Writing Wednesday: Santa Cruz

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This week, I want to share the very first sneak peek at my newest series, Santa Cruz Witch Academy! I grew up in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area, even attending school at UC Santa Cruz, which makes me a Banana Slug. (Go Slugs!) It’s a unique and beautiful area with a magical flavor, and I’ve always wanted to set a fantasy story there. Rosa and her friends actually visit there briefly in Witch Gate, but I wanted more.

Enter the Santa Cruz Witch Academy–and Brie! Brie Quinn-McAddams is Rosa and Ashleigh’s daughter, but she’s not sure if she wants to be a witch like her mom (and grandma). Especially since her family name comes with such a big reputation. She’s introverted so she’d rather not draw a lot of attention to herself, and a witch named McAddams is going to get attention. But her family talked her into giving witch school a try for a few years. Since she didn’t want to stay local, she picked another spot by the coast, where no one would know about her family history.

In this opening scene, Rosa and Ashleigh are driving their daughter to move-in day at the boarding school. Brie asked them to take the scenic route along the coastal cliffs so she could see the ocean. But she spots something she didn’t expect.

Something in the Water

The water glinted in the September sunlight and the waves gently rolled up to the beach. It was a calm day, but there were still a few surfers out there, sitting on their boards while they waited for the next swell. The salty air came through the window and whipped my red hair around my head.

I couldn’t wait to be out there with them. My board was strapped to the top of the car and my wetsuit was in the suitcase in the trunk. Maybe I could convince my parents to just drop me off here for a few hours. They’d enjoy the first day of school orientation more than I would.

Only first-years drove to witch school because we didn’t have any magic yet. All the older students would be flying in on their brooms over the weekend. Classes didn’t start until Tuesday, after the equinox, but first-years also had to get there early. Which is why I was stuck in this car on a beautiful Thursday afternoon.

Most kids would probably be excited to go to a witch school, but I’d been against the idea for years. Mama Rosa was a witch, and she could do some cool things with her powers, but I was tired of people comparing me to her. Or worse, to her mother, my Granny Rose, who had been stripped of her powers for illegal magic. With such a well-known witch family, I could feel the weight of expectations the moment that people heard my name.

My real dream was an art school, and I didn’t need magic for that. I could have finished out my last two years of high school in my old school back home. People still judged me for my family name there, but I’d developed a prickly persona where I kept my head down and avoided everyone. I just had to build up my portfolio and graduate.

But Mama Ashleigh, who was a faeriekin but rarely used her magic, was the one who finally talked me into giving witch school a chance. She pointed out that I could still get my high school diploma while I studied magic, and if I didn’t like it, I could switch to art in college.

So I’d made a deal with her: I would go to a witch school and try the magic life for a limited time. But I wanted to pick the location—definitely not the Calaveras Witch Academy, where Mama Rosa taught herbology—and if it was too awful, I could transfer back to normal high school.

And now here I was in Santa Cruz. It was beautiful with green trees everywhere, even at the end of summer when most of the state was brown and dried out from the sun. The coastal redwoods were smaller than the giant sequoia from back home, but they were still impressive. This place was familiar in some ways but just different enough that it felt like an escape.

A dark shape in the water caught my eye. Something bobbed up between the kelp beds and I thought it turned toward me. I pressed closer to the glass, trying to get a better look.

“Did you find a sea otter, Bridget?” Mama Rosa said, glancing at me in the rearview mirror.

I shook my head. It looked too big to be a sea otter or even a seal. I checked the nearby surfers, but they didn’t seem to notice.

A girl’s face looked up at me from the water. A cold shiver passed over me. Mermaids usually avoided anywhere with humans, but they could be hostile. If there were mermaids in Santa Cruz, it wasn’t as peaceful as the school’s brochures promised.


I'm an author, a blogger, and a nerd. I read and write fantasy.