Marsha Canham's Blog

April 3, 2017

More Story behind the Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 4:18 pm

I’m sure I’ve said it before but my Dad (the Chief) and I were huge fans of Westerns. When he heard that Bonanza was going to be produced in color, he threw out the monthly budget and bought the first color TV on the block. And yes, we had neighbors inside and we had them out on the porch pressing their noses to the window to catch a glimpse of the new invention.

Bonanza, Paladin, Wanted Dead or Alive, Jim Bowie, Roy Rogers, Rawhide, The Virginian were all his favorite TV programs. Even at a young age I learned to wrangle an extra half hour after bedtime, which was a seemingly inhumane 7:00 that kids today would laugh at, in order to watch one of the half hour westerns. Gunsmoke and Death Valley Days bought me a whole hour, as did Bonanza!

On the movie front, anything with John Wayne or Randolf Scott had the two of us heading out to a Saturday afternoon matinee armed with popcorn and root beer. My first real Halloween costume was a Dale Evans vest and a cowboy hat. All the boys in the neighborhood played Cowboys and Indians all weekend and scorned the thought of the only other girl, Francis Campbell, and myself joining in the hooting and hollering until we got cap guns (thank you Chief) and learned how to make bows and arrows out of twigs and string. The latter didn’t work very well, but add some hooting and feathers plucked from a duster and we looked pretty good. Those were the days, of course, when you could shoot a cap gun without having all the adults drop to the ground or call 911. And we could gather in a group of fearsome looking Cowboys and Indians and vanish all day without anyone wondering or worrying where we were staging our Custer’s last stand. Squished red berries and dirt was our friend, cuz of course you needed war paint and camouflage.

Everyone rode an invisible horse, so no one walked. We all galloped down the streets and around the yards. Sometimes one of the other kids would volunteer to be a horse, so they’d get reins tied around their chest and would have to prance and neigh as they were “ridden” down the street.

I’m pretty sure I kept my invisible horse until I was seven or eight, although by then we had moved out of our crowded neighborhood and into the barren wastelands of suburbia. Even so, there was a forest about a half mile away and I used to ride my Beauty in there, sometimes by myself, and sometimes with kindred spirits from the next block over. Cowboys and Indians had been replaced by Robin Hood and his Merry Men so horses weren’t so crucial to a full day of play. The homemade bows and arrows had become a little more sophisticated and it’s a wonder no one lost an eye.

All of this gives a bit of background to some of the things that influenced my writing in later years. The Robin Hood Trilogy came out of that pristine forest and watching episodes of Richard Greene’s Robin. Love of pirates came from Errol Flynn as Captain Blood. My one and only Western came from my love for the childhood memories spent sitting with the Chief hooting and hollering at the good guys in the white hats and the bad guys in the black hats.

Under the Desert Moon wasn’t written until I had several books under my gun holster. Not because I shied away from writing one, but because I knew the Chief would read it and I knew it had to have every cliche he loved, every element of every show he watched, every black and white hat I could cram into one book that would make HIM remember all those hours we spent together throwing popcorn at the screen. When he passed away, one of the clippings in his wallet was a review by Kathe Robin for Under the Desert Moon, where she said it was the Silverado of Westerns. She got what I was trying to do. And he loved it.

Miss you Chief. Every day.

Under the Desert Moon400Under the Desert Moon

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March 22, 2017

The Medieval Trilogy

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 5:47 pm

I have always had a thing for Robin Hood. I watched the Richard Greene series when I was a kid and drooled over Errol Flynn in green tights and sequined epaulets. I’ve probably watched that movie a hundred times, and each time I see something new. A later version starring Kevin Costner was almost campier than the Flynn version, noted mostly for Kevin suddenly getting an English accent…or an attempt at one…halfway through. The version starring Russell Crowe was probably my second favorite. Gritty and more realistic in a movie-fiction sort of way. And then there was Robin and Marion with Audrey Hepburn and Sean Connery, a movie that did what none of the others did…it showed Robin dying and, frankly, it was the movie that gave me the title for The Last Arrow. In the Connery movie, said arrow was the one shot into the forest and where it landed was where Robin was supposedly buried. When I was writing my trilogy I couldn’t quite bring myself to kill my Robin off…mainly because MY Robin was a composite of many legends and stories that I tried to weave into one character who might possibly have come down through the centuries as Robin Hood. As cavalierly as I do tend to kill off characters, some of them important characters, I left each ending of each book on a HEA note.

Having said that, I’ve received reviews from readers who were disappointed not to read an actual Robin Hood story with Robin Hood as the main character. And to those gentle readers I did try to explain that there was no real man named Robin Hood. There were men who might have acted like Robin, robbing from the rich to give to the poor. There was an Earl of Huntington, and there was an Earl of Locksley, there was even a Robin Hode listed in dusty old ledgers, but each of them lived dozens of years apart. And if memory serves, none were around when Gisbourne was sheriff, because the sheriff of Nottingham at the time Robin would have active was a woman. Yes, a woman. Nicolaa de la Haye was as nasty and vile and corrupt as ever a woman could be. And she was a favorite of King John.

I enjoy writing fiction, and especially historical fiction, because I can let my imagination run a bit amok. At the time I was deciding what I wanted to write, a few factors came into play. One, of course, was my love of the Robin Hood legend. Two was the love of castles and jousting matches and medieval forests and outlaws and Richard the Lionheart etc etc. Third was a small paragraph I read in some obscure article about medieval England that mentioned the Lost Princess of Brittany. That was how she was referred to. No name, just the lost princess.

Well. If that wasn’t enough to make my ears perk up, a Sherlock Holmes type search of history books identified her as the Princess Eleanor, daughter to King Henry II’s middle son Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany. Keep in mind, this was back before clicking on a few buttons brought up scads of history documents on the internet. Noooo this was hours spent in the library slogging through history books trying to find out what happened to Eleanor and why she was NOT made the Queen of England after Richard’s death. Geoffrey would have been next in the line of succession, followed by his son Arthur and his daughter Eleanor. Geoffrey had the misfortune of dying, however, without ever wearing the crown. And, as it turned out, although Arthur and Eleanor raised an army to fight John for the crown, both were captured and imprisoned. John then removed Arthur from contention…some reports claim by his own hand…and Eleanor was tossed into a prison for the next seventeen years.

Granted, Queens were not popular in the ranks of the English barons, but then neither was King John, so it made me dig further and further to try to find out why Eleanor was never even rescued from the castle where she was held prisoner for so many years.

Enter the fourth reason why I set out to write my medieval trilogy.

From the age of maybe 14 or 15, I’d been having this very cool recurring dream. It always started the same, played out the same, unwound like a film with a climactic ending. In it, a young blonde woman was trapped or held prisoner in a cave of some sort. She is rescued by men dressed in monk’s cowls and led down a perilously steep cliff to a rocky shoreline below. Before they can reach the fishing boat waiting at the bottom, armored soldiers ambush them from behind a jumble of boulders and in the melee that follows, the girl tries to reach the boat, and just when she gets a hand on the gunwale, an arrow pierces her hand and traps it against the wood, dragging her under. That’s where the dream ended. Always. And I would have this dream once or twice a year and it was always so vivid my hand would hurt in the morning.

I was having lunch with my editor at the time, Maggie MacLaren, and I was telling her I was thinking about writing a medieval, I told her about my love of Robin Hood stories…and then I told her about the dream. She looked a little skeptical, but she asked if I had ever written any of it down. Of course, I hadn’t. Hadn’t even thought of writing it down because it was a dream. But she put the bug in my head and that, combined with what I had been doing to try to track down the lost princess and find out what happened to her…well…BOOM!

If you read Through A Dark Mist, the prologue is my dream, as vividly as I could recall it. I added some embellishments of course as the book started to take shape, the monks took on identities as did the blonde-haired woman. No, there was no mention of Robin Hood, but I did start peppering the story with some clues and names that would be familiar to Hoodies. I had to have a beginning for MY legend, a catalyst for the threads that would follow in the next two books. The one constant thread was the young Eleanor of Brittany who appears in Through A Dark Mist as a mere child, whose fate appears to be decided In the Shadow of Midnight, and whose destiny brings the whole tapestry of threads together in The Last Arrow.

I’m looking to the forest again, to castles in the clouds and dark knights. And I have the germ of an idea fomenting in my brain leading me down that misty path again…..

 

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March 10, 2017

The Far Horizon is finally here!

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence,Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 4:34 pm

What better way to revive a blog than to shamelessly promote a new book? Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted, I admit it. And I’ve thought about reviving the blog many times over the past stagnant months to update readers on the progress of Jonas Dante’s story, but in truth, I’m sure everyone was tired of hearing that The Far Horizon was coming…coming…coming…but not quite yet.

The first problem was Jonas himself. I had deliberately written about him in earlier books, The Iron Rose and The Following Sea, as the gruff older brother with the devil’s own red hair and a temper to match. He wore common leathers and a battered hat and roared rather than talked. A true pirate in the movie sense.

So who could I find to match him? Who could I find to create a romance around? I’ve done strong heroines before, but this one would prove to be a real challenge. No refined miss like Evangeline in The Following Sea. No female pirate in trousers like Juliet in The Iron Rose. No simpering miss. No stranded damsel in distress.

I toyed for a while with a Spanish hostage, captured during a battle on the Main, but then you run into the ubiquitous plotline: “I will win her over with my charm” of which Jonas had very little. Boom. Worked on that one for about 150 pages before scrapping it altogether. I tried making her a captive heading for the slave market, who impresses Jonas by kicking the slave master in the bollocks…but that seemed too contrived and again, about 100 pages and a lot of pulled hair went into the reject bin. Kidnapping? Nope.

I tried combining the best possibilities from both scenarios…nada. Brain freeze.

I had to find a strong enough woman to win Jonas over, reluctant beast that he was to fall in love or even think of falling in love. And a strong enough woman to fall in love with a blustering, domineering pirate who was not exactly pretty through all his scars, and not the least receptive to any of her feminine wiles.

I came up with Bellanna  Harper. A beautiful, cold, calculating jewel thief who first catches Jonas’s roving eye in a dazzling ballroom in London.

The second major problem that caused delay after delay and more hair pulling, was the Pirate Wolf series itself. When I wrote Across A Moonlit Sea, I had Beau and Simon Dante joining up with Sir Francis Drake to raid the Spanish port of Cadiz. I had sea battles and double crosses and body parts getting blown to bits, cannons blasting, sails booming…everything I could think to put into an adventure at sea. I was still with a print publisher at the time and with the modest success of AAMS, I was asked if I was interested in writing a sequel. Out of that request came The Iron Rose where I reversed the roles of the hero and heroine, making Juliet Dante the pirate and Varian St. Clare her captive and sort-of hostage. Again, more sea battles, more devilish conspiracies by the Spanish, more cannons blasting, body parts flying, sails booming….anything I hadn’t thought to include in Across A Moonlit Sea. The result was gratifying. Publishers Weekly declared The Iron Rose to be one of the seven best mass market fiction books released that year.

Then, of course, the bottom fell out of print publishing. Authors were let go by the hundreds, if not thousands, and I was insulted enough by the contract negotiations for a new book that I decided to go into semi-retirement and enjoy my munchkin grandkids until the bloodbath in all the publishing houses subsided.

I wasn’t expecting a bloodbath in my own private life, which resulted in an ugly horrible divorce…not exactly the basis for someone thinking of resuming a career and not exactly in any mood to write romance.

But I digress. People divorce, they survive the shock, they move on.

I moved on and entered the world of ebooks. I was lucky enough to get back all the rights on my print books before the doors slammed shut and the publishers realized they were losing their golden geese.

But then I had the problem of writing something new, and the first one who tapped on my shoulder was Gabriel Dante. I had introduced him and Jonas in the Iron Rose, and readers had asked for more, for stories about the Hell Twins…so out of that came the idea to write ONE more book in the Pirate Wolf series. The Following Sea was Gabriel’s story and again I was faced with coming up with more sea-faring adventure. How many ways could I write a sea battle that I hadn’t already written in AAMS and TIR? Or even further back, in The Wind and the Sea and Bound by the Heart?

I happened across an article, casually read in some online mag, about a treasure ship being discovered a few hundred years after she sank in a storm. Little brain synapses started to spark and twinkle and while I did have to strain my brain and pull out even more hairs over plotting and battling at sea…I think I did justice to Gabriel’s adventure but again, I threw in every last possible scenario at sea that I could think of, and even some that verged on legend and illusion.

Silly me, I thought I was finished with pirates and sea-faring adventures.  But even more emails started coming in. Where is Jonas’s story? When is Jonas’s story coming out? You can’t just leave Jonas standing on the beach, he needs a story of his own.

But…but…but…

Refer to my dilemma above on how to make Jonas into a romantic hero. *sigh*

So…three years later and serious depletion of hair follicles and brain cells…The Far Horizon emerges. I hope I have done Jonas justice because honestly, there are no more sea battles in me. No more pirates. The series has sailed off into the sunset toward the far horizon, and left me happy, satisfied, and content that I have done the best with the Pirate Wolf dynasty that I could do.

My next project? I’m open for suggestions as long as they do not include pirates or ships or oceans.

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged, I’ve forgotten how to include stuff, so you’ll just have to check out my website http://www.marshacanham.com for the links.

The Far Horizon400

 

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 http://www.marshacanham.com

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…

Ahem.

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.

Huh?

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.

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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*

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