Spotlight: Fractured Magic by Emily Bybee
Monday, November 8, 2021

Today I'm excited to tell you all about Fractured Magic by Emily Bybee!
Remember to enter for your chance to win an autographed copy of this book along with other cool prizes in my Winter of Wonder Giveaway!
Unstable Magic Book 1
As the world’s worst witch, Maddie is mistreated by her own kind. She was born a Defect. Most of her spells blow up in her face, literally. While witches search for the long-lost power of the earth, Maddie spends her time in the science lab. There, Maddie discovers a clue to the lost power.
The only other witness is Jax, a smokin’ hot bad-boy who Maddie can’t decide if she wants to kiss or kill. When she fails her magic final, the council orders her magic stripped. Maddie’s only chance to keep her brain intact is to find the power with the hope that it can “fix” her.
Jax is her one ally on the journey. The two of them must use their smarts to stay ahead of the witches while they follow a two-hundred-year-old trail to the power of the earth and the truth behind Maddie’s defect.

Read an Excerpt from Fractured Magic:

The grape in my palm glowed an eerie green, its molecules buzzing with my energy. I urged more power into the fruit until it shown bright as a miniature sun.

“Good.” My mom coached from her observation point a few feet away—out of the danger zone. “Now, picture where you want it to go.”

My control over the spell faltered, and the grape’s light flickered like a candle. This was the point where I always lost it. My breath refused to leave my lungs.

“Careful, Maddie. Don’t let any other thoughts in your mind. Doing great,” my mom urged, but took a small step back.

A picture of the dented wooden chair formed in my mind. I latched onto the image and held it like it was my only lifeline to keep me from falling to my untimely death. Which, given my mother’s mood lately, wasn’t too far off.

The grape jumped in my hand. Pressure built from the air trapped in my chest. Light poured from my palm and, with an audible pop, the grape disappeared.

I gasped, releasing the stale breath. My eyes darted from my empty hand to the still empty chair. “I did it.”

“Where did you send it?” Mom asked. Her eyebrows pulled together while her gaze searched the basement. Barren of furniture, except for the old chair, the room had white walls and a plain cement floor. It made for easier clean-up from my magical studies. There was always quite a mess when I was involved. My younger brother could have, and often did, practice in the living room with no problems.

Another pop sounded. The grape reappeared in my hand and promptly exploded. Warm grape jelly splattered across my face and chest, which only added to the half-dried globs left by its predecessors. I sucked in a lungful of the sickeningly sweet air.

The butterflies of hope, fluttering in my chest, transformed to ninja razor blades of death. I couldn’t stand to look my mom’s way, but I knew the disappointed expression on her face by heart. My hand closed into a fist around the sticky mess.

Untouched by the fragrant shrapnel, Mom sighed. “Go get another one.”

I bit back the snarky remark begging to jump off my tongue and instead refocused my frustration on the noise that came from the basement window. The neighbor’s dog, which looked like someone crossed a long-haired hamster with a mountain goat−minus the horns of course−wouldn’t quit barking outside. How the neighbors slept through it was beyond me.

Animals could see through our magical tricks. That dog was absolutely certain something fishy was going on in our house, and he was determined to let the world know. Concentrating with all that yipping and yapping was like having a phone conversation at a rock concert.

I glanced at my watch−6:45am−we’d been at this for over two hours. “I’m going to miss school again. Can’t we work on transference later?”

Mom's jaw clenched, and she pushed her hair behind her ears. Never a good sign. “If you worried about your magic half as much as you worry about your school work we wouldn’t be having this problem.”

“Yeah, because getting a grape facial every day for the last six months has so helped my progress. I’m not good at much but I’m good at school. I want to go to a decent college,” I said.

“You can be good at magic too,” she insisted. “This afternoon maybe we can try transferring oranges again. You did a little better with those.”

I shook my head. “I have to go do that lab at the campus. Dad already set it up with Professor Cho.”

She bit her lip, obviously weighing the importance of me getting my AP Biology grade up with an extra assignment against more hours of practice. I wouldn’t need an extra assignment if I could actually make it to class more than twice a week.

“You can get it done today if you use the college lab instead of the one in your high school?” she asked.

I nodded, not trusting my tongue to hold onto a particularly snide comment.

“Try to be home early and maybe we can get in at least an hour of practice.”

The dog abruptly stopped its yap alarm. The silence did little to soothe my frayed nerves. Grape juice oozed from my tightening fist, but I kept my voice level. “Have you ever considered that I may just be no good at witchcraft?”

Her voice softened from the professor voice to mom voice. “Maddie, you can’t talk that way.”

My mouth opened before my brain could catch up with my tongue. “Why?” I threw my hands out to the side and raised my voice. “Are you afraid someone might hear that your daughter sucks at being a witch? They already know I’m a Defect.”

“Don’t use that filthy word,” she said, her cheeks shifting from white to red.

“Oh no, another scandal for the family. Maybe, if I’m really lucky, they’ll cancel my betrothal to Mr. California Surfer Boy…” I ranted.

A tingling sensation in my mouth stopped my tirade. “Mom don’t−” was all I could get out before I lost the ability to control my tongue.

She stared for a moment, the warning evident in her eyes. “Stop calling him Surfer Boy. You should be grateful we were able to arrange such a good match for you.”

I poured my helpless rage into the bowl of fruit on the stairs. Grapes exploded like popcorn in the microwave. Chunks splattered across the wall in an arc.

“Are you finished having a tantrum?” Mom asked. “Now, if you can’t control what you say then I will have to do it for you. One of these days the spell may be permanent.”

My eyes widened, and my mouth opened in a reflex to protest. With no way to tell her what I thought, I crossed my arms and felt the outline of the locket that hung around my neck, safe from the mess, under my shirt. The gold locket had been my grandmother’s, the one person in the world who thought I was perfect just the way I was.

Her gaze rested on me for a moment, then, after a deep cleansing breath, she pointed to the stairs. “Now, get another grape.”

My teeth snapped together with a sickening crack. I waited a beat then stalked to the stairs and plucked a slime covered grape from the nearly empty bowl. The muscles in my legs trembled, signaling that I had used up most of my energy already. Around the year 1700 witches lost the ability to pull power from the earth. Without that source we were limited to the finite amount of power in our own bodies—unless we killed someone. Not an option I was completely opposed to at the moment.

“Try again. And don’t use so much power. You only need a tiny bit to transfer something so small. You should be able to do this a hundred times and not be tired,” she said.

An hour later we ran out of grapes. Their remains smeared my face and hung from my hair in gloppy dreadlocks. My knees threatened to buckle, but I forced myself to remain upright. No matter how I tried to throttle back I always seemed to use too much of my power.

I stood covered in the evidence of my own failure and glared at Mom in an attempt to retain the last tattered shred of my self-worth.

I waited for her to speak, still unable to do so myself, and afraid that she would tell me to go grab the fruit bowl from the kitchen. It wouldn’t be the first time I ended up smelling like a smoothie. Although, I had to admit, fruit was way better than last week when she decided I might do better transferring meat. Raw hamburger is hell to get out of your hair.

We could use any organic body for this spell, it just had to be carbon based and for some odd reason she wouldn’t allow me to practice on anything live yet.

Mom paused at the bottom of the stairs. She didn’t turn to look at me, but I heard the tears straining her voice. “I know I’m hard on you. I hate it but…they’ll be coming for you soon. We won’t be able to protect you much longer.”

My sullen anger vaporized at her words. Though I’d known the truth for a long time, it was different to hear her say the words out loud. Fear swept over me like cold water. I stood motionless, speechless, even if my tongue had been working, and watched her disappear around the corner.


Twenty minutes of furious scrubbing later, I pulled a baggy long-sleeved shirt over my wet hair and rushed downstairs, still shaky, but caffeine and sugar coming to the rescue. There was no time for the blow drier if I wanted to catch the last half of my Biology class. Good thing the bed head look was in.

“Wow, what happened to you?” my ten-year-old brother, Parker, asked, pausing in his attempt to stuff his lunch into an overfull backpack. With Mom working on my magic most mornings it was Parker’s responsibility to get himself ready and out to the bus. He was about as good at that as I was at transference.

I glared my response, unable to deliver the scathing remark in my mind.

His smile grew wider. “Mom freeze your tongue again?”

If only I could talk. I grabbed my own backpack and stalked out the door, as the school bus chugged down the snow-covered street. A devious grin spread over my face. He was going to miss the bus again. Served him right. Mom would be furious, especially in the mood I had put her in.

I paused. The corners of my lips fell at the image of Parker facing wrath that was meant for me. With a silent groan I spun on my heel and rushed into the house.

Still struggling with his backpack, he shot me a wide-eyed stare. “What?”

I threw him his coat, smashed his snack into the backpack, and yanked the zipper shut. Goldfish crumbs taste the same anyway. He ran in my wake out the front door and down to the street where we watched the bus pull around the corner and out of sight.

The usual snarkiness left his voice. “I guess I better go tell Mom.”

With a glance at my watch, I debated. I’d miss all of second period Biology, not something my C minus grade could really afford. Really, why did high schools have to put all the AP classes first thing in the morning? One look at his face made up my mind. I opened the passenger door on my car and threw in his backpack.

The corners of his mouth shot up, and his eyes crinkled. “Really? Awesome! Hey can I come watch you practice tomorrow? It’s way cool.”

I glared sideways at him, but the look didn’t pack much heat. Parker had always thought my talent of blowing stuff up was great.

He stopped next to the open door. “Mom doesn’t appreciate you.”

I was momentarily glad Mom had frozen my tongue, and he didn’t expect me to answer. It saved me from lying.

Mom’s warning about them coming for me sped up my pulse. I pushed the fear aside. I’d known it would happen someday. I’d just hoped it would be much later.

I forced a smile to my unwilling lips and waved to our neighbor, my best friend Emma’s mom, who stood on her porch looking up and down the street.

“Have you guys seen Sparky?” she called.

I shook my head and noticed Parker ducking into my car a little too quickly at the mention of the annoying mutt. I filed away that thought for later. He had a habit of practicing on the neighbor’s dog.

Emma’s mom put her hands on her hips and glanced up the street. “Well, he got out again— somehow. Let me know if you see him.”

With no voice to question Parker about the disappearing dog, I waved goodbye. I settled behind the wheel and encouraged the engine of my hunk-of-junk car while it struggled to life.

Parker slammed the door. “Hey, can we go through the drive-thru and get me a bacon and egg biscuit? I didn’t actually have time to eat breakfast.”

I momentarily considered banging my face against the wheel. Okay, so maybe I’d be able to catch the last half of third period. If I was lucky.


I trudged across the campus at Northwestern. Probably the only perk of having parents who were professors was that they could arrange for time in the well-equipped lab.

Both my parents worked as History professors at the university but their real jobs involved the history of our kind and most importantly, finding the answer every witch except me was so desperate to discover. How to access the unlimited power beneath our feet. I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I found it. Probably unintentionally blow up a city.

College students hustled by me in groups of twos and threes, laughing and chatting. Oh, to be a simple college student, where if you failed your finals, evil witches didn’t fry your brain.

I cleared my throat and pasted a smile on my face. Thankfully, the spell my mom put on me that morning had worn off by the end of my fourth period class so at least I could speak again. As I rounded the corner to the Biology lab, I stopped in the doorway. At the desk, with his feet propped on the corner was not the slightly overweight, perpetually rumpled, Professor Cho that I’d met at faculty dinners. Instead of polyester, the long legs were covered in faded denim and in the place of Dr. Cho’s cowboy boots there was a pair of well used Chucks.

He glanced up from the worn textbook he held. Brown eyes, so deep and vibrant, they looked more like molten copper, met mine. And held. My feet were still rooted in the doorway, while my neurons sputtered to a halt. I forgot how to talk, how to smile, how to even think.

He blinked, breaking my trance, and returned his attention to the book’s pages. I filled my straining lungs with air, only then realizing that I’d also forgotten how to breathe, while I took in the rest of him. Let’s just say concentrating on my lab might be a problem.

I could only describe him as dark. Hair, eyes, clothes, and attitude. He continued to read from the book in his hand. “So, I hear you like to ditch class then make people stay late to help you get your grade up.”

The deep rustle of his voice elicited a surprisingly warm tingle in my stomach that his words quickly eliminated. “I missed class because I was sick, not that it’s any of your business.”

His gaze lifted from the page and meandered up my body to rest on my face. One eyebrow and matching corner of his lips pulled up. “Yeah, you look pretty bad. You should have stayed in bed.”

Already taut, the muscles in my shoulders and neck tightened like guitar strings. The tension spread to my skull, ready to snap. Coping skills, remember your coping skills. Whenever I was nervous, or in most cases angry, my tongue tended to completely bypass my brain, and no telling what would fly out. I counted to ten and managed a civil tone. “Did you have somewhere you needed to be?”

He dropped his feet to the floor, and laid the textbook, a well-used copy of Human Genes and Disease, on the table. A clown-like smile spread across his face and forced joviality filled his voice. “Are you crazy? Why would I want to go to a study group for my midterm when I could be here with you?”

I glanced back at the textbook and the pages of notes spread across the desk underneath. I walked to the microscope on the bench, got out my notebook, and tried to swallow the acid in my throat. While his words smarted, I could understand the frustration behind them. “Feel free to go.”

He set two beakers on the bench with more force than necessary. “The professor had better places to be so he asked me to stay, and when he asks you to do something you don’t say no if you want to get a good recommendation for grad school. You won’t have to worry about recommendations, I’m sure. Your parents will bail you out then too.”

All right he needed to be knocked down a peg or three. I cocked my head to the side. “Let me make sure I got this right. Professor Cho is the scientist and you run around doing whatever he says. So that makes you…what? His little minion?”

He paused, as if a bit shocked I’d come up with a stinger.

I let a saccharine grin spread across my face before I turned my attention to my research project on blood cells. If he wanted to think I was some spoiled little rich kid, let him. I didn’t have the time or inclination to prove otherwise. I dropped my notebook on the lab bench. With his looks he was probably used to girls falling all over him, unable to come up with a coherent sentence, much less a comeback. Newsflash, not this girl.

After a few minutes of silence, his voice startled me. “I’m Jax, by the way.”

I glanced up from focusing the microscope. A truce? “I’m Maddie.”

He nodded then waved to the high-tech scope in front of me. “Let me know if you need help. Those can be a pain to get in focus, but they are way better than what you are used to in the high school lab.”

“I think I've got it, but I’ll let you know.”

He crossed his arms then started pacing.

I pricked my finger and squeezed a drop of blood on the slide. Disk-like red blood cells floated through my field of vision under the scope. With my notes out and timer ready, I placed a drop of 10% saline solution on the blood while watching the cells under the microscope. Almost immediately the cells shriveled, or crenated, turning into tiny blood cell raisins. I documented the reaction and time it took and went to the next solution, a 9% saline.

Ten drops of blood and ten slides later, Jax finally

quit his pacing and leaned against the wall with his book. From his vantage point he could watch my progress.

I forced my brain to shut out everything but the blood cells in front of me. Well, almost everything. I couldn’t keep myself from glancing up to see if he was watching me. Flippin’ distracting. Plus, his biceps flexed in an oh-so-luscious way every time he turned a page. Not that I was watching. He was a total jerk.

His hovering grated on my already frazzled nerves. I wanted out of there even more than he did. Thirty minutes later, my rushed fingers fumbled the beaker of pure water, my last solution, and sent it flying to the floor with a crash. Shards of glass flew in a twelve-foot radius around the puddle of water.

Both of us jumped.

I covered my eyes with a hand and blew out a breath. “Genius Maddie, maybe a monkey would have been better at this experiment.”

Jax’s attention settled on me, and for a moment his eyes seemed to assess me. Without the expected snide comment, he grabbed the broom from the corner and swept the shards into a pile.

“Sorry about the mess,” I apologized. I was used to making messes but it was way worse in front of hot college guys.

I got more distilled water from the dispenser on the counter and rushed to finish the last slide. My hands trembled, from embarrassment or anger I didn’t know. I focused the lens and dropped the water. The cells immediately burst, or lysed, leaving a red fog under the scope. I scribbled the result and slammed my notebook shut then gathered up my equipment to put it away. “Hey, you want to see something cool?” Jax asked, in a voice that had considerably less of a jerk undertone than before.

I blinked a few times and tried to figure out if he was making fun of me or trying to make me feel better for breaking the flask. “That’s okay, you have to get to your study group.”

He waved it off, and what seemed to be a genuine smile rested on his lips. “It was over twenty minutes ago. This is cool, just watch.”

Must be a guy’s version of an apology, I thought. Still hesitant, I stepped to the side. He pricked his finger and squeezed a drop of blood on a clean slide and set it under the double-sided microscope. It had two sets of oculars so we could both see the slide at the same time. He took a brown vial from the store room and motioned for me to look through the lens.

Curious, I bent my head to my set of lenses while Jax adjust the scope. His floating red blood cells came into focus out of the red haze. With his head only a few inches from my own, my nose caught a spicy scent. My stomach tightened. So what if he smelled good. He was still a jerk.

He opened the vial and squeezed out a single drop. The instant the solution hit the blood not only did the cells begin to explode one at a time, they produced bubbles until the entire slide was a bubbling foaming mess. I’d never seen blood react that violently.

“Cool, what’s in there?” I motioned to the vial.

“My own special cocktail. Professor Cho asked me to mix something up to impress the freshmen on the first day of class.” He wiggled his eyebrows at me.

“Want to see it again?”

I paused but found it impossible not to return his grin. “Definitely.”

I pricked my finger and got the slide ready. He dropped the solution on my blood, and we waited for the cells to start bursting. Nothing happened.

Several beats passed. I glanced up to meet Jax’s confused look. Unsure of what to say, I turned back to the microscope. Tiny lights began to appear inside each blood cell. In a matter of seconds, they glowed like miniscule stars flying through the solution. The light intensified, glaring out of the tiny cells.

“What the hell?” Jax asked.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the blood. Finally, I straightened, tears running down my face from the blinding light. I met his wide-eyed gaze over the top of the gleaming scope. The slide cast pink light up to the ceiling, leaving the room in a rosy glow.

“How?” he stammered.

I opened my mouth without a clue as to what to tell Jax. A loud pop saved me the trouble. Smoke twisted up from the cracked slide as the light faded. A nasty burned-meat smell wafted up to my nostrils. Only one thought made it through the frozen neurons in my brain.

Get out of here.

Interview with Emily:

About Emily

I grew up loving to escape to the fantasy world in books. While other kids were out and about I loved hanging out at the library. At the age of twelve, I began writing after I had a series of extremely vivid dreams that begged to be made onto a story.

In high school and college I focused on science and graduated with a degree in environmental biology.

After college I began writing again, but quickly realized I had failed to take a single writing or grammar class. Luckily, I'm a quick learner.

I now enjoys making up stories and can’t seem to leave out the paranormal elements because they are just too much fun.
To learn more about Emily and her writing, check out her author website.
What's your favorite thing about writing in the fantasy genre? Do you write in any other genres?
I love making the magic seem like it could be real. It is so fun to mix a touch of my science background in and come up with plausible explanations for the unexplainable! I do write in other genres but have not published those books yet. First to be out will probably be a romantic suspense.
Where do you see this series going? How many books do you have planned for it?
There are going to be six books in the series with two definite novellas and a possibility of two more.
Have you written any books not in the Unstable Magic series?
Not that are available to buy but hopefully soon!
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Getting published makes it so that you have to write a story and edit then move on. You can’t spend five years working on the same story. The good thing is with each novel you write you get better at it and hopefully don’t need five years!
What's one book/author you don't think gets enough love?
I have loved Nevada Barr for years. She is about the best I’ve seen with descriptions, and not only did I enjoy her stories (mysteries) I learned a lot from her. She can take you from your cozy living room to a freezing camp and make you need a blanket and want to drink cocoa in the middle of summer! That’s amazing writing, if you ask me.
How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Years ago, I would have said none of myself besides the science but now after writing multiple books I see that the themes that are going on in my life end up in my books. Find out someone I thought was my friend is not? A secret enemy ends up in my books! I even used the knowledge about power grids that I learned helping my husband study in one of my books. I didn’t mean to. It just happened.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer?
I have worked over the years but due to homeschooling my daughter then a car accident I’ve been home for a couple years now.
Are you a member of any writing groups?
I am the Co-communications chair for RMFW so I write the weekly newsletter and work on the board of directors for various projects.
What was your favorite scene to write and why?
My favorite scene I’ve written so far is the climax scene in Echoes of Magic. I had a picture in my head the entire time I was writing that book and it turned out better than I could have hoped. My editor called me in a tizzy because she ended up staying up late because she had to keep reading and was so worked up after she finished. I took that as a win!
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
I love writing about the underdog—the person who you don’t think has a chance of winning and may be the worst person for the job but they’re stuck in that situation. I also love putting some humor in so I can’t keep out the snarky characters. My books are meant to be fun and enjoyable but underneath the characters are dealing with real issues just like readers.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part for me is having too many ideas and making myself focus on the book in front of me. I have about twelve other books in my head wanting to get out that have nothing to do with the Unstable Magic series.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t worry so much about what other people think. I was told no one would want to read a paranormal with science in it. Well, guess what? About everyone who’s read them love them so now I write what I love.

Don't miss these other books in Emily's Unstable Magic series: