Marsha Canham's Blog

January 27, 2011

Covers and other pithy thoughts

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 4:03 pm

Since Jill Metcalf has mentioned the new cover I did for her soon-to-be available Family Reunion, on her blog and facebook, I might as well give myself a little falsely modest pat on the back for myself here too.  A few months back, I dragged Jill, kicking and screaming into the world of ebooks, encouraging her to make her out of print books available in digital format.  She started out skeptical, as did I when Julie Ortolon suggested it to me, because like me, Jill is one of the dinosaurs who wrote her first manuscript on a typewriter, so reissuing it involved retyping it onto the computer.

It’s a scary new world, folks.  Authors are accustomed to simply having to worry about coming up with a good story, writing a good book, sending it to the editor, then drinking a good bottle of wine to celebrate.  That’s the simplified version of what we have to do, not that it’s simple by any means to keep coming up with creatively brilliant novels.  It’s months of research, writing, re-writing followed by weeks of angst while you wait to hear from the agent and editor that it doesn’t suck as much you think it sucks, then more months of waiting for copy edits…those lovely little notes written by the Red Pen of Death telling you your grammar sucks and Chopin wasn’t born yet when you have your character playing one of his piano sonatas (Whoever the copyeditor was who missed that one:  pfffffffffffffffffffffffft)  After that, more months of waiting to see the artwork that some flower-crazed hippie suffering LSD flashbacks decides is perfect for your cover.  Then the brown paper package delivered at the door, ripped open, and voila…the finished book.

With ebooks…especially for us dinos who have to retype it into the computer…it’s like going through the whole process a second time, but with negative perks.  While retyping, it’s downright impossible to resist doing a little editing and revising, especially if the book is 20 years old and you have heaving bosoms crushing up against throbbing manhoods.  I know I did mild edits for China Rose, not that her bosoms ever heaved, but she did have some pretty goofy moments…I can’t tell you how many times she “felt a blush rising in her cheeks”.  I was starting to think of her as Vesuvius halfway through the book.  Or like the movie Harvey, with the invisible rabbit, and James Stewart sitting the restarant saying “I feel the need to scream rising…it’s in my my calves…omg I feel it in my chest…up into my throat—-”  at which time the young lady he is sitting with screams “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”  That’s how I felt with Vesuvius, so a couple dozen blushes went by the wayside.

Bound by the Heart had heavier edits because I wanted to remove something that had been bugging me since I originally wrote the book and I was happy to have the chance to do it.

Swept Away, thankfully, was already on a disc, but I still went through it searching for little anachronisms or heaving anythings.  Oddly enough, not having read the book for many many years (and this held true for all of them) I was actually pleasantly surprised that it was a pretty good book. LOL  I had forgotten many many things about it, most notably Auntie Flo and her cane and I even laughed out loud at some of the scenes.

The Wind and the Sea…again it was on a floppy, thank goodness, which just had to be sucked off one computer that still had a floppy drive, and emailed to myself on the other puter.  It, admittedly, had a few purplish passages that made me groan inwardly and, because Courtney was my first attempt at making a heroine who was every bit as tough and smart as the hero, who had no qualms about slitting a throat or loading a cannon, she had a few screechy passages where I wanted to smack her and the author.  Wait. That was me.  Okay, so I smacked the keyboard instead and toned down some of her strident bitchiness in places.

All that was just the first phase of self-publishing.  Next came the cover art.  If you’ve read previous blogs you know I’ve had some interesting adventures with art departments, but now it was all up to me to find the right artwork, design and create new covers for all four books.  Luckily I know how to play with my PSP paintshop and manipulate photos and fonts.  Found some cool stock photo sites where, for the down to earth price of around ten bucks, you can buy the right to use some pretty nifty artwork.

I write romances, so skin is good.  My first cover attempt, for China Rose, I went for the subtle map and rose…which was a great cover if I do say so myself, but it didn’t say “romance”.  The newer version is all skin, and while it isn’t exactly flying off the virtual shelves, it is doing twice as well as the map and rose.

For BBTH and TWATS, it was a no-brainer.  Ships and skin.  I wanted the reader to be able to look at the cover and know exactly what the book was about.  Ditto with Swept Away…half naked body washed up on a beach, ship in the background.

For Jill’s covers…she was pretty much doomed with the title Spring Blossom.  I mean, you can’t exactly put Lee Marvin and a drunk horse leaning up against the side of a barn.  Noooo.  Flowers.  Those lovely little things I enjoy seeing in my garden but not on my books.  But hey. Wasn’t my book, so….found some hunky skin, found some flowers that didn’t make me want to stab my eye out, and voila.  Spring Blossom, all blossomy and springtime romantic, letting the reader know it’s a heartwarming lovestory…no clouds of sulferous smoke, no battling ships at sea.


For her second book, Family Reunion, which she is madly typing out as we speak, it is the sequel to Spring Blossoms…a tender lovestory dealing sensitively with a hero who is handicapped.  He can’t walk.  So…no Lee Marvin again, and no standing in an orchard surrounded by cherry blossoms, which would have tied it in with Spring Blossoms.  It was a tricky challenge trying to use the photo Jill had found and purchased, because the couple was lying on satin sheets that ended just above their heads.  It also cut off just at their waists, so it meant finding some way to expand top and bottom, find something to tie in the two books, yet keep the mood of a tender love story intact.

I think it turned out pretty good, and Jill loves it so that’s a big WHEW!  Now she just has to finish typing it, format it, upload it, and voila….done.

Well, not quite.  You see, without the Big Publishing Machine behind us, we authors who have elected to take on the business of self publishing our backlists, now have to get the word out, waving our hands, jumping up and down, blogging, twitting, getting in everyone’s faces to let the readers who may or may not remember us or our books, that WE’RE HERE!  In my case, I’ve been on an extended hiatus for the past almost 7 years, which is a lifetime to an author.  And believe me, every time I get an email or a post on my FB page from a reader saying welcome back…I’m totally stoked knowing I haven’t been completely forgotten.  Best of all, it’s stirred up my muse and the fingers are dancing over the keyboard again knowing I now have the option of  writing the kinds of books *I* like again, meaning I don’t have to write something that fits a regimental criteria (375 pages, no violence, pirates don’t sell, why don’t you write about zombies or werewolves).  I can write what I want, and, judging by the response to the ebooks I’ve put up, what the readers want to read.

I’m working on Gabriel Dante’s story…a sequel to The Iron Rose…the outline of which was turned down by NAL and which was the final straw in those last few years of battling with editors over what I could and what I could not write.  The jury is still out on whether I will put it straight to ebook, or go the print route but retain the ebook rights.

It’s a strange new world out there. Even the dinosaurs are waking up again *S*



  1. Dinosaurs, indeed! *g* Good blog…interesting and fun. I really liked seeing the transition to the final covers. I know the Family Reunion photo caused you a lot of grief and I will never buy that type of photo layout again. There, I’ve said it publically…no more square photographs.

    Comment by Jill Metcalf — January 27, 2011 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  2. I promote all your books on the Amazon discussion board when I get a chance. I instantly did not like someone I met who said she did not like your books (she was a snobby bitch). I am on pins and needles waiting for your next book and I am thrilled you can write it how YOU want. Keep us posted.

    Comment by Juliet — January 27, 2011 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

  3. I think the covers turned out great! Well done, Marsha. And I’m so glad I dragged you into the ebook world. Because now I get to smile smugly and say, “I told ya readers would jump for joy to see your book available again.”

    I’m having a similar experience right now to what you had with The Wind and the Seas as I’m getting Don’t Tempt Me ready for its ebook release. My books are contemporary romance, but share your love for pirate lore, so I made Jackie the modern day captain of a fully restored pirate ship, and the story involves diving for sunken treasure. I wanted to make Jackie tough and sassy, but I’d never done a heroine like that. I guess I made her a little too tough, because readers didn’t hate her, but they didn’t love her as much as my spunky, happy heroines.

    So, while getting Don’t Tempt Me ready, I’ve toned Jackie down a bit in spots. The ebook will go live this weekend, so I guess we’ll see what readers think.

    Having the freedom to do all of this is so exciting, isn’t it?

    Comment by Julie Ortolon — January 27, 2011 @ 5:24 pm | Reply

  4. I have all your books and I love every one of them and I am waiting for the new one. Happy to know that you are writing again,

    Comment by Susana — January 27, 2011 @ 8:48 pm | Reply

  5. Marsha, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have stumbled into your blog from Doranna’s place.
    I remember writing you an email several years ago to tell you how much I loved The Iron Rose. You wrote back so nicely and I got the impression you might not be writing/publishing anymore. I think that was the beginning of my education on how incredibly difficult the publishing industry makes it for authors. Since then I’ve watched several fabulous authors struggle to stay afloat and scratched my head at this retarded industry. Ilona Andrews is a writing duo who are very talented and on their blog they write articles about getting published and how the epublishing industry works as opposed to hard copy publishing. Very interesting.

    I’m proud of you guys for finding a way to get your work out there. I was so happy to see some of Doranna Durgin’s backlist at Smashwords and now I know I can look for you in ebook format too.
    The Iron Rose is seriously one of my all time favorite romances and if you and your muse can pin down Gabriel long enough to get his story out of him I’d be thrilled.

    You did a nice job on Jill’s covers and your own. There’s a new twist to your career I bet you never foresaw!! 🙂
    best wishes,

    Comment by kyahgirl — January 28, 2011 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  6. Hi Marsha,
    I have a pretty stressful job and there is nothing I like more than to come home and settle in with a great romance book. I am a pretty avid reader and I can honestly say that you are by far my favourite author. The characters you create are well rounded and your detailed stories bring to life periods of history that allow your readers imaginations to recreate. I own all of your books and can’t wait for your much anticipated book featuring Gabriel Dante. Thanks for the hours of pleasure your books have given me, only one complaint, wish there were more!!!

    Comment by Suzanne Andrews — February 5, 2011 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

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