Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Tall, Dark, and Deadly" Excerpt

My novella "Tall, Dark, and Deadly," an erotic vampire romance from Ellora's Cave, is scheduled to be reprinted in one of that publisher's anthologies in partnership with Pocket Books (release date June 2008). So I'm posting an excerpt from the scene where Claude, an actor who plays vampire and other horror roles, explains the truth about vampirism to the heroine, Eloise, a novelist and script writer. She has just tried to attack him with a cross in his sleep to test whether he's really a vampire.

Excerpt from "Tall, Dark, and Deadly":

Eloise retreated into the adjacent sitting room. After opening the curtains halfway to let in some light, she saw a matching couch and chair, a bookcase, a miniature refrigerator and a wet bar with a compact-model microwave oven on its counter. She sat on the couch and waited, glad for the few minutes of solitude to tame the hive of bees in her skull and the spiders skittering in her stomach.

Soon Claude emerged from the bedroom, barefoot, in a pair of blue satin jogging shorts and a T-shirt. He went to the bar, filled a glass with ice and got out bottles of gin and tonic. “Care for a drink?”

“No, thanks, I want my head clear. If that’s possible around you.” She glared at him.

“Well, I need one.” When she flinched, he added with a wry smile, “Not that kind. Not right this minute anyway.” After he’d mixed his gin and tonic, he took a seat at the other end of the couch from her, out of the direct sunlight from the window. “Tell me exactly what happened when you met Philip.”

She summarized the encounter. “He said you’re a vampire, a demon in human shape, as he put it. I’m not sure how it happened, but the next thing I knew, I was in here testing the theory.”

“Of course,” Claude sighed. “I should have known. He caught you off guard, so he hypnotized you. I should have known you wouldn’t do anything like that on a mere suggestion. Regardless of what you saw just now, I’m not a demon.”

“You changed—” Her breath caught in her throat, cutting off the words.

“I apologize for that. A defense mechanism. You startled me out of a sound sleep, after all.”

“What about the cross?”

“A psychosomatic reaction. I’m not a creature of the devil, and I’m not undead either. Though if you’d looked for a pulse a few minutes ago, you’d have had trouble finding one. Suspended animation looks a lot like death.”

She folded her arms in resistance to his reasonable tone. “I don’t hear you denying you’re a vampire.”

“I don’t deny it.” He took a swallow of his drink. “But I’m not supernatural. We’re another species, long-lived, with a specialized diet.”

“Liquid protein.”

He nodded.

Her numbed brain woke up and processed clues from the past few days. “Oh, God, you drank my blood! How many times?”

He gazed into his glass as if embarrassed.

“Come on, level with me. At the con?”

“Yes, and the night before last, after we arrived here.”

A flush spread over her body. “Then all those feelings I thought were dreams came from you? And that’s why I can’t remember much about Saturday night?”

“Granted.” He drained his glass and got up to mix another drink, heavy on the gin.

Her throat tightened with indignation. “You—I don’t believe this! You made up all that rigmarole about producing my script just to feed on me.”

“What?” He whirled around to face her, glass in hand. “Bloody hell, do you seriously think I’d go to all that trouble just for a little refreshment? I can get that from the vampire groupies.”

Her pulse hammered in her temples. “Well, isn’t that what I am to you?”

“Eloise, no!” He hurried to the couch and sat near her. She edged as far away as the space allowed. “I feasted on your mind, your passions, not only your blood. That’s why I didn’t want to take any risk of letting Philip see us together. He would realize instantly that I care for you. And I meant it when I said I’d like to have you stay here.”

“How can I tell what you mean? You turned me into a puppet, like one of those blow-up sex dolls, and wiped my memory on top of it. Anyway, you’re an actor. You could turn on the charm at will even if you weren’t a vampire.”

“Please, ma belle, let me prove that isn’t true.” He caressed her shoulder and gazed into her eyes. In this light, his no longer glowed red, but they still held an inhuman sheen of silver that she could hardly believe she’d missed before.

She jerked away from his touch. “Don’t look at me.”

“I’ve vowed not to mesmerize you again.”

“I don’t trust your vows. Not yet.”

He stalked to the bar and leaned against it, half-turned away from her. “Very well, I’m not looking at you. Now will you listen?”

“I’m listening. What do you mean, you vowed not to do it again?”

“I want you as a friend, an equal.” He gave a dry chuckle. “Something we don’t say to ephemerals very often. Many of my people would think I’m going soft even to consider it.”

“Ephemerals? That’s what you call us? Here today, gone tomorrow. No wonder you think you can treat us like puppets.”

“I don’t.” He gritted his teeth with a muted growl. “Some ephemerals. Not you.”

“Well, at least you admit it.” A new thought chilled her. “How many people have you killed?”

“Oh, for hell’s sake!” He slammed the glass on the bar. “I don’t kill for food. I take no more than they can spare, and I reward them with pleasure. Pleasure that I thoroughly enjoy sharing. I’ve killed in self-defense now and then. Not often. I told you, I prefer the quiet life.”

“That Philip guy said you killed his beloved, or caused her death anyway. Is that how he knows you’re a vampire?”

“What do you think he is?”

“He’s one too?” Speechless for a minute, Eloise sorted out this new bit of data. “Wait a second, he walked around in broad daylight.”

“You’ve read enough books like *Dracula* and *Varney*, not to mention reams of folklore, that you shouldn’t believe that tripe about vampires bursting into flame in the sun.”

“Yeah, but he was out on the beach with no shade at all.”

“Goes to show how much he’s willing to suffer for the satisfaction of harassing me,” said Claude. “How was he dressed?”

“White suit, gloves, hat, sunglasses.”

“You see? Probably sunscreen as well. I could walk on the beach in that costume too but I wouldn’t enjoy it much.”

“What about the cross? It didn’t seem to bother him.”

Claude fidgeted with his glass as if self-conscious about the topic. “I suffer from a phobia for religious objects. He doesn’t. He was fortunate enough to grow up in the enlightened atmosphere of Victorian England. I was born in a French village in 1738, when rural folk still seriously believed demons might walk among them. It was also the height of the vampire-hunting craze in Greece and Eastern Europe, as you know. I became infected with the superstitions of the culture around me.”

“Really? Does that happen a lot?”

“It can. We’re highly adaptable, especially in childhood. We have to be to fit invisibly into your world. We tend to pick up human attitudes unless our mentors are very careful.” He sat down, more relaxed now but still making a point of not looking directly at her. “It still happens to some young vampires today if they’re allowed to watch horror movies.”

She had to laugh at the image of stern vampire elders censoring their children’s viewing habits. “Tell me about Philip. Who was the woman, and why does he blame you for her death?”

Claude sighed. “He’s not far wrong, but I never intended her any harm. I suppose I’d better tell you the whole story.”

“Yes, please do.” She folded her arms and frowned at him, determined to shield herself against his charm until he offered her some basis for trust.

-end of excerpt-

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A matter of survival?

Males do some pretty disgusting and unromantic things from time to time. No doubt females do, too.... such as eating the head of the male while, or just before, he impregnates her.

Infant cockroaches, and infant koalas eat their mother's waste. And one type of infant spiders eat their mothers.

When it is a matter of survival, one does what is necessary, no matter how gross.

That was gross!
Moreover, it's not something that inspires me to write a scene for a romance. I just cannot imagine any heroine wanting to kiss him for any reason under the sun any time soon after that.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the nearest object of great attraction to flies, in order to have heard the camera crew's remarks during filming. Unlike SURVIVORMAN, who was filming his own, original series, in Africa during February/March --and who carries 50lbs of his own, self-operated filming equipment--, "Bear" Grylls has a cameraman with him.

Judging by the quality of the video, I'd guess that the cameraman was shaking with laughter.

Males are better equipped to carry out this survival trick. There is a long tradition of unspeakable things that thirsty men will drink. Warm beer. "The stale of horses" to quote from one of Shakespeare's plays with Roman heroes. "Goat's" in a recent film about a Beerfest (involving competitive drinking).

I wonder what kind of toast would be appropriate?
Here's looking at you?
Bottoms up?
Your very good health!

All the best,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Men in trees

I try to look everywhere for romantic inspiratio, but some things are simply not conducive to writing "heated science fiction romance."

Take men in trees.

Now, in Insufficient Mating Material, I do place my hunky hero up a tree when the heroine, thinking herself alone, says something that prompts the hero to ask the "How about it?" question.

I've got six or seven "important" ash trees in my back yard. They are not equally important. The one that grows through the deck is much more important that the others, though their canopies all dropshadow my roofline.

We've got the alien Emerald Ash Borer in Michigan, and it is a continual and expensive struggle to treat the trees. I am doing a good job of making the wood taste unpleasant, but not all my neighbors are.

Last Thursday, reluctantly, I tore myself away from the romantic and riveting pleasure of writing about the first heroic lip lock between my hero and heroine in order to keep an eye on three tree surgeons who were giving my trees a first class pruning.

I can't say that it was a romantically profitable morning. One chap could have modeled for Pieter Brueghel. Another for Jabba the Hutt. Oh dear, that is cruel. I suppose he would not have made such an unfortunate impression if he hadn't been wearing only low-slung trousers and a short T-shirt which he used as a face towel when the ambient heat became too much, and sent his pores into overproduction.

It took from 8am to 12.15 pm including chipping, road sweeping, and so forth.

After that, the man who cleans my deck came.

I did not have to worry about him falling out of a tree and the insurance ramifications of that (you thought I watched those guys out of lust?) but men with power sprayers just cannot help squirting things they are not supposed to squirt.

This guy's method of preparing the soil for planting pacysandra was to squirt it. He squirted a hornets' nest, too!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

World-building in the vegetable kingdom

Hybrids aren't just cars that run on more than one fuel source.

There are hybrid animals, and hybrid plants which occur either naturally or with the assistance of mankind, also hybrids in Greek and Roman mythology. Some hybrids are sterile, and some are not. Some hybrids are called after a combination of the father's name and the mother's (father's name first).

The mythological creatures do not appear to follow this convention... and in fact, now I understand the convention, my mind boggles over the Manticore (man-lion-scorpion).

The etymology is delightful. According to wikipedia, hybrid comes from the ancient Greek for "son of outrageous conduct."

This week, I'm more interested in plant hybrids. For world-building in a hurry --not that I recommend taking a short cut, but sometimes one has to-- a few hours in the grocery aisles can be quite inspiring.

There are some astonishing hybrids available, as well as exotic fruits and vegetables that might or might not have been hybridized. I look at the Ugly Fruit, and I wonder whether it evolved to be visually appealing to anything (assuming that its fruit is "designed" to be dispersed with the assistance of creatures that eat the fleshy parts and eject the pits).

There's something spiny and orange that looks like a cross between a sea urchin and a sea slug, and I'm fascinated by those waxy green globes that come inside a pale green papery looking flower. If you were to change their colors, rename them, and describe them carefully as if you'd never seen them before, you'd hardly need to dream up your own fruits and vegetables for your alien romance's world. And, then there are the roots. You have to be careful what you do with your root vegetables, in my opinion.

How did we ever start to eat root veg? Did we observe a primate and copy them? Did our earliest ancestors' curious gaze fall upon something intriguingly orange, or pleasantly white, pushing up through loose soil? I suppose we do have an instinct (as children) to pull things out of the ground and bite them as an experiment. I'm told that I ate a worm once when I was a toddler! Would your aliens have similar instincts?

Your human heroine has to eat in outer space, so not all her food can be unrecognizable (or she'd have to have major allergy testing) or her gut would not be adapted to handle it. We're accustomed to stories about our domestic pets eating human delicacies which are not natural for them... which their guts are not adapted to handle. I've been thinking about what natural carnivores can and cannot eat, because I want my tigers to play a larger role in my next story.

In fact, having spent several hours reading the ingredients on dry pet food for research purposes, I do have to wonder under what circumstances a dog in the wild would eat corn on the cob. Or rice!

There are some schools of alternative healing thought that claim some of our painful ailments (such as arthritis) are a consequence of us eating fruits or vegetables that we are not adapted for, or to which some of us are allergic. My mother cured very painful arthritic swelling in her hands by giving up all produce in the tomato families. Other people have a problem with potatoes. (Some have a problem but don't know it.)

In Insufficient Mating Material, the hero and heroine are marooned on an island on an alien world, and they have to test food and deal with the possibility that the heroine might not have a tolerance for some of the fruits and vegetables growing there.

Why do I think roots are a problem? Carrots are easy, and you can eat them raw if you want to. Parsnips look like big carrots only white... but you really do have to cook them. Watch out for onions and shallots, because they look like tulip bulbs. There are different roots that look alike. Take ginger root and Jerusalem artichoke. They are both about the shape and size of a small, pudgy hand, with gnarly, stub-tipped fingers, root filaments like fleshy hairs, and are beige-gray.

On our world, some plants do not want to be eaten, especially by the roots (!) so they evolve to be poisonous. What happens in your alien world?

For those interested in research, or obsessed with plausible alien anatomy --and possibly inspired by the fact that a carrot fresh from the ground does not necessarily look "carrot shaped"-- M.I.T. (an eminently respectable place of scholarship) sells --or used to sell-- a to-scale, and anatomically correct poster called "Penises of the Animal Kingdom".

I thought the plural was Penes, but I suppose a few people wouldn't get the point.

And having Googled that, because none of the three of my dictionaries within easy reach gives any guidance on what a proper person should call multiple schlongs, I'm off to pursue other lines of romantic alien research.

Best wishes,

Insufficient Mating Material
"racy, wildly entertaining futuristic romance" ~Writers Write

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Insufficient Mating Material -- excerpt

Insufficient Mating Material has just been launched in the UK as of May 25th 2007. I'm told that it can be found in Tesco, WHSmith, Waterstone's, and Blackwell

"Be good..." they say. "And if you can't be good, be careful!"

It must be almost impossible to be careful when all the worlds are watching all the time, and not always sympathetically.

Princesses and celebrities have everywoman's problems, but their problems are magnified a hundredfold by the telephoto lens of public scrutiny. Everyone wants to know who they are seeing, what they are drinking, what they did in bed and with whom, whether or not they are pregnant...

A single alien princess might precipitate a constitutional crisis if an unflattering camera caught her just as a breeze was bellying out her bathing costume... especially if it was common knowledge that she'd slept with a foreign terrorist for kicks.

Princess Martia-Djulia has all the problems of a youngest child (the third child) but more so. It seems pointless to compete with her brilliant older brother and sister. Until senility overtakes them, they will always be older, wiser, better-read, more experienced, more athletic, more powerful.

In a world of feudal primogeniture, the older she gets, the lower her status. She is only interesting if she is scandalous.

Insufficient Mating Material's heroine was introduced in FORCED MATE, where she got a great deal more than she bargained for when she flirted with a handsome --and most unsuitable-- commoner.

She also went through her brother's private "stuff" and got caught, did the gustatory equivalent of spiking the drinks at her brother's wedding banquet, made a compromising video of herself in bed with a tattooed stranger, and fell hopelessly in love with a hunk who was honor-bound to marry someone else.

She makes her dramatic appearance in Insufficient Mating Material as the Royal bride at an Imperial shotgun wedding. As she surveys the throngs who have come to see her married to the mate of her dreams (who has miraculously been relieved of the fiancee he intended to marry and brought back to her) her happiness seems complete...


Never in all Great Djinn history has any Imperial Princess had such a Mating Ceremony on such short notice, and to a mate freely chosen by the Princess!

Princess Martia-Djulia savored her unique happiness. The second best part was that she was going to get away with it. By taking an alien and a commoner like Commander Jason to mate, she poked a defiant finger in the eye of Imperial tradition.

“You’re glowing,” her tall, grimly magnificent brother commented as he joined her on the raised throne-stage and offered her the support of his bent arm for the slow, gyring descent of the stage into the Throne Room below the Imperial suite.

“I’ve a lot to glow about,” Martia-Djulia retorted. She could have made a barbed remark about how Tarrant-Arragon had tricked his own cold, pale bride into saying the irrevocable Imperial Mating Vows, but she didn’t.

After all, Tarrant-Arragon had hunted down Commander Jason, and brought him back to her.

Her thoughts returned to her Jason who shared her taste for subversion and mischief-making. He was the Mate who would change her sad, lonely life; her boring, bottled-up life. He was her rescuer, her lover, her private hero, the warrior who made her feel young and beautiful, and who awed the Fewmet out of her insolent, uncontrollable sons.

He was the only male in all the forty-two gestates of her life who had ever given her an orgasm.

Martia-Djulia took a deep, happy breath as the last notes of the Fanfare Royal drifted up from the balconies of the Throne Room, and the Crown Prince’s throne stage —its stark, craggy contours pleasingly draped for the occasion in her favorite colors of dusk-sky mauve and midnight-purple— descended silently, like one of her brother’s deliberately placed chess pieces, only fortress-sized.

“I can hardly believe it,” she whispered to herself as she nodded graciously to the crowd below. “I’m about to be Mated to the only male who has the physical strength to pick me up and sweep me off my feet, and the desire to do so.”

Tarrant-Arragon lifted an eyebrow at her.

“Oh, when I think of Jason’s passion--” she said, "When I think of how violently he knocked the ceremonial headmask off an interfering Saurian Ambassador, and of the wicked, sexual insults he threw….”

“You liked that, didn’t you?” Tarrant-Arragon teased. “But, I hope you don’t expect your new Mate to pick you up, attack Saurian Ambassadors, and hurl sexual insults in front of our distinguished guests.”

Martia-Djulia took in the carefully orchestrated tableau where she stood on the stepped stage, waiting for Jason to make an entrance through one of the Throne Room’s soaring central portals.

What would he be thinking? Would he remember how they met at a Virgins’ Ball in this very Throne Room? Would he mentally undress her with his strange, dark-nebula eyes and notice that she looked better than he remembered?

Surely, even a fashion hawk like Jason would approve of her sense of style. For her second Mating, she could hardly usurp the pallor of a Royal Virgin bride. She had chosen the subtle, shifting colors of a fast-frozen sea, glittering with the palest, most precious gemstones aligned in all the right places for the most flattering effect.

“They all came back!” Martia-Djulia breathed, gazing out at the heads of state, ambassadors, military leaders, and subject royalty who had been hastily recalled, some before they had returned home after her brother’s nuptials.

“Of course,” Tarrant-Arragon murmured. “On occasions like this, no matter how lofty the ceiling, it is never high enough, is it?”

The pentagonal Throne Room shimmered with the warmth rising from the thronged guests. Massed body heat made the vast room a battleground of assorted perfumes and less intentional odors that only Djinn nostrils might identify.

Suddenly, Martia-Djulia was conscious of emerging mature notes from her own signature perfume.

“Tarrant-Arragon,” she whispered anxiously. “Did I overdo the Queen of the Night?”

“You seem to have put it absolutely everywhere,” he drawled, and grinned, confirming that his Djinn-sharp olfactory senses were as embarrassingly acute as those of a sea-predator.

“I’ll let Jason lick it off,” Martia-Djulia quipped brazening out her secret embarrassment.

“If he’s got any Djinn in him, he might find that joy a little overpowering,” Tarrant-Arragon said.

Martia-Djulia felt a vague, fleeting apprehension. Was it a certain enigmatic tone in her brother’s voice? Something wasn’t right. Tarrant-Arragon had once threatened to kill Commander Jason if her lover turned out to be of rogue Djinn lineage.

Why was Jason late?

Her anxious gaze searched the double avenues of ground-lighted, living trees which flanked the four grand entrances.

“Ah. The so delightful Henquist and Thor-quentin.” Tarrant-Arragon jerked his head to indicate the upper level balcony where her two tall sons leaned negligently on the elaborately carved stone balustrade. “They look pleased.”

Martia-Djulia smiled hopefully at her usually sullen, sulky sons, until she realized that Tarrant-Arragon was being ironic.


“Nervous?” Tarrant-Arragon asked mockingly.

Before she could retort, a loud fanfare made further conversation impossible. The pentagonal room vibrated with the thunder of massed war-drums. Colored plumes of scented smoke surged up and tumbled from the Imperial throne-space, reminiscent of an ultraviolet tinted, pyroclastic cloud. The Emperor’s throne-stage thrust up through the smoke like a coldly gleaming, ice-volcano rising out of a swirling fog.

Her father, The Emperor Djerrold Vulcan V, appeared to stroll on the pinkish-purple vapor trails, high above his guests. Martia-Djulia tried to imprint on her memory every detail of this splendid, dramatic illusion.

“Dear friends, welcome back,” the Emperor began with his customary, affable menace. “You are now here to witness the exchange of vows between my younger daughter and her new mate. Since The Princess Martia-Djulia is a widow, and a mother, and since this is her second marriage, there will —obviously— be no display of proofs of virginity.”
He pointed his Fire-Stone-Ringed forefinger around the room, his guests shrank in their seats, and he smiled tigrishly.

“There will come a point when my dear daughter will ask anyone who objects to her choice of mate to speak out. Anyone who dares to do so will be incinerated.”
Star-blue lightning sizzled and flashed from the Emperor’s finger. Regrettably, her father had flatly refused to even try to color-coordinate his laser ring’s fire for this one occasion.

“Out of consideration for your fellow guests’ nostrils,” Djerrold Vulcan V continued pleasantly, “I advise against any interference. Proceed!”

High above, another fanfare blared from long, deep-noted instruments. The massive central doors at the far end of the Imperial throne room opened.

“I kept my promise,” Tarrant-Arragon said quietly, “…to bring back Jason, if he agreed to come, or to find you a mate like your Commander Jason.”

She wasn’t paying attention, though it was an odd thing to say. Unseen, a massed male voice choir roared out the Mating Anthem... usually heard only once in a generation at the Mating of an Emperor or the Emperor's male heir.

This, too, was her due. She’d been promised that her Mating would be as splendid as the one she had organized for her big brother. And so it was. Only prettier.

“Here he comes!” Martia-Djulia whispered, trembling.

A tall, broad-shouldered silhouette limped from the darkness beyond the doorway.
His beloved, scarred face was a shadowed, distant blur… but something wasn’t right. Had Tarrant-Arragon tortured and starved Commander Jason into agreeing to Mate with her?

“What is wrong with him?” she hissed accusingly. Time stretched out. A sense of creeping horror chilled her vitals. “You promised not to force him.”

Her thoughts raced back to three Imperatrix cycles ago.

She vividly remembered what they’d agreed, just before Tarrant-Arragon left to exact terrible revenge on the unknown villains who’d tried to assassinate him on his honeymoon.

I want him to be happy, she’d protested when Tarrant-Arragon caught her trying to erase compromising footage of Jason on top of her. Jason’s happiness hadn’t been on her mind when she triggered the surveillance systems.

Do you think he’d be happy with me if I force him to be my mate? she’d asked her brother, who had no scruples when it came to mate appropriation.

No, Tarrant-Arragon had bluntly told her, dashing any lingering hope that she could blackmail Jason into returning to her bed permanently.

At the Virgins’ Ball, Commander Jason had made it clear that he’d rather be searching the rim worlds for his errant mate-to-be, but he was on duty. Since he had to be at the Ball, he’d been in the mood for a revenge dock in any bay that would accommodate him.

Martia-Djulia had only wanted illicit excitement — until Jason gave her so much, she wanted him to do it for the rest of her life.

“Did you force him? Did you torture him?” Martia-Djulia demanded urgently.

“Not really,” her appalling brother replied.

Something was wrong. Martia-Djulia's heart thumped. She clasped nervous hands to her glittering breast, and glared in an effort to get a better look at her promised Mate. At this distance, across the Throne Room, it was hard to tell…. Closer he came. Closer.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of Martia-Djulia.
Read her story in Insufficient Mating Material

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hi Rowena,

Slack damn, that was a splendid read! (not to mention your inscription! :-)) This was my first of your stories, you know. The tension was fabulous, though I was nervous for a long time that there would be a rut-rage-based rape scene. There very well could've been, but I'm glad there wasn't (thanks to Djinni's sucker punch). That would have been beyond my personal comfort zone.

I love how you gradually worked Tarrant-Arragon into a more likeable person by the end (even if he's still not entirely trustworthy!) by way of Djinni's and Grievous' interactions with him. By the way, I'm curious about names. Is Tarrant-Arragon meant to conjure the mental parallel, Tyrant-Arrogant? It struck me that way, and I had to wonder. I think it's delightful Djinni calls him Tigger.

As much as I like the others, I think my favorite character might just be Grievous. He's so deliciously tongue-in-cheek-y! "How very shark-like of you, Sir." Too funny.

I suppose I'll need to read Insufficient Mating Material to find out if Djinni's father's and Tarrant-Arragon's mother's Saurian identities get revealed at last. Perhaps I'll find out there what happens to poor Bronty. She's in a bit of a pickle right now.

Anyway, thanks for a very enjoyable read, the first of many, I'm sure.


David Gray

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Google and you shall find. Archimedes, beware!

Recently I've been mystified to receive emails from readers (other authors' readers, I think) containing phrases like,

"You write erotica..." or "As an author of erotica..."

To the best of my understanding of that genre I do not write erotica. Here's why.
My heroines do not make love to more than one hero per book, nor does the hero make love with anyone other than the heroine once they have met. Every book ends happily, which means that the hero and heroine decide to get married and live monogamously.

So, my correspondents' assumptions presented a challenge.

Today (because my horoscope is negatively aspected for more serious endeavours) I decided to Google (or google) "Rowena Cherry" and "erotica".

Eureka! But not in a good way.

My Search produced several obliging quotations, most containing ellipses (those three or four dots that are a heads-up that words have been omitted.) However, the casual searcher could definitely receive the wrong impression.

Since I was familiar with the review most quoted, I did a second search:

"Rowena Cherry" and "not erotica"

Eureka, again! The very same reviewers' quotes came up, but instead of the ellipses was the word NOT.

It would seem that Google obliges the searcher by giving them what they are looking for! No more. No less. How dangerous!

Nevertheless, Google is still my favorite stock pick, and my favorite Search Engine. I shall just have to remember to be scrupulous about clicking the links on even the most obvious-seeming quotes that appear to prove whatever I am seeking to prove, before I leap out of the proverbial bathtub, crying Eureka, and thinking that I've found proof of whatever I was searching for.

Best wishes,


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Drive-By Signing Insufficient Mating Material

I'm back. Did you notice that I had been away?

If it is March, and rainy season in Northern Florida, the chances are that I shall be down there for a paddle in the Atlantic, for research purposes, of course, and for the Amelia Island concours d'elegance.

This time, I had a couple of ulterior motives... apart from research. I needed some photos of the sort of luxury location one might find on a scene depicting the sheltered, spa-like "Island School for Princesses".

I was so pleased with Ed Traxler's video for Insufficient Mating Material that I'm having a slide show made for Mating Net.

Unfortunately, the hotel on Amelia Island has remodeled the pool area. Gone are the rolling lawns, and the cool views through arches and columns. Instead, there are lots and lots of sun-loungers and cement paths between palm trees. It's not quite plausible for an underpopulated, supremely exclusive school for alien goddesses!

Other areas were cluttered up with gorgeous antique cars. Again, this is not what you'd expect to see in outer space, so as a photo op for a book trailer, the trip was a bust.

Since we were driving (that's why I've been away for nearly two weeks) I arranged to make strategic stops at major bookstores along my route (the I-75) to do "drive-by signings" of however many copies of INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL were in the stores I selected.

To my surprise, not every bookseller whom I contacted had heard of drive-by signings. Either that, or they were supreme diplomats and did a great job of making me feel original!

We set off from Detroit, not as early as I'd have liked, but on the other hand, the morning rush-hour traffic had cleared. By around 3pm we were in Lexington, Kentucky, which I'd chosen because I thought that --if we had a tiresome drive owing to weather or roadworks-- we might want to stop at the Super 8 near there.

There is only one Barnes and Noble in Lexington, so that is where I signed, while my husband and child stretched their legs and enjoyed the store's fine displays of magazines and games.

I'm a "hurry up and wait" type, so I was very surprised that my family enjoyed the car-park time while I did my authorial thing in bookstores. I assumed that my family would be hot or bored, or that they would resent the interruption in kids' videos or adult audio books.

(The best audio book of the trip was "I Don't Know How She Does It" by Allison Pearson).

The next day, around eleven a.m., I was in Knoxville, having got off to a record slow start which had not a little to do with a blocked toilet (not blocked by us) which meant that I had to repeatedly flush what you might expect, by bailing water (from the bath) using the room's fortunately-large-and-plastic trash bin.

There's only one Barnes and Noble in Knoxville, too, and I had a great time chatting with the CRM.

Around three pm, we almost overshot our turn-off. Actually, we did. As one of my favorite secondary heroines is called Tarragonia-Marietta, of course I had to sign in Marietta!

I had appointments at two stores, but we'd seen the Atlanta Northbound traffic back-ups, so decided to drop by a third store to while away the time, and keep us off the motorway for a while longer, but still going in the right direction.

Finding the Cobb Parkway store took a lot longer than we expected, partly because I hadn't "MapQuested it", however, we received a pleasant welcome, and three extra copies of Insufficient Mating Material were signed as dusk descended.

On the third day, we got into Jacksonville in the early afternoon and found the first store, on Atlantic, with relative ease although I'd misidentified an East-West street, and thought we were going North-South!

I didn't have an appointment for the Dalton store, because they are closed on Sundays, which is when I was doing my telephoning. However, that was in a mall, and not too hard to locate. We gave up trying to find the Mid-Town store, owing to my misreading of the map, and the fact that we wanted to paddle in the sea before sunset, now we were so close.

Armed with a better map, and expert directions, we found the store the next day, and I think the St. John's Town Center was the most impressive store, in the loveliest open air shopping mall that I've ever visited.



Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Hamburg Pavilion
1932 Pavilion Way
Lexington, KY 40509


Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Suburban Plaza
8029 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN 37919


Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Town Center Prado
50 Barrett Pkwy Suite 1100
Marietta, GA 30066

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
The Avenue West Cobb
3625 Dallas Hwy SW
Marietta, GA 30064

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
2952 Cobb Pkwy
Atlanta, GA 30339


B.Dalton Booksellers
Regency Square mall
9501 Arlington Expressway #250
Jacksonville, FL 32225

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
9282 Atlantic Blvd
Jacksonville, FL 3225

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
St Johns Town Center
10280 Midtown Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32225

(Also, Barnes & Noble Booksellers

The Streets of Westchester
9455 Civic Centre Blvd
West Chester, OH 45069

see the Insufficient Mating Material video:

INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL takes up where FORCED MATE ended, with Djetthro-Jason (Jethro-Jason) severely beaten, about to undergo surgery to change his face and identity before his shotgun wedding to the frivolous Princess Martia-Djulia (Marsha-Julia).

No one gives a thought to what Martia-Djulia might do when she realizes that it’s not her unsuitable lover, Commander Jason, but a stranger being frog-marched up the aisle to become her Mate.

Her surprising reaction sets off a firestorm of rumor… and rattles a murderer who thought he’d gotten away with an ancient crime.


A Tricky Experiment

“Maybe, sweetheart, we should have sex to prove to you that you can and will enjoy it.”
“I enjoyed it once. I am very happy with my memories. I don’t need you or your experiment to prove anything,” she said stiffly.
“Once?” He raised an eyebrow. His lips twitched. Too late, Martia-Djulia realized that she had just contradicted one of her earlier statements.
“The Aim of the Experiment is to discover whether or not we are sexually compatible,” Djetth said loftily. She suspected that he was amusing himself by parodying a formal checklist. “Method: to have mind-blowing recreational sex using positions and techniques that mitigate or avoid unfortunate consequences. Expected result--”
“What unfortunate consequences?”
“Insects in your hair?” he teased. “Sand in your baby box. A baby. Infection. Injury. Legal consummation of a Mating we might not want.”
His gaze flickered. Martia-Djulia had the impression that his list was deliberately ordered.
“Injury to whom?” she asked, ignoring the glossed over “baby.”
“I’ve wondered why you haven’t blasted me backward onto my butt since our Mating Day. I’ve certainly deserved it.”
“Yes you have!” she agreed heatedly.

ISBN 0-505-52711-1

Bit of Self-promo

***** Five Stars!
Excellent adventure and highly recommended!

This book has one of the best ending sequences. … Ms. Cherry has created a seriously evil villain. … Trust me, INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL is a book you don’t want to miss. Be sure to check out the back-story in Rowena Cherry’s FORCED MATE.
~bookmaedin, for

INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL is an outstanding sequel to FORCED MATE! Cherry skillfully combines mystery, romance, and humor with a fast-paced science fiction adventure. I couldn’t put it down! ~ Jean, Fallen Angel Reviews

Rowena Cherry is one of the best sub-genre writers due to her skill at placing the heroic characters in impossible scenarios
~ Harriet Klausner, Affaire de Coeur

For those of you who read and enjoyed FORCED MATE, the long awaited story about Commander Jason is finally here and what a story it is! It was well worth the wait! I highly recommend running to get this book the minute it hits your local book store!
~Kathy Boswell, The Best Reviews

… a powerful romance laced with devastating family secrets, treachery and a sizzling passion hot enough to singe your fingers as you turn the pages. Ms. Cherry pens a compelling plot with vivid imagery and fascinating characters that will leave you breathless….Ms Cherry has become an auto buy author for me.
~Billie Jo, Romance Junkies

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Insufficient Mating Material... Excerpt

I encourage anyone thinking of buying one of my books to read a free sample chapter from my website or barnes and, or just stand in the romance aisle of your favorite local bookstore and check out a few pages.

These might be some good pages to scope out for a fair idea of whether
or not this book is your cup of tea.

Royal wedding: page 33

Sexually frustrated swearing: page 199

A fish bit my ... : page 244

Battle scene: page 253

Cover scene : page 264

Grievous explains "the trots" to an alien: 273

Here is a very short excerpt with genuine survival advice.

In this scene, the hero, Djetth (pronounced Jeth) and the squeamish fashionista
Princess Martia-Djulia (Marsha-Julia) are marooned on a Costa-Rica-like island. They have been shot down, landed in the sea, and Martia's elaborate gown is wet, and she will not remove it.

She is embarrassed about the corset she wears underneath her preposterous Court dress. She doesn't know that Djetth has already seen her corset and more, before his plastic surgery, when he had a wild one-night-stand with her.

Djetth has decided that their first priority should be to get a fire going.

"There are a lot of things we could do without for one night." Dinner came to
mind. Sex…
Djetth grunted and rose to his feet.

The most natural thing in the world would have been to hook an arm around
Martia-Djulia's tightly cinched waist, and point to the campsite he'd chosen. Instead, he put his left hand on his hip and pointed with his right hand.

"You see that little stand of trees -- the ones with twisted trunks, which fork
into three or four branches at about the height of my hip? Those two, there, will make good supports for the entrance to a shelter. I'll thrust a long, straight branch between their crotches as a ridgepole."

She looked doubtful, but Djetth was on good ground with his woodmanship.

"A 'crotch' is where a tree bifurcates," he explained, simply so she would think
about crotches, and long, straight objects being thrust into them. "They're a good
choice because their canopies lean inland, away from what becomes the obvious spot to clear for a fire pit. Do you agree?"

He took her silence for consent.

"Right. I'll start by digging the fire pit. Do you think you could find something we can burn? There are three types of fuel needed for a fire. Tinder is the most important."

Chivalrously, he assigned the greatest importance to the easiest, lightest,
most enjoyable, most feminine task.

"I can't start a fire without tinder," he added with strategic disregard for the
fact that he was a Great Djinn in possession of three Rings of Imperial Authority, one of which was the laser-like Fire Stone.

"What is tinder?" she asked, sounding suspicious.

"Ahhhh," he drawled, overcome by a mischievous instinct. "Look here."

With his left hand he lifted his T-shirt, with his right forefinger and thumb he
reached into his navel, confident that after eight weeks of hard exercise he had well defined abs and a very deep and attractive "inny" of a tummy button.

He withdrew lint.

"Oh, slurrid!" his squeamish Princess exclaimed, predictably, but she stared at
his lower abdomen and perhaps at the bulge in his trunk briefs with flattering interest.

"This fluff--" He placed it in the palm of his left hand as reverently as a
scientist explaining an important specimen, "is created from the action of hard work. Friction attracts filaments of fabric from my cotton T-shirt, and works them into a flat, fluffy mat."

He moved his cupped hand closer to her.

"Good tinder needs to have irregular edges, plenty of airspaces." He teased his
tummy button fluff into a looser wad. "It must be dry. Would you like to touch it?"

Best wishes,

Rowena Cherry

Some readers might be interested to recall that in one episode of Survivorman, Les Stroud plucked lint from his socks to use as tinder to start a fire. When I saw Les do that, I sensed that he and I shared a sense of humor, and that he would be the perfect "survival details" expert for Insufficient Mating Material.

Another tip... besides surprising things that are flammable, is that it is better to be naked and dry rather than clothed and wet.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Superbowl of Romance (a metaphor)

"Rowena, compare your books to THE ALIEN SUPERBOWL OF ROMANCE..." was the challenge that my good friend Lillian "Creator" Cauldwell tossed at me, virtually live on a recent Passionate Internet radio show.

I'm not very good at thinking on my feet, and promptly dropped the novel from which I'd planned to read an excerpt, and which was a totally ineligible receiver for this hardball question. I fumbled, recovered, and ran with it,

"First," I said manfully, "there was FORCED MATE .... a chess term.

"You might say, there were the two champion teams.
At one end of the star field..." (I thought "star field" was rather good, inspired by Soldier Field, of course. I couldn't think of a Dolphin Stadium pun).

"In Black, was Tarrant-Arragon of the Tiger Princes," I ran on, Coltishly, "definitely the Top Dog team.

"In White, was Commander Jason of the White Knights. I called them Saurian Knights, like dinosaurs, in the book, and they were the underdogs."

Lumbering, like a Bear? I paused before continuing the metaphor to the goal line.

"Ummmm, both Tarrant-Arragon and Jason competed for POSSESSION of... in this case, not a pigskin, nor a pawn, but a lovely, intelligent sensitive young woman from Earth."

By this point --it was the pigskin reference that did it-- I've got my second win, and the end zone is in sight.

"Whoever got his hands on her and his arms around her, won the game, and made her his Queen."

Yah! Doing a mental victory dance offside, I regret that my football-loving husband wasn't around to hear that.

"Now, there IS INSUFFICIENT MATING bookstores everywhere, just in time for alternative entertainment on Superbowl weekend."

OK. I was pushing it. Since I was going through the interview to promot Insufficient Mating Material (and the Hidden Image Contest) I was going for the extra point.

"In Insufficient Mating Material, Commander Jason is back, badly beaten up, furious and frustrated that he didn't get the girl, still an underdog, but with a new face, new uniform, and a new name.

He's out for revenge, and it's a whole new ball game. "

Best wishes,

Rowena Cherry
author of alien romances where heroes steal heroines when they touch down on Earth

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Insufficient Mating Material --secrets

Happy Superbowl Sunday, by the way. Have you seen my 50 second advertisement? Not on TV, naturally, but on MySpace and You-Tube and anywhere else that will put it up (including my home-run website... which isn't run by me!)

For the record, Edward Traxler --Myra Nour's brother-- did my video. However, I put in a lot more time and did a lot more work than I expected, so I really hope that it is as effective as a marketing tool as everyone who has them, seems to think.

I don't know. Seeing a cover cut up and moved around on a screen has never sent me to a bookstore with the speed and purpose of a heat-seeking missile.

When we started, I thought I knew what I wanted. For about $75 (not my end cost!) I wanted a Me-Too product, just to hedge my bets in case Susan Kearney, Linnea Sinclair, Mel Schroeder, Myra Nour, Ruth Kerce, Mandy Roth and Michelle Pillow (I watch Mandy and Michelle, because they must be the most savvy self-promoters I've ever seen, and I mean that in the nicest possible way) are right.

Music: I wanted the Pilgrim's Chorus from Wagner's Tannhauser. I'd once seen a feeble --but choral-- version on a Royalty Free site. Failing that, yeah, Billy Idol's White Wedding or Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath would do nicely, but that idea was quickly squashed. One cannot buy Royalty Free 30 second clips of Rock Star's music. Alas!

And, to get anything except the orchestral Overture from Tannhauser, the sites I visited required Membership and a commitment to buy more than 30 seconds of good stuff.

Ed gave me links to six sites that sell legal-to-use music, and told me to find what I wanted. Imagine... well, I am picky and I have expensive tastes. If I couldn't have someone famous, I wanted a lot of people, so I hunted for a good, bombastic choir. I'd hoped for massed, warrior-like men in extasy, but settled for kick-butt females going Aaaaaaaahhhhh.

I'd seen Lightboxes in an earlier reconnoitre, but hadn't figured out how to use the site. I learned. I thought I wanted beach and sea and an aurora borealis to play up the cover art, which I assumed we'd be cutting up.

Unfortunately, my From-Here-To-Eternity cover models are in an isoceles triangle configuration, so there was no way to make them roll over (and over again) in the surf.

Using the index and search functions, I wasted a lot of time looking at seascapes, hoping to find ejaculating clams.... or something that could suggest that.

Also, I went through a lot of little campfires (most had unsuitable men in
baseball caps silhouetted against the flames). My romantic aliens do not wear baseball caps or Chicago Bears helmets. Eventually, I decided that it was witty, funny, and appropriate to show a really big fire. If you've read Insufficient Mating Material, you'll understand why.

Then Ed sent me to a NASA site, and I spent a day or two looking at starfields and comets and planets.

Next, he sent me to the airforce to check out jetfighters, and then to....look at fonts and colors.

And meanwhile I was trawling MySpace trying to find a cheap, naked man.

I found one enjoying a shower (which would have been really good, given one of the archetypically dirty tricks Tarrant-Arragon plays on his sister) but .... it wasn't to be.

Thank Evan I remembered what a good sport Evan Scott is! He said I could use one of his photographs. Oh, but the trouble we had removing Evan's hair, and putting a piratical headsquare on his head. The early efforts looked like a hard, orange hat. No one wears a construction site helmet and nothing else in the sea.

There was another shot we considered... Evan was waist deep in the sea, proudly holding up a manly bathing-costume. We turned the swim suit into a big fish, as if he'd just tickled a sea-going trout and caught it.

However, the fish was a distraction, and would take too many words to explain, even if there IS a school of thought that says you can use fish skin as a condom. SURVIVORMAN (who was my survival techniques consultant for the book) opines that you can't, but that rabbit guts are an option.

Back to Evan's inconvenient hair. You can imagine me googling Pirates of the Caribbean for good-looking headwear. Unfortunately, most of that looked good because of the explosion of dreadlocks and beaded beard underneath the scarf.

And, Djetth should have had a goatee, but Ed draws goatees like a subway grafitti artist putting facial hair on the Mona Lisa (it must be his only weakness), so I googled Men In Goatees. (That was an interesting search!) I also found Max Von Sydow's Ming from Flash Gordon, and Andre Agussi and Brad Pit and chin curtains. Chin Curtains!!

In the end, I decided that Djetth did not need a goatee for the purposes of this trailer.

Then, finally, the video is done, and Ed puts up a really good resolution, and I discover that the hero in the sea has what looks like monster love bites around his visible nipple.

No one seems to mind, though.

Best wishes,

Rowena Cherry
"Insufficient Mating Material is a strong, intelligently written book..."
~Marcy Arbitman, reviewer for Just Erotic Romance Reviews