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Catching Up

Well, it’s been a while, so let’s do some catching up.

Third shelf from the top in the right-hand corner.

Frankfurt Book Fair

The Urban Mermaid packed her bags and went to Frankfurt, Germany for the annual book fair. This is said to be the largest event of this kind in the world. I don’t know yet if this business trip resulted in any big orders for Book # 1. Only time will tell.

Banging away on book # 2

Chapter 13, the one that refused to be written, is under construction. I hope to have it done by Friday; sooner if any flashes of inspiration hit me.

Meanwhile, I’m busily correcting goof-ups such as a scene I wrote earlier. The scene takes place after a pivotal moment in the story, but the characters are acting like that moment has not happened yet. I have absolutely no idea what I was thinking at the time. The scene can’t be used as is, but I don’t want to put it in the circular file[1]. Right now, I’m doing a bit of editorial triage to see if the scene can be modified and used elsewhere.

I wrote a number of scenes in advance of the main authorial effort. Now that the book is coming together, I must take – more like find, actually – those scenes and insert them in the various chapters. This involves a bit of tinkering in both the scene and the chapter it belongs to. Finally, there’s smoothing things over so it appears to be seamless.

A high honour

I recently had dinner at the mountainside home of an old colleague and her husband. This former workmate is also a fan of Urban Mermaid and told me that I had written with an authentic woman’s voice. Since I’ve been a guy most of my life, I’m not sure where the female voice came from, but I am grateful for the compliment nonetheless.

Finally

You may remember the chapter in Urban Mermaid where Peter proposes to Penelope[2]. Peter locks himself in the bathroom to steel himself for what he must do. He finds comfort in his grandfather’s stories from World War II and imagines himself jumping with the 101st Airborne on D-Day.

The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum[3] recently opened its World War II gallery which includes a mock-up of Airborne soldiers, jumping from a C-47. Much of the work on that exhibit, as well as the rest of the gallery, was done by the friend from college who’s mentioned in Footnote #1.


[1]This is a shout-out to a friend from college who now lives in Iowa. He wrote a somewhat regular column called The Circular File for the campus newspaper. The official name of the paper was The Decree, but everyone called it The Debris.

[2] Actually, Penelope proposes to Peter first, but he’s distracted by some surprising news and her proposal goes right over his head.

[3] Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, 7105 Northwest 70th Avenue, Johnston, IA 50131  Phone: (515) 252-4531   https://www.goldstarmuseum.iowa.gov

Book # 2, where are you?

In case the title of this post seems vaguely familiar – and you have to be pretty old for that – it’s a play on the 60’s TV comedy, Car 54, Where Are You. In case some dim memory has been stirred, I’ve included the lyrics to the theme song[1].

Let’s get down to cases

You’re probably wondering just where book # 2 – the working title is Syrena – happens to be. After all, I’ve been saying “almost there” for months and months. Well, I was about to send a sample off to my publisher when I discovered I wasn’t happy with things the way they were. Oh, I’m happy with the book in general but there are a few things that need to be changed.

Issues and answers

For one thing, I added something to the plot which was meant to be a running gag. The idea behind that was:

  1. To show Penelope is just like her mother; a bit over the top at times.
  2. To show that the folks on Colony Island can be real copy-cats when they put their minds to it.

The residents are indeed copy-cats It’s a survival mechanism for living on land; do what the locals do so you can blend in and not give away the ‘secret’. Penelope is indeed just like her mother, but I already had one example of Penelopine over-the-top-ness and that is enough. The running gag just made things a bit too silly. The folks on Colony Island are a bit odd but they are definitely not silly.

Another problem was that I needed to do some more character development on Peter’s friend, Billy King[2]. I also need to do a bit of work on Penelope’s character as well.

And in conclusion

There are a few other bits & bobs like that as well. I will probably still send that sample off to my publisher. Nonetheless, I need to figure out how I’m going to go through all the stuff I’ve written and make it better. That’s the hard part.


[1] There’s a holdup in the Bronx, 
Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem
That’s backed up to Jackson Heights.
There’s a scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild
Car 54, Where Are You?

[2] There’ll be more about Billy King in a later post.

Ah, Sweet Mystery

I’ve never fancied myself to be a writer of mysteries. I tend to leave that sort of thing to the big boys like Ian Rankin. Nonetheless, I did fold a few into Urban Mermaid. If you’ve read the novel, you’ll know whereof I speak. If you haven’t read the novel, then go buy a copy, post-haste. I’m starving here and could really use the money to buy my parakeet a new iron lung.

There is, however, a minor mystery you may have overlooked. I had originally planned to ‘solve” the mystery in the epilogue but including that bit just made things clunky. I resolved to use the mystery’s solution in a subsequent title but book # 2 is pretty much set and still no place to put the answer.

There’s always book # 3 or # 4 or even # 5 but I doubt that someone is going to remember this wee mystery four books later. If I do, you’ll have forgotten all about this blog post by then. In other words, no harm, no foul.

Here’s what happens

So, let’s get down to business, shall we? The mystery begins when Penelope goes shopping for a wedding dress. The merfolk of Colony Island don’t do weddings and therefore Peter has been dragooned into tagging along since he is somewhat familiar with this sort of thing.

At the bridal salon, Penelope goes through dress after dress and finds nothing that suits her. The owner[1] of the salon has about had it with these wahoos from Colony Island and is eager to see the back of them. She announces that Penelope has seen just about everything except for a very retro gown that arrived a short while ago. There was no price-tag or any other kind of documentation with it. The owner assumes that the company was simply getting rid of some old samples.

A lingering question

As it turns out, the dress fits perfectly, and Penelope looks beautiful in it. Penelope says yes to the dress and a major item on her to-do list has been ticked off. The astute reader is left wondering just how the perfect wedding dress managed to turn up out of nowhere, shortly before Penelope pays a visit to the salon.

The mystery solved

Well, the astute reader will remember from the Epilogue that Poseidon was the deus ex machina for the whole affair. Penelope and Peter finding each other was the result of some divine matchmaking by the god of the Sea. Poseidon even went as far as to choose a dress that Penelope would adore, a dozen years before she went shopping. And that, my friends, is how Penelope’s wedding dress showed up out of nowhere.

[1] The owner is a caricature of Lori Allen from Say Yes to the Dress – Atlanta. Bet you didn’t know that.

Syrena – Progress is being made

Syrena - Progress is being made It’s been a while – okay, it’s been a very long while – since I updated my loyal followers on progress with Syrena. I know it seems like forever since I started on the Sequel to Urban Mermaid and some of you have probably given up hope of ever seeing the second book in the series. Well, I’m here to tell you progress is being made.

Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches[1] on the first ten chapters of Syrena. Once that’s done, it goes off to my publisher to see what she thinks of it. If any of you on the left coast hear riotous laughter emanating from the general direction of Renton, Washington, you’ll know things are not going well.

What Comes Next

In the meantime, I’ll press on with cleaning up chapters 11 through 20.[2] When – and if – my publisher comes through with suggestions for the first 10 chapters, I’ll be able to apply them to chapters 11 through 20. Bear in mind that the publisher’s suggestions may simply be to forswear writing and try selling Cloverine Brand Salve door to door.[3]

After that comes the third batch of chapters and the Epilogue. Originally, I had not planned to produce a prologue for this book. Upon further reflection, I’ve decided to write a relatively short prologue of The story thus far . . . variety. I probably need to include a dramatis personae as well. Most of the characters from Urban Mermaid will again appear in Syrena.[4] There will also be a few new characters who will play significant roles in future books.

Finally, please keep in mind that this is only the first draft and there will be at least one revision before the book goes to press. On the other hand, the revisions should take a lot less time than the first draft so do not despair.

I’m hoping to use the same graphics designer as I did for the cover of Urban Mermaid.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see about ordering a dozen cases or so of Cloverine Brand Salve.

Footnotes

[1] In this case, the term ‘finishing touches’ includes – but is not limited to – writing five or six paragraphs of moderate length.

[2] This includes writing and/or finishing a couple of chapters that just didn’t want to be transcribed.

[3] Those of you who are of a certain age and belonged to the Boy Scouts will remember adverts in Boy’s life offering you the chance to make extra money by doing this.

[4] Yes, Raymond and Ethyl Merman, Ilene’s parents, will also return. (Sigh)

Uh Oh!

Uh Oh! It looks like they’re on to us!

Uh oh!

All in fun

All in fun
On Colony Island, both Poseidon & Neptune are used to refer to the god of the sea. The latter is most commonly used in the phrase, “Sweet Neptune!”

Save the Mermaids

Save the mermaids and other wildlife by cutting up you 6 pack plastic rings!

Many of these get stuck around turtle shells, fish, and seagulls. They cause irreversible damage and even death.

Save the Mermaids

This reminder is brought to you by your friends on Colony Island.

Moonlight and Mermaids

Author at work - Moonlight and Mermaids

Here’s the world-famous author working on his novella, Moonlight and Mermaids.

Greetings from Hopewell, VA.

I took a few days off from life in Charlottesville to return to my ancestral home and do some work, here in my lonely, writers garret. Since my last report, I’ve been plotting key scenes and figuring out how I’m going to get from one to another. I need to start cobbling together character sketches and after that, I’ll be ready to start pounding the keyboard.

About the Title

My heartfelt thanks go to Jennifer Guren who lives in beautiful Woongarrah, NSW – That’s in Austrailia, folks – for selecting the name of this forthcoming novella/novelette/short story, Moonlight and Mermaids. As a reward for her efforts, this discerning lady will have a character named for her. Who knows, she may even receive a pair of earrings from the Crafts from Colony Island line of fine – and not so fine – jewelry. All items are mer made.

About the Story

I’m not going to reveal much about the plot. However, I can say that it will not have the detailed world-building that took place in Urban Mermaid. That book was intended to lay the foundation for a five to seven book series and I wanted to make the coastal town of Colony Island seem as real as possible.

Moonlight and Mermaids is intended to be a one-off. Since I want it to be – at the most – a novella, the world-building will need to be kept to a minimum.

The same applies to the character development. There was a lot of back story for Penelope and Peter, as well as many of the other characters, in Urban Mermaid. Moonlight and Mermaids’ two central characters will have a back story but it will be more of a sketch this time.

And Then There’s the Magic

I probably disappointed some readers of Urban Mermaid. There was a lack of mer-magic, as well as other staples of mermaid stories.  As I’ve said before, I wanted the story and its characters to be as ‘real’ as possible. There will be mer magic in Moonlight and Mermaids to help move the story along. Indeed, without mer magic, there would be no story. However, there will be no vast undersea cities, warring tribes of merfolk, or monsters from the depths.

A Gender Bender?

I’m going to let you figure that one out on your own. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get back to story cobbling.

Breaking Radio Silence

Syrena -Breaking Radio SilenceThere’s bound to be at least one or two of you who have wondered where I’ve been for the past few months. (1) No progress reports on Syrena, the sequel to Urban Mermaid. (2) No factoids about Colony Island and its people. (3) No shameless plugs for my novel. So, for the idly curious, as well as anyone who might have actually missed me, here is what’s gone down.

It Started Back in April

My mother-in-law had passed away in Feb. of 2016 and we were making final preparations to hold an estate sale and put her house on the market. Needless to say, work on Syrena ground to a halt. My wife, the only one of us still gainfully employed, despatched me to take care of this task or that on an almost daily basis.

We received a good offer on the house in early June but the home inspector found a number of issues that required rectifying. More time lost. The sale closed at the end of June and I was ready to dive into summer. Instead, I did a belly-flop.

In Sickness and Health

I’d been having some sort of strange auto-immune thing going on with my lungs and a persistent cough caused by sinusitis didn’t help at all. My cough became worse as the month of July progressed and wound up going into hospital for two days. Though I was a pulmonary case, they stuck me in the cardiac ward where the food was bland and tasteless. Of course, one does not get much sleep when one is awoken every couple of hours for blood-work or injections.

I was sent home with enough oxygen tanks for a scuba expedition. Since that time, the cough has gone and my pulmonologist seems to be pleased with my progress. I only need to tank up occasionally now and go for days without touching the stuff.

Syrena – Where Do I Go From Here?

I desperately need to resume work on Syrena, but more importantly, I need to get back into the writing habit. Drawing on my life-long practice of telling myself stories as a way of falling asleep, I came up with the idea for a short-story/novelette/novella as a writing exercise.

Yes, the story involves mermaids, but other than a few common concepts, this tale of tails is far removed from the world of Colony Island. The title will either be Mermaids and Moonlight or Moonlight and Mermaids. It takes place in the Pacific, involves magic, and is a gender-bender.

If it winds up being a short story, I’ll publish it here on colonyisland.com. However, if it winds up being a novella, I’ll see if my publisher is interested. If not, I’ll self-publish. Stay tuned.

Mermaids and Camelot

Each evening, from December to December . . .

This past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to watch the film Jackie starring Natalie Portman[1]. The story deals with Jackie Kennedy’s struggle through grief and trauma following the assassination of her husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 36th President of the United States. His time in office is often referred to as “the Camelot years”. The Lerner and Lowe musical, Camelot opened on Broadway on December 3rd, 1960 and closed on January 5th, 1963. JFK would be assassinated ten and one-half months later.

The Music

The original cast album was part of the first family’s regular evening listening at the White House and JFK’s favourite lines were found in the closing scene of the play. It is pre-dawn and the final battle between the two warring factions of King Arthur’s round table will soon begin. A young lad of fourteen years has stowed away in the van and seeks to become a knight. Arthur is touched by the boy’s idealism but the battlefield is no place for a boy. Instead, Arthur knights him as Sir Tom of Warwick with the charge to return home and keep the memory of Camelot alive.

Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot

Natalie Portman’s character speaks of the play and its music, focusing on the third line, “For one brief shining moment”. The remainder of this essay deals with those five words.

It All Started in High School

Early in my high school career[2], the Drama Club at Hopewell High School staged the musical Camelot and by all accounts, it was to be a magical and grand event[3]. In one way or another, a significant portion of the student body were involved with the production. This was my first exposure to the play and I was hooked. My parents gave me a copy of the original cast album the following Christmas. This was so much better than the bog standard underwear and socks. I think I played that LP to death.

A couple of years later, the theme for the Miss Hopewell High pageant was One Brief Shining Moment. I found that to be rather appropriate. After all, it embodied the transience of such glory. This year’s beauty queen is next year’s “once upon a time.”

Time Marches On

I held on to the phrase over the years. I would occasionally hear or read it, though that quickly diminished as the decades passed. The phrase was my treasure although I never got to use it in any way.

All that changed when I wrote Urban Mermaid. There, in Chapter 9, in the 5th paragraph on page 192, the character, Peter MacPherson, mentions “the one brief shining moment of being a bride . . .” and vows that his fiancée, Penelope Tench, will have what every mermaid on Colony Island longs for; a wedding.

And now you know the rest of the story[4].


[1] The ‘extremely talented Natalie Portman’ is a more apt description.

[2] The Autumn of 1965.

[3] It was so grand that someone made copies of the tickets and sold them to unsuspecting attendees. Of course, the inevitable happened and there were more theatre-goers than seats at the performances. To my knowledge, the culprits were never discovered.

[4] There is also a line from National Lampoon’s Animal House in Urban Mermaid. All I will tell you is the line appears in the last chapter of the book and the last big scene in the movie.

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