DNF FTW ~ Outside the Margins with Atom Yang

Join Prism Book Alliance® as Atom Yang goes Outside the Margins today.


Yes! One of my books got a DNF (“Did Not Finish” for newbies) review!

This may seem like a strange thing to celebrate, but the truth is, if I wrote a book that gets a wide range of reactions from people, I feel successful, and if it’s a strong reaction (the reader wrote that she “can’t force” herself to pick up Herc & Pyotr after reading 18% of it), I feel super successful—as accomplished as when another reader said she “COULD. NOT. PUT. IT. DOWN.”

See, reviews are for readers.

Again: reviews are for readers.

Sure, I try to glean feedback from people other than family, friends, beta readers, editors, proofreaders because I am eager to learn. I enjoy checking out more in-depth reviews on review sites because I might find out something more than whether someone liked or didn’t like my work; an in-depth review, written as a thoughtful critique by someone who considers reviewing a skill and an art, is a different animal than someone sharing an intuitive, emotional opinion—both are valuable, and the two are as different as an essay and a book report (with some crossover).

But I’ll say it again: reviews are for readers.

What I don’t say is, “I got a great review” or “someone didn’t finish reading me.” That’s an overidentification (and even misidentification) with something that literally is not me. I am not my books. I am not the typo I missed. I’m not even this post written in the first person.

Equanimity isn’t always my go-to. Sometimes reviews can sting and I do have to remind myself not to take it personally, and to remember: reviews are for readers. They are shared to inform, warn, and encourage. I may post them to help readers consider my work, but ultimately, I’m acting as a traffic controller, moving those reviews in front of—you guessed it—readers.

I’m thrilled my book got a DNF. Will it turn off some people from Herc & Pyotr? Sure.

Will it make some people wonder what’s past 18% if they try it out and keep going? I hope so.

What about there not being “enough conflict to make the story interesting?” I think it’s a fair warning for those who want high conflict in their stories early on (people have different pacing needs) for them to remain engaged. For those who appreciate a more measured pace, that’s also embedded in the opinion.

This was a good review. I’m not being sarcastic, snarky, or facetious. I’m completely serious: I’m honored the reader took time out to share her experience and opinion, her history and proclivities, her expectations and preferences (the review wasn’t anonymous, so I got to learn about her, which was nice).

I do wish she had found some more enjoyment in my work (she said the characters were “sweet”), but don’t mistake that for personal disappointment on my part—I wish she had enjoyed the story. I don’t feel disappointment for myself because I know what I write isn’t for everyone.

But reviews? They’re always for readers.

~Atom Yang


Title: Herc & Pyotr
Author: Atom Yang
Publisher: MLR Press
Publication Date: 03/25/2016
Cover Artist: Kris Jacen
Genre: Action/Adventure, Apocalyptic/dystopian, Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Gay Romance, Humor/Comedy, Romance, Science Fiction


Herc thought he had the perfect life: a great partner and a meaningful career as a psychotherapist—until his partner left him a week ago and Herc became too depressed to see his clients. When a random meteorite punched a tidy hole in his car’s engine, it seemed like the world had it in for him, but bumping into Pyotr, the handsome older man who’s moved in a couple of doors down and happens to study things like falling stars, life might be looking up for Herc—and more may be falling than the skies in this light-hearted, apocalyptic romance.


Chapter One

I took care of my car.

Regular maintenance, oil changes, carwashes–the works. I figured I’d sell it one day, and I didn’t want it to have a scratch or a sticker to drop its value, let alone anything wrong mechanically. Everything worked on it–the power windows, radio, CD player…until today.

“Great,” I said, staring at the fist-sized hole in the hood. I clicked my key fob and turned off the alarm. A few of the neighbors came out and turned off their car alarms, too, that had been set off by the very loud boom that shook all of our windows early this spring morning.

“Jeez, Herc, what happened?” Nestori, my friend and neighbor down the way, stood there with his blond bed head, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He wore a rumpled white tee, sweatpants, and socks–we were dressed alike except I had slippers. Maybe I appeared as lost as he did. Or worse, since I hadn’t changed my clothes since the beginning of the week.

“I don’t know.” I gawked at the smoking hole. “Lightning?” I pieced together the evidence I had, and only came up with a timeline that started with a crash, followed by my car alarm, then a couple of minutes later the aforementioned boom, and finally the other cars being triggered. “A frozen turd from an airplane?”

“Are you serious? Holy shit.”

“Ha ha.”

“What?” His golden eyebrows crinkled together, and then he grinned. “Oh.”

“To be fair, it did fall from the sky.” Everybody huddled closer to peer into the puncture. “I don’t know. I don’t even know who I should call about this.”

“What about Jason?”

Nestori’s innocent question should’ve felt like a sucker punch, but the numbness from seeing my killed car protected me. “He left last week. We’re not together anymore.”

“Bro. Why didn’t you say anything?”

Because you would’ve wanted to get me drunk and laid.

“I would’ve totally come over with a bottle of Jack and helped you get some D, man.”

“So that’s why I haven’t seen him jogging for a while.” Pihla, the widow who lived across the street, had the perkiest personality–and breasts–in our neighborhood.

“I thought he left on a business trip.” She wore a pink satin robe over a pink nightie with matching pink slippers. A small, thin, gold cross on a gold chain stuck out sideways from her cleavage and wobbled back and forth, unable to rest flat. Her son, Sami, clung to her leg, his head just above her knee, avoiding eye contact like some toddlers do. This suburban Madonna in pink held a mug of expensive coffee I could smell and envy from where I stood, and rested her French manicured hand on her shy boy’s head. By the way she had batted her eyes at Jason during block parties, or how she happened to pick up the morning paper from her driveway when he’d jog past, I always thought she had a crush on my partner.

Ex. I meant ex-partner.

“Yeah, he didn’t leave on a business trip. He just left me.” I wondered if I died inside my home from choking on a chicken bone while eating, single and alone, how long it would take for my neighbors to notice my dead, bachelor body. I thought I smelled something funny, one would say a week later. Jeez, what happened? another would ask. Who the hell cares? my ghost would spell out on a Ouija board, life sucks.

“Meteorite,” said a faintly accented voice from the crowd. Slavic, I would guess.

“Whoa! You think a meteor hit Herc’s car?” Nestori asked. “How do you know?”

“Meteorite,” the voice gently corrected. “It’s a meteorite when it lands. I saw everything as I was jogging this morning.”

“Meteorite,” I mumbled. My geek brain fetched a personal wiki page from when I wrote a report in sixth grade about asteroids crashing into Earth and destroying all life, because I’ve always been a cheery person. The word “disaster” comes from the Italian disastro, meaning “ill-starred event.”

Why couldn’t it have been a pretty shooting star that vaporized all sparkly in the atmosphere, so I could make a wish? Instead, it’d dropped a deuce on my perfectly maintained car.

The hole in the hood gaped back at me, and I thought about the day Jason left. He had requested I park on the street instead of in the garage, so he’d be able to get his things out of the house without too much trouble.

I should make a wish anyway.

Something realistic, not like true love and a happy-ever-after ending with a handsome, emotionally intelligent man, because that obviously doesn’t happen. How about a nice pair of shoes? Good shoes are more reliable than men.

“I’m sorry this happened,” the voice said, this time to my left. “There have been worldwide reports of meteor strikes over the past few weeks.”

I turned and came eye to eye with the concerned face of a middle-aged man only slightly taller than me. He wore a red baseball cap and his black hair, lined with a few strands of gray, escaped his hat around his ears and a little over his forehead. His color-coordinated stubble, speckled with silver, defined a square jaw and framed full lips. Perspiration darkened his loose, gray shirt, forming something like a Rorschach inkblot in the center of his defined chest. Despite the smell of engine oil and gasoline coming from my mortally wounded car, the scent of his clean sweat cut through and woke me from my daze.

“Hi, I’m Pyotr. I moved here last week.” He offered me a firm handshake and a smile, and returned to surveying the damage to my car, his hands on his hips. “You should probably call your insurance and not your ex. I work from home a few days a week, so if you need a ride, let me know? I live down the street.” He started running lightly in place. His feet were bare, which I hadn’t noticed.

“Thanks for the offer…Pee-yo-ter. I may take you up on it.”

“Please do.” Pyotr smiled again, nodded a succinct farewell, and trotted off.

“Yeah, if you need a ride…” Nestori and a few neighbors offered, but I didn’t pay attention.

I was busy making an unrealistic wish. And it wasn’t for shoes.


Herc & Pyotr on Goodreads
MLR Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About Atom Yang

AtomYangPicApril292016Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character, in case you were wondering.

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6 thoughts on “DNF FTW ~ Outside the Margins with Atom Yang

  1. Thank you for the post. I’ve seen others post subjects like this but none quite like your perspective. Thank you for the excerpt!

  2. So true. And I like to remind myself that I have on occasion bought a book exactly because a reviewer said, I hated this book because (and this is just a personal example) it just wasn’t angsty enough. I honestly don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad review (malicious reviews is a different story all together) because just as authors are individuals, so are readers and one persons DNF may be someone else’s ‘couldn’t put down’.

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