Chapter 13 - Rejection

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"Can you give me a cigarette?"

Luke glances at me over his reading glasses. It is freaky because he looks exactly like our mom Ximena when he does that.

"Since when do you smoke?" he says, putting his book away and sitting at the edge of his bed.

"Since now. Can you give me one?" I say, raking my fingers through my hair in frustration.

"No, I won't give you one. I'm trying to quit with it myself. What is going on that is so bad that you want a smoke?"

"My manuscript chapters got rejected,"

"And? Is not the first time that you get a rejection. Can't you send it to anybody else?"

"I got rejected by every publishing house that makes travel books," I say, taking a seat next to him.

While on my travels, I started working on a book of my anecdotes in each country that I visited. I had my laptop with me and would write whenever I had a safe place to do so, or where I had electricity.

In the first days after I moved back, I did some editing on the first ten chapters and sent the manuscript out to every publisher that I could find. My plan was that if somebody took it, I could finish it and fine tune it while living from the publishing rights. Normally it takes weeks for them to come back with an answer. This time they were quicker. After only three weeks, I got rejection after rejection. The reasons: what I wrote about has been done already; miss some edge; it is funny but not quite there.

"What about doing self-publishing?" says Luke.

"You barely earn anything with that. I can't make a living out of small royalties,"

"But you still write columns. Surely you get paid decently for those,"

I feel myself blushing deeply.

"Michael, what did you do?"

"I had an argument with the editor in chief. They want to assign me a theme to write about, and want to control my opinions. They say that I'm too harsh sometimes and have received many e-mails complaining about something I said. I told him that it is a column and it should be about personal opinions, and that if they want a neutral one, they should just read an article instead. He let me go,"

"Jeez, Mikey," my brother says while rubbing my back.

"Am I really that harsh?"

"I wouldn't say harsh, more like crude. You say things like they are and don't beat around the bush. Sometimes you could benefit from a bit of diplomacy in the way that you bring the truth,"

I look at my lap and reflect on his words. Luke and I have always been very honest with each other. As little boys, we created this tight bond. We felt that we needed to protect each other from the world, and therefore we trusted each other and never kept secrets.

I hear the front door open and then laughter. Jordan is home and so to hear with Chloe. I met her a few weeks ago at Moonlight House and she seems like a nice girl. I don't know the details of why Jordan and she broke up, but he has been happy and chirpy since she is back in his life. The laughter continues through the hallway, and we hear his door closing.

"I'm glad that I have my ear plugs. Those two are freaking loud and the wall that divides our rooms is paper thin,"

"I think the whole building can hear them," says Luke with a smirk.

"Did you know anything about her before we met her?"

"Yeah, we talk from time to time about girls and he mentioned her. They have known each other since school and were in a relationship for a long time. She got offered a job as a makeup artist for a theater show in New York and he didn't want her to miss the opportunity. They tried the long distance thing for a while, but it didn't work out,"

"I wonder why she is back,"

"I don't know. I'm a bit sorry for Deirdre though. I know that Jordan was interested in her, and well, we saw at the club that the feeling was mutual. She was quickly discarded after Chloe came into the picture. Back to your book. Why don't you submit it to other places? Even if they don't publish travel books, they might be interested,"

"I could,"

"What about Rose Books? Mom is their main author. They will for sure take interest in your work if they know who is your mom,"

"That is the point Luke. I want to make a name for myself. After I finished my master degree, people were still calling me Ximena Redmont's son. They would even say: 'that is cute, you want to be a writer like your mom'. I love Mom and everything that she does is fantastic, but I want people to know me. I'm sure you also hate it when people compare you to Dad,"

"I don't hate it, but it does irritate me. I'm hoping that with the new bakery, that people stop thinking of me as the son of the candy maker,"

"Exactly my point. Hey, can you hire me? I'm jobless and penniless,"

"You want to sell cakes?"

"I have done it a million times before at the fairgrounds. I will need to find a job anyway, now that the prospect of writing as a career is not showing much promise,"

"Okay, we can work together," my brother says with a warm smile. "I will get the keys tomorrow. My plan is to work on it after my shift at O'Brien's. The place needs a good scrub and a lot needs to happen before it can look remotely as a bakery. I do have a name though. It will be called 'Sweet Kingdom',"

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah, I wanted it to be catchy and easy to remember. I have been toying with a few ideas for a logo, but that will come at a later stage. But Michael, trust me, send that manuscript to Rose Books. You can even have a pen name. Mom is known as Amelie anyway. You can surely come up with something,"

"Rose won't take me. They only specialize in romance and chick lit books. They don't even have nonfiction writers in their roster,"

"Then write a romance. Don't you have a literature degree? You must have read your good share of romances. I have even read all of Mom's books,"

"A romance written by a guy. Maybe there is something there,"

"Try it. What do you have to lose? You can use your travel notes in the story anyway,"

My brother has a point and I love a challenge. I could talk to Mom, but then she will get excited and want to review and edit my story. She doesn't mean it in a bad way, but she is fond of her red pen and my grammar mistakes.

"I think I will. Thanks for the talk Luke. I don't need the cigarette anymore," I say, kissing his cheek and standing up from his bed.

"Don't start on them. It's an awful and expensive habit. Bakers don't earn that well," he says with a smirk, grabbing his book and going back to his reading.

What is Luke reading? Of course, Mom's latest book. A romance about a ranch girl and the new stable boy. Oh God, suddenly got pictures in my head of people tossing in the hay. I have no doubts that there must be something like that in there.

I go to my room and look at the wall that divides mine with Jordan's. They are going at it... again. Seems like they have a lot to catch up from the years that they were apart. I hope they are using protection.

I open my laptop and start a new document. A romance... can I really do that? I'm a guy after all and with very limited knowledge of what the ladies think and like. I have had a few girlfriends, many flings and almost everything that I know comes from my Mom. I'm a guy... that's it! Luke likes to read romances. Why not write a romance with a travel theme from a guy's perspective. Oh Luke, thanks! I will scrub the bakery floor spotless for this.

I let my hands transcribe the images that my brain sees, and Austin King begins his adventures with a big backpack and a laptop bag in a dusty airport written by author M. G. Riley.

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