Greetings from Hopewell, VA.
I took a few days off from life in Charlottesville to return to my ancestral home and do some work, here in my lonely, writers garret. Since my last report, I’ve been plotting key scenes and figuring out how I’m going to get from one to another. I need to start cobbling together character sketches and after that, I’ll be ready to start pounding the keyboard.
About the Title
My heartfelt thanks go to Jennifer Guren who lives in beautiful Woongarrah, NSW – That’s in Austrailia, folks – for selecting the name of this forthcoming novella/novelette/short story, Moonlight and Mermaids. As a reward for her efforts, this discerning lady will have a character named for her. Who knows, she may even receive a pair of earrings from the Crafts from Colony Island line of fine – and not so fine – jewelry. All items are mer made.
About the Story
I’m not going to reveal much about the plot. However, I can say that it will not have the detailed world-building that took place in Urban Mermaid. That book was intended to lay the foundation for a five to seven book series and I wanted to make the coastal town of Colony Island seem as real as possible.
Moonlight and Mermaids is intended to be a one-off. Since I want it to be – at the most – a novella, the world-building will need to be kept to a minimum.
The same applies to the character development. There was a lot of back story for Penelope and Peter, as well as many of the other characters, in Urban Mermaid. Moonlight and Mermaids’ two central characters will have a back story but it will be more of a sketch this time.
And Then There’s the Magic
I probably disappointed some readers of Urban Mermaid. There was a lack of mer-magic, as well as other staples of mermaid stories. As I’ve said before, I wanted the story and its characters to be as ‘real’ as possible. There will be mer magic in Moonlight and Mermaids to help move the story along. Indeed, without mer magic, there would be no story. However, there will be no vast undersea cities, warring tribes of merfolk, or monsters from the depths.
A Gender Bender?
I’m going to let you figure that one out on your own. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get back to story cobbling.
There’s bound to be at least one or two of you who have wondered where I’ve been for the past few months. (1) No progress reports on Syrena, the sequel to Urban Mermaid. (2) No factoids about Colony Island and its people. (3) No shameless plugs for my novel. So, for the idly curious, as well as anyone who might have actually missed me, here is what’s gone down.
It Started Back in April
My mother-in-law had passed away in Feb. of 2016 and we were making final preparations to hold an estate sale and put her house on the market. Needless to say, work on Syrena ground to a halt. My wife, the only one of us still gainfully employed, despatched me to take care of this task or that on an almost daily basis.
We received a good offer on the house in early June but the home inspector found a number of issues that required rectifying. More time lost. The sale closed at the end of June and I was ready to dive into summer. Instead, I did a belly-flop.
In Sickness and Health
I’d been having some sort of strange auto-immune thing going on with my lungs and a persistent cough caused by sinusitis didn’t help at all. My cough became worse as the month of July progressed and wound up going into hospital for two days. Though I was a pulmonary case, they stuck me in the cardiac ward where the food was bland and tasteless. Of course, one does not get much sleep when one is awoken every couple of hours for blood-work or injections.
I was sent home with enough oxygen tanks for a scuba expedition. Since that time, the cough has gone and my pulmonologist seems to be pleased with my progress. I only need to tank up occasionally now and go for days without touching the stuff.
Syrena – Where Do I Go From Here?
I desperately need to resume work on Syrena, but more importantly, I need to get back into the writing habit. Drawing on my life-long practice of telling myself stories as a way of falling asleep, I came up with the idea for a short-story/novelette/novella as a writing exercise.
Yes, the story involves mermaids, but other than a few common concepts, this tale of tails is far removed from the world of Colony Island. The title will either be Mermaids and Moonlight or Moonlight and Mermaids. It takes place in the Pacific, involves magic, and is a gender-bender.
If it winds up being a short story, I’ll publish it here on colonyisland.com. However, if it winds up being a novella, I’ll see if my publisher is interested. If not, I’ll self-publish. Stay tuned.
Each evening, from December to December . . .
This past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to watch the film Jackie starring Natalie Portman. The story deals with Jackie Kennedy’s struggle through grief and trauma following the assassination of her husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 36th President of the United States. His time in office is often referred to as “the Camelot years”. The Lerner and Lowe musical, Camelot opened on Broadway on December 3rd, 1960 and closed on January 5th, 1963. JFK would be assassinated ten and one-half months later.
The original cast album was part of the first family’s regular evening listening at the White House and JFK’s favourite lines were found in the closing scene of the play. It is pre-dawn and the final battle between the two warring factions of King Arthur’s round table will soon begin. A young lad of fourteen years has stowed away in the van and seeks to become a knight. Arthur is touched by the boy’s idealism but the battlefield is no place for a boy. Instead, Arthur knights him as Sir Tom of Warwick with the charge to return home and keep the memory of Camelot alive.
Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot
Natalie Portman’s character speaks of the play and its music, focusing on the third line, “For one brief shining moment”. The remainder of this essay deals with those five words.
It All Started in High School
Early in my high school career, the Drama Club at Hopewell High School staged the musical Camelot and by all accounts, it was to be a magical and grand event. In one way or another, a significant portion of the student body were involved with the production. This was my first exposure to the play and I was hooked. My parents gave me a copy of the original cast album the following Christmas. This was so much better than the bog standard underwear and socks. I think I played that LP to death.
A couple of years later, the theme for the Miss Hopewell High pageant was One Brief Shining Moment. I found that to be rather appropriate. After all, it embodied the transience of such glory. This year’s beauty queen is next year’s “once upon a time.”
Time Marches On
I held on to the phrase over the years. I would occasionally hear or read it, though that quickly diminished as the decades passed. The phrase was my treasure although I never got to use it in any way.
All that changed when I wrote Urban Mermaid. There, in Chapter 9, in the 5th paragraph on page 192, the character, Peter MacPherson, mentions “the one brief shining moment of being a bride . . .” and vows that his fiancée, Penelope Tench, will have what every mermaid on Colony Island longs for; a wedding.
And now you know the rest of the story.
 The ‘extremely talented Natalie Portman’ is a more apt description.
 The Autumn of 1965.
 It was so grand that someone made copies of the tickets and sold them to unsuspecting attendees. Of course, the inevitable happened and there were more theatre-goers than seats at the performances. To my knowledge, the culprits were never discovered.
 There is also a line from National Lampoon’s Animal House in Urban Mermaid. All I will tell you is the line appears in the last chapter of the book and the last big scene in the movie.
Town of Secrets
Colony Island is a town of secrets. Of course, the biggest secret of all is that the place is populated by merfolk. That Island residents are pretty much like the rest of us probably qualifies as another secret. There are even more secrets to be discovered. These are the secrets of the individuals who live there.
One of the characters who populate this – allegedly – fictional town is Carl Fisher. Around town, he is better known as ‘Carl, the Pizza Guy’. For those of you who have yet to read Urban Mermaid, Carl manages the two pizza joints in town. In addition to cranking out some pretty decent pie, he is considered to be the ‘unofficial mayor’ of the town. In the course of making deliveries, he visits most of the homes on the island and usually knows who is doing okay and who is not. He is everyone’s friend which means he is no one’s friend in particular.
Carl is also lonely. Very lonely. He’s had an on-and-off relationship with a feral mermaid which is destined to go nowhere. Those of you who both know and love Carl, may rest assured he will finally find love and happiness in Book # 3.
Carl’s secret is that he copes with his loneliness by playing bass guitar. It’s something he picked up along the way to fill the empty spaces in his life. Bass players are often considered to be the least sexy of all band members but Carl never took up the instrument to be popular.
Syrena, Book # 2 in the Colony Island series, is about music, among other things. In the story, Carl is recruited to fill an unexpected vacancy in a backing band. The three bridesmaids, from Penelope’s wedding, are being pestered to death. Everyone wants to hear them sing just one more time but ‘one more time’ is never enough. The idea is to put together a small band, put on two or three concerts, and everyone will leave the girls alone. That’s the plan, anyway.
In what is supposed to be the final concert, the girls perform multiple encores but the crowd still wants more. The girls need a break so the guys perform a set of their own.
This morning, I stopped by the Pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescriptions. The sound system was playing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. In my mind, I could hear Carl’s bass guitar and picked out his voice in the chorus.
Sometimes, the characters you create will really get into you.
The ebb and flow of writing Syrena continues. In other words, I have a flakey muse.
A Climactic Chapter
Yesterday, 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.
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.
 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.
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
But wait! There’s more!
If you look closely at the illustration you’ll notice:
- The eye-ball at the foot of the stylist’s chair
- The little UFO thingy to the left of the stylist’s dialogue balloon
- 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.
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!
I found this quote by R.M. Drake out on Facebook and thought I would share it with you. Have a good weekend.
I found this quote from Henry Taylor out on Facebook and thought I would share it with you. Have a good day!
Note the eyebrows in the illustration below.