Monday, January 18, 2016

Tiger Lily - A Book Review

I just finished reading Tiger Lily, the first book by Wende Dikec. It sounded interesting, though it's not a book I'd usually pick up on my own. I'm really glad I read it! I had a hard time putting it down. I've been reading and writing a lot of darker, more serious books lately, so Tiger Lily was a nice break from that.

In Tiger Lily, Lily Madison dies. When she's resuscitated, she finds that she's able to see ghosts, which appear as fuzzy blobs. One does not. Nick is a very attractive, mysterious teenager who doesn't know what happened to him. Lily needs to gets the ghosts home and find out what happened to Nick.

With Nick following her around, Lily develops feelings for him. She worries that sending the ghosts back to where they came from might also mean saying goodbye to Nick. But if she doesn't, something darker will be unleashed on the world.

With the reluctant help of Zoe, a goth girl who is very different from Lily, Lily is determined to set things right even if it means going against her family and friends.

The main character, Lily, is a spoiled rich girl. She always has matching outfits and worries about silly things like having perfect nails and a blue tooth ear piece clashing with her outfit. I worried I'd have a hard time identifying with her (Zoe is more my speed), but that wasn't the case. Though she comes off as superficial and neurotic with her constant use of hand sanitizer, there's a lot more going on with her. I liked her voice, and once Lily's inner demon is revealed, I had a lot of sympathy for her.

I loved the other characters too. Zoe with her cool exterior and Nick's sauciness. There was a good mix of personalities and I liked the way they came together. Nothing felt forced. Though Wende played on some stereotypes on the surface, the characters were genuine people underneath what they wore. One of the best parts was when Zoe dresses Lily up to go to a nightclub. It reminded me of the time I did a similar thing to a friend of mine.

As mentioned in the interview I did with Wende, Mr. Wan wasn't intended to play a big role in the book, but ended up being important. I can see why. I loved his character along with Miss Lin at the manicure shop. They added a lot of personality to the story and helped Lily with her personal growth. I liked that the adults in the book were truly adults. They weren't there for window dressing or dumbed-down.

I've said before, I'm a sucker for a good love story. It doesn't have to be the focus of the book, but I always enjoy a romantic sub-plot. This one delivered.  I liked the dynamic between Lily and Nick. I could see why they would be attracted to each other. I was really pulling for them.

Though the story had it's intense moments, that even brought tears to my eyes, overall it was fun. The banter between the characters and Lily's determination made it an entertaining read.  Once I hit the half way mark in the story, I didn't want to put it down because I needed to know who Nick was and if they were going to get all the ghosts back...not to mention, if Lily and Nick would ever be together.

I highly recommend Tiger Lily to any fans of young adult. It was fun, heartbreaking, and entertaining. I look forward to reading more from Wende.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Author Interview with Wende Dikec

I met Wende during an evening on Twitter when I was stuck in my own writing and she had Tweeted some encouraging words that I came across. Her first book Tiger Lily is coming out this week and is another I'm looking forward to reading.

About Tiger Lily

Lily Madison thought dying because of a bad manicure was the worst thing that could happen. She was wrong.

Waking up in the hospital and realizing she’s being stalked by an entire herd of naughty little ghosts turns her entire world upside down. She begins to doubt her own sanity until she realizes she isn’t alone. A Goth girl, named Zoe, can see the ghosts, too.

Most of the ghosts look like fuzzy blobs, but one is not blobby at all. He’s a very hot, very annoying dead guy named Nick. Although they dislike each other on sight, Nick soon realizes Lily is his only hope. With the help of Zoe and Mr. Wan, the manicurist who almost killed her, she has only days to get Nick and the other ghosts back where they belong or the whole world will be in terrible danger.

But sending the ghosts back means saying goodbye to Nick forever, and Lily isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to let him go.

If you want to pick up your own copy you can do so on (for Canadians like myself) or for Kobo.

In celebration of the release, I thought we could get to know Wende a little better...
Where did you get the idea for Tiger Lily?

Wende: It’s kind of strange, but the first line of the book just popped into my head. “I died because of a bad manicure.” I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and the voice of the character was clear to me from the moment I came up with that line. The story just grew from there.

My main character, Lily, gets so distracted by the awful color on her nails that she accidentally crashes her car and lands in the murky waters of Lake Eugene. She drowns, and gets resuscitated by a handsome stranger, but then her problems really begin. She’d passed over the barrier between life and death, and ended up bringing an entire herd of annoying little ghosts with her. Most of them look like fuzzy, black blobs, but one isn’t blobby at all. He’s a very hot, very annoying ghost guy named Nick.

Is there anything you want people to know about the characters? Quirks or unique things that didn't make it into the book?

Wende: My main character, Lily, has a lot of quirks. She’s a bit of a control freak and she has OCD. She gets weekly manicures, and I think the biggest surprise to me came in the form of her manicurist, Mr. Wan. I’d intended for him to be just a minor character, but he was so awesome that he kind of took over and became her spiritual guide. And the colors he choses for her nails every week have significance as well. They give the reader an idea about what is going to happen next in the book. The nail colors are real, by the way. You can look them up. I love the names of nail polish colors and had a blast researching them.

Do you have a favourite scene in the book?

Wende: Oh, tough question. I love the scene when Nick (the hot ghost guy) follows Lily around the school and distracts her during class. Lily is the only one who can see him, which makes it tough for her to concentrate in calculus. He needs Lily’s help to figure out what happened to him, and he won’t give up until he gets it or drives Lily nuts in the process. I think what I love most about this scene is the way he shows both his humor and vulnerability, and the way Lily’s carefully constructed façade of control begins to crumble.

What are some of your favourite books and authors?

Wende: That’s like asking me to pick a favourite child! No! I can’t do it!

I’ll narrow it down to my first favorite book. When I was young, the book that had the biggest impact on me was A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle. It rocked my world. I must have read it fifty times. After I read it, I wanted to be a physicist. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. I lasted a grand total of two days in high school physics.

How many books have you written?

Wende: I’ve written two young adult books that will both be published by Inkspell Publishing in 2016. TIGER LILY comes out January 13, and STARR VALENTINE will come out in March.

I also write adult books under a pen name, Abigail Drake. I have a paranormal romance called TRAVELLER coming out through The Wild Rose Press on February 26, 2016. I have another completed manuscript that is currently under consideration with a publisher called THE ENCHANTED GARDEN CAFÉ. And I just finished two New Adult books and a sci-fi novella that I might make into a full-length novel. It’s going to be an interesting year.

Do you have any unique writing habits?

Wende: I discovered a group called Mindful Writers, and I love it. It sounds kind of weird, but we meet at a local diner every week (in a private room), listen to a guided meditation for writers, and then sit and write together (in complete silence) for four hours. It’s absolutely the best and most productive day of the week for me. I have a constant stream of coffee and food and no one distracts me. I get so much done.

At home, I have a Labrador retriever who annoys me until I sit down at my desk and start to work. He’s relentless. Once I start to write, he curls up next to my feet and snores. He’s a great taskmaster.

What do you find the most challenging part about writing?

Finding quiet time to write. My house is a chaotic place, but I need calm to write. There is always something to distract you, something you think you ought to be doing instead of writing. I force myself to ignore the laundry and write when I can. Eventually the laundry will get done, but if you don’t write when the muse is calling to you, you might lose that fantastic idea rolling around in your head.

What do you love most about writing?

Wende: A day without writing feels incomplete to me. I honestly want to do it every single day. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Or talking about writing. Or dreaming about writing (I actually do that – which is kind of sad!). I’m happiest when plugging away at a new story, but I love editing, too. That was an acquired taste. I had to learn to love editing. Now it’s like a puzzle to me. I can’t wait to sit down and make my story as good as possible. One of my editors once said, “Let’s polish this up like a shiny new penny” and that stuck with me. I love polishing it up. It’s almost as fun as actually writing the book (but not quite!).

National award winning author Wende Dikec writes Young Adult speculative fiction with romantic and humorous elements. An avid traveller who spent many years abroad, she now lives in a small town in Pennsylvania with her husband, three sons, a puppy named Capone, and a very well used espresso machine.

To keep up with Wende, you can find her on her website, her Amazon author page, or on Twitter.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Blackbird Summer Cover Reveal and Author Interview!

I'm excited to be part of the cover reveal for Blackbird Summer.

I saw it pitched during the first Twitter pitch party I participated in and have wanted to read it since! In April, I will have that chance and so will you!

Blackbird Summer:

When people hate the unknown, being Gifted is a curse.

In the cornerstone of the rural south, Brooklyn, Mississippi, no one dares make eye contact with the strange Caibre family. Until the rewards are worth the cost. The townsfolk come, cash in hand, always at night, to pay for services only a Gifted can provide.

No matter the Gifts prevalent in her family, at twenty-one, Tallulah is expected to follow the path laid out for her: marriage, babies, and helping her mama teach the family home school program. She’s resigned to live the quiet life and stay out of trouble…until she meets Logan.

An outsider and all around rebel, Logan doesn’t care about her family’s reputation. Yet after a tragic loss wreaks havoc on the crumbling relationship between the Caibres and the townsfolk, Tallulah must decide if love and freedom are worth risking everything.

Add Blackbird Summer to your list on Goodreads!

I've gotten to know the author, Em Shotwell, over the past several months, but with the release of her first novel, I thought we could get to know her a little better...

Where did you get the idea for Blackbird Summer?

Oh Gosh! Who even knows! I do know that it rolled around my head for years before I actually thought that I could possibly write it down. Over time, the plot changed, the focus and feel changed. Even the genre changed. But Tallulah and her crazy family stayed the same.

Is there anything you want people to know about the characters? Quirks or unique things that didn't make it into the book?

Jenny Somersby Caibre, Tallulah and Delia’s mom, is a firecracker! Before she was the woman who donned ugly sweaters and ruled her homeschool group with an iron fist, she was a teen, then young adult, who got into more mischief than either of her girls would ever believe.

It is mentioned in passing that Jenny was actually allowed to go away for college—something that seems impossible to her daughter, Tallulah—let’s just say that she had her share of fun.

I am hoping to do a short story about a few of her adventures.

Do you have a favourite scene in the book?

Ah! My favorite would give away spoilers! So I will share one that I really like. There is a scene where Tallulah and Delia are preparing dinner with their Mama (Jenny), and she tells them how she got revenge on a mean checkout lady from the Piggly Wiggly.

This is a scene where we get to see a little of Jenny’s mischief shine through.

What are some of your favourite books and authors?

There are so many. Too many for me to give a list, really. But the FIRST book I remember ever truly resonating with me (and the first book I read and re-read until the cover was tattered) was when I was a kid. “A Wrinkle In Time” by Madeline L’engle.

When I was ten, I wanted to be Meg Murry so so bad! She wasn’t this beautiful character who had a ton of friends (like most of the protagonist from middle grade books of the time). She was plain, and awkward, and fiercely protective of the people she loved.

I should do an adult re-read of the book—but I’m scared my adultiness will spoil the magic I remember so well.

Do you have any unique writing habits?

I am completely ADD (I know a lot of people say that, but I really am). I read about other writers who are able to work in coffee shops, but my attention span would never allow me to do that. I have to be somewhere at least mostly quiet. Usually locked away somewhere at home or at the library. That’s not really weird though.

A weird habit: I write on a laptop, but I have another keyboard that is my favorite, so as weird as it may be—I plug a keyboard into my laptop.

What do you find the most challenging part about writing?

Making myself sit down and start for the day. My to-do list never gets completed faster than when I should be writing. Once I sit, I have a hard time tearing myself away from the story.

What do you love most about writing?

Characters. I love creating strange, kooky, oddballs. Plot comes later for me, but I could fill up a notebook with character outlines who may never even make it into a story.

What do you love most about writing fantasy?

I love writing fantasy because I get to set the rules of my world. As long as my characters don’t break those rules--then anything at all can happen!

My current WIP was SUPPOSED to be straight contemporary, but magic has slowly seeped into the story line!

To keep an eye on Em and her writing, you can check out her blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Author Bio
Em Shotwell is the author of Blackbird Summer (City Owl Press, 2016). She lives in South Louisiana with a husband who spoils her and two mini-superheroes who call her mom. Em think the most interesting characters are the ones who live on the sidelines, and that small towns often hide the biggest secrets. She is inspired by tall tales and local legends.

When she’s not writing about misfits and oddballs, Em enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, and debating Doctor Who facts with her obsessed ten-year-old.