I Want Mermaids To Be Real


Some friends and I spent part of our Memorial Day Weekend learning about Mermaids. Well, let me clarify. We didn’t dive into the Mariana Trench armed with sonar, harpoons, nets, and DNA-mapping equipment. (Although, that would have been insanely cool!) We watched a pair of sci-fi shows on Animal Planet:  Mermaids: The Body Found and The New Evidence.

The shows were pitched as “real” and “true story” and all that. But shows like this, which detail proof of Atlantis, Bigfoot, or extraterrestrial life, are always more entertainment and conjecture than science. The Mermaids shows were no exceptions. The “evidence” and videos regarding mermaids were obviously fake. The ‘candid’ experts were obviously scripted. Underneath it all, three things still shone through as redeeming:

  1. Entertainment value – The CGI was top-notch. The mini-movie threaded throughout did an excellent job of bringing these Mermaids to life. In addition, there was actual story. Although these creatures never spoke, they were cast as possessing human emotions. Two scenes stand out: one in which a mother gives live, underwater birth, and another where a merman slices his own chest—thus sacrificing himself—to save the rest of the pod from a vicious Megalodon. Very human actions.
  2. Novel information – By “novel”, I mean “new to me”, not fodder for a manuscript. (Although, I’m not one to rule out the possibility…) I am a huge, geeky fan of both science and learning ALL THE NEW THINGS. I had never heard of the “Aquatic Ape Theory, so that part of the programs was intriguing. The Aquatic Ape Theory is the idea that during the transition from the last common ancestor we shared with apes to hominid, humans went through an aquatic stage. This stage is believed to have resulted in “aquatic ape-like” creatures (i.e. mermaids), which may possibly still exist. Check out more on this theory here: http://press.discovery.com/ekits/monster-week-mermaids/aquatic-ape.html
  3. Eco-Propaganda – In my opinion, the beauty of these two shows is that they are genius pieces of eco-propaganda. The real point is not mermaids at all, but a protest against the Navy’s use/testing of sonar-as-weapons. Mass-beachings of whales and other sea creatures, supposedly caused by government activities, is the underlying point. The mermaids angle was a tool—the hook used to grab viewers’ attention. The true intention was to raise awareness about man-caused damage being done to marine mammals. What better way to garner a mass-audience than to wrap that issue within a story which sparks the collective imagination? Genius, if you ask me. Apparently the bait-and-switch angle worked, because millions of viewers watched 3 hours’ worth…

Throughout the shows, a lot of “Bullshit! That’s so fake!” and “Really? Look at that! So.stupid.” echoed through the loft. Still, I found the programs both interesting and entertaining. Also, I drew parallels the whole time of how one part truth—braided with two parts imagination—can create an engaging, appealing story. If handled properly, one kernel of plausible truth can spark the suspension of disbelief, and allow us bi-pedal humans to dream of other worlds and other creatures, which are very much like ourselves. No matter the setting or characters, all great stories show humans either as we are, or as we could be.

There is an Encore Presentation Wednesday May 29th at 8:00 PM Eastern. My friends might disagree with me, but I highly recommend it. Simply watch the shows with the understanding that they are 1 part Science, and 2 parts Science Fiction.

For the record, I want to believe in Mermaids.

Pineapples Do Not Camp

Les ananas ne campent pas!

Les ananas ne campent pas!

My 4 fulls for Phreak Show are still in heart-stabbing, conference-season-delayed limboland. Off and on, I’m still tinkering with a few tiny screws and toggles on it. Seriously, (hear me: seriously!) revisions are never truly done.

What kind of screws am I tightening? Minor things—some I’ve wanted to tweak on my own, and others revealed as loose via some uber-useful & promising pheedback. A few elements are being enriched. One small issue has been mentioned a few times, so that’s definitely under the microscope.

There’s this one small thing that an agenty person pointed out, which I can’t fix on my own. So I’ve called in a specialist. There are 5 short passages in Phreak Show that include a little French. I took a couple years in High School, but I mainly walked away with enough savvy to carry on a  20 second introductory conversation. I mean, even if you add in zut alors! and les ananas ne campent pas, I’m pretty sure my teacher would shake his head in quasi-French disappointment.

As for the Phreak Show phrases, I ran them through Google Translate, and confidently popped them into the manuscript. LAUGHABLE. I trusted GT. Je suis un idot! Thankfully, a Canadian Twitter friend rushed to my aid. At least, I hope she took care of me. For all I know she could have translated “Can you believe this arse trusted a computer to translate for him?”

FTR, this is what ^that^ phrase looks like in Google-French:
Pouvez-vous croire ce cul confiance à un ordinateur de traduire pour lui?

It probably might be somewhat close to nearly correct.

I should watch more Téléfrancais! Like this sparkling gem: Pineapples Don’t Camp! In this episode, Jacques and Sophie decide to go camping in a mysterious green-screen forest. However, trouble arises when they get lost. [Yes, sadly, this is the abiding legacy of two years’ worth of French…]

The next time I need some fancy-schmancy foreign words, I’ll go to an expert. Which is to say: NOT GOOGLE TRANSLATE. Zut alors!

If It Itches, Scratch It

My most recent ink. (Of the legal variety)

My most recent ink. (Of the legal variety)

You ever get that itch? No, not that kind…but the kind that is more akin to an incessant craving. An idea sparks. Maybe for a hunk of chocolate you want to gnaw, a trip you want to take, or this thrilling activity you simply must experience. For us creative folks, the itchy idea can take the form of an image which demands to be painted, a character who wants to live, a new recipe which must be tested (and tasted). The crawling need to make this *thing* happen is all-consuming. It refuses to be ignored. And, no matter what, the only way to get rid of the blasted itch is to scratch it.

Yeah, me too. All the time.

Some itches have rules attached, and a decision must be made on whether you choose to follow them or not. For instance, I’ve been itching for another tattoo for a while. Tattoos have rules. Fun fact: Oklahoma finally legalized tattooing in 2006. If you are so inclined, you can now legally get your ink-itch scratched in all 50 states. But some states and localities set their own parameters. Such as:

  • You can’t get a tattoo if you’re under 18.
  • You can’t get tattoos on certain body parts—such as the face.
  • You can’t get a tattoo if you’re drunk or high.
  • You can’t get offensive or hateful words or images tattooed.
  • You can’t get tattooed at home or at a party, even if the artists is licensed, because the license applies only to the shop’s physical location.

Here in Ohio, that last one is law. A tattoo shop must be approved by a local board of health. Tattooing clients outside an approved shop is illegal. I have three friends who may or may not illegally ink outside the confines of a shop. Let’s pretend they do. If so, they have their reasons: indie personalities, lack of funds to do an official (expensive) pay-the-mentor apprenticeship, time constraints. Still, they hammer amazing images into more-than-willing tattooees. This system works because the tattooees have the itch for some ink, and the artists have the itch to create them. Simple supply and demand fueled by a pair of matching itches.

I have definitely been tattooed in official, legal shops. I may or may not have used indie scratchers to handle my itch in the past…

Let’s pretend I have. If so, I’m sure I experienced nothing but great, sanitary, professional scratching with amazing results. Assuming I may have gone the less-than-official route at times in the past, I am choosing to go mainstream this time around. The downside: my itch will have to squirm and twitch for nearly six months! A tattoo is obviously forever. Coupled with my perfectionism and pickiness, I want only the best. Especially for the subject matter I’m hankering.

There’s this guy, Joe, who once bought a human skull from me. (FTR, yes, it was legally obtained.) He happens to be a tat artist. And he also happens to do a.m.a.z.i.n.g. work. One more thing: he’s willing to meet this slightly random request I proposed. You see, the itch I need scratched is a full sleeve on my left arm. The images will be the 12 named sideshow characters from Phreak Show. Fluxxus the Human Chameleon, The Prince of Torture, Jules the Gender Enigma, Maestro Phineas Cocteau, Twiggy the Blubber Girl, et al. Even Romeo, the mechanical monkey, is getting some skin real estate. The negative space between the characters will be filled with the borealis-like aether from my novel.

So, cool, but a sleeve doesn’t sound like a random request. Tattooists execute those all the time. Yeah, but do they read an 86k  word manuscript to get a feel for the characters first? That’s what Joe has agreed to. We have discussed the style I want: hints of New School with bright coloring and exaggeration, along with high contrast, heavy-hammered black, plus skin-break highlights. Oh, it itches the more I think about it! And that itch is going to be prolonged. Remember how I mentioned Joe does amazing work? Well, that means he’s in high demand. He’s booked solid until November.

itch itch itch

I have 8 Saturday appointments scheduled beginning 11/16. In the meantime, Joe is reading Phreak Show while working on the image creation. If I may gush, I think that’s a kick-ass way to come up with a tattoo design. My words and ideas filtered through another artist’s interpretation. Even if I do have to wait six looooooong months.

Okay, confession, I’m too damn impatient to wait half a year to scratch my tattoo itch. I found another great artist of the legal breed, and am getting images for my first 2 novels inked on my right arm. Capritare’s appointment is in 3 shorts weeks. (Only a querying writer considers 3 weeks “short”.) You know what this is starting don’t you? A perpetual itch that will need to get scratched with each new novel.

If the craving kicks in for flash fic & short stories, too…Frankly, I’ll have to look into finding surrogate skin.

The Writer’s Voice Entry – Phreak Show


I feel like I’m on The Price is Right. Or something. My entry Plinko’ed through the pegs and channels of Rafflecopter to land a spot in The Writer’s Voice.

Get the skinny here, or here , also here, and let’s not forget here. Mucho appreciation to the lovely ladies throwing this shindig. Barker’s Beauties, or Drew’s Dolls, or Voicy Vixens we might could call ’em: CupidBrendaMonica , Krista, and Kimberly.

There are some wicked-great agents participating, and I’ve got to say, Phreak Show is bouncing up and down with anticipation for the Showcase Showdown. Come on Coaches! Pick this here entry to be one of your 8…errr 9? You know, whatever number, without going over.


When Tera sees through the 600 pounds of fat smothering Twiggy the Blubber Girl, and finds a hurting, size 16 girl beneath, she knows something’s crazy-twisted with The Last American Phreak Show. The wicked Phineas is enslaving teens by wielding their warped self-images against them. Sixteen-year-old Tera has enough crap of her own to deal with, but there’s no effin way she’s letting the jackhole Phineas exploit them in his human zoo.

Tera sacrifices her own questionable normality, and becomes one of Phineas’s sideshow phreaks. Once bound by Phineas’s covenant, Tera discovers that she is more like the powerful showmaster than she’d like to believe, and her presence in the Phreak Show is killing him. If Phineas dies before the captive teens discover a way to break free, they will die with him.

The carnies only have a few days to confront the lifetime of lies lurking within their own hearts. And it will require more than Victorian costumes, sideshow tricks, and creepy performances to save them. The dark magic which binds the teens runs soul-deep. Being a phreak isn’t about looks; it’s a frame of mind

Phreak Show, a YA Greenpunk Fantasy where The Night Circus meets Skinny, is complete at 86,000 words.

With published short stories, articles, poetry, and illustrations, Phreak Show is my third novel. When not writing, I’m an artist who works with reclaimed materials, a spreadsheet junkie, and phreak who has learned to be comfortable in his own skin.


The neon-red TATTOO sign buzzed with the only spark of excitement in Podunk. Or whatever clone of a town I rolled into that day. Slow and gray like all the rest. Railroad tracks stretched down one side of the street while a storefront church and a sorry excuse for a coffee shop sat on the other. A mom wrangled her toddler into a rusty pickup parked against the curb. Old men perched on a bench outside a hardware store, ogling me, some strange teenage girl, invading their land.

At least this Podunk had a tattoo shop. The first I’d seen in two days. Enough stalling. I needed to get it done while I had the chance, before I lost the nerve again, before my money ran out.

A bell jangled as I pushed my way into the antiseptic air. Drawings of hearts and butterflies, daggers and skulls, covered the walls. I slid my fingers into my back pocket and fished out my last eighty-three bucks. And the photo of Jamie. The white crease down its center cut right along the middle of his tiny body. A tangle of tubes and wires snaked in and out of him. All because of me.

“What you need?”

I jerked away from the image in my hand, and followed the voice to the pierced lip of an inked-up guy. Scruffy hint of a beard, jet-black hair, and nerd glasses reflecting the light so I couldn’t see his eyes. I stepped closer, checking out his skinny jeans through the display case of tongue rings and metal bars.

Of course, I had to check out The Price is Right and find out how to get tickets. Not because I’m really going, but just because, you know, curious: http://www.priceisright.com/tickets