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02 March 2006 @ 05:51 pm
Selling myself  
At the age of 51 I sold myself for the first time. Not sexually—no, much worse than that. In an interview about me and my book, “Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander: a Bisexual Regency Romance,” I answered questions about a deformity/disability of my hands. Yes, I am now officially a member of the club of those who paint with their feet and play the piano with their nose. From now on, my book won't be funny or sexy, exciting, well written, witty or outrageous. Now it’s just “inspirational.” (Pardon me while I puke.) “Isn’t it wonderful, she typed 500-some pages with no fingers!”

But I chose to do this. I could have decided not to discuss it. So I’m a whore, a bisexual-romance-writing, bookselling whore. With no fingers.
How did this happen?


To start at the beginning: I was born with deformed hands. I grew up, was very angry, had a nothing life, then discovered I could escape it all even better by writing than by reading. I could write my own escape from ugly reality (even if I sometimes feel I can’t punctuate my way out of a paper bag).

That’s when the lure of prostitution first began to get its hooks into me. I wanted people to read what I wrote. It was no longer enough that I enjoyed what I wrote—everybody else was damn well going to enjoy it too. Writing, for me, is a performance art, a lot like acting or stand-up comedy. I like to write comic scenes, and I sit at the computer giggling hysterically. In my rare moments of sanity I want to make other people laugh. Which means they have to read it. Which, in practical terms, means I tried to get published.

A bisexual historical romance about a man in love with his wife and his boyfriend. Right. So I “self-published.” Actually, what I did is technically called “subsidy publishing,” print-on-demand. I didn’t set up as a small business, a publisher of one book. I simply paid the people at a formatting place to format the word-processed manuscript, then print out hard copies “on demand” as they are ordered, and ship them to people.

And yes, all those obscene “inspirational” books are there, too, in these POD houses.

Well, I tried. I tried to do better for my beautiful Phyllida and her sexy, romantic, exciting witty, outrageous romance, and for her bisexual husband, Andrew, and all his friends and boyfriends in the Brotherhood of Philander in 1812 London. But this is the best I could do. POD.

So now I’m trying to sell it, in order to get people to buy it, so they can read it and laugh and get turned on, so I won’t be the only one sitting and laughing like a maniac at my computer and maybe touching myself (with no fingers) during the sexy parts. And, of course, people aren’t interested in a POD book, even a bisexual historical romance, because obviously, if it’s a POD, it sucks.

BUT tell them it was written by someone with no fingers and WOW! are they interested!
At least, that’s the theory. Whether I wrote something good is no longer an issue. Like Samuel Johnson’s offensive simile comparing the woman preacher to a dog standing on its hind legs, it doesn’t matter whether she does it well; it’s that she can do it at all.
“How does she do it?” I guess nobody’s heard of speech-recognition software. The fact is, however, I may not have “fingers” in any recognizably human sense, but I do have protrusions that are perfectly capable of pressing keys. So I type.

Truman Capote famously dismissed Jack Kerouac’s work as “not writing at all. It’s typing.” I guess I just don’t see how the particular way in which one physically presses the keys has anything to say about the words and concepts and style and content that emerge onto the page or screen. Writing really isn’t like the foot-painting artist or the nose-banging pianist. Those arts have a direct physical connection between the instrument and the art. Whereas, for the writer, the computer keyboard is not really part of the artistic process. It’s just a machine, a mechanism, a way to get ideas from inside one’s mind and into a form accessible by others—not an instrument. The art is in one’s head and then it comes out somehow onto paper or computer screen.

How it gets there can be very important to the writer. I would not be capable of writing by dictation, for example, although some non-disabled writers prefer it; my thoughts don’t come that way. I feel the thoughts percolating in my brain, then moving, through some mysterious process, down my arms and through those deformed protrusions which press the keyboard keys to form the proper words in the proper order.

But the finished product, the book, shows none of that. It would be no different to the reader if I typed it or handwrote it or dictated it or Morse-coded it to a telegrapher. (Remember Monty Python's semaphore version of "Wuthering Heights"?) Once it's "printed," or at least made into hard copy, the pages of the book display no brush-strokes, no trills, no crescendoes or chiaroscuro. They just show words, in English, in a particular font and typeface, using the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet. If the story has style, wit, sex, readability, the quality of being a page-turner—or not—it is because of its words and how they are strung together, its content, its meaning. Not because I typed at 35 wpm or stood on one foot and sang the Star Spangled Banner while I pressed the keys.

Still, I did this. I sold myself. I stood out on that corner in my black satin bustier and micro skirt and thigh-high suede boots, and when the creepy guy, the one reeking of alcohol, teeth rotted by crystal meth, the bloody knife still in his pocket, a stained print-out of kiddie porn clutched in his shaking hand (with fingers, grime embedded under the nails) asked, "Hey, girl, wanna party?" I said, "That'll be five good book questions, mister. Bareback for only one enthusiastic blurb." And I got down on my knees and did my thing.

So, boys and girls, what's the message? That I hope you buy the book. No, I hope you read the book. That's what I did it for. Get it however you want--buy it from AuthorHouse (the POD company) or online, new or used. Borrow it from your local library (which won't have it because--you guessed it--it's a POD and libraries don't buy PODs). As in the founding myth of Christianity, I have offered you my body and my blood. If you enjoy the meal, that's payment enough.
 
 
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In Different Hues: Winterindifferenthues on March 3rd, 2006 07:20 am (UTC)
well reading the article I was wondering what one thing had to do with the other but . . .

a.) Buying books depends on do you like the genre and is it any good, and from all accounts yours is AND

b.) I can't think of why anyone would or wouldn't buy a Regency Romance depending on what the author was like.

I mean would someone care if the author needed reading glasses to see to type, etc.? I think not. So why would anyone care how you type when the point is what you type.