My novella, The Mermaid, was meant to be a stand-alone story. Thanks to several readers who loved it and wanted more about the world, it is now the first of eight novellas in my Fairy Tale Academy series!
Today I thought I would share a few insights about the story itself.
When I wrote The Mermaid, I took the time to read the original fairy tale. If you haven’t read it, I should warn you, that it’s grim. No Disney happily ever after here. The princess is kind of hopeless and the prince isn’t much of a knight in shining armor.
I incorporated a few things from the original tale into my story.
The first is the fact that all of the sisters before Ri have gotten to go to the surface, and in my case, the Academy. After a while they think it’s “meh,” but Ri is so excited she can hardly contain herself.
The fourth sister is timid. I framed Marianne—one of Ri’s sisters who is at the Academy—like this as well. Although she’s no pushover and is full of surprises.
In the original, because their mother is dead, the little mermaid’s grandmother keeps house for them. In my story, Ri’s grandmother makes an appearance at the beginning and offers her some advice. I used this to show what Ri’s life is like before the Academy. Let’s be honest, she’s a bit impatient as well as selfish. Yet her excitement is contagious.
Here’s the first half of chapter one.
Stay tuned for the second half next week!
Ri’s eyes slid past her father’s palace and beyond the forest of seaweed. Above, a school of fish turned in unison and shot toward the top of the ocean. Sunlight sparkled and twisted on the surface, waning as it descended until it crested the coral palace’s top spires.
“Are you even listening to me?”
Ri blinked, returning her attention to her grandmother. “Uh, yes?”
The older mermaid shook her head, her long gray hair slowly following the motion through the water. “It’s like you’ve already got your land legs.”
“Grandmother.” Ri flicked her tail, moving closer. She reached a slender hand out to touch her mother’s, mother’s shoulder. “I’m ready for this. You’ve been preparing me for months.” Ri lowered her voice, speaking in a familiar cadence. “‘Pay attention in class.’ ‘Don’t commit to anything on the first day.’ ‘Keep your options open.’ ‘Try not to provoke the orcs, watch out for the faerie folk, and be nice to your roommate.’ ‘Don’t flaunt your beauty, because your sisters won’t like it.’” Ri threw her most dazzling smile. “See, I listen.”
“Child, you are going to be the death of me,” Ri’s grandmother muttered.
Ri opened her mouth to retort, but spotted her father and his foreign diplomatic advisor—Ri’s oldest sister’s husband—over her grandmother’s shoulder.
Her father, Triton, swam straight and tall. His shoulders reached an impressive spread for a merman his age. A golden crown sat atop his brow, and streaks of white shot from his temples and through his mane of hair.
People always said that Ri’s hair was an even more beautiful shade of red.
Triton’s tail shimmered as he approached, catching the light from above and sending a rainbow of colors off his scales. Even the oysters attached to his caudal fin shimmered. Ri knew he’d trained himself to reflect the light while he swam. It had taken her a year to master it.
Next to Triton, her sister’s husband looked scrawny. Instead of wide, he was tall. He cut a fine figure, but in a slender way. He’d drawn his dark hair into a piece of seaweed at the base of his neck. The scales on his tail reflected a dark red. Unusual, and very fashionable right now.
The two mermen inclined their heads together, talking.
Ri leaned around her grandmother, willing her ears to catch their conversation.
“The humans have always been reluctant to meet with us,” Karel said to the king.
“I must speak with their king,” Ri’s father said.
“I have asked multiple times, but they either do not respond, or they tell me their king is out of the capital.”
Triton snorted. “We know where he’s been.”
Karel held up a finger. “We think we know where he’s been.” He leaned closer. “Perhaps one of your daughters could speak with the prince at the school.”
“They don’t like him,” Triton said. “You know that.”
Ri’s eyes narrowed. The human prince? He was a student at the Academy? Neither of her sisters had said a word about him.
A peal of laughter sounded behind the two mermen, and a tiny, red-tailed mermaid shot between them, leaving a trail of bubbles leading right to Ri.
“Auntie Ri!” The young blonde-haired, blue-eyed mermaid approached with her arms out. The blue eyes went wide when she discovered she was headed for Grandmother.
Ri smiled, moving to catch her niece. The little mermaid’s hands closed around Ri’s neck, and Ri turned in a circle to slow her down.
Ri held her niece out where she could see her. “What are you doing, Gail?”
Gail’s entire round face pouted. “You’re leaving.”
“Just for a little while.”
“For a long while.”
Ri patted Gail on the shoulder. “I’m going to school. Just like you have classes.”
“But they’re on land.” Gail scrunched her nose. “It smells funny up there.”
Ri laughed. “Yes it does, but if I want to be a real princess then I need to know as much as I can.” She looked hard at Gail. “You know you’re going to be a princess too, right?”
“Well then, you’d better keep track of things down here for me.”
The blue eyes went wide. “Really?”
Ri leaned in. “Someone has to watch out for Grandpa, Great-Grandma, and your parents. You know how adults are—they get too serious.”
Gail’s head bobbed up and down.
“Don’t let that happen.” Ri poked Gail in the stomach, which drew a giggle.
“Gail,” Karel said in a stern voice, “you’re supposed to be with your mother.”
“I was,” Gail said, “but I escaped.”
“That’s my girl,” Triton said with a wink. Then he turned his eyes on Ri.