I am working on a series of posts on my research on the sirens -- all of which went into creating the character if Erminia, the siren in The Innamorati. I decided it might help to provide something from the novel as an opportunity to see how the research transforms into character. So here the chapter where she is introduced.
Erminia picked her way carefully between the rocks and gnarled tree roots of the path as she made her way down a steep slope to the sea. Behind her, the hills rose into pleated crests, lined with cedar, oak, and pine. In the dawn light, the gorse bloomed bright yellow amid the green leaves. The sky was streaked pink, striped with scudding clouds that were chased by an ocean breeze. The last fingers of the night's mist clung to the trees.
She smiled, breathing in the fresh taste of the sea. She was tall, big-boned at the wrists and heavyset across the shoulders. Her face was long and square, her black hair a matted tangle of curls and snagged twigs. Beneath dark eyebrows her eyes were surprisingly light in color, shifting from grey to sapphire. Erminia moved confidently down the switchback trail, unafraid of the steep slope or the hazards it presented. Long muscles in her thighs bunched as each calloused heel dug into the path for balance until she reached a rocky coastline where boulders worn into smooth slabs tumbled into the water. Erminia stared hungrily at the waves churning and breaking over the rocks, casting plumes of white foam into the air.
She inhaled through her parted lips and held her breath. In that mouthful of sea-damp air, she tasted every shore that the sea had touched. And from the taste of it, she exhaled visions of what had dipped into the water: the bitter olive pits tossed into the sea farther up the coast; the peppery trail of spices carried on a ship into Genoa; the fear-sweat of horses confined in the hold of another ship. With each breath Erminia took and released, something else materialized in the air above her head: a canvas sail, torn and mended; a sailor's wool sweater rank with lanolin from the sheep; old wine bottles; the cast-off beak of an octopus; a basil-seasoned mussel shell. Read More>>>
*Photo "High Tide" by Kiara Rose, at Flickr