I am glad to introduce readers today to a little of the field research behind my new release, LAERKA, an urban fantasy and mermaid tale retelling. A large part of the pre-writing of this story involved research in and around the city of Savannah. I would be curious to know who out there in the audience has visited. It would be great to compare notes. What first strikes you about the city is its history, which is storied. There are the fairy-tale mansions and the crumbling slums literally side by side, sometimes. The poor are desperately so, the rich, outrageously so. In between is a mix of middle class, retirees and military families (there’s a base to the west of town), who both do and don’t get along with the historic downtown.
The family I name Delaney in my story is an Irish American clan, several generations of whom have fished in the Savannah rivers and off-shore. The patriarch is a recovering alcoholic, Bruce, who one-time had a reliable income, but whose future is in some question now that the city is dredging the harbor, and mixing millions of gallons of more seawater into an ecosystem that has never had to absorb so much salt before.
Here is a cross-section of the Georgia Atlantic coast where I imagine the Delaneys living.
They have an older home along the marsh on the lower left section of the map where the Little Ogeechee River forms from the interior marsh systems. Currently, there are some very wealthy property developments, but between the fancy real estate,
there remain some humble homes. These belong to the fisher folk of Stella’s history. It is on the inland marsh and twisting creeks that Stella learned to navigate the waters in and around Savannah and further out to sea.
Since Stella grew up on the water she knows most every boat in town, and none more so than the Georgia Queen paddle boat where she works a thankless summer job. The Georgia Queen really exists. I have been on it. And it’s exactly the kind of tourist trap you can imagine right off River Street, the oldest cobblestone street in Savannah and the most crowded with out-of-towners.
When the average day aboard a tourist boat includes heat exhaustion and a 2nd degree burn, you might look for methods of escape. Indeed Stella does so. But who’d have expected she’d find a body in the creepers during her after-dinner paddle!
Where it goes from there I’ll leave it for readers to discover.
Among my interests in this writing was a confluence of sea myths. I liked what I read about HC Andersen’s Little Mermaid, of course, but there are many more legendary sea creatures.
There’s the Cracken from Greek myths and the Hydra. There’s Godzilla, the Kelpie from the British Isles, and the two I enjoyed the most in this research, Russia’s Rusalka and Vodyanoy. The last of these (my image above) serves as Laerka’s villain. He is sometimes in the form of a man, sometimes a sea-going dragon. He preys on human flesh and, in his original myth, occupies lakes and swamps. I have made my Vodyanoy a smuggler and human trafficker who runs a nightclub. Cuz, you know, you got to modernize.
The last part of my research into Laerka was the night life. Even in a historic, culturally vibrant city like Savannah, some of the late night industry is run on the labor of slaves. That’s right. Some of the men’s club dancers in Savannah are taken against their will to locations where they are not free to leave. They are transported from someplace far away and have their ID and phones taken from them. In my story, the trafficked victims are girls from nations in turmoil. From the outside, the girls look like you and me. It’s only the small details that prove them to be captives: the unusual tattoo, frequent illness, insufficient food, multiple hair coloring to disguise features, never carrying ID.
To purchase Learka and learn if she survives the trafficking, if the crime ring remains active in Savannah and whether Stella stays safe from the sea monsters, herself,visit Amazon.com and link to: