Sunday, February 11, 2007

It's all about the Horny Berries

"What's it about?" the potential Reader asks at a booksigning.

I panic. I know I'm not good at this. More often than not, I say too much, and bore people. On the four hour drive down to Cincinnati for this signing, I've rehearsed over and over, with the loving help of my biggest critic. My thoughts spin like a tickertape parade.

Do I say, "Horny Berries"?

Do I say, "Remember that Harrison Ford movie where he was a hard drinking pilot who crash landed with --I think it was Ann Heche, playing a Vogue editor-- on an uninhabited island, and they had to survive. Only it's different, because in my book, the hero and heroine are politically embarrassing alien royalty, and someone is trying to kill them--"

"Someone tried to kill Harrison Ford," my critic snarled.

"Those were pirates. It's not the same as assassins sent to find them. Anyway, I didn't see that film until after I'd written Insufficient Mating Material."

"Who cares?" My critic shrugs. "What's different?"

"My book has this 'Face Off' element. The hero has had his face changed. He's the same guy that the heroine fancies herself in love with, but he can't tell her, and she doesn't know. Since she thinks she's in love with someone else, it's the worst thing in the world for her... to be marooned with a horny stranger."

My critic grunts.

"Oh, I'm soooo lame!" I wail.

Critic laughs.

"And, they don't have a plane-load of supplies to live off. After they are shot down, their plane sinks..."

"You shouldn't call it a plane if it's science fiction," critic objects.

"Their two-seater spaceship sinks in eight feet..."

"Shouldn't you use alien words for measuring?" he interrupts again.

"How polite is that, when I only have a couple of seconds to get my message across? The couple has to survive with what they are wearing and what they can find, like my book's survival consultant Survivorman..."

"Good! You should talk more about Survivorman."

"I don't want to give the impression that the book is about him. It's futuristic romantic fiction. It's not even quite "Alien Survivorman with Sex." It's true that Les and I both use entertainment to communicate some vital --and accurate-- wilderness survival advice, and Les read my book, and gave me some extra tips, and set me straight on a detail or two that I got wrong... And he gave me the cover quote. Anyway, when I show people my poster, it's the horny berries that they ask about."

Critic snorts. "Are there horny berries in the book?"
(He hasn't read it.)

"No, but..."

"Can you say HORNY in a bookstore?"

"There are horny toads. They're respectable. Horny doesn't just mean 'in the mood to be sexually active' but it does suggest to the reader that this is a book with sexually graphic language. Berries are an important food source, but if they are alien berries, you have to find out if they are edible or poisonous. You start by smearing a little juice on your wrist... anyway, my hero does all that, to the heroine, and at first she thinks he's building up to kinky sex.

"Of course, when she realizes that he's using her as a food-testing guinea pig, she is furious. And very depressed. And, she is a fashionista, a bit like Paris Hilton only crossed with the most scandalous female member of any European royal family you can think of. She doesn't like having to wear a plain white, man's T-shirt. So the hero uses berries' juice to tie-die her T-shirt... while she's wearing it."

Meanwhile, while I try to remember my best pitch, my potential Reader is reading the blurb on the back cover. The keywords there are "shot down", "failing to mate", "guitar glue", "psychic sleuths", "disguises", "a killer", a "damning tattoo" on the hero's "tool of seduction", and there is Survivorman's quote.

There's no mention of Horny Berries. I came up with horny berries when making the Insufficient Mating Material book promotion video. One has about eight frames (excluding frames for titles and credits) to tell a story, and between three and five words per frame. I should probably throw out something new.

But, it's too late. While I've been tongue-tied, my potential reader has moved on. Next time, I'll do the 'Carpe Scrotum' thing.

"It's about horny-berries," I'll say in my best BBC English voice.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

(Speaking!!! and signing Sunday February 11th, 2pm to 4pm at the Barnes and Noble on Telegraph and Maple, in Bloomfield Hills)

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 wind, 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' hearts when they touch down on Earth

Behind the scenes secrets...

Of making the Insufficient Mating Material book video.

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, JERR

PS. Don't forget to check out the covers of INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL. Find the Hidden Image, enter the contest (at and you might win a bookstore shopping spree.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL : in stores, warehouse is out

Here's what I've been working on, amongst other things. My first book video! If you are kind enough to watch it, you will find custom produced scenes from Insufficient Mating Material. It's quite a task trying to reduce a 323 page novel into eight lines of text.... and fewer than forty words.

LOL. I used more in the "labels" below this post, forgive me for trying out all the new bells and whistles.


Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry