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My fantasy elements series rolls on today with the mythical mermaid, nemesis of sailors. Mermaids have appeared in the folklore of many cultures worldwide. This aquatic legend has the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. It is thought that the sea nymphs arose from sightings of dugong but anyone who has seen a dugong would be sceptical of this.
In fantasy literature, mermaids are sprinkled throughout though nowhere near as common a fantasy icon as witches or dragons. The most memorable mermaids made an appearance in The Little Mermaid, a tale first published in 1837 by Hans Christian Anderson. Hans tells the story of a young mermaid, willing to give up life in the ocean and her mermaid identity to win the love of a human prince.
Stephen Donaldson had half human mystical hybrids called mer-wives in his ‘Chronicles of Thomas Covenant’
We also find mermaids, or at least mer people (people of the sea) in JK Rowling’s The Goblet of Fire.
“Here and there at the dark windows, Harry saw faces…faces that bore no resemblance at all to the painting of the mermaid in the prefects’ bathroom… The merpeople had grayish skin and long, wild, dark green hair. Their eyes were yellow, as were their broken teeth, and they wore thick ropes of pebbles around their necks.”
These mer people sound a far cry from those we traditionally think of.
In Doctor Who, The Curse of the Black Spot, a mysterious monster rears her head. When our three stowaways appear in their blue box, aboard a 17th century pirate ship, the crew is being mesmerized one by one by the haunting song of a beautiful siren. Her attention means certain death.
And that is the common theme amongst mermaid legend: that the sea nymphs appear to sailors at sea, singing their haunting songs, and the sailors are lured to their death, drowning in the ocean. Mermaids may be beautiful but their attraction has a deadly side effect.
In my third fantasy novel, which I will have more news on soon, my heroine is a mermaid. Merielle has just never ‘fit in’ amongst her people. She makes a decision to flee her family, rather than take part in their murderous activities. Merielle is found by naval captain Nikolas Cosara, washed up on his beach. Having been a sailor for decades and with his brother recently lost at sea, Nik has every reason to hate Merielle. She, on the other hand, has seized on a plan to make a human love her and so become a human woman. Suffice to say that the relationship between these two is turbulent.
The working title of this book is Love Thy Enemy and it has been an amazing and at times difficult ride to explore the possibilities of a mermaid as heroine of a romance novel. I think it very possible that the mer people will return in coming stories.
When my blog was very new, I wrote a post called ‘The Most Romantic Doctor Who’ which was, in essence, a tribute to my favourite Doctor, David Tennant. This post is one of my most popular and is still viewed by people every week. The Doctor resonates with so many people around the world, what ‘Who’ lover wouldn’t want to tap into that wealth of material? But the subject is so massive that it’s difficult to pin down a topic to write on.
I came across a blog by my friend and colleague Leisl Leighton called Saying Goodbye to the Doctor in which she eloquently describes her journey through the evolution of the different doctors both old and modern day. It’s really worth a read as is the rest of Leisl’s blog. I could relate to much of what Leisl had written. I never watched Doctor Who’s old series though I’ve seen some episodes and footage from this era.
My experience of Doctor Who came with the advent of the new Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston. He bounced onto our screens as the ninth Doctor and I thought he was fabulous, as was Billy Piper who played Rose Tyler. I was still trying to get my head around Doctor Who and all its laws and possibilities, not to mention the assorted baddies, when Doctor ten, David Tennant, came along.
It didn’t take long for me to fall completely in love with David and he is still my favourite to this day and always will be. It didn’t seem to matter whether he was with Rose or Martha Jones or Donna Noble, each brought out a different aspect of his character, to give us a more rounded picture of his strengths and flaws. So far, he appears to be the only Doctor who has fallen in love. Perhaps this is why so many of us were mesmerised by him.
The main writer of the Eccleston and Tennant series was Russell T Davies, and I give a lot of the credit for my enjoyment of these Who eras to the wonderful writing. However my favourite episode, The Girl in the Fireplace was written by Steven Moffat and directed by the brilliant Euros Lyn.
As I said goodbye to Doctor David, there could not have been a more distraught devotee than myself. For one who had come to identify Doctor Who with Tennant, I just couldn’t conceive of another playing The Doctor. Along came Matt Smith and I prepared to love him as much as David. After all, I had successfully transitioned from Eccleston to Tennant, why not to Smith? Along with a new doctor, a new premier writer took over the series. Steven Moffat began weaving his convoluted yarns and I was very lost at times.
Matt Smith was too young, too bumbling and I just couldn’t warm to Amy (Karen Gillan) either. On top of all this, the show had a new executive producer. It could be said that the entire landscape of Who was changed dramatically. I faithfully viewed the first few episodes, trying to get my head around the stories and the new Who and I admit, I gave up. I was devastated that my favourite show had been changed beyond my enjoyment. Occasionally I would catch part of an episode and find that, even in light of the odd laws of Doctor Who and ‘timey wimey’ stuff, I just couldn’t follow the stories.
I don’t know what happened to bring me back. It took me two series to accept Matt Smith and I’d be interested to hear if other fans had the same experience. I’ve now watched all the Matt Smith episodes several times over and love them, especially Vincent and the Doctor in which The Doctor and Amy take Vincent Van Gogh forward in time to show him how famous he became in the hope that it might save him. Each time I view these episodes I understand them better and feel that they are so complex that you can’t fully appreciate them without multiple viewings.
I will miss Matt Smith. I came to love his three way rivalry with Amelia Pond and Rory Williams. River Song added a feisty other dimension and Clara Oswald will continue into the next series with the new Doctor. Which brings me to Doctor Peter Capaldi. You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m unconvinced about Peter as the new Doctor. He’s not young and sexy and I think that the three recent Doctors have really added dimension to the role in this area. Capaldi is much more in the mould of doctors in the old series, though we did have several younger men playing the character. We shall see.
Last, I can’t end this without mentioning The Day of the Doctor. The episode introduced Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor and featured David Tennant and Matt Smith along with Tom Baker and Billie Piper. We even got to spend time with the War Doctor. It was magnificent television, creating a world viewing record for simulcast of a television drama. The show has us hooked and I don‘t mind admitting it. Long live Doctor Who in all his incarnations.
Today my blog reached the milestone of 4000 hits. It took just over 12 months to climb to this and while I’m sure it sets no record, it’s still an amazing achievement. I’ve had a great time creating content for this blog and tried to stick with the romance theme.
I thought you might be interested to discover the most clicked of my 40 previous posts was The Most Romantic Dr Who which continues to get clicks on a regular basis. Next most popular was the Alpha versus Beta Heroes post.
In the coming weeks, I’ll have a series of interviews with Destiny Romance authors. I can’t wait to discover their new releases, writing lives and writing secrets. Until then…
This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, Vincent Rowley.
The story of Vincent van Gogh resonates with people today. He left a wonderful legacy in his art but his life was a mixture of genius and insanity. Many would say that true genius can be very close to insanity. Have we romanticized Vincent’s life? Possibly. The thought of an artist or writer toiling away in beautiful locations, creating their masterpieces does appeal to those of us who are so inclined. But Vincent’s life was cut short.
Van Gogh was the son of a protestant minister and his life course led him from dealing in art to Christian ministry and finally to the life of an artist. He was unlucky in love and, as is often the case, didn’t receive recognition for his creative genius until after his death. Like most artists and writers, Vincent took an interest in those around him and in his surroundings and this inspired his art.
Another source of inspiration for Van Gogh was his brother Theo, who saw something in Vincent and encouraged his artistic endeavours. The world could so easily have been deprived of Vincent’s legacy as he suffered from deep insecurity over his art, having no early artistic abilities, no training and little encouragement from his parents and society. A burning need to leave the world something of himself drove Vincent to paint and his brother financially supported him to enable a life devoted to art.
But Vincent couldn’t control the bomb that was ticking away in his brain- epilepsy, psychotic attacks and delusions. His behaviour was unpredictable and he required hospitalisation. There were long periods of no creativity interspersed with frantic painting where he produced a canvas each day. This was when his The Starry Night was born.
I was out at dinner recently and Don McLean’s Starry, Starry Night was playing. It’s one of my favourite songs and the idea for this blog popped into my head. McLean sings of Vincent’s art, his mental anguish, his death and his legacy.
Those of you who are Dr Who fans will remember the episode where the doctor and Amy travel back to Vincent’s world, discovering an alien monster which is visible to Vincent but not to them. They must battle this monster without being able to see it. The episode begins in an art gallery where the doctor is viewing a Van Gogh exhibition and sees the monster in one of Van Gogh’s paintings. He travels back in time to find it.
Mission accomplished, the doctor and Amy decide to take Vincent forward with them to show him the exhibition of his work, hoping it will give him the will to live on. He is overwhelmed by seeing his art appreciated and speaking to the guide who pays Van Gogh a wonderful tribute. But Vincent still takes his life a short time later.
Vincent Van Gogh touched many lives and continues to do so long after his death. He lives on in his paintings, just as he wished when he was a young man. And so his life is a triumph and the beauty and tragedy of his soul continue to affect us today.
Last week, we buried my father-in-law, Vincent Rowley. Vince was taken from us too soon, by cancer. He touched many lives and fought his disease for seventeen years. He raised six sons and had thirteen grandchildren. He was a loving and faithful husband to his wife Esther. He had many friends. He helped many people. Of all things in his life, Vince cherished his family and we all miss him. We are comforted by the knowledge that our Vincent is now out of his pain and in God’s arms.
Dr Who fans are in seventh heaven this year with all of the modern series being played at 7.30 weeknights on ABC 2. We are being treated to lashings of The Doctor in his modern glory with all three ‘new’ doctors featuring this year. I must take this opportunity to say that Matt Smith has finally grown on me as The Doctor. It took a long time for me to say good-bye to David Tennant.
Currently, we have the second series of Dr Who featuring David Tennant in his first season. It’s Billie Piper’s (character Rose Tyler) second season and she does a truly magnificent job. She’s the girl who keeps the Doctor honest, showing her street smarts and her connection with family in every episode. Rose is the champion of the underdog and appears to have compassion in boundless quantities.
The Doctor whisked Rose away from her life on a London estate to roam the universes in search of danger and excitement. Some of my favourite episodes though are the ones where the Doctor visits the past. “Tooth and Claw” is the second episode in the second series and the Doctor and Rose travel to 1879 Scotland. There they meet Queen Victoria who is about to find a spot of trouble with a werewolf. This week has seen “The Girl in the Fireplace”, an episode based around the life of Madame de Pompadour in France, 1727. This was a captivating episode, made more so by the beauty and grace of Sophia Myles who plays Reinette Poisson.
Romance underpins many episodes in the Doctor Who series. It is clear that Rose is besotted with her travelling companion and I believe that amongst all the companions throughout his long life, it is Rose who sits highest in the Doctor’s affections. He will do anything for her except settle down. That life is not for him. He tells her he won’t watch her grow old and die. Rose has already given up everything that once mattered to her to be with the Doctor.
Early in series two, we meet a past companion of the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, and realise that here is another woman he has loved and left behind. Rose is shown her future and struggles with the likelihood that one day the Doctor will leave her too. The companion who follows Rose is Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman). After well over a year of service at the Doctor’s side, Martha parts from his company as she too has fallen in love with him. It is very clear to her that Rose is still uppermost in his thoughts and she, Martha, can only be second best.
The Doctor’s next companion is Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) who is unique amongst companions for not falling in love with him. (Although was she really kidding herself?) The Doctor and Donna share an amiable rivalry and he admires her greatly however Donna is possibly too abrasive a personality to ever be considered as a love interest. Never the less, Catherine Tate portrayed an intriguing companion and her episodes with Tennant are some of the most enjoyable.
The latest companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) leapt onto our screens with the eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. Amy was definitely infatuated with the Doctor early on though it soon became clear that her heart lay with Rory. Another indefatigable woman, Amy takes the lead while the new incarnation of the time lord finds his feet.
And then there are the other women in the Doctor’s life. Most recently, this week in fact, the enchanting Madame de Pompadour stole the Doctor’s heart. She called him her ‘lonely angel’ and he visited her over the years of her life, rescuing her from clockwork androids when she was 37 and at the height of her power. He was willing to be trapped with her, never again to roam, but Reinette conceived a way to send her ‘lonely angel’ back to Rose.
River Song (Alex Kingston) is the unforgettable future wife of the Doctor, the woman he finally says ‘yes’ to. She is a fellow time traveler and keeps meeting the Doctor out of sync so that he has no real idea of her significance in his life. From an audience perspective, the Doctor’s first meeting with River is her last with him, so as he gets to know her better in ensuing episodes, she is less familiar with him. The bulk of her relationship is with the Matt Smith incarnation of the time lord.
The TARDIS is another of the Doctor’s loves; his ship, old and unreliable, with a core that is alive with the spirit of a woman. This spirit does actually inhabit the body of a human in the 2011 episode “The Doctor’s Wife” and we get an insight into the relationship between the time lord and his machine. A recurring plot point in the series is the habit the Doctor has of getting both the place and year of his destination wrong. In this episode, the TARDIS reveals that her intervention has often been the cause of these mistakes so that she could get the Doctor where he needed to be.
Last but certainly not least is Captain Jack Harkness played by John Barrowman. He first meets Rose in an episode set in London in the Blitz. He rescues her and attempts to sweep her off her feet but it is the Doctor who really traps his loyalty. The Doctor instantly knows Jack is bisexual but it takes Rose a little longer to realize that when it comes to sex, Jack swings both ways. Regardless of his preferences, the unforgettable dimpled smile of the swashbuckling Captain Jack will have fed the fantasies of many a viewer, male and female.
As a bit of fun, I’ve decided to announce some Doctor Who Romance Awards
Most Romantic Doctor – David Tennant series 2,3 and 4
Most Romantic Guest Appearance– Sophia Myles (Madame de Pompadour) series 2, episode 4 “The Girl in the Fireplace”
These awards cover only the modern series, encompassing doctors 9,10 and 11. Please feel free to respond with your ‘Most Romantic’ awards from the series or add other awards to the list.