Son of a Pitch Entries and an Interview With a Comedian Facing Infertility

Good evening, lovelies! I’ve put all the entries for Son of a Pitch on a separate site where I can focus on all the contest goodness. Click the rose to see the entries. This is an excellent opportunity to see the queries and first 250 words of up-and-coming writers who are hoping to secure an agent or publishing deal.

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On a totally unrelated note, I’m excited to share that I’ll have an interview on the blog next week with Wendy Litner. She’s a comedian who’s working on a film about her journey through infertility.

Author Hayley Stone on Being Published, Romance in Sci Fi, and Feedback from Readers

I’m thrilled to share with you a fun Q&A with the talented writer who was my critique partner for INCONCEIVABLE. Hayley Stone’s debut novel, MACHINATIONS, is on fire, and knowing how awesome this story is, I’m not the least bit surprised! After all, it’s got a strong woman as the main character, plenty of action, and a touch of romance. Thanks to Hayley for taking the time to talk to me about life since the release of MACHINATIONS.

Wren: What’s been the most surprising aspect of being a published author?

Stone: The unpredictable cycle of highs and lows. One day, you feel as though no one will ever read your book and why didn’t you listen to your parents and get a real job and oh god you’re going to die poor—and the next day you get an email from your publisher about attending San Diego Comic-Con and joining NYT bestselling authors at an afterparty.

For a while, everything is cloud nine and surreal and wonderful, but then you gently—or sometimes not so gently—float back down to earth and the cycle starts over. You start worrying again. Something goes wrong, while something else goes right, and nothing’s happening, and everything’s happening, and so on and so forth.

Being a published author isn’t about coasting through non-stop success. It’s about finding your rhythm in a club where the music is constantly changing, and sometimes you can’t find the right beat.

It’s madness. Wonderful, terrifying madness.

Wren: Tell us about some of the feedback you’ve received from readers.

Stone: A lot of readers seem to really connect with Rhona, and enjoy her brand of snark, while also acknowledging her impulsiveness and fallibility as the story’s heroine. I’m glad that both her strengths and flaws appear to be coming across, because that’s the purpose of her character: I wanted to portray a realistic woman dealing with horrible circumstances far beyond the pale of normal human experience. Sometimes she does a good job; other times she sucks. Just like most of us.

Readers also seem to adore one of the secondary characters, Rhona’s best friend, Samuel Lewis. This comes as no great surprise as Samuel is a precious cinnamon roll, too good for this world, too pure. Except, as we come to find out in book two, he’s more than capable of making some tough, and questionably ethical, decisions, too. I think Samuel fans will be especially interested to learn more about his past in the upcoming sequel, Counterpart. *teaser!*

Wren: I love the fact that your book has a romantic storyline included in the narrative. Why did you decide to include that in a sci fi novel?

Stone: I set out to explore humanity and identity in Machinations, and relationships play an understandably large role in people’s lives. One of the things the sci-fi genre does best is take a relatable experience (like being in love) and position it inside a unique “What if?” scenario. In the case of Machinations, that turned out to be a troubled romance between the main character, Rhona—a clone who inherits all of these memories and emotions—and her progenitor’s lover. It asks the questions: could you love someone who looked and behaved identical to the person you’d lost? Should you?

Wren: Writing a book is one thing. Selling it is another. What have you done to get the word out about MACHINATIONS?

Stone: I’ve done quite a few interviews like this one! My favorite, by far, has been this post I wrote for Chuck Wendig’s blog about the five things I learned writing Machinations. I also attended San Diego Comic-Con as an author and had my very first book signing there, which was pretty awesome and hopefully got Machinations some nice publicity!

I’m also fortunate to be a part of a great reading and writing community on Twitter and Facebook, so I reached out to my friends there and they’ve helped me spread the word. At this point, an author really can only hope their work is connecting with some people and that they’re telling others to read it, too!

Wren: What have you learned through your journey to publication that you want to share with other writers who are still querying?

Stone: One rule: It takes as long as it takes.

In our driven world, it’s advice that seems easier said than done, but it holds especially true for this industry. Professional deadlines and personal goals notwithstanding, don’t try and put a timer on your success. Querying takes times, submission takes time, edits take time. What might happen quickly for one person could take a year for another; it’s not a sign of failure and it’s almost never a reflection of the quality of the work either. Comparison is the thief of joy. Keep your eyes on your own paper, keep writing and putting your work out there, and you’ll be fine.

Additionally, learn to recognize the signs of burnout, and take care of yourself. Seriously. You’re important. So relax once in a while.

Wren: What projects do you have in the works?

Stone: Currently, I’m working on a short story that takes a more generous view of artificial intelligence. It’s a nice break from novel-writing. Sometimes you just need a change of pace, you know?

And in terms of long-form work, I’m developing ideas for book 3 of the Machinations series, and have begun tinkering around with an epic fantasy as well. Lots of exciting things in the pipeline!

You can buy MACHINATIONS at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

Son of a Pitch! Bonjour!

INCONCEIVABLE Cover.jpgBonjour, my lovelies! This is a special greeting for all those writers who are participating in the pitch contest, Son of a Pitch! I look forward to reading your pitches and sharing my feedback. Just a note about the theme: All the participating published authors are choosing a hero or villain from Disney to use on their blogs. I chose Belle because her ability to look beyond the surface and see what’s inside reminds me of Hatty, the main character in my novel, INCONCEIVABLE!

Just to help you get to know me a bit better, here are seven fun Tegan facts:

    1. I secured my own publishing deal for INCONCEIVABLE! with respected indie publisher Curiosity Quills. I had hoped to get an agent to represent me, but when CQ came calling with so much love for my story and a great vision for promoting it, I couldn’t say no.
    2. I’m a Francophile. I studied French for four years in high school and all through college. So, I can parler. I adore the French language and culture. I’ve traveled all over the world, but France is one of my favorite countries.
    3. belle meme1This is Foodie Central. (Sorry, Belle.) I adore food, but I’m not a snob. From Cheetos to ostrich steak, I appreciate a wide range of delicious foods. My favorite ethnic cuisines are Ethiopian and Mexican.
    4. I have one husband, two kitties, and three kids. It’s a hot mess up in here, ya’ll. Is it any wonder I have chronic “mom brain?”
    5. I love to read in many genres. I can appreciate and enjoy Stephen King as much as Nicholas Sparks. Some of my favorite books are The Alchemist, 11/22/63, the Chronicles of Narnia, Brave New World, and Accidental Saints. How’s that for variety?
    6. autumn meme1Fall is my favorite season. Yep, I’m kind of basic in that way. Bring on the pumpkins, lattes, falling leaves, and Halloween. One of my favorite lines from INCONCEIVABLE! is about autumn.
    7. I was in a community theatre production of Beauty and the Beast. I wish I could tell you I played Belle, but I was much better as a dancing, singing plate in the enchanted castle. There were three of us plates and we were kind of fabulous. #Justsaying

I look forward to finding out more about you! Please connect with me on Twitter and Facebook. Because I’ve had so much love and support from other writers on my journey, I’m thrilled to pay it forward by helping you!

 

Machinations: A New Sci Fi Adventure

Today, my critique partner and friend, Hayley Stone, is celebrating the release of MACHINATIONS, her debut novel. Huzzah! You can purchase your copy from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo.

Having read an early draft of the complete book, I can assure you it’s an amazing story that will keep you flipping pages. You have a strong woman as the central character, a romance woven into the narrative, and plenty of intense action. As a fan of the Matrix trilogy, I especially loved her take on how sophisticated computers could spell doom for humankind. If you’re in a reading slump or need another summer read, I strongly encourage you to move MACHINATIONS to the top of your list!

Here’s the official description:

Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, 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.

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.

A Massive Giveaway to Support Indie Authors: Thanks, Chevrolet!

As part of its #DayItForward campaign, which encourages people to spread kindness on this Leap Day, Chevrolet gave me an Amazon gift card so I could give away a ton of ebooks by indie authors. This includes self-published books and books from small presses.  I’ve linked this list to the corresponding tweet. Retweet these tweets for a chance to win the books that catch your attention! I’ll do the drawing Wednesday, March 1 at 9pm ET. This is just round one! I’m going to do another massive giveaway next week!

Here are the books I’m giving away:

Please join me in showing appreciation to Chevrolet for supporting indie authors. They made it possible for me to give away all of these ebooks!

 

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.

 

 

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.

9 Gift Ideas for Couples Facing Infertility or Waiting to Adopt

tagDecember is a challenging month for couples struggling with infertility. There’s tremendous pressure to put on a happy face, accept every party invitation, and spread holiday cheer. At the same time, the couple may be struggling with facing one more holiday season and the end of one more year without realizing their dream of having a child/becoming parents. The Decembers when we were hoping for a pregnancy and then, when we were waiting to be matched to our first child by our adoption agency, were quietly painful for us. So, if you know someone who is waiting to become parents through conception, surrogacy, or adoption, here are nine gift ideas for these couples.

  1. Massage gift certificates. When you’re waiting to become a parent (regardless of the route you’re taking), the wait is stressful. I carried the stress in my shoulders and neck. Whenever I had the chance to get a massage, I did it because the massage helped me reset and refresh mentally and physically. This is a great gift for men and women experiencing infertility.
  2. Passes to a grown-up venue or activity. When you’re struggling to conceive, sometimes you just want to go someplace where you won’t be bombarded by hoards of adorable children and harried parents. So, give them passes to an art or history museum, a comedy club, or a tasting at a local winery.
  3. Cash. Whether the couple is financing fertility treatments, surrogacy, or an adoption, chances are good that cold hard cash would be a welcome gift to help them on their journey to parenthood.
  4. Lessons. This is an especially great gift when you know the couple well. Art classes, guitar lessons, and time with a sky diving instructor give the couple the chance to develop a new hobby or embark on a new adventure. This is a great gift because it helps them focus on a new and exciting activity.
  5. Restaurant gift certificates. If the couple’s gearing up for expensive procedures or a foreign adoption, they may be avoiding expensive meals in restaurants. That’s one reason this can be a really meaningful gift.
  6. A book. For the person experiencing infertility, a good book can be a fantastic gift. Choose a non-fiction book on a topic they enjoy or consider a novel such as INCONCEIVABLE! that reflects the various facets of infertility: the craziness, heartbreak, and hope of re-imaging your dream of having children. As someone recently told me about my novel: it’s one thing to hear people say, ‘You’re not alone.’ It’s another thing to read a story about a couple who’s experiencing the same things you are.
  7. A journal and pen set. There are so many emotions, thoughts, and hopes to process when you’re struggling to conceive and writing is a great way to do it. Receiving a journal and pen set as a gift may be just the encouragement your friend or family member needs to start getting words on paper.
  8. A romantic getaway. One of the most challenging aspects of infertility is dealing with its impact on the romantic aspects of your relationship. Giving a gift certificate for one or two nights at a nearby bed and breakfast can be a beautiful way to help your loved ones refresh their relationship.
  9. Food-a-month club. Send fruit, Chicago delicacies, or other treats to your loved ones through the mail. Let’s face it. There are days when you’ve had another negative pregnancy test or you’ve found out about another delay in your adoption. Frankly, you just don’t want to leave the house. This is one of those gifts that can be a wonderful comfort to a couple going through infertility.

What gifts do you recommend for a couple going through infertility? What gifts should people avoid giving?

Top image via Flickr by mac9416

Merry Christmas image via Flickr by Calsidyrose