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Archive for October, 2013

From Mermaid Steel: How mermaids walk and sit

October 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Chielle configurations

Categories: Mermaid Steel, Writing

Going to Convolution after all

October 29, 2013 Leave a comment

I will be attending Convolution 2 at SFO this weekend after all. I missed the deadline to be in the program book, but the convention kindly is letting me join panels. See you there!

Categories: Writing

Review copies finally arrive

October 29, 2013 Leave a comment

The review copies of Daughter Cell finally arrived today and they are gorgeous! 14 are going out to new reviewers, and 2 are going to fans who reviewed The Chosen, as is my standing offer. Now we’ll get some real traction.

Categories: Writing

Now on Twitter

October 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I finally joined Twitter. @jayhartlove. Look out world.

Authors Show Interview Postponed

October 26, 2013 Leave a comment

The interview I did on The Authors Show is currently down on their website. I will be getting it back up in November, along with a new round of reviews, appearances and guest blogs. Sorry for the confusion. Thank you for your support!

Categories: Writing

Chapter Five of Mermaid Steel

October 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Sten chose his path through the open air farmers market as much to avoid crowds as to find what he needed. He was pleased to find no one waiting at the melon and squash vendor.

“Good morning, Mr. Holdsmith,” the dark skinned, round faced woman behind the crates greeted him with a smile.

“Good morning to you too, Mrs. Ibba. These big white ones are beautiful. Are they new?”

“Yessir. They’re honeydew. They’re bright green inside and taste like summer sunshine. With summer coming to a close, they’ve been soaking up the sun all season.”

“You always know how to talk me into new things. Do you have any hard gourds yet? I always look forward to making soup from them in the fall.”

“No, not yet. Give ‘em a few more weeks. So how many of the honeydew can I get for you?”

“Oh, all right, I’ll try your sunshine melon. Just one, please.”

“Is that Sten Holdsmith I see trying something new?”

The sweet, lyrical woman’s voice right beside him surprised him, and not just with its suddenness. The impeccably dressed blonde woman stepped up right next to him. “Mrs. Ibba, you have got the touch. I could never talk Sten into trying anything new.”

Sten stared grinning at her for a long moment. He really did not know what to make of her reappearance after so long. What was she doing joking around with him? He went along with her jest. “My dear Vanda, that’s not how I remember it.”

She widened her eyes in mock astonishment. “You cad!”

“How are you? What are you doing here? I mean, are you just visiting? You look beautiful as always.”

“Oh, do you really think so?” She stepped back and looked down at her yellow dress. The full skirts and corseted waist made full advantage of her womanly charms. “I never know if yellow works for me.”

“Of course it does. It’s the same color as your hair.”

She reached up and pulled a long curl from her pinned up mass of hair and held it against a lapel. “Oh, I guess it is.” She looked up at him, twisting the lock in her manicured fingers as a tiny grin pulled at the corner of her mouth.

He did his best to ignore the obvious flirtation. “How have you been? I haven’t seen you in, what, four months? When you moved away, I heard only rumors. Something about a cattle rancher down in Pikesville. Are you just visiting?”

She looked down, the smile faded, and she sighed a tiny but obvious sigh. “No, I’ve moved back to Saint Rachel.”

“I’m sorry.”

She took a deep breath and perked up. “I’m not. I’m back amongst friends and life is looking good again. After all, I’ve only been back in town a couple of days, and I bumped into you.”

“I’m no prize.”

She gently touched arm as he cradled the melon. “I disagree.”

He looked straight into her beautiful brown eyes, but he was really searching his own feelings for her. He expected to feel the old fire rekindle. He was quite surprised to feel nothing. “Vanda, what are you playing at? You left me saying you wanted to see the world.”

“I have come to regret that decision. Let’s say the world wasn’t everything I had hoped for.”

How many times after she left had he dreamed of a moment like this? That she would come back to him out of the blue was beyond hope. Yet here she was. “It took me a long time to get over you. I spent months asking myself what I had done wrong. Eventually I saw that I had done nothing wrong. We had a wonderful time together, many wonderful times that I will always treasure.”

“You’re talking about good times like they’re all in the past.”

“You have to know you left a lot of hurt behind. I knew you meant no harm, you had to get out and spread your wings. Still, it hurt a lot, and I had to get over that hurt.”

She looked genuinely sad. “Aren’t you glad to see me?”

“Yes, I am very happy to see you back and well. I’m sorry your adventure didn’t work out.”

He could see the light in her eyes turning colder with each word. She looked around to see if anyone was noticing. Sten was also glad to see they were alone in that part of the marketplace.

“Look, I do not want to hurt you. I loved you far too much for far too long to want any harm to come to you. I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but I don’t want to lead you on.”

She blinked a couple of times, and he braced himself for either anger or a stiff brave face. She surprised him by demonstrating the strength of character he had always admired in her. She cocked her head, squinted slightly, and grinned at him like they had shared some secret joke. “Okay.” She let the word hang for a moment. “Are we still friends?”

“I’d be heartbroken all over again if we couldn’t be friends.”

“Buy your friend a drink sometime, just to keep company?”

“Count on it. Welcome back to town.”

She walked away, and he turned back to the stand. “How much for the melon?”

Mrs. Ibba had turned her back on their conversation and was doing a lousy job of looking otherwise busy. “Oh, yes. Ten pence.”

He paid her, slipped the melon into his burlap sack along with his other groceries, and walked home. He was so distracted by his thoughts that he had to trust his feet to know the way.

Had he just made a huge mistake? He was crushed, filled with self doubt for weeks after Vanda had broken it off with him. Yet he never held it against her. Looking back now, he wondered why not. Had she so enchanted him?

When he looked into her eyes now, he didn’t feel that enchantment anymore. He saw a friend in need, but he felt no urge to fill that need. Had he grown cold and bitter?

No, he wasn’t bitter. He still had plenty of love in his heart. He had, in fact, been feeling more and more love in his life.

For just an instant, when he looked into Vanda’s brown eyes, when he had expected to feel that old familiar fire, he had seen instead Chielle’s blue-green eyes. Those eyes quicken his heart.

He stopped walking and turned that over a few times. There was no doubt Chielle flirted with him. She had from the day they met, and he had been happy to let her. At first he had just taken that as part of her vivacious nature. Now this had grown into something more. He just turned down the most beautiful woman in Saint Rachel, and he couldn’t wait for the next chance to see his outspoken, adventurous, flirtatious, caring, fascinating… “I’ll be damned,” he quietly sighed. His lips stretched into a face filling smile.
****
Gonnakaa Mmava caught a whiff of something and opened her mouth wide as her daughter swam passed her into the living room. “Chielle? Can you some back here for a moment?”

She pulled to a stop with her flippers and twisted around back through the doorway. “Yes, Mother?”

She sniffed again. “Why do you smell like something is burning?”

“I was watching a fire up on the beach. I guess the soot clings to everything.”

“Do you like watching fire?”

“Yes, it’s fascinating. I love how it looks alive, the way it dances and changes. The heat feels so good too. I catch myself just staring at it. Have you ever been fascinated by fire?”

“Oh yes. When I was young, I had a human friend and she would build fires on the beach for us to sit around at night. I used to come away just stinking of the soot.”

“I never knew you had a human friend. What was her name?”

“Patry” She looked away wistfully. “Her name was Patry. Have I never told you about her?”

“Not that I recall. How old were you? What ever became of your friendship? Now you’ve got my curiosity up.”

“I was about sixteen. We used to sit around the fire and talk about boys. Grandma didn’t mind, but Grandpa was against it. “No mingling with the landwalkers,” he would say. I had to bathe twice to get the smell off of me before I could come to mealtime.”

“Were you friends for a long time?”

“A couple of years. Which is a long time when you’re a teenager.”

“I had no idea kids from both villages would spend time together. I have never seen that in my time. All of my childhood friends were Merrow, and I’m sure none of them had any human friends either.”

“Young people are always more accepting. That is, until their parents teach them to hate. Oh, yeah, you’re right about things have changed. Mine was the last generation to enjoy that kind of freedom.”

“So have you stayed in touch with her?”

“Oh no. We had a falling out. A necklace of hers disappeared, and her father accused me of stealing it. There was a lot of name calling, and I couldn’t go to my parents for help because my father didn’t want me up there anyway. I could never convince Patry of my innocence. Her folks forbade us from seeing each other again.”

Chielle hugged her mother. “Oh Mama, I’m so sorry for you.”

“That’s why I’m always telling you to be careful with humans. Every time the slightest little thing goes wrong, they always accuse us. It’s like they blame all the world’s ills on us, even though we stay away from them whenever we can.”

“I am careful, Mama. I tried to stop Thymon and his friends from confronting the fishermen, but they were determined. I knew it could only make things worse.”

“Well, thankfully those tubes you found are working very well to herd the fish. In another few weeks the fishermen will assume the fish have migrated, and we can have the meadows back to ourselves. You just keep being my clever girl and we’ll do fine.”

“Will you ever stop calling me that?”

“What, just because you’re 23 does not mean you get to stop being my little girl. Sooreet is 26 and I still call her my…”

“Little Clamshell, I know. At least I escaped being named after some cute animal.”

“Oh, before you go, I suggest you bathe before supper. You don’t want to raise suspicions around the table.”

“Yes, Mama.”
****
Sten had just lowered a bucket on a rope down off the wharf to pull up some sea water when he saw a distortion in the surface of the water offshore. He wouldn’t have noticed it but for the late afternoon sun’s shining off the water. The rippling was moving fast, and it was coming his way. He thought it might be a Merrow, maybe even Chielle, but Merrow left almost no wake, and as this approached, he could see it was bigger than a person. It stopped just off the wharf, and up popped Chielle’s smiling face.

“Hello there!” she called up.

“Ahoy! What have you got there? It looks big, but I can’t make it out.”

“That’s because it’s still in the water. May I come up?”

“Of course. I’ll come around.” He brought up the bucket and set it down by his shack as he hustled over to the landing ramp.

Chielle was hunched up at the edge of the landing platform pulling something out of the water hand over hand.

“Can I give you a hand with that?” As he approached, he had to stop and look twice at what he was seeing. As she threw down a load, it looked like a fishing net, but the next part she was pulling out of the water was invisible. “What in the world? Am I seeing this right?”

She turned and grinned playfully. “Yep. It’s not something we Merrow share very often, but it’s what I’m working on today, and I thought you’d appreciate it.”

He bent down and was almost afraid to touch it. “So it’s visible out of the water, but it vanishes when it’s wet?”

“Uh huh. Works every time, even on fast, skittish fish. It’s also really tough to weave while its invisible underwater. So I thought I might take advantage of your nice big dry dock here and get done a lot quicker.”

“What’s it made of?”

She pursed her broad lips and cocked her head at him. “That secret I’ll keep. Hey, you shaved.

“I do once in a while.”

“It looks good. I won’t presume you did that for me, but thank you.”

She pulled up the last armload and dropped it on the dock. “There.”

“If we bring this up topside, we can talk while we both work.”

She looked dubiously at the pile of net and then up the ramp.

“Oh, don’t worry about that.” He squatted down and reached his arms around the bulk of the net and pressed to stand up carrying most of it.

He caught Chielle looking wide eyed at what he had done.

“You coming?” he invited, and started stomping up the ramp, a couple of long ends dragging behind him.

“After you,” she said with quiet awe.

He dropped it on the part of the wharf that faced away from his shack toward the ocean. “Whew. That’s my exercise for the day. Can I help you sort it out?”

“Oh no, that’s fine. Thank you for bringing it up. Sorry it weighs so much. I hadn’t thought about getting it up here when I decided to bring it.”

He stood up and stretched his arms over his head. “My pleasure. You know, this vanishing rope you’ve got just reinforces how little I know of your life undersea. I’ve thought about what it must be like, but I realize I’m just guessing.”

“What would you like to know?”

“Your village, for example. How big is it? Where is it? What is life like there?”

“There are about three hundred of us, about the same size as Saint Rachel.” She turned and pointed out up the coast. “Celidan is straight out from the northernmost edge of Saint Rachel, about a mile offshore, at the top of a canyon that drops away steeply. The village itself is about thirty cubits down, deep enough that topside weather doesn’t affect us, yet shallow enough for sunlight to reach the coral.”

“You said ‘cubits.’ Is that a measure?”

“I think that’s the right word of yours for it. It’s the length from your elbow to your fingertips.” She chuckled at the comparison. “You know, it’s pretty funny how you humans measure everything in feet, even height, as if you were going to walk everywhere.”

“I guess that’s because we don’t think about up and down as much as we do length and width. We lead pretty flat lives that way. You said sunlight had to reach the coral.”

“Yes, our homes are made of coral. We cultivate the coral to grow into hollow shapes that we use for shelter. Our homes are generational, since they take a long time to grow. I live with eleven of my family, from great grandparents down to nieces and nephews, in a fifteen room home that has been growing with my family for five generations.”

“That’s a big house.” He looked at his two room shack. “I had no idea you live in a mansion.”

“It doesn’t feel very big when you fill it up with all of my family.”

He grabbed an end of the net and started to pull it out flat. She did the same.

“I’m trying to picture this in my mind. That far down and inside your home, doesn’t it get kind of dark?”

“We have sunstones.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“Oh, right, you just use fire for light. There are these stones that soak up sunlight and then they shine for an hour or so. We cycle them during the day up to rafts at the surface so we always have bright ones in the house. When the last stone fades after sunset, it’s time for sleep. So our last meal is always just before sunset.”

A rumbling sound grew louder as something approached coming out the wharf. Chielle looked around the house to see.

“That’s Jacio pulling the wagon. I sent him into town to get more firewood.”

She smiled and waved at him. Then back to Sten she asked, “Is he related to you?”

“No, he’s just a kid from the village who wanted to learn the trade. He’s really quite good at figuring out how things go together.”

“Do you tell him that?”

“I give him more responsibility as time goes by, so he knows I have faith in him.”

Jacio pulled the wagon up to the shack and came around to the front. “Hello Chielle.”

“Hi Jacio. Sten was just telling me what a fine blacksmith you are turning into.”

The boy raised surprised eyebrows at Sten. “That’s great to hear.”

Sten smiled but did not take the bait. “You can head home after you unload the wood. I won’t be starting anything new this late.”

“Thanks.”

Sten noticed Jacio left with more bounce in his step after Chielle’s comment than when he arrived from dragging the loaded wagon. Clever of her.

“So, speaking of jobs, what does a workday look like in a Merrow village?”

“Everyone pitches in with household and village tasks. There is the sense that we all need to help to get everything done. We have more specialties than occupations. Mine is obviously weaving rope and fabric. I’m usually done by mid-afternoon, which is why I can come visit later in the afternoon.”

They got the net untangled and she sat down to start work on the unfinished end.

“This all sounds really ordinary, like just normal life, only underwater.”

“Yes, that’s true. Were you expecting something else?”

“Well, I guess so. There are all these myths and legends about mermaids having magical powers, that you can change the weather, or heal magically.”

“You asked me about my enchanted singing voice. No, those are all just stories. Most of them are told out of fear and misunderstanding. Only Rorra can perform miracles.”

“Rorra is your sea god?”

“Rorra is the sea. She has great wisdom and patience, and she watches out for everything she touches. We say Rorra abides and provides. She created everything we have today. I think my favorite story is how she created the Merrow so we could breathe air or water, since you can’t laugh underwater.”

“Right, since you don’t blow air out when you speak down there. What about the myth that mermaids can turn invisible?”

He watched her reaction carefully and did catch the faintest twitch of surprise. “Invisible? I’ve never heard that one. I know some humans don’t trust us because when we dive they can’t see where we’ve gone.”

“So it’s just another crazy human myth?”

“Yes.”

“But you have figured out how to make that net disappear.”

“It doesn’t disappear. It turns clear when it’s wet. There’s a big difference.”

“All right. Let me grab something I’m working on. I’ll be right back.” He stepped into the shack and retrieved the taps and pipes he had started threading. He also picked up the bucket of sea water he had fetched.

“Now can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Who is Atlan?”

“Atlan is the father of humankind. We believe a long time ago, there was a great cataclysm, a time of frozen barrens and fiery volcanoes, a time of great testing. Out of that trial, one man emerged as the ultimate survivor, with all the finest qualities you can have. He was brave, strong, smart, and resourceful.”

While he talked, Sten twisted a tap down around the end of a pipe, forcing shiny slivers of metal to curl out around the tool. The filings clung to the pipe, and every few minutes he shook the pipe end clean in the bucket of water.

“Atlan and his family lead mankind out of the darkness. His children and their children’s children eventually bred with all the other surviving families, so that all humans have Atlan as our one common ancestor.

“Each human now has a fragment of his superior abilities. So each person has it within himself to be better, stronger, smarter, and braver than one would expect.

“Because so many people perished in that original time of trial, we also believe each of our lives is a gift. Each drop of water that hits you as you stand in a river was destined at the beginning of time for that collision. Each person has a role to play and a place to be. Since we are the ones who survived, it is our obligation to be good enough to deserve that place. We can rise to be deserving because each of us has a piece of perfection inside.”

Chielle blinked a few times. “Wow. That’s so…different. The whole view of where and how you fit into the world is so…”

“Rugged individual?”

“Lonely.”

They were interrupted by a conversation in the shack. Sten set his pipe down. “I’d better go see who that is.”

Jacio was chatting with Corm Neeley, a master mason with thinning grey hair.

“Corm, how are you?” Sten greeted him with a hand shake.

“Mr. Neeley is here for the clamps,” Jacio supplied.

“Very well, they’re right in here.” As Sten stepped into his workshop, he noticed Corm had not followed him. When he returned, Corm had stepped around the shack and was standing with his fists on his hips and a scowl on his face, looking down the wharf clearly at Chielle.

“What in the hell is a mermaid doing on your dock?”

“She’s a friend of mine, Corm. Have you ever met a mermaid face to face?”

Corm looked shocked at the prospect. “Hell no, and I’m not going to today. It’s an outrage, I tell you. Having a thieving fin at a blacksmith shop. Naked savage.”

“Now hold on a minute.” Sten dropped his friendly tone and stepped up to the old man. “She is my guest. You are my customer. That does not give you the right to insult her.”

“What in hell has gotten into you, son? Don’t you know what you’re dealing with?”

“Yes, I do – a bigoted, closed-minded old man who can take his business elsewhere if he’s going to be so rude.”

Corm looked at the clamps in Sten’s hands, and then up into Sten’s eyes.

Sten did not waiver.

He looked again at the clamps, and then at Chielle. “You know you’re the only blacksmith in town who can do this good a job. I need those clamps.”

“Then pay for them and go. Or apologize to my guest and you can stay as long as you like. Maybe stick around and learn something, like how the mermaids are our neighbors and not our enemies.”

He twisted his lips into a sneer, pulled out a purse and handed it to Sten.

Sten handed him the clamps. “Ever worked with coral limestone?”

Corm looked surprised at the mention. “Sure. It’s wonderful stuff.”

“If you ever want any, just remember who can get it for you.” Sten pointed his thumb over the side of the wharf.

The old man recoiled as if he had bitten a lemon. “No thank you.” He turned and left, grumbling the whole way.

Sten tossed the purse to Jacio and walked back to Chielle. “I am so sorry you had to hear that.”

“It’s not your fault. And it certainly isn’t the first time I’ve been called names by people who haven’t even met me. Thank you for standing up for me. You could have lost a customer.”

“No, he knows my work. And I know how much he wants it. These people are just not interested in learning more about you. Their minds are made up, even though they have no information. You saw him. He didn’t even want to meet you. If that treaty did not keep our peoples separated, then the humans would see they have nothing to fear and nothing to hate.”

“We have the treaty to preserve our Merrow way of life.”

“I’m starting to think the humans a hundred years ago convinced the Merrow to sign this treaty because they knew it would be a way to keep your people from ever having the things we have. Sure, it has preserved your way of life, the way of life your ancestors had thousands of years ago.

“Oh, now you hold on. You cannot assume your ideas of justice or progress apply to my people. Our minds, our brains are different. We’ve talked about how I always think in three directions, that up and down are just as important to me as side to side. More than that, we don’t think we personally own anything. No matter how easy or difficult life may be, it is always the ocean that provides, and there is always enough. No one owns anything, because everything belongs to everyone. No matter how angry we get when the humans fish in our waters, we can’t really say those waters are ours. That’s why every time the humans take a little more, the Merrow let them.

“Our religions even point out the difference. You believe in this divine right to excel. I believe in patience and letting the sea provide.”

“Then why did your people take up arms?’

“We’ve run out of waters to give up. If Parker Meadow falls to the fishermen, my village won’t have enough food to stay here. We will have to abandon our homes and move somewhere with no humans.”

Sten noticed that Jacio was standing by the corner of the shop, and had probably heard the whole conversation. He looked saddened by what Chielle said.

Sten looked back and forth between the two of them. “We, we are not going to let that happen. I haven’t seen your village, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let a handful of greedy fishermen drive you out of it before I ever get to see it.”

“See my village? No human has ever seen Celidan.”

“Because of the treaty?”

“No, because it’s impossible for you to breathe at that depth.”

Categories: Mermaid Steel, Writing

Interview on The Authors Show is now live!

October 22, 2013 Leave a comment

My interview on The Authors Show is up and live! Learn what went into the series, and where it is going with Isis Rising. We cover a lot of ground in 15 minutes. You won’t want to miss a minute!

Go to the site and the tape starts by itself……. The interview will run all day today and then go into a rotation. You can access it anytime for the next month by selecting it from the listing box in the center of the page.

Enjoy! Please tell your friends! Tell me what you think!

http://www.wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow.html

Categories: Writing
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