Name: Ashley Van Otterloo
Twitter Handle: @AshVanOtterloo
Genre: Upper MG Fantasy
Word Count: 52,000
My Main Character's Most Stressful Relationship is:
My main character’s most stressful relationship is with Katybird Hearn. Every time Delpha has a logical plan all ironed out, Katybird is trotting right behind her, trailing jelly beans and undoing all Delpha’s hard work. And crying. Always crying. Or trying to spare the feelings of inanimate objects, like Delpha’s outhouse. Delpha suspects Katybird is a few screwdrivers short of a full toolbox, if you know what I mean.
Somethin’ ain’t quite right with that girl.
Howler’s Hollow has been a magical dead spot for a century—a fact that has kept Delpha O’Leary’s witching family safe from persecution and magical conflict for several generations. Conjure is strictly off-limits. Trouble is, if there’s anything that makes Delpha’s skin crawl it’s accepting limitations. When she finds her grandmother’s secret book of hexes, her deep ambition gets the better of her and she can’t wait to test the boundaries of her own magic. She hopes to prove herself powerful—the kind of powerful that doesn’t feel helpless after her father’s abandonment.
But when Katybird Hearn, the descendant of a rival witch family, demands Delpha share the secret of her skills, tempers flare. The fledgling witches' quarrel unleashes a hex that resurrects a graveyard full of their magical ancestors … along with an age-old blood feud.
Delpha and Katybird, along with the help of Tyler, a young Appalachian werewolf, must find a way to reverse the spell before the magic-wielding zombies wreak dangerous havoc in their small mountain community.
But each of the teens has their own personal demon to overcome. Katybird must conquer the fear that her intersex body will cause her family’s matriarchal magic to reject her. Tyler … well, Tyler just needs to stop fainting every five minutes. And as estranged family members surface and rattle her independent nature, Delpha needs to learn that sometimes the strongest magic happens when you’re in cahoots with another conjure-woman. If they don’t succeed, the cycle of witch-hunting and feud violence their kin fought hard to end will begin spinning once more.
Poised on a wooded hill far from town, Delpha’s knobbly legs knocked as an early April wind traced a cold finger down her backbone. Her keen eyes skimmed the newly budded trees and blankets of white bloodroot flowers, watchful for flickers of movement in the dying light. Satisfied she was alone, she carefully closed her carving knife then ran the freshly-hewn green flesh of a hickory stick across her lips. Smooth as silk.
It was her first wand. A secret wand, carved by her own hands. Her Mamaw would tan her hide if she found out. Her mama, too. She was breaking the rules, but that didn’t sway her conviction one iota. Sometimes rules oughta be shattered. There was nothing for it.
Delpha’s dark eyebrows formed a hard line and she settled on the cool pine needles. She sucked in a breath before raising the wand over the cracked binding of the leather book in her lap, then cleared her throat.
“Awake the powers dark and deep
That here betwixt these bosoms sleep.”
Delpha blushed a bit and secured the top button of her flannel shirt, then opened the book to squint at a yellowed page, eager to get on with it.
“Let young’un join the ring of grannies,
To kick my foes right in their fannies.”
Bunching her lips, she threw a handful of feathers in the air, then spat into a circle drawn in the loamy forest floor. Delpha’s watchful eyes narrowed, muscles tense.
She waited a few moments, just in case it was the sort of magic that needed to brew for a bit. But the end of her wand remained dull as dirt.