I needed some time away from BookLikes to do some very serious thinking.
The platform's lack of stability causes me more than a little stress. I lost an enormous amount of work when Leafmarks went down, and I've become more and more concerned about losing BookLikes material as well. Archiving blog posts is one thing, but there are also long posts in comments, not to mention comments posted to other people's blogs and reviews.
The influx of questionable accounts is another concern. For several months I have been unable to even look at my accumulated followers, who now number 3131. The last time I was able cull the bots and trolls I had the followers down to about 300, which matches closely with those I follow, who number 282. Not all of them are currently active, but they are people I know, so I'm not going to remove them.
I have no idea how many call girls and escorts are able to view my posts, copy them, sell them, whatever. Maybe this doesn't bother everyone but it bothers me. When I try to edit the followers, I get a 504 or 502 timed out error. Since I don't know who these people are, I can't even follow them back to monitor what they're doing. I know 99% are probably bots who never post anything at all, but . . . .
So that is one issue.
The second issue is Real Life. I am not one to go public with certain aspects of my private life, but the misadventures with my artists' group had a severe negative impact on my bottom line. I am not independently wealthy, and though I am not in danger of ending up on the streets of Apache Junction with all my worldly possessions in a stolen shopping cart -- they wouldn't fit anyway -- finances have been a serious concern for about a year. The pandemic has actually helped, in one aspect, because I've been able to turn a huge stash of fabric into masks and by selling them through my Etsy shop, I've made up about what I would have taken in from art group sponsored shows in 2020.
Then last week, my car reached the point of needing to be replaced. I drive less than 2000 miles a year, so I don't need anything brand new, and I do have enough of a rainy day fund to cover the purchase of a suitable vehicle. It will leave me with much less of an emergency cushion than I'd like, and certain opportunities for income are no longer available due to the pandemic, so I have to be careful.
Yesterday, my laptop gave up the ghost. I've kept it limping along for almost a year, but I knew its time was limited. I've been using my desk model, which is WIN 7 and no longer supported, for about the past six months with no problems, so I'm not desperate, but it's not portable and that means I've been confined to my home office. I can't even go out to the studio for a few hours to read or write in peace. My son is looking into getting me a new laptop through his job, and if all goes according to plan, it will be here sometime in late July. That should be fine. I will need to buy some upgraded software for it, which I can manage.
A week or so ago, someone on Twitter mentioned a book about the gothic romances of the 1960s, books like the ones I found boxes of in my workshop. The book was published in 2018, is 191 pages long, and the Kindle edition is $15.39. Much as I would love to add it to my literary criticism library, it's beyond my budget right at the moment. And to be honest, $15.39 for a book under 200 pages is just plain outrageous.
However, the publisher is the same one who expressed interest in my 2000 undergrad thesis, the one I turned into a little Kindle book when I lost my confidence and couldn't generate the discipline to write the full-length version. I have kicked myself a thousand times for not doing so, for letting the opportunity pass me by.
I don't have the luxury of being able to lock myself away with a computer, or with a spiral notebook and a handful of sharpened pencils, to write a whole book and then publish it and wait for the money to come rolling in. I wish, but if wishes were horses and all that nonsense.
As I've said often enough, I don't believe in omens, but seeing that book on Amazon did prompt some action out of me, at least to the point of considering some options. A few days later, I was cleaning out some more of the clutter -- okay, the junk -- and discovered an old, tattered, falling apart copy of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower, the book that jump started the so-called romance publishing revolution in 1972. That's almost 50 years ago! I took that discovery as yet another non-omen reminding me I ought to do something.
I contemplated it for a few days, then the issues with the car came up, and push came to shove. Doing any more literary analysis was far less urgent than getting another vehicle. But the literary project wasn't completely forgotten.
I could, I knew, write an extensive analysis of The Flame and the Flower here on BookLikes. It's been a good 40 years since I've read it, maybe longer. (I didn't read it again when I wrote the thesis in 2000, though I did read some other oldies.) But it would be an enormous amount of work. It's not like writing a review, with "I liked this and I didn't like that, and I'd recommend this to anyone who likes such-and-such." That's not disparaging reviews; reviews are supposed to be "I liked this and I didn't like that."
A couple of weeks ago, when it looked like maybe the pandemic was going to ease up a bit, BF was asked to do something for which he usually gets paid a not insignificant amount of cash, but do it this time for free because. He would incur certain expenses to do this free work, and would potentially have to forgo other paid opportunities. When he politely turned down the request, he was criticized for being selfish and greedy. His response was, "Well, I have bills to pay, too. I can't just give my work away for free."
When the issue came up with my car, and I began trying to figure out how to replenish my emergency fund, he reminded me that I do a lot of "free" work, too.
I couldn't argue with him on that point, but I also said it's hard to start charging people for what you've been giving away for years.
"Well," he said, "you do have bills to pay."
He's right. I do have bills to pay.
Last year I started a Patreon and had great plans for it that all fell by the wayside when I became just too depressed over the art group fracas. It's called situational depression and it doesn't respond to medication the way chronic medical depression does. It has to be endured and/or worked through. I've been working through it for thirteen months now, and I'm not sure I'm there yet, but I've made progress.
The twin omens of the gothic non-fiction book and the old copy of Woodiwiss prompted me to at least start putting together some thoughts over the week-end. I knew I still had almost all the research material I'd used on the thesis, as well as more that I've acquired in the past 20 years. But I didn't want to duplicate something that's already been done, so I grabbed my copy of Pamela Regis's 2003 A Natural History of the Romance Novel. I immediately turned to the index to see what she had to say about Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and the other "Avon Ladies" who catapulted historical romance into the stratosphere in the early 1970s.
She had nothing.
That was the third omen.
I don't believe in them, but I'm not going to ignore them either.
So I started Saturday evening with some ideas, fleshed them out Sunday morning, transcribed everything Sunday afternoon, took photos this morning, and posted it: