Friday, May 9, 2014

The Mermen of Ea Series: Recreating the Merfolk Myth

Thanks, Tali, for hosting the Into the Wind Blog Tour today! I wanted to remind readers that I have a great Into the Wind Blog Tour giveaway on Rafflecopter. Grand Prize is an amazing handmade merman tail fluke pendant, 1st Prize a Mermen of Ea Goodie Basket (includes autographed copy of Stealing the Wind paperback, t-shirt, and lots of other fun stuff), 2nd Prize is a $10.00 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate, and 3rd Prize is a paperback copy of Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #1) – or for non-US winners, a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate. Readers can enter daily by tweeting, commenting, and liking!

The Mermen of Ea Series is set in an earthlike place where magic and magical creatures exist, but are not commonplace. And that’s where I let my imagination run wild, which is probably the best part of writing a series of books: getting to play in a universe for more than one book. I’m especially enjoying playing in this particular universe, because I’ve fallen in love with mermen and the merfolk myth.

I’ve written some posts about how I came to write mermen. Long story short (since the point of this post isn’t the inspiration), I was working on a pirate story when I got certified for open water scuba diving, and my imagination began to kick in, expanding that simple pirate story into an epic trilogy about creatures who could breathe under water. That was the easy part. The difficult part? Worldbuilding. Creating a universe where merfolk are believable and creating a framework within that universe for them to thrive. With a little help from my imagination, a bit of research, and my amazing beta readers (Tali!!), the Mermen of Ea took shape.

If I were to go through every bit of worldbuilding I did for the Mermen of Ea Series in this post, we’d be here forever. So I’ll just take a chunk of it and explain how my mermen evolved. I began, of course, with mermen lore. The Little Mermaid, Sumerian mythology, European mythology. The original merman was a half human/half fish god called “Enki” or “Ea” (hence the series’ name).To that mythology, I added my imagination.

I wanted strong mermen. Half man, half beast. Sexy mermen who had a strong primal, animal desire that warred with their human side. I didn’t want them laying eggs (I mean, is that sexy?), so fish-based merfolk were out and mammals (dolphins) were in. I wanted to write about them on land and in the ocean, so they became shifters who appeared human until they swim beneath the water. This also made a lot of sense to me, given the mythology.

So I had the basics. But just imagining what a merperson looks like isn’t enough to create an entire world of mermen. Next up? Physical abilities. Because if merfolk can shift from one form to another, why not give them specialized magic? And wouldn’t it be more interesting if not every merman had magic? And not every merman who had magic had the same magic? So different flavors: the power to defend, the power to see into the past, the power to control the elements. And with that, I knew the main character would be able to manipulate the wind, because what better power to have when you’re a sailor? And what an amazing power that would be!

Lastly, I thought about the romance that underpins the series (because the story is first and foremost a romance!). I’ve always found the idea of soul mates an intriguing one. How incredibly romantic to have lovers separated by fate find each other in the future. Reincarnated lovers? And with this idea came the cultural background for my mermen. Not a Judeo-Christian society, but a society that worships a deity who guides and nurtures them. The Ea goddess is a demanding one, as the main characters in the series discover.

All of this was well and good, and the plot began to take shape. But there was one last element that I needed: a means to ease the reader into my new universe and not bombard him/her with facts and history about the Ea culture I created. I knew I needed lots of detail in my universe, but I also knew that if I spent the lion’s share of the books explaining merculture, I’d lose my readers before they even started the story! So what to do...

This is where I admit that I’m a huge fan of the Harry Potter books. I read them (some more than once) to my children when they were young, and became as addicted to them as my kids were. And what a perfect way to introduce readers to a world they know nothing about than to have my protagonist know nothing about that world. Harry knew nothing about wizards and he had no idea he was a wizard. And that’s when the inspiration for Taren’s story really took shape. I knew Taren would discover he was a merman after having been raised to believe he’s human. And as the world of the Ea revealed itself to him, the reader would also learn about that world. It’s a wonderful technique that’s been used in many stories, especially fantasy stories. In fact, one of my all-time favorite series, Darkover, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, uses that device in several series books.


So that was a mouthful and a quick, down and dirty look at how the Ea came into being. I hope you’ll take a peek at my mermen if you haven’t already! You can read an excerpt below. Don’t forget to enter the blog tour drawing for a chance at some great prizes! -Shira

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“Into the Wind” Blog Tour

Thank you all for participating in my blog tour! Here’s all the information you’ll need for the tour, including the big tour giveaway and Rafflecopter link.  

If you have any questions, please email me at shiraanthony@hotmail.com!

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Blog Tour Giveaway Info:

Contest starts 5/5 (release day) and ends at midnight on 5/31.  Prizes include:

Grand Prize: Handmade Merman Tail Fluke Pendant
1st Prize: Mermen of Ea Goodie Basket (includes autographed copy of “Stealing the Wind” paperback, t-shirt, and lots of other fun stuff)
2nd Prize: $10.00 Dreamspinner Press Gift Certificate
3rd Prize: Paperback copy of “Stealing the Wind” (Mermen of Ea #1) – or for non-US winners, a $10 Dreamspinner Press Gift Certificate

Here’s the Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba93/

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blog Tour Participants:

5/5 Release Day – Smoocher’s Voice  (Interview with Shira)
5/6 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Inspiration for the Mermen of Ea Series)
5/8 Mrs. Condits and Friends (Merman Sex 101)
5/9 Tali Spencer’s Brilliant Disguise (Series and Worldbuilding: Recreating the Merman Myth)
5/10 Prism Book Alliance (Character Interview with Ian Dunaidh)
5/13 Joyfully Jay (Character Interview with Taren Laxley)
5/15 Book Suburbia (TBA)
5/16 Jase’s Atenaeum (TBA)

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Book Buy Links:




Blurb:  Since learning of his merman shifter heritage, Taren has begun building a life with Ian Dunaidh among the mainland Ea. But memories of his past life still haunt him, and as the threat of war with the hostile island merfolk looms ever closer, Taren fears he will lose Ian the same way he lost his beloved centuries before. Together they sail to the Gateway Islands in search of the fabled rune stone—a weapon of great power the Ea believe will protect them—and Odhrán, the pirate rumored to possess it.

After humans attack the Phantom, Taren finds himself washed up on an island, faced with a mysterious boy named Brynn who promises to lead him to Odhrán. But Taren isn’t sure if he can trust Brynn, and Odhrán is rumored to enslave Ea to protect his stronghold. Taren will have to put his life on the line to find his way back to Ian and attempt to recover the stone. Even if he does find it, his troubles are far from over: he and Ian are being stalked by an enemy who wants them dead at all costs.
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Excerpt:

DEAFENING CANNON fire rang out from the port side of the ship. Ian braced himself against the stair railing to keep from falling backward as the ship leaned deep and heeled hard to starboard. He heaved himself upward and crested the stairwell to the deck as the ship pitched again, forcing him to grab one of the barrels lashed to the deck to remain upright. Cannon shot landed off the bow, sending water over the forecastle and cascading down the already sodden deck. The acrid smell of gunpowder stung his nostrils and burned his eyes, and the familiar scent caused his adrenaline to skyrocket and set his mind racing.

“Renda! What the hell is happening?”

“She’s fired on us with no warning shot, Captain!” Renda, the ship’s quartermaster, barely looked at him as he struggled to steer the Phantom out of the line of fire.

“What colors does she fly?” Ian shouted as he ran toward the helm and lifted a spyglass to one eye.

“None, Captain! Her crew’s human! Navy ship!” Renda shouted above the cannon fire.
Ian felt it too. There were no Ea aboard the attacking ship. An entirely human crew? Only the Derryth navy sailed brigantines. But if he and the crew of the Phantom were fair game for the king and his navy, why didn’t they fly Derryth’s colors? They’d appeared out of nowhere. Had the mist been so thick that the men on watch had missed her?

Renda ceded the helm before Ian could think much more about it. For now, he needed to focus on their attackers and on gaining the upper hand. It had been more than twenty years since Ian had taken his ship into battle, but his crew was well seasoned. He prayed silently to his goddess that the winds would favor them.

“Derryth?” he asked Renda as he steered to avoid another blast from the enemy’s cannons. “Aligned with the Council? Or is this just a coincidence?” He’d expected to face the island Ea in battle eventually, but never had he expected them to use humans to chase them down.

Renda scowled. “No coincidence. Magic, seeing as the fog cleared just in time for them to attack. They had help tracking us down. A mage, no doubt.”

Humans did not possess magic. When had the island Ea recruited the humans to their cause? The thought made Ian’s blood boil. Humans had nearly wiped out their kind hundreds of years before, looking for the fabled rune stone, a weapon more powerful than the Derryth Kingdom’s largest cannons. Had someone told the humans they were heading to the Gateway Islands to find the reclusive pirate, Odhrán, and recover the very weapon that had nearly been the cause of their destruction?

No. He mustn’t think about that now. He needed his wits about him to keep his ship safe. Then he could think more about the implications. He focused once again on the ship and her crew. The feel of the wood beneath his hands and the stiff wind against his cheek always warmed Ian’s soul, even in the midst of battle. The bright, crisp scent of the salt spray awakened his senses and mind. He’d been born for this command, although he’d paid a stiff price for it. His father before him had been a sailor, although he’d long given up the seafaring life by the time Ian had learned to sail in the Derryth navy. Sailing was in his bones and his blood. The only thing he loved more than sailing on the water was swimming in it.

Renda shouted more commands to the men manning the ropes, then turned back to Ian and scowled. “Their ship is fast. She’s shooting the sun and she has the weather beam.”

Stealing our wind! Ian cursed beneath his breath. With the enemy positioned between them and the wind, the Phantom could do little to maneuver. If he hadn’t been forced to stay within the Council’s reach, tied to the island, he’d have long before found the best clockmaker in Derryth and purchased a sextant. He was tired of others sighting guns upon the Phantom so easily. Their ancient astrolabe might have sufficed twenty years ago, during the civil war that cleaved his people in two, but it was useless against a better-equipped navy. As things stood, Ian could only guess at the angle of the enemy’s guns and what direction he might be able to steer the Phantom to avoid them.

He glanced skyward and was momentarily blinded by the sun’s brilliant reflection in the lookout’s spyglass. He moved his gaze to the mainsail and the seagulls that rode thermals alongside it. It had been a calm day until the enemy appeared. Now the wind raced the heavens. The telltales on the sails fluttered frantically with each powerful gust of the wind, making it difficult for Ian to determine the wind’s direction. He fought the helm in an effort to maintain their course as the sea swelled and the ship bucked. Worse yet, the Phantom was poorly situated in the wind on a close reach that placed the ship at a crucial disadvantage.

The enemy’s guns belched again and cannonballs spun past, spitting fiery tar and narrowly missing the main mast. The flames that licked from the metal nearly set the mainsail afire.

“They’re using pitch!” Renda shouted as the pungent smell of burning pine reached Ian’s nostrils.

Ian heard his father’s words echo in his mind. “There is nothing as deadly as fire at sea.” If one of those cannon blasts hit the Phantom, she’d go up in flames.

Heeling starboard as the Phantom was, her portside guns aimed high above the waterline. Each cannon shot fired was nothing more than wasted ammunition. They were outmanned, outgunned, and out-positioned in the wind. Damn. Ian considered his options quickly, mulling their position relative to the enemy and eyeing the wind in the sails. He had no choice but to bring the ship about and take aim with the starboard cannons. Yet if he turned and lost the wind, they’d end up in irons and stalled in the water.

“Are the starboard gun ports open?” Ian shouted.

Another blast from the enemy ship’s cannons landed within a yard of the Phantom. The ship shook with the impact, and several crewmembers scrambled to better tie down some of the supplies on deck.

“Aye, Captain! Ports open, guns loaded!”

A quick glance around the deck told Ian that his beloved Taren was not there. He reached out first with his innate senses and was relieved to feel Taren’s strong heartbeat as if it beat within his own chest. Their connection had continued to grow stronger over the past few months. Among Ea, a bond like theirs—what their people called soulbound—was rare. Where most Ea could only sense that one of their brethren was near, Ian and Taren could sense each other’s presence in particular. Sometimes Taren’s fear became Ian’s, and although Taren had not spoken of it, Ian guessed his own anger and frustration sometimes became Taren’s.

Ian looked up, searching the mastheads and rigging with his eyes, and found Taren atop the main mast. He worked furiously, tying Turk’s heads in the rigging as fast as he could and adjusting the sails to compensate for the heeling Phantom.

“Trim the sails! Man the starboard cannons and tell the gunners to fire when I come about!” Ian knew it would do little good. If they headed farther into the wind, they’d lose speed and stall. “Tell the gunners to fire when they can!”

“Aye, sir!” Renda barked commands and the boatswains flew  into action with whistles and hand signals. When Ian saw that Taren had acknowledged his orders, he brought the Phantom hard about. She bucked the squall and swell as Ian fought the wheel to turn her, and she listed her worst yet, her masts lying but thirty degrees off the water.

Damn.

At midturn, a volley of cannon fire caught the Phantom’s bow, causing her to shudder angrily as wood splintered and flew, mortally wounding one of the crew in the chest. Bright red blood splashed the deck to mingle with salt water and run past the smoldering pitch.

Crian! Renda ran to help the injured sailor. Perhaps he could help the man long enough that he might transform and heal his wounds. But Renda’s slight shake of his head and icy expression told Ian there was nothing to be done. Crian was dead.

Ian’s gut clenched when he thought of Crian’s family. Why was he so surprised that he’d lost a man? Had he really believed this voyage would be anything but risky? He’d naively hoped their mission would be a simple one: find Odhrán, retrieve the rune stone, and return it to Vurin, the leader of Ea’s mainland colony, so he might better protect their people.

He searched the rigging for Taren again and couldn’t find him. He’d felt Taren’s steady presence only moments ago, but he’d been too preoccupied with the battle to keep track of him. At least he could still feel the steady beat of Taren’s heart. He finally spotted Taren aft, now atop the mizzenmast, clinging to guy ropes and swinging wildly with each turn of the helm.

Taren had left their cabin at dawn to work on the sails with the intention of increasing the ship’s speed. He loved to toil on the rigging, and Ian knew how his spirits soared with the feel of the wind on his face. Taren’s acrobatics never ceased to amaze Ian, but they nonetheless left him cold with fear. Taren was nothing short of a long-tailed monkey in the rigging.

“Taren! Taren!”

Ian’s shouts went unheeded—Taren couldn’t hear him over the chaos of the battle. Ian only hoped Taren had guessed what his next maneuver might be, and had good purchase on the ropes to keep him from falling.

The navy ship tacked in tandem with the Phantom and now aimed its sights at her stern. Ian couldn’t risk a blow to the most vulnerable part of the ship and had no choice but to adjust course again to avoid a hit. He spun the wheel the hardest yet to starboard.

Hold on, Taren!

The ship protested the quick maneuver, her teak wood groaning and creaking under the strain as she stalled in irons. In his quick decision to turn hard, he’d been reckless. They were headed directly into the wind now and were dead in the water.

Ian looked up and found Taren as he kicked out like lightning and baffled the aft sail to back the ship. An eerie silence descended, and they waited to see if the Phantom would catch her wind speed. Not a whisper of wind touched the sail. Taren reached for the rigging and swung out hard, kicking angrily at the sail once again. The sail billowed once, twice, and Ian’s breath stuttered, his warning shout lodged in his throat. He knew precisely what the aft sail would do. With a whoosh and an earsplitting snap, she filled and the Phantom regained her air once again, leaping to top speed.

Ian watched in admiration as Taren swung down on the ropes just in time to avoid the snap of the sail. He landed gracefully on the deck a dozen feet away.

“Ian!” Taren shouted as he ran over to the wheel. Another shot from their attackers landed close to the Phantom, causing Taren to grab a hold of one of the nearby rails.

“Excellent work,” Ian said as he adjusted the ship’s heading. “Now if we can only make some headway—”

“Why don’t you send a few men down?” Taren panted hard, clearly winded. Ian sensed his excitement and his fear. No. Sensing wasn’t quite right. Ian felt Taren’s emotions as if they were his own.

“Down?”

“Send them down with axes. Crowbars. Something. Anything. Have them transform and attack from below.”

Ian frowned. “It won’t work.”

“Why not?” Taren demanded. “If we could—”

Taren’s words were cut short by a volley that landed even closer to the ship. Ian fought to maintain his course. “It doesn’t work that way,” he shouted over the din of the waves crashing over the bow. “It’s far more—”

But Taren was already halfway toward the bow before Ian could finish. “No! Taren! You don’t understand! You can’t just—” Ian had no one to blame but himself for Taren’s lack of knowledge of Ea battle tactics. He glanced around, hoping to find someone to take the wheel. He needed to stop Taren before he did something dangerous, but before he could call out to Barra, the Phantom’s guns fired and missed. The navy ship returned fire, and a loud crack sounded from overhead as the shot hit the mizzenmast and the aft sail caught fire. The mast shattered, sending beam and splinter out at light speed. The sound of the mast breaking into smithereens was the last thing Ian remembered before his world grayed, then faded to black.

6 comments:

  1. I loved the excerpt. This sounds like it will be a very good book.

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  2. Sounds very interesting, intriguing, and wild. Hope to read it soonish!?! Good Luck with the tour!

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  3. I'm ashamed to say I still haven't read any Harry Potter...but I do love Shira!

    vitajex(at)aol(Dot)com

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  4. enjoyed reading where the inspiration of the story came from

    madtvk34 _(at)_ yahoo _(dot)_ com

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  5. I had never thought of merpeople as laying eggs until you mentioned it and now I am imagining The Little Mermaid as an egg. My childhood is ruined!

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  6. I love the sound of the series. I haven't read many books on mermen. I am definitely intrigued and will be reading soon. Very entertaining post.

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