Wednesday, September 14, 2022

THE MERMAID AND THE UNICORNS by L.T. Getty ~ Guest Post & Giveaway

The Mermaid and the Unicorns
by: L.T. Getty
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure
Release Date: August 31, 2021
Publisher: Black Unicorn Books

Daphne’s a typical mermaid, and at least according to her, that’s a problem. She’s courageous and has a beautiful singing voice, but lacks the power of an elemental, the ability to command water with the sound of her voice. Jealous of her best friend, she makes a deal with a sea-witch, only to be betrayed, in place of her beautiful tail and flukes Daphne’s left beached with a pair of human legs. The spell keeping Daphne looking human will become permanent, unless Daphne can hunt down and bring the scheming Lorelei a unicorn horn before the next full moon.

Unable to reach her friends and family for help, Daphne doesn’t know how to walk, much less where to find a unicorn or how to catch one. Even if she’s successful, Daphne’s still not sure if she can trust Lorelei and her pint-sized kraken to keep their end of the bargain and let her return to the sea.


Crafting the World Above and Below the Sea

Fish out of water stories are nothing new, but when I was developing the world for The Mermaid and the Unicorns I wanted something that would be friendly for those who were unfamiliar with the fantasy genre.

So unlike other novels where I wanted to create a world that was very specific, focusing on hard magic systems and how to make it tangible, my goal was to be softer and more inviting, and not spending a ton of time explaining rules to the reader. I was thinking of places like Narnia and Oz, only a little less obviously whimsical and fantastical. I didn’t want gnomes under every mushroom and for the trees to start yammering, as well I wanted human characters like Sean and Esperanza to be somewhat removed from the fantastical elements. Daphne doesn’t stand in awe of faeries, but a stag.

I’m a scuba diver and the first things that came to my mind while I was developing mermaids and where they’d live was the technical issues. How do they communicate, when sound doesn’t travel the same under water? Pressure increases the deeper you dive, as well people lose body heat rather quickly in the water. I didn’t want to bog down the reader with technicalities, such as ‘hey, we can no longer see the color red after diving 15 feet’ or anything like that, I wanted to create a world that felt fresh, real enough that they’d recognize it.
I’m not a professional photographer, but here’s an idea of what it looks like when you strap on your SCUBA gear and take the plunge in a tropical area. A lot of water in Manitoba, the province where I’m from, is fairly muddy and dark but there are exceptions (I’ll talk about Riding Mountain below but, they call the one major beaches Clear Lake for a reason). These pictures were taken off of Kauai, Hawaii near Poipu and I want to say we’re around a depth of 30’.

The first twenty to thirty feet in a dive can be very colourful and beautiful, depending on where you are and the quality of the water, and I can’t say enough of what it’s like to be in a school of hundreds of fish or hearing whales from dozens of miles away. I wanted to seamlessly blend the reality of coral reefs into what would be considered a fantasy like world below, but not reach into the realm of fairy nonsense that’s pretty just for the sake of being pretty. The ocean is incredibly vast, incredibly deep, and for merfolk, can be incredibly dangerous if they go into areas that are hostile or travel by themselves, much like if you were to travel into a desert or unfamiliar woods without a guide or gear. Like our world above, there’s certain places that are friendly, and other territories that are hostile unless you’re familiar with them. You wouldn’t go bounding into an unfamiliar swamp without a map, and although some mammals have been known to dive incredibly deep into the ocean, I don’t imagine that too many mermaids would wish to dive to the incredible depths of the sea for no good reason.

From there, I really only hinted at merfolk society in general beyond Daphne and Oshiera’s underwater town. It’s obvious that they have a monarchy and larger cities exist elsewhere, but there’s plenty that’s left to the reader’s imagination.

I also reveal that some sea folk have the ability to command water with the sound of their voice, but it’s very rare. Merfolk can talk under water, as well as understand smarter creatures such as dolphins and squids. They eat certain fish, but others are more like pets. I never said it, but I imagined that the royal scouts would have ridden something like a hippocampus if they were traveling between settlements. Most of the quest takes Daphne above the sea, so to be honest one of the reasons I want to write a sequel is that I want a story mostly set under the sea.

Crafting the world above was a bit easier. It’s not exactly clear what era we’re in; people are sea faring and while there are canons and wizards, there’s no mention of hand held fire arms. There seems to be nobility in place, but no one mentions who exactly the king is. The intent is to feel like a fairy tale, and not that we’re in the 16th century off the coast of Scotland or wherever.

There are clear liberties taken in the story as well. Shelkie’s Bay is a small little town, my beta reader reminded me how big a town has to be to have X amount of jobs to be sustainable, but once again we’re going for a fairy tale feel so I didn’t mind taking liberties. Seemingly randomly, it hosts a singing competition for their spring festival, in which the local gentry judge. I had two high born girls competing with peasants – not very likely, but it was something for the audience to get a chuckle, and much, much later a plot point. Lorelei mentions chocolates and tea is served, both of which originated from North America. If you’re a purist who insists that this story isn’t faithful to the medieval world, you won’t be happy but, I don’t really care. If Gandalf can have tea in the Shire, Catrina can serve some quality leaves too after liberating it from the nobles.

Deciding where Daphne would find unicorns was also something I had to consider. Could she go to any woods? Where can one find unicorns? In Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, the novel starts with two hunters complaining they haven’t found anything, and one cites that it is a Unicorn’s wood, where it’s always spring and so it is very likely that they will continue to be unsuccessful until they move on to a wood without her protection. I’m a believer in considering what other authors have done already but, I also don’t want to be lazy and rip off of them, either.

The sea witch Lorelei tells Daphne where to find unicorns, a set of mountains north of the City of Taralee, which narrowed it down so the adventure could be streamlined, and Daphne didn’t have to run around figuring out where she’d find them. When I dreamed up these mountains, they were based off of Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. My first position as a paramedic was in McCreary, MB, and most of the southern part of the province is famously flat. I got assigned to this tiny little town, but it had this beautiful view of a mountain that kept on going, not up but wide, and I honestly have a hard time picking a favourite season concerning the mountain because it’s always beautiful. I loved the idea of having this expanse of forest that was difficult to transverse, and I figured it would be a natural barrier for people so they wouldn’t necessarily go that far, and even if they did traverse up the mountain, realistically they’d only go so far before they felt it was a rough go. They could climb up for miles and miles and be in awe, but then realize just how vast and cumbersome it was to keep going, so even for experienced guides there would be plenty that was left unexplored.

My reasoning is that unicorns don’t always move like regular animals, and are something otherworldly. In my novel Garnet and Silver I reveal that they’re a species that can travel between worlds, so major physical barriers that would be cumbersome to non-flying species wouldn’t be an issue. They’re also pretty powerful as a whole, so while they can’t fly, they most certainly can leap and cover distances that would be cumbersome to most.

There’s a lot more that goes into world building than the things I covered here today, and to be honest, I don’t think this novel is an example of some of my greatest world building. That being said, I think it’s wrong to compare apples to oranges. For some readers, they want that hard magic system, and to really get into how the world works. I wanted something that felt like it was one foot in our world – even though you know it could never happen – a sort of altered familiar, where events took place in a kingdom far far away, once upon a time.

"What's wrong?"Esperanza asked as Daphne went to retrieve the arrow.

"Nothing," Daphne said, unstringing the bow. "Not like I'm ever going need to use this skill. Let's just pack up and go."

"What are you talking about?" Esperanza asked. "You're already better than I am. Here, let me have a try and I'll show you."

"I've already unstrung it," Daphne snapped.

"Fine," Esperanza said, matching Daphne's tone. Esperanza went to go get more water from the river with the large buckets to boil so that they could wash their dishes.

"I'll do that. Water's heavy," Sean said, ignoring Daphne as she struggled to take their tent down.

"Here, let me help you," Esperanza said to Daphne once Sean started towards the river.

"Sure—let's send the person with the tallest reach to the river, great plan," Daphne muttered, climbing onto the wagon to reach the tip of the tent as Sean descended towards the river.

"What's your problem?" Esperanza demanded as soon as Sean was out of earshot. "We're helping you get to Taralee. Sean didn't have to come all this way, you know."

"He didn't come for me, Espy. If it was just me who wanted to go, he wouldn't care that I had to walk the whole way. What do you want, me to kiss your feet and sing your praises? Wait, I forgot—you're the better singer, you should sing your own praises. I might not do it good enough without a four-stringed harp and a cat to squeeze for background noise."

"Our voices are different. Neither one is really better than the other."

"It's just... do you know what it's like to be overlooked?"

"All the time," Esperanza said. She looked away, towards the river. "Hey, wait... be quiet for a minute."

"Don't you tell me what to do—" Daphne became mildly insulted when Esperanza put a hand over her mouth.

"Listen."

They heard singing. A beautiful, high pitched and soft melody, barely audible above the breeze. The sound had a haunting quality. "Doesn't sound like it's Sean's range," Daphne muttered, but then really heard it. She ran, and got the arrow and the quiver as well as Sean's knife and axe. She quickly strung the bow before heading towards the river bank.

"What are you doing?" Esperanza asked, following after Daphne.

"Stay with the wagon!" Daphne ordered.

Purchase The Mermaid and the Unicorns from:

L.T. Getty is a rural paramedic from Manitoba. She enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy and generally being creative.

Places to find L.T. Getty:

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8 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome. Thank you for stopping by.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your guest post, bio and book details, I have enjoyed reading about your world-building process and I am looking forward to reading The Mermaid and the Unicorns with my granddaughters

    ReplyDelete
  3. This book sounds wonderful. Love the cover!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I enjoyed the crafting guest post and the excerpt is great, The Mermaid and the Unicorns sounds like an excellent book for me to share with my granddaughter and I love the cover!

    Thanks for sharing it with me and have an amazing day!

    ReplyDelete

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