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Posts tagged ‘The Last Conception’

Pleasure or Pain?

LastConception-CoverDoes writing give you pleasure, or is it a pain? Are you struggling through every line, wishing it would end, or enjoying the process word by word? Do you write out of necessity, or as a hobby, or pleasant pastime? Writers’ have argued through the centuries about whether writing should be, or is, a process of hard labor, or whether it is a joyous exercise in reflecting oneself and the world in which we live.

Some writers’ say they cannot live without writing something every day. Others tells us they write in spurts, when moved to do so, or have long periods of inactivity and/or creative ideas. And a few cannot stop writing once they get started and write manically, without pause or respite.

I’ve been told that writing involves a high degree of masochistic tendencies if you are not writing solely for pleasure, but to have what you’ve written read and accepted by others. There is a lot of truth in this, as so few writers ever receive any recognition, let alone financial rewards, for there many hours of plotting, research, editing, characterization, and marketing.

From my experience, writing can be both pleasurable and painful, whether it is for personal or public consumption. Scribbling, or typing, refried storylines again and again, is easy, but artistically boring. Writing something that has never been put together in quite the same way, can take hours of painstaking thought, and pleasurable results. Then again, the results may be painful to see, and not as joyous as the process.

So, this may sound weird, but unless it is a wee bit difficult, or challenging, I do not enjoy writing. That doesn’t mean I prefer an extremely intimidating project, but one that calls me out to do my best, improve my skills, and look at an issue, or story, with fresh eyes. Writing something I’ve written a thousand times before, though perhaps monetarily rewarding, is more painful than a new challenge.

What’s your hit? What’s it like for you? Do you cringe at the thought of a deadline, having to think of an idea, or putting an idea on paper? Or, do you get excited each time the words in your head come out on the screen as you envisioned? Pleasure and pain are somewhat subjective, but are also very real. I guess the real question is whether pleasure or pain is the driving force behind your writing, or any aspect of why you write at all.

Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba, The Last Conception, and Loving Annalise, are some of Gabriel’s most recent works of fiction. They were pleasurably painful to write.

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Moments Turns Into Years

My “brief” journey from story to screen.

Write down, or have a story idea, or concept, in mind.

Write the story. Rewrite and edit the book at least 10 million times.

Find a publisher who will publish the book, now known as The Last Conception.

Sign contract with Melange Books.

Obtain quotes and advance reviews.

Book published.

Book signings, promotions, connections and marketing for two years (year before and a year after novel is released).

Decide to write screenplay. One of my previous screenplays, Stellina Blue, was made into a film and another, Down On Earth, is optioned by Sybil Danning at Adventuress Films.

Work on screenplay for The Last Conception, continuing to revise and edit.

Workable, moving and entertaining screenplay completed.

Write up logline, summary of film and synopsis.

Research and obtain contact information for those who might be interested in script.

Start approaching executive producers, directors and production companies.

Elapsed time, from books inception to pitching screenplay (so far) is three years.

Presently, an award-winning and innovative director is attached.

Next step will be finding a producer and/or financing for film, and then festivals and/or distribution.

This timeline will be familiar to thousands of novelists, screenwriters and filmmakers. Some take less time, and some take more (from page to screen).

I hope for those just starting out, or venturing to put your toe in the water, this provides a little insight into the amount of patience, persistence and ordered chaos that can await on the journey to bring your story to the screen.

LastConception-Cover

Bhakti-fest of Love

A wonderful quote about The Last Conception from the extraordinary Bliss Mistress and author, Edie Weinstein.

“The Last Conception” is a bhakti-fest of love and loss, hope and courage that comes in unexpected packages. Take a peek into the lives of an Indian-American family faced with an unusual demand of their medical professional unmarried daughter whose job and personal life intersect in unanticipated ways. Although happy endings are never guaranteed, it seems that one is in the offing for this savory literary masala.
Edie Weinstein, author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, here’s a brief description.

LastConception-CoverA successful embryologist (Savarna Sikand) must make difficult and life-changing choices. Should she continue devoting her soul to work and party with her girlfriend Magdalena or settle down with Charlemagne (Charley) and have children? If she decides to have children, how and when will they start the process and what will it take to convince her conservative East Indian mother to stop trying to marry her off to a “good man”? If that isn’t enough pressure, throw in the bomb her parents plant when they tell her she MUST have a baby because she is the last in line of a great spiritual teacher who reportedly never had children!

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

Embryo Mama

LastConception-CoverAn excerpt from The Last Conception by Gabriel Constans.

Savarna was the first to arrive at five that morning. She placed her bicycle in the storage room, washed and put on her scrubs. She checked all of the incubators, work surfaces and electronic readouts, to make sure everything was operating as close to body temperature as possible. The machines were on twenty-four seven and alarmed. After all, she and her colleagues literally held the possibility of new life in their hands day after day. If anything goes out of whack, emergency calls are automatically made until someone responds. They have backup systems for backup systems. So far, in her eight years of working at Conception Sciences, the alarm had gone off only once, and that turned out to be a faulty reading.

“Hey, Embryo Mama, how are our babies doing?”

Savarna had just started looking at the results from the previous day when her work partner Johnny Cranston walked in. She’d known Johnny for five years and trusted him completely. If she were ever in the position of their patients, she’d want Johnny to be her embryologist. He was very tech savvy and gave a damn. Personally, he’d been through the ringer, was divorced and had his adored teenage daughter living with him part-time. He’d recently moved to a nice neighborhood just twenty minutes from work. Johnny was handsome, and he knew it, but he never let his guard down, especially in front of beautiful women. He considered Savarna to fall in the category of beautiful, but she was an exception to his well-practiced defenses.

“Good morning Sperm Daddy,” she replied.

“Where we at, darling? Everything cooking at the right temp?”

“I was just checking yesterday’s records and laying out our schedule. Will you take a look and sign off?”

“It would be my pleasure.”

Savarna always noticed the contrasts between them when they stood side by side. He had big hands with long fingers, and his skin was darker than hers. She was brown, like a lightly baked brownie, and he was as black as dark chocolate. He stood a foot taller, had broad shoulders, a muscular chest and shaved head. She had long jet-black hair braided and tied up in a knot for work, a distinguished nose, and hips that seemed to trump everything else from the waist down.

“Looks like we’ve got a lot of D1 and D3s to switch out today,” Johnny said, as he signed the checklist.

“Yes, and two D5s. I really hope Mrs. Shcneider’s takes this time and her Inner Cell Mass doesn’t get screwed up like her last two attempts. She was so devastated.”

“You got that right. Nothing we could do though. Hear what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, yeah. I know the mantra. Don’t beat ourselves up for what’s out of our control.”

“Well, well. You actually remember your own advice.”

They both chuckled underneath their masks.

Everything in the laboratory had to be done perfectly and on schedule. Mistakes were not allowed, though inevitable.

Day zero, which they referred to as DO, was egg retrieval day. That was when they retrieved eggs from the woman and sperm from the man and put them together in a dish. On Day Two, which they called D1, they checked to see how many of the eggs were fertilized. They looked through the microscope to see if there were two pronuclei inside. If they couldn’t see any or what they saw consisted of only one or three pronuclei, that meant it was a wash and they couldn’t be used.

Day Two is when the embryos start to divide. A healthy embryo consists of two to four cells. That is when Savarna and Johnny would start to grade or evaluate the embryos on a scale of one to five, with one being perfect and five being poor. It takes about one minute to look at fifteen embryos. They had to do it quickly, so they were not outside of the incubator for long.

Day Three should be showing six to eight cells per embryo. If some of these are healthy, they can transfer them on the same day or put them into an extended culture for a Day Five transfer. If they go into extended cultures, they need to move them into a new growth medium that is made for the next stage of development.

On Day Five embryos have grown much bigger and gone from six to eight cells to fifty to one hundred cells. The coating around the egg is very thin at this stage and each embryo has two cell types – the inner cell mass, which becomes the baby and the trophectoderm, which becomes the placenta. This is the day when transfer usually takes place. One to two embryos are transferred to the patient’s uterus. Any extras are frozen or cultured to Day Six. On Day Six, anything that is left is either frozen or discarded.

“You can have the honor of icing any leftovers today,” Savarna told Johnny.

“Thank you, great ice queen. It will be an honor to preserve someone who may one day be our next Albert Einstein or Maya Angelou.”

“Or Charlie Manson or Hitler,” she said, half-joking.

“Not possible. These children are too wanted and adored to turn out like that.”

Freezing embryos is no minor task, though it may appear to be a simple procedure. When a healthy and viable embryo is frozen, it is placed into a computer- driven freezer in liquid nitrogen and is slowly brought down to minus thirty-five degrees centigrade. When cells are frozen, they are made up mostly of water and have to be dehydrated before freezing or ice cycles can destroy them. They are passed through solutions that by osmosis move in and out of a fluid buffer. Freezing takes about an hour and a half. When they are thawed, it is important to get rid of the ice crystals right away, so they are pulled out, held in the air for thirty counts and put in a thirty-degree water bath for forty-five seconds until they are thawed. They are then placed in solutions that reverse the process and put water back in. Within forty minutes of being de-thawed, an embryo can be transferred. Some patients successfully use an embryo that has been frozen for over ten years.

Savarna and Johnny sent out the morning report to all the physicians and case managers by 7:30, so they would know which patients to call to come in for their procedures or which ones needed to change their medications. Then they started working on egg retrievals, sperm analysis and triple-verification with each, to make sure they had the correct specimen for each individual. Retrievals started around 8:00 a.m. and continued every forty-five minutes, while transfers generally began at 10:00 and took place every thirty minutes. By noon, they were inseminating the eggs. Somewhere in the controlled chaos, they tried to make their way to the bathroom and catch a bite to eat. At 1:00 they made a break for the small lunchroom squeezed into the back corner of the two-story medical building.

“What?” she asked, looking up from her salad bowl.

“Come on. I’m about to burst. Did you tell them?” Savarna smiled, took a drink from her homemade chocolate smoothie and sheepishly looked down at her Greek salad. “You’ve got to be kidding?”

She shook her head. “My Mom was–”

“This is crazy… after all these years. They’re adults. They’ll understand.”

“Let me explain.”

“What’s there to explain? You chickened out again.”

“No, I didn’t. We were interrupted. My mother was trying to get me married off for the umpteenth time and just as I was about to tell her why I would never marry a man, the rest of the family burst in. There wasn’t any good time after that. It was her birthday after all, and I didn’t want to ruin it.”

“Ruin it?”

“You don’t understand.”

“Try me.”

“In Indian culture marriage is the biggest and most important celebration there is.”

“And you don’t think that’s true for other cultures?”

“Well, yes, of course,” she replied, taking a deep breath and looking him straight in the eyes. “But in India it can actually be a matter of life and death. Women are still defined by whom, when and if they marry. I don’t care if this is California and my parents have lived here for decades. I don’t think they even realize how deep this tradition is ingrained in their psyches.”

“So, its fair to keep them in the dark and keep hoping?”

“Of course not, but I’m not always as strong or as confident with my family, as I am with you. I don’t want to hurt them.”

“I think you’re hurting them more, let alone yourself, by not standing up and letting yourself be counted. They just want you to be happy, and they see marriage as the means to attain that happiness. We both know it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be, but I don’t see anything wrong with them hoping it’s the answer for their spinster daughter whose childbearing clock is ticking.”

“Spinster, my ass.”

“Tell them I’ll take you off their hands, but only for a good dowry.”

Savarna raised her glass, as if to throw it in Johnny’s face. He backed up his chair in mock surprise. Savarna’s phone rang. She put down her cup, laughing, and took the call.

“Hi, Magdalena. What’s up?”

Johnny winked.

“Tonight? It’s only Monday.”

Savarna closed her eyes for a moment as she listened.

“Which club?”

She nodded, “OK. OK. Pick me up at nine.” She clicked her phone shut and put it on the table while Johnny went to the sink to put away his plate.

“She’s a wild woman,” he said upon returning to the table.

“It’s fun. Nothing serious.”

“Yeah, I know about fun, but is that all you want?”

Her phone rang again.

“Hey, Charley. How ya doing?” Johnny rolled his eyes. “This weekend? I don’t know, I’m usually pretty wiped out by then.”

She turned away slightly in her chair, as if to keep the conversation private.

“In that case, let’s do it. I’ll call you later. Take care.”

“Wish I had that many women calling me up,” Johnny wisecracked, as they stood and both prepared to re-gown and get back to work. “Where to this weekend?”

“Charley got a great deal on a bed and breakfast place in the redwoods over in Santa Cruz. She says it’s just what I need for some rest and relaxation.”

“So, you really prefer men after all.”

“You know Charley is–”

“I know, I know. Just goofing. You know my offer is always good. If you ever want to get turned around, I’ll show you what a real man is like.”

“Yeah.” They both laughed. “You and a thousand other men.”

“Hey, did you hear what one egg said to another when they saw millions of sperm on the horizon?”

“Only a zillion times,” she said. They made their way down the hall and entered the pressurized lab. “But if it floats your boat, go ahead and give me the punch line. I’ll act like I’ve never heard it before.”

“Now you’ve ruined it,” he said.

The automatic door opened and she went ahead. A cartoon they had taped on the door had two eggs and millions of sperm surrounding them. The caption next to the first egg read, “This doesn’t look good, I think the odds are against us.” The other egg said, “Looks good to me. It’s just what the doctor ordered.”

The Last conception:

Passionate embryologist, Savarna Sikand, is in a complicated relationship, with two different women, when she is told that she MUST have a baby. Her conservative East Indian American parents are desperate for her to conceive, in spite of her “not being married”. They insist that she is the last in line of a great spiritual lineage. In the process of choosing her lover and having doubts about her ability, or desire to conceive, Savarna begins to question the necessity of biology and lineage within her parents’ beliefs and becomes forever fascinated with the process of conception and the definition of family. Threads of Dan Brown (DaVinci Code), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Sister of My Heart) and the film The Kids Are All Right, are tied together in this colorful tale of awakening, romance and mystery.

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

Unschakles the Mind

Review: The Last Conception by Gabriel Constans
Reviewed by Monica Arora. 23 September 2014
KITAAB (“Book” in Hindi) Singapore

LastConception-CoverThe oft-debated dichotomy between modern scientific research and wisdom of traditional values, religious beliefs and spiritual propensities have formed the basis of several discussions, debates, deliberations and continues to dog the human sensibility, constantly torn between the two. This conflict between science and spiritualism forms the basis of the engaging novel by Gabriel Constans, entitled ‘The Last Conception’.

The plot revolves around the young female protagonist Savarna Sikand, who is an embryologist engaged in working with fertility treatments in a high-tech laboratory in San Francisco, US. Meanwhile, her parents, hailing from the south-eastern part of India, but settled in the United States, and deeply rooted in some ancient religious cult, express their desire for their daughter to conceive and thereby continue their rare lineage. What follows is a gripping saga of the dilemma faced by the young scientist Savarna who fights very hard to tread the fine line between her parents’ spiritual beliefs and her own scientific wisdom.

Gabriel has come up with a taut narrative that is extremely simple and yet keeps the reader engaged with its fast pace and myriad topics conjuring doubts, dogmas and apprehensions in minds of young people all over the globe. Right from exploring alternate sexuality and its ramifications on the immediate family to the delicate issue of childlessness, all are dwelt upon with much thought and deliberation and ‘The Last Conception’ offers a rare insight into lives of seemingly ordinary men and women dealing with such quandaries on a day-to-day basis.

Moreover, there is this keen sense of urgency and uncertainty running throughout the narrative pertaining to Savarna’s attempts at conception and the traumas, both mental and physical, which have to be endured for accomplishing the same. The high point of the novel comes in the form of adoption of an Indian-origin baby by Savarna’s sister Chitra owing to her infertility and the feelings of joy, pleasure and pride experienced by the entire family thereafter. Such sensitive subjects are dealt with much bravado and wisdom by the author and offer a lot of information to readers regarding these subjects, thereby clearing several dogmas and misconceptions plaguing childless couples and misled elders, who succumb to mindless religious dictates and notions without studying their cause and effect in detail.

What really touched me was how the parents of the two girls, Mira and Mr Sikand, handle their daughters’ dilemmas as well as their old mother’s beliefs continuing from unwavering faith in a dwindling sect of ancient India. The maturity of their feelings and their ability to keep their family together under all circumstances stands as a pinnacle of hope in contemporary times mired under the garb of modern values or lack of them and hence, offering no emotional solace to lonely, weary souls in a confused society.

‘The Last Conception’ is indeed a very noble attempt by the author to choose such unusual and uncommon themes and write a piece of prose that unshackles the mind and offers rare insight into the much spoken and widely discussed matter of science vs spirituality. With immense care and caution, Gabriel has gently treaded around prickly territory and offered a well-researched and well-structured story which deserves to be read and preserved not just as a treasure-trove of information but also juxtaposing human emotions.

Read entire review and more at KITAAB.

Recommended Reading

LastConception-CoverReview of The Last Conception
Onely: Single and Happy
13 September 2014

“To my mother. To my wife. To my husband.” Authors commonly dedicate their books this way. Nice, but boooring. (To everyone, that is, except the mother, wife, or husband.) Gabriel Constans dedicates his book The Last Conception “To Love, in all its manifestations.”

We here at Onely are interested in all aspects of the single experience and particularly like to learn about single people from different backgrounds than ourselves (Lisa and I self-identify as white, upper-middle-class, agnostic, heterosexual women). The beginning of Constans’ novel allows us into the world of single scientist and first-generation Indian-American lesbian Savarna, whose parents–still unaware of her sexuality–have been pressuring her for years to marry and give them a grandchild. Any unmarried, child-free reader whose parents have pressured them in this way will wince along with Savarna as her parents become increasingly fervent in their matchmaking–all while Savarna is trying to figure out her relationships with two different women. (I refer to her as “single” because initially she is not part of an “official” couple.)

Appropriately, as an embryologist, Savarna spends her working hours manipulating eggs and sperm to help women conceive. She herself, however, doesn’t feel the tick-tock of her biological clock. If she did, this book wouldn’t exist. (Or it would be very boring.) We have several layers of tension going on throughout the story. Savarna the happily child-free woman vs. her grandchild-wanting parents. Savarna the American vs. her Indian parents. Savarna is not religious, but her parents who travel to India once a year for some ceremonious gathering that Savarna has never attended and vaguely considers cultish.

Through the course of the book these subtle battles wage, peak, resolve and eventually weave together into an ending so satisfying I really wish I could share it here. I’m afraid to say much more because I don’t want to put out any spoilers. Let’s just say that ultra right-wing conservatives would hate this book, especially the conclusion. (All the more reason to read it!) One of our favorite words here at Onely is amatonormative, which means the normalizing of a few specific kinds of love relationships while marginalizing all others. The Last Conception kicks amatonormativity in the ass.

Which is why it gets one thumb up from our blog. The other thumb is busy turning the pages for a second read-through.

–Christina

Read entire review and more at Onely: Single and Happy.

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Enchanting!

LastConception-CoverRainbow Book Reviews excerpt about The Last Conception.

This is an intriguing and compelling story… wondrously adorable. There are so many captivating concepts, cultural components from India, and a sublime love story, too. Enchanting!

The story:

Passionate embryologist, Savarna Sikand, is in a complicated relationship, with two different women, when she is told that she MUST have a baby. Her conservative East Indian American parents are desperate for her to conceive, in spite of her “not being married”. They insist that she is the last in line of a great spiritual lineage. In the process of choosing her lover and having doubts about her ability, or desire to conceive, Savarna begins to question the necessity of biology and lineage within her parents’ beliefs and becomes forever fascinated with the process of conception and the definition of family. Threads of Dan Brown (DaVinci Code), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Sister of My Heart) and the film The Kids Are All Right, are tied together in this colorful tale of awakening, romance and mystery.

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

 

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