by Pete Tarsi
Some of you just may remember that episode of The Smurfs where Smurfette put on these magical dancing shoes and then couldn’t get them off her feet and was forced to keep dancing and dancing. Well, that episode was based on The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Anderson who also wrote The Little Mermaid. Since neither of these stories – as originally written – had the sort of Disneyesque ending that people prefer these days, we’ll end the comparison with Flipping the Scales by Pete Tarsi right here. Just hold on to that idea about Smurfette not being able to get those shoes off her feet for the next few paragraphs.
It is sunrise one morning and summer vacation is already two weeks old. At least it is for teen-aged human girls. However, the two girls coming ashore on an island beach are not human; at least not in the conventional sense. The girls are named Lorelei and Marina and they are mermaids looking to spend a day amongst the human population to enjoy all sorts of things like ice cream. At least Lorelei is – she’s done this before. Her companion isn’t so sure and would happily turn tail and head for deep water at that moment. In the world that Mr. Tarsi has created for this story, merfolk have the ability to shuck their tails on the day of the full moon and walk amongst us. Their tails are an iridescent skirt-like garment which once removed, must be carefully hidden near the sea lest it fall into the wrong hands. Without it, they will be stranded on the shore, unable to return to their ocean home.
Lorelei has done this many times but Marina is a novice who is finally cajoled into hiding her tail and joining her best friend for a day of adventure. Marina is not the only teen-aged girl who has been cajoled into doing something she would rather not. Jill and her best friend Meredith are on their way to that very same island to spend three weeks with Jill’s cousin, Hailey, and her parents. Pete Tarsi doesn’t name the island in question but it’s OK to think of Block Island or Martha’s Vineyard if you like.
Meredith is an extremely bright young lady with two over-achieving parents. Her mother is no Princeton Mom and has thus lashed her daughter to a treadmill of no fun, no boys and no dating until she is well established in her career, some twelve or fifteen years hence; even longer if she decides to pursue one or more advanced degrees. Meredith is heavily into extracurricular activities and she is permitted to enjoy them as long as they serve to further burnish her high school transcript. With all that knowledge stuffed into her head, she regularly plays the pedant, much to the annoyance of Jill and most everyone else her age. Meredith’s main objective for the next three weeks is reading, reading and more reading. No time for anything resembling fun.
Fortunately, Jill and Hailey are pretty much normal girls and they see it as their duty to make sure that Meredith has something not unlike a normal summer vacation; for her sake as well as theirs. Three weeks with an insufferable stick-in-the-mud is not their idea of fun. Once Meredith has been kitted out for some time by the sea, the girls head for the water, crossing the private beach in front of Hailey’s house – the very same beach on which our two mermaids had come ashore. Meredith finds this piece iridescent fabric that resembles a skirt. Even though she is not clothes crazy – or hair crazy or boy crazy – like Hailey and Jill, Meredith nonetheless decides to try it on. Surprisingly, it fits very well – too well, in fact – and things start to happen. Try as she might, Meredith can’t take it off and before you can say ‘Ariel’ three or four times, her legs are history and in their place is an orange mermaid’s tail.
When Marina and Lorelei return to the beach as sunset approaches, they discover that Marina’s tail has gone missing. Sunset waits for no mermaid and Lorelei returns to her natural element while Marina spends a long and lonely night by the water’s edge. It is not until the next day that she and Lorelei encounter the three girls and discover their mutual problem. There are no exceptions to the rules and both Marina and Meredith will have to wait until the morning of the next full moon before they can trade places and return to their normal lives. In the meantime, Marina is going to try and pass for human with Jill and Hailey’s help and Lorelei has the unenviable task of trying to help Meredith pass for mermaid. The next four weeks are going to be long ones for all concerned.
Pete Tarsi has three very fortunate daughters. He wrote Flipping the Scales for them and it is very much a fun read, easily surpassing almost any bedtime story imaginable. He has taken the simple idea of a human girl and mermaid accidentally switching places and has fleshed it out into a captivating story with five likeable characters with whom young ladies can easily identify. Mr. Tarsi’s story is suitable for readers from middle school to well within the high school age range. Anyone who has ever wished that they were a mermaid – or merboy – will delight in the world which he has created.
There is much more to Flipping the Scales besides the tail switch. There are a couple of nascent romances, an exploration of life both below and above the waves, an elementary physics lesson or two, and a couple of mysteries as well; not the least of which is just what sort of secret is Hailey hiding behind her bedroom door. There is plenty of action, adventure and discovery in Pete’s story and those who take the time to dive into this tale of tails will be happy to learn that the author plans to develop this into a three-book series.
As a reviewer who has read more than his share of mermaid stories, I am more than pleased to say that Pete Tarsi’s wonderful story is a welcome addition to the genre and is a ‘must read’ for anyone – female or male – who wants to explore this particular realm of fantasy. If you like and enjoy stories about mer-folk, do not let the book’s intended target audience put you off. Simply take the plunge and enjoy this wonderfully refreshing story.
Work on the sequel to Urban Mermaid is once again underway. The working title is Sirena and is a nod to the character played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Astrid turned in such a memorable performance in that film that I felt that her character should be remembered somewhere. Chapter 1 is complete – though it will need some tweaking just like everything else. I am presently beavering away on Chapter 2 – or will be once I finish this blog post. Late last year, I sent a rough outline of the story to one of my author friends and she was very encouraging so I think that I’m on the right track.
Sirena was originally supposed to be about Penelope’s VBFF, Amy, and it still is pretty much so but Peter and Penn’s story doesn’t end with Urban Mermaid. The characters have made it clear in no uncertain terms that they’ve got a lot to say and are not going to sit idly by during Amy’s turn in the spotlight – even if she’s Penn’s VBFF. Therefore, book # 2 is going to be about P&P as well as Amy.
The sequel’s delay has been a direct casualty of having my life turned upside down by a new job in Richmond, VA and reoccupying my late mother’s house down in Hopewell. I knew that there was going to be a bit of turmoil but I didn’t expect it to become a marathon. I’ve finally seen things settle down enough so I can get back to writing and blogging.
All this leads to the final question: When is Urban Mermaid going to be published? Well the very same upheaval mentioned above also delayed my reviewing some sample edits from the publisher – like for two whole months. I finally got the ball rolling again and the publisher was going to start crunching some numbers for me. The holidaze intervened and now that 2015 is here, I hope that things will start moving again. The delay has been the “fault” of both sides so I’m pointing no fingers. However, if it continues very much longer, I’m going to say “Damn the torpedoes” and self-publish.
Meanwhile, I dug out my tweedy sports coat with the elbow patches and have lined up a number of pipes that just scream “AUTHOR”. I’m ready to move on, now.
- the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
“a fortunate stroke of serendipity”
|synonyms:||(happy) chance, (happy) accident, fluke;|
We’ve all had them; those chance encounters and occurrences. Things like ducking into a book shop in search of a quick read and discovering a fantastic author whom will be the only entry on your ‘Desert Island’ book list. Or how about happening to glance up in the college cafeteria and noticing this girl walking past your table. Four years later, she’ll become your wife.
I have my clock radio set to come on at 6:00 every morning and since I ought to be up and – eventually – doing things, I don’t switch it off at the week-end. It’s permanently set to the NPR station in Richmond, VA so I get an hour of Morning Edition Monday thru Friday. On Saturday mornings, they play classical music. On this particular morning, I was treated to The Blue Danube Waltz. I can’t think of a better way to wake up except for . . . well, she’s at her mother’s this weekend anyway.