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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September 19, 2013

How Facebook improved my summer

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 2:31 pm
A few years back I joined Facebook, mostly because I was coming out of retirement and thought one of my first plunges should be into social media. Get my name back out there to all the readers who thought I had fallen off the edge of the earth. There were hundreds of comments about my retirement…which was true at the time…and eight years was a long time to be off a reader’s radar.
 
For a while, like everyone else, I tried to post a comment every day or so on Facebook letting people know I was still alive and kicking, mentioning that I was reissuing my backlist books and returning to pen and paper to write new books. I never quite got to the point where I was telling folks what I had for breakfast or how to cook the perfect perogie (I left that for my blog *snort*) but it was fun on rainy days to search around and see who else was doing the social media thing. Authors, yes. I found many many of my old buddies with pages and happily connected to them all. I found friends and neighbours and relatives and discovered that yes, it is an easy way to stay in touch and share interesting tidbits of information.  It was also a way for readers to find me and connect and ask questions (yes, the fourth Dante book is coming, but as ever, I work very slowwwwwwly and rushing a sea battle would be like…well…rushing a sea battle)
 
Every now and then I would try to look up REALLY old friends. Usually after a party where some goofy memory had surfaced and an incident was shared that had everyone in stitches. I’d sit in the mornings and nurse a hang…er…a coffee and type in some names to see if they were on Facebook too.
 
One such morning, I found a really familiar name and sent him a message asking if he was the same Brent H who went to Scarlet Heights Collegiate. I didn’t hold out much hope, and I didn’t get an answer for a few days, but lo and behold….I eventually did get a reply and yes, it was the same Brent H I went through five years of high school with. After we finished gasping and ooo-ing and ahh-ing that we’d found each other alive and well after 40-something years, he went on to give me a couple of other names of our group with whom he’d kept in touch or found via Facebook. Naturally I *friended* the ones who were online and was amazed and as giggly as a schoolgirl when they replied and messaged and phoned and the laughs picked up just where we left them.
 
Fast forward a year and seven of us actually managed to arrange a mini-reunion, with five diehards (aka biggest troublemakers *grin*) stretching it out to three days. Two could only make it the first day for a couple of hours, but it was great seeing them and catching up on 40-something years of “so what did you end up doing after high school?”
Corrinne H was the hostess. She lives on a lovely, quiet lake just north of Lindsay. She was always a bit of a wild child in high school, the only one I knew who thought nothing of hitchhiking wherever she wanted to go. As it turns out, she’s lived and worked in Africa, in France, in China, and half a dozen other places that made my envy quotient skyrocket. Put her in a granny dress, make a peace symbol, and tuck a groovy flower in her hair and she hasn’t changed much. She lives totally green, wastes nothing, and thinks 71 degrees is “really refreshing” for pool water on a hot day.
 
Chris B had stated in our grade 13 yearbook that he planned to become an architect, and that was what he did. He lives here in Toronto still, and works on renovating and restoring historic landmark buildings, among other things. His ears perked when I mentioned I had bought a 130yr old Victorian house, and I suspect we’ll be having more conversations down the line *g*. He was in the process of moving his offices into a new building so he couldn’t stay much past dinner. Neither could Marion F, who I didn’t really know all that well in school…I think our home rooms only matched up once…but she and Corrinne have kept in touch over the years and she certainly had her fair share of reminiscences to impart over the course of a few short hours LOL.
 
Dougie. Ahh Dougie. Slightly geeky and extremely scholarly in school (a member of the chess club, for heaven’s sake, while the rest of us were wrapping lecturns in toilet paper) always thinking a step ahead of the rest of us, equally quick to propose an idea then stand back and watch the rest of us get in trouble. Loved analyzing people even then, so no wonder he turned out to be a psychologist. His head exploded a few times around the campfire as the rest of us were trying to solve the world’s problems, and I suspect by the end of the three days he had all of us categorized and marked “nonredeemable”. I treasured him as a friend back in school and it seemed, in a blink of an eye, all those years were wiped away and he was still the Dougie I knew.
 
Frank A was the strong silent type in school, and another braniac…math club for him, sheesh.  He never said much while the rest of us were cavorting around tormenting teachers and plotting ways to skip class, but he seemed to always be in the thick of it anyway. He had a dry, dry sense of humour and sometimes you had to think about what he said for an hour or so before you realized he was either praising or insulting someone. I confess to having had a crush on him at one point…maybe because I didn’t know how to stay quiet and I was always getting in trouble. Or maybe it was the blond hair…his, not mine. LOL. He moved to Minnesota where he’s working on all kinds of computer-related smart-guy stuff that I can’t even begin to comprehend. He came to the reunion with a cool plastic case for his phone that he made with a 3-D printer with gears that spun and twirled. He also dazzled us with theories and predictions of wondrous inventions to come that exploded all of our heads. (He also dazzled us with the startling pure whiteness of his legs!!! Those legs hadn’t seen sun since high school…and I’m not sure I ever recall seeing him in shorts back then either!)
 
And then there was Brent, who started the reunion ball rolling. After high school he went to Royal Military College and became an officer in the Navy, where he stayed for 25 yrs or so. He lives in Nova Scotia and by gar, talks like a frikken Easterner now, but we shared enough laughs and stories to make up for it. *s* So many of my fondest memories of school involved Brent in some way or another. Great buddies then, we picked up right where we left off, except for the singing part. He was determined to get us all singing around the campfire but he kept singing songs none of us knew, despite the vast quantities of wine and rum that were consumed. And can a navy man hold his rum? Hmmm. Apparently not when you mix it with bottles of sangria and half a dozen bottles of white wine. At some point during the first evening he claimed an invisible dwarf snuck up behind him and whacked him with a 2 X 4, sending him face down and snoring on the sofa at the stroke of midnight. The second night, after a trip to town to replenish liquid supplies, he kept a wary eye out for the dwarf and avoided him until nearly 4am! Huz-zah!
 
As for me, I listened a lot and laughed a lot and felt all those years just melt away. We kept thinking of other names of other buddies and friends and wondered what they were up to. I couldn’t believe that Brent flew in from NS and Frank flew in from Minnesota and Dougie gave up valuable clinical time so we could all sit around a camp fire and share our lives, but it was a fabulous three days. Just fabulous.
 
Frank has volunteered…or *was* volunteered to host us all next summer so we’re going to have to get some song sheets before then. I’ll be burning candles in the honorary *Mateus Rose* Reunion bottle so it looks appropriately coated in wax drippings, and I hope Brent brings more of that fantastic smoked salmon.

I know some people dread high school reunions, but man, this one was terrific and I’m looking forward to the next one.

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July 25, 2013

Day four of the Blogger Book Fair

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 1:37 pm

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I hope everyone is enjoying the blogger fair, exploring new sites and writers. Today’s guest blogger is Michelle Birbeck, so sit back, have a coffee, and enjoy.

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Far Away Places as Close as my Imagination

Most of the places I visit are either not real or places that I’ve never been before. Those that don’t exist are just as real to me as those I’ve never been, and with the wonderful inventions of technology, there isn’t anywhere I can’t google.

 

But for those places that don’t exist, I have to store all the bits and pieces in my head. This is especially true when it comes to the catacombs.

So what are the catacombs? In The Last Keeper, they are the home of The Seats, the ruling body of the vampires. They have catacombs in everywhere that there is a Seat, London, Egypt, Finland, Russia, China, Australia, America, and Brazil.

 

So how exactly do you go about creating a new world that only you can ever see? For me it starts with painting a picture, a mental one. How big is the place? What colour are the walls? Is there anything on the walls? And then when I have the picture in my mind, I start making a map. I can guide my characters through the map, showing them all the places they need to be and all the places they can go.

 

After that, I just need to keep the picture in my mind and make sure it goes down on paper the same way I created it. That is the easy part, as the picture is always malleable and can be altered in small ways to fit the story.

 

Of course, not all imaginary places have to be dark caverns under the ground filled with sulking vampires.  That is the beauty of the imagination; you can go on holiday anywhere you like without ever leaving your own mind.

 

More about Michelle Birbeck and The Last Keeper

 

Michelle

 

Michelle has been writing and reading her whole life. Her earliest memory of books was when she was five and decided to try and teach her fish how to read, by putting her Beatrix Potter books in the fish tank with them. Since then her love of books has grown, and now she is writing her own, and looking forward to seeing them on her shelves, though they won’t be going anywhere near the fish tank.

 

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The Last Keeper

 

Serenity Cardea’s race has been hunted to near extinction. She’s a Keeper, with the ability to influence others, including those immortal beings who want dominance over the world. Ray Synclair is a history professor in training with a passion for times past. Fascinated by Serenity, he has no idea that the world is filled with immortals, most of whom want him dead. Because the only way to kill a Keeper is to kill their partner…

 

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Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Michelle-Birbeck/e/B00800FYQ2

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/michelle-birbeck

iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/michelle-birbeck/id518091551?mt=11

Website: http://michellebirbeck.co.uk/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichelleBirbeck

twitter: https://twitter.com/michellebirbeck

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5291957.Michelle_Birbeck

April 14, 2013

I hate giving writers advice.

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 2:47 pm

That goes for all writers. New writers, experienced writers, weekend writers. I tend to be blunt when asked to do a critique. I look at the work as if it was my own—which is probably mistake #1—and criticize accordingly. On the other hand, I’ve been through the grist mill, suffered editors with bad attitudes, editors who wanted me to change my books to what ‘they’ would have written, and enough rejections to fill a thick file folder. But that was my trial by fire. Each and every one of those rejections, those criticisms and comments made me take a harsher look at my writing. They more or less forced me to improve my craft, to read more outside genre to see what I could do differently to avoid those dreaded words: predictable and stereotypical.

 

Romance novels surely must suffer the most from those two words. There can only be so many ways two people can start out at opposite sides of the room and come together at the end to waltz happily away into the sunset. I would say the majority of central plot lines begin with the hero and heroine being antagonists, then they go through some crisis or have an epiphany that brings them passionately together. It’s the stuff a good romance is made of. And it’s predictable, from page one, if the heroine is feisty and strong-spirited and goes against the social norms of the day, and if the hero is darkly dangerous, a womanizer, a rake convinced he will never fall in love or marry.

 

I write historical romances, so I’m super critical when I read one and I honestly read as few of them as possible. That qualification aside, my litmus test is the first chapter. If I can see the entire plot spool out in front of me in those first few pages, then I gently set it aside…not unlike, I would imagine, what editors in publishing houses do.

 

And that brings me to the reason I sat down with this blog….(that and a cloudy day threatening rain *s*)…that being one of the major problems with self publishing.

 

As previously mentioned, I have a rejection file an inch thick. They were accumulated over the course of my first four manuscripts, all of which, in turn, I considered to be  brilliant, ingenious, passion-inspiring, intriguing, exciting…yada yada yada.

 

All of which sucked.

 

I think I’ve mentioned before that when I used to do workshops on revising and self-editing, I usually handed out a Xeroxed copy of a horribly written chapter from some anonymous author and asked the writers to critique it. After the gales of laughter some of the honest criticisms inspired, after it had been torn apart and pilloried front to back, I told them the chapter came from my first manuscript. There was always a long, heavy silence after the admission, but in the end, they got the point. I learned from my mistakes. Each rejection made me take a long hard look at those manuscripts until I understood…or thought I understood the problems in each one. And for the next book, I would try to change or improve. I like to say the process is like going to school. You don’t go from kindergarten straight to high school, you have to endure all those years of learning in between.

 

And that is what is missing these days, with the ease of self publishing. There is no in between. There is no trial by fire, no rejection slips that make a writer sit back and wonder why, why? What’s wrong with it?

 

The writer writes a book s/he thinks is brilliant, ingenious, passion-inspiring, intriguing and exciting and she puts it up on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Smashwords etc then sits back to wait for the flood of fantastic reviews and avalanche of sales.  When neither of those things happen, the writer is stunned, confused, angry, even discouraged. If so and so can write an indy book and publish it herself and sell a gazillion copies, why can’t I?

 

Well, maybe because it sucks.

 

And NO, I’m not saying ALL indy books suck, so don’t threaten to send me a bag full of fleas and a smelly old yak to foster them.  I’m merely saying that there are good indy books out there, there are indy books that could be better, and there are indy books that would never have made it past the desk of an assistant editor.

 

There are a gazillion blogs out there by new and experienced writers who say the most important part of writing a book is having that book edited. I agree wholeheartedly. As much as I may be somewhat confident that I sometimes know how to weave a storyline together, and as much as I edit myself half to death and revise and revise and revise… I still don’t trust what I see or do on paper. I have readers who take the pages and, I hope, give me honest critiques. If it sucks, I want to know. My ego isn’t that huge that I expect every word I write to be a gem and that I don’t need editing or proofing. A quick read through some of my blogs is proof of that *snort*. And yes, when I was typing out China Rose and Bound by the Heart, and The Wind and the Sea in order to self publish them, I groaned out loud and banged my head on the desk multiple times at the adjective overkill and the wordiness of scenes where I took 50 words to say what I could have said in 10.  The storylines held up, the writing sure didn’t, and again, I credit those theoretical years in between a writers kindergarten and high school where I learned how to say what I wanted to say in those 10 words, where I learned to make pictures out of words and scenes that would suck a reader in and make her flip those pages faster to see what happened next.

 

I did an interview not long ago when I was asked if, in this day and age of self publishing, did I regret or resent the years it took me to get my first book into print. My answer was no. All those rejections made me more determined, made me a better writer (I hope), made me think the indy writers today are missing out on those learning years. Then again, perhaps not missing them entirely because if they’re savvy enough and take a good hard look at why their book isn’t selling, they might channel some of that confusion and discouragement and determination into making the next book better.

 

Please, no yaks. No fleas.

January 8, 2013

Piers Morgan and other pithy thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 2:45 pm

Whilst the Card Cult was having a rousing game of Hand and Foot last night, we paused in our laughter to catch a few minutes of the Piers Morgan show. Most of us could only take a few minutes of watching the raving, foaming idiot who was the guest last night and whose name was so forgettable I don’t even feel like looking it up. But he was the bozo who has started the petition to have Piers deported for his stance against gun-toting idiots like the frothing fool who was there to represent and defend the 2nd Amendment last night. He did not answer one single question Piers asked…when he was able to squeeze in a question over the rantings of the Fool. Said Fool chose instead to shake his fist and point his finger and literally scream at Piers all the reasons why idiots like him have the right to carry automatic weapons. Gave all of us a warm, tingly feeling listening to him.

To his immense credit Piers Morgan remained calm. Totally calm. Amazingly calm. I’ve seen him go ballistic on the X Files for far less aggravation than the Fool was handing out last night, and frankly I was never a fan of his. I could, having become a rabid fan of Downton Abbey, see him as Lord of a Manor…cool, distant, arrogant, holding himself head and shoulders above the downstairs staff. However…last night he gained huge points in my opinion of him. Frankly, if I had been the host, I would have broken the Fool’s finger first time he shoved it in my face. I would have returned from a commercial break, hair askew, jacket torn, buttons missing, fists bruised, offering sweet apologies as to why the Fool suddenly had to leave the show. Any faint sounds of an ambulance in the background would have been blocked out by the cheers of the audience.

So what point was Piers Morgan trying to make? His stance is simple: why on earth does Mr. Jones next door need an automatic weapon like the one that did so much horrendous damage at Sandy Hook? It wasn’t a handgun, which could be justified as being needed for self defense, although handguns in the wrong hands can do just as much damage, albeit at a slower rate. It was an automatic rifle bought by the shooter’s MOTHER. Why? And she had three or four other guns in the house that her psycho son had free access to.  Why?

I had to go to the emerge dept in the local hospital the other night, and before I could get past the door, I had to go through a metal detector and have my purse searched by one of three armed guards. He was very polite and efficient, but really? Three armed guards in an emergency department? And now the NRA is wanting to put armed guards in every school down here? What message is that sending to the youth of this nation? To the world in general? Did I feel any safer lying in the exam room? Actually no. While I was waiting for my blood pressure to go down to a reasonable level, I kept wondering what would happen if there were actual gunshots out in the lobby. Was there any place to hide? Anywhere to run?

I’m not normally a paranoid person. But when I see fools like the frothing idiot who was on TV last night, and when I think:  he was the one representing the other gun-toting fools…over a hundred thousand of them!!!!!!…who signed the petition to have Piers deported…I *don’t* get a warm fuzzy feeling about where this fine country is headed. Granted, I’m Canadian, and while we have our share of gun-related problems, we certainly don’t have THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION weapons floating around out there amongst the citizens. And those are only the ones that are REGISTERED!!!!!

I recall a few years back, maybe 10 or so, when Stupid and I were down for our annual vacation in St. Petes Beach, there had been some sort of local state election and someone had not been on the ball when wording one of the propositions attached to the ballot. In essence it said anyone could carry a weapon anywhere, any time, as long as it was not concealed. Within a day of a few scathing editorials, there were tables set up in front of the local K-Mart manned by staff who were checking  handguns from shoppers before they went into the store.  Shop, exit, hand over your ticket and get your gun back.  Yeah, that gave us all a warm, tingly feeling too.

My personal opinion? No one needs to have an automatic weapon, be it a handgun or a rifle, for “personal protection”.  I grew up around guns, my dad was a cop for 35 years and had a collection locked safely away in cabinet in the basement. He taught me to shoot when I was young but the noise and the recoil scared me so much I never had more than one or two lessons. The scariest sight I EVER saw was my mother, after the Chief had passed away, walking down to her vegetable garden with a 45 in her apron pocket. She had never fired a gun in her life and would undoubtedly shoot off her own foot had she attempted it. I imagine most of the gun-toting Fools who scream about 2nd Amendment rights have spent many a Saturday afternoon at the gun ranges taking pot shots at beer bottles and empty tuna cans. But what about the other 300 million who haven’t? What about the kids who find a gun in the front closet and pull the trigger and end up shooting their brother or sister? Or the housewife who gets pissed off at a neighbour and fires an Uzi at her?  That would, of course, support the argument that it isn’t the gun that kills people, it’s the people firing them…but if the people didn’t have the guns in first place, they would have nothing to fire except spitballs!!!! Duh!!!!!!

Okay, rant over. On to pleasanter pithy perusings.

This was the first Christmas I spent away from my home and family. I managed to escape the cold and the snow without having to once put on a heavy winter jacket. Woo hoo for me! Arrived in sunny Florida to sunshine and 80 degree weather and instantly went to the local WallyMart to get decorations for the house. I’ve never had to light up a palm tree, but the grin was ear to ear as I did so. I brought a few things from home, including a small fake tree, which also went up the second day I was here. Put out all the Christmas dishes and hung the decorations and even won first prize on the street for my efforts! My son and DIL were worried a little about me being all alone Christmas, but as the day approached, I was too busy going house to house for happy hours to worry about it myself *g*.  Christmas Eve had a marvellous dinner at one neighbour’s house, Christmas Day had the turkey and all the fixings at another neighbour’s house. Great food, great company, and the next day…which is our Boxing Day and the day I usually have all of our friends and family over for the Big Dinner….my son and his family flew in for a 10 day stay. Would have been totally perfect if my knee hadn’t blown up Christmas Eve, severely limiting my mobility. I had wanted to go to Disney with the family, and I had wanted to take them to Discovery Cove, but I wouldn’t have lasted an hour at either place, so that goes on the agenda for next year.

NOT that I would have lasted at Disney much longer even if I wasn’t limping and hobbling around like Grammy Gump. The kids went mid-week just after Christmas and according to Jefferson, who has been to Disney a bazillion times, he’d never seen crowds like that before. Christmas Day, he was told, the Magic Kingdom had reached it’s capacity by 9am. Lines for the rides were 90 min long. The traffic for miles around the park was stopped. Not even stop and go. Just stopped.  We waited over an hour one night to get a table at Chilis, for heaven sakes.

Fast forward a week and the streets are empty. The holiday frenzy has faded completely away and stores and restaurants are back to normal. The next mad rush will be at March break, but by then we’ll all be swanned out by the pool and won’t care. LOL.

Speaking of pools, the one here in the park is solar heated and very large, so that a cloudy day and a cool evening can affect the water temps by a few degrees either way. Payton was determined to go swimming, however, and even though the whole family had their suits on and took towels with them to sprawl out in the sun, she was the only one to hurl herself off the side of the pool and jump into 69 degree water.  Bravo!

The chaos of their visit was wonderful and I miss them already. I would lay in bed in the mornings and listen to the two munchkins coming awake and was reminded of my own youth when my sister and I shared a bed. “You touched me!”  “I did not, YOU touched me!” “Your foot was on my side of the bed!” “You took all the blankets!” “You took both of the best pillows!” “You’re on MY side…MOMMMMMMM!”  “Stop pushing me!” “Stop laughing at me, it isn’t funny!” “Ewww you farted!”

Yep, I just lay there and grinned, listening.

As for my knee, the swelling…which was impressive…has gone down enough that I can almost walk without limping. What did I do to it? Nothing. Nothing at all. I went shopping in the morning for groceries, came home and fussed around in the kitchen for a bit making the egg nog for Christmas Eve dinner, and by 4 o’clock it was up like grapefruit. I called one of the neighbours to drive me the block and a half for dinner because I didn’t think I could walk it. By 9pm I couldn’t bend it and it looked like a football. I couldn’t bend it enough to even get back into the car, despite all efforts of the three gentlemen attempting to heave me inside. We tried the front seat first but the leg wouldn’t make it off the pavement. Someone had the clever idea of lying down across the back seat, which I tried, but without any leverage, I couldn’t slide across enough to get all 5′ 9″ of me into the car. Someone else had the bright idea of riding in the trunk with the hatch up. Tried that. No go. Again, couldn’t get leg up without excruciating pain. Verdict? Walk home with the aide of a cane on one side and a helper on the other. Again, a week or so later and I can laugh about it. Took me about fifteen minutes to hobble home that night, aided by a friend who had had both his knees replaced so he knew the pain of what I was going through. Once home I was force- fed pain pills by another neighbour who came back an hour later to check on me…he even made me lift my tongue to make sure I had swallowed both pills. So…I’m guessing my knee will be bionic before too long. I’d been hoping to delay the inevitable for a few more years, but the grinding and crunching with each step is telling me different. Blah.

And now for the part of the blog you’ve all been waiting for: an update on the progress of Kitchen Guy and Bathroom Guy!

I don’t have any.

Jefferson checked the house before they came down and nothing else had been done. Gentle queries via email have gone unanswered. Electrician Guy will be heading south, hopefully, by the end of this week, so Kitchen Guy will be SOL if he doesn’t tell Electrician Guy what has to be done before he leaves. There is a clawfoot bathtub sitting in my family room at the moment. It better not be there when I return home. And no that doesn’t mean just shift it to another room *snort*

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