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LindaHilton

Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

 

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Currently reading

History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
Henry Fielding
Progress: 20 %
The Summer Tree
Guy Gavriel Kay
Progress: 10/383 pages
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Nancy MacLean
Progress: 134/574 pages
The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance
Northrop Frye
Progress: 43/200 pages
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer
The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende

Reading progress update: I've read 20%.

History of Tom Jones, a Foundling - Henry Fielding

The past few weeks I haven't had much time for reading, but I manage to sneak in a few minutes here and there. I've made it to 20%, and still enjoying this tremendously.

 

I realized, however, that I'm not really reading it.  I'm listening to Henry Fielding telling the story, reading it aloud as it were to his eager listeners.  I'm not sure whose voice he has -- perhaps Patrick Stewart or John Rhys Davies -- but I hear every word, with all the extra commas for dramatic effect, with all the non-quotations inside quotation marks, as though he started to tell me what she/he said and then actually quoted them.

 

This is not a book that should be read by anyone learning how to write a novel.  It is definitely a book to read by everyone learning how to tell a story.

The day after the yard sale

Everything, or almost everything, is more or less put away.  I was tired and achy last night, but managed to move all my boxes and storage tubs back to the studio.  This morning, rested and considerably less achy, I set out to return the boxes and tubs to their normal places.  With only one exception, they are securely and serenely stashed.

 

The one exception is the "new" tub that doesn't yet have a place.  It will sit in the studio kitchen until I find a spot for it.

 

The event went well, given what it was.  Mine was not a HUGE SALE.

 

 

I took this photo in April 2011.  The hilly road going off into the distance is Mountain View Road.  This corner is approximately one mile south of my street, Southern Avenue (24th Ave.)  The smaller red sign is almost as interesting as the big white one.  32nd Avenue does go to the right and extends a couple miles toward the mountain.  32nd Avenue does not, however, go to the left.  The red sign is pointing toward open desert.

 

My signs were simple and bright, and I should have taken photos of them but I didn't.  I bought some bright posterboard and fiddled around with the size of my stencils until I could finally fit

 

Art & Craft

Yard Sale

Fri & Sat

9 to 2

 

on each of them.  Then I cut out all the letters, traced them on the posterboard and colored them in with black marker.  The coloring was the most fun!

 

I had done no advertising, not even a dinky ad in the local paper.  I wanted to see if the roadside signs and a few REALLY NICE flyers handed out a few days before would do the trick.

 

 

Our own Person of Interest created these for me, and I was absolutely blown away.  I handed some out, and even BF was impressed enough that he shared some, too, and that is saying something!  (Very little impresses him.  VERY little.  He was impressed!)

 

The weather was almost perfect on Friday -- there was an annoyingly persistent breeze that kept blowing small things off the tables -- and utterly perfect on Saturday.  I could not have asked for better.

 

Around 7:00 a.m. Friday, I put the first sign up at Mountain View, with an arrow pointing down Southern.  I thought that might attract attention of people going to work who could plan for Saturday "yard saling" as well as those who might be out early on Friday.  With no address on the sign, I knew no one would be stopping until I put the second sign up at the entrance to the driveway.  Ha!  I didn't even have time to walk all the way from the gate to the mesquite tree when the first car drove up!

 

The three ladies who got out stayed for almost an hour.  Though I didn't know it at the time, they ended up accounting for almost one-fourth of my week-end's sales!

 

My last customer on Friday left at 1:55; I enjoyed another fifteen or twenty minutes of just relaxing in the yard before I brought in the driveway sign and closed the outer gate.  I had had a good day.

 

Saturday didn't start out right at 9:00, but by 10:00 I was getting what I would call a steady trickle of customers.  Some bought, some didn't, but everyone was nice.  I only had one weird person all week-end, and that was the lady (?) who didn't want to pay a whole dollar for a brand new skein of Lion Brand yarn that still had the store sticker $4.79 on it, who asked if I'd take 50 cents for an earring display I had marked $2.00, and who wanted me to tell her exactly how I had made a fabric credit card case.  I felt like telling her she could buy it for $3.00 and take it apart if she wanted to know how I made it, but I didn't.  She didn't buy anything.

 

My last customers on Saturday were a delightful couple originally from near Seattle, Washington.  Ironically, he bought the skein of Lion Brand yarn, for tying flies!  He was kind of surprised when I knew right away what he meant.  He was even more surprised when he made some comments about wood and I told him I knew what he meant because I turned a little bit myself.  I had already given them one of the maps for the studio tour and I told him to be sure to stop back and I'd show him a few of my turnings.  (Not that I have very many because it's something I have far too little time for, but I do still have a few around here.  And there's still that pile of ironwood in the back yard. . . .)

 

I think the best customer I had, though, was one of the members of my art group.  She had said on Wednesday at the meeting that she'd try to stop by, so I was delighted to see her.  Not that I expected her to buy anything -- she actually did, though -- but I wanted her to see the yard and why it meant so much to me to have the studio tour here.

 

While we were talking, some other customers arrived, and the first thing they asked about was the weird-looking thing by the big black rock. 

 

"Is that a cactus?" the woman asked.

 

"Yes, it's called a spruce cone," I replied.

 

 

(This is actually a picture I took several years ago, but you can see how the new growth on the spruce cone really does look like a pine cone.  They don't bloom every year, but this year should be spectacular after all the rain we've had.)

 

"I've never seen anything like that.  And what's the big shiny black rock in front of it?"

 

"Rainbow obsidian," I said.

 

 

And it went on like that for at least ten minutes, as I explained to them about the rocks along the path and then invited them to the studio tour.

 

My friend from the art group remarked, "I can see why you wouldn't want to be at someone else's studio.  This is such a wonderful place, and it's so obviously perfect for a studio tour."

 

That was the best moment of the week-end!

 

I sold approximately 70% of my "nonsense shit," and that was satisfying.  What didn't sell fit comfortably into two storage tubs with plenty of room left for whatever I add for next year's sale.

 

Most of what I sold was craft supplies; I only sold a few of my finished items, but that wasn't really the objective.  I knew that without extensive advertising ahead of time, the roadside "yard sale" signs would bring in people looking for bargains, and that was fine.  In a way this was a bit of an experiment, and I learned what I wanted to learn.

 

Both Friday night and Saturday night, I pretty much crashed as soon as I got into bed, but I did manage to get in a few minutes of reading time.  Once the studio tour is over -- just seven more days! -- I can settle back into reading and leisurely crafting and cutting rocks . . . and maybe even some writing!  Whoo hoo!

The second day

Not as much sold today as yesterday, but a few larger items are now gone and that means I have more room for new stuff!

 

Everything is out of the yard now, except the tables that will stay there until next week-end's studio tour.  I can't say everything is really put away, but at least all the boxes and tubs are back in the studio.

 

I had fun.  I didn't get rich in dollars, but I had a great time welcoming people to my garden.  It's a kind of magical place, and I'm more glad than ever that I fought to keep it as my spot on the studio tour.

 

More details tomorrow or Monday.  Right now I'm just too tired!!

The first day

The first day of my Arts & Crafts Yard Sale is over, and it was a success.

 

Did I sell everything?  No.

 

Did I sell enough to achieve my goal?  Yes.

 

My goal was not to be measured by dollars taken in, but rather by organizational facilitation.  In other words, I wanted the left-overs to all fit in two tubs.  This would make setting up tomorrow for Day Two much easier and also make organizing the catastrophe I've made out of my studio a lot easier.

 

I call it the nonsense shit - the stuff you just can't imagine anyone actually paying money for, except that YOU paid money for it once upon a time and now you're asking someone else to do the same.  When the day was over, I wanted all the nonsense shit to fit into two tubs. 

 

It did.

 

With room to spare.

 

Tomorrow is Day Two.  There's still a lot of nonsense shit left.

Y'all are gonna get tired of this, but I need a place to put the documentation

— feeling silent

In the late spring and early summer of 2007, when the fledgling organization known only as the Gold Canyon Artists' Group decided to keep the local studio tour going after the previous sponsor dropped it, we had no people, no money, and no experience.  Most of the dozen or so members thought we few were crazy even to try to put it on.  I was adamant, and with the help of two other members and one's spouse, we did it.

 

Our first brochure was admittedly pretty amateurish, but really not much worse than what the previous sponsor had produced.  With a basic design similar to their dark purple brochure, ours was a little more legible only because we put it on pink paper.  I did all the  layout work, including the map, and I had no clue what I was doing.  My graphics program was cheap and not very good, but I managed to knock out the map with only a few errors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With no skills, no experience, and lacking proper computer tools, we still produced the map and studio listing.  Please note that even on that first try, there were no rogue or incorrect apostrophes.  Please also note that I was Studio #3.

 

One of the problems we had that first year was the map, especially trying to fit in all the locations.  The prior sponsor had locations well outside of the immediate area, but we kept it pretty close to the "triangle" formed by Highway 88 (also known as Apache Trail) on the north and US 60 on the south, which is easier to see on the composite below:

 

 

Although it looks from the map as if there's not very much distance between the Apache Junction studios on the left panel and the Gold Canyon locations on the right, the "Map not to scale" tries to cover that there really is a fairly clear distinction.

 

We made it through the 2007 event successfully.  Our membership grew and so did our treasury.  For 2008 we were organized as the Artists of the Superstitions, and we had a "logo" designed by the son of one of our new members, which was incorporated in the map for the 2nd Annual event.

 

 

Our 17 by 11 inch tri-fold brochure now had two separate maps to distinguish between the two areas of studios, but we still had a kind of nascent "mission statement" on the cover.  I had written the original, and the new chairperson altered it but kept the fundamental idea, which was to bring the public directly into the studio experience and the creative environment.

 

 

 

In 2008, I was Studio #7.

 

 

 

 

By 2009, the new chairperson wanted to do things differently.  Although we had matched the pink paper to the pink roadside signs, she decided to switch to gold.  The pink signs had been chosen because the color seemed to stand out better against the desert background than other choices, and the four of us on the original 2007 committee felt the coordination between pink paper map and pink road signs would bring some coherence to the event.  But the 2009 chair didn't agree.

 

 

 

 

For 2009, I was Studio #8.

 

 

 

The gold brochure drew quite a bit of criticism.  Other than the change of color, people noticed that the font used was boring. There didn't seem to be any artistry about the brochure itself.  Some actual artwork had been incorporated on the front page, but it was small and it wasn't identifiable.

 

The scope of the tour had expanded, too.  Studios north of Highway 88 were brought in, even though some of us wanted to keep the geographical area more contained.  Our logic was that if visitors spent more time driving around, that was less time they would spend actually looking at art.  It also meant they could be distracted by other activities, such as restaurants!  And bars!

 

There were more changes to come for 2010, even though we had the same chair for the tour event as in 2009.

 

She returned to the pink paper, pressured to do so because of the coordination with the signs.  But she had changed from the 11 x 17 paper to an 8 1/2 x 14 legal-sized format.  When confronted about the shrinking of the map, she claimed she had used a focus group to determine that people didn't like large pieces of paper.

 

I'll just leave that there.

 

 

 

And she left off that very essential apostrophe!  I had nothing to do with it!

 

 

 

For the fourth annual studio tour, I was Studio #11.

 

 

 

 

After the event, there were major complaints about the smaller brochure format.  No one really believed the focus group claim, but there was nothing to refute it either.  There were also complaints that some studios got little promotional blurbs on the brochure, but not everyone. 

 

Because of these complaints and against my better judgment, I volunteered to chair the 2011 tour.  There had been some friction within the group, but I so strongly believed in the tour as a community event that I was willing to take the risk of getting the middle of a power struggle.  The then president of the group expressed her enthusiasm for my taking charge after two years of problems.

 

The administrative issues aren't particularly relevant to this particular discussion, but they were massive and extremely frustrating to me.  I had no access to any history of promotion and advertising nor could I affect PR going forward, so basically all I could do was recruit artists and design the brochure.  (The person in charge of PR would not allow anyone else to interfere.)  In the middle of preparation, we got a marvelous gift handed to us:  A new member who was a professional graphic designer volunteered not only to design a whole new brochure but he also gave us the right to use one of his own photographs for the cover.

 

The tour had over the years brought in enough money to establish a comfortable bank account balance, and when the idea of upgrading the brochure presented itself, the president and I jumped at the chance.  What we got was nothing short of spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

And there I am as Studio #12.

 

Because of the problems we had had in the past regarding the map and misspellings and so on, I set up a procedure to get a PDF proof of the brochure emailed to all the artists -- hosts and guests alike -- in plenty of time to get errors caught and fixed by our graphic artist.  I have to say I was dumbstruck by his gigantic monitor and the cool things he could do with professional-grade software.

 

The procedure was clear -- ALL corrections had to come to me, so I could monitor the changes and make sure there weren't conflicts.  Under no circumstances was anyone to contact him directly.  One person ignored that directive.  She was a guest at another studio, but she sent several emails to our designer telling him what to change.  When I saw the changes as he emailed them to me, I told him to change them back.  I had no idea what was going on, no clue that someone else was feeding him changes.

 

Before the final, urgent corrections could be conveyed to him, he got angry and quit!  Only then did I find out someone else had been bugging him.  When her host's studio didn't get properly located, she wanted me -- me, personally -- to make hand corrections to all 5,000 printed copies! 

 

I told her it wasn't going to happen.  It was her fault, not mine.

 

The membership was suitably amazed at the new map and brochure.  We felt that this new, full-color, slick, professional-looking document was a sign that Artists of the Superstitions had achieved true professional status.  We weren't just a loose bunch of painters and photographers; we were Real Artists.

 

Thinking this triumph meant no more major problems, I went forward as chair of the 2012 tour.  But our graphic designer refused to take on the brochure again after the way he'd been treated in 2011, and I couldn't blame him.  The president arranged for the designer at the printing company to take the basic design and the original computer files and adapt it for the 2012 tour.  Machinations behind the scenes that I wasn't aware of shattered the cooperative relationship I had with the president, but we did get the brochure out for the tour. 

 

It was basically the same as we had for 2011, except that we had a huge increase in the number of studios and artists.  Was that because the improvements to the 2011 brochure, especially over the cramped 2010 model, attracted more artists to the event?  I don't know for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me.

 

 

 

 

 

I was listed at Studio #14; that year we had a total of 31 studios, the most ever!

 

For 2013, I was no longer chair; someone else was given that responsibility and I pretty much washed my hands of everything to do with the tour other than being a participating artist.

 

Let me say, if you haven't already figured this out, that I absolutely adore the studio tours.  I make more money, on average, through the other events, but the tour is an enormous amount of fun.  I get to set up my tables under my big mesquite tree.  I share the front garden area and its sometimes weird plants with my visitors, and show them some of the rocks that are way too big to ever take to an ordinary show.  Having more space means I can set up more tables and display more of the products I make.  Because I'm juried into Artists of the Superstitions for more than just jewelry, the tour allows me to display more of my other media as well - woodworking, quilting, and even my writing.

 

It's easy for someone who doesn't know me to say I should just stop getting so upset about this crap, but I get upset because I care.  When I talk to customers who also enjoy the event, I know that it's worth it.  Sure, we artists can set up our tables and sell our wares out of a 10 x 10 or 12 x 8 booth space at an art show, but it's just not the same thing.  The studio tour is special.

 

So here we were at 2013 and our seventh annual fall studio tour.  I was persona non grata with the president and had been stripped of any control over the event or the brochure.  The graphic designer at the printing company was doing the design and layout, and a new chairperson was in charge of getting her the information.

 

 

 

 

We no longer had use of the dramatic photo of the mountain, but the new chair arranged to have thumbnails of each artist's work on the front page.  There was no attribution, no way of matching the work to the artist, but it was something.

 

On the negative side, we had somehow dropped from 31 studios down to 23. and from 70 artists to 54.

 

 

 

But there I am as Studio #1!  And I wasn't even in charge of anything!

 

Yes, folks, 2013 and the 7th Annual Artists' Studio Tour was the first time I got to be #1.  Until I began documenting this whole mess, I didn't realize how long I'd been at the end of the studio listing rather than the beginning.

 

I learned a lot more than that.

 

 

 

I also thought we had restricted the area of the AJ portion of the tour to south of Highway 88 more often than we actually did.  In fact, almost every year, we had studios on the far north side of the area.  If I hadn't gone back and looked at the maps, I'd have asserted, incorrectly, that there had been several years with no studios beyond Highway 88.

 

 

And at least one of them was a solo artist, showing in her own studio without guests.

 

I looked further at the 2013 brochure, not just for Apache Junction, but for Gold Canyon as well.

 

 

 

 

There were quite a few solo artists!

 

The following year was one of major organizational upheaval for Artists of the Superstitions and I won't go into all the sordid details.  For a while that summer it looked like there might not be a 9th Annual studio tour, but somehow or other the fractured board of directors managed to pull it together.  Sort of.

 

 

Participation was down again; only 50 artists this year, when we had had more than 70 just two years before.  As an emotional supporter of the event, I felt uneasy about those numbers.  But the new cover design and the use of at least some artists' work -- with attribution! -- looked really good.

 

Then I opened the cover and literally gasped aloud.

 

 

 

 

The person in charge of the brochure, the person responsible for making sure the information in it was correct, had misspelled his own name.  There were other misspellings and other errors throughout the brochure.  It was mortifying.  No one cared.  No one said a thing.

 

How much did the public notice?  Probably not much.  I have no way of knowing how accurate the map itself was, or how much people depended on GPS to help them find the individual studios.  I just know that a 10-second scan of the brochure was all I needed to find six obvious errors, three of them in just one studio!

 

Remember when I was blamed for another artist's meddling on the 2011 brochure and told I had to fix it by hand on 5,000 copies?  Why is it that no one said the same thing to the guy who claimed he had proofread the 2014 brochure and guaranteed there were no errors even though there was one right in his own name?

 

Someone else became chair of the event for 2015.  The brochure that year didn't change much from 2014, though there were fewer typos.

 

 

 

Artist participation was up a little, but there were fewer studios on the map, only 18.  This is troubling.  Shouldn't an event grow over the years?  Wasn't that an objective back in 2007 when we started?

 

 

 

 

 

There I am at Studio #1, but with a slight difference: I don't have my phone number listed like the other host artists.  This wasn't an error; it was my choice.

 

It's not a matter of fear of identity theft or anything like that.  It's a simple matter of logic.

 

The policy was started the previous year, and I simply said don't put my phone number on the map.  I don't answer my phone unless I know who's calling.  If I don't answer and you're a real person with real matters to talk to me about, you can leave a message and I'll get back to you.  But I'm not going to get into conversations with robo callers or telemarketers.  Period.  I'm just not going to.  And I do that by not answering the phone.

 

Although it makes sense to have a phone number listed so potential customers can get directions to my studio or ask questions about my art, I'm not going to answer every single telemarketer call just in case it might be an art customer.

 

Nor do I want people calling during the studio tour and distracting me when I might be actually dealing with a customer.  My studio is easy to find; there's no reason for people to be calling for directions.  If they want to ask about my work, they can come to the studio and ask.  I don't have a helper or partner, and since I'm the only one at my studio, I don't have another artist to keep an eye on things while I chat on the phone with someone asking questions I may not even have answers to!

 

Therefore, I refused to allow my number to be listed on the brochure.

 

 

 

But there are still studios clustered north of Highway 88, outside that original boundary we set to keep the area relatively comfortable for driving.  We're not talking about 20 miles; the distance isn't more than eight or ten miles between my studio at the south end of this potion of the map and the studios at the north end.  But exhaustion caused by the distance between studios was part of the reason for telling me in 2019 I couldn't have my own spot on the map!

 

Not much changed in 2016, though this was now our 10th Annual Studio Tour!

 

 

 

Yes, there are typos on the front page.  I caught them, but only after printing, because no one ever asks me to proofread.  They know I will catch their errors and give them a chance to fix them, but I guess they'd rather have the mistakes out there in front of the public.  I know, it makes no sense.

 

But if we were getting more artists to participate, we were only at 20 studios, no growth in ten years!

 

And why was it that out of the eight artists whose work was featured on the 2016 brochure, four of them had also been on the cover of the 2015 brochure?  Were only certain, special, favored members being granted visibility and promotion?

 

 

Another pattern was beginning to emerge at this point, one that a few of us had noticed years before but too few paid any attention.

 

Instead of bringing in new studio hosts, the tour was moving in the direction of mini-shows at a few studios.  Five or six artists at one studio could set up like a small show event, which was really the opposite of what the tour started out to be.  At one point, pressure on the board set a limit of four guests at a studio -- so no more than five artists total -- but that limit was soon lifted. 

 

 

 

 

Artists who don't have large properties or lots of room for other artists to exhibit are thus discouraged from participating except as guests.  But if the event is to grow, it needs more hosts!  More studios, not fewer!  This is a catch-22, and that's one of the reasons why I became so adamant about maintaining my solo studio.  We need open studios, even if they can't host other artists.

 

But here's the map for the Apache Junction studios in 2016, and as I looked at these scans whole writing this post, I noticed another pattern.

 

 

 

On this particular map for 2016's tour, the studio is number 5.  It's essentially out in the middle of sort of nowhere all by itself.  An uninformed person looking at the map has no way of knowing how difficult that studio is to get to or how easy.  The point is, however, that it's by itself.  And it's been there pretty much by itself for several years.  There have never been very many studios near to it, and often it's the only one in the area.

 

Yet because the host artist brings in several guests, no one questions that she's not in close proximity to a bunch of other studios.  Or that you can't get to her studio without going kind of out of the way from any other studio.

 

Her studio is, really, the essence of the tour.  She's right in the shadow of Superstition Mountain. There's no reason to question her right to be on the tour.

 

There's apparently only reason to question mine.

 

All of this becomes even more visible on the 2017 map for the 11th annual tour.

 

 

 

Artist participation jumped significantly, but not the number of host studios.  This was because of the clustering of lots of guest artists.  The impact on the brochure was huge.

 

Remember, the trifold format creates six panels, one of which is devoted to the cover.  This meant the split of the two sections of the tour -- Apache Junction and Gold Canyon -- left one section with two of the six panels, the other with three.  The nature of the map and the distribution of studios and artists had given Apache Junction the three-panel side of the brochure ever since 2008 and the second tour.  But by 2017, there had been enough shift in the distribution to move the Gold Canyon studios to the full three-panel side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why weren't the studios re-numbered to reflect the switch?  I don't know.  I was still Studio #1.

 

 

 

Oh, look.  There's William Agard hosting his home studio with no guests.

 

 

 

 

 

Eleven studio tours, and no problems with un-guested studios.

 

After the 2017 fall tour, Artists of the Superstitions decided to hold a spring tour, calling it a Spring Fling.  I won't address the silliness of that title -- oh, sorry, I guess I just did -- but that's what they chose to call it.  There would be virtually no difference between the spring event and the one in the fall in terms of how the tour operated.  The cover of the brochure was a little different but not much.

 

 

 

Participation was a little lower than the fall 2017 tour, but not that much, considering this was a "new" event for the group.  And the distribution of artists and studios left the Gold Canyon section dominant on the full page again.

 

 

 

 You may not have caught it, but there's a photo of work by Jennifer Kennard on the cover.  Jennifer Kennard at this time was president of Artists of the Superstitions.  She ws not, however, a participant in the 2018 Spring Fling Studio Tour.

 

Hmmmmmm........

 

 

And then came the fall 2018 12th annual event.

 

After having many of our brochures desgned and at least eight of then printed at a local company, the AotS board decided to have the brochure for the 12th annual fall tour designed and printed by AotS member Bill Agard.  I have no idea what kind of presentation, if any, he made to the board.  The membership was not involved in the decision.

 

Bill brought his first mock-up to the September 2018 meeting to allow anyone to make corrections.  At that time I pointed out to him that I did NOT want my phone number listed and would he please remove it.  I think he asked why I didn't want it and I politely told him I didn't want it and that's all he needed to know.  I also pointed out that he needed to have an apostrophe on Artists' Studio Tour.  I think he wrote it down.

 

When another version was emailed, it was too blurry to read my address to confirm that it was correct.  I noticed that my phone number had NOT been removed, but by then I was so angry I just didn't care. There was no apostrophe on Artists' Studio Tour, so I replied to the email -- I believe it was from the VP of AotS, and yes, I have the email in my files but I'm not inclined to dig it out right at the moment -- with another reminder.

 

You can see the results here:

 

 

This was the printed version, and of course by then it was too late to fix.  Neither Bill nor anyone on the board who might have taken any responsibility for proofreading this first effort from a new designer apparently knew how to properly use apostrophes.

 

I was informed that Bill had used previous brochures as samples, but I pointed out that if he had done that, he wouldn't have made the error, because none of the previous brochures (other than the one in 2009, which he probably didn't have anyway) made that error.  None of them.

 

However, on the positive side, the participation in the event had increased a tiny bit.  We now had a total of 75 artists, up just one from 2017, at 24 studios, an increase of two..

 

Once again, I was Studio #1. 

 

 

Bill Agard, who had done the design and layout, listed himself at #9.

 

 

 

Instead of photos of a select few on the cover, we now had photos of the studio host's artwork by each studio listing.  There's no explanation of that, but a close look at the listings more or less identifies the medium with the host artist.

 

Given that space for the AJ artists and pictures and map was at a premium, I'm not sure why the line "-Also Showing here-" was needed at each studio.  Isn't that self-explanatory?  And why is "Showing" capitalized, but not "here"?

 

There are typos.  Some should have been caught. 

 

Once again, Gold Canyon had more artists and studios and therefore warranted the three full panels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betty Braig, at Studio #18, was the only other artist on the 2018 fall tour who had no guest artists at her studio.  She's no more isolated in terms of other artists in Gold Canyon than I am in Apache Junction.  Without looking at the mock-up again, I don't know if Betty signed up for the spring 2019 tour or if she has guests at her studio or anything else.  It really doesn't matter. 

 

What does matter is that the various justifications for denying me the right to host my own studio on the tour and not have any guest artists makes no sense based on the tour itself.  It only makes sense if certain people in positions of authority don't want me to.  Whether it's because they just personally don't like me or they feel my studio isn't good enough or my art isn't good enough or I don't put on a good enough presentation, then they need to say so.  Excuses based on visitors being too tired or just absurd.  If it's too much space for visitors to cover, then close down the studios way north of the area,

 

What also matters is the quality of the brochure.  There were major problems with publicity for the fall 2018 tour and those problems may very well have contributed to the decline in the number of visitors.  My having no guest artists did not cause a drop-off in customers!  But after several years of really lovely, professional-looking brochures -- and despite the typos and other nonsense -- the 2018 fall brochure just didn't look as slick.  The apostrophe errors were bad enough, and to be honest I know there are a lot of people out there who wouldn't have noticed.

 

But the fat cursive font looked cheap compared to the elegant script we'd had before.  We never had to have "of the" reduced in size; it looked odd now.

 

Even that is minor, a matter of personal preference.  Maybe Bill and the board all liked the more bold font better.  I don't know.

 

None of that, however, excuses what has happened with the brochure for the 2019 spring tour.  It's not the rogue apostrophes.  It's everything else.  The blue index page is horrible, and it isn't in keeping with the desert-and-pink color scheme.  The parrot cover is also horrible, because it's not in keeping with the theme, and it promotes one unnamed artist over everyone else, which we have NEVER done.  The mailing panel is a waste of space, especially when the maps are reduced to roughly one quarter their previous size.

 

Yes, one quarter.  Consider that the Gold Canyon map for the fall 2018 tour took up more than one third of the 11 x 17 sheet.  Indeed, close to half of that page was the map.  Now, the Gold Canyon portion of the map will get one half of one quarter of the new 11 x 17 page.  Roughly one eighth of the page, compared to one half of the page previously.

 

Will visitors take one look at that tiny map and say, "Forget it, Stanley.  I can't read that tiny print.  The pictures are pretty but I don't know what goes where.  Let's just go up to the Goldfield Ghost Town and watch the cowboys in the bar."

 

The Spring Fling competes with the Arizona Renaissance Festival, which runs that same week-end just a few miles down US 60 from Gold Canyon.  While there probably isn't much overlap of audiences, there is a real issue with traffic.  US 60 can back up for several miles during RenFest, and for Gold Canyon there's no other way in or out. (It would, by the way, make a whole lot of sense to run the spring tour on Friday as well as Saturday and Sunday, to at least give visitors the option of seeing the Gold Canyon studios without fighting RenFest traffic, but no one seems to have come up with that idea yet.  The Apache Junction studios have other routes in and out that aren't affected by traffic on US 60.)

 

So there are a lot of things working against the Spring Fling, and if the map is a royal turn-off, I suspect a lot of artists will not be happy.

 

I just don't want them to blame me.  They probably will anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I need more help

http://www.artistsofthesuperstitions.com/WP/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/2019-Spring-Fling-Studio-Tour-Flyer-2-sided-WEB.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2bgamdemTTTDlQ6Y-bT7h20awkUY73e4yb5YJUwGuU1HbC5TAUOJEQwLc

 

 

That thing ^^^^ is the link to the map for my art group's spring studio tour scheduled in two weeks.  I think I'm just being too picky, but it seems there are some things a little wrong-ish.  Could you folks take a quick look and tell me if you see anything questionable, anything at all, no matter how nitpicky or seemingly obvious?

 

It's to be printed on 11 x 17 paper, so it's too big to reproduce very good here, but this is the best I could do on a screen shot.

 

 

 

The Olive Mill art show, Sunday, 3 March 2019 -- a good day

 

We were rained out the previous Sunday, so this was our make-up, and we had a truly superb day, with one not-so-minor exception.  More on that later.

 

This was the view from inside my little tent, looking sort of northwest across the "road" that encircles the actual grove of olive trees at the Queen Creek Olive Mill restaurant.  I was at the far south end of the grove, with Combs Road at my back.

 

This little one-way dirt road allows us artists to drive to our assigned spaces, unload all our stuff, and then drive roughly a quarter of a mile to the parking lot on the north end of the Olive Mill property.  It's a bad enough walk at the beginning of the day, but it's a killer at the end of the afternoon when you're tired and just want to get home.  But that's the way the venue works, so we deal with it.

 

Unfortunately, the Olive Mill is an operation under constant construction and expansion, which means that little one-way road changes from event to event.  It's more or less fixed through the grove part, but once past the grove, things change.  More trees are planted, an organic herb garden grows, new attractions are added, and the road alters to encompass them.  After I had dropped off my tent and tables and tubs of merchandise at my space, I headed for the parking lot, well aware that the driveway probably didn't follow the same route it did last spring for our previous show.

 

I got past the grove and the picnic area and the bocce ball court, and saw the sure signs of new construction ahead: heavy equipment, a huge Dumpster, and a road that seemed to be ending right in front of me.

 

The unpaved driveway had taken a beating during the recent rains, so I was driving very, very slow.  There's also a pretty steep drop-off to the immediate left into a large irrigation/drainage canal, and on the other side of the canal is the railroad track.  The only way to the parking lot was to the right, but the question was, did the driveway make that right turn before or after the big Dumpster?  It looked like there was a ditch blocking the driveway just past the Dumpster, so I made the turn to the right before it.

 

My right front tire encountered a slight dip, but the whole driveway was nothing but ruts and dips, so I didn't think anything of it.  I gave the Blazer a little gas, and BAM! the left front tire fell into a hole so deep the whole vehicle tilted to the left at about 30 degrees.  (It felt like 45 at least, but probably wasn't.)

 

I had no idea what had happened, and I didn't dare open the door to get out and look for fear of the whole car rolling over and tumbling into the canal . . . and on top of me!

 

For once in my life, I didn't panic, and was able to back up out of whatever it was I'd driven into, though for a few seconds it felt I was hung up on something.  Back on more or less level ground, I exited the car and took a look around.

 

There was an open, unmarked trench about twelve inches wide and eighteen inches deep for new irrigation lines.  There was no way to see it from the driver's side of my vehicle.  Part of the trench had been filled in, and that's the part my right tire encountered.  The rest of it was still open, so the left tire sank straight into it.  It's honestly a wonder I didn't roll over.

 

And that was the start of my day!  I was more than a little rattled.

 

Setting up went as it usually does, but I had made a conscious decision to take much less inventory than I usually do.  That shortened the time it took to set up, and would do the same when it came time to tear down.  But it looked like we were going to have a truly beautiful day, and I was ready for it!

 

The show runs from 9:00 to 3:00, and though the Olive Mill is a popular spot for Sunday brunch, there was very little crowd until almost noon.  In the first three hours I sold just two small pieces, enough to cover my expenses but not make any profit.  Fortunately, business picked up after lunch time, and I ended up having a pretty good day.

 

The bad news was that I had to say good-bye to two of my long-time favorite pendants. 

 

 

I cut this cabochon from a scrap slice of what is probably Laguna Agate from Mexico.  The orange and purple colors fascinated me, and the little crystal-lined void in the middle made it even more special.

 

 

I still have a couple of small cabochons cut from this slice of purple moss agate, also probably from Mexico, that I bought at the Flagg Gem and Mineral Show in Mesa several years ago.  This triangle was one of the most dramatic cuts, with a similar crystal-lined hole at the bottom.  I really loved the way this one turned out, and I even thought of pulling it off sale.  But I know I'm never going to wear it -- I always wear the same angel feather, all the time -- and this one needed to be loved.

 

The whole afternoon was busy, with a steady stream of customers into my booth.  Not everyone bought, but my sales did steadily mount up.  It would really have been just about a perfect day if not for that one little bit of bad weather.

 

None of us saw it coming, but that's the way these little dust devils are.  Like micro-mini tornadoes, these swirling winds form out of hot, dry air and can be very destructive.  This one developed literally on the edge of the olive grove, and before anyone could do anything, it toppled the display in the booth next to mine, shattering dozens of one-of-a-kind raku vases and plates. I took the picture below before that display was completely set up; the shelves at the far right, behind the olive branches, were full of pots and bowls when the wind struck.  Half a heartbeat later, it lifted the tent across the driveway off the ground and probably would have swept it right into the olive trees if the artist and her customers hadn't grabbed it and held it down.

 

 

No one was injured.  My fellow artist KimmBerly lost a significant part of her inventory, and that hurts.  But pots can be replaced.  Damaged displays can be repaired.  The important thing is that when the show was over, KimmBerly could go home and make more inventory.

 

I know not every artist had a good day in terms of sales, but that's the way it is sometimes.  Some do well at one show, and not so well at another, and the next time it's the other way around.  I had a good day.  Great? No, I wouldn't go that far!  But good.

 

Now I have my yard sale coming up in another week, and the week after that is the spring studio tour.  I have quite a bit of inventory to replenish, so I guess I'd better log off Booklikes and head to the studio!

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, BL Folks, I need some help.

I am having a yard sale next week-end.  I haven't done  yard sale in over 30 years -- not since leaving Indiana in 1985  -- and I rarely go to them because I already have enough . . . stuff. 

 

Most of what I'm putting out for sale is arts & crafts related, either finished products or supplies.  The finished products are mostly either things I've made that don't qualify for the art group's shows or things that other people have made.  Pricing for that is taken care of one way or another.

 

Most of the supplies and tools are fairly easy to price based on current retail/online prices for the same or similar items.  I can take care of that, too.

 

What I need some suggestions for are the small crafting supplies that I've acquired over the past 40 or so years but never used and prices now are way out of line with what I originally paid.

 

For example, I have several packages of sequins similar to this:

 

 

The Etsy listing I took the photo from  is here:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/617526486/packaged-sequins-cupped-sequins-faceted?ref=related-3

and the asking price is $2.25.

 

I have several unopened packages of Westrim sequins that still have the Michael's price sticker on them for 49 cents.  (I should have taken a photo but forgot.)

 

What's a reasonable yard sale price to put on something like that?

 

I also have loose, out-of-the-package beads, probably plastic, that I've sorted and repackaged in small plastic zipper bags.  The items I've managed to find fairly close matches for on Etsy are Chinese imports that run about $1.00 to $2.00.

 

 

What would you consider a fair yard sale price for something like that?

 

Thanks in advance, and I'll try to add some more pictures later on.

The King's Grave -- Buried in history

The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds - Philippa Langley, Michael Jones

Disclosure:  I purchased the Kindle edition of this book at the then-current retail price.  I do not know the authors, nor have I communicated with either of them regarding this book or any other matter.  I am an author of contemporary and historical romance along with various (nefarious) non-fiction.

 

I was introduced to the mystery of Richard III in the early 1980s, through one of my snail-mail pen-pals Cheryl, who was at that time an active member of the U.S. branch of the Richard III Society.  Though I knew the outlines of the history, I did not know the debate over the last Plantagenet king of England had endured literally for centuries.

 

My background was superficial, gained through a slim volume that gave brief biographies of all the kings and queens of England and through a skimmed reading of the fourth volume of Thomas B. Costain's history of the Plantagenets. But had you asked me then to tell you all I knew of Richard III, I could only have told you that he was the last Plantagenet, that he died in battle, and his successor Henry Tudor was Henry VIII's father and Elizabeth I's grandfather.

 

I actually learned more about the mystery of the Princes in the Tower from reading Jan Westcott's The Hepburn, because one of the subplots involved Perkin Warbeck, the imposter who claimed to be the surviving younger son of Edward IV.

 

Cheryl knew a lot more.  She told me to see if I could find a very rare book by Josephine Tey, titled The Daughter of Time.  Some larger libraries might have it, she suggested, and maybe I could get it on interlibrary loan.

 

I knew Tey, of course, through Brat Farrar, but I'd never heard of this other book.  As luck -- or fate -- would have it, within days of receiving her letter with that recommendation, I found a paperback copy of Tey's book in a little used bookstore in our little town in Indiana.  I read it immediately, and was just as immediately hooked on the mystery.

 

I continued to research, to pick up odd little bits here and there.

 

When word got out in 2010 and 2011 that a serious search for Richard's grave was being undertaken, I began following the news reports.  I was still in occasional contact with Cheryl -- I have since lost touch with her, however -- and she provided me with links to updates through the R3 Society.  And then came the announcement in 2012 confirming the discovery.

 

I read the news reports and that was enough for the time being.  I'd been warned that Philippa Langley was a bit of a spotlight grabber; her book about the discovery was more about her and less about anything else.  But when a few weeks ago the book showed up on my Amazon "home" page at a reasonable price and at a time when I had a little bit of extra Amazon money, I decided to treat myself.

 

I've now read it, more or less, and the warnings were justified.

 

The book covers three main issues: The biography of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester and King of England; Philippa Langley's dream of finding his burial site; and the actual search in the city of Leicester in 2012.

 

The biography, broken into sections inserted between the various stages of the search, takes up at least 60 percent of the book.  This is great for someone who knows nothing of English history, especially the intricacies of the Wars of the Roses, and the complexities surrounding the legitimacy and/or illegitimacy of various claims to the throne.  But the fact that all of this detailed history broke up the actual search was annoying as hell for someone who actually knew the history.  Even if I didn't know every single detail, I knew enough that I finally ended up skipping the last few sections with a mental, "Yeah, yeah, I know all that, now get back to the digging!"

 

Langley played up her intuition and the dramatic feeling she had when standing in a certain spot in the car park.  Yes, there was research, and yes, there was scientific evidence, but her emotional reactions seemed overdone.  "Yeah, yeah, you got shivers down your spine, now get back to the digging!"

 

The digging got short shrift, and that really disappointed me.

 

Another major disappointment was the actual presentation of the Kindle edition, and I'm not sure whether that's because I was reading on the K4PC app or what.  The maps and diagrams were very small, too small to read easily. 

 

 

Many were at 90-degree angles to the page, making them even more difficult to read.  The photos reproduced were nice, but they were way too small and had very little narrative to explain them.

 

 

The notes at the end were just a listing of sources, not with any reference to the text.  Maybe most readers don't care, but I did.

 

I ended up giving it three stars, because the information was good, but it was too little.  If you're really interested, I recommended getting this from the library before you buy.

Reading progress update: I've read 70%.

The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds - Philippa Langley, Michael Jones

I already know the history, so I'm skipping that part, and it's the majority of the text.

Reading progress update: I've read 35%.

The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds - Philippa Langley, Michael Jones

I'll let you know when I finish this one.  I'm hooked.

Reading progress update: I've read 15%.

History of Tom Jones, a Foundling - Henry Fielding

As I mentioned on a previous update, author Fielding blatantly breaks the fourth wall throughout, a literary device I'm not sure would work today, but it definitely illustrates how this technique was employed in this developmental stage of the novel as an art form.

 

Fielding is not a character in the story in the same way Herman Melville's Ishmael is a character in Moby Dick.  Fielding remains the author, yet he intrudes frequently -- and amusingly -- acknowledging his presence outside the story and comparing himself to other authors.  It's really quite stunning.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 10%.

History of Tom Jones, a Foundling - Henry Fielding

Fielding utterly obliterates the fourth wall, addresses the reader directly and explains why he's writing the way he's writing.  I doubt this would work today as well as it did in 1749.

How to Fix Kindle Unlimited -- Some suggestions

Please feel free to add more suggestions!!

 

A lot of legitimate Kindle Unlimited authors are complaining, and have complained for a long time, about the ease with which the KU program is manipulated and/or scammed by various frauds.  You can read about how it's done here. Some of the worst problems may have been resolved by the removal of some of the stuffed books and closing the accounts of the worst violators.  But the problem continues.

 

So what's to be done?  There have been a lot of suggestions, few if any of which Amazon has implemented. In good measure, this is because Amazon doesn't care.  They take in the KU subscription money and pay out some of it, but it doesn't matter to them who receives it.

 

What does matter is that readers continue to subscribe.  And the recent promotion of 99-cents for three months subscriptions may indicate KU is no longer the cash cow it used to be for Amazon.  Who knows?

 

But if I were Jeff Bezos and I really wanted to establish KU as a legitimate service for both readers and writers while maintaining its profitability and cleansing it of fakes and frauds, I think just a few adjustments to the program would make a huge difference.

 

1.  Disallow anthologies or collections of novels.  One novel -- plus one preview -- per Kindle title.  This eliminates book stuffing, the cramming of three or four or ten novels into a single KU document to generate page views that can translate to well over $100 per book in KU royalties. 

 

2. Require minimum purchase price of USD $2.99.  Part of the scam depends upon "verified purchase reviews," which are possible only if the purchase price is low enough for the scamming authors to effectively buy hundreds of copies of their own books as well as impulse buys as "also-boughts."

 

3. Eliminate big bonus payments for "best sellers" in KU.  Monthly bonuses of $10,000 or more are huge incentives for scammers, and they cover the payments to click farms and other fraud-supporting operations, including but not limited to fake reviews and purchases. 

 

4.  Provide better enforcement of all KU policies, even if it means funding two or three human service representatives to monitor and respond to complaints.  One of the frustrations for those readers and authors who do report violations is that often nothing is done in spite of substantial evidence being provided.  If anthologies and collections are barred from KU, reports of such should result in immediate removal from the program and loss of royalties.

 

5.  Withholding of royalties on KU pages read for an extra 30 days to allow for forfeiture of funds in the event of violation.  Many scammers are able to cash out their ill-gotten gains before being caught, then close up shop and re-open under another identity and resume operations.  By withholding KU royalties for another month, Amazon would allow readers and other authors additional time to report and verify instances of fraud.

 

Any thoughts?  Other ideas? 

It never seems to make any difference

From my Twitter:

 

I've been reminded once again of what a terrible horrible worthless person I am. I have never done anything right, never been properly appreciative of all that others have done. I deserve all your hate and scorn.

 

Expanded:

 

I can't fight every battle for every single person out there in Romancelandia.  I can't read every single book and find every single instance of plagiarism, fat shaming, racism, historical/factual inaccuracy, cultural appropriation, grammar/spelling/syntax errors, plot holes, character inconsistency.  In short, I'm not god and I'm not perfect.  But that's not enough, so I must be terrible, horrible, worthless, undeserving of respect or understanding or even common courtesy.

 

When the Kindle Unlimited book stuffing scandal broke, I jumped in to help get rid of some of the worst examples in the historical romance category.  My efforts  produced some results; several stuffers and their books disappeared.  I'm not as familiar with other sub-genres and so I didn't know exactly what to look for.  And if the stuffers were coming back with new pseudonyms and new techniques, I did what I could until I couldn't do any more.

 

I didn't go looking for thanks.  I wasn't alone and the few of us who posted routinely on Twitter about it seemed to be supportive of each other

 

But that wasn't my life.  I had been through the whole catastrophe with GR and AMZ with the fiverr reviews  I had watched fiverr shills come back over and over and over.  And I knew all along that I was running the risk of losing my ability to publish on Amazon.  All it would take is one or two disgruntled "readers" to start flagging my books and I'd be done.

 

I had to back off on the scammer reporting.

 

Some people continued.  Good for them!  I didn't follow the hashtag #GetLoud any more.  I had no idea if it had changed to something else.  I didn't follow every tweet and every issue that the scammer-busters posted.  I wasn't a good person.  I let them down.  I know that now.  I should have kept at it, regardless the risks.  I didn't.

 

Months later, another issue arose, something to do with an author attacking a reader for a negative comment/review.  I saw it, but I didn't follow up on it.  I know that I was supposed to, that I was obligated to follow up on it and defend the person/s being attacked.  I know that I was expected to drop everything in my life and help them out, but I didn't.

 

The issue had to do with someone -- I'm not sure who -- criticizing a person of color for something -- I'm not sure what.  It was clearly a racist attack; I recognized that immediately.  My choosing to back away from the situation wasn't a case of "I'm not a POC so it's not my issue," though I suspect that may be how it came across.  I just didn't know how to respond.  I also felt the person doing the attacking -- an author who had received criticism -- was going to go off the rails in a way that I couldn't do anything about anyway.

 

Like Sharon Desruisseaux and Melissa Douthit and so many others on GR, she seemed like the kind of person who just needed to be ignored.  So I ignored her.  I ignored the whole drama.

 

But ignoring it didn't mean I didn't see it going on.  Or at least I saw part of it.  But not everything.  What I did see, however, was getting nastier and nastier and nastier.  It grew to include trolling and accusations of sock puppet accounts and threats of doxxing and screenshots of attempted doxxing of the wrong people.  There were comments about people's dogs.  Yes, I saw this, but even though it was a lot, I knew it wasn't everything.  And I knew that if I started researching, I'd end up down a major rabbit hole.

 

I almost did it.  I came within an inch of doing it.  And I can tell you here exactly why I didn't.

 

Back when the whole KU-stuffer shit was going on, one of the authors involved in the #GetLoud discussion made some comment about something.  The comment may have been about editing or proofreading or whatever; I don't recall and I'm not going to go back through all my tweets to find out.  But whatever her comment was, it prompted me to look  at her self-published book, and in it I found one of those word usage errors that bugs the hell out of me.

 

I didn't review her book.  I didn't rate it.  Obviously I'm not on GR and I don't review anything on Amazon because I'd lose my KDP account, so all I did was make a comment about it here on BookLikes.  I didn't mention the title of the book.  I didn't mention the author's name.

 

It didn't matter.  She hunted me down and saw it and posted a nasty comment about me on Twitter.

 

I blew it off.  So she's a thin-skinned snowflake -- which comment no doubt will prompt another nasty tweet -- who can't handle having an error pointed out.  I wasn't going to follow her on Twitter anyway, and her book wasn't in a genre I'm interested in spending money to read.  No big deal.

 

It wasn't until this morning that I found out she's a defender of those people I was expected to defend, too.  So of course, I'm the bad guy right from the start.  (Or maybe she isn't one of their defenders?  Maybe she's one of the trolls?  I don't know!  I don't know!  And now I'm afraid to ask.)

 

Still, while all this doxxing and threatening and trolling and sock-puppeting was going on, I was minding my own business.  I saw the original victim of the author attack tweeting that she knew she should let it all drop and stop feeding the trolls, but she couldn't seem to do it.  I remembered all the warnings given to a certain GR reviewer who couldn't seem to stop baiting the bears, and how she ended up paying a pretty heavy price for it.  So I just stayed away from this latest mess.  I didn't even tell the baiter to stop baiting.

 

Then came the plagiarism explosion.  Most people who know me know how I hate infringers.  Most people who know me also know that I'm not a big fan of Nora Roberts's books.  (I've met Nora a couple of times, very briefly, and can't say I know her personally; I'm sure she doesn't have a fucking clue who I am, even though we were in the same AOL email group when the Janet Dailey infringement thing broke in 1997.)  Very few people who know me know that I'm also not a huge fan of Courtney Milan's writing, or that I've been on the receiving end of a couple minor scolds from her.  Again, it's not a big deal; I've blown off bigger things and the details are about as important as the price of three bananas.

 

But the person at the heart of the doxxing/racism/threats/sockpuppets fracas tweeted that she didn't care what happened to Milan because Milan hadn't cared (enough) about the doxxing/racism/trolling/etc.  I made the horrible, insensitive, vicious mistake of observing that plagiarism hurts us all, readers and writers alike, regardless who we personally like or dislike.  A new account jumped in and scolded me, to the point that I decided I'd had enough.  I was tired of the pettiness, the name calling, the trolling, the baiting.  I blocked two twitter accounts -- both have since blocked me as well -- and went about my business.

 

Maybe I'm totally wrong, but it seemed to me that there was a lot more going on with the Cristiane Serruya situation than showed up on the surface.  If it were just the lifting of a few lines here and there, it might be overlookable. (New word?)  But as more came out in the first few hours, there were claims of huge verbatim or near-verbatim thefts, plot lines, and so on.  My first thought was that the thefts had been taken mostly from historical romance novels and plopped into contemporary novels as a way to hide the thefts and this seemed even more apparent when I did enough research on my own to find that Serruya had been publishing on KDP since at least 2012.  Whatever she was doing wasn't a one-time deal.

 

I'm not a big name, not even big enough to say I'm not big enough to be stolen from.  I haven't read extensively in historical romance the past 20 years to be able to recognize copying, and I read very little contemporary romance at all, especially the current subgenres of billionaires and motorcycle gangs and rock stars and so on.  Nor am I interested in M/M or F/F.  I generally have difficulty getting into PNR or urban fantasy or shifter romances.  So I admit that a lot of the stealing Serruya was accused of was way way way outside my reading experience.  I wasn't going to be any help in that area.

 

And I didn't try.

 

That being said, I had thoughts on whether or not the kind of plagiarism being reported was going to rise to the level needed for copyright infringement lawsuits.  It has to be more than a few lines or even a few paragraphs from a book. Using the Sylvie Sommerfield/Jan Westcott example as my baseline, my understanding was that unless there was extensive copying of text and/or extensive similarities in plot, it was all just an unfortunate incident that no one was going to be able to do anything about other than get Serruya to remove the books.  And that much at least happened pretty damn quick.  The books were gone, her Twitter account was gone, she was basically wiped off the internet.

 

In the meantime, however, more than one author-victim had posted about the trauma they'd experienced as a result.  Some stated they'd written those particular books/passages during times of emotional stress to begin with, and believe me, I can relate to that.  But I wasn't a victim, so I tried (probably not successfully) to keep myself out of it.  I can be a #metoo person far more often than I'm justified in doing so.

 

But then the whole doxxing/trolling/threatening thing came up again, and the lack of sympathy for C. Milan, and I made a comment.  Another comment was made in reply, but I didn't understand it.  I made the horrible mistake of asking for background and was told to do my (due) diligence.  I was told I'd been told to do that before and that it was my fault if I hadn't.  But in all honesty, I didn't know where to start!

 

If someone had just said, "It has to do with that racism thing that So-and-so was accused of that then escalated," I would have known exactly what they were talking about.  Eventually I figured it out, but not before I'd been scolded again because I apparently hadn't been a staunch enough supporter of the stuffer-busters who had been on the job for months and who had warned of . . . something or other . . . but been dismissed.

 

Well, I most certainly hadn't dismissed them.  Hell, I'd been reporting the stuffers right along with them!  Just like I had been reporting the fiverr reviews and reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon years ago. . .  right up until I got banned from GR.

 

What I did dismiss was the pettiness of their continuing to taunt and bait the people with whom they had the disagreement (??) over the racism in a book. In my never humble opinion -- and I've never denied that I can be very self-righteous -- baiting and taunting and feeding trolls never works out.  And I've been as guilty of it as anyone else.  There's a feeling that someone has to get the truth out there, no matter what the cost.  I know, I know.  Been there, done it, got the scars but not even a tee-shirt.

 

I didn't ask Shiloh Walker to spend an hour of her time lecturing me about what "Nikki" had gone through.  I still don't know what happened with Nikki and Courtney Milan, and I'm not sure at this point that I even care.

 

Then the writer who stalked me to Booklikes entered the discussion.  Whose side was she on?  I was flat out afraid to ask.

 

Then one of the people who had been accused of sockpuppetry and who was being baited by "Nikki" sent me a DM, offering to explain it all.  By that time I didn't care, and I really didn't care to be caught in the middle of this whole feud.

 

Fighting the stuffers didn't do me one bit of good.  It didn't gain me any readers or fans, didn't sell a single copy of any of my books.  Fighting the fiverr reviewers not only didn't do me any good, but it also did me a lot of harm.  It was still the right thing to do, just as reporting Ginna Gray's plagiarism to RWA was the right thing to do.  I paid a price for that, too.

 

But if I'm the terrible, horrible, mean, insensitive person who didn't stand up for Nikki and whoever, where the hell were they when I was stalked by an author who didn't like that I pointed out her usage error?  Oh, wait, they didn't know about that? Maybe because I didn't make an issue of it?

 

Right, because I'm the strong one.  I can take it.  "We won't protect you, Linda, because you're the strong one and you can take it when everyone is lying about you and stabbing you in the back and telling you you aren't good enough to be on the studio tour or speak up about plagiarism or defend liberal politics."  I'm going to be painted as the terrible, horrible, mean, vicious person because none of the rest of them want to own up to their own mistakes and meanness. 

 

I don't have 30K followers on Twitter; I have 460, give or take a few.  I keep blocking the fake followers I get every day here on BookLikes.  I'm fucking nobody.  I'm tired of being the target for random people's abuse, and being crucified when I dare to stand up for myself.

 

 

But Nora Roberts is The Queen.  Where was she when the fiverr shills were posting thousands of fake reviews on Goodreads and Amazon?  Where was La Nora when the book stuffing was going on?  Where was she when readers were (are) being flooded with poorly written, unedited crap?

 

Where was La Nora when the STGRB assholes were doxxing reviewers and Kevin Weinberg was siccing his tweenies on other authors?

 

I get the various issues and activities people follow on Twitter, from figure skating to dog sledding to geology to Georgian fashion to Roman military tactics to politics.  I follow some of them, and some of them I just skim over.  What I don't understand is why someone would lash out at another person over a failure to support someone else, blindly and without justification?  And then dismiss that other person's hurt?  I was supposed to be there for Nikki, but she has no obligation to even be civil to me?  I was supposed to be there for Nikki, but Shiloh Walker can chew me out because I wasn't?  I'm supposed to dismiss Courtney Milan's feelings over being plagiarized, but not dismiss Nikki's feelings over being doxxed? 

 

My feelings, of course, are nonexistent.  No one gives a shit about me.

 

All right, I get it now.  I'm a terrible person. The old Jewish proverb comes into play here, once again.  If one person tells you you're a jackass, you can ignore them.  If two people tell you you're a jackass, maybe you'd better think about it.  If three people tell you you're a jackass, it's time to get fitted for a saddle.

 

So, I'm a terrible person.  I don't show enough compassion and caring for . . . everyone.  I don't pay enough attention to everyone's issues.  I don't leap to everyone's defense and make sure I know all the details of everyone's problems.

 

I'm reminded of an episode of M*A*S*H, in which the nurses conspire to give one of their number privacy to spend time with her husband when he's on leave.  The nurses all cover for her, hoping Maj. Houlihan won't find out.  Of course, she does find out, and everyone gets in trouble, but the kicker was that Houlihan breaks down at the end because no one trusted her enough to ask her for compassion.  No one ever invited her for "a lousy cup of coffee."  I still cry about that, hearing Loretta Swit's voice break as Houlihan tried to hide her pain.

 

I've made some great friends here at BookLikes, and on Twitter, too, and maybe I shouldn't let the bullshit with "Nikki" and even Shiloh Walker get to me.  But it does.  I've always thought of myself as standing up for readers, because I'm a reader, because I was a reader before I was a writer, because without readers my writing is just, well, you know what it is.  Whether it's plagiarism or bad writing or fake reviews, I always try to put the readers first.  ALWAYS.  And as I've said before, it's never been readers who have hurt me; it's always been other writers. 

 

Maybe that's just my self-righteousness.  Was it that I couldn't support "Nikki" and the others, or that I didn't want to?  Is there a difference? 

 

Maybe I take things too personally.  Maybe I'm too sensitive.  Maybe I expect too much.  Maybe I'm too selfish.  Or maybe I really am just too terrible and horrible and worthless a person who shouldn't expect . . . anything.

Reading progress update: I've read 7%.

History of Tom Jones, a Foundling - Henry Fielding

I'm enjoying a leisurely reread, after many, many years, of this classic from 1749.

 

The Wikipedia entry even gives me the word count!  I'm way behind on my goal of ten million words for the year, but this will add exactly 346,747 to my tally.