With some effort, dolphin-human love story regains its lost “Premium” status

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PUNTA GORDA, Fla., USA – “The role of the self-published author is not an easy one,” Malcolm J. Brenner said, sliding onto a dingy leather couch that might have once been white.  “In addition to successfully writing one’s magnum opus, one must also bring it forth into the real world, where it will grow up to compete in a ruthlessly Darwinian struggle for readers and reviewers.”

Brenner sipped iced tea – his habitual summer drink, with the occasional hard cider thrown in for historic, recreational and religious reasons – and relaxed. He had the furrowed brow of a man who has a lot on his mind, and no wonder. He recently finished re-formatting a 113,000-word Microsoft Word file for the ebook version of his most famous, or infamous work, the 2010 autobiographical novel Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover.

“It’s basically a re-telling of a torrid love affair I had with a female bottlenose dolphin in the summer of 1971,” Brenner explained.  “I just changed the names and a few details so that living people on whom the characters are based couldn’t sue me.  Even though I’m publishing it as a novel, it’s much closer to Tom Wolfe-style ‘new journalism’ than it is to fiction.”

Author Malcolm J. Brenner at home.
Malcolm J. Brenner in his trailer in Punta Gorda, Fla.

An admitted procrastinator since childhood, Brenner said that Smashwords, which publishes and distributes the ebook edition of Wet Goddess, alerted him last November that changes to their Premium Catalogue distribution system might require revising the file, which he first uploaded in 2011.  “I wasn’t clear on the details of what exactly the problem was, but apparently the old file no longer satisfied the new requirements, or so they said,” he said.

The Smashwords Premium Catalog puts the book into the hands of all the large ebook distributors, including iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, OverDrive, Tolino, Gardners, Odilo, Baker & Taylor Axis 360 and more.  “I’m interested in sharing my experiences with dolphins as widely as possible,” Brenner said.  “They are non-human people, so it behooved me to take care of this update issue sooner or later.”

After receiving warning emails for several months, Brenner finally pulled up his socks and tackled the problem himself.  This versatility, he said, demonstrates the technical virtuosity required of successful self-published authors in the 21st Century.

“If you’re an aspiring author and you’re lucky enough to land an agent or a publisher these days, you can thank a higher power,” Brenner scoffed.  “I knew a controversial book like Wet Goddess would be a hard sell even for a successful author.  I made a few stabs at finding a publisher without success, and an agent took me on for a while.

“She wined and dined me once at a book fair in Tampa, then, with no explanation, stopped communicating.  Months went by with no word.  It was only when I threatened to sue her to recover my manuscript that I learned from an irate family member she was still recovering from a near-fatal car crash months before.

“In publishing, like anywhere else, sometimes shit just happens,” Brenner concluded, with a hint of resignation.  After more rejections, he responded by abandoning the idea of conventional publishing and taking on all the tasks himself.  “It required me to become a jack-of-all trades, but the fact that I don’t get along well with many people actually makes that a good way to work,” Brenner admitted.  “If I work for myself, I may have an asshole for a boss, but at least he understands me.”

Brenner pre-sold copies of Wet Goddess to family and friends to raise funds for the initial press run of 50 copies.  A sympathetic friend contributed necklaces made from fossilized sharks’ teeth as premiums for advance sales.  The worst problems came from trying to get the manuscript proofread before it went to print.

“Don’t get me started,” Brenner fumed.  “I hired a so-called proofreader from a local community college, but she could only proof in academic style!  Book manuscripts require what’s known as Chicago style, and besides, Wet Goddess has a lot of colloquial dialogue in it,” he recalled.  “Every time a redneck character used the word “ain’t,” she flagged it – more than 300 times in the manuscript!  You’d think that if she was professional she’d have called me up and asked me what my intention was, but no.”

As a result of this and other unforeseen difficulties that cost him the original author’s proof copy of his debut novel, the first press run of Wet Goddess shipped with about 250 typos in it, including one whole, and rather crucial, paragraph repeated, Brenner admitted.

“It appears very close to the, uh, shall we say ‘climax’ of the novel, and it was very embarrassing to find it,” he explained.  “I hope I’ve got it stuck back in the right place now.”

For a cover, Brenner was able to rely on the talents of his daughter, Thea Boodhoo, an advertising industry professional and college-trained artist.  “I was going to use a B&W photo of a dolphin that a friend in New Mexico colorized many years ago,” he said, “but Thea thought she could do better, and when I saw her finished work I knew she was right.  I only made a couple of very minor Photoshop changes to the file she handed me to make the title stand out more and add the subtitle.”

wet-goddess-cover

A friend who owned a small desktop publishing business referred Brenner to Royal Palm Press, a nearby print-on-demand company, for production services.  “I had no idea what the local reaction to the book would be, so I had a chat with Tom Lewis, the press’s owner at the time, to make sure he wasn’t blindsided,” Brenner said.  “Tom said ‘As long as it’s between consenting adults, that’s fine with me,’ and that was that.”  Brenner also served as his own layout artist, an experience he described as “a mad blur of on-the-job training.”

With book in hand, Brenner ventured onto the soggy ground of marketing.  “Here, I got terrifically lucky,” he said.  “I didn’t have the money to hire a public relations firm to distribute a press release, but I found one that had a reverse-charge policy. The media outlets who received the press releases paid for the service, not me, so my initial publicity was free!”

Upon its release in January 2010, the novel received intense press coverage due to its taboo-shredding themes of interspecies sex, zoophilic love and a dolphin character smart enough to out-think a human.  “For a while it was frantic, but very gratifying,” Brenner recalled.  “I was doing several interviews a week, sometimes two a day.  A few of the interviewers were skeptical or harsh about what they thought might have been going on, but the majority were genuinely curious to know what happened, and to learn more about dolphins.”

Since then, the book has enjoyed sales surges whenever some news gatherer gets curious and wants to know about his experience, Brenner said.  One came in 2011, when a New Zealand TV producer, David Farrier, released a videotaped interview with Brenner he’d recorded the year before.  Others don’t conjure such pleasant memories.  Brenner felt humiliated by shock-jock Howard Stern’s 2015 obsession with his zoophilia, and a 2011 interview with Bubba the Love Sponge cost him a gig with a local slick when its advertisers threatened to withdraw unless the magazine dropped him.

Brenner’s most recent foray into the murky waters of self-promotion was somewhat less melodramatic.  “When I finally got around to looking at the Smashwords file, it said there was a problem with one of the book’s photos, but I couldn’t find it with a self-diagnostic program they offer,” Brenner said.  “So I took a chance and asked Smashwords’ customer service, citing the warning notices they sent me.”

He quickly received a courteous reply from a guy named Kevin, explaining that the problem was probably due to the use of colons in his chapter titles and sub-sections.  “I was glad it was so easily resolved,” Brenner said, “until I downloaded the file onto my computer to make the corrections and realized what a mess it was.”

In the interim between uploading the file in 2011 and downloading it in 2018, Microsoft had changed Word and given it a new file extension, .docx instead of the original .doc.  “That one little ‘x,’ unfortunately, made a hell of a lot of difference,” Brenner said.  “When I had to add a couple of pages to the print manuscript of Wet Goddess, converting the book from the old to the new file format inserted blank spaces more or less at random between paragraphs.  I had to start at the beginning and re-do the whole layout, including throwing in a couple of new photos to fill some yawning blanks.”

The problems with the ebook file were similar.  There, many words were unnecessarily hyphenated, and photos had to be re-aligned to make sure they didn’t obscure the text.  Brenner said the process took him about two weeks, including a couple of days off when he wasn’t feeling well, but he’s glad he did it.

“I don’t have the money to pay somebody else anyway,” he complained, “so I might as well do it myself, because being retired I do have a fair amount of time.  Besides, whenever I master a task like this, I improve my overall word-processing skills, which helps me find work in the freelance job market.”

In the eight years Wet Goddess has been in print, it has sold about 1,500 copies in 18 countries, mostly in the English-speaking world, due to Brenner’s unflagging self-promotion efforts.  When a fan in Russia contacted him  three years ago to inform Brenner he’d undertaken an unauthorized translation, the author responded by granting him permission to publish it there!  “It hasn’t taken off yet, because the translator, Anton River, lives in a very conservative northern city,” Brenner said.  “He’s planning to move to a better climate soon, and I hope he’ll renew his efforts to promote the book when he does.”

In addition to Wet Goddess, Brenner has written and self-published two other books.

orgone-box

Growing Up in the Orgone Box, published in 2014, is an unflinching memoir of his torture and sexual molestation at the hands of Dr. Albert Duvall, an “orgone energy” therapist and close associate of the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich, and the dysfunctional family structure that allowed this to happen.

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His 2016 novel Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair is a more light-hearted romp through the mythology and culture of the UFO scene, told from the point of view of a young woman determined to live up to her family’s expectations of her, no matter what it costs her personally.  “There is, again, inter-species sex, but since the other species is bipedal, mostly humanoid and obviously sapient, nobody should blow a 50 amp fuse over it,” Brenner said.  “After all, ‘Star Trek,’ Edgar Rice Burroughs and countless other science-fiction writers have only been doing it for about 100 years.”

Sales on these two books have been nowhere near those of Wet Goddess, Brenner said, and he’s had difficulty getting them any kind of publicity or reviews.  “That’s because, while they’re both sexually radical books, they’re not as radical as a man and a dolphin making love,” he said.  “Somehow, that just blows people’s minds.”

Having just turned 67, Brenner hopes to see his work more widely appreciated before he dies.  Asked if he thought his writing would endure beyond his lifespan, he waxed philosophical.

“My daughter might take it on, but she’s not planning to have children, so who knows what will happen over the course of time?  We only know of the Greek poet Sappho’s beautiful writing because it was used to wrap fish,” he noted.

“Let us remember that from the point of view of a book, which may endure for millennia if it’s an epic, humans are fleeting things who read it at some point in their limited lifespans, devoting to it some portion of their precious time,” Brenner said, drawing on an eerie theme reminiscent of the ambiguous Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.  “For this reason, books, especially long-lived books like Epic of Gilgamesh, Tao De Ching and Cattle Raid of Ulster, are grateful for the time their readers spend with them.  The books try to compensate the readers through a symbiotic relationship that informs you with a novel set of ideas, or supports your need for entertainment that doesn’t require batteries, WiFi or 3D glasses.

“I think that we humans, as a species, have a lot to learn from our dolphin cousins,” Brenner concluded.  “As for my writings, they will survive if people find value in them.”

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“Orgone Box” now an e-book

Malcolm Brenner’s memoir of psychiatric sexual abuse and a dysfunctional family, “Growing Up In The Orgone Box: Secrets of a Reichian Childhood,” is now available as an e-book on Smashwords under the “Adult Content” listing.

“I suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of a sadistic pervert, Dr. Albert Duvall, who was appointed by Wilhelm Reich to practice his bogus ‘orgone therapy’ on innocent children like myself,” Brenner said. “My family poured thousands of dollars into this quackery on the basis that it would make us have better orgasms and be better people, but to this day I am filled with rage at what happened to me, and to hundreds of other unfortunate children.”

Duvall is the same psychiatrist whom entertainer Lorna Luft wrote about in her autobiography, “Me And My Shadows.”  Luft is the daughter of actress Judy Garland.

“This type of abuse is typical of ‘true believers,’ whatever their belief system is,” Brenner said.  “One of the characteristics of the children who were molested by Duvall is that we all tried to tell our parents what was going on in his locked, soundproof office, and none of them listened to us.”

Duvall, who died in 1979, was never accused, charged or punished for his crimes.

“I hope ‘Orgone Box’ sets the record straight about Wilhelm Reich’s nonsensical beliefs and Duvall’s sadism toward his patients,” Brenner said.  “The publication of this e-book makes my story available to more people, particularly in Europe, where Reich’s work remains popular, for some unfathomable reason.”

“Orgone Box:” A tale of two brothers and therapy

PRESS RELEASE FROM EYES OPEN MEDIA

For immediate release, Nov. 21, 2014

“Orgone Box” book tells a tale of two brothers and therapy

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – The latest mind-bending book from “Wet Goddess” author Malcolm J. Brenner also involves his younger brother Hugh R. Brenner – on the opposite side of the issue.

“Growing Up In The Orgone Box: Secrets of a Reichian Childhood” is Malcolm’s memoir of his family’s involvement with Wilhelm Reich’s “orgone therapy” movement in the 1950’s and 60’s and his torturous treatment at the hands of one Dr. Albert Duvall, a vicious and sadistic pedophile who hid his perversions behind Reich’s teachings on the sexual liberation of children.

Malcolm’s painful and disruptive experience left him with what his brother describes as “a generalized hatred of orgonomy.” Ironically, Hugh, who had very little therapy with Duvall, came to incorporate many Reichian techniques into his private practice as a psychiatric family nurse practitioner in the Philadelphia area. For many years, the brothers shared an uneasy truce on their conflicting opinions of Reich and his work.

When Malcolm was ready to self-publish “Orgone Box,” he asked Hugh to write a forward for the book, only to find his brother had been planning to ask him for the same privilege.

“It only seemed fair,” Malcolm said. “I love my brother and he’s helped me a lot in life. His own research independently substantiated the horrible reality of what happened to me and many other people in New Jersey and Los Angeles who were Duvall’s patients.” Duvall died in 1975.

Hugh’s five-page forward to the 327-page memoir is a brief summary of Reich’s life, work, and the conflict with the FDA that led to his 1957 death in federal prison. Prior to that, the agency had burned some six tons of Reich’s equipment, notes and books relating to “orgone accumulators,” his experimental devices that somehow got shipped across state lines in defiance of federal law.

Hugh is quick to emphasize that the way he treats his patients bears no resemblance to Duvall’s harsh and invasive methods. He describes them in his forward as “a hideous betrayal of the patient-physician relationship” and “cruel distortions of psychiatric orgone therapy.” As president of the Institute for Orgonomic Science, an international non-profit group that carries on Reich’s work and research, Hugh reported on Duvall’s misconduct at an international meeting of Reich’s followers in Italy last year.

So far, Malcolm said, his controversial book and Hugh’s report have elicited little response from the small band of Reich’s remaining supporters.

“Many of Reich’s followers worship him with a frightening, almost-god-like intensity, as if the man could do no wrong, when in reality he had serious feet of clay,” Malcolm said. “Not only was Reich wrong about the existence of ‘orgone energy,’ he was a lousy judge of character.

“These ‘Reich worshippers’ stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the sordid reality behind Reich’s benevolent façade. Adults who impose their sexuality on immature children, regardless of their good intentions, create a terrible situation for their patients and subjects.”

Malcolm J. Brenner is available for interviews, contact him through malcolmb2@centurylink.net. Joint interviews including his brother Hugh R. Brenner can be arranged. “Wet Goddess,” a novel based on Malcolm’s 1971 love affair with a dolphin, is available on Amazon and as an e-book on Smashwords; “Orgone Box” is currently available on Amazon, with an e-book version to follow.

“Wet Goddess” author pens childhood memoir

PRESS RELEASE FROM EYES OPEN MEDIA

For immediate release Oct. 17, 2014

“Wet Goddess” author pens memoir of childhood sex abuse

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – Malcolm J. Brenner, author of the controversial 2010 interspecies romance novel “Wet Goddess: Recollections Of A Dolphin Lover,” has published a second book, “Growing Up In The Orgone Box: Secrets Of A Reichian Childhood.”

The memoir of Brenner’s youth in a pseudo-scientific cult rips the veneer of respectability and self-righteousness off the bizarre sexual theories of notorious 1950’s psychotherapist Wilhelm Reich and questions his judgment of character.

“Reich wanted to create a sexual Nirvana for everyone, including children of all ages,” Brenner said, “but when he founded his Orgonomic Infant Research Center, he ended up putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.”

The “fox” Brenner is referring to is the late Dr. Albert Duvall, a student of Reich’s who administered painful, punishing and sometimes sexually invasive “orgone therapy” to the children sent to him for treatment of various psychological disorders.

Reich boastfully called them his “Children of the Future.” He hoped to create a world free of neurosis brought on by sexual repression, while unbeknownst to him, one of his closest associates was routinely abusing children mentally, physically and sexually – and getting paid by their parents to do it!

Now, decades later, the former pediatric patients who survived abuse at Duvall’s hands are finding each other through the Internet and sharing their horror stories. “My book is written for all the children who endured these tortures,” Brenner said. “A common thread is that we complained repeatedly to our parents about what was going on in Duvall’s locked, soundproof office, and none of them listened to us or seemed to care. Since most of our parents were also in therapy with Duvall, he may have exerted a Svengali-like posthypnotic control over their misguided decisions to keep us in therapy with him.”

Duvall practiced in New Jersey in the 1950’s, but suddenly moved to Los Angeles shortly after Reich died in a federal penitentiary in 1957. Reich had been serving a short sentence for shipping his “orgone energy accumulator” boxes across state lines without FDA approval. Before he died, the agency also ordered six tons of Reich’s publications, writings, notes and orgone boxes burned in a New York incinerator.

In Los Angeles, Duvall became an “orgonomist to the stars,” treating Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Judy Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft and blogger Roger Wilcox.

“The orgone accumulator is nothing more than a large, weak, electrical capacitor,” Brenner explained. “The only mysterious thing about it is Reich’s claims that sitting in this empty, sheet-metal-lined box could do everything from revive a flagging libido to treat cancer.”

The memoir covers the period of time from Brenner’s first concrete memories, around age five, through his parents’ breakup and divorce to his leaving home to attend college at 18. In between, he experiences terrifying fears, social stigmatization, PTSD and bizarre sexual urges. The foreword was written by the author’s brother Hugh R. Brenner, himself a practicing orgonomist.

“You could say this is a psycho-sexual history of my family and how Reich and his bogus ‘orgone therapy’ failed us,” Brenner concluded. “I want the truth to be finally known.”

“Growing Up In The Orgone Box: Secrets Of A Reichian Childhood,” 341 pages, $18.95 + $5 S/H. Published by Eyes Open Media, 5895 Swaying Palm Drive, Punta Gorda, FL 33982 malcolmb2@centurylink.net   http://www.amazon.com/Growing-Up-Orgone-Box-Childhood/dp/0615902677/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410896559&sr=1-2