Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guest Post: Judi Fennell

Judi Fennell Guest Blog, author of In Over Her Head

I love fairy tales, especially the Disney versions I grew up with. I love almost everything about them - the heroine in jeopardy, the (royal) guy who just has to save her, the villains, the action and adventure, the comeuppance and of course, the sidekicks.

So when it came time to put my own spin on the fairy tales (In Over Her Head was my twist on The Little Mermaid), I had to have the sidekicks.

Now, if your story takes place under the ocean, the sidekicks will have to be sea creatures.
And, of course, they have to talk.

The first sidekick to introduce himself to me, was Chumley Masticar. Chum, for short. Yes, I know, how silly was it to have a fish named Chum? The thing is, when I started writing this story, I didn't plan to write a humorous piece. But once you meet Reel, the hero, you'll see that I pretty much didn't have a choice.

Reel has an attitude. A swaggering, devil-may-care, life's-a-beach attitude and anything is fair game for him. His buddy needed to be able to keep up with him and not be a doormat.
Chum is that guy.

A remora (one of those fish you see stuck to sharks and manta rays and the occasional diver) who lost his sucker due to an unfortunate boat propeller incident, Chum has been loyal to Reel since the day Reel saved him from humiliating himself by having to beg for scraps from the lobsters. So when Reel gets called on the carpet, er, sand, for turning a Human, Chum is all about going along for the ride to make sure The Council gives Reel a fair hearing.

As for his posturing along the way? Well, when you're faced with a puffer fish who's overcompensating for his size, Chum is pretty fierce with his defense.

Another sidekick is Chipper, a young parrotfish with a dental problem. Chipper's out to prove himself and when he sees a Human in need of some help from a moray, the little guy zips right over to help. Never mind that he's been told time and again not to talk to strangers, he speaks moray, so he can help her out.

Our villain has to have her sidekicks of course, and since she's nasty, they have to be as well.
Sharks, by default of being sharks, are pretty nasty, but I think a more nasty-looking fish has got to be the barracuda. Have you seen their "teeth"? More like deadly spikes poking out from their bottom jaw, ready to turn your body parts into a sieve. *shudders

So, Ceto (the sea monster) has Mato and Rasgo.

If you speak Spanish, you'll recognize those words. Their verbs, actually, for "I kill" and "I tear" (as in lacerate). Needless to say, not two guys you'd want to meet in a dark tunnel... like our heroine, Erica, does.

Then there's the two pelicans, Amelia and Ernie, and Lancelot and Galahad, who transport Reel and Erica on their marlin-drawn chariot through the ocean. We've got talking starfish, chattering seahorses, the electric rays: Dufus One and Dufus Two as Reel likes to call them, whose real names are Bob and Ray-not much better... and a whole cast of characters on the ocean floor. Each one was a blast to get know, but also a hard act to follow when it came time to write the next books in the series.

I have to say, though, that after years of reading every Doctor Doolittle and Wizard of Oz book there is when I was a kid, my imagination is just peppered with talking animals, and what a tremendous pleasure to be able to introduce all of you to them throughout this series.
Here's one of my favorite passages from In Over Her Head:

"Surely this Council will understand? I mean, it was either that or let me die."

Chum cleared his throat. Which was another interesting thing to contemplate but she had enough on her shellfish plate as it was. "The Council wouldn't care if you'd died. Honestly, do you know how many Human idiots there are in the waters of the North Atlantic alone? Forget about the Great Barrier Reef. Why your kind ventures into that sharks' nest is beyond me. Talk about stupid. They should just dangle bait from their arms and be done with it. Then there's that whole shark-cage phenomenon-"

"Chum, if you don't mind, I'd like to stick to the subject," Reel said.

"Yeah, you're doing so well with that." Chum used his tail to scratch under his left pectoral fin.
"Look, Erica. Yes, I turned you when I shouldn't have. But it was either that or let you die."
"So you saved me to live on the bottom of the sea?"

"It was a split-second decision. I have to live with the ramifications as much as you do."


Reel swiped a hand over his mouth.

"Who do you think is responsible for you now?" Chum pointed out. "Who has to keep you safe, teach you how to survive here? Provide you shelter? Teach you their ways so you'll be able to live among them because, trust me, you do not want to be an outcast in their world. All on the threat of death if he fails?"

"Do you mind?" Reel swam in front of the remora, the ripples from his kicks sending Chum tumbling to the other side of the room.

The ripples from his nudity sent her nerves tumbling around in her tummy.

"Look, Erica." His green eyes softened somewhat, and he had that glimmer of a grin starting. "I knew exactly what I was doing when I did it. Someone shot you. I couldn't let you die. It wasn't an option. So I did the one thing I could to protect you. I'm willing to deal with the fallout."

"Oh, God. Joey. I'd forgotten." She rubbed the sore spot on her head. "He threatened to shoot me."

"Looks like he succeeded," came the muttered grump from the far wall.
© Judi Fennell, Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 2009

Thanks so much for having me and I hope everyone enjoys In Over Her Head!

About The Author
Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to "get outside!" instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did--right into Dad's hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she's more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she's still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends' books.

A three-time finalist in online contests, Judi has enjoyed the reader feedback she's received and would love to hear what you think about her Mer series. Check out her website at for excerpts, reviews and fun pictures from reader and writer conferences, and the chance to "dive in" to her stories.

To celebrate the release of each of her books, Judi Fennell and the Atlantis Inn ( and the Hibiscus House ( bed and breakfasts are raffling off three romantic beach getaway weekends. All information is on Judi's website,

1 comment:

Judi Fennell said...

good morning and thanks so much for having me!