Which Characters are Based on Val Muller? – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Val Muller will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC and a download code for The Girl Who Flew Away, a download code for The Scarred Letter, a print copy (US only) of The Man with the Crystal Ankh, and an ebook of Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive, to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Pieces of Me: Character Creation
Val Muller

A question that frequently comes up in interviews is: which (if any) characters are based on you?

The short answer? All of them. In each character, there is a little tiny piece of me, even a piece that happened only in passing. Maybe it was that angsty moment in middle school when a teacher yelled at me for standing on the tape instead of behind it. I came home and wrote a journal about how she made me want to be a horrible student. I had all these plans to sabotage my grade just to make her feel terrible. She was a science teacher, and I vowed to hate science for the rest of my life. I outlined what it would be like to be a bad student, how I would end up with a disappointing career that I could pinpoint on her. Rage practically jumped off the page. Later that week, I forgot about it and continued my status quo of getting mostly As and enjoying science class. But for a moment, I was filled with the motivation to teach her a lesson by sabotaging my grade just to make her fail as a teacher. Several minor characters in my works are based on that experience. A tiny seed motivated them to stop caring about their work as students—and in many cases, they actively didn’t care, working hard to tend to their image as a rebel.

In The Man with the Crystal Ankh, one of the friendships becomes embroiled in anger. While I never had that serious of a falling out, I certainly had little fights with my friends, and the emotions were real. So in that sense, both sides of the fight are little pieces of me.

While some characters are based on little bits of me, others are inspired by a sense of wonder. In Faulkner’s Apprentice, protagonist Lorelei goes down a dark path. I have never gone down one, but like most teens I’d been exposed to the potential to do so, and I can’t say my mind didn’t wonder what it would like to simply scrap the rules of wholesome living and be bad. Lorelei was based on that sense of wonder, and the fact that she is torn about it mirrors how I might feel as I headed down that path.

When it comes to character creation, this is one way to go about it. I think of each character as a tangent to me (uh oh, I used a math analogy. That’s not like me at all—must be one of the characters speaking!). I tap into that minor experience or thought, and build a character around it. I find that the creation is authentic, and the character thus feels real.

The other way I create characters is to base them off of people I know—friends, family, enemies, coworkers. But there’s a big catch there. Of course I don’t want them to know they’re muses or models. I don’t know who originally suggested this term, but a piece of writing advice I’ve been given is to create characters the way Frankenstein created his monster: take pieces of other people, and mix them up to such an extent that it’s no longer clear who inspired what.

For instance, for every story I write, my mother asks me if “such and such” trait displayed by the mother figure in the book is based on her. She’s intentionally reading into the work, looking for pieces of herself. She’ll sometimes say things like, “I wasn’t that crazy, was I?” I’ve had to recently tell her that that isn’t the case: perhaps the obsessive nature of the character in question came from a teacher or guidance counsellor I had in high school. Perhaps the way the character squints when she reads came from a middle school math teacher. But maybe one quality, perhaps the way the mother in the book is concerned about her daughter, perhaps that comes from my mother. There’s always a sense of relief when she realizes that she isn’t all of the character.

So the “Frankenstein” method is another way to create characters: brainstorm a list of traits from people you’ve encountered over the years. Think about how the “connotation” of those people or traits might fit into one of your characters. For instance, I’ve always hated going to the doctor, so I used some of my angst about my pediatrician and combined that with a less-than-effective administrator I once encountered and a power-hungry teacher. They all combined into the character of a high school principal. Someone asked me, “Who in the world did you have as a principal who was that slimy?” The answer: no one. He was a compilation of many people, and there’s no way those who inspired his character could pick out one trait from the next.

Sometimes, to make sure my characters are authentic—and to make sure I know them—I will throw them into a scene together that has nothing to do with the novel I’m writing. They might all go on a shopping trip to Wal-mart or meet for coffee. Throwing them in that scene together allows me to see how they might interact, who might gravitate together. More importantly, the quiet character sitting in the corner tells me that he needs more development because I don’t really understand his personality. In such a practice scene, when all the characters insist on their next lines and actions, I know my characters are ready for the page.

Everyone’s heard the legend of the hollow oak—the four-hundred year curse of Sarah Willoughby and Preston Grymes. Few realize how true it is.

Sarah Durante awakens to find herself haunted by the spirit of her high school’s late custodian. After the death of his granddaughter, Custodian Carlton Gray is not at peace. He suspects a sanguisuga is involved—an ancient force that prolongs its own life by consuming the spirits of others. Now, the sanguisuga needs another life to feed its rotten existence, and Carlton wants to spare others from the suffering his granddaughter endured. That’s where Sarah comes in. Carlton helps her understand that she comes from a lineage of ancestors with the ability to communicate with the dead. As Sarah hones her skill through music, she discovers that the bloodlines of Hollow Oak run deep. The sanguisuga is someone close, and only she has the power to stop it.

No good deed goes unpunished when freshman Steffie Brenner offers to give her awkward new neighbor a ride home after her first day at school. When her older sister Ali stops at a local park to apply for a job, Steffie and Madison slip out of the car to explore the park—and Madison vanishes.

Already in trouble for a speeding ticket, Ali insists that Steffie say nothing about Madison’s disappearance. Even when Madison’s mother comes looking for her. Even when the police question them.

Some secrets are hard to hide, though—especially with Madison’s life on the line. As she struggles between coming clean or going along with her manipulative sister’s plan, Steffie begins to question if she or anyone else is really who she thought they were. After all, the Steffie she used to know would never lie about being the last person to see Madison alive—nor would she abandon a friend in the woods: alone, cold, injured, or even worse.

But when Steffie learns an even deeper secret about her own past, a missing person seems like the least of her worries…

Enjoy an excerpt from The Man with the Crystal Ankh

She picked up the instrument and set it onto her shoulder. A calmness passed into her, as if the violin exuded energy—as if it had a soul. The varnish had faded and dulled. Its life force did not come from its appearance. She brought the bow to the strings, which was still rosined and ready to play. Dragging the bow across the four strings, she found the instrument perfectly in tune.

Sarah took a deep breath and imagined the song, the way the notes melted into each other in nostalgic slides, the way her spirit seemed to pour from her soul that day.

And then it was happening again.

She had started playing without realizing it. Warm, resonant notes poured from the instrument and spilled into the room. They were stronger, and much more powerful, than those she was used to. This instrument was different than the factory-made one her parents had bought for her. Rosemary’s violin was singing to the world from its very soul. And it was happening just as before. Sarah’s energy flowed from her body, causing her to lose consciousness and gain perspective all at once. She rode the air on a lofty run of eighth notes. She echoed off the ceiling with a rich and resonant vibrato. She flew past the guests, who had all quieted to listen to her music; flew past the table of cold cuts and appetizers and up the darkened staircase, where she resonated against the walls and found her way into the guest room. There, she crept along a whole note and slid into the closet.

As the song repeated, she twirled around in the closet, spinning in a torrent of passionate notes. She searched through the notebooks and books on the floor and on the shelves, searched for an open notebook, for something she could read, something that might make her feel tied to the place. Otherwise, she might spin out of control and evaporate out the window and into the sky. She found her anchor on the floor in the darkest corner of the closet, a large parchment—maybe a poster. The notes spun around her in a dizzying way as she tried to stay still enough to read what was on the paper. It was a difficult task; now, with every beat her body downstairs tried to reclaim its energy.

About the Author:www.CorgiCapers.com.

Val’s young adult works include The Scarred Letter, The Man with the Crystal Ankh, and The Girl Who Flew Away and feature her observations as a high school teacher as well as her own haunted New England past.

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Welcome to Sortilege Falls by Libby Heily – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Libby will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour. This book is currently FREE on Nook and Kindle! See below for links.

Welcome to Sortilege Falls Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Grape Merriweather moved to Sortilege Falls expecting a fresh start and new friends. But things are never quite what they seem in this sleepy Missouri town. Her math teacher looks like a witch, her school is being stalked by a vampire, and Grape could swear the town’s garden gnomes are moving. None of that compares to the small group of teenage models, blessed with otherworldly beauty, who rule Sortilege Falls. Even the adults are powerless to tell them no. When the models fall ill from a mysterious disease, all of the town’s secrets start leaking out. Grape is determined to help her new friends, but searching for the cure might just get her killed.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

Grape Meets the Models

Grape’s entire body stiffened as she looked up from her phone. Five of the most beautiful people to ever walk the earth stood scattered around two Porsches. Did I walk into a photo shoot?

“I mean, gross.”

The words came from an impossibly beautiful girl. Loose, raven-black locks fell over her shoulders, the tips lingering above her full bosom. Grape could almost hear the sizzle and static of her electric blue eyes. The sun had kissed the girl’s skin lightly, leaving a glow that made the air around her shimmer. Her pouty, pink, full lips begged to be kissed, though the guy standing behind her, his arm draped over her shoulder protectively, warned off all who would be so bold.

The boy behind her, if anything, was even more handsome than she was beautiful. Muscle stacked upon muscle until his clothes had no choice but to hug every inch of his body. His dark eyebrows and strong jaw lent him a tough look, one that was backed up by the playful anger in his eyes.

The raven-haired goddess turned and embraced her beau, her face tucked away into the heat of his chest. He sat propped up on the hood of a yellow Porsche, the sleek lines of the car offset by the disdain on his face. They were so incredibly, delightfully gorgeous that even though he looked as if he had seen a cockroach instead of a human being, Grape’s heart still melted at the sight of them.

“I think she’s in love.”

Grape snapped her gaze away from the Adonis with the nasty temperament and turned toward the twin boys standing in front of a black Porsche. Her eyes bounced between the two, taking in every perfect feature. Flawless, rich, dark brown skin. Sparkling hazel eyes. Muscles so tight that you could bounce a quarter off their abs, or arms, or anywhere on their bodies, really. They looked as perfectly engineered as the cars they stood by. But it was their lusciously long eyelashes that sent Grape swooning. Men were not meant to be this pretty.

“Leave her alone, guys.”

Grape’s head spun. Each person she saw was more beautiful than the last, and the redheaded girl standing off to the side was no exception. The baggy jeans and generic T-shirt she wore did not detract from her creamy skin and full lips. Her large brown eyes fascinated Grape—red flakes glimmered from inside each caramel-colored orb.

The air felt charged with a million volts. Her thinking grew cloudy. Were these angels? Was she daydreaming? How did anyone get to be this beautiful? She could sense their hostility, but something inside her felt warm and gooey. Snap to, Grape, she told herself. They want to hurt you.

“Awww, look. It likes us,” the twin with the goatee said. The clean-shaven twin’s face softened. Was that pity she saw in his hazel eyes?

“Stop being mean,” the redhead said, sounding more bored than angry.

“I’m not being mean. Where’d you buy that shirt?” Goatee asked. His quiet tone was laced with thorny edges.

Grape swallowed hard. The fuzz inside her head abated. Focus, she told herself, feeling like an idiot. “I don’t know. Kohl’s maybe.” She glanced down at her blouse. The shirt was a birthday present from her mother, and she wasn’t sure where it came from, but since her mother did most of her own shopping at Kohl’s, it seemed like a pretty safe guess.

Goatee turned toward his brother and smiled. “Pay up.”

Clean-Shaven shook his head at her as if she’d named the wrong store on purpose. He pulled a thick wad of cash from his pocket, peeled off a twenty, and handed it to Goatee. “I was sure it came from Kmart.”

“Why does it matter where I bought my shirt?”

The raven-haired girl glanced out from her hiding place in her boyfriend’s embrace. “It just looked familiar. I wore the same shirt. Three years ago.” She smiled, but there was no kindness when she bared her teeth. “Before it was a knockoff.” The girl hid her face against her boyfriend’s pecs. Their chests rose and fell at the same time, breathing as one.

“Okay. Well, I don’t really buy designer clothes.” Grape wanted to have a witty comeback, but she still wasn’t sure where the insult lay. Did they or did they not like the shirt?

What the hell is wrong with me? Of course they’re making fun of me. Why aren’t I angrier?

“She means she modeled the design,” the redheaded girl said, cutting her eyes to the couple.

“You’re a model?”

The brothers snickered. “Pretending she doesn’t know who we are, that’s so cute. Is that the new fad amongst the Normals?” Clean-Shaven asked.

“I don’t understand anything you just said.” Grape felt completely out of her depth. This was the school parking lot, but she might as well have been on Jupiter.

The redhead took a step toward Grape, shooting a nasty glance to the others crowded around the cars. “Don’t worry about it. They’re just teasing.”

“I thought about modeling.” Grape hadn’t meant to say that, but no one else spoke, and she felt like she had to say something. Her skin grew hot. She knew she was was blushing beyond red and into crimson mode. She’d practiced runway shows off and on in her bedroom since she was twelve, but she had never told anyone she wanted to be a model. Ever.

“Ow,” Grape cried, only then noticing that she had twisted her ring so hard it was actually cutting into her finger. A tiny drop of blood oozed out and fell to the pavement below.

“Aren’t you a little fat to be a model?” the boyfriend asked. His voice sounded like pure honey even when he spoke acid.

“You think I’m fat?” Grape stared down at her flat tummy. No one had ever called her fat before. There was still a bit of room in the waistband of her size four skirt.

“I’m just saying you could stand to lose a few pounds, unless you want the runway to collapse.”

“Ouch, Adam.” Clean-Shaven punched the boyfriend playfully on the arm.

Goatee winked at Adam. “My boy calls it like he sees it, and he sees a chunky monkey.”

“I’m well within my weight range.” She could feel her voice growing high-pitched. Damn nerves. These people were jerks.

“Of course you are, you look great,” the redhead told her. “These guys just don’t how to joke around without being completely mean.”

“We aren’t joking,” Adam said, giving his girlfriend a quick kiss on the top of her head.

Goatee pulled out his car keys. He turned his back on Grape, tired of their new toy.

“Whatever. Class is about to start. Are we skipping or staying?”

“Skipping,” the raven-haired girl peeked out to say.

Adam looked Grape over and made a face as if he’d smelled something terrible. “Yeah, I think I’m done for the day, too. I feel the need to hit the gym.”

She rubbed her hands over her stomach but it still felt flat like normal. What were they seeing that she wasn’t?

“The shirt looks nice on you,” Clean-Shaven said before climbing into the driver’s seat of the black Porsche.

“Like a muumuu on a water buffalo,” Goatee added and hopped into the driver’s seat of the yellow Porsche. The couple got into the back of his car and huddled close together.

“Mandy, you coming?” Goatee asked.

“No, I have a test,” Mandy, the redhead, said. “I’ll see you later.”

“Suit yourself.”

Grape waved stupidly at the drivers as the engines revved. You look like a goober, she told herself, but she could not stop waving.

“Move.” Mandy grabbed Grape by the arm and pulled her toward the sidewalk.

Grape tried to shake her arm free, but Mandy’s grip was surprisingly strong. “Let go of me.”

Mandy stared at her with an I-told-you-so look as the Porsches sped off, right through where Grape had been standing.

“Oh my God, were they going to run me over?”

“Not on purpose. I’m sure they just forgot you were there once they started their cars.”

“How?”

Mandy shook her head. She stared after the Porsches as they pulled into traffic and sped away. Finally, she turned back to Grape and offered her an apologetic smile. “Sorry about that.”

“Which part?”

“All of it, I guess.”

About the Author:I was born during a blizzard. I’m told it was pretty cool but I have no memory of that time. I grew up in two tiny towns in Virginia and spent most of my twenties moving around the US. I’ve lived in Virginia, Florida, Missouri, and Washington. I’ve settled down, for now, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I’m a writer and improviser. I studied acting in college but spent more time rewriting lines than memorizing them. My first play, Fourth Wall, was produced my junior year. Since then, I’ve written several full length plays, one acts and screenplays. I started writing fiction in my late twenties. Now, I focus mainly on novels but still dabble in theater.

Fun facts about me: There are none. I’m sorry to disappoint you so soon. But, I do love to read, write, and run. My hubby is my favorite person on earth. Dogs are my second favorite. All dogs. I love orange juice, especially when it’s mixed with club soda. Carbonation is better than alcohol. Jaws is my favorite movie. Everything I’ve said so far is true.

Awards:

Puschcart Prize Nomination for “Grow Your Own Dad” – Published by Mixer Publishing
Semi-finalist Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference – “STUFF”
Honorable Mention The Ohio State Newark New Play Contest – “The Last Day”

Contacting Libby:
Email: libbyheilyauthor@gmail.com
Snail Mail:
PO Box 58251
Raleigh, NC 27616

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Behind the Scenes Info:
“Welcome to Sortilege Falls” is my second novel. My first, “Tough Girl” was about an eleven-year-old who is slowly starving to death and loses herself in an imaginary world to combat the misery of her life. I wanted to write something happy after that and WTSF is about as “happy” as my writing gets. The idea was to come up with a main character whose very name sounds like a smile, thus Grape Merriweather was born. Stories grow and writers hardly ever end up writing the book they intended. That is definitely true with WTSF. My “happy” story grew to encompass the themes of beauty worship, celebrity, as well as delving into the mysterious relationships between child stars and their parents. In the beginning of the novel, Grape is new at school and eager to impress. She was popular back home and has never had trouble making friends. She spends over an hour the night before trying on outfits and picking the perfect one for her first day. But she is ignored by students and teachers alike. Everyone is too caught up with the beyond gorgeous models to bother with one new student. We discover this weird world along with Grape and I tried to stay true to her voice. It was very important to me that Grape wasn’t perfect, that she partially fell under the Models’ spell as well.

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Outcast by Lauren Hillman – Spotlight and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Lauren Hillman will be awarding a $30 BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Merissa is a faerie with no magic, no memory… and no friends. Until a hummingbird arrives with an ominous message: The Queen wants her dead.

With the help of the hummingbird Chippen, Merissa sets out on a dangerous journey to find the one faerie who may know the truth about her past. But they only find more questions when they meet Griff, a gypsy boy with pale grey eyes and one heart-melting dimple and Merissa discovers a strange connection between them. But soon her past will endanger them all.

But she is a faerie. And faeries are protectors. So if anything will help Merissa regain her lost powers it will be to save her friends.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Griff was uncomfortable. He was swinging upside down in a thick net as it pressed heavily into his neck and forced his arm awkwardly behind his back. A small faerie with a tattered and dirty purple dress flew out of her hiding place towards him. As she got closer he noticed a streak of ice blue in her otherwise black hair. A vibrant green hummingbird followed her.

“Chippen,” the faerie called, “Help me undo this. This isn’t the shuck. We’ve got to get the trap ready again. Hurry!”

So he had been caught in a trap meant for a shuck. Well that’s embarrassing. “Oy,” Griff yelled, “What are you playing at? Let me go!”

She sneered in his general direction. “I’m trying. If you’d just give me a second.” She was yanking away at the knots with her tiny fingers making no progress.

Ugh. Just cut the rope little girl.

“If I cut it then I can’t reuse it for the shuck now, can I.” She paused briefly before mumbling, “And I am not a little girl.” She stretched herself taller as she continued to work.

Griff looked at her in surprise. He hadn’t realized he’d spoken out loud. Oops. He smirked, “What’s your name, faerie?”

“Never you mind. You ruined my trap,” she answered, accusingly.

It wasn’t very good anyway, thought Griff vindictively.

“Well it trapped you, didn’t it,” she snapped. “Besides I only had a short time to get it ready, okay, and at least now we know it works, right Chippen?”

“I never had any doubts,” the hummingbird replied, his eyes darting around on high alert.

The girl tugged and pulled at the knots with her fingers, biting her lip as she worked.

“Slow down,” Griff ordered, “You’re only making it worse.”

“I can’t slow down,” she said, glancing up, “We don’t know when the shuck will be back.”

She returned to untangling the knots, but she did begin to work more carefully and with more of a determined focus. Griff watched her curiously. Her skin was such an unusual colour. Like bronze only somehow deeper. And she was so small. Why on earth would this little faerie want to take on a shuck?

“It’s not that I want to,” she said slowly. “It’s my side of a magical contract. I have to kill this shuck or… well I don’t know exactly what would happen but I don’t think I want to find out either.”

Griff stared at her, not sure what was happening. So he answered her simply, “You’d die.”

She froze, holding the ends of the rope. Then she looked over at the bird behind her, “Chippen is that true?”

Griff rolled his eyes. She didn’t believe him.

“Well I don’t know you, do I,” she barked at him.

The bird called Chippen answered gently, “Yes, it’s true, Merissa. Fae who break their word on a magical contract are turned to stone. Forever,” he added.

Griff scoffed, “You’ve never seen a stone garden before?”

Merissa didn’t answer. She was fighting back tears. Finally her fingers found the last loop and the net loosened, falling to the ground. Griff, still tangled inside, fell heavily with it, landing with a thud.

About the Author: Lauren Hillman is an actor, teacher and writer living in Vancouver, BC. Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario she moved west after university to pursue a career in acting. For the last ten years she has primarily been working as an acting teacher in elementary and middle schools, occasionally writing scripts to be performed on stage. The transition to novelist wasn’t easy but was aided by the knowledge and love of storytelling that the theatre gave her. Her first novel, Outcast, was largely inspired by her students.

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Still a Classic, Sixty-six Years On by Eileen Colucci – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Eileen Colucci will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

STILL A CLASSIC, SIXTY-SIX YEARS ON
My favorite Young Adult novel also happens to be my favorite book of all time, J.D. Salinger’s THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. What is it about this book that makes it still so popular among teens as well as adults? For me, Holden Caulfield’s tale is the ultimate coming of age story: a teenager, grappling with the death of a sibling and fearful of losing his younger sister reaches a crisis, flees the school from which he has been expelled, and goes on a road trip. As he tries to make sense of his life, Holden Caulfield epitomizes teenage angst and alienation and does so with much humor.

When I first read the book in high school, I was a teenager like Holden and totally identified with him and his disdain for all the “phonies” out there. That included certain of my classmates, a few teachers and sometimes adults in general. The timing was important too. My father, who’d also loved this book, had recently died and I understood how confused and depressed Holden felt. We had both suffered the loss of a loved one.

Many years later, my teenage son was reading the book for school and I picked it up and reread it. It was a totally different book. This time I identified with Holden’s mother (who was mostly absent from the actual narrative), experiencing it as the parent of a troubled child, my heart going out to him and wanting to absorb his pain. As an adult, though, I could still identify with Holden himself. Memories of my own adolescence were stirred. I remembered all the feelings of awkwardness, of not “fitting in.” But, thanks to Holden, I was able to laugh about them.

SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW is also a coming of age story. The main character and narrator, Reema, experiences many of the things all teenagers, including Holden, go through: alienation, anxiety, identity crisis, and just plain wishing to be “normal” and like everyone else. The challenges that Reema faces are similar to those that confront any young person. Her changing skin tones could be compared to a disability or any condition (underweight or overweight, for example) that causes a person to feel like an outsider and to be the object of ridicule and bullying. Throughout the novel, Reema strives to “feel good in her own skin,” something we can all identify with regardless of our age or gender.

I imagine that Reema might have read THE CATCHER IN THE RYE too. She would surely have identified with Holden as I did. It might even have been one of her favorite books.

Thanks so much for hosting me!
I love interacting with readers and invite everyone to contact me through my website or through my Goodreads blog. I hope you enjoy SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW and look forward to hearing your thoughts!
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“The summer I turned ten, my life took a fairy tale turn.”

So begins Reema Ben Ghazi’s tale set in Morocco. Reema awakes one morning to find her skin has changed from whipped cream to dark chocolate. From then on, every few years she undergoes another metamorphosis, her color changing successively to red, yellow and ultimately brown. What is the cause of this strange condition and is there a cure? Does the legend of the White Buffalo have anything to do with it? As Reema struggles to find answers to these questions, she confronts the reactions of the people around her, including her strict and unsympathetic mother, Lalla Jamila; her timid younger sister, Zakia; and her two best friends, Batoul and Khalil. At the same time, she must deal with the trials of adolescence even as her friendship with Khalil turns to first love. One day, in her search for answers, Reema discovers a shocking secret – she may have been adopted at birth. As a result, Reema embarks on a quest to find her birth mother that takes her from twentieth-century Rabat to post-9/11 New York.

Reema’s humanity shines through her story, reminding us of all we have in common regardless of our particular cultural heritage. SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW, which will appeal to teens as well as adults, raises intriguing questions about identity and ethnicity.

 

Author’s Note: It is my hope that SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW will promote peace and understanding among people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. My aim is to stimulate discussion on everything we have in common as human beings regardless of our particular heritage. We are all connected.

Enjoy an Excerpt

We were not very strict Muslims. We did not pray five times a day, nor did we go to Mosque every Friday (though we did attend on all the Aids or Holy Days, to celebrate the Sacrifice of Abraham, the end of Ramadan, and such). Zakia and I emulated Mother and did not cover our heads. As she got older, Mother took to praying and began to wear a head scarf whenever she went out, removing it at home, leaving it on in her shop. She did not insist that we begin wearing one however. Since Zakia and I went to the French Mission schools, we did not receive religious instruction as part of the regular curriculum like our cousins who went to Moroccan schools did. To fill this gap, Mother hired a tutor who came once a week to teach us the Koran and to supplement the mediocre Arabic lessons provided at school.

Mother had several copies of the Koran. There was one, wrapped in gift paper that she kept in her room. I had come upon the sealed package one day when I was about seven and, not knowing what was inside, I had torn the golden wrapping to have a peek. Afterward, when I’d asked Mother why she kept an old Koran that was falling apart, she had scolded me severely and boxed my ears. She told me that Father had brought the holy book back from the Haj and had carefully wrapped it in order to preserve it.

Needless to say, we did not use this book for our lessons. Instead, Haj Brahim (he was addressed as “Haj” because he, like Father, had made the pilgrimage to Mecca) would take down the large, heavy Koran from the top shelf in the book case and try to help us understand the verses. When this failed, he would settle for having us memorize them.

Not content to just recite the words without understanding their meaning, I had convinced Mother to buy a version that had the Arabic on the left side with the French translation on the right. This was the book that I used for my private prayers and to search for an explanation for my multiple transformations.

I was not having much success however and decided I must talk to Haj Brahim about it. I didn’t want to ask him in front of Zakia, so I would have to choose my moment carefully.

One afternoon, Haj Brahim showed up a little early for our lesson. Mother showed him into the sitting room and asked Naima to make some tea. Zakia was having a shower because she had participated in a race at school that day (that she’d lost, of course). Seizing the opportunity, I slipped into the room and gently closed the door.

Haj Brahim was a portly man, in his sixties and decidedly bald. He was an old acquaintance of Father’s who had helped Mother settle the inheritance after Father died. Mother was in a predicament as a widow with only daughters. In the absence of a male heir, Father’s three brothers had tried to wrest as much as they could, but Haj, who was an expert in Islamic law and connected to one of the Mosques in Rabat, had made sure that Mother’s rights, however limited, were protected. (Those rights would have been even more limited had Father not already taken several precautions while still alive, such as putting many of the deeds and wealth in Mother’s name.)

I cleared my throat and Haj, who sat leaning back on the sofa with his hands folded in his lap, looked over at me and smiled. As always, he wore a little white skull cap that he only removed now. I began hesitatingly to describe my problem. Haj must have been aware of my transformations as he’d been giving us lessons since I was nine and still “Reema, The Palest One of All.” He had never mentioned anything about my “condition” though. He listened carefully as I timidly described my tormenters at school, mother’s failure to sympathize, and my personal doubts as to God’s role in all this. I stopped abruptly when Naima brought the tea and placed the tray in front of me.

Using the knitted mitt, I grasped the silver teapot and poured some tea into one of the crystal glasses. Then, I poured the tea back in the pot and served us both. I glanced at the clock. Zakia would be coming in any minute and my chance would be lost. Haj nodded subtly, as if he understood my urgency, and went to get the Koran from the shelf. He put on his reading glasses, then took them off and wiped them with the cloth napkin that Naima had given him.

He paused before putting them on again and recited to me, “’Endure with patience, for your endurance is not without the help of God.’ God presents us all with different challenges, Reema. You must have patience and His wisdom will be revealed to you. All in good time.”

“But, why Haj? Why is God doing this? Making my skin change color all the time like I’m some kind of freak. What have I done wrong?”

Without answering, he opened the book to the very end and read me a verse:

As time passes,
Everyone suffers loss
Except those who believe
and do good deeds and urge one another to be true
and to bear with courage the trials that befall them.

I could hear Zakia coming down the stairs. I quickly noted the page so that I could go back to it later.

Haj closed the book and said softly to me, “You are young, Reema. What seems like a great ‘trial’ today may not seem so terrible later on. You are a good girl. Just be brave – and patient.”

He patted me lightly on my hand. Somehow, it did not feel patronizing or dismissive. The butterfly touch of his fingers gave me hope.

About the Author:

A native New Yorker, Eileen Colucci has been living in Rabat with her Moroccan husband for the past thirty-plus years. She is a former teacher and recently retired after twenty-eight years as a translator with the U.S. Embassy, Rabat. Her articles and short stories have appeared in various publications and ezines including Fodor’s Morocco, Parents’ Press, The New Dominion and Expat Women. SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW, which was recently published, is her second novel.

Colucci holds a BA in French and English from the University at Albany and an MA in Education from Framingham State University.

When not writing, Colucci enjoys practicing yoga, taking long walks and playing with her chocolate Labrador Retriever, Phoebo. Now that she and her husband have four grandchildren, they spend as much time as possible in Virginia with their two sons and their families.

Website | Goodreads
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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: The Separation by Stormy Corrin Russell


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In a world where men and women live on separate sides of a massive wall, seventeen-year-old misfit Eroyn Fairchild has always been too busy with her broken family to wonder why they live the way they do. When a man from the other side breaks through, Ero holds him hostage, hoping for a ransom large enough to pay for her Elder Grace’s treatment. Things get more complicated as the man is followed by two others who make Ero question everything she’s ever known about her life. As Ero searches for the truth, the lines between right and wrong blur, leaving her to choose between saving her city and saving herself.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Not Her Baby by Cassandra Jamison


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When eighteen-year-old Aubrey Dale’s cousin is diagnosed with leukemia, Aubrey volunteers to in-vitro fertilization in order to become a vessel for the donor that will save her life. Now this clean-cut high school student must learn to adapt to life as a pregnant teenager, despite still being a virgin.

Things only get more complicated when she falls in love with her best friend, Eli Calhoun, who has just returned from the penitentiary. Rumors soon spread that the insemination story is only a cover up. That’s when the anonymous threats begin. Someone in her small town disapproves of this so-called abomination.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Fitting In by S.E. Walker


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Charlotte Finnegan James desperately wants to fit in. Her parents encourage her to act like everyone around her, but Charlotte always feels like an outsider looking in. When men come late one night to “take control” of her, Charlotte knows fitting in will forever be impossible.

After being placed into a military boarding school, a name change is the first step in taking control of her own life. Finn’s differences are evident, no matter how hard she works to appear normal. Finding a sympathetic soul in Taber McCoy helps Finn execute her plan to escape the school.

Can she continue to hide her true self from the world? Will she find sanctuary with her aunt? Can she and Taber stay ahead of the men in black following them on their race across the country?

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Emerald Bound by Teresa Richards


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A princess, a pea, and a tower of mattresses. This is the sliver that survives of a story more nightmare than fairy tale.

Maggie Rhodes, high school junior and semi-reformed stalker, learns the tale’s true roots after a spying attempt goes awry and her best friend Kate ends up as the victim of an ancient curse. At the center of the curse lies an enchanted emerald that has been residing quietly in a museum for the past fifty years. Admirers of the gem have no idea that it feeds on life. Or that it’s found its next victim in Kate.

Enter Lindy, a school acquaintance who knows more than she’s letting on, and Garon, a handsome stranger claiming he knows how to help, and Maggie is left wondering who to trust and how to save her best friend before it’s too late.

If only Maggie knew her connection to the fairy tale was rooted far deeper than an endangered best friend.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Perdition by Lindsey Ouimet


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After the death of her stepfather, Michaela Reilly’s family picks up and moves from the bustling city of Miami to a tiny speck of a town in the middle of nowhere Georgia. Starting over is always hard, but when you’re stuck with an emotionally wrecked mother who won’t even look at you and the responsibility of practically raising your younger brother and sister, it’s even more difficult.

Life in a small, rural town is a lot different from what she’s used to. Beaches are replaced with lazy, shaded rivers. Six lane highways with dirt roads. And Levi, the cute preacher’s son, with intentions as pure as his smile, takes the place of a string of shallow, meaningless hookups back home.

Some things remain the same no matter where you go, however. Like the way a cute boy can make things seem not so bad, or how when you fall in love You. Just. Know.

It’s too bad it’s not only the good things that are universal. Bad things can follow you, no matter how far away from them you run. Secrets always end up hurting people. A troubled past will come back to haunt you. Michaela has both.

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LASR Anniversary Scavenger Hunt: Blank Canvas by Mere Joyce


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Three years ago, sixteen-year-old Maddie Deacon was abducted on her way home from her school’s Art Showcase. Five months ago, she escaped the madman she calls The Painter. Before being taken, painting was Maddie’s life. Now, it’s her nightmare.

Maddie wants to forget her years in captivity. She’d rather spend her time getting reacquainted with her parents and her sister, not to mention her cello-playing, beautiful boy next door and childhood best friend Wesley. But paint is everywhere, and tormenting shadows linger in every portrait she encounters.

When the yearly Art Showcase once again approaches, Maddie has the chance to win a scholarship and start planning a future far away from the horrors of her past. She knows she has to make a choice–confront her memories of The Painter and overcome her fear of the canvas, or give up painting forever.

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