I’ve got, at this stage, about 7 publication notes to do, because I’ve had 7 fiction publications thusfar in 2019, so let’s start with the first publication of 2019!
I wrote this short story in 2017. I was very ill at that stage, taking what I call “the murder drug” (I was diagnosed — possibly misdiagnosed but the jury’s still out — with non-contagious latent tuberculosis) and the whole world was exhaustion. I was also teaching a full course load and trying to keep my head above water. So I had this idea of writing a heist story set in one of the underwater kingdoms in my Cantata of the Fourfold Realms series of books (still in WIPs), and I had this idea of a merman who was tired, and more specifically, was tired of living.
There were a few creative impulses/prompts.
- A long time ago, I saw a huge fish in an aquarium and someone said that the fish “hidup segan, mati tak mahu”. It’s a malay proverb that basically translates to “lazy/shy (segan is a layered word) to live, do not want to die” and I thought it was such a fitting exemplification of the state of depression for many (depression is also a complex condition and each person experiences it differently). Extremely few creative people that I know are completely free of depression. Some have it lighter than others but that brush has touched us all although in me it just makes me a floppy and sleepy bunny — and at its worse all I want to do is be a blanket popiah/burrito. All of this was exacerbated by medication in 2017 which also caused issues w/ my heart. So I thought about how tired I was, and I may have wrote that into Rasheel’s character.
- But I also wanted to write a merkingdom romance, and I wanted it to be a heist kind of romance with the kind of repartee you see in Cary Grant movies.
- Pursuant to merkingdom romance: I wanted to write something fun, with POC/WOC merfolk because damnit revolution writing shouldn’t just be deadly serious. I think sometimes the most revolutionary thing a person can be is just to be happy and frivolous as a form of defiance against the world.
- The Beauty and the Beast aspect came in as I was writing/plotting it; I envisioned it a sort of deconstructed Beauty and the Beast, with some of the central characteristics of the fairytale type: the scrying mirror, the roses, etc.
From there, as with most of my stories, it unfurls from preliminary impulses into its own story with its own prerogatives. I constructed a beat sheet for this and plotted it carefully but once the writing happens, I tend to let things flow organically. I did change it substantially after editorial feedback from an editor who rejected it (name elided so as not to embarrass). He said the story needed more linearity. I don’t always agree w/ editorial feedback (gasp, shock, horror, alarums!) but this one was really helpful so I worked through it.
Finally, it ended up in the slushpile of Beneath Ceaseless Skies and the revision request came while I was being a caregiver for my father in his last days.
I can’t tell you how much it helped me to work through the revision notes Scott H Andrews gave me during those bleak days, as though this tale was medicine that lifted me out of that fog, made things slightly lighter in those days. So this story, had a genesis in one traumatic period in my life, and evolved during another. Which is to say, I wanted to write a lighthearted merkingdom romance w/ POC/WOC merfolk but it wounded up becoming something layered and rutilated, like me. Heh.
As with a fistful of my stories, it’s also medicine.
Some readers have disapproved of the relationship between Velia and Rasheel. To them I say with some wryness, I’m not so sure I approve of their relationship myself. I let the tale take me there with the complex dynamics between a more extroverted and rather conniving siren, and an exhausted merman with the weight of universes on his shoulders. It should come of no surprise of anyone who actually knows me that I would identify more with Rasheel, though I’ve no desire to encounter a male version of Velia. Quite happy being sleepy in my Arch-Wizard cavern 😉