Monthly Archives: August 2013

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Melissa Eskue Ousley

Melissa Eskue Ousley

We continue our interview with Melissa Eskue Ousley, author of the forthcoming Young Adult novel, Sign of the Throne.

Melissa Eskue Ousley is the author of The Solas Beir Trilogy. Sign of the Throne, the first book of this young adult fantasy series, will be released this September by Castle Garden Publications, the young adult division of Gazebo Gardens Publishing. She is currently working on the second and third novels in the trilogy, The Rabbit and the Raven and The Sower Comes.

Melissa has also published numerous academic articles in peer-reviewed journals such as The Journal of College and Character and The College Student Affairs Journal. Having received her Ph.D. in Higher Education from The University of Arizona, she has taught psychology courses and worked within higher education on diversity issues, serving underrepresented students and conducting research. She has presented her research at professional conferences throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association. Her expertise in psychology and interest in culture and mythology have heavily influenced the themes and character development in Sign of the Throne. Melissa lives in Oregon.

Large Q Queen Eulalia and her sister Lucia seem to be polar opposites. Why do you think that is?
Large A Lucia is the dominant sibling-she’s older and has taken charge throughout Eulalia’s life. Eulalia admires Lucia’s spirit and strength, and as the more introverted and empathic sibling, was content to let Lucia have her way. Lucia and Eulalia come from a noble family. Lucia distinguished herself from other women by taking a leadership role and serving on the Solas Beir’s court council, while Eulalia preferred a quieter life, remaining at her family’s estate. Everyone thought Lucia would be chosen as queen. When Eulalia was chosen instead, it was a surprise, and caused a rift between the sisters.
Large Q Lucia appears as someone else through most of the story. How did this come to be?
Large A Lucia and Eulalia were born to magic, but Lucia’s powers were enhanced when she aligned with the Kruorumbrae. She gained the power to steal a human body and disguise herself as that person, a skill which involves the darkest of magic.
Large Q Abby is befriended by Cassandra and Riordan Buchan. What can you tell us about them and how often do you think Riordan wears his kilt(s)?
Large A I’m fairly certain Riordan wears his kilt as often as he can get away with it. Some people wear cowboy boots; Riordan wears a kilt. It lends him swagger, and he thinks of it as his lucky charm to help him write. Riordan reminds me a bit of my own dad (who is more of a cowboy boot kind of guy). Riordan is a good father, adores Cassandra, is passionate about his interests, and has a great sense of humor. He and Cassandra are unconventional in the way they approach the world, but that works for their relationship. They become mentors and parental figures for Abby, helping her bridge Newcastle Beach culture.
Large Q We don’t hear very much from Abby’s parents and as the story develops, one gets the feeling that they are going to be in a very vulnerable position. Will her parents – and indeed, Jon’s mother – figure elsewhere in the triolgy?
Large A You’re right-they are in a vulnerable position, and will make an appearance in the second book. However, just as Cassandra and Riordan become mentors to Abby, other people in Cai Terenmare will become mentors for her, David, and Jon as they navigate their new world. It’s a lot like what a first generation college student experiences. When you are the first in your family to attend college, your parents may be supportive, but academic culture is new to them as well, and they can only help you so much. You need someone familiar with the culture to mentor you.
Large Q Why Newcastle Beach, CA as a locale?
Large A Newcastle Beach was inspired primarily by Santa Barbara, California, after a memorable trip with my professor friend. The Newcastle Beach Inn is modeled after the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara and the Arizona Inn in Tucson, Arizona. My husband and I used to live near the Arizona Inn in a neighborhood where the houses had a lot of character. Our apartment was located at the end of a cul-de-sac that was almost hidden from the main street. At the start of our winding road, across from the Arizona Inn, was a mysterious, seemingly abandoned house hidden by trees and a large fence. I always wanted to explore the property, but it was off limits. It became the inspiration for the ruined mansion in the book.
Large Q How did you divise the plot for SOTT?
Large A In On Writing, Stephen King compares writing to unearthing a fossil. As you carefully excavate your find, you learn more about what lies underneath the soil, the size and shape of the story. I didn’t know it at the time, but that is what I was doing in writing Sign of the Throne. There wasn’t a plot. Different, unrelated ideas began to gel, and the more I learned about my characters, the more the story took shape.
Large Q What part of the creative and writing process did you enjoy the most?
Large A The best part of writing is when the story takes on a life of its own, and I’m watching it unfold, scrambling to transcribe what I hear and see. The characters find their own voices. I know that sounds strange, but I’m not the first writer to describe it this way. It’s exhilarating to see a story take shape, and to be the first reader, surprised by the twists and turns. Because this book is part of a trilogy, there has been some plotting to keep the series cohesive, but I don’t like to force plot because the writing starts to feel stale and contrived. I’m more of a “pantser” in watching things unfold, and allowing the characters to develop, adjusting things to stay true to what the story wants. I’m still writing the third book in the series, and although I have an idea of the basic shape of the story, I continue to “listen” to the characters, staying open to what they need. I’ve enjoyed being surprised.
Large Q Sign of the Throne is an amazing bit of writing and some folks have a hard time believing that this is your debut novel. What is your secret?
Large A Although I’m new to writing fiction, I’m not new to writing. For many years, I worked with an outstanding research team at the University of Arizona conducting social science research. Although we were writing about research findings, we were still telling a story, and the basic elements of writing were the same. You still need to communicate your thoughts clearly through a framework and good grammar.Still, fiction is much different from an academic article. The playfulness of it was a nice reprieve from the rigors of writing about statistics. My fellow researchers are close friends, and one of the things I loved about working with them is that we had enough of a rapport to be able to offer each other critical suggestions for revisions on our research papers. This proved to be a huge advantage in writing fiction, because my friends felt comfortable offering me critical feedback, asking intelligent questions that helped develop the characters.I also have to give credit to Jessica Morrell, a writing coach who offered very helpful advice. Her feedback led me to work with Laura Meehan, an editor from Indigo Editing and Publishing who specializes in the young adult genre. Like my friends in academics, Laura has a knack for asking brilliant developmental questions. She was a tremendous help in revising this book. I also have to thank the team at Castle Garden Publications for their additional suggestions for revisions. All of these people have made the book much stronger than it was originally.
Large Q How has Sign of the Throne been received thus far by the reviewers?
Large A So far, so good. I’ve been fortunate to receive strong praise from a number of people. I know at some point someone will hate the book, but I’ll try to view the criticism in a positive light, using it to strengthen future writing. I will, however, reserve the right to a chocolate binge to ease the sting.
Large Q Once the last word on the last page of the last installment in your series has been written, what do you plan next? More YA fantasies?
Large A I believe so. I have a few ideas percolating in my head, but for now I’m focusing on writing the final book in The Solas Beir Trilogy
Large Q Is there anything else before you go?
Large A Thank you again for your amazing review and for the opportunity to share more about Sign of the Throne. I hope your readers have enjoyed hanging out behind the scenes with me.

Read Part I of our Interview with Melissa.

Read the review of Sign of the Throne.

 

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Melissa Eskue Ousley

Melissa Eskue Ousley

Today, we have a real treat in store. To mark the upcoming release of the Young Adult novel, Sign of the Throne, we have an exclusive interview with the author, Melissa Eskue Ousley.

Melissa Eskue Ousley is the author of The Solas Beir Trilogy. Sign of the Throne, the first book of this young adult fantasy series, will be released this September by Castle Garden Publications, the young adult division of Gazebo Gardens Publishing. She is currently working on the second and third novels in the trilogy, The Rabbit and the Raven and The Sower Comes.

Melissa has also published numerous academic articles in peer-reviewed journals such as The Journal of College and Character and The College Student Affairs Journal. Having received her Ph.D. in Higher Education from The University of Arizona, she has taught psychology courses and worked within higher education on diversity issues, serving underrepresented students and conducting research. She has presented her research at professional conferences throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association. Her expertise in psychology and interest in culture and mythology have heavily influenced the themes and character development in Sign of the Throne. Melissa lives in Oregon.

Now, let’s get on with the interview!

Large Q How did you get started as an author?
Large A I always loved reading and writing, and have a BA in English Education, but it took me a long time to become a writer. My background is in education and psychology (I have an MA in Counseling and a PhD in Higher Education). I enjoyed working in those fields, conducting research and teaching college classes in Arizona. Eventually though, I realized writing was something I had to do. When my husband and I moved to the Pacific Northwest for an opportunity with his career, I decided to focus on my writing. I jumped in with no plan B, but lucky for me, doors opened and I was able to connect with a wonderful press.
Large Q What led you to write Sign of the Throne?
Large A The book was inspired by Jung’s collective unconscious and the idea that many of the bogeymen from various human societies have similar characteristics. I imagined these creatures had a common origin in a world parallel to our own, and had crossed over to Earth, inspiring our myths. I love mythology and psychology, so this book is brimming over with concepts and references from both of those fields. Some of the characters’ names have symbolic meanings. For example, Tynan Tierney means dark lord.
Large Q Was there any particular literary inspiration for your “world-building”?
Large A Great question. When I was 13, I read The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. It was unlike anything I’d read before-a story set in two worlds: ours, and The Territories, a parallel medieval world with magic and monsters. I also love Stephen King’s Dark Tower series because he’s created a rich fantasy world with its own culture, language, and monsters (not unlike Tolkien). Sign of the Throne is also influenced by The Chronicles of Narnia, although Cai Terenmare may be a darker and more dangerous place than Narnia. We’ll get to travel quite a bit in the second book, and meet new monsters.
Large Q Are there any real people or fictional characters that influenced the development of your own characters for Sign of the Throne?
Large A None of the characters are autobiographical, although some of them share similar traits with me or other people I know. There is one character, however, that is based on a real person. Cassandra Buchan is modeled after a very dear friend who is a force of nature. My friend is a brilliant statistics professor, and is every bit as fun, caring, and charismatic as Cassandra. I always love it when her eyes sparkle and she grins and says, “Okay. Are you ready?” I never know what I’m supposed to be ready for, but it never fails to be interesting.
Large Q Let’s talk about the main characters. What can you tell us about Abby – both outside and inside?
Large A Abby is attractive but she can’t see it-she sees herself as average, if not boring. Her eyes are on the future-working hard to save up for college so she can build a more exciting life for herself. She admires her parents, who are also hard-working, but she doesn’t want their life. She finds herself drawn to Newcastle Beach because it is so different from her middle-class neighborhood. To her Newcastle Beach has magic, even without the actual magic hidden within its circular border. Newcastle Beach represents a life she can only dream about, but that motivates her to work hard at her job and in school.
Large Q Abby has these strange dreams, doesn’t she?
Large A That she does. Because she is empathic, she can also connect with others through dreams. Some of the dreams are prophetic, but sometimes the dreams are more symbolic than literal, and it is difficult for her to make sense of them. My own dreams can be pretty crazy, so some of them have inspired Abby’s dreams. In one of her dreams, a shadowed creature emerges from her closet-that was actually one of mine.
Large Q
Large A David is kind of like Sleeping Beauty, except that he’s a dude. He’s not literally asleep, but he’s walking through a scripted life in a blissful daze. He’s let his parents make choices for him, and it hasn’t occurred to him that he might not want the life they’ve planned for him. Why would it? He has everything he could ever want, materially at least. He is wealthy, educated, and is about to move to an exciting city for a promising career. His girlfriend, Amelia, is kind and beautiful, and both sets of parents have high hopes for their relationship. Emotionally though, something is lacking. It is not until he meets Abby that he realizes he is missing a crucial part of himself.
Large Q How do you think his character will develop over the course of the series?
Large A First, David is going to have to figure out who he is, and who he wants to be. Then he’s going to have to figure out how to be a good leader for his people. He is going to have to make some hard choices and some sacrifices.
Large Q The troika of central characters is rounded out by Jon, Abby’s former boyfriend. What should we know about him?
Large A Jon works hard to keep up his reputation as a loveable rogue who doesn’t take things seriously, but in truth, he is serious about several things. He values friendship and loyalty. He adores his mother and Abby and would do anything for either of them. He acts like he doesn’t care about school, but he’s intelligent and takes college classes on the sly. He masks a lot of his feelings with humor.
Large Q In many ways, Jon is a sort of sidekick to Abby. What do you think will happen with this arrangement going forward?
Large A Abby and Jon are opposites. He’s more extroverted and she’s more introverted. Abby helps Jon stay grounded, and Jon keeps Abby from being a stick in the mud. They’ve been friends forever and balance each other out. It will be hard for Jon to let go of Abby as she enters into a more mature relationship with David, and this causes some conflict. However, Jon values his friendship with Abby too much to risk pushing the boundaries she’s drawn for him. He is mature enough to set his feelings aside and find common ground with David, and as he finds his own love interest, he will find more balance. He’ll still keep his sense of humor though.

Read Part II of our Interview with Melissa.

Read the review of Sign of the Throne.

Cover

Cover

by Melissa Eskue Ousley

Sometimes, things come between you and your sister. Sometimes, she takes up with a mortal enemy. Sometimes, she steals your child from his cradle. Rather than spiriting the child away to some mountain hide-away or foreign strand, your sister takes him though a portal to a different world . . . known as Earth . . . and after destroying the portal, hides in the quaint seaside city of Newcastle Beach, CA. What’s a mother to do? Well, Queen Eulalia of Cai Terenmare does know what to do and thus follows her sister, Lucia, through a second portal between the worlds. Lucia, however, has planned for this eventuality and has booby-trapped the portal thus leaving Eulalia horribly disfigured, and stranded in the ruins of a house, both unable to leave and unable to reach her child.

So begins, Melissa Eskue Ousley’s new book, Sign of the Throne, taking the reader on a breathless roller-coaster ride that spans two worlds. This adventure begins on Cai Terenmare, a parallel world to our Earth that is filled with – of course – magic, shape-shifters, mythological creatures and some pretty blood-thirsty monsters. There are and have been some of the same sorts of creatures here on earth and their numbers will only increase if Queen Eulalia cannot find her son and take him home before his 23rd birthday.

While David Corbin is a prince in his home world, he leads a somewhat similar life in ours. Left on the doorstep of a childless well-to-to couple, he is raised by them and grows up as a sort of an American prince with his life, career and future spouse all planned out for him. The trouble is, David is not exactly enthusiastic about his future and he becomes even less enthusiastic when he meets Abby Brown.

Abby’s life is far from that of David. She is a somewhat introverted, wallflower type of person working as a cabana girl at the Newcastle Beach Inn. Her family is of modest means and she is working various jobs during her gap year to help pay for college. Abby is, however, unusual in that she is – to use a term from David’s home world – a c’aislinger or dream walker and may well be destined to be one of the greatest seers in Cai Terenmare’s recent history.

For his part, David is destined to be the Solas Beir – roughly translated as a “light bearer”; that is, of course, if he can return home before his 23rd birthday. In order to do that, he must make his way past his formidable Aunt Moira and the dark creatures – known as the Kruorumbrae— that are becoming weary of biding their time. In order to do this, he will need help from Abby . . . even if he doesn’t know that yet.

Portals, parallel worlds, monsters and kidnapped heirs are all part and parcel of Young Adult fantasy stories. It is not so much that a story contains these elements as it is what the author does with them. Melissa Ousley wields and shapes these elements with an almost preternatural ability that makes the process of writing appear to be an effortless exercise. In the following sample, a world-weary Queen Eulalia apprises Abby of their chances of success:

“I have been imprisoned here a long time, Abby. These years in your world have made me tired and weak. But I have learned a great many things in that time. One is that I should trust in my dreams, and I have seen that this time we will win. The other thing I have learned is that even when I was in my lowest, most desperate state in this place, the universe has provided for me. It is when things seem impossible that miracles happen.”

As with most Young Adult novels, there is an element of romance. The whole romantic angle in Sign of the Throne is very smartly written from an unusually mature point of view. In many YA novels, the whole execution of the romantic element seems to be rather gloppy like overly thick porridge. In Melissa Ousley’s novel however, there is something resembling a triangle but it is decidedly skewed to one side; at least in this first book of The Solas Beir Trilogy. David and Abby are mutually interested in each other and while Abby does have a friendly relationship with Jon, her former boy-friend, he is more of a dark horse in this book than anything else. There are still two books to go in this saga and there are sure to be complications and separations between David and Abby but, thus far, there is not the usual angst which, in and of itself, is quite refreshing.

In a novel of this scope, it is often a bit difficult to keep up with all the characters and remember exactly who or what so-and-so was. Ms. Ousley goes the extra mile in Sign of the Throne by providing a listing of the dramatis personæ, a glossary of places and terms and a map of Cai Terenmare; surely a help to a reader in absorbing the rich fantasy that Melissa has laid before them.

Sign of the Throne is Melissa Eskue Ousley’s debut novel and she is off to a brilliant start. The reader will find it hard to believe that she is not a more experienced writer, but there is nothing amateurish with this book. Sign of the Throne is an extremely well written story that is remarkable in its clarity of concept and execution. This reviewer firmly believes that it should serve as a landmark – both to aspiring authors of young adult fiction and to young adults, themselves. This is what outstanding writing both looks and reads like.

Kudos must also go to the editorial team at Castle Gardens Publications for providing an extremely clean read. While copious typos are the hallmark – and bane – of both self and much of commercial publishing, Gazebo Gardens Publishing — the parent of Castle Gardens — has demonstrated the distinct advantage that a good publishing house can give to a novel.

In the final analysis, Sign of the Throne is a book which stands head and shoulders above a considerable amount of current Young Adult fiction. Inasmuch as there is a lot of good Young Adult fiction out there at the moment, this is no small accomplishment. Even if Young Adult fantasy novels do not number amongst one’s favorite genres, this story is still well worth consideration. Given the intense reading experience provided by  Sign of the Throne, this reviewer can hardly wait for the next installment in this series.

In the interest of full disclosure, the reviewer was provided with an ARC – Advance Review Copy – by the publisher.

My Rating:

Read our interview with the author, Melissa Eskue Ousley.

Melissa’s website may be found at melissaeskueousley.com/

Visit S.K. Munt's Website

S.K. Munt - Mermaid in training

S.K. Munt – Mermaid in training

 

We’re back with the second part of our interview featuring S.K. Munt, author of The Marked Ones and the second book in her Fairytail Series, Three Rings. Today is a momentous occasion in that Three Rings is being released and there are plenty of readers who cannot wait to get their hands on the sequel.

In Part I, we asked Ms Munt about the central characters in The Marked Ones and today we’ll learn a little bit more about the world her characters live in. We’ll also learn a wee bit about Three Rings, so let’s pick up where we left off in our 20 Questions interview.

 

Large Q You have differentiated yourself from many other authors by not envisioning vast undersea kingdoms and cities. Instead, the numbers of Mer-folk are relatively small though they do have a disproportionate influlence on human affairs. Why did you take this approach?
Large A To me, mermaids are guardians of the sea. When mermaid books are set in the past, it makes sense that mermaids are there to save sailors, foil pirates and bring down people within their own species who might try and do them or the world above harm. But the Marked Ones is set in the present, and the biggest threat to the ocean is the impact humans have on the environment. To counteract that, mermaids have to fight for environmental rights – a battle that must begin on land. So they’re in the governments and environmental organisations, trying to make a difference – backed by a rather large benefactor, their queen, who is guarding the ultimate buried treasure – a fortune that’s been amassing for 1000 years and kept within the same bloodline. You could say that they have a disproportianate influence given their small population, but then again, the biggest changes in our world and politics often begin with one person, one statement that is impassioned enough to motivate change. And the one thing mermaids have in spades, is passion.
Large Q There are many telling passages in the story but the following is my favourite:
“And what was the deal with the human? Ardhi hadn’t been close enough to hear them conversing, but he’d seen Ivyanne’s face alight with animation-seen her knock back a full drink in one gulp the moment the tall man had loped away. She’d then turned to the ocean, and rested her hand against her heart with a ridiculously moved smile on her face. A smile Ardhi had never seen before. A smile no human should be capable of gleaning from their princess.”
Tell us about this quote.
Large A I’m sure at some point, everyone has been witness to their heart’s desire desiring someone else. It’s like sinking into acid, and yet you instantly write the emotion you saw off as an infatuation or a loss of sanity – because if you love this person this much, they should love you back – and they will, in time. The moment you glimpse, however fleeting, will scar you for life regardless. This was a very subtle point within the novel where people are changed forever. Lincoln’s faith in himself has been restored and it animates him so that Ivyanne can’t look away. Ivyanne has gone to the party dressed as a teenager, trying to play a part – and yet one flirtation from Lincoln reduces her to a giddy sixteen year old human girl – no acting required. And witnessing this, Ardhi realises that he doesn’t know her as well as he thought he did, that Ivyanne has secrets and layers and desires she’s kept concealed, and it terrifies him and makes him see that he is very much an observer of her interest – not a participant. The fact that Ivyanne is on the sand when she is overwhelmed and in the throes of serious withdrawals, whereas Ardhi is fully immersed in the ocean when this plays out, speaks volumes about their natures. Ivyanne is as weak as any mermaid on land but Ardhi is as susceptible to the ‘human’ emotions he abhors so much in his own environment.
Large Q Every author of Mer-fiction envisions merfolk differently. Your approach seems to be quite original as compared to others. What was your vision?
Large A I’ve always wondered about how mermaids could have come to be, and from the very start, I knew I wanted to do a creation story. I am cursed with both a wild imagination, and a desire for logic and truth, so in order to sink into a fantasy, there has to be some facet or realism to a story that I can grasp onto – otherwise my pesky sub-conscious starts picking holes in things.Mermaids have breasts and bear children, therefore, they are mammals, and need to be as susceptible to the laws of nature as other sea dwelling mammals are. So instead of breathing through gills, like a fish, they can hold their breath for a long period of time, as a dolphin does. They also travel at similar speeds to dolphins, each mer slightly different based on their genetics. Because they need oxygen, they must spend time on the land, at least to sleep, and in order to pull that off, they need to be able to live as humans. One step led to another, and I researched each thoroughly. There is a magical element to it of course – there is no way around it and I wouldn’t want one. So the mermaids are created by one very magical woman in an attempt to save her unborn child’s life, and her magic is inherited amongst her kin, diluting as the blood does. Which is why they strive so hard to keep the court and Marked bloodlines pure. At the end of the day, it is an indulgent and I hope, feasible fantasy that every mermaid wannabe like myself could get on board with.
Large Q Your story is set in a slightly run-down resort where the mer-folk trying to earn a dollar working as staff seem to be somewhat protective of Lincoln. Why is this?
Large A The run down resort is a real place. In my childhood, it was a thrilling, busy and magical place to be, where locals and tourists gathered in droves to celebrate everything wonderful about living in the tropics. But as time passed and newer, fancier resorts began to pop up in the north, people began to trickle away, and several times, the resort has switched owners and undergone facelifts in order to save it. But never has it been returned to its original glory. This is the truth about Lincoln’s own life. He bought the fantasy he couldn’t let go of and he lives within it every day. But without that person, and that dynamic that made it so magical for him, it can never be what it was. The resort, and the man inheriting it, need life breathed back into them in order to go on and prosper. The mermaids have to live on land, have to integrate themselves with humans, but humans are a plague on this world and in order to retain their secrecy, the mermaids need to find places that are more isolated. The run-down resort is perfect for that, but as Ivyanne draws so many followers and drama, the more the resort and Lincoln are renewed, the more dangerous a place it becomes for the mers.
Large Q Your upcoming book is titled “Three Rings”. Without spoiling things for your fans, what can you tell us about this story?
Large A The Marked Ones began with a woman suffering from romantic indifference. She needed to choose a mate from 3 candidates, but didn’t have romantic feelings for any of them and to her, this was a crisis. But in Three Rings, she’s narrowed her prospects down to two – but she cares deeply for both now, so there is much more at stake for all of them, and the one left out in the cold is not happy about it, or willing to accept it. Three Rings is much darker, full of action with less of an emphasis on romance-questioning the role that fate plays in our lives. There are several more characters, and the world of the mermaids opens up to the reader, as it does to the characters. In so many ways, the Fairytail Saga is about coming of age later than one should. Ivyanne has the intellect of someone twice her age, and the hormones of a teenager. But her duty, is to marry as a woman, and over the course of Three Rings – she is presented with exactly that – three rings, from three men, and offered three different paths to follow.
Large Q How has The Marked Ones been received thus far?
Large A It is being received amazingly well. I’m getting some intriguing comparisons. Some to books I haven’t read, some saying there’s nothing like it – which is what I was shooting for – and some comparing it to a mash-up or True Blood and The Princess Bride, which made me giggle, because they are two of my obsessions. I’m finding that it’s a hard idea to sell people on – mermaids for ADULTS – but those who love it, seem to be obsessed, and that’s all I could ever hope for. There have been a dozen occasions in which I’ve sat in front of my computer and sobbed gratefully over someone’s excited review. I hope they continue to spread the word, and draw more like-minded individuals in my direction.
Large Q You seem to a very driven writer as most sequels appear to percolate for a year or more before their publication. What brings such a drive to your writing?
Large A It’s different for me because I’ve had all three ready and waiting for almost a year so aside from some fine tuning and formatting, there’s no reason to delay releasing them. I am very driven though – once I set my mind on something, it’s going to happen, and quickly. And hopefully – well. ‘Have Soapbox-will travel’ is kind of my motto.
Besides is there anything more torturous than waiting for a sequel you KNOW is coming? As I reader, I can’t stand the wait. Releasing them in swift succession is something I have the power to do, so I’ll do it 🙂
Large Q Once the last word on the last page of the last installment in your series has been written, what do you plan next? More mermaid stories?
Large A I have several ideas percolating. In my head, The Fairytail saga has a 4th story begging to be told, but whether I’ll tackle that straight away remains to be seen. I am not a single genre writer at all. I read everything and I will try my hand at writing everything. Predominantly, I am compelled towards romantic suspense, thrillers and YA. The YA books I read shaped me for life and I’d love to do something to inspire hope and excitement for those struggling with their own very real coming of age stories. I have one in mind, but my mermaids are a mischievous bunch who I need to shake before I can think of anything else, so I guess only time will tell.
Large Q Is there anything else before you go?
Large A Yes Howard I’d like to thank you for your interest in The Marked Ones. I’ve read all of your reviews so far and you’re the kind of reviewer that every debut writer needs to look over their work. Fair, open-minded and passionate. You seek the good in everything, but do not gloss over the bad. You have a way with words yourself, and I cannot wait until you put pen to paper (fingertips to keys?) to tell your own story, because I think it’s going to be great.

Samantha, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. Readers are certainly queuing up to buy Three Rings and I’d better go get my copy right now!

Read Part I of our interview with S.K. Munt.

The Marked Ones

S. K. Munt

S. K. Munt

 

Today, we have with us an exciting new author who has brought the concept of mermaids – often considered to be the province of children’s stories and Young Adult Fiction – into the realm of adult fantasy novels. Not only has she given mer-folk a change of venue but her writing has managed to turn quite a few heads and she has quickly developed an enthusiastic following.

The Marked Ones is the first installment in Ms Munt’s Fairytail series that is expected to run to at least thee books if not more. Given the accolades for her debut novel, the second, Three Rings, is likely to cement her position as a nascent writer of outstanding fiction. Her fans would seem to agree that S.K. Munt is an author to watch.

For example, one person on Goodreads.com wrote the following upon completion of  The Marked Ones:

I am gone on The Marked Ones. Gone. I can’t function.
It’s so different from everything I’ve ever read!  — Abby Jocavich

S.K. Munt is an intriguing writer and we are grateful that she took time out from her busy schedule to answer our 20 Questions.

Large Q How did you get started as an author?
Large A I think every writer gets their ‘calling’ through a love of reading. I taught myself to read at 4, using those old Alf books that came with a cassette. When the tape went ‘ding’ you turned the page. By year two it was ghost stories (J.B Stamper, Tales Of the Midnight Hour) and by the third grade I’d made it to Stephen King and The Baby-Sitters Club.
Ghost stories fascinated me. I was that kid that ‘weird’ things happened to (Note, not the weird kid) and I was always dreaming up things to tell my friends at slumber parties that would guarantee emotional scarring well into adulthood. In fact, one story I made up, based on a true one from Borley Rectory, has become a local urban legend. As I grew, it did. I am probably the only person in my town who will stand on that cliff face at night by themselves without knocking-knees. And giggle my ass off.
Then think of something terrifying and hightail it back down to civilisation. I always kept a diary and by the fifth grade, I was writing whole books by hand. This went on and on-always a different genre, and by the eighth grade, I knew what my path was. I didn’t have a choice. Another very important aspect, was that I was alone a lot growing up, and suffered a lot of bullying. But nine times out of ten, I talked my way out of situations I didn’t belong in. I’d even have recurring dreams about charming monsters. So from a very young age, as a very small person – I knew that words were my allies.
Large Q What led you to write The Marked Ones?
Large A I grew up next to a beach, near a resort, so mermaids were just something ingrained in my sub-conscious and fantasies. And after a trip to Hawaii I got hooked on surfing. Once I started, I couldn’t make myself stop – the ocean is the most magical thing on this planet. But the real idea came when I found myself defending an unflattering portrayal of mermaids back in 2011, and I decided to charge myself with the job of making mermaids relate-able, feasible, and as glamorous as in my wildest dreams. It was hard. There are so many differing myths that I scrapped them all and started from scratch. It took months. I didn’t have any specific scenes in mind, just a vague outline-when I encountered a very large tiger shark while surfing. Alone. I took the fact that it didn’t eat me as a sign that the ocean was on my side. (A theory rebuffed by a marine biologist a few weeks ago, because apparently, tiger sharks are just lazy and not hungry during the day) and I had a scene. I started writing that day and haven’t stopped. The same thing happens to Ivyanne in TMO, and I see it as a parallel to my childhood nightmares about talking myself out of bad situations with creatures who have sharp teeth. I did talk to the shark too. Something along the lines of : ‘Hey…you’ve got pretty markings there…I think I’ll appreciate them better from the shore…you must be bored huh? It’s a flat day…oh look…here comes a wave…I’m going to paddle, gently – don’t be alarmed – it’s not a rejection….but I can’t pass up a minnow like that around here…’
Large Q Mermaid stories are quite popular at the moment in the Young Adult market. How do you think this popularity translates to the adult market?
Large A When I was little, my mermaid dreams consisted of sitting on a rock and combing my hair. When I was a teenager, they consisted on sitting on a rock, combing my hair, and flirting with the cute sailor I saved (who would have the face of my crush at the time.) When I was a young adult, I’d be on that same rock, willing a ship-load of ex boyfriends and bullies into another rock while singing sweetly, and now, I want the rock, a fancier boat, a hotter sailor, maybe two, (were I not happily married to the one from my early teens 😉 ) and the chance to just take off underwater when I need to escape, and find my centre when life becomes overwhelming and the kids won’t make their beds. Young adults will grow, and as they evolve, their own mermaid fantasies will shift, and I hope the current drags them in my direction. I’ve already rescued a few, so I know they’re out there and that others will follow.
Large Q Was there any particular literary inspiration for your “world-building”?
Large A Not specifically. The world in TMO is my reality. It’s my home town. But I will credit the ‘darker’ paranormal romance genres for breaking all of the traditional rules in the last few years and making the possibilities for world building with ANY kind of mythical creature more easily recieved.
Large Q Are there any real people or literary characters that influenced the development of your own characters for The Marked Ones?
Large A Yes on the real people part. Very few characters in TMO are complete figments of my imagination. But I live in a small town so to avoid burning at the stake, a lot of them are hybrids of similar souls, so no one is going to read it and go: ‘Oh she is SO dead!’.
Ivyanne, the main character and Aubrielle are probably the only ones who are like no one I know. As for literary influences, I think I’ve put a facet of every fictional man I’ve ever loved into my main characters: Edward Cullen, Rhett Butler, Eric Northman, Noah Calhoun, Slim Mackenzie, Pacey Witter, Wesley from The Princess Bride and Spike from Buffy, lol.
Large Q Let’s talk about the main characters. What can you tell us about Ivyanne – both outside and inside?
Large A Ivyanne is in a position in life that every girl wishes they were in. She’s is astoundingly beautiful, sweet, tolerant, a guardian of the environment, beloved and coveted. She is also wealthy, and clever. The ideal mermaid princess, on the page. But those we view in life as perfect are often the most unhappy and that is Ivyanne’s curse. She doesn’t care about her beauty, because she’s not allowed near men. It’s like owning a ferrari when you live on an a tiny island with no roads. People adore her for being self-sacrificing, virginal and sweet, but in truth she resents the sacrifices, is horny as hell and wants everyone to stop caring so she can break all the rules and finally live her life. The catch 22 of perfection is that one has to be perfect, and there is no fun in that. No one likes being the designated driver when the people in the backseat are having the time of their lives and you are excluded from it. In TMO, Ivyanne is coming of age-ten years later than everyone else-and she has to struggle to hold on to who she has to be for her people, and who she needs to become so she can live with herself for a very, very long time.
Large Q Ivyanne has three suitors. Let’s talk about Tristan. He seems to be something of a rake doesn’t he?
Large A Tristan is absolutely a rake. But he is born that way and is unapologetic about it, and this is what redeems him. In a world full of people striving for the top, while feigning modesty-Tristan is a breath of fresh air that gets what he wants because he knows he deserves it. There are not many people this honest with themselves around, but if you know one-I bet they’re your favourite person-in small doses. He is Ivyanne’s polar opposite in that sense – a vision of who she could be, and how she could dominate her own world, if only she believed in herself to the same degree. People assume Tristan’s role in this tale is as the token dark-knight bad boy, but I see him as a reflection of our heroine’s potential, as well as the poster child for the ultimate mermaid ideal, and he has a journey of his own to undertake before he becomes as fulfilled as he is flawless.
Large Q Ivyanne’s childhood friend, Ardhi, seems to be something of a loose cannon doesn’t he?
Large A Ardhi is a complex character. He has grown up under the shadow of a scandal, because his parents broke a serious rule by marrying withinThe Marked families without royal approval first. This has made his sister eager to please others and tow the line, but has had the opposite effect on Ardhi, leading him to isolate himself from the community. He understands it was wrong, but because the Loveridge family were given a blessing to do the same thing – he is unapologetic about it and sees himself as a victim of an unfair system. His mother is a bit of a social climber, trying to remove the tarnish from her family name by forcing her company onto the queen, who is tolerant but not overly receptive. This embarrasses Ardhi, and he resents his mother using him as a pawn to marry as best as he possibly can-yet when he falls for Ivyanne, he quickly begins to covet not just her heart, but the title that will come with it, demonstrating that he is more like his mother than he thinks. He is a loyal, intense and quiet man with very few desires in life. This made him a wonderful friend for Ivyanne, who preferred to keep to herself as well. But when she breaks out into the big world and is welcomed by others – people Ardhi either judges or resents – Ardhi panics. For the first time in his life, he wants something he might not get, and his true nature rises to the surface in pursuit of it.
Large Q Finally, there’s Bane, Tristan’s nephew. We don’t know much about him until the latter chapters in the book. Tell us about him and his impact on the plot.
Large A Bane is a character you don’t get to know well until books two and three, but he plays a vital role within the Saga. To me, he is the lighthouse guiding ships in distress to safety when things are at their darkest, and not just for Ivyanne-but all of them.
Large Q Then there’s Lincoln Grey, Ivyanne’s crush from her teen years. What can you tell us about him?
Large A Everybody knows a Lincoln. He is that guy who seemed to have it all as a teenager – Gorgeous, clean-cut, well mannered, popular with a sort of boyish charm. People flocked to them in school environments because they’re just genuinely pleasant to be around, never seem to get on anyone’s bad side and have the world laid out at their feet. That’s what we want for our own sons – the looks, the grades, the kindness and the popularity. Even-Steven, you might also say.Men like these are the ‘marrying kind’ every woman is after, and yet because these guys have always had it so easy, they never really know how to fight for anything. As a result, they tend to lose themselves in their relationships or work or family lives unless they discover something they have to challenge themselves over in order to attain. Lincoln was this passionate boy in his youth because of Ivanna – but tragic events broke his spirit, and so he chose to drift where the tide led him. Lincoln has been shaped by the ocean – it made him come alive when he almost drowned as an 11 year old, and he met Ivanna, and then crippled him when it took his mother. Both things happened at pivotal times in his life – the verge of adolescence and the verge of adulthood. Now it’s going to happen again, and how he handles it will define the rest of his life-but he will have to swim against the current to emerge victorious.
Large Q Lincoln’s character is sure to strike a chord with many male readers of The Lost Ones as some of us have found ourselves – at one time or another – caught in the trap of the forbidden/hopeless romance. How did you come up with such a spot-on characterisation?
Large A From the ages of 16 to 24, I worked as a bartender/ waitress in multiple venues. And if there’s one thing a bartender sees a lot of, it’s lonely men. Men that lost their love, or their job or their drive. When a woman is lonely, you might be completely unaware of it. They can pass themselves off as exuberant and fun-loving and ultra confident and you’d never know that they’re keeping so much pain within themselves. Men on the other hand, cannot hide such intense emotions. It shows through their eyes, their posture and the way they talk. Just as it shows when they truly love someone, or are very happy. I’ve seen men like Link at all stages in life – the young man falling in love, and the young man brokenhearted and scanning the room for the culprit. The same man, five years later out to dinner with a woman he may not be interested in but has settled for, and then ten years later when he’s completely resigned himself to a life without passion – but those eyes still scan the room, searching for her. Those same eyes avoid the mirror, though they speak endlessly of the past, and you know that mentally, they never left it. And then I’ve seen them forty years down the track, reacting to a girl who resembles their long-lost love-and it lights them from within. Hope can die, but memories never lose their grip on a broken heart. Want to see a man blossom? Whistle at a fifty year old construction worker on the side of the road. No virgin has a blush that equals the beauty of those smiles.
Large Q Finally, there is Adele, Lincoln’s off-again, on-again girlfriend who seems to be something of a consolation prize. She seems to be opportunistic and a bit
of a gold digger. How does she fit into all of this?
Large A I don’t believe in one-dimensional characters – It may have been easy to write Adele off as the token bitchy, blonde ice queen placed within the novel solely to irritate our darling heroine in the beginning, but there’s more to her than that. Yes she’s a socialite, yes she’s spoiled and she’s definitely opportunistic – but she’s not a model or a spokes girl – she’s an English major who sees more, feels more and wants more than people realise. Really, she and Tristan are mirror images of one another at this point – but her weaker character stems from the fact that she is human. She’s about to swim in the deep end which should guarantee her finding a sort of inner peace, but unfortunately, it’s a shark she’s swimming with. Either way, her journey is far from over.

Now that we’ve discussed the main characters, we’re going to take a bit of a break. Tomorrow, we’ll have the 2nd Part of our interview with S.K. Munt.

Read Part II of our interview with S.K. Munt.

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by Melanie Niles

This novella is Ms Niles second installment in her Adronis series. Since it is the policy of this reviewer to include spoilers from the current book, those who have not yet read At the Water’s Edge are advised to read that novella – or at least the review – first. Otherwise, here is a (very) brief recap of the last part of At The Water’s Edge:

Sara returned to the Bahamas in search of closure. The attractive and attentive pre-med student has been something of a blessing but try as she might, Sara feels nothing for him. She is haunted by what sounds like Darien singing at night and finally spots him in a crowd. It is indeed Darien and the pre-med student is out of the running. Darien asks Sara to go home with him to the undersea city of Adronis but with the caveat that she can never return. After her arrival, Darien takes Sara to meet his mother; a real piece of work if ever there was one. While Mom is reluctant to consent to their union, she finally agrees with the proviso that Sara become one of them post-haste. Sara is finally able to swim with Darien and they live happily ever after – or so they think.

Sara – or more properly, Lady Sara – has settled into life with Darien beneath the surface. Although she misses home she has been occupied on a more important project for the past seven months; attempting to fall pregnant. Like many land-based females, Sara finds that it is not as easy as it sounds. Moreover, her husband’s position requires that he produce an heir. Then, there are her studies; more like a forced march, actually. She must learn the language of her new people as well as history, customs, etiquette, etc. In addition to all that, she must have a daily drink of this foul-tasting juice to maintain her vim, vigour and vitality.

To add to this misery, a delegation from the only remaining city of their kind, Emphali, is due to arrive and Sara will have to meet, greet and entertain the Regent, his wife and two daughters, the youngest one is a nubile sexpot. Sara is under pressure to not embarrass her in-laws and, by extension, the citizens of Adronis. One underlying reason for the visit is to tempt Darien with a more suitable wife for a man of his station; one that will be able to give him an heir. None of this is Darien’s idea as he’s still deeply in love with Sara and is steadfast in his belief that she will make a wonderful first lady of Adronis.

Behind all of this is Sara’s mother-in-law, the Lady Riona. She was against their marriage from the outset and is doing everything within her considerable powers to break up the marriage. Sara can never go back to life on land but this is of no concern to Lady Riona as long as she just simply goes away; the sooner the better. Factor in Sara’s usual insecurities as well as the distrust/hatred of people from the surface which has been drummed into the heads of the Adronians and it is easy to see why she is a mental and emotional wreck.

“My lady,” she said in as polite a voice as she could manage. Riona blinked with a satisfied smile on her face – feeding her ego seemed to work well on her, although it left a bitter taste in Sara’s mouth. “If I will one day be the Guardian’s wife, should I not also spend time with the regent and his family?” Like the First Lady or a queen, the spouse of the true ruler but still well-respected and under a microscope. Riona’s lips twisted. “Perhaps later. You hardly know Adronis and would embarrass us.” The words stung, but something inside Sara insisted on fighting this woman. “I would only be observing.” “No. Attend to your studies.” “But – ” Riona stepped close, her eyes smoldering with something wicked. “You are not one of us. That is the embarrassment.”

Aside from Darien, Sara may have an ally in all of this in the form of Ethan, the “pre-med student” from At The Water’s Edge. Ethan had been despatched by Lady Riona to test Sara’s loyalty in that book and had failed to shake her bond with Ethan. Along the way, it appears that Ethan has developed a significant crush on Sara which certainly does not please Ethan. The fact that he is Lady Riona’s button man only increases Sara’s suspicions. Just whose side is he on?

Stir in some suspicious activities by the Regent’s daughters and you have a pretty good undersea suspense novel. While there was a degree of mystery in the first novella in the Adronis series, it is fully developed in this story. There are – as before – a few issues of logic in the back-story for this series, they do not detract from the overall story.

For her part, it is extremely easy to have sympathy for Sara’s character. While she is bending over backward to do the right thing at the right time for everyone, her mother-in-law continues to cast her as the completely improper, inappropriate and infertile screw-up who can do no right. This reviewer has suffered the outrageous slings and arrows from Lady Riona’s human counterpart and can readily attest that the character is drawn from real life with amazing accuracy. Sara’s insecurities are back in full force for this story and now they simply exacerbate the situation.
Darien does his best to protect Sara and promote her many virtues but he is unaware of the extent of his mother’s perfidy until it is almost too late. Lady Riona has been all too successful at poisoning the minds of the visiting delegation by playing the land-dweller card and thus Darian has to deal with threats from multiple directions.

Like its predecessor, At The Water’s Edge, Beneath The Crashing Waves is a quick yet engrossing read that is well worth its price. It is both entertaining and thought-provoking thus leading the reader to wonder just what they would do in a similar situation; assuming, of course, that there actually is a technologically advanced race of people living deep under water near the Bahamas.

Ms Niles has written a number of multi-novella series and this reviewer is left wondering if she plans to continue with a third installment. While Beneath The Crashing Waves does have a bit of finality to the end of the story, so did At The Water’s Edge. Although there is no massive amount of threads left hanging, there do seem to be enough to launch a third installment. For example, only a few citizens of Adronis know that Sara was originally a land-dweller. What – if anything — will happen when they find out? Sara misses her parents and sister terribly. At one point in the story, she gets a call through to her mother to let her know she’s all right and promises to call again in the future. Does she ever get to make that call? Does she ever get to see her parents again? Will they ever learn that they are grandparents? If Sara and Darian are finally able to have children what will they tell them of the world above the surface?
This reviewer hopes that Melanie Niles will give serious consideration at some point to continuing the Adronis series. He also suspects that her fans will feel the same way too.

My Rating:

Mellanie Nilles’ website is at melanienilles.com

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This is going to be a short rant even though Dr. Data is mightily honked off. I have been hard at work on two interviews, a couple of book reviews and who knows what else. Today, I had a completely clear lunch break as well as some chunks of thumb-twiddling time while I repeatedly waited for a CGI process to finally time out and thus made the best of it by wrapping up one review and starting to work on formatting the interview for publication. I made a lot of progress on the interview and was looking forward to getting ahead of the game this evening.

I have been using Ubuntu 1, DropBox, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive to shuttle documents, scripts, images, etc. between work, home and the ancestral family estate in Hopewell, VA. On this particular day, I was using SkyDrive for my cloud storage. After the CGI process timed out one last time, I shut my work machine down, and headed for the parking lot secure in the knowledge that this evening would be super productive.

After supper, I fired up the Dell Studio and opened my SkyDrive folder so I could get to work. There was one wee problem; my work from earlier today was NOT in the folder. Apparently, the software never synched things between my work machine and the couple of gigabytes that I call my own somewhere out there. The stuff is still on my work machine. I’m not particularly worried that I have lost the work as the same thing happened with DropBox a while back. Then, as now, I had really hoped that I could catch up on things at home.

Remember folks, man’s best friend is a flash drive!

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by Melanie Niles
People have mixed reactions to Novellas. On one hand, they are great for a quick read whilst on the other hand, the story is over way too soon. This reviewer has noticed a trend which has worked its way into mer-fiction; that of the serial novella. An author will write two or more novellas as a series. Each is a quick read but taken together, they form a pretty god novel.

Mellanie Nilles has done just that with her Adronis series: At the Water’s Edge and Beneath the Crashing Waves. Inasmuch as this reviewer is loath to reveal story endings and pivotal moments in his reviews, he will review each one separately.

There are things which we do at the behest of others that we would rather not do at all. We do them against our better judgment and sometimes, our worst fears are quickly realised. Sara Adams finds herself in just such a predicament.

Sara is a college student who hails from land-locked Wyoming. Like most college students, the siren call of spring break has lured her and she dutifully follows her friend to the Bahamas for a week of fun in the sun. Though Sara is happy with herself as she is, there has been more than one gripe that she’s something of a stick-in-the-mud. Determined to prove to one and all – and to herself as well – that she can indeed be adventuresome, she signs up for a tourist cruise to see the Bahamas’ corner of The Bermuda Triangle. This proves to be her undoing as a violent storm comes up from nowhere and Sara is swept overboard. On the edge of drowning, something happens; is it that last bit of wild neural activity in the face of rapidly approaching death or did something take ahold of her and place something over her mouth? This is where her story really begins.

Sara wakes up on a deserted island with a stack of fruit close at hand and a supply of fresh water just up the hill. Her exploration of the island reveals that she is truly alone which makes the daily re-supply of food something of a mystery. Where does it come from and who brings it? Certainly not the dolphin that seems to play offshore during the day. Sara would like to see it up close but she is terrified of the water.

He smiled, a handsome smile, but he probably was a dream to look so perfect with that sculpted, hairless body. Brad had never looked that good. The only thing to make Darian a perfect physical specimen would be a nice reddish brown tint to his skin, but her dreams were never perfect.

Sara’s caterer is finally revealed in the person of Darian, a fair-skinned, blue-eyed blond with one of those bodies that’s impossible to obtain no matter how long a guy works out at the gym. Besides being a delicious piece of eye-candy, Darian speaks no English. And so begins the long process of opening a line of communication. It’s a pidgin language which by the end of her stay on the island has progressed beyond “Me Tarzan. You Jane”, but not by much.

Since this is a romance, it goes without saying that Darian and Sara are attracted to each other but he is a man of mystery. Darian is never around when it rains and just where does he disappear to every evening? Alone at night, Sara’s insecurities take over only to vanish in the morning upon Darian’s return. Eventually, he tries to explain to Sara that his home is out there, in the water. Sara assumes that it’s an island just over the horizon – At least that explains where the food comes from. Darian is trying to entice Sara to enter the water so he can take her to his home – she wants no part of that as having her ankles awash is more than enough for her – when the cavalry arrives in the form of a U.S. Coast Guard chopper. Sara is hoisted to safety and looking at her temporary home one last time, she sees the tail of her guardian dolphin as it disappears beneath the waves.

Sara is reunited with her family and does the usual round of interviews and talk shows. Things finally settle down and she sets about repeating last year’s coursework that was interrupted by her disappearance. Still, something isn’t quite right and she has a hard time reconciling her experiences on the island with what she knows as reality. Sara resumes dating and returns to the Bahamas the following spring in the company of a handsome pre-med student. If she is seeking anything on this trip, it most certainly includes closure.

She walked to the edge of the water so the waves rolled over her toes. Despite the warmth of the night, she wrapped her arms around herself. If only she’d gone out in the water that day with Darian, she might not have been found and could still be there with him… but had it been real?

At The Water’s Edge shares a number of key plot points with the movie, Splash. Notice the usage of the word “share” because it is in no way a borrowing or theft of ideas. Yes, there is the near drowning, the rescue by persons unknown, the central character waking up on a deserted island and the sight of a sea-creature broaching the surface. OK, there is also the reason for Darian’s absence during the rain too. But that is where the similarities end and the mystery begins.

Melanie Niles is an experienced story-teller and this is not the first paranormal romance she has penned. Being that it is a novella, the story is devoid of sub-plots and does not beat around the bush in carrying the story forward. Parts of the back-story to At The Water’s Edge seem to be a stretch – even for a fantasy tale – but this book is meant to entertain and provide a bit of respite from this mundane world. Melanie’s story certainly accomplishes those goals. For readers seeking a fresh romance or a new take on mer-lore, you have certainly come to the right place.

My Rating:

Mellanie Nilles’ website is at melanienilles.com

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One would think that in this age of e-mail, blogs, self-publishing, dictation software, spell-checkers, grammar-checkers and other modern marvels that we would readily find copious examples of good writing. Sadly, that is not the case and good writing seems to be on the wane. I’m not talking here about your Faulkners, Fitzgeralds, Hemmingways, Steinbecks, Waughs, et al. Instead, I’m speaking about every-day good writing; the kind that you see – or at least used to see – in stories, novels, papers, etc. This does not mean that there isn’t good writing out there; it’s just harder to find nowadays.

There are many things that could be used to define good writing: Quality, Grammar use, Structure, and more though that is not the aim of this essay. To narrow our focus, we’re going to talk about fiction. Even with that limitation in place, there’s still a lot to consider. Here is what the award-winning writer, Jim Parsons – No, not THAT Jim Parsons! – has to say on the subject:

“It’s going to depend on what it is, where it appears, intended audience, etc. What would be considered quality writing for, say a newspaper story, might not be the same for a television script or a children’s story. In books, it’d be hard to compare Mark Twain with James Blish (who wrote the Star Trek paperbacks), though each did what he intended to do very well.”

Since Young and Not-So-Young Adult fantasy has been the subject of most of the reviews here on The Parsons’ Rant, we’re going to narrow our focus even more to consider the fantasy genre. When asked, Jim Parsons said:

I’d guess J.R.R.’s trilogy is the gold standard (just like Harvard Lampoon’s version was for parody), although it might’ve been a bit long. But all the elements fit together, it was well crafted and delivered, and at the end, you just said ‘’wow.’’ I’m not sure that Harry Potter would count, as that’s sort of “pop fantasy” vs. “pure fantasy.” Obviously a different style than JRR, but again JK’s approach and execution were very effective.”

Well-crafted and delivered. Effective approach and execution. A “wow” factor. There are other identifying traits, of course, but Jim has elucidated three very important ones. In conclusion, he tells us:

” . . . the most eloquent writing ever will fall flat if there’s no message that connects with the audience. Similarly, a great story can be lost if the writer doesn’t know how to put sentences together. It’s all about balance.”

Below are three separate passages from three separate authors which exhibit most – if not all – of the properties mentioned above. They also exhibit one or more of the other factors that I consider to be important.

The first passage certainly has a “Wow” factor to it. In addition, it conveys feeling and emotion and makes them a tangible item that you almost want to inhale. It is one of the “hottest” passages I have ever read. Please note that there is a distinct difference between “hot” and “steamy”. The latter usually leads to a (very) cold shower.[[1]] By “hot”, I meant that it’s heat enters in to you and radiates throughout your very being. It is not unlike the motto of the Scottish Clan Mackenzie – and Glen Ord single malt:

Luceo Non Uro – I shine, not burn

This passage literally glows, its heat converted to a lambent light that fills you with a sense of “Wow”.

“This time, when the sweet pull came for Tatiana’s soul, she allowed herself to be free and afterward, the connection was so much deeper than anything she could have imagined. Her soul exploded into a song filled with all the goodness that was him. And everything about him felt right. To hold him close, to be with him, to treasure him for all eternity, she could think of nothing else, completely engulfed in his love.” – Brenda Pandos, Everlost

Feeling. Emotion. Wow! The passage comes from Everlost, the third installment in Brenda’s Mer Tales series for Young Adults. Inasmuch as the series is firmly planted in the YA genre, there is a distinct limit to the sensuality and sexuality to be found within those pages. Yet, that passage leaves the reader even more breathless than most adult fiction.

Our next passage will surely show that its author knows how to put sentences together. It is very well-crafted and delivered and it conveys a sense of purpose, a sense of inspiration. If you were not on board at the start of this speech, you definitely are at its conclusion.

“I have been imprisoned here a long time, Abby. These years in your world have made me tired and weak. But I have learned a great many things in that time. One is that I should trust in my dreams, and I have seen that this time we will win. The other thing I have learned is that even when I was in my lowest, most desperate state in this place, the universe has provided for me. It is when things seem impossible that miracles happen.” – Melissa Eskue Ousley, Sign of the Throne

In this short but moving passage, one can almost hear the echoes of the Agincourt speech{{2}} in Shakespeare’s Henry V. Sign of the Throne is one of the most well-written stories that I have had the privilege to review and is an absolute joy to read. If nothing else, I hope that Ms Ousley’s target audience will take away an idea of what good writing – as opposed to texting – really is.

Our final passage is by the author of the adult fantasy novel, The Marked Ones{{3}}, and does not come from the novel itself. Instead, it is a short blog entry by Samantha K. Munt and it is included here to show that good writing is transcendent; it crosses all barriers – both natural and artificial – in the delivery of its message.

“I just went and laid next to my husband for a moment and spooned him, pressed my head into his shoulder and tried to let my guard down and the tears fall. I was almost there-my nose was tingling, my eyes were welling and I was completely feeling sorry for myself. I haven’t slept in three weeks. It’s been all about the book. A roller coaster ride on which I’m clinging to with nail polish that is chipped for the first time in my life. Everything I thought I cared about, every passion I’ve ever undertaken and conquered-doesn’t compare to the ache of uploading your soul to the internet for judgment by others.

But before the first tear could spill, I heard what hubby was listening to-Twilight Eyes, by Dean Koontz, playing in audio format on his iPhone while he slept. My favourite book of all time.

And then I remembered why I’m doing this, and what height I aspire to rise to. And how all I want of this industry is love. Then I remembered the message I got two days ago from a fan who wrote to me, what I’d write to Koontz if I believed he could ever read it.

And I kissed my lovely husband on his bristly cheek, and got out of bed, back to my study with its broken chair, where the winter wind is freezing me off the Pacific through the window. Back where I belong.” – S.K. Munt, Why I didn’t go to sleep

I remember – which really dates me – the series of dramatized key events in American and World history, hosted by Walter Cronkite, called You Are There. I am an older guy living on the east coast of North America and Ms Munt is a 30-year old mother of three from Queensland, Australia. And yet, because of this outstanding bit of writing, I believe that I am indeed there and get a sense of how she is feeling, her motivations and what she is going through. This simple blog post has a “Wow” factor all its own and transcends age, gender, and geography. If Ms Munt can write like this in a blog post, you can imagine what her stories are like.

These three authors have several things in common: Their books have been or will be reviewed here on The Parsons Rant and each of them are or will be the subject of a 20 Questions Interview as well. I hope that you will take the time to read the reviews, read the interviews and by all means read their books, all of which are examples of very good writing.

[[1]]For a better understanding of this, read the “Boat” scene from The Marked Ones[[1]]

[[2]]This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. – William Shakespeare, Henry V[2]]

[[3]]It must be noted that The Marked Ones does NOT fall into the YA (Young Adult) genre. The story is more intended for adults and those in the New Adult age bracket.[[3]]

Boy was it hot! I believe that my brother told me it was over 100 degrees that day. I know that it felt like it in the church!

Judi arriving at the church

Judi arriving at the church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somehow we all managed to survive it!

The wedding party

The wedding party

Our first dance.

Our first dance.

And I’ll never forget this moment as long as I live . . . no matter how much single-malt I consume. Smile

The only thing I want to know is: What happened to the skinny dude in the blue suit???

True Facts: Judi’s bridal portrait was finally taken 10 years after the event. The gown still fit!

NB — These photos need a bit of cleaning up. In due course, I plan to create a gallery with a selection of of photos from our album – now that we’ve finally found it – over this winter. I’m not expecting the world to beat an electronic path to my door; just a bit of fun, actually.

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