The Editors Dilema

A little bit of fun about someone who writes under an alias. This may sound familiar to one or two readers…

Scene: On an island somewhere in the Caribbean.

The phone was ringing and ringing.

The sole occupier of the house was sitting outside the house on a veranda. They had their feet up on a chair and a bottle of cold beer in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

They looked into the house. The phone was clearly visible to them. They could have gotten up and answered it but they didn’t. They were very comfortable and frankly couldn’t be bothered. It was one of those days where even going to the fridge was an effort. The unrelenting heat was only tempered a gentle breeze coming off the sea.

Eventually the ringing stopped.

The occupant smiled and took another swig of beer and mentally rejoiced at the peace that was returning to their abode.

The peace didn’t last long.

Less than a minute later the phone began ringing once more. Once again it was ignored.

Eventually, the beer bottle was empty and the person rose from their chair and went inside the house. The phone started ringing again. This time they answered it.

“Yes?”

“I was out on the beach. I always go for a walk at this time of day,” they replied lying through their back teeth.

“Yes I have been working on the story.”

“No I don’t know when it will be finished. When it is, I’ll let you know.”

Feeling slightly annoyed with the pressure that was being applied to them, they put the phone down without waiting for an answer from the caller.

- - - - -

{Three days later}

The occupier was once again sitting on the veranda once more. They had a beer in one hand again. It was a habit for this time of day to ‘down a cold one’.

Just like before, the phone started to ring.

This time, a pile of paper was sitting on a small table by the side of the phone.

With a weary sigh, the person got up and answered the phone.

“Yes?”

“It’s done, the story, I’ve finished it.”

“I’ll courier it to New York tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow is because I’m going fishing for the rest of the day.”

They put the phone down and went back to their beer with a wry smile on their face. The ‘play’ they had written had one more act to perform.

{At the publishers in New York, three days later}

“Package for you Jenny,” said a man carry a large brown envelope.

The woman looked up from her desk.

“Thanks Joe. I’ve been expecting it.”

As soon as she’d finished the email she’d been working on and pressed ‘Send’, she picked up the envelope and opened it with great expectations.

Jenny pulled out a thick sheaf of paper and a smile appeared on her face. She’d been waiting a whole year for the next novel by her most prize author, Cynthia Sharpe.

She settled down with eager anticipation to read the work that has given her so much angst and lip biting to get.

“Being Me, by Cynthia Sharpe”

The title perplexed Jenny. It was very different from the title she’d been given almost a year previously.

She remembered that day with fondness. She’d just been made Cynthia’s editor and true to form, Cynthia had sent her an outline of the novel. She’d been very proud and excited to be appointed editor to such an enigmatic author as Cynthia Sharpe. This was her first piece of work as Cynthia’s editor.

Her first disappointment in the job had been to find out that Cynthia Sharpe was a ‘nom de plume’ and second was that the person she’d thought was a she was in fact a man.

It had taken her a few days to get her head around the fact that a man could possibly write erotic novels that were so clearly written from a woman’s point of view.

Her worries were compounded as she read the whole manuscript. It was her practice to read it in one sitting. That way she could judge the ‘page turn ability’ of the work.

Jenny persevered with her task through the afternoon and well into the evening. Finally, she put the manuscript down with a frown on her face.

She sat for several minutes in deep thought before she got up from her desk, switched off the desk light and left the office for the night.

Jenny went home deep in thought. She really didn’t know what to make of the work she’d been reading all afternoon. Her emotions are mixed. Part of her wanted to scream in anger, part of her wanted to cry and par of her wanted to …

Part of her wanted to beat the author into a pulp. She’d been totally misled about the theme of the work she’d read that day. That made her angry but in a different way to the anger she’d encountered when reading the book and the plight of the central character. Overall, the whole experience had been thoroughly disturbing.

Sleep didn’t come easily for Jenny that night. She just couldn’t get the story out of her mind. Whilst it was totally different from any of the previous eight novels that ‘Cynthia’ had written before, if had the hallmarks of being a bestseller but for totally different reasons to any of the previous works.

By the time her alarm went off, she’d hardly gotten any sleep. Her mind was still totally mixed up if not confused. Even her power shower failed to clear her mind.

Her mental state was still messed up by the time she arrived in the office. She’d hoped to escape the editor in chief but even that a failure.

The man in question, Anthony Andrews, was waiting for he as she stepped out of the lift and into the office.

“Jenny, I hear that the new Cynthia novel landed on your desk yesterday. What is it like? We are all really keen to know all about it?”

Jenny swallowed hard. She knew that there was no getting out of it. She’d have to tell the whole office about her first impressions.

“How much editing will it need? I have the printers all lined up for the first week of next month. We need to get our skates on if we are going to get this book onto the shelves before Christmas,” said Anthony before she’d had a chance to gather her thoughts.

She swallowed hard before answering.

“To be honest Anthony, it is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever read.”

His open mouth told her that he was shocked by her answer.

“Can you resurrect it? We really need to get this to the printers.”

“No amount of editing will change it from crap to brilliant prose.”

“But…”

“Don’t worry Andrew, it will sell like hotcakes. We won’t have to change a word.”

“But… You said that it was crap?”

“It is crap. Compared to all the other work from Cynthia it is crap. Nevertheless, it will sell. It will make you a load of money so what do you care? If it sells by the bucket load, you are happy. This will do just that.”

Before he could ask any more questions she walked past him and into her office. She made a point of shutting the door behind her. Andrews unwarranted questioning had inadvertently made up her mind for her. She knew what she was going to do.

She sat down at her desk and picked up the phone and dialled ‘Cynthia’s’ number from memory.

“Hello Phil. I got the manuscript.”

“Yes I have read it. I need to meet you face to face. There are certain issues that we need to discuss.”

“Can you come up here? I can’t fly at the moment.”

“Why can’t I fly?”

Jenny fingered the large bump in her stomach.

“I’m seven months pregnant.”

“Yes, that’s why I can’t fly at the moment so you will have to come to New York.”

“How long?”

She thought for a second.

“Very well, four days time. Give me a ring when you get into town and we will setup a time.”

Jenny put the phone down and sat at her desk.

It was done. She had decided on a course of action and now there was no going back.

{Four days later}

“Phone message for you Jenny,” said Joe as he stuck his head around Jenny’s office door just after 10am.
“Who is it from?”

“Cynthia Sharpe. She says that she’s at the Intercontinental Times Square. Room 1723. She’s expecting you for afternoon tea at four.”

“She… Very well. Thanks Joe.”

Jenny sat perplexed for a while. In the end it took her child to give her a kick where it hurts that said in no uncertain terms, ‘I need feeding’ to get her out of the office.

Jenny was perplexed by this pretence that Cynthia Sharpe was a she. The writer who used that name was a man. Of that, there was no doubt. She couldn’t understand why ‘he’ was pretending to be a ‘she’.

This seemingly unanswerable question stopped her from doing much productive work until it was time for her to leave for her appointment.

As Jenny was putting on her coat she glanced at the manuscript that was lying on her desk. She briefly contemplated taking it with her. In the end she just locked it away in her desk and left for the Hotel.

Thankfully, the earlier rain had cleared away so she walked the three blocks to the hotel. It looked like that it would be a fine evening. Jenny hoped so because she had a Basketball game to take watch that evening.

Jenny checked her watch for the umpteenth time as she stepped from the lift on the 17th floor of the Hotel. It said 15:56. ‘Time for action’ she said to herself.

She rapped firmly on the door to room 1723.

Almost immediately, the door opened and a woman was standing there.

“Please come in. I’ve been expecting you.”

Jenny recognised the face of the man who had been using the Cynthia Sharpe ‘nom-de-plume’ but it was different in many ways. The dress that she was wearing showed a lot of cleavage.

Jenny’s mouth was doing a decent impression of a drowning fish as she tried to comprehend who/what the woman was.

“Please let me take your coat so you can sit down. I can see you are surprised by my appearance. I think I owe you an explanation.”

“Y…yes. Thank you,” replied Jenny still struggling to understand what was going on.

Jenny handed over her coat and sat down at the table where Afternoon Tea was set out.

The woman sat down and as she picked up the teapot, she said,

“Cynthia Sharpe is no longer an alias. I’ve been living as a woman for several years now. I went to California about a year so for the final step in becoming the real me. ‘Being Me’ is about me and the journey I’ve been on these past few years. I call it my slightly fictional autobiography. The core of it is totally true but I’ve embellished things a bit to make it a little more attractive to the readers.”

She smiled at Jenny.

“Shall I be Mother?”

The End



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