I am a Contemporary Fantasy writer and a College Professor. I have lectured in modern languages, cultures, and literature. My research focuses on studies of legends and the mysticism of ancient texts in sixteenth-century Spain. I enjoy traveling to places tied to legends and folklore that I can use in my stories.
Born and raised in Morocco, I now reside in the United States where I read, write, knit, and teach.
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Name: Safiya Maouelainin Title: ECLIPSE OF THE SNAKE Genre: Adult Contemporary Fantasy (with a touch of romance) – about 85,000 words Comps: THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES (Broken Destiny Series) by Jeaniene Frost BLACK WATER SISTER by Zen Cho (STORM AND FURY by Jennifer L. Almentrout - but for adult readers of YA). Pitch: Twenty-five-year-old Alila is an untrusting recluse with a debilitating power that makes her experience people’s illness and pain. To avoid triggering this inexplicable empath curse, she lives alone, manages an online business, and keeps her interactions with others scarce. When Alila runs into quirky and free-spirited Shadrach, he completely derails her life. Unknown to her, Shadrach is a hidden moon-commanded Witch whose coven secretly protects her kind, the snake-gift Bearers. He tries to hide Alila in the recent past in a desperate move to save her from a mysterious sorceress, The Sultane, who is set to kill her and absorb her empathic power. Shadrach’s plan quickly falls through, and Alila’s only hope is to seek answers in The Sultane’s magical home country of Morocco, and uncover The Sultane’s motivation to steal her powers. Because she is a snake-gift Bearer, Alila can merge with the rare moon-commanded Witches and channel their dark magic. Drawn into Morocco’s enchanting world—the flamboyant colors of the Amazigh culture, the spicy aromas of crowded souks, and the mystical secrets of a High Kasbah—Alila learns that not only The Sultane is hot on her trail, but Alila may be the only one capable of stopping the sorceress who is determined to make herself Akbar Sehhara, the greatest Sorceress of the Maghreb, and use its magical resources to extend her dominion over the world. -----
Opening scenes – introduces protagonist, world/setting, voice, and inciting incident. 1 - Time Will Not Tell The last thing Alila Illi desired was ending up in an asylum to rot alone with no family to save her. Stepping out of the elevator, she wished for the thousandth time that she could not feel people’s pain. It was getting harder to keep her mouth shut, swallow the hurt, and not blurt out to strangers unsolicited advice about their poor health. Especially when they didn’t even look sick. Alila stood in the lobby of her suburban apartment building and checked her watch, 8:30 a.m. Perfect. Her local coffee shop would be almost free of people. “Have a blessed day, Ma’am.” The cheerful voice behind her startled her. Slowly turning her head toward Lincoln, the middle-aged doorman, she stared at him. It was the second day in a row he greeted her, which never happened. A troubling surprise . . . although she didn’t mind Lincoln. He must have been the healthiest man on the planet because he never triggered her curse. If she could sell his secret, she’d be able to retire on a private island. Since he'd probably never share it—not with her anyway—, she preferred to be ignored. Any friendly attention could make her give away her secret. The less she dealt with people, the less she’d be forced to diagnose. Tightening her knitted scarf around her neck, Alila took a deep breath and stepped out. The crispy air, carrying the sweet smell of shedding leaves, revigorated her. With a smile playing on her lips, she jogged to her tiny brown car and drove to the closest shopping center. After parking in the empty lot, she did a quick check to confirm nobody was lurking around. Today was a good day. Whistling, she headed to the coffee shop. As soon as she entered, the ground coffee aroma and its hint of vanilla filled her nose, and for once, she decided to spoil herself. After all, she’d just made a major sale online the day before, a first. Up until last night, she was broke. “Good morning, I’d like one of the syrupy drinks. I have no preference, any will do. And a cheese Danish. And a blueberry muffin.” “Is that all, Ma’am?” the barista said in a monotone. She expected no smile from him as usual. But she didn’t mind his indifference. No harmful wave emanated from his body now, and she didn’t have to stay a foot away from him. Plus, Alila’s composure rarely fluttered and especially today, a rude dismissal wouldn’t spoil her mood. “Yes. Thank you.” She handed him the cash, and only then did she notice she was short. She’d ordered way more than her usual plain coffee. “Sorry.” He sighed while she dug in her purse for her business credit card. She had finally paid off her always maxed-out card the night before and could use it today for a business meal. With a victorious toothy smile, Alila flaunted her card before handing it to the impatient barista who swiped it a few times in brusque movements. “It says declined.” His voice dripped with annoyance. A frown creased her forehead. “It can’t be. Can you try again?” “I did. Twice. Do you have another one? Or any more of your one-dollar bills?” Alila’s breath caught in her throat. Dread spread in her chest, and she ran out of the coffee shop, leaving the barista calling Ma’am. Her bank was in the same shopping center. Keep your stores close, as any recluse would say. Exactly three minutes later, she pushed open the glass entrance door of the small branch containing an ATM at the door, two closed offices, and a counter with three men behind it. Alila rushed to the first teller and only remembered her mistake when a sharp pain flared in her right wrist. She clutched it and immediately took a few steps back, away from the counter, until the pain and numbness faded away. Stupid mistake. She stared at the teller’s right hand, tightened in an obvious, black wrist brace. She was usually more careful than that. “May I help you?” The teller squinted and looked her over slowly with obvious disapproval from the tip of her boots to her beige overalls, black long-sleeved tee, black wool scarf, and short dark hair she wore in a tomboy haircut. Keeping her distance, Alila shrugged his reaction and stretched her full lips into a forced smile. “I’d like to speak with Ms. Ronn about my business credit card balance. I paid it off, but the transaction didn’t go through.” The short man frowned. “Do you have an appointment? Ms. Ronn is not coming in today.” “No, but she told me she’s always available around this time.” The teller shook his head. “Not on Mondays.” Alila repressed a snort. “A good thing it’s Tuesday, then.” “Hmm, sorry, Ma’am.” Why did everybody call her ma’am? She was only twenty-five for God’s sake, and she didn’t look a day over twenty-three. With two fingers, the teller tapped the small calendar on the counter. “Today is Monday, September 2.” “No, your calendar is wrong. That was yesterday. Today is Tuesday.” The other two tellers behind the counter whipped her way. With a resigned sigh, Alila found her phone and brandished it. “Look at the date. I’m telling you, it’s Tues—” Her eyes scanned over the screen, and she froze. Impossible. The date on her phone was also wrong. It read Monday. She gaped at it for a few seconds. “Ma’am, are you all right?” Alila didn’t answer. She walked back to the ATM that she’d passed at the entrance door. Hands shaking, she pulled her debit card out of her wallet, and after three attempts, inserted it into the slot. Her available balance caused a chill to run down her spine. “No, it can’t be.” Her heart sank to her feet, and all she could do was stare at the screen. Alila shoved her phone, card, and wallet into her bag and hurried outside the bank toward her car. Maybe the sale hadn’t been completed yet. No time for a nice walk in the park while sipping coffee and enjoying nature. Thankfully, her spot across from her apartment building was still empty. She parked and quickly entered her building. The red number on top of the elevator was stuck on seven. Unable to stay immobile waiting for it to crawl itself down six floors, she headed toward the stairs and took them two by two up to the fifth floor. Despite her shaking hands, she got the key in the lock on the first attempt and pushed her white wooden door open. Letting it close by itself, she quickly took off her shoes and put slippers on before going into her small office. Still up, she bent on over the desk and turned on her computer. Her eyes and fingers scrolled down the touch-screen faster than her brain could process the information, but the result was there. The sale hadn’t been completed. The bundles regrouping funny mugs, shirts, scarves, and socks she had made for Halloween and listed last week were all still available. A retail shop had liked all her different designs and ordered dozens of each style, thrilling her. It was the first time she’d earned two thousand dollars at once, and it was money she was in dire need of. Now, it was gone. Or worse, it seemed to have never happened at all.
New York Pitch Assignments - March 2022
Safiya M. replied to Admin_99's topic in New York Write to Pitch 2022 and 2023March 2022 New York Pitch Conference Assignments Safiya Maouelainin Assignment 1: The act of Story Statement A resentful recluse needs to restore her timeline, travel to her estranged mother's home country, and harness her obscure healing powers so she can defeat an untimely death, unravel old family secrets and betrayals, and fulfill her magical legacy for the benefit of humankind. Assignment 2: The Antagonist Plots the Point 1) The Timeline Disruptor / Time : Alila’s timeline has folded on itself and she starts reliving her past, going down memory lane—literally—one day at a time. Although backward, time goes by. Suddenly, the hope of a better life when Alila could be free of her curse (she channels and feels people’s pain and hurt when she gets too closed to them) and stop living as a recluse, is doomed. She knows what her past has in store for her: heartache. She is a second-generation American, whose Moroccan mother abandoned at seven and who has never known her Moroccan father. Time is unforgiving, no matter which way it goes, and Alila needs to fight it (and the one responsible for her situation) to get back to her normal timeline. For that she goes out of her comfort zone-—life as a recluse. 2) Twinfire: (2 faces behind one force) a. Nnar Timessi belongs to a rich Moroccan family, living in a Kasbah in Morocco’s Atlas Mountain. The youngest of five brothers, he was always ignored and misunderstood. His parents favored his brothers because they were smarter and more handsome, which made him bitter and enraged against his fate and his family. They all had the looks and the money and yet they didn’t make anybody’s life better, even his. He especially envied his brother Zeyn, who married his childhood sweetheart Lehna. They both would have lived on the family inheritance. He could do so much more if life had granted him the looks and the intelligence. Rage ate him up inside until he met Kadija, a sorceress, who convinced him he could take the life he deserved. They end up killing Zeyn. Nnar absorbs his brother’s best feature, his good looks (by eating his head as was described in an ancient Persian myth about Shahmaran, the Queen of Snakes), and became Zeyn, while Kadija needs Lehna’s empathic powers. Lehna runs away, secretly pregnant with Alila. Nnar killed and absorbed his brothers’ intelligence and he became a philanthropic hero for his community in Morocco. He knew he made the right decisions because he used his brothers’ gifts for the betterment of Moroccan people’s social and economical situation. Twenty-five years later, when Nnar and Kadija learn of Alila and that she had inherited her mother’s powers, they come after her. Nnar/Zeyn really feels she’s his daughter and wants her to join his and Kadija’s cause. He wants his niece/daughter to give up the snake power she hates and is not using to Kadija (what her mother didn’t do), so they can make the world better. b. Kadija, the sorceress. Born in poverty, Kadija swore she would never know powerlessness. Secretly, she used her power to take revenge on the ones who oppressed her and became a terrifying sorceress. People in her community know of her, but have never seen the sorceress’ face. Some curse her while others worship her. Divide to conquer is her motto. She convinces Nnar Timessi—the youngest son of the richest family in the Atlas Mountains—that he deserves to be the sole family heir, especially since he has such great ideas for the betterment of their community and region. Her hidden agenda is to get closer to Zeyn's, Nnar’s brother, fiance, who's a Tahmaspat or a snake-gift bearer. She needs the latter’s empathic snake power to merge with the next powerful Moon-Commanded Witch, unleash their power, and become unstoppable. Unfortunately, Lehna magically tattoos herself and refuses to give up her snake power, which is the only way Kadija can get it now. Upset she lost the Snake power forever, Kadija focuses on growing a fortune with Nnar, after getting rid of his family. She becomes the kasbah’s manager when they turn it into a hotel. Twenty-five years later, a coven of witches informs her of the whereabouts of the last Tahmaspat, Lehna and Zeyn’s daughter, Alila. Aware that that same coven is hiding a Moon-Commanded Witch, Kadija is set to get the snake power and merge with the Witch. Nothing will stop her from sacrificing Alila to get it, not even Nnar’s weird paternal love for Alila. Assignment 3: Breakout Title ECLIPSE OF THE SNAKE SNAKE SHEDDING MOON THE (LAST) SNAKE SPIRIT Assignment 4: Comps Genre: Adult Contemporary Fantasy STORM AND FURY by Jennifer L. Almentrout. This novel is also a contemporary fantasy, weaving magic into the real world. It’s fast-paced and character-driven. The protagonist is also hiding (from) her power, and living an isolated life. When the forces trying to kill her find her, she must team up with a protector—whose destiny is linked to hers—to save herself and the world. While Trinity in Storm and Fury has a physical disability (a degenerative eye condition), Alila could represent people with higher sensibility and intuition forced to live a more recluse life and avoid interaction with others. THE BROKEN DESTINY series by Jeaniene Frost. This is also urban fantasy with the concept of legacies and hidden powers. It’s fast-paced, and includes travels to different countries to solve the mystery of the protagonist’s legacy. The heroine has powers that are debilitating, and the only way to manage them is to accept them. Legends and destiny are intertwined in the plot (revolving around the descendants of David and Judas, and how they are linked to each other). Also, the protagonist feels betrayed by her partner in crime and his secrets, although he kept them to protect and save her. BLACK WATER SISTER by Zen Cho. This novel is infused with the author's Malaysian culture. The protagonist needs to go back home after living in the United States and rediscover the culture of their parents. It also revolves around family secrets, ancient magic, and duty to the world. Assignment 5: Hookline (Logline) --'One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.' Even the cursed.-- When a second-generation American recluse, abandoned by her mother as a child, is spellbound to relive her last week backward, one day at a time, she must confront her debilitating fears and powers to restore her timeline, cheat death, and unravel her estranged mother's secrets so she can embrace her magical purpose for the benefit of humankind. Assignment 6: Inner Conflicts Main inner conflict (Worldview Maturation - "wisdom and meaning prevail when we learn to express our gifts in a world that we accept as imperfect"--> Unchain your will to unearth your skill.): Alila is a twenty-five-year-old orphan hiding a debilitating power she cannot control that makes her experience people’s illness and pain. To avoid triggering it, she lives alone, manages an online business, and keeps her interactions with others scarce. She feels she doesn’t belong in this world, because of her empathic power that she considers a curse. She tried to get rid of it for more than ten years, but a wake-up call, when her timeline folds on itself, makes her understand that she needs to accept her power and purpose. Only then can she ground herself in this world and finally belong. Family resentment: Alila’s mother abandoned her as a child and left her with a mute great-aunt, Nanu, who died three years ago. Alila doesn’t trust easily. If even her mother didn’t love her enough to stick around, why would strangers? She doesn’t have friends, except for one acquaintance: a hookah bar owner that she sees every Sunday for her weekly hookah. Deep inside, she still wants to solve the mystery of her mother’s abandonment, and her timeline conundrum allows her to do so. Alila learns her great-aunt Nanu was an old midwife unrelated to her. She is in fact Shadrach’s grandmother and Lehna’s witch protector. Eighteen years ago, Nanu imprisoned Lehna to try to force Alila’s gift into the open to protect her grandson, Shadrach. Alila finally realizes that her mother, although not perfect, sacrificed everything (her husband and her freedom) because of the love she had for her daughter. Love subplot: Alila only meets one other person going backward in time, Shadrach Mortimer. Desperate, she teams up with him to restore their timeline. Alila finds him attractive with his gorgeous dark hair, eyes, and dimples. He’s free-spirited and seems harmless. She wishes she could live as freely and wants or needs him as a friend. Together they learn her mother’s enemy, Twinfire, is trying to kill Alila and she needs to tattoo her forehead and chin with a particular snake skeleton. Once they find its location in the past, they come back to the present. Shadrach was the one who sent them in the past to find the bones and tattoo Alila, without her permission. He is a witch, and his coven has a duty to protect her kind, a Tahmaspat or a snake-gift bearer who heals people. Betrayed by Shad, Alila distances herself by going with her long-lost father, Zeyn, to Morocco in search of answers about her legacy. The tattoos help her harness her powers. Shadrach once again comes back and Alila understands that she needs him to stop her impending death. She also discovers that he is a powerful Moon-Commanded Witch that needs a Tahmaspat to prevent him from unwittingly unleashing the dangerous side of his magic. Other than healing people, her purpose is to save a powerful witch, that she has feelings for, from losing himself. Assignment 7: Setting Suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, USA: Alila inherited her great-aunt’s apartment in Wynnewood, PA. She has established a routine and lives a relatively normal life, as long as she doesn’t interact with many people. She manages an online business, selling knitted goods. The suburbs represent her and her comfort zone in-between two worlds. She’s close enough to the civilization she needs for a modern job and business, and close to nature and calm, where her power doesn’t overwhelm her. Hookah bar: She likes to have flavored tobacco on Sundays. She found the spot and the time when the bar is almost empty. At the same time, going out and dealing with someone else, like the bar owner, make feel her normal. It's also the place where Shadrach overhears her plans for the next day, and manages to make her find him. Later, it's also where he has the opportunity to drug her, by lacing her tobacco. Penn Wynne Library, Horse Racing Venue, Rittenhouse Hotel, Diner, Escape Room, Casino: Going back in time and meeting Shadrach force her to put herself out there and manage meeting new people, in crowded places where sick people set off her unwanted powers, but she eventually realizes that she is stronger than she thought. Asni, a small town in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, The Timessi Kasbah (the family's citadel): Alila’s parents are Moroccan. Her mother fled to the United States to protect Alila and rarely talked about her home country and the family left behind. However, Alila’s curse started in Morocco, and there lies the secret of her destiny. As her character evolves and she grounds herself in the world, she is able to travel across the ocean to find answers and decide her own destiny, instead of being a puppet in foes’ and friends’ hands.