True Love for Sale: An Origin Story
Start a blog, my writer-friend urged me. Just try it. Do it for practice, just to put yourself out there. Do it just to find out how it feels.
I wanted to get published. I was submitting poems to literary magazines, obsessed with the notion that I would become a writer on the day that I was chosen. Someone with an MFA in poetry and the title of “editor” after their name would have the power to manifest my being, or to deny it.
I was casting nets in random directions, constantly on the lookout for any magazine that might have me and growing more desperate all the time. It wasn’t working. No matter how small or low-budget the magazine, my poetry wasn’t good enough to fight its way to the top of the pile, and though I kept on sending out submissions, deep down I knew it.
So start a blog, my writer-friend kept pushing me. Use it to let your ideas fly away into the world, unfettered. You can fabricate a throwaway persona, use the anonymity to dangle controversial thoughts, experiment with technique and test the appeal of narrative threads, all without risking your reputation.
I refused. I had other plans. Poetry was a dead-end anyway, I told myself. Only poets read poetry, and I wanted to reach a wider audience. My goal as a writer was to give the world something beautiful and new, something that it it needed and lacked. Endless attempts to publish my sub-par poetry was more about my own ego than about sharing joy with others.
If poetry was not the medium, what about fiction? People love fiction. Stories pull a reader in; you don’t need to be high-minded or literary to fall headfirst into a story. And the world would need my stories, because mine would be the stories that I always wanted to read, but could never find. I would write romantic fiction for people like me – people who are polyamorous, kinky or queer, or otherwise exploring their identities through relationship. People whose love traverses boundaries of race and culture, inviting all the rich and wrenching challenges that arise.
Just start a blog, my writer-friend urged. The books will come later but you have to start somewhere. Build a following first, and query agents once you’ve got something to show.
I refused. I refused and refused until one day I had this idea.
I wanted to be a writer, but most of the time, I wasn’t writing. Instead, I was working to earn a living, nannying during the days while pulling down extra cash in off-hours as a sugar baby to a married (and cheating) man.
I often mused about the meaning of my work, its place in the wider world. I saw myself as a small cog within the Love Economy, an invisible engine of mostly unpaid, mostly woman-powered labor upon which the rest of society depends. The importance and under-appreciation of childcare and other forms of care work are well-documented; considering sex work along these same lines is less common, but here I was, a living example of the overlap.
These analyses felt provocative, even profound sometimes, but I would never dare to share these thoughts with anyone. I was too scared of the social media-verse ripping me to shreds.
So what about a blog? I could birth a pretend self, use her as a mic stand for the stories that I wanted to tell but was too afraid to attach to my name.
My writer-friend liked the idea, and so did I. I made up the name Pauli Atomic, a catchy play-on-words that hinted at the blog’s sub-theme of polyamory, and a tribute to the great feminist trailblazer Pauli Murray. The title True Love for Sale came to me before I even knew about the Ella Fitzgerald song containing the same words. It was perfect. I bought the domain, and I was off.
True Love was up and cranking, and now I knew the basic mechanics of running a WordPress blog.
It was time to start the “real” project, the one I had in mind before I concieved of True Love for Sale. My second WordPress site would be the homepage for the author Peach Berman, who would need a website once she made her publishing debut in the romance-erotica scene.
I started peachberman.com, set it up and started posting. The site looked great, I felt confident with the quality of the writing, and readers seemed to find my content pleasurable. The only trouble was that now I had two blogs, in addition to a full-time job and a high-input side gig. As I surpassed my capacity and hit the point of overwhelm, both blogs got neglected.
So I muddled along in that state for a while, posting and engaging determinedly under both WordPress accounts and falling behind on my goals for both. At the same time, I was working on a short story to submit to an erotic anthology by New Smut Project, my first attempt at writing fiction for publication. I called the story Planet Rolling Over, based it on my marriage to Marisol, and filled it with my hopes for rebirth and re-imagination of our passion as wives.
Then my life blew up.
Just weeks after I submitted the story, my marriage ended in a breathless whirlwind. When I found my footing on the other side, everything had changed. I wasn’t a sugar baby anymore; instead, I was giving up my polyamorous activity in order to settle down with one partner who made me feel safer and more loved than I ever had before.
A few months later, I heard back from New Smut Project. Planet Rolling Over, the swan song of my first marriage, would be published in their fourth anthology.
If scoring a publication was the threshold to ”becoming” a writer, I was in.
My life has done a full 180 and a couple of backflips since I started this blog. The direction in which I’m now heading doesn’t fit neatly with this blog’s original vision. That’s okay – I’m happy on the other side. Six months ago I couldn’t have predicted the path that lay ahead of me, but now that I’ve started down it, there’s not one detail I would want to change.
So what lies ahead for True Love? Well, this irreverent experiment isn’t ready to die just yet. There are so many concepts that I dreamed up for this blog but never got a chance to explore, and I still plan to tease them out and post them here. But it is time for Pauli Atomic, my practice-run persona, to step aside and let Peach Berman take the wheel. True Love for Sale is staying online, and I intend to continue publishing here whenever I feel inspired to write more on these themes. But for the immediate future, Peach’s website is going to get the attention I’ve been denying it since its inception.
If smut isn’t your thing, I recommend you steer clear of my erotic literary at peachberman.com. But if you’re open to some wild naughtiness, then come along and check me out! And be sure to get your hands on my first-ever publication by securing your copy of Cunning Linguists, the fourth anthology by New Smut Project, coming May 2022 and available now for preorder on Smashwords and Gumroad. Bonus points if you leave a review!
And for those of you who are still hanging with me here on True Love, I would love (truly!) to hear from you at this moment. What have you appreciated as you’ve read and interacted with this blog? Are you left with any burning curiosities that you’d like me to address in future posts? Talk to me in the comments and I’ll be happy to oblige.
HUGE thanks to everyone who has read, followed, commented, and shared my content throughout the first round of the True Love experiment. And an extra-special round of thanks to everyone in my life who has inspired and supported this effort: VPBRB, TH, WC, BV, and the writer-friend who starred in this installment, VN. I’m forever grateful.