During my time off between my final turn-in for my master’s and when I get my feedback/marks (end of this month), I’ve done my best to switch off Illuminate mode and start prepping for the next book. (Yes, I have unwittingly created a trilogy.)
It’s fun being back in the stage where everything’s new and exciting. “Work” means “play around with character voice” and “search the OED for hours to find title options” and “listen to lots of music”. I’m really excited about the new cast of characters that will be coming into this third book.
Right now the different elements are still pretty scattered, but I can feel them coming together slowly. I know this story’s going to have mermaids, pirates, accidental betrayal, actual betrayal, mysterious masked people, therapeutic painting, a good sword fight or two, and maybe even a rebellion. But I think it’s mostly going to be about displacement, belonging, and love.
And to wet your appetite, here’s a mini backstory scene. Both the characters in this will be minor/supporting characters in the manuscript, and it takes place two years before the novel begins.
We came before the tide, and what once was a piece of land is now our own island. My palms are cut from the sharp rock, and I cross my arms over my legs to protect them. We should be going in, before the water gets much deeper. Before the mermaids come.
But Clara sits beside me, still, as still as the stones, and I am unused to it. She may be the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, but she is a storm, a gale—she is southern wind warm and strong, and at her heart is a hurricane. She is never still.
“What are you thinking of?” I ask.
She doesn’t blink, doesn’t stir herself. She says, “Drowning.”
I straighten, curious, and turn to face her. She doesn’t move. I wait.
“There are mermaids,” she says, eyes on the horizon. “I see their tails, out there.”
She doesn’t point, but I follow her gaze and see them too, after a few moments. The shadow that moves with the waves, but lingers a moment too long, a shade too dark.
“We should go,” I say, and begin to get to my feet.
She closes her hand around my wrist, and now she is staring at me, eyes the green-blue of the ocean. She doesn’t look away from my face. “Don’t let me drown.”
I try to laugh, but it tastes false. “I don’t intend to.”
Her fingernails dig into my skin as her hand clenches. “Kill me first,” she says, eyes bright with their intensity. “If I fall overboard. If I am pulled. Whatever it is, kill me first. Don’t let me drown.”
I know without looking that the mermaids have seen us, that they are coming. I hear them begin to sing, still too distant for the pull to be much, but their song twists into me. It burns my throat, as if I am singing with them, though my mouth is shut and I haven’t looked away from Clara. She hasn’t looked away from me. She is so still, hardly breathing.
I lean forward and kiss the place where her hair is parted, and her skin is salty with sea-spray. “All right. I promise.” I say it, but I don’t know if it’s a lie.
She nods, sharply, and in the next moment she’s flung herself from the rock to the shallows. She flashes a grin at me. “Race you to the shore!” she shouts, and she is already gone.
The mermaids cry their melody in a minor key, louder now, and I watch her go a moment longer, watch the way she runs with purpose and passion and doesn’t look back for me or them.
Then I’m off after her.