Just discovered a wonderful review

Si eu m-am indragostit de cartea Arrabellei si o citesc pe nerasuflate! V-o recomand, impreuna cu recenzia repostata mai jos!

via Just discovered a wonderful review


The world is upside down

It is nothing new that the world is functioning upside down in various aspects of life. Why not in the writing realm too?

As you know already, and as you can see from the blog header, I have published three novels up to now. Two others and a short stories anthology will follow soon, almost certainly all three to appear this year. I published with small indie presses, because this is what I have the possibility in the current book market conditions. Many writers more seasoned than me published with the same two indie presses, so I am in good company. (And they aren’t vanity presses, printing and dumping the books in your arms. No, they assure launching events, participation at fairs, the collaboration of literary critics, etc.)

I am glad that I have started to become a little known among the contemporary writers in Bucharest. If one googles my pen name (despite being quite common internationally) one can find something about one of my novels too. If googling the titles, there are few information about them, but they are, reviews and photos. I had good reviews from the literary critics at the book presentation events, I had my novels displayed at the bi-annual Bucharest International Book Fairs… all these are successes for a junior writer, with only 3 novels published up to now.

I think I have a few more good things to list, including being on some senior writers’ good list. It sounds lovely, but… let’s vent my frustrations too. And this comes with the warning that the Romanian book market, unfortunately, doesn’t resemble the English speaking books market, so most of the book marketing ideas I find online, in English speaking blogs, unfortunately do not apply. For example, the English-speaking literary world promotes very much e-books. Here they are negligible sold. Printed word is the base… where it is.

While the English speaking market is catering to nearly one billion people (there were, in Internet statistics, 400 million native speakers of English, to which to add 400 million speakers of English as a second language, in 2006, and I assume the population has increased in 12 years), the overall population of Romania was of 19.5 million people, out of which about 4 million are abroad, about 3 million too young to read my novels (below 14)… and from the remaining 12.5 million, about 40% or more are poor, too busy to survive and not reading anything else than an occasional newspaper or religious book. Sad, but true.  Of course, from the remaining people who would read in principle (some regularly, some occasionally) not all are fans of historical adventures fiction/ YA, what I am writing. This is a realistic analysis.

As far as I heard the publishers say (not only personally to me, but also in interviews on the internet) – and we have our “big fives” here too, plus a whole constellation of small indie presses (the equivalent of self publishing would be here dealing directly with the printing house without a publisher, which is recommended only for professional books which have already the distribution ensured or for people who print one memoir book in their lives to give to 50-100 people, not needing ISBN or anything), in my country a book (written by a contemporary national writer, not translations of international bestsellers and not books required for school reading like our classics) printed in 1,000 copies is already considered a best seller.  My novels were, 2 of them published in 200 copies, the first one in 300. It is the level generally the writers around me use.

Now, my sincere frustrations?

– I haven’t recovered the costs on any of them. Yes, I have sold some, but the greatest amount was given freely. Now, to be honest, I knew from the start that I wouldn’t get rich from writing. I did it from my heart, and I loved when I received compliments about the books (not only from the critics, I appreciate more the readers’ compliments and questions, even if I know the critics’ are of importance for the accession to the Writers’ Union). This is when I felt they got their mission, to brighten someone’s day and to transport them to another time and place, offering them an insight on that way of living. But I would have appreciated if I succeeded to recover my costs. Some writers know business owners and get sponsors. (I had sponsors too, back in 1999, for my professional handbook in project management). I don’t know influent people who would be able to sponsor me, every cost is supported from my meager savings (given that I am retired now).  Yes, I sold books at various events… but the money received covered the expenses of the event, with very little margin (if any).

– I can’t reach exactly my target group, the high-school and Uni youngsters. Until now, my novels were bought mostly by grown-up or older people who were nostalgic about the style of novels they use to read, because these were the ones coming to the literary events.

…And everything needs more money. Half, I understand this as in the fact that if I try to expand my marketing network, this doesn’t come for free because this is what those people gain their living from – organising things, writing things. I am lucky that I haven’t had to pay for some things, though. There are friends who help me for free, and I thank them wholeheartedly. At my turn, I have always helped people for free, with whatever I could. It had never occurred to me to ask money, and I am always shocked when I am asked money for various things which, in my thoughts, shouldn’t.

In a world which wouldn’t function as upside down as it does, the writer should be allowed to write – like it was before the ascension of social media – and the others should do the marketing part. I am sure that Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas weren’t the ones to do much more than writing. Yes, they received their money after the books were sold, but nobody asked them money for publishing, for book launching events organisation and other things. Or, if now shedding money is a must because there are too many books published and no publisher assumes the economic risks anymore in this crisis economy, at least they should want the money from the sales! Not before recovering the costs…

One would say fame has a price I am paying. Even little fame. Others say it’s something wrong with me and my writing, otherwise merit triumphs. What I have seen and heard around me, says that it’s not only me, and not only merit triumphs. Besides merit, it takes good luck, knowing the right persons and maybe also having some financial reserves… But I still have the feeling that things aren’t how they should be. The system doesn’t function how it should. (Where does it?)


Invitație la Bookfest și interviu cu autoarea Marina Costa

Am plăcerea să vă prezint interviul realizat de site-ul Bibliocărți referitor la cărțile pe care le-am publicat până în prezent.

De asemenea, vă invit la Bookfest, pe 2 iunie 2018, între orele 16-18, la Cafeneaua Literară Julius Meinl, pentru prezentarea romanului “Prietenii dreptății”!

Invitatie Bookfest

(Pe lângă romanul meu și alte romane, se va lansa volumul colectiv de proză scurtă Amprente pe cerul înstelat, în care am și eu un text – tot istoric, desigur…)

O nouă recenzie la “Pribegii mărilor”

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Mulțumesc doamnei Ioana Stana de la Centrul Cultural StanArt pentru recenzia de mai jos!

Pribegii Mărilor, romanul istoric de debut al scriitoarei Marina Costa (Lelia Elena Vasilescu), este scris într-o manieră specifică poveștilor lui Wilhelm Hauff, îmbinând armonios șirul evenimentelor, cu acuratețea și logica specifică unui bărbat și cu verticalitatea, sensibilitatea și atenția descriptivă detaliată, caracteristică unei femei.
Cititorii pasionați de romane istorice, vor avea surpriza să descopere unicitatea modului de abordare a subiectului, tot așa cum tinerii vor experimenta în final, dorința de a-și completa cunoștințele privitoare la acea perioadă, cu meticulozitatea și atenția de care autoarea a dat dovadă, pentru a-și permite, cu ajutorul imaginației, să continue povestea, în limita posibilelor eventualități.

În romanul Pribegii Mărilor, relatarea evenimentelor nu este dată de un personaj, martor imparțial al unor evenimente istorice, sau ale unei epoci, cum ne-am obișnuit citind romanele istorice ale Anyei Seton, sau Philippei Gregory, unde avem ocazia citind faptele, atent redate și din diferite unghiuri să ne formăm propriile păreri, după cum nu regăsim victima unei situații, sau a unei perioade istorice, care se află în căutarea unei forme de reintegrare în societate, urmărită fiind de fantomele trecutului, ca-n romanele lui Nelson DeMille.

În romanul Pribegii Mărilor, evenimentele ne sunt transmise simplu, aparent la puțin timp după momentul producerii lor, ca în final să înțelegem că retrăim emoțiile unei povești, ajunse la noi, întocmai ca un mesaj aruncat într-o sticlă în valuri, sau prin respectul acordat istoriei, de către primul om care găsește un jurnal al unor timpuri demult apuse.

Naturalețea cu care autoarea trece de la proză la vers și invers, aducând astfel în context poemele și cântecele acelor vremuri, probabil că nu ar trebui să surprindă pe nimeni, câtă vreme, încă din perioada gimnaziului, dovedea nu numai interes pentru istorie și limbi străine, dar și pentru poezie și proză, remarcându-se deseori în cadrul cenaclului „Pasiuni” al liceului de Filologie-Istorie Iulia Hașdeu.

Totuși lejeritatea cu care o face se apropie mai degrabă de arta dramaturgică, de siguranța unui scenarist, decât de a unui romancier, pregătit și interesat doar de evenimentele erei respective.

Sunt sigură că acest roman va rămâne întipărit în memoria cititorilor, într-un mod în care doar poveștile copilăriei o mai pot face, venind de această dată și cu o frumoasă descriere a unei epoci, nu foarte des amintită în zilele noastre, cel puțin nu în atâtea detalii și privită din acest unghi.

Încă mă întreb dacă o continuare ar păstra farmecul încă viu, sau modul în care se termină oferă fiecăruia șansa să-și creeze singur propriile variante, ale unei povești, ce pare că abia acum începe.

Acest sentiment suntem obișnuiți să ni-l asumăm nu neapărat după citirea unui roman istoric, dar cu siguranță în finalul operelor lui Edgar Allen Poe, sau Mircea Eliade.

Sunt convinsă că tinerii noștri, vor regăsi pasiunea de a citi, iar setea de cunoaștere le va fi transmisă doar prin astfel de manifestări scriitoricești, precum sunt convinsă că acest mod de abordare al romanului istoric va fi primit cum se cuvine de către cititorii români.

Ioana Stana


An interview which never happened

I just noticed that an interview I have filled in some months ago never got to be published by the one who had requested it. Most likely, because I am not an English language writer. But I am posting it here, since it has been written and sent, therefore it exists, for those who want to learn more about me and my novels…

  1. What sort of career did you have before becoming a writer?

I am an economist. I have a PhD in World Economics (the dissertation being, in 1996, about the European transport policy). I have worked for a whole career in EU Affairs/ EU projects management. I have published several professional papers and 2 handbooks in the past (1999-2015). Actually, in 1999, I published the first project management handbook ever in Romanian. The others, at Uni and at postgraduate courses, were starting with 2000.

 2. Was there a triggering event that prompted you to begin writing?

I have been writing for a lifetime. I don’t think there was any special event triggering it, just discovering that I can play with words and create worlds, not only with toys. I remember a story in first grade about a witch who flew over a man and turned him into a rabbit. And my first attempt at a novel was Western, in sixth grade, lasting 2 notebooks of 100 pages, handwritten loosely.

  1. Do you now write full time or part time?

I can’t say that I am writing full time. Can anyone, when there are enough things to do in the household? Or rather in the two households I am managing, since I am also taking care of my mother, who is 89.

Five of the novels I have written in high school and Uni had a literary value, so much later I transcribed them on computer, correcting, completing/ re-writing them and hoping that some day they might be published.

The Wanderers of the Seas“, my debut novel, published in June 2016, had been written, in a thinner version, in my first year of Uni, in 1987. It got transcribed on the computer in 2002, and corrected, then it got some completions in 2009. The first 12 chapters of the first volume of “Lives in Turmoil“, my second novel, published in March 2017, were written in 1984, in the summer holidays between the tenth and eleventh grade. “Rightness’ Friends“, published in April 2018, was written, in a thinner version, in my last year of highschool. That got transcribed in 2007 on computer, completed and re-written. In 2017, it just underwent some editing and condensing for publishing.

I had the opportunity to meet an interested publisher in late 2015, at a literary presentation. We talked, exchanged e-mails, and I sent him “The Wanderers of the Seas”, which was the shortest among these three best ones, to tell me if it was any good. There had been a few months until he succeeded to read it, and he was enthusiastic about it. This is how I got to be published, and at the official launching of the book I was sitting like a bride, the happiest possible…

  1. What parts of the writing career do you enjoy the most/the least?

I like both researching and writing.

I don’t enjoy so much the marketing part, especially because what I am reading online is mostly valid for the English language books market and not valid for my country’s books market.

  1. What parts of your former career do you miss/not miss?

I had a fulfilling carreer, so I don’t miss it. I feel I did my duty contributing to the European integration of my country, in the specific fields I have worked for. And I brought it projects amounting to over one billion EUR in 23 years in this field, I have contributed to negotiating several international transport agreements…

  1. Do you have any regrets?

I regret a little not having had the opportunity to publish sooner. Also I regret being known more outside my country, ie by people who can’t read my novels, than inside. I would have wished to know book review bloggers from my country too, and get my books reviewed by them. I would have wished that electronic books were a thing in my country too (they aren’t much), and that I had the technical knowledge to upload my books somewhere online too.

  1. What advice would you offer other second career writers?

To keep writing, because if they like writing their stories, someone would surely like reading them. And not to be discouraged because they haven’t been a prodigy child, published at 15, nor because there are writers who make greater sales or more readers or more book copies. Everyone does as much as they can. Keep writing, because otherwise there will be nothing to be read… (And keep improving yourself by reading everything about creative writing you can find, while adapting them to your style. Because nobody can write YOUR story, only slightly different ones…)

8. What are the ‘magic ingredients’ that make historical fiction unforgettable and irresistible?

A proper description of the setting, based on strong research, compelling characters and an inciting narrative trip. Learning lots of things when you close the book and wanting to research more about that time – be it a folk dance (or a court dance) on youtube, a mentioned poet’s writings or a historical event on wikipedia.

I don’t believe in keeping the speaking and vocabulary of those times, despite the fact that some readers and writers swear by it. (I don’t believe in blatant anachronisms either, though. But there has to be a middle way). If we are writing today, we can’t keep the language of Shakespeare and have people understand our writing, even if it happens in the Tudors’ era.

What if it happens in Antiquity? They were speaking Latin or Ancient Greek, or Egyptian (which was not the Arabic now Egyptians are speaking), and our novel was written in French/ English/ Italian – whatever the writer’s mother tongue. So you’d better give us the athmosphere, instead of the way of speaking/ vocabulary of those times, in order to be read with interest. Yes, some specific words are to be given and explained – if in Ancient Rome, you can’t avoid mentioning the thermae, vespasianes, praetori. But you aren’t writing in Latin, neither in the phrase structures of that time. And if you add translating a book from the writer’s mother tongue to the reader’s (English-written books are translated in all countries, from Japan to Russia and Argentina), then the problem of the vocabulary adds to my point.

I was asked if, writing about Americans and Italians, but in Romanian, some expressions I used do exist in those languages. I replied that in those languages there is slang with a similar meaning, even if different in wording, and that for the Romanian readers, we have to relate to Romanian slang, because this gives the idea that the words were colloquial and not the most official ones. And that if we translate word by word, instead of the ultimate meaning, the results are strange and contrived, far from what we wanted to show.

9. In your opinion, what do the best historical fiction writers do to ‘get it right’?

Researching and filtering the information through the eyes of both the writer and the characters. Immersing the reader into the century and the setting of their choice. Not giving too many opportunities for … suspension of disbelief/ rule of cool, even if these are so fashionable now.

 10. Are historical novels inherently different from contemporary novels, and if so, in what ways?

They describe different times, when people had different mindsets, and they have to be reflected as such. Not as many feminists and social rights fighters (accepted by most people around, instead of being shunned as dangerous, rare oddities) as the most recent novels show. They have to be understood in the light of their times, not in ours. Just be thankful that after the time travel through the book, to exciting adventures and different centuries’ mindsets, you return to your current, hot tap water and washing machine…

 11. Do you see any particular trends in historical fiction?

American Civil War, Tudors and Victorian era in English language writings. Renaissance and World Wars in French language writings. Actually the two World Wars are very in fashion in any language. An opening which I salute to the Far East’s history (mainly Japan and China but also others).

I also see the trend of seeing history with modern eyes, instead of with the eyes then. And then it becomes something it was not – just a nice contemporary story in pretty costumes, with modern decisions and modern mindsets, and this new political correctness which… in my opinion, isn’t fairer than what was before, just more confusing, and alienating the contemporary reader from the historical mindset and motivations.

12. What aspects about the past do you specifically try to highlight in your novels?

I am writing the story of those who are too commoner to be mentioned in chronicles, but who are forging their silent path among historical events and participating persons who are mentioned in the chronicles. I am trying to immerse the readers in the setting, and critics had said that I write “cinematographically”. I am focusing on traditions (for birth, wedding, death, sworn brothers, etc), mindsets, folklore and public festivals, religious beliefs and superstitions, as well as on the main historical events of the time as viewed through the characters’ lens and biases.

13. What research sources and techniques do you use to ensure that conflict, plot, setting, dialogue, and characters are true to the time period?

I am from a small European country and I write historical fiction happening in several countries/ eras. I have used for research all kind of books, old maps, old descriptions (journals, letters, etc) and manuals, youtube movies, google maps, forums… Any possibility of research available, I use it! Many people hadn’t thought, when I told them, that youtube can be good for seeing places where I have never been, local festivals/ traditions, music, dances, sea battles from movies, duels, bullfights, various documentaries.

Millieu, Intrigue, Character, Event (MICE)

Today I want to give you an overview of something that I find useful when figuring out where to start and stop a story and how to keep it on track.

It’s called the MICE Quotient and I learned about it from Mary Robinette Kowal, though it was invented by Orson Scott Card.

The letters stand for:

M – Milieu
I – Intrigue/Idea
C – Character
E – Event

Each letter tells you what type of story you’re telling.

Milieu story

This is largely a story about place. Usually your character arrives in a new place at the start, and most of their struggle is about them neogitating that place, learning about it, trying to escape it. The story ends when they leave that place or they fit it.

EXAMPLES: The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Ever After.

Intrigue/Idea Story

A question is posed at the beginning of the story. The story ends when the mystery is solved or the question is satisfactorily answered.

EXAMPLES: Sherlock Holmes, Arrival/The Story Of Your Life

Character Story

A character starts off with an internal conflict and, by the end of the story they have changed it, or rejected the idea of change, or at least understood where the problem lies.

EXAMPLES: Die Hard (Seriously, John McClane has issues at the start of that movie!), The King’s Speech.

Event Story

External forces change the world at the start and drive the struggle in the middle of the story. At the end of the story the status quo has been restored or a new normal has been established.

EXAMPLES: The Hunger Games, The Parent Trap, disaster movies!

The infographic is here. It helps more, with the visual component.

I also thank Julie Duffy from Stories a day, because she helped me discover it, together with the fact that most of my novels are actually millieu stories, with a dash of character too. I used to call them “group stories“, trying to explain that I am writing more characters’ story, not only one or two’s, but this has been a revelation I am sharing with you all. Maybe it helps someone else as well.

Negotiations under water


The schooner anchored not far from them was in danger, and several sailors had fallen into the sea. Marina, who was able to swim, jumped, together with a few others from her ship, to save them. She caught one of the sailors and after a while, the one she was towing didn’t struggle anymore. She was relieved to notice this, as she had started to get tired fighting with him. But suddenly both her one and the other’s ceased holding on their rescuers and tried to reach quickly the side of the boat… all at the same time. Couldn’t any of them use their common sense judgment?

The boat, as expected, was in danger of capsizing now, thing noticed by the two rowers. They looked one at the other for one moment, almost like reading each other’s mind in their glances, then it seemed they agreed instantly upon the best thing to do in such a situation. Each of them approached the sailor who was the closest to him and threw a good punch, knocking him out in order to save the boat from getting turned upside down. The unlucky boxing bags let the boat go and went, unconscious, to the bottom of the sea, while another man gave a hand to one of the sailors, helping him to get into the boat suddenly relieved of its additional load. The one who had gripped the fender was also helped to get inside.

“Now I’d really need Gorgona’s help!” Marina thought. “Or at least if I knew the secrets of sponge fishers!”

She had admired always the sailors of the Greek Islands who went for sponges and corals, to the depth of the sea. She could swim, but she wasn’t an expert in diving and swimming under water… and there were two of them to be caught quickly!

Her thoughts were focused on a prayer while she was looking for bubbles to indicate where those men could have sunk. She finally saw some bubbles and dove in that direction, catching a mass of curly hair, then she pushed back to the surface with her prey. The boat was, of course, still close, so once that stupid sailor caught, they took hold of him and she took a deep breath, diving again… not too sure if there were really bubbles what she had seen this time.

Marina was diving deeper than the first time, searching for the man she couldn’t find. The water made a sort of a semi – opaque curtain, unlike in the gulfs of the Aegean where she had tried, for fun, diving together with her brother, many years ago. She wasn’t sure what to do next, how and where to look for him, if what she had seen weren’t his bubbles… “God, if it is Your will… please let me find him!” she prayed.

God? No, somebody else she would have to pray for the sailor’s life… because she was bewildered to see a beautiful girl, with a lily-white face having the features so well known around Thessaloniki, waiting there for her, in a blue-green attire… and with a golden comb in one hand. Was it for good or for bad that she was seeing Gorgona, so far away from her native seas?

Diamandis had told them he had caught a glimpse of her after a storm, while she was sitting on a rock of the many scattered around Monemvassia, and that he hurried to answer to her question before she asked it. It was, no doubt, the wisest thing to do, as their ship had been spared then. Now Marina was going to do the same:

“Hail, my queen!” she thought, carefully choosing her words. “Your brother is ruling happily for much more years than I can count, sending you greetings!”

It was exactly what Gorgona wanted to hear, but she didn’t expect to hear somehow the mermaid’s answer.

“And your brother is happy in my arms. Little Dora is my lady-in-waiting. You are doing well where I sent you. Have you told my story to these foreign sailors?”

Marina was strangely happy to hear these. At least the ones she had lost were far from any regret and pain now. Maybe it was better for a family of sailors to be at Gorgona’s court than in that Paradise with milk and honey and angels. She answered immediately:

“Yes, my queen, I did, and they liked it. They have other mermaids in their legends. My queen, please give me this sailor’s life, if it is upon Your will to spare him like you did with me…”

“It might be, but what are you willing to offer me in exchange?”

It was a fair question; only… what could she offer to the mighty queen of the sea who had everything?

“You have already my life. You have marked me as your own six years ago, in the shipwreck. I am yours to serve! What else can I give you?”

“Your tears?” came the unexpected answer.

“I am not allowed to cry. I am supposed to be a tough sailor boy,” Marina protested, without understanding.

Gorgona laughed:

“You aren’t opening your mouth either… and still we are holding a conversation. I want your tears, the ones you will cry for a lost love, exactly like the tears I had shed some time ago!”

“You have them… and anything you want from me!” she said earnestly, thinking that any sacrifice was worth for saving a life.

Besides, what could the mermaid really want? Her tears for a lost love? Will she really fall in love some day, and will it be like in the knights’ stories the girls at the monastery were telling far from the nuns’ ears, a broken heart’s tears? Well, a broken heart might be a fair price… for somebody else’s life! And in some stories or songs… even a broken heart healed after a while.

“Well, we’ll see what else I might want from you in the future – because, indeed, you are mine to serve… and you’ll do it well from the deck of a vessel, for many years to come. I have a plan for you!” Gorgona said.

This was nothing new to Marina, who had always believed that it was a reason why only she had been chosen to live after that shipwreck. And the reassurance that she will be a sailor for many years, was more than she could wish to hear. It meant her dream would become true some day.

“Thank you very much, my queen, I’ll try to be worth of your favours!”

The mermaid motioned her to come closer. When she did, Marina received a strange embrace… Hers? Then she felt in her arms the texture of a sailor’s clothes. She had been granted her request! As she reached the bottom of the sea, with a firm push she hurried to rise back at the surface, still holding well that sailor. They would survive. Both of them! And now she had more than the confirmation she was seeking about her destiny… she had Gorgona’s blessing.

The long awaited portion of fresh air came just in time, and the boat was nearby.

All rescued sailors aboard the boat, Marina could gather her strength to follow them. She was tired, but happy. The rain on her face helped her to overcome the tiredness and become again her usual self still while on the boat. The satisfaction of having saved two lives superseded everything else. Well, almost everything. And the other happiness she was hiding deep in her soul made her forget the rain, the pain in her tired muscles. When she finally succeeded to get inside, she heard that there was another man missing. Strangely, but these news didn’t surprise her.

“He wasn’t here around”, she said with a small, epuised voice, “otherwise I would have found him when I dove. He might have gone down somewhere else.”

The ones who wanted to look for the missing guy might try, but she had the feeling that they wouldn’t find him. Not even the body!

“How was he like, the missing one?” she asked the sailor who was closest to her.

Before hearing his answer, she suspected what this will be: the officer was a handsome young man, exactly how Gorgona liked to choose her devoted guards. This was the reason why she had accepted to grant her the second sailor’s life: she had already taken her tribute, a young officer.

Marina returned to her ship with a large smile on her face. The officers had ordered to have blankets and tea ready for the brave rescuers.

“Thank you very much for allowing me to go with them, Sir! That was really my call!” she told briefly the first lieutenant.

Seeing him around gave her a new idea – something she wanted to know since her underwater adventure. She approached him and asked with an apologetic smile:

“Sir, do you happen to know how deep was the water where we had to dive? I mean I reached the bottom… finally… but it seemed… strange.”

Actually, something else seemed really strange to her, but she couldn’t say it: “how was it possible to meet Gorgona so far away from her native Aegean or Ionian waters? And so close to the harbour!”

“You dived to the sea floor?” the first lieutenant was surprised. “From memory I’d say around 30 feet or thereabout. Have you felt lack of air? This might be the strangeness you are telling about.”

Nobody would ever learn about the negotiation under water. It was her secret – and even if she was foolish enough to say anything, who would believe that she received the mermaid’s blessing?