Sunday, May 31, 2009
In Over Her Head with Judi Fennell (Terra says A+++)
One of my favorite scenes in In Over Her Head is when Erica Peck, a terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner wakes up under the sea on a soggy mattress with a starfish as a pillow. She remembers being on the wrong end of the gun, in the ocean, with a shark in the water. After that... nothing. So when she wakes up under the sea she thinks she's died and gone to Hell. Or has the bends. Or something. Because humans cannot be under the sea without a scuba tank and live to tell about it, right?
The thing with this scene is, I am as scared of the ocean as Erica was (I saw JAWS at an early age and it left a mark). It's an irrational fear, and I know it, but I can't help it. So, I decided to use it. I put myself in Erica's place and went with it. What would I notice? What would I think? How would I feel about it? What would happen when I found out I wasn't dead. Then I poured all of that "omg!" and ick factor and disbelief into Erica and this is what I came up with:
Erica sat up, pushed off the mattress, and stood. Or actually, floated to a standing position. Floated? Her hair billowed around her like seaweed on the beach after a hurricane, and she brushed it back.
But it drifted forward again.
She really was in water. But how was that possible? She was breathing...
People couldn't breathe underwater.
She held her hand up to her face. Little puffs exited her nose, but they weren't puffs of air. They were... water...
She was inhaling water?
Panic set in. She was taking in water. She was going to drown. People couldn't suck water into their lungs and expect to live. This was insane.
Erica clamped her hand over her mouth, held her breath, and looked around. There had to be a way out of this place. Preferably up.
She looked up. A ceiling. No hole. Great.
There was a door on one side and a porthole on the other. She swam to the porthole, but the latch was rusted in place, so she one-handed doggy-paddled over to the door and peered out. A long, dark corridor that went... downward.
Her chest hitched. She needed air. Now.
Swimming into that darkness was the last thing she wanted to do. Well, the last thing before drowning, that was. That didn't leave her many choices.
Swallowing her fear and the rest of the water that'd been in her mouth when she'd clamped it shut, Erica swam into the corridor.
A dozen feet in, visibility faded to shadows, and her lungs started protesting.
Another five feet and her nerves were shot.
If she was going to drown, she didn't want to do it in the dark.
Doing a front flip that would've made her swim-team coach proud, Erica returned to the room. Soon to be her mausoleum, apparently. Her brothers would never find her now.
But wait. Wasn't she already dead? In Hell already? Her lungs were burning, so, yeah, that was a possibility. But Hell was supposed to be engulfed in flames yet this water was comfortably warm.
She sat on the edge of the soggy mattress and fought with her lungs. They could keep quiet a bit longer while she tried to figure this out.
No, they couldn't.
And they wouldn't.
Instincts humming, Erica found her brain wouldn't cooperate with her lungs, and all of a sudden, she was choking.
Choking and gulping.
Choking and gulping and... breathing?
And then she was screaming.
How did one suck in enough water to drown a flotilla yet keep breathing?
She screamed again, slithering to the sandy floor as her backbone turned to jelly. But if you scream in hell-water and there's no one around to hear you, does that make you insane?
Or a fish?
Was this some hideous cosmic joke? You turned into what killed you? How would one turn into, say, a crumbling building? A burning car? plane crash?
She hiked herself back onto the bed. Maybe, just maybe, God was kind and she had somehow survived the shark, drifted to the surface, and was merely suffering from the bends. Once her body got the proper oxygen and nitrogen percentages worked out, she'd wake up from this air-deprivation-induced coma with its ridiculous hallucinations.
Yes, that was it. That was what she'd cling to. This delusion was her body's reaction to th e bends. It all made sense. She just needed to be patient. Once her chemistry was back to normal, she'd be back to normal. Stuck four-and-a-half miles from shore in shark-infested waters... but, hey, she could manage that.
And the hallucinations weren't all that bad. Water-breathing lungs, so what? They were doable. Talking starfish, glowing fish lamps? Odd, but interesting.
Yep, she would just sit back and let her body get back to normal. She'd be just fine.
And then a naked man swam into the room.
The thing is, I used to LOVE the ocean. My family has been going down the shore (a pure South Jersey expression for going to the beach) since I was young. I used to swim out past where the waves break, back and forth, floating on my back for hours and my mom and I would float on rafts reading books for hours. Or a bunch of us would link our rafts and chat about whatever it is young girls chat about. It was fun.
Then, along came "the movie." Sigh. I begged to go see it, and Mom, against her better judgment took me. I remember watching it upside down with my ears covered. Oh, how I wish I hadn't begged.
I do take my family down the shore. Like I said, it's an irrational fear. I try to talk myself around it. I do go on the beach, I even go in the water. Last year I was in for a whole 45 minutes boogie-boarding, until my "shark meter" ratcheted up to throat level and I had to get out. I was proud of those 45 minutes. Like I said, it's irrational. And I know it. And I can play mind games with myself to sort-of overcome it because we love our annual vacation to Ocean City.
We love the boardwalk and going on the rides. The Double Shot is a favorite addition in recent years. The Wild Mouse was the first roller coaster I can ever remember riding and I had a blast taking my kids on it their first time. The water park, miniature golf and getting henna tattoos. Then of course there's Mack & Manco's pizza and Shriver's salt water taffy and Steel's fudge. Who can forget the fudge? Especially the samples they hand out at night. Frozen custard, lemonade, soft-serve ice cream, funnel cake and cotton candy. And, of course, one of my favorite haunts (well, two since they have two locations): the Atlantic Book Shop.
Ocean City has changed over the years, but not so much as to alter its charm. You can still get a great breakfast at The Chatterbox, or donuts on the boards during our morning bike ride. Dinner at Obidiah's or pizza delivery. Because Ocean City is such a great destination, I, in conjunction with the Atlantis Inn B&B in Ocean City (www.AtlantisInn.com), am offering a chance to win one of two OC beach getaway weekends - as well as another weekend at the Hibiscus House (www.HibiscusHouse.com) in West Palm Beach Florida. All information is on my website at: www.JudiFennell.com
About The Author:
Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to "get outside!" instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did--right into Dad's hammock with her Nancy Drew books.
These days she's more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she's still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends' books.
A three-time finalist in online contests, Judi has enjoyed the reader feedback she's received and would love to hear what you think about her Mer series. Check out her website at www.JudiFennell.com for excerpts, reviews and fun pictures from reader and writer conferences, and the chance to "dive in" to her stories.
Leave a comment/question for Judi and your email addy and you'll be entered to have a chance at winning a copy of In Over Her Head. There will be one winner and contest is only open to those in the US and Canada.