Marsha Canham's Blog

December 30, 2013

My Gilligan’s Island adventure

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 3:17 am

I’m sure most of you remember Gilligan’s Island, or you’ve at least heard the fateful line from the jingle…a three hour tour.  *snort*

It started out quite normal. I was supposed to drive to Tampa to have lunch with my fellow Loopies, Virginia Henley and Sherri Erwin Browning. Sherri had started the ball rolling when she told us she and her hubby would be in town for the weekend and did we want to meet up. Virginia’s two sons, Adam and Sean were here as well so we made it a groupie lunch, getting to meet and greet everyone. I had met one of Virginia’s sons before about 30 years ago, so he’d changed a little LOL, but I’d never met Sherri’s hubby, so that was kinda cool. Turns out we share bad knees.

Anyway, the adventure started when I drove out of the park. It’s a busy week at Disney, so I expected SOME traffic near the entrance to Downtown Disney, but…it was overcast and threatening rain, so a lot of vacationers apparently decided to hit the outlet malls as well. A trip from my driveway to the I-4 usually takes about three minutes. After 23 minutes I hadn’t even reached the corner yet, so with the veins popping in my temples, I turned around and backtracked to take the alternate route to the on-ramp about a mile before the DIsney exit.

Strike one averted. Clever me gave the one finger salute as I breezed by the congested ramp, figuring I would still have been waiting to get across the intersection.

A pause here for another small vein-popping vent. LEFT TURN LANES ARE FOR LEFT TURNS, people!!!!! They are NOT for making U-turns!!!!!!  Every second car in any left hand turn lane in charming Orlando is usually some putz making a U turn, which slows up the whole process of getting across or through an intersection, because if you miss the advance green for a left turn, you sit there like a turnip and grow roots in the seat until your turn comes around again.

Okay, so I”m breezing along the I-4 feeling quite chuffy with myself, trusting my trusty GPS to take me to the hotel where Sherri and her hubby were hosting lunch. Backtracking a wee bit, both Sherri and Virginia had sent me the address for the hotel…501 Fifth Avenue in St Petersburg, which I dutifully typed into Mr. GPS. I got two initial results…one of which was in New York, so I figured, cleverly, that that was the wrong one. Now, I know the route between Orlando and Tampa and St Pete’s fairly well, having crossed it frequently in the 40 years I’ve been coming to Florida, but St. Petersburg is a different animal, known only as a reference on a map and an exit point along the I-4, so I had to rely on Mr. GPS to get me to the right place.  I felt somewhat suspicious of Mr GPS’s motives when he had me exit a little too early, but I thought hey, he knows where he’s taking me and we’re heading south and west so it must all be good. Perhaps a shortcut! Yes, that must be it! Lunch was set for 1:00. I had left a bit early and allowed extra time for traffic, but that had already been eaten up by the Disney/Outlet maniacs, so I was sort of on target for exactly 1:00.

Winding, winding, ever winding roads but I could see that I was only a short distance from my goal. Uh huh. Turns out there’s a very nice trailer park with a Fifth Avenue and an address of 501.

Strike two.

Resisting the urge to hurl Mr. GPS out the window, I tried looking up the hotel itself rather than the address. Mr GPS never heard of it. Great. I recalled it had “and golf resort” in the official name, so I tried the sports category>golf…and there it was: Vinoy Golf resort. Eureka. I set off again, grumbling to myself that I had jokingly told Virginia I had no cell phone so if I wasn’t there by 3:00 to start without me.

*snort*

Back on a relatively busy road that went in the right direction, Mr GPS confidently told me to take exit whatever and get onto the 618 expressway. Perfect. There was the turn…made it…there was the on ramp…blocked. Big orange barrels and two cop cars.

Around I go again, turning…get back onto the main road…Mr. GPS sullenly tells me to take the next left to the next on ramp…perfect…make the turn…see the ramp…blocked.  Apparently the damned road is under construction and the next four ramps are blocked off. Thank you officer.

Back onto the main road, ignoring Mr GPS now…keep heading west…looking for the alternate route suggested by a human. Hah. What the human didn’t mention was that the alternate route could only be reached by basically driving through downtown Tampa in all it’s glorious traffic and traffic lights and idiot drivers making U turns at every left turn light. DId I mention it was now 1:05? And I’m the kind of person who HATES being late for any appointments, especially a lunch date. Mr GPS has been babbling away all this time, but I just crank up the music and ignore him. Making matters even more fun, it starts to rain. Not just rain, but RAIN. Great heaving bucketfuls falling hard and fast and making it difficult to see more than a car length ahead. Through the haze I see a great hulking cruise ship ahead of me and realize I’ve come to the harbour. Yay. Find a place to turn that doesn’t involve docks or fish, and head north this time until I”m ready to trust Mr. GPS again. He instructs me to take the ramp onto the expressway…the same one named by the aforementioned officer at the barricade…so I fly up the ramp and breathe a sigh of relief that I may actually be heading in the right direction. TWENTY minutes later, after another windy path through a very lovely subdivision I come to: Vinoy Golf and Country Club! Victory is mine! I’m only 33 minutes late, so I’ve missed the salad course. I can live with that. I find a place to park…dart from tree to tree to get into the resort and….no restaurant in sight. I ask a passing employee if I’m in the right vicinity and she points to a green gate and a patio. But it’s pouring rain. I ask again, and she says yes, the “restrooms” are down there.

If a tree had been close, I would have thumped my head on it a few times…or thumped hers…but I calmly mimic eating and she says ohhhhhhh….up there, up there.

I go “up there” and it’s a bar. Two men, golfers I presume, sulking because it’s raining. I ask the bartender if this is the Vinoy and he says yes. I ask if this is the only restaurant….and he says ohhhhh you probably want the hotel.

No shit, batman.

Calmly, I look at one of six doors: “Which way is the hotel?”

Well, you go back down the road you came in on until you reach the bridge, turn left and follow it around to Fifth Avenue. Can’t miss it. Big pink hotel.

I taste blood from biting my tongue.

Out into the rain again, though it has slowed to a light drizzle now…shlep back to the parking lot, find the car, clench the steering wheel in both fists….and drive out again. Find the road, find the bridge, drive around to the end passing 19th Ave…18th Ave….all the way down to 9th Ave…and find a park. It’s a lovely park, though it would be lovelier in the sunshine. I have a choice now to turn left or right so I yank the connection and kill Mr GPS who is still babbling and take a chance and turn left to circle around the park. Voila. I pick up 8th Ave, then 7th…6th…zoom right past 5th and into the parking garage of a big pink hotel. Hmm. only 54 minutes late. But wait. It’s a big honkin hotel and we never did establish a place to meet.

I give it one shot. One only. Feeling like Sean Connery in the Hunt for Red October. One ping. One ping only. I follow the labyrinth of hallways to the lobby, which seems only reasonable to me and there, up ahead, I catch a glimpse of Sherri who has emerged from the restaurant on what is likely her tenth or twentieth trip to see if I am wandering hopelessly in search of life.

I must say I hugged her as if she was a long lost relative. And yes, they had started without me, which was fine, because it was a brunch and brunches usually end at a certain time. Still, after hugs all around and a very soothing glass of wine, I could almost laugh at my Gilligan Island tour of Tampa. Two and a half hours to make a trip that usually takes about an hour and 15 min….which was exactly how long it took me to make the return trip home!!!!

And in the end, we had a great Loopie Lunch! Next reunion, hopefully with more Loopies attending, will be the NINC conference in St Pete’s Beach next October, and I KNOW how to get there!!!!!

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November 6, 2013

The joys of owning a 130 yr old house…an update

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 4:30 pm

So. I love my quirky little house. I loved it the moment I saw it online in the MLS listings…listings I had been checking on and off for three years, looking for something to replace my Forever House, which was also my Dream House and the House I Would Only Leave if Carried Out in a Pine Box. The latter didn’t happen, thank goodness, but I’m sure there are still claw marks on the woodwork and the driveway where the movers had to drag me away with the furniture.

Flash forward a year through many renovations inside and out. Mostly inside and since most are documented in previous posts, I won’t go into gory details. Suffice it to say I survived and the house has been transformed from one that caught my eye to one that is managing to snuggle into a place in my esthetic good graces. Gone are the butter yellow and hideous gold walls. Gone are the icky, dog-stinky, stained carpets in the bedrooms, hello hardwood. Gone is the ridiculously huge hot tub in the upstairs bathroom accented with black-and-jagged-green-lightning-bolts linoleum on the floor and curtains that should have been a June Cleaver apron…not to mention the FOUR layers of pasted wallpaper that wouldn’t have come off with a bulldozer. Welcome all new drywall and wainscotting, claw foot tub, neutral paint and tiles, and serenity.Gone also is the crusty, gnarly, stained fiberglass shower, replaced with a splendid linen closet and deep lovely drawers. The plumbing is still in place behind the closet should anyone wish to restore the shower, but for me, not necessary.

The family room was an obvious late addition to the house, possibly some time in the early 90’s, very poorly built without, I suspect, any manner of permit. The room itself is large, but smack in the middle of one wall was an ugly red brick fireplace eight feet across and jutting four feet into the room. Kinda hard to work around, but Carpenter Guy did a fine job with built in cabinets and shelves on either side, and wood facings to cover most of the ugly red brick. The verdict is still out on whether I’ll try to tile the ugly red bricks still showing. The floor is hardwood, but underneath it is…nothing. I discovered that last spring while I was listing to squirrels making merry in the space beneath the floor. One side of the house along the bottom was completely open to weather and critters and now has half a ton of gravel blocking it up and keeping vermin out. Unfortunately, while I was waiting for the gravel to be wheeled into place, I tossed about eight boxes of mothballs under the foundation, not realizing that once they were stoned in, the smell of camphor would take about six months to dissipate *snort*. Interestingly enough, the only place I smelled it was in the bathroom next door. Not in the basement, where one would expect there to be a gap where the room was attached, not even in the family room itself.

One thing I can’t fix is the ONE heating vent installed for the entire large room, and that was stolen (rerouted) from the bathroom next door which, consequently, has NO heating vent at all now. That bathroom was obviously made over at some time in the past…I suspect the 50’s from the pink sink, toilet, and tiles it had…from what used to be a porch attached to the kitchen. My grandmother’s house had one so it was a vaguely familiar footprint. The Demo Guy found an original farmhouse window and a doorway that had been covered over with drywall. The window I kept and sanded down the frame, then covered the four large glass panes with mirrors. Looks very cool. The room itself gets sufficient heat from the kitchen that the missing vent isn’t a huge problem, but the family room…oy.  Why anyone would build it with a massive fireplace that takes up half of one wall, and put three…count em THREE sliding patio doors on the other walls is beyond me. So one vent, three big glass doors, and a woodburning fireplace that requires more effort than I have yet expended to light a fire. Yup. Very COLD room in the early spring and now the fall. I run a heater in there every evening just to keep my toes from breaking off from frostbite. At least there is a lovely old glass-paned door to close it off from the front foyer, which also has no heating vent, and a second lovely antique glass door to close the foyer off from the kitchen. Double whammy to keep the cold out of the rest of the house…but wait!  That would imply there was heat in the rest of the house!

Well, there was. In the former living room, which is now my main floor master bedroom, and in the former dining room, which is now my office. Those two rooms could be turned into ovens with a flick of the dial. The kitchen, which also had an addition put on sometime in the 60’s…a very large room with lovely bank of big windows to extend what had been a tiny farmhouse kitchen. Another fireplace was put in, but gosh golly darn…no extra heating vent, and again, nothing under the floor except the dirt it was built on. Consequently, half the kitchen floor is like walking on an ice rink. The only heat on that half comes from the fireplace when it’s on. There are two other vents, but until my cousin, the HVAC Guy, came and replaced all the furnace ductwork in the basement and installed dampers and actually attached pipes to vents that were formerly just hanging loose…there was no heat anywhere other than the bedroom and office and whatever drifted up the stairs to the bedrooms. Did I mention the mysterious fan inside a wall on the upstairs landing? The switch for it is outside the family room. Electrician Guy, whilst searching for wiring that made any sort of sense to anyone outside a third world country, deduced that it was some sort of cold air return…but where it sucks air from or vents it to…is still a mystery. And why it needs a fan…who knows.

The wiring was simply intriguing and drove Electrician Guy nuts. Thankfully there was no knob and tube, but that was where the modernizing ended. There was one plug on the kitchen wall above the tiny counter and two in the midget-sized island. The goofy stove didn’t even have an outlet. There is no light switch for the kitchen IN the kitchen, one has to either turn the lights on from the hall leading into the office, or from the hall leading into the bathroom. I now have considerably more outlets but Electrician Guy has considerably less hair.

The 1940’s kitchen was totally gutted and just last week I managed to replace the sole remaining appliance that came with the sale. Big bold letters: FIVE APPLIANCES! Yeah. Two of the five were the dwarf sized washer and dryer that would be strained to hold a bath towel. The dryer wasn’t even vented, it just blew into the bathroom. The dishwasher was so badly encrusted with mouse poop that it went straight into the garbage bin. The fridge went into the garage after two days worth of soaking, cleaning, scraping to no avail. And the stove….the last of the Mohicans…departed last week after eight months of driving me crazy. Who puts knobs on the front of the stove anymore? Knobs that fall off with a flick of the wrist. And touch pad controls across the front that had things beeping and flicking and turning on every time I accidentally brushed against it. The oven…worked…but I never knew what temperature it was working at. I think it was about 25 degrees lower than whatever it was set to be, but considering it was a well known brand name, and probably very expensive when purchased new, I would have throfted it back to the store after the first week of use.  And the previous owners had a small child. That would have terrified me, had I survived the thought of all that mouse poop crusted on everything. As would the fact that the plumbing works now, which it didn’t when I moved in. Apparently the idiots who did previous renovations neglected to put in any sewer vents or install the big black drainage pipes in the basement on a downward angle. That was a fun discovery. Plumber Guy had to drill through a 130 year old stone foundation wall to angle the pipes correctly which is why, I suspect, the aforementioned idiots chose not to do it. But how do you live in a house for several years that fills with the smell of sewer gasses every time you shower or flush a toilet?

The mice, by the way, are gone. About a dozen direct, open highways into the house were sealed up inside and out. Nary a sign of vermin has been seen since the spring since the joint was de-moused. The basement is still a haven for spiders and daddy long legs, but I’ve been spraying with stuff that leaves a residue and that too has slowed the growth of eight-legged offspring. My grandkids are almost willing to go down there alone now. LOL.  Almost. Come the spring, a ceiling will go up to hide all the pipes and wires and wafting webs. The grotty old workbenches will be removed and the whole thing will get a fresh coat of paint, floors and all. That and the second phase of landscaping are in the plans, and after that…? Dare I hope, think, believe I will finally be able to put the hammers, shovels, saws away? Oh yes, I’ve been building myself a rather impressive collection of guy tools, some of which had me turning the air blue just trying to figure out how they turned on, but I’m getting better.

I still don’t pump gas, however. These hands have been wrist deep in kid poop and dog poop, but they have never touched a gas pump thingy

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October 15, 2013

Good Grief Charlie Brown, tell me the Ebook Publishers didn’t see this coming?

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 7:55 pm

Well, actually, I guess they didn’t. Or they thought no, it couldn’t happen to us. Gee, guys. The sex industry, including the porno industry rakes in billions of dollars a year and you didn’t think they would LEAP at the opportunity to start flooding the ebook market with graphic porno books? No distribution costs to them, no overhead costs, no writing ability either, but hey, no different from the content of the paperbacks they used to sell in plain brown wrappers, just way cheaper to produce with way bigger returns.

The big firestorm this past weekend was WH Smith (headquartered in England) and Kobo and Amazon arbitrarily pulling down any ebooks that had the vaguest suggestion of illegal content. Apparently young readers searching innocently for books and using key words like “Daddy” were directed to titles like “Daddy Does his Daughter” and “Daddy F**ks Goats”. Hmmm. In response to outraged parents and readers complaining, Smith and Kobo pulled down ALL Indie and self pubbed books in order to avoid the very real possibility of being charged with selling/distributing illegal kiddie porn etc. I can imagine half of Britain fainting at the thought.

Amazon’s reaction has been a little less knee-jerky, but a lot of authors woke on Sunday and Monday to find their books pulled merely for having the wrong key words in their meta data. Erotica was the hardest hit, and most of those authors are understandably upset, since no one pulled 50 Shades of Gray in the purge. Or any of VC Andrews’ books, which are filled with generations of incest.

Authors, being a sensitive bunch, are in a panic and emails are flying around:  Have your books been pulled? Have yours? Have yours? The sky is falling folks, but it was only a matter of time until it did. As previously mentioned, what wide-eyed, greedy-minded porn distributor could pass up such an open avenue to profit? It is the same avenue to profit that all self-pubbed authors have taken, myself included, and I’m sure, when the dust settles and reason prevails again, an intelligent  vetting process will be put into place and most of the indie authors who had their works summarily pulled will be reinstated.

Meanwhile, the panic spreads.

I’m betting the print publishers are getting their first real chuckle over ebooks in a long time.

LaughingBaby

September 23, 2013

The strange link between Big Brother and Winston Churchill

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 4:10 pm

Any Big Brother fans out there? I confess I look forward to the reality show every summer and have been watching it for the past ten years or so. For those who don’t watch it, the premise is simple enough. Toss 14 strangers into a house and lock them away for 70 days. The house is huge, with a big kitchen, a lounge area with couches, two or three large bedrooms with multiple beds–some of which must be shared, a large co-ed bathroom, an outdoor area with a pool and Jacuzzi and a big yard for excercising or running or just sitting. Add a hundred or so cameras and microphones to follow the houseguests every move and capture every whispered conversation and you have the stage set for an experiment in social interaction. Usually by the end of the first week, guests have sussed out like minded guests and form alliances, since the object of the game is to nominate one houseguest every week for eviction. In the US and Canadian version, there are competitions where the winner is made the Head of Household for the next week. The HOH has the power to nominate two guests up for eviction and at the end of the week, the other guests vote which one of the pair to oust from the house. There is also a Veto competition, involving the two nominated guests and a selection of other guests who vie for the Power of Veto, which gives the winner the power to remove one of the nominated guests. If that happens (they don’t have to use the Veto if they choose to leave the nominations the same) the HOH must substitute another nominee. The houseguests also have luxury competitions, usually dividing the guests into two teams; the winning teams get to have regular and sometimes extra special food and treats. The losers live on gruel-like “slop” for the week.

Evictions start the first week, when the guests barely know each other, but then the fangs start coming out. Guests are targetted for a multitude of reasons ranging from being loudmouthed and obnoxious to being a bully to being a strong player the others fear will make it to the end and win the quarter million dollar prize awarded to the last man standing. Strategy plays a huge part in the game and forming strong alliances is key to making it through the 70 day process. Lying, playing both sides, getting together in “showmances”, swearing to support someone then breaking that promise for a better offer are all part of the game. Indeed, it is encouraged by the producers in order to make the game more cutthroat and interesting.

Normally it *is* intriguing to watch how the guests manipulate their way through the weeks. The strong players emerge fairly soon and depending on who in their alliance wins the Head of Household with the power to nominate, the strategic wars to evict the opposition claim victims on either side. There are also “floaters” who prefer to sit back and watch the stronger players go at each other and sometimes it is these floaters who survive the wars and go on to reach the finale. Names like Doctor Will and Boogie and Janelle and Evel Dick have become synonymous with the best players and they were, indeed, fun to watch. The US and CAN versions are on three times a week through the summer. Eviction night is the only live broadcast, the other two are compiled of highlights selected by the Big Brother crew but avid followers can watch and hear all the proceedings via spycams live 24/7.

Why a blog on Big Brother, you ask?

Well, as I mentioned, I am an avid fan of the show. Watching the social manipulation, the backstabbing, the whining and wailing, the tricks and strategies is fascinating in a nails-down-the-chalkboard sort of way. It shows the good…there are a lot of laugh out loud moments…but more often than not, the horrid things about people who are driven by nothing more than greed.

This years cast was a prime example of the latter. There was very little good left in the three finalists. They were the worst of the worst and because the canned shows were heavily edited, very little of the *worst* was shown to TV audiences. Hardly any of them could speak more than two words without using the F bomb. One of them rarely referred to the female houseguests as anything other than bitches or c**ts. There were incredibly disgusting racist remarks, some of which did make front page news, and embarrassed CBS enough to make the host, Julie Chen, cringe when she was asking evicted guests about them.  There were also hours and hours of the three finalists going on and on and on about evicted players and their families in the worst possible terms, and if I were them, knowing those evicted players were going to be going back and watching all of the archived feeds, I would crawl under a rock—where they belong—and stay there for a few years.

For me, who usually tunes into the live feeds for the last month, I watched for a few hours here and there, but in the end had no stomach to peek in on them. They disgusted me, all three of them, and while I recorded the shows that aired on TV, I didn’t watch the finale until a few days later because I really didn’t care who won. None of the three deserved it. They were all examples of the worst, not the best.

In my disappointment, I picked up on a post on one of the BB chat boards and looked up Big Brother Australia on YouTube. They follow a similar format with the 14 houseguests and the big roomy house with cameras and microphones but that’s where they started to differ. If caught swearing, they spend time in a “naughty room” where they have all manner of time- consuming tasks, like finding an actual needle in a huge stack of hay. If caught discussing nominations with fellow houseguests, as in who to plot against, they are awarded a strike. Three strikes, they’re evicted automatically. This simple rule cuts out most of the backstabbing, the lying, the need to plot and cheat and lie.

When it comes time to nominate potential evictees, they go into a soundproof chamber where every guest assigns five points to two houseguests of their choice in a 4-1 or 3-2 split. The SIX houseguests with the highest point count are put up for eviction and the public votes on who to send packing. There is no HOH, but they do have challenges and tasks for extra rewards and food luxuries. There is no Veto competition, but there is a challenge where the winner gains the power to remove one of the nominees and substitute another. The houseguests, from my casual first time observation of BBAU, generally have a whole lot more fun and there is WAY less mean, bullying behavior. There are still the strong players and the annoying players and the floaters and even alliances, to a degree, though none are formed openly. They have better twists than our BB’s, like introducing “intruders” into the mix after four or five weeks–new houseguests who throw the originals into a tizzy. And frankly, having the public vote for the evictions makes the whole process more interesting and harder to predict because there is no way of telling from week to week who is in the public favor and who is ground fodder.

Unfortunately, BBAU is right smack in the middle of their 2013 season and even though the programs air 5 nights a week, I caught up and ran out of patience waiting for each new episode to get uploaded to YouTube. So what did I do? I went back and watched BBAU 2012, starting with episode 1 right through to the finale. Great way to pass the last few weeks when the only thing on TV in the evenings was reruns or goofy summer substitute series. (For a while there, Netflix had become my best friend letting me go back and enjoy all the seasons of Foyle’s War and Doc Martin.)

Okay, so why, you are still wondering, am I blogging about Big Brother? Well, for a couple of reasons. My personal disgust with the three finalists on CBS’s BB highlights for me the state of social disrepair we seem to have fallen into. The fact that rudeness and racism and bullying was basically applauded by those three finalists should toss out some huge warning flags about why those same qualities are becoming prevalent in schools and schoolyards and out on the streets. The one houseguest was proud of her “ghetto-speak” and used the words whore, c**t, f**k in every other sentence. One of the male finalists was gay, yet he was the most vocal in tearing down other houseguests because of their lifestyles or imagined faults, and I lost count, in a half hour period watching the live feeds, of the number of times he used the word “hate”. The other member of the trio could hardly form a sentence or voice a thought without using some sexual slur or reference. It’s a chilling thought to know that one of them boasts about being an educator.

My other reason for highlighting Big Brother is because it is, indeed, a microcosm of today’s society, wherein the houseguests come from all walks of life. In the BBAU version one guest was a millionaire, another was unemployed, and there was everything in between. One who stood out for me was a contestant who had emigrated from England to Australia. She was in her mid 20’s, yet she had no idea who Winston Churchill was. She also had to be told what a meter was, and had to have the word “rival” defined for her. Granted, levels of education were never disclosed, but really? An English woman who didn’t recognize the name Winston Churchill? Even more alarming, when asked what the queen’s name was, she gave an owl-in-the-headlights look (she had big eyes) and answered, quite seriously: “Queen?”

These people are the future. They vote for the country’s leaders…hell, they could become presidents or prime ministers themselves. They teach your children. They give birth to little clones of themselves. They decide that spending billions on running election campaigns is worth more than spending those billions on education and in fact, cut funding for education so they can form committees to study the failing education systems.

I know I’m old and crusty, but I still remember a time when you couldn’t show a married couple sleeping in the same bed on TV. Now they take delight in putting the camera right under the sheets. Even in the movie theatres, Rhett Butler had to go through ten censor board hearings before he was allowed to say the word “damn” at the end of Gone With the Wind. When I was a kid, no more than four or five, I have a clear memory of sitting at the dinner table one night and staring at a clump of broccoli on my plate. I muttered the fateful words: “I hate broccoli.” Next thing I knew, I was banished to bed without any supper at all and given a stern, threatening lecture about using the word “hate” for any reason. And believe it or not, I didn’t drop the F bomb myself until I was 37 years old, and it was such an astounding event, I phoned a neighbour (who had been trying to get me to say it for years) at 3 in the morning to tell him I’d said it.

Watching shows like Big Brother and hearing some of the language used by kids these days…even acknowledging how my own language habits have changed over the years…maybe those old standards weren’t so terrible after all. Cabinet Guy, while working on my renovations, always addressed me as Mrs Canham because I was there 39 years ago to diaper him when he was born and that was how we taught our kids to address adults. I, myself, would cut my tongue out before referring to adult friends of my parents as anything other than Mr and Mrs So-and-so. It was simple respect and not so terrible a hardship for us to employ it.

As for Winston Churchill, I read his voluminous memoirs back in high school. An amazing, brilliant, fascinating figure and it’s a shame he is being forgotten by his own countrymen.

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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August 23, 2013

An author (me) doing numbers again, and I just don’t get it *sigh*

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 5:26 pm

I don’t get it.

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Maybe I’ve been in this business too long, or maybe I still have the mindset of a print author who takes over a year to write a book. A year of my time working 12 hr days, 6 days a week, plus blood plus sweat plus tears plus endless revisions and editing and self doubts before that book sorta kinda almost seems/feels good enough to submit, either to an editor or a critical proofreader, or, now that it’s a do it yourself process, to Amazon or Smashwords or whoever.

Okay, I get the concept of a loss leader. I get the concept of lowering the cover price for a promo or a sale. I even, reluctantly, get the concept of setting the first book in a trilogy or fourple-ology for free to suck readers into buying the rest of the series…hell, I do that myself and the modest boost in sales sorta kinda justify the means.

What I don’t get is this new *trend* of combining four or five full length novels by four or five different authors into one volume and either selling that volume for .99 or giving it away for free. I fully grasp the supposition and hope that some new readers who graze at the free troughs at Amazon etc will perk their ears at the opportunity to try five new-to-them authors for nothing and then maybe, MAYBE they will find one of those five authors appealing enough to buy another one of their books. I do get that. But is it really worth it? Can someone show me actual numbers that support the concept?

I’m sure the readers are happy…thrilled…to find such bargains, and I don’t want to take away any of that happiness. But really, each book that I sell goes to putting food on my table and a roof over my head, just like every day that a reader goes to work, she or he is doing so in order to put food on their table and a roof over their heads. Would they work free for a day in the hopes that someone sees how well they do the job in order to get them more work? Skewed logic, perhaps, but wtf. I write for a living, readers work for a living: we both should expect to get paid for it.

I was asked not to long ago to consider joining into one of these collaborative volumes but after some thought, declined and it’s been niggling at the back of my mind ever since. I really don’t get why  five well known authors would (without knowing the numbers here, so forgive me for just tossing some out) take one fifth of 35% of .99 for one of their full length novels…and be excited about it? Didn’t we allllllllllllllllllll as writers, just finish one and two and three year long discussions about how horrid the big bad publishers were for only giving us 13% royalties on ebooks? Didn’t we just finish rallying around the self-pubbing maypole to expound with great enthusiasm on the ability to earn 70% royalties for our ebooks and the fact that we are finally…FINALLY…getting paid decently for what we thought our work was worth?

So again, I don’t get it. And even though I swore I would never think about numbers again, I can see no other recourse but to haul out the finger and toe abacus.

*cracking my knuckles for the hard part*

Say if I sell my book via a publisher, cover price $4.99, the percentage I end up with (25% of net which works out to about 13% of cover price) is roughly .64 cents.

Say if I sell that book via my own finger and toe-power (Amazon) I end up with 70% of the cover price, which is roughly $3.49. Quite the difference.

Say if I hold a sale and go through Amazon, lowering the price to .99, I get 35% of the cover which is roughly .34 cents. This usually boosts sales but you have to sell 10 times as many copies to earn out the same amount, more numbers which don’t usually meet the hopeful expectations. Again, the benefit is a new reader taking the chance on the .99 book and enjoying it enough to search out other titles to buy at full price. That’s the whole loss leader principle and yes, I get that. I’ve even done that with good results, but when the sale ends, so doth the spike in numbers.

Freebies are self-explanatory, but they’re usually only free for a finite period, be it a week or a month or two months, and again that depends on the effect of sales of other books. A new funky term has risen in the past few months:  “perma-free” meaning the author has decided to leave the book permanently free in order to stay on those freebie lists and hopefully entice new readers to try them. Just another guise of a loss leader, and in an indie market that has become flooded with thousands of new books and new authors every week…it helps to be on those lists in the hope of being noticed.

So where is the harm in banding five authors and five books together in one volume? If you’re a numbers person it might cause your sphincter to spasm a little. Take a five book volume on sale for .99.  The royalty rate is 35%, so that aforementioned .34 gets divided between the five authors, giving each roughly .06 for each sale. Six cents. Regardless of how you print it out, it’s still…six cents.

So. Let’s use 1000 sales as a “sayif”

Say if I sell 1000 books ($4.99) via a publisher, I would get ( .64 X 1000 [gotta love easy math, didn’t even need my toes] ) $640.00

Those same 1000 books self pubbed ($4.99) would earn me ($3.49 X 1000) $3490.00

1000 books self pubbed on sale for .99 would earn out $340.00

1000 books for free makes a lot of happy readers but the author would get bupkus.

Now the big one: 1000 books in collaboration earns each author…..$60.00

Hmmmm. It takes just 17 sales at a regular price of $4.99 to earn out the $60.00. Or 22 sales at $3.99, (which seems to be an average price at the moment for self pubbed full length books). So in joining this enterprise, the authors joyously sell 1000 copies of the 5-in-one volume in order to joyously collect a stipend of $60.00.

I don’t get it.

I would happily…or joyously…listen to the logic of those who have done one of these collaborations, cuz maybe I’m missing something? Maybe these volumes go on to sell 100,000 copies, in which case each author would take a $6000.00 cheque to the bank and I could wipe my brow and say “whew, I finally get it.”

Please do chime in. I really do want to understand it.

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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

July 24, 2013

Day three of the Book Blogger Fair, welcoming Jacquie Rogers

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 12:29 pm

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Don’t forget to rummage around the main site. Jacquie is giving away three Kindle copies of Much Ado About Marshals, so check it out and put in your entry.

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Thanks, Marsha, for hosting me today!  I’m delighted to be here and have enjoyed your books immensely.

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The world of romance novels is vast.  Early on, I realized that the humorous books always stuck with me, and since I have an off-kilter approach to life myself, well, the books I write reflect that.  Maybe growing up on a dairy farm in an area where you could only get one channel on television warped me, I don’t know.  That’s my best guess, though.

 

As a kid, my friends and I rode our horses everywhere, and I can’t tell you how many stagecoaches we robbed or how many times we formed posses to chase bad hombres.  Holsteins just aren’t that exciting, so we pretended they were longhorns.  The cows weren’t amused, but it kept us busy.

 

We lived in Owyhee County, Idaho, and that’s where my Hearts of Owyhee series is set.  The county is large, about the size of New Jersey, but rather than 1,000 people per square mile, Owyhee County had 1 person per square mile.  It’s also home to a mining town, one of the few that didn’t succumb to fire, Silver City.  Lots of fascinating rabble-rousing happened there but few know about it, and now instead of mining for silver, I mine for interesting tidbits.

 

The Owyhee Avalanche has been in business since the mid 1860s, starting in Ruby City, moving to Silver City, and is now publishing in Homedale.  I found this article in the January 11, 1873 issue:

“ROLLER SKATING. Jones & Bonney’s Skating Rink is now open and is a splendid place for exercise and amusement. Roller skating not only most consummately occupies the mind in its performance, but it brings the whole muscular system into active play in the most enticing and beautiful manner. A good skater sails over the floor as airily as a bird upon the wing, in a perfect revelry of enjoyment, and a carnival of fun.”

 

I can just picture those cowhands and miners on roller skates!  And I wonder if they had to check their weapons at the door.  Then there’s this item from the same newspaper:

“A young lady got on her muscle and gave a fellow a black eye in to the other afternoon.  Served him right.”

 

Silver City is where Much Ado About Marshals (Hearts of Owyhee #1) begins, but the rest of the story is in Oreana.  I used the name but moved the town, and made it more populace than it ever was.  But what a pretty name.  In the real Oreana, there’s a beautiful stone church.  I found out that the building was renovated in the 1960s to be a church, but it was originally a mercantile.

 

Ah ha!  My heroine’s family owned that store, I decided, and that gave me fodder for a lot of humor.  After all, everything people bought came from there, so the Gardner family would know all everyone’s secrets.  And the products—wow, fodder for fun.  Here’s the blurb for Much Ado About Marshals:

 

Daisy wants to be a detective just like dime novel heroine Honey Beaulieu. But her parents insist she marry. What better solution than to marry the new marshal!

 

Wanted for bank robbery, Cole is mistaken for the new marshal and faces a dilemma few men have to face—tell the truth and be the exalted guest at a necktie party, or live a lie and end up married. Either way could cost him his freedom.

 

Excerpt set up: Cole was wounded while trying to keep his friend from robbing the bank in Silver City, and now he’s wanted for the crime.  His friend took him to Oreana to see a doctor, but they mistook him for the new marshal.  In this scene, the town gossip has just complained that Oreana shouldn’t pay salary to a marshal who’s wounded and can’t do his job.  “Half a man” she called him.  Daisy and her friend Sarah are worried that the widow will throw a kink into Daisy’s plan to marry the new marshal.

 

“Maybe so, but the boarders were talking about it last night at supper. I’d say if you want the new marshal to keep his job, you’d better find a way to get him on his feet. And fast.”

Unfortunately, Daisy knew Sarah was right. She tried to concentrate on her task, but all she could think about was how she could get the marshal healthy—her entire future depended on it! When she unwrapped another bottle from the new box, the label caught her notice:

 

LOST MANHOOD RESTORED

The DR. LIEBIG Private Dispensary

400 Geary St., San Francisco, Cal.

 

“Sarah, I think we have our answer! Listen to this. “Nervous Debility, Impotency, Seminal Losses, Physical Weakness, Failing Memory, Weak Eyes, Stunted Development, Impediments to Marriage, etc. from excesses or youthful follies, or any cause, speedily, safely and privately cured.”

“He doesn’t look too nervous.”

“No, but maybe he doesn’t show it.” Daisy concentrated on the next word, trying to decipher its meaning. “Do you suppose Impotency means general weakness? After all if a medicine is potent, that means it’s strong. So impotency would mean that a man has lost his strength.”

Sarah nodded. “Must be. And he can’t be all that strong with a hole in his leg.” She picked up another bottle, unwrapped it, and studied the label. “Why on earth do you need a cure for not wanting to be a preacher?”

“Huh?”

“Well,” Sarah explained, “it says Seminal Losses. I guess that must refer to men who have quit seminary school.”

Daisy shrugged. She didn’t know, either, so she studied the label again. “This medicine sounds like just the thing to speed his recovery, especially if it removes any Impediments to Marriage—although I don’t know how on earth it could do that. Mama says love potions are hoaxes.”

“But it couldn’t hurt.”

“It might help.” Daisy stuffed a bottle in her apron pocket.

“How are you planning to pay for it? Aren’t you going to tell your dad?”

Daisy shook her head. “He won’t mind. I’ll just record it in the account book.” Where, she didn’t know—maybe on Mrs. Courtney’s account, but she wasn’t about to let her father in on her plans to marry the marshal until she had him bagged good and proper.

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Hearts of Owyhee Buy Links

Much Ado About Marshals: http://amzn.com/B0058ON1LS

Much Ado About Madams: http://amzn.com/B007HRTQ0O

Much Ado About Mavericks: http://amzn.com/B008EDN9T4

 

 

Thanks again to Marsha for hosting me today, and please visit her post on my blog to learn more about her wonderful pirate adventure, Across A Moonlit Sea:

http://jacquierogers.blogspot.com/2013/07/across-moonlit-sea-by-marshacanham.html

 

Jacquie’s Contact Links

Website: http://www.jacquierogers.com

Romancing The West: http://romancingthewest.blogspot.com

Author blog: http://jacquierogers.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JacquieRogersAuthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JacquieRogers

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/jacquierogers

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/jacquierogers

Email: jacquierogers@gmail.com

 

July 23, 2013

Day two of the Blogger Book Fair, meeting new writers, revisiting familiar ones.

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 1:20 pm

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My second guest blogger for the Blogger Book Fair week is Haley Whitehall. Don’t forget to follow some of the links here and at the main Fair site for freebies, raffles, and other goodies.

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This year’s Blogger Book Fair theme is to let your imagination travel to far-away places. Since I write historical fiction, I have logged many hours doing just that. Most of my books take place during the Antebellum/Civil War period. Although I have been too and enjoyed many reenactments, I still believe the next closest thing to time travel is writing about the places I wish I could visit. I can make sure my hero is opening a can of beans with his bayonet instead of an electric can opener!

I have been drawn to the Civil War era ever since I studied it in elementary school. The Newbery Medal winning YA novel Rifles for Watie got me thinking I could write my own novels about the War Between the States, and I’ve been daydreaming in blue and gray ever since. All it takes is for me to turn on some Civil War music or watch The Horse Soldiers starring John Wayne and I’m instantly transferred to the battlefield. I have recently released a Civil War short story Journey to Glory and I am in the process of editing In Dixieland’s Grasp, Book 2 in the Plantation Shadows series. It will be published in 2014.

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Here is an excerpt from Grits and Glory, Plantation Shadows, Book 1 (currently on sale for 99 cents at Amazon and most ebook distributors)

I hope my excerpt transports you back to the Civil War and right into the middle of the action!

He went about his business slowly, trying  hard not to think about facing the enemy in advance of the army. Charging the field with a whole brigade was bad enough—skirmishing something worse.

Peter took deep, calming breaths. He heard his comrades crossing the Rappahannock. Footsteps echoed on the pontoon bridge. Soft voices caught his ears and the occasional moan or curse. He wished he was retreating with them.

He stood his ground, rifle in hand, the dream he’d had playing in his mind. You look like a corpse. A true Southerner is going to lay you in your grave. You were born a coward.

Peter shook his head to make his father’s voice stop. His eyes narrowed. He focused on the approaching Confederates. This was life or death. This was not a dream.

His heart barely kept time with his lungs. His head felt fuzzy, but his judgment remained clear. He forced his feet to remain planted.

Forced himself to listen to the officers.

Forced himself to follow orders.

Lieutenant French spoke, sharp, and booming. “Hold your position.”

The skirmishers formed a hasty battle line. He’d give all his pay for an ounce of cover. Fully focused on loading and firing, he ignored the crackling volleys, lead tearing into flesh, and chilling screams.

The Confederates were fifty yards away and closing fast.

Pulling a cartridge out, he bit the top off. Poured in the acrid powder. Pushed the wad and bullet on top. Shoved it down the barrel with his ramrod. He grabbed a percussion cap out of his pouch.

Cocking the hammer, he put the percussion cap on the nipple. He nearly fired without removing his ramrod.

“Damn.” His arms trembled. He held his breath to steady his actions and fired. He saw his target fall to the ground, gripping his chest. Peter exhaled. They were targets. Not men.

One of the Kane brothers moaned. Peter’s head jerked to his right expecting to see one of them wounded. Instead, Jim rubbed his swollen eyes. Standing shoulder to shoulder, their faces black from biting numerous cartridges, they looked like miners. With his tongue, Peter tried to wipe the grime off his teeth. The bitterness soured his mouth and when he swallowed, the powder stuck like glue in his throat.

The trees screamed at him. The ground bled. His whole body smelled like gunpowder. Henry Jackson grabbed his shoulder and crumpled to the ground. Andrew Silas lay beside him.

Lifeless bodies. Glossy eyes. Peter blinked. Another man went into convulsions. Peter sucked on his bottom lip. The vein on his neck pulsed. He loaded his rifle again. It seemed they were taking on the entire Confederate Army.

A wounded Federal kept crying out, “Mother! Mother! Mother!”

The wrenching plea brought tears to Peter’s irritated eyes, splintered his nerves. It was the redheaded boy who had been shocked to find out he talked like a Johnny Reb.

“Shut up,” Peter said, then cringed at his heartlessness.

A burning pain seared his right arm. He touched the wound and the sting it brought overpowered his senses. He pulled his hand away as if he had touched a hot stove, his fingers dripping blood.

A rebel raised his rifle and fired at the redheaded boy’s skull. Peter clutched his rifle tighter. His eyes darted from one panic-stricken comrade to another. His chest felt hollow. His emotions went numb, no longer able to register grief or pain.

“Damn the brass!” Peter’s words were drowned by the next volley.

Either send in reinforcements or let us retreat. Neither happened.

His scalp, hands, forehead, chest were soaked with sweat—as if it had been raining sweat.

The Confederates advanced towards them. The dwindling line of fire his friends provided offered little hindrance.

A clattering noise clipped the air. Bayonets. As if the blood and bullets weren’t enough. A sour taste rose in Peter’s throat. Realizing they had the upper-hand, the rebels let out a horrendous “Yyyeeeaaaa!”

Peter froze. The rebel yell rang in his ears, turning his heart to stone. He swallowed his fear in a big gulp and grabbed his leather pouch. His ammunition was running low—everyone was running out. He felt his coat pocket. It contained a handful of bullets. Soon, they’d be surrounded.

His stomach clenched; his lungs seemed to shut down. He struggled to breathe, struggled to stand, struggled to think. The darkness of death drifted towards him, ready to devour him in seconds. The scope of his thoughts narrowed to the point of a bayonet. The bayonet gleaming in the hands of his enemy. He could surrender and end up in prison. He could stay on the field and die.

Or he could make a run for it and have a chance to live.

He glanced back at the pontoon bridge. With the Confederates in pursuit, crossing it would be a death trap. If he could escape the battlefield, he’d be forgotten.

He took to his heels. Must keep moving. Must get off the field. Must get to the city.

A Confederate soldier lay on his side, his eyes glassy. As he ran past he took the soldier for dead, but a hand reached out and grabbed his ankle. Iciness spread up his leg and he fell headlong onto the ground.

“Peter,” the rebel whispered hoarsely.

Peter sat up and blinked at the soldier. He had taken a ball to the gut and gripped his middle with both hands.

“Amos?” Peter said. “Amos Dawson?” He had never expected to run into an old school friend like this.

“Help me,” Amos said. “Water.” Amos reached his arm out.

Peter glanced at his canteen and then at the wounded man. He didn’t have time to talk and tend the man’s wounds.

“I’m dying, Peter.” His skin was white and waxy and he labored to breathe. “My throat is dry.”

Peter passed him his canteen. His heart beat erratically as he waited for the man to finish. Amos took a long drink, and then grimaced and moaned when he pulled the canteen from his lips.

“Thank you.”

Peter nodded. He wanted to say more, wanted to help, but he couldn’t stay.

Amos’ green eyes registered understanding. “Take care of yourself, Peter,” Amos lay down on his back and moaned again. “I will speak to your mother for you.”

Peter’s throat tightened and he struggled to hold back tears.

“Go,” Amos said. “Or we’ll both by lying here.”

Peter slung the canteen over his shoulder and resumed running.

Once inside the limits of Fredericksburg, he moved deeper into the city, using the trees and buildings as cover.

A burning sensation spread up his arm, blood dripping down his sleeve. “Blasted!” His pulse pounded in his ears in time to his throbbing arm. He kneeled and pulled a bandanna out of his haversack and tied it above the elbow, pulling it taut with his free hand and teeth.

He got to his feet and stumbled forward. Don’t stay in one place long. The familiar warning echoed through his mind. He wasn’t safe. He could be discovered. He could be pursued. He could be captured.

Adrenaline propelled him onward through the battle-scarred city. He felt numb seeing most houses in town scathed by the Union bombardment. The artillery had blown holes as big as barrels through the structures. The town lay deserted and pillaged.

Peter’s feet pounded the ground in a swift, steady motion. He held his rifle across his chest, his right hand on the butt and his left gripping the hot muzzle. He didn’t dare get any closer to the trigger, for fear his taut nerves would cause him to fire by accident.

The Confederate soldiers drifted farther and farther and farther away. He ran to the countryside heaving for breath, his lungs burning, his sides aching.

At first he was running blindly, but then the path became familiar. He felt pulled towards a certain mansion. He could only hope that it would provide him refuge.

Peter staggered up the walkway and grasped the gate. He eyed the whitewashed house with apprehension. His past and future  lay behind that door. A future in the Union Army or in prison.

Taking a deep breath, he pounded on the door. All he heard was the blood rushing in his ears.

At last, the knob slowly turned. The door opened to reveal a young woman swollen with child. Her hand flew to her mouth, stifling a scream. Her knees buckled, and she grabbed the doorframe to steady herself.

This wasn’t the same innocent woman from his childhood. Was she carrying her second child? Third? So much had happened in the past two years. “You remember me, don’t you, Abigail?”

She visibly relaxed. “Peter? What are you doing here? You were the last person I had expected to see.”

“I know. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Her sharp eyes looked him over—searching his soul to see how Yankee he had become, he was sure.

“I’m glad you’re well,” Peter said, breaking the uneasy silence. “I was worried about you.”

Abigail opened her mouth, but hesitated as if searching for the right words. She turned her head and flicked a glance inside the house.

When she spoke her voice was soft. “General Lee urged everyone to leave the city. He even sent army wagons and ambulances to transport people to safer ground.” She paused and shifted her weight, taking long pauses between her words. “Many women and children fled to the safety of my house. I am hosting them until it’s safe for them to return.”

Peter nodded, a deep frown etched across his face. “You needn’t say more. I’m not welcome here. I’ll be on my way.”

“Wait,” Abigail called just as he reached the white picket fence.

Peter stopped. “Your arm is bleeding. Where are you going?”

“I don’t know.”

“There are Confederate soldiers everywhere in town; others are roaming the countryside.”

Peter pinched his lips together. Anxiety wormed its way into the pit of his stomach. He shrugged, tightening his voice. “I figured that.”

“It isn’t safe for you to go anywhere. You can stay here, sir.” She took his hand and helped him into her home, ushering him to a door.

“You can stay in the cellar.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Peter said, bobbing his head.

His nose wrinkled at the stench of the onions and turnips. They hung in bunches from the ceiling.

Creeaak. Peter’s heart sank like a rock thrown in the river. Abigail had shut the door, but he understood. His world had been turned on its head, not by the war, but by his actions on his eighteenth birthday.

He was putting her in danger by being here. An uncomfortable feeling crawled up his neck. He shook his head and it fell away. She’d never stood up for him when they were children. She owed him.

Peter felt his way around the cellar with his left arm, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He found an empty barrel, turned it over and sat, cradling his right arm in his lap. He untied the bandanna and tried to examine his wound. All he saw was coagulating blood. Poking at it made it hurt worse, made the pain pulsate through his body.

His heart raced. He closed his eyes and took a deep, ragged breath.

“You’re safe here,” Peter whispered. “You’re safe.”

The floor stared back at him. He imagined he was a boy again, playing hide and seek. It was no use.

He couldn’t fool himself. He was a wanted man. Whether he would be turned in or not was up to his sister.

You can Find Haley at:

Website: http://www.haleywhitehall.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LightonHistory

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/HaleyWhitehall

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Grits and Glory can be found at:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Grits-Glory-Plantation-Shadows-ebook/dp/B008YMISVY
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/215838
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/grits-and-glory-haley-whitehall/1113085354?ean=2940015525298
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/Books/grits-and-glory

July 22, 2013

A week of travelling through the Book Blogger Fair begins

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 12:53 pm

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This week a bazillion authors have come together for the annual Book Blogger Fair which means readers can spend literally hours roaming through blogs, entering contests, finding freebies and generally having a good time. I will be hosting five new-to-me authors who might be new to you as well and just like the Sample Sundays of old, maybe you’ll make a few new discoveries.

Today’s guest is Lissa Bryan, “an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot”…. though only in her head. Her words, not mine LOL. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing. I can relate. Enjoy *s*

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 This year’s Blogger Book Fair theme is travel to far-away places. travel is also a major theme of my novel, The End of All Things. After a horrible plague decimates the nation. Carly and Justin must travel from her home in Juneau, Alaska to a place with a warmer climate, where they will have a better chance of survival. It’s a journey across a nation laid to waste by the disaster, but also a journey into love.

 

Check out the trailer, here.

 

 

 

Excerpt:

 

“I’ve never been out of Alaska,” Carly said. She wasn’t sure she could explain to him how awful a prospect it was to leave everything behind, to give up on the idea the world might return to normal if she just waited there instead of abandoning her hope and home.

 

“I’ve never been to Florida.” Justin took a large bite of his cold pork and beans and chewed with relish. “Here’s the thing.” He pulled a paper towel off the roll beside the sink and used it as a napkin. “We need to leave soon. It’s going to be a very long journey, and I don’t think we’ll manage to make it all the way to Florida, or even south of the Mason-Dixon for that matter, before the winter sets in. So we have to hurry and get as far as possible in the time we have left.”

Carly hesitated before asking, since she knew it was another dumb question, but she had to know. “If we can’t take a car or a motorcycle, what are we going to do?” “Ride bicycles. Walk.”

 

“Justin, you’re talking four thousand miles here.” The idea of moving into a house across town had been daunting enough, let alone the idea of traveling across most of North America.

 

Carly shook her head. “You’re talking about more than half a year, maybe more.”

 

“Do you understand, then, why I want to leave as soon as possible? We need to go somewhere we can grow enough food to sustain ourselves. Florida has an excellent climate for farming. I’m not saying we have to get all the way to Florida. There are other states in the South that would have a good climate for us, but I’m thinking of Florida as my goal. We may be able to use different vehicles during  sections of our trip, but that’s not a guarantee. The ones we find may have dead batteries, or the fuel could  have gone bad. If we encountered a roadblock or traffic jam, we’d have to unload the vehicle and try to find another. Bikes are more reliable.”

 

“Do you actually have this planned out, or is it just an idea you have?”

Justin chuckled. “Once you get to know me, Carly, you’ll find I have everything planned out.” He went out into the hallway and grabbed one of the bags that contained his gear. He opened up the front pocket and withdrew a map. A route had been highlighted, cutting across Canada and through the US, a bumpy line, but almost perfectly diagonal. 

 

She traced her finger over the long line. “What if I refuse to go?” 

 

“I can’t leave you here to die, Carly.”

 

Die? She gave him a startled look, but he didn’t back off and admit to exaggeration or soften the comment with a shrug or smile. Instead, he looked straight into her eyes, and his steady gaze told her he wasn’t trying to scare her or embellish. He saw it as an inevitable consequence if she were left there on her own, not as a possibility.

 

She looked away, unable to meet his eyes any longer. “Because you knew my dad?”

 

“No, not just because of the promise I made when I joined The Unit, but because I fancy myself to be a decent human being. One way or another, I’m going to have to convince you, but I hope to hell it doesn’t take very long. I know you don’t know me very well yet, but you’ll find I’m a person who keeps my promises. And I promise you I will do my best to keep you safe, warm, and fed. I’m your best shot at survival.”

 

He tugged up the sleeve of his T-shirt and showed her the symbol tattooed there, the same symbol that was on her father’s ring. “This once meant something. It meant enough that I had it permanently etched into my skin because it’s a part of me. It wasn’t just a military unit. It was a code of honor. I may be the last man standing, but I swear I’m not going to let that code die, too.” 

 

And gazing into his eyes, Carly believed him. She might have very little experience of the world, but she knew sincerity when she saw it. He truly cared about what happened to her, for whatever reason. Her doubts and fears warred with her instincts, which told her Justin was what he presented himself to be. He was a nice guy with a mischievous sense of humor and a strong sense of honor and duty. Her father had told her to trust no one, but he had also told her about the symbol and what it meant to the men who wore it.

 

“I’m scared,” Carly said. She felt her cheeks warm in embarrassment at the admission, but she felt like he deserved her honesty.

 

“I am, too. None of this is going to be easy, but I’d put our chances at reaching Florida higher than most.”

 

“That doesn’t sound too encouraging.”

 

Justin was quiet for a long moment. “Do you want me to be honest or comforting?”

Carly blinked when tears stung her eyes again. He already thought she was stupid. She didn’t want to add whiny to the list. “Just for a little while, can you be optimistic?”

He took her hand in his own. “Sure, honey. I understand.”

 

You can read the entire first chapter here.

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The End of All Things is available through TWCSAmazon, and iTunes.

Links:

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Rafflecopter giveaway:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/ZjhlOTAxYTJlYzZiOWEyZTViNGNjNjMwYmU0ZWI2OjEz/

 

 

 

 

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