Romance Revolution

I’ve been doing a tiny bit of voice work for one of Phillip Kerman’s projects, and it’s reminded me of how much I really enjoyed reading things out loud.

Back in the mid-’80s, I did a brief volunteer stint as a night-time DJ at KRVM, an FM station owned by the 4J school district in Eugene, something that I wasn’t able to capitalize on once I’d moved to Portland. A vocal habit I did manage to bring with me, though, was something I’d started doing while unpacking boxes for Himber’s Books, though, which was reading the overheated prose from cover blurbs of romance novels for the entertainment (I hope) of some of my co-workers.

When I moved to Portland and went to work at Powell’s, I started off restocking the Popular Fiction section, which was basically the fiction bestsellers that you’d find in your local grocery or Fred Meyer: thrillers, suspense, and romance. Tom Clancy, Ken Follett, Danielle Steel, Barbara Taylor Bradford: that was my stuff. It wasn’t a section that got a lot of respect from most of the other employees, but despite it’s relatively small size compared to the Literature section, it moved stock.

Apparently, other people thought it was a good idea, because before a year was out, Diana Tuttle — who ran the Gold Room (pop fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, mysteries) and was my immediate supervisor — had collaborated with Anne Hughes in the Coffee Room to organize a Valentine’s romance reading. There was a drawing for a romantic weekend at the coast, chocolates on the chairs, and we ended up with a couple hundred spectators as Diana, Anne, local actress Vana O’Brien, and others read blurbs and sections of romances that they’d done an amazing amount of research to find, including one about a woman cross-dressing as a Union soldier who gets captured. All I remember is that when I was reading, with all the people crammed into the Coffee Room, it felt like the glass windows got awfully steamy and the air was moist and heavy.

This a picture from 1988, with me, Anne Hughes standing next to me, Vana O’Brien next to her, and Diana Tuttle second from the right.

Powell's Books/Anne Hughes Coffee Shop Velentine's Romance Reading, 15 February 1988

The book I’m holding is a history of the romance novel: The Romance Revolution: Erotic Novels and the Quest for a New Sexual Identity by Carol Thurston.

I’m An April Fool

Today is the first anniversary of a business transaction that’s likely to haunt me for a while, as well as a milepost on an economic road that seems to have a lot of potholes.

In the middle of last winter, I got a call from a local multimedia company with which I was well-acquainted. In fact, it was the first place I’d applied for a job in the multimedia business back when I first got involved with Director, although they didn’t hire me. But I got to know some of the principles back in the pre-Internet era, when I worked on the newsletter for the Oregon chapter of the International Interactive Communication Society (long defunct) and one of the company’s co-owners was the president of the chapter (later, things got so bad that I was the president of the chapter, but that’s another story).

In following years, I did a couple of subcontracting projects with them, most notably a series of Shockwave3D articles for Intel’s Game Developer site. Never a problem working with them, never a problem getting paid.

So it was without any trepidation that I agreed to do some Flash work for them last February when one of their developers left, signed the contract, worked in their office, etc. As called for in the contract, I invoiced at the end of the month, which meant a smallish invoice for February, then a good deal larger for March (which was dated 1 April 2008). Payment was 30 days from invoice, so even though I hadn’t gotten a check for my 1 March invoice by the time I wrote out the 1 April invoice, I wasn’t concerned; I had six weeks of solid work under my belt with a company I’d done plenty of business with in the past. And even after another week had gone by, when I was asked to make a few minor changes just after getting back from a trip to Phladelphia and getting the smart car, I didn’t have any compunctions about it. That is, until the company principles pulled me aside after I’d made the changes and said that they couldn’t pay my invoices.

And that’s where the saga gets unpleasant. It’s not as if I’ve been swimming in work for the past couple of years, so there’s no guarantee that if I hadn’t taken the project at Planet Productions that I would have been earning any money during that period, but it’s possible. What really torques me off about it though is that there’s no way they didn’t know weeks before that they weren’t even going to be able to pay my invoice from work for February, which was less than a third the amount of the invoice for March’s work.

The first payment I got covered my 1 March invoice. I got it in October. A month later I got about a third of the amount on my 1 April invoice. It’s been nearly five months since I saw anything. So far, about 47% of the total amount I invoiced has been paid. Today’s the anniversary of the largest of the three invoices.

April Fool.