Merfolk

Chasing Destinyby M.Schaefer

Waiting for the 2nd installment in a book series is a lot like waiting for Summer vacation. You know they are both coming and in the case of summer vacation, you at least have a pretty good idea as to when it will begin. Books are subject to the vagaries of both writers and publishers.

Thus, when I heard the next book in M. Schaefer’s Destiny series was ready, there was much rejoicing. In preparation for my review of Schaefer’s Chasing Destiny, I opened her captivating story, Awaiting Destiny, in search of a few details and tidbits. I use the word ‘captivating’ because its sirenic qualities caused me to read the book once again.

The Story Thus Far

For those who may not be familiar with Awaiting Destiny, here’s a quick catch-you-up. Destiny Mariner is a 14-year-old girl living on her father’s sailboat at the Enchanted Cove Marina. Her mother has been missing – presumably at sea – for 14 years. Her father, Jacob Mariner, still keeps a candle burning in the window of his heart for his missing wife, Shellene. Destiny misses the mother she never knew but manages to assuage her loneliness by pitching in baseball games.

Acting on a letter delivered to her by persons unknown, Destiny steers the ship’s dinghy to a particular spot offshore and sets off on a journey of discovery where she finds:

  1. She’s actually a mermaid who can’t seem to get the tail bit working.
  2. A rather handsome merboy, named Kincade, who’s a few years older than she.
  3. Her mother is a princess which makes her, every young girl’s dream, a princess as well.
  4. That her mother has been, shall we say, indisposed for around 14 years. A reunion is imminent.

And that is all I’m going to tell you.

And now . . .

Two years later, when Chasing Destiny opens, we find Destiny still residing at the Enchanted Cove Marina, with her reunited parents, in as much pubescent bliss as any 15-year-old girl can expect. Her sixteenth birthday is just a few weeks off and with that comes the long-awaited driver’s licence. Oh yeah, there’s one other thing. She and Kincaid made a pledge to reunite by the time of her sixteenth birthday. They’ve been corresponding – by mermail, of course – every week, so she knows he’s still interested.

On this day, however, the mermailman brings her a not-so-nice letter from someone who is not Kincade; Queen Bali of Ameru – Kincade’s mother. It seems her son, who is traveling all the way from the Kingdom of Ameru[i] — against her wishes, of course – is missing, and she holds Destiny responsible. Our girl has until the next full moon to locate Kincade, or Queen Bali will rain all sorts of trouble on her grandfather’s kingdom.

There is not a moment to lose and the plucky girl is ready to go rescue Kincade. But first, Destiny needs a little more information. The best place for that is the local soothsayer who is conveniently located at the Mystique Boutique in town.

Nadja, the Greek fortune-teller, has been waiting for Destiny to come in and she agrees to help her, but at a price. In exchange for her help, Destiny must find Nadja’s long lost true love by the next full moon or all sorts of trouble will rain down on her. Obviously, the next full moon is going to be a busy one if things don’t go as they should.

And, She’s Off!

Having no choice but to accept, if she wants to rescue her own true love, Destiny accepts the offer. The fortune-teller gives Destiny some baffling portents. (Aren’t they always like that?) Thus prepared, it’s time for Destiny to put her golden tail in motion.

Their smiles held a thousand unspoken promises for the future. Destiny looked into his eyes and realized sharing moments like this made the risk of love worth it.

Destiny will embark on a harrowing journey across the sea to avoid being cursed, prevent catastrophe befalling her grandfather’s kingdom, and most importantly, rescue her one true love. If this is not empowering young girls, then this reviewer doesn’t know what is. Chasing Destiny is an exciting, enthralling adventure for both middle-school readers of the female persuasion as well as those at the lower end of the Young Adult range. (Mothers and Fathers take note; the holidays are on their way.)

Fathers have a way of making their daughters feel safe, no matter how old they are.

  1. Schaefer has modified her approach to telling this story from that used in Awaiting Destiny. Here, she alternates the focus in her narration between key characters. This means that part of her tale is focused on mermales, a sadly overlooked and under-represented class in stories like this. It also escalates the drama because the answer to the current crisis – and there are plenty of them in this story – is not always found at the start of the next chapter.

Chasing Destiny is also a very clean read with minimal typos, This means the reader gets to enjoy the story for itself rather than deal with editing blunders. Given the target audience is middle school and early high school, it is important that the necessity of good spelling and good grammar – this review excepted – are reinforced in young people.

As for the Future

What does Chasing Destiny portend for the future? Well, there are signs of a rapprochement between Destiny’s father, Jacob, and Shelleen’s father, Dolphinium, King of Mertopia. Destiny’s grandfather did not approve of the union.

Kincade’s mother, Queen Bali, certainly does not approve of his interest in Destiny. She is, after all, only a half-breed. There is good potential for conflict here. Will Kincade’s relationship with Destiny repeat that of her mother. Since he is Destiny’s one true love, it is obvious they will continue to show interest in each other. Only time and M. Schafer will tell us.

Recommendation

Chasing Destiny is an exciting and fun read that should be enjoyed by all who consider life as a mermaid to be an intriguing career choice. If you like mermaids – and merboys – then you must read this story. Those who are older, and bear the scars of dating and relationships gone wrong, will also enjoy M. Schafer’s story. Imagine, being only sixteen and finding your one true love.

I had dreams to backpack around the ocean, maybe meet an exotic, handsome merman to sweep me off my fins


[i] Ameru is located under the waters of the French Polynesian sea. Think of where Tahiti is and you’ll be fine.
My Rating:

Skipping The Scalesby Pete Tarsi

Some things just keep on getting better. Each of us can probably think of at least one item to which the preceding statement applies. This reviewer submits Pete Tarsi’s Flipping the Scales series is indeed, one of those things and it is wonderfully evidenced by the release of the second book in his series, Skipping the Scales.[1]

It is summer once again in New England and cousins Hailey and Jill, along with best friend Meredith, are now high school graduates with summer jobs. Meredith is an intern at a public aquarium while Jill spends her days as the facility’s costumed mascot. Hailey is working as an entertainer at kids’ birthday parties and loving every minute of it.

On the morning of the summer season’s first full moon, Hailey is up at dawn, hoping that her mermaid friends, Marina and Lorelei, will return for a visit even if it’s just for the day. She has been waiting on the morning of every full moon since the previous summer and it has been a disappointing year.

Once again, she is about to call it quits for the day when she hears her BFF – Best Friend with Fins – call her name. Marina has returned with Lorelei in tow. Rather than a one-day sightseeing trip, Marina has something else in mind.

In the world Mr. Tarsi has created for this series, 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.

Now, one summer later, Marina has returned to begin the search for her mother who was apparently lost on land, eighteen years ago. This search will take at least a month and Marina wants Hailey to take care of her tail in the interim. Hailey will, therefore, get to fulfill her dream of dreams; the dream of becoming a real live mermaid, if only for a little while.

Although the Jill and Meredith have pledged to assist the search, their time is taken up with summer jobs. Marina will find that the search for her mother will proceed in fits and starts with dead-ends along the way.

Marina will also discover time and tide wait for no mermaid. The object of her brief summer romance has moved on to someone else. Jill’s brother, Jeff, made this move not because of disloyalty, but simply because he has not heard from Marina since the previous summer. Fear not, gentle reader, their romance is rekindled. It will be all the more interesting to see where Pete Tarsi takes this portion of the plot in future installments.

Although many of us would dearly love to trade in our legs for a tail and spend our lives in the sea, things beneath the waves are not always as nice as they may seem. In fact, there is something one might call ‘tail-ism’. Hailey learns a Mer’s place in life depends upon the colour of their tail. For example, those with green tails serve as scouts for the Mer school. Yellow tails harvest plankton for the school, while blue-tailed Mer are tasked with keeping predators away. The purple-tailed are at the top of the social order and the orange-tailed? They are very few and very far between.

Indeed, there is only one mermaid with an orange tail in the school – Marina. Her tail colour makes her something of a sport[2] in the school. A sport which the school’s tail-ist leader is determined to rid the ocean of. Early in the story, when mer-mad Hailey reveals her costume tail is orange rather than the anticipated pink, it is little wonder that Marina’s eyes fill with tears. She is no longer the only one. Someone wants to be like her.

It would be easy for some to dismiss Marina’s search for her mother as simply a Disney-esque plot device. After all, most Disney heroines have lost at least one parent and in some cases, both parents are missing. In Marina’s case, her quest is heartrending because of the barriers she must overcome. There is, of course, the alien elements of the surface world and its culture. There is so much she has yet to learn and understand, not least of which is the complexity of life above the waves.

Marina is indeed fortunate to have friends like Hailey, Meredith, Jill, and Lorelei.  Hailey might argue she herself is the truly fortunate one as she gets to be a mermaid for a month. It is these interactions between the characters which make Pete Tarsi’s story all the more charming.

A Wonderful Story

Simply put, Skipping the Scales is a sweet, smart, and poignant story that should touch the heart of any mermaid enthusiast. Age and/or gender is decidedly not a limiting factor regarding this story. There are those touching moments where the reader can easily feel the character’s sorrow, fear, or joy. When a story can make a reader, who is the diametric of the target audience, feel these things, it is the hallmark of a talented author.

It is little secret that this reviewer often views YA Mer-fiction as a vast wasteland littered with cliché-ridden stories. There are, of course, some novels which make the best of the seemingly inescapable mermaid clichés[3]. Otherwise, this reviewer feels he could easily be like Carnac the Magnificent, holding the novel to his forehead and describing the plot therein.

Nonetheless, there are authors today who can and do deliver something new, something fresh, something exciting. Pete Tarsi is one such author and his ‘Scales’ series is a shining example of what stories in this sub-genre could and should be. This reviewer doffs his cap in respect to Mister Tarsi and his accomplishment. We are not worthy.
My Rating:


[1] For those of you who are not familiar with the first book, please see the review of Flipping the Scales, published in January of 2015.

[2] In Biology, people previously used the word “sport” to refer to abnormal specimens. The scientific usage is broader, referring to any organism differing from the type ordinarily found in nature.

[3] If you are interested in a mermaid tale, short on clichés, for older readers, please read Urban Mermaid by Howard Parsons. This is a shameless plug, but I have bills to pay.

I’ve just republished a short story called ‘Dear Mom . . .’ on ColonyIsland.com. This story was originally published on Goodreads.com and was done as part of a contest. I won, but only because there were just 2 or 3 entrants. The story concerns Penelope’s cousin, Lindsey Tench, and will be expanded to be half of the third book in the Tails From Colony Island series.

There is another short story with a merfolk theme which I will republish in a few days or a few weeks. It has nothing to do with Colony Island and everything to do with S.K. Munt’s Fairytail Saga. Ms. Munt held a fan fiction contest following the publication of Heads or Tails, the third novel in the series. My entry sort of violated the parameters for the contest and I really didn’t mean it as a contest entry. It was more a writing exercise dealing with a person in a very dark emotional state. In Urban Mermaid, the title character starts off in a dark emotional state and I felt that this would be good practice for me.

Nonetheless, I sent it in, more curious as to what Ms Munt would say about it than as an actual entry in the contest. S.K. Munt is a very gracious lady. The story took first prize and was published at the end of Stained Glass, the concluding story in the series.

Dear Mom may be found as a menu item under the  Writing Urban Mermaid tab on Colony Island.com. You can also cut to the chase by going to http://colonyisland.com/dear-mom/. I hope that you’ll enjoy the story.

Cover Art

Cover Art

Happy St. Andrews Day!

I am pleased to announce Urban Mermaid, the first installment in the Tails From Colony Island series, is now available for purchase in both paperback and e-book editions. The book is published by Moonlight Gardens Publications, an imprint of Gazebo Gardens Publishing, LLC.

I would like to thank Shelly & Caitlyn Moore at Gazebo Gardens  for all their hard work in getting this book ready for publication, Ilsie Om at The Woodsy Fawn for her wonderful cover design, Emm Cole, S.K. Munt, Pete Tarsi, and everyone else who contributed in one way or another to the pre-publication process.

Finally, I would like to thank Judi, my bride of 40 years for all of her encouragement and ongoing support as well as reading the first draft, even when fantasy books just aren’t her thing.

Given that the holidaze are upon us, I am forgoing the traditional launch parties, blog tours, etc. until after the first of the year. Everyone has so much to do between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Stop by colonyisland.com to keep up with The Latest.

ISBN
978-1-938281-72-3 Paperback
978-1-938281-73-0 E-Book

Oh rapture! Oh bliss!

Seriously, I’ve discovered that there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not merely an oncoming train. Urban Mermaid now has a firm release date – November, 30th, 2015. Be still, my heart!

The thirtieth of November is St. Andrew’s Day. For those of you who may not ken, Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and since one of the main characters is named Macpherson, I think that the 30th is quite appropriate.

I had originally planned to hold a launch party on the release day but the Holiday season will be in full swing a week from today. Trying to shoehorn a launch party in everything involved with the run-up to Hanukkah, Christmas, and the feast of Mithras is a non-starter. Instead, I’m going to try and see if I can get something going on January 30th – maybe a launch party/book signing at Barnes and Noble in Charlottesville.

Meanwhile, there’s fruitcakes to bake and gifts to buy. Yes, Virginia, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

By The Way, I’ll make a formal announcement on the 30th of November. Stay tuned.

Mer Tales # 4

Mer Tales # 4

by Brenda Pandos

Over the past four years, Brenda Pandos has entertained readers – both young and old – with her Mer Tales series. Evermore is the latest and hopefully, not the last, installment. Like its predecessors, Evermore is a fast-paced story with copious plot twists and turns which will keep fans guessing until the very end.

The story opens following a very eventful five months for both Ashley Lanski and Finley Helton. Fin has saved Ash’s life, the couple have become promised mates, Ash has become a mermaid, Ash has discovered she was originally born a mermaid, the couple have been part of a coup d’etat in Natatoria, and all this only begins to scratch the surface.

Now, the two are preparing to return home from Natatoria, the aquatic realm beneath the earth’s mantle with a political system worthy of a dozen doctoral dissertations, and reunite with her adoptive parents. If only things were that simple. Ash and Fin will arrive on the shores of Lake Tahoe to find they are in hot water with the authorities, Ash’s parents, and there are still four more weeks of school left before graduation. Throw in the announcement that Ash and Fin are engaged and plan to be married in August and you have the beginnings of a perfect storm.

My heart gushed with happiness as I listened to him defend his love for me, that I was his everything.

Natatorian males have a persuasive way about them and no, this does not mean brass knuckles. They possess the ability to sing their way out of most situations involving humans and Fin is quite capable when it comes to handling things. This is precisely what Ash does not want him to do. She is tired of watching her family enter a zombie-like state whenever Fin warbles their way out of sticky situations.

Ash would prefer to handle things with carefully thought out and honest – well, mostly honest – explanations. This desire is honoured more in the breach than the observance as there are just too many odd things happening and too many sights which should not be seen. This conglomeration is something that simply cannot explained away as their wedding day approaches. Ash fears her human family will wind up with minds of mush before it’s all over.

As if there was not enough drama, Ash discovers she is in the family way and the wedding needs to take place sooner rather than later. The reason for this is because Brenda’s mermaids have a radically foreshortened gestation period. While it is not too unusual for human brides to be carrying something in addition to a bouquet as they walk down the aisle, Ash will be on the cusp of an exponentially expanding baby bump when the wedding takes place three weeks hence.

With the bride’s three month planning schedule contracting into three weeks, additional help is needed to stage this wedding before the bride starts experiencing contractions. Help arrives in the form of Natatorians, most of whom have never been out of their native waters. Most are eager to pitch in while some – like Ash’s biological mother – are simply nosey. There’s plenty to be done – building a honeymoon cottage is high on the list – and before too long, a sense or organized chaos takes hold. Now, if only the hired help would remember how to act and speak like humans.

Brenda’s genius for writing and imagery really comes to the fore at this point in the story and she has expertly crafted action which is readily visible in the mind’s eye. Fantasy writers will often place constraints on their characters to limit what they can or cannot do in various situations. Superman and Kryptonite are one such example. In the case of Brenda’s Natatorians, their Kryptonite is sunset – a time of day when they revert back to their natural fishiness. Throughout the Mer Tales series, the reader has been treated  to scenes of Fin shredding his blue jeans and board shorts because he’s pushed the envelope just a little too much by talking to Ash on the phone longer than he ought to.

“I know we’ve had our issues, but I feel like this wedding has healed us. That by bringing Fin into our family, I finally understand you.”

Evermore sees Ash, the newly minted mermaid, run afoul of the setting sun. Fin has persuaded the Lanski family that Ash needs to go to her room and study every evening and once the door is closed, they are not to disturb her. Meanwhile, Ash will open her window, climb down a conveniently placed trellis, and dash for the lake in those last fleeting moments of daylight.

On one evening, Ash is caught out by a poignant scene with her mother where veils and wedding plans are discussed. Ash makes it to her room in time to close the door but not in time to slink down the trellis and she must spend the night in the bath tub. Of course, her bratty younger sister, Lucy, is no help at all. Such are the dangers of being a mermaid in the world Ms. Pandos has created.

It is against this reviewer’s policy to divulge details of the latter part of any story. The goal, of course, is to give the potential reader a taste of what is to be found within the story in the hope that they will want to buy a copy and learn the rest for themselves.

Rules are meant to be broken – or at least bent a little – and this reviewer will divulge two phrases that describe the action in the Evermore’s later chapters.

  • Heart-breaking
  • Heart-stopping

It’s now upon the reader to find out just what is meant by those phrases – preferably sooner rather than later.

Once again, Brenda Pandos has given us ample proof of her marvelous skills as a spinner of stories. Her memorable characters of Ash and Fin are guaranteed to find their way into the reader’s heart and stay with them for many years to come. It does not matter if the reader is in their Young Adult years or decades past that point, Brenda’s gift of Evermore will be a lasting treasure.

No doubt, many readers – including this reviewer – assumed Evermore was to be a last hurrah; a victory lap of sorts wherein all loose ends would be tied up and the beloved characters of this series would swim off into the sunset. Apparently, this is not the case as Ms. Pandos has asked her followers if they would like to read more about Ash and Fin. If Brenda Pandos can maintain the level of crisp, engaging story-telling demonstrated throughout her Mer Tales series, then the answer is a resounding, unequivocal, “YES!”

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided an electronic copy of Evermore in exchange for a fair and honest review.

My Rating:

I’ve always enjoyed reading stories intended for those who are rather younger than one’s self. I remember way back in 3rd or 4th grade when I checked out Make Way for Ducklings from the DuPont Elementary School library. There was flurry of notes between the librarian, my teacher, and Mom concerning the book. There was worry that I was regressing or that my reading skills were seriously lacking.

Actually it was because

  1. I loved the rhythms in the narrative
  2. I loved the illustrations
  3. It was about ducks

It seemed like a perfect trifecta to me!

Years later, teachers found it appalling that I read “grown-up” books in the 11th & 12th grade.

Tera Lynn Childs penned the Forgive My Fins series which seemed to be targeted at 8th or 9th graders but the books were such a romp that I felt sorry for anyone in high school and above with an interest in mermaid tales who did not read it.

Since the series ended, Ms. Childs has written several short stories and one novella featuring the characters. Some of you are hoping that she will write one more novel about Princess Lilly and her friends – both above and below the surface – a few years after the end of the 3rd book. All I can say is, please keep on hoping. However, there is a bit of relief at hand.

Tera Lyn Childs has written a short story titled Princess Lessons and it’s available on her Goodreads blog. So, if you need a ‘Lilly fix’, have at it.

It goes without saying that I’m a big fan of mermaid tales. No, I’m not obsessive compulsive about them; you only need to see my pipe collection to understand the true meaning of the term OCD. I’ve found many of the YA (Young Adult) mermaid stories to be a LOT of fun.

It’s refreshing to be able to forget about being an (older) adult for a while and lose yourself in the much simpler problems of those much younger. (Just wait ‘till you have to start worrying about retirement & Medicare, kiddos!)

YA Author, Brenda Pandos has a new installment in her Mer Tales series titled, Evermore. I’m one of the lucky few who get to read this story in exchange for a fair and honest review to appear online no later than Nov. 23rd. That gives me 12 or 13 day window to finish the story and cobble a pithy review. Besides being posted on The Parsons’Rant, it’ll also appear on Goodreads.com, Amazon, B&N, and any other place I can post it.

Believe you me, I’ve been looking forward to this. In the meantime, I have another 3 chapters to review in what is rumoured to be the final, final, absolutely final edits of Urban Mermaid.  I’ve got a fun, fun, fun week-end ahead of me.

While I’m on the subject of Urban Mermaid, Brenda Pandos, Derrolyn Anderson and several other authors will get a shout-out in the story. These mentions will be in the form of subtle references to their novels. Don’t blink or you’ll miss them! To find out for yourself, you’ll just have to buy a copy.

The Colony Island website just went live. Still a lot to do but at least we’re on the air!
http://colonyisland.com

The word is out! One of my followers on Facebook has already pointed out that the heroine of Urban Mermaid has the same last name as my mother’s family.

Rest assured that there are no mermaids – or mermen – on either side of my family. (Damn!) My mother’s maiden name is Tench, which is a species of freshwater fish ( Tinca Tinca ) found in the UK and elsewhere on the east side of the pond. Since I had to give reasonable names to my characters, Tench was too much of a ‘gimme’ to ignore.

Most of the residents of Colony Island have fishy/aquatic/nautical last names, most of which can be found in any phone book. Given names are pretty standard fare – Bill, George, Ilene, Ethyl – with only one or two exceptions.

As for the merfolk – known as Ferals – who live full time in the sea, they have a single Hellenic name courtesy of Chirs Howard’s Seaborn name generator at saltwaterwitch.com. (Thanks, Chris!) If you have yet to read his Saltwater Witch series, please take the time to do so. It is well worth it!

Getting back to Colony Island, there are a few ‘punny’ names as well, but that’s all I’m going to say. Gotta save something for later!

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