The Term ‘Holidaze’ is Intentional
‘Tis the season . . . or so they say. Things are not particularly merry at the moment. We’ve been working at getting The Parsonage ready for the Holidays, over the past few weeks, and I’ve managed to injure my back.
Actually, re-re-re-injure it is more the case. I’ve had trouble with my back since the 8th grade. A trampoline was involved.
Things are not as bad as the night I was carried out of the house on a rubber stretcher and shipped to Martha Jefferson Hospital, C.O.D. This time around, I made it to the doctor’s office before things got that bad. Getting in and out of the car was a real trip.
I was given a cocktail of pills to take every eight hours and my faithful wife, Judi, is off to the chemist’s to pick up the prescribed meds.
Happy Holidays to You
Enough of the downers. The main purpose of this rant is to nail my colours to the mast, concerning the use of the phrase, Happy Holidays. People with paranoid delusions claim there is a ‘war’ on Christmas and the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ is a prime example. The phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ excludes mention of Christmas and that, apparently, is an act of war upon the holiday. Codswallop.
There are eight or nine different religions celebrating a combined total of over twenty-five holidays, feasts, or festivals at this time of the year and Christmas is only one of them. And then there’s New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. There’s no two ways about it; this is a festive time of the year. Admittedly, Christmas has cornered the music market, though.
Some may decry ‘Happy Holidays’ as nothing more than political correctness even though the phrase was in use long before PC was invented. No one says much about ‘Season’s Greetings’ being politically correct, but it’s only a matter of time.
I use the term ‘Happy Holidays’ to include everyone – or at least, as many as possible – in my best wishes for the season. Otherwise, I would spend five minutes enumerating all the holidays – Secular or otherwise – taking place before, during, or after the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice is the original reason for the season.
If I know someone is a Christian, I will wish them a “Merry Christmas”. If I someone who is Jewish, I will wish them “Happy Chanukkah”. (The ‘C’ is optional, of course.) And if I know a person to be a Scroogian, I will wish them a heartfelt “Bah! Humbug!” Otherwise, ‘Happy Holidays’ covers all bases.
If that constitutes Political Correctness, then so be it. I will prepare the boiling oil and await the angry mob of peasants bearing torches and pitchforks.
Waiting for the 2nd installment in a book series is a lot like waiting for Summer vacation. You know they are both coming and in the case of summer vacation, you at least have a pretty good idea as to when it will begin. Books are subject to the vagaries of both writers and publishers.
Thus, when I heard the next book in M. Schaefer’s Destiny series was ready, there was much rejoicing. In preparation for my review of Schaefer’s Chasing Destiny, I opened her captivating story, Awaiting Destiny, in search of a few details and tidbits. I use the word ‘captivating’ because its sirenic qualities caused me to read the book once again.
The Story Thus Far
For those who may not be familiar with Awaiting Destiny, here’s a quick catch-you-up. Destiny Mariner is a 14-year-old girl living on her father’s sailboat at the Enchanted Cove Marina. Her mother has been missing – presumably at sea – for 14 years. Her father, Jacob Mariner, still keeps a candle burning in the window of his heart for his missing wife, Shellene. Destiny misses the mother she never knew but manages to assuage her loneliness by pitching in baseball games.
Acting on a letter delivered to her by persons unknown, Destiny steers the ship’s dinghy to a particular spot offshore and sets off on a journey of discovery where she finds:
- She’s actually a mermaid who can’t seem to get the tail bit working.
- A rather handsome merboy, named Kincade, who’s a few years older than she.
- Her mother is a princess which makes her, every young girl’s dream, a princess as well.
- That her mother has been, shall we say, indisposed for around 14 years. A reunion is imminent.
And that is all I’m going to tell you.
And now . . .
Two years later, when Chasing Destiny opens, we find Destiny still residing at the Enchanted Cove Marina, with her reunited parents, in as much pubescent bliss as any 15-year-old girl can expect. Her sixteenth birthday is just a few weeks off and with that comes the long-awaited driver’s licence. Oh yeah, there’s one other thing. She and Kincaid made a pledge to reunite by the time of her sixteenth birthday. They’ve been corresponding – by mermail, of course – every week, so she knows he’s still interested.
On this day, however, the mermailman brings her a not-so-nice letter from someone who is not Kincade; Queen Bali of Ameru – Kincade’s mother. It seems her son, who is traveling all the way from the Kingdom of Ameru[i] — against her wishes, of course – is missing, and she holds Destiny responsible. Our girl has until the next full moon to locate Kincade, or Queen Bali will rain all sorts of trouble on her grandfather’s kingdom.
There is not a moment to lose and the plucky girl is ready to go rescue Kincade. But first, Destiny needs a little more information. The best place for that is the local soothsayer who is conveniently located at the Mystique Boutique in town.
Nadja, the Greek fortune-teller, has been waiting for Destiny to come in and she agrees to help her, but at a price. In exchange for her help, Destiny must find Nadja’s long lost true love by the next full moon or all sorts of trouble will rain down on her. Obviously, the next full moon is going to be a busy one if things don’t go as they should.
And, She’s Off!
Having no choice but to accept, if she wants to rescue her own true love, Destiny accepts the offer. The fortune-teller gives Destiny some baffling portents. (Aren’t they always like that?) Thus prepared, it’s time for Destiny to put her golden tail in motion.
Their smiles held a thousand unspoken promises for the future. Destiny looked into his eyes and realized sharing moments like this made the risk of love worth it.
Destiny will embark on a harrowing journey across the sea to avoid being cursed, prevent catastrophe befalling her grandfather’s kingdom, and most importantly, rescue her one true love. If this is not empowering young girls, then this reviewer doesn’t know what is. Chasing Destiny is an exciting, enthralling adventure for both middle-school readers of the female persuasion as well as those at the lower end of the Young Adult range. (Mothers and Fathers take note; the holidays are on their way.)
Fathers have a way of making their daughters feel safe, no matter how old they are.
- Schaefer has modified her approach to telling this story from that used in Awaiting Destiny. Here, she alternates the focus in her narration between key characters. This means that part of her tale is focused on mermales, a sadly overlooked and under-represented class in stories like this. It also escalates the drama because the answer to the current crisis – and there are plenty of them in this story – is not always found at the start of the next chapter.
Chasing Destiny is also a very clean read with minimal typos, This means the reader gets to enjoy the story for itself rather than deal with editing blunders. Given the target audience is middle school and early high school, it is important that the necessity of good spelling and good grammar – this review excepted – are reinforced in young people.
As for the Future
What does Chasing Destiny portend for the future? Well, there are signs of a rapprochement between Destiny’s father, Jacob, and Shelleen’s father, Dolphinium, King of Mertopia. Destiny’s grandfather did not approve of the union.
Kincade’s mother, Queen Bali, certainly does not approve of his interest in Destiny. She is, after all, only a half-breed. There is good potential for conflict here. Will Kincade’s relationship with Destiny repeat that of her mother. Since he is Destiny’s one true love, it is obvious they will continue to show interest in each other. Only time and M. Schafer will tell us.
Chasing Destiny is an exciting and fun read that should be enjoyed by all who consider life as a mermaid to be an intriguing career choice. If you like mermaids – and merboys – then you must read this story. Those who are older, and bear the scars of dating and relationships gone wrong, will also enjoy M. Schafer’s story. Imagine, being only sixteen and finding your one true love.
I had dreams to backpack around the ocean, maybe meet an exotic, handsome merman to sweep me off my fins
[i] Ameru is located under the waters of the French Polynesian sea. Think of where Tahiti is and you’ll be fine.
by Pete Tarsi
Some things just keep on getting better. Each of us can probably think of at least one item to which the preceding statement applies. This reviewer submits Pete Tarsi’s Flipping the Scales series is indeed, one of those things and it is wonderfully evidenced by the release of the second book in his series, Skipping the Scales.
It is summer once again in New England and cousins Hailey and Jill, along with best friend Meredith, are now high school graduates with summer jobs. Meredith is an intern at a public aquarium while Jill spends her days as the facility’s costumed mascot. Hailey is working as an entertainer at kids’ birthday parties and loving every minute of it.
On the morning of the summer season’s first full moon, Hailey is up at dawn, hoping that her mermaid friends, Marina and Lorelei, will return for a visit even if it’s just for the day. She has been waiting on the morning of every full moon since the previous summer and it has been a disappointing year.
Once again, she is about to call it quits for the day when she hears her BFF – Best Friend with Fins – call her name. Marina has returned with Lorelei in tow. Rather than a one-day sightseeing trip, Marina has something else in mind.
In the world Mr. Tarsi has created for this series, merfolk have the ability to shuck their tails on the day of the full moon and walk amongst us. Their tails are an iridescent skirt-like garment which once removed, must be carefully hidden near the sea lest it fall into the wrong hands. Without it, they will be stranded on the shore, unable to return to their ocean home.
Now, one summer later, Marina has returned to begin the search for her mother who was apparently lost on land, eighteen years ago. This search will take at least a month and Marina wants Hailey to take care of her tail in the interim. Hailey will, therefore, get to fulfill her dream of dreams; the dream of becoming a real live mermaid, if only for a little while.
Although the Jill and Meredith have pledged to assist the search, their time is taken up with summer jobs. Marina will find that the search for her mother will proceed in fits and starts with dead-ends along the way.
Marina will also discover time and tide wait for no mermaid. The object of her brief summer romance has moved on to someone else. Jill’s brother, Jeff, made this move not because of disloyalty, but simply because he has not heard from Marina since the previous summer. Fear not, gentle reader, their romance is rekindled. It will be all the more interesting to see where Pete Tarsi takes this portion of the plot in future installments.
Although many of us would dearly love to trade in our legs for a tail and spend our lives in the sea, things beneath the waves are not always as nice as they may seem. In fact, there is something one might call ‘tail-ism’. Hailey learns a Mer’s place in life depends upon the colour of their tail. For example, those with green tails serve as scouts for the Mer school. Yellow tails harvest plankton for the school, while blue-tailed Mer are tasked with keeping predators away. The purple-tailed are at the top of the social order and the orange-tailed? They are very few and very far between.
Indeed, there is only one mermaid with an orange tail in the school – Marina. Her tail colour makes her something of a sport in the school. A sport which the school’s tail-ist leader is determined to rid the ocean of. Early in the story, when mer-mad Hailey reveals her costume tail is orange rather than the anticipated pink, it is little wonder that Marina’s eyes fill with tears. She is no longer the only one. Someone wants to be like her.
It would be easy for some to dismiss Marina’s search for her mother as simply a Disney-esque plot device. After all, most Disney heroines have lost at least one parent and in some cases, both parents are missing. In Marina’s case, her quest is heartrending because of the barriers she must overcome. There is, of course, the alien elements of the surface world and its culture. There is so much she has yet to learn and understand, not least of which is the complexity of life above the waves.
Marina is indeed fortunate to have friends like Hailey, Meredith, Jill, and Lorelei. Hailey might argue she herself is the truly fortunate one as she gets to be a mermaid for a month. It is these interactions between the characters which make Pete Tarsi’s story all the more charming.
A Wonderful Story
Simply put, Skipping the Scales is a sweet, smart, and poignant story that should touch the heart of any mermaid enthusiast. Age and/or gender is decidedly not a limiting factor regarding this story. There are those touching moments where the reader can easily feel the character’s sorrow, fear, or joy. When a story can make a reader, who is the diametric of the target audience, feel these things, it is the hallmark of a talented author.
It is little secret that this reviewer often views YA Mer-fiction as a vast wasteland littered with cliché-ridden stories. There are, of course, some novels which make the best of the seemingly inescapable mermaid clichés. Otherwise, this reviewer feels he could easily be like Carnac the Magnificent, holding the novel to his forehead and describing the plot therein.
Nonetheless, there are authors today who can and do deliver something new, something fresh, something exciting. Pete Tarsi is one such author and his ‘Scales’ series is a shining example of what stories in this sub-genre could and should be. This reviewer doffs his cap in respect to Mister Tarsi and his accomplishment. We are not worthy.
 In Biology, people previously used the word “sport” to refer to abnormal specimens. The scientific usage is broader, referring to any organism differing from the type ordinarily found in nature.
by Skye Malone
- Abide (Novella)
Reading a five and ½ book series in less than a week leaves one in a somewhat breathless state. That breathlessness is exacerbated by the fact that the series of books was extremely difficult to put down. However, sleep, meals, and showers eventually prevailed.
Rather than review each book individually, a daunting task in and of itself, this reviewer will look at the series as a whole. This reviewer will also dispense with his standard examination of the first 45% of the story.
Overall, the Awakened Fate series is a non-stop, action-filled adventure and Young Adults – as well as older readers – will get their money’s worth and well more. For those of you searching for a simple recommendation, this is a good point to stop and click on the ‘Buy’ button.
This reviewer has read so many mermaid–themed books over the past five years, that he’s lost track. While it has been fun, this reviewer has learned to recognise mermaid clichés. Although it’s hard for authors in this sub-genre to avoid them, it is how they are employed which makes all the difference. Skye Malone has artfully woven them into a thrill packed adventure series where they are hardly noticed.
The protagonist in this series is a 17 years-old red-head named Chloe Kowalski. She has spent all of her life in the American mid-west – Kansas to be specific – and has been blessed (or cursed – you decide) with a set of hydrophobic, nutso parents. The parental Kowalski’s have done everything in their power to obliterate references to the sea in their lives. Naturally, Chloe loves the idea of the sea, and as a result, has been grounded so many times, she ought to think she was a gopher. Her parents would no doubt like that.
Her best friend and next-door neighbour, Baylie, is off to see the other half of her blended family in Santa Lucina, CA and invites Chloe along. Being your normal late adolescent in a YA novel, Chloe agrees to go. She also fails to tell her parents.
An Awakened Fate
Chloe’s visit to the beach in Santa Lucina is one of those watershed moments in a person’s life. One of those moments where one starts to discover they are not what they thought they were. This moment sets off a roller-coaster ride of capture, imprisonment, escape, flight, surprise, terror, torture, threats to Chloe’s life, and duplicity. Lots and lots of duplicity. A lesser person would have cried ‘uncle’ after the first or second book. Fortunately, Chloe has a strong survival impulse. She also has some good friends in her corner.
Among those friends are two boys, Zeke and Noah. These two could not be more different. One is a merman – a prince to be precise – while the other is a greliaran. In case you’re wondering, these are beasts of magical origin, programmed to kill any merman or mermaid – referred to as dehaians – that dares to set foot or fin on the shore. Fortunately, Noah – along with his father and brother – is a changed being who has curbed his primal instincts.
While one may sigh that it’s just another ‘which one do I choose’ scenario, this one is different. It also contains an unexpected end. The reader is kept guessing until the story’s conclusion.
In a previous paragraph, I mentioned the ‘M’ word; Magic. The Awakened Fate series is infused with magic. This can be tricky, however. It is often used as a crutch to support a weak plot. In other cases, it is a driving force within the story. Skye Malone has done a brilliant job of weaving the magical element into the series.
There are car chases across the country as well as numerous plots against Chloe’s life. One of these includes a demonic version of Dr. Cliff Huxtable. (The irony is intentional.) This reviewer could blether on and on about the worthiness of this series but Awakened Fate speaks for itself and stands on its own merits.
No matter if you are YA, NA, OA, or even OF, the Awakened Fate series is a must read for anyone who likes a mermaid-themed thriller with plenty of action and a healthy dose of magic.
 For a more traditional version in a mer-themed context, please read The Fairytail Saga by S.K. Munt
 For a mermaid story with a bare minimum of magic, please read Urban Mermaid by Howard Parsons. This is a shameless plug, but I have bills to pay.
 Young Adult, New Adult, Older Adult, Old Fart.
The meme, “America will never be great again until . . .”, has been floating around Facebook for a few years. Accordingly, we decided to post our own take on it as a bit of Monday morning humour.
The image itself is of the Neptune statute on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, VA. Neptune was the Roman god of the sea, but was eventually conflated with the Greek god, Poseidon.
The residents of Colony Island use the names Poseidon and Neptune interchangeably. There is a decided preference for Poseidon, however.
For additional information on the subject of Roman vs Greek gods, please visit DecodedPast.com.
I am currently rocketing through a 5 & ½ book series – the ½ book is a novella – which was categorized on Amazon as “Teen and Young Adult”. This caused a double-take as I had previously believed the ‘Young Adult” designation to be a polite term for “Teen Fiction”. It would appear that readership categories are built upon shifting sands.
Up to now, my understanding was that “Young Adult” (YA) covered the 13 to 17 years’ age range while the awkwardly named “New Adult” (NA) covered 18 to 25. Those readers younger than 13 were classed as Pre-teen, Juvenile, etc. The boundaries of YA are a bit wobbly as some mavens set the lower limit as 14 years whilst others set the upper limit as 18 years.
One possible reason for this inexactitude is that the 13 to 18 age range spans several levels of maturity. Given that boys are a year or two behind girls, with regard to maturation, it’s easy to see why the boundaries are a bit fuzzy.
The same holds true for the 18 to 25-year age range. Your understanding of life at 18, when you’re leaving high school and headed for college, is much different from that at 25 when you’re married and trying to hold down a job.
What’s more, the categories themselves are not universally adhered to. At the 2016 BookExpo/BookCon in Chicago, the manager of the IBPA booth was barely aware of the NA category and thus placed Urban Mermaid on the shelves for Juvenile books. Based on this, any child receiving a copy for their birthday is in for a big surprise.
Just so everyone is straight on this, Urban Mermaid is for readers 18 and older. This does not mean the book is specifically aimed at the New Adult market. It is the author’s opinion that readers in the NA & Adult readership categories will relate to it more than YA readers. It was written in a style to attract the NA segment as well as older readers. Given that ISIS is regularly lopping off heads in the Syrian desert and the 2016 Presidential race makes you want to select “None of the above”, we could all use a simple, sweet, escapist kind of story.
Throwback Thursday on Facebook is the day when you post pictures of yourself from days of yore; You know, back when you had hair, a figure, teeth, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo for today’s TBT. I have, however, included an image of the HHS mascot as well as a somewhat more modern version of today’s subject.
The Old Hopewell High School
I attended the old high school for 8th & 9th grades. We moved to the new High School in 1967. Some folks refer to the old HHS as James E. Mallonee. Although I will agree that this was the name of its final educational incarnation, it was HHS much longer than it was JEM and thus, I will refer to it by the former title.
The Old Coke Machine
In the cafeteria, which was on the floor below the auditorium, there stood an old-fashioned Coke machine. You’d put your hard-earned money in the slot, a paper cup would drop in to the vending area, and Coke would be dispensed into the cup. Sounds simple, right?
During 9th grade, the coke machine saw that the end was in sight and had a nervous breakdown. Some of the behaviours it exhibited were as follows:
- You’d put your money in the slot, a cup would come down but the Coke would never show up.
- A cup would come down and enough coke to keep three students buzzed until school let out, would fill the cup with the overflow disappearing into the bowels of the device.
- The cup wouldn’t make an appearance but the coke still arrived on time.
- The cup would show up and the Coke would dispense but not in that order.
- The machine would drop cup after cup after cup. This would often happen at random intervals without anyone depositing their money.
- Then, there were the times when the machine would dispense Coke, sans cup & sans money.
- Every once in a while, you’d get lucky and the machine would dispense the right amount of coke into a single cup before you could even pull the money out of your pocket.
The New Hopewell High School
When we made the move to the new high school, the old Coke machine stayed behind. One can only assume that it went to a retirement home for old vending machines – commonly known as a junk yard. There is a slight possibility that they took the machine out behind the gym and . . . well, you remember Old Yeller, don’t you?
There was a new Coke machine waiting for us in the cafeteria which did not exhibit the rowdy behaviour of its predecessor. None the less, it had a few idiosyncrasies of its own. This machine didn’t hang around very long and was eventually replaced by a machine which provided Coke in cans.
Saturday evening, I drove from Hopewell to Richmond, all for the sake of a movie. The screening was held at the historic Byrd Theatre in the Carytown district. The theatre is one of the old time movie palaces and features a large Wurlitzer pipe organ. The Wurlitzer ascends from the orchestra pit for a brief concert before each showing.
There is not much legroom between your row of seats an the one in front of you. I guess people had shorter legs, back then. On the other hand, the popcorn is really good. I recommend getting the ‘Large’ for only $5.00.
The title to the movie was Imperium, based on the true story of Michael German. The plot concerns Nate Forester, a young and idealistic FBI agent who goes undercover to find leads on some illegally imported Caesium-137 and its relationship with active white-supremacist groups.
Nate’s character is played by Daniel Radcliffe. (Yes, THAT Daniel Radcliffe.) Moviegoers will get to see Harry Potter as a white supremacist skinhead. Sorry, but the flying broom and wizard’s wand are not included.
The movie is an edge-of-your-seat action thriller that does not disappoint. While one reviewer lamented the usual cop-goes-undercover clichés, other reviewers would have lamented their absence. If I’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that reviewers always have to whine about something. (I should know. I’m a reviewer, too.)
One great thing about the movie is that it was largely filmed in my hometown of Hopewell, VA. The world premier of Imperium was held at Hopewell’s somewhat historic Beacon Theatre. This is the first – and probably last – time Hopewell has hosted a red carpet event.
The shots of Hopewell are mostly generic ones. In other words, if you know Hopewell, you’ll recognise much of the background. It was fun, though, seeing the interior of the (fabulous) K & L restaurant and the interior of the Hopewell Quick Lunch used in a movie. In fact, it was fun trying to guess just where certain scenes were filmed. Unfortunately, a certain historic Sears house on Oakwood Ave. was not chosen.
You don’t have to be from Hopewell, VA – or even Prince George – to enjoy this move. It’s a tense thriller with a somewhat unsettling and timely theme.
Irony Dept. – I was standing on line outside the theatre with a heavily inked couple. The Byrd was screening Willy Wonka and the discussion came to the question, “Is Gene Wilder still around. The inked male checked his smart phone & indeed, Wilder was still kicking. This afternoon, they announced the star of Young Frankenstein has left the building. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.
A week ago, this morning, I joined the ranks of retired Americans. (Re-tyred is a play on the British spelling of “tire”. Brits & Canadians will get the humour. The rest of you probably won’t.)
The contractor position which had occupied my time for over 18 months, ended sooner than expected. Since I had planned for this job to carry me at least to retirement age, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. I could return to the soul-crushing task of trying to find another job – age discrimination at 58 would be a walk in the park compared to that at age 64 – or I could simply call time on my career and follow my
hallucination dream of becoming a writer.
It wasn’t even close! Retirement won, hands down. Of course, I did carry out due diligence by checking my company’s current openings for positions which matched my skill-set. Those positions I did find, all required me to relocate. With three houses to manage – my late mother’s, my late mother-in-law’s, and my own – the prospects of wrapping up 3 properties and disposing of a combined 100+ years of accumulated stuff, the chances of being able to complete my relocation anytime soon were slim and none. What’s more, I’d have to report for work at where-ever and my wife would be left with most of the work AND her own full-time job as well.
Like I said, it wasn’t even close.
So, after taking a week off to attend the 2016 Virginia Festival of the Book – more on that in a subsequent post – I’m back at my desk here in Hopewell, trying to sort out a book give-away, get going on my second novel, pay some bills, and establish some sort of daily routine.
So, what does this mean for The Parsons’ Rant?
Well, I’ve got two blog sites to deal with, now. There’s the Tails From Colony Island site (ColonyIsland.com) that deals with my series of novels. And then, there’s this one as well. I plan to limit posts on the Colony Island site to topics dealing directly with the series and to use this one for the usual ranting and raving.
The Parsons’ Rant has been neglected for the past couple of years. There are a number of things which no longer work and will require repair, replacement, or elimination. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. So, if you’re one of the loyal few who have followed The Parsons Rant through the lean times, thanks.
Now, to edit Chapter 1 of novel # 2 and also figure out why I can’t get any sound out of my PC this morning.