Fun Facts – Ethyl Merman
What’s in a name?
Anyone who has read Urban Mermaid will know that I gave the residents surnames with an aquatic connection. (Tench, Bass, Sturgeon, Fishman, Boatwright, Chandler, etc.) The reason is as follows:
“… Most merfolk in the sea only have one name, and it’s usually a Greek one; at least in our corner of the ocean, that’s the way it is. When our ancestors settled here on Colony Island, they wanted to blend in with the humans… I mean mainlanders. Everyone chose a last name derived from what they knew best; fish, boats, etc. Peter voluntarily changed his middle name because George and Ilene Tench adopted him as their son.” Syrena, Chapter 6
I mainly used names that could be found in most any phone book. On occasion, I will use the name of a real person. When it came time to find names for Penelope’s maternal grandparents, I decided the family name should be Merman and the grandmother’s given name should be Ethyl.
A spelling mixup
Sharp-eyed readers will notice a discrepancy in the first name of my character. She’s named ‘Ethyl’ instead of ‘Ethel’. There is a reason for this – Harry Potter. You may remember the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. Older wizards coming to watch the event decided to ditch the standard wizard robes and remain incognito by wearing Muggle clothing. The problem with this is the items of Muggle clothing they chose made the wizards stick out like a sore thumb.
Swimming under the radar
The merfolk of Colony Island were trying to fit in and remain undetectable to Mainlanders by their choices of given and/or family names. In Ethyl’s case, her parents didn’t know the difference between the chemical term ‘Ethyl’ and the feminine name ‘Ethel’. Since Ethyl attended both elementary and high school on the island, and seldom went to the mainland, the mistake went undetected for a good part of her life.
And now you know the rest of the story.
 I realise that this may be an unfamiliar term for some of you who are below a certain age. Back in the day, telephone companies would issue an annual paper-bound book containing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone in town. These ‘phone books’ were an invaluable source of information.
 In Life on Colony Island, the town’s mayor, Bill Marlin, will take some time off to go visit his younger brother, Sterling. Stirling is a funny duck. He used to drive race cars. His father said he’s Coo Coo. If you like NASCAR, you’ll immediately get the joke.
 Ethyl refers to:
- Ethyl group, a functional group in organic chemistry
- Ethyl Corporation, a fuel additive company headquartered in Richmond, VA
- Ethyl Sinclair, a character in the 90’s TV sitcom Dinosaurs
 Mainlander is a PC term for a human.
Sometimes, things just fall right into your hands. This image turned up in my Facebook feed this afternoon. While totally serendipitous, the image fits right in with a major plot line the forthcoming sequel to Urban Mermaid, entitled Syrena.
The wedding and attendant festivities are long over. Penelope and Peter are happily married as Peter adjusts to daily life on Colony Island. There’s just one little thing wrong.
Penelope’s VBFF (Very Best Friend Forever), Amy Seagull has been left with a humongous crush on Peter MacPherson. Amy herself will admit she’s got a harmless “little” crush on Peter. What she won’t admit is that this “little” crush is so big that it blots out the sun. The image accompanying this post could have easily come from Amy’s daydreams.
You can fill in the rest on your own.
I’ve been taking the 27 chapters (28 if you include the Epilogue) of Syrena out of my Scrivener development environment and moving them into MS Word. Once I move a chapter, the clean-up process begins. As for the cleanup tools, I use MS Word’s built-in correction tools, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid to whip these recalcitrant sentences and paragraphs into some sort of shape. I pray that the overall condition will be an improvement over the way they exist now.
ProWritingAid is used to check for things like Readability, Clichés, Grammar, Overused Words, Style, etc. The reports tell me when I’ve got too many instances of the word, ‘was’ or when the same words and phrases occur to close together. Take it from me, trying to reduce the number of occurrences of ‘was’ is a right pain in the arse.
It takes me one to two days to clean up one chapter. Once all that’s done, I’ll begin my read-through.
And now, it’s time for Hello, Peter!
It is finished. Around 10:40 AM, yesterday, I wrote the last word of the last sentence of the sequel to Urban Mermaid. The working title is Syrena. Finally, it is finished. It has been a long, slow crawl and it has taken much longer than it should.
So, what’s next?
The first thing I’m going to do is go back and make some revisions to the Epilogue. (Yeah, I know. I just finished it yesterday.) There is some extraneous stuff in there which really does not advance the plot in any significant way.
Here’s a hint about the Epilogue. It will solve a mystery that runs through the entire book. Indeed, this mystery has its beginnings way back in Chapter 24 of Urban Mermaid. Let me stress that this is not one of those “the butler did it” kind of mysteries. Instead, it’s a mystery as to why two of the characters act the way they do.
After the epilogue . . .
Once I’m done with the Epilogue, I need to make some minor changes to the last two chapters. I also have to renumber some chapters where one proved to be too long and was split into two or three pieces. (In other words, no chapter 18A and chapter 18B.)
Getting down and dirty
After that, the real fun begins. I get to go back to the very first chapter and read for inconsistencies, punctuation, and places where the writing – I must use a literary technical term here – really sucks. I’m not sure how many times I’ll have to go through this process before I’m satisfied.
Next comes the exciting task of cobbling an overview of the plot and sending the whole thing off to my publisher. If she doesn’t laugh too much, then it’s contract time and the real torture begins. However, if my publisher says “Thanks, but no thanks”, then I have to consider if Syrena should even see the light of day. If the answer is “yes”, then I’ll need to launch Parsonage Press and enter the exciting world of self-publishing.
At this moment, the only thing I care about is that it is finished.
Frenemy: an oxymoron and a portmanteau of “friend” and “enemy” that refers to “a person with whom one is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry” or “a person who combines the characteristics of a friend and an enemy.
I have all but completed the dialogue for Peter’s friend, Billy King, in Syrena. Just a few little bits in one chapter and that’s it.
Billy King made a few brief appearances in Urban Mermaid but plays a much bigger part in the sequel. The reader will learn quite a bit about the character in the book, and this post gives the nuts and bolts of his back story.
William King III hails from Alexandria, VA and is the oldest of two children. His mother is something of a socialite, and his father is a minor mover and shaker in Alexandria. The following should give you a quick sketch of life in the King household. During the Christmas holidays, the only time the whole family is together is on Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. On Boxing Day, Mr and Mrs King depart for a golfing and shopping holiday in Bermuda. Their two children usually do not accompany their parents. When it’s time for Billy to return to Florida, his parents are still in Bermuda. His sister is too busy farewelling her girlfriends, before returning to college, to see Billy off on the train.
Billy has several character flaws. Some are the result of his upbringing. Some are a byproduct of his talent. Anyone who does not come up to his standards of dress, grooming, behaviour, is somehow an inferior person. Billy is an extremely talented musician and that has left him conceited. He believes he can have any girl he wants via the proper application of the old Billy King charm.
Billy was Peter’s roommate in college. He saw Peter’s struggles with the opposite sex and took pity on him. When Peter’s fortunes did not improve under his tutelage, he declared Peter to be a lost cause and after that looked upon him in a condescending way.
Billy cannot figure out how Peter wound up with a real fox such as Penelope or why she stays with him. He gives ever decreasing estimates as to how long the marriage will last and plans to catch her on the rebound.
In short, Billy King is a frenemy.
You may remember the turn of the century parade of painted cows that appeared on the streets of New York City, Chicago, Houston, and even Tasmania. They were made of fibreglass and given to artists to decorate with various colours and patterns.
The painted cows, or coos if you’re Scottish, begat painted pigs which appeared on the streets of Seattle, Atlanta, and a good number of other cities. This example was decorated to represent a merpig.
Norfolk has a mermaid vibe to it. Perhaps that’s why I go there so much. They have painted mermaids scattered all over the area. In Virginia Beach, there is a shop called The Mermaid Factory. There, you can buy a plaster version of the Norfolk mermaid and paint/decorate it however you choose. (I painted one to look like Penelope.)
One of these mermaids – the big kind – swims just outside Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story. She is painted with the naval camouflage on the upper part of her body and the U.S.M.C. camouflage on her tail. The base emblem is displayed on her hip.
You will be pleased to learn I’m back at work on the sequel to Urban Mermaid. If you don’t already know, the working title for book # 2 is Syrena. The plot features a prolonged catfight between the heroine of book # 1, Penelope, and her Very Best Friend Forever, Amy.
You may well ask “What has precipitated this catfight between two old friends?” Without giving away the plot, let me say that among other things, it is the result of daydreams and too much wine. Amy has unwittingly crossed a line and violated the cardinal rule amongst fishy females; she tried to come between a mermaid and her mate. If you want to learn more, you’ll have to buy the book when it comes out.
In the meantime, I need to figure out just how I’m going to script a 7-month long feud. This feud is not the only thing happening in book # 2. For example, Peter has to deal with his old college roommate, Billy King, who has become less of a friend and more of a frenemy. He’s on the island every weekend to help with a special project. He also has his eye on someone though he doesn’t know the town’s “secret”. Everyone is keeping mum on this one.
Peter also has to deal with other issues as well. He has “bonded” with Colony Island and now considers it home. The locals are perfectly fine with that and he’s become something of a fixture in the life of Colony Island. He loves being able to drop everything and go for a swim whenever he wants. There is, however, one little problem. How the heck is he supposed to earn a living?
A catfight is the last thing he wants to deal with. Little does he know that this girlfight is all about him.
A lot has transpired since you last visited Colony Island and Syrena is guaranteed to catch you up.
The third and last instalment in Pete Tarsi’s wonderful “Scales” series, Tipping the Scales, is out and available from Amazon.com. Don’t be dismayed by the word ‘Final.’ Pete is already considering expanding the story via one or more novellas. Say nice things about Pete and he just may deliver the goods. Better yet, order your copy today!
This is a major announcement. No, Syrena is not on its way to the printers. This announcement comes in three parts so let’s get cracking.
Thanks to my deft surgical skills – Once upon a time, I operated on lab rats in college – the scene mentioned in Catching Up has been successfully edited and saved from the circular file. Now if only the rest of my editorial work would be half as successful.
Book # 3
I’m pleased to announce the title of Book # 3 will be Life on Colony Island. The book will consist of a series of interwoven subplots. Penelope and Peter will only appear intermittently. Major Teaser: Carl the Pizza Guy finally finds love.
Book # 4
I’m also pleased to announce the title of Book # 4 will be Suburban Mermaid. Penelope and Peter have been married for 5 years, now. Penelope’s urge to breed is getting pretty strong and Ilene is champing at the bit to crank out merbaby # 2. She wouldn’t mind having another little mermaid. That’s okay with George as Poseidon has already sent him the best son he could ever ask for. Can Peter live up to these great expectations?
There will be a Book # 5 but I’m not sure about Books # 6 or 7. If I stopped it at # 5, there would be a lot to wrap up in # 5, however.
And that’s it for now. I start working on the second batch of fruitcakes this afternoon as well as beginning the curing process for the first batch.
A Note for Consumers: Any earrings, fingers, pipes, etc. found in your fruitcake are the property of The Parsonage Fruitcake Factory Ltd. and should be returned post-haste. Thanks!
 Not to be confused with “a Major Award”
Well, it’s been a while, so let’s do some catching up.
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. 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.
You may remember the chapter in Urban Mermaid where Peter proposes to Penelope. 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 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.
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.
 Actually, Penelope proposes to Peter first, but he’s distracted by some surprising news and her proposal goes right over his head.
 Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, 7105 Northwest 70th Avenue, Johnston, IA 50131 Phone: (515) 252-4531 https://www.goldstarmuseum.iowa.gov
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.
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:
- To show Penelope is just like her mother; a bit over the top at times.
- 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. 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.
 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?
 There’ll be more about Billy King in a later post.
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 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.
 The owner is a caricature of Lori Allen from Say Yes to the Dress – Atlanta. Bet you didn’t know that.