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

As of 10:30 this morning, 11 ARC copies of Urban Mermaid were on their way to the lucky few who get to read Penelope’s story before anyone else does. I had originally planned to mail them out during lunch on Friday but decided to wait 24 hours so they’d receive the coveted Hopewell, VA postmark. (Remember, not EVERYTHING is postmarked “Hopewell, VA 23860”.)

Now, it’s all up to the Urban Mermaid Review Crew. I’ll know in about a month or so. Then, it’s off to the printer’s and on to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and any other place that sells books. For those of you with e-readers, there’s a digital version as well.

So in October, I’ll take my tweed jacket with the elbow patches to the dry-cleaners and fish out my horn-rimmed glasses. I’ve already got the pipe!

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

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

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

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

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

sower_comes by Melissa Eskue Ousley

Believe it or not, there are some things even more mind numbing than waiting for the last day of school, having a job you hate or waiting to be “grown up”. One of those things is sitting in a desert, endlessly counting grains of red sand without pause. It is so mind numbing that one could easily forget their own name. That is precisely the situation in which Abigail – sometimes known as Abby – Brown finds herself in the opening chapter of Melissa Eskue Ousley’s The Sower Comes, the third and final installment of her Solas Beir Trilogy.

This, then, is The Wasteland – the world that serves as a place of perpetual punishment. Blessed with a dome of cobalt blue sky, it offers nothing else but red sand as far as the eye can see, and is only reachable through a portal between the worlds of Ms. Ouseley’s vivid imagination. It is not important at this moment to know just how Abby wound up in this place. As for herself, counting those red grains of sand is the most important thing; not escaping.

At first, Abby doesn’t notice that she’s suddenly not alone. It takes the instant pecking of a large, black as night raven. This bird is named Brarn and has been a somewhat minor, but nonetheless significant, character since the first book in this series, The Sign of the Throne. Brarn doesn’t have a speaking part, so we don’t expect him to say “Nevermore” or other such pithy phrases. Brarn does, however, know the way back to the world of Cai Terenmare; he knows the way home. It is up to Abby to follow.

Suddenly, she felt very small. She looked down at her fingers, her hands, but they were gone. In their place were white wings. She was the white raven once again.

The black raven cocked his head toward her and then dove through the glass of the mirror. Abby followed.

A lot has transpired since Abby was sidetracked into a career as a sand-counter. Lucia, who seemed to die at the hands of Tynan Tierney once her usefulness to him was over, has been restored to health and now occupies a cell in the dungeon, awaiting trial. The havoc that she has wrought upon Cai Terenmare’s inhabitants is equal to the damage done by Tierney. David, the Solas Beir, will sit in judgement and given that she was both responsible for his abduction and indirectly responsible for the brutal deaths of David’s foster parents in The Sign of the Throne, Lucia is going to have to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat in order to avoid a sentence of death.

The Dowager Queen Eulalia is due to marry the knight of her dreams and will soon be followed in matrimony by Abby and her betrothed, David. There are a couple of issues that threaten to put a damper on things such as Abby’s childhood friend, Jon, being MIA and presumably still held captive in the city of the Eastern Oracle. And then, there are the strange deaths in a fishing village and in the highlands to the north. Yes, there are worrisome things in the offing but nothing will spoil the happiness of the two upcoming weddings.

One of this reviewer’s favourite quotes of all time comes at the end of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and serves to convey – at least to the reviewer, anyway – a sense of what is to come in Cai Terenmare.

However, this was before Inigo’s wound reopened, and Westley relapsed again, and Fezzik took the wrong turn, and Buttercup’s horse threw a shoe. And the night behind them was filled with the crescendoing sound of pursuit. . . .

The ‘what’ or rather, the ‘whom’ that is to come is The Sower, an offspring born from the unholy coupling of David’s father and the Western Oracle of the day who was, by anyone’s standards, a nasty piece of work. However well-intentioned his father’s liaison may be been in order to protect his kingdom and his son-to-be, it is that same son, David, who must deal with the results of that pairing – the monster which Tynan Tierney has finally unleashed upon the world of Cai Terenmare.

Something was rising from the pool, something dark with reptilian scales like armor and a spine ridged in horns. The spikes protruding from the creature’s back looked sharp enough to impale him.

David’s fear increased tenfold. He’d been hoping to engage in hand-to-hand combat with a man, and, worst-case scenario. Figured he would have to battle Sholto’s spirit animal. But he had no idea that the Sower would be a leviathan like this.

“Fantastic”, Jon breathed. “It’s a freaking Godzilla.”

All too often, the final instalment of a series turns out to be the final wheeze from the author who has somehow lost the concept somewhere along the way. A series that started out so brightly is met with a discordant sigh of relief when the reader turns the last page and closes the book.

This reviewer is happy to report that Melissa Eskue Ousley has avoided that fate and has done so quite handily. Her writing is as fresh and as riveting at the end of The Sower Comes as it was in the opening pages of The Sign of the Throne. Ms. Ousley built upon that early momentum in The Rabbit and the Raven and maintained it superbly throughout this final installment.

Adolescence is a time when young minds begin to stretch themselves and wander through both strange and familiar realms of possibilities. The Sower Comes and its predecessors place the Young Adult reader in the heart of a marvelous and chilling adventure that may very well seem as real as life itself. Is the plot of this story and the situations which it presents a metaphor for the life and choices that we must all face at one time or another? It is up to the readers to determine that for themselves. It cannot be denied, however, that Ms Ousley’s books are among the best in contemporary Young Adult Fiction.

When the entire courtyard was alight, David spoke one last time. “It is the power of the light and the power of love that ensure peace and prosperity for all in our kingdom.”

He turned to Abby, and as one, they let their orbs go, guiding them gently into the air with their hands. Around them, everyone released their cerulean spheres.

Together they watched the shimmering orbs float up into the night sky until they were indistinguishable from the stars.

With cover art for Urban Mermaid in the works and a batch of edits on their way to me – I hope – in time for the Memorial Day week-end, there’s not much else I can do at the moment except work on the sequel which is what I did this last week. One of the major themes of this story is a – very – silly crush which one of the peripheral characters has on one of the central characters in UM. If asked, she would tell you herself that the aforementioned crush is silly – the word ‘obsessive’ also comes to mind – and totally impossible yet it is her primary form of entertainment. The trouble is that this crush is causing problems and winds up driving a wedge between the character and her VBFF. The chapter I’m playing with at the moment contains one of the turning points in the story which leads the character to move beyond this crush – OK, it’s almost a monomania – and begin developing an actual life of her own.

I spent a considerable amount of time during our Bermuda cruise last week – It was terrific, thanks for asking! – explaining all this to my wife as well as why I have to walk a fine line in writing the Colony Island series. It is worth noting here that my wife of 40 years – August 3rd is the precise date – has little or no interest in reading fantasy novels or going to movies with fantasy themes. While she did insist on seeing the Lord of the Rings saga, it was easy to tell that she would have rather been doing something – almost anything – else during that time. (To be honest, I did feel that way during The Two Towers.)

I suppose I should take a moment to explain that the series, Tails from Colony Island, deals with merfolk who have moved from the sea on to land and try to live a normal – read human – existence. Indeed, they are pretty much like the rest of us – except for the fish tail bit. The world of Colony Island changes all because a mermaid living and working in the big city falls in love – much to her chagrin – with a human. The sequel is a love story as well which kinda-sorta makes me a romance writer. (How successful a romance writer I’ll be remains to be seen.)

The fine line has to do with how I create, develop and employ my characters. As I mentioned earlier, they are pretty much like the rest of us. If I make them too much like us, then the story becomes rather dull and our lives are hum-drum enough as it is. On the other hand, if I make the characters too different and exotic, I lose the premise for the series and the stories become something else entirely. So far, the main differences have to do with sex and marriage. That alone should be enough to draw people into the tent. Whether you’re a NASCAR driver or an author, the hardest thing in the world is to be consistent and consistently good, at that. I’ll start to have an idea as to how I shape up come the end of Sept.

It has finally started to sink in; this idea that I’ve actually written a novel and it’s actually going to be published in less than five months’ time and I’m going to have a launch party and will probably have to sign four or five copies. The final blow on my noggin’ came Sunday evening when my brother congratulated me and told me how proud he was that I had done this.

My (kid) brother; the one who has made his living as a writer for the past twenty years and has earned more professional awards than one can shake the proverbial stick at. I know that my mother was proud of his accomplishments – Mom always liked him best, anyway – while she was, more often than not, a bit befuddled about what I did for a living.

Mom, see? This is the programming language I invented and it lets us publish law books from a database!

Do what? A data . . . what? Have mercy!

My only regret is that I didn’t do this six years ago when she would have been able to hold a printed copy of Urban Mermaid in her hands. I doubt that she would have ever made it past the prologue – much less understood what an “urban fantasy” was – Anne of Green Gables was more her speed.

“People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?” ― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

The biggest thing that I’m just starting to realise is the fact that I have to all of this all over again – five or six more times – before the story of Colony Island and its inhabitants is finally told. While I really don’t have to do anything after this, I’ve seen too many authors complete their first book with promises of more to come and then you never hear from them again except for having babies and getting tattoos – I mean tattoos on the author, not on the baby.

All that being said, it’s time to stop writing about ‘me’ and get back to writing Sirena, the second book in the Colony Island series.

Exciting, to say the least!

Exciting, to say the least!

Urban Mermaid will be published under GGP’s Moonlight Gardens imprint.

Pouraka Cover Art

Pouraka Cover Art

by Dianne Lynn Gardner

Nihil novi sub soleThere is nothing new under the sun. This Maxim from Ecclesiastes could certainly be said to hold true within the realm of mer-fiction as it is a ground which has been plowed many, many times. Plots involving vast undersea cities, sub-aquatic strife, sea-witches, battles with monsters and/or humans, unrequited love, and of course, the perennial favourite of a teen-aged girl/boy suddenly discovering that they are in actuality, a mermaid/merman. This is not to say that such stories boasting these plot-lines – or variants thereof – are dull-making or not worth reading. Indeed, they can be fun, exciting, thrilling, endearing, and a veritable fin-fest. Every once in a while, however, the devoted connoisseur of mer-fiction yearns for something new, something different.

All is not lost. Of late, there have been two mer-novels that have covered fresh territory and have proven to be quite enthralling. The first, Flippin’ The Scales by Pete Tarsi, has already been discussed by this reviewer. The second entry, Pouraka by Dianne Lynn Gardner, is the subject of this review and is undoubtedly a quite noteworthy book.

We poor, landlocked humans are inclined to think of mermaids – and mermen, of course – as living a wild and free existence in the oceans of the world, having the occasional dolphin sidekick with whom they pass the time of day and are happy and joyous 24 x 7. The world which Dianne Garner has created for this story is far different than the one of our imaginations. It is a world where merfolk are a hunted species under constant encroachment by humans, tourists, and oil rigs. The ocean waters that border the land are rapidly becoming an inhospitable place to abide, evocative of the book of Amos, 7:17. “ . . . your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided by line; and you shall die in a polluted land . . . “ Their dire situation invites the reader to apologise for being human.

Tas is a merman who can no longer remain silent or idly by while his clan slowly dwindles. They continue to be hunted by humans and first his beloved mother fell victim and now his older brother has been wounded by their harpoons. To spend another season where they presently are risks extinction for the entire group. His idea is to take the members of his clan – including the aged and the wounded – North where the hope of a better life – or even simply life itself – beckons.

Conditions are somewhat different for merfolk to the North where Barnacle Bay lies. The merfolk have, overall, a better life and their home cavern – called in the mer tongue, Pouraka – has long provided a comfortable home and although pollution has impacted their food supply to a certain degree, they are much better off than those who live to the South. One of their advantages is that they and their home are protected by the humans who reside in the town beside the bay.

Cora is one of Pouraka’s denizens and she is rather fond of the humans who live on the shores of barnacle bay. Though the magic of Pouraka’s waters, which are jealously guarded by the merfolk, Cora is able to leave the sea behind and walk amongst her shore-bound neighbours, not the least of whom is her best friend, Beth. While Cora is always quick to defend her human friends and protest that not everyone who walks on two legs is a threat to mer-kind, she is nonetheless somewhat naïve as to how the world above the water’s surface works.

Despite the initial impulse of some merfolk to turn away the refugees from the South, they are given shelter and in time, absorbed into the Pouraka colony. It is through this gift of sanctuary that Cora meets Tas and he soon begins to play an increasingly important role in Cora’s emotional life. Sadly, whatever respite the southern merfolk might have gained by seeing refuge in Pouraka is short lived. The northward progression of oil hungry humans continues bringing with it arrogance, death, greed and plunder. The merfolk may be able to run but they cannot hide and a time is fast approaching when hard choices will need to be made.

Dianne Lynn Gardner has woven a thoughtful and provocative story for young adults that is as much about the choices in life which we all must face as it is about scales, tails and survival below the surface. Through the eyes of the mermaid, Cora, readers will learn that life and the world in which we live is not always as simple as we would like to believe. There are two romances in MS Gardner’s story and before the final word on the final page, irrevocable choices will need to be made and each will result in a sundering. Readers – both young and old – will enjoy this story for the plot itself as well as the thought provoking questions which it presents.

Dianne Gardner is without a doubt one of those multi-talented people that those of us who fall into the realms of ‘ordinary’ and ‘really ordinary’ cannot help but envy. Aside from being an author, she is also an illustrator, oil painter and filmmaker. Pouraka is Dianne’s first real foray into the genre of mer-fiction and it is this reviewer’s considered opinion that she seriously contemplate one or more return visits. If she can maintain her fresh approach to the subject, MS Gardner will find a ready and enthusiastic audience.

My Rating:

Visit Dianne Lynn Gardner’s Website at gardnersart.com

Flipping The Scales

Flipping The Scales

by Pete Tarsi

Some of you just may remember that episode of The Smurfs where Smurfette put on these magical dancing shoes and then couldn’t get them off her feet and was forced to keep dancing and dancing. Well, that episode was based on The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Anderson who also wrote The Little Mermaid. Since neither of these stories – as originally written – had the sort of Disneyesque ending that people prefer these days, we’ll end the comparison with Flipping the Scales by Pete Tarsi right here. Just hold on to that idea about Smurfette not being able to get those shoes off her feet for the next few paragraphs.

It is sunrise one morning and summer vacation is already two weeks old. At least it is for teen-aged human girls. However, the two girls coming ashore on an island beach are not human; at least not in the conventional sense. The girls are named Lorelei and Marina and they are mermaids looking to spend a day amongst the human population to enjoy all sorts of things like ice cream. At least Lorelei is – she’s done this before. Her companion isn’t so sure and would happily turn tail and head for deep water at that moment. In the world that Mr. Tarsi has created for this story, merfolk have the ability to shuck their tails on the day of the full moon and walk amongst us. Their tails are an iridescent skirt-like garment which once removed, must be carefully hidden near the sea lest it fall into the wrong hands. Without it, they will be stranded on the shore, unable to return to their ocean home.

Lorelei has done this many times but Marina is a novice who is finally cajoled into hiding her tail and joining her best friend for a day of adventure. Marina is not the only teen-aged girl who has been cajoled into doing something she would rather not. Jill and her best friend Meredith are on their way to that very same island to spend three weeks with Jill’s cousin, Hailey, and her parents. Pete Tarsi doesn’t name the island in question but it’s OK to think of Block Island or Martha’s Vineyard if you like.

Meredith is an extremely bright young lady with two over-achieving parents. Her mother is no Princeton Mom and has thus lashed her daughter to a treadmill of no fun, no boys and no dating until she is well established in her career, some twelve or fifteen years hence; even longer if she decides to pursue one or more advanced degrees. Meredith is heavily into extracurricular activities and she is permitted to enjoy them as long as they serve to further burnish her high school transcript. With all that knowledge stuffed into her head, she regularly plays the pedant, much to the annoyance of Jill and most everyone else her age. Meredith’s main objective for the next three weeks is reading, reading and more reading. No time for anything resembling fun.

Fortunately, Jill and Hailey are pretty much normal girls and they see it as their duty to make sure that Meredith has something not unlike a normal summer vacation; for her sake as well as theirs. Three weeks with an insufferable stick-in-the-mud is not their idea of fun. Once Meredith has been kitted out for some time by the sea, the girls head for the water, crossing the private beach in front of Hailey’s house – the very same beach on which our two mermaids had come ashore. Meredith finds this piece iridescent fabric that resembles a skirt. Even though she is not clothes crazy – or hair crazy or boy crazy – like Hailey and Jill, Meredith nonetheless decides to try it on. Surprisingly, it fits very well – too well, in fact – and things start to happen. Try as she might, Meredith can’t take it off and before you can say ‘Ariel’ three or four times, her legs are history and in their place is an orange mermaid’s tail.

When Marina and Lorelei return to the beach as sunset approaches, they discover that Marina’s tail has gone missing. Sunset waits for no mermaid and Lorelei returns to her natural element while Marina spends a long and lonely night by the water’s edge. It is not until the next day that she and Lorelei encounter the three girls and discover their mutual problem. There are no exceptions to the rules and both Marina and Meredith will have to wait until the morning of the next full moon before they can trade places and return to their normal lives. In the meantime, Marina is going to try and pass for human with Jill and Hailey’s help and Lorelei has the unenviable task of trying to help Meredith pass for mermaid. The next four weeks are going to be long ones for all concerned.

Pete Tarsi has three very fortunate daughters. He wrote Flipping the Scales for them and it is very much a fun read, easily surpassing almost any bedtime story imaginable. He has taken the simple idea of a human girl and mermaid accidentally switching places and has fleshed it out into a captivating story with five likeable characters with whom young ladies can easily identify. Mr. Tarsi’s story is suitable for readers from middle school to well within the high school age range. Anyone who has ever wished that they were a mermaid – or merboy – will delight in the world which he has created.

There is much more to Flipping the Scales besides the tail switch. There are a couple of nascent romances, an exploration of life both below and above the waves, an elementary physics lesson or two, and a couple of mysteries as well; not the least of which is just what sort of secret is Hailey hiding behind her bedroom door. There is plenty of action, adventure and discovery in Pete’s story and those who take the time to dive into this tale of tails will be happy to learn that the author plans to develop this into a three-book series.

As a reviewer who has read more than his share of mermaid stories, I am more than pleased to say that Pete Tarsi’s wonderful story is a welcome addition to the genre and is a ‘must read’ for anyone – female or male – who wants to explore this particular realm of fantasy. If you like and enjoy stories about mer-folk, do not let the book’s intended target audience put you off. Simply take the plunge and enjoy this wonderfully refreshing story.

My Rating:

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.

This Month’s Rants

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Dr. Data has PAD - Pipe Acquisition Disorder

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