Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to be a writer. It’s like trying to shovel a hole in the ocean. Shovel as fast as you might and the result will be the same; you get nowhere.
I’ve been working on a particular chapter in the sequel to Urban Mermaid and found myself at a good starting point for a (very) minor sub-plot. Not content to simply lay the foundation for said sub-plot, I decided to cobble most – if not all – of the scenes while it was fresh in my mind.
Believe me, there’s nothing like going off on a tangent every once in a while.
I spent several days writing those scenes for the sub-plot and once finished, I was quite pleased with the results. The only thing remaining was to write a couple of brief follow-up scenes to bring a sort of final closure to the series of events.
There is a lot going on in this sequel. In Urban Mermaid, the story is pretty linear. Any branches in the story line were soon resolved and reunited with the main plot. This was intentional as I just wanted to write a simple take on the perineal boy-meets-mermaid story.
In this sequel, I’m trying to decide just how many sub-plots are too many sub plots. I’ve already ditched one major sub-plot and those of you who are fans of Carl, ‘the pizza guy’ are just going to have to wait a bit longer to learn if he does finally choose a mate. There’s also a second sub-plot in danger of being reduced if not entirely eliminated.
Given my goal of keeping the page count below that of the Manhattan white pages, I cobbled a very tightly written scene with a minimum of folderol. I’d discovered I could combine this scene with another event and that pleased me no end. It’s always great to be able to kill two birds with one stone.
I wrapped the scene around 8:30 yesterday evening and was quite happy with the way things had turned out. Last night, during the gap between wakefulness and sleep, I reviewed all the scenes in the sub-plot and began to decide where I would place them. The cold light of morning brought an inescapable truth; the tightly written scene in question is not really necessary to the successful prosecution of the sub-plot. Indeed, it is likely to wind up on the cutting room floor if my editor has anything to say about it.
And so it goes.
I really wish I could avoid website headaches. I’ve been wresting with one since late June and it has had a domino effect.
Some of you may have tried to visit ColonyIsland.com recently and got a blank screen instead. This site is powered by WordPress and there seems to have been a problem with one or more of the plug-ins which help make this site happen.
Frankly, we don’t know. I cut the number of active plug-ins down to 10 but the problem kept happening. At this point, I’m down to five. If I cut them to zero, the site runs fine but a good bit of functionality – including behind-the-scenes stuff – is lost.
In the midst of all this, my hosting provider, GoDaddy.com, informed me that the server ColonyIsland.com lives on, will be decommissioned by the end of the year. Therefore, in the midst of all this problem-solving, migrating to a new server was thrown into the mix. As of this morning, ColonyIsland.com – and everything else – is on the new server.
I hope the move to this new server – with the latest versions of underlying software – will solve the problem(s). I have at least one new FAQ I’d like to post as well as a new video.
Thank you for your patience. Meanwhile, I’m off to my writing HQ in Hopewell, VA next week for 5 days. I really need to push ahead with Syrena.
Just a few bits n’ bobs to bring up this week. The first item of business concerns the Colony Island Short Story I’ve been working on. I’m pleased to announce that Helen Drops the Bomb is now available for public inspection. This story was inspired by a few paragraphs from Chapter 15 of Urban Mermaid.
There are no shocking revelations or anything like that. There are a few nuggets of Colony Island lore which may be of interest to some fans. In essence, it tells the story of how Colony Island’s human hold-out is finally convinced to throw in the towel.
The story needs some polishing, etc. but it’s worth a look.
The next item of business is my Author Interview recorded at Book Expo/Book Con 2016 in Chicago. It’s only been five or six weeks since that event took place but it seems like a lifetime ago. The IBPA – Independent Book Publishers Association – conducted and recorded interviews with some of the authors exhibiting their latest works at the IBPA booth. I was one of those authors and you will discover – among other things – that I’m not too good at speaking off the cuff. It’s worth a look if only for a laugh.
The final item of business has to do with the Epic Urban Mermaid Giveaway. (Yes, it’s finally over.) The final items in the giveaway were Urban Mermaid logo-wear. The polo shirts and ball caps proven to be very popular with the Giveaway participants and I regret not being able to hand out more of these.
I am in the early stages of setting up an online store where fans of Urban Mermaid can buy their own items. At first, the only logo available will be the one used on the shirts and ball caps. There are other logos available and they will be added to the list as things progress.
That’s it for now
People assume that because you’re an author, you have a supply of ready-made gifts for all occasions. While this may be somewhat true in the early days following the release of your first book, I can assure you that it does not last very long. Christmas was a frenzy of mailing out “See what I’ve done” copies of Urban Mermaid and although some wound up in the hands of appreciative readers, just as many probably wound up in the hands of people who don’t give a fig about fantasy romance stories, much less those which count mermaids as the main subject matter
No doubt many of those copies were leafed through with the general feeling of “What the heck is this?” and then either relegated to a place of honour on some bookshelf at the back of the linen cupboard, passed on to a niece – favourite or otherwise – or quietly consigned to the Spring book sale at the local library or house of worship.
I’ve given copies to friends and relatives who have asked for one and have been pleasantly surprised by their feedback. From others, I have heard nothing more on the subject and most likely will not hear any more in either the near or distant future. I, of all people, am the first to admit that fairytales for grown-ups involving mermaids are not everyone’s cup of tea.
With all this in mind, I was presented with the opportunity to gift a graduation present over the past weekend. The young lady is a relative on mom’s side of the family and to be precise, is the granddaughter of my mother’s niece. (For extra credit, determine the proper term for the familial relationship between the graduate and myself.)
Thinking back 45 years, I remember all the Cross™ pens, neckties, and other doo-dads which came my way; each one had disappeared somewhere within eighteen months of the event. Not knowing the graduate’s taste in jewelry, etc., I was left with few choices. There was always the possibility of giving her a cheque but if memory serves, those disappeared even quicker than the pen and pencil sets.
We wound up presenting the graduate with a crystal graduation sculpture and a signed copy of Urban Mermaid. I was under no illusions and fully expected the book to wind up in the hands of a younger friend since the graduate probably hasn’t been into mermaids since she was 11 or 12 years old.
I was pleasantly surprised. According to her mother, mermaids are a recent “thing” for the graduate. Even the guest of honour was thrilled by the present. I just may have finally gotten it right for a change.
- a period when normal government is suspended, especially between successive reigns or regimes.
- an interval or pause:
“the interregnum between the discovery of radioactivity and its detailed understanding”
According to both my doctor and my lovely wife, Urban Mermaid came perilously close to becoming a one-off novel, at the cusp of May & June. Just after the chequered flag dropped in Monte Carlo, a 4 mm nugget of calcium oxalate in my right kidney made a break for freedom. En route to the outside world, it became stuck and the resulting backup was excruciatingly painful.
I was able to hold on long enough for the green flag to drop at Indy and was then hauled off to the Urgent Care facility, up US 29, by my lovely wife. Following the standard blood-work as well as a CAT scan – no cats were harmed during the course of this scan – it was determined I was the proud owner of not one, but two kidney stones. I was subsequently written a script for Oxycodone, and sent home with a referral to a Urologist on Tues. morning.
Since Monday was Memorial Day, I spent the following 48 hours in a drug-induced, pain-free state where sleep was the major pass-time. The script said “One tablet every 4 hours” but I needed only one and one-half tablets every 24 hours.
At some point, the backup went septic and I was suddenly the proud owner of a runaway staph infection. My lovely wife was able to wangle a 3:30 PM Urologist’s appointment and it didn’t take very long for the doctor to send me up the hill to the hospital for an emergency catheteritsation procedure. I don’t remember very much after that.
My lovely wife and I sat up late, my second night in the hospital, singing selections from “All That Jazz”. Fortunately, we never made it to the finale, “Bye-Bye Life.”
Long story short, I’m at home in Charlottesville with energy levels that fluctuate and a tendency to suddenly drop everything in favour of a two hour nap.
All this has wreaked havoc with wrapping up the Epic Giveaway, paying bills, completing the Syrena short story, and getting the A/C fixed and front porch painted in Hopewell. I intend to both persevere and sneak in a day at Virginia Beach around the end of the month.
Everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. Thanks to the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), I’m getting 15 seconds. The IBPA has released a video with highlights from their booth at BookExpo/BookCon 2016 in Chicago. If you watch closely, I think there’s a shot or two of me included.
Those of you with older eyes may wish to watch this video in full screen mode.
Congratulations go to the sixth Tea Mug winner in our Epic Giveaway, Joseph McGarry. The final Urban Mermaid tea mug will be on its way to him just as soon as she sends me his mailing address.
The Party’s (almost) Over
It’s hard to believe that the Epic Urban Mermaid Giveaway has been going on for almost four months. Nonetheless, all good things must come to an end. However, fear not. This is going to be just like those fireworks displays where they shoot off all the rockets in a grand finale.
Here’s what you can win:
As part of the final giveaway, I will be offering:
1. Two (2) official Urban Mermaid ball caps. These lightweight baseball caps are the perfect thing to wear on the beach while you settle down to read Urban Mermaid in the summer sun. The caps are one-size-fits-all with an adjustable Velcro™ tab at the back I have these caps in-house and will be ready to ship the moment the winners claim their prizes.
2. Two (2) official Urban Mermaid polo shirts, just in time for summer. The shirts will be ordered the moment the winners tell me their size and colour preferences. Therefore, they will take a while to reach you.
By the way, if this is the first time you’ve heard about the book, Urban Mermaid, you can learn more here.
The Giveaway Ground Rules
The whole thing is very simple. I’ll be giving away these four items on May 30th when the lucky winners will be selected. They will have seven days to claim their prize. Other than the congratulatory message, I will send only 1 “nag-mail” during the week.
If the winner has not informed me of his or her mailing address – or even acknowledged the congratulatory message – after seven days, the prize will be awarded to another participant chosen at random from the remaining entries.
As before, I’m opening up this portion of the giveaway to all comers. It doesn’t matter if you won a copy of Urban Mermaid in the first phase or a tea mug in the second phase of the giveaway. You’re eligible to win a shirt or cap as well.
While it is pretty easy to ship books anywhere in the world, things become a bit more tricky and expensive when you try to ship non-print items. Therefore, once again, I’m going to have to limit entries to the US & Canada.
All you have to do is enter your name and e-mail address in the contact form at the bottom of the page and choose whether you want the cap or the shirt. Pretty darn simple, right? You can win only one or the other and if you select both items, then it’s Hobson’s choice.
You will only need to enter once. Duplicate entries will be discarded. Entries without a choice of prize will be discarded as well.
OK, that’s enough blether from me. For the final time, the only thing left to say is “Ready. Steady. Go!!!” Good luck, everyone.
That was the week that was. My trip to Chicago for BookExpo/BookCon – 2016 was memorable, to say the least. The show was actually two events. BookExpo is a huge publishing trade-show spanning three days. BookCon followed on Saturday and was open to the general public. The big printing technology and services booths were absent from the Saturday event but there was still plenty to see.
I’m not going to blether on about the trade-show itself other than to mention:
- I spent so much time gawping at the booths and general spectacle, that I did not have a chance to attend any of the break-out sessions for authors.
- The 2016 version of BookExpo was smaller than the ones held in NYC.
- I met one of the ladies who worked on my publicity campaign
Instead, I’ll tell you about my book signing on Saturday. That day was not chosen because the show was open to the public. Instead, it was chosen because it was the only remaining day with any empty slots for authors to sign their books at the IBPA booth. It had taken a bit of doing, but I had finally been able to snag the 5:30 to 6:00 PM slot.
I boarded the train for downtown with a certain amount of trepidation. I had the very last IBPA author slot on the very last day of the whole event. Not very promising, to say the least. I’ve been to enough Scottish Highland Games to know that though the closing ceremonies are at 5:00 PM, the Clan tents start packing up at 4:00 PM. Nonetheless, I planned to soldier on in the hope of getting at least two or three copies of Urban Mermaid into the hands of the reading public.
It was pure serendipity. As I was changing trains en route to the venue, there was a blind man standing on the platform, playing the guitar and singing the most beautiful rendition of Can’t Help Falling In Love”. This song is the musical theme for Urban Mermaid. Needless to say, I was all verklempt but still managed to drop a generous donation in the hat.
I checked in at the IBPA booth and learned they’d been looking for me. It seems they recognised the 5:30 – 6:00 author slot was pretty much a non-starter as far as foot traffic was concerned and wanted to move me up to 3:00. Realising I might be able to sign more than one or two books, I happily agreed.
Deciding to take a post-lunch stroll to see things I missed on previous days, I left my books and gear at the booth. I returned at 2:25 to discover that they’d already set things up and were ready for me to get started.
This was going to be a limited signing as the micro press, Gazebo Gardens, doesn’t have the wherewithal to send pallet-loads of books to the shows, like Penguin & the bigger houses do. I had as many copies stuffed in my suitcase as possible and that was it. With any luck, I just might be able to give them all away.
It didn’t take long. I was soon mobbed by females and I was signing books as fast as I could, all the while trying to be personable and keep up a pleasant repartee. Things eventually slowed down and it took a while to hand out the last two books. I was finally able to send them off to new homes and even wound up signing the display copy for someone.
Once all that was done, I packed up my gear and continued my wanderings around the show. I met some interesting personalities and scored freebie books & tote bags. At the end of it all, my suitcase weighed one pound more than it did when I arrived in Chicago.
 Actually, this was the name of a satiric television programme which aired on the BBC in 1962 & 1963. An American version of the show ran from 1964 through 1965. It is perhaps best described as a forerunner of Saturday Night Live. See the Wikipaedia article for more detail.
Believe it or not, this author reads things other than mermaid stories. While I do have a guilty pleasure or two, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about The Holy Or The Broken – Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & The Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” by Alan Light. – Here is where I start to sound like Bill Flanigan, the rock critic on CBS’ Sunday Morning. – In many respects, it is the typical rock n’ roll opus. It details who met who and when, what gigs they played, who died tragically before their time, etc. In other words, this detail is not unlike all the “begats” in the Old Testament. In between all of this, are nuggets about the song, Hallelujah, and how it was interpreted by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, et al.
There are around 80 verses to Hallelujah. k.d. lang sang three of them. Most of us have heard four. A relative few have heard five and even fewer have heard six verses. That leaves about seventy-four verses waiting to be listened to. They used to say that Harry Chapin’s songs were too long for the relatively brief air play allotted each tune on FM radio. The late story teller doesn’t even come close to what Leonard Cohen hath wrought.
Hallelujah has become a kind of fin de siecle “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. It fills a need in the national psyche and fingers crossed. it will not be forgotten anytime soon. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” has had amazing staying power and there is every reason to believe that Leonard Cohen’s masterful composition will do likewise.
So, why am I banging on so much about Hallelujah? The sequel to Urban Mermaid focuses on music to a certain degree and this song has a cameo role in the story. More specifically, a cover of Hallelujah performed by the IDF – Israeli Defence Forces – has the cameo role.
For the record, the young soldier/musicians of the IDF have set the gold standard as far as covers of Hallelujah are concerned.
The You Tube video of their performance has been added to the Slideshows & Videos section of the Colony Island website and well may you wonder what all this has to do with a mermaid story. All I can say is you’ll just have to wait until the sequel to Urban Mermaid is published.
Urban Mermaid garnered a bit of attention in the Virginia Book Notes column for May 7th in the Richmond Times Dispatch. To save you the trouble of wading through the contents, here is what they said:
- Howard Parsons, who was born in Petersburg, grew up in Hopewell and now lives in Charlottesville, offers readers an adult fairy tale in “Urban Mermaid: Tails From Colony Island, Book One” (452 pages, Moonlight Garden Publications, $17.95). The story focuses on Penelope Tench, a mermaid who splits her time between land and sea.
Heigh Ho! I’m off to the BookExpo/BookCon 2016 in Chicago, IL. I’ll be signing copies of Urban Mermaid at the IBPA booth on Saturday, May 14th, from 5:30 thru 6:00 PM. If you’re in the area, please stop by. I would love to meet some of my readers.
Time to go and finish packing.