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.

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Nine Books I Think Every Teenager Should Read by Hugo Driscoll – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

9 Books I Think Every Teenager Should Read

The problems teenagers face was perhaps typified best by the writer Arnold H. Glasow, who ignorantly believed that ‘Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.’

Yes, teenagehood is a time where you are too old to be a kid yet too young to be an adult, which often turns it into a period many loathe, and that’s why entertainment is so important. It’s escapism at its best, yet books, which believe it or not, still count as entertainment, are increasingly playing second fiddle to movies and TV shows which is a great shame as there are some fantastic reads out there that chronicle the teenage experience in a way few other mediums manage.

With that in mind, here are nine books that not only inspired me to write Seven Days with You but that I also believe every teenager should read.

1. Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami

While the famous Japanese author is primarily known for his works encompassing magical realism, his most famous book of all, a love story about two university students in 1960s Japan turned the author into an overnight sensation in his homeland.

Nostalgically recited in the first person by the male protagonist, Toru Watanabe, the story is one of love and loss and has moments of heart-wrenching sadness that is ubiquitous in most teenage relationships at one point or other. At times it verges on becoming nothing more than an emo love story, but with themes of mental illness, solitude and a sense of the unknown at the heart of its plot, Norweigan Wood manages to pull off the rare feat of being an incredibly well-written page turner.

2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

If you want a story that explores a rebellion against a system of social norms and conventions, then this book is certainly for you and highly relevant for teens wishing to be something more than a latte-drinking office worker.

Centred around six classics students studying at a ‘fictional’ elite college in Vermont, they collectively adopt a different lifestyle to the social conventions rigorously adhered to in the Western world and instead, live by a particular set of arcane rites. But a murder soon follows, and as the story untangles, readers are left licking their lips as the answers unfold.

3. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Many teenagers go through a period of self-imposed confinement, and the singer-songwriter and author, John Darnielle, explores the effects this has on his 17-year-old protagonist, Sean Phillips.

Left facially disfigured after shooting himself in the head, Sean becomes addicted to a video game, with the writer leaving the reasonings behind the suicide attempt ambiguous until the very end. Emotionally disturbing, but highly relevant in an era where male suicide is the biggest killer in young men, Darnielle’s debut novel is a tour-de-force tale of a teenage experience many are afraid to explore.

4. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Done well and gay relationships in literature can make for fascinating reads, especially in areas of the world where same-sex relationships aren’t welcomed. Annie Proulx’s novella Brokeback Mountain, for instance, is an excellent example of how compelling such a story can be, and this story beautifully titled story is no different.

Poetically recited, the story of the relationship between two Mexican-American 15-year-old boys as they struggle to come to terms with their identities and their love for each other is profoundly poignant, particularly at a time where Mexican culture finds it hard to accept America’s more liberal approach to gay relationships.

5. This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff

Not every teenager has a rollercoaster life of moving house every year and constantly trying to re-invent themselves in school, but most will probably relate to the constant state of flux the period brings, just like Wolff’s did.
Indeed, as well as divorce, moving from state to state and always arguing with his stepfather, teen readers or those looking back on their teenage years will likely relate to this sometimes-harrowing memoir.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

While the story is now more synonymous with the brilliant movie adaptation starring Emma Watson, the book is also worth a read, especially for those who can relate to the struggles that come with mental health.

Stephen Chobsky also writes with a flair and authenticity that is hard to obtain in many YA works, and his descriptions of a life constantly looked at from the sidelines is likely to be poignant with all ages, not just teens.

7. Looking for Alaska by John Green

John Green’s Edgar Award-winning novel has become somewhat of a cult classic among his millions of devoted teenage readers, and though The Fault In our Stars catapulted Green to literary superstardom, it’s his first novel that is often considered his finest work.

Told in the first person (as is the case with all Green’s works), the book chronicles 15-year-old Miles Halter’s first year at an Alabama boarding school and the love he feels for the uber-cool yet mysterious beauty, Alaska Young. Admittedly, the novel verges off course at times, but as it’s gorgeously written and packed with quotes that will stay with you forever, you’ll find it hard to dislike.

8. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel about a disillusioned teenage protagonist named Holden Caulfield shifts hundreds of thousands of copies each year and is considered by many as the greatest American novel of all time.
Of course, a 1952 book about teenage fragilities might not have the same impact that other modern books chronicling the teenage experience might have with readers, but it’s still a masterpiece and a book that was ahead of its time.

9. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Consumed by over 65 million readers, the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s narrative is one which offers hope to people who believe in the beauty of their dreams. And with a beautifully written spiritual prose, you may just finish the book feeling your life can be whatever you want it to be.

A simple story, but also an empowering one for any teen who fears their life has no direction.

Sean Johnson’s life as a small-town farmhand has been nothing but predictable, but when he meets Sophia Hillingdon at the local animal sanctuary, she gets him out of an eighteen-year rut, away from the mundane existence on the farm, and a grieving, drunken father.

Sophia is the first person who understands him and makes him believe that he might get out of their small town, who tells him, he has the potential to be whoever he wants to be and do whatever he wants to do.

But as their relationship unfolds, it is the most devastating of news that will change both of them forever.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Her face was nearer than it had ever been. Her skin felt smooth and warm. All I could do was lean further into her, losing myself in the moment. And then there were her piercing blue eyes-even more extraordinary up close. Before I knew it, I’d brought my hands to her chest as our parting lips collided. We kissed for hours, inhabiting each other with such force as our bodies rolled across the cooled grass. She was the change I had been searching for. It was the first time I realized; I could be anywhere in the world, but nowhere without her.

About the Author:Hugo Driscoll is a 25-year- old British journalist and content writer for an online publication in London.

When he’s not working, you can usually find him writing in the basements of cafes or lamenting the unfair treatment of millennials in overcrowded London bars.

You can also find Hugo on Twitter, Facebook, and his personal blog, which he updates regularly.

Seven Days with You is his first novel.

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Secrets about My Favorite Genre by Sheri S. Levy – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sheri S Levy will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Secrets about my favorite Genre

As a Special Ed teacher, I enjoyed reading aloud to my students every morning after we settled into class. Many of my students did not have a reading environment at home. They would lean forward in their chairs and listen intently as I read a few chapters. Then at the end of the day, I’d read another chapter and leave them hanging on what was going to happen next. The students would return to class the next day, eager to hear more about their favorite characters and how they overcame their next conflict.

If parents take the time to read to their children, they will mimic their parent’s behavior. When I watch a pre-school child sitting in a doctor’s office, pretending to read out loud, I know they have been influenced by their parents, or grandparents, maybe a sibling. They have a head start on wanting to be a reader.

Before I retired, I started a bucket list of what I wanted to do with my free time. The desire to write won the first line on my to-do list. I had written down a few other things that might be interesting to try, but I never moved past the craving to write. I began with writing picture books, and found that was not my voice.

My students loved animal stories and as I brain-stormed, my writing-voice headed toward coming-of-age, young adult, contemporary-dramas. I loved reading this genre and found myself relating to my own life as a teen.

Teens are still self-involved and move through life in stages. Each person develops in a different way and at their own pace. For them to enjoy reading, they need to identify with the story characters and understand their problems.

The topics in a YA story should cover complex themes and connect the reader to some type of emotional truth. If written well, the story can be a powerful force for self-discovery and help the teen decide on the type of person they want to become.

In Seven Days to Goodbye, my characters grow at a different pace, and have varied interests. This is the catalysts for conflict in the story and allow my reader to identify with their own problems.

Trina, at age thirteen, has already determined her purpose. She wants to help others and becomes a puppy raiser to train service dogs. Her best friend has changed overnight and is now interested in flirting with guys.

Trina’s dog meets Logan, a young boy who has autism, and her trained service dog makes a magical connection with him. To Trina’s surprise Logan has two older brothers. This throws another kink into the story as Sarah is interested in the same brother who likes Trina.

For the sequel, I have chosen to write about another problem. Starting Over is about life changing decisions. As teens, they physically and emotionally change in different degrees which moves them in different directions. Even though Trina believes in herself, and trains service dogs to help people with special needs, she is shy and not confident. She decides to risk her safety to help Morgan, the new angry girl at the barn, overcome whatever issues she’s hiding. Morgan has money, a beautiful and talented horse, and competes in horse trials. How can she be so mean and unhappy?

These are fun stories to create. I do my research with teens, and ask them questions on plot and conflict. Even as an adult, I can go back to my memories and relate to today’s teens problems growing up.

Young adult novels are becoming more popular with adults and helping the genre to flourish. It also helps the relationship with parents and teens. If a parent reads the same novel, and discusses the conflicts, a dialog develops. This is a round-about way of learning how your teen views themselves and their friends.

Go ahead. Check out the list of novels your teen is reading and surprise them with your questions. These stories can be humorous, thought provoking, and even gripping, but they will have an impact on their decisions in life. Be there to guide them along the way!

Thirteen year old, Trina has chosen to raise service dogs and have puppy after puppy. But during her seven day beach vacation, Trina struggles with having to return Sydney at the end of the week and worries about her best friend changing into a stranger. To complicate the week, Sydney, meets a young boy with autism and the girls meet his two older brothers. Tension is raised over the guys, and Trina fears she’ll lose more than her service dog. Will Trina’s lose her best friend, also?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Sydney climbed on my lap and licked the corners of my eyes. I buried my face in his soft fur and scratched under his chin. He leaned into my hand as I whispered, “We’ll have fun with or without Sarah. We just have to.”

Staring through the side window, a deep-blue summer sky flickered between pine trees covered in kudzu. Sarah’s car passed on the right. I turned the other way.

Off the freeway, we headed east and then south down a two lane road through sleepy little towns one after the other. Twenty minutes later, I leaned forward between the front seats, “Wow. Look.”

Branches from gigantic live oak trees slanted towards the middle of the street. The trees looked as though they were trying to touch each other and some did. They reminded me of my cozy canopy bed where Sarah and I had spent many nights, giggling and whispering. But this canopy was made of tree limbs in different shades of green, dripping with grayish, Spanish moss. The moss hung like ghostly long arms swinging in the wind.

“This is kind of spooky beautiful. It’s like being in a green tunnel.” I cracked my window.

A whiff of salty ocean filled the car. Sydney lifted his head as the trees whizzed by. His nose twitched. “We’re getting close, Syd.” He squeezed into the same space with me and gazed out the front window.

Suddenly, the trees disappeared. The cloudless sky stretched with no end in sight. Pelicans flew in an upside down, V formation. On both sides of the road, squiggly tidal creeks flowed through green marshlands. White birds with skinny legs stood statue-still in the shimmering water. This was a place I’d only seen in postcards.

Pelicans flew in an upside down, V formation. On both sides of the road, squiggly tidal creeks flowed through green marshlands. White birds with skinny legs stood statue-still in the shimmering water. This was a place I’d only seen in postcards.

About the Author:Sheri, originally from California, moved to South Carolina with her husband, two children and a Siamese cat. Soon they adopted their first rescue dog who influenced their need to continue living with dogs. Sheri taught a multi-handicapped Special Ed class, and then a GED-parenting class, which included home visits. Because of her love of reading, Sheri found unusual ways to encourage children to read. After her rescue of a difficult dog, Sheri enrolled in dog classes to change his behavior. Her dream of writing, Seven Days to Goodbye, came from the culmination of her beach experiences, her understanding of behaviors, and from research with PAALS, a service dog organization.

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Background of A Daughter’s Curse by C.J. Davidson – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. C. J. Davidson will be awarding $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Background of A Daughter’s Curse

When I first came up with the fantasy world contained in A Daughter’s Curse, it wasn’t as the plot for a novel. I created the mystical world years ago to escape a difficult childhood. It is my belief that no one should have to feel unsafe, living life on the edge, wondering when they are going to get hurt. Sleeping with one eye open is the worst feeling in the world. Fear that catches in your throat paralyzes your whole body. Living life like that hurts, and it comes with consequences. I know.

Obviously, when I wrote about something that had affected me profoundly, it was not painless. Emotions were high during the writing process, and it was not easy for me to dig up a past that has been buried in the back of my mind for so long. When I put bits and pieces of my life out there for the world to see, the brick wall that was protecting me had fallen. That is the scary part, because I couldn’t help but feel a bit naked. I am showing my true self: what I went through, what my thoughts were, and so on.

A Daughter’s Curse also has an important message that is meant to get delivered to many who will relate to the main character, Brisnay. See, I write with a purpose. I dedicated this book to those affected by domestic violence in hopes of letting them know something: Imagination is a powerful thing. The book demonstrates how relatable the fantasy world I created is to real life scenarios today: The bad character who abuses, the mother who is scared to leave, the daughter (Brisnay) who wants to leave but won’t leave her mother behind, and a forbidden love. People who are suffering abuse like Brisnay will feel connected to her and will empathize with her, more when the book describes how broken she feels.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, (and I say victim, because at this point, you are going through it) don’t just let it happen. Use whatever means you must to help you cope and escape. Personally, I used imagination and held onto hope. That was all I could do back then.

So, my question to you is: Are you a victim? Or are you a survivor?

If you are a victim, then fight to be a survivor.

Be Brisnay, a walking symbol for change.

When Brisnay discovers that she is a part of a fantasy world and meets Nickolaus, her miserable life takes a turn for the better. A world where anything is possible becomes her refuge and sparks fly between her and Nickolaus. Just when she thinks she knows everything about the realm she was thrust into, she uncovers shocking truths that rattle her to the core.

Betrayal. Hate. Envy. Deceit. Vengeance. Retribution. These are some of the things that Brisnay must face to fight a powerful, unknown enemy who is out to destroy her and strip her of the powers she’s rightfully inherited.

Brisnay realizes that she has no choice but to take a stand and must get revenge by fighting for the right to love.

Enjoy an Excerpt

She hugged her rib where her father had kicked her. Reality slammed against her face. She suddenly felt emotionally worn down and fragile, like a snowflake on the verge of being broken down and ceasing to exist. For some reason, she felt like she had to be honest. She didn’t want to keep anything from Nickolaus. And, if he didn’t like it or didn’t understand, then it wasn’t meant to be.

She looked up into Nickolaus’s eyes and saw nothing but understanding and sincerity. She felt compelled to tell him everything. “It’s my father…” she started.

And she told Nickolaus everything—from the way she worked like a dog to her abusive father to how they constantly moved. When she was finished, she was almost crying with relief that she had someone to share all her pain with. Someone other than Dulce to lean on. She felt as if a weight had been lifted off her chest. She didn’t realize that keeping everything in had been weighing her down.

“I do not know what to say,” said Nickolaus, a look of shock on his face. “But how could this happen to you?”

Before Brisnay knew it, Nickolaus had scooted closer to her, pulled her toward him, and tightly hugged her. She felt the tears swelling in her eyes. She honestly couldn’t remember the last time someone had hugged her. She tried to swallow back the tears, but she couldn’t stop. She felt her whole body relax, and a sob choked out, even as she tried to stop herself from crying. The tears were from years and years of suffering and keeping this to herself.

About the Author:Today, I am married and have four children. Their names are Dluce, Marin, Carlos, and Isabella. I work as Branch Manager at a financial institution. I couldn’t be happier with what I have accomplished so far.
My next step is to somehow help those affected by domestic violence. What hurts the most, is when children are in the middle of it. It is my belief that no one should have to feel unsafe, living life on the edge, wondering when they are going to get hurt. Sleeping with one eye open is the worst feeling in the world. Fear that catches in your throat paralyzes your whole body. Living life like that hurts and it comes with consequences. I know.

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Remember Me Forever by Sara Wolf – Spotlight and Giveaway

 

This post is part of a virtual book book tour to celebrate the release of Remember me Forever, the third book in the Lovely Vicious series, by Sara Wolf. Enter the giveaway for a chance to win an Ultimate College Survival Kit.

 

“What a rush! Brilliantly crafted, sharply written, and completely unpredictable–the perfect ending to an all-time favorite series! Sara Wolf is a fresh voice in YA, and her characters never fail to make me laugh and think. If you’re in the mood for an edgy, witty, one-of-a-kind romance, this is definitely for you!” —Rachel Harris, NYT bestselling author

 

Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, forty-three weeks, and two days. Or so she thinks.

The boy she maybe-sort-of-definitely loved and sort-of-maybe-definitely hated has dropped off the face of the planet in the face of tragedy, leaving a Jack Hunter–shaped hole. Determined to be happy, Isis fills it in with lies and puts on a brave smile for her new life at Ohio State University.

But the smile lasts only until he shows up. The menace from her past—her darkest secret, Nameless—is attending OSU right alongside her. And he’s whispering that he has something Isis wants—something she needs to see to move forward. To move on.

Isis has always been able to pretend everything is okay. But not anymore.

Isis Blake might be good at putting herself back together.

But Jack Hunter is better.

 

 

 

About the Author: Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things. When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series. She lives in San Diego with two cats, a crippling-yet-refreshing sense of self-doubt, and not enough fruit tarts ever.

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Top Five Strange Things by L.S. O’Dea – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a Kindle Paperwhite to a randomly drawn winner (International winner) during the tour. Click on the tour banner to seen the other stops on the tour.

Top Five Strangest Things

Over the years, I’ve had many strange things happen but here are my top five.

Number 1: One morning, I walked off our porch into our backyard. I was standing under one of the palm trees when something fell – splat – onto my head. I immediately raised my hand to brush it away but I heard a coo-coo and then it was gone. It took me a minute to realize that a dove had fallen from the tree right onto my head. Talk about being in the right (or perhaps wrong) place at the right time.

Number 2: This also has to do with birds (maybe they’re out to get me). My sister and I were walking out of Winn-Dixie (it’s a grocery store in Florida). We both had cans of Coke open in our hands. Seagulls were flying overhead, waiting for a handout, when the Coke can vibrated in my hand at the same time something hit my arm. I looked down and there was a little bird poop on my arm and just a tiny, tiny bit on the can right next to the opening where I HAD been drinking. That darn bird had pooped right into the can. If it hadn’t splattered on my arm, I may have drunk bird poop. Yuck!!! Double, triple YUCK!!

Number 3: I bought my house in August of 2004. If you lived in Florida at that time, you know that was not a very good summer to purchase a house. The weekend I was supposed to move in, Hurricane Charlie ran through Central Florida. I waited another week and a half before moving in because the power was out.

I’d just moved in and Hurricane Frances came along. Being a stubborn fool, I decided to stay and wait out the storm. I remember standing in my house as the aluminum shingles were torn from my pole barn. They’d fly through the yard (they’re 8 feet long) making this weird sound – kind of twangy and hollow and I wish I could explain it better. Later, I watched my front porch collapse onto itself in somewhat slow motion as first one corner bent and then it slowly collapsed as if too tired to stand any longer.

Number 4: I live in the woods. The community where I live has a five acre minimum. Needless to say, there’s a lot of wildlife. I have a lot of dogs – big dogs. One day, my youngest dog at the time, Jack, was out back barking which wasn’t unusual for him but I went and called him in. As soon as he came in, two of my other dogs Sassy (a hound mix) and Buddy (a rottweiler) wanted out. I let them out back.

Usually, Jack would’ve gone right back outside with them, but that night he just stood in the living room staring at me. I asked if he wanted to go and although he didn’t shake his head “no” he might as well have because he made it clear that he WAS NOT going back outside. I closed the door and went to sit down on the couch when I heard Buddy and Sassy thunder up the stairs to the back door. They’d barely been out there a minute. I opened the door and they shoved past me, racing inside. Sassy’s tail was tucked tight between her legs. If Buddy had a tail, it would’ve been too. Something was outside. Something big enough or mean enough to scare a 70 and a 90 pound dog. I stepped onto the back porch, asking my dogs if anyone wanted to come with me. They all stared at me like I was nuts (I probably was). I shone the flashlight around the yard, but didn’t see anything. I wasn’t crazy enough to go off the porch though.

I’m still not sure what had been out there. I’d guess a panther or bear, maybe gator. Whatever it was, it’d been big, not hungry and mean enough to not back down from two large dogs.

Number 5: The strangest thing that has ever happened to me was when I was a junior in high school. I’d gone to K-mart with my father and my two year old niece. I worked at the St. John K-mart in Indiana. I was going to check my schedule. As we were walking into the store a gunman shot a guy across the street and then headed toward K-mart. We had to hide while he went through the store shooting the place up. He ended up killing three people before the police killed him. It was surreal and to this day, I get nervous remember the events.

A rebellion is brewing in the world of the Lake of Sins while Hugh Truent sits in prison days away from his execution.

After taking his findings about the genetic similarities between the classes to the Supreme Almighty and the Council, Hugh had been arrested for treason and all his evidence had vanished as if made from smoke.

To protect his family, he cut off all contact with the outside world while he sat in prison for over four years waiting for his execution. He has no idea that some of his reports were leaked to the other classes and that civil war looms on the horizon.

Trinity and her friends have no hope of winning the war unless they can unite the classes. In order to do that, they need someone everyone will follow. They need the one person all the classes trust and believe in. They need Hugh.

That means they have to break him out of a maximum security prison and convince him to lead their army, but that won’t be easy because Hugh wants revenge and he’s not going to let anything get in his way especially mouthy, attractive, know-it-all Trinity.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Hugh

Trinity didn’t reply, but her back was straighter than before. He was getting on her nerves. Good because she sure got on his. She was nothing but trouble, an attractive know-it-all who refused to listen to anyone. His hand met the end of the rope. It was still a long way to the ground.

Jackson waited alongside the building with Tim. They were both flat against the wall, trying not to be seen.

“Drop. You’ll be fine.” Her voice was soft, no longer acidic and mocking.

He couldn’t deal with her being kind to him. They’d done so well bickering. The trip had been fast and he hadn’t thought much about the danger. “I’m an Almighty. My kind doesn’t always land on their feet.”

“Let go,” she said, a hint of anger in her voice.

“I will.” His hands tightened on the rope. A fall like this could break something.

“Now,” she snapped. “Or I’ll kick you in the face and say a prayer that you land on your head.”

Her foot waved above his head. He wouldn’t put it past her to do what she threatened. She’d probably enjoy it. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, pushed back with his feet and let go. He was free. It was glorious. No chains. No cell. Just the air and the sky and…the ground. He hit hard, his legs taking the brunt of the fall. He rolled onto his back as Jackson’s hand grabbed his and pulled him to his feet. He touched his face, the impact of his landing still rattled through his teeth. Trinity dropped gracefully next to him. He hated House Servants, every last one of them.

About the Author:L. S. O’Dea grew up the youngest of seven in a family that uses teasing and tricks as an indication of love (or at least that’s what she tells herself). Being five years younger than her closest sibling often made her the unwilling entertainment for her brothers and sisters.

Before she started kindergarten her brothers taught her how to spell her first and middle name—Linda Sue. She was so proud she ran into the kitchen to tell her mother. She stood tall and recited the letters of her name: L-E-M-O-N H-E-A-D.

She’s pretty sure she has her siblings to thank for the demons that lurk in her mind, whispering dark and demented stories.

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Lake of Sins: Hangman’s Army is the third book in the series and the series should be read in order. The first two books in the series are free.

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Buy the books at Amazon: Lake of Sins: Escape | Lake of Sins: Secrets | Lake of Sins: Hangman’s Army

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Where do Ideas Come From? by Alex C. Vick – Guest Blog and Giveaway

 

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Alex C Vick will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Where do ideas come from?

Before I begin, thank you very much to Long and Short Reviews for inviting me to write a guest post today!

I loved this suggested topic as soon as I saw it. Just one deceptively simple question calls to mind all that is amazing, yet terrifying about writing. Everything must inevitably begin with an idea. My own experience is obviously unique to me, but that basic challenge is the same for every writer.

Some days it’s a challenge that I barely glance at before I dive into my story and begin typing the next scene. Other days it lurks on my shoulder like a kind of small, spiteful monster, with a smirk that only gets bigger when I can’t come up with a single sentence.

Therefore, the question of where ideas come from (and more importantly how to find them when they refuse to show up!) is a very interesting one.

Before I start a new book, there has to be something that grabs my attention. A hook to get me excited about writing it. It might be a question that I really want to know the answer to. Then, a character might turn up in my head with a line or two of dialogue that I find intriguing. Finally, there might be a scene in the middle or end of the story that I can already picture.
Then, I write the book. I am not a planner, which means that I figure out the rest of my ideas as I go along. With or without the monster on my shoulder!

But where do they come from? The attention grabbers, unfortunately, are outside of any conscious control. I just make them up. They arrive in my head at a time of their choosing. If I actively search for them, they are nowhere to be found. In fact, the harder I look, the better they hide.

Stephen King described it perfectly:

“Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky.”

However, I try to do what I can to help the process along. I read a lot. I pay attention to the world around me. I notice similarities and differences. I visit new places and meet new people, at work and outside of work. I take a lot of photographs and play around with perspective. I actively research historical subjects that interest me. As long as I keep my eyes wide open, and take an interest in life and living, I hope there will be enough going on inside my head to produce an idea when I need one.

The rest is just persistence. Keep writing. Keep going. As Neil Gaiman says:

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”

The great thing about writing fiction is that there’s no right or wrong answer. I am in awe of the amazing creativity shown by my favorite authors. As a reader, I enjoy discovering new worlds and stories, but I also love reading a new take on characters and situations that already exist. How would you describe your reading choices? Do you have a favorite kind of story?

Thank you for reading, and thank you again to Long and Short Reviews for featuring my post!

Shannon thought there was no such thing as real magic. Until that day. The day that changed everything.

Put yourself in her shoes. Would you open your eyes, if you were the one that heard them? Two magic-takers from another world, arguing about whether they can collect what they came for before you wake up. It sounds like a crazy dream, or a practical joke.

But what if the air around you started to vibrate with an invisible force field? What if, all at once, it felt scary, yet familiar too? You would have no way of knowing that this discovery would set you on a path no-one from our world has taken for centuries. Towards a deadly enemy, and a fight you will almost certainly lose.

All you know is that your heart is beating so fast you’re worried they will hear it, and your brain is starting to buzz as the force field reaches it. Would you open your eyes?

Join Jax and Shannon as they live through the most exciting and terrifying ten days of their lives!

Read an Excerpt:

Jax reacted first, grabbing Shannon and Darius by the arms and pulling them backwards towards the bookshelves. They ran deep into one of the sections, as far as they could go, not stopping until they reached the end. Staring anxiously at each other, hearts pounding with fear, they waited to hear who had come through the door.

There was no sound at first. Whoever had entered the room had done so with silent footsteps. Then there was an exclamation of discovery, and a man’s voice could be heard calling “Dorian? Can you come in here for a moment?”

Apparently Dorian was the Custodian who had been sitting outside. A short conversation then took place, but the voices were too quiet for Jax, Shannon and Darius to hear what was being discussed. It was soon clear what had happened however.

The same man’s voice was raised to say “You might as well show yourself, I know there is someone in here. And I also know you are not permitted. I can recognise that the Treaty has been read just a few moments ago, but Dorian tells me he has seen no-one gain entry this night.”

There was a pause, and then the voice continued, becoming angrier.

“Come now, this is a waste of my time and yours. I will find you, and you will not enjoy the methods I will use.”

Jax had gone completely white. He recognised the voice as belonging to Marcus. For a few seconds he tried to think frantically of a way that they could escape, but almost straight away he realised that it was impossible.

About the Author:

Alex writes contemporary fantasy books for a middle grade audience and older. There are three (self-contained) stories in the Legacy of Androva series so far, with a fourth on the way. You can contact Alex, and find more information about Androva, including a character interview, at her website.

Alex lives in the South of England with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not working, or writing about magic, she also loves reading and photography.

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