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crazy PhiladelphiaAfter leaving New York City, I expected the drive to Philadelphia to be rather easy…and it would have been, if not for the legendary badness of Pennsylvania highway design and signage.  See how I-276 appears to intersect I-95 there?  Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.  Only it doesn’t; there isn’t even a sign to mark the place they cross, nor any instructions such as “use US 13 to reach I-95″.  If one doesn’t already know how to get from one to the other, one will find oneself west of the city wondering what the hell happened and calling one’s husband for directions.  Furthermore, even those highways which are labelled properly often don’t connect properly; one may have to exit and drive for miles on surface streets (complete with traffic lights) to get from one interstate highway to another it supposedly connects to.  Oh, and please don’t suggest I get a damned GPS unit, either; every time someone uses one of those screwy things to give me directions it takes me miles out of the way through a maze of turns instead of just plotting a direct course; on the day I’m writing this I was literally given GPS directions to a business that led me to a completely different part of town than the one the business actually occupies (fortunately, there was a similar business in the vicinity of the incorrect destination, so I used it instead).

Grumbling aside, I had a good visit to the city; the group at Liberty On the Rocks was undeterred by heavy rain, and we had a lively discussion which was actually joined by a sex worker who just happened to be in the cafe at the time.  On Thursday I drove down to Washington DC, stopping briefly in Baltimore for a TV interview on the local ABC affiliate (I understand it will be part of an investigative series).  From there I went on to Alexandria, Virginia, the Washington suburb where the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit was being held; I’ve written my thoughts about the conference in a little more detail for Eros Guide, and will link it as soon as it’s posted this week.  While I was there, Cathy Reisenwitz kindly invited me to stay at her place; it turned out to be very conveniently located, a straight shot down one long street to the convention.  I touched base with some activists I already knew, met some folks I hadn’t before (including Melissa Gira Grant and porn performers Nina Hartley and Buck Angel), attended an informal group discussion of Lawrence vs. Texas and similar sexual freedom cases, and even sold a few books before zooming down to Raleigh, North Carolina for a podcast that evening.  The details of that, however, can wait until next week!

The tour’s nearly over, but you can still catch me in Charleston, Atlanta, Tampa or New Orleans; if your city is within a few hours’ drive of those (or between them), you can still send an email asking me to visit, though obviously it’s pretty tight now.  Your request will be more likely to be doable if you can make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAOn Saturday, August 2nd I drove into the Boston area; hotels in the city itself were so outrageously expensive that I actually stayed a little west of Framingham and, other than on Monday, restricted myself to that area.  Everyone I talked to warned me that the traffic going into Boston would be bad even if I were going in the opposite direction of the commute, so on Monday morning I decided to drive up to Salem for the afternoon and then go into the city from there.  My motive was twofold:  first, the suburbs to the north of Boston are largely residential, so I figured the traffic wouldn’t be as bad inbound from that direction; second, it seemed a shame to come so close to the site of the definitive American witch hunt without visiting it.  Of course, it was very touristy, but that really didn’t bother me; in some ways it reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans (another mixture of serious history and tourist traps).  My plan was a success; it took me only half an hour to reach the neighborhood of my speaking venue from Salem, and had I not blundered into a traffic jam by taking the wrong exit I would’ve been an hour earlier than I had planned to be.  Even with the error I arrived an hour before showtime, found a parking place literally across the street and thus had plenty of time to prepare.  The presentation went extremely well; I think it was among the best yet, and the bartender (who had no idea who I was before I got up to speak) was so engaged by the discussion that he bought a book and asked about my website!

Since I had nothing in particular planned for Tuesday, I took that night’s hotel in Providence, Rhode Island and went on a walking tour of H.P. Lovecraft sites on College Hill (yes, this is my idea of fun; you may laugh if you like).  I then checked into my hotel and ate dinner at a little mom-and-pop counter-serve restaurant called Cosmic Pizza and Steak, which I discovered quite by accident.  I’m very glad I did; the prices were very reasonable, the portions large (and delicious) and the people were extremely friendly and welcoming.  The next day I drove over to Hartford, Connecticut, where I planned my approach to New York and had dinner with the blawger known as Gideon.  He and several others suggested I park outside the city and take a train in, and a little research showed me the ideal spot was Metropark in Iselin, New Jersey, which cost me only $9 a day and $20 round trip for the train (and best of all, was on the way to my next stop in Philadelphia).

Manhattan subwaysSome of you may be surprised to hear that this was actually my first trip on a full-scale train; there are no commuter trains in Louisiana, and I’ve never taken a trip on a long-distance passenger train, either.  But that situation was corrected while I was in the city, because I took subways every place I had to go unless it was close enough to walk.  One of Tracy Quan’s friends was kind enough to offer a spare room just off Broadway, and when I went to dinner with Tracy and Melissa Ditmore on Friday evening I decided to walk to the restaurant; it was a lovely day and Manhattan is pretty narrow, so it only took me an hour to get there.  On Saturday I read to a packed house at Bluestockings Books on the lower east side, and answered questions for hours; afterward, I went out with regular reader Susan and another reader who prefers to remain incognito, and didn’t get to bed until almost 3 AM.  Finally, on Sunday I spoke to a group of woman journalists at the home of Jillian Keenan; Tracy was there as well, and with her help I discussed the general awfulness of reporting on the topic of sex work.

I don’t mind admitting that I was very intimidated by New York; I was worried about its size, its population density and its expense.  But a little careful planning and a lot of help from good people negated most of the real issues, and as so often happens the others faded into insignificance once I got to experience the reality rather than focusing on my own preconceptions.  Now that I’m past the most expensive part of the tour I can breathe a bit more easily; however, I still haven’t quite reached my funding goal yet so if you haven’t yet contributed, please consider doing so this week!

Here’s my tour schedule, which is now pretty tight; if your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within a few hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have much more impact if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Pittsburgh skylineThe week after leaving Chicago had a much slower pace, which is probably for the best; if nothing else, I needed a break from driving in heavy traffic before moving on to Boston and New York City.  That’s not to say that driving across Ohio and Pennsylvania was relaxing, however; I’ve driven all over this country, and the highway signage in those two states is absolutely the worst I’ve ever seen.  Street signs are often tiny, badly-placed or entirely absent; many exits have names that seem to have little relationship to the place they exit to; junctions are not clearly marked, and the signs are sometimes placed so that by the time one sees them it’s difficult or impossible to decelerate and exit; and junctions with toll roads usually require exiting onto surface streets in order to connect with the freeway (and vice versa).  New York state’s “let’s number the exits by counting them rather than by the mile marker they fall nearest” strategy is positively sensible in comparison, though I have nothing good to say about the bizarre way that I-87 exits from itself at Albany and the New York State Thruway suddenly changes from I-87 north into I-90 west (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky).

The day after I left Chicago I went as far as Cleveland, and moved on to Pittsburgh the next day.  There I had a wonderful visit with Lucy Steigerwald and her mother; they took me to dinner and showed me the sights (including the absolutely gorgeous view of Pittsburgh from the south), then we talked late into the night at their lovely home.  They invited me to spend the night, and had I not already paid for my hotel I certainly would’ve; in fact, given that I got lost for almost an hour on winding rural roads in a thunderstorm, I was kicking myself for not accepting the offer!  Eventually I got where I needed to go (though not without asking directions three separate times) none the worse for wear, and the trouble was nothing in comparison with the wonderful evening which preceded it.  The next day I moved on to central Pennsylvania and had dinner with Mike Siegel; we talked about my work, his work and all manner of other things, and I apologize to Mrs. Siegel if I kept him out too long!

On Tuesday I drove in to Albany, where I had a book reading the next day at The Bookhouse; it was my smallest gig yet, but one of the attendees was an 80-year-old lady who nonetheless wanted to hear what I had to say.  The next two nights I went to dinner with two of my “Angel” patrons;the gentleman who took me out on Thursday also invited two other sex workers, and the gentleman who treated me on Friday turned out to be a lover of comic books and role-playing games, so we traded favorite stories for hours.  So although this week had only one public event, I still found it one of the most rewarding of my whole trip; I got to enjoy four separate evenings of dinner and socializing with some really great, generous, interesting people, and I’ll remember those events long after the details of the more public ones have blurred with time.

Here’s my tour schedule, which is now pretty tight; if your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have much more impact if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Lammas 2014

Lammas 2014 by Man Crack
For my fifth year of blogging, I’m starting a new tradition; every sabbat I’ll feature a piece of seasonal art by one of my readers.  This one is by Man Crack; if you like to commission something from her you can email me and I’ll forward it to her.  The next such occasion is the autumnal equinox, September 23rd; this year; if you’d like the job, send me a sample of your work within the next three weeks.  If you prefer a future sabbat (Halloweeen, Yule, etc) you needn’t wait; just let me know your preference.

Blessed Be!

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That kind of sophistry may impress sheltered, middle-class white girls in “Womyn’s Studies” programs, but in the real world it’s about as appropriate as a cow pie on the dining room table and three times as rude.
–  “A Load of Farley

Whore of Babylon BlakeThis month marked my first year in blogging, and a look back at my first anniversary column shows how little I understood where things were going; compare the figures quoted therein with the ones from this year’s anniversary column (exactly three weeks ago) and have a good snicker at my naïveté.  But while some of the early regular features were fading away (this month’s interview with my husband was the last biographical sketch of someone I know personally, and the update and miscellanea columns were mere months away from replacement), other features such as Q & A, fictional interlude (“Concubine”) and harlotography (“Aspasia”) were still going strong.  The arrival of the second year was also accompanied by a new feature, “one year ago today”,  which I implemented as a way of introducing my ever-growing readership to my back catalog; sometimes it was just a Nude Under Two Moonspostscript at the end of a column, but in many cases the entire essay was a sequel to that of the year before: examples of the latter are “Bone of Contention” (sequel to “Streetwalkers”)  and “Harlots of the Bible” (sequel to “Mary Magdalene”).  The feature lasted only a year before turning into a part of “That Was the Week That Was” for six months, then growing into “From the Archives”, the bottom half of my weekly “Links” feature; this very “Back Issue” feature is also another form of it.

kitten cookieThe blog was growing in other ways as well; I was being asked to do a great deal of outside work, and hadn’t yet learned how to say no; furthermore, I was beginning to write more on civil liberties topics not directly connected to sex work (as in “Independence Day” and “Imaginary Lines”).  Most of these, however, were at least still connected to sexual rights or women’s rights if not sex worker rights; “Sisters in Arms” (criminalization of miscarriage), “Social Construction of Eunuchs” (the damage caused by “social construction of gender” dogma), “Imaginary Crises” (the invention of the “campus rape epidemic”), “Peeping Toms” (on Lawrence vs Texas and polygamy law) and “Presumption of Guilt” (laws assuming everyone is a criminal) all fall into this category.  The month’s Army of Darknessbig stories were the very public meltdown of prohibitionist parrot  Ashton Kutcher after the Village Voice debunked his absurd “sex trafficking” claims, and French poobah Dominque Strauss-Kahn’s alleged rape of a hotel maid; however, the quieter stories covered in “Bootlickers” (Washington state cops’ ludicrous and puritanical war on coffee stands) and “Against Their Will” (sex workers escaping from their supposed “rescuers”) have had a lot more staying power as recurring topics.  Another topic you’ve seen often and will continue to see for as long as this blog exists:  comparison of sound and ethical (“The Proper Study”) with bogus and unethical (“A Load of Farley”) sex work research.

Rounding out the month were “Honolulu Harlots” (how Hawaii tolerated brothels until the end of World War II); “Housewife Harlotry” (transactional sex in marriage); “Head Games” (haggling and other power games clients play); “A Working System” (how sex work problems are handled when the job isn’t considered criminal); and “Profanation” (in which neofeminist academics deny evidence to pretend that sacred prostitution never existed). Aspasia reclining

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Tour Diary: Week Nine

LOTR ChicagoIt’s a good thing I approve of polyamory, because Chicago did her best to win my heart from St. Louis last week.  But while St. Louis seduced me with her Southern charm, Chicago was a bold, brassy dame who swept me off my feet and refused to take “no” for an answer.  From the time I arrived until the time I left she kept me busy nearly every waking hour; I was actually concerned that I wouldn’t be able to finish TW3 #430 on time, and indeed a lot of it was finished Friday night in Cleveland and I didn’t get to bed until 2 AM, a mere four hours before publication!

I had at least one event every single day, and on several days I had two.  I’ve already mentioned my dinner with Cathryn Berarovich on the night I arrived; the next day I had my first reading in an actual bookstore, Bucket O’Blood, which as you can probably guess from the name specializes in horror.  The owners were lovely and welcoming, and among the attendees was Reason‘s Zenon Evans, who was in town visiting friends.  Then on Monday I went to breakfast with one of my “Angel” level patrons, and had dinner with Aspasia Bonasera; after dinner we went back to her home and I got to meet her wonderful mother, who welcomed me as family.  We spent the rest of the evening talking, and at 1 AM I reluctantly returned to the hotel for much-needed sleep.  On Tuesday I didn’t have to start quite so early, but I finished just as late; after my presentation for Liberty On the Rocks (which was attended by Mark Draughn, Serpent Libertine of SWOP Chicago, sex-positive writer/podcaster Eric Barry and prominent criminal defense lawyer Joe Obenberger) Serpent recorded a short video in which I was interviewed by Cathryn.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had to go to the Fox TV studio downtown to be interviewed remotely for a short segment on The Independents, a libertarian show on Fox Business Network; that evening I gave a presentation at SWOP Chicago to a very respectable crowd.  The group was much smaller at my book reading Thursday night for Uncharted Books, but I’m equally happy to read to small groups as large ones because I think I win new allies to the cause at every event, no matter how small, and obviously I have more one-on-one interaction in small groups.

By the time I left Chicago on Friday I was quite enamored of her and plan a return visit as soon as possible (though based on what I’ve been told, NOT in the winter).  Still, it’s a good thing I didn’t stay longer because I was absolutely exhausted!  After resting for a night in Cleveland I moved on to Pittsburgh, but my experiences there will have to wait until next week; Chicago needs a column all to herself. SWOP interview 7-22-14

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Cathryn and me at the Everleigh Club site 7-19-14Up to this week, the pace of my tour has been relatively sedate, with more downtime than appearances.  But as of Saturday that changed; Chicago will be a whirlwind, and the number of quiet days from here to at least Charleston will be in the minority.  So even though last week in Memphis and Nashville was rather quiet, I wasn’t all that concerned; it gave me time to catch up on some writing so I won’t be caught flatfooted before the end of August.

Since my book is self-published, most large bookstores won’t carry it on their shelves; however, independent stores can do as they like so a few have agreed to stock Ladies of the Night.  Before leaving Memphis last Monday I stopped in at The Booksellers at Laurelwood to sign their copies, and was pleased to hear that one had already sold over the weekend.  If you’re in Memphis, call them to see if they have any left!  That night I had dinner with one of my “Angel” sponsors in Nashville, and this morning I’m having breakfast with another in Chicago.  I also had dinner and visited with activist Cathryn Berarovich in Chicago on Saturday night; the picture is us in a grassy lot where the Everleigh Club, Chicago’s busiest and most elegant brothel, used to stand.  And on Friday night in Indianapolis, I had dinner and a long discussion with a criminologist who is preparing a study of violence against sex workers in criminalized and legalized systems.

My one public event in Nashville was a presentation at Liberty On the Rocks; since the space was rather noisy and the group relatively small we opted for a discussion-group style event rather than a lecture followed by questions.  Though I felt as though the format was a bit more chaotic than I prefer, the attendees seemed pleased with the outcome and one even wrote about it.  There’s a small footnote to that event which emphasizes the reason I’m out here and gives me hope for the future:  when I left, I felt like getting some ice cream so I stopped at a small parlor on the next block which was still open.  As I walked out and was eating my cone on the sidewalk, a young woman (university age) asked which flavor I’d bought, and she and her boyfriend and I struck up a conversation.  When I told them who I was and why I was travelling, they expressed enthusiastic support for the cause, wished me luck and asked for a card to read the blog.  I think their attitude is more common than the prohibitionists want to admit; in twenty years, young people will view repression of sex work in the same way young people now view attempts to suppress gay rights: as a weird, incomprehensible thing people used to do which has no valid place in a civilized society.

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANew Orleans will always have a special place in my heart, but I have a new second-favorite city:  St. Louis, Missouri.  It’s not so much the city itself, though what I saw reminded me very much of the New Orleans area in a number of ways, including layout and architecture; no, what really attracted me was the character of the people I met.  Shortly into my tour, sex blogger Kendra Holliday wrote me and not only offered to help me set up gigs in St. Louis, but also invited me to stay in her house!  I accepted both offers, and had a grand time; she was a gracious hostess with a lovely home I was very comfortable in, and all the people she introduced me to (members of the group Sex Positive St. Louis) were warm, welcoming and a helluva lot of fun to be with.  They treated me to dinner Wednesday night, then on Thursday I had a book reading at Shameless Grounds, a sex-positive cafe (where I was introduced to a delicious local dessert called gooey butter cake).  After that, SEX+STL founding member David Wraith took me to yet another coffee shop, where we talked for much too long (until they kicked us out, in fact).  As I’ve said before, the best thing about this tour has been meeting all the different people, and though I’ve enjoyed them all I really felt a special chemistry with my new friends in St. Louis.  I honestly hated to leave and wished I had scheduled at least one more day there, but I’ll tell you this:  I definitely will be back!

In contrast, Memphis was very quiet (which of course made me wish even more that I had stayed in St. Louis!)  But I got a lot done on Saturday, arranging for my hotel rooms all the way through Chicago and getting an excellent deal on my room there.  I don’t mind telling you I was rather worried about that one; I was concerned that it would be budget-bustingly expensive, but it actually turned out to be much cheaper than Nashville (and I didn’t have to stay in a dive, either).  I’m working diligently to stay inside budget; St. Louis helped that a great deal (no hotel bill and only one self-paid meal!) and the savings on Chicago lodging will as well.  But I’m still over $2500 away from my funding goal, so if you can afford it and haven’t yet, please consider donating to my GoFundMe!  And if you have ideas for gigs in Boston, New York City or the South, please let me know because I’m starting to concentrate on scheduling those now.

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.  –  William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra (II, ii)

Yes, it’s been four years already, and some of you have been reading for most of that time; I’m very pleased to see how few of you have tired of me.  Pleased because, though I would certainly like to believe Enobarbus’ description of Cleopatra also applies to myself, one must always be careful to take flattery with a grain of salt, and never to fall for one’s own ad copy.  At the same time, false modesty in excess tends to make a lady look more silly than sincere; I therefore try to maintain a balance between self-promotion and self-deprecation, though I suspect you’ll forgive me if I err a bit on the side of the former on occasions like this.  Custom has not yet staled my variety for most of my regulars, and I gain new readers all the time; a look back at last year’s anniversary column will serve to illustrate that.  The Honest Courtesan now has almost 1500 posts, 92 assorted pages, almost 40,000 comments, about 1200 subscribers and 3900 Twitter followers, and 2.8 million page views from all over the world.  I write regular features for Cliterati and the Eros Guide; have seen my work published in Cato Unbound, Reason and the Washington Post; have published a book of short stories (which I’m currently promoting on a national tour); plan to release a book of essays in January; and have done so many interviews, speaking engagements, consultations and other such work that I’ve completely lost count.

So all in all, I think I can safely declare this blog a success.  I’ve got my procedures down to a science now, so I can do outside projects without too much difficulty (though a 15-week book tour is definitely testing the limits!) and I’m even starting to make a small amount of money from it.  That, however, will never be my primary motivation:  this blog exists to spread knowledge about the demimonde; to debunk propaganda spread by our enemies to demonize or infantilize us; to help people realize that whores and our clients are really just regular people and our work is regular work; to argue for self-ownership and the rights of individuals to direct their own lives without interference from tyrants and control freaks; to call attention to the awful things those tyrants do to advance their agendas; and to entertain y’all in the process.  And though I’m rarely at a loss for words, none in my vocabulary are sufficient to express the gratitude I feel for all of y’all who choose to spend some of your valuable time with me every day, and without whose attention, praise and support none of this would have been possible.

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not a crimeI spent the last week at home, but not remotely idle; beside trying to get ahead on my work, catching up on overdue bills, working on future tour appearances and sadly having to say goodbye to an old friend (details on the 24th; I don’t want to address it here), I also participated in a Twitter campaign devised by Mistress Matisse.  If you use Twitter, you probably know about it; even if you don’t you may have seen it on the Twitter feed in the right-hand column here.  Basically, Matisse asked sex workers to write short messages based around the established hashtag #rightsnotrescue in black sharpie on white T-shirts, then tweet the pictures.wet crime  When we started I was the only one she was sure would do it with her, but within the hour (we started at noon PDT on Monday June 30th) there were plenty of others, most of which put my amateurish efforts (pictured here) to shame.  If you missed it, take a look back at my timeline and search that tag; some of them were really splendid  (especially IMHO those by Cathryn Berarovitch).  rights not rescueAnyhow, we finished Sunday and so now I have these shirts; if you contribute to my GoFundMe and would like one of them instead of a book  (or in addition to if you contribute $250 or more) just let me know in the note with your contribution!  Since there are only four it has to be first-come, first-served to be fair.

RNR 7-3-14Another thing I accomplished this week (thanks to all those who have helped!) was to line up a long-term car rental for the remaining two months of my tour; research, perseverance, stubbornness and pure pushiness combined to secure one for just over $1200 total, more than $450 less than what Priceline and Travelocity both assured me was the absolute lowest price (and less than 10x the cost of the bus ride from Hell).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  When one considers that a car will give me a wider choice of hotel rooms, the rental may actually pay for itself!  Anyhow, as you read this I’m in Kansas City to privately meet with some activists, and moving on to St. Louis tomorrow.  Check back next week for notes on my adventures in St. Louis and Memphis!

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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