Sometimes . . . things just don’t work out the way you’d hoped.
The other day, I received a message from someone who said they enjoyed Urban Mermaid and asked to be a Beta Reader. I always appreciate volunteerism and decided to reply to this eager recruit. I waded through all my recent e-mail as well as the message queues from my various social (as well as anti-social) media connections and came up empty. Nada. Nowhere to be found.
At this moment actually, I’m looking for an Alpha Reader. This is some brave soul – or souls – willing to read through the current draft of the sequel to Urban Mermaid and faithfully report on whether it is absolute rubbish, partially crap, or something that just needs a bit of work. (The term ‘bit’ is open to interpretation.
Are there scenes/chapters that can be trashed? Am I banging on and on about superfluous ideas that just won’t fly, no matter how long the runway is? Should I just call it quits on this book and move on to the next one or should I just call it quits . . . period? (On the east side of the pond, that should be read as “or should I just call it quits . . . full stop”.
This is your golden opportunity to make a positive contribution to the creative process. I’m open to more than one Alpha Reader. All you need do is let me know and I’ll send you your very own Alpha copy.
I’m sailing away set an open course for the virgin sea
I’ve got to be free free to face the life that’s ahead of me
On board, I’m the captain so climb aboard
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I’ll try oh Lord I’ll try to carry on — STYX, Come Sail Away
Well, Judi and I are off on a cruise to the western Carribean in March. This is a combination 45th Anniversary trip/Book promotion/2nd chance for Judi to see some rare cats in Belize. (I just hope she remembers to bring more than one bag of kitty treats!)
As for me, I’ll be the author in residence
flogging promoting Urban Mermaid. Now, I just have to think of something to say about it.
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.