Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! Yesterday was officially the first day of pumpkin spice season Autumn, and to celebrate I decided it was time for a big change in my life. It’s been a year since I cut my hair, and it was looooong (for me). I hate my hair touching my neck, and it was well past my shoulders at that point, so I went to the salon and told my hairdresser to chop it all off and dye some of it magenta (like Erie!)
He looked HORRIFIED.
And then he talked me into doing copper highlights instead of magenta anything. He claimed it would match my skin tone, but I think really he was just scared that Hubs (who is also his client, and spends more money there than I do) would freak out. And he’s right – Hubs would have shit a brick if I came home with short, magenta hair. I didn’t really care, because mermaid hair, but my hairdresser asked if I trusted him and I said “of course” and then he turned me away from the mirror and got to work.
He put in strips of copper, which gives my whole head a sort of copper tone, but you can definitely see the stripes on the top, which is super funky and I love it. He left the front a little longer (he didn’t want to cut off all that hair, but I felt like a lion with a mane and told him it had to go), and shortened the back up quite a bit. He also did a bit of an asymmetrical cut, so one side is a little bit longer than the other (although you can’t tell in the photos), and the back is cut at a very shallow diagonal. It’s weird and I like it. Hubs loves it. And the hairdresser is super smart, because it’ll be long enough to bug me again soon, so I’ll be back to spend money again soon. Outsmarted once again!
Speaking of mermaid hair…I’ve been working on aging Erie up. It’s going pretty well so far, I think. I’m still waiting on CP feedback, but she definitely sounds older. But with fall I always miss Fie Eoin, and I spent much of that haircut yesterday rewriting the first couple scenes of NAMELESS in my head. Which makes me want to write them on paper. And it just so happens that the first fifty pages of Nameless is sitting on the desk next to me gathering dust…
I think we all know what I’ll be doing today.
I’ve read/listened to a bunch of books lately that I haven’t told you guys about. First was THE FOLD by Peter Clines – excellent sci-fi with an interesting premise and really exciting ending (I’m now listening to 14, which is a sort of prequel). Then THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renee Ahdieh – the setting was gorgeously done, but it’s a cliff hanger! I will definitely read the second one. QUEEN OF SHADOWS by Sarah J Maas – probably the best of her Assassin books so far. I will ship Chaol/Celaena forever and you can’t make me stop. And SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay – not my usual fare because there’s no fantasy element, but it was so well done that I read almost the entire thing in one day and then re-read the ending the next day. For a YA it had a lot of very adult elements. I was surprised at the number of F-bombs.
So there you have it, Aledans. This summer was rough, but I’ve cut out everything that was weighing me down and it’s time to make autumn awesome. I hope you have a wonderful first fall weekend, and I’ll see you next week!
Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! I woke up an hour and a half early this morning, so I’m a zombie today. Good thing I like brains (no really, fried brains is one of the tastiest foods I’ve ever eaten). Too bad there’s no place that I know of in Charleston that sells them :/
I think my next character will have to like all the offal that I do, just so I can gross people out by writing about it.
In current-character news: I finally figured out how to age Erie up (I hope). I re-wrote her first chapter, and now I’m working on the second. Then I’ll go through and change all the bits that I need to in the rest of it, especially since I dropped a minor character, and a fight scene, and the description of the Mer scales. I definitely need to find a place to add that description back in.
I have to say, it felt damn good to have a pen in my hand again. I’ve been doing all my editing straight onto the computer and I missed handwriting new words. And the writing! Wow. I was pleasantly surprised with how much better it was. I learned a lot writing and editing StO. I’m terrified to go back and look at FE now.
But hey, it won’t be the first time I’ve completely rewritten FE.
Or even the fourth time.
The baby chickens are growing fast and adorably ridiculous as always. They’ve learned how to hop/fly onto the patio furniture and the giant (empty) pots in the backyard. They eat constantly and are always underfoot now, begging for food.
My dad had a couple really rough days because his white blood cell count was so low, but his new bone marrow has started kicking in and making new blood cells for him, so he’s felt much better the past couple days. Hopefully he’ll be out of the hospital early next week, so fingers crossed everyone!
Happy Friday, Aledan Merfolk! I’m recovering from a nasty cold that kept me home on the couch yesterday, but don’t worry: hubs made a fantastic spicy dill pickle soup last night that has me feeling much better today (the Nyqil also helped).
Since I was couch-ridden, I spent most of the day watching HGTV and hanging out at #PitMad, pitching and RTing the pitches I enjoyed. A lot of fellow pitchers were excited by StO, but I didn’t get many favorites, and those that I got were small presses. While I think this will end up being a small-press book in the end, I would like to at least try to get an agent first, so I’m keeping them on my radar while I query.
Which isn’t going to happen right away. If there’s one thing I learned from PitMad and PitchWars, it’s that I have to age up Erie’s voice. I mean, I’ve known that from the beginning, but I also knew I could get away with it if anyone was accepting NA Spec-fic. They aren’t. So it’s time to make my little mermaid grow up, while still keeping her naïve enough that Finn doesn’t abuse her. It’s going to be hard. I’m going to ask a few people who critiqued my first Finn chapter (which was last week’s FEF if you missed it) to check out Erie’s first chapter, too.
I also decided I HATE StO in past tense. HATE IT. I couldn’t even get through the whole manuscript, so I went back through the present tense version with my brain that was primed to look for those weak spots I was finding, and edited that instead. I don’t know, maybe an agent or editor will tell me to change it someday, but for now I’m leaving it in first present. If I do end up changing it to past tense, it’ll be changed to third person as well. Which Erie’s half of the book was already in, so… yay?
The baby chickens have grown enough that they’re once again fearless. They may have forgotten the hawk, too, but I think they’re probably big enough that they’d cause some headaches for that hawk if it tried to catch them now. They run all around the yard instead of sticking to the bushes, and have started following Hubs and I around whenever we’re outside. They’re not quite sure about the dogs yet, but since this is our second set of chickens the dogs aren’t as interested in them. Hopefully we’ll get some eggs from them in a couple months (although it’ll be cold by then, so it may be next spring).
My dad’s transplant went well and he’s been resting all week while his body deals with the new bone marrow stem cells. After tomorrow he should start feeling better in exponential bursts, and plans to be out of the hospital by next weekend, so that’s awesome. Thank you for all the healing thoughts, Aledans!
Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you all next week. Perhaps for Science Tuesday? We’ll see how long it takes me to kick this cold 😉
Happy Friday, Aledan Merfolk! I know I said yesterday that I’m in the middle of changing from present tense to past tense in StO, but you’re getting the present tense version today because I haven’t had a chance to re-read and make sure the past tense version is solid. I know I haven’t told you much about StO other than it’s a mermaid novel, but I think you’ll get the gist of it real quick. So it’s time to meet Finn:
Chapter 1: Finn
I tap bubbles out of the pink euthanasia fluid, cap the syringe, and set it on the bench next to me before changing into my wet suit. Corporate tells the public the mermaids aren’t dangerous, but that’s bullshit. They killed another trainer last night, and now it’s my job to euthanize the offending mermaid—or in this case, merman.
Sergio de la Cruz zips up his wetsuit and claps me on the shoulder. “Ready, Finn?”
I snort. “You looking for a last will and testament? ‘Cause I didn’t leave you anything.”
Serge laughs. He knows he gets all my stuff—we’ve been best friends since preschool.
Hooking the syringe to a loop on my wetsuit, I take a deep breath, then shake the tension from my shoulders.
“You’re looking a little nervous there, bro.”
“Bismuth’s a big boy.” Science geeks to the core, we name the Mer after periodic table elements. “And he’s got the twins in the tank with him. Plenty could go wrong.”
“Nah.” Serge bumps my locker door closed and we make our way through the gray concrete halls of Oceanica to the practice tank that contains the three Mer. “They’ve been chilled. You’ll be fine.”
Reflected shadows quiver along the walls and condensation runs down the sides of the tank as we enter the practice room. Filters hidden in the walls hum and water gurgles where it enters the tank. Madison and Natalie wait for us at the bottom of the stairs, wetsuits on, eyes red-rimmed from another sleepless night mourning a friend.
The four of us ascend the metal stairs to the platform around the tank. The practice tank isn’t the largest at Oceanica, but it’s big. Nearly a million gallons—one fifth the size of the tanks they used for the orcas. Bismuth floats near the bottom, dark green scales against the bleary gray surroundings. His indigo eyes are wider than normal, sharp and intelligent, not the dead-eyed expression I’m used to. He was in the tank the last time we euthanized a Mer for attacking a trainer. Watching deters some of the Mer, but others get pissed and want to kill us. Like Bismuth.
Hopefully watching Bismuth foam will discourage the twins. Fluorine and Chlorine are impossible to tell apart with their ice-blue hair that’s mirrored in their eyes and the tips of their fins. They have the second most popular show at Oceanica, and after I finish with Bismuth, we’re going to have to go hunting for a new male to perform with them.
Euthanizing a Mer isn’t as easy as say, a dog. For one, they’re huge. With his tail, Bismuth’s got a good two feet on me. They’re also the perfect predator. Sharp teeth, sharper claws, more agile than a shark. And then there’s all the ridiculous regulations. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service has a strict set of rules regarding Mer husbandry, including euthanization. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has even stricter rules regarding trainer safety.
A net hangs over the side of the tank, a metal shepherd’s hook nearby. I cringe as nausea creeps through my stomach. That’s how they retrieved Craig’s body. Serge got the call from Oceanica while we were at the bar. Craig was supposed to join us after his training session with Bismuth and the twins.
Madison’s staring at the hook like she’s imagining what happened, and I squeeze her arm as I pass to grab the net. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Yeah,” she says, voice hollow.
Sergio grabs a long pole with an aluminum loop on one end from the wall. The electroshocker will send a current into the water, stunning the Mer. Natalie and Madison help me get the portable crane ready for the net. It’s almost too heavy for me to cast, which is why the electroshocker comes in handy. There’s no way I’d be able to catch a Mer while they’re swimming.
“Hit ‘em,” I say when I’m ready.
Sergio presses the button and all three of the Mer freeze, muscles contracting as lactic acid floods their systems, and float to the surface. It’s kind of cool, actually. With an expert flick of my wrist, the net soars over the water and the weights drop around Bismuth. I yank on the line to close the bottom, then unwind it from my arm and hook it to the crane.
Serge removes the shocker from the water. Natalie starts the crane and Bismuth thrashes, trying to get out. The twins swim in agitated circles like sharks as he’s lifted from the water, and the crane brings him to the side where Madison and I stand. I wipe my sweaty hands on my pants and grab a climbing hook attached to a rope. Bismuth’s webbed fingers reach through the netting, trying to sink his sharp claws into us. With a deep breath I dart in, clip the hook to the net, and duck away before he can grab me.
“Maddy!” I snap when she doesn’t move with the hook. “Pay attention or you’ll end up like Craig.”
“Sorry,” she mumbles and hooks the net.
I tie my line around a dock cleat and check that Maddy’s doing the same before lifting the syringe from the strap on my waist, pulling the cap off with my teeth, and stabbing it in Bismuth’s neck below his gills. Ten cc’s of pink juice flood his system.
The reaction starts in his gills, turning the tissue to foam. In a matter of seconds, his head is boiling away and foam moves down his chest, even as his tail twitches with muscle spasms. It’s disturbing to watch the first couple times, but the four of us are used to it now.
When Mer die, nothing remains. No scales, no hair, no skeleton. It all turns to seafoam. It’s one reason it took so long to find them—they don’t leave bodies behind. The only thing to prove Bismuth existed will be the video footage of his performances.
The hiss of a line unraveling grabs my attention from the show in the net. Maddy jumps to grab the rope. “Shit!”
Bismuth’s tail spasms and the net spins towards me. I try to jump out of the way, slip on the puddle of foam he’s created, and slam my knee on the metal platform. Pain roars through my leg. My hands fly into the air before I realize there’s nothing to grab and fall headfirst into the tank.
Saltwater shoots up my nose. Bubbles burst from my mouth. When they clear, there’s a pair of ice-blue, Area-51 eyes surrounded by bright green scales staring at me. I try to kick for the surface, but one twin’s claws sink into my leg, holding me under. Adrenaline rushes through my veins, hot in my stomach, and the other twin pierces my shoulders with her claws. I’m going to die. I grab the gills in her neck, the rakers cutting into my fingertips, and rip them. She screams in pain—the sound oddly clear in the water—and releases me as blood blooms around us. The twin with the claws in my leg yanks me further down. I gasp. Cold, coppery water rushes into my throat and lungs.
A thousand volts slam into my face and the world goes dark.
Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! The Busy World of Becka hasn’t calmed down at all, but things have definitely changed. I’m in the middle of revising StO from present to past tense, and debating switching it from first person to third (please no). I’m fixing my is/was issue, and finding plenty of weak spots where the present tense was adding urgency, rather than the writing. Once I have the tenses changed, I’ll go back through and fix those weak spots. If I can get that done asap, I’ll be trying #PitMad on the tenth.
You probably know that I didn’t make it into #PitchWars, although all the mentors I submitted to have emailed to tell me how much they liked StO and how hard they worked to find it a mentor. I got some good feedback, like the tense change above, and some that I already knew was a problem (Erie’s young voice, UGH). One mentor mentioned that it’s too close to The Little Mermaid, which I did on purpose, but may have to rethink now. Changing that will change the rest of the series, though, and I love the storyline for Book Three. I’m not quite ready to kill that darling.
And now that I think about it, you guys don’t even really know what SPEAK THE OCEAN is about, do you? Maybe we’ll have us a Fie Eoin Friday tomorrow 🙂 You’ve met Erie before, but you still need to meet Finn.
In chicken news: Fury went to the farm with Max. Stupid freaking roosters. But they’re happily together again and can crow to their heart’s content without waking me or the neighbors. The babies, Ripley and Mononoke (pictured above), are settling in to the daily routine really well, and staying in the bushes so they won’t be caught by the same hawk that got Six. They still aren’t too sure about Hubs, but they like my voice and will come fairly close, especially if I have food. They’re constantly moving, so they’re really hard to get a good photo of.
I swear to god if they turn out to be roosters I’m done with chickens. And eating two very nice chicken dinners.
Finally, today is Day Zero for my dad’s bone marrow stem cell transplant, and he’ll be getting the transplant sometime tonight or tomorrow morning. If you have any extra good thoughts to send his way, we’d appreciate it.
I’ll see you tomorrow for Fie Eoin Friday, Aledans! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and we’ll get back to the normal schedule around here soon.
Happy Monday, Aledan Merfolk! I’m back from my week-long trip home to see my parents and sister, and wow – so much has happened!
As you may have guessed from my last post, I submitted StO to #PitchWars and am impatiently awaiting the mentee announcement. Luckily, my time in Michigan kept me from wringing my hands too much last week, but this week I have plenty of time to stalk the mentors hang out on the hashtag. Before the submission window opened, I traded my first chapter with several other hopefuls, and after several years of CPs trying to beat my “is/was” issue into my brain, someone finally made it click. I’m not sure why this one comment made me suddenly understand, but now that I finally do it’s time to go back through StO to fix it. I was also told that publishers don’t like debut novels in present tense, so I’ll be changing the tense to past, which I feel more comfortable writing in anyways (Erie’s half of the book was in past tense in the first draft, but I changed it to present tense to match Finn’s).
That should keep me busy for the next few weeks.
The new shiny idea, which I’m going to call Enfields for now, is sort of shaping up into an actual book. I have a beginning, and an ending, and a general idea of some parts in the middle. I have some really cool creatures, like the enfields, and a little bit of nifty magic. I have an MC with a backstory, a love interest, a few side characters, and a bad guy. Most of all: I have a LOT of research to do. Which is awesome, because I love research. What can I say, I’m a scientist.
On the chicken front, a lot has happened. Max the rooster went to a local free-range farm to become a daddy. They lost a bunch of chickens this year, so they need Max to help fertilize eggs and build their numbers back up. Which should have left us with quiet mornings, but Fury decided to start crowing in his place. And, of course, as soon as we didn’t have a rooster to protect the flock, a hawk caught one of the babies 🙁 Fury got Ripley and Mononoke behind the coop and protected them, but Six is no longer with us.
So yeah, lots going on in the world of Becka right now.
I’m still posting sporadically for a while, so I’m not sure when you’ll next hear from me, but I’ll be around Twitter and G+ like usual. Have a good week, Aledans!
Hello #PitchWars peeps! Welcome to Mermaids and Margaritas. I’m Becka, head mermaid and margarita-maker.
I live in Charleston, SC, although I’m originally from Lansing and Grand Rapids, MI (and married a boy from Detroit). Said boy and I have been married for 9.5 years (been together for 15) and have lived in Charleston for eleven. We have two American Staffordshire Terrier mixes (one is part Dachshund. I know: ouch!), three cats (one came with us all the way from Michigan!), and five chickens. Three of those baby chickens arrived in a box barely bigger than a shoebox three days ago, and I’m already in love with them <3
This year, I submitted a manuscript called SPEAK THE OCEAN, and you’ve probably guessed that it’s about mermaids. Creepy mermaids. My mermaids can’t grow legs and become human. In fact, they’re one of the apex predators of the sea (sharks can and do kill them, but not often). Just like in the original Hans Christian Andersen story, my mermaids turn into seafoam when they die, which is why it took so long for humans to find them (no bodies). Because of my background in fisheries biology, my fantasy story is very much grounded in science, right down to the feeling of the electroshocker.
In college I was a dumbass and electrocuted myself while trying to collect fish in a river. That shit HURTS. Which is why—if you’re the MC and you feel that—you’re reluctant to use it on anything else, even a fish. Especially a fish that looks pretty damn humanoid. And a fish that’s pretty damn humanoid doesn’t learn to be quiet if it’s not shocked every time it makes a noise.
I think you see where this is going. Actually, you may not, because StO isn’t a romance. It’s more like this:
Once more with feeling. And blood. Lots of blood.
The whole marine biology thing didn’t work out because I enjoy working in a lab with chemicals that change color and things that go BOOM on occasion. I’m now a nuclear chemist—NO I DON’T MAKE BOMBS. I actually protect you from the bombs that are being made. I test water, soil, vegetation, and tissue samples for radioactivity, PCBs, pesticides, and herbicides, to make sure the bad things aren’t getting into the water and food supply. I’m one of the good guys 🙂
I’m a Whovian, a Cylon, a level 74 Night Elf Hunter (although it’s been a while), and a My Little Pony fanatic (I no longer collect, but I pre-date the Bronies by about 30 years). I have somehow turned into a backyard farmer.
But I’ve always been a mermaid.
Finally, my amazing CP Michael Mammay (who is also participating in PitchWars, but doesn’t have a blog to do a fun post of his own), wrote a testimonial for me:
Hi. My name is Mike, and I’m also entering Pitch Wars. I’ve worked with Becka on writing for the last year, and I’d like to provide this testimonial on her behalf.
She once killed a man with her bare hands. Don’t worry, he was totally a bad guy. He was mean to a puppy or something. And she may or may not have a Pegasus for a pet. I’ve never seen it myself, but South Carolina is a small state, and people talk. Oh, you want to know about writing? She knows like ALL the words. Rumor has it that she wrote the dictionary.
Seriously, she’s great to work with and takes feedback better than anyone I’ve ever met. And you can trust me on that. Because I’m Batman.
Mike is an amazing CP, and anyone would be lucky to have him as a mentee. Mostly because he’s willing to keep that secret about what happened to the mean-puppy guy…
You can find the other mentee bios by following this link.
Happy Monday, Aledan Merfolk! I haven’t been online as much as usual lately, and I’m afraid that’s going to continue for a while. In fact, I have some bad news: there will be no PonyFest this year. My dad will be in the hospital for his bone marrow transplant during the normal PonyFest time, and I just know I won’t be able to get everything ready during that time. Maybe I’ll do it a little later in the year, but definitely not around my birthday like normal.
I do plan to be querying during that time, and I’m debating PitchWars this week. I think I’ll join, but if I don’t get picked by a mentor I won’t be disappointed like I was with NAMELESS. I think StO is ready. I’m not 100% sure StO is ready, so it’d be nice to have another set of eyes on it, but I know it’s at least close. If I’m not chosen by a mentor, I’ll start querying.
Last time I posted, I was still working on the synopsis and query, and trying to decide what to work on next. I finished the synopsis and query (I still need a couple CPs to finish looking at them, but they were both on vacation last week), and I decided to focus my efforts on researching the new shiny project. It’s going to take a LOT of research. I have some good starting points, though, and a rough idea of the plot, and some excellent backstory for my still-nameless MC.
And if you remember the last update, I posted a photo of the “ladies” Mad Maxina and Imperator Furiosa. One of my writing buddies, Rebekah Loper (who also raises backyard chickens), mentioned that Maxina looked like a rooster, not a hen, and what do you know: she’s right. Mad Maxina is actually Mad Max! He began crowing that weekend, which isn’t great because our neighbors won’t appreciate that. If we wake up before he starts crowing and open the coop he stays quiet, so that’s how we’re dealing with the crowing for now. If he keeps it up, it might be time to make some coq-au-vin (joking! I wouldn’t be able to eat Max).
I’m going to go ahead and say that until further notice there won’t be a Science Tuesday post, but I DO have a guest poster on Friday! KT Hanna will be here to talk about the world-building for her new book, CHAMELEON. Definitely stop by on Friday for that – there’s a Rafflecopter giveaway!
Happy Thursday, Aledan Merfolk! I’ve had a bit of time to recover from the end of Draft Four, and I’ve already heard back from a couple of friends that they loved it (the CPs have been curiously quiet…). I’ve been spending the week working on the synopsis and query, and although the synopsis is still very rough and makes the entire book sound stupid, the query is getting itself into shape.
I’ve also been reading a couple CP projects, and reading SABRIEL by Garth Nix. It took me a while to really get into it, but once I got to Touchstone, I’ve been devouring it. I’ll finish it today – probably at lunch. Then I have to decide what to read next.
And what to work on next. I really miss Fie Eoin, and I know fixing NAMELESS wouldn’t be too difficult, but I’ve already gone through a year of rejections on Nameless. Assuming StO goes anywhere, I don’t want the answer to the question “what are you working on next?” to be “something you already rejected.” And I don’t want to work on StO2 in case StO never sells. So I’m left with the option of fixing another already-written book (Phooka Tales, probably, since that would be in line with the paranormal fantasy thing going on in StO), or working on something completely new. I do have a “something completely new” rolling around in my brain, but so far there’s not much story, and the MC doesn’t even have a name yet. So we’ll see. I’m still quite fond of the monsters in PT, but this new story has enfields (a fox/hawk hybrid), and a mute MC, which would be a fun challenge to write since I rely so heavily on dialogue.
In super exciting awesome news: they found a bone marrow donor for my dad, so I’ll be flying home next month to see him when he goes into the hospital for the procedure. Expect my online presence (and especially the blog), to be sporadic for the next couple of months.
This weekend I have two awesome custom ponies for you, so be sure to come back on Sunday to see that. And until next time, I’ll leave you with a photo of my ladies, who are growing fast and almost ready to start laying eggs!
Happy Tuesday, Aledan Merfolk! I’ve had a whirlwind couple of weeks working on Speak the Ocean, and I’m happy to say that I finished Draft Four at lunch! Draft Four was by far the most difficult, because it included looking for all those little problem words I overuse while writing. Guess what my biggest problem word is? Look. Mostly in the context of “[character] looks [emotion]”, which I had to ruthlessly delete and show instead. And despite the extra description, I still managed to delete a ton of extra words. Plus, you know, it reads smoother now.
It took me three days to find and fix all the instances of “look”. There were 384 of them in a 366 page book. I’m also quite pleased that I got to use “ogle” in place of one of those looks. What a fun word.
So now StO is off with the final round of CP’s, and I have a couple weeks to breathe. I have to write the synopsis and query, of course, and I have a couple of CP projects to critique, but I think it’s high time I headed back to the mountains to work on Fie Eoin. I miss home <3