Review from Ryan Jo Summers

catreviewer

Received a lovely 5* review of The Coming of Arabella from Ryan Jo Summers.

Molte grazie!


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Protagonist Interview

thecomingofarabella_200x300 (2)Sharon Bell Buchbinder is interviewing Barbara Davies, the protagonist of The Coming of Arabella.

If you have a few minutes, drop by Sharon’s blog.


Yin | Yang | Raunchy

songsaboutmermaidsWhen I Googled “Songs about Mermaids,” I came up with 1,270,000 hits. While I don’t plan to visit all those sites, I will share a selection of songs over the next few months.

In today’s post, I’m featuring a group of Canadian artists, two of whom are near and dear to me.

After receiving my contract for Between Land and Sea, I asked my musically talented brothers to compose the music for the trailer. I had envisioned my brothers collaborating and composing one theme song, but that’s not how their muses worked. Each brother had his own unique interpretation of the middle-aged mermaid who was aged beyond recognition and then dumped on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England. Unable to choose between them, I decided to use both versions and hired Erin Kelly to produce the trailers.

Ernie G came up with the Yin version. Aptly titled, “It’s Your Time,” the soft, contemplative music gently skims over the heartbreak, encouraging Isabella to imagine a happier future.

Augy G delivered the Yang version in “Father Time Blinked.” Very different music with several pointed comments and questions sprinkled throughout the lyrics. Is Augy taking Isabella to task?

I couldn’t resist adding “The Mermaid” song performed by Canadian folk rock band Great Big Sea in 2005. Written and originally recorded by Shel Silverstein, this song features the lament of a whaler who has fallen in love with a mermaid but despairs over her fish parts.

Enjoy!

To celebrate the upcoming release of The Coming of Arabella, I’m offering a Rafflecopter giveaway for 5 free eBooks.

Enter here.


My Writing Journey

12082747_sDuring my high school years, I dabbled in poetry while dreams of a writing career dangled before me. But I gave in to my practical Italian side and pursued degrees in mathematics and education. While teaching was a good career fit, in my heart of hearts, I knew that I would write a novel at some point in my life. All I needed was more time and more energy.

Be careful what you wish for…

Continue reading on Tracee Ford’s blog.

10 Mermaid Sightings Before 1800

mermaidhistoryBefore writing Between Land and Sea, I researched mermaid sightings. I expected to find only a handful of examples and was surprised by the lengthy list and vivid descriptions that emerged. So much so, that I’ve devoted several posts to this topic.

Today, I will focus on ten documented sightings before 1800.

1. First Century AD: Roman author, naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote about the Nereids that were found dead on the seashore. He described their bodies as rough and scaly like fish and then went on to share other supporting evidence: “I have, too, some distinguished informants of equestrian rank, who state that they themselves once saw in the ocean of Gades a sea-man.”

2. Between 1040 and 1105: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki wrote about mermaids in the Talmud: “There are fish in the sea with which half is in the form of man and half in the form of fish, called sereine in Old French.”

3. During the same period, Moshav Zekeinim provided the following details about mermaids (Sirens) in a commentary on the Torah: “This refers to the creature in the sea which is similar in part to a person, from the navel upwards, and it is similar to a woman in all aspects in that it has breasts and long hair like that of a woman, and from the navel downwards, it is a fish. And it sings beautifully, with a pleasant voice.”

4. 13th Century: The King’s Mirror, a Norwegian educational text originally intended to provide King Magnus Lagabote with advice on various subjects, included the following description of a creature found off the shores of Greenland: “Like a woman as far down as her waist, long hands, and soft hair, the neck and head in all respects like those of a human being. The hands seem to be long, and the fingers not to be pointed, but united into a web like that on the feet of water birds. From the waist downwards, this monster resembles a fish, with scales, tail, and fins…This monster has a very horrible face, with broad bow and piercing eyes, a wide mouth and double chin.”

5. 1389: In his book, Eastern Travels of John Hesse, the author described the perils encountered during his voyages. He wrote: “We came to a stony mountain, where we heard syrens singing, mermaids who draw ships into danger by their songs. We saw there many horrible monsters and were in great fear.”

6. 1403: During a heavy storm, a mermaid drifted inland through a broken dyke on the Dutch coast. At first afraid but later intrigued, several local women and their servants befriended the mermaid. They took the mermaid home and tried to domesticate her, clothing and feeding her dairy products and meats. After a number of thwarted escapes into the sea, the mermaid resigned herself to her new life and died fifteen years later. John Swan, an English minister, described her story in Speculum Mundi, a book released in 1635.

7. 1493: After spotting three mermaids rising from the sea, Christopher Columbus wrote in the ship’s journal: “They were not as beautiful as they are painted, although to to some extent they have a human appearance in the face.” He noted that he had seen similar creatures off the coast of West Africa.

8. 1608: After two of his company reported a mermaid sighting, explorer Henry Hudson wrote in the ship’s journal: “Two crew members–Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayner–sighted a mermaid at 75o7’N (Russia) and shouted at the rest of the crew to come and look…From the navel upward her back and breast were like a woman’s, as they say that saw her; her body as big as one of ours; her skin very white and long hair hanging down behind, of colour black. In her going down, they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel.”

9. 1614: Captain John Smith, of Pocahontas fame, reported a mermaid off the cost of Massachusetts: “The upper part of her body perfectly resembled that of a woman, and she was swimming about with all possible grace near the shore. It had large eyes, rather too round, a finely shaped nose (a little too short), well-formed ears, rather too long, and her long green hair imparted to her an original character by no means unattractive.”

10. 1797: While walking on the shore of Sandside Bay (Scotland), schoolteacher William Munro spotted a mermaid sitting upon a rock. In his letter to Dr. Torrance in Glasgow, he wrote: “…my attention was arrested by the appearance of a figure resembling an unclothed human female, sitting upon a rock extending into the sea, and apparently in the action of combing its hair, which flowed around its shoulders, and of a light brown colour…The cheeks ruddy, the eyes blue, the mouth and lips of a natural form, resembling those of a man; the teeth I could not discover, as the mouth was shut; the breasts and abdomen, the arms and fingers of the size in which the hands were employed, did not appear to be webbed, but as to this I am not positive.” The complete letter appeared in The Times of London on September 8, 1809.

Men and Mermaids

menmermaidsWhenever I mention mermaids, I notice the emergence of Duchenne smiles on the faces of all the men in my circle.

What is a Duchenne smile?

Very simply, it is a smile that is characterized by the raising of the lip corners which in turn raise the cheeks and form crow’s feet around the eyes. French physician Guillaume Duchenne first recognized this smile while conducting research on the physiology of facial expressions in the mid 19th century. According to Duchenne, that distinctive smile is associated with a strong positive emotion.

duchennegeorgeAnd, of course, George Clooney.

My conclusion—21st century men are still intrigued by those Sirens of Greek mythology, preferring to focus on their physical beauty and enchanting songs. Male minds can easily conjure up images of wavy auburn tresses, mesmerizing green eyes and a curvaceous body.

So, when I describe the protagonist of Between Land and Sea as an overweight, middle-aged ex-mermaid, I’m not surprised to see a variety of facial expressions. The men usually laugh and joke about Isabella’s extra years and pounds.

At a workshop, an argumentative lawyer was very blunt in his criticism: “I don’t understand why your mermaid has to be old and fat.”

“Fifty-three is not that old.” I ignored the weight issue.

He persisted. “It is when it comes to mermaids. Why couldn’t you let her be young, thin and beautiful?”

Thankfully, the conversation was interrupted by the facilitator’s call to resume the workshop. A few minutes more and I might have lost patience with the annoying lawyer who couldn’t accept my vision of an older mermaid.

Very few men are as argumentative as the lawyer. My male friends and relatives want to hear more about Isabella of the Mediterranean Kingdom aka Barbara Davies and the international banker who dumped her. Several are amused by the concept of a mermaid carrying extra pounds, and one friend asked if the artist was planning to feature an overweight mermaid on the cover.

In The Coming of Arabella, the unexpected arrival of Barbara’s perfectly-preserved twin sister evokes more traditional responses (and more Duchenne smiles) from the men of Carden, Ontario.

How would the men in your circle react to an older, wiser mermaid?