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Lesley Hershman

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    I live in suburban Chicago with my husband and a large assortment of rescue dogs and cats. I write humorous Middle grade and Women's fiction. Some days I produce 7 to 8 solid pages. Other days Wordle is the extent of my creative output.

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  1. I had to try one time. Even though Dad was about to turn the car into my aunt and uncle’s driveway. Even though he and Mom had said “no” the hundred other times I’d already asked them. This was my last chance so I crossed my fingers on both hands and went for it. “Please please can I go to New York City with you guys?” I asked. “We could see the Statue of Liberty. I read all about it online. It’s 305 feet tall if you count the pedestal it stands on.” I knew they would like that I threw in the exact measurement. They always approved when I used my laptop for educational things instead of just playing video games. “I promise we’ll take you to see it another time, buddy. This is a business trip for us and we’re going to be busy the whole time we’re there,” Dad said, stopping the car in front of my aunt’s herb garden. “Aww, look how excited they are to have you stay with them.” Mom pointed to the porch. Great Uncle Theo held up a WELCOME JAKE! sign and Great Aunt Ducky took a handkerchief out of the pocket of her plaid dress to wave back and forth, her silver hair pinned in its usual neat bun. “Then can I at least have eight hours of screen time every day?" I asked. “And then two more after dinner? There isn’t anything else to do out here. I’m going to be so bored!” “You can have three hours a day,” Dad said. “That’ll leave you plenty of time to do other fun stuff out here in the country, like going fishing with your uncle. Or peach picking with your aunt.” “Except none of those things are as fun as playing Battle of the Zombie Dragons,” I muttered as Uncle Theo pulled open the car door. Right away I got a whiff of the just-blown-out birthday candle smoky smell that always blew around my aunt and uncle’s little brown house with its crooked green shutters. Uncle Theo ran his hand through my curly hair. “Well, I’m surprised you didn’t feel that crawling around your noggin!” He held up a plastic spider and grinned. “Good one, Uncle Theo,” I said politely like I did every time he played one of his practical jokes. When I was six, I couldn’t stop giggling at his endless pranks. Now that I was almost eleven, I thought they were more annoying than funny. “Wait until I show my new batch of fake dog poop. It fools your Aunt Ducky every time and we don’t even have a dog!” Uncle Theo burst out laughing. After they kissed me goodbye and reminded me to “be a good boy” and “don’t play your games all day, be outside in this nice fresh air!” Mom and Dad got back in the car. I stayed out on the porch for a few extra seconds in case they changed their mind and turned around to come back for me. But Dad tooted the horn a few times and Mom stuck her arm out the window for one last wave before they turned onto the road. I couldn’t help letting out a little groan and Uncle Theo nodded. “Yes, today is a scorcher,” he said. “Let’s take your things up to your room and we’ll head over to Dairy Queen after lunch. Nothing better in this heat than a strawberry sundae.” He picked up my duffel and took it inside. I leaned down to pick up my backpack. Two bright purple eyes peered at me from below the porch railing. “Whoa!” I said, leaping back so fast I knocked over one of the rocking chairs. Whoever or whatever it was took off towards to the woods that edged the back of the yard. It was galloping so fast all I could see was a dark blur. Maybe it was a bear? Not that I knew a lot about bears. Back home in Chicago I mostly saw pigeons and a few squirrels and once I saw two rats fighting over a piece of bread in the alley behind our apartment building. I ran into the house and up the stairs to the little guest room at the end of the hall. “Look at this Jake,” Uncle Theo said from the doorway. He held up a small spoon. He touched it and the whole spoon collapsed. “Isn’t that a hoot? I can’t wait to see the look on Aunt Ducky’s face when she tries to eat her banana split with it and the ice cream keeps falling right to the ground.” “Good one, Uncle Theo,” I said without even thinking. He leaned in and whispered. “You won’t believe what I’ve got up my sleeve for my next stunt. It’ll be the biggest one I’ve ever pulled off. You’ve never seen anything like it!” I followed him down to the kitchen for lunch, trying to figure out what his big practical joke could be. Probably something he read in his favorite book, THE 100 BEST PRANKS TO PLAY ON YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. I’d looked through it once and Uncle Theo had drawn little stars next to Number 39: Fill the cookie jar with ketchup and Number 67: Stuffing the whole freezer with ping pong balls. So that’s what I’d be doing the next ten days: Playing ZombieDragons, staying away from weird bears and watching out for Uncle Theo’s next big joke. Page Break Chapter 2 “I saw something weird today,” I said when we sat down at the table. “There was something looking me from the side of the porch.” “Probably our neighbor’s cat, Henry coming over for a visit,” Aunt Duckie said. “Don’t worry, he’s very friendly.” I shook my head. “No, this definitely wasn’t a cat. It ran to the back woods so fast it was hard to see anything. I even thought it could be a bear. But bears don’t have super bright purple eyes, do they?” Uncle Theo put down his egg salad sandwich. “You’re sure it had bright purple eyes?” I nodded. “That was not a bear.” He stood up. “Excuse me. I’m going to run downstairs to get some, uh, pickles from the pantry.” “There’s some right here, Uncle Theo.” I pointed to the plate in the middle of the table but he’d already hurried through the basement door. “What’s going on?” I asked Aunt Ducky. “He seemed really freaked out all of a sudden.” “Oh, uh, maybe he’s worried that we’re out of pickles,” Aunt Ducky untied her apron. “I’ll go help him find some. You stay here and finish your lunch.” She went down the stairs quickly too. I was gulping down the rest of my sandwich so I could get upstairs to start a new round of Zombie Dragons when a loud thump! on the back porch made the kitchen windows shake. I looked through the yellow curtains to see a box. At least I thought it was a box. I’d never seen one like this and it was my job on Saturdays to unpack all the cartons delivered to my family’s shoe store. This one looked like it was made of heavy black rubber. Bulging out on one side, it caved in on the other. I opened the door to read the writing etched into the rubber: 5 POUNDS OF CHUNKY BAT VOMIT FOR SPELLS NEEDING CHUNKY BAT VOMIT 5 POUNDS LIQUIDY BAT VOMIT FOR SPELLS REQURING LIQUIDY BAT VOMIT. DO NOT LEAVE OUTSIDE OR VOMIT WILL MELT. PUT IN COOL DARK PLACE RIGHT AWAY. This must be stuff for Uncle Theo’s prank. He probably ordered it from the same place as the fake dog poop. Despite the loud thump like someone had dropped a boulder on the porch, it was pretty light when I picked it up. The kitchen was sunny and warm so I carried the box down to the basement. My aunt and uncle weren’t in the little pantry stocked with Aunt Ducky’s jars of homemade jam and pickles, and they weren’t in the laundry room either. “Where are you guys?” I called. “You got a package delivered.” “I’m very sorry we sold you a jar of ant snot when you asked for worm snot,” Uncle Theo said. “Huh?” I said. “My spell was ruined by your stupid mistake. If things don’t improve around here, you will suffer my rage,” a raspy voice answered him. “This place will suffer the rage of all the witches!” another voice screeched. “We are tired of the way this store conducts business and we won’t put up with it much longer.” “I’m so sorry, I assure you it won’t happen again. Beltrane, please bring me a jar of our finest worm snot for Witch Hensel right away,” Uncle Theo said. The voices were coming from the far left side of the basement, always the shadiest, coolest part of it because of the big maple tree that grew in the yard above. “Uncle Theo, are you okay?” I leaned into the wall to press my ear against it when something pressed against my arm. It was a glass doorknob on a slim door tucked into the corner. How had I never noticed this door before? I used to spend hours down here playing with my train set, the tracks covering every inch of the floor. I twisted the knob and the door opened easily. I poked my head out before I went through the doorway. A few uneven steps dropped to a narrow tunnel lit by small torches flickering along a crumbling brick wall. I leaned forward to read something scratched into one of the bricks: NO WITCHES ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT My shoulders relaxed. I’d just found Uncle Theo’s next prank. He must be getting all of this ready for Halloween. It was only August, but this one was definitely going to take a lot more work than putting fake dog poop down. Of course he had to start working on it early. This was like something in a movie. I started down the tunnel. It probably led to a room decorated with fake cobwebs and ghosts made out of old bedsheets. I’d find it, let Aunt Ducky and Uncle Theo yell “Boo!” at me and then get back to Dragons and hopefully we’d go to Dairy Queen for that strawberry sundae soon too. The sharp twists and turns of the tunnel reminded me of the cornfield maze my fourth-grade class visited last fall. After a few seconds, though, I couldn’t tell if I was going forwards or backwards, right or left. The torches gave off such little light that I kept stumbling into dark dead ends, scraping my nose against the bricks. Stairs led down one passageway only to go back up another a few seconds later. I felt like I was walking in circles. Scary, dark circles. I didn’t know what direction I was headed in and I certainly didn’t know how to get back to the basement. Hot tears filled my eyes and now I really couldn’t see where I was going. “Uncle Theo?” I called. “Aunt Ducky?” No one answered. I slumped against the wall to figure out what to do next.
  2. Story Statement Jake must save his family’s witch supply store after he tries to impress the witch he has a crush on by bringing in a computer to modernize the ancient craft but instead enrages the witches with this introduction of manmade technology and they try to destroy the centuries-old store as revenge. (Middle Grade) Antagonist: Witch Vindelle, First Witch of the Darkest Night Coven, is a particularly nasty witch who is determined to open her own store and put Jake’s family out of business. When the witches decide to hold a competition to see which store should earn their official seal of approval, Vindelle cheats, lies and even kidnaps Jake’s pet hamster to rattle him so that her store will be chosen. Vindelle also does everything she can to ruin his friendship with Sephira, a young witch who’s also Jake’s first secret crush. Title: The Witch Glitch The Witch Market The Witch Competition Comps: THE WITCH THE SWORD AND THE CURSED KNIGHTS Alexandria Rogers A story that also highlights the friendship between a witch and her non witch friend who must come together to achieve their goal of breaking a wicked curse. This is similar to the bond Jake and Sephira forge to ultimately try save the Witch Market from complete ruin. A TASTE OF MAGIC by J. Elle is another humorous MG of magical realism that combines the everyday world with witchcraft. Hookline Jake must save his family’s witch supply store when he tries to impress Sephira, the witch he has a crush on by bringing in a computer to modernize the ancient craft but instead enrages the rest of the witches with this manmade technology and they try to destroy the centuries-old store as revenge. Inner Conflict: Jake feels it all—fear, guilt, remorse that he didn't listen to Great Aunt Duckie and Uncle Theo when they warned him of the dangers of introducing technology to the witches who hold their ancient ways sacred. Now his aunt and uncle are watching their beloved business and their home, go up in flames, ignited by a curse that makes it impossible for them to be extinguished. Even after the fire is finally out Jake must wrestle with the fact that he’s cleared the way for Vindelle to open her competing store, a fatal blow to his family’s rich legacy in the world of witchcraft. When given one more chance to save the store, Jake is so wrecked by the kidnapping of his beloved hamster, Jammy and his belief that Sephira had something to do with her disappearance, he struggles to rise to the challenge. Secondary Conflict: Jake’s relationship with Sephira is in jeopardy too. When Jammy, is kidnapped, Jake is convinced that Sephira had something to do with it and that their entire relationship has been a sham. Setting: Jake discovers the secret witch market when he notices a narrow door in the corner of Great Uncle Theo and Aunt Duckie’s basement. He opens it to stumble into a maze like hall that leads to the Witch Market, located under the roots of the Rowan tree that grows in their yard above. The Witch Market is a supermarket for witches, providing every item needed for their curses, spells, potions and hexes. Uncle Theo's store slogan is, “If we don’t carry it, witches don’t need it!” But it's very different than the supermarket Jake's mom shops at back in Chicago. Instead of bread or peanut butter, the signs outside this store advertise 2 OUNCES FRESH SNAIL SLIME $6.99 CAULDRONS 30% OFF TODAY ONLY WITH COUPON BUY 1 TOADSTOOL, GET 1 FREE! Jake’s nose itches as soon as he walks through the cracked glass doors covered in green moss. The air inside is heavy with smoke, mingled with the scent of cinnamon and rotting fruit. Candle chandeliers sputter above crooked aisles, their shelves full of jars of frog spit, sacks of dried moonwort, boxes of Bleeding Tooth Fungus Cakes. Worms and spiders make their way across the uneven floors, near the flies that buzz around the Rotten Produce Department and the Floral Section -- “Take home a dead bouquet today!” Jake is surprised at how loud it is inside here too. The witches screech and shout at each other as they push rusty shopping carts, their boot heels clacking on the floor. The Stockroom behind the selling floor is lined with hundreds of drawers up to the ceiling, containing everything from Ant Hill Powder to Zigzagged Broom Bristles. Jake struggles to read the yellowed paper labels on the front of each drawer, written in long ago faded cursive handwriting. He has to stretch his neck as far as he can to see the top of the rickety ladders needed to reach the highest drawers. Gnarled branches crisscross the ceiling of the Messenger Hall, where a variety of animals wait to be called to make deliveries. Crows handle the daily runs while bats take on the nighttime ones and sleep in their houses until they go on evening duty. Around a sharp corner and up a few stone steps is the thick steel door that guards the Spell Room, the most important space in the entire store. It is the lair of Widdershins, the best SpellAdvisor in the business. The most popular service the Witch Market offers its customers is Spell Advice with Widdershins (by appointment only) for witches who need his guidance in making sure their spells are the most effective they can be. Widdershins puts together the needed ingredients in the pitch black Spell Room, since everyone knows spells concocted in the dark are always more powerful. Past long tables scattered with spoons, bowls and scales, The Spell Room also houses the Witchblaze Firepit, the jagged trench that holds the invisible fire that witches need for certain spells. The Witch Supply Market is the only store that sells this crucial ingredient, so it must be guarded at all times, especially from Vindelle. She needs to get her hands on the formula for it so she can make her store a success. Uncle Theo and Aunt Ducky do all they can to provide the best possible service, always with a personal touch and warm smile for all their customers.
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