by Dana Nuenighoff (@dananuens)

YA Contemporary Fantasy
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As you have expressed interest in witchy books with a rom-com twist in your MSWL, I believe you would be a great representative for my 82,000-word YA contemporary fantasy The Witching Hour, which is Wild is the Witch meets The Charmed List.

Tired of mortals abusing her magic, seventeen-year-old lunar witch Bennett Sorensen-Kohler is ready to leave her tourist trap of a hometown and work with witches all over the world. She plans to do this by earning a coveted internship with the Global Witches Association just like her grandmother did years ago.

With a representative from GWA in Gray Harbor, that plan is already in the works when the mortal boy who broke Bennett’s heart in middle school suddenly returns to town and immediately proves himself to be a distraction she does not need, as he doesn’t bother to hide that he hates witches just as much as she hates mortals.

After Jordan lets slip that she’s applied to the GWA in front of her mother (who had forbidden her from doing so), Bennett decides having Jordan back is going to cause too many issues for her. She creates a spell that’ll make him feel all of her hatred and anger toward him, so he will leave her alone. Only, Jordan interrupts the spell, and instead of her feelings, her powers are transferred to him. Now Bennett is stuck teaching Jordan her magic so he can send it back to her—if they can figure out the right spell. But he’s resistant to using her magic, none of the grimoires have any hint of information on transferring powers, and the deadline for the second part of the GWA application—the part where they expect to see magic from her—is approaching.

The more time Jordan and Bennett spend trying to transfer the magic back, the closer Bennett is to learning the truth about what really happened back in middle school, and the more likely old feelings will surface. But trust doesn’t come easily for Bennett, and while opening herself up to Jordan may enable her to get her magic back and secure her spot with GWA, it also leaves her vulnerable to being rejected by him again.

I graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Affairs and from Endicott College with a Master’s in Education. When I am not writing, I work as a high school environmental science teacher in Massachusetts, where we take witches seriously.

First Five Pages

Chapter One

The banners hanging from the lampposts throughout downtown Gray Harbor all proclaim the same message: witches live here.

The town council should honestly have slapped those words onto them; it would have been much easier but just as obvious as the silhouette of a witch flying over the ocean. The banners flutter in the end-of-summer wind, the crisp ocean breeze that mingles within the down-east Maine pines.

Tourists—mortals—gape at my town’s insignia as they are lured to the main green for the autumnal festival. Well, the fake autumnal festival. Mabon, the blessings we perform on the equinox, won’t happen for a few more weeks. But the council decided our thousands of years of tradition takes a backseat to cater to the Labor Day rush of tourists.

My mother says that mortals are what keep witches thriving. That once they realized what we could do for them and we were able to come out of hiding, we became more powerful.

That’s a lie. It’s the twenty-first century, and we are servants to mortals. I’d give anything to go back to a time when witches had to operate in secret and mortals couldn’t use us for their own gain.

The green thrums with music, the sounds lacing through the air like the magic pulsing around me. The mortals dance, soaking in the energies the band—witches—send out to them. They don’t need drinks to lose themselves here. Yet, they still come to me for more magic.

The witch’s robes sweeping around my legs identify me to the mortals despite the mask hiding my face like the rest of those in attendance. Well, the robes and my portable cauldron. The side of the cauldron is emblazoned with the logo for Gray Harbor Apothecary—my parents’ shop.

I let the near-midnight hour seep into my skin. The magic of the night swirls around me and, as a lunar witch, I’m able to harness it as I crush a large number of almonds in my motor. I strain the pulp into my cauldron—really not necessary here, but it looks the part for the mortals—and add orange oil, cinnamon, and vanilla. A simple lust potion, probably my most common request at these events. The dry ice in my cauldron steams, and I scoop the copper liquid into a vial, the rich smell mixing with the brine-laced air. I’m careful not to breathe it in before passing it over to the waiting douche bro. He gives me a shitty tip before moving away.

I try to keep the grimace off my face as I pocket the money.

“Smile, Bennett. We want them to come back,” my older sister, Darcy, says. Yes, my mother is a little too obsessed with Pride and Prejudice for her own good.

Darcy sweeps her long robe around her body. While mine has small moons embroidered into the sleeves and lapels, hers has crystals. I only wear robes during festivals—another requirement of the town council to make us look as “witchy” as possible for the mortals.

“I don’t,” I mutter.

Darcy doesn’t respond, but the quick narrowing of her eyes behind the lace mask she’s wearing—another “tradition” of this festival—lets me know she’s heard me. My older sister is too in control of herself to fight in public. Sometimes I wish she would drop her ethereal act and actually react to something.

There’s no point telling her I don’t want to do this—she’d only believe I’m selfish. But I guess I am, because I agreed to work these nights not to help my parents but to help myself. The money is too good to pass up. If I want to leave my parents’ house when I graduate, I need to have savings. I need somewhere else to go. I don’t want to work under my mother for the rest of my life.

“Bennett? Can you hear me?” A static voice floats up from my pocket.

I fish out the glowing crystal and step away from Darcy so my sister doesn’t overhear.

“Yeah, I’m here. Did you find her?” I speak into the crystal—much easier for quick communication than cellphones.

“Not yet. Are you sure she’s here?” my best friend April asks. “I mean, this isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find a representative of the world’s most powerful coven.”

She does have a point. The autumnal festival is a show for mortals and doesn’t usually attract visiting witches. “I stalked the crap out of her Instagram and she’s in Gray Harbor already.”

“Well the masks don’t really help me.”

“If you’re going to complain, you can take over for me here and I’ll go look.” I bounce slightly from impatience. When I’d agreed to work tonight—not that I really had a choice—Victoria Ja’an showing up had never crossed my mind as even a slight possibility.

A week ago, the Global Witches Association announced which representatives would be visiting the eighty-one witch-centric towns around the world to recruit rising high school seniors for the next year’s internship. It was the moment I’d been waiting for, and I’d instantly found the sea witch on all social medias I could. She doesn’t have much of a presence, mostly Instagram, and mostly tied directly to GWA. But it was enough for me to see that she would be in town ahead of the school year starting on Wednesday.

“Can’t you wait until the senior fair? Like everyone else. It’s less than a week away.”

“If I do then how will I ever stand out?” I ask. “Their acceptance rate is 4 percent.”

“You’re a legacy.”

“That doesn’t guarantee me anything.” I spot two girls beelining their way to me. Darcy is still with her own customer, so it looks like I’m back on. “Just use the picture I texted you for reference.”

“Still think you should have gotten me an owl feather for that sight spell of yours.” April’s voice is muffled as I slip the slightly glowing crystal back into my pocket.

I force the worst smile in the world onto my face and greet the two girls. Both have flushed cheeks beneath their masks and mussed hair. They cling to each other, and their eyes constantly flick over toward a few different guys who are openly staring.

“I have the perfect elixir for you two.” My voice is rough. I grind wormwood and juniper together, mixing them with grapefruit. Hopefully the protection in this potion will keep them safe.

Then there’s the chamomile and jasmine mixture for someone looking to have an “eye-opening” experience when he gets time with a divination witch. I’m not sure what he hopes to see on his journey, and I don’t ask. As the night ebbs on, my strength grows. Others are waning like the early September moon above, but I could howl at the sky. The band pushes their music out, forcing more magic into it. The mortals scream with delight and jump around. This festival won’t end for another few hours.

The mixes of oils and herbs behind the bar fade as I light a witch-power incense. I close my eyes and breathe my magic into it. The patchouli and frankincense are the strongest of the ingredients to seep out. The smoke wraps around all the witches on the green, their gazes sharpening as their tiredness flees. A divination witch winks at me from his station.

“Bennett, come in, Bennett.” April chimes from my pocket. “We should have given each other code names.”

“I’ll give you a code name if you tell me you’ve got good news,” I say into the crystal.

“Oh do I ever. She’s here. Mask and all.”

My stomach twists in a mixture of excitement and dread. I fumble through my potion stash to find a calming elixir. The tart lemon makes me pucker slightly, but it’s offset by the cool mint.

“Okay. Keep tailing her. I’ll get Darcy to give me a break.” Maybe I should have used a courage potion, or a luck potion, because the look on my sister’s face as I edge toward her is not one of understanding.

Darcy waits until her customer leaves to talk to me. “Don’t think I don’t know you’re using a crystal to communicate with April. I’m the one who taught you that spell, remember?”

“And it was a great sister bonding moment.” I put way too much false cheeriness into the statement.

Darcy frowns. “Whatever it is that you want, no. We’ve still got two more hours and you’re the stronger of the two of us right now.”

“Just a quick break, please.” I give her my best pout.

Darcy doesn’t even budge.

“I’ll power a moonstone for you.”

“Two.” She doesn’t hesitate.

I try to keep the grimace from my face. Infusing magic into stones isn’t the most pleasant experience. “One tonight, and two at the full moon this month.”

Darcy passes me a round, opaque stone. “I expect you back in under half an hour, and I’m holding you to that promise.”

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Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

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