During the last three years Marzio Ombra and I have been busy co-authoring Tendrils of Fate, a romantic fantasy novel that features a naera–a watery abomination with eel tails for legs and the torso of a woman. The term naera is one of my own making, derived in part from the Greek nereids and naiads–mischievous water spirits that were said to inhabit seas and rivers.

The Tendrils of Fate

How Tendrils of Fate Came About

Back in 2012 I was working on the manuscript The Soulbinders Covenent, Book One of Lirios and had grown very frustrated. For some reason the words just weren’t cooperating. I was banging my head against writing in 3rd person and had, by May 2012, already rewritten the first chapter 21 times. The Soulbinder’s Covenant had already been in the works (at least in my mind) for several years and it was the story I felt destined to tell, so I kept trying to write it. In June my husband and I took a vacation to Turks & Caicos. Grand Turk was very peaceful and soon I found myself with lots of time on my hands. Early morning I would go to the beach, eat lunch, then more beach, you get the drift.

By the fourth day, I was growing impatient. Every time I sat down to write, the words failed to come. Finally I gave up trying and focused on enjoying my vacation and giving my brain a rest. Maybe I was trying too hard.

On the fifth day, we went diving. That’s when I saw sharks for the first time. I distinctly recall looking at a lobster in a cranny and suddenly turning around to come face to face with the ferrari of the ocean–a shark. It was large, sleek, beautiful, and intimidating. It cruised by me once, then came back again to check me out. I hovered in the water, very still, kept my eyes on it it as it swam away into the distance. I should have kept closer tabs on my diving buddy and not strayed from the group, but maybe if I had, I wouldn’t have seen the shark–and it was magnificent.

As I swam to rejoin the group I saw a second shark. Woa! This one was larger, just cruising. As a diver, these kinds of moments awe you. That’s when you are most keenly aware of how clumsy and lumbering you are and how alien the ocean really is. I was transfixed, truly. I can see why even people who have gotten bitten by these predators don’t despise them. Sharks are incredible animals.

After two long dives back to back we were exhausted. Diving, sun and sea water can really tire you out beyond your limits. That afternoon I took a long walk along the beach. The sand in Grand Turk is powder soft and brilliantly white–almost blinding. I lingered in the little places where the water pooled and found urchins and starfish and recalled a time when life was very simple. I grew up in Cuba, near the ocean, and water has always played an integral role in my happiness. Suddenly, the unfinished manuscript and my frustrations didn’t seem so urgent.

That night I went to be early and had a wondeful dream. I found myself floating beneath the waves, hovering in an underwater paradise. I was half fish, half woman and there was this majestic cave of wonders. Then, the name came to me–Avaren. Suddenly, I was up, tiptoeing in the dark towards the kitchen counter where I had left my laptop. In a frenzy I began writing what I thought would be a short story. I wrote all night. By morning I had 10K words finished and the beginning of something really special. The next day I told my co-author about how I had started this new thing–got him involved. I wrote some more, the story grew. Every day I chased this idea.

By the end of our vacation the story was already 30K words and I knew it was a story I wanted to tell. The underworld and underwater world of my book had come to brilliant life and the story which was supposed to be only a few pages, ballooned into an epic tale. Tendrils of Fate was born from the ocean and it is, in many ways, about the ocean–that force of nature that has played such a huge role in my life.

Art by Emily Hare

After three long years and many revisions, Tendrils of Fate is finally finished!

I held off revealing the exquisite cover painted by UK-based fantasy artist Emily Hare (Manon Delacroix) of Waving Monster Studios because I wasn’t sure if I was going to self publish or go the traditional publishing route. Regardless of what happens next, the cover of The Tendrils of Fate should be seen. It is a beautiful piece of artwork that embodies the very soul of the characters Marzio and I have created.

I came across Emily Hare’s work on DeviantArt while browsing images of underwater scenes. From pegasus rising from the waves to a kraken snapping a ship in two, it was evident that Emily knew how to treat water in her paintings. Her use of reflections and light and motion were simply fantastic. Even though I am an artist and could have probably come up with something decent for a cover, I just knew I wanted to work with Hare. There was a magical quality to her work that was a mix of gothic horror and fay glamour that grabbed me. Once we settled on a price, she asked me to send her pictures of the characters. At the time my supermodel friend Andrei Andrei was living in New York with his model roommate Carmen and they were game for a photo session. Perfect.

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I showed up with lights, backdrops and a plan and we got right to work in their tiny apartment. After picking the top five shots, I sent them over to Emily who began to paint. I was dazzled by each black and white sketch that landed in my inbox. Emily used a hodgepodge of pictures I had sent of Mexican cenotes and underwater caverns into a glorious composition as ingenious as Leighton’s The Fisherman and the Syren. What I love about the cover the most is how mysterious it is. Is the siren good or evil–a lover, a monster or a little of both?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the cover. Leave a comment!