Sunday, December 4, 2011

Phair's at the door

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Phair who?

Well, we're about to find out! :)  Author Phair is chillaxing here for a while and answered some questions from moi.

So, introduce yourself and your books. And how did you come up with your penname?
I'm an author.  Still need to pause with awe each time I say or write that word.  It is most improbable for me to a writer.  I was a functional illiterate until I was 16.  Dyslexia was not well understood in the 1960s while I was navigating grade school.  The teachers told my mom more than once I was retarded.  I believed them.  She did not.

She kept talking and trying to find somebody to help me.  I was in eight schools by the time I graduated from high school.  It was a private college prep high school.  My parents could barely afford it.  The guidance counselor hounded me about telling my parents i was too stupid to waste money on.  A public school would be good enough for a remedial student such as myself.  I believed the teacher's assessment of my own skills more than i believed my own parents faith in me intelligence.  In that aspect, I was, indeed, very dumb. 

You're probably wondering how I tested into a private school if I couldn't read.  Multiple choice tests are actually very easy to figure out.  I matched the words. Any answer having the most words that matched the text was most likely right.  This works in all areas except math.  Math has always been my worst subject which is amazing since I couldn't read. 

Then my life changed overnight.  I was assigned to read To Kill A Mockingbird.  The simplicity of the prose connecting such complex thoughts made my sluggish reading synapses fire and spark to life.  I was finally able to understand letters make word which make sentences which convey meaning.  Why didn't they just say that in first grade instead of this Jane and Dick running around nonsense?

Words intrigued me.  Maybe because they were so elusive and at times still are.  Maybe it was their silent power.  Whatever the mystique, I was intoxicated with them.  Some girls play with makeup in their teens; I dabbled in poetry.  I dangled prepositions.  I stopped capitalizing because ee cummings made me cry for the beauty of his words. (Side note: Some of phair's "i"s, as in the subject pronoun, had been lowercase, and I changed them to uppercase. And dang it, I just noticed this sentence about not capitalizing! Don't know how I overlooked it before. Sorry, Phair ;-) )

Poems are vital to civilization.  But, you can't make a living at it.  i went to college for something else and then onto a masters degree.  So much for the initial retarded theory.

But, the words kept calling me.  Nagging me to play with them.  Poetry wasn't going to sell.  So, I took a short story writing course.  It was horror fiction.  My first story won the professors grudging praise.  Initially, he thought i plagiarized it.   What is it with me and educators? 

I started writing horror fiction in the late 80's for staple backed 'zines.  The Internet crushed them into oblivion over night in the 90's and horror was sent to slumber-land after the Sixth Sense.  Sci fi grabbed the throne briefly with on-line 'zines.  I stumbled into it from an old friend who migrated from the horror genre.  Sci fi edged into the Xenaverse which cascaded into lesbian fiction. 

The fan base in lesbian fiction is fantastic.  I've been publishing stories since 1989, through multiple genres and this is the most supportive, vocal, and involved fan base I've seen yet. 

I write under my own name, Marguerite Mullaney, and a pen name, phair.  There are also slight deviations of both; mullaney, ht phair.  The pen name is something I claimed when I was 16 and figured out how this reading and writing stuff worked.  It is a nod to my Mom.  She did not understand my art.  She was a musician.  She loved to read but never considered the writers as artists.  Still, she supported me education against all good advice.  So, I took her family name as my own. 

By the way, my dad totally got it.  He used to get the mail with my latest horror story in while I was off working the day job.  He'd wait with the 'zine on the coffee table for me to come home.  There would be a ghoulish figure with fang or a troll or which boiling children on the 'zine cover and he would be sitting smiling, looking at me over his glasses.  My elderly, gray haired father would say, would it be okay for me to read this one?'  I always said sure and he always said it was wonderful. 

My novels:
The Aethereal Sea came out in 2003.  It is out of print but can still be purchased directly from me at my website.  It is a sci fi story about the fate of the universe.

Coward, also a sci fi novel, is due out from LBooks in December or January.  It is the story of an army officer who defies a command to save her squad.  She is convicted of treason, branded a coward, and sent to a remote penal colony on a distant planet.   A lifelong homophobe, she is forced to depend on the tent rat who is given to her as her whipping bitch.  Survival turns to love making the unbearable enjoyable.  So, of course, somebody has to show up ruin her hard won happiness. 

Anatomy of a Commitment is a short story included in LBooks holiday anthology.  It is snips of conversations over the course of relationship.

Commencement is a novel available as an e-book at Amazon.  The story follows Ash, a ward of the state, from her high school graduation into her new life as an adult.  Due to early abuse, she is sorely lacking in social skills.  But, one woman sees her strength and shines on moment of kindness on her that changes everything. 

21 free stories
20 stories in the subscription service

So, how does the subscription service work? What made you decide to go a subscription-based way?
The subscription service is called the Dirty Story of The Month club or DsofM. The cost for the remainder of this year is $19. Renewal rates are locked into the year of purchase. So those subscribing this year will be charge $19 each annual renewal cycle. 2012's cost will be $21. Every month there is a new story available on to members with a password. They also have exclusive access to the Chat Room. I was having monthly chats but they are not very popular so I'm going to change is to quarterly.

Why a subscription service? I want to earn my living writing. Book sales alone will not accomplish that in the indie publishing and small press world. If I'm going to get to be a full time writer then I need multiple avenues of revenue sources. I'd like to say it was for art's sake but that would be a lie.

I did learn something very disheartening about my readers. They continue to flock to my free stories at a rate of 300 to 400 hits daily but very few will subscribe. As one reader said in an email she accidentally forwarded to my entire mailing list, 'she's (me) not worth that kind of money,' It was really hard to read that and not flip out. Considering one of my stories was a three time story on the week at that reader's website, her statement was a bit hypocritical.

It is commentary like that which makes you want to pull and Emily Dickenson and roll up all your writing in a draw, hidden from a critical world.

My website has well over two hundred thousand words between both sites. Oh, and I almost forgot my favorite feature. Build a Novel. It is my Genghis Khan inspired scifi story that is a work in progress at the sight. Readers can watch me as I work on it. It's like watching paint dry I imagine but on paper it seemed like such a good idea.

My writing has not been without cost. I lost a good job because somebody felt 'threatened' by the adult content of my writing. She was 36 years old. My company investigated me and cleared me of any wrong doing. I felt unwelcome in spite of there attempts to quiet the issue. The company rep had made it clear they did not approve of the nature of my work.

So, with all your traditional and nontraditional revenue sources, are you able to reach your goal and make a living writing? Also, do you think you might write general fiction for a mass audience one day? The money you earn from that might be able to allow you to write in the lesbian fiction niche.
 Not even close to making a living but I'm just really getting all the individual pieces together now.  The website was only revamp last December from a decade old template.  I have a professional IT team helping with the techie stuff.  It accepts PayPal for purchases of books, t-shirts and sundries.

My second novel, Coward, from a publishing house isn't going to be released until December or January.  My publisher this time is L-Books.  They are a dream to work with.  This Christmas Roxanne and the gang at L are giving away anthologies with purchases.  For details, see their website.  Included is one of my stories, Anatomy of a Commitment.  In support of Coward and L-Books, I'm planning on being at Women's Week in P-town next year. 

I also have a website that is primarly pictures of the beach.  Sometimes, poems.  I consider it my webzen moment of the day.  that can be found at

I do write mainstream as well.  it is very difficult to break in.  I'm hoping my Genghis Khan novel will be the piece that gets me in the door.  

How do you do research for your works, such as the Genghis Khan one?
Usually, the research is first. Before the idea. I read several newspapers daily and stay current with studies in science and healthcare. At least once a day, random information in my head slams together like the old "you got peanut butter in my chocolate commercials." An implausible or unbearable concept will form and I flesh it out.

Commencement was spawned by three separate ideas that hit a pile up in my brain one stray week: 1. I read a very short book of quotes from Mr. Rogers. It was cute. 2. There was a feature article in the Boston Globe about wards of the state turning 18 and becoming homeless with no support system. 3. My nephew was graduating from a very posh high school and I was warned by my sister in law the ceremony sometimes got uncomfortable. The principle and vice principle each read a short appraisal of the graduate that was not always flattering. In fact, at his ceremony they outed one teen. The three concepts congealed into the Ash series of short stories. I complied them later into the Commencement which is now available at Kindle.

Commencement was rejected by a publisher with a lengthy letter. It was brutal because so much of what the editor complained about had been researched and the editor was just plain wrong. I sucked it up and wanted something new.

I was chatting with my sister one day about expanding my horizons into new subject areas and she recommended a book she had just finished: Genghis Khan and the making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. It was brilliant. He made a historical novel read like a compelling adventure. I'm serious. It was edge of your seat reading. I knew I wanted to write about the steppes as I was reading it so I started my research with Wikipedia and then watched a docudrama from the bbc. Mongolia has its own website which was a treasure trove of info. But, whenever I think of the Genghis I think of my sister. She has a real love of time travel. That became the pivotal issue in my story. The info I read about the supercollider added fuel to my limited physics background. But, in the end, it is a love story. A straight love story. Underneath all the violence, I'm a romantic.

You are also doing a collaboration with Being Anders on her website. The story is called Deadtown. It is a mass murder mystery.  How is the collaboration going? How is it different from writing alone? (
 I thought collaborating would be hard. I don't enjoy people taking liberties with my words for the stories I write alone. The concept initially felt weird. We needed to merge two very distinctive styles into one cohesive narrative and do it across time zones. Anders is 12 hours ahead of me literally.

But, Anders had a solid concept for the lead character. A female Irish Catholic Boston police detective with a huge drinking problem and more demons than bullets in her automatic. Once we had the lead character, I took some pictures of the area around Boston which would be the crime scenes. Anders has never been to Boston. So, with the lead character, setting and general story idea formed we began. Our style fluctuates between me staring a chapter and Anders fleshing it out to Anders starting and me fleshing it out.

Amazingly, disagree strongly on very little. We quibble but one or the other of us will cave on any disputed item. The next go round the other writer usually wins the discussion.

And, Anders has been a particularly supportive friend to me this year. When I had a grand mal seizure last December, she emailed daily to check on me. If i was feeling to bad for myself she'd give me a verbal boot in the bottom. It was most like that those ongoing emails that prepped us for writing together.

She's an enormously talented writer. Her short story, Fables, is about as perfect as a tale can be. And she's going to have my head on a stick for saying so. But, I have to tell the truth. 

The links:
My website to purchase membership, books, t-shirts, or read free stuff:

Commencement is available at Kindle:

My webzen moment of the day website, the Gull Times, is updated daily with photos of the beach:

L-Books will be publishing my second novel with a publisher, Coward, in late 2011 or early 2012:

And, deadtown is posted free at Anders site:
 Email Phair! p.phair(at)comcast(dot)net (not clickable so spammers can't grab this)

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