Feet or Fins: Read prologue for free

Beautiful-yet-unhuman-501951291_If you liked this first chapter then check out the rest on Smashwords and Amazon.

Prologue

Unwittingly the town of Blue Bottle Bay held witness to the triennial migration of a family of Mira. A self-appointed term that describes the inhabitants of certain oceanic regions, like individuals in a country. To land dwellers they would simply be known as mermaids.

Because there are no records, it is not exactly known for how long or how many times the Mira have been migrating past this place. But their oral history indicates that it has been occurring since before the presence of land dwellers.

The initial attraction had been the bountiful coral reefs, followed by the rocky coastline and the isolation. Their migration routes regularly intersected with places like these. Whether they liked or not, Mira were not suited to a continuous life in open and deep waters. They were shallow water creatures that needed to live periods of their life on land. These migration stops were oases in a desolate world.

Before the arrival of land dwellers, Blue Bottle Bay was a paradise. Mira could come and go from the land without fear. But that is no more and there are too many chances of being seen. They can no longer afford to linger in the area. Their traditional lifestyle of vaulting from places living off the land and sea following the path created by their ancestors was becoming less viable.

To compensate they adjusted their habitation times at the other remaining places, ensuring that they kept to the rigid seasonal schedule. If they arrived too early or too late at certain places then they ran the risk of arriving during an infertile season. Furthermore, while Blue Bottle Bay was acceptable, it was not the best of places. It only had one cave for protection and even that was difficult to access. So now the Mira swim past the town out in the open sea.

*          *          *          *          *

It was during one of these migrations that Emaleah’s curiosity took her closer than she had ever been before. Myliah, her twin sister held her back.

I want to see them close up, Ema communicated in her and the rest of her family in their groups’ sign language. Their reluctance showed. She was still young, having only left the nursery island a hundred or so lunar cycles ago. They hadn’t anticipated that she would want to leave so soon.

But there comes a time for most Mira when they need to venture on land in search of a mate. But Myli didn’t want to accompany her sister and for the first time in their lives, they were going to be apart from each other.

You’re younger than most, she signed, trying to dissuade Ema.

But not the youngest.

I don’t want you to leave.

Sorry Myli, but I want to go ashore.

Ema’s words stung. Her sister had never wanted to leave her before. But she couldn’t stop her. If she wanted to chase after mates then there was no stopping her.

Once again Ema was given all the warnings that she had ever heard throughout her life.

Don’t let them see your tail.

You must have your feet.

You must never tell them about us.

Be prepared to kill.

Ema didn’t think of herself as stupid, or cruel. If a land dweller found out what you were then, for the protection her kind, they had to be killed. It was a brutal tradition, but it had worked since The First Mira. While she felt that there was something wrong with this blanket rule, she knew of its importance. Without it, they would not exist.

But it was obvious that there were times when this rule had not been carried out. Multiple land dweller societies had myths that involved sea creatures similar to them. It could not be a coincidence and it was a topic of contention for Mira everywhere. Sirens, a feared and respected faction of Mira society, held great enmity towards this idea. Ema swam towards the shore, facing upwards skirting along the seabed. She felt like she was about to burst; she was going to see them. A dark foreign shape glided overhead. Ema looked at it intently. Land dweller legs and feet dangled down from it. This is it.

When her head broke through the water she saw a young man on a surfboard swimming away from her, heading towards the incoming waves. Ema watched him stand up on his surfboard and then ride the wave.

It’s a surfer, she thought, male land dwellers that ride waves and water. Her family had told her in particular about these ones. When she was just a child her grandmothers had made her and Myli giggle at what they said. ‘They’re good for breeding. They strong sires for your children. If you ever come across a great water rider try not to let him get away.’

Ema wondered if her family could handle another child. She was old enough to produce one. But migrations were time and energy consuming, and there were fewer and fewer places for them to reside in. And she had to time it right too; it was dangerous to give birth in open water.

Ema saw that the now resting surfer was drifting away from her. She swam towards him and perched herself on the board. She sank it further into the water. The young man turned around looking confused.

‘Hi,’ said Ema.

The young man looked to be about seventeen or eighteen. Ema stared at his body; all the muscles were in all the right places. He had an average looking face and his brownish hair was bleached by the sun. Ema smiled. His hazel eyes were wide; he then looked towards the shore.

‘You swam all the way out here?’ he asked disbelievingly.

‘What other way could I get here,’ Ema replied coyly.

The land dweller stared at Ema again.

‘Are you naked?’ he asked with even more disbelief. He could not see her wearing a bikini top. Not even one of those strapless ones. ‘What need do I have of clothes, they only hinder me.’

His mouth was agape; he couldn’t believe what he was seeing or hearing. Ema saw this as a good sign; it meant that she had his attention.

‘I was watching you on the waves. You’re pretty good. I’d like to get to know you more.’

The young man was still speechless. He couldn’t believe what was before him. And he had never come across a girl so forward before.

‘My name’s Emaleah, but Ema for short, what’s yours?’ she asked him.

‘Uhhhh Darryl,’ he replied.

‘Would you like to get to know me?’

‘Yeah,’ Darryl said before he could stop himself.

‘Well, meet me at that lagoon tomorrow at noon, I’ll be waiting for you.’ Ema said before disappearing underwater.

Darryl couldn’t believe what he just saw. This girl was out of this world. She wasn’t too bad looking either. Though her chest looked almost non-existent. She looked like she was about his age as well. Her face was mature yet youthful. From his brief encounter, Ema looked like that she might be a bit on the short side. Also, he didn’t like boy hair on women, but he wasn’t about to complain. She was the first girl to ever be so forward with him. Well apart from Robyn, but she had that aggressive streak that worried him. Why couldn’t other girls be more like this one?

The first story I ever wrote and from then onwards

It was in grade 1, I was 6 years old and it was for the McIntyer Young Writer’s Awards. I wrote a short story about a baby eel getting lost and then getting found again. I do not know if I got any awards for it.

I can’t remember what I wrote from that year to grade 7, but I’m sure I must have. Anyway, for my entry, I got a commendation for my story that had three chapters and was about a girl that went back in time to ancient Egypt (I was going through a phase then).

Then I went to high school and creative writing wasn’t that encouraged or focused on. I was still eligible for the McIntyer Writers’, but it wasn’t focused on during class and I didn’t take the initiative to write independently enough to submit anything.

In one class exercise I wrote a story about race relations and in my own time, I began dabbling in the embarrassing proto-stories that I think I ended up tossing some years later.

But then during grades 11 and 12, I began getting the germs of story ideas that even now years later I still have but never pursued because I had better ones come along. I used those five subject notebooks and each subject was a story.

My first year at university and at QUT, I began my first novel. It was an Australian YA and I wrote out the first draft by hand. Its completion was a major milestone for me. I still have that story, the second and third drafts were typed on my computer and it’s been sitting dormant for years. I only now look back on it and cringe at how badly written it was. The story itself is fine and I had so much fun writing it, that I’m planning on doing a new re-write of it. The first three chapters are already done and so much better in quality.

Then I went to USC, for the next three years I didn’t do that much creative writing. My time was mostly focused on assignments. Though I did write 16,000 words during a break one time and burnt myself out.

Then I went to UniMelb. I don’t know what or how much I wrote during that time, but I think it might have been quiet a lot, as I go through my older stories on my USB and they’re there. But what I remember more is that I was 23 and I had nothing to show for it! So I picked a story that I was most invested in and that was Feet or Fins. I wrote it up and then did maybe 14/15 drafts from Oct ’13 to May ’15. It was a learning curve for me that I know every writer needs to go through to become better at the actual craft of writing.

I then put it up online, no one bought it because I didn’t advertise it. Which turned out to be a good thing because one of my friends read the free sample and informed me that it was unreadable. And oh, my shame it was! So I took it off and re-wrote the entire thing. It was a marked improvement.

Then I moved to the UK. One of my first jobs there turned out to be the worst job I had ever been at. It was the boss, he was a bully at best and maybe a workplace psychopath at worst. I rage quit after only two months. Then I went and got a better job (Yay! Win!), went on my belated honeymoon, came back and channelled my rage into going to the gym, losing 6/7 kilos in three months. Then I was ready to write again just in time for the Christmas season.

This is where my most productive writing term began. From Xmas ’16 to now I’ve written more than I ever have and I’ve developed my writing to the point where it’s significantly better than it was only the year prior. Slowly I’m building up my written works and I’m even managing my time better 🙂

I’ve put out a short story, a novelette and a novella. Currently I have another novelette and two novella’s in the later draft stages. I’ve got a few almost completed drafts and a few more stories that are only half or a third completed. I feel like 2018 will be a very productive year for me.

To the future and beyond . . . .

First Chapter of Feet or Fins

Feet or Fins ebook cover

Prologue

 

Unwittingly the town of Blue Bottle Bay held witness to the triennial migration of a family of Mira. A self-appointed term that describes the inhabitants of certain oceanic regions, like individuals in a country. To land dwellers they would simply be known as mermaids.

Because there are no records, it is not exactly known for how long or how many times the Mira have been migrating past this place. But their oral history indicates that it has been occurring since before the presence of land dwellers.

The initial attraction had been the bountiful coral reefs, followed by the rocky coastline and the isolation. Their migration routes regularly intersected with places like these. Whether they liked or not, Mira were not suited to a continuous life in open and deep waters. They were shallow water creatures that needed to live periods of their life on land. These migration stops were oases in a desolate world.

Before the arrival of land dwellers, Blue Bottle Bay was a paradise. Mira could come and go from the land without fear. But that is no more and there are too many chances of being seen. They can no longer afford to linger in the area. Their traditional lifestyle of vaulting from places living off the land and sea following the path created by their ancestors was becoming less viable.

To compensate they adjusted their habitation times at the other remaining places, ensuring that they kept to the rigid seasonal schedule. If they arrived too early or too late at certain places then they ran the risk of arriving during an infertile season. Furthermore, while Blue Bottle Bay was acceptable, it was not the best of places. It only had one cave for protection and even that was difficult to access. So now the Mira swim past the town out in the open sea.

*          *          *          *          *

It was during one of these migrations that Emaleah’s curiosity took her closer than she had ever been before. Myliah, her twin sister held her back.

I want to see them close up, Ema communicated in her and the rest of her family in their groups’ sign language. Their reluctance showed. She was still young, having only left the nursery island a hundred or so lunar cycles ago. They hadn’t anticipated that she would want to leave so soon.

But there comes a time for most Mira when they need to venture on land in search of a mate. But Myli didn’t want to accompany her sister and for the first time in their lives they were going to be apart from each other.

You’re younger than most, she signed, trying to dissuade Ema.

But not the youngest.

I don’t want you to leave.

Sorry Myli, but I want to go ashore.

Ema’s words stung. Her sister had never wanted to leave her before. But she couldn’t stop her. If she wanted to chase after mates then there was no stopping her.

Once again Ema was given all the warnings that she had ever heard throughout her life.

Don’t let them see your tail.

You must have your feet.

You must never tell them about us.

Be prepared to kill.

Ema didn’t think of herself as stupid, or cruel. If a land dweller found out what you were then, for the protection her kind, they had to be killed. It was a brutal tradition, but it had worked since The First Mira. While she felt that there was something wrong with this blanket rule, she knew of its importance. Without it they would not exist.

But it was obvious that there were times when this rule had not been carried out. Multiple land dweller societies had myths that involved sea creatures similar to them. It could not be a coincidence and it was a topic of contention for Mira everywhere. Sirens, a feared and respected faction of Mira society, held great enmity towards this idea. Ema swam towards the shore, facing upwards skirting along the sea bed. She felt like she was about to burst; she was going to see them. A dark foreign shape glided overhead. Ema looked at it intently. Land dweller legs and feet dangled down from it. This is it.

When her head broke through the water she saw a young man on a surfboard swimming away from her, heading towards the incoming waves. Ema watched him stand up on his surfboard and then ride the wave.

It’s a surfer, she thought, male land dwellers that ride waves and water. Her family had told her in particular about these ones. When she was just a child her grandmothers had made her and Myli giggle at what they said. ‘They’re good for breeding. They strong sires for your children. If you ever come across a great water rider try not to let him get away.’

Ema wondered if her family could handle another child. She was old enough to produce one. But migrations were time and energy consuming, and there were fewer and fewer places for them to reside in. And she had to time it right too; it was dangerous to give birth in open water.

Ema saw that the now resting surfer was drifting away from her. She swam towards him and perched herself on the board. She sank it further into the water. The young man turned around looking confused.

‘Hi,’ said Ema.

The young man looked to be about seventeen or eighteen. Ema stared at his body; all the muscles were in all the right places. He had an average looking face and his brownish hair was bleached by the sun. Ema smiled. His hazel eyes were wide; he then looked towards the shore.

‘You swam all the way out here?’ he asked disbelievingly.

‘What other way could I get here,’ Ema replied coyly.

The land dweller stared at Ema again.

‘Are you naked?’ he asked with even more disbelief. He could not see her wearing a bikini top. Not even one of those strapless ones. ‘What need do I have of clothes, they only hinder me.’

His mouth was agape; he couldn’t believe what he was seeing or hearing. Ema saw this as a good sign; it meant that she had his attention.

‘I was watching you on the waves. You’re pretty good. I’d like to get to know you more.’

The young man was still speechless. He couldn’t believe what was before him. And he had never come across a girl so forward before.

‘My name’s Emaleah, but Ema for short, what’s yours?’ she asked him.

‘Uhhhh Darryl,’ he replied.

‘Would you like to get to know me?’

‘Yeah,’ Darryl said before he could stop himself.

‘Well, meet me at that lagoon tomorrow at noon, I’ll be waiting for you.’ Ema said before disappearing underwater.

Darryl couldn’t believe what he just saw. This girl was out of this world. She wasn’t too bad looking either. Though her chest looked almost non-existent. She looked like she was about his age as well. Her face was mature yet youthful. From his brief encounter Ema looked like that she might be a bit on the short side. Also he didn’t like boy hair on women, but he wasn’t about to complain. She was the first girl to ever be so forward with him. Well apart from Robyn, but she had that aggressive streak that worried him. Why couldn’t other girls be more like this one?

Time spent

Time spent

Not too long ago I was asked how long it took me to write my first book. Looking back on my the first blog post and the novel word document about Feet or Fins it shows the date to be Oct 2013 and I subsequently published the story in May/June. That is about 19 months. Which I think is pretty good seeing as though some people takes years or even decades to complete a book. Though that time doesn’t include what I spent on the first draft. But I think that when I finally got into thw swing of writing I completeded it in a few months. I expect my next book to be quicker becuase I have more of an idea of what I am doing and it isn’t as long. Plus it is a Young Adult novel, which to me, feels like an easier genre to complete.

13th and last? draft complete and lessons learnt.

13th and last? draft complete and lessons learnt.

Just finished another draft of my book. I don’t know how many times I’ve told myself but I think this might be my last edit. The last few weeks have been nails to the chalkboard. I’m so over this book now. Story fatigue I’m calling it. I’m tired of this story, but not my others.

I’ve just got a few people to go over it and tell me what they think and then I might finally be ready to publish. ‘Bout time now and I’ve learnt so much from this book.

1. Plan it out first.

I just went and started word vomiting all over the page when I first began. It was all stored in my head i just had to write it out. In hindsight I should have written out plan, like listing it in order of events and make note of important things. Stuff like that. really held myself back by not doing that.

2. Practical experience is the best experience.

I could learn all the theory in the world at uni, but actually putting it into practice is the best thing I could do. Writing and re-writing has told me what I’m good at and what I need to improve. And getting to issues at the beginning is better then letting them fester. So that means formatting my word document before writing as opposed to later.

3. Pushing through negative states of mind.

All the times when I didn’t feel like writing or wanted to do others things more really kept me back. Even in the last weekend I was putting off doing the last 20 pages. If I had done 1 or 2 pages here and there instead of waiting for days where I could sit down for up to 6 hours and write would have saved me so much time. And I wouldn’t be writing this companion article at one in the morning.

If you don’t feel motivated now, then make yourself motivated. There are a lot of ways to get you in the mood.

  • Thinking over your story with a positive outlook.
  • Looking at images for a cover photo, that helps me.
  • Thinking about all the negative outcomes of not finishing your book, like time/energy wasted and goals not completed.
  • Realise that just because you feel a bit shit about your story doesn’t mean it actually is. Some people are very interested in hearing and listening about it.

4. You’re work is directly related to the effort you put in.

Don’t feel like doing that next edit? Then your work won’t be as good as if you did. Don’t want to do a few pages today, then the completion date is another day delayed and moving onto other works is a day delayed. Don’t put in the effort to fix the little things now, then you have to do it next time. It all adds up. I could of have finished this book ages ago, but I prevented myself. But i can be so God damn lazy. It’s unbelievable actually.

Half a million words

Half a million words

OMFG!

What’s 50,000 x 10?

Half a million.

That’s the number of words that I’ve probably edited so far. And that’s only for a single book!!!

Feet or Fins ebook cover

This (supposed) last draft has been a slog and I’ve had to force myself to even contemplate finishing it. But I’m done. The last two pages may have taken an hour a piece (internets u has distracted me) and the accepting of the tract changes alone took exactly 30 minutes. They alone comprised of 6 pages worth of text. Phew, what a marathon. And by that feeling I’m probably not going to do another draft, so I better have done it right by now.

Final draft. Top half.
Final draft. Top half.
Final draft. Bottom half.
Final draft. Bottom half.

I look over all the previous drafts and I see just how far I’ve come. My first copy of Feet or Fins was just shy of 42,000 words. Draft three only had increased a few thousand words. But draft seven had increased to just over 51,000 words. The screenshots above aren’t as good as from the sixth edit, simply because I was using a different word software – Apache Open Office. But they show up the track changes fine enough.

From there the word count pretty much stayed the same. The only things that I began changing or finalising is where chunks of information was placed, how dialogue was phrased and what small section should be kept or cut. I also had to work on formatting the text to the Smashwords’ format guide.

In the last week or two I have finally gotten around to edit the last 35 pages. Before that I had stopped as I was feeling burnt out from it. But now it is over.

That feels when you finish your first book 🙂

156-feels-good-man-goatNow I’m going to send off this draft to some people so they can go over it 🙂

 

 

Feet or Fins cover image

I’ve found my book cover image AND I’ve turned it into a book cover 🙂

And it has taken me long enough to do so. For at least 18 months I have been looking around for the perfect picture.Something that I thought represented my story the best. I wasn’t keen on getting a designer to make one because I figured ‘why pay for something I can try myself?’ and when it comes down to it a cover image is just a picture and text. And if that didn’t work out then I’d go to someone. It hadn’t even been until recently that I had been in a position to consider paying someone.

In the meantime I just cruised around some photo stock websites browsing for images I thought were decent for what was inside the book. At first I was going to go with Getty, but then they upped the prices and there was no way I was even going to consider it.

Hello!? I was a student and students have no money.

I remember being pissed that the ‘perfect’ image I had picked had been under $50, but then it was over $200. In my anger I just decided that I was going somewhere else. And I’ve forgotten what that ‘perfect’ image even looked like now. Ironically I ended up with iStock, which is owned by Getty but images cost less. Yay? (How does that work?)

So I created a lightbox (overly fancy word for folder) and began adding images. Soon I had around 70, but while I liked the images and thought they held sway with the book, they weren’t quite perfect. At the time I stayed off buying because while they were cheaper, I was still living on a student income. Instead I just browsed the internet for info on book covers. Then a few weeks ago I came across this article ‘Book Cover Design and the Problem of Symbolism‘. Reading it just seemed to make my brain click and I began looking for more images, this time with a slightly different angle. I found some I liked and bingo!

I found one that seemed to address the main issue in the book.

I copied the watermarked image onto my computer and began playing around with it on both Pixlr.com and Paint.net. Within a few days I had something I liked and then I bought the large version earlier today 🙂 While it does take a bit of getting used to two different editing programs I think I made something pretty sufficient. I’ve been checking out publisher websites and while some of their book covers are way out of my skill set, others are quite simple (not meant in a negative way).

I pretty much like the image as it is so I’ve it and I’ve just laid text over it. I made sure to make the words are large so that they are easily readable as a thumbnail image. And here is the final product.

Feet or Fins ebook cover

What is my genre!? . . . weird?

questionmark

Readers of my blog will know that I’m working on my first novel called Feet or Fins. At the moment classifying my book’s genre is difficult because I just wrote a story I liked.

Screw the fact that other people would be reading it.

Currently I believe that my novel is a bit of an orphan in terms of genre. It fits in the Weird Fiction genre category, simply because it doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else. The story has;

  • Supernatural elements explained through scientific realism, but it is not science fiction;

  • It has sporadic horror and slash and gore elements, but it also has a bit of romance;

  • It has fantasy elements like dealing with mythical creatures, but it is set in contemporary times;

  • It has monster literature themes, but the Mira are not the only monsters in the book;

  • It has elements of thriller, suspense and action, but this book does not revolve around this;

  • It is has elements of the French Fantastique cinema and literature genre, but it is absent of science fiction;

  • It deals with differences in culture and the issue of US vs THEM, in which the characters have navigate to their advantage or not;

It fits most snugly in Weird Fiction because the story is a blend of horror and fantasy set within speculative fiction. Previous writers of weird fiction have come from the 19th and 20th centuries. The downside to this definition is that weird fiction also encompasses ghost stories and tales of the macabre, which this novel does not have.

An alternative is that this story could also be placed in The New Weird, an emerging sub-genre beginning from the 1990’s. This story fits into the definition given by the proponents of New Weird Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, which is that it “subvert cliches of the fantastic in order to put them to discomfiting, rather than consoling ends.” New Weird fiction breaks down the barriers between fantasy, science fiction and supernatural horror.

Feet or Fins update

I can say that I am now past the half way mark on editing my first novel 🙂 I remember first writing it. Somehow I managed to word vomit all 40,000 words all over my keyboard in the time frame of a few weeks. I look back and think I have created all of this.

Screenshot 1: Title page to page 55.
Screenshot 1: Title page to page 55.
page 56 to 95.
page 56 to 95.

These screenshots show how much I have done 🙂

I think I began editing this right after I finished writing it, or maybe a little time later. I know after editing it for a few weeks I got tired of it. I think I had a little bit of Feet or Fins burnout, and with uni starting back up again I put it on the back burner. Until yesterday where I took it out and began editing it again. I did 12 pages in the last few hours.

The blue tract changes is from months ago, the red from the last few days and the white patches shows what I’ve got to do.

The thought that this edit will not be my last is kind of overwhelming, but I can only edit one page at a time. And it is all these one pages that add up 🙂

You’ll also notice the picture on the first page. I use that as inspiration. Because if I have a image I want to use for my cover at the top of the document it’ll make me work harder as I can visualize the end product.