I grew up in a magical realm where winter never comes, we find dollars on the beaches, stars in the water and mermaids in warm springs. Yes, of course, that place is Florida. The dollars are made of sand, the stars are fish and the mermaids are in Weeki Wachee. A state park that started out as a privately-owned tourist attraction in the 1940’s, it features natural springs that remain 74 degrees all year long.
I learned to swim at the park. Every morning for an enchanted two weeks in the summer, I waited beside Highway 19 for the repurposed school bus that picked me up almost at my front door and transported me an hour away to Weeki Wachee. I wore my bathing suit underneath my shorts and carried my beach towel and a little cash for a snack.
When we arrived at the Springs, we entered the section roped off for swimmers and set our bags and towels down on the white sand beach. Shivering, we waded into the water an inch at a time. I will never forget the first day when I put my face in the water and blew bubbles, then learned to float. By the end of the week, I was dog-paddling and within a summer or two, jumping off the high dive.
Along with my swimming ability, I developed a fascination with mermaids. I watched the mermaids perform their show countless times over the years and never lost my admiration for their athletic ability and graceful swimming. As a teen, I wanted desperately to become a Weeki Wachee mermaid when I was older. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.
Although I practically lived in the water all summer, I also developed a healthy respect for it. Many times, when we swam in the Atlantic at New Smyrna or Daytona Beach, powerful waves caught me and rolled me over and over until they spit me out on the beach, gasping and sputtering salt water. Every year swimmers drowned, pulled out to sea by the undertow or rip currents. Water has power and it can be marvelous or terrifying, or both.
When I decided to write my debut novel, Water Dreams, I chose mermaids for the primary paranormal feature. I wanted a different take on the myth and so I created the Nerei, a race of shapeshifting mermaids and mermen, whose form on land is indistinguishable from humans. They want one thing above all else: freedom from water. Although they can exist on land, they must return to the water frequently to sustain themselves.
The heroine of my story is Nik, a young woman from Tarpon Springs, Florida, who is terrified of water. She doesn’t know how or why she fears it so much, but she won’t have anything to do with it. She never learned to swim and she won’t go near a beach or swimming pool.
The Nerei contact Nik and tell her they believe she holds the solution to their problem because she shares their DNA and can stay away from water. She doesn’t believe them and refuses to have anything to do with them.
Bas is a young Nerei male tasked with obtaining Nik’s cooperation. He doesn’t like humans much but he is fascinated with Nik. He can’t give up on convincing her to help them and he wants to keep seeing her. However, Nerei forbid relationships with humans and breaking the law is punishable by death.
Water Dreams is the story of how Nik and Bas bridge the gulf between them and their people. It is also the story of how Nik overcomes her water phobia. She experiences dreams about water throughout the book. The dreams start as paralyzing nightmares and progress during the story, becoming less frightening as she grows stronger, giving her hints and clues about how to work out her problems. Eventually, she gains control of the dreams, as she conquers her fear of water and overcomes the dilemmas presented by the Nerei.
Excerpt from Water Dreams:
She waded in, appreciating the satiny water on her skin, enveloping her naked body from her waist down, a velvety embrace. She looked at the stars glowing above her, and the full moon lighting the sky, making a shining path on the cenote. She listened to the tree branches soughing in the breeze, the Whippoorwills calling. There was a sense of timelessness about the moment that made her feel like a twig in a river. She created a tiny ripple in the stream as it passed along. The cenote and the woods were there long before she arrived, and would endure long after she was gone.
Nik dove into the water, gasping at the cold. She swam several hard strokes until the blood sang in her veins, warming her inside out, then turned over onto her back and floated.
When she heard splashing behind her, Nik gasped, imagining an eerie creature shared the depths of this pond with her. However, Nik saw a familiar shape and realized Bas was swimming with her. He was in his Nerei form. His massive tail slapped the water, arcing radiant drops over Nik’s head and into her face. She spluttered, going under for a minute before surfacing behind him. She didn’t have a tail to splash Bas, but she surprised him, and dashed him with a handful of water to the face. They played for a little while, chasing one another and laughing.
Bas had a huge advantage. Because he swam so much faster, she couldn’t get away from him. Bas caught her, held her close to him, and looked into her eyes. In the moonlight, Nik could see Bas well. He smiled at her. He circled her waist with one arm. He used his other hand to stroke Nik’s hair. Bas’ chest pinned Nik’s naked torso against him and she wrapped her legs around his waist. Both hot and cold swept over her at the same instant, a tsunami of sensations she had never imagined, much less experienced. She feared she might pass out. Bas didn’t say a word, but he lowered his mouth to Nik’s and kissed her, first softly and then hard. Nik kissed him back, her head spinning.
Katherine started writing stories in grade school and always intended to write novels someday but she put off writing fiction while she raised her family and worked as a clinical social worker at four different Veterans Affairs Medical Centers around the country. Although devastated to learn that her first career choice—mermaid, was not realistic, Katherine found helping veterans and their families fulfilling. She lives with her husband in Homosassa, Florida and Falling Waters, West Virginia. Water Dreams, Katherine’s debut novel, is a paranormal romance set in Tarpon Springs, Florida and is the first book in the Love’s Siren Song series. It is available in print or e-book from Foundations, LLC, Amazon, and other on-line retail sites.
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