Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Feature: J. Kathleen Cheney on Mermaids AND a GIVEAWAY!

Today I'm welcoming fellow NTRWA member AND fantasy author, J. Katheen Cheney! She has an interesting theory on building characters.

Meet J. Kathleen:



J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist.  


 Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen's Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella "Iron Shoes" was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist.   


Her novel, "The Golden City" just released from Penguin, November 5, 2013.







***Answer J. Kathleen's question, at the bottom of her guestpost, "What's your book pet peeve?" OR "What drives you nuts when you're reading?" And be entered in a giveaway of her book! SIGNED PAPERBACK! Please leave your email so I can contact you for your physical address!***


Without further ado, here's J!




Building Reasonable Mermaids…



Everyone has their pet peeves, those things that make them throw a book across a room when they read it.  I'm not talking about an ending they don't like, but instead, a plot element or character that just doesn't work. 



My personal pet peeve is humans with wings slapped on their backs. 



Now I don't mean angels or aliens, I mean a person who's essentially a human, but they just happen to have wings.  This really bugs me because a human simply doesn't have the skeletal structure to have wings, much less fly with them.  We would need extra muscles to move them, extra nerves to command them, and if we're going to fly, we need to be a lot lighter.  At some point, these creatures would cross the line.  They wouldn't be human any longer.  (And a culture that can fly would probably be very different from human cultures.)



A lot of writers do this really well (Martha Wells' Raskura and Sharon Shinn's Archangels come to mind.)  Other writers don't, and that's where they lose me.



I know my take on mermaids is probably going to set off a few people's pet peeve button.  I don't expect everyone to agree with what I've done, but I did try to think it out logically. 



My starting point was an ancient Portuguese epic poem, where Vasco da Gama's men find the Island of Love where "sea nymphs" await them.  The sea nymphs run away from the sailors.  That means legs--no fish tails.  One of them is later referred to as a "siren", so I took that up as their name--sereia.  (That's just the Portuguese word for siren or mermaid.) I tried to think of them as creatures who'd evolved in the water, so they have gills and webbing between their fingers. 



But the hardest thing I have to think about is their culture.  How many male mermaids do we see in classical paintings or read about in stories?  I honestly can't think of any.  So that begs the question of why I don't see the males.  Do they not exist?  (Which would open all sorts of questions about procreation.)  Or are they hidden away, like in a harem? 



I'm working on Book 3 in this series right now, and this becomes more of an issue as I go along.  I don't exactly have much guidance to go by—it's not like there's a Wikipedia entry for my mermaids!  So I'm trying to make the right choices.  We'll just have to wait and see what people think.



So what drives you nuts when you're reading?  What's your fantasy pet peeve?






Blurb:

For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores....

 

 When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana’s heritage allows her to survive while she is forced to watch her only friend die.

 

 Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.

 

 Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone....









***Answer J. Kathleen's question, at the bottom of her guestpost, "What's your book pet peeve?" OR "What drives you nuts when you're reading?" And be entered in a giveaway of her book! SIGNED PAPERBACK! Please leave your email so I can contact you for your physical address!***



Buy it:



More J. Kathleen:

  

3 comments:

  1. I love this post and your mermaid issues actually sound very interesting (totally voting for the harem idea btw). My biggest pet peeve is probably insta-love. It drives me crazy. "Destined" or not, love takes time to grow.

    (email is disquietus@disquietus.com)

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  2. I hate the insta-love, too! It doesn't make sense...

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  3. I get annoyed when historical women act as if they were born yesterday, but insta-love annoys me too (and is frequently part of those historical women acting modern). sheiladeeth at gmail dot com

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