Marsha Canham's Blog

February 8, 2014

Together, finally, after almost 30 years.

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence,Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 6:29 pm

I’ve already blogged about how The Pride of Lions and The Blood of roses came to be and the trials and tribulations both books have gone through, what with publishers going bankrupt and bad timing and crappy marketing. The two books have pretty much been shuffled off to a dusty back shelf and forgotten. I remember being so excited about the initial release because I truly had poured sweat and blood into both books. I grew to know and love all the characters so well after working with them for three years, it was like they were members of my own family. You think it’s easy to kill off people close to you? With the exception of asshole ex husbands, yes….it is. I had to make some devastating decisions while I was writing, especially some of the battle scenes in The Blood of Roses. A lot of authors might have let everyone have a happy ending, giving them horrible wounds but all survivable. I knew I couldn’t do that. Not if I wanted the reader to experience the true tragedy and horror of what war was like back then when it was basically all hand to hand–or sword to sword–combat.

I had reams of mail after The Pride of Lions came out because no one could believe I would end the book the way I did. But to me, it was logical and realistic. The only thing NOT logical or realistic was the two year gap before the sequel was available…and even then it was only available for a few short weeks before the publisher went belly up and all the books were pulled from the shelves. If anyone out there has a copy of The Blood of Roses with the red tartan back ground and a girl swanned out on it with a net over her face (don’t ask, I had nothing to do with it *snort*) then you are one of only about a thousand lucky readers who managed to catch it before it vanished.

Kathe Robin over at Romantic Times originally gave The Blood of Roses a very rare five star review.

Great. A five star review for a book that vanished. Not much I could do about it since the publisher’s book list was locked up tight in bankruptcy court. I had to wait until it vanished before I could get the rights back . By then, of course, both books were considered *old* and because they had both had negligible sales, were not even considered as remote candidates to reissue.

I kept trying, however, and one fateful day, at an RT conference, I happened to meet a gorgeous hunk of manhood who was trying to break into the cover model business. He was unknown, but he showed me a portfolio that had my heart doing little pitter pats. He was my Alexander Cameron. No question in my mind. So I dragged him and his portfolio to meet my editor, Marjorie Braman…well, okay, we sort of ambushed her after plying her with a few snorts of wine…and she tossed up her hands in surrender. She agreed to reissue both books and to use Cherif Fortin in the stepback covers!!!!!  Which I would love to show you here, but I’m in Florida and my books are 1500 miles away, but again, if anyone has a scanner and can post them here, that would be delicious.

Mind you, the stepbacks only lasted through the first small printing then were dropped, so again, if you have ‘em, you’re lucky.

Leap forward another 15 years and Random House has swallowed up Dell along with all the backlist books of bazillions of authors. When the self publishing wave swept through the ranks, a lot of us scrambled to get those rights back before the print publishers realized that ebooks were here to stay. I was lucky and managed to get just about all of my backlist back, namely because most of them had been forgotten for a couple of decades. Technically an author cannot get the rights back until the book is Out of Print or selling so abysmally it doesn’t earn enough for the company to pay their postage for a week. Most of my books qualified in one or both catagories. The only exceptions were The Pride of Lions, The Blood of Roses, and Midnight Honor. They did not sell enough copies each year to enable me to buy a bottle of Dom Perignon on New Year’s Eve, but they did sell more than the minimum allowed in the contract. And with the advent of ebooks, the publisher quickly slapped the files out as digital copies and voila they started selling again. I wrote to request the rights back but was denied and was locked in by the contract terms…or so it seemed.

Fast forward another three years, when I had about given up hope of getting them back. Don’t get me wrong, there was still no Dom Perignon marking any strokes of midnight, but they were earning more than the minimum. In fact, they were earning…combining the royalties of all three books together…a whopping $3000 per year!!!! That’s $1000 per book. For a year. Kinda hard to budget for mortgages, divorce lawyers, food, clothing etc when you get two cheques per year for around $1500 each. And if you haven’t heard, ad nauseum, the horror stories of how authors are paid, how royalties are broken down, or how authors are screwed and tattooed, I’m sure I have some posts in the archives to tickle your funny bones.

Anyway, by some miracle, I wrote away again in November of last year, taking another shot at getting the rights back, not really expecting any surprises…when whup and whoa, what comes in the mail but a letter reverting the rights of all three books back to me!!!! Just like that. My pups can eat again!!!!

What I’ve done is gone through the files (thank goodness I had them all stored on my yahoo account, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to access them till I got home in April) to do some light editing, then reformatted them for hopefully clean ebook editions, and by clean I mean the original files had some doozy formatting mistakes with sentences that ran into each other and garbled words that whatever software was used to read the print editions couldn’t translate to digital. I would have liked to put all three books up at once, but I thought getting The Pride of Lions and The Blood of Roses up should be my first task. And putting them together in one volume just seemed so RIGHT! No need to swear or gnash teeth at the end of Pride! As Tim Gunn would say, you can just “carry on!”

So here they are, together at last after almost thirty years! Kinda like a love story in itself, two books wandering around, lost, unattached, knowing they belong together but only occasionally bumping one another as they pass each other by on a crowded bookshelf. *sigh*

Midnight Honor is a great book that completes my Scotland Trilogy but because it is a stand alone story and isn’t directly connected to Pride or Blood, it wasn’t essential to release it at the same time. Catherine and Alexander appear in the pages, but as cameo secondary characters so no one should think they are missing a third link in the chain of events.  The heroine for Midnight Honor is Colonel Anne Moy, who, as it happens, appears as a cameo secondary character in The Blood of Roses and because I found her story so fascinating, I knew I had to write a book focussing on her as the main character.

I hope you enjoy the first two books and will keep an eyeball out for the third when it’s ready.

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January 18, 2014

Okay, so..here’s what I’ve come up with

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 8:44 pm

I loved that Jimmy Thomas took the time to mock up a cover, and I appreciate all the comments and suggestions from everyone here and on Facebook.  For two days I’ve been going cross-eyed playing with pixels and searching for photos, but here’s what I think I am going to go with…unless there are resounding NOOOOOOOOOOOO’s from everyone. I tried to keep the same color scheme as the print books so far as the tartans went and used symbols associated with each book. POL has the Cameron badge, BOR has a battle sword,(no blood, no roses)  MH has the Farquharson dirk. I think. Being cross-eyed and playing with pixels leaves residual effects on the brainbox. *snort*

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As far as the books themselves go, I have Pride of Lions edited and formatted. I’m a third of the way through Blood of Roses. So now the question is, do I release the first two, which are directly related, as soon as BOR is ready…. or do I wait until all three are formatted and finished? *sigh*

And you thought I just wanted advice on covers. Hah.

January 16, 2014

Cover choices…the results…I think

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 8:11 pm

The consensus seemed to lean toward option #1, (read previous posting) sooooooooooooo….I’ve come up with these:

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And they look pretty good side by side:

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Unfortunately the plaid doesn’t show up too well in thumbnail size, but any stronger and it muddles the title.

Comments welcome.

Cover choices

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 3:41 pm

Okay, so I’ve been going back and forth with options for the new covers for my three Scotland books, Pride of Lions, Blood of Roses, and Midnight Honor. I can’t decide if I want the series to look stark and not genre-specific, like this in option #1:

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or if I want it to imply hot romance, as in option # 2:

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or a combination of both, as in option #3

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or the combination keeping the textured overlay, which I find oddly appealing as in option #4:

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Any and all opinions/suggestions/advice to start over completely highly welcome, requested, needed *s*.

January 11, 2014

Updates, updates.

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 5:13 pm

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I think because my mother was never a Ho Ho Ho person and Christmases each year, when I was young, amounted to a new pair of slippers under the tree wrapped in reused paper. I’ve sort of gone overboard with my son and his family, and with friends when we had Boxing Day dinners for 24 and the presents were stacked as high as the tree. There was a slight blip when Stupid ruined the first Christmas post-apocalypse, but we’ve pretty much recovered–what was his name again? *snort*– and I’ve done what I said I would do for years: get out of the winter snow and enjoy Florida sunshine for several months each year. Initially the plan was to spend Christmas every other year back in the Tundra, and this would have been that year, but thank goodness the plan changed and the family has no objections to coming down here for a week or two sans snow and ice and all that wretched cold. The weather wasn’t the greatest down here this year, but they had two good days of sun and heat and swimming, and the only complaints I heard had to do with going back to the snow and ice.

Before I left to migrate south, I finally got something I had been asking for for a couple of years: a family portrait. It almost happened last year, but no one could find the time to be together all at once, cheerful and smiling. This year, however, my photographer niece was available the same time the rest of them ran out of excuses and so we had a great afternoon of snapping pics. Most of them were so good it was difficult to pick out just a few to blow up and plaster around the room, but here’s a wee sampling:

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That was the best Christmas prezzie they could give me!

My second fav gift came from a totally unexpected source. After a flat-out refusal two years ago, Random House finally responded favorably to my latest request and reverted the rights to three of my most ambitious novels: The Pride of Lions, The Blood of Roses, and Midnight Honor. To say I was speechless when I saw the letter is an understatement. Well, a fib too because I actually hooted out loud and did a little dance that would look perfectly fine in the end zone after scoring a touchdown.

Looking back, I poured the most hours of research into those three books, the most sweat and blood, the longest periods of isolation locked away in my office and yelling at anyone who disturbed me. The Pride of Lions caused the most angst as well because the first version of it, when read by my harsh, eagle-eyed neighbor who critiqued all of my earlier books, won remarks that sent my heart sinking into my toes. She said: it’s…okay (complete with a long hesitation while she searched for the kindest word to use) but it’s just like any other romance book, sort of ordinary and predictable and there’s nothing special about it.

AUGH! The kiss of death: ordinary and predictable.

I had worked for a year on that book, drowned in research, and, because I knew there were physical limits on how thick a book could be, had to pick and choose what to include and what to leave out. What I left out was most of what I love doing best…making the backdrop of the story almost a character in itself. I left out the politics of the time, sacrificed a lot of the amazing true stories I had discovered in my research, cut out the entire Jacobite rebellion in all it’s tragic, epic drama in order to follow the *romance rules* and have a happy ever after ending for all the characters. And the worst part of it all?  I *KNEW* it was wrong. I *KNEW* I was shortchanging the characters and the story and the history. And I knew I couldn’t turn in a manuscript that was…

Ordinary and predictable.

With the publisher’s deadline already behind me, I called the editor and told her I couldn’t deliver the book as promised. I explained the situation and refused to even let her see the manuscript in it’s current form. The editor and I had worked together on three books already, including The Wind and the Sea, which had so many twists and turns she had called me late at night after finishing the manuscript to hoot and holler in my ear. So she knew how my brain worked when it was working properly and she asked me what I needed to do to make it work. My answer was: I needed to scrap the whole thing and start over. I needed to expand the story, put in more characters, take the reader through the months leading up to the rebellion and then, because I knew it would be too huge of an undertaking to do it all in one manuscript, I needed to write a second book that placed the reader right on the battlefields with the characters.

She thought about it for all of ten seconds and said: Do it. Take as much time as you need and write the books the way you want to write them.

And I did. I started over, right from word one and a year later had a new version of The Pride of Lions that my neighbor loved and I was confident enough to hand in to the editor. There was only one problem, and I didn’t warn the editor until she finished reading it and called me late at night again asking me if I had left off a few chapters. I said nope. That was how I wanted the book to end. It was realistic and logical and because I was already well into writing the sequel, the readers would know the second book would be scheduled to come out within six months. She was hesitant, but passed it through the publisher, who read it and invited us both to lunch to talk about the ending. It would work, he said, but only if the second book came out within a specified time period, and if an excerpt was included at the back of POL to let the reader know I hadn’t gone insane.

Perfect.

Nothing in the world of publishing is perfect or goes as planned, however, and within a few months the company, PaperJacks declared bankruptcy. Corners were cut near the end and one of the biggest was the decision to leave out the excerpt for The Blood of Roses because they would not be printing it. It took over two years, in fact, for another publishing house to release the sequel and another FOUR months for THAT publisher to go belly up.

Apart from the relatively small advance I was paid for The Pride of Lions, I never earned a penny from either of the two books. As a creditor, authors are WAYYYYYY down the list when it comes to paying off debts in bankruptcy.

Flash forward about five years. I was writing for Dell by then and had a terrific new editor who put up with my whining about my lost Scotland books for a few years until she actually read them. As it happened, we were at a Romantic Times conference and enjoying a few wobbly pops when I told her I had met a gorgeous young man trying to break into the business of modelling for book covers and he would be an absolutely perfect Alexander Cameron…should Dell choose to reissue both books. I sweetened the pot with a willingness to write a third book based in Scotland (Midnight Honor) and the deal was done. Frankly, I can still see her grabbing her hair and yelling “alright, alright, we’ll do it” just to stop my whining *g*, but hey…whatever works, right? Coincidentally, she was also the editor who insisted I hand in an outline for the book I was writing, despite my saying I didn’t work off outlines. She insisted, I slapped a book down on a piece of paper and traced around it, wrote the title inside the outline and mailed it to her.

I’m surprised she had any hair left after working with me. LOL

So now, flash forward two decades or so later and the books are mine again. Mine, mine, mine. While the kidlets were here visiting over Christmas, I was able to tiptoe around in the morning and work on editing and formatting The Pride of Lions, and now I’ve begun working on The Blood of Roses. I plan to release them both at the same time. If you are a diehard print book fan, I don’t know how much longer the books will be available in paperback through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, but they will be coming down soon so best to get them while you can. If you are an ebook convert, DON’T BUY THEM YET because I will be releasing them at a great price as soon as they are ready to go. You will know by the covers which version is which. The current paperbacks and ebooks have the swath of tartan across the covers. Mine will show up here and on Facebook and on my website when I’m ready to reissue them.

This means, of course, that work on The Far Horizon has been delayed again, but if you are a fan of the Highlands, or of great love stories, or of beauty, tragedy, romance, laughter, weeping, and heroic adventure all in one….then reading The Pride of Lions and The Blood of Roses  will make up for it.

I hope. *s*

December 30, 2013

My Gilligan’s Island adventure

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 3:17 am

I’m sure most of you remember Gilligan’s Island, or you’ve at least heard the fateful line from the jingle…a three hour tour.  *snort*

It started out quite normal. I was supposed to drive to Tampa to have lunch with my fellow Loopies, Virginia Henley and Sherri Erwin Browning. Sherri had started the ball rolling when she told us she and her hubby would be in town for the weekend and did we want to meet up. Virginia’s two sons, Adam and Sean were here as well so we made it a groupie lunch, getting to meet and greet everyone. I had met one of Virginia’s sons before about 30 years ago, so he’d changed a little LOL, but I’d never met Sherri’s hubby, so that was kinda cool. Turns out we share bad knees.

Anyway, the adventure started when I drove out of the park. It’s a busy week at Disney, so I expected SOME traffic near the entrance to Downtown Disney, but…it was overcast and threatening rain, so a lot of vacationers apparently decided to hit the outlet malls as well. A trip from my driveway to the I-4 usually takes about three minutes. After 23 minutes I hadn’t even reached the corner yet, so with the veins popping in my temples, I turned around and backtracked to take the alternate route to the on-ramp about a mile before the DIsney exit.

Strike one averted. Clever me gave the one finger salute as I breezed by the congested ramp, figuring I would still have been waiting to get across the intersection.

A pause here for another small vein-popping vent. LEFT TURN LANES ARE FOR LEFT TURNS, people!!!!! They are NOT for making U-turns!!!!!!  Every second car in any left hand turn lane in charming Orlando is usually some putz making a U turn, which slows up the whole process of getting across or through an intersection, because if you miss the advance green for a left turn, you sit there like a turnip and grow roots in the seat until your turn comes around again.

Okay, so I”m breezing along the I-4 feeling quite chuffy with myself, trusting my trusty GPS to take me to the hotel where Sherri and her hubby were hosting lunch. Backtracking a wee bit, both Sherri and Virginia had sent me the address for the hotel…501 Fifth Avenue in St Petersburg, which I dutifully typed into Mr. GPS. I got two initial results…one of which was in New York, so I figured, cleverly, that that was the wrong one. Now, I know the route between Orlando and Tampa and St Pete’s fairly well, having crossed it frequently in the 40 years I’ve been coming to Florida, but St. Petersburg is a different animal, known only as a reference on a map and an exit point along the I-4, so I had to rely on Mr. GPS to get me to the right place.  I felt somewhat suspicious of Mr GPS’s motives when he had me exit a little too early, but I thought hey, he knows where he’s taking me and we’re heading south and west so it must all be good. Perhaps a shortcut! Yes, that must be it! Lunch was set for 1:00. I had left a bit early and allowed extra time for traffic, but that had already been eaten up by the Disney/Outlet maniacs, so I was sort of on target for exactly 1:00.

Winding, winding, ever winding roads but I could see that I was only a short distance from my goal. Uh huh. Turns out there’s a very nice trailer park with a Fifth Avenue and an address of 501.

Strike two.

Resisting the urge to hurl Mr. GPS out the window, I tried looking up the hotel itself rather than the address. Mr GPS never heard of it. Great. I recalled it had “and golf resort” in the official name, so I tried the sports category>golf…and there it was: Vinoy Golf resort. Eureka. I set off again, grumbling to myself that I had jokingly told Virginia I had no cell phone so if I wasn’t there by 3:00 to start without me.

*snort*

Back on a relatively busy road that went in the right direction, Mr GPS confidently told me to take exit whatever and get onto the 618 expressway. Perfect. There was the turn…made it…there was the on ramp…blocked. Big orange barrels and two cop cars.

Around I go again, turning…get back onto the main road…Mr. GPS sullenly tells me to take the next left to the next on ramp…perfect…make the turn…see the ramp…blocked.  Apparently the damned road is under construction and the next four ramps are blocked off. Thank you officer.

Back onto the main road, ignoring Mr GPS now…keep heading west…looking for the alternate route suggested by a human. Hah. What the human didn’t mention was that the alternate route could only be reached by basically driving through downtown Tampa in all it’s glorious traffic and traffic lights and idiot drivers making U turns at every left turn light. DId I mention it was now 1:05? And I’m the kind of person who HATES being late for any appointments, especially a lunch date. Mr GPS has been babbling away all this time, but I just crank up the music and ignore him. Making matters even more fun, it starts to rain. Not just rain, but RAIN. Great heaving bucketfuls falling hard and fast and making it difficult to see more than a car length ahead. Through the haze I see a great hulking cruise ship ahead of me and realize I’ve come to the harbour. Yay. Find a place to turn that doesn’t involve docks or fish, and head north this time until I”m ready to trust Mr. GPS again. He instructs me to take the ramp onto the expressway…the same one named by the aforementioned officer at the barricade…so I fly up the ramp and breathe a sigh of relief that I may actually be heading in the right direction. TWENTY minutes later, after another windy path through a very lovely subdivision I come to: Vinoy Golf and Country Club! Victory is mine! I’m only 33 minutes late, so I’ve missed the salad course. I can live with that. I find a place to park…dart from tree to tree to get into the resort and….no restaurant in sight. I ask a passing employee if I’m in the right vicinity and she points to a green gate and a patio. But it’s pouring rain. I ask again, and she says yes, the “restrooms” are down there.

If a tree had been close, I would have thumped my head on it a few times…or thumped hers…but I calmly mimic eating and she says ohhhhhhh….up there, up there.

I go “up there” and it’s a bar. Two men, golfers I presume, sulking because it’s raining. I ask the bartender if this is the Vinoy and he says yes. I ask if this is the only restaurant….and he says ohhhhh you probably want the hotel.

No shit, batman.

Calmly, I look at one of six doors: “Which way is the hotel?”

Well, you go back down the road you came in on until you reach the bridge, turn left and follow it around to Fifth Avenue. Can’t miss it. Big pink hotel.

I taste blood from biting my tongue.

Out into the rain again, though it has slowed to a light drizzle now…shlep back to the parking lot, find the car, clench the steering wheel in both fists….and drive out again. Find the road, find the bridge, drive around to the end passing 19th Ave…18th Ave….all the way down to 9th Ave…and find a park. It’s a lovely park, though it would be lovelier in the sunshine. I have a choice now to turn left or right so I yank the connection and kill Mr GPS who is still babbling and take a chance and turn left to circle around the park. Voila. I pick up 8th Ave, then 7th…6th…zoom right past 5th and into the parking garage of a big pink hotel. Hmm. only 54 minutes late. But wait. It’s a big honkin hotel and we never did establish a place to meet.

I give it one shot. One only. Feeling like Sean Connery in the Hunt for Red October. One ping. One ping only. I follow the labyrinth of hallways to the lobby, which seems only reasonable to me and there, up ahead, I catch a glimpse of Sherri who has emerged from the restaurant on what is likely her tenth or twentieth trip to see if I am wandering hopelessly in search of life.

I must say I hugged her as if she was a long lost relative. And yes, they had started without me, which was fine, because it was a brunch and brunches usually end at a certain time. Still, after hugs all around and a very soothing glass of wine, I could almost laugh at my Gilligan Island tour of Tampa. Two and a half hours to make a trip that usually takes about an hour and 15 min….which was exactly how long it took me to make the return trip home!!!!

And in the end, we had a great Loopie Lunch! Next reunion, hopefully with more Loopies attending, will be the NINC conference in St Pete’s Beach next October, and I KNOW how to get there!!!!!

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November 6, 2013

The joys of owning a 130 yr old house…an update

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 4:30 pm

So. I love my quirky little house. I loved it the moment I saw it online in the MLS listings…listings I had been checking on and off for three years, looking for something to replace my Forever House, which was also my Dream House and the House I Would Only Leave if Carried Out in a Pine Box. The latter didn’t happen, thank goodness, but I’m sure there are still claw marks on the woodwork and the driveway where the movers had to drag me away with the furniture.

Flash forward a year through many renovations inside and out. Mostly inside and since most are documented in previous posts, I won’t go into gory details. Suffice it to say I survived and the house has been transformed from one that caught my eye to one that is managing to snuggle into a place in my esthetic good graces. Gone are the butter yellow and hideous gold walls. Gone are the icky, dog-stinky, stained carpets in the bedrooms, hello hardwood. Gone is the ridiculously huge hot tub in the upstairs bathroom accented with black-and-jagged-green-lightning-bolts linoleum on the floor and curtains that should have been a June Cleaver apron…not to mention the FOUR layers of pasted wallpaper that wouldn’t have come off with a bulldozer. Welcome all new drywall and wainscotting, claw foot tub, neutral paint and tiles, and serenity.Gone also is the crusty, gnarly, stained fiberglass shower, replaced with a splendid linen closet and deep lovely drawers. The plumbing is still in place behind the closet should anyone wish to restore the shower, but for me, not necessary.

The family room was an obvious late addition to the house, possibly some time in the early 90′s, very poorly built without, I suspect, any manner of permit. The room itself is large, but smack in the middle of one wall was an ugly red brick fireplace eight feet across and jutting four feet into the room. Kinda hard to work around, but Carpenter Guy did a fine job with built in cabinets and shelves on either side, and wood facings to cover most of the ugly red brick. The verdict is still out on whether I’ll try to tile the ugly red bricks still showing. The floor is hardwood, but underneath it is…nothing. I discovered that last spring while I was listing to squirrels making merry in the space beneath the floor. One side of the house along the bottom was completely open to weather and critters and now has half a ton of gravel blocking it up and keeping vermin out. Unfortunately, while I was waiting for the gravel to be wheeled into place, I tossed about eight boxes of mothballs under the foundation, not realizing that once they were stoned in, the smell of camphor would take about six months to dissipate *snort*. Interestingly enough, the only place I smelled it was in the bathroom next door. Not in the basement, where one would expect there to be a gap where the room was attached, not even in the family room itself.

One thing I can’t fix is the ONE heating vent installed for the entire large room, and that was stolen (rerouted) from the bathroom next door which, consequently, has NO heating vent at all now. That bathroom was obviously made over at some time in the past…I suspect the 50′s from the pink sink, toilet, and tiles it had…from what used to be a porch attached to the kitchen. My grandmother’s house had one so it was a vaguely familiar footprint. The Demo Guy found an original farmhouse window and a doorway that had been covered over with drywall. The window I kept and sanded down the frame, then covered the four large glass panes with mirrors. Looks very cool. The room itself gets sufficient heat from the kitchen that the missing vent isn’t a huge problem, but the family room…oy.  Why anyone would build it with a massive fireplace that takes up half of one wall, and put three…count em THREE sliding patio doors on the other walls is beyond me. So one vent, three big glass doors, and a woodburning fireplace that requires more effort than I have yet expended to light a fire. Yup. Very COLD room in the early spring and now the fall. I run a heater in there every evening just to keep my toes from breaking off from frostbite. At least there is a lovely old glass-paned door to close it off from the front foyer, which also has no heating vent, and a second lovely antique glass door to close the foyer off from the kitchen. Double whammy to keep the cold out of the rest of the house…but wait!  That would imply there was heat in the rest of the house!

Well, there was. In the former living room, which is now my main floor master bedroom, and in the former dining room, which is now my office. Those two rooms could be turned into ovens with a flick of the dial. The kitchen, which also had an addition put on sometime in the 60′s…a very large room with lovely bank of big windows to extend what had been a tiny farmhouse kitchen. Another fireplace was put in, but gosh golly darn…no extra heating vent, and again, nothing under the floor except the dirt it was built on. Consequently, half the kitchen floor is like walking on an ice rink. The only heat on that half comes from the fireplace when it’s on. There are two other vents, but until my cousin, the HVAC Guy, came and replaced all the furnace ductwork in the basement and installed dampers and actually attached pipes to vents that were formerly just hanging loose…there was no heat anywhere other than the bedroom and office and whatever drifted up the stairs to the bedrooms. Did I mention the mysterious fan inside a wall on the upstairs landing? The switch for it is outside the family room. Electrician Guy, whilst searching for wiring that made any sort of sense to anyone outside a third world country, deduced that it was some sort of cold air return…but where it sucks air from or vents it to…is still a mystery. And why it needs a fan…who knows.

The wiring was simply intriguing and drove Electrician Guy nuts. Thankfully there was no knob and tube, but that was where the modernizing ended. There was one plug on the kitchen wall above the tiny counter and two in the midget-sized island. The goofy stove didn’t even have an outlet. There is no light switch for the kitchen IN the kitchen, one has to either turn the lights on from the hall leading into the office, or from the hall leading into the bathroom. I now have considerably more outlets but Electrician Guy has considerably less hair.

The 1940′s kitchen was totally gutted and just last week I managed to replace the sole remaining appliance that came with the sale. Big bold letters: FIVE APPLIANCES! Yeah. Two of the five were the dwarf sized washer and dryer that would be strained to hold a bath towel. The dryer wasn’t even vented, it just blew into the bathroom. The dishwasher was so badly encrusted with mouse poop that it went straight into the garbage bin. The fridge went into the garage after two days worth of soaking, cleaning, scraping to no avail. And the stove….the last of the Mohicans…departed last week after eight months of driving me crazy. Who puts knobs on the front of the stove anymore? Knobs that fall off with a flick of the wrist. And touch pad controls across the front that had things beeping and flicking and turning on every time I accidentally brushed against it. The oven…worked…but I never knew what temperature it was working at. I think it was about 25 degrees lower than whatever it was set to be, but considering it was a well known brand name, and probably very expensive when purchased new, I would have throfted it back to the store after the first week of use.  And the previous owners had a small child. That would have terrified me, had I survived the thought of all that mouse poop crusted on everything. As would the fact that the plumbing works now, which it didn’t when I moved in. Apparently the idiots who did previous renovations neglected to put in any sewer vents or install the big black drainage pipes in the basement on a downward angle. That was a fun discovery. Plumber Guy had to drill through a 130 year old stone foundation wall to angle the pipes correctly which is why, I suspect, the aforementioned idiots chose not to do it. But how do you live in a house for several years that fills with the smell of sewer gasses every time you shower or flush a toilet?

The mice, by the way, are gone. About a dozen direct, open highways into the house were sealed up inside and out. Nary a sign of vermin has been seen since the spring since the joint was de-moused. The basement is still a haven for spiders and daddy long legs, but I’ve been spraying with stuff that leaves a residue and that too has slowed the growth of eight-legged offspring. My grandkids are almost willing to go down there alone now. LOL.  Almost. Come the spring, a ceiling will go up to hide all the pipes and wires and wafting webs. The grotty old workbenches will be removed and the whole thing will get a fresh coat of paint, floors and all. That and the second phase of landscaping are in the plans, and after that…? Dare I hope, think, believe I will finally be able to put the hammers, shovels, saws away? Oh yes, I’ve been building myself a rather impressive collection of guy tools, some of which had me turning the air blue just trying to figure out how they turned on, but I’m getting better.

I still don’t pump gas, however. These hands have been wrist deep in kid poop and dog poop, but they have never touched a gas pump thingy

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October 15, 2013

Good Grief Charlie Brown, tell me the Ebook Publishers didn’t see this coming?

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 7:55 pm

Well, actually, I guess they didn’t. Or they thought no, it couldn’t happen to us. Gee, guys. The sex industry, including the porno industry rakes in billions of dollars a year and you didn’t think they would LEAP at the opportunity to start flooding the ebook market with graphic porno books? No distribution costs to them, no overhead costs, no writing ability either, but hey, no different from the content of the paperbacks they used to sell in plain brown wrappers, just way cheaper to produce with way bigger returns.

The big firestorm this past weekend was WH Smith (headquartered in England) and Kobo and Amazon arbitrarily pulling down any ebooks that had the vaguest suggestion of illegal content. Apparently young readers searching innocently for books and using key words like “Daddy” were directed to titles like “Daddy Does his Daughter” and “Daddy F**ks Goats”. Hmmm. In response to outraged parents and readers complaining, Smith and Kobo pulled down ALL Indie and self pubbed books in order to avoid the very real possibility of being charged with selling/distributing illegal kiddie porn etc. I can imagine half of Britain fainting at the thought.

Amazon’s reaction has been a little less knee-jerky, but a lot of authors woke on Sunday and Monday to find their books pulled merely for having the wrong key words in their meta data. Erotica was the hardest hit, and most of those authors are understandably upset, since no one pulled 50 Shades of Gray in the purge. Or any of VC Andrews’ books, which are filled with generations of incest.

Authors, being a sensitive bunch, are in a panic and emails are flying around:  Have your books been pulled? Have yours? Have yours? The sky is falling folks, but it was only a matter of time until it did. As previously mentioned, what wide-eyed, greedy-minded porn distributor could pass up such an open avenue to profit? It is the same avenue to profit that all self-pubbed authors have taken, myself included, and I’m sure, when the dust settles and reason prevails again, an intelligent  vetting process will be put into place and most of the indie authors who had their works summarily pulled will be reinstated.

Meanwhile, the panic spreads.

I’m betting the print publishers are getting their first real chuckle over ebooks in a long time.

LaughingBaby

September 23, 2013

The strange link between Big Brother and Winston Churchill

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 4:10 pm

Any Big Brother fans out there? I confess I look forward to the reality show every summer and have been watching it for the past ten years or so. For those who don’t watch it, the premise is simple enough. Toss 14 strangers into a house and lock them away for 70 days. The house is huge, with a big kitchen, a lounge area with couches, two or three large bedrooms with multiple beds–some of which must be shared, a large co-ed bathroom, an outdoor area with a pool and Jacuzzi and a big yard for excercising or running or just sitting. Add a hundred or so cameras and microphones to follow the houseguests every move and capture every whispered conversation and you have the stage set for an experiment in social interaction. Usually by the end of the first week, guests have sussed out like minded guests and form alliances, since the object of the game is to nominate one houseguest every week for eviction. In the US and Canadian version, there are competitions where the winner is made the Head of Household for the next week. The HOH has the power to nominate two guests up for eviction and at the end of the week, the other guests vote which one of the pair to oust from the house. There is also a Veto competition, involving the two nominated guests and a selection of other guests who vie for the Power of Veto, which gives the winner the power to remove one of the nominated guests. If that happens (they don’t have to use the Veto if they choose to leave the nominations the same) the HOH must substitute another nominee. The houseguests also have luxury competitions, usually dividing the guests into two teams; the winning teams get to have regular and sometimes extra special food and treats. The losers live on gruel-like “slop” for the week.

Evictions start the first week, when the guests barely know each other, but then the fangs start coming out. Guests are targetted for a multitude of reasons ranging from being loudmouthed and obnoxious to being a bully to being a strong player the others fear will make it to the end and win the quarter million dollar prize awarded to the last man standing. Strategy plays a huge part in the game and forming strong alliances is key to making it through the 70 day process. Lying, playing both sides, getting together in “showmances”, swearing to support someone then breaking that promise for a better offer are all part of the game. Indeed, it is encouraged by the producers in order to make the game more cutthroat and interesting.

Normally it *is* intriguing to watch how the guests manipulate their way through the weeks. The strong players emerge fairly soon and depending on who in their alliance wins the Head of Household with the power to nominate, the strategic wars to evict the opposition claim victims on either side. There are also “floaters” who prefer to sit back and watch the stronger players go at each other and sometimes it is these floaters who survive the wars and go on to reach the finale. Names like Doctor Will and Boogie and Janelle and Evel Dick have become synonymous with the best players and they were, indeed, fun to watch. The US and CAN versions are on three times a week through the summer. Eviction night is the only live broadcast, the other two are compiled of highlights selected by the Big Brother crew but avid followers can watch and hear all the proceedings via spycams live 24/7.

Why a blog on Big Brother, you ask?

Well, as I mentioned, I am an avid fan of the show. Watching the social manipulation, the backstabbing, the whining and wailing, the tricks and strategies is fascinating in a nails-down-the-chalkboard sort of way. It shows the good…there are a lot of laugh out loud moments…but more often than not, the horrid things about people who are driven by nothing more than greed.

This years cast was a prime example of the latter. There was very little good left in the three finalists. They were the worst of the worst and because the canned shows were heavily edited, very little of the *worst* was shown to TV audiences. Hardly any of them could speak more than two words without using the F bomb. One of them rarely referred to the female houseguests as anything other than bitches or c**ts. There were incredibly disgusting racist remarks, some of which did make front page news, and embarrassed CBS enough to make the host, Julie Chen, cringe when she was asking evicted guests about them.  There were also hours and hours of the three finalists going on and on and on about evicted players and their families in the worst possible terms, and if I were them, knowing those evicted players were going to be going back and watching all of the archived feeds, I would crawl under a rock—where they belong—and stay there for a few years.

For me, who usually tunes into the live feeds for the last month, I watched for a few hours here and there, but in the end had no stomach to peek in on them. They disgusted me, all three of them, and while I recorded the shows that aired on TV, I didn’t watch the finale until a few days later because I really didn’t care who won. None of the three deserved it. They were all examples of the worst, not the best.

In my disappointment, I picked up on a post on one of the BB chat boards and looked up Big Brother Australia on YouTube. They follow a similar format with the 14 houseguests and the big roomy house with cameras and microphones but that’s where they started to differ. If caught swearing, they spend time in a “naughty room” where they have all manner of time- consuming tasks, like finding an actual needle in a huge stack of hay. If caught discussing nominations with fellow houseguests, as in who to plot against, they are awarded a strike. Three strikes, they’re evicted automatically. This simple rule cuts out most of the backstabbing, the lying, the need to plot and cheat and lie.

When it comes time to nominate potential evictees, they go into a soundproof chamber where every guest assigns five points to two houseguests of their choice in a 4-1 or 3-2 split. The SIX houseguests with the highest point count are put up for eviction and the public votes on who to send packing. There is no HOH, but they do have challenges and tasks for extra rewards and food luxuries. There is no Veto competition, but there is a challenge where the winner gains the power to remove one of the nominees and substitute another. The houseguests, from my casual first time observation of BBAU, generally have a whole lot more fun and there is WAY less mean, bullying behavior. There are still the strong players and the annoying players and the floaters and even alliances, to a degree, though none are formed openly. They have better twists than our BB’s, like introducing “intruders” into the mix after four or five weeks–new houseguests who throw the originals into a tizzy. And frankly, having the public vote for the evictions makes the whole process more interesting and harder to predict because there is no way of telling from week to week who is in the public favor and who is ground fodder.

Unfortunately, BBAU is right smack in the middle of their 2013 season and even though the programs air 5 nights a week, I caught up and ran out of patience waiting for each new episode to get uploaded to YouTube. So what did I do? I went back and watched BBAU 2012, starting with episode 1 right through to the finale. Great way to pass the last few weeks when the only thing on TV in the evenings was reruns or goofy summer substitute series. (For a while there, Netflix had become my best friend letting me go back and enjoy all the seasons of Foyle’s War and Doc Martin.)

Okay, so why, you are still wondering, am I blogging about Big Brother? Well, for a couple of reasons. My personal disgust with the three finalists on CBS’s BB highlights for me the state of social disrepair we seem to have fallen into. The fact that rudeness and racism and bullying was basically applauded by those three finalists should toss out some huge warning flags about why those same qualities are becoming prevalent in schools and schoolyards and out on the streets. The one houseguest was proud of her “ghetto-speak” and used the words whore, c**t, f**k in every other sentence. One of the male finalists was gay, yet he was the most vocal in tearing down other houseguests because of their lifestyles or imagined faults, and I lost count, in a half hour period watching the live feeds, of the number of times he used the word “hate”. The other member of the trio could hardly form a sentence or voice a thought without using some sexual slur or reference. It’s a chilling thought to know that one of them boasts about being an educator.

My other reason for highlighting Big Brother is because it is, indeed, a microcosm of today’s society, wherein the houseguests come from all walks of life. In the BBAU version one guest was a millionaire, another was unemployed, and there was everything in between. One who stood out for me was a contestant who had emigrated from England to Australia. She was in her mid 20′s, yet she had no idea who Winston Churchill was. She also had to be told what a meter was, and had to have the word “rival” defined for her. Granted, levels of education were never disclosed, but really? An English woman who didn’t recognize the name Winston Churchill? Even more alarming, when asked what the queen’s name was, she gave an owl-in-the-headlights look (she had big eyes) and answered, quite seriously: “Queen?”

These people are the future. They vote for the country’s leaders…hell, they could become presidents or prime ministers themselves. They teach your children. They give birth to little clones of themselves. They decide that spending billions on running election campaigns is worth more than spending those billions on education and in fact, cut funding for education so they can form committees to study the failing education systems.

I know I’m old and crusty, but I still remember a time when you couldn’t show a married couple sleeping in the same bed on TV. Now they take delight in putting the camera right under the sheets. Even in the movie theatres, Rhett Butler had to go through ten censor board hearings before he was allowed to say the word “damn” at the end of Gone With the Wind. When I was a kid, no more than four or five, I have a clear memory of sitting at the dinner table one night and staring at a clump of broccoli on my plate. I muttered the fateful words: “I hate broccoli.” Next thing I knew, I was banished to bed without any supper at all and given a stern, threatening lecture about using the word “hate” for any reason. And believe it or not, I didn’t drop the F bomb myself until I was 37 years old, and it was such an astounding event, I phoned a neighbour (who had been trying to get me to say it for years) at 3 in the morning to tell him I’d said it.

Watching shows like Big Brother and hearing some of the language used by kids these days…even acknowledging how my own language habits have changed over the years…maybe those old standards weren’t so terrible after all. Cabinet Guy, while working on my renovations, always addressed me as Mrs Canham because I was there 39 years ago to diaper him when he was born and that was how we taught our kids to address adults. I, myself, would cut my tongue out before referring to adult friends of my parents as anything other than Mr and Mrs So-and-so. It was simple respect and not so terrible a hardship for us to employ it.

As for Winston Churchill, I read his voluminous memoirs back in high school. An amazing, brilliant, fascinating figure and it’s a shame he is being forgotten by his own countrymen.

August 23, 2013

An author (me) doing numbers again, and I just don’t get it *sigh*

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 5:26 pm

I don’t get it.

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Maybe I’ve been in this business too long, or maybe I still have the mindset of a print author who takes over a year to write a book. A year of my time working 12 hr days, 6 days a week, plus blood plus sweat plus tears plus endless revisions and editing and self doubts before that book sorta kinda almost seems/feels good enough to submit, either to an editor or a critical proofreader, or, now that it’s a do it yourself process, to Amazon or Smashwords or whoever.

Okay, I get the concept of a loss leader. I get the concept of lowering the cover price for a promo or a sale. I even, reluctantly, get the concept of setting the first book in a trilogy or fourple-ology for free to suck readers into buying the rest of the series…hell, I do that myself and the modest boost in sales sorta kinda justify the means.

What I don’t get is this new *trend* of combining four or five full length novels by four or five different authors into one volume and either selling that volume for .99 or giving it away for free. I fully grasp the supposition and hope that some new readers who graze at the free troughs at Amazon etc will perk their ears at the opportunity to try five new-to-them authors for nothing and then maybe, MAYBE they will find one of those five authors appealing enough to buy another one of their books. I do get that. But is it really worth it? Can someone show me actual numbers that support the concept?

I’m sure the readers are happy…thrilled…to find such bargains, and I don’t want to take away any of that happiness. But really, each book that I sell goes to putting food on my table and a roof over my head, just like every day that a reader goes to work, she or he is doing so in order to put food on their table and a roof over their heads. Would they work free for a day in the hopes that someone sees how well they do the job in order to get them more work? Skewed logic, perhaps, but wtf. I write for a living, readers work for a living: we both should expect to get paid for it.

I was asked not to long ago to consider joining into one of these collaborative volumes but after some thought, declined and it’s been niggling at the back of my mind ever since. I really don’t get why  five well known authors would (without knowing the numbers here, so forgive me for just tossing some out) take one fifth of 35% of .99 for one of their full length novels…and be excited about it? Didn’t we allllllllllllllllllll as writers, just finish one and two and three year long discussions about how horrid the big bad publishers were for only giving us 13% royalties on ebooks? Didn’t we just finish rallying around the self-pubbing maypole to expound with great enthusiasm on the ability to earn 70% royalties for our ebooks and the fact that we are finally…FINALLY…getting paid decently for what we thought our work was worth?

So again, I don’t get it. And even though I swore I would never think about numbers again, I can see no other recourse but to haul out the finger and toe abacus.

*cracking my knuckles for the hard part*

Say if I sell my book via a publisher, cover price $4.99, the percentage I end up with (25% of net which works out to about 13% of cover price) is roughly .64 cents.

Say if I sell that book via my own finger and toe-power (Amazon) I end up with 70% of the cover price, which is roughly $3.49. Quite the difference.

Say if I hold a sale and go through Amazon, lowering the price to .99, I get 35% of the cover which is roughly .34 cents. This usually boosts sales but you have to sell 10 times as many copies to earn out the same amount, more numbers which don’t usually meet the hopeful expectations. Again, the benefit is a new reader taking the chance on the .99 book and enjoying it enough to search out other titles to buy at full price. That’s the whole loss leader principle and yes, I get that. I’ve even done that with good results, but when the sale ends, so doth the spike in numbers.

Freebies are self-explanatory, but they’re usually only free for a finite period, be it a week or a month or two months, and again that depends on the effect of sales of other books. A new funky term has risen in the past few months:  “perma-free” meaning the author has decided to leave the book permanently free in order to stay on those freebie lists and hopefully entice new readers to try them. Just another guise of a loss leader, and in an indie market that has become flooded with thousands of new books and new authors every week…it helps to be on those lists in the hope of being noticed.

So where is the harm in banding five authors and five books together in one volume? If you’re a numbers person it might cause your sphincter to spasm a little. Take a five book volume on sale for .99.  The royalty rate is 35%, so that aforementioned .34 gets divided between the five authors, giving each roughly .06 for each sale. Six cents. Regardless of how you print it out, it’s still…six cents.

So. Let’s use 1000 sales as a “sayif”

Say if I sell 1000 books ($4.99) via a publisher, I would get ( .64 X 1000 [gotta love easy math, didn't even need my toes] ) $640.00

Those same 1000 books self pubbed ($4.99) would earn me ($3.49 X 1000) $3490.00

1000 books self pubbed on sale for .99 would earn out $340.00

1000 books for free makes a lot of happy readers but the author would get bupkus.

Now the big one: 1000 books in collaboration earns each author…..$60.00

Hmmmm. It takes just 17 sales at a regular price of $4.99 to earn out the $60.00. Or 22 sales at $3.99, (which seems to be an average price at the moment for self pubbed full length books). So in joining this enterprise, the authors joyously sell 1000 copies of the 5-in-one volume in order to joyously collect a stipend of $60.00.

I don’t get it.

I would happily…or joyously…listen to the logic of those who have done one of these collaborations, cuz maybe I’m missing something? Maybe these volumes go on to sell 100,000 copies, in which case each author would take a $6000.00 cheque to the bank and I could wipe my brow and say “whew, I finally get it.”

Please do chime in. I really do want to understand it.

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