A Flakey Muse and a Climactic Chapter

The ebb and flow of writing Syrena continues. In other words, I have a flakey muse.

A Climactic Chapter

A flakey muse and a climactic chapterYesterday, I attempted to wrap up the climactic chapter of Syrena by inserting a couple of pages I’d written months ago. Trouble was, the pre-written stuff was anti-climactic. I cut down the material and moved it to an earlier point in the chapter’s timeline. It worked better there, but at the same time, I found myself wondering if all this was really necessary[1].

My answer was ‘NO’ and now, the material will be a sentence or two in the early part of the following chapter. I may be able to reuse the material from the original cut somewhere else in the story. Only time – and the 2nd draft – will tell.

Here’s a quote from the chapter I just completed. Peter is telling his old buddy, Billy King, about the merfolk on Colony Island.

“ . . . they are some of the most ‘normal’ people I’ve ever run across. They have hopes, fears, dreams, aspirations, and worries, just like everyone else. They’re also very capable of love. Do you even understand what love is? I doubt that you really do.

“Love is acceptance of people for who and what they are. Take Penelope’s mother. There is not a bad bone in her body. From the moment I set foot on this island, she has made me feel like one of the family.  The only rough patch is when I discovered clothing really wasn’t an issue for the family” Peter chuckled  “She and her husband did everything they could to include me in family life. When she found out I’d lost my parents, they went out of their way to adopt me. Now, I have parents whom I love and respect as much as my original ones. I have a family again and life is so much better than it was.”

Thought for the Day

A fool and his money are soon elected. – Will Rogers

And . . .  A Mermaid Cartoon

Finally, here’s another mermaid cartoon. This time, it’s from the venerable comic strip, Hagar the Horrible by Chris Browne.

A flakey muse and a climactic chapter



[1] For those of you itching to jump my case concerning clarity and conciseness, rest assured the first word in “really necessary” is indeed redundant. During World War II, things like tires/tyres and gasoline/petrol were in short supply and therefore, rationed. Back then, civilians lucky enough to own a car would see posters, like the one below, in Post Offices, service stations, vehicles, etc. Having been raised on tales of how it was back then, I still use some of the phrasing from over seventy years ago.

A flakey muse and a climactic chapter

Bizarro Mermaid # 2 – The Art and humour of Don Piraro

Happy Hump Day!

I hadn’t planned on continuing the series on mermaids in art & literature so soon. However, this Bizarro Mermaid from April 4th, 2016  popped up on Facebook.

As I mentioned on Monday, Don Piraro has featured mermaids in a number of his daily one-panel comics. I’ll continue posting other examples in the future. You can learn more about Don’s work at Bizarro.com.

Bizarro Mermaid # 2

Bizarro Mermaid # 2

But wait! There’s more!

If you look closely at the illustration you’ll notice:

  1. The eye-ball at the foot of the stylist’s chair
  2. The little UFO thingy to the left of the stylist’s dialogue balloon
  3. The upside down bird beneath the stylist’s hair dryer

These are three of the secret symbols Don Piaro uses to pepper his panels. You can learn more about these symbols at Bizarro Secret Symbols. Shhhh! Don’t tell anybody.

Why am I doing this?

Well, I’m in the midst or swapping my PC here at The Parsonage™ with the PC in my lonely writer’s garret down in Hopewell, VA. This includes ordering two new monitors and installing a graphics card.

I just haven’t had the time to write in the past week. (I did, however, make a few corrections to earlier chapters and worked on some dialogue a bit.) It’s easier to post a few graphics every couple of days than it is to come up with a blog post.

I’m on my way to Hopewell on Friday. Maybe I’ll have some honest writing progress to report when next Wednesday rolls around.

Bizarro Mermaid – The Art and humour of Don Piraro

Continuing the series on mermaids in art & literature, here is the Bizarro Mermaid from March 8th, 2017. Don Piraro has featured mermaids in a number of his daily one-panel comics. I’ll try to post other examples in the future. You can learn more about Don’s work at Bizarro.com.

Have a great week!

Bizarro Mermaid

R.M. Drake

I found this quote by R.M. Drake out on Facebook and thought I would share it with you. Have a good weekend.

R.M. Drake

Henry Taylor

I found this  quote from Henry Taylor out on Facebook and thought I would share it with you. Have a good day!

Henry Taylor

Grammatical Voice

Note the eyebrows in the illustration below.Grammatical Voice

How Two Characters Hijacked an Author



If you have not already guessed, the title of today’s post is a play on the name of Luigi Pirandello’s masterful work, Six Characters in Search of an Author. Among other things, Pirandello’s play deals with the relationship between authors and their characters. If you want more information about the play, please see the Wikipaedia article.

Getting on with it . . .

As I recently mentioned, I’m working on the last chapters of Syrena and, like many stories, a lot transpires in these three or four chapters[1]. In one of these final chapters, I wanted to write a minor scene involving Amy, Penelope’s VBFF, and Billy King, Peter’s old college room-mate.

The scene was intended to run about 600 words (+/-). It would simply remind readers that the two characters were still interested in each other. It was at this point the trouble began.

The Plot Thickens

There I was, minding my own business and writing the opening sentences. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the two of them jumped me. Billy threatened me with bodily harm. Amy suggested I would sleep with the fishes if I didn’t do as they said.

Faced with extreme emotional distress, I had no choice but to capitulate. The 600 words turned into 2086 words. I was told to keep writing their thread within the story if I knew what was good for me. I have been doing just that over the past few days. Nonetheless, I have steadfastly refused to cast Billy as the hero who saves the day, revamps the postal system and makes the trains run on time[2].

A Last Request

If I don’t make it and you, dear reader, happen to find this, please tell my wife that I love her.

[1] For those who regularly scan this blog in hopes of finding some juicy insider information, here’s a tip; The final chapter resolves a minor mystery that began in Chapter Twenty-Six of Urban Mermaid. The mystery is so minor that most readers barely noticed it. This mystery will be a minor plot-line in Syrena.

[2] Those of you of a certain age and possessed of a certain sense of humour will recognise this last bit. It was having been shamelessly pilfered from a parody of Tolkien’s masterful epic, Lord of the Rings.

Commentary: The End Is Near

The end is near

It is all very well, when the pen flows, but then there are the dark days when imagination deserts one, and it is an effort to put anything down on paper. – Elizabeth Aston

I had closed out chapter 17 and started work on Chapter 18 when I suddenly realised I had only four chapters to go in the first draft. Actually, it’s five but the chapter which refuses to be written will eventually succumb or the pen, or more precisely, the keyboard. Once that very last chapter is done with, it’s time for me to turn right around and start on the 2nd draft.

Why so slow?

Before returning to Hopewell, VA in order to, supposedly, spend a week writing, my wife and I sat down for breakfast at the local pancake house. Amongst the subjects discussed – actually, Judi just sat there and let me blether on – was why this book has proceeded so slowly compared to the first. There could be several possible excuses reasons for this tardigrade manuscription.

Excuses, excuses

I cannot claim this story is being written from scratch. When I first envisioned the story now known as Urban Mermaid, the subject matter for the second book was simply an extension of the first. I divided the whole story in to two parts because I had to stop somewhere. Otherwise, the printed version would have been hefty enough to serve as a blunt instrument in an altercation. So, in other words, the story behind Syrena  has been out there almost as long as the one behind Urban Mermaid.

Time on my hands

Some of the delay could have something to do with the employment situation . . . or lack thereof. When I seriously began transcribing Urban Mermaid, I was out of a job . . . again. In order to pass the time whilst waiting for someone, anyone, to respond to the scads of job applications I sent out, I took keyboard in hand and really got down to writing.

This time around, I’m retired and should have ample opportunity to get down and dirty with Syrena. The trouble is, I haven’t done so.

To know others is to know thyself

About the only reason that has any possible validity is that I don’t know the characters, Amy and Billy, as well as I knew Penelope and Peter. They also have a role in Syrena and their scenes have been easier to write than those of Amy and Billy. In fact, it’s been a real struggle to keep Penelope and Peter from completely taking over this second book. The inequity is something I’ll have to address in the second draft.

Meanwhile, I have scenes in the remaining four chapters to plot out.

The End

Blue Blubber Invasion Down Under

Life imitates art -

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post which included mentions of both the Blue blubber jellyfish and the box jellyfish. Ironically, The Daily Mail website featured an article, yesterday, about an invasion of blue blubbers in Queensland, Australia.

Blue blubber hits the beach

Blue Blubber Jellyfish

Blue blubber jelly fish live in swarms just below the ocean’s surface. Despite the name, some individuals in this species are white or brown.

Thousands of these coelenterates[1], Catostylus mosaicus, washed up on the beach at Deception Bay, north of Brisbane. One observer noted the beach appeared to be covered in bubble wrap.

Blue blubbers have mild stings; So mild that kids were throwing them at each other. While the invasion is an annual occurrence, this year’s event is larger than usual. A cause for the higher than usual numbers has yet to be determined.

Small But Deadly


This box jellyfish may be tiny but it can kill.

The article in the Daily Mail also referenced two other articles concerning the Irukandji jellyfish. The Irukandji is a type of box jellyfish and it is the nastiest of the nasty when it comes to stings. An Australian documentary about these gelatinous beasts was entitled Killer Jellyfish.

But wait! There’s more!

One should not become too complacent about Irukandji being confined to the land down under. Irukandji are increasingly found in Florida as well as other parts of the U.S. Rather than a mass migration, the cause has more to do with shipping than anything else. More likely than not, a cargo ship of some sort took on ballast water in Australia – or elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific – which happened to contain Irukandji.

At some point, the ship flushed its ballast tanks in Florida waters and the Irukandji suddenly became U.S. residents. So far, there have been no large outbreaks in the waters off Florida. However, as the Earth’s oceans continue to grow warmer, it is only a matter of time.

Irukandji and Colony Island

The Irukandji jelly fish will play a central role in the final book of the Colony Island series. Things like warming seas have caused the Irukandji population to explode and the waters surrounding Florida are no longer safe. Will Colony Island be part of the problem’s solution? You’ll just have to wait to find out.

[1] The author is old school. Originally, all jellyfish were included in the phylum, Coelenterata. Further study of the members of this phylum revealed significant differences. True jellies were placed in their own phylum, Cnidaria.

Field Research

Field Research is Always Important

A story is only as good as the research behind it. Therefore, in my unceasing quest for accuracy, I decided it was high time I went out and conducted a bit of research in the field. The fact that the desire to do research coincided with a certain birthday is totally inconsequential.

The question as to just where this research was to be performed sparked considerable debate. Of course, the town of Colony Island is fictitious – or at least I think it is – so doing my research on location was out. So was doing my research in Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, etc. as this is the high season for refugees from places like the frozen tundra of New Jersey.[1]

Seeing as how the bills of Christmas past are still amongst us, an executive decision was made to keep the proposed research close to home and under budget. After that, the choice of a destination was easy.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD

On Friday, January 27, we loaded our research gear on Amtrak and rolled northward at a civilised pace. A station stop in Alexandria, VA allowed me research and confirm ideas for a scene in the 2nd book of the Colony Island series, Syrena[2]. We arrived in Baltimore[3], set up a base camp at the Fairfield Inn, and proceeded to reconnoiter the Inner Harbour area in advance of Saturday’s research excursion at the National Aquarium.

Let me begin by saying he National Aquarium is a marvelous place to explore. I do think Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium has an overall edge on the National. Nonetheless, it is still very well worth your while to visit.

Visiting Australia

Kookaburra - Field ResearchOur first stop was an exhibit on Australia’s Northern Territory. We liked it so much we went through the exhibit twice. Amongst the animals we encountered was a Kookaburra[4] bird and a Meterns’ water monitor. We compared this animal with a Parsonage litter monitor and decided the two were not related. One is a lizard whilst the other is a cat[5].


Blue Blubber Jellyfish - Field ResearchMoving on, we observed Dolphins at play and members of the coelenterate phylum going about their daily business. One of the later books in the Colony Island series will include a plot line concerning an invasive species of jellyfish. The author also recounted – for the umpty-eleventh time – his close encounters with Sea Nettles. The exhibit was nice but perhaps not as comprehensive as the exhibit at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium in California.

While I was not expecting a live specimen, I had rather hoped there would at least be a display covering the Box Jellyfish (class Cubozoa) These coelenterates are found in the coastal waters off Norther Australia and throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Species such as Chironex fleckeri, Carukia barnesi and Malo kingi produce an extremely potent venom. These are probably the most venomous animals known. Stings from these species can be – and very often are – fatal to humans[6].

Blacktip Reef

From there, it was on to the other exhibits. If I were to tell you everything there was to know about the wonders of the National Aquarium, this post would go on for days.

We did see a Humphead as well as a Slingjaw wrasse in the Blacktip Reef Exhibit. In Syrena, the second book in the Colony Island series, Penelope will tell Peter she had a pet wrasse as a child. She could never tell for sure if it was the same wrasse but there was one which always seemed to recognise her at that particular spot on the reef.

Besides the fish, we also saw these colourful characters in exhibits covering the jungles that contribute their water to the sea.

Emerald Tree Boa - Field Research Blue Frog - Field Research


What About Mermaids?

Divers at the National Aquarium - Field ResearchI was distressed to find there were no mermaids to be seen at the National Aquarium. I was informed, however, that the mermaids at the aquarium swim south to the Caribbean immediately after New Year’s. They don’t return until sometime in the Spring. I also learned the best place to see them is at the Hooters, across the Inner Harbour. When they’re in town, several of them have part-time jobs as waitresses.

Instead of mermaids, we got to see these Diver Fish. It appears told the fin colour has something to do with the age of the fish


Following the aquarium, we toured the USS Torsk, a Tench Class submarine from WWII. We also toured the USS Constellation[7]. The fact that the author has inhaled the entire Aubrey/Marturin series of novels by Patrick O’Brian  was of great assistance during his exploration of the USS Constellation.

USS Torsk

[1] The appellation has its origins in an unfortunate slur cast upon my fellow Southerners by a woman who happened to be my fiancée at the time. My subsequent retort cast the Garden State as a ‘frozen tundra’. After nearly forty-two years of holy deadlock, nothing has changed.

[2] If you want to know more about the scene, you’ll have to buy a copy.

[3] My father spent part of his boyhood in Baltimore. (He also spent a good part of his youth in Parlin, NJ.) I belong to the Baltimore St Andrews Society. I paid enough inheritance tax on my Aunt’s estate, that I feel qualified to call myself a citizen of Baltimore.

[4] Sadly, an old gum tree was not included in the exhibit.

[5] The Parsonage litter monitor is an eight-year-old semi-Siamese tiger-monkey, part tiger but mostly monkey, whose mission in life is to cover everyone else’s business in the litter box while expelling as much litter from said box as possible.

[6] There is little or no information on how these stings affect mermaids.

[7] It should be noted that this ship is the sloop built in 1854 and not the earlier frigate which bore the same name. By the way, did I mention the sloop was built in Norfolk, VA?

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