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FAKING LIFE by Jason Pinter [Excerpt]

FAKING LIFE by Jason Pinter [Excerpt]

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Published by Diversion Books

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Published by: Diversion Books on May 28, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/06/2014

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Faking Lifeby Jason Pinter
Chapter One
“Esther, what is this?” Nico Vanetti boomed from his office.Esther had been waiting for over an hour, so her head perked up immediately. Tidying up thepapers on her desk, she ran through the selling points in her head. She knew what questions to expect, andhad to have answers ready on the spot. She wasn't going to let this one go. If her presentation wasn't up tosnuff, Nico could dash her hopes quicker than it had taken her to slice open the envelope. This one wastoo important to be unprepared.“Be right there.” She finished the last sip of her French Vanilla and smoothed her skirt. EnteringNico's office, Esther's heart drummed as she watched his eyes skim over a sheaf of paper. The paper she'dhanded him that morning. He was sitting in his black leather chair, feet resting on his desk atop the latestmanuscript from an old client. Coffee stains buttoned his otherwise brilliant white shirt.Standing in the doorway, Esther smelled the stench of Nico's unbearably strong aftershave. Shecould almost see the individual Hugo Boss molecules. “So what's up, Nic?” Nico finished skimming andheld up the pages for her to see.A trim man with olive oil skin and gray hair sprinkled about his slicked back coif, Nico Vanettiwas a man whose unbridled passion had mesmerized Esther four years ago when she joined VanettiLiterati. Since then, however, the impermeable aura had been cracked. His eyes no longer sparkled likethey once did. Phone calls, how Nico spent a great deal of his working day, began with heavy reticence inhis voice, as though the caller was interrupting some great pontification.Nico Vanetti was a powerful agent by name, but his dwindling skills and fading glory had led toan even faster dwindling clientele. The mailbox used to overflow with letters from successful writersreaching for the next plateau, confident that Nico's abundant skills and resources would help themachieve success which eluded them with their prior representation. He dealt with only the most promisingartists, hand-picking the best of the best.Nico Vanetti had climbed to the top of the literary establishment by being both bold and clever,and his marketing savvy was better than any publicist Esther had ever known. Every submission glowedlike antique china, and his contacts in Hollywood guaranteed film interest for anything he deemed worthyof the hype. Every client was a potential blockbuster waiting for the right editor to snap him up beforethey could reap huge profits for another house.Esther had actively campaigned for the job of Nico's assistant after reading a glowing profile of him in a magazine. For the first few months, her resume submissions were ignored. Undeterred, she'd sent
 
follow-up letters every other week until she'd literally badgered her way into an interview. Bold andclever. Just as the profile described Nico.To her delight they clicked instantly. She was hired a week later, sure she'd found an employerand a profession that would keep her sated for years.But since then, everything changed. She wondered if Nico had been on that path when they'd met.Whether she'd simply been blind to it. Perhaps it was just blissful ignorance.Two years into her job,
 New York 
magazine ran a story detailing Nico's troubled marriage, afailure expedited by his allegedly incurable penchant for Guatemalan housemaids. It was the first timeEsther had seen Nico in a personal light, and it scared her. Several clients took the moral high ground andsevered their relationships. Most of his longtime clients remained, but their good will either slowed to atrickle or ceased altogether. Fruit baskets stopped coming after contract negotiations, and his birthdaycards were perfunctory. Esther tried her best to keep her personal feelings about Nico separate from herprofessional life. She figured he'd made these people enough money over the years that they could forgivea slight marital infidelity because, when it came down to it, they knew their careers were in great hands.The breaking point came a year and a half ago, when Esther's perception of Nico changedpermanently. It involved Chester Peabody, a fantastically popular romance author who'd earned nearlyfour million dollars in royalties writing under the alias Brendan LaQuattro. Peabody wrote sweaty bodice-rippers, starring bored housewives and muscular he-men who whisked them away for grand adventuresand fabulous sex. No time period—or sexual position—was sacred. Yet Peabody's dream, which he'dexpressed to Nico on several occasions, was to write a space opera, a story that would put “Star Wars” toshame with its epic scope. Nico had discouraged this from the start. So when Chester finally put the pento the paper for his first Sci-Fi opus, authored under his given name, he overnighted the manuscript toNico, his trusted agent.It was a risky departure for Peabody, Esther knew that, but one that could pay substantialdividends for both he and Nico Vanetti. The story was visionary, the writing poetic, and Estherrecommended the book full-heartedly to Nico. Yet when she returned from lunch to find ChesterPeabody's manuscript on her desk with a post-it note instructing her to return it with Nico's disapproval,Esther was heartbroken. The pages looked like they hadn't been touched. She stormed into his office,horrified that he would ignore her opinion and the dreams of a client with such indifference.“How come you passed on the Peabody manuscript?” she'd asked.Nico lifted his head from a pile of paper and removed his glasses.“Est, I just don't see Chester's romance fans paying money for Sci-Fi. Very few people make realmoney in that genre. It's a real nitpicky audience and Chester doesn't have a name or reputation to stake it.It might sell, but likely not at the price he'd expect, and his romance fans would look elsewhere when hestopped producing” Noticing her astonishment, Nico added, “and Chester Peabody is the worst name fora writer I've ever heard. His name alone will drive people away.”Later that day, Esther sat at her desk and listened as Nico explained his reasoning to Chester, whotwo days later terminated his contract. Within the month, Chester Peabody had a contract worth $1.1million, the film rights sold for a cool $500,000 with Tobey MaGuire set to star. It was the mother of all“I told you so” moments, but Esther held her tongue. She resented Nico's inability to see the project's

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