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.
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.
Chapter 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 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.
Here 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.
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.
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.
Some 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, 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.
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.
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.
In 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. 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.
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.
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.”
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.
 On most maps, Colony Island is overlooked all together. It does appear on more detailed maps, but even then, it’s difficult to locate.
 ‘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.
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.
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.
I am currently rocketing through a 5 & ½ book series – the ½ book is a novella – which was categorized on Amazon as “Teen and Young Adult”. This caused a double-take as I had previously believed the ‘Young Adult” designation to be a polite term for “Teen Fiction”. It would appear that readership categories are built upon shifting sands.
Up to now, my understanding was that “Young Adult” (YA) covered the 13 to 17 years’ age range while the awkwardly named “New Adult” (NA) covered 18 to 25. Those readers younger than 13 were classed as Pre-teen, Juvenile, etc. The boundaries of YA are a bit wobbly as some mavens set the lower limit as 14 years whilst others set the upper limit as 18 years.
One possible reason for this inexactitude is that the 13 to 18 age range spans several levels of maturity. Given that boys are a year or two behind girls, with regard to maturation, it’s easy to see why the boundaries are a bit fuzzy.
The same holds true for the 18 to 25-year age range. Your understanding of life at 18, when you’re leaving high school and headed for college, is much different from that at 25 when you’re married and trying to hold down a job.
What’s more, the categories themselves are not universally adhered to. At the 2016 BookExpo/BookCon in Chicago, the manager of the IBPA booth was barely aware of the NA category and thus placed Urban Mermaid on the shelves for Juvenile books. Based on this, any child receiving a copy for their birthday is in for a big surprise.
Just so everyone is straight on this, Urban Mermaid is for readers 18 and older. This does not mean the book is specifically aimed at the New Adult market. It is the author’s opinion that readers in the NA & Adult readership categories will relate to it more than YA readers. It was written in a style to attract the NA segment as well as older readers. Given that ISIS is regularly lopping off heads in the Syrian desert and the 2016 Presidential race makes you want to select “None of the above”, we could all use a simple, sweet, escapist kind of story.
Over the past 24 hours, I have accomplished absolutely nothing in the way of work on my sequel to Urban Mermaid. I have no choice but to blame it all on that villain, Pete Tarsi.
You see, Mr. Tarsi has penned an outstanding sequel to his YA adventure novel, Flipping the Scales. (You can read my review of his first novel in the series, over on my other blog-site, The Parsons’ Rant.)
I will not review the book here, however. That is what The Parsons’ Rant is for.
Instead, I will tell you I had planed to read Skipping the Scales at leisure over the next few days. The problem is that Pete Tarsi’s book is not unlike that old commercial for Lays™ potato(e) chips. Just as no one could eat Just One Lays™ potato(e) chip, no one can read just one chapter of Pete Tarsi’s latest book. Try as I might, I had a hard time turning off my Kindle™ and my lack of progress today is all I have to show for it.
Well, maybe that’s not totally correct. The sequel to Urban Mermaid will feature a character who shows up unannounced on Amy’s doorstep. (Amy is Penelope’s VBFF) This mermaid is Amy’s feral cousin and has had little or no contact with the land and how people speak.
In the world Pete Tarsi has created, the mermaids – and mermen – speak in a stilted manner and don’t use contractions. This is how I’ve envisioned the feral cousin speaking and Pete has validated my hypothesis. Of course, my character’s dialogue will be different, but thanks to Mr. Tarsi, I’m on my way.
If you think you’re “too old” for Young Adult literature, this is your chance to prove yourself wrong. I’m fairly certain Madison will want to weigh in on this topic, as well.
 Penelope Tench is one of the two central characters in Urban Mermaid. If you didn’t already know this, you obviously haven’t read Book # 1. There’s no time like the present to buy a copy and start reading.
 ‘Feral’ is the term merfolk on Colony Island use when speaking about those of their kind who live in the sea. The ferals refer to the Islanders as ‘domesticated’.