Work on the sequel to Urban Mermaid is once again underway. The working title is Sirena and is a nod to the character played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Astrid turned in such a memorable performance in that film that I felt that her character should be remembered somewhere. Chapter 1 is complete – though it will need some tweaking just like everything else. I am presently beavering away on Chapter 2 – or will be once I finish this blog post. Late last year, I sent a rough outline of the story to one of my author friends and she was very encouraging so I think that I’m on the right track.

Sirena was originally supposed to be about Penelope’s VBFF, Amy, and it still is pretty much so but Peter and Penn’s story doesn’t end with Urban Mermaid. The characters have made it clear in no uncertain terms that they’ve got a lot to say and are not going to sit idly by during Amy’s turn in the spotlight – even if she’s Penn’s VBFF. Therefore, book # 2 is going to be about P&P as well as Amy.

The sequel’s delay has been a direct casualty of having my life turned upside down by a new job in Richmond, VA and reoccupying my late mother’s house down in Hopewell. I knew that there was going to be a bit of turmoil but I didn’t expect it to become a marathon. I’ve finally seen things settle down enough so I can get back to writing and blogging.

All this leads to the final question: When is Urban Mermaid going to be published? Well the very same upheaval mentioned above also delayed my reviewing some sample edits from the publisher – like for two whole months. I finally got the ball rolling again and the publisher was going to start crunching some numbers for me. The holidaze intervened and now that 2015 is here, I hope that things will start moving again. The delay has been the “fault” of both sides so I’m pointing no fingers. However, if it continues very much longer, I’m going to say “Damn the torpedoes” and self-publish.

Meanwhile, I dug out my tweedy sports coat with the elbow patches and have lined up a number of pipes that just scream “AUTHOR”. I’m ready to move on, now.

Real authors probably encounter this situation on a regular basis so a rank amateur like myself should not be surprised to face one as well. I had a (very) small scene in mind which was not critical or even the slightest bit necessary, but I wanted to use it as a bit of character development for Penelope. My question was: “How do I insert it into the plot?” It comes after the out-of-sequence Chapter (yes, another one!) I finished last week and as it stood, had no place in the following chapter.

To get around that problem, I wrote a sort of framework host the scene and had it lead off the following chapter. (At least it looks like it belongs there, now.) Just one wittle problem – I’m quite chuffed with the framework but don’t like the scene at the centre of it all.

Do I dump the scene but keep the framework? (If so, what do I replace it with?)

Do I dump the whole thing and forget about it?

Decisions, decisions.


I returned from the rarefied reaches of Hopewell, VA with almost none of the items on my list accomplished. My less than triumphant return to C’ville was aboard a tow truck as the faithful Camry suffered a possibly fatal breakdown en route to pick up some pipe tobacco before hitting the Interstate for home. While the jury is still out vis a vis’ its fate, things do not look good and the garage will, no doubt, require more than one pound of flesh to fix the transmission.

If the car had to give up the ghost, it couldn’t have chosen a better time and place than the Cary Street exit ramp in Richmond at around 2:20 on a sunny afternoon. There was enough momentum to carry the car up the ramp and nearly on to the streets of Richmond, VA. If I had gone home the night before, the car would have most likely died in the wilds of Goochland or Louisa counties, well after most civilized people would have retired for the night.

Since I’m supposed to be blogging about the Parsons’ Progress in crafting a mermaid novel via the ancient keyboard practice better known as ‘hunt and peck’, I’d better get to it. My goal had been to finish chapters 18 & 19 and maybe start on 20 but yours truly has a capricious muse to deal with and said lady convinced me to write down some key bits of a scene before I forgot them. The aforementioned muse knew full well that I would not stop until I had written an entire, out-of-sequence, chapter. For the record, I managed to save face somewhat by getting a few paragraphs closer to the end of chapter 18. Although I have vowed to wrap both chapters by the end of the week, I half expect my wayward muse to go to Disneyland or someplace like that and not leave a forwarding address.

The past 5 days have been something of a saga. If you read my Stumbling Blox post on Goodreads.com, you might remember that this past weekend  was going to mark my migration from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1. I had everything mapped out, everything planned and absolutely nothing went as expected. It all began when I ran a system-wide backup late Fri. afternoon. It went as expected and I was off to a good start – or so I thought.

That evening, I made a few minor changes to my files & on Saturday morning, I decided to do another system-wide backup in order for my back-up to reflect the current state of things. I started the back-up process & went to run a couple of errands. I was back home in less than an hour and the backup was done. Not a good sign since the thing usually takes 3 hours +/-. I restarted the application and this time around it took longer – like all afternoon and into the evening. Since this was well over twice the amount of time that a full back-up takes, I decided to investigate and discovered that absolutely nothing had been backed up.  Rather than waste any more time, I decided to manually make copies of the important stuff. I finally went to bed around 1:00 AM.

The following morning, everything was ready to go and I began the migration by inserting the upgrade DVD and powering up. The installation reached the point where it asked for my product key but none of my keys worked. I decided to quit the upgrade, reboot and look in a few other places for the right key. That was the intention, anyway. I quickly discovered that the installation had changed things on my hard drive and now, I couldn’t log in. My Windows 7 installation DVD was MIA so there was nothing for it but to go to Staples & buy a fresh copy of Win 8.

Staples was out of stock so I had to go to BestBuy where I stood in a queue to check out and had the anti-theft alarm go off when I tried to leave the building. On my way home, I stopped at Jimmy John’s and ordered a ham sandwich to go. When I got home, I discovered that I’d been given the wrong order.

After lunch, things got slightly better and I was finally able to install the new operating system and began re-installing the world. 48 hours later, I had things the way I wanted them and set about getting my notes in order so I could resume writing. I’ve been assisting a small business upgrade from Win XP to new laptops, go wireless & move to a new location for the past month so Urban Mermaid has been on hiatus.

Well folks, part of my notes for the novel have vanished completely – not all of them, mind you – just some of the more recent stuff. How much is missing is unknown and I can probably reconstruct a lot of things from other sources. It’s what I don’t know is missing that worries me.

I’ve been getting a number of inquiries concerning my progress with Urban Mermaid so I thought I would bring one and all up to speed.

  1. I’ve finished my first complete chapter which includes one of the pivotal moments in the story. By the term “Finished” I mean that it’s out of my head and on to paper, so to speak. I’ve still got plenty of tweaking, massaging, Rolfing, etc. before I’m ready to show it to my publisher.
  2. Today, I will continue on the “warm-up” chapter that was set aside when everyone started asking to see samples of the story. The warm-up chapter was intended to be one of those that connects point A with point B and still is to some degree. Mostly minor things involved here. I may have this finished on Friday.
  3. After that, I want to go back and expand the fragment entitled “The Art of Choosing A Mate” into a full-blown chapter with scenes before and after the fragment.
  4. Once that’s done, I’m going to start on the two-part Prologue consisting of “In the Beginning . . .” and “A Brief and True History of Colony Island”. Parts of both already appear in the “bible” for the series so it’s not  a total “from scratch” effort.
  5. Once that’s done, the saga begins with chapter one.

There’s also an administrative task in the offing and that’s moving the “bible” into Microsoft OneNote for better organisation and indexing.

All the while, I’m going to be reading and reviewing books. Wish I got paid for all this!

For more day-to-day details, follow my writing blog on Goodreads.com.

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

Buy Your Own Copy of Three Rings
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Among other things, my sainted mother took second place in a state poetry competition and was the salutatorian at her class’s commencement. She dreamed that my brother and I would follow in her footsteps by becoming writers, authors, etc. My brother was the only one to fulfill her dream while all I did was write computer code and invent programming languages. She never really understood what I did for a living but then again, neither did my wife.

A week ago, I published a short story that has apparently been well received and has left some readers begging for more. Suddenly, this idea for a fantasy novel that I’ve had for a number of years, is beginning to take on a life of its own. I’ve bought a block of ISBN’s and have been accepted into the Goodreads.com author programme. The target release date is August 8th, 2014 – my 39th wedding anniversary and probably the day when my wife says that she’s had enough of playing second fiddle to a book. It may be released sooner or it may be released later; this is the first time that I’ve ever done anything like this.

The Goodreads.com author programme includes my very own blog. That does not mean – by any stretch of the imagination – that I am abandoning The Parsons’ Rant. I will continue to use this blog for book reviews, techno-rants© and general whingeing. I will however blog the development of this novel from the first pixels on the screen on through to its release on Amazon.com, et al. If you want to keep up with things on the writing front – there’s not much out there at the moment – got to Howard’s Goodreads Blog  at  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7315319.Howard_Parsons/blog. The Goodreads blog will be added to the blogroll below and I’ll ditch a couple of non-starters at the same time.

Wish me luck.

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.


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:




“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.

SOTT Banner

Melissa Eskue Ousley

Melissa Eskue Ousley

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

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

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

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

Read Part I of our Interview with Melissa.

Read the review of Sign of the Throne.


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