Sunday, October 27, 2013

"The Hybrid and the Lost Tails of Mermirran" by Suellen Drysdale

The Hybrid and the Lost Tails of Mermirran
by Suellen Drysdale

Today I am pleased to feature The Hybrid and the Lost Tails of Mermirran, the debut children's novel by Suellen Drysdale, an Australian author whom I know personally. The book was a finalist in the First Novel category of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for 2013. This book is recommended for children aged 9-13. The next book in this series, The Hybrid and the Emeralds of Elisar, is nearing completion. You can read more about it on Suellen's website. Here's a sneak peek at the cover:

Suellen has just completed a crowdfunding project to help her raise funds to edit and publish The Hybrid and the Emeralds of Elisar. Congratulations, Suellen, on reaching and exceeding your target!

The author has kindly donated a paperback copy of The Hybrid and the Lost Tails of Mermirran for one lucky winner. The giveaway is open internationally, so be sure to enter below!
For my Aussie friends, please note that you can use Amazon US to download your Kindle ebooks. Amazon has also just opened up an Australian branch. Click on the book link, click on "Buy at", then add ".au" after "" so it becomes "". If you don't have a Kindle, download the free Kindle reading app to read your ebooks on your computer or any mobile device.

Her mother is gone. Her fisherman grandfather is missing at sea. Australian farm girl Kirsten McGee is convinced her clumsy, overgrown feet are the final sign she’s been cursed. But when a mysterious white horse, Merri, enters her life, Kirsten learns that things are not always what they seem. A beach holiday with her fidgety brother, Jeremy shines a new light on her family heritage. She is not the ugly duck she’d thought, but a Hybrid; part human, part mermaid.
As the trio embark on a quest to find their grandfather somewhere in the South Pacific, the children venture to the secret city of Mermirran to meet their mermaid Grandmother. But Grandpa is not the only one missing. The stakes are raised as the children discover the entire region is under threat by a fire-obsessed Minotaur, using a stolen relic from the deep to fuel his evil plot.
Volcanic eruptions are imminent and the children must now recover the powerful Great Pearl of Mermirran to save the creatures living in the hidden depths. Using their wits, Jeremy’s backpack full of junk and the aid of some new friends, the children combine their skills to restore a life they hadn’t known existed.

Eleven months earlier… 
The old fisherman grabbed the wooden handrailwhen the boat lurched sideways for the third time. A tangle of nets and ropes sloshed across the deck and wrapped around his ankles. The bilge pump droned in the background, but the fisherman sensed it couldn’t save the boat now. He couldn’t tell how fast the boat was travelling. The dim moonlight gave him no landmark for judging speed and the navigational instruments were useless. The boat was being dragged—backwards.
Hoping for a glimpse of the monster in his nets, the fisherman staggered towards the starboard side. The rubber tread of his boots and almost fifty years of sailing experience gave him the agility to surf the changing slope of the floorboards. The wind picked up enough to flint the moonlight against the waves, making it difficult to tell the difference between a wave and a creature breaking the surface.
A thick rope stretched from a winching pulley on a swinging wooden arm that pointed out to sea and disappeared into the water about twenty-five feet from the boat. The fisherman needed to keep the nets well clear of the rudder in case the creature started writhing again. He had tried a dozen times to pull against it with the motor at full throttle, but he’d underestimated the size and determination of the slippery catch in his fishing net. There was no point cutting the net free. He had to capture the monstrous beast. More than just his life depended on it.
Suddenly the boat lurched again, this time to the portside. He reached for a rope that hung from the mast, but missed and fell hard against the galley skylight. The window broke, sending a spray of glass, ropes, and water into his comfortable little living quarters below. Oblivious, his instinct took hold as he rolled back and grabbed a fish crate, fighting to get to his knees and regain his senses. The monster was changing course. Now wet to the skin despite his wetweather jacket, he glimpsed across the portside and focused out to sea.
“You slimy little blighter!” he yelled into the night.
His five-hour journey was about to come to an end…disastrously. Drenched in full moon, a coneshaped mountain loomed to the east like a stone-cast giant. But it wasn’t the mountain that bothered him. Jutting out of the choppy seas, hundreds of jagged rocks rose from the shallows like gigantic shark teeth. There was no way he would make it through, no matter how skilful his ability in manoeuvring a boat travelling backwards. He only had five minutes before they’d hit.
He had one last chance to stop this thing. Quickly, he clamoured below deck and pulled the soggy cushions off the bench seat that lined the edge of his living quarters.
“Where did I put that darned thing?” he muttered to himself as he threw open the hinged seat lid. Snorkels, masks, flippers, odd boat parts, old rags, and tightly wound bundles of rope in varying widths all scattered across the floor as he dug to the bottom of the storage cabinet.
Spotting what he needed, he pulled out a long object zipped tightly into a plastic carry bag. He hurried back up the rungs three steps at a time, ripped off the bag, and set up the first spear in the speargun. As a traditional fisherman, he preferred his catch in nets and had never intended to use it. But now he was glad old Bill had talked him into buying it for emergencies.
He promptly surveyed the situation. He needed height, and he needed a clear shot. He only had three spears and probably only three minutes. He glanced at where the winch rope disappeared into the water and estimated where the net and the monster would be underneath. As lithely as a young man, he strapped the speargun over his shoulder and ran to the mast, leaping up the square iron hand rungs till he was twothirds up.
Jagged monoliths of black rocks loomed towards the boat, black icebergs in the moonlit night. The boat was heading on a course directly to them, and through them. Having glimpsed the full length of the creature in his net, the fisherman knew it could easily slither its way through the rocks, but his boat…his boat would be crushed. Smashed.
He would need both hands to manage the gun. He fed the nose of the speargun through a hand rung while he took off his rain jacket. Then, feeding one yellow arm through a rung at waist level, he tied himself securely to the mast.
Taking aim was difficult with the boat jerking from side to side. But he must act now. Trusting in the strength of his rain jacket, he leaned back away from the mast, taking aim at the bubble of water fifty feet off the stern. As a silver streak neared the surface, he pulled the trigger. Phfft. The weapon released its spear but hit the water to the left of the mark.
“Dang!” the man muttered and quickly loaded the next spear.
A black rock loomed to the starboard side but thankfully missed the boat by a few feet. A cluster of smaller rocks appeared ahead slightly to the left, a larger rock on the right. The netted monster headed between them—if the old man could only get his aim straight. The boat seemed to slow for a moment. He aimed.
Phfft. The arrow tore through the air and into the water where the net should be. Instantly, the water erupted in a tangle of fishing net and slithering silver. He got it! He strained to see through the moonlight, hugging the mast as the boat swayed from the sudden slacking of the monster’s pull. A long slender tail rose above the surface, hanging free of the fishnet. The moonlight glinted off the long, thin metal of the spear.
Suddenly, the boat lurched again and the backward thrust was so forceful, the old man almost lost his footing on the rung. It was only then that he realised his mistake. He’d hit the creature in its tail. It was in pain…and now it was mad.
The first rock hit on the portside with a jolt so fierce, the old man lost his grip, but his tightened rain jacket held him firmly to the mast. He must get back down now. He tried to untie the arms of his jacket, but the pulling on the rubber had fused the knot into a tight ball. He couldn’t get free. Desperately, he fumbled with the knot.
Another jerk rocked the boat. The cracking force as the hull broke open thundered through the night sky. The boat tilted, but ploughed on through the blackened sea. It headed closer to shore: more rocks, shallow water, and unimaginable other dangers. A massive black rock hit the starboard side, chewing at the hull like hungry jaws…but the boat kept moving.
The mast swung to one side. The fisherman clenched his grey-bearded jaw. His boat was going down. And he was going down with it, tied to the mast like any ship’s captain would be honoured to do. He only just had the chance to see the jumble of rocks beneath, as the mast broke at the base and came crashing down.
The old fishing boat disintegrated. Among the black volcanic rocks, the old fisherman lay motionless.

By Pauline Roberts, Head Librarian, Goulburn Valley Grammar School
Suellen Drysdale’s first book for children is a delightful adventure that features mermaids, flying horses and a wise-cracking little brother. It is a great blend of fantasy and reality and is reminiscent of Susan Cooper’s earlier books in The Dark is Rising Sequence.
Twelve year old Kirsten McGee bemoans the fact that she always seems to be tripping over her incredibly large feet but what she doesn’t realise is that she is a ‘hybrid’ and her feet have a purpose – they can morph into a beautiful silvery tail. Not only does Kirsten discover her family heritage but, with her brother Jeremy tagging along, she is transported to the incredible underwater world of Mermirran. With the assistance of the beautiful pegalusian horse Merri, an assortment of Mermirran inhabitants, as well as the contents of Jeremy’s backpack, Kirsten sets out on a quest to recover the Great Pearl of Mermirran and to hopefully restore the balance between the worlds above and below the ocean’s waves.
The pace of the story carries the reader along, but it is Jeremy’s rather dead pan comments and the repartee between brother and sister that provide the humour and sibling affection that, for me, was one of the highlights of the story. Ms Drysdale has succeeded in creating a relationship between Kirsten and Jeremy that reflects reality – a little brother’s job description being to annoy their big sisters…for life. I believe there is another book to come and I look forward to reading and enjoying the further adventures of Kirsten and following Ms Drysdale’s journey into the world of children’s literature.

About the Author
As a young child, Suellen Drysdale lived in a world of daydreams. Often she dreamed of becoming a writer. Growing up in the small Victorian town of Euroa, she would spend her summers riding horses, reading or creating underwater adventures at the local swimming pool.
When adulthood so rudely squashed her daydreaming, and forced her into the drudgery of study, work and mortgages, her childhood imagination flat-lined. She threw herself into a whirlwind corporate life - marketing the latest and greatest in mobile phone technology (no it's not all her fault). Although skilled in business writing and advertising copywriting, her fantasy realm came back to life when she "retired" to become a mother.
With the pitter-patter of little feet also came the flutter of pages from all the children's books that flooded her lounge room. Living on a small hobby farm at Kialla (near Shepparton in Central Victoria, Australia) with her husband and two gorgeous children, her imagination was rekindled. Her first children's novel, The Hybridand the Lost Tails of Mermirran was published in 2012. It was awarded a Finalist Medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards earlier this year, which recognize excellence in independently published books worldwide. The sequel, The Hybrid and the Emeralds of Elisar, will be published December 2013.
Suellen is an active member and Vice President of the Goulburn Valley Writers Group. She loves to inspire kids to write, and has judged the Junior Section of the Joseph Furphy Commemorative Literature Competition for eight years. She has written a short play which was performed by STAG, countless poems and short stories (some published in Tamba magazine) and is still working on a zany collection of nursery rhymes titled Forgetful Gran's Book of Muddle Rhymes.

Suellen has generously donated a paperback copy of The Hybrid and the Lost Tails of Mermirran for our giveaway. This giveaway is open internationally. Please show the author your appreciation by entering.