Category Archives: #AmWriting

The good, the bad, and the ugly in 2015

We start with the ugly because it’s always good to finish on a high note, right?

  • Daesh (which is apparently what we should be calling those evil turds in Syria).
  • Trump.
  • Green grass and high temperatures in places where it’s supposed to be freezing in December. (Yes, it sounds nice but nope.)

On to the bad —

  • My book sales (nowhere near Gone Girl at the moment).
  • My book’s movie rights (none forthcoming).
  • My invitations to appear on high-level talk shows to discuss my book (none as far as the eye can see).

And to the good —

  • My book came out this year! (And people seem to like it)
  • I’ve had publications in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, the Smithsonian, and many, many others.
  • I’ve excelled in meme-making:

Putin and Obama Meme

I think the good wins. Y/N?


Don’t read the comments. Ever. I mean it. Really.

The other day I made a mistake and Googled ‘Rebecca Strong’. Not the first time I’d done it of course – in fact, since my novel came out I’d been Googling myself and the name of the novel regularly. Sometimes even between 74 and 137 times a day. In case I made the New York Times bestseller list, you know?

This time though – instead of coming up with nothing – the search pulled up a few results.

Unfortunately none of those results were from the New York Times. Or from the Publisher’s Weekly. Or even from the Kirkus Review.

Instead they were unlicensed translations into Russian of the article I penned for Quartz about why I wrote my novel under a pseudonym. Followed by hundreds of comments.

Angry comments.

Insulting comments.

Abusive comments.

Hateful comments.

Comments that made me go like this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 2.52.14 PM

Lesson learned.


Going, going,… gone! The free original art piece that was … raffled off to celebrate the launch of my book

And the winner was … one of Facebook users who commented (and shared!) on a Free Original Art contest with a simple math problem (it involved the cover of WHO IS MR. PLUTIN? and counting).

Then there were days and days of me working with oil paint, gold leaf, matryoshkas, and recycled wood — and voila.

I give you the piece that’s called RUSSIA.


Any thoughts on what I am trying to say here?

To act or not to act

I must say the red carpet could be fun. As could probably be going on that stage and receiving a gold statuette (although worrying about tripping over a long dress would bring insomnia for weeks prior and that wouldn’t bode well for looking smashing). But I know I’d enjoy the after-parties and the goody-bags. Chanel and Hermes can make it up to me for all the lost sleep.

Long story short.

If you watch the trailer below and like what you see, have your people talk to my people***. I can definitely make it if Meryl Streep is too busy.

*** Fine. Just fill in the contact form.

That moment you all have been waiting for

…is finally here. Or almost here. Either way I can hardly contain my excitement. Which is why my total sleep over the last few days equals exactly 5 hours, 33 minutes, and 14 seconds.

And I’ve learned that the only way to lose sleep is either to be worried or to be excited. I much prefer the latter, of course. Unfortunately, gaining sleep still eludes me.

But I digress.

The momentous event that has had me counting pixels on my phone is my book. To be more precise – it’s the imminent release of my book. And to be more precise, it’s this:

Who is Mr. Plutin?MY COVER! (Excuse me while I scream, throw hands in the air, and dance around a little bit).

Also it’s this: my publisher is running a giveaway on Goodreads so go over there and sign up!

And this: it’s available for Kindle pre-order now here. Print copies will be available on the release date (June 22).

If you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen raiding my fridge for all the champagne and chocolate.

The-laws-that-govern-our-universe series: law #3

I am not the first one to tell you that law #1 is gravity.

I am also probably not the first one to suggest that law #2 – The Murphy’s Law – is the most observed law after gravity. I hope Mrs. Murphy is still collecting royalties.

But I’d like to think that I was among the first few million to notice and define law #3 — shit happens when you least expect it. Good shit and bad shit.

I’ve been studying this law since before internet became a thing and from what I can tell it works just like gravity. By which I mean to say — all the time. So if you want something, make sure that you DO NOT under any circumstances, beyond any reasonable doubt, and as surely as marzipan in Spain during the Christmas season EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, much less expect it. On the other hand, if it’s something you don’t want, go for it. Think it, expect it, talk about it. It won’t happen.

My recent empiric evidence comes from Twitter (doesn’t all evidence now come from Twitter?). About three weeks ago as I was doing what I usually do at midnight – browse my writers’ groups on Facebook – I saw a mention of #AdPit. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, #AdPit is a pitching orgy that takes place on Twitter several times a year. It involves writers abridging their manuscripts to 140 characters and agents/small publishers stalking the hashtag. It’s like an elevator speech on steroids in an elevator that fits all of the internets.

I’ve never before taken part in these mostly because they happen when people in my time zone are either drifting off into dreamland or getting ready to go out (I am in the first category). But this time at least one of my eyes was still awake. So I decided what-the-hell, quickly keyed in 140 characters on my phone, pressed the tweet button, and then let my melatonin do its work.

I woke up the next morning to a notification. Someone favorited my tweet which in the world of #AdPit meant they wanted to see my query and the first five pages. So I sent those off and then I had a cup of coffee. An hour later I had a request for a full manuscript in my inbox. I sent that off and had some chamomile tea. Obviously because at this point I needed to keep my hands from shaking while compulsively checking my e-mail every ten minutes for the response.

The rest is history. I can now report that the painful query process is over and my novel will be out next year with a publisher I met on social media. Stay tuned for a future publication announcement where I’ll probably be looking like this:

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 11.21.57 AM

And until then I encourage you to take law #3 seriously. Also try Twitter for all your querying and pitching needs.

Guess that song

I belong to a writers’ group here in Madrid. It’s not your usual writers’ group — or at least my usual-in-the-past writers’ group — where you sit around, listen to people read their work aloud, and then try to critique it without sounding like a complete asshole. No, in this writers group we actually write. We get together on the second floor of a Madrid bar, nurse our cañas, and create masterpieces in response to various prompts and exercises. Then we read them aloud. There is no critiquing although depending on the kind of nods you get from your subgroup, you either keep what you’ve written and develop it further or you hide it in the same place where you’ve stashed your adolescent love poetry (full disclosure: I’ve destroyed mine years ago).

I never post what I’ve written during those meetings on my blog because I either think it’s complete crap or I am delusional and I am hoping to develop it further into a publishable story (so far I’ve developed one and since that one ended up being shortlisted in a contest I think ratio wise of stories-developed to stories-published I am doing exceptionally well).

But today I am going to post what I wrote last night. The prompt was fun and I think it makes for an interesting game. So, ready?

Prompt: Write something that’s inspired by a song — any song — and then let your listeners guess the name of the artist and the name of the song

He’ll make it dark, he decided. And he’ll make it stormy. He’ll make it so that anyone looking at it would step back afraid of gushing water and rising tide. The boat, reddish in the light of a blood moon, will protrude far enough to make its intention of escape real. And the woman — the dark-haired, green-eyed woman in the boat — will stare out as if this frame and this canvas were her last frontier.

He didn’t have much time. The museum wanted the piece in two months and oil dries slowly. The exhibition, they told him, was about run away realities, worlds in oblivion, and pieces stuck in limbo forever. A boat with a woman, who wanted to flee but never could, would fit right in.

(This is my first draft, everyone. Completely unedited. So no sneering please).

Post your guesses in comments. Your prize for being the first to get it right is a first class ticket to Spain, a night in a royal palace, a dinner with either Real Madrid or Barça, and the sweet feeling of knowing that you won.

Just kidding. You only get the sweet feeling. (And maybe a caña if you ever make it to Madrid Writers Club).

Writing While… Part VII – writing your first draft

There are varying opinions out there on first drafts. Some say write it and ignore all inclination to give away your computer because what you are writing is complete and utter crap. Others say that you should donate your computer as soon as possible because a shitty first draft is just another sign from God that you are not really a writer and never will be. I tend to belong in the first category although I am keeping the emails of those interested in a free computer in a special file (if you’d like your name in that file, please send $1000 towards S&H).

Kidding. (Not about S&H).

My first drafts begin to struggle for air as soon as they are born. They also hiccup a lot. And they stink. In most direct and indirect of senses.

But at the same time they are the only existing proof that I didn’t just spend several hours on Facebook watching a bird feed a cat and listening to John Oliver discuss Scottish independence (really, a unicorn for an official animal? Do you know unicorns aren’t real, Scotland?). The first drafts are also the proof that I have most likely stayed away from Trader Joe’s chocolate raspberry sticks. (Unless they are missing in which case I’ve devoured them and I cannot remember).

So the best part about first drafts is that I feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel like I’ve done something with my time. I feel this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 9.32.09 PM

And because I like to feel this, I never re-read that first draft right away. I leave it for the next day.

That’s when I start feeling this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 9.34.08 PM

I don’t stay feeling like this for a long time. Because, you know, my eyes begin to hurt. So I progress to the next phase of either this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 10.21.44 AM

Or this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 10.24.13 AM

After I am done with napping and eating, I visit Facebook and send off a message to my writing buddies. Because procrastinating together is a thing. After we chat enough for FB to refuse to pull up  chats from fifteen minutes ago claiming the thread is too long, we make plans to get together to write. Because fuck FB chat. We could do that in person and with a well-made cafe con leche.

By then I am feeling much better. I am feeling like I can do this. I am feeling this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 10.36.01 AM

That’s my editing face. So that you know.

Writing While… Part VI — writing while having a migraine

I spent the last few hours in a fetal position on my daughter’s bed with a strapless black bra over my eyes. A strapless black bra because it was the first thing I could grab to block the obnoxious sunlight which seems to be everywhere in South Florida. I usually don’t mind the sun especially when on a beach vacation but today the combination of its happy yellow rays and no-dark-blinds-anywhere-in-the-apartment were not welcome.

I had a migraine. And when I have a migraine I cannot have light. Or sound. Or any sign of any life anywhere around me. Instead I need a dark place where I can be left completely alone while I focus on happy thoughts and hope the contraband Canadian pills I just took will kick in sooner rather than later.

The worst part about migraines is, of course, the pain as other migraine sufferers would tell you. But the next worst part about migraines—at least for me—is that I lose all ability to function. And with that I lose my ability to write. Which is why writing while having a migraine isn’t actually writing at all. Instead it’s agonizing over everything you want to write but cannot and, thus, developing an even bigger migraine.

This is what it looks like when a migraine arrives.
                          This is what it looks like when a migraine arrives.

More from the series WRITING WHILE:

Writing While Writing a Query (Part V)

Writing While Receiving Rejections (Part IV)

Writing While Submitting (Part III)

Writing While Trilingual and While Not Being a Native Speaker (Part II)

Writing While Walking or While in the Pool or Any Other Body of Water (Part I)


Writing While… Part V — writing while writing a query

Writing while writing a query

For the past several months I’ve been sending out my novel to agents (you can read about that journey in Writing While Submitting and Writing While Receiving Rejections). And even though both submitting and receiving rejections are not on the list of my most preferred activities, writing a query beats them both.

My current query is a few months old. I was thrilled with it when I wrote it. But then a few months of submissions later, I realized that I was getting very few requests off that query. Agents were suspiciously silent. Which, after I thought about it, could basically mean any of the following:

(1)They didn’t respond because they were being rude;

(2)They didn’t respond because they weren’t interested in my book;

(3)They didn’t respond because they didn’t understand enough from my query to be potentially interested in my book

Since addressing (1) and (2) would just be a waste of time, I decided to address the last issue. And so I posted the query I’ve been sending on the Absolute Write Forums under the Query Letter Hell heading.

There is a reason they call it Hell.

After reading a few critiques I wanted to crawl into a dark hole on a planet where light doesn’t exit. I also wondered what in the world ever possessed me to think I could write when I am so horribly, terribly awful at it.

So I closed my computer and spent a few hours hating myself and everything I’d ever written. The next day, probably because I am a sucker for punishment, I re-worked my query and posted it again. This time, I thought, it had to work. Because in my head it sounded really, really good.

The bad news is that it wasn’t.

The good news is that, although I still want to crawl into a dark hole, it doesn’t have to be on a planet without any light. So I am guessing I am developing thick skin.

What I am not developing though is a successful query. Even though I keep writing one over and over again.