Category Archives: Fiction

A very short post

This will be a very short post.

Because it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving and I don’t feel like writing a lot.

Because I just spent two hours organizing my office.

Because it’s still not properly organized.

And because this is really to let you know that my publisher has decided to run a Black Friday sale (who is not doing this nowadays?) and discount the Kindle version of my book to 0.99 cents. Really.

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Best Black Friday deal ever. I think.

So click here, grab a copy, and travel to Russia without leaving your couch.

Because books are more effective than airplanes in bringing you places.

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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:

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Lesson learned.

DO. NOT. READ. THE. COMMENTS.

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.

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:

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

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.

Writing While… Part IV — writing while receiving rejections

Writing while receiving rejections

I am not going to pretend to come up with something original here. In fact, everything I’ve planned to say in this post had already been said in hundreds of other posts. Which is why I am no longer going to say those things.

Instead I am going to build a rejection wall and stare at it lovingly when I finally do land an agent, and a book deal, and a super-successful movie in which I’ll act, produce, cast, and be the one to receive an Oscar.

You’ll probably recognize some of the elements on this wall in which case you are welcome to stare at it lovingly too. Because you too at some point will get your book/story/brilliance published and feel sorry for all those who rejected you. And yes, I know, this is not a very healthy attitude to take but what the hell. I am allowed to make some unhealthy choices once in a while. It’s not only wheatgrass, tofu, and green tea life, is it?

In a truly Olympic spirit I will divide my rejection wall into three categories: bronze rejections, silver rejections, and gold rejections. What are the judging criteria, you ask? Just one. I am going with the “ouch, that hurts” standard and I am awarding gold to those whose rejections made me want to stop writing forever.

GOLD

  • “…I thoroughly enjoyed reading your sample material but, … we didn’t feel that the writing of the prose itself was quite strong enough to be able to successfully place it with a publisher.”

SILVER

  • “Unfortunately this is not right for us. We are replying as soon as possible to give you the best chance of finding the right agent. We specialize in commercial fiction and non-fiction tailor made for the mass market and therefore we have to be confident of substantial sales quantities before taking on a new project.”
  • “Thank you for sending us this material, which we have now read and considered. But we are sorry to say that your novel is not something we would feel 100% confident of being able to handle successfully.”
  • “We read your piece carefully, but unfortunately we have decided not to publish it.”
  • “Thank you for sending your work. We have decided against selecting your work, but we appreciate your interest in our magazine.”

BRONZE

  • “We’re sorry we don’t have better news–but thank you for sending us your work. While we enjoyed your writing, unfortunately, this submission isn’t for us. Do please consider sending more work to us again in the future.”
  • “While this particular submission is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment, please know I enjoyed reading it and was impressed by your writing. We receive a large number of submissions and unfortunately can only publish a small percentage of them. I wish you the best in placing this piece elsewhere and hope you’ll consider sending us more of your work in the future.”
  • “We have read your submission, and unfortunately we are not able to use it.  Please do not take this as a comment on the quality of your writing; we receive so many submissions that we are able to accept only a small fraction of them.”
  • “Unfortunately we have decided not to accept it. We wish you the best of luck finding a home for your story elsewhere.”
  • “Although we did enjoy looking at your material, in the end we felt it wasn’t quite right for us.”
  • “As a small agency we take on very few of the many writers who approach us each year and, having considered your work, we do not feel we could offer to add you to our list.”
  • “We’re sorry we can’t use … We have received a great deal of work by writers who will not be included in the final selection, but certainly deserve to have their voices heard in other publications.”
  • “Unfortunately, the piece is not quite a perfect fit for our upcoming issue, sort of like when you find a puzzle piece, and even though it’s like, the best puzzle piece ever, it doesn’t fit perfectly. Sort of an “it’s not you; it’s me” thing.”
  • “We’re going to pass on this one, but please send more in the future!”
  • “Unfortunately, this piece isn’t the right fit for us. Please consider us for future submissions.”
  • “Thanks so much for your query.  Unfortunately,  I’m afraid I’m not the right agent for this project.”

The good news is that I only got one gold winner… so far.

The bad news is that writing-while-receiving-rejections means writing this blog post instead of something else to submit.

See also:

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 III

Writing while submitting or looking for representation

You finished your novel. You’ve edited it several times, re-written parts of it to flush out the characters, and even had several readers sing your praises (who, just to clarify, haven’t only been your family or friends). You are ready to begin the next step of your literary journey. The submission process.

So you look for an agent. You scout websites of literary agencies searching for the one that will be interested in the book you wrote. You find her. She sounds fantastic—exactly like your type of agent. She is looking for books in the genre in which you write, she says she loves working with new writers, and she may even have something in common with you. Perhaps she went to your alma mater, or perhaps she dabbles in chess, or maybe she is a friend of your cousin’s daughter’s friend’s former brother-in-law. Whatever it is, she sounds like she is the agent for you.

You send her your query letter. And the synopsis. And the first three chapters of your manuscript or whatever else she requires in her submission guidelines. And you feel great. Because what you are feeling at the moment is the emotion that makes everything worthwhile. You are feeling hope.

Then you wait. You check your e-mail ten minutes after you sent the letter. Then you check it in twenty minutes. And then in one hour. Then you need to go somewhere so you stop checking your e-mail and engage in life outside of your computer. When you come back two hours later you check again. Because two hours is a long time to be away from your mailbox especially the mailbox that surely has good news.

But there is nothing. Your hope diminishes in size but it’s still there. Because it’s only been a few hours and even the most eager-to-represent-you-agent has a life. So you keep checking every ten to twenty minutes for the next several days.

Until you stop. Because your I.am.writer! (at) gmail (dot) com mailbox continues to be empty. You get no e-mails. Not from that special agent and not from other special agents you found prior to that one. The submission table you created to track down all submissions looks eerily empty in the “Responses” column. Your mood takes a nosedive. You wonder why you are even writing in the first place. You writing gets blocked. And you stop writing.

Until the next time when you browse the internet again and find that other special agent whose bio reads like she is waiting for your submission.

And the winner is…

Well, not me this time but next time for sure. In this competition, however, I was shortlisted and I happen to think that my story really rocked. So I thought I’d share it here with a link to the competition:

Dark Blue

There is a man sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper. I get the feeling that I know him. The slump of his back, the elegance of his long fingers, the full lips that seem to move ever so slightly as he reads. I cannot see his eyes but I already know that they are blue. Dark blue—just like the color of the ocean beneath the liner on which we met.

He flips a page and a headline catches my eye. Animal rights protest draws thousands. Yes. It’s all coming back to me now. A slender, fresh-faced, young lady of barely eighteen crossing the ocean. An older, English gentleman with a dog by his side and a walking cane. He must have been forty-­‐five or even fifty then. And I was just a child.

That was the first life that was cut short. I knew it, of course, before I started it— before my soul, hungry for experimentation, chose that fate. Until then, I had only inhabited bodies destined to live longer. Human experience fascinated me and I just could not get enough. But then the Teacher gently hinted that it was time to choose a host that would die young. I did and the first exploration of an early passing left me wanting more. From that life I went on to the one where at ten I died in a bunker from a poison injected into me by a doctor; and then to another one in which I drowned in a pool at five. And while all of them offered me exactly what I needed at the time, none stayed with me as long as the first one.

The evening we met that time on the ship was beautiful. Stars were just beginning to appear, the moon was pale gray, and the ship’s orchestra was playing my favorite. Mozart. I’ve liked his music ever since I was his lover…oh, so long ago.

“Nice night,”” he said, stopping by my side as I watched the water move underneath the ship.

“Yes,” I said. “Beautiful.”

“You don’t get dizzy looking down like this?” he asked.

“No.” I turned to him. His eyes matched the water.

The iceberg hit the ship that night. I died. He did too. And with us died what we started and the possibility of what could have been. Yet today we are both here, sitting across from each other in a Boston park. I guess we made it over the Atlantic at last.

A dog runs by chasing a tennis ball. The man folds the newspaper, stuffs it into the pocket of his coat, gets up, and before turning to walk away, looks over at me and waves. A soul will always recognize another familiar soul even if it’s in another body and another life—especially if their paths are meant to cross again.

The original appeared here.