Q: I noticed a reference to something called a ‘morning suit’ in Urban Mermaid. Are you sure it’s not a ‘mourning suit’, you know, something a guy would wear when sitting shiva? Just what the heck is a ‘morning suit’?
A: According to Wikipaedia, morning dress is the daytime formal dress code, consisting chiefly for men of a morning coat, waistcoat, and striped trousers. Peter MacPherson chose dove gray morning suits so that he and his groom squad would look elegant yet fade a bit into the background. Although Penelope would have been more than happy for him to wear a white tux, Peter was not about to let anything outshine his bride on her special day.
While some would argue that there is nothing wrong with wearing a tux before 6:00 PM, such practices are just one more example of the decline of American civilization. In the 2015 movie, Bridge of Spies, the character played by Tom Hanks wears a morning suit whilst arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Such attire was de rigueur once upon a time but is now confined to the United States Solicitor General and deputies as well as the Marshal and Clerk of the court during all sessions of the court.
For more information on morning dress, see:
- The Wikipaedia article on Morning Dress
- The Black Tie Guide’s Informational overview of Morning Wear
 Peter is a product of the American Scottish community which has a penchant for trying to do things as they would be done in the U.K. where morning dress is much more common.
 Penelope will insist that it is their special day.
It all depends. How old is your teenage daughter?
Seriously, the adolescent years cover a range of levels with regard to maturity and sophistication. To quote the review of Urban Mermaid by Katie O’Sullivan,
“This is not your daughter’s mermaid novel.”
Urban Mermaid does not contain vast undersea cities, bands of warring mermen battling sea dragons, or characters with royal titles. This last bit will cause many a young adolescent to immediately lose interest.
Instead, the story deals with grown-up themes of newly found love and overcoming obstacles in order to be together. There are a number of bedroom scenes but there is nothing too graphic or explicit.
Indeed, the best approach may be to use a bit of reverse psychology and let them read Urban Mermaid. The first bedroom scene is nine long chapters into the story. If they can remain interested through all the grown-up stuff, then they might be mature enough to read further.
 Katie O’Sullivan has excellent mer-stories for Young Adults in her ongoing Son of a Mermaid series.
 A fine example of this type of mermaid story is the Merminia series by Emm Cole.
 I am reticent to use the term ‘Adult’ – even with a small ‘a’ – because of the connotations which immediately come to mind.
 If you’re looking for hot and messy mermaid stories, I heartily recommend The Fairytail Saga by S.K. Munt.
Q: Do the residents of Colony Island celebrate Christmas?
A: Over the decades, there have been a number of attempts to bring the Gospel to Colony Island. While the Unitarians seemed to make the most headway, the blank looks which all the missionaries received, when discussing things theological, were very discouraging. In the end, they left in search of an audience not quite as tough as the merfolk. The residents, meanwhile, resumed their folk religion centered on Poseidon.
The islanders are cognizant of mainland holidays to varying degrees. While they do not celebrate Easter, the Academy holds Easter-egg hunts – both on-shore and off – for the children. New Year’s Day is widely observed on Colony Island as the mer see the new year as a new beginning. The Tench Family has its own private ritual to mark the occasion.
Christmas is harder to avoid. Those Mer who have regular interaction with humans on the mainland are the ones most favourably disposed towards the holiday. They will often buy gifts for their human co-workers and friends.
Before Penelope chose her human mate, Christmas was celebrated – very quietly – by the only human on Colony Island and his family. Things will slowly begin to change once Peter MacPherson arrives on the scene.
 Ironically, many members of the Royston Enclave are active in the local Unitarian-Universalist fellowship.
Q: What does phagocytize mean?
A: Phagocytize – or more properly, Phagocytise – means to consume or devour (something) by Phagocytosis. This is the method by which amoebae (pl. of amoeba) consume food.
If you remember your elementary school biology, an amoeba will engulf a food particle by extending parts of its body – called pseudopods – to encircle the particle and create a food vacuole within its endoplasam.
In the first chapter of Urban Mermaid, the author uses this term to describe how the surrounding vegetation is slowly engulfing the car park next to the boat ramp and dock.
For Extra Credit
The root word of Phagocytize is the Greek word, phagos, a derivative of the word phágein which means ‘to eat’. A phage is something that eats or consumes. This is regularly conjoined with the word, ‘bacteria’, to form bacteriophage which is a virus that eats or consumes bacteria.
In 1974, the author returned to the campus of North Carolina Wesleyan College following a week’s absence due to the death of his father. The author was taking Microbiology that year, and in his absence, a lab experiment with E. Coli – B and the T2 bacteriophage had failed to produce the expected results.
The author suspected that the E. Coli culture had become contaminated and set about creating a new, pure culture. Following that, he replicated the experiment and achieved the desired results. The author received an ‘A’ for the course and got to skip the final exam.
Several years later, the author was working on his master’s degree at Georgia State University. The lab for his course in Virology included the same experiment and, like so many others in that course, flopped. To be precise, it flopped for everyone in the course except the author.
Q: Do you think there could be such things as Jewish Mermaids?
A: Jewish Mermaids are well within the realm of plausibility. However, lighting the Shabbat candles could prove to be problematic. Perhaps they use bio luminescent jelly fish instead of candles.
Q: What’s with all the World War II stuff in Urban Mermaid? Doesn’t the story take place in the 21st century?
A: Up until that time in the Island’s history, the merfolk thought of themselves as being apart from the humans on the mainland. The fact that Christophorus Kolidakis swam to Greece in order to fight with the resistance served as a wake-up call for the residents of Colony Island. They loved their island home and knew that their way of life there was history if the Axis powers triumphed.
In the months following Pearl Harbour, the merfolk decided to stand shoulder to shoulder with their human neighbours. Many of the mermen enlisted in the armed forces while mermaids trained to be Red Cross nurses. Not all of them came home.
The fishing fleet did their part during the war by capturing a German sub during Operation Drumbeat and the town received a Presidential citation for their valour. The fleet was also responsible for sinking a 2nd sub but kept it quiet as the depth and how the charges were placed would have raised too many questions and endangered their secret.
For the first time in the town’s history, the merfolk felt themselves to be equal to the humans on the mainland. It was their finest hour.
Q: Why did you kill off Peter’s Parents?
A: Well, it was certainly not done out of malice. I did it as a sort of plot ‘de-complicator’. When I was first outlining the story, I decided I was going to have enough on my hands dealing with Penelope, her family and the other merfolk on Colony Island not to mention all the mer lore and customs. Not having to deal with his mother and father in the story not only made things a lot easier, but it did so much for Peter’s character and also allowed Ilene’s character to really blossom.
In a future installment of the Colony Island story, a human will fall in love with another mermaid and his parents will not only be alive but also the kind that like to come and visit – quite often – and bring their daughters along as well. I can’t say in which book this will happen, though. Only time will tell.
Q: An extensive background check has revealed that Penelope’s last name – Tench – is the same as your mother’s maiden name. What gives? Is there some kind of hidden message here?
A: My mother’s family name comes from a game fish found in the United Kingdom. The Tench fish (Tinca Tinca) has been exported to other countries including the U.S. Since most of the residents of of Colony Island have piscene or aquatic names, Tench was a “gimmie” I could not pass up.
And before you bring it up, Penelope’s cousin – Lindsey Tench – has my mother’s middle and family name. This was intentional and meant to be a shout-out to my late mother.
Q: I’ve noticed the description for Peter’s coat of arms looks suspiciously like your own at howardparsons.info. Isn’t this a bit self-serving?
A: The chapter where this occurs mentioned only Peter’s crest. My editor wanted a bit more descriptive language. This left me with a bit of a dilemma. I could always devise fictitious MacPherson arms for Peter and hope that I was not trespassing upon the armorial rights of my cousins or indeed, any other armiger. My other choice was to use my own arms as a stand-in for Peter’s & try to convince readers that Peter is in no way an extension of myself.
How successful I’ll be, remains to be seen.