Sometimes I’m blown away by my city. Trudging through the tedium of daily life, trying to survive, it’s easy to forget how Liberty Island is so close, or Ellis Island, or any islands with tourist attractions.
“The last time I was here, I was eight.”
“I come here often.”
As we head toward Lady Liberty, I swear she looks down and gives me a wink.
“Did you see that? She winked at me.”
“Maybe she finds you attractive.”
“You should be so lucky,” Jack says, surprising me by having a sense of humor.
As we approach the entrance, I stop. “Don’t tell me I got to walk it.”
With a cocky grin that makes him look too hot to be human, he wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me in close.
Hello. This has taken a strange turn. Can’t say I hate it. The man is gorgeous. If a golden sunray were a person with an eccentric sense of style, it’d be him. Even so, I’m not marrying a stranger.
With a wave of his hand, we shoot straight up, flying past the top of her head into the sky, and I scream at the top of my lungs the entire time. Next thing I know, we’re in a shrine made of light and gold that shines like we’re standing inside the sun. It’s a big, ornate room suspended above the Statue of Liberty.
“Wow,” I breathe.
“Please try something for me.”
“Uh oh. If it has anything to do with jumping out one of these windows to see if I can fly on my own, the answer is no friggin’ way.”
“Perhaps try something simple.”
“Alright. Focusing.” Deep breath in and exhale.
Oy, I feel like a dope, but I stop myself and open to the possibilities. Hello, I’m in a magic temple floating over the Statue of Liberty. Anything is friggin’ possible. Time to give this a real shot. What if Mr. B’s right? What if I’ve got powers? Who knows?
“Let’s start with something simple any witch could do—I’d like you to float a feather.”
A small white feather flutters in, hovers before me, and drifts toward the ground.
“If it touches the floor, the floor will disappear,” he says, and my heart jumps into my throat.
With as much speed as I can muster, I try to snatch the thing. No matter what I do, it flies away. Soon enough I’m chasing this thing around like a psycho, flapping whatever parts necessary to create enough wind to keep it afloat.
“Magic! Use Magic,” Jack chides.
“The stakes are too high!” I shout as I keep it up with the breeze from my spastic body movements.
“Use your powers!”
“I don’t have any!”
Wait, I know! I pull out my lint roller with such speed it might as well be magic and use the rest of my body to guide the feather to the sheet of stickum. Thank God, it works!
“Screw you, feather! I win!”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I know, but I don’t want to die like that, and I don’t have any powers. I’m sorry.” I plop down onto the gold floor etched with sunray patterns.
He takes a paper out of his pocket and reads as he paces before me.
“Have you ever felt like you knew when the disasters you experience would strike?”
“Only around my birthday because it’s always a disastrous time. The others catch me unaware, even now. I mean, I’ve gotten to where I can spot and avoid them, but that’s from experience, not from a magical power or nothing like that. It’s my job to notice those things.”
“Do your dreams ever come true, or your nightmares?”
“Yeah,” I say with a chuckle.
“Why’s that funny?”
“If I remember my dreams, it’s always boring stuff, like I’m at work filing or some random crap. I don’t have interesting dreams. Never have. They come true, but it’s because I’m dreaming about the stuff I do every day.”
“Perhaps not,” he says and sighs, massaging the bridge of his nose.
“If I had magical powers, I’d have used them by now, wouldn’t I? It’d be great to be a goddess, but that’s not my reality. And it’s cool. Most people don’t have magical powers. I’m happy to be most people.”
“Maybe we could try one more time. Maybe you’ll undergo some transformation if you find them–”
“I’ll look like a woman you could love?”
What a dick.
“I… I’m sorry, but I’ve had a very clear image of her in my mind my entire life and you are nothing at all like her.”
The sigh that escapes me is unavoidable.
“Look, I want to be offended, but I saw her in Evelyn’s memory. She’s smoking hot, and I am nothing like her. That’s alright though, because she’s a goddess, and I’m just a person.”
“If they buried the magic… Maybe we could try—”
“—Alright, let’s try again.” I pull myself up to standing. “Go ahead. Give me another test. Can it not be a life-or-death thing, though?”
After a moment, he proffers his arm, his hand reaching into a ray of light that shines in through one of the ornate windows. He grasps the light and squeezes it. When he opens his hand, a glowing amber colored marble is there.
“Uh, so, how do I do that?”
“Catch the light in your palm and make it solid.”
“Oh, sure. No problem. Make light solid. Easy peasy,” I say and walk over to the same sunbeam.
When I try to grab the light like he did, nothing happens.
“Maybe it’s that sunbeam that’s the problem, since you already grabbed it,” I say, trying to appease him and go to the next one, and the next. Each time, reality reminds me it exists by laughing in my face. “I feel like an idiot,” I say, and he sighs. “I suck. Admit it. I suck at magic.”
“This is not the way it’s supposed to happen,” he says as he sits on the floor, his head falling into his hands.
Defeated, miserable, and distraught, he pouts. I sit and give him a pat on the back.
“I wish I was her. Believe me, I do. You’re a jerk, but you’re a handsome jerk. Who’s not into me. Most everyone else is though, so I’m not worried.”
“Belvedere says it’s the human body—it’s nothing like living as a god—but visions of her plague me. If I look somewhat like who I was, why wouldn’t she?”
“If you’re a pawn and not a minion, then the Winter Witch cursed you too. I’m not so sure being near each other is best for either of us. We’re at the brink of the apocalypse.
Somehow, you are at the center, perhaps to create disasters, obstacles. From what I’ve gathered, you’ve been disastrous since birth.”
“Let me make sure I’m hearing you right—you’re saying every messed-up thing that’s ever happened to me—”
“—Is part of a curse to keep me and Flora apart, to end our reigns as gods. Which means the death of Spring and Summer for eternity. No growth, only decay. Nothing to harvest. Only cold darkness year-round. If I die, if she dies, both seasons die with us. Gods are immortal for a reason.”
“You’re a god now? An actual god?” I say and snort. Talk about ego problems.
“I am the God of Summer. Flora is the Goddess of Spring. That day, we were to commit to each other for eternity.”
“But I was born the day before—”
“Of course, the Winter Witch knew what she would do to us before she did it. She was prepared. With you and who knows who else.”
“Basically, you’re saying all the tragedy in my life is because of you and your girlfriend and the old hag who hates you, and now the end of the world is going to happen because of me.”
“Put in the most remedial of ways, yes.”
Talk about screwing someone over. I’m cursed because of this crap I ain’t got nothing to do with no how? Who does that to a baby that ain’t even born? There’s no way I’m causing the end of the friggin’ world. This winter witch can keep dreaming. She picked the wrong girl… woman… whatever. And if I am cursed, and she’s the one who cursed me, I wonder.
“Let’s say I find your goddess for you. Does my curse break too?”
“If your misfortune results from this curse, yes, it would, in theory, break too. But if we find her, Mandi, I promise you, I will break the curse for you. I am a God. When I have the full force of my powers returned to me, I will remove your curse and bless you. You have my bond.”
“Does this blessing include magical real estate? Specifically, I could use a rent-free penthouse with magical perks, like built in cleaning and laundry. And one of those enormous gardens the size of Central Park like you got. That’d be incredible.”
He cracks a smile and almost laughs, but I’m not kidding.
“I’m being serious, Jack. If you could hook me up, I’d appreciate it. Living without disasters…” I stop and think about what that might be like. “I never thought about that as a possibility. That’d be…” Knowing nothing was going to happen to me would change everything.
“I guess that’d be blessing enough. But I’m homeless. I don’t want to go back to Danny.”
“How would that even be an option?”
“What do you mean? I got nowhere else to go.”
“What about a friend who might let you stay on their couch?”
“Nah, I’m not a social person.”
“You don’t appear to be introverted. In fact, you should be far more introverted than you are.”
“Alright, I’ll ignore that because you’re stressed. Don’t you worry, Jack. A witch-goddess, I may not be, but I fix screwups for a living. You’re looking at an expert—this is what I do. I got this,” I assure him. “Come on. Let’s blow this sunbeam. We got work to do. I got a plan. Magic us on out of here.”
“I knew it wouldn’t work,” he says with a sigh, takes out a golden whistle, and blows it, but I don’t hear nothing.
“Dog whistle?” I ask with an arched brow. “I’m not riding no dog back to the city, magic or not.”
As the vaulted ceiling opens to the sky, a massive golden dragon glides down and lands, perching on the top of the wall. A staircase of light materializes, and we climb it to a landing.
1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
—The amazing and wonderful Mandy Roth invited me to be a part of a Paranormal Women’s Fiction anthology, Aged to Perfection, featuring diverse female main characters forty and over. The anthology released Valentine’s Day week of this year and contained nineteen novellas featuring new and established authors in the genre. We hit the USA Today bestseller list in our first week, which was a blessing. I was honored to be a part of it. It was available for about a month before it went off the market. Since, I’ve expanded Magic Takes Manhattan and am sending Mandi, my MC, on more adventures through New York City. As of now, I’m planning on releasing three more books in the series.
2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
—So many things. I did a considerable amount of research into the magical history of New York. But perhaps the most fascinating discovery I made I use in my book—there really are crystals and gems running through the ground in Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs.
The southern tip of Manhattan Island is heavily serpentine, and so is about half of Staten Island. This blew my mind. When they dug out the subway tunnels, they found all sorts of gems, and I named my main character, Almandine “Mandi” Muscovitz, after a large stone that was pulled from the ground here in NYC—almandine garnet on muscovite.
And what’s particularly interesting to me, is the crystals in the ground throughout the city have metaphysical properties that seem to correspond to the predominant activities that take place in the neighborhoods they lie embedded in. For example, Wall Street is located toward the southern tip of Manhattan Island, which is heavily serpentine, and serpentine is supposed to help clear the mind and open it up to psychic abilities and things like making predictions—a skill a stockbroker could use. I could go on and on with those sorts of examples.
3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
—I’ve written comedy for quite some time, but never in novel form. Mostly, I wrote for character comics and live performance. I had never thought of fusing my work as an author with my work as a comedy writer for some odd reason. But I felt like the world needs to laugh right now, even just for a moment. People need an escape, we need to feel joy. So, I wrote this book to hopefully give that to readers who want it, and in the process, I found myself laughing, escaping the drama of the world today, and feeling the joy I hoped to give to others. It was a blast. And I hope Mandi gives everyone who reads her story the joy she’s given me.
4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
—I love finding magic in unexpected places. But what if magic took over your hometown? My hometown is Manhattan—Hell’s Kitchen, to be exact—and if I could suddenly see the once invisible magic of my city, I’d probably commit myself. Manhattan is a place most people have either visited or seen pictures of or movies and TV shows that take place there. I hoped the title would evoke images in the mind’s eye of what a magical Manhattan might be like. It’s been such a pleasure writing it
5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
—No, although another writer friend of mine, Joe Crawford, is a former independent insurance claims adjuster, which was a crazy coincidence, and he helped me a great deal with understanding the way someone with that job would approach a problem and go about an investigation. He was a huge help to me, and I give him a big fat thank you in the acknowledgments of my book.
6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
—Absolutely. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just say a common theme in my work is self-actualization.
7. What is your favorite part of the book?
—I love the New Yorkisms I’ve gotten to incorporate, but even more than that is the Yiddish. Most New Yorkers, no matter what their ethnic background may be, understand basic Yiddish words used in everyday life in the city. It’s a great language, and even though I’m Jewish, I believe Yiddish is for everyone. There are so many great Yiddish words people use they don’t even realize they’re using. Like glitch, clutz, and spiel. Yiddish is chock full of good words I use regularly, and I’d love to see more people using Yiddish words into their everyday lives.
8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
—Creating characters is what I love to do. It’s probably the one part of the writing process that usually goes smoothly for me. I come from a theatrical family—my parents are performers, so were my grandparents, and so on. Although I always wrote, I started out as an actress, went to drama school, and basically spent a lifetime learning how to create full characters who successfully serve a particular function in a story.
9. What are your immediate future plans?
—To continue releasing books in the series and begin recording the audiobooks. That is something I am super excited to begin. We are currently in pre-production now. They’re being produced by Audiobook Empire, and I’m going to be performing Mandi along with a full cast of actors, some of whom you might recognize from television shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Law and Order; films like Welcome to the Dollhouse, Requiem for a Dream, and Judas and the Black Messiah; and from original Broadway casts of shows like Titanic and Tommy. I couldn’t be more excited to go into production on this, and that should be happening very soon.