Marsha Canham's Blog

June 21, 2015

Another episode of the Twilight Zone.

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 4:23 pm

This has to be one of the weirdest weekends I’ve had in a long time, so what better way to celebrate than write a blog…something else I’ve not done in a long time. As I explained a little while ago on another social media site, it isn’t that I don’t have anything to say. In fact some people might think I say too much at times *snort*. It’s just that I don’t have anything *new* to say about events and happenings that have been discussed around the web whether to do with publishing or not. So I figure, if I have nothing new and insightful and pithy to add, don’t do it just to fill up empty space.

I envy bloggers who come up with new and insightful and pithy things to talk about every day. They’re the ones who do what the social media gurus tell them to do and keep their names front and center. Keep posting. Keep talking and someone is bound to hear you. But if you’re an author, God forbid don’t talk about your books because that would be the *hard sell* approach and that would be kind of like getting that phonecall at 5:32 just as you’re sitting down for dinner. You race over to answer it and get some sales pitch for duct cleaning.

So, just in case you DO need your ducts cleaned, I’m an author and I have written a few books and you can find them all on my website

But if you don’t need your ducts cleaned, and you know for sure it’s some dumbass wanting to sell you something at 5:32, just answer the phone in a whisper: “It’s done but there’s blood everywhere, what should I do?” Repercussions? “Why yes, officer, I have a touch of laryngitis and I was cutting up a chicken…”

So, back to my strange weekend. It began on Thursday, when I had arranged to have some friends over to play cards. These are all ladies who migrate south for the winter, where we play cards at least once a week, often more, drink lots of wine, have lots of laughs. Up north, we’re all about an hour away from each other so the games are fewer and farther between. But Thursday was good. The son of one of the ladies has been working in my basement, getting my stained glass shop built and organized, so he was going to be here Thursday. And because her hubby was going to be installing the pot lights, he came Thursday as well to help drywall the ceiling (yay, no more crawling things falling out of the rafters!!!!!!) and do the lights. And because another one of the hubbies hadn’t seen my girls in a while (Suzie and Midget) he was invited to come along as well and bring his saw to cut down an overgrown dead tree-bush-thing. It was a pot luck thing so I didn’t really have to do a lot of prepping, but for some whacky reason I decided to make chicken wellingtons and to bake fresh bread.

A small digression here. I cook…and I cook rather well, I think. Meat, veggies, salads, hors doovers…those I can whip off in no time with great and tasty aplomb. Bread, pastry, cakes…in fact, deserts of any kind…nope. In 50 years of cooking I’ve had maybe five successful deserts that I can make without my guests looking at me with those polite little smiles they wear moments before they bust out laughing. And I admit it. I’m not a baker. However, one of my very very few successes is challah bread. I love eating it, as my hips will attest, and I actually enjoy making it. The smell while its baking is to die for as well. Thus, despite the lack of running around and cooking everything in sight for dinner, I only had to struggle with the puff pastry for the wellingtons and make the bread. The rest arrived with the guests, just like in Florida when we have our pot luck dinners. I mark this as pitfall #1.

Dinner was great, we all ate and laughed and while the ladies had played cards all afternoon, the men had worked at their various jobs. The dogs and I fell into bed around 2ish and woke up the next morning thinking ah, another fine sunny day. Took the dogs for a long walk, did some laundry, did some writing, and when it came time to relax in the evening, flicked on Netflix and found the next episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a series I had discovered the previous evening whilst looking for something other than brain fodder to watch.

And therein lay pitfall #2, because I didn’t look at the program guide for the regular TV.

If you haven’t caught any episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, you should. It’s an Australian show set in the 1920’s with THE most splendid costumes and old cars and Agatha Christie type murder mysteries. The police detective isn’t hard to look at either. Reminds me a little of the Thin Man series of movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Anyway, I watched half a dozen episodes then yawned my way to bed, and hit pitfall #3 because, although I looked at the program guide for the bedroom TV, it’s usually set on House Hunters or Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and because I’m usually way past any news or weather, I don’t wander much farther than to choose between the two stations. Do I want to watch Guy Fieri eating his way through middle America, or do I want to drool over a spectacular house on a breathtaking beach in Maui where the house hunters whine because the counters aren’t granite. Really?

Woke up the next morning, went through my regular morning routine of get the coffee, let the dogs out, play hearts, rummy, and gummy drop on the ipad for an hour, get my second coffee and glare at the clock if it isn’t 9:00 yet. Not that anything special happens at 9:00, it’s just that one of these days I’m determined to sleep in that late. Hasn’t happened in about 30 years, but I live ever in hope.

That was when it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard the water softener kick in during the night. It’s located in the basement RIGHT under my bed, and at 2:30 every Saturday night, it sounds like a screaming hoard of banshees has invaded the cellar. I think perhaps the workers had unplugged it while they were in the basement, as had happened once before, so down I went to check. The light was on, the dufus was plugged in and working. Still had salt. Hmmm.

Back upstairs, I’m thinking: Father’s Day, so I sat out back sipping coffee, cuddling with the dogs, thinking about my dad and how much I miss him. He never got to see Jefferson get married, never got to see his two beautiful, terrific great-grandchildren. Never got to take a shovel to the back of Stupid’s head…


Yes, and so I went inside and posted a little poem on Facebook that I found, then sent an email to Jefferson inquiring about Payton’s graduation the next day. Since neither grandmother could get tickets (grrrrrr) I figure I can at least go to the house and take pictures before they leave. Not often you catch the Middle Canhams all dressed up in their finest *G*.

An email comes flying back from number one Son. The grad is Monday, not tomorrow.


You know that weird tingly feeling that comes over you when you’ve just acknowledged a major dumbass moment. Yup. That was when it struck me that I lost a day. A whole day. Pitfall #1 when the Florida gang got together for cards and potluck. In Florida it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, no one knows and no one really cares. Pitfall #2 going straight to Netflix which doesn’t give a date or time. Pitfall #3 leaving the channel on Triple D and not even bothering to pull up the TV guide.

As I think back, I know I went for a massage therapy appointment Friday afternoon, but for some reason, it didn’t stick with me as being Friday, it just sort of morphed into being Saturday. On the bright side, it doesn’t feel so much as if I lost a day, it feels more like I’ve gained a whole day! I get to do Sunday all over again!

This brings to mind another time when I got lost somewhere in the Twilight Zone. I was on deadline and hadn’t been out of my office for a full ten days other than to eat or sleep. We were invited out for the Saturday night and Stupid insisted that we go, so, grudgingly, with my mind in the Highlands strategizing a battle scene, we went to a friends house for dinner. I walked in and there were several other couples there, all of them sitting around, eyes glued to the TV. I figured it had to be something fascinating so I sat and watched for about five minutes, not really getting why they were all fixated on watching (boring) live footage of a white Bronco full of orange juice being followed down the highway by a dozen or so police cruisers.

Yup. Missed the whole OJ Simpson thing.

October 3, 2014

Let the whining begin.

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 4:14 pm

I know it’s been a while since I’ve contributed any pithy blogs, but a lot has happened this year to put me in take-time-off mood.

First and foremost was getting a total knee replacement. I’d been putting it off for a couple of years, but when the doc gave me that beady-eyed, silent glare, I knew my time was up. To all the people out there who say: Oh, I had it done, nothing to it…I say: BITE ME. Or better yet, let ME bite YOU.  It. Hurt. Like. Hell.  It also brought back very unfond memories of when I did the original damage to the knee and had to have surgery to get bone chips removed. Back then, it was a full cast, ankle to hip, for six weeks with stern warnings to rest and stay off it as much as possible. These days they heave you out of the bed within hours and expect you to hobble through the mind-blowing pain down a mile long hallway to the torture chamber (therapy room) where a big-breasted Valkyrie awaits. She takes no prisoners. Not even if they scream or faint. Not even if they stubbornly refuse to get out of the wheelchair and threaten her with an IV needle. THAT horror lasted four days instead of the two I was promised, and even then I told them if they didn’t get the paperwork in order I was leaving without any farking release forms.

At home, I expected to find rest and peace . Ever get put on a hospital ‘air’ bed? Its supposed to prevent bedsores and cramping but every time you move an eyelash it hisses while the air cushions adjust. And for someone like me who can hear a watch ticking three rooms away, it was HELL. And I haven’t even mentioned the food. AUGH! Over four days I had two little yogurts and a spoonful of peas. That was all that was edible. Thank goodness my son brought me sustenance from Tim Hortons.

Where was I? Oh yes, my angelic son. Faugh! All he had to hear was that recovery was quicker if the patient exceeds the required exercises each day and BLAM, he turned into a Nazi general. Tears didn’t affect him. Curses didn’t affect him. Threats didn’t affect him. Two and three times a day he loomed over me like Godzilla until I did the required repetitions the therapist ordered. And when HE wasn’t available, my loving granddaughter took his place, whip in hand. I swear neither of them knew how to count either. I hit ten and they were insisting it was only eight. Hmphf. New math.

HOWEVER. Despite the whining and whinging, I did end up thanking them for pushing me so hard. I exceeded the required measurements for bending the knee that the therapist wanted me to achieve week to week, and after six weeks, she signed off completely and gave me a gold star. As of today, I’m walking normally, no limp, and most of the swelling is gone. The scar is hideous and I set off alarm bells at the airport, but it’s relatively pain-free. Would I get the other knee done? Not unless they send a search party into the deep jungles of Bali and catch me in a big cargo net.

Another reason for blog-silence is because I have nothing much to add about the Amazon-Hatchette dispute. I shouldn’t say nothing much to add, just nothing much that is civil. For those who don’t know much about the dispute or don’t even know that one is going on, in a nutshell, one of the larger publishers, Hatchette, is pissed off at Amazon because Amazon wants them to lower the prices on their digital books. Lower prices=more sales. More sales=more readers=expanding fan base. Lower prices=happy readers. Happy readers=more sales. So what’s the problem? Double damned if I know. The publishing world just went through an enormous price-fixing court case wherein the Big Five were charged (and found guilty) of colluding to keep digital prices high. Afterward there was a flurry of discounted prices at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and other fine distributors. The only hold out was Hatchette, who decided to keep their digital prices high…higher in some cases than the print version of the same book. Yeah, that makes sense. So Amazon, well within its rights as a distributor, has refused to deal with Hatchette, and for some reason known only to the pea-brain “bestselling NYTimes” authors who already have millions socked away in the bank, petitions have gone flying around decrying the horrible big bad meanie Amazon for punishing the poor innocent authors by standing firm against the publisher. These pea-brained authors even spent over a hundred thousand dollars on a full page ad in the NY Times whining and whinging over big bad meanie Amazon.

Really? Yes, Really. Whining over big bad meanie Amazon where most of their sales over the past few years have taken place, print and digital. Whining over a company who has helped more authors…like me…get a second chance at their careers by letting them self-publish. Whining over a company who treats their authors like a valuable commodity and pays them accordingly each month, not dribbling out crumbs cloaked in clauses like “reserves against returns” twice a year.

Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I should be thinking:  Higher prices=fewer sales=but happy publisher.

AND speaking of higher prices…as I predicted months ago, possibly even years ago…the utterly stupid trend of bundling ten full size novels into one volume and flogging it for .99 has finally come around to bite the authors in the ass. I have nothing against discounting books for my readers. I’ve done it many times and have even kept a free book out there (Across a Moonlit Sea), long after I intended to leave it free hoping to interest new readers enough to check out the other two books in the series. And it has helped to keep my sales numbers from slipping into an abyss. September is a notoriously slumpy month for sales across the board for everyone, but I’m not the only one convinced that part of the fault this year lies in the bundling fever.  As I mentioned recently to a yahoo group I belong to: I’ve been against the ten-books-for-99-cent bandwagon since it started rolling. The first few that came out were novel (no pun intended) and probably made out like bandits, so of course everyone under the sun scrambled to put bundles together to catch hold of the new money wagon. In the past six months alone, I was approached FIVE times, four of them by authors I’d never heard of before, but they were all salivating to get cheapie bundles out there.

I’m thinking that not only is the bundling losing effect, but it’s actually starting to cause damage on the home front. There are so many bundles out there now that readers *expect* them! Even worse, they *expect* to only pay .99 for ten full size novels. Hell, why would a reader pay $4.99 or $3.99 or even $2.99 when they can pick up ten for .99? It’s killing us. We’re getting undercut every day and not by publishers this time, but by our own peers and I’m not sure this wound is going to heal any time too soon.
It’s a great bargain for the readers, no denying that. And the excuse I hear from new authors eager to toss in their novel with a “big name draw” in order to get noticed…well, I’m still waiting to hear how that worked out for them. Ten books for .99 at a 33% royalty rate equals approximately .03 per sale. So to earn $2.79, which is the royalty earned on a single sale for a book priced at $3.99, the bundle would have to sell 93 copies. A generous sale of 10,000 copies would generate $300.00 for each author in the bundle. Not bad unless you figure that 10,000 copies at $3.99 would earn out $27,900. Yeah, I’d sign up for that deal LOL. It might take longer to sell those 10,000 copies, it might take that new author–or even an old dinosaur like myself– a few years of writing more books and doing more promotion to achieve those numbers. But at least they wouldn’t be lost in a bundle. Reality check, people? Readers who buy bundles featuring a “big name” author will often only read that one author because it’s a deal to get their book at that price. The other nine? They more often than not go into the cyberspace filing cabinet.
Aren’t you glad I decided to blog again today?

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.

Image ImageImage


January 18, 2014

Okay,’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*


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:




And they look pretty good side by side:



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:


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


or a combination of both, as in option #3


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


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:




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.


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.


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!!!!!


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


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.


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