Friday, December 28, 2012

The Waiting Game

by Anita Hughes

When I was pregnant with my first child, I spent a lot of time waiting. I waited to feel the first kick, I waited for my monthly pre-natal visit, I waited for Lamaze classes to begin. Each event seemed to take forever to occur, but each event also brought me closer to the birth of my son. I spent nine months being impatient, excited, terrified and finally overjoyed when I delivered him.

Being book pregnant is much the same thing. Waiting for one’s book to be released has many watershed events – the first time you see your cover, your first pass pages, when you receive blurbs from other authors or get early ARC’s. Each of these events seems to arrive with the speed of a horse and buggy, but they do eventually happen. And each time they do, they bring you one step closer to holding the finished book in your hand.

As I await the publication of my second book – MARKET STREET – which will be released on March 26th, 2013 by St. Martin’s Press, I like to think I have learned something from the release of MONARCH BEACH last summer; just as when I went through my second pregnancy, I tried to learn from the first. What I am trying to embrace is: Enjoy the wait.

There are few events in life which live up to the anticipation surrounding them: a two hour child’s birthday party rarely matches up to the nights spent dreaming about the big day. Vacations that are booked months ahead can be plagued by poor accommodations or inclement weather.

Your wedding day and the birth of a child usually far exceed anything you could imagine. They are worth the months of slowly peeling off calendar days. They are moments you will never forget.

The release of your book may not match your matrimonial union or the first sight of your newborn, but it as an exciting, once in a lifetime moment. It is a time that as soon as your book has been accepted for publication (now that is a wonderful day!) you know will eventually arrive. So, as I tell myself, kick back, watch a foreign movie or indulge in reading your favorite author, and enjoy the wait. Publication day will come and then you will have to find something else worth waiting for.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Setting Priorities on the Journey Towards Publication

I’m writing this on the day of the tragic shooting in Connecticut, searching for the desire to do anything but shut off my computer and drive to my son’s house, to kiss and hug my grandbabies and never let them out of my sight. My mind is numb, my thoughts with the innocent victims and their families. I haven’t watched the news and I don’t need to; Facebook has become the new face of instant information. I know all I need to know. As a mother and grandmother, just thinking about those murdered children and the unbearable grief that the parents and grandparents will have to live with for the rest of their lives is almost too much to bear. I feel like I have a boulder in my chest.

And yet I have a job to do, one that today, requires me to write two blog posts and finish an author Q & A. With my novel coming out on Christmas Eve and a new grandson due any day now, I need to cross as many things as possible off my to-do list whenever I can.

So here I sit trying to think of something useful to say to other debut authors, to offer sage advice or a helpful tip so they will know what to expect on their journey towards publication. But words escape me. 

And yet, maybe on this day of all days, the most important lesson of all can be learned.

As authors, we’re consumed by reviews and blog posts and Amazon rankings and SALES. We give up sleep to finish copy edits. We say no to time with family so we can make our weekly word count. We stay inside on warm summer days, hunched over our computers while our children play and laugh in the backyard. We write just one more page instead of going for a walk or lingering over the newspaper and pancakes on Sunday mornings.

I once read about a famous author who said that the months leading up to the release of his first novel were the hardest of his life. I’ve heard that the stress of launching a book has been known to bring famous celebrities to their knees. I’ve been told that it will be one of the most exhausting things I’ll ever do, that it will give me more problems, not fewer.
And yes, waiting for my novel to drop is terrifying, all consuming, and has kept me busier than I could have ever imagined. There is so much to do: write book two on a deadline, network on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, answer the daily landslide of emails, contact reviewers, mail out ARCs, assemble a street team, set up a website, make a book trailer, visit bookstores and libraries, write personal notes to book reviewers, sellers and readers, design postcards and business cards, write blog posts, answer interview questions, set up giveaways, schedule book club visits, and keep track of expenses. All this is to be done while keeping my house clean, doing laundry, cooking, and trying to be a good daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother. (I’m in complete awe of anyone who becomes a published author while holding down a fulltime job!) To add to my stress, my husband and I are trying to recover from near financial ruin, and I need to know if this is going be my career or if I should start applying at the nearest WalMart. I don’t need to make a lot of money, just enough to supplement my husband’s meager income. The hard reality is that the course of my life will be determined by how well my first novel does. It’s a lot of pressure.

But I’ve been through worse.

I think that’s why, overall, I’ve been handling the journey towards publication pretty well. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have days when I felt like I was going to have a meltdown, when I wondered what possessed me to pursue this career. I think that’s normal for any author.

But I’ve made a decision, and I was reminded of it today by what happened in Connecticut.

When I feel on the verge of crying or pulling out my hair in frustration, I think about my grandparents trying to keep their children fed and alive during WWII. I think about my mother watching my sister being kept alive by life support after she suffered a severe head injury in a car accident. I think about my mother taking care of my sister at home, feeding and bathing and dressing her comatose body, a body that refused to die even though my sister was long gone—for twenty-three gut-wrenching years. I think of the millions of people in this world who have it so much worse than I can even imagine.

I remind myself that my Amazon ranking or forgetting a blog post isn’t worth losing sleep over, that missing an opportunity to get the word out about my novel is not worth a panic attack, a rise in blood pressure, or an upset stomach. What matters is reading a bedtime story to my grandkids, having drinks with my friends, making love to my spouse, hugging my neighbor, or taking my elderly mother out to lunch. My book comes out on Christmas day, but I won’t let myself obsess over the fact that amid the holiday chaos, The Plum Tree might not make it onto bookstore shelves until after New Year’s, or how much better it might have done had it been released before Christmas instead of after. Instead I’ll be snuggling my new grandson and watching my granddaughters’ eyes light up when they open their presents. I’ll be cherishing their giggles, rosy cheeks, and soft, sweet voices. I’ll be sitting at the table with my family, drinking in their beautiful faces and telling them how much I care. I’ll be grateful for every moment in the kitchen with my mother and brother, talking and laughing while we cook and wash pots and pans. Those are the things that make this life worth living.

So I guess my advice to debut authors is this: If you want to stay sane through this journey and survive it without any regrets, your priority has to be family and life. Getting a novel published is pretty amazing and I plan to celebrate my accomplishment. But life is too short to be consumed by reviews and rankings and sales. The unthinkable can happen. To any of us. I think if the children and parents of Newtown could tell us one thing, it would be this: Live life to the fullest.

You can make that decision now.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Bouncing Babies of 2012: Coming Soon to a Stocking Near You?

This was the year that Book Pregnant made its debut debuts. The first batch of babies was born, and how. We've published everything from literary fiction to historical thrillers to romantic tales to  coming of age stories to memoirs. We met bookstore owners and reviewers; we read our work before people who wanted to listen; we signed title pages and responded to readers. It was all pretty amazing. 

Now, as the year draws to a close, we're doing a group giveaway. We want you to share in what we've accomplished! Scroll through our books, and then sign up for a giveaway in the comments section. You can ask for a specific book (we can mail a book within the United States) and leave your email address so we know how to contact you. This giveaway commences Dec 14 and ends Dec 30.

Oh and watch this space for the babies of 2013. We've got some beauts. :)

Meet the class of 2012:

Fobbit, by David Abrams

In the satirical tradition of Catch-22 and M*A*S*HFobbit takes us into the chaotic world of Baghdad’s Forward Operating Base Triumph. The Forward Operating base, or FOB, is like the back-office of the battlefield – where people eat and sleep, and where a lot of soldiers have what looks suspiciously like an office job. Male and female soldiers are trying to find an empty Porta Potty in which to get acquainted, grunts are playing Xbox and watching NASCAR between missions, and a lot of the senior staff are more concerned about getting to the chow hall in time for the Friday night all-you-can-eat seafood special than worrying about little things like military strategy. 

"[T]his darkly comic novel is a slice of awesome. Like the best writing of M*A*S*H, it is true dark comedy in that it reinforces how unpleasant life can be for soldiers, and how ridiculous, funny, and stupid life can be. And it reminds us how cheap life is; how cheap American lives are."
--Library Journal

"[T]hese Dickensian characters are all so skillfully wrought that we quickly accept their idiosyncrasies....What’s most intriguing about this work is that, at its center, it is both a clever study in anxiety and an unsettling expose of how the military tells its truths. Fobbit traces how 'the Army story' is crafted, the dead washed of their blood, words scrutinized, and success applied to disasters."
--The Washington Post

At the Mercy of the Queen, by Anne Barnhill

A sweeping tale of sexual seduction and intrigue at the court of Henry VIII, AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN is a rich and dramatic debut historical about Madge Shelton, cousin and lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn.

"An absolutely splendid read!" Diane Haeger, author of I, Jane.

"Fresh and absorbing." Sara Poole, author of Poison


The Crown, by Nancy Bilyeau

Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. When she defies the rule of enclosure, Joanna along with her father is arrested for interfering with the king's justice and imprisoned. While Joanna is in the Tower of London, the ruthless Bishop of Winchester forces her to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may possess the ability to end the Reformation. With Cromwell's troops threatening to close her priory, Joanna must decide who she can trust so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. 

"A stunning debut. This is one of the best historical novels I have ever read"-- bestselling historian and novelist Alison Weir

“Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical research throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal.” – O, The Oprah Magazine


The Exceptionals, By Erin Cashman

In a famous family of exceptionally talented people, fifteen-year-old Claire Walker is ordinary . . . or so she leads everyone to believe. Yet the minute she steps out of line, her parents transfer her to Cambial Academy: the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities, or “specials”. Although Claire can’t see ghosts or move objects with her mind like the other students, she does have a special she considers too lame to admit: she can hear the thoughts of animals. Just as she is settling in, one by one the most talented students – the Exceptionals – go missing. In an attempt to find out what happened to them, Claire uncovers a dark prophecy involving a plot to destroy Cambial and a mysterious girl who can communicate with a hawk. Could she be that girl? Does the gorgeous but secretive boy she meets in the woods know more than he is letting on? After years of ignoring her special gift, Claire decides the time has come to embrace her ability . . . before it’s too late.

"From the first few paragraphs, I was hooked and read this page-turner in two sittings. Claire, the spunky and completely believable protagonist, engages the reader as she struggles to stay afloat in her new reality and make the most out of an unfortunate turn of events... Even though Cambial Academy and its extraordinary students are beyond normal, Cashman has created a completely believable supernatural world. I highly recommend this book because a wide range of ages (11 and up) and audiences could enjoy this read and relate to the story and characters. Its a fantastical coming of age story..."

"With it's varied and intriguing cast of characters, The Exceptionals will appeal to a wide range of readers, all of whom will be eager to see if there will be forthcoming adventures at Cambial Academy" -- School Library Journal


The Underside of Joy, by  Seré Prince Halverson

A stepmother fights for custody of her two young stepchildren after their father dies and their biological mother who abandoned them returns to claim them.

“Set aside a full evening to read Seré Prince Halverson’s first novel, the engrossing and keenly affecting The Underside of Joy; once you’ve started, you’ll be all in.” –Dallas Morning News

“There are no villains here; just two women who love these children dearly. The wonderful characters and beautiful writing make this debut novel a rewarding read.—Minneapolis Star Tribune


Monarch Beach, by Anita Hughes

Monarch Beach is the story of a young San Francisco heiress who discovers her French chef husband is cheating on her, and escapes to the St. Regis, Monarch Beach to chart a new road to happiness.

"Perfect summer reading" - Booklist

"Absolutely riveting and brimming with emotion. Monarch Beach charmed me from the very first page." - Jane Porter, Author of The Good Woman.


Night Swim, by Jessica Keener

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz lives in a posh, suburban world of 1970 Boston. From the outside, her parents' lifestyle appears enviable - a world defined by cocktail parties, expensive cars, and live-in maids to care for their children - but inside their five-bedroom house, all is not well for the Kunitz family. Coming home from school, Sarah finds her well-dressed, pill-popping mother lying disheveled on their living room couch. At night, to escape their parents' arguments, Sarah and her oldest brother, Peter, find solace in music, while her two younger brothers retreat to their rooms and imaginary lives. Any vestige of decorum and stability drains away when tragedy hits one terrible winter day. Soon after, their father, a self-absorbed, bombastic professor begins an affair with a younger colleague. Sarah, aggrieved, dives into two summer romances that lead to unforeseen consequences. In a story that will make you laugh and cry, Night Swim shows how a family, bound by heartache, learns to love again.

"This gripping first novel announces the arrival of a strong, distinct and fully evolved new voice." 
--Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winner

"Keener's observations perfectly capture a certain kind of 1970s adolescence" 
--The Boston Globe


The Sister Queens, by Sophie Perinot

THE SISTER QUEENS weaves the tale of two 13th Century sisters separated by royal marriages—but never truly parted.  The eldest, Marguerite, becomes the Queen of France, marrying the greatest monarch of the age, Louis IX, and soon finds he is a better monarch than husband.  Her marriage will take her on a crusading adventure, but will it bring her happiness?  The second, Eleanor, becomes Queen of England with a marriage to Henry III, and quickly discovers he is a very good man but a very bad king.  She will have love but, competitive as she is, can she settle for that?

“What Philippa Gregory did for Anne and Mary Boleyn, Perinot has done for Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence. This is, without a doubt, one of the best novels I’ve read all year!” ~Michelle Moran, Author of MADAME TUSSAUD

“THE SISTER QUEENS has it all… court life, balls, rivalry, politics, love and lust; with the added element of seeming so real to the reader as though watching a film. A fantastic debut!” ~Peeking Between the Pages


Hemingway's Girl, by Erika Robuck

When a Cuban-American woman in Key West takes a job as a maid for Ernest Hemingway to support her family, her relationships with the famous writer and a WWI veteran and boxer reveal that she may be in over her head on all fronts.

“You’ll love this robust, tender story of love, grief, and survival on Key West in the 1930s…addictive.” ~New York Times Bestselling Author Jenna Blum

“Evokes a setting of the greatest fascination…This is assured and richly enjoyable storytelling.” ~Margaret Leroy, Author of The Soldier’s Wife


The Rules of Inheritance, by Clare Bidwell Smith

Every once in a while a memoir so striking and beautifully written comes along that people can’t stop talking about it long after they’ve finished it. On a wave of buzz and praise in advance of its hardcover publication, The Rules of Inheritance quickly became beloved as a courageous and honest blueprint for how to start over. Said Interview,Smith holds nothing back in her confessional memoir of devastation, but also of rebuilding.”

"A brave and intelligent book about big loss and even bigger love. The gritty truth and hard won grace in this beautiful memoir astonishes me." –Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author of WILD

"Gritty, poetic, and illuminating." -Oprah Magazine


Hand me Down, by Melanie Thorne

A tough, tender, debut novel, in the tradition of Dorothy Allison and Janet Fitch, Hand Me Down is the unforgettable story of a girl who has never been loved best of all.

“A sad, compelling read.” –People

“Thorne populates her pages with characters who are fascinating and sharply drawn. . . . Liz is a wise, wry, wonderful heroine.” – (starred review) Kirkus, which recently named Hand Me Down one of the best books of 2012.



The Lost Saints of Tennessee, by Amy Franklin Willis

 The Lost Saints of Tennessee chronicles middle-aged Ezekiel Cooper's struggle to find his way back to his family and himself after the mysterious drowning of his twin brother."

“It is the natural voices of Franklin-Willis’s characters and the Southernsetting that carry this novel. The honest prose rises from the heart[and] . . . leaves the reader rooting for the charactersuntil the novel’s last page.”—The Boston Globe

“A riveting, hardscrabble book on the rough,hardscrabble south, which has rarely beenwritten about with such grace and compassion."—Pat Conroy


The Unfinished Garden, by Barbara Claypole White

Tilly Silverberg, an English nursery owner living in the forests of North Carolina, wants the world to bugger off and leave her alone with her son, her plants, and remorse for decisions she made three years earlier—as her husband was dying.
But James Nealy has other plans. An entrepreneur battling the obsessive-compulsive disorder that estranged him from his family, James speeds into Tilly’s life convinced that only she can help him face his greatest fear: dirt.
When a family emergency lures Tilly back to rural England, James follows—tapping and counting through aviophobia. Away from home, they forge an unlikely bond. And as they work to create a garden and unearth trust, Tilly realizes she too must confront her own secret terror: that love will always end in loss.

“A fabulous debut novel, THE UNFINISHED GARDEN easily earns Romance Junkies’ highest rating of five blue ribbons and a recommended status for its unpredictable originality! So good!” Romance Junkies

The Unfinished Garden is a powerful story of friendship and courage in the midst of frightening circumstances… I highly recommend this wonderful love story.” Bergers’ Book Reviews


The Plum Tree, by Ellen Marie Wiseman

THE PLUM TREE follows a young German woman through the chaos of World War II and its aftermath as she tries to save the love of her life, a Jewish man. “Bloom where you’re planted,” is the advice Christine Bolz receives from her beloved Oma. But seventeen-year-old domestic Christine knows there is a whole world waiting beyond her small German village. It’s a world she’s begun to glimpse through music, books—and through Isaac Bauerman, the cultured son of the wealthy Jewish family she works for. Yet the future she and Isaac dream of sharing faces greater challenges than their difference in stations. In the fall of 1938, Germany is changing rapidly under Hitler’s regime. Anti-Jewish posters are everywhere, dissenting talk is silenced, and a new law forbids Christine from returning to her job—and from having any relationship with Isaac. In the months and years that follow, Christine will confront the Gestapo’s wrath and the horrors of Dachau, desperate to be with the man she loves, to survive—and finally, to speak out. Set against the backdrop of the German home front, this is an unforgettable novel of courage and resolve, of the inhumanity of war, and the heartbreak and hope left in its wake. 

"Stories of WWII rarely look at the lives of the average German; Wiseman eschews the genre’s usual military conflicts in favor of the slow, inexorable pressure of daily life during wartime, lending an intimate and compelling poignancy to this intriguing debut.”—Publisher’s Weekly

"The meticulous hand-crafted detail and emotional intensity of THE PLUM TREE immersed me in Germany during its darkest hours and the ordeals its citizens had to face. A must-read for WW2 fiction aficionados--and any reader who loves a transporting story."—Jenna Blum, NYT bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and one of Oprah's Top 30 Women Writers

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Book Pregnant Store is now open!

If you’ve been living off the grid for the past few weeks, and have just popped back in for a moment, I have bad news. The holiday season is here, and you still need to pick out gifts for all your friends and loved ones.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that when it comes to one-stop shopping, we here at Book Pregnant have got you covered, because all our books are now available in one place. We have set up an Amazon store, where you can find every book by Book Pregnant authors, from David Abrams to Ellen Marie Wiseman. (Note: All of these books are available from other vendors, including IndieBound. Our ‘store’ is on Amazon because they were the only site that had this feature.)

You could just browse our electronic shelves for the perfect book, but because your list is long and varied, we’ve also broken the books into different categories. Notable Books includes Wylie Cash’s A Land More Kind than Home and Lydia Netzer’s Shine, Shine, Shine (both New York Times notable books) among others.

Happy holidays from everyone at Book Pregnant!