zombie who didn’t know much felt more credible to me. It also satisfied me since it was a way to stray away from the traditional approach for zombies, where they’re scary and try to eat peoples’ brains.

I would rate “Hocus Pocus” 4 out of 5 stars.

fiction

7 is a Magic Number in “Harry Potter” and I Have 7 Unique Questions About it

I am not making up the fact that the number 7 plays an important part in the “Harry Potter” series. People have said it many times. There are 7 books in the main series, 7 Weasley siblings, 7 years at Hogwarts, 7 players per Quidditch team, and 7 horcruxes.

Anyway, here are 7 unique questions I have about the franchise.

1: Do Ilvermorny Students learn French and Spanish?

It was great to learn that there is an American wizard school. Everyone even got to learn about it in the 2016 film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them.” However, it serves not only wizard children in the US, but also all of North America. That means Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

I did research on this school on a Wikia site and saw that they learn the same subjects British and Irish children learn at Hogwarts, like transfiguration, potions, and so forth. But if it’s all of North America, where some people speak Spanish or French, how do students and staff communicate with everybody?

2: Why aren’t national anthems sung before Quidditch games?

In real life, the country’s national anthem is always sung at sporting events before the games start. But in “Harry Potter”, no national anthem has been sung before Quidditch games. Obviously, muggle-borns know their country’s national anthems, but do kids who grew up in the wizarding world know them? Could the International Statue of Secrecy have gotten in the way?

3: Does Dumbledore know Harry’s handwriting?

When Harry’s name comes out of the goblet of fire in the fourth installment, everyone accuses him of cheating. But he didn’t enter. Someone else entered for him.

Although Dumbledore has a ton of responsibilities, and can’t keep track of every student’s information (such as their dates of birth), he seems to think Harry put his name in the goblet of fire right after it comes out.

I don’t remember if Harry’s handwriting was described. But does it really mimic or resemble similarities to the actual person who entered Harry into the Triwizard Tournament? At the very least, Harry would have recognized his own handwriting and may have convinced Dumbledore and everybody else that he didn’t recognize the handwriting on the parchment if it differed from the person who entered him.

4: Could Harry have forged Uncle Vernon’s handwriting for his Hogsmeade Permission Slip?

In “Prisoner of Azkaban”, Harry has his third year at Hogwarts. Third year students can visit the local village, Hogsmeade, as long as they have a parent or guardian’s permission. Harry convinces Uncle Vernon to sign his permission form, but he refuses unless Harry behaves. But Harry gets angry at Uncle Vernon’s sister, Marge, and he unintentionally causes her to blow up like a balloon and fly away. So, there went his chance of getting his form signed.

However, what if Harry forged Uncle Vernon’s signature? Yes, it’s dishonest. Maybe magic has a way of detecting forgery, but I could be wrong. While the trace detects underage wizardry, I can’t imagine that it or any other magic that monitors wizards tracks every action a magician takes.

5: Why is the age of consent 17 in the wizarding world?

Authors usually have reasons behind details in their stories, especially J.K. Rowling. She chooses names and other elements carefully and with meanings. But it seems to be a mystery to why wizards are legally adults when they turn 17.

6: Who takes care of the students’ animals when they’re in classes?

For some odd reason, students are allowed to bring animals. They have owls for delivering mail. They can also bring a cat or a toad (and a rat in Ron’s case until something about that changes). But where do the animals go when students can’t be with them? How do they act? When do they get their food, relieving breaks, and so forth?

While Hagrid is the gamekeeper, he can’t possibly take care of every single animal, especially cats since they make him sneeze. Hmmm…

7: What happens if a wizard child moves to another country?

When a wizard kid is born, his or her name is added to the respected wizarding school list of their nation. Obviously, they have to grow up and be 11 by September 1st before they can attend. But schools, like Hogwarts, are only available to children in the UK and Ireland.

So, my guess is that if a magician kid moves to another country, his or her name is crossed off the old school’s list and added to the new one. For instance, if a child moves from England to France, maybe their name is removed from the Hogwarts’ list and added to the Beaubaxtons list.

That’s it for all the questions I have about “Harry Potter” that I can’t find elsewhere.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: Why Hasn’t Anyone Been Nice to Harry Before His 11th Birthday?

Poor Harry is forced to live with abusive relatives for his own safety from Voldemort and death-eaters. Like many, I have wondered why no one has reported the Dursleys to authorities and why Harry hasn’t been taken away from them. Some say that the way the Dursleys treat Harry, especially making him sleep in a dirty cupboard under the staircase, would get social services involved. Others say it wasn’t bad enough for that. After doing extensive research, I found out the sad truth, besides that Dumbledore would block any muggle from taking Harry away from his relatives.

I came across an article that discussed child protection laws in the 1980’s, when Harry grew up (he was born in 1980). There were few cases reported and they involved deaths. It wasn’t until the 90’s that child protections laws became stricter and added more unacceptable ways of treating children. But if “Harry Potter” were set today, in recent years, or even the early 2000’s, I am pretty sure the way the Dursleys treated Harry would have gotten him involved with authorities long before Harry turned 11.

I also find it odd that Dumbledore gets to have a say in where Harry lives. Yes, Harry is placed there because of his mother’s protection and it’ll only work if he is with a blood relative of his mom. It remains there until Harry comes of age as long as he calls that place home.

But honestly, no child would call an abusive household “home.” I also don’t think any kid would really be safe in a home where they’re mistreated the way the Dursleys mistreat Harry. Frankly, I don’t think Harry is safe either way. I’ve read that a child who is abused can be in danger both physically and psychologically. That type of treatment can impact brain development.

Not only do I think it’s inhumane to force a kid to live with harmful people, like the Dursleys, but I also find it hard to believe that nobody would have felt sorry for someone like Harry. People have said that they found it bizarre that Harry’s abuse signs were overlooked when he went to muggle school. Some have said they weren’t surprised.

Since Little Winging was (probably) not a small town in the middle of nowhere, there had to be a lot of non-residents or new residents, whether they moved to the area, visited people they knew, worked there, and so forth. I am pretty certain that somebody would have noticed how horribly Harry was treated and wanted to take action. At least one or more people (excluding Hagrid) would have been kind to him and would have tried to help him. Or they would have wanted to.

fiction

The Ball: A Flash Fiction Piece

“Let’s have some fun in a cartoon world,” said Dylan, my nine-year-old brother.

            “Are you crazy?” I asked.

            “I found a special ball that claims it can take you into your favorite cartoon.” Dylan held the glass ball in his hand.

            I made a facepalm.

            “Come on, Elise, please?” Dylan made a sad puppy face.

            “No!” I said.

            Dylan groaned and walked away.

            I was fifteen, and had no time for that nonsense. Plus, Dylan should have known better than to claim that an object could transport him into a cartoon.

            I didn’t know how he’d come up with it, or if he had read it somewhere. If the latter, then that person needed to be penalized.

            I went up to my room and sat on my bed. Perhaps, chatting with friends could take that ridiculous statement off my mind.

            I picked up my phone—only for Dylan to scream.

            “Dylan!” I bolted up and rushed out of my room. “Dylan?! Are you all right?!” I opened his bedroom door. He wasn’t there. My parents were out of town this weekend, so they couldn’t help.

            Inhaling and exhaling, I hurried down the stairs and checked every room. I finalized with the family room—only to find steam arising from Dylan’s ball. I gasped and knelt. “Oh, no,” I moaned.

            My knee pressed on something, which happened to be the remote. The TV turned on, but it played a commercial. The cartoon, “Tyndale and Tina”, about two talking-dogs, came on. The episode started as always—yet a familiar voice sounded, shouting, “Help, help, somebody help me!” A cartoon boy burst into the room with Tyndale and Tina. The kid had pale-blonde hair, and wore the same clothes Dylan wore. Either this was a new episode or…Dylan had ended up in the cartoon.

            “Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked Tyndale.

            “I got sucked into this world!” exclaimed the kid.

            I inhaled. “Dylan!” I knocked on the monitor. “Dylan!”

            None of the characters responded.

            “Dylan, can you hear me?!” I asked. “It’s me, Elise, your sister!”

            Still nothing.

            “Oh, shoot.” I stood and my breathing quickened. If my mom and dad found out about this, they’d ground me, especially since they’d left me in charge.

            My eyes drifted to Dylan’s ball. I stared at it. It could be the only way for me to save my brother. But how would I—or we—get out? There had to be something.

            I crept to the object and picked it up. It had a couple buttons. I would not press any of them, though. One was green and the other was red.

            I carried the sphere and thought about where the instructions could be. Maybe in Dylan’s room?

            I walked upstairs and entered his bedroom. Toys, clothes, and games covered the floor. I picked up each item, but found nothing that could be a manual.

            Then I searched under Dylan’s bed. Still no sign of paper. I returned downstairs and looked everywhere in the family room. Nothing.

            What am I going to do? I asked myself. There’s got to be something.

            I stared into the ball’s buttons and gulped. Perhaps, I should take my chances and press one. Hands trembling, I aimed for the red button. I breathed and touched it. Then I pushed it. Nothing happened.

            I sighed and sat on a couch. But the thing lit from the inside and projected a ray. The noise of Dylan yelping occurred. His colors came out and formed his figure. He landed on the carpet and the beam reversed back into the sphere.

            “Dylan!” I stood and crouched by him. “Are you okay?”

            “I’m fine.” He lifted himself.

            “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” I said.

            “I shouldn’t have used that stupid ball,” said Dylan. “We’ve got to get rid of it.”

            “We will,” I said.

            “Can you not tell mom and dad about this, either?” asked Dylan.

            “I won’t tell them.” I hugged him. “I’m glad to have you back.”

fiction

The Difficult Decision: A Flash Fiction Piece

My energy arose as I thought about my friend, Kylie’s, birthday party happening in two days. Kylie and I had been friends since first grade. I had just completed my freshman year of college, so I looked forward to seeing Kylie after a year.

            But I received a text message from my college friend, Astrid. I read it.

            Lila, my mom just lost her battle with breast cancer. Her funeral is this Saturday.

            Pain shocked my body and my jaw lowered. I responded.

            Oh, no, I’m so sorry to hear.

            The door to the house opened. My mom entered, dragging her feet and lacking energy.

            “Mom, are you all right?” I asked.

            “Lila, did you hear what happened to Mrs. Jackson?”

            I paused for a few seconds. “Astrid’s mom?”

            “Yes.” My mother sat. “Her mom and my mom used to be roommates in college, too.”

            I hesitated and then said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me this?”

            “I…I lost touch with her until you met Astrid.”

            My phone sounded another text alert. I checked it. It came from…Kylie.

            So excited for Saturday. Can’t wait to see you.

            I stared at the communication, but did not respond. Kylie’s birthday party and Mrs. Jackson’s funeral fell on the same day.

            I had attended my grandpa’s funeral two years ago, and I’d had a tough time. I missed him, but I hadn’t cried over his death once…not even after hearing about his passing from my mother.

            While other people had wept at his funeral, I had just stood, bored for hours until the speeches had begun.

            I had hoped not to attend any more funerals since. I recall how the time at the funeral home had dragged and I’d been there for hours with my family.

            Aside from that, I had not seen Kylie since graduation from high school. Her party would start at three P.M. So, maybe I could attend the funeral and then leave for the birthday event. But wait—would that offend Astrid? I had a feeling that it might.

            “Lila, we should go to the funeral this Saturday,” my mom said.

            “How long will it last?”

            My mother gave me a sharp look.

            “Well, I’ve got Kylie’s birthday party at three.”

            “Lila, I think you should skip the party and stay at the funeral.”

            My mouth opened.

            “I get it—we’d all rather go to birthday parties than funerals. But frankly, you’re more friendly with Astrid than Kylie now. Plus, going to the funeral shows that you care and you’re willing to give your condolences. I think it would be more polite if you go to the funeral instead.”

            I sighed and texted Kylie.

            Hey, I can’t go to your party. I’ve got to go to a funeral.

            I sent it. A few seconds later, Kylie responded.

            Oh, ok. I understand. Sorry to hear.

            At least she comprehended me. But maybe my mother had a point. Summer break had just started. So, I’d probably hang out with Kylie another time.

fiction

Being Bananas at School: A Flash Fiction Piece

My name is Bernard Applebaum, although people often call me Bernie. Recently, my school had spirit week, and one of the days was “change your image day”. As a fan of the “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” song, I decided to dress as a banana.

Little did I know that I couldn’t fit on my bus and I kept bumping into people. And those stares everyone gave me are never going to leave my memory.

I tried impressing people and even recited the lyrics of “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”. However right before the warning bell rang, I fell down the stairs to the basement level, and everybody laughed at me. I got hurt as well. And if that wasn’t so bad, the principal, Mr. Finkle, glared at me. He took me to his office and reminded me of the dress code, which prohibited hazardous clothing, even during spirit week.

My mom had to pick me up as Mr. Finkle demanded that I get send home to change. And he forbade me to wear a costume. I had to take my banana costume off and ride home topless on a chilly October day.

When I came back to school, kids taunted and teased me for the banana costume I’d worn before. I’ll never forget when that boy, Dylan, called me Bernie the Crazy Banana and even said “Don’t throw your peelings at me.”

I had a few friends who I sat with at lunch. But even they didn’t talk to me. In fact, they left me to go to the library—without even inviting me.

I came home not wanting to speak to anyone. I guess I’ve learned my lesson about wearing big costumes to school. The next day was spirit day, where students dressed in the school colors. I just wore street clothes of those colors.

fiction

Excerpt: A Curse of Mayhem (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book 2)

Lilac-colored smoke poured in through the slight opening under Alyssa’s bedroom window. Alyssa leaped back. She swore the window had been closed when she’d come in here a few minutes ago.

            The gas clouded into her room, blocking her sight. It washed onto her, causing her to squint and lean back. She coughed, rubbed her eyes, and opened them. The smoke faded. Someone must’ve pulled a prank, and not just any kind—one that involved…wizardry.

            Alyssa’s breathing sped up. She shut the window and gazed at the huge yard and long driveway. No one was outside—not even Alex, her godfather and legal guardian.

            Perhaps the trespasser had escaped or had hidden somewhere—maybe behind the tree on the lawn or somewhere else on the property.

            Alyssa hurried out, brushing ash from her muted purple shirt. She entered the ground floor and opened the front door. “Hello?!”

            There was no answer.

            “Whoever set that smoke off, it wasn’t funny!”

            The silence continued.

            Despite the freezing air this autumn evening, Alyssa stepped onto the front porch. A piece of paper appeared out of nowhere, making her jump. She picked it up, anyway.

            Welcome back to magic.

            Her chest tightened. She hadn’t encountered a single instance of wizardry in six months! Plus, she had two objects that were supposed to protect her from such encounters.

            She dashed back up to her room and opened the closet door. Tape hung from a shoebox, and the items that she had left in there…were missing.

            Heart jackhammering, Alyssa moved shoes and other boxes around. The two things might’ve fallen when she and Alex had moved here from Ohio in the spring after Alex had lost his job there. No one could have stolen them while Alex had taken her to Chicago this afternoon, right?

            As Alyssa picked up the same shoebox, her palms warmed up, and light beams shot out of both hands. She screamed as the rays smashed into each other, and then faded, revealing a tiny, rainbow-colored, bouncy ball.

            Alyssa’s body stiffened, as if paralyzed. Her jaw hung as she gaped at the bouncing ball.

            How could I have done magic? Alyssa asked herself. I’m not a wizard.

            As the object jumped onto her knee, she yelped and fell back. It had left a multi-colored stain on her leggings.

            She sat up. The toy sprung onto her narrow shoulders and then to the top of her head, where it cracked like an egg.

            “Ow!” Alyssa covered that area and then ran her fingers down her straight, pale-blonde hair, checking for any unusual, hard textures. She lifted the ends up from the area a few inches past her hips, where the length fell to. There were tiny plastic ball-bits stuck in her tresses, so she pulled them out.

            Alex knocked on the door. “Alyssa, are you ready for the party?”

            “Not yet.”

            “It’s almost six o’clock, sweetie. The tent in the backyard is already set up.”

            “Something’s wrong with me!”

            Alex opened the door, already wearing his suit. “What’s the matter?”

            “I…I…”

            Alex had tied his shoulder-length light-brown hair into a ponytail. “What’s going on?”

            Alyssa whimpered. “Ma…ma…”

            “Are you all right?”

            She shook her head.

            Alex looked away and covered his goatee. “Your closet’s a mess.”
            “I did magic!” Alyssa’s breathing quickened.

            Alex opened his mouth. “No way. That doesn’t make sense.”

            “I did!” Alyssa sucked in inhalations. “I’m not making this up!”

            Alex tilted his head.

            “I told you about magic back in March! I was kidnapped and taken to Fiji by an evil wizard! And then one of the mentors gave me a couple of little things to keep me safe!”

            “Wait, what?”

            “The objects are gone! Somebody must’ve stolen them!”

            Alex clapped both hands over his mouth.

            “I looked everywhere in my closet! I can’t find them!”

            Alex removed his hands from his mouth.

            “How could you forget these things?!”

            He remained mute.

            “What the heck?!” She sat on her bed, and her breathing still hurried.

            “I’m sorry.” Alex closed the door and left.

            He’d wanted to hold this party over the summer. But his agricultural-engineering and country-singing jobs had kept him from setting a date.

            Alyssa considered the ways in which she might remove these powers. Maybe one of her previous mentors would know a way. Like technology, magic became more advanced over time.

            Alyssa picked up her phone, went onto her email, and searched for Mathias, the wizard who’d provided her with the magical objects. Nothing. The same happened when she searched for Isabelle and Simon.

            Her device rang and she answered.

“Hey, Alyssa, I hope you’re all right,” Simon said in his English accent.

            “Something’s wrong with me. I…I did magic, even though—”

            “I was calling about that.”

            Alyssa raised her eyebrows. Then, she recalled how marble figures, which resembled statues, could gather information from others at the speed of sound, even if they were unconscious.

            “Why didn’t you call earlier?”

            “I wanted to get more information about your new powers.”

            “How can I get rid of them?”

            “I’m not sure.”

            Alyssa exhaled. “There’s got to be something.”

            “I’ll look into it. In the meantime, try some gloves.”

            “You sure that’ll work?”

            “I believe so. That’s one of the things I found out.”

            “On the wizarding internet?”

            “No. From someone who’s friends with the guy who jinxed you.”

            Alyssa gritted her teeth. “Someone jinxed me? Who is he and why did he give me magic powers?”

            “I’m going to have to find out more about that.”

            Alex knocked again.

            “Alyssa, you better get going,” said Simon.

            “Wait.”

            But he’d hung up.

            “Ugh!”

            “Alyssa, who are you talking to?”

            “One of my wizard mentors.”

            Alex opened the door and stepped in. “I can’t cancel the party tonight. The staff won’t let me.”

            “Well, my mentor, Simon, told me to wear gloves.”

            “You think that’s going to work?”

            “He said it should and to give it a try.”

            Alex pressed his lips together.

            “He helped me defeat that sorcerer in Fiji.”

            “When’s the last time you talked to him?”

            Alyssa hesitated. “Not since April. But he was the one who told me about the wizard hunting me down when I was living with Uncle Bruce.”

            “Can I talk to him?”

            “Sure.” Alyssa gave him the phone. “He was the last one who called.”

            Alex pressed on the screen and held the phone to his ear.

            When Alyssa had lived with her uncle, Bruce, in March, she’d informed Alex about wizardry. She’d even told him around the time he’d been granted legal custody over her.

            I guess I forgot to tell him about who my mentors were, she thought.

            Alex hung up. “He’s not answering.”
            “He must be finding out more information about these new…powers.”

            “I’ll let you wear the gloves, but I really don’t feel ready to trust Simon.”

            “Well, I trust him. If it weren’t for him, I might not have made it.”

            Alex sharpened his eyes.

            “Everyone back in New Jersey trusted him, too.” That was where Alyssa had lived until the day after her thirteenth birthday in April.

            “Even Uncle Bruce?”

            “At first, no. Then Simon sent him a note and he trusted him… until that warlock wiped his memories with a storm.” Alyssa looked down, thinking about Uncle Bruce, who resided in an assisted living home. The memory-wiping spell had been blocked years ago, but some powerful magicians could use other ways to get past it. Alyssa still didn’t understand how the storm’s power had erased Uncle Bruce’s memories.

            “After you’re done getting ready, I’ll call Simon from your phone again,” said Alex.

            “How about I just write down his number?”

            “Do what you need to do.” Alex walked out.

            Alyssa sighed as she peeled her clothes off. While Uncle Bruce had treated her and her cousin, Hailey, with little respect and had placed unfair rules on them, Alex cared for her like his own daughter.

            Alyssa’s parents had named him not only her godfather, but also guardian in the event that something might happen to them. The loss of her mom and dad in that car crash when she was seven had changed her life. Despite what the will had stated, Alyssa’s then-babysitter had convinced the cops to let her stay at her aunt and uncle’s house nearby. The state of New Jersey had made Aunt Laura and Uncle Bruce her new guardians.

            However, when Alyssa was nine, Aunt Laura had died from an allergic reaction to a chocolate filled with raspberry cream that she had barely touched. She’d had a fatal allergy to berries. Then, Uncle Bruce had toughened up his attitude, although he’d always had a stern way of parenting, and had rarely smiled. It just hadn’t involved as much yelling and restrictions before Aunt Laura’s death.

            Because a sorcerer called Master Beau had wanted to enslave Alyssa, he’d erased Uncle Bruce’s memories so that he couldn’t protect her. Master Beau wanted her to find items and ways to help strengthen him for ruling France after the French government had banished him for committing a serious crime. Alyssa had never discovered what the offense had been, though. She still deemed her life to overwhelming for a thirteen-year-old.

            She wore her wide-strapped blue-and-black dress. Her fingers sweated as she tied a blue ribbon in her hair and secured it back halfway. Her hands also shook as she put on her jewelry and makeup.

            She opened her closet and put on her dress shoes, a pair of leather gloves, and then went downstairs. Scooter, the yellow lab, barked by the door.

            Alyssa opened it. No one was outside.

            “Who’s there?!” called Alyssa.

Music played in the backyard.

“I’m not stupid!” Alyssa shouted.

            “Alyssa, what are you doing?” asked Alex.

            “I’m yelling at the man who cursed me!”

            “Wait…someone—”

            “Yes! Simon told me!”

            Alex gasped, covered his mouth, and shook his head.

            “I wish I didn’t have to go to the party anymore.”

            Alex took his phone out of his pants pocket and stared into it. “I got a text from your mentor, Simon. He says he’s not a hundred percent sure if the gloves will help. But he’s almost certain.”

            “Did he find out how I can get rid of these powers?”

            “He’s still working on it.”

            Alyssa inhaled and exhaled.

            “Sweetheart, just give the party a try. If you feel uncomfortable, you can go back inside.”

            “What about that speech we’re supposed to give?”

            “It won’t be long.”

            “But I don’t like speaking in front of crowds.”

            “You only have to say a few sentences. I promise.”

            Alyssa sighed.

            “We should head outside.”

            Alyssa followed him.

            I hope the gloves actually work, she thought.

            She continued to look around for the warlock who’d hexed her. He could be wearing an invisibility poncho, or he could have disappeared in a snap.

Alyssa passed the swimming pool and continued down the small hill into the tent. Orange, yellow, and brown balloons covered each pole. A DJ played music near the entrance. A white cloth covered each table, including the round ones for sitting at and the rectangular ones for serving.

As Alyssa shoved her way through the crowd, she saw her friend, Sydney Watson, gaping at her phone, her elbow-length chestnut curls covering her freckled face.

Stomach tightening, Alyssa sat next to Sydney.

“What’s up?” asked Sydney.

“I don’t want to be here.”

“What’s the problem?”

“I…I…it’s too weird.”

“Tell me, anyway.”

“It’s…it’s…m-magic.”

Sydney tilted her head.

“You forgot? I told you about it when we first met.”

Sydney inhaled. Her eyebrows lifted.

“What’s wrong with you?!”

“You didn’t tell me a lot about it.”

“Well, yeah, because I’m technically not supposed to.”

“You said in April that you defeated a magician. I thought it was the kind at magic shows.”

Alyssa shook her head.

“Wait—so what was it really?”

“Nothing.”

“If this is something serious, you need to tell me.”

“Okay, it’s…it’s…”

Sydney nodded.

“It’s something from a stranger.”

“What?”

“A…an issue with my hands.”

Sydney pressed her lips together.

“I’ll stop there.”

“Alyssa, you’re hiding something.”

“I think it would be better if you stayed out of it.”

“Look, I’m your friend. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Alyssa remained mute.

“If you want us to help you, then you shouldn’t hide things like this.”

“Who said anything about help?”

“Hello, guys,” said Lily Browne, another friend of Alyssa’s. Lily trotted to them, smiling. Her dark brown hair bounced against her waist. She joined Alyssa and Sydney. “This is going to be so awesome.” She giggled.

“I hope so.” Alyssa looked down.

“What’s the matter?” Lily asked. “Had a bad day?”

“Not until right before the party,” she said.

“Aw.” Lily patted her shoulder. “It’ll be okay.”

“Why don’t you tell Lily about what happened to you?” Sydney asked.

“No,” Alyssa answered.

“You can tell me,” said Lily. “I won’t judge you.”

“Maybe later,” muttered Alyssa.

“Alyssa, you really should tell us what happened to you,” said Sydney.

“We won’t tell anyone else,” Lily said. “We promise.”

Alyssa stayed quiet.

A short, tanned-skinned girl entered the tent. It was Krystal Gordillo, Alyssa’s third-closest friend. Krystal ran her fingers through her dark brown hair. “Stupid wind messed up my hair.” She tied her locks, which fell to the middle of her back, into a ponytail. She sat with Alyssa and the other two. “Does anyone else hate when the weather messes up your look?”

That’s what you want to talk about?” Sydney asked. “Krystal, grow up.”

“Yeah, parties are all about fun.” Lily beamed. “You should enjoy yourself.” She sipped her Sprite. “I’m hoping to get my science-of-happiness badge for Girl Scouts. We get an extra treat if we help others become more confident.”

“But I’m a mess,” said Krystal.

“Better than what Alyssa’s dealing with,” Sydney said.

“What happened?” Krystal asked her.

“For the last time, I don’t want to talk about it!”

“Alyssa, not cool,” said Sydney.

“Yeah, I just got here,” Krystal said.

“Can we just change the subject?” asked Alyssa.

“Maybe you’re hungry,” Krystal told her.

“Yeah. Let’s go get some snacks.” Lily stood up.

The four gathered appetizers and beverages. Alyssa nibbled her veggie sticks and chips, and got up.

“Where are you going, Alyssa?” Krystal asked.

“Bathroom.” She put her coat on and ran back inside the house. But she didn’t need the bathroom—she just wanted a break.

She returned to her room, where ink spelled out “Errol was here” on the floor. Her mouth opened and she panted.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, be sure to order the story here.