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Parties & Potions Excerpt

Magic in Manhattan 4: Parties & Potions

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Excerpt: Chapter 1

Do I like red?

I pirouette before the mirror. Yes, the red shirt could work. Red makes my hair look super glossy and glamorous and goes great with my favorite jeans.

If I do say so myself.

The shirt has a scooped neckline and adorable bubble sleeves. It's my back to school top for the big, BIG day tomorrow — the very first day of Sophomore year! My BFF Tammy and I went shopping last week, since we absolutely needed new tops for the special occasion. I know I could have just zapped something up, but the first rule of witchcraft is that everything comes from something. I didn't want to accidentally shoplift a new shirt from Bloomingdale's.
I like the red. It works with my complexion. But I don't know if it truly shows off my fabulous tan. Hmm. I touch the material grazing my collarbone and chant:

"Like new becomes old
Like day becomes night
Pretty Back to School top
Please become white!"

I've found that adding "please" to my spells really helps. The Powers That Be seem to appreciate when I'm polite.

A chill spreads through the room, sending goose bumps down my back, and then — ZAP! — the spell takes effect. The red of my top quickly drains from the material, turning fuchsia, dark pink, pale pink, and finally as white as Liquid Paper.

Now we're talking! Yes. It should be white. White shows off my awesome summer tan.

My awesome fake summer tan. Obviously. It's not like I have a pool in downtown Manhattan to lounge by, and anyway it's way too muggy and humid in this city to stay outside for more than twenty seconds, so how could I get naturally sun-kissed? Unfortunately my camp tan is long gone. But is my fake tan a spray-on? Nope. Is it from one of those tanning booths that could pass for a medieval torture chamber? Again, nope.

What is it then? Why, I call it The Perfect Golden Tan That Makes Me Look Like I Live in California Spell. (Patent pending.)

I made it up last week and it worked immediately. True, at first I looked like I had a rash, or perhaps a severe case of the measles, but by the following afternoon the color had settled into a golden glow. A golden glow that makes me look like a native Californian. I am very in control of my powers these days. Ever since Miri taught me megel exercises (where you control the flow of your raw will by lifting and lowering inanimate objects such as books and pillows. Not glasses. Don't try glasses. Trust me on this.), my magic muscles have gotten much stronger.

I finally got my very own copy of A2 (otherwise known as The Authorized and Absolute Reference Handbook to Astonishing Spells, Astounding Potions, and History of Witchcraft Since the Beginning of Time) but since I'm so good at making up my own spells it's not like I need it. If you know how to cook, do you need a recipe? I think not.

Yes, my top has to be white. Everyone knows white is the best color to wear when tanned. Tomorrow, when I glide into JFK High School, they will say, "Who is that perfectly bronzed girl? Could that be Rachel Weinstein?" And "Did you hear? She's going out with the wonderful and gorgeous A-list Raf Kosravi! Isn't she amazing?"

Yes, it's going to be a great year. The best year ever. I'm calling it the Sophomore Spectacular! My very own Broadway show. And tomorrow is opening day.

Nothing can go wrong because:

I am tanned, I have a boyfriend, and I have a groovalicious new haircut with lots of fabo layers. And I am a witch.

Yup, I'm a witch. Obviously. How else would I be able to change the color of my shirt over and over again without any type of color dyes? My mom and sister are witches, too. We're broom-riding, spell-chanting, love-spell casting magic machines. Well, Miri and I are magic machines. Mom is a mostly non-practicing witch.

Luckily I did not need a love spell to make Raf fall in love with me. Nope, he loves me all on his own. Not that he's said those three magic words. But he will eventually. Am I not loveable? I think I'm pretty loveable. He's definitely loveable.

He's my honey-bunny.

OK, I haven't actually called him that to his face. But I am auditioning potential terms of endearment in my head. Other options are Sweet Pea and Shmoopie.

Shmoopster?

Just Shmoo?

Even without the names, we make everyone sick. Not throwing-up sick, but yay-for-them-sick. I think. Since we hooked up at camp, we've spent practically every day together. We hung in the park. We watched TV. We shopped (he bought this awesome-looking brown waffle shirt that brings out his brown eyes, olive skin, and broad shoulders, and every time he wears it I tell him how hot he is.) We kissed. (There was a lot of kissing. A ginormous amount of kissing. So much kissing I had to buy an extra strength Chap Stick. But it tasted like wax paper, so I switched to extra-glossy cherry lip gloss. Yum. The problem is I love it so much I keep licking it off. Which just increases the chapness of my lips. It's a vicious cycle.)

As I was saying, I've never used a spell with Raf. Okay, you got me; that's a bit of a lie. Last week I zapped up fresh breath after gorging on too many pieces of garlic bread. I didn't want him to have to hold his nose while playing tongue gymnastics. But that's it. I would never cast a love spell on him. Okay, that's another lie. When Miri first got her powers, I tried one on him. (Yup, Miri, my younger sister of two years discovered she was a witch before I did. How unfair is that?) But we accidentally cast the spell on Raf's older brother Will instead, so no harm done. Well not too much. Will and I dated, but broke up at the prom when I realized he was really truly in love with my friend Kat.

Now what was I doing? Oh, right. White!

I pretend my room is a catwalk and sashay away from the mirror and then back toward it. Here's the prob. Wearing white might be mega obvious, since everyone knows you wear white when you're trying to show off a tan. Also, for some reason, white is making my head look big. Do I have a big head? Is having a big head bad? Or does it mean I'm smarter?

Perhaps I should try blue. Blue looks good on me. It brings out my brown eyes. Yes! I must bring out my eyes! I need a new spell! I clear my throat and say:

"Like night becomes day
Like calm seas become wavy
Pretty Back-to-School top
Please become navy!"

Cold! Zap! Poof!

Interesting. I twist for a side view. Not bad. But is it better than red? I mean, I could always wear blue eye shadow. Maybe my shirt should be red. Or white. Or maybe something shimmery? Gold?

"Like night becomes day
Like new becomes old
Pretty Back-to-School top
Please become gold!"

The top starts pulsating with color. It's yellow! It's red! It's blue! It's a rainbow of cloth!

"Rachel!" Miri bellows, throwing my door open and wagging her finger at me in the mirror.

"Enough! You've been at it for forty-five minutes! Just choose a stupid color, and get ready for tonight!"

Ah. The one annoying part of the day. My thirteen-year-old sister is insisting that instead of going out with Sweet Shmoopie tonight, I accompany her to some weirdo Full Moon dinner.

"I'm almost ready," I say. "But I want to lay out the perfect outfit for tomorrow. It's so hard! Do you think I have a big head?"

She laughs. "You? Full of yourself? Never!"

I cluck my tongue. "I mean, does my head look physically big?"

She plops down cross-legged on my pink carpet. It used to be an orange carpet, but when Tigger, our cat, had flees the exterminator's chemicals somehow turned it pink. Oh well. At least I like pink.

Maybe I should make my shirt pink?

"Your head is bigger than mine," she says. "But only slightly."

"Huh." My big head is my second major physical imperfection. The first is my uneven boobs. The left one is larger than the right. It's not ideal. "Do you think there's a color I could wear that would make my head look smaller?" I would use a body-morphing spell, but my mom claims they could do serious damage. Like accidentally shrinking my brain or giving myself a mustache.

Miri sighs. "Do you know that every time you choose a new shade, my bedspread changes color?"

"Really? Cool!" Like I said, in magic, everything comes from something. If I zap myself new sandals, the shoes have to come from somewhere. If I zap myself up twenty bucks, someone's wallet just found itself twenty short. If my top turns navy, some piece of fabric just had its blue pigments zapped right out of it.

"Not cool!" she wails. "My bedspread is currently a hideous shade of pale puke."

I straighten the shirt and square my shoulders. "Miri, take one for the team."

"I'm always taking one for the team. Team Rachel. You better turn your shirt back to its original shade before bedtime."

Original shade? Like I can remember. "Or what?"

"Or..." She eyes my purse, focuses on it, and makes it slowly rise off its spot on my desk. "Or I'll spill your stuff all over the floor."

"Oooh, now I'm scared. Anyway, whose house are we going to for dinner tonight? Huh, huh?"

She can't argue with me, because I am ridiculously in the right. "Wendaline is your fake friend, is she not? I would much rather be going out with my friends, thank you very much." Unfortunately, I agreed to this dinner before Raf invited me to a pre-back-to-school bash at Mick Lloyd's. I claimed I had a family function I couldn't get out of. Which is kind of true. I just didn't give the witchy specifics.

"She is. You're right." Miri met Wendaline on mywitchbook.com. It's a social network, kind of like Facebook, or Myspace, but just for witches. It's enchanted so no one else can access it. Liana, our cousin, my mom's sister's daughter, sent us both friend requests. I declined. Ever since she tried to steal my body at camp, I'm wary of all things Liana-related. Anyway, it's not like I have the time to friend surf. I'm way to busy with shmoo Pea. And Tammy. And my other good friend, Alison, who does not go to my school but does go to my camp. I am way too busy for witch friends. Especially ones you meet over the Internet. Everyone knows that cyber friends only count as a fourth of a real friend.

Miri, on the other hand, loves online friendship. She made three friends on her first day, and is desperate to make more. Last week, on her thirteenth birthday, they all sent her e-brooms. Hah, hah. In real life she got a cell. We've been bugging Mom for practically the last decade to get us phones, so I'm ecstatic she finally caved. I'm not complaining about the fact that Miri got one and I didn't — yet — because it's my birthday on Thursday (four days away! Wahoo!) and I'm assuming I'll be receiving mine then. Although it's kind of annoying that my little sister got a cell, like magical powers and boobs, before I did. (And unlike me, her boobs are a matching set.)

Anyway, one of Miri's e-broom-sending thewitchbook.com friends — Wendaline — lives right here in Manhattan and goes to JFK High with me. Wendaline's the one who invited us to the Full Moon dinner at her house tonight. Whatever that is.

Miri is psyched.

I'm concerned she might be a psycho.

"What are you gonna wear?" Miri asks me now.

"Black pants and a t-shirt. And ruby slippers in case I have to urgently tap my heels to go home."

"Rachel, she is not a psycho! She's a witch!"

"Exactly. What if she's a bad witch? Like the one in Hansel and Gretel who lures over unsuspecting children with promises of food and then eats them?"

"She's not a cannibal. She's super nice."

"Sure she is." When Miri woke me earlier this week with the groundbreaking news that there was another witch at JFK, I feared the worst.

"Tell me who it is," I demanded, imagining the most evil person in my class. "Is it Melissa?" Melissa is my archenemy and Raf's ex-girlfriend, who constantly tries to steal him away.

Obviously she wasn't a witch last year, because then I would so be a frog by now. At the very least, she would have turned the whole school — no, the whole world — no, the whole universe, against me.

"My life is over!" I wailed, pulling the covers over my head.

"Why are you so such a nut?" Miri asked. "It's not Melissa."

"Oh. Good." I removed the covers.

"It's her first year at JFK. She's a freshman. Her name is Wendaline."

"Seriously?"

Miri's brow wrinkled in confusion. "Why not?"

"Wendy the Witch? Does that not sound familiar? From Casper the Friendly Ghost?"

"It's Wendaline. Not Wendy."

"She still sounds like a made-up character. Like Hannah Montana. Or Nate the Great. It's too much rhyming."

"Wendaline the Witch doesn't rhyme. It has alliteration."

"It still sounds made up."

"I'll make sure to tell her that."

Anyway, I'm meeting Wendaline tonight, at her Full Moon dinner. I still have no idea what "Full Moon" means. I am hoping it does not involve any kind of nudity. Mom seemed to think it was kind of like the Jewish Shabbat, or Friday night dinner, but for witches. And monthly instead of weekly 'cause of the full moon part.

"What's her last name?" Mom asked.

"Peaner."

"Hmm," said Mom, deep in thought. "OK. You can go if you want to. It might be healthy for you to meet some nice —" read: non body-snatching "— witches."

Yeah, I can't believe she's letting us go either. I mean, internet witches? How much sketchier can you get?

"Are you ready?" Miri asks me impatiently, my purse still hovering above her head. "I don't want to be late. And your bag is getting heavy. Why do you have to carry so much stuff around with you?"

"I just do," I say, opening my closet. "I'll be two secs, I need to change."

"Why can't you just wear what you have on?"

"It's my back to school top! It needs to be fresh."

"Just zap it fresh tomorrow."

"Just hold your horses." I slip it over my head, hang it up, and put on a V-neck purple shirt. Then I change out of my jeans and into black pants. More appropriate for a family dinner, no? I check myself out in the mirror. Not bad. Good enough to meet she-whose-name-sounds-like-a-TV-character and her family.

Imagine if I was a TV character! My life is pretty fascinating. It would make a killer TV show. A comedy about two sister-witches in NY? Who wouldn't watch? That's good television. The premise could also work well as a reality show.

Omigod! I'd be famous! I'd get to go on all the talk shows! People would stop me in the street, ask to take my picture and I would smile modestly and murmur, "Anything for my fans."

Except then everyone would know I was a witch. Awkward.

Maybe I can still do it. In disguise. I'll wear a blond wig. Although then I'd be covering up my awesome new layers that make me look like I have real cheekbones. Not that I don't have cheekbones. Obviously I do. But I never noticed them before Este the hair stylist got her expert hands on me. Alison recommended her after I showed up at her apartment with a bald spot. I had attempted to zap my own hair.

I'm trying to convince Miri to pay Este a visit. She could use some cheekbones.

What was I thinking about? Right. Wigs. I'd have to wear one if I was on a reality show.

Although technically, viewers would probably be able to figure out my identity from my Greenwich apartment, my high school, and my friends.

My friends who would wonder why I was always being trailed by a TV camera. I'd have to tell them the truth. About the show...about my double life.

Imagine. If everyone knew.

In a way it would be a relief. I wouldn't have to keep my big secret squished down inside me like dirty clothes in the laundry hamper.

In the reflection, I watch as my still-airborne purse quivers and then lands with a thud on Miri's face. "Ouch," she whines.

Or maybe they'd think I was a freak. Or worry I'd cast love spells on them that accidentally bewitch their older brothers.

No, my secret must stay squashed. I shiver, and sling my purse over my shoulder. "Let's get this show" — my secret reality freak show — "on the road."

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