Being Mermaid: Creating Story

DSCN0959I’ve written a yet-to-be-published novel about a mermaid living in today’s ocean whose story is as much about being a woman as it is about being a mermaid, maybe more. Being Mermaid: From Out of the Sea

She has a fish tail, lives on an isolated island in the Caribbean and struggles with issues dealing with family, their expectations of her and those of herself.

Like many women today, she is faced with the results of the choices she makes. They challenge her. They develop her. They define her.


Worldbuilding is an element of the writing craft referring to the creation of the imaginary world within which fantastical characters live. For the next few posts, I’ll be sharing my mermaid’s world.

As the ocean life came alive in my mermaid’s story, I had one goal: Make it as believable as possible.

I want you to believe that mermaids could, indeed, exist among us today.

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”   ~Toni Morrison

Being Mermaid: From Out of the Sea


I’ve completed an unpublished novel about mermaids who live on an isolated mangrove island in the Caribbean Sea somewhere between Cuba and the Grand Cayman Islands.

The writing of their story has taught me the amazing power of fiction in its freedom to develop lives and places out of fact, legend and nothing at all.

The mermaid Tanis is one of those beautiful and mysterious females of the sea. She lives in contemporary times, though she doesn’t know what a minute is or a day; her life is counted in moon cycles and sun cycles and seasons. The size of her favorite fish, the tarpon, isn’t five feet but two mermaid tail lengths long. When she’s hungry, she eats seagrass, which is sweetest when its young.

I’ve made up basic facts like these about her life because they make sense for a family of ocean creatures.

I’ve also incorporate myth. Why not?  Myth serves a purpose in our lives. It must or it wouldn’t have endured since its origins during the eighth century.

Like Sasquatch and Yeti, mermaids are a part of mythology to me. No matter how outlandish a myth may be–Really, Hercules held the world on his shoulders?–there exists a kernel of truth in the telling.

One ancient myth concerns mermaid-like women called Sirens who use their seductive singing to lure sailors to their deaths. In Homer’s epic Greek poem, The Odyssey, Odysseus’s crew stuffs beeswax in their ears as they sail toward the land of the sirens. Unlike his men, Homer goes without the wax; he wants to hear the sirens’ enchanting sound. To survive, Odysseus’s crew tie him to a mast and promise not to release him no matter how he begs.

Like the Sirens, the mermaids on mangrove island are also musical; singing is their main form of communication. They resonate their emotions musically. Music is so vital, every mermaid creates her and his personal song throughout life. When mermaids die, their personal song lives after them. These intimate tunes are like scrapbooks and are sung again and again throughout the generations.

Tanis is a modern-day mermaid with an ancient background.

The View Out the Window

I wish I didn’t need resolutions for writing. I would have hoped after six years into my career, I’d have succeeded in following a regimen. Sadly, I am one of those who needs to reboot.

My goals: Write more. Catch up on what’s going on in the writing world. Correct my laxity in using social media.

Fortunately, I’m making an excellent head start by house sitting–the perfect and perfectly free writing retreat.

I house sit for friends and family. For one week or more, I am mainly responsible for picking up mail, taking trash to the curb and feeding the cat or cats or fish.

The rest of the time is mine, mine, mine.

Bonuses include a stocked refrigerator and a breathtaking view out the window.  IMG_0101


Turning Leaves and Turning Inward

I notice the opinions are mixed on who likes or doesn’t like the transition of summer into fall. In Ohio, the movement is rather dramatic. But I want to talk about a change that takes place that I particularly look forward to as tree leaves color and drop, pumpkins sit in almost every yard and temperatures cool.

I turn inward, where I write best.

The outside noise quiets down. Nighttime descends early. These enticements encourage me to retire to my desk or easy chair, open up the keyboard or pull out the paper and pen and write.

It may be why a lot of artists work into the night when they create. There’s less interference from the outside world.

Wrapped up in silence and darkness, the imagination journeys into areas that must be captured in print.

DSC00077          From there, stories are born.

“The Red Ball” Earns the Cut


I had five pages to convince the judges that my short story was the best.

Midwest Writer’s Workshop of Muncie, Indiana, has a five-page maximum length requirement for its entries in long fiction, nonfiction and short and one hundred lines for poetry. No exceptions.

“The Red Ball” is a futuristic tale of a young man who rarely steps outside and a young woman who does, for thirty minutes every night while the city detection system goes offline.

It was seven pages long.

The judges expected to read incomplete entries, but wouldn’t it be to my advantage if I could end the story within the limit?

I trimmed.

Like lovely locks of hair, my story lost its extra curls of enriched characterizations. The words weren’t shorn for good, I consoled myself, only stored away in another word file.

“The Red Ball” took Best Short Story. Placed against the winning pieces in all four categories, it also earned me the Top Writer Excellence Award.

In the end, I couldn’t deny it: the impact of the tightened, five-page story was sharper.

The judges thought so, too.

Two Stories are in an Anthology, Romantic Ruckus

I notice how anxious I’ve become to get every aspect of this writing business covered.

I most enjoy the writing. I like the solitariness of it. My favorite spot is curled up in my chair with my computer on my lap, typing out a new story or editing an older one.

However, I won’t get anywhere unless I go after selling markets. Thank goodness for the Internet. I search online. I read what my fellow writers on Facebook and at my writers’ group are submitting to. Making my own list of possibilities, I send my stories out. No stamps. No envelopes. No waiting for a phone call or an envelope back.

The quickest rejection was four hours. Others took longer. Some came with a personal comment as to why it wasn’t being accepted.

Finally, an editor who was looking for quirky funny romantic stories, took one of mine. Then she asked if I had any more and she took a second one. What joy!

Now my professional writer’s resume is looking pretty, well, professional. I’m not feeling too bad either.


“Migration” and “Big Screen Romance” are my two contributions here.

Romantic Ruckus, edited by Kara Leigh Miller.

Emerging From The Chrysalis

I notice how penitent I feel as I come back to my blog after being gone for a little more than a year. I want to apologize to someone. I feel like the dog who missed the newspapers and is looking at her human with sad eyes.

My reasons for my absence are valid. I’ve experienced drastic changes in my family, which required much of my focus. The center of my life, my mother, passed way last Thanksgiving. Since then I’ve been working with my family on the process of selling the home where all six of us kids grew up.

However, the most valid reason I’ve been gone is I fell out of practice.

I won’t dillydally about it. Let’s rip off the bandage in one strong pull. I am back and I am going to come here more often.

Like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, I stretch my wings.

Oh, look! A whole field of wild flowers!              DSCN0253



A Retreat is Really A Step Forward

I am tucked away on the third floor of this one-time convent and Catholic college for girls. A powerful place to write.

I am tucked away on the third floor of this one-time convent and Catholic college for girls. A powerful place to write.

I notice how energized I feel as I walk to my cell of a room, the sole person on this floor at this retreat center.

The Catholic nuns have got their act together. The number of women entering Catholic convents is dwindling. Various orders of sisters are compensating by renovating their convents and sisters-only retreat centers and opening them to the public.

I have three such places within four hours of me where I may spend a weekend or longer. The one in the picture offers meals every day, not just weekends. All provide quiet spaces, a desk, and a wifi signal.

I am in heaven.

Even though I have my own house basically to myself, I am distracted by work I do for other organizations and the chores of everyday living. In my room away from home, in a place taken care of by others and where meals are cooked, presented, and cleaned up by others, I sit at a desk, guilt-free, and go to it.

I sense the history of women praying, studying, focusing their lives on holiness in the days when these convents were full. The energy is powerful.

My connection with my imagination, diction and composition intensifies during this time in retreat.

The work is also powerful and the process sacred.

A Convention of Rejuvenation


Writing Panel “Don’t Ever Let Me Catch You Doing This” featuring Dayton horror writers, Brady Allen and Tim Waggoner.

I notice the excitement generated by a writing convention and how valuable it is to reigniting my own drive to keep writing and learning the publishing business.

I recently attended Context 25, one of my favorite conventions because its focus is on writers and readers of science fiction and fantasy. Many of its offerings are free with registration: one-hour panels on everything from “Children Characters in Fantasy and Horror” to “Nanotechnology.” Other sessions are more intensive and longer and cost extra. Two of the three of my choice were “World-Building” and “Revising Your Manuscript.”

I love being a student and taking notes; listening to interviews with guest of honor writers in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Editing; asking questions of the experts. I write it all down in a journal used exclusively for anything relating to writing, whether the source is a convention, workshop, online or in magazines.

My top task is connecting with other writers and those involved in publishing. Small talk isn’t my forte. How do I sidle up to strangers and just chat? Here, the Con Suite is a good beginning. It offers free food, snacks, sweets, and nonalcoholic beverages. Usually, some of the seasoned writers, singers (called filkers), boasters, thinkers, talkers come to sit around the tables and share stories. After a few minutes, I feel like I fit in.

Chatting gets easier as the weekend passes. Seeing similar faces at various activities builds camaraderie. Shared experiences lead to writing discussions.

A mere weekend is exhausting, but only physically, and mostly due to less sleep. What is accomplished is my rejuvenation of spirit. It is only with perseverance that a new writer can make inroads into professional publication. This age of e-books and self-published books is shaking up the traditional book publishing process. I can get lost in that surge of change. But if I stick with it, I will find my way.

Writing conventions like Context in Worthington, Ohio, buoy my spirit and energy level. I return home to the rather solitary life of a writer, eager to write something new and focused to submit something already written.


Cursive is Queen: Power of Pen, Pencil and Paper

I notice I write with a pencil and paper when I really need to connect to my words and my story.

It’s old school. Maybe. William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen and thousands of authors penned their stories, literally.

How many would have chosen the computer if it were available? Plenty. I am using a keyboard over 90% of the time. But when I am stuck. When the image of a fictional scene is in my head but the words to carry my vision to the page are jumbled, stuck or blurry, I leave the screen, pull out paper (usually a yellow legal pad) and pencil and write by hand, in cursive.

I feel tightly connected to my writing when I do it manually.

The writing isn’t perfect. Lines are crossed out. Words are squeezed between spaces. Arrows go this way and that. And sometimes there are doodles in the margins; if I leave any margins.

When the page or pages goes beyond see-able because of the editorial rewriting, I get anxious. I flip on the computer screen and clack away at my keyboard once more, happy I have the technology to polish a work with ease and speed.

But I wonder about the writers who did it all by hand. I wonder how they got it right in a draft or two. How powerful was their connection to their words, their visions, their souls and to the pen in their hands and the paper under their palms.

One of my favorite movie scenes is the beginning of Shakespeare In Love. William Shakespeare is in a garret trying to write. He’s lost his muse, which is the conflict of the story. But his fingers draw my attention. The ones holding his quills are black, stained by the ink. His nails are gray. They look like those of a car mechanic’s. What toil. What labor. What concentration.

What a symbol for the writing process.