Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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New school. New friends. New reputation. High school sophomore Ainslie Avalon-Bennett works hard to hide her Crazy Girl past. But as long as her best friend’s disappearance remains unsolved, she can’t shake the depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder that once landed her in a mental ward.
Ainslie’s tenuous control over her life shatters when her warring parents ditch her at Christmas. While they take a cruise to “work things out,” Ainslie must spend the holiday in Palm Springs with her aunt and uncle, owners of a struggling Mystery School and occult store. Plunged into the world of fire fortunes, dragons, entity eaters, and an ailing spell book, Ainslie is well beyond her comfort zone. Then she meets a boy who spikes her pulse and calms her OCD. But will she lose him once he discovers her past? Or will his deadly secret, hidden in plain view, be their undoing?
Research: It Wasn’t What You’d Expect
By Ariella Moon
Spell Fire, the third book in my young adult Teen Wytche Saga, presented some unusual research challenges. The novel is about Ainslie Avalon-Bennett, a teen with obsessive-compulsive disorder whose parents ditch her at Christmas. Ainslie must stay with relatives who are dragon shamans, plunging her into the chaotic and unfamiliar world of magic, fire fortunes, entity eaters, dragons, and an ailing spell book.
The magical world Ainslie finds so foreign is commonplace to me. I didn’t have to research the good magic because it is woven into my everyday life. I am a shaman and Reiki Master. Since light attracts dark, I’ve had some unpleasant encounters with the type of evil forces Ainslie encounters.
The problem wasn’t the magic — it was the time crunch. The deadline for Spell Fire turned out to be a month earlier than I had expected. So I listed the issues I needed to research, and determined the most efficient way to get the information.
In Spell Fire, Ainslie is given a little almanac that includes personal daily tarot readings. I provided an outline of Ainslie’s spiritual/emotional journey to my former tarot teacher. She tuned into Ainslie as if the character were a real person. I incorporated the phenomenal cards she drew into the storyline.
I emailed another friend, a nurse practitioner, regarding the medical emergency that occurs in the book. Without spoiling the story, I’ll just say that I needed a medical condition that would present in a certain way. My friend suggested several ailments. Further emails outlined particular plot issues. Her list of potential ailments shortened. I researched those medical conditions and discovered one fit all my criteria.
One plot twist occurs at Joshua Tree National Park. I know the park well but needed to research park protocol. The Chief Ranger at Joshua Tree National Park kindly and promptly answered my questions. I loved one of his answers so much it became part of the dialogue in the story.
I never would have finished writing Spell Fire in time without expert help. Perhaps magic led me to the right people at the right time!
My body elongated, and I swore I grew six inches. Inside the cafe, there was no line. Another miracle. I paused beneath the fern‑painted ceiling fan and scanned the wall menu. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but a weird craving fueled my search.
The dragon exerted pressure between my shoulder blades, prompting me. “A Scorpion’s Nest smoothie.”
Morningstar leaned over the high counter and gave me a once‐over. “You feeling okay?”
I licked my lips. “Absolutely.” I had never tasted an orange juice, vanilla ice cream, and peanut butter combo, but I slapped the countertop and said, “I’m fine. Hit me.”
Morningstar tilted her head to one side and studied me.
Oh — crap. Maybe I’m dragon drunk.
I wiped the drool from the corner of my mouth stood straighter. I could do this. I could act normal and in control. Behind me, the dragon blew on my hair. I clawed back the stray locks. “Strong ceiling fan.”
Morningstar glanced up. I held my gaze steady on her face and tried to remember if the fan was actually on. I couldn’t hear the whir of its motor or feel the stir of cool air. I can’t feel anything. I went for distraction and slipped a ten across the counter.
Morningstar leveled her gaze, then handed me my change. “I’ll bring the smoothie to your table.”
“Cool.” My eyes crossed. I pivoted and fell out of my right flip‐‑flop. Fortunately, the place was almost empty, and I didn’t think anyone saw me stumble. Still, my face heated as I chose a table with plenty of space behind it for the dragon and my invisible wings.
“Mind if I join you for a minute?” Morningstar asked when she brought my drink.
“Please.” I giggled, giddy with dragon energy. I was a bright, beneficent angel among earthlings. I was — as crazy as my parents feared.
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