Three writers' retreats ago, newest Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada member Shawna Romkey joined us for an intensive weekend of writing among a group of women who'd known each other for years. That might have put some folks off, wading into a cottage filled with old friends in an atmosphere of focused creative intention.
But I knew I'd met a kindred spirit when she put on her Xena Warrior Princess pajamas that first night. On the final day, she was in my brainstorming group with Tara MacQueen -- a glorious moment for all three of us.
It's my very great pleasure today to be part of Shawna's debut release blog tour.
1 - SPEAK OF THE DEVIL is a 2013 Crescent Moon Press release. Shawna's debut novel packs Young Adult yearning for love with the paranormal powerhouse of angels and demons duking it out for earthly souls. Remember when you were a senior in high school and everything felt as if the world would end if this didn't happen or that thing did happen? For main character Lily, it's not about outfits that don't pull together. It's about the war in heaven ending up as her school newspaper assignment.
2 - Before we go any farther, feast your eyes and ears on Shawna's book trailer by Rachel Firasek, with selected angel photography by Cher Fields.
3 - If it seems like Shawna is all over the blogosphere these days, her 32-stop blog tour may have something to do with that. Celebrating her dream-come-true brings us to today's book review, which is one of 20 starred stops on the tour.
A starred stop means there is a hidden Easter egg somewhere in the post. The SPEAK OF THE DEVIL Easter eggs are letters that stand out in some way. For a full list of Shawna's blog tour stops, visit her web site home page and scroll to the bottom:
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL Blog Tour
"If you find them and decipher the passcode, you can win a signed copy of SPEAK OF THE DEVIL, a swag pack and a $25 Amazon gift card! Once you've found the eggs in each post [including Shawna's own blog posts] put them together to find the secret passcode.
Tweet the code, including @sromkey #speakofthedevil
Hint 1 - The letters are in order
Hint 2 - The passcode will look like this: (--- --- - ---- -- -- -----)
One winner will be chosen from the entries on Easter, March 31st! Good luck!" - Shawna Romkey
4 - SPEAK OF THE DEVIL brings readers to contemporary Missouri, where teen heroine Lily tries to navigate her way clear of the rockier aspects of adolescence. She's carved a way through her parents' divorce, yet the attentions of her friend Mike leave her reflexively pushing him back to arms' length.
5 - Before she can open herself to begin more than a flirtation with him, a fatal car accident rips Lily's friends from her life forever. Struggling with survivor's guilt, Lily discovers all the sights, sounds and smells of their shared hometown hold her frozen in grief. Reaching out to her dad and his new family, Lily moves to Kansas City and tries to move on with the life that was spared--hers.
6 - Shawna's voice is perfect for the YA genre, capturing Lily's defensive tone with wry observations about life as only an intrepid student reporter can make:
"I took a seat near the front with my camera. High school theater was my beat, so I did my duty. I'd seen several high school performances, and even to other high schoolers they were usually pretty bad. Teenagers are so tied up in their developing self-esteems to be 'in the moment' and uninhibited, which helps with acting. (I know this from watching a lot of Bravo.)"
7 - SPEAK OF THE DEVIL pits two love interests against Lily's wounded heart. Will it be Luc, he of the time-stands-still gaze and mega-watt charisma? Or will more accessible Mo who makes her laugh and forget be the one to find the chink in her armor?
8 - Shawna's romantic tension is taut and filled with wonderfully identifiable moments, yet that only encompasses one part of her YA paranormal debut. As a dark fantasy/vampire author myself, and a Supernatural devotee, it's a joy to report that Shawna's heavenly skirmishes are filled with unnerving details like watching nubby demon horns emerge. If a book is set in a paranormal world, I like to feel somewhat spooked by what's going on.
9 - Plus, there's a lot of questioning faith as a result of so much random loss. If there's a serious desire to ask 'what's it all about?' then I'm hooked.
10 - Shawna really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:
" 'Are you okay to drive?' he asked.
Oh, good one, knowing my history and about my friends. I thought it was a low blow though.
'Go to hell,' I said. This, for some reason, brought out a burst of laughter from Sean, who again, I believed to be completely sober.
I just shook my head and got in my car. Mo stood there looking hopeless while I drove off.
I looked back in the rear view as I was pulling out of the parking lot. Sean had parked the van and the four of them were headed inside. Rehearsal I imagined. I drove down the road for a few minutes then thought, I'm not grounded. I don't have to be home. And I really wanted to see what these people were up to, so I turned around and parked in the front parking lot, where the teachers parked since after all it was after school hours. I took my phone, put it on silent, and headed down to where I was sure they'd all be, the theater."
11 - For anyone heading to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City, Missouri - setting for SPEAK OF THE DEVIL - Shawna will be at the Giant Book Fair on Sat, May 4th from 11:00 - 2:00, Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.
12 - You can find Shawna on Facebook
and on Twitter @sromkey
13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!
"Julie fumbled with the wipers while I pulled the sun visor down to check my face in its little rectangular mirror, even though I'd only left my vanity like five minutes ago. The lights on either side lit up the interior of the car. I reached into my tiny party purse to find my lip gloss, which was easy to locate since I'd only packed the essentials in my bag: phone, some cash, and make-up. As I glanced at myself, I saw Mike in the reflection, smiling at me from the back seat. I stuck my tongue out at him, making him laugh, and put on the lip-gloss, fully aware of how flirty I acted.
The windshield wipers couldn't keep up with the sudden downpour. The pitter-patter turned to thumping. Hail came down in gumball-sized pellets. 'Damn.' Julie jerked the steering wheel to keep The Whale off the curb.
'Slow down, Jules.' Mike gripped Julie's headrest. 'We can pull over until it passes.'
'Yeah.' She squinted to see the road before her.
I pressed my lips together to smooth out the gloss. 'Damn is right. I didn't bring a jacket.'
The Whale swerved to the right crunching along the gravel on the side of the road. I braced myself in my seat. Julie leaned up to the steering wheel and peered over it as my grandmother sometimes did when she drove. I squinted because of the stupid light up visor mirror. I slammed it shut, but Julie panicked and over corrected, pulling The Whale to the left and careening over the yellow dotted line in the middle of the street.
'Julie!' Mike shouted.
Time slowed and ticked out in heart beats.
Julie cringed, her hands moving up to shield her face. Her head turned away from the highway.
Mike reached protectively from the back seat.
The headlights illuminated the rail of the overpass.
The car hit the rail on the opposite side of the road with a hard thud.
Crap. We're going over the bridge.
The Whale's nose pointed down toward the water.
A jolt forward and my forehead slammed into the dashboard.
The Whale flipped in the air. I'm upside down.
Did my mom say goodbye when I left?"
- Shawna Romkey, 2013