Sunday, 22 April 2012

Long Break for me :*(

Unfortuantely, I will be taking a long break from blogging. I won't be back online until the end of June. My current giveaway (ends April 30th) will still be running, and there will still be a winner but after the winner is announced, I won't be posting anything for about 2 months. I also won't be able to answer any e-mails and I won't be on twitter. Just pretend I'm dep in the Amazon forest with no computer :D lol I wish the reason were that exciting! So anyway, thank you to all my followers and to everyone who stops by to read my posts. :)

Like I said, I'm not gone forever, just until June! It'll feel like forever, but I'm sure I'll be able to manage :D

Happy blogging everyone! Keep reading!


Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sikander: Review and Interview with the Author!

Author M. Salahuddin Khan of Siknader has agreed to do an interview with I HEART BOOKS!
When I asked Mr. Khan the following questions he had this to say:

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Yes, I’m a management consultant turned author. I was born in 1952 in Pakistan to parents who were made refugees following the partition of British India and who fled from Delhi in 1947. I moved to England at the age of four and grew up and was educated there. I graduated in 1973 with a Bachelors in Aeronautics and Astronautics. I came to the US for the first time in 1972 to witness Apollo 16’s launch to the moon and fell in love with the country from that time. I made several trips here until finally in 1988 I moved with my wife and three sons. Within six years we added three daughters to the brood.

Career-wise, I became Chief Technology Officer of Computervision in Bedford, MA and CTO at NAVTEQ in Chicago, IL. I was the Senior VP for Global Marketing and Strategy when I left NAVTEQ in 2007 to pursue some dreams at the age of 55. None of them included writing a novel, however, and I surprised myself when the idea for it came to me in something of a flashbulb moment at the end of 2009.

2. What inspired you to write Sikander?

There were several factors at work I think, some of them deeply rooted.

I grew up as the only non-white person and only Muslim in my entire grade-school and high-school life. I was almost always an outside observer and became really familiar with being misunderstood. Then came the events of 9/11 and I increasingly saw more and more mainstream media and public opinion sharing views about Muslims which I couldn’t relate to or recognize. The flashpoint came when I saw a movie (it must have been the fourth or fifth time) of Victor Hugo’s timeless Les Misérables. I was struck by the themes of misunderstanding that this universally relevant classic explored and thought about a story in similar terms but with my lens firmly on Guantanamo. The story blossomed from that thought into what it became, leaving the Guantanamo experience as its apex.

Ben Franklin once said that “the person who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither” and I think as a country, we’ve lost our way on this simple point. Sadly, it isn’t the only point where we’ve become untethered from our founding principles, and its begun to change the core idea of “who we are” when we’re defined by the behavior we’ve permitted in our name. I think that core essence has morphed in the last 10 years and it was something I wanted to explore, but without caricaturing Americans or the Muslims of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  I like Thomas Friedman’s views on this when he talks about getting back to “who we are.” We’re not there right now and I hope SIKANDER helps in its own small way for us to see that.

3. Is there any of yourself in Sikander or any of the other characters?

Sikander’s personality shares many aspects with my own. I can thankfully say his experiences are generally not mine though being misunderstood, having yearned to live in America, retained a Muslim sense of self, and in a few other ways those experiences are similar. He’s a thinking Muslim with some hands-on experience of life as am I.

4. How old were you when you realized you were truly interested in writing?

I eased into it. I was 54 when I was asked to become the publisher of ISLAMICA Magazine which was aimed at revealing a more intellectually vibrant and textured side of Islam in the world today. Its obectives resonated with me so I took it on. I then took to writing on a variety of topics on the website though I don’t do that much now. Then finally the novel idea came to me and so I took that on too. I was almost 58 at the time and had never written anything fictional. I love it and am itching to complete the next two works.

5. Are you currently working on any novels?

Two are taking shape as we speak and it’s almost like a horse race as to which will crystallize first. When one of them does, I imagine I’ll be the same frenzied person I was when I completed a pre-edit manuscript in six weeks for SIKANDER. The front runner right now is actually the sequel, a story about the character of Rabia. I feel her inside me urging me to convey the story of her continuing and remarkable transformation.

6. Sikander was first published in 2010. What changes have been added to this new edition?

The 4th edition is due out in April, 2012, and will include a Foreword by renowned expert on modern Islam, professor and former ambassador, Akbar Ahmed, who teaches at the American University in Washington D.C. He’s also made numerous appearances on CNN, Fox, Oprah, MSNBC, BBC and al-Jazeera English, as well as having several books, novels and works of poetry himself.

Other changes have been to compress the language without changing the story while at the same time enlarging upon the way the relationship between Rabia and Sikander takes shape and matures. The new edition will be almost 120 pages shorter than the original but there are no meaningful eliminations from the story. Lastly, the maps are placed in the main body of the story as they become relevant, and shortened explanations of glossary terms are now footnoted when they occur on a given page. This is done up to a maximum of the first five pages on which any such word occurs. Thereafter, the much more in-depth Glossary section remains a valuable and interesting point of reference if the reader still needs to look it up.
7.  What should readers expect by reading Sikander?

It’s a coming of age story in the bildungsroman style. I’d also say it is very character driven but with the ever-present “scaffolding” of world events and the way they touch the lives of those characters in a classic historical fiction narrative. It’s also a human story, where I’ve deliberately avoided creating deeply relatable western characters (at least for the first three-quarters of the book) so as to try to lift the reader out of their chair and become a fully immersed participant. That way, living alongside such “alien” people gives the reader a truer sense of what it is like to be the “other” and thereby wash away the “otherness” leaving behind the residue of our shared humanity.

For me the story also has two main parts. The first ten chapters are about defining the character of Sikander as he undergoes an accelerated adolescence brought about by natural conflicts as well as warfare. The second part is the story of his life’s purpose and ambition where he undergoes several challenges which shake his very sense of who he is.

8. Why did you decide to wrte a historical fiction novel?

The nature of the story and my wish to make certain points about our present condition as a country and people in geopolitical as well as human terms made no other choice possible. Other genres can do this too, I even think Battlestar Galactica (2003 version) makes numerous allegorical references to the post-9/11 era, but I wanted a more direct reference to the Muslim / America relationship which is a big deal in the world today. Besides, it was great to have real events and people “taken care of” and only requiring research to learn and write about them. I didn’t have to conjure up an entire world. I admire Tolkein and Rowling among others for their skills in doing that.

9. Is there anything else you'd like to say to readers?

Although there is a social message in the story, I hope readers also enjoy it for the exotic nature of the places and people and the adventures they have that most of us will never experience. I’d like them to say “Wow! I never knew that!” as often as possible and to feel good about these new insights. I’d like them to see Muslims differently than they might have with just media stereotypes, and to “feel Muslim” for a while but in the sense that the vast majority of the world’s mainstream Muslims feel in being flawed characters living through their values, hopes, fears, and dreams.

I would also like my female readers to feel inspired by the parallel story of Rabia, the poor Afghan village widow’s daughter who becomes an upper-middle-class wife in suburban America, in many ways reflecting the immigrant’s view of the American dream and how the utterly improbable becomes reality.

And now for my review! :D Special thanks to Samantha Lien from JKS for the review copy!
Rating: ♥♥♥

Review: Because I normally read and review paranormal young adult novels, I was hesitant in accepting a historical fiction novel. I'm glad I said yes! The maps and glossary included were very helpful as this book has many foreign expressions.

The characters, I found, were written excellently! They all had such depth and great personalities. There were humorous moments, sad moments, and every expression was written so that me, as the reader, was feeling the emotions. The only thing was that many of the names were quite similar - although I'm aware that's part of teh culture, it was slightly confusing sometimes when trying to understand who was speaking. But I also found that that really didn't take much away from the book.

Sikander was also full of action! The war scenes had me on the edge of my seat, white knuckling the book! It gave me such a new look on on war and what it does to poeple and families. It made me realize how fortunate I am to have a whole and happy family - because so many don't.

But the deaths and sadness that war caused was balanced out by the love in the novel. The love between family, friends, and also the new relationships that turned to marriage. So yes, the love that blossomed was a nice reprieve from the the devastating destruction of war. It was quite interesting to learn so much about another culture and their customs.

Oh and be forewarned - the end of the novel made me cry and will probably make you cry too!

Overall, Sikander was not only a great historical fiction novel, it was also, in its own way, educational! If you enjoy historical books then I suggest you give this one a try. Thank you so much to Mr. Khan for the interview and also again to Samantha Lien who has been my contact for not only Sikandder, but also some other great reads such as Trial of Tears!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Halo of the Damned Tour Stop!

Halo of the Damned
Author: Dina Rae
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Thriller, Horror, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 289
Tour Dates: April 16th - April 23rd

Book Description:

“A chain of advertising agencies, a new breed of humans, and a fallen angel to worship... Andel Talistokov is known for his slick advertising agencies across the globe. He is a fallen angel that uses advertising as a weapon for Satan's work. His growing power emboldens him to break several of Hell's Commandments. Furious with his arrogance, Satan commands him to return to Hell after finding his own replacement. Yezidism, an ancient angel worshiping religion, quietly expands throughout the West. Armaros appears as a guest of honor during their ceremonies. He mates with young women to produce nephilim, a mixed race of humans and angels. They are alone and unprepared for their supernatural power. Joanna Easterhouse, a recovering drug addict, steps out of prison shortly after her mother's fatal accident. She and her sister, Kim, unravel their mother's secretive past. Intrigued, they learn their bloodline is part of a celestial legacy. Both worlds collide. Halo of the Damned is a horrifying tale that weaves research together with suspenseful twists and turns.”

Purchase Links:




Chapter Twenty-Three

Kim finished the mini-project and then hung the painting above Maria’s headboard. She took a mental note to get the painting appraised and insured later on during the week. Both Kim and Joanna were eager to find out about their mother’s relics left behind at the Lake Geneva home. As promised, Kim looked up an old friend from high school, Doctor Sandra Jackson, who currently held a post at Loyola University. She hoped that her friend, Sandra, or one of her colleagues could identify the script and point Kim in the right direction in finding out its translation. If she was really lucky, they would be able to answer all of her questions about the unfamiliar items.
Kim quickly found Sandra online listed under the College of Arts and Sciences. She called her at work, and Sandra was available to talk. They quickly caught up with each other’s lives until Sandra got down to business.
“Kim, I’m so glad you called. Is this a purely social call or is there anything I can help you with?” Sandra asked, sensing that Kim was withholding something from her.
“Well, yes. I’m embarrassed to call after all these years of failing to keep in touch. And now when I could use your help, here I am. I’m a lousy friend. Please forgive me,” Kim begged.
“Kim, it’s okay. I haven’t called either. Please, I’d love the chance to help. What can I do?”
Kim remained as vague and elusive as possible, briefly describing some of the carvings found in the basement wall. She told Sandra she copied down the markings and wanted to know what they meant. She also described the old scroll, without commenting about the who’s, where’s, and when’s. She omitted telling Sandra about her mother. Lydia’s death would have tipped Sandra off as to where the items came from.
“Kim, this all sounds very mysterious. Please bring what you have and come around lunchtime. We’re all here in our cubicles. If I can’t help you, I’m confident one of my colleagues can. See you tomorrow.”
Later that evening, Kim informed Joanna about the meeting with the Loyola staff. “These heirlooms will bring us fame and fortune. They are our ‘holy grail’! I feel like Indiana Jones!” Joanna exclaimed.
“Don’t get too blissful. They might not be able to help,” Kim cautioned.
Overhearing the conversation, Maria became upset. “But Mom, who is gonna pick me up from school?”
“Holly’s mom is. You’re going to stay there until I get back, probably around dinner time,” Kim assured.
“Mommy, those people are strangers! You just can’t be showing them Grandma’s things! It’s not right! It’s not what she would have wanted! Lonnie doesn’t trust your friend!” Maria’s petulance was escalating. In desperation, she threw her aunt into the argument. “Auntie Jo, don’t let her do this! Especially Grandma’s scroll! It’s too dangerous!”
Although Joanna was uneasy about her niece’s behavior, she was not going to let a six year-old manipulate Kim’s and her plans. “Sweetie, your mother and I are curious to what that stuff is. She is taking these things to a very smart bunch of people who may be able to help us. No one is going to wreck it or steal it,” she placated.
“I already know what it is! Grandma was an angel, or a nephilim! Why don’t you believe me?” Maria screamed as she raced up to her room.
* * * *
The next day, Kim packed up her own drawing of her mother’s carved wall, the scroll, and the piece of metal. Her excitement put her in a giddy mood. Once she was parked and in front of Loyola’s entrance, Sandra met her in the foyer and escorted her back to the Arts and Science College. Sandra took Kim to their lounge and introduced her to six other professors who were equally interested in seeing her finds. All of them specialized in fields that had to do with the ancient world.
Kim began with unveiling her own copy of the symbols she drew from her mother’s basement. “I appreciate all of your attention. Can anyone tell me what this is, and even possibly what it means? Each symbol was copied down in the order it was etched into the wall,” Kim said.
One professor immediately took the paper and made a copy. This made Kim uncomfortable. He asked, “Where did you find this?”
“Again, none of that matters,” Kim defensively repeated. Her daughter’s omen chimed throughout her brain. The man intuitively put up her defenses.
“Doctor Nrogbi’s English is somewhat limited. He’s not trying to be pushy or rude,” Sandra explained.
“This is Angelic script, also known as Adonite language, alphabet of the Ark, or even Enochian. It’s the first written language of this world. Angels used it to communicate with God. The first humans also used it before the Fall,” Doctor Nrogbi lectured.
“Before what fall?” Kim asked, very confused. How could Maria have known all of this?
“Before Adam and Eve sinned. Before they were kicked out of Eden. It pre-dates Hebrew, Sanskrit, Aramaic, and other ancient languages. It’s very sophisticated and difficult to translate. These symbols look like a key, invocation, or lyric. Let me get something off my bookshelf.”
While the doctor frantically flipped through several of his books, other professors rattled off bits and pieces of their own views concerning the script. Kim learned that Enoch didn’t name the language, but his name was chosen for it thousands of years later because of his communications inside of Heaven.
The professors spoke of John Dee, a famous mathematician, cartographer, and seer of Queen Elizabeth I. He had a revelation about angelic script and later recorded it. Sir Edward Kelley, his colleague, also witnessed the revelation and recorded additional symbols called Keys or Calls. Their legitimacy had been debated for centuries.
“Ah, I found it. What you have here is a Key. Angel script is read left to right. These symbols together are sort of like a prayer. A rough translation in English means, ‘Forever fallen is forever damned, until one can unlock from within.’ I wish I knew where you found this. The context would help cypher the meaning,” Doctor Nrogbi stated.
“Anyone have an inkling to what the passage could mean?” Kim asked.
“I can only guess that fallen is either man, as in Adam…or possibly angels, as in the Fallen that waged war with Satan against God. He and all his angels were cast down and forever damned. However, there is a loophole suggested-‘unlock from within.’ Don’t know, just a guess,” answered Doctor Barry Lowenstein, an ancient comparative literature professor.
“Kim, you said you had a few more items to show us. Can we see? The anticipation is gnawing away at all of us!” Sandra exclaimed.
“Okay, I have a scroll that might be of some interest,” Kim answered as she gingerly took it out of her purse and laid it down on a long table. All the professors’ jaws dropped in astonishment. They all hovered over the scroll, whispering theories of what it might be. Doctor Nrogbi quickly grabbed his cell phone and began taking photos. The rest of the professors followed suit.
“Tanned animal hide, probably lamb or ram, of the highest quality for ancient times. This must be dated as far back as 500 B.C., maybe even a 1000 B.C. We need to carbon-date this. It’s in perfect condition. What was this stored in?” Doctor Lowenstein questioned.
“It came in a box. I didn’t bring it with me,” Kim replied, feeling suffocated and wanting to leave.
“We could use a combination of steam and chemicals to remove the seal so that it doesn’t break. That way we could read the scroll. Can you leave this with Sandra for the next couple of days?” asked Doctor Litner, an art history professor and expert in document preservation.
Can you bring in the box? Can you take us to where this was found? Can you leave this for display? Can we take this to the Smithsonian? Can you, Can you, Can you...Kim’s head was about to explode. She wasn’t about to disclose the ornate metal she still had in her purse.
“I’ll call Sandra and we can do this another time. Thank you all for your help,” Kim abruptly announced. She packed up her things and rushed out of the university. Not paying attention, she almost got hit by a car. Once in her Lincoln Navigator, she calmed down. Rush hour traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway gave her time to process.

About the Author:


Dina Rae is a new author that is here to stay.  As a former teacher, she brings an academic element to her work.  Her research on the Yezidi religion and love of art inspired her story telling for Halo of the Damned. 
Her other novel, The Last Degree, is a fictionalized account of the Freemason’s role in the New World Order. 
Dina lives with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs outside of Chicago.  She is an avid reader, tennis player, movie buff, and self-proclaimed expert on conspiracy theories.  Her favorite authors are Dan Brown, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, Lincoln Childs, Robert Preston, Brad Thor, Stephen King, and Anne Rice.  Her favorite movies are Devil’s Advocate, Angel Heart, Shutter Island, I Am Legend, and The Shining.

Find Dina Rae at:


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Spectral Book Tour!

For the Spectral book tour author Shannon Duffy has agreeed to do a guest post for I HEART BOOKS!

When asked how the romance aspect is different than in other novels, Shannon said this:
It’s hard to compare the romance in this novel to other books, but when Jewel moves to the latest new location, there are two boys vying for her heart. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but one (Chase), is the all American athletic type. He’s sweet and all about trying to win her over. He doesn’t want to give up on her, and pulls out all of his charm, including some killer abs. The other (Roman) is from Italy with a sexy accent to boot. He tells her unbelievable things about herself that she doesn’t know if she can believe. What he tells her is not only a part of the plot, but is also what shapes Jewel’s character. Although both guys are hot, it’s soon very clear to her who has captured her heart.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Right and The Real Trailer Reveal!

Ok so clearly I am computer challenged but I can't figure out how to put the actual video on my post :( So please click the link below and it will take you to The Right & the Real Book Trailer!!! It's a great trailer so don't miss it! I also have a review and interview with Joelle Anthony posted HERE if you would like to check that out as well! :D

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Right and the Real Review and Interview!

The author of The Right and The Real - Joelle Anthony - has kindly agreed to do an interview for her new novel with I HEART BOOKS! :)
SUMMARY: From the author of "Restoring Harmony." Kicked out for refusing to join a cult, 17-year-old Jamie must find a way to survive on her own.

Jamie should have known something was off about the church of the Right and the Real from the start, especially when the Teacher claimed he wasn’t just an ordinary spiritual leader, but Jesus Christ, himself. But she was too taken by Josh, the eldest son of one of the church’s disciples, and his all-American good looks. Josh is the most popular boy at school too, and the first boy outside the drama geeks to give Jamie a second look. But getting her Dad involved in a cult was not part of the plan when she started dating Josh. Neither was her dad’s marriage to the fanatic Mira, or getting kicked out, or seeing Josh in secret because the church has deemed her persona non grata.

Jamie’s life has completely fallen apart. Finding her way back won’t be easy, but when her Dad gets himself into serious trouble, will Jamie be ready to rescue him, and maybe even forgive him?

The Interview:

  1. Hi Joëlle! First of all, would you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me here. Aside from writing, I am also into cooking, reading (of course!), listening to baseball, and playing with my cats. I’m really lucky in that my husband is a fantastic musician ( and so there’s lots of live music around the house, and we laugh a lot, so it’s a pretty great life.
  1. How did you come up with the idea of The Right and The Real?
I get this question a lot, as do so many writers (not about my book, but ideas in general) and I love Tim Wynne Jones’ story about how he answers this. He told a group of kids he got his ideas at the Idea Store. One little kid raised his hand and said, “Oh, my mom loves that store. That’s where we got my bed and desk.” Or something like that. The truth is, that like all book ideas (for me anyway), The Right & the Real came about when a whole lot of little ideas, things I’ve heard, read, and thought about, collided and created a what if question in my head. What if a teen from a middle class family is suddenly homeless? It grew from there.
  1. Is there any of yourself in Jamie?
We both have a passion for theatre. She does musical theatre, which I can only dream about, and she’s more of the leading lady type, where I am the comic sidekick, but we love performing. Also, even when she’s acting brave, she’s kind of a chicken. That’s me for sure.
  1. Are you currently working on anything?
Of course! If I said no, my agent would be calling me up, “What? What do you mean, no?” Actually, I do have a first draft of something too new to talk about. It’s sitting for a while so that when I come back to it in May, I can tackle it with fresh eyes.
  1. What do you want readers to take away from The Right and The Real?
I really just want them to enjoy themselves. My intention is to tell a story that pulls you in and takes you away from your own life for a while.
  1. Do you think you will write a sequel to this novel? Or a completely new book with the same characters?
This story is complete, so no sequel. However, two of the characters have made an appearance in my new work in progress, much to my surprise! I set my books in Portland, and the neighbourhood for the next one is the same as Jamie’s, so the Coffee Klatch features in the next book too.
  1. Well thanks for your time Joëlle! Before you go, is there anything else you'd like to say to readers?
Keep reading! And support your libraries. Oh, and thank you!


My Review:

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Review: Well first, I'd just like to say thank you so much to Penguin/Putnam for sending an ARC of this book to me because otherwise, I would have missed out on a seriously great read! The Right and The Real has a totally unique idea and Anthony was able to keep it interesting and filled with fun the whole way through! I wasn't ever bored... there was never a section where I was like"can something just happen already??" like I've done with so many other books. No, The Right and The Real always had something happening! It was so realistic that it was kind of scary!

Jamie, the main character, although she was a really awesome heroine - when it came to her and Josh, she was really frustrating me! No one should put up with that kind of crap and I  couldn't believe some of the things she did for him! When Trent came in to the picture, I was like "finally!" but even then, she was stuck on Josh. Personally, I just loved Trent's personality. He was sweet, funny, flirty, and jus an overall great person! I loved all the scenes between him and Jamie - they were so cute and fun that more than once I found mysef giggling away while people in the grocery store looked at me oddly. hehe :)

I also really enjoyed the part of LaVon. He really helped Jamie while she was kicked out of her house - he was almost like the father she needed, in a weird way, while her real one was being brainwashed.  

All the characters just had really uniqu personalities and you couldn't help but love every one of them! They each brought something special to the novel.

The church was way creepy. I mean honestly, a Teacher who believes he's Christ risen again and hundreds of people who blindly follow him no matter what... CREEPY! It was actually kind of hard to read the sections on how they were treating Jamie's dad... it just seemed SO realistic that it made you want to cry in sorrow or scream in rage!

Overall, Joelle Anthony has written an amazing book and I absolutely cannot wait for her next novel!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

My 17th Birthday Giveaway!!

That's right - I'm turning 17!! YAY! So I've decided to go through my bookshelf and have a giveaway! There's some new things, some old things... lots of different books that YOU can possibly win! :D Unfortuantely, because I'm sending these myself, this giveaway is CAN/US only. I'll be able to afford an international giveaway soon hopefully! :D So, scroll down, read the rules, and enter the giveaway!

P.S. Don't forget to enter my E-book BLAST Giveaway while your at it! Open until April 16th :)

This Giveaway Begins On April 6th (my birthday :D) And Ends On April 30th.


  • Canada/US ONLY - sorry to my international followers :(
  • You must be a follower of I HEART BOOKS
  • There will be one winner
  • If I get to 250 followers, I will add one winner so there will be two winners!
  • Ummm yup I think that's pretty much it! :D hehe HAVE FUN!

Possible Prizes: (The winner may choose ONE of the following:)

Why We Broke Up   Betrayed (House of Night, #2)   EnthusiasmThe Pineville Heist

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Sykosa Blog Tour!

About The Book, About The Author

Please note that although Sykosa deals with teenage characters, it contains some very mature content and situations.

Sykosa (that’s “sy”-as-in-”my” ko-sa) is a junior in high school. She belongs to an exclusive clique of girls called the “Queens.” The leader is her best friend Niko. Their friendship has been strained lately because Tom—Sykosa’s first boyfriend boyfriend—has gotten all serious about making her his pretty Prom princess. That is if he ever gets around to asking her. Before Prom, there’s a party at Niko’s cottage where parental supervision will be nil. He wants to have sex. She doesn’t. He sometimes acts like that doesn’t matter. It matters. Sykosa has a secret she has never told anyone about. Although, some people—Tom included—know anyway. It happened last year and it was big and she’ll cry if she talks about it so she’s done talking about it, okay? Never mind, it’s nobody’s business. Except it keeps happening, and it never stops. She doesn’t want to deal with it. He does. She sometimes acts like that doesn’t matter. It matters.
 Get it on Amazon.

Justin Ordoñez was born in Spain, raised in the mid-west, and currently lives in Seattle. He’s nearly thirty years old, almost graduated from the University of Washington, and prefers to wait until TV shows come out on DVD so he can watch them in one-shot while playing iPad games. For fifteen years, he has written as a freelance writer, occasionally doing pieces as interesting as an editorial, but frequently helping to craft professional documents or assisting in the writing of recommendation letters for people who have great praise for friends or colleagues and struggle to phrase it.Sykosa is his debut novel. Visit Justin on his websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.


Interview With The Author

1. Who or What is a Sykosa?
Sykosa is a sixteen year old junior in high school. She’s the main character of a novel I’ve written by the same name. For a quick rundown, she attends a prestigious preparatory academy, is part of the school’s coolest clique, “the Queens,” and she has started dating the boy she’s secretly been crushing on for a year, Tom. It’s taken a year to start dating him because A) there was this SUPER HUGE thing that happened during her sophomore year, and it delayed things and made being intimate with Tom difficult, and B) she kinda starts seeing stars around him and loses the ability to behave in any type of serious manner.
2. Why is Sykosa different from other novels?
It’s different because youth driven literature has become full of metaphors for danger that seem to have split into either science fiction or fantasy. (Before I go any further, I like both genres, so I’m not being a snob!) Sometimes, it feels like instead of dealing with real problems, it’s easier to have kids use magic. And instead of facing real contemporary issues, kids should fight aliens or something. These metaphors are meant to represent real life, but I fear they’ve slightly crossed over into a bit of denial about contemporary Americanism, which is a hard topic to write about since our country is in an identity crisis, and has been for about 11 years. Sykosa is an attempt to counter-act this trend. When I was young, I read books about young people that blew me away like One Fat Summer and The Outsiders. These books felt real, and it felt like I could slip into them at any moment. The writing was gritty, it was unapologetic, it was brilliant. I just don’t see many of those around, and I wanted to write one, and I wanted to write one with a female protagonist.
3. Why did you chose cross-gender writing?
Toward the end of the my high school education, I was allowed to split my school day from my normal, traditional education and a newer style, self-directed educational program. I took an English class where my English teacher, someone who I’m still friends with to this day, gave me only one assignment for an entire semester, and it was, “Perform a deep self-evaluation of yourself and your writing and come up with one goal for what you’re going to improve on.” At the time, I was seriously into writing, and had taken to writing a few books per year, but most of them were in the first person, and they were just me talking about myself. The issue was that I had been in a serious car accident the year prior and I had injured a friend in it. (He fully recovered, but never forgave me). I had tried to write a first person story about myself many times since the accident, but I was constantly failing because I was dealing with some lingering self-loathing and guilt. As a way to get away from it, I decided I wanted to work on a story I had been thinking about for a while, but that I never started writing for one super scary reason.
The main character was a teenage girl.
Odd as it might sound, I was intimidated by the fact that the main character was a woman. So I faced my fear and said my goal would be to write women better, and I proceeded to work with several teachers and several female students to help me craft a female character that was realistic, yet met my vision of her as well. This challenge stuck with me into my adult life, and it eventually found its ultimate form in Sykosa.
4. How will I know I’m a fan of Sykosa?
I’m glad you asked! has tons of stuff to help you determine if this book is right for you. Below you’ll see some humorous diagrams I’ve made, but at the website you can read an excerpt of the book, watch the book trailer, read character profiles and really get a solid understanding of Sykosa’s world.
5. What kind of stuff influenced you to write Sykosa?
The primary motivators for Sykosa were Buffy The Vampire Slayer and It by Stephen King. It so happened, in 2001, I moved in with a woman I was dating. She was a fan of Buffy, so I had to watch it and became a fan myself. While most people were probably drawn to the vampire killing, it was the last thing I was interested in. I thought Whedon created an interesting cast of personalities and analyzing them was something I enjoyed. At the time, I was reading It. What I liked about It was the small town, insular feel to the novel, and how the inhabitants of this town were able to show a “front” of values, but were secretly hiding and allowing evil to proliferate all around them. From these two things came Sykosa, a girl who does not have any super powers, nor does she kill any vampires, but she did have a traumatic event happen in her life, and she’s struggling to deal with it, and its made no easier by the fact that her small, insular parochial school has decided to ignore the incident.
6. What is your most favorite and least favorite part of Sykosa?
The most favorite part is easy. It’s Sykosa’s best friend Niko, who just gets my blood pumping every time I have to write her. I love Sykosa, she’s definitely the main character and the story would never work without her, but I could sing Niko’s praises all day and all night. She’s such an interesting young woman and to see how she’s developed over the years as I’ve written the story has been a real treat. When someone first reads Sykosa and then decides to talk to me about it, I’m secretly waiting to hear them mention Niko. It’s never the first thing they say, it’s never the last, it’s always sandwiched somewhere in the middle, “By the way, this Niko—I love her!”
My least favorite part… Wow, that’s hard to answer, isn’t it? In the middle of the book, there’s a section called an Interlude, which is a story structure that Stephen King used in It, and that I borrowed as an homage to it. There’s a section where Sykosa, Niko and her mother are driving in a car together. I swear, I rewrote it fifty times—maybe more—and it’s never read right to me. It just never has.
7. What kind of writing schedule do you keep?
Let’s put it this way:  I recently heard a story that there are “cat writers” and “ox writers.” I’m an ox writer. I put in the time, every day, whether I’m feeling it or not, whether its terrible or not, even if I know I’ll just end up deleting it, I push through it and I do it anyway, and somewhere along the way, it ends up coming together as a story.
8. What’s the coolest story you have from writing Sykosa?
Sykosa is interesting in the sense that it took me a long time to finish it. The first couple years I was writing it, I was really just writing stories about the characters, feeling everyone out, figuring out how they fit together, but there was no plot holding it together or pushing anything forward. In 2003, I seriously debated quitting, as it had been the hardest piece of writing I had ever taken on, and to be honest, I was somewhat used to overcoming challenges easily and without a lot of adversity. And while I usually worked on the book on my bus ride to and from work, this one beautiful, sunny day, I decided not to. I sat on the bus and kept the binder of writing closed on my lap. When the bus stopped at Pioneer Square, a homeless black woman sat next to me. She noticed the book, then said to me, “So you’re writing a novel?” I couldn’t tell how she knew that, but I said, “Yes, I am.” She asked me what it was about, but I’m terrible at talking about my work, so I gave her the gist, “teenage girl” “high school” “likes her boyfriend” etc, etc. The conversation lasted one stop, when the bus opened its doors, the woman reached out with her hand, put it on my own (which was clinging to the book like I was protecting it or something) and she said, “Justin, I want you to know, God blesses this book. He blesses it, and you can’t quit.”
I had never mentioned to her that I was quitting it.
I started working on it after she left the bus, and I never spoke or saw her again.
True story.
9. Do you have any tips for people who are struggling with writing or want to take it up?
I do. First off, keep struggling. It’s a worthwhile struggle. There’s a lot of be gained from writing. And for those who want to take it up and for those who are already writing, I can’t stress this enough:  Draft. And by the I mean, write in drafts, don’t sit in a chair and challenge yourself to make it perfect now, write it perfect now, but instead write in drafts. If something only gets 5% better, that’s fine, cause it’s just one draft of what will be many, and eventually, that 5%, that 3%, that 7%—it adds up and you end up with a really good story. But, if you try to knock it out of the park every time you step up to the plate, you’ll swing the bat a whole lot, and you’ll be tired and exhausted when you’re done, but you won’t have a ton to show for it. That’s when most people quit. They think, “I can’t do this” or, “I don’t have the talent.” They don’t understand they’re doing it wrong, that’s all.
10. When you’re not writing, you’re…
Singing karaoke. I go once a week with some close friends of mine. It’s a fantastic release, also you get feedback from an audience, which you sometimes miss from writing, and you can forget how exciting it is to share your work with others. My favorite song to sing right now is Gaga’s “You and I.” Gaga has got a great voice that she can make raspy if she needs to, and I’ve got a voice that can match the raspier songs, so I think I do her proud. Otherwise I’m singing the Killers, Kings of Leon, Oasis or Lauryn Hill.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

In My Mailbox 6

Alright so I got some pretty awesome stuff this week! I'm very excited! :P
I'll start with the... less exciting lol and then move on to my most exciting!!

From the Library:

Enthralled - Various Authors
Angelfire - Courtney Allison Moulton
Halo - Alexandra Adornetto
Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi
Hereafter - Tara Hudson

From My Awesome Friend Hayley:

Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers

For Review:

Black City (Black City Chronicles, #1)

Siaknder (Karakoram Press) - M. Salahuddin Kahn
The Right and The Real (Penguin) - Jöelle Anthony
Cold Fury (Penguin) - T.M. Goeglein
The Waiting Sky (Penguin) - Lara Zielin
Black City (Penguin) - Elizabeth Richards

Thank you so so much to the my friend and these amazing publishers! I look forward to reading and reviewing these awesome novels :D

What do you get this week? Send me a link to your In My Mailbox so I can check it out!