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!

 

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!

 

The Real Work of Journalists: 7 Ways the Movie Spotlight Got it Right

It’s hard to overstate how much I enjoyed the movie Spotlight. It chronicles the difficult, messy work of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team as they worked to uncover the priest abuse scandal in Boston (and beyond). The dialogue is excellent and it’s well acted. As a long-time journalist, I appreciated the way journalists were portrayed: as hard-working people doing an often thankless job because they care about illuminating the truth. Here are seven examples from the movie Spotlight of how journalists really do their job.

  1. We’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. When one of the characters knocks on a door and a priest opens the door, she quickly gathers her wits and begins asking him questions. She carefully words her queries, but does not avoid the painful topic of abuse.
  2. We track down sources, even if they won’t agree to a meeting. When I worked in a state capitol, other reporters and I often staked out offices, waiting for those we needed to interview to step into the hall so we could begin peppering them with questions. If you have to interview someone, you do all you can (within legal limits) to gain access to that person. That means there can be some boring downtime while you wait, but you have to be ready to go the moment that person emerges into the hallway. There were a couple of instances in the movie where reporters took advantage of the stake out to gain access.
  3. We often don’t see the full story initially. There’s a line in the movie from editor Marty Baron: “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around the dark.” It’s true because we have the difficult task of digging, researching, and uncovering. It’s hard to know the scope of your story at the outset. This was perfectly illustrated in the movie as we saw the scope of the story expand beyond what the reporters thought possible.
  4. We get lots of story pitches, and it’s hard to know which ones to take seriously. When I worked the assignment desk at a large television station in California. I received a call from a pay phone. It was a frustrated homeless woman who told me a story that, if true, was HUGE. I had to make a call as a recent j-school grad: take her seriously or dismiss her. After asking some questions, I told her I was interested in hearing more, but needed her to call back at a specific time the next day. Before we spoke again, I did some digging with some sources I had in city government and on the police force. In the end, I did a ton of leg work and then helped a reporter produce a story. It resulted in a high-ranking city official quitting her job in disgrace. In Spotlight, we discover reporters had some of the pieces of the priest sex abuse story years earlier, but had not taken the leads seriously enough to pursue a story. It happens in newsrooms all the time.
  5. Off-the-record information is useful. When I taught journalism classes, I had students every semester who asked about how to use off-the-record tips. My answer: use it to point you in the right direction. Off-the-record information can help you know who you need to interview, an issue you need to raise in an interview, or a place to find crucial information you need to continue working on your story. That was the case for a reporter in Spotlight. A tip from a lawyer helped him access records that were very important to the story.
  6. Open records are vital. When editor Marty Baron came to the Globe, he arrived from Florida where there were more liberal sunshine laws. He wasted little time going to court to get records unsealed in the priest abuse cases. Open records enable reporters to do a thorough reporting job.
  7. Sometimes it takes an outside voice to make you see things in a different way. When he took the helm at the globe, Marty Baron was an outsider, giving him a fresh perspective on the two priest abuse cases that had come to light, but gained little special coverage. He wasn’t afraid to challenge a massive institution in Boston, and push his staff to set aside their skepticism of him and dig deeper into the story.

What did you think of the movie Spotlight?

Top image via Flickr by William Hook

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.

The Mommy Box: Coping with the Child Who Isn’t There

kid bookMy youngest son is four years old. He recently discovered a book of children’s poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, a collection I adored when I was a kid. One line in particular gets me every time we read the book’s opening poem: “…it is but a child of air, that lingers in the garden there.” I know all too well what it is to love “a child of air.”

Infertility grief is difficult to handle on a regular day, so it’s no surprise that special occasions and holidays really increase the emotional intensity. What’s especially challenging for couples dealing with infertility is that they’re grieving for a child who has never existed. Unlike grief after a loved one’s death, there are no happy memories, photos of smiling faces, or videos of birthdays. There’s never even been a birthday, a smile, or a single memory for the child who isn’t there, the child who never has been.

Mommy boxOne of the most effective tools I created to deal with this grief was a mommy box. On small sheets of paper, I wrote down brief descriptions of things I wanted to do to make a memory with my child after he or she was in my arms (whether through birth or adoption) and stored them in a box a very talented friend had painted and given to me years earlier. My mommy box was an especially therapeutic tool around the holiday season when so much of the public Christmas displays, both sacred and secular, are geared toward children.

I remember arriving home after a Christmas church service one year when we were trying to conceive and almost running to the closet where I kept my mommy box. I had two or three things I just had to write down. For me, writing about something I wanted to do with my future child was a way to feel productive while we waited and to give my longing a tangible outlet. Every time I added a note to the mommy box, I felt relief and peace. It was important to me to write down the date so that someday, my child would see that I imagined the things we’d do together throughout the year.

mommy box notesSometimes instead of writing down the activities I wanted to do, I opened the box and read all the ones I’d already written. The slips of paper were little pieces of hope. I cried over them, held them, and prayed over them. They were, and still are, very important to me.

I’m happy to say that after we became parents through adoption, we did fulfill almost every hope and wish I’d jotted down in my memory box. And of course, those shared moments were just the beginning. My heart is now full of beautiful, happy memories of the things I’ve gotten to do with my children. I recently sat down with my oldest child and read through some of the pieces of paper in my mommy box. He was delighted to know all the hopes and dreams I had for him, for us.

Have you done anything similar to my mommy box to help you process your grief? I’d love for you to share about it in the comments because your technique may be just the thing that helps someone else cope.

Top image via Flickr by arctia

Author Kate McIntyre Talks Fantasy, Grief in Fiction, and Sequels

The-Deathsniffer's-AssistantI don’t remember exactly where I first met Kate McIntyre, whether it was in our publisher’s Facebook group or through Twitter, but I do remember being impressed with her and the synopsis for THE DEATHSNIFFER’S ASSISTANT from day one.

It’s an imaginative fantasy set in Edwardian England with a frighteningly unnerving murder mystery at its ooey gooey center. There are also flourishes of magic. And did I mention the flying carriages? Oh, my. There’s so much to love about this novel!

Many of you know that I go to the gym to read. Sure, my legs are churning away on the elliptical, but it’s really my mind that’s getting the workout as I devour wonderful works of fiction. Well, I was heading to the gym A LOT when I was reading Kate’s book because I Just HAD to know what happened next. I give this highly addictive read five out of five wrens. (Want to buy it? Get it here on Amazon!)five wrens1

I’m delighted to be hosting Kate on my blog today because reading her responses to my questions is like slipping into the back of a writers’ master class. I learned so much from interviewing her, and I’m really excited to share the conversation with you. She talks about exploring grief in her novel, world building, and character development.  I know you’ll enjoy hearing from this writer whom I so admire. (Incidentally, Kate interviewed me on her blog, and asked some questions about INCONCEIVABLE! that I haven’t previously discussed on any other blog. So, check it out here!)

Tegan: Describe the process of creating your own version of Edwardian England. How did it all come together?

Kate: I started building my world with exactly two things in mind. I wanted it to be full of magic and wonder and everything to constantly be oozing enchantment. I also wanted it to be humdrum and workaday, with the characters living in the midst of all this fantastic city not really seeing it as they hurried off to work.

That idea, the fantastic melding with the mundane, is the backbone of my work. I think it’s relevant to us, because there’s so much wonder and excitement in our world but how often do we notice it? It’s too familiar to get worked up about and we’re too busy to really care.

In my desire to capture that feeling, I knew that the world had to be a lot more modern than a lot of fantasy, so I aimed for the feel of the period between 1903 and 1922. I didn’t actually know much at first so I did a lot of research to get a sense of the aesthetic and the feel of the era. The Edwardian period was when the modern really began melding with the historic, and it isn’t uncommon to see a fine lady in full skirts walking a few steps from a dirty factory girl in trousers in photographs taken at the time.

Of course, my book isn’t set in Edwardian England, but in Darrington City, Tarland. So it wasn’t as simple as just carrying things over. I loved the fictional nation of Toulene in Inconceivable! and really enjoyed how it was such a neat melding of its bordering nations. It really felt like something that you’d built from the ground up, and that’s how it was for Darrington, too. I had to think about what technology Tarlish folks had available thanks to their magic. At the same time, I thought about where they wouldn’t have innovated. So there are no cars yet, but there are flashbulb cameras! A fully operational telephone-like network, but no steam engines. Some readers don’t even notice things like that, but it all helps make the world feel real!Kate McIntyre2

Tegan: I loved the interactions between Olivia Faraday (the deathsniffer) and her assistant, Chris Buckley. They each have their own quirks and hang-ups. How did you go about developing these characters and where did you look for inspiration?

Kate: Olivia was the first character I came up with. Immediately after deciding I wanted to write a fantasy murder mystery, I had my detective: a pint-sized hellion with no concern for anything but the chase, as elegant and brilliant as she was mocking and heartless. Chris grew into the spaces around Olivia. Despite being the narrator of the book, he’s the one who was built to compliment her. I made him mannered to match her crudeness, empathetic for her insensitivity, and kind for her cruelty. He also ended up as kind of a cringing, snobby dope to contrast Olivia’s fearlessly unapologetic intelligence.

It’s always been a priority for me to write characters human first and likeable second. And humans are a mostly flawed bunch. Even my favourite humans have things about them I can’t stand! So I really wanted readers to see Olivia and Chris as real people. That’s why they can sometimes be small-minded, petty, or obtuse. It’s also why they bicker constantly.

But I know your secret, everybody! Most everyone secretly loves to watch frustrating people bickering. Why else would reality tv have gotten so huge? So I let myself have a lot of fun with the way the two of them go back and forth. Sometimes he’s in the right and sometimes she is. Their relationship can be deep and insightful one moment and then the next they’re picking at each other over incredibly dumb stuff. Olivia and Chris’s relationship is at the core of the whole series of books. It’s my favourite element to write, and it always makes me happy when someone enjoys it!

Tegan: Chris Buckley lost both of his parents in an accident, and understandably, it was life altering for him and his sister. You do an incredible job of using that event as a filter that colors Chris’ thoughts, actions, and reactions. Have you had any personal experiences that informed this aspect of the story? And I’m asking because I think it’s handled in a very authentic way.

Kate: My parents are still alive and well, but I’ve definitely experienced loss. Sometimes in minor ways, and sometimes in major ones. And I’ve absolutely used that loss to construct the heart of Chris’s character, which is the abscess loss leaves behind if not properly grieved.

The loss I drew on the most was losing my grandfather when I was barely eleven. He lived just one street away from me growing up, and I spent at least half my time with him. Like Chris, I was too young to know the right way to grieve, and like Chris, it just seemed easier to wrap it up and put it away. Anyone who’s lost someone precious to them knows how grief feels – like something is being ripped out of your chest and leaving a sucking hole behind. It’s the worst feeling in the whole world. And it’s a lot easier to shove it as hard as you can and tell yourself that you’re better and move on. You can go years without feeling a thing where that infected wound is, until something brushes against it and destroys you for days.

Grief is a major theme of The Faraday Files. It’s something that’s rarely written about in genre fiction because it’s the worst thing ever, and genre fiction is supposed to be for escapism. But just like Hatty and John’s struggles with infertility in Inconceivable! stands in defiance of traditional HEA romance tropes, I wanted to write something with more pathos than your average genre novel. So many fantasy protagonists are orphans, but how many really get down and unpack that? Chris isn’t looking for justice for his parents and he isn’t trying to do honour to their memory. He just misses them. Every day. Constantly.

Chris is a lot younger than I am, so he’s still struggling where I learned how to grieve right. I’ve slowly cleansed and bandaged the wound the loss of my grandfather left. Chris isn’t where I’m at yet, but I want to help him get there.

Tegan: Tell us about the sequel to The Deathsniffer’s Assistant and when we might be able to get our hands on it.

Kate: The sequel is called The Timeseer’s Gambit! It’s hopefully going to be out at the same time the first was in mid-July, and we’re hoping to keep an annual schedule for the four book series! Hopefully I can keep up the pace writing.

Where The Deathsniffer’s Assistant takes place in spring, the second book is set in the summertime. I had a tough time writing it because Darrington is in the middle of a crazy heat wave during the book and I wrote most of it this past winter, when the snow here in Atlantic Canada was so high we had to dig out way out of our houses. Every time I sat down to write and saw Chris or Olivia complaining about the heat, I wanted to let them have it. You guys are lucky! I have a blanket over my legs at friggin Starbucks, here!

Olivia has been assigned her first true serial killer. She’s excited and Chris is appalled, but it’s been three months since they started working together and they’ve established a rapport. Chris has grown some spine and Olivia has softened her razor sharp tongue thanks to being around each other so much. Their back and forth is as bicker-heavy as ever, but they tease each other more now and are starting to really care about one another.

In book two readers are going to learn a lot about categorization, the method by which Tarlish citizens unlock their magic gifts. They’ll also find out how Chris supposedly knows the mysterious timeseer, William Cartwright.

As one last tease, things are heating up a bit. Chris has two potential love interests and things take a definite turn away from just-friends with both of them. Of course, Chris is still awkward, easily flustered, and kind of a dope, so nothing goes especially well!

Tegan: Now that your novel has been published and has been in readers’ hands for a few months, what have you learned and how have those lessons changed the way you write now?

Kate: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I’m not just some upstart pounding at a keyboard. I’m a writer! People have paid cash money for my book and effused over how much they liked it! I’ve signed books for grinning fans in other countries! I have tons of five star reviews and people making grabby hands for the next book!

And that all feels great. I’ve always believed that the most important parts of writing are confidence and momentum. I’m using my newfound confidence in my ability as a writer to build momentum. It only took five months to finish The Timeseer’s Gambit, almost unbelievable after the three years I spent on The Deathsniffer’s Assistant. The third book, The Heartreader’s Secret, will hopefully glide right onto the page, too! And after that… who knows. I’m only in my early thirties and have tons of books left in me. I want to keep sharing my stories with the world.

Kate McIntyreKate McIntyre was born and raised in the frigid white north, having spent her entire life in Moncton, New Brunswick. She learned to appreciate the quintessential Canadian things: endless winters, self-deprecating jokes, the untamed wilderness, and excessive politeness. Somehow it was the latter that she chose to write about. Kate loves crochet, video games, board games, reading, and listening to bad pop music very loudly.

Make it Count

I once interviewed a World War II veteran when I was working for a radio station in the Midwest. His brick house was tucked away on a cul de sac in a neighborhood of older homes. He showed me inside, and we stood in the front room. It was neat and plain with white walls and decades-old furniture that wasn’t worn. He introduced me to his wife and then invited me to sit on his front porch where we did the interview.

I held the mic and listened as he recalled with laughter and a few tears the days he spent as an American soldier in the Pacific Theater of the war. He recalled the pranks he and his buddies used to pull. Then, he told me how a can of meat saved his life. He and his unit came under particularly intense attack, and some guys didn’t make it. When he was clear and the fighting stopped, he dug into his backpack for food. He found the can of potted meat, misshapen from being pierced by a bullet, which was still lodged in the metal can. He laughed through tears as he marveled at how a can of food had saved his life.

At the end of our interview, I asked if he had any wisdom he’d learned from his war experience that he wanted to share. This is what he said: “You only pass this way once. Make it count.” On this Thanksgiving Day, let us all remember that it’s not about passively counting our blessings or the things for which we’re thankful. It’s about being the blessing for someone else. You won’t have this exact same day or experience or gathering of friends and family ever again. There are no do overs, and life is finite. Now go, and make it count.

The Heir and the Spare: Book Review and Author Q&A

Heir and SpareFrom the first moment I read the synopsis of Emily Albright‘s forthcoming novel, THE HEIR AND THE SPARE, I was intrigued. As the author of a royal romance, I was eager to read one that dealt primarily with the spare heir to the throne.

I absolutely adored this novel. Anyone who enjoys INCONCEIVABLE! is sure to enjoy THE HEIR AND THE SPARE. This is a fun, entertaining, and well-written story about an American college student’s first year at Oxford. It’s a year that’s full of surprises as she follows clues to discover some secrets about her late mother’s family. And whom does she happen to meet along the way? None other than the handsome prince who is the spare heir to England’s throne, a version of the UK’s Prince Harry. The story is full of humorous asides, plot twists, and obstacles that prevent our pair from getting together. Even though I wasn’t sure how it was going to wrap up, the story had a very happy and satisfying ending that’s worthy of a royal ceremony. My full review is posted on Goodreads. I give it five out of five wrens! BONUS: You can already pre-order this novel on Amazon. five wrens1

Emily kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her forthcoming novel, how her travels inspired the story, and how she finds time to write.

Tegan: How did you get the idea for the plot for THE HEIR AND THE SPARE?

Emily: The idea came to me when Prince William married Kate Middleton. All the craziness and press interest in their day made me wonder about Prince Harry. I was curious how his life might differ from his older brother’s. With that seed planted, the story just evolved from there. Originally my working title was, The Spare, but as it evolved and the story came to me through Evie’s eyes, The Heir and the Spare fit perfectly.

Tegan: Like a lot of writers, you’re a parent. How did you make time to write this book and how long did it take you?

Emily: Every free moment I had I spent writing. It took me four years total to get The Heir and the Spare to where it is now. Initial draft was probably around a year. Then multiple rounds of edits and revising. But in the early days it was definitely tough to squeeze writing time in with a preschooler. I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot of my daughter’s preschool with my laptop just typing away. Now that my kidlet is in all day school it’s a little more manageable. Unfortunately, my writing tends to come easier to me at night after everyone’s gone to bed, but for the sake of not being a zombie during the day and getting much needed sleep, I’ve had to adjust to being creatively productive in the mornings, which took quite a while. I’m such a night owl. I think I’ve finally adjusted, thank goodness.

Tegan: Any tips for balancing writing time with family time?

Emily: Squeeze the writing in whenever there’s a free moment. Even if it’s just scratching it on a piece of paper until you can get to your computer later. I wait until the kidlet’s in school or in the evenings after she’s gone to bed. When my family’s around I try to be present and in the moment with them. I do keep something to jot notes down at my side pretty much all the time, just in case I have an idea that I can’t do anything about until later. I’ve found that if it’s important and you love doing it, you’ll make the time for it, even if it’s just in the tiny moments in-between life’s bigger commitments.

Tegan: The book’s infused with a wonderful sense of place. Have you spent time in England and/or any other parts of Europe?

Emily: I have. The hubby and I got to spend two weeks in England and Scotland as a college graduation present. It was fun and fabulous and so not long enough. I loved how the history is so ever present and palpable there. It’s very different from the States. They tend to embrace their old buildings where we’ll knock an old building down and build something new in it’s place. It’s really wonderful to be someplace where generations of people have passed through and lived their lives. Then again, I’m a bit of a history nerd, so I love that kind of stuff. We’re definitely going back someday.

Tegan: Have you ever met any royalty? If so, tell us about it. If not, who would you most want to meet?

Emily: Unfortunately, I haven’t. As for who’d I’d like to meet? Hmm, Probably Will and Kate or Harry. They seem more down-to-earth and more approachable than the older generation of royals.

Tegan: Who is your target audience for this book?

Emily: Well, definitely upper YA, but honestly, anyone who looks at it and thinks, hey, this might be fun, then it’s for you. I’ve never bought the idea that you had to be a certain age to read YA books. To me, YA holds a special sort of magic, it brings with it the ability to experience firsts again, through fresh eyes. It’s fun for adults to slip back into the memories of their youth and YA books, in a way, facilitate that.

Tegan: What do you hope readers get out of your story?

Emily: My goal is pretty simple. I just want readers to have a good time and get a bit of an escape from reality when they read my story. Growing up, reading was such a great way to slip into a new and wonderful world, heck it still is. If a reader closes my book and gives a happy sigh, then I feel I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

Emily AlbrightEmily Albright is a major bookworm, a lover of romantic movies, a Netflix junkie, wife, mother, and owner of an adorable (yet slightly insane) cockapoo and a very intolerant cat. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Young Adult chapter (YARWA). Emily is represented by Jess Waterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agent. Emily is hard at work on her next book.