Interview with Jim C. Hines about "The Mermaid's Madness"  

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I'm so excited about this book. I absolutely loved "The Stepsister Scheme" and have been impatiently waiting for this second book in the series. I'm also excited about this interview. Jim is personable and encouraging to those of us who want to be authors when we grow up. He's also a damn good writer. So read the interview and go enjoy the book!


What struck me about The Little Mermaid was how totally messed up that tale really is. I'm ashamed to admit I hadn't read the original Hans Christian Anderson tale growing up. Like so many tales, if you've only been exposed to the Disney version, you're missing a lot.

In this case, when I got to the end of The Little Mermaid, where the prince hooks up with another woman and our mermaid sacrifices her life so that he can be happy, I had a visceral "Hell, no!" reaction. I just had to mess with this one.

Of course, this meant writing a novel in which 90% of the action takes place at sea. When I started writing, my experience with sailing was pretty much limited to the toys my kids played with in the bath. So I spent a lot of time reading up on sailing ships. After that, I wanted to come up with a really interesting ship, one which would make this more than just another sailing story. I think I accomplished that with the queen's ship, the Phillipa, but I'll let the readers be the judge of that.

I also did a fair amount of reading about the ocean, trying to figure out what it would be like to navigate the different currents, and how the merfolk would have to function in order to survive. Things like needed an extra layer of body fat, or crying more in order to rid their bodies of excess salt. I read as many mermaid stories as I could find, trying to incorporate more of that mythology into the story. Mermaids have a strange obsession with souls, which turned into an important plot element.

Hopefully the result is something both new and familiar. I'm happy with the result, and I'm very much looking forward to hearing what readers think.

Thanks for giving me the chance to chat about the book!


Web site:

Blurb: There is an old story — you might have heard it — about a young mermaid, the daughter of a king, who saved the life of a human prince and fell in love. So innocent was her love, so pure her devotion, that she would pay any price for the chance to be with her prince. She gave up her voice, her family, and the sea, and became human. But the prince had fallen in love with another woman.

The tales say the little mermaid sacrificed her own life so that her beloved prince could find happiness with his bride.

The tales lie.

Where should readers buy the book? Wherever is convenient for you. Independent booksellers have been good to me, so I try to support them when possible. Barnes & Noble has also gotten behind the princess series, so I'd happily send readers their way. But in the end, I get my $.48 whether you buy it from Borders or Amazon or Walmart, so do what works for you.

Creature #4 - Rakshasa  

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I've hesitated to tackle any primarily Hindu creatures because they all seem to be individual gods or demons. But then I remembered the Rakshasa. I first heard of Rakshasa years ago when I played Dungeons and Dragons. It has been used quite a bit more in pop culture, most notably video and role-playing games, than some of the other creatures I've written about, but it isn't a creature that most people readily recognize.

In D&D, the Rakshasa was depicted as an anthropomorphic tiger. I remember a drawing of one in a smoking jacket, lounging in a wingback chair. I can sort of see where they got that depiction, but the legendary Rakshasa is certainly no mere humanoid tiger.

In Hindu and Buddhist mythology, the Rakshasa is a goblin, demon, or evil spirit noted for shape shifting, magic, and eating humans and spoiled food. In the great Hindu epics, they are depicted as powerful warriors as well as skilled magicians and illusionists. Their hobbies are disturbing sacrifices, desecrating graves, harassing priests, and possessing humans. Their demonic form is usually described or shown as humanoid, yellow, green, or blue with catlike eyes, potbellies, large fangs, poisonous fingernails, and a reek of rotten meat. Some note that they are most powerful at night, especially during the new moon, and are dispelled by sunrise, but in the epics they are noted for participating in huge battles, which I assume took place during the day.

There are a couple differing ideas about their origins. In the Hindu epic, Ramayan, it says that they sprang from Brahma's foot. In other epics, they are descended from the sage Pulastya. The Vishnu Purana, one of the most important Hindu religious texts, calls them descendants of Kasyapa and Khasa, through their son Rakshas. Early Sanskrit texts say they are the children of the Vedic goddess of death, Nirriti. And in some legends, they are the reincarnations of extremely wicked humans.

Interestingly, the Rakshasa appears to be limited to the Hindu and Buddhist cultures. The argument could be made that the Jewish and Christian Satan bears resemblance, but Satan is an individual archdemon rather than a race of creatures and more complex.

Well-known Rakshasa

Ravana - King of the Rakshasa, had ten heads, was said to have paid homage to the Buddha.

Pūtanā - Rakshasi (female Rakshasa), attempted to kill the infant Krishna by offering him milk from her poisoned breast. Krishna sucked the life out of her, literally.

Vibhishana - Ravana's younger brother, was not evil, helped Rama defeat Ravana and was made king of Lanka.

A group of Rakshasi - followed the Buddha, protected the Lotus Sutra, and taught magic (in the form of mantras) to the followers.

Rakshasa in art

If you ever get the chance to visit Cambodia and see the temples of Angkor (one of the places on my wish list to see), you will find many carvings of Ravana and even one of Vibhishana. There is even a bas-relief of the Battle of Lanka in Angkor Wat.

Rakshasa in modern books and comics

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny - The now-bodiless natives of the planet are Rakshasa.
Song in the Silence by Elizabeth Kerner - The demons are referred to as Rakshasa.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman - Rakshasas appear briefly.
The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander - The villain turns out to be a Rakshasa.
Rakshasa by Max Overton - The entire book is about Rakshasa.
Resurrecting Ravana by Ray Garton - A Buffy the Vampire Slayer original novel with Rakshasa as the bad guys.
Game World Trilogy by Samit Basu - Rakshasas are one of the major races.
Gold Digger manga-style comics by Fred Perry - One of the characters is a Rakshasa.

Rakshasa in video games

• The Exile and Avernum games - Rakshasas are one of the magic-casting enemies.
Linley's Dungeon Crawl - The Rakshasa is one of the monsters.
Final Fantasy for PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation Portable - The Rakshasa is a magic-casting, tiger-headed creature.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne - Rakshasas are Haunt class creatures.

Rakshasa in role-playing games

Dungeons & Dragons - Rakshasa are tiger-headed necromancers, enchanters, and illusionists.
The Palladium Fantasy RPG - Rakshasas are a race of demons (spelled Raksasha in the game).

Rakshasa in movies and television

Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode "Horror in the Heights" (A great TV series, btw even though it aired so long ago.)
Supernatural episode "Everybody Loves a Clown"

As always, please use this article to inspire you to write about or visually depict the month's creature. If you do and would like your artwork or fiction (around 500 words) posted, please email me. I would love for people to see your work.

New Flash Fiction  

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We have another story, this time with Leviathan.

by Chrissa Sandlin

The leviathan’s groaning farewell wavered through her head, shuddered down her arms, and shifted the sand beneath Karina. She pulled at the shawl around her shoulders, a dark-dyed offering from years ago meant to enhance her coloring and now tangled with but darker than her own grey hairs. Another human gift turned goad. She stepped toward the flesh lying above the water, trying to determine if this was the head of the creature.

“How do you speak to it?” The elf-woman called, tending her bonfire of keys. Her fingers tangled in the smoke, seeming to yank at the flames. “What if it will not carry us? What if it is dying and we have to go back?”

“You would stay? With the forest falling around you, axes at every root?” Rough skin slid up and Karina looked into an eye like a cave. She responded to the elf, but spoke to the eye. “I’ve been walking for days with its goodbyes rolling through my gut. It will carry us to the forever seas and I will finally own myself, flesh and soul. Look at me!” She pulled back the shawl. “They’ve made me old, dried and wretched. She came to me, the Queen of the Castle Beyond Breath. She laughed at their shriveling of my skin in thinking of her. She thought I’d be ready…as if I would serve in a dead land, who used to be a goddess in these branches!”

“Your skin is no more real than that creature is visible to those axe-wielders from the villages. The leviathan is leaving, but we don’t know where it will go. And you have become a witch, my girl. We’ve seen them give you flesh. What if they crinkle it to their beliefs?” The elf twisted the smoke again and cast away the fire, burning her fingers on the ashes to tell one last time the houses and families by the carved surfaces dissolving beneath her fingers. “The windfall houses will become as downed trees without our care. We’ve no way to enter them again. You promised that we would have passage.”

“I’ve made new keys,” Karina said, lifting her wrist and tugging two silver shapes from her skirt. One looked like an ornate tap and the other a house key, stone and bone bound with a fine wire. Her elven companion shivered. “One to open my home and the other to unlock a soul. Both cast from moonlight by balefire under the tutelary eye of that pale Queen.” Karina twitched her face over her shoulder, casting away the name as she spoke it. She took the tap and, moving away from the eye, pressed it lightly against the flesh and twisted. A drop of the soul Earth gave these largest of her children fell into Karina’s hand and she drank it quickly.

Words tolled through Karina. The same farewell chant in words the span of hours. She looked into the cavernous eye and made her plea.

Elves ringed the shore, watching the keys to their houses smolder, watching the key-maker caress each one to dust. Karina’s voice and the voice of the leviathan billowed over them for hours, until the sun began to sink. Karina’s voice shrank from sea on which it rode as she addressed them.

“Leviathans become islands. We could find anything on that flesh land.” Karina crested another low wave of sound, finally looking back into the great black eye shot through with the fires of its birth. “Enough magic to remake me.”

New Flash Fiction  

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I know it's a day late, but here's a cute flash piece I received yesterday. I hope you enjoy it and let the author know.

by T.M. Riddle

As soon as Deena Martin got out of the schoolhouse, she took off her shoes. She hated being cooped up in that place learning things that a body truly didn’t need to know. At least she didn’t. Without looking behind her, she knew that Peter Leary was right on her heels.

The Learys and the Martins had always hated each other, that was a fact, but nowhere was that hate more fierce than between Peter and Deena. Deena’s Momma said they had hated each other right out of their cradles. Deena agreed. She couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t loathe the sight of Peter Leary.

One day, Deena didn’t run fast enough. Peter stepped on the back of her heel and she stumbled. That wasn’t enough for Peter. He wouldn’t be happy until she was face down in the dirt. He grabbed the back of her dress to shove her down, but she pulled away. The dress tore and she ran. She never looked back. Deena ran all the way to her house, through the orange grove and to the back porch. She didn’t want Momma to see that her new store bought dress had been ripped, so she snuck in the back to Grandma’s room.

Grandma saw the rip in her dress and knew exactly what had happened without Deena saying a word. As Grandma sewed up the tear, she asked, “Do you want to be well and truly done with Peter Leary?” Deena nodded.

Early in the morning, before anybody else was up, Deena and her Grandma went to the edge of the orange grove. Grandma had a way of calling animals to her. Deena had never questioned it; it was part of who Grandma was. Grandma called a long black snake out of the sandy grasses. Grandma and the snake talked for a while. Then the snake swallowed his tail.

“You put this in your pocket now and you do what I told you.”

After school, instead of running, Deena went up to Peter and said, “I got something to show you out by the heap. “

“You want to see, come out to the heap.”

Peter followed just like Grandma said he would. When they got there Deena climbed to the top of the highest heap.

“I got power over snakes, “ she said, “and if you don’t leave me alone Peter Leary, I’ll make one eat you up.”

Peter Leary and his gang laughed. Deena whispered to the snake and let it go. It rolled down the heap headed straight for Peter Leary. He held his ground for a moment and then started to run. He ran for the scraggly pines just as the snake flung itself at him. The snake stuck to the tree for a minute and then fell off and went on his way. The next day everybody knew about Peter Leary and the snake. He never bothered Deena again, just like Grandma promised.

Something new! Call for fiction.  

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In the interview Dorlana Vann did with me over on Supernatural Fairy Tales yesterday, I mentioned that I wanted to add a new aspect to this blog. I want to see what I inspire in you.

I want fiction from you. Here are the guidelines:
1) Submit fiction of 500 words or less between the time I post the creature article and the 15th of the month.
2) The creature of the month must play a major part in the story.
3) What you submit may be a complete story or an excerpt from a longer piece.
4) Email it to me via the link in my profile.
5) I will post all the fiction on the 15th of the month.
6) Include a link to your blog or website so that people can see what else you do.

Keyboard ready? Let's see what you can do.