From DocuDrama to Cheetos: What I Like/Love This Week

Hope your week has been simply grand. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for me with lots of snow and celebrating for my recent birthday. Here’s a look at what’s popping my wig these days. Be sure to let me know what’s captured your attention so far this week!

  1. Making a Murderer. Unless you’ve abandoned social media, you’ve probably heard all the buzz about this docudrama series on Netflix. The 10-episode mini-series tells the painfully frustrating story of Steven Avery, a man exonerated for rape and later brought to trial in a separate incident on murder charges. Avery believes the authorities who have a personal grudge against him and resented his exoneration framed him for a murder. The storytelling is measured, understated, and compelling. I’ve been burned out on true crime stories for many years, so the fact that I’m really fascinated by this story speaks highly of how well it’s produced. Even though I have no idea if Avery is guilty or not, this is a gripping program. Like.
  2. Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Nadia doesn’t look like a Lutheran pastor. She doesn’t talk like a pastor. In a word, she’s amazing. (Note: I’m not Lutheran.) I first discovered her this fall when she was a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air, my favorite podcast. Give it a listen. If you like what you hear, then you’ll enjoy her new book, Accidental Saints. Love.
  3. Birthday food and drink. I had a caramel cake, blue bubbly, and Cheetos. Tasty love.
  4. Esther Dalseno. esther cropI “met” Esther through Twitter and Instagram, and then read her debut novel, DROWN. As you may know from my previous post on this book, it’s a retelling of The Little Mermaid fairytale. Esther has a new novel poised to come out this year, and she asked me to read it and give an early review. GABRIEL AND THE SWALLOWS is pure magic. I’m so excited for readers to experience Esther’s next book! Double love.

 

 

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Woman Versus Machines: Cover Reveal for MACHINATIONS

When we were going through infertility, I loved to watch big-budget movies about the unlikely hero or heroine overcoming the odds to beat the bad guys. There’s something about watching a dramatic struggle on the silver screen that gives you the message, even if subconsciously, that if these people can hold on to hope through their quest to save the planet, surely you can keep the faith through your journey to becoming parents. I think that may be one reason I love almost any book or movie that has hope as a central theme, whether it be women’s fiction, literary, romance, sci fi, speculative, or any other genre.

And I think that’s one of the many reasons I love MACHINATIONS, the debut novel from my critique partner, Hayley Stone. I was thrilled to read an early version of her manuscript. She’s such a talented writer! I loved getting to cheer for her as she revised it, pitched it, snagged an agent, and then secured a publishing deal with Hydra/Random House. (Cue the confetti!) Incidentally, Hayley did the same thing for me, reading and critiquing INCONCEIVABLE when it was in its early stages, and then being my cheerleader and sounding board as it moved through the process to publication.

So, it’s my absolute pleasure to unveil the cover of Hayley’s debut novel, MACHINATIONS.

Machinations Final CoverLet’s pause a moment and appreciate the fact that Hayley’s written a compelling sci fi novel that has a young woman at its center (and on its cover), a woman who takes on rogue computers like a boss. The first time I read this book, it reminded me of The Matrix Trilogy, one of my favorite series of sci fi films. But rest assured that MACHINATIONS is its own, fresh, enthralling story about humans battling machines. Finally, for readers like me who like a side of meaningful romance with their high stakes action sequences, this novel delivers on that point as well.

Here’s the official synopsis:

This action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

Intrigued? I thought you might be. MACHINATIONS arrives June 14th, but you can pre-order the e-book now through Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. And don’t forget to add it on Goodreads.

Hayley StoneHayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Top image via Flickr by Wonderlane

The Continuing Story of Ever Upward: Childfull Living After Infertility

EUCoverJustine Froelker is the author of Ever Upward, a memoir of her journey through infertility and the decision she and her husband made to live as a childfull couple. Justine created this word to mean a life that’s full of opportunities to be around children, to love them, and be a part of their lives while not being parents themselves. The book chronicles a heartbreaking, emotional, and beautifully-told journey of how they arrived at their decision and how they’ve embraced it.

I am so inspired by Justine’s transparency as she continues to share about her life and gives voice to this choice that sometimes invites criticism and sparks controversy. (For the record, I’m supportive of couples finding the resolution to their infertility that’s right for them, whether that be pregnancy through fertility treatments, surrogacy, adoption, childfull living, or any other option.)

March third marks the one year anniversary of Ever Upward’s publication. I decided to ask Justine to share about the experiences she’s had in the months since its release.

Tegan: As more people have read Ever Upward, what kind of response have you gotten?
Justine: There is nothing quite like getting an email, tweet, Facebook message or review on your book, especially a book as personal as Ever Upward. A bit of of my feedback has been on editing, which I am grateful and completely realize myself. Ever Upward is my first book, without a huge publisher and one that I honestly needed to be in people’s hands, and so I was inexperienced and limited with my editing. One day, when the 2nd edition is picked up for Ever Upward, I promise this will be fixed. I am also confident that my second book will be edited to my critics liking. The biggest response to Ever Upward has been a simple thank you and people sharing pieces of their story with me. Infertility or not, successful treatments or not, our stories are much more alike than different. Most people write me and say that they found their voice in my words, the things they have not been able to say out loud, yet, were found in my story. Every message reminds me to keep fighting to get Ever Upward in more hands, because it is changing lives for the better. It is continuing to change mine too.

Tegan: Have you received any feedback or reactions to your book that have surprised you? If so, tell us about them.
Justine: The biggest surprise has been in what a home Ever Upward has found among mothers. I wrote a blog post about it a while back, because it is incredible to me that Ever Upward has been accepted and loved so much by a club that I will never technically fit into. The journey of infertility leaves lifelong scars, whether or not you end up a mother in the traditional definition of the word. Ever Upward gives us all permission to own our stories, all of our stories.

Tegan: What opportunities have you had to share your story and talk about childfull living since your book was published?
Justine: I am continuing work on building the platform, the part of being published that is so foreign and difficult for me, and frustrating! I have found that my story does not go viral and in many ways I feel completely invisible. I am the advocate who’s story did not end up how we all want it to, happy with 2.5 kids. This is difficult for a lot of people. I am also sharing messages that are healthier and as of right now not the norm in the infertility world. However, I have written for The Huffington Post many times, which I am so grateful for. I have also written for mindbodygreen, The Good Mother Project and Still Mothers. My story has also been featured in CNN.com and I was quoted in Redbook Magazine, both of which felt so huge for the healthier messages in infertility advocacy!

Tegan: What projects related to infertility/miscarriage/childfull living do you have in the works?
Justine: I am part of the documentary Don’t Talk About the Baby and I am continuing to write at my blog www.everupward.org. I have stepped back a bit in pushing the platform to concentrate on finishing the follow up book to Ever Upward. I am actively involved in social media by sharing my own writing, other pieces and helping people to define their own happy ending and especially work on the self-care.

Justine FroelkerJustine Froelker lives in St. Louis with her husband Chad. They have two dogs, and have lovingly restored an older home. She’s a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (based on the research of Brené Brown). Justine runs a private practice in St. Louis. SHe has worked with clients dealing with issues such as infertility, anxiety, depression, addictions, and eating disorders. In addition, Justine writes for St. Louis Health & Wellness Magazine.

Cover reveal: Blackbird Summer by Em Shotwell

One of the best aspects of Twitter is its ability to help writers connect. And I’m so grateful the little blue bird helped me connect with the author of Blackbird Summer, Em Shotwell. I simply can’t wait to read her book, which arrives April 5 from Owl City Press! And I’m thrilled to be participating in her cover reveal today! After you enjoy the coolness of her cover (I mean, it’s so, so cool!), add her book to your to-be-read list on Goodreads. Check out the synopsis for her book; it promises elements of magical realism and romance with Southern Gothic undertones.

Blackbird Digital MEDIUMSynopsis:

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.


 

I asked Em what emotions she wants her cover to evoke and why. Here’s her response:

First, I have to say that my cover designer is amazing! I originally had a different idea for the cover, but once she showed me the mock-up ideas for her vision, I was hooked!

For me, the girl sitting under the tree, looking at something that we, the readers, can’t see, gives me the heebie-jeebies. That same feeling that we all get when we are home alone and hear a strange noise. When your brain says you are over reacting—but your heart speeds anyway.

Blackbird Summer is a tale of first love and friendship and sisterhood. But it is also about loss and heartache and what it means to be different in a place that views different as wrong. I feel that the cover does a wonderful job encompassing all of these things, and I hope readers do as well!

Em ShotwellEm Shotwell lives in South Louisiana with a husband who spoils her and two mini-superheroes who call her mom. Em thinks 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 being outdoors hiking, and debating Doctor Who facts with her obsessed ten-year-old son.

From Chips and Salsa to Downton: What I Like/Love This Week

Happy 2016, friends! Hope the new year is off to a fantastic start for you. One of my resolutions is to do a regular blog post highlighting the things I like/love each week. Feel free to share with me in the comments what made this week special for you–I’d love to hear about a newly-discovered movie or TV show, a recipe, a book, or anything else you want to share.

  1. Unexpected kindness. The kids and I went to pick up a to-go order of chips and salsa from our favorite local Mexican restaurant. A man I don’t know was also waiting in the lobby. In one quick movement, he tossed some cash on the counter and said he wanted to pay for our order! It was completely unexpected and kind. We thanked him as he hurriedly left, perhaps a little overwhelmed by the effusive appreciation of three small children dressed as storm troopers. LOVE!
  2. Crack cake. crack cakeI’d never heard of crack cake, but when I saw the rather simple recipe, I was intrigued enough to add it to my Pinterest food board. Then, I made the thing. Oh. My. Goodness. It was incredible. Not a crumb was left over. I highly recommend this cinnamon-y bundt cake. This recipe also enabled me to remove the cake from the bundt pan gorgeous and intact–a first for me! Incidentally, the recipe calls for white wine and I didn’t have any on hand, so I used what I had: pineapple juice. It was a perfect substitute. LOVE!
  3. The final season of Downton Abbey (no spoilers here).pipe and smoke it I admit it. Hubs and I watched the last season and Christmas special along with the Brits. It was a beautifully written and flawlessly acted set of episodes that brought the perfect ending to a program that’s become one of my all-time favorites. Aside from the absolute perfection that was the Christmas special, I enjoyed several key scenes involving Tom Branson. He’s tops in my book, primarily because we got to see a slow build as he changed over the course of the series. He embraced his place in the family, but maintained the spark that endeared him to Cybil and many viewers. Of course, the Dowager Countess was in fine form, as always. LOVE!
  4. Better Call Saul. With Downton done, I have a huge hole in the part of my heart where fictional characters reside. I’m looking for the next binge-worthy show. While I’m not sure I’ve found the next “it” show, I started watching Better Call Saul recently and really enjoyed it. This is a spin-off of Breaking Bad, a series that never resonated with me. After a couple of episodes, I just couldn’t get into it. So, I’m watching BCS with none of the baggage or context of Breaking Bad. Still, it’s well written and very well acted. I’m looking forward to getting a bit deeper into this series. LIKE!
  5. SNL’s Mom Translator sketch. Over the holidays, my sister-in-law and I really needed the help of the Mom Translator, a fake product featured in a “commercial” during Saturday Night Live. For some reason, she and I couldn’t accurately recall the name Kylo Ren, even though we’d both seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We each had variations that were weird and hilarious. Help, Mom Translator! LIKE!

Now it’s your turn! What do you like/love this week?

Crack cake image via It’s the Little Things Blog

Downton gif via Giphy

Top image via Flickr by jeffreyw