The first part of book 3 of Ysabel the Summoner takes place underwater. This series is a YA fantasy, so the more fantastical the creatures, the better.

Enter the hammerhead, prowler of the deep.

ham shark1

Who, me?

ham shark2The facts: Great hammerheads can grow up to 20 ft. and weigh up to 1k lbs. Their big eyes capture the dimmest light, allowing them to see in the dark. Sweeping their popeyes back and forth gives them a panoramic view. They detect electrical impulses given off by prey hiding in the dark and under the sand.

ham shark3

What was that?

ham shark4

I hope never to see this coming at me.

ham sharks underview

Or looking up at this.

Next are Japanese spider crabs, aka tall-footed crab. My girl is going to meet some scary creatures.

Manta rays, the giant kind

My undersea adventures continue. I’m looking for companions for Ysabel when she’s underwater with the mermaids in book three of Ysabel the Summoner.

First up, giant manta rays!manta swimming2

These fabulous beasts swim gracefully through temperate ocean waters all over the world. They can grow up to 30 ft. wide and can weigh almost 3,000 lbs.

mantas feeding2

They feed on plankton, opening their long mouths wide (please don’t eat me) to funnel in plankton-rich seawater. Gill rakers, thin cartilage filaments in their mouths filter plankton from seawater.

manta jumping1

They can leap completely out of the water. No one knows why; maybe as play, or a courtship display (big and fit!) or to communicate with their kind; the splash of their reentry can be heard for miles.


Swimming with mantas is popular with divers. But no touching, as apparently this disturbs the mucus that coats their skin and protects them against bacteria and microorganisms.


They’re vulnerable to becoming entangled in fishing lines and nets, and are hunted for their gill rakers as an ingredient in Chinese medicine.

mantas feeding

These huge, gentle fish are unable to live in captivity. The biggest aquariums do not have sufficiently large pools. If captured, mantas refuse to eat and die within days.

They seem so sensitive; Ysabel may have to admire them from afar.

Leafies and Weedies

Under the sea, tra-la. My mermaid worldbuilding for book three of Ysabel the Summoner takes me, yes, under the sea. I’ve discovered bioluminescent fish and jellies, giant clams and blue-eyed scallops. Today I found these wonderful little creatures. Seadragons are related to seahorses and grow up to 18 inches long. The leaf-like protrusions provide camouflage by making them look floating seaweed.

Weedy Sea Dragon2 The Weedy Seadragon, aka, a “weedie”.

leafy_sea_dragon_02Its more exotic cousin, a Leafy Seadragon.

leafy sea-dragon1Another view of a leafie.

Best camouflage ever.

Giant clams and many-eyed scallops

Book Two of the Ysabel the Summoner series is in the capable hands of my editor. On to book three. In this third book, my girl Ysabel is under the sea with the mermaids, recovering from a terribly injury.

Bioluminiscent fish and jellies light up her underwater world. Strange creatures abound.


Scallops! With blue eyes! The eyes are functional; they track movement and light. If the scallop loses an eye, another grows in its place.



Up close, they look like blueberries.


Giant clams, yikes! They giant clamgrow up to 4 feet across and have an average lifespan of 100 years in the wild. Before I started researching, I only knew them from comics and the covers of cheesy paperbacks, showing a clam closed tight around the leg of an unfortunate diver.



Like this.



It’s a myth, though. Giant clams are not fast moving; a diver would have to hang around for a long time with his leg jammed between the clam shells waiting for the two halves to sloooowly close.


I love research.

Establishing a writing practice: time and place- the two biggest obstacles

Raising children, working a job, having relationships, when do we find time to write?

A good way to start is to write a mere 15 minutes a day. Those 15 minutes soon will fly by and you won’t want to stop. You’ll feel anxious and irritated when your normal life interrupts your reverie, but that’s ok, because it’ll impel you to find more time to write.

And then there’s where to write. We need a safe  and quiet place. I’ve written in my car during my lunch break, on the city bus (where I’ve seen every one of my characters), during meetings, which is a great opportunity to capture people looking anxious, haggard, or bored, and best of all, in the generally empty government periodicals room in the library.

The main thing is to make daily writing as important as anything else we do in our lives.