Marsha Canham's Blog

August 21, 2011

Sample Sunday, say hello to Beth Orsoff

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 4:36 am

Today’s guest blogger (why do I always want to type blooger?)  is another member of the BacklistEbook loop group, and I will let her introduce herself in her own words *g*

Hi everyone.  Thanks for stopping by.  My name is Beth Orsoff and I write humorous fiction.  Usually that takes the form of chick lit, but sometimes it takes the form of chick lit/mystery/suspense (think Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series).  I have three e-books available, and am currently editing a fourth, which I hope to release in October.

The book Marsha is featuring today is “How I Learned to Love the Walrus (An Arctic Romantic Comedy).”  The question I usually get with this book is “Why?”  Why would an entertainment attorney from Los Angeles (my day job, although now only part-time) who has never been to Alaska and never seen a live walrus write a book about a woman who travels to Alaska to produce a documentary about walruses and learns something about love and life along the way?

Potential answers: (a) I’m crazy, (b) I felt compelled to write it, or (c) all of the above.  It’s (c).  I should explain, although (a) is self-explanatory, so I’ll concentrate on (b). 

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon in April 2006.  I was thumbing through the newspaper (this was in the olden days when people read newspapers in paper form) while waiting for my husband to return home from an errand when I came across an article about a bunch of walrus calves that had been found abandoned in the deep waters of the Arctic Ocean.  According to the article, it was very unusual to find walrus calves without their mothers because young pups don’t know how to forage for food.  They depend on their mothers for their survival. The scientists guessed that the walrus cows had followed the sea ice north in search of food and never returned. 

The article contained a photo of one of the baby walruses treading water, and a quote from a scientist on board the ship who said for the entire twenty-four hours they spent in that location, the walruses swam around the boat crying.  The scientists knew there was no hope of rescue and the calves would likely drown or starve to death.  It was heartbreaking, both for them and for me.  By the time my husband returned, I was practically in tears. 

Until this point, I had always written light, humorous fiction.  When I told my husband  this would be my next book, he not surprisingly asked, “How the hell are you going to turn that into chick lit?”  My answer: “I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out.”

The figuring it out part was a lot harder than I had imagined.  All I knew when I started was that that scene would be in the book and it would have a profound influence on the protagonist.  And that’s how “How I Learned to Love the Walrus” was born.  And despite that heartbreaking scene, it is a romantic comedy.  Really.  I swear it.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s the synopsis and an excerpt below:

When Los Angeles publicist Sydney Green convinces her boss to let her produce a documentary for the Save the Walrus Foundation, the only one Sydney Green is interested in saving is herself.  The walruses are merely a means to improving her career and her love life, and not necessarily in that order.  Sydney would’ve killed the project the second she learned she’d be the one having to spend a month in rural Alaska if it had been for any other client.  But for rising star and sometimes boyfriend Blake McKinley, no sacrifice is ever too great. 

Yet a funny thing happens on the way to the Arctic.  A gregarious walrus pup, a cantankerous scientist, an Australian sex goddess, a Star Wars obsessed six-year-old, and friends and nemeses both past and present rock Sydney Green’s well-ordered world.  Soon Sydney is forced to choose between doing what’s easy and doing what’s right.       

The scene excerpted below takes place between Sydney Green, our intrepid publicist, and Ethan Eckert, the cantankerous scientist, on Wilde Island, a fictional island (although based on a real island) off the coast of Alaska where thousands of walruses congregate each summer.  The island has no electricity or indoor plumbing, and only eight human inhabitants (including Sydney and Ethan).  As you might imagine, bathing is an ordeal.  After three days on the island, Sydney attempts her first shower. 


 An Excerpt from How I Learned to Love the Walrus

I packed a change of clothes and my toiletries in my duffel, then followed her up the hill, past the cabin, to a free-standing enclosure abutting the steepest section of the incline.  The shower consisted of a metal pole in the ground with a rusted head on top surrounded by panels on three sides and a floor made of plywood slats.  It had no roof, no insulation, and two feet of open space on the bottom where the wind whistled through, but Jill told me I could count on ten minutes of hot water.  After that it got iffy.  Then she told me to pull the chain to the right to turn it on, to the left to shut it off, and left me on my own. 

I traded my boots for flip-flops and undressed inside my long wool winter coat.  When I was naked underneath, I dropped the coat and made a dash for the chain.  I was only exposed to the frigid air for a few seconds, but it was long enough for my skin to erupt in goosebumps and to start my teeth chattering.   

I washed my hair first, then lathered up with the soap while the conditioner soaked in.  I managed to shave both underarms and was working my way up my left leg when the hot water ran out.  I towel dried myself faster than I ever had before, climbed back into my boots and coat, and dashed for the cabin.

I had three options:  I could wait an hour for the solar heater to deliver more hot water to the shower, I could boil water on the stove then wait for it to cool, or I could finish shaving my legs with cold water in the sink.  I figured the faster I finished shaving, the faster I could get dressed and warm up. 

I pulled on my bra and panties, dropped my coat, and jumped up on the kitchen counter.  With my legs stretched out over the sink, I quickly finished the left and had just lathered shaving cream on the right, when Ethan walked in. 

He didn’t say a word to me.  He just poured himself more coffee, then turned around and stared.

“Would you mind,” I finally said.  “I’m shaving here.”

“I can see that,” he replied.    

I don’t wear flimsy, lacy underwear, so there’s nothing you can see of me in my bra and panties that you can’t see at the beach, but I still didn’t like being openly stared at.  “Haven’t you ever seen a woman shave her legs before?”

“Not in the kitchen sink, no.”

“I ran out of hot water in the shower,” I said, as I turned on the faucet to rinse my razor.  “At least in here I’m out of the wind.”

He nodded and took a sip of from his mug.

I waited a few seconds, hoping he would leave on his own, yet he didn’t appear to be in any rush.  “Don’t you have better things to do than stand here watching me shave?”

He pursed his lips together as if considering it, then shook his head.  “You can’t download porn on a satellite connection so I have to take what I can get.”

I briefly considered threatening him, but since my pink daisy shaver wasn’t exactly menacing, I decided my best option was to try to ignore him, and maybe he’d go away on his own.  After all, watching someone shave their legs isn’t exactly titillating.  “Suit yourself,” I said, and returned to the task at hand.     

I’d just rounded my right knee when I nicked myself in the same spot I always do.  As always, the blood started gushing immediately.  I searched the counter for something to stop the bleeding, when Ethan ripped a paper towel off the spindle behind him and handed it to me.

“Thanks,” I said, as I tore off a corner and stuck it to my skin.  The white paper instantly turned red, and the blood trickled out from underneath, then the stream hit the shaving cream and the whole blob turned pink.


“You need to put pressure on it.”

“What are you, a doctor?”


I wasn’t sure being a zoology professor counted, but I wasn’t going to argue the point.  “Yeah, but you work with animals, not people.”

“We all bleed the same,” he said, as he grabbed the rest of the paper towel, folded it into a thick square, and stuck it onto my wound.  He held it in place with his thumb and let his fingers graze the back of my knee. 

I leaned back on my elbows in an effort to put some distance between us.  He was definitely invading my personal space again.  But this time my response was much worse than a panic attack.   

Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Check out Beth’s website:





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