David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Month: September 2015

Rainbow, Baba Ram Wammalamma dingdong & the Garden of Earthly Delights

delightc-362x400SPORTING MY NUT-HUGGING ELEPHANT BELLS, I arrived in Laurel Canyon, an enchanted eucalyptus oasis in the middle of this Hollywood smogfarm metropolis. As I entered the log cabin house set behind a wildflower jasmine jungle, a solid block of patchouli incense musk nearly knocked me over. With driftwood tie-dye batik beanbags windchimes macrame´ hanging plants and Mexican day-of-the-dead skeleton art everywhere, it looked like Woodstock exploded in Rainbow’s house, as this boomed out:

“Driving that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones, you better watch your speed”

Rainbow had long straight grey hair, feather earrings and a floor length tie-dye dress with a dopey hippie happy face on it. No make-up. No shoes.

Namaste.  Enter.  Would you like some ginseng tea?” wafted out of Rainbow.

The customer’s always right. When in Rome, drink ginseng tea. While she fetched me tea I survey lots of pots of pot plants. Rainbow returned with my tea in a psychedelic homemade mug with a drawing of some dopey hippie happy face on it. The tea smelled too earthy and dank for drinking, but I brought the Mother Earth medicine scent up to my lips and sipped.

It was good. And good for me.

“Do you dig the dead?”

Rainbow looked at me like she expected something. I was confused.  Was this some weird necrophilia deal Mr. Hartley, my employment counselor/father confessor/fairy godmother/pimp, forgot to tell me about? I made a mental note: Find out what’s the going rate for having sex with dead people. But perhaps more importantly, do I feel comfortable shopping a dead person?

“I believe Jerry Garcia is the physical embodiment of the Godhead, don’t you?”

Jerry Garcia!  The Grateful Dead. That’s who belonged to that dopey hippie happy face.  Jerry Garcia! I saw me digging a grave and putting a gratefully dead Jerry Garcia in it.

“Oh yeah, Jerry Garcia is a total Godhead. Yeah, I definitely dig the Dead…”

I trotted out my best hippieboy smile. Actually, I couldn’t’ve cared less about the Dead. Or the dead. Rule #5: the customer is always right. I was there to get paid. I looked around for my envelope. No envelope. I didn’t like that. I was looking for a low-maintenance score, get in, get out, badda bing badda boom. Relax, cowboy, you’re gonna get paid, go with the flow, flowing, in the flow. Hey, someone wants to pay me to say Jerry Garcia is the physical embodiment of the Godhead, that’s Easy Money.

“Give me your hand,” Rainbow said.

I gave her the hand. She took it.

“You have big hands,” she said.

In my line of work that was a compliment.

“Thank you,” I said.

She looked at me funny, like it wasn’t a compliment at all, just a statement of fact. But she didn’t really seem to care, she looked into my palm like it held the key to the sweet mysteries of life.

GET THE MONEY UP FRONT

GET THE MONEY UP FRONT

GET THE MONEY UP FRONT

 Only the newest greenhorn in Greenhornville doesn’t get the money up front. This is what separates the rank amateur from the hard working professional. You’re not here to have a good time, Charley, you’re here to get paid.

But Rainbow had produced nothing, and I could tell she’d be just the sort who’d get all bent if a guy mentioned something as crass as cash.

So I sat and stewed as Rainbow gazed into the crystal ball of my palm.

After she stared at my palm for what seemed like a month, Rainbow was starting to seem demented. I was convinced she was a Charlie Manson groupie with a garotte she was going to use to sacrifice me and the goat I was sure was in the backyard.

I was starting to have serious doubts about Rainbow.  About this whole line of work. I had enough money. I could excuse myself like I’m going to the bathroom and walk out and just drive. But again the question: Where would I go? Who would I go to? I had nowhere. I had no one.

“You’re a very old soul…” Rainbow concluded.

You said a mouthful there, sister.

“…and you‘ve lived many lives…you were an explorer and sailed all over the world… and you were a sultan with many women. You were a mighty warrior in battle, and you were a slave on a plantation…”

Rainbow looked into me like she had periscopes that went through my eyes.

That was when I noticed her for the first time. In all the confusion I hadn’t really seen her. She had deep eyes, steel-colored with flecks of cobalt. A big Scandihoovian Bergman madly-suffering but eternally hopeful face. I half expected Death to walk out of her bedroom and challenge me to a game of chess for my soul.

“You’re here to learn a lesson, and I’m here to teach you…” Said Rainbow.

Okay, it’s a hot-for-hippy-teacher thing. I breathed easy.

“Do you know what tantric sex is?” Rainbow asked.

I could dish some semicoherent gobbledygook about ancient mystic Asian sex, but she wanted me to be the blissfully ignorant manmoonchild, so naturally I turned myself into whatever she wanted me to be. That was my job.

“No, I don’t…”

Rainbow handed me a smile, and led me through a translucent tie-dye cloth door into a bed with a room around it. It was the biggest bed I’d ever seen. Overhead, high in the tall pointed ceiling was a skylight, where incense curled up thick from fat Buddha bellies; candles tossed soft little drops of light everywhere; elephantheaded Indian gods with massive genitalia copulated with lionheaded goddesses; statue women stared with dozens of breasts; a halfman halfbull was inside a godhead with a doghead; Japanese paintings of Jade-looking beautybabies intercoursed in every position imaginable, one leg up over an ear, the other wrapped around a head; Old French postcards of cherubinesque honeys were Frenched and doggied; a guy went down (or would that be up?) on himself; and a shrine of rosebudvaginas and phalluspeni smiled.  Pillows and cushions plump velvety; blankets, fur, and fat cloth made me feel like a cat, and I wanted to roll around getting my belly stroked while nubile handmaidens fed me catnip.

A sculpture of a vagina started talking to me: “Hi, David, welcome to the party, come on in.”

And in the center of it all a big picture of a dark man with long black curly hair and brown magnets for eyes that kept staring at me no matter where I went in the room, it was freaky. He was hard and soft at the same time.  I’d never seen the guy, but he looked familiar, like he was the kind of guy who could set you straight if you were floundering around. And I was so very full of flounder at the moment.  I made a mental note to find a wise, kind, benevolent guru teacher as soon as I left Rainbow’s. I’m still looking.

“That’s Baba Ram Wammmalammadingdong,” said Rainbow.

I was sure she didn’t really say that, but that’s what it sounded like to my 17 year-old man child idiot ears, all Dr. Seussy.

“He’s the master of sensual enlightenment.”

That’s what I wanna be when I grow up: master of sensual enlightenment.

“Sexual transcendance can only happen when you are connected to the life force that flows through all living things,” breathed Rainbow. “You have to open, I mean really open, all of your… shock absorbers.”

Years later I would realize it was my chakras and not my shock absorbers that needed opening, but at the time I couldn’t care less.  I’d open my shock absorbers, my athletic supporters my cookie jar, whatever she wanted. I just needed to get paid, and I needed to get paid IMMEDIATELY. I was seeking enlightenment through cold hard cash.

“Why don’t we start by meditating?”

Rainbow settled into a big comfy-womfy cushy cushion crosslegged, and motioned for me to do the same.

I balked. I’m naturally curious by nature, I was very interested in the whole third-eye transcendent sex thing, and picking up some exotic kinky eastern sex tips would’ve been grand, but I had to get my money UP FRONT.

I sighed quiet. I knew for a fact it will not help us achieve harmony with the life force that flows through all living things if I told Rainbow she needed to pay me IMMEDIATELY.

I was dreadfully dithered.

But just when things were looking their most dodgy, the gods smiled upon me, and Rainbow, God love her, new what I needed and could not ask for.

“Oh, shit, you need some bread, don’t you?” she said.

I could’ve cried. I saw this as a clearcut sign that I was being taken care of by something bigger than myself.

Rainbow got out of crosslegged, rummaged through an old macrame´ bag, and returned with four skanky twenties, a nasty ten, a funky five, four filthy ones and a bunch of loose change, then handed me the whole kitandkaboodle.

I was starting to dig this crazy chick. I could see her scrimping and saving to give herself a treat. Me. I was the treat for my trick. I vowed then and there to be a pot of gold for this Rainbow.

“Opening the gate that leads to the garden of earthly delights can only be achieved through a woman’s pleasure.”

Rainbow paused to make sure I got it.

“Opening the gate that leads to the garden of earthly delights can only be achieved through a woman’s pleasure.”

She looked at me intensely, so I understood how important this was.

So I thought about it hard.  It was comforting to have someone telling me what to think about. I didn’t have to make any decisions, and that moment, decisions were just disasters waiting to happen.

Garden of earthly delights. A woman’s pleasure. A woman’s orgasm.  Tumblers click in my head, a lock snapped open, and I saw the light. A woman’s pleasure was the key to sexual ecstasy. Now that I had my money, I was keenly interested in this whole thing.

“A man can have multiple orgasms… most people don’t know that, but it’s true. And I can show you how to do it.” Rainbow said with absolute conviction.

Multiple orgasms? Hell, I had one and it nearly kills me. But I was crazy curious to see if I could incorporate some clitoris into my penis.

“There’s a line where your orgasm is, it’s kinda like a waterfall. See, it’s like you’re in a beautiful warm river, and the current is pulling you along, and you’re headed towards the waterfall, you’re getting closer and closer… until you’re hanging right there on the edge of the waterfall, but you’re not letting yourself go over.  You just get inside your own orgasm, and you can stay there as long as you want, as long as you don’t release. Do you know what release  means?”

Yeah, I think I got the idea.

“No, what do you mean?” I asked.

“Your release is your ejaculation. So you can orgasm without ejaculating,” Rainbow said carefully.

And the weird thing was, I knew exactly what she meant. River, waterfalls, release, the whole shebang.

“I know it sounds totally… far out… but if you can wrap your cosmic mind around this, you’ll always have lots of groovy lovemaking in your life. You probably won’t get it tonight, but it’s something you can always practice. By yourself, with a partner, doesn’t matter. In the words of Baba Ram Wammalammadingdong, ‘Practice makes perfect.’”

I was starting to really like this Wammalammadingdong guy.

“Wow, that sounds… far out.” I’d never said far out before or since, but Rainbow ate it up like wavy gravy with a tie-dye spoon.

She took off her robe. She was the only industrial sex customer I ever had who took off her clothes while I still had mine on. And for an old broad (again with the proviso that anyone over the age of twenty-five years was Old) she had a riproaring body. Supple muscles firm lithe and graceful, breasts slung low, with big brown chocolate kiss nipples in the middle. Mental note to self: as far as books go, don’t judge them by their covers.

Rainbow seemed to be one of those rare people who was actually comfortable with her own naked body.

“You have a beautiful body…”  I would’ve said it whether it was true or not, but in this case it was true, which did make it easier.

She liked it. She wasn’t desperate like lots of my other clients, but she liked it.

“Do whatever makes you happy,” said Rainbow.

“Do you want me to take my clothes off?” Just trying to keep the customer satisfied.

Wow. Whatever made me happy. Reminded me of my mom. No one said that to me in real life, never mind when I was chickening.

Seemed like if you were gonna learn to orgasm without ejaculating, you should be naked. So I took off my clothes.  Rainbow set opposite me crosslegged on that continent of a bed. I tried, but I just couldn’t get the crosslegged thing going.  My pedophile grandfather’s coalminer soccerplaying legs were just too unyielding. I was tugging and pulling, cuz I was trying to suck it up and play through the pain, but damn, that shit hurt.

“Don’t do it if it hurts. Don’t do anything that hurts…” Rainbow flows. You gotta hand it to the hippies, when it comes to peace and love and all that business, they really know their shit.

Rainbow showed me how to deepbreathe, and we deepbreathe until we felt the life force flowing through us. I didn’t actually feel the life force flowing through me as such, but she did, and that was good enough for me. The crumpled bills in my pocket were filling me with the life force.

Rainbow and I Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmed for about a fortnight. Eventually I did feel a little lightheaded, like when I first smoked a cigarette. But hey, if she wanted to pay me to breathe and say om, that was rolling off a log for a chicken.

Finally when Rainbow was om’d out, she took my hand, placed it on her breast, looked me in the eyes, and with a hypnotic smile showed me how to roll that mammoth mammarian poolcue tip between my thumb and forefinger, and it got bigger and tighter, until it felt like it was ready to pop, while she made airsuck sounds of pleasure.

I could smell her now, Rainbowing as she made my hand the axis between her legs around which she gyrated, nestling my head into her neck and whispering, “Kiss me soft…”

I ate her neck like a fruitcake while she revved in growly moans, everything moved in rhythm like a well-oiled sex machine, the fur blanket softly soft as she guided me like an air traffic controller. Then Rainbow replaced my hand with my mouth and she huffed and she puffed like she was gonna blow the house down, jimjamming and earthquakeshaking.

I smiled inside. I was getting a crash course in the fine art of a woman’s orgasm, and I was getting paid for it. America–what a country!

“Now I’m right there,” she pants, “…if I let myself, I’d go right over the waterfall… but… I’m… not… I’m gonna stay… right here and let the… waves roll through me… there’s one… slow down… Stop!” Rainbow squeezed, fists clenching and unclenching like a baby breastfeeding, “…now slow… there’s another one… ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… God…”

Rainbow let rip with a top-of-the-lungs scream. A gigantic little death. When she collapsed at the tip of my tongue, I understood for the first time what they were talking about, as time warped, Einstein smiling somewhere, eternity in a second, infinity in a grain of sand.

I thought of busting my ass in the grease of Hollywood Fried Chicken.  I thought of my father slaving away at the explosives plan. I thought about my grandfather shovelling coal down the mine. I sure as hell wouldn’t be getting black lung disease from this.

A rainbow slowly descended from Orgasm Mountain, while I stood next to her, nakedly rolling my big huge rock up my big huge hill.

After a brief intermission, Act II began. She pulled me into the river, took me right to the edge of the waterfalls, and then stopped. The most important thing, she said, was to turn off your mind, and move into your body. You can’t think and swim at the same time.

Once a man plunges over the waterfalls in his barrel, of course, it’s all over for him. For a while at least.  So you have to be very careful and really pay attention. I practiced getting right on the edge and just sticking there. And it was good. When she did something particularly compelling, I felt the spray in my face and the pull of the fall, and by God, quivers did quiver me, then I quickly pulled myself back.

Rainbow was my Seeingeyesexdog.

“Wow, that was groovy…” I said, when it was clear we were done.

Groovy? I couldn’t believe that came out of my mouth, but as usual I’d ceased to exist in my need  to please.

I didn’t know what to do next. Should I hang out? Were we friends? I thought for a minute. I still didn’t feel that creeping mudslide of depression I usually got after I worked as a chicken. I was just a little confused, that’s all. But looking around I could see myself moving right in here and being the sextoy for all of Rainbow’s old greatbodied freakyhippie chicks. Sounded like fun, I think, as I grabbed at another salvation flotation device.

“I have something for you…” Rainbow was sweet as you please, slipping into an old soft tie-dye robe. I followed at her heels like a naked chickenpuppy. She reached in a drawer and I was expecting a nice fat juicy tip. Twenty, maybe fifty. Instead Rainbow pulled the out a feather.

A feather.

“It’s an earring,” said Rainbow.

I had to work hard not to show how totally disgusted I was as I took out the rhinestone in my ear and replaced it with the feather. I looked in the mirror. To my amazement, I actually liked the way it looked. Kind of tribal. Even though I silently scoffed when she presented it to me, that feather became a war souvenir, and I wore it on and off for many years.

And whenever I did, I thought of Rainbow.

She kissed me on both cheeks. She thanked me. I thanked her. She didn’t say we should get together again soon, or that we should stay in touch. I loved that. I did what I came to do, we both got what we wanted, and that, as they say, was that.

Rainbow was the only trick I ever had who gave me more than I gave her.

Motorcycling away from Rainbow, floating on my feather earring in the sweetness of the cool Laurel Canyon night, I was high on Rainbow’s free love.

That she paid for.

The Book Doctors Do Deadwood & South Dakota Book Festival

If someone ever comes up to you & says, “Hey wanna go to Deadwood?” Do yourself a favor: Say Yes. Ditto the South Dakota Book Festival. The country is spectacular & so is the festival.  Here are some pics to prove it.

Buffalo, prairie dawgs & writer.

IMG_0039

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a video:

 

Attack of the Donkeys

When donkeys attack!!!

Ann Ralph author

Ann Ralph on the Joys of Fruit Trees, Taking Care of Mother Earth, and How to Get a Book Deal Writing About Something You Love

We first met Ann Ralph when she won our Pitchapalooza with one of the greatest elevator pitches we’ve ever heard: The Elements of Style for fruit trees. It made total sense even as it was counterintuitive. It communicated something so clearly, with such economy, intelligence and style. She also presented it in such a smart, relaxed, fun and yet information-packed way you couldn’t help but sit up and pay attention. Plus, who doesn’t love a great fruit tree? So now that her book Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy Harvest Fruit Trees is out, we thought we’d pick her brain and find out exactly how she did it.

To read this interview on the Huffington Post, click here.

2015-09-23-1443032716-6095134-AnnRalph.jpeg 2015-09-23-1443032771-3640609-annralphgrowalittlefruittree.jpeg

The Book Doctors: How is your garden?

Ann Ralph: The garden is thirsty, but so far, so good. These dry winters are unusual and scary. Long, dry summers are nothing new. In most of California rain stops in May and won’t start again until November. I planted with this in mind. The plants on a hot bank behind my house do entirely without summer water. The roadside tree trimmers left behind a huge pile of chipped prunings last fall. This stuff is gold to me. I applied it as a deep mulch around my fruit trees and ornamentals. Mulch helps tremendously with transpiration. I water my established fruit trees only about once a month. Mulch improves soil quality and sequesters carbon, too.

TBD: How did you get started as a writer?

AR: Nursery work was meant to be a placeholder until I got a real job. I got waylaid in a composition class on the way to a respectable career, then abandoned pretense for the work I liked, low pay, the outdoors, a cavalcade of interesting questions, great people, and writing in my off hours.

TBD: What are some of your favorite books and why?

AR: However beautifully rendered, nonfiction is constrained by facts. I get more sustenance from the truth in fiction: I think of the Salman Rushdie character who cooks grievances into her chutneys. I wish everyone would read All the King’s Men, A Passage to India, and A Place on Earth. When our president quotes Marilynne Robinson, I feel sure we’ll be okay.

TBD: How did you get started as a fruit tree enthusiast? What are some of your favorite fruit trees and why?

AR: I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley. We were awash in fresh fruit all year long. I went out the front door for Meyer lemons. Neighbors left bags of nectarines on the front porch. Teachers, like my dad, graded and weighed peaches for Del Monte in the summertime. He brought home leftover lug boxes full of fruit. My mother canned peaches and apricots to tide us over until summer came again. I had no idea how good we had it until I left California for New York. This last weekend I visited friends in Ripon and came home with a huge box of tree-ripe grapefruit. There is never too much grapefruit at my house.

TBD: What were some of the joys and difficulties of taking your passion and turning it into a book?

AR: I had a good idea about what made fruit trees confusing and difficult for people, and what was missing from existing books on the subject. Storey asked me to double the content. How right they were! Every step in the process led to a better book. The photography was more complicated than I expected it to be. Marion Brenner was generous with her time and up for anything. The trees, weather, light, and backgrounds weren’t as cooperative. The photos took another year, the design a third. I sometimes despaired that I’d ever see the thing in print.

TBD: You’ve gotten some wonderful reviews. What did you do to promote and market the book?

AR: Storey Publishing has reach into the book business I could never have managed on my own. My sister has been a buyer for independent bookstores for thirty-five years. She drilled into me a sense of my shared responsibility for the book’s promotion. I knew my audience. I also knew I had a book that people needed and would want to buy. I have great garden connections from Berkeley Horticultural Nursery. I’m easily evangelical on the subject of fruit trees.

TBD: The environment is going through some terrible times. What do you think are some solutions to bring back a balance with nature?

AR: Humans wield a lot of clout in the natural world. The organics now in markets are there because we wanted to buy them. We can look to decisions we make everyday, regarding packaging for one. We’re drowning in plastic. Recycling is better than nothing, I suppose, but recycling plastics is a dirty business. I make yogurt at home. Its deliciousness aside, this small action by one person eliminates a need for hundreds of plastic containers. The environment doesn’t exist apart from us. We’re in the thick of it. For good or ill, we build it as we go.

TBD: How did you get a book deal?

AR: The Book Doctors pulled my name out of a hat at a Pitchapalooza at Book Passage in Corte Madera. They liked my pitch. I shopped a proposal around to several publishers with interest but without success, always on the heels of another fruit book. Arielle took the idea to Storey Publishing. I strengthened the proposal based on information from The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. I’m sure that made the difference. I’m not just saying this because the Book Doctors happen to be asking the question. It’s true.

TBD: What advice do you have for fruit tree growers?

AR: Keep your fruit trees small enough to manage. I wish I could take credit for my favorite pruning advice. It came from a UC Davis seminar, “If you don’t know what to do, cut some stuff out.” Fruit trees are forgiving. If you goof it up, they give you another chance.

TBD: What advice do you have for writers?

AR: Let’s leave fruit advice to me and writing advice to Anne Lamott.

Ann Ralph is the author of Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy Harvest Fruit Trees. Publisher’s Weekly called the book “a thrilling read for the backyard farmer.” She is a fruit tree specialist with 20 years of nursery experience. She lives in the Sierra Foothills near Jackson, California.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, June 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

Me & Sally: A True Interspecies Love Story

This was published at Animal: a beast of a literary magazine.  It is a true story about when I fell in love with an animal.

Essay

Man vs Monkey by Kremena; for more information, visit  http://extraordinary632.deviantart.com/

Me & Sally: A True Interspecies Love Story

by David Henry Sterry

Sally and I are hired to act in a Michelob beer commercial. The theme of the spot is evolution. I am cast as a Neanderthal Man. Typecasting.

Four hours I sit while a crew of highly skilled make-up artists glue thin layers of skin-colored latex over my face, transforming me from end of Second-Millennium American Homo Sapien into a caveman: gigantic forehead with a scary hairy monobrow, wee sunken eyes, a flaring nose cauliflowering across my cheeks, thick rubber caveman lips, and huge wooly mammoth-eating fake teeth. I look for a long time in the mirror but I can’t find myself in there anywhere. I feel the strong desire to grunt and snarl and hump someone from behind.

Finally, I am ready for my introduction to Sally. Her handler comes up to me, very serious. “Don’t make eye contact at first. Let her come to you. Get down on her level and don’t make any quick movements. Be very calm and very still. They sense fear. She can jump six feet straight up in the air, and she’s ten times stronger than a human being. Sally’s jaw is so strong she could snap your arm in two like a twig. It’s really important she doesn’t feel any fear coming off you.”

All I can see is my bloody hand dangling out of her mouth.

Sally comes out of her trailer, hand-in-hand with another trainer. I squat down to her level. Avert my eyes. I can feel Sally’s stare as she inches slowly towards me. I’m so scared I have no spit. There’s a small crowd gathering, all quiet tension, waiting to see what Sally will do to David the Neanderthal. Finally she’s right in my face. Since I’m not making eye contact for fear of having my Adam’s apple ripped out, I smell her before I see her. She smells clean, wild, untamed, of the earth. I feel myself calm when I smell her. Slowly, ever slowly, I turn towards her, raising my head like a simian Southern belle, bringing my eyes up to meet hers.

Wise, curious, clever, keen, deep, sharp, smart, mysterious animal passion beams from Sally into me, jolting my soul and rattling my bones. Her face is a picture of puzzlement, brows knitted, head tilted to one side. As she stares into my half-man, half-monkey face, I find I can read her thoughts: “What are you? You’re not one of them, but there’s no way you’re one of me…Really, what are you?”

Sally sniffs me suspiciously, moving her mouth to my jaw. Her hot breath on my lips, I’m trying desperately not to visualize her biting my nose off. Sally brings her lips to my cheek, puckers, and covers my face and lips with tiny sweet little kisses.

I’m overcome, undone, head-over-heels in love with Sally. She puts her arms around my neck and hops into my arms. The crowd oohs and ahs, witness to the start of a great love story.

For the rest of the shoot, whenever Sally sees me, she runs up to me excited as a bride, jumps up in my arms, and covers me with kisses. We cakewalk around the set, handholding, swooning and spooning. I’ve never known a female who was so openly, unabashedly, good-naturedly affectionate. Work laws for actors like Sally are very strict, due to decades of abuse. So we can only show our affection in 12-hour shifts.

In the commercial I, Neanderthal, will be sitting next to Sally, while an actress, playing a waitress, flirts with me. We block the scene without Sally. The actress walks up to me stiffly, just lobbing her line in my general vicinity, like a lazy newsboy tossing an errant morning paper:

“Hey, Good Looking, come here often?”

It’s bad. Bad, bad, bad. The director stops everything, walks over to her all cocksure and says, “I need you to hot it up, honey, make with the goo-goo eyes, like you did in the callback, babe.” She promises she will, and shoots him an obligatory sex-baby look, which evaporates into disdain as soon as the director walks away.

Lights are tweaked. Camera focused. Hair, make-up and wardrobe are fluffed, patted, and tucked. Finally hundreds of highly paid technicians and advertising geeks are ready to make commercial magic.

Sally is brought in, hops up on her stool next to me at the bar, and kisses me on the cheek as I whisper sweet nothings into her ear.

“Scene 4, take 1. Roll camera!”

“Camera rolling. Speed.”

“Sound?”

“Speed!”

“And… Action!”

The actress walks towards us like a nervous hamster at a cat show. Even I can smell her fear. She starts to make very tentative flirty eyes in my direction.

Sally goes bananas, jumps up on the bar, bares her teeth, and hisses, looking like she’s going to rip this poor spooked woman’s heart out, show it to her, then eat it. The actress’ scream curdles blood as she runs wailing and weeping through the set, and out the door.

I thought the advertising geeks should have used that in the commercial, because it said more about evolution than any of the lame shit they came up with. But no, they decide to write the waitress out of the commercial.

Then it’s 6:30 p.m., and we’re way behind schedule. So they send some junior flunky over to Sally’s trainer and he asks if they can get Sally to work overtime, because if they don’t get all her shots, they’re going to have to bring everybody back for another day and go way over budget.

The trainer looks at the mad man like he’s a lunatic and says he seriously doubts Sally will want to work overtime, but he’ll see what he can do.

6:45 PM. The ad geeks huddle, whispering toxically. A much-better dressed executive walks up to the trainer. They’ll pay whatever he wants. Name the price.

The trainer smiles and slowly reminds the executive that Sally’s not particularly financially motivated.

“Well then we’ll give her all the damn bananas she wants,” says the better-dressed executive.

“Well,” explains the trainer patiently, as if he’s talking to a dumb animal, “Sally already gets all the bananas she wants, but I’ll see what I can do.”

6:58 p.m. The best-dressed executive hustles over to the trainer.

“Listen, I don’t care what she wants, we need to get three more shots before she leaves, is that clear?”

You can see the trainer’s about to lose it, wishing to God that he only had to deal with reasonable animals.

But before he could say anything, it’s 7 o’clock, exactly 12 hours after Sally started working. Sally steps up on the bar, and slowly, dramatically, like the consummate performer she is, raises her left arm over her head, and slaps her wrist three times where a watch would be. She jumps down, grabs my hand, and pulls me toward the door. Sally and I proceed through the set and straight out the door, hand-in-hand, a bride and Neanderthal groom heading for our abba dabba honeymoon.

They’re forced to bring everybody back the next day, and Sally is hailed as a hero. When I ask the trainer, he tells me that Sally has an extremely acute sense of time. Because she works so often, she knows exactly when 12 hours are up, and has figured out that by making the sign for time, not only will her day be over, she’ll also make everyone love her and get the Big Laugh. All day, whenever it’s time for a meal, or a break, everyone from actors to Teamsters raise their left hand up over their head, and slap their wrist three times where a watch would be, in silent homage to Sally. Much to the amusement of everyone except the ad geeks, who seem basically jaded and disgusted by pretty much everything except what swanky restaurant they’re going to eat at that night.

As for me, by the end of the shoot I’m madly in love with Sally. But alas, we were from different worlds. As her trailer pulls away a great wave of terrible sadness washes over me and I’m not embarrassed when big silent tears roll down my Neanderthal cheeks. Ours was a love that could never be.

Sterry

About David Henry Sterry

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and co-founder of The Book Doctors.  His first memoir, Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10-Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 12 languages, and is being made into a movie by the showrunner of Dexter.  His book Hos Hookers, Call Girls & Rent Boys appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He has featured on NPR, the London Times, Washington Post, and the Wall St. Journal.  He writes for the Huffington Post, Salon, and Rumpus.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.

Winning Pitchapalooza by Gloria Chao

This is originally from a great website called Novel Pitch

Gloria Chao was the winner of the 2015 Pitchapalooza contest put on by The Book Doctors. She and I connected via twitter. The following is her experience from the event. 0wjqQGQB

I am honored that NovelPitch has invited me to share my experience pitching in The Book Doctor’s 2015 Pitchapalooza contest. I’m a strong supporter of writers helping writers, and am excited to give back (though I wish I could give more!) to the community that has helped in my journey thus far. Thank you, Ralph, for your Novel Pitch efforts, and thank you, fellow writers, for your constant support.

I heard about the Pitchapalooza contest through Twitter and submitted my query. Based on The Book Doctors’ comments, I believe my pitch stood out because of the specifics—namely, the wording and humor. Since my novel is multicultural, I used words that gave a taste of Chinese culture, e.g. “sticking herself with needles” and “fermented tofu.” I also highlighted the wacky characters with phrases such as “expiring ovaries,” “unladylike eating habits,” and “Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer.” I think capturing the manuscript’s voice in the query was why my pitch was chosen.

Winning Pitchapalooza gave me confidence and the courage to keep fighting. It also helped bring my manuscript to the next level. I had struggled with my genre, pitching NA contemporary for the contest. The Book Doctors helped me realize this was the incorrect categorization, pointing me toward adult with suggestions to age up my manuscript by changing from first person to third. This released a flood of ideas, and I spent the next several months rewriting—adding 24K words, changing the POV, and writing with a women’s fiction audience in mind. I ended up with a manuscript that finally felt right.

The journey to publication is infamous for being long and relentless, but enjoying the small accomplishments along the way (and the writing, of course!) is what keeps me motivated. Putting ideas into words, sharing work with others, getting a personalized rejection, receiving a request, winning a contest—these are all achievements that require courage and are worth celebrating. And the writing community, including myself, will always be happy to celebrate with you!

Here are some of my tips for making your query stand out:

  • If you’re new to querying, check out Query Shark, published authors’ blogs, Writer’s Digest, and craft books.
  • Keep the 250 word count in mind, but only at the end. When you first start, just write. You’re more likely to have gems if you’re whittling down.
  • Avoid clichés, generalities, and obvious stakes. Use unique words to convey your voice (and do this in your manuscript as well).
  • Cut out every word that’s not essential. Too much detail bogs the story down.
  • When you think your query is ready, get fresh eyes on it—family (my husband read a thousand versions of my pitch), friends, and other writers you meet through Twitter. Start with those familiar with your book, then end with people who know nothing about it. The latter will help identify confusing elements and will let you know if the pitch as a whole is not grabbing enough. Then, seize every critique opportunity by entering contests.

You can read Gloria’s winning pitch for AMERICAN PANDA here.

About Gloria:

I earned a bachelor’s degree from MIT and graduated magna cum laude from Tufts Dental—the perfect Taiwanese-American daughter. Except I wasn’t happy. To get through practicing dentistry, I wrote. It took years to gather the strength to push my dental career aside, against my parent’s wishes, to pursue writing full-time. Our relationship suffered, but my most recent novel, AMERICAN PANDA, strengthened our bond by forcing me to ask questions I never dared before. Now, my mother and I laugh about fermented tofu and setups with the perfect Taiwanese boy (though I think she still worries about my expiring ovaries).

You can find out more about Gloria at her website and on twitter.

Website: https://gloriachao.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gloriacchao

THE BOOK DOCTORS PITCHAPALOOZA GRACE KENDALL OF FARRAR STRAUSS GIROUX BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY SEPT 16th 7:30pm

THE BOOK DOCTORS PITCHAPALOOZA
GRACE KENDALL OF FARRAR STRAUSS GIROUX
BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY SEPT 16th 7:30pm

logo1bc61e4b2f05b28873f5d508b6be52fd_400x400

WHAT: Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder & gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute! Dozens of writers have gone from talented amateurs to professionally published authors as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza, including Genn Albin, our KC winner who got a 3-book mid-six figure deal with Farrar Straus & Giroux.

WHO: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for over 20 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of nine books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 16 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. His first book has been translated into 10 languages and optioned by HBO, his latest book was featured on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. They’ve taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today. .

HOW: At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.

PRIZE: At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book.

PRICE OF ADMISSION: To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.

WHEN: September 16, 7:30pm

WHERE: Brooklyn Public Library 10 Grand Army Plaza http://www.bklynlibrary.org/locations/central
Brooklyn Book Festival http://www.brooklynbookfestival.org/BBF/Home

Washington Post: http://www.thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-in-washington-post

New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/3tkp4gl.

Pitchapalooza mini movie: http://bit.ly/vm9YSu

Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://www.thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-nbc-television

Here’s what people are saying about Pitchapalooza:

“We came to Pitchapalooza with an idea and six months later we got a book deal with a prominent publisher. We simply couldn’t have done this without this opportunity and without David and Arielle. We had been working on this project for several years, on our own, and struggling without any guidance. We were really discouraged by the entire process. Winning Pitchapalooza, and working with these two, really helped us focus and renew our enthusiasm in the project. And now we’re going to be published authors!”—Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, Pitchapalooza winners Litquke, San Francisco, Oct. 2010

Here’s what people are saying about The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published:

“I started with nothing but an idea, and then I bought this book. Soon I had an A-list agent, a near six-figure advance, and multiple TV deals in the works. Buy it and memorize it. This little tome is the quiet secret of rockstar authors.”—New York Times best-selling author Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich,

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén