Merfolk

Cover Art for Urchin

Cover Art for Urchin

by S.K. Munt

When the Australian author, S.K. Munt, burst on to the literary scene in the spring of 2013 with her book, The Marked Ones, she ushered in a fresh take on mermaid stories for adults. Once considered to be the stuff of children’s stories and Young Adult paranormal romances, the mermaid story suddenly became more sophisticated and well … interesting. No undersea warriors in hand-to-hand combat with monsters. No running battles between mermen and humans. No kings and … OK, there is royalty involved but it would not be a fairy tale without some royalty, would it? Aside from the royals, most of the characters were relatively ordinary merfolk, trying to make a living, trying to protect the environment and trying to hide the fact that their normal lifespans were measured in centuries. Oh and there is one other thing; the ladies have the upper hand.

The Marked Ones was followed in succession by Three Rings and Heads or Tails and S.K. Munt gained a loyal following that spanned the globe. When the last word on the last page of the third novel was written, readers assumed that Ms. Munt had finished with her saga and the characters would now live happily ever after . . . or not. Fortunately for her fans, she had more stories waiting to be told and Urchin is one of those as well as her first foray into the Young Adult genre. While much of The Fairytail Saga’s pre-history was described or intimated in one way or another throughout the series, there were still plenty of questions that wanted answering.

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned   The Mourning Bride (1697) by William Congreve

Urchin starts at the very beginning of S.K.’s world and tells the tale of Anna L’Autienne, an 11th century peasant girl living in Perle Des Bois, a remote town in Brittany. Anna has not had an easy go of it. Her father is an alcoholic sea captain whose way of parenting is not to be emulated. She has 3 older brothers, one of them adopted, and three younger brothers – triplets. Anna is the lone female in her father’s house as her mother died in childbirth –  perhaps escaped is the better word for it – and is as low in the family pecking order as can be. Aside from her duties as cook, maid and punching bag for her adopted brother, Anna is a practicing apothecary, dispensing herbal remedies to all and sundry. She has saved almost enough to buy a one-way passage to Italy and with a little more time she should have enough.

Unfortunately, time is not on her side. Her father arrives home from a twelve month voyage earlier than expected and though he makes a rough attempt at parenteral affection, nothing much has really changed … especially his thirst for ale. Though she is a peasant, Anna does have friends in high places – the son and daughter of the local baron – and it is the latter who sends the Prince du Sang her way in search of relief for his frequent migraines. As it so often happens in fairy tales, the Prince is instantly smitten – smitten and besotted – with Anna and wants to marry her. She harbours no such desire – having seen firsthand the woman’s lot in life – and indeed, has vowed never to marry. The Prince – on the cusp of turning 18 – sees things differently and his parents – ever eager to see to their son’s happiness – are inclined to accede to his wishes even if the Queen sees Anna as a gold-digging, social climbing guttersnipe. Anna’s less than adoring father connives to put his less than appreciated daughter in the best possible light. The king and queen are more interested in her fecundity and when her father reveals the propensity on both the paternal and maternal sides of Anna’s family to produce male children – lots and lots of males – she is looked at in a wholly  different light. A deal is done and Anna is to become the future queen in in a few days’ time.

I wished I hadn’t had to take his name, but I allowed myself to take a little comfort from not being branded with my father’s name anymore. But why should I bear the name of the man who had taken responsibility for me at all?

And that is exactly what happens. Her final chance at escaping to Italy is thwarted, Anna quickly becomes Princess Anna L’Court and her handsome prince quickly claims what is his by right. Anna’s freedom, childhood and innocence are gone in less than a day. It should be mentioned that at this point in the story, her prince is really not a bad person but merely a weak and spoiled young man, rather used to getting what he wants and who is disappointed that his new wife does not instantly love him the way that he instantly loved her. Nonetheless, his blandishments continue and Princess Anna falls pregnant within the month … with twins … both of them girls. Within a year, the prince has ascended the throne and Anna has fallen pregnant once again … with a girl once again. The only positive thing that may be said for this point in time is that Anna has at long last fallen in love with her prince and they are happy together … at least for a while.

Let it never be said that the nobility loves to see someone from the bottom rungs climb to their level or even higher. Through no fault of her own, Anna has made enemies along the way; all the young ladies who wanted to have a go at the prince are now jealous young ladies and the principle that no good deed goes unpunished has entered from stage left. Her skills as a healer has led to charges of witchcraft and Princess Anna is hustled off to a remote island – without her daughters – to hide until the prince can collect the necessary evidence to disprove the charges. Although Anna’s seclusion is only intended to last a relatively few weeks, those weeks turn into months and her prince comes to visit less and less frequently. On his final visit – just before Anna is due to deliver – he attempts to drown her but Anna doesn’t drown. Something else happens.

Urchin, is told through a narrative written by Anna L’Court nearly seven centuries after the fact and buried on the same desolate island that she lived upon for the duration of her second pregnancy. Anna’s great grandchild, Ivyanne – Queen Ivyanne – has searched for this record of her great-grandmother’s beginnings in the hope of finding answers; answers to how things really began, answers to a question she must deal with in the future.

She wanted to swim, desperately-needed to feel the thump of her tail against the waves-but she had more important matters to deal with first; Silencing the only human man who knew the story.

It often falls within the reviewer’s province to advise the prospective reader as to whether they should or should not buy and read the subject of the review. It has fallen to this reviewer to do likewise but to also include a caveat. If your tastes in literature include mermaids, the middle ages, S.K. Munt’s Fairytail Saga, or wronged women on a rampage, then by all means read Urchin as soon as possible. If your literary tastes include a stonking good Young Adult paranormal romance, then this book is for you. If you are simply looking for a good read, then you should consider giving Urchin a go.

Urchin is suitable for older Young Adults, New Adults and above. Middle range and younger readers may find some of the imagery in this book to be disturbing.

As mentioned above, this reviewer’s advice comes with a caveat. Simply put, prospective readers should  bear in mind that in reading Urchin, no heart will remain unmoved and that no soul will remain unstirred. Ms. Munt is an author of no mean talent and she has admirably exercised her gift of spinning stories once again. Those who follow ascendant authors will do well to take note of her as this is her fourth literary outing and S.K. has again delivered what most readers – Young Adult and older- look for in a story; A riveting and entertaining tale that both satisfies and yet leaves them wanting more. All good things must come to an end sooner or later and The Fairytail Saga is no different but things are not quite done with.  The fourth installment, Stained Glass, is presently scheduled for release in April of 2014.

It is standard practice for reviewers to give some sort of rating for a particular book. The most common form is to award the book one to five stars or in the case of The Parsons’ Rant, one to five pipes. It is here that such rating systems fall short, for in the case of S.K. Munt’s Urchin, five stars are not enough and the author must content herself with what is available.

In the interest of full disclosure, the author provided an Advance Review Copy (ARC) in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Cover art for Keeping Merminia

Cover art for Keeping Merminia

by Emm Cole
We are all familiar with the old conversational chestnut that “something” is going to be a tough act to follow. We have all seen examples of that pronouncement ringing true. When this reviewer learned that Emm Cole was working on a sequel to Merminia, he said the same thing to his faithful cat, Rankin, who was sleeping behind his PC monitor at the time. Today, as Rankin sleeps behind the monitor once more, this reviewer is pleased to say that Emm Cole has more than successfully followed her own “tough act” with her sequel, Keeping Merminia.

In Merminian pre-history, two princes fought an ever-widening war over their late father’s estate. Adessia, daughter of one of the warring brothers, implored them to end their fratricidal war but to no avail. Desperate to end the conflict that swept up innocent commoners in what was a simple dispute over what had been bequeathed to each son, Adessia created a ring from tokens gifted by her father and uncle and then threw it and herself into the sea as a sacrificial offering to the fates that controlled the world. The fates complied and the armies of Adessia’s father were engulfed by the sea and transmogrified as merfolk. Although, they had gotten the better part of the bargain, the merfolk devolved into warring clans, all the while searching for the ring of Adessia and the ultimate power it gave to it’s possessor. In the concluding pages of Merminia, Ulric, of the Litiant clan obtains the ring and invades the land in what is essentially a continuation of the original conflict.

In Keeping Merminia, Ulric has taken over the land-based kingdom and changed its environment to suit himself and his Litiant followers. They are here to stay and the sea has suffered for it. Food becomes scarce while more and more merfolk, Merminians as well as the neighbouring Julgrenians give up the sea in the hope of surviving on land even though this change of venue robs them of their scales and their powers. Things are becoming dire and it falls to
Selinne, leader of the Merminians, to act; to end the turmoil and chaos that is affecting her clan and her beloved sea.

In the back of my mind, I recognize what I’m supposed to do next. I remember my dream. I can hear my dead father’s message on repeat. The fates want you to take the ring back from Ulric, he said.

Even with the ocean crying out, even as the bravest mermen flee from the waves—I hesitate. I can’t imagine the horror of being without my tail. How can I leave my home? If I do manage to stop Ulric, will there even be a home left to come back to?

And so, Selinne and Arimis, her protector, embark on a perilous quest to leave the sea behind and stop Ulric at any cost. They are not alone on this journey as they are accompanied by Gabriel, the Litiant who was Selinne’s first love, and Walter, the parentless 9 year-old child who saw Ulric first come ashore near the south coast fishing village. Their guide on this journey will be Yuri, an odiferous, drunken ale trader.

It is at this point that your reviewer dates himself by comparing the party’s perilous journey to that taken by the commando team in the 1957 movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai. The task of the commando team was to destroy the Japanese railway bridge. The task of Selinne’s party is to destroy Ulric. In both cases, the overland journey is long and arduous. The commandos will have to deal with Japanese patrols while Selinne’s party will have to deal with wild beasts and enchanted beings that pose an even greater threat than the patrols. There are hardships and wounds. As the movie-goer wondered if the commandos would reach the bridge in time, the reader wonders if Selinne and her followers will arrive in time to end Ulric and take back Adessa’s ring.
As one might imagine, an overland journey is not easy on those whose usual method of travel is in and through the water. Emm Cole brilliantly articulates the sense of loss and separation from the sea experienced not only by Selinne but by other merfolk – both Merminian and Litiant – as well. This longing is best expressed by Zara, the wife of Ulric.

Her hands dip into the pond. She traces the surface, making the water curl under her fingertips. “I miss the salt of the ocean soaking into my fins. I miss the way the current rocked me to sleep. I think about the freedom of somersaulting through a lit haze of jellyfish. I’m scared I’ll forget how the morning tide sifted sunlight. I’m lost in this place. I hate not being able to float, Ulric. These weighted legs make me feel like I’m constantly sinking to the ground.”

Aramis is Selinne’s long-time body-guard and unrequited lover. He will strike up an easy-going relationship with Gabriel even though they were once sworn enemies and had both sought her affections. Although Gabriel was her first love and Aramis was treated more like a long-term close friend by her, the reader will see the tide shift from Gabriel to Aramis. Gabriel is meant for other things and though he loves Selinne like no other mermaid, he understands that the tide is turning and must turn in Aramis’ favour.

You captured my heart because you weren’t afraid to look Merconius in the eye when his trident was at your neck. I’d never had that kind of confidence in front of him before. I adored you because you insisted on being yourself for better or worse. You refused to accept his judgments. I’d give anything to go back—to tell him that I didn’t need his acceptance and love if it came with conditions. I want to believe you’re still that fiery soul—the one who wasn’t twisted by him. I want to trust that this hideous war hasn’t changed you like it has changed Ulric. But if you’re going to let your fear of what the fates might do—or how I might feel about it stop you from going after Aramis—”

Most of Keeping Merminia takes place on dry land rather than in the sea and while this reviewer had potential reservations about mer-fiction where the venue was dry land rather than salt water, Emm Cole has indeed made it work and work very well. Ms Cole is an author of no mean talent and it shows in every word, sentence, and paragraph of this story. Emm Cole has accomplished something very special here and this reviewer is eager to what she will bring to future works The only adjective that is adequate for Keeping Merminia is Brilliant.

Regrettably, this story is most likely the last that readers will hear of Merminia. Emm Cole has no plans to extend the series and has turned her considerable talents towards other projects. Though her fans will miss additional stories from the hidden gardens of Merminia, they will nonetheless be grateful for the time she has taken to build and share this underwater world with them. If this is the first you have heard about Merminia, then do not read this story and expect to somehow fill in the gaps. The story of the Merminian world is much too complex and enthralling to be absorbed and understood in one go. Read Merminia first before embarking upon Keeping Merminia. Getting caught up in Emm Cole’s underwater world is perhaps one of the best things that a reader can do.

My Rating:

Emm Cole’s website may be found at emmcole.com

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Son of a Mermaid Cover Art

Son of a Mermaid Cover Art

by Katie O’Sullivan

Most of us are familiar in some way with the ballet, Swan Lake; lots of female dancers in white and a couple of token male dancers. In 1995, Matthew Bourne launched his own adaptation in which the female corps de ballet is replaced by male dancers and the focus is shifted away from Odette and towards Prince Siegfried. Since its debut, this ballet has not been off the stage – somewhere in the world – for more than a few months and was the longest running ballet on Broadway and London’s West End.

Katie O’Sullivan’s Son of a Mermaid is like Bourne’s adaptation in that the central character is male and it follows in the footsteps of Zoraida Cordova’s Vicious Deep series. Although both books share elements of similar themes found in female focused Mer-fiction, they provide a refreshing take on an oft told story and it is hoped that Young Adult males as well as the traditional female audience will enjoy both of these stories.  Whereas Zoraida Cordova’s series is definitely geared more towards the upper end of the YA age range, Katie O’Sullivan’s Son of a Mermaid serves the lower end of the range quite ably.

Shea MacNamara keeps losing members of his family. His mother left when Shea was a baby, his Uncle and Grandfather lost their lives when a rogue wave hit their fishing boat off of Cape Cod and most recently his father was swept away in a tornado that struck the family farm in Plainville, Oklahoma on the eve of Shea’s  15th birthday. Indeed, the only remaining relative is his paternal grandmother, Martha, whom he has never met. Martha MacNamara arrives in the days after Shea loses his father to take him “home” to Cape Cod, a place to which he has never been. While Oklahoma was almost as far away from the ocean as one could be,  the shores of the Cape were as close  to the ocean as one could be without actually being in it. However, in the ocean is one place that he has been told not to go. It’s just as well since Shea’s father, Tom, was never keen on his being in the water or learning to swim.

While Shea is homesick for his friends and school back in Oklahoma, living with his grandmother does have one benefit as he is finally able to learn something about his mother. Tom MacNamara was silent on that subject and asking questions about his mother had been a no-go area for all of Shea’s 15 years. Rather than dying in childbirth or abandoning Shea and his father entirely, his mother is still very much alive and his parents have kept in touch over the years. There is so much more to learn but the answers will be slow in coming. The biggest question Shea has is “Why?”

To pass the time, Shea walks up and down the beach with the family dog every morning to collect the detritus of human life that finds itself upon the sand, either en route to or returning from the ocean. While he is pondering “why” and “how”, Shea is being watched.

Hiding amidst the waves, she’d watched him walk the length of the beach and back again, gathering up the debris that’d become all too common along the shoreline. Something about him fascinated her.

She wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers at the beach. That was a hard and fast rule that she’d only broken once before. But those had been girls, and they’d been much younger. This was a boy…and a cute one at that.

The girl’s name is Kae and Shea will meet her on occasion as the days go by. She is something of an oddity as Kae doesn’t seem to understand the basics of life like wearing blue jeans or riding a bicycle. Another oddity is added to his life in the form of Hailey Thompson, a 13 year-old  transplant from New York City with a voracious appetite and a penchant for rapid fire questions and pronouncements. Stir in a helping of quirky neighbours and Shea has an interesting  summer ahead of him. This includes things like taking Hailey fishing – or rather, Shea going fishing with Hailey tagging along. Thanks to Hailey, Shea winds up tumbling off the dock and like a stone, sinking to the bottom where he discovers – after some anxiety — that he can breathe water. It appears that there are indeed some things about which he needs to learn.

It is Kae who becomes his teacher and she tells Shea who and what he really is. He is a merman and the son of Princess Brynnelania. At some point in their lives, most young boys dream of being able to rescue their mom from something or other and Shea is presented with the perfect opportunity. His mother is being coerced into an arranged marriage for political reasons and the fact that her prospective fiancé is only 6 years old makes her situation even worse. Though Shea himself is only 15 years old, he intends to do something about the situation and getting from the shore to the King’s Summer palace requires a different form of locomotion than he is used to. Kae shows him how easy it is by rubbing a special stone and repeating some special words.

Having never even been in the ocean before, or any large body of water for that matter, each new sensation amazed Shea. Every new sight, every new smell, every different texture that he reached out to run his fingers across. Everything was so completely different than anything he’d ever imagined.

Each nuance of his new appendage, the shimmering tail that was suddenly a part of him, continued to fascinate and distract him. All five of his senses threatened to overload from the sheer pleasure of the cool ocean current caressing his body. He felt like the ocean was running its fingers through his hair, welcoming him home. He wondered if he’d ever be able to get used to the feeling enough to ignore it completely.

Son of a Mermaid is a fun and enjoyable story and Katie O’Sullivan has done an outstanding job in bringing Shea MacNamara’s  story to life.  There is mystery and adventure in this tale of tails as well as enough young romance to interest YA girls. The romance will probably also interest YA boys as well though they most likely will not admit it. Although Shea does play the hero in this story, MS O’Sullivan has definitely included Kae in the action and this rescue against all odds in not a one mer-man show. Katie also artfully educates the reader concerning the growing problem of trash that both intentionally and unintentionally finds its way into our planet’s oceans.

By the end of the story, readers will want to know what happens next as there are some questions left unanswered. Fortunately for everyone – and that includes this reviewer – Katie O’Sullivan has planned more books in the series, the first of which is due in the Spring of next year (2014). Do not let the fact that her exciting and mysterious coming of age story is aimed at the younger YA market put you off. Among other things, reading should provide a fun and entertaining escape from the mundane experiences of everyday life. Son of a Mermaid provides exactly such an escape and this reviewer believes that anyone interested in mer-fiction will enjoy losing themselves in this story.

My Rating:

Katie O’Sullivan’s website is at katie-osullivan.com and her Blog may be found at http://katieosullivan.blogspot.com

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Cover Art

Cover Art

by S.K. Munt

GORDIAN KNOT: The Gordian Knot is a legend of Phrygian Gordium associated with Alexander the Great. It is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) solved easily by cheating or “thinking outside the box” (“cutting the Gordian knot”). – Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Thunderdome. Two men enter, one man leaves.

The long-suffering Lincoln Grey is back to being a second-class citizen again. After Tristan’s untimely death, Lincoln stepped up and became the fiancé of Ivyanne Court. Things were finally starting to work out and it looked like he would marry the love of his life when the unthinkable happened. Tristan Loveridge came back from the presumed dead on the night of the engagement party. Link could already see things starting to slip as one more round of plaudits were added to the Loveridge legend. Things went from bad to worse when Ardhi killed Ivyanne’s parents forcing the mantle of leadership upon her about a hundred years too soon and then hit rock bottom when Ivyanne broke the engagement in order to prevent  Lincoln from becoming a target for the mad mystic merman, Ardhi. Tristan Loveridge is now back in the running and nothing is guaranteed for either suitor.

Heads or Tails opens in the aftermath of her parents’ murder and Ivyanne is struggling to find at least some semblance of safety. She is the only heir to the throne and if she should fall victim to Ardhi’s madness then all continuity will be lost and the fragile kingdom will be in serious trouble. Ivyanne closes up her parent’s home on Bracken Island and relocates to a more defensible house on the mainland. Garridan, her head of security, has suggested a guard be formed for her protection and suddenly, the two rivals for her hand find themselves sharing the same roof with a queen who is struggling to come to terms with the responsibilities that have suddenly been thrust upon her.

Tristan is the same old Tristan or so it would seem. He’s  in Sydney trying to repair the damage to his company caused by his absence and presumed demise when he is called to spend a couple of days in Ivyanne’s new home. In The Marked Ones and, to some degree, Three Rings, Tristan Loveridge has appeared to be the sort of devil-may-care kind of guy who would simply move on to other conquests if he was unable to claim Ivyanne’s hand.  In Heads or Tails, S.K. Munt has painted him with more vulnerability and the reader can easily see that he will be hurt if he does not persevere.

Tristan was in love with her. Really and actually in love with her. Lincoln had doubted before but he didn’t now. The guy was on the level, and as vulnerable as Lincoln himself.

Meanwhile, back at The Seaview, Lincoln is trying to keep the resort afloat and adjust to not only being Mer but being a demoted Mer at that. The verbal sparring between he and Tristan will resume and Lincoln will have to keep up. Tristan will continue to hold over his head the fact that Lincoln is alive only because he saved him from drowning in The Marked Ones and took a knife wound for his troubles. To be sure, Lincoln will get his digs in and even gain some ground with Ivyanne, but he will continue to be wrong-footed by Tristan.

Tristan grimaced, feeling a trace of guilt. When it came down to it-Lincoln really was a hard luck case. He’d finally gotten a ring on the finger of the girl of his dreams only to have her take it off the night of the celebration. The fact that Tristan had kissed her in that damn closet during the party made him feel like a heel.

The cast of characters in Heads or Tails is augmented by the Ms Munt’s promotion of Grace Londeree from her cameo role in Three Rings to a full supporting role in this story. Grace is the niece of Tristan Loveridge and, in many ways, an 18-year-old feminine version of him. Both are achingly beautiful and both won’t stop until they get what they want. For Grace, her want is Lincoln Grey and the fact that she is more mature than a number of the characters in this drama makes her quest all the more interesting. Will she ultimately succeed and will Lincoln ultimately succumb or is Grace simply a teen-aged flirt enthralled by the hottest man on the planet?

Through her extraordinary gifts for story-telling and writing compelling dialogue, S.K. Munt has created the perfect Gordian Knot with the third book in her Fairytail Saga, Heads or Tails. Solving this twisting tail of love, desire and royalty will definitely require that one think outside the box; way outside the box. While some may argue that this is simply the same old romantic triangle with scales, it is so much more and though the question of whom Ivyanne chooses will finally be solved, Ms. Munt seems to have laid the ground work for a fourth book in the series. This is in addition to the YA prequel that she is already at work upon.

To be sure, S.K. Munt keeps  the pot bubbling in Heads or Tails and the reader is kept off-balance and one step behind in divining the final outcome. When one factors in the uncertainty of how, when and where Ardhi will choose to strike along with the heartbreak that is certain to befall at least one of the suitors, you have a dark and suspenseful novel that is difficult to put down. If this is the first that you have heard of The Fairytail Saga,  by all means, go and read The Marked Ones and Three Rings first. The reader will know firsthand the kind of story that S.K. Munt is capable of spinning. If, however, the reader is familiar the first two books, this reviewer strongly suggests that one find a comfy chair or sofa, a bit of something to eat, a few tissues and prepare to submerge themselves in this story. While some readers might not like how Heads of Tails ends, the story is so well told that one simply has almost no choice but to like it. Though some readers may find that romantic triangles are overdone, sometimes it is not so much the story as how the story is told.

There is a bright spot in all of this. Those readers who have followed the entire series will remember Remi, the red-headed barmaid at The Seaview resort. Remi is a mermaid married to a human man for the past 10 years. Mixed marriages usually don’t go beyond a decade and a half because the human partner will inevitably notice that their spouse has appeared to age little, if at all, and in order to protect the secret the spouse will have to disappear . . . no matter how much they may love their human. The only way that the human may enter the Mer world is to be “Turned” by another Mer. Except for the occasional individual who is gifted with the ability to “Turn” at will, this act is fatal to the Mer. Ardhi  is the only one currently known to have this ability and he has gone mental.

There’s tension in Remi’s marriage as she doesn’t want children due to having to leave so soon. Her husband, Michael, knows nothing of what his wife is really facing and has begun drinking more than is good for him. It’s a busy evening at The Seaview and Michael has had too much and wandered off. Lincoln goes in search of him only to find Michael mostly drowned in the resort’s pool. Lincoln revives him but Michael’s life won’t ever be the same. Lincoln has discovered that he can turn humans and live to tell the tail. Remi has her marriage back and Lincoln’s a hero. Will his new-found gift help him in his quest to become Ivyanne’s husband? This reviewer is honour-bound to not spill the beans.

For those who crave at least one little nugget as to how Heads or Tails ends, this reviewer will allow one minor revelation. One of Ivyanne’s first acts as queen is to offer a Knighthood to the person who can take Ardhi down. There is no “winner-take-all” in this story. For he who obtains this rare honour, this reviewer would like to pass on the following bit of advice from a another Knight:

No, you can’t always get what you want
No, you can’t always get what you want
No, you can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, you just might find
You get what you need – Sir Mick Jagger

My Rating:

In the interest of full disclosure, an ARC was provided by the author in exchange for a full and honest review. (Which she would have received anyway!)

Follow S.K. Munt on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skmunt?ref=br_tf or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7159848.S_K_Munt/blog
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The holidays are almost upon us and since Black Friday – or Black Thursday as it is starting to look like – is coming up fast, many of you may be wondering about just what to give your favourite mer-fan. If not, the you may be wondering just what you’re going to do with the Hanukkah and/or Christmas gelt that is sure to come your way. Submitted here for your consideration is one possibility.

Life as a mermaid can be suffocating.

Free on Amazon Free on B&N Free on Smashwords

Sometimes following your heart can end up destroying the ones you love.

When seventeen-year-old Eviana Dumahl is faced with the responsibility of an arranged marriage and clan leadership, she is forced to choose between the life required of a mermaid and one of a teenage girl simply infatuated with the wrong guy. Kain, her devoted fiancé would make a wonderful husband except that she’s been in love with Brendan, a shape-shifting selkie, ever since they were kids. Choosing to abandon her family, her clan, and her life with Kain will have dire consequences far beyond anything she could have imagined.

A war is brewing amongst the clans and Eviana unwittingly becomes a pawn in the intricate schemes of a twisted mastermind. With Brendan’s life on the line, she has no choice but to involve those who she once considered friends. Amidst encountering senseless tragedies and immense loss, Eviana discovers that she is more valuable as a clan leader than anyone ever suspected. Her survival is not only dependent upon the loyalty of her friends, but also on her acceptance of a life that she had so adamantly tried to escape.

Promises is the first book of The Syrenka Series trilogy following Eviana and her friends through the perils of growing up in a discrete world that inherently threatens human society.

About Amber Garr

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Amber Garr spends her days as a scientist and nights writing about other worlds. Born in Pennsylvania, she lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry kids. Her childhood imaginary friend was a witch, Halloween is sacred, and she is certain that she has a supernatural sense of smell. Amber is a multiple Royal Palm Literary Award winner, author of Waterproof, The Syrenka Series, The Leila Marx Novels, and the upcoming Death Warden Series. When not obsessing over the unknown, she can be found dancing, reading, or enjoying a good movie.

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Cover art

Cover art

by Tracy Lane

Princesses, mermaids growing up unawares on land, life or death battles for the sanctity of the seas, charming men who show up out of nowhere to inform you of your destiny; all these are common plot devices found in many of the new wave in fantasy stories known as Mer-fiction. Considering the massive upwelling of these stories over the past few years, it almost seems that some authors are choosing one from column A and two from column B. As common as these elements may be, it takes a real artist to take these bog-standard devices and turn them into a fun and entertaining story and that is exactly what Canadian author Tracy Lane has done in her first novel, The Call of the Deep.

Enter Mericle Edwards, a twenty-something student of veterinary medicine living with her pre-med roommate in a one bedroom apartment in Fort Collins, Colorado. Mericle was found floating in the sea by her adoptive parents in an odd sort of water-filled bassinette.  In case you are wondering, she was her adoptive parents’ miracle baby and they substituted Mer for Mir due to the fact she was found at sea.

One may also wonder what brought Mericle to Fort Collins, Colorado and it is definitely not the labs for the National Institute of Standards. No, Mericle is there because although she grew up in Miami, she has an acute case of Thalassophobia and Colorado State University is far enough away from the sea to suit her. Mericle shares a cab one morning with a quite handsome young man named Matt who informs her that they’ve met twice before and that everything in her life is about to change.

One year later, nothing has changed and Mericle has almost forgotten about Matt. Her roommate, Kelsey, coerced Mericle in to going on a blind date that includes a cruise on the local reservoir. Mericle is knocked overboard and her blind date, Jeff, saves her. This is the start of an intense mutual attraction that scares the bejeebers out of Mericle and she pushes him away. Jeff isn’t too happy about this development but he nobly gives her some space.

This just the start of things. Gaining the ability to read minds, learning to control water, deciding that she’s ready to begin exploring a relationship with Jeff – who promptly disappears from the face of the earth – are amongst the long foretold changes to Mericle’s life.

We stood, nose to nose, gasping short breaths for what felt like an eternity, but only a few seconds.   Jeff wrapped his arms tight around me and I found myself lost in his deep green eyes and intoxicating smile.

The atmosphere changed.   I knew we were alone but if felt like someone or something was there with us.   A ghost or a presence of some sort, or maybe an electric current?   I wasn’t sure, but it had to be more than hormones.   But as tempting as it was, I couldn’t take my eyes off Jeff – even for a second – to see if the room had been infested with spirits or engulfed in flames.

There is, of course, a certain amount of chemistry between Matt and Mericle. Matt has devoted his life since the age of eleven to her welfare and it stands to reason that he would care for her deeply. For her part, Mericle is hard pressed to ignore the fact that she finds herself attracted to Matt. Things, become even more confused for her when Jeff enters the picture and subsequently disappears. For those readers who are weary of triangles, this is more an abortive romance rather than the old game of “which one do I choose?”

The dramatic tension in The Call of the Deep comes from the very reason why Mericle is where she is in the first place. Mericle’s parents were once the rulers of an undersea kingdom and her father supposedly went his separate way before her birth. In reality, he had taken up with a sub-aquatic sorceress and returned with an army of mutant creatures bent on taking over not only his old kingdom but as many other kingdoms as he can get his hands on. At the tender age of eleven, Matt was charged with carrying Mericle to safety and keeping watch over her until she can return to save life in the sea as we know it.

Matt has been a stand-out protector and guide for Mericle but he’s just not telling her some things she ought to know before she actually needs to know them. For example, her relationship with Jeff would have been off to a much easier start and she wouldn’t have wasted so much time obsessing over Matt if he had simply informed Mericle about just how the mating game works in the deep. This brings up an interesting point in Ms Lane’s telling of her story. In Meri’s post-rescue encounter with Jeff, she is frightened . . . nay, terrified of what appears to be happening and the overwhelming attraction that she suddenly feels for him. Conversely, however, Mericle’s reaction to Matt telling her that she is a mermaid and a princess is almost blasé’ by comparison.

Tracy Lane has developed an interesting cast of characters. There is, of course, Mericle whose character does start out a bit mild in the beginning but picks up steam as the story unfolds. Matt is the ultimate Boy Scout; cheerful, brave and ready to do whatever is necessary for Mericle to realise her true potential. This includes acting as body guard, grand vizier, and court magician all rolled into one.

Jeff, Mericle’s hunk-ah-hunk of burning love,  is a bit of an enigma in that he only has a relatively few scenes with her and, besides the obvious fact that he’s head-over-heels crazy about her, is hard to get a read on. After all, he does appear to vanish from the face of the earth about a quarter of the way through the story. Fortunately, Tracy Lane has provided an intermezzo whereby the point of view switches to Jeff for four chapters so the reader is able to learn the reason for his sudden disappearance and what his role will be for the remainder of the story.

The uneasy sense of mutual attraction between Matt and Mericle is resolved by the appearance of two escaped mermaids from a Southern Atlantic kingdom:  Jayna and her sister Sparrow. It seems that Sparrow is more a perfect fit for Matt and they do have a bit of history together.

Of all the central characters – aside from Mericle, herself – the one that stands out the most is the human; Mericle’s roommate, Kelsey. She is a stand-up kind of girl, protective, loyal to a fault and willing to do anything for her best friend. Once Mericle and company are on their way to kick some tail, it is Kelsey’s task to return to Fort Collins, CO. This reviewer has become rather attached to Kelsey and hopes that Ms Lane will see fit to employ her again.

Ms Lane has created a fun and exciting story in The Call of the Deep and this reviewer is eager to see what comes next in books two and three of the series.  Her novel appears to be aimed at the upper end of the YA market and the lower end of the NA (New Adult) market. It is the firm opinion of this reviewer that anyone above the age of fifteen  with an abiding interest in mermaids and mermen will thoroughly enjoy the story.

Love, fear, change, discovery; The Call of the Deep is about a lot of things but most of all, it is about finding oneself. It is about learning who you really are and where you really came from.

Now I understood.   I was remembering a former life.   I had forgotten how beautiful it was – the diverse array of plant and animal life swaying back and forth with the current along the reef.   The shifting sand of the endless ocean floor and the way the school of bluefish sped along side us one moment, as if to say hello, then off in another direction the next.

The gentle hum of the underwater world was both energizing and calming all at once.

I was home.

Americans are always surprised by the myriad things that come to us from Canada. Excellent Mer-fiction can now be added to that list. Tracy Lane’s sequel, Return to the Deep is expected to release in the spring of 2014.

My Rating:

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Now that I’ve reviewed S.K. Munt’s Three Rings, I’ve got a few weeks to spare before the third book in her FairyTails Saga makes its debut. With that in mind, here’s what I have on tap:

At the moment I’m (re)reading Call of the Deep by Tracy Lane and hope to have that review published by next weekend. I read this book earlier in the year but had fallen behind with my reviews and thus it was put on a back burner.

Running right behind that is Born of Oak and Silver by Marie McKean. This book is a departure for me in that it does not involve female specimens of Homo Ikhthues. (Actually, I read a fair number of other books.) With any luck I should have Marie’s book done and reviewed by Oct. 31st.

Hot on the heels of these two books is S.K. Munt’s Heads or Tails due for release on October 31st. I was a bit slow in getting off the mark for her second book so I’m hoping to be able to pounce on that title the moment it’s released. That is, if my heart can take it!

Last but certainly not in anyway least, there is Keeping Merminia by Emm Cole. You may remember that Emm was the subject of one of my first interviews here on The Parsons’ Rant. The author has suggested that it be read at my leisure so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I need to do more work on my warm-up chapter for Urban Mermaid. A week-end in Hopewell just might do the trick.

Three_Ringsby S.K. Munt
It is without a doubt that S.K. Munt is a master story-teller. Hot on the heels of her acclaimed debut novel, The Marked Ones, comes Three Rings which is guaranteed to take readers through an emotional wringer.

Things have changed on Bracken Island. Ivyanne has brought home not one but two suitors for the hand of the Princess. There was a third suitor but everyone thought he had died in order to bring Lincoln Grey, Ivyanne’s adolescent sweetheart, into the world of the Mer.  That suitor would be Ardhi, Ivyanne’s childhood friend who is a mystic; that rare sort of Mer who can – amongst other things – “turn” humans into Mer and live to tell the tale. His intentions were to take out Tristan Loveridge, give Lincoln to Ivyanne and die in the process, etching his memory forever in her heart. As it turns out, everyone – including Ardhi — was wrong about this.

Tristan survived his seemingly mortal wound and Ardhi survived “turning” Lincoln. Tristan is now locked in a jealous rivalry with Lincoln and Ardhi is now a loose cannon whose schemes and actions will shape the course of this story until the very end. As Lincoln Grey was held prisoner by his past and Ivyanne Court was held prisoner by her future, Ardhi’s actions have created a new kind of prison containing Tristan, Lincoln and Ivyanne where the two suitors duke it out in a game of one-upmanship. Although many females might enjoy two men fighting over them, it has the opposite effect on Ivyanne. If there is an eventual victor, will Ivyanne be in any kind of emotional state to become the spoils of victory?

She just wished that both men understood the position she was in – had an inkling of what she was going through. Every time they pulled her in opposite directions, she could feel the flesh of her heart rip a little further. What was she going to have left to love either with, when they were through?

S.K. Munt has a wonderful ability to create characters that readers can’t help care about and there is almost no way that one can read her stories without becoming emotionally committed to one or more of them . . . even Ardhi. For good or for ill, her characters will haunt the reader well after the final paragraph of Three Rings. To understand the characters is to understand the story.

Tristan is the fair-haired boy. The golden child who is the equivalent of captain of the football team, class president and major heart-throb all rolled into one. Lesser men cheer him on because he is everything they wish they could become but never will. Men in Tristan’s league curse him because he is their stiffest competition. He is a mermaid magnet and quite handy with human females as well. It seems that Tristan almost always gets what he wants. Will he succeed this time?

Lincoln is more of an everyman. He has had the things he loves repeatedly taken from him and when he has the chance to claim what he most desires, he runs the risk of losing it once more. Like the rest of us mere mortals, Lincoln has the recurring tendency to shoot himself in the flukes with pin-point accuracy. His gift is apparently the ability to take blow after emotional blow and yet stagger to his feet once again. Staying down for the count is not an option. The reader will wonder if Lincoln will be able to survive the fatal blow if he loses the one thing that has controlled his life since he was a teenager.

Ivyanne is the prize in the emotional tug of war amongst her suitors. Every time she seems to grasp that one bit of elusive happiness, it is snatched away from her. She is akin to an emotional weather-vane, constantly spinning whichever way the winds of fate happen to blow. Aside from her summer love when both she and Lincoln were both in their teens, Ivyanne is an innocent abroad having been sheltered and groomed for the day when she will do her duty to the kingdom by choosing from a handful of candidates, the best possible mate to perpetuate the bloodline. Love is a side issue and her inexperience shows. While it seems like everyone has something to lose in this story, Ivyanne stands to lose the most. Unlike a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, there is no guaranteed happy ending for the parties involved.

Ardhi has already lost something . . . his mind. Love, desire, the quest for fulfillment will change almost any person. That combination along with the seemingly limitless power he now possesses has turned Ardhi into a delusional mer-monster. His plan is to eliminate Tristan, lure Lincoln away from Ivyanne and then claim what is rightfully his . . . no matter whom is hurt or killed along the way.

‘Ssh,’ he brought his finger to his lips and smiled, feeling giddy. ‘We have time, princess. I’ll let you get through this weekend, and play the happy bride-to-be, and I’ll even play along.’ He backed up another step. ‘But once these guests leave, and you can drop the pretense that he fulfills you the way you always dreamed of, I want you to think about what just happened, and how right it felt-then come to me.’

The Seaview resort could well become the Heartbreak Hotel if it has not done so already and S.K. Munt eagerly serves as your tour-guide. Her writing brings to mind the following excerpt from The Man with the Blue Guitar:

They said, “You have a blue guitar,

You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are

Are changed upon the blue guitar.” – Wallace Stevens

In this case, it is S.K. Munt who wields the blue guitar. She has strummed up what might have been an ordinary fantasy story about merfolk into an emotionally gripping tale of love and loss, success and failure. Those readers who follow along on Ms. Munt’s blue guitar tour will be changed by the end of Three Rings and they will be left wondering what can possibly happen next. Needless to say, this story is not for the faint of heart.

Tristan, who seems to have never cared for love in the past has finally admitted to his self that he loves Ivyanne. Will she turn out to simply be one more accomplishment in an already charmed life or is she the one and only person who can permanently change the world of this pretty-boy merman.

And Lincoln; he used to be human and now he’s mer. Can he keep himself going in a world where everything about his life and allegiances have changed? How many more body blows to his heart and soul will he be able to take?

S.K. Munt is well on her way to becoming an author of note. She writes with a style that takes no prisoners other than the reader. There is no escape from her spell at the end of Three Rings and readers will find themselves longing for the next installment in her Fairytail Saga, Heads or Tails.

Whatever one may think of fantasy novels in general and the mermaid sub-genre, Three Rings is well worth the time spent falling under its spell. If the reader interested in this novel  has not heard of or read its predecessor, The Marked Ones, by all means read it posthaste. This is not a series where the reader can dive in around the middle and easily figure out what has happened before that point. The story Ms. Munt has crafted is much more complex than that. Love, hate, joy, despair and bedroom scenes that will curl your tail fin; S.K. Munt’s FairyTail Saga seems to have it all.

My Rating:

Visit S.K. Munt’s website at skmunt.com

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You may have heard a scurrilous rumour – started by persons unknown – that Dr. Data is writing a fantasy novel. Well, it’s time for me to come out of the closet and admit that yes, I am in the early stages of writing a fantasy novel. The time for playing with ideas is about over and the time for putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboard is just about here. In a month or so, I’ll start compiling the “bible” for this series and then it’s on to chapter one.

The following short story was written for an informal competition on Goodreads.com and I did it less as a competitor and more as an exercise. No doubt, the story is derivative and has been told many times before. Frankly, I don’t care. I simply took it as an exercise to see if I could cobble a short story on a given subject related in some way to the theme of my novel.

I would like to thank S.K. Munt, author of The Fairytail Saga, as well as Marie McKean and other members of the interest group devoted to S.K.’s series for their encouragement and support. I just hope that the end product is worth even a tiny bit of all that. The story contains a few cryptic nods to S.K. as well as authors Derrolyn Anderson and Chris Howard. If you want to understand the encrypted nods, you’ll just have to read Ms Anderson’s YA series, Marina’s Tales, and Mr. Howard’s Seaborn Trilogy.

Enough prevaricating blether!


 

Dear Mom,. . .

Lindsey squirmed in the beach chair as she watched Brad cavort in the surf. Every fibre of her being cried out for the almost sinfully delicious feel of salt water on her scales. It just wasn’t going to happen, though. Not today. Not with Bradley here. At some point in the future – if they ever got that far – she’d tell him. And show him. But first, she’d have to know that she could trust him. It’d been done before; telling – and showing — selected humans that merfolk really existed. Some had even decided to take the plunge themselves but that point was even further in the future. If they ever got that far.

Lindsey supposed that the fix she was in at the moment was all her fault. Though few mermaids made it as far as university, everyone back home thought her mad to consider going to a school so far away from the sea. Her friend, Penelope, had elected to attend Florida State and that was practically in their back yard. Nebraska, though, had the degree programme she wanted – the full scholarship didn’t hurt either – and she was a big Corn Husker fan, so off to Lincoln she went and became the first mermaid ever to pump her pom-poms on national TV. It had all worked out quite well, actually. She had flown home at every break in the school year and her summer job at Mr. Goldsmith’s jewelry store had provided ample time for before and after work swims. In fact, she spent most of her spare time in the sea so when September came around, she was actually tired of the water and ready for a significant stint on dry land.

She had accepted the job offer with the insurance company in Lincoln upon graduation because the salary was nothing to sneeze at and the position included a good bit of travel; much of it to locations near large bodies of salt water. Lindsey always managed to swing by home – even if for just a day – when her duties took her to Florida and her family actually saw more of her now than when she was at university. A mermaid with frequent flyer miles! Who would have imagined that?

Things had been different though, this past year. A huge project at work had curtailed her travel and kept her pretty much in Lincoln, Nebraska. She had spent so much time with her nose to the grind-stone that she wasn’t even able to use her frequent flyer miles for a get-away to warmer climes. The nearest substantial body of water was a 9 hour drive – one way – and though she didn’t mind swimming in cold water, Lake Michigan in the winter was decidedly not her cup of tea.

The only bright spot during that dreary winter was meeting Brad. He worked for the same company and was taking up the slack in travel time caused by this damned project. His schedule – and hers – meant that she only saw him every week or two and there was little time for more than a dinner and a movie. Nonetheless, there was definitely some strong chemistry between them and Lindsey longed for the time when they could spend a few days rather than just a few hours together. A few days alone with Bradley . . . if only! Meanwhile, it had been over eight months since she’d dipped her tail in the water and soaking in the tub delivered more discomfort than relief.

It was no surprise, then, that Lindsey took Brad’s offer of a week in Miami Beach, hook, line, and sinker. This blasted project was almost done and both of them were in dire need of a respite. The only problem was that she was in serious need of some tail-time. She had won prizes in elementary school for being able to go in the water without letting her body do what came naturally, but all that discipline was not going to help one bit the moment her toes touched the surf. Her plan had been to slip out after Brad fell asleep and go for a one or two hour swim. Heck! Thirty minutes would have done it!

Lindsey’s plans, however, had gone by the board when that other long-awaited moment arrived first. Bradley had been wonderful; tender, gentle and loving. It was . . . well . . . even better than her first time. Her 18th summer had been winding down and she’d be off to university as a freshman in a few weeks. With no prospect of a mate – or even a steady boyfriend – in the offing, she had asked her best male friend, Anthony, if he would do the honours. They had been close for years though both would readily admit that they weren’t meant for anything long-term together. Mermaids don’t labour under the same strictures that afflict humans but they aren’t strumpets, either. Anthony had proven to be the very best choice she could have made and those wonderful nights on the beach had sealed a lifetime friendship. He was going to make a wonderful mate to a very lucky mermaid someday.

Last night, Brad had easily taken the top honours and when it was all done, held her snug and safe in his arms. Had he said “I love you”? It sure felt like it. Lindsey had drifted off on a tide of happiness and contentment and the next thing she knew, room service was delivering breakfast. After they ate, Brad had insisted on hitting the beach the moment their morning ablutions were done. Now here she was; sitting on the sand with a tube of sunscreen in her hand, desperately trying to think of anything other than what she longed to do.

Seeing Brad leave the water and trot up the beach towards her, Lindsey began vigorously slathering sunscreen on every exposed bit of skin.

“Honey, come on in and enjoy the water with me!”

Lindsey held out her arms – now almost white with sunblock – and said:

“Sweetheart, I just finished putting all this goop on. Besides, all I want to do at this moment is unwind. It’s been a long, long winter and I need some chill time. Give me today to relax and I’ll be ready to hit the water tomorrow.”

Brad looked at her, his face mirroring his disappointment.

“Didn’t last night help things any?”

“Sweetheart, if you say one more word about last night, we’re going to both wind up in the pokey for performing lewd and lascivious acts on a public beach! Now go on and enjoy the water! I’m doing just fine sitting right here.”

Pleased that his efforts of the previous evening were so well received, Brad spoke with a big grin on his face.

“My princess, your wish is my command! I’m going to go out a bit farther in the water, however. I love surface diving and once I’m out past the sandbar, I should have enough depth beneath me to really enjoy it. Don’t worry about me, though; I’m really a very strong swimmer.”

Lindsey eyed him over the top of her sunglasses and said:

“Go and enjoy yourself but please, please, please be careful. I’m looking forward to many more evenings just like last night.”

And eventually telling you a certain secret” she said to herself as he jogged off with a smile and a wave. Lindsey leaned back in her beach chair and pondered ways to get her tail in the water before tomorrow morning.

She must have drifted off for a while because she awoke with a start to the sound of people screaming “Shark!!!” Through groggy eyes she saw dorsal fins in an agitated patch of water. Looking around, there was no sign of Bradley. Anywhere. She sprung from her beach chair and sprinted towards the water’s edge. At that moment, she really didn’t care if anyone – including Brad – saw her tail fin. She’d deal with those consequences later. Lindsey dove into the surf tugging on the side-strings of her bikini bottom.

The shift between legs and tail seemed to take forever though it only took – as usual – a few seconds. Lindsey must have been able to keep it all under water because she didn’t hear screams of “Mermaid!!!” coming from the beach when she popped her head above the surface. In his wisdom, Poseidon had blessed merfolk with the ability to breathe through their skin like amphibians so clothing was definitely not an option. Undoing her bikini top, she clutched it along with the bottom and dove in search of Brad.

Frantically, she circled the area looking for him, all the while wondering how she was going to explain this to the office or his family. She should have just told him everything this morning and gone in the water with him. He’d be safe now; that is, if he hadn’t already fled in horror at the sight of her. Damn it!! Where was he??

A pod of dolphins swam off into the distance, obviously chasing something. Was that what everyone had seen? Dolphins? The larger issue at hand now was that Bradley was nowhere to be seen.

Dear Poseidon, I’ve lost him! He’s gone! Gone!! No human can stay under water this long and live!” she sobbed.

Lindsey hadn’t had the time to pull her hair into a ponytail before entering the water and now it all floated in front of her. As she worked to clear her face and pull it all back into an emergency ponytail tied with the stings of her bikini top, Brad drifted up from below, his eyes wide and staring with a blank look on his face.

Sweet Neptune, he’s dead! “she sobbed.

In her anguish, Lindsey cried for what seemed to be half an hour though it was actually only a moment or two and she suddenly stopped when she saw Brad blink. Not once, but twice.

Thank you Poseidon! He’s still alive!

She had taken on a good lung-full of air when she dove and it was still with her. Taking his face in her hands, she quickly placed her lips on his, forced his mouth open with her tongue and exhaled for all she was worth.

I’ve got to get him to the surface! Maybe I can explain all this as a near-death hallucination.

Lindsey reached down to shift Brad into a fireman’s carry so she could push him up to the surface and suddenly, her fingers touched something very familiar . . . and very much unexpected.

Scales!

Now, it was her turn to sport a wide-eyed blank stare as she pushed back to see a regulation – and pretty sexy – merman’s tail attached to him. The telepathic bridge shared by all merfolk crackled to life as they both said in unison:

You!!!

How???

Where???

“Why didn’t you tell me???”

“How was I supposed to know???”

Since he’d had a bit more time to recover from his shock, Bradley took charge of the conversation.

“I’m from southern California. We had lived near a colony up around Santa Cruz but moved south because of Dad’s job. Fortunately, there were a few other families with kids in the vicinity so we all lived quite comfortably . . . and quite carefully. How about you?”

Lindsey blushed as Brad was looking at her in quite a different – and quite appreciative – way.

“I’m from Colony Island. It’s just up the coast a bit.”

“Yeah, I’ve swum by there and stopped for pizza a few times. Pretty good stuff if you ask me. Uhhh . . . well . . . would . . . would you like to swim with me for a while?”

As far as Lindsey was concerned, “a while” would be way, way too short a time but instead, she replied:

“I guess that we’d better put in an appearance on the beach before the humans think we’ve both been eaten by the sharks.”

Holding out his hand, Brad nodded his agreement.

“Let me retrieve my bathing suit. We can swim down the beach a couple of blocks and then casually stroll back up like nothing has happened. After lunch, I can show you a private spot where I go to put my tail on without having to worry about anyone seeing.”

Once more, Lindsey blushed as she took his hand.

“Can that be later this afternoon? I’d love to have some alone time with you back at the room.

And also to send the following e-mail:

                                Dear Mom,

                                                I think I’ve found a mate.

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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.

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