Sunday, May 27, 2007

A troubled heroine

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

Insufficient Mating Material in the UK

Insufficient Mating Material has "found himself" in the UK

Of course, it would have been much better if Forced Mate had been released this widely, because Forced Mate is the first book in the series (which we prefer to call The god-Princes Of Tigron... some people amuse themselves by calling them The Mating Books, which gives entirely the wrong impression).

Moreover, Forced Mate was set in Cambridge, and also on the Cerne Giant, and in Cerne Abbas. Ten years ago, the pub toilet description was uncannily accurate down to the plughole and the crackly quality of the toilet paper, unless one knew that the author --who is a Brit-- had "been" there.

Insufficient Mating Material's hero is a former public school boy, and he tells the heroine a right whopper about how English gentlemen decorate their genitals, but there's no action in the UK in this book. The author did, however, sit in the North Sea not far from Jersey in the Channel Islands, with her legs entwined about her dh's legs, to get a feel for how the cover scene ought to be written.
Insufficient Mating Material in WH Smith

Insufficient in Tesco

In Krisostomus

Insufficient in Euros

Insufficient in Blackwell

In Waterstone's

Insufficient in Waterstone's

A slack damn splendid read!

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

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Flaming dishwashers!

I feel a rant coming on. Not being able to run my newish dishwasher seems like the last straw... It's new enough that the four prime directives for getting the most out of my GE Profile are still as perfect-looking and as clear as the day it was installed. Rule four tells me to use Jet Dry in the rinse dispenser.

Now it seems, if I had disregarded instructions, and not used a rinse agent, I might have had spotty, cloudy glassware, but I would not have an appliance that might keep me up at night.

What a week it has been! Moreover, my horoscope promised me three lucky days (Monday, Tuesday, and today, Thursday).

Monday: Before dawn, I made sure that the last of the outgoing mail had gone, so I didn't have to pay an extra 3c per standard envelope. Owing to a last minute commitment for a phone conference with my editor, I postponed the irrigation man from first thing in the morning to noon. I did not adjust the plan to have the air-conditioning serviced between ten and noon (a precautionary tune-up). I also did other "summer" things, such as change the glass panel in my storm door for an insect screen. As soon as I had done that, an almighty thunderstorm rolled in, and stormed through the netting onto my kitchen floor.

I could have shut the door, but the a/c man was making ominous noises in the basement, the day was hot, and I needed a cooling draught. I was also trying to tidy up the living room, and reorganize my cubby hole under the stairs to accommodate all my promotional materials and romance reading matter. The irrigation man came and went, leaving the lid to the lake pump in the reeds instead of where it should be. Late in the day, an unpredictable man came to check that my roof drains were flowing freely (which they weren't) and when I heard him using a machine on my roof, I felt obliged to go up there, too, to make sure he wasn't blowing gunk at high pressure down the drains. (If he was, I didn't catch him at it.)

As usual, the once-a-week vegetable man drove up just as I left to collect my child from school. I left his order and his check, and he left my produce and my change in a box by my front door.

Meanwhile, on the internet, I learned that my book Insufficient Mating Material had won a coveted award (I coveted it!). I received some last minute additions and corrections for the newsletter and of course I wanted to announce my newest news. I meant to join an online chat in the evening, but fell asleep early.

On Tuesday... I noticed that one of my irrigation heads was making low-lying mist instead of a proud rotating jet. I called to mention the omission. I had a follow-up chat with my editor, the roofing man came by to look at a skylight that leaks continually in driving rain. I'd hoped to go by the Secretary of State office to renew my driving license in person, which I did --but not until the end of the day. It took about an hour, but I think they have a machine that actually takes flattering photographs!

The occasionally handy gardening man (who'd looked at my roof drains) came back to chop branches off the tree that was dropping clumping pollen onto my roof, and also to do some weeding, and squirt hornet killer into suspicious holes. The irrigation man came back, replaced the lid, and fixed the head. Also, the tree man came to make my ashes taste nasty to emerald ash borers (we're in a bad way with this in Michigan).

I got the newsletter out, and accommodated the sprinkle of unsubscribe messages that came back to me.

Wednesday. Dustbin day. That meant that the trash had to be set out before seven am, though the waste management engineers may not come until late afternoon. They come in shifts: one lot for the recycling, another for the really offensive stuff.

My child said that she could not eat her toast and honey or her tomato ketchup and toast for breakfast (as requested by her and doubtfully produced by me) because she had toothache. I should have had four hours to do some research for a noon meeting, but had to take her to the dentist in that window... after I'd changed a non-refundable airline booking so my husband could leave town before the afternoon storms blew up and shut down the airport.

It turns out, the storms weren't anywhere near as bad as the forecasters thought they'd be. The tooth problem turned out to be early growth of adult molars, but knowing there was no decay set my child's mind at rest, and she felt better. That left me half an hour to dig files out of my basement and scoop the dust off the dining room table.

Had the dreaded meeting. Got through a lot, but not everything before it was time for the school pick-up run. Rushed home, with child, to execute a very necessary trade before the market closed, then went out again to buy very necessary tomato ketchup and yoghurt (only Kroger was out of the favorite La Creme). Then, we checked the internet to see what kind of weather my husband had flown through, and what length of delays he'd endured. Called him at his hotel to verify.

Today, I got up early to wash my hair. My husband called from out of state just as my child and I were about to leave for school (this is the day I teach chess in the morning). He told me that there is a recall on my dishwasher. Alas, it is true! Luckily, I hadn't locked and loaded the GE Profile this morning. I worried about my faulty appliance all the time I should have been teaching good moves for Knights and pawns.

Now, I guess I have to wash dishes by hand until I decide whether to have a free repairman in to rewire the thing, or to take a rebate and buy a newer model (which will cost more than the rebate, of course).

Best wishes,