Howard

The perils of writing

The perils of writing Writing a novel can be a perilous business. The other day, I was minding my own business, mapping out an upcoming chapter of Syrena, the sequel to Urban Mermaid. As part of the outlining process, I quickly sketched out some dialogue which will occur between Peter MacPherson and Mrs. Gar, the widowed next door neighbour to Ilene and George Tench.

Mrs. Gar is a nice old soul of indeterminate age. She is definitely older than George and Ilene, but it’s hard to put a finger on just how old she may be. Her husband disappeared at sea decades ago, years before George and Ilene moved in. Her mate’s first name was Hector and though she will admit that he’s, in all likelihood, dead, she nonetheless keeps a candle burning in the window of her heart, hoping for his return.

What happened to Hector?

I’ve often wondered this, myself. Originally, I had planned for Ellen Gar’s mate to have been lost at sea, years before the narration starts. Not content to leave well enough alone, I kept picking at it, trying to come up with a plausible explanation.

Returning to Syrena, there is a scene, in the chapter I’m currently outlining, where Peter asks Ellen about Mr. Gar. It seems he had this tattoo of a multi-coloured sea fan on his back. Ellen had paid for the tattoo and she looked forward to waking up every morning so she could admire the artistry.

Suddenly side-tracked

Well friends, that did it. I put down the outline development I’d been working on and started contemplating exactly what happened to Hector and exactly what I am going to do about it. I can now reveal that what happened to Hector will appear as a sub-plot in book number three. I already know of a few other things happening in book number three but I’ve got to save something for later.

Keep the reader in suspense

So, there you have it. Will Mrs. Gar ever learn exactly what happened to Hector? Will Hector ever return? I have just one word for you: Madagascar.

I hope you have ( or had) a culturally appropriate Thanksgiving. Now, time to get back to that outline.

Another one bytes the dust

Chapter progress for SyrenaChapter Progress for Syrena

I finished another chapter of Syrena yesterday. Please don’t start thinking I’ve turned into some sort of writing demon who can whip out chapter after chapter. The only person I know who can do that is S.K. Munt and she lives in Australia.

When I was writing Urban Mermaid, I cranked out a chapter in a day, one or two times. That was a rare exception and I am not expecting a repeat performance. Up until recently, my writing speed was more like one chapter per season.

Another chapter bytes the dust

The secret behind the speed on this latest accomplishment is the fact that I’d already written a third of the chapter . . . Several seasons ago. I do feel like I’m picking up speed on the sequel to Urban Mermaid but don’t expect Syrena (the working title) to go to the printer’s anytime soon. I’m working on the first draft and I already have a list of revisions I’d like to make. I also need to add some descriptive language to a good number of scenes.

A Change of Topic

Changing topics, I’d like to mention a few of the underlying themes found in Syrena, as well as the rest of the series.

Aside from two people finding each other, the Colony Island series is also about people who have had a difficult time in life, getting a second chance, finding their true home, finding acceptance. One underlying theme in Syrena is that of redemption.

Billy King

Billy King is Peter MacPherson’s old college roomie. They were thrown together for their freshman year and stayed together for their entire college career. Billy is an extremely talented musician who’s a bit stuck on himself. Moreover, he’s a lady’s man and has, on many occasions, taken advantage of his musical abilities to snag bed partners.

He is a peripheral character in Urban Mermaid but plays a much larger role in Syrena. His womanizing makes him come across as more than a bit sleazy. He also has a condescending attitude towards Peter. Billy repeatedly tried to help his roommate find a steady girl in college but to no avail. This included interfering with some things Peter wanted to do.

His condescending attitude even extends to Peter’s relationship with Penelope. Billy is convinced that the whole thing is a fluke and gives them three years at the very most. He also wonders if he could snag Penelope on the rebound. The two of them both work in the city and Peter seems determined to stay in the jerkwater town of Colony Island. Syrena is about his ultimate redemption.

Can a leopard truly change his spots? You’ll have to read Syrena to find out.

FAQ: What Do Merfolk Look Like?

Hmmmm, I assume you mean ‘What do people on Colony Island look like?’

What Do Merfolk Look Like?

Well, on land, they are surprisingly ordinary.

What do merfolk look like

You could stumble upon Colony Island, park your car, and go have lunch at Judi’s Jersey Diner. Whether you chose to eat at the counter or in a booth, you would sit next to and be served by Merfolk. The conversation you might overhear would be mundane. Two guys at the counter might complain about how bad the fishing has been lately, while two ladies, in the booth next to yours, might discuss going for a swim that afternoon. It’s a seaside town and that’s the sort of talk one would expect to hear.

Have A Look Around

Walk along Main Street and look in the shops. They are just what you would expect in a small town, although the hardware store does keep a selection of tridents in the back. Edna’s Home & Bath looks pretty ordinary – although that bathtub in the window does seem a bit long – and the Colony Island VFD is no different from any small-town fire station. What do merfolk look like.If you’ve parked too long on the street, you’d never know the officer writing your ticket is a merman.

What do merfolk look like?By tradition, the mermen on Colony Island have long hair and beards though there are plenty of clean shaven men with short hair. On the whole, you’ll see more women with waist length hair than on the mainland but, like Penelope Tench, they’ll wear it shorter if need be. Braids are popular but otherwise, hair-styles are pretty simple. Otherwise, anything done at Bab’s Kut & Kurl would wash out the moment you went for a swim.

Just Normal Folks

What do merfolk look like?

There are lovers,

What do merfolk look like?

young families,

What do merfolk look like?

and beach-goers,

just like everyone else. The islanders may have a few odd ideas about things like clothing or jewelry. These are, however, nothing to write home about. People from the mainland do occasionally drive over to use the public beach, but on the sand, it’s hard to tell the visitors from the residents.

When They’re Not On Land

As for the sea, you won’t find mermaids with tails that go on forever or extravagant fins. Mermaids don’t have huge hips, tiny waists or impossibly large bosoms like human artists are wont to depict them. The don’t have elf ears, fins on their arms, and their scale colouration runs from silver to blue-ish greys to greens. There is a population in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, known as gingers, with orange-ish scale colouration, but they are an exception to the rule.

While there are mermen with bulging biceps and ripped abs., this has more to do with their occupation on land than anything than anything else. At the same time, you won’t find very many paunchy mermen. A swim a day keeps the beer belly away.

This image is a favourite of mine.

mermaid-crab

Her hair is long but not impossibly so. The colour is a reddish brown, in other words, like normal human hair. She has a pleasing face, but it is not the face of a super model. Her breasts are average. The scale colouration is close to that of a Ginger and her fin is of a reasonable size. She is average. She is ordinary. She is  . . . well, pretty. She is from the world of Colony Island.

Quick Notes

Quick notesHere are a few quick notes for your amusement.

Progress On Book # 2

Well, I finished another chapter. It wants polishing, of course. The chapter covers between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the plot’s time line. I would have finished it back on Friday, but issues with our septic system caused the delay.

I have a partially written chapter that I need to flesh out. This portion was written back in May, 2015, during my cruise to Bermuda and concerns Amy’s holiday excursion in the Bahamas. Things are starting to get a bit complicated for her.

There’s another chapter I have to go back and write. I pretty much know what’s in it so the process shouldn’t take very long. I hope.

Video Issues

The next item concerns the website itself. A visitor pointed out to me that the book trailer for Urban Mermaid, located on the Front Page, was not working. It seems that a parameter which once worked with the YouTube plug-in, no longer does. I have corrected this issue. If any of you tried to view it and couldn’t, now’s your chance.

Finally

I have an FAQ which will be published on either Thursday or Friday. It covers just what the residents of Colony Island look like. This should answer some questions for those of you who haven’t read the book, yet. If you haven’t, right now would be a great time to read Urban Mermaid before the holiday madness sets in,

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Urban Mermaid makes a great holiday gift for the mer-fans in your life.

That’s all of my quick notes for now. Time for me to get back to work.

Reviews and Recommendations

Reviews and RecommendationsSome of you will know me as the author of Urban Mermaid. Others will think of me as that nutty mermaid guy. Still others will see my name and think “Didn’t I get a restraining order against him, once upon a time?”

Well, besides writing books about mermaids, I also write book reviews about mermaid novels. Over the past month or so, I’ve penned three reviews about 2 novels and one entire series. I usually post my reviews on my other blog site, The Parsons’ Rant[1], Goodreads, and Amazon.

With the holidays looming on the horizon, I thought I’d mention these books just in case you’re either looking for gift ideas or you’re trying to come up with ways to spend a bit of the holiday gelt that may come your way.  By gelt, I mean coin of the realm and not the chocolate kind, no matter how tasty they may be.

Reviews and Recommendations

Both the two books and the entire series, are intended for YA (Young Adult) readers. Even if your Young Adult years are a distant speck in life’s rear-view mirror, these stories are both fun and exciting. They’re a great way to pass the time whilst waiting for your Social Security cheque to arrive.

So, here they are:

  • Chasing Destiny by M. Schafer. The target audience is the lower end of the YA spectrum as well as middle school readers. That did not stop an old geezer like me from loving this story.
  • Skipping the Scales by Pete Tarsi. The target audience is younger YAs and above. The book is the second in Tarsi’s scales series.
  • The Awakened Fate series by Skye Malone. The series consists of five novels and one novella and is for a general YA audience though some may find it a bit intense.

Three great reads for Young Adults and those who can still remember what it’s like to be young.

And don’t forget, Urban Mermaid makes a great gift for mer-mad New Adults and above.

Coming soon. My review of C.L. Savage’s kaleidoscopic Mermaid Rising.


[1] The Parsons Rant is my general-purpose blog. There is a lot of mermaid stuff there like book reviews. It also allows me to vent my spleen about other things as well.

Happy Samhain!

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Happy New Year! What’s that you say? New Year’s Eve isn’t until the end of December? Well perhaps I should say ‘Happy Samhain’.

Samhain is the Celtic New Year’s Eve. The Celts believed that the ghosts of all who had passed away during the year, would try to return home on that night. While you may have loved uncle Hamish or aunt Morag, you did not necessarily want their ghosts showing up at your house.

Fooling the Spirits of the Departed

To throw them off the trail, people would put on disguises so they wouldn’t be recognized. Some Celts would hollow out a turnip, carve a threatening face into it, and set it on the threshold of their dwelling with a lit candle inside.

Samhain Today

All this sounds pretty familiar, right? When the Church came along. it co-opted the holiday, making the first day of the Celtic New Year to be All Saints Day. The day before became All Hallows Eve and over the centuries, the name was corrupted to Halloween. Jack O’Lanterns have replaced the carved turnips and now it’s the kids who put on costumes and go door to door looking fro sweets.

So what do mermaids have in common with Halloween? Well, other than the potential for hundreds of little Ariels going from door to door that night, absolutely nothing. If anyone goes to a party dressed as Penelope or Peter, please send me a picture!

Make Your Own Colony Island Costume

A Penelope costume should be easy enough to put together. All you would need is a woman’s business suit, a pair of sensible heels, a briefcase and maybe a couple of plastic starfish pinned to your suit. Bonus points for a  starfish lapel pin. If you have a mermaid costume you can actually walk in and not fall on your face, so much the better! Don’t forget your briefcase!

Guys, you get off easy on this one. Dress like an IT nerd wearing a pair of board shorts. If you want to be a bit more creative, how about Carl the Pizza Guy? All you do is grab an empty pizza box or two and dress like Zonker Harris in the Doonesbury comic strip. (Alternatively, dressing like a beach bum will do quite well) Don’t forget to use ‘Dude’ and ‘Man’ in your sentences.

Seriously, if you do decide to give this a go, please send me a picture. I’ll be hosting  the wee ghoulies, and ghosties and three-legged beasties, dressed as Peter Macpherson. I’ll put on my kilt and look nerdy. The last bit shouldn’t be hard to do.

For more information, see the Wikipaedia article on Samhain.

Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane MatthewIn the wake of Hurricane Matthew, early reports from Colony Island indicate damage was considerably less than expected. In an exclusive telephone interview with mayor, William Marlin, the overall assessment is Colony Island was very lucky.

“First of all, call me ‘Bill’. The only time I’m called ‘William’ is when Mrs. Marlin is upset with me.

“I’d say we dodged a real bullet this time around. We’ve been fairly lucky with storms in the past, but I was sure we were going to suffer a direct hit. Our location makes us kind of a sitting duck

“Don’t think that we didn’t have any damage. We did incur storm damage on the island but we’ve seen worse in the past. Our town has been here for well over two hundred years and we’re doing pretty good.”

Colony Island is Powerless

“We lost power early in the storm. I’ve had to call Florida Power and Light at least half a dozen times and I still don’t think they believe we’re an actual town.[1] Sometimes, they say they’ve never heard of us. Other times, they’ve told me to stop wasting their time with practical jokes in the middle of an emergency. The last time, they simply hung up on me.

“We do have some lines down and a number of damaged poles. Fortunately, a couple of residents here have worked for FPL at one time or another and they’ve advised us of the precautions we need to take.

Evacuations

The tiny community called Feraltown is completely deserted. The residents evacuated early on and headed for deep water. It is unknown if, or when, they’ll return.[2]

As for the rest of the population, mayor Marlin said “Over half of our citizens packed up and headed inland. For example, George Tench owns a condo up in the city and the whole family decided to ride things out, up there.

“A good many of our citizens don’t own cars and rely on bicycles to get around the island. By and large, they were the ones who remained here in town. We really need some sort of transportation system on the island, especially for times like this.

“I really must hand it to our Volunteer Fire Department. They remained on duty, every single one of them, and patrolled the town looking for folks in trouble and checking on houses. Now that the worst is over, they’ve been helping remove limbs and downed trees from the streets.”

Storm Damage

Bill Marlin was quick to sum up the damage. “Aside from trees and limbs down, the overall damage is fairly light. A couple of houses lost their roofs, screens were torn from many windows, some fences came down and a tree fell into somebody’s Florida room.

“All but two of the boats comprising our fishing fleet were able to put to sea and ride out the storm near Bermuda. The two remaining boats got knocked around a bit but they’ll be put to rights as soon as the boat yard reopens.

“The only real flooding came from the downpour. The storm surge was less than we had expected and that probably had something to do with the tides. Once we get the power back on, we’ll be in business, again.”

As of this moment, it is uncertain as to when the lights will come back on. Given that few people realise there is a town in Florida named Colony Island and even fewer actually know where it is, restoring power to the island may take a while. Meanwhile, the minimal damage and small storm surge will reinforce the belief among many of the residents that Poseidon has their back.

 

Thanks to Roxanne Leavitt and Dalton Smith for contributing to this story.


[1] On most maps, Colony Island is overlooked all together. It does appear on more detailed maps, but even then, it’s difficult to locate.

[2] ‘Feral’ is the local term for merfolk who constantly live at sea. From time to time, one or more will try and have a go at living on land. They are usually housed in the Feraltown community until they begin to assimilate. As a rule, feral merfolk have few – if any – possessions and will readily decamp at a moment’s notice. Once the emergency is over, returning is optional.

FAQ: Visitors Bureau

Visitors BureauQ – I saw the listing for the Colony Island Visitors Bureau and I wondered just what its the function was.

A – The Colony Island Visitors Bureau serves two functions.

The first is to arrange food, housing, clothes, and training for recently arrived feral merfolk. It works with the Gail’s Place charity shop to provide donated clothing. It also works with the Colony Academy to provide the necessary orientation and training for the feral visitors.

The idea behind this is to get feral merfolk situated and educated so they won’t decide to wander off the island and land themselves the the pokey for indecent exposure, etc. While the attrition rate for ferals  is high, a few will ultimately stay and start a life for themselves and their family on Colony Island.

The second purpose is to steer those humans who stumble upon Colony Island – they’re usually lost to begin with – away from places like Feraltown where they might see things they shouldn’t. There are brochures and maps which direct humans on self-guided tours of the ‘historic’ north end of the island as well as the streets lined with Sears Houses. There are also flyers for the local eateries.

A brochure covering the mosaics and frescoes in the Temple of Poseidon‘s lobby is in the works.

The town council has been debating whether to open the beach north of the harbour to surf fishermen. No decision has been reached as yet. If and when it does take effect, the Visitors Bureau will sell fishing licenses to visiting humans.

A blast from the past

Earlier today, Facebook popped up one of those ‘See Your Memories’ things on my timeline. Usually, I simply roll my eyes and move on.

Today, though, was different. This blast from the past originated in 2013. It announced that work was underway on Urban Mermaid. The announcement included a short story I’d written as part of a contest.

The short story is intended to be part of the third book in the Colony Island series. I have yet to come up with a name for this book.

Tails From Colony Island has picked up  a number of new followers recently who may not be aware of this story. It was originally published on Goodreads.com. It appeared on The Parsons Rant and then, finally, on Colony Island – Home of the Urban Mermaid.

So, if you’re interested in a quick mermaid story, take a look at Dear Mom . . . Those who have already read Urban Mermaid may recognise a few things from the novel.

Great Again

Colony Island will never be great again The meme, “America will never be great again until . . .”, has been floating around Facebook for a few years. Accordingly, we decided to post our own take on it as a bit of Monday morning humour.

The image itself is of the Neptune statute on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, VA. Neptune was the Roman god of the sea, but was eventually conflated with the Greek god, Poseidon.

The residents of Colony Island use the names Poseidon and Neptune interchangeably. There is a decided preference for Poseidon, however.

For additional information on the subject of Roman vs Greek gods, please visit DecodedPast.com.

Colony Island will never be great again

The god Neptune was one of many Roman sea gods until he was cast in the equivalent role as the Greek god Poseidon. Image by Habib M’henni.

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