Monday, July 2, 2012

More Than Just Another Pretty Piece of Tail

Got your attention? Our guest, Nadia Scrieva, is going to talk about exactly that.

What makes a mermaid a mermaid? If you ask anyone, their first answer will probably be that mermaids have tails. Now, there would be advantages to having a tail when it came to mobility in the water, but what about breathing? Can mermaids even breathe underwater? Most folklore says they do. If this is so, then how exactly do mermaids accomplish this feat? Certainly not with their tails. Fish do not breathe with their tails—they use gills near their mouths to draw the oxygen from water. It seems there must be more to the legendary creatures than meets the eye.
Are mermaids then marine mammals, similar to dolphins and whales? Do they travel to the surface frequently and hold their breaths for long periods of time? Most folklore does not have mention of mermaids running out of air and needing to travel to the surface. These are some of the questions I considered when researching the biology of the mermaids in the Sacred Breath series. As an Anthropology student, I wanted the creature to be believable and realistic, with a side helping of mythical and cryptic. It seemed necessary to me that mermaids should be able to breathe underwater, but the tails seemed ridiculous and unnecessary.
It could be possible for humans to have amphibious lungs in order to process both air and water. While researching this, I discovered many biological human oddities, such as women who had two uteruses, and it inspired me to craft a second pair of lungs. It could have begun as a genetic mutation which was honored and preserved—a person with the ability to breathe underwater could have been considered divine or holy, and encouraged to bear many children. Humans do exist who are able to hold their breath for longer periods of time, because their bodies require less oxygen. There are so many special cases that I believed that the mermaid could exist as a secretive human being who had branched off from society and thousands of years ago, possessing only a few important differences:
·         A second pair of lungs. These lungs are the “balloon” type with a larger surface area which allows the mermaids to breathe underwater. 

·         Reduced bone density in their legs and increased muscle tone and flexibility to allow for better swimming.  This provides a disadvantage as their legs grow tired easily on land.

·         Albinism. Reduced melanin when in deep water to allow for vitamin D absorption. This is a rare trait only found in the royal families, which turns their hair white and skin fair underwater. Conversely, they tan heavily above the surface. 

·         Night vision. If mermaids spent their time deep in the sea and far from sunlight, it would be useful for them to see in the dark. Many mammals have a reflective layer in their eyes called a tapetum lucidum which promotes enhanced night vision. It was not too much of a stretch to give my mermaids this ability.

·         Extended lifespan, or decreased senescence. Some of the oldest living organisms are marine creatures, and there are even many which are considered “biologically immortal” such as lobsters and jellyfish. This was my reasoning for making it so that the maximum lifespan of mermaids was approximately 10x that of humans. They can live to about a thousand years instead of just a hundred. 

·         Stronger vocal chords for underwater vocalizations, although they mostly communicate with a universal sign language. This attribute makes them excellent singers when above land. 

As you can see, the mermaids of the Sacred Breath are rich and complex beings with bodies primed for life under the sea. In addition to these handy biological traits, they also possess intricately developed traditions, belief systems, and politics which have also been developed under the influence of their aquatic environment. Unlike inaccurate portrayals in most media, the bodies of mermaids should be closer to humans than fish; they are definitely more than another pretty piece of tail! 

Drowning Mermaids Blurb:

Deep under Arctic waters lies an ice kingdom carved into a glacier. Those who dwell within it possess magnificent biological secrets. Due to the dangers of impending war, the Princess of Adlivun is forced to flee her undersea utopia and regroup with her sisters in Alaska.

Captain Trevain Murphy is a successful king crab fisherman who has spent his life building his empire above the sea, and knows nothing of the empire beneath it. When he meets a mysterious dancer whose father has recently died, he extends kindness towards her, unaware of her unique genetics and royal lineage.
Trevain's attraction to the enigmatic Aazuria Vellamo will involve him in dangerous designs that will forever change his life, and his perspective on himself and his world. He embarks on perilous journeys in which he will need to release all of his insecurities and inhibitions
in order to survive.


It was his angel. He knew her, although she looked nothing like before. She was his Aazuria, his mythical heroine. In the dancing glow of the oil blaze, she was simply too dazzling to be real and he knew that he must be dying. As she hovered in suspension before him, her skin and hair were almost luminous in the dark water, almost phosphorescent. Perhaps she never had been real. It did not matter—she was firmly grasping his hands, and it sent a feeling of comfort and tranquility through him. He knew that she loved him.

He could see forgiveness and acceptance in her expression. None of the turmoil between them mattered any longer in this pacific moment. In her benevolent gaze, he could finally forgive himself. He smiled at her, although his vision was fading, and the world was disappearing. He tightly gripped her hands to thank her for coming back for him. He could not bear the thought of letting go; he did not want to be robbed of her touch. He tried to keep his eyes open for as long as possible, to keep looking into her unfamiliar ultramarine orbs. So this was what she really looked like, in her element. He wished he could have known her true form. It was mystical.

Trevain could imagine no better way to die. No better sight to see the last time he closed his eyes. A peaceful smile descended on his face, and the captain’s tired eyes closed for what he knew to be the last time ever. 

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Nadia Scrieva was born in 1988 in Toronto, Canada. She studied English and Anthropology, graduating with an Honors B.A. from the University of Toronto in 2011. She likes knives. Writing has been the most meaningful part of her life since she was a child. Nadia loves receiving feedback from readers, so do not hesitate to contact her with any of your comments, questions, ideas, or just to say hello. 

Nadia will giving away an eBook copy of Drowning Mermaids to one randomly drawn commenter at every stop. Don't forget to leave your email addie.

Here's the tour dates. The more comments the better your chances of winning.


  1. Wow, I'd never thought about mermaids much. This was a really interesting post, Nadia. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for featuring my mermaids, Sandra! Glad you found it interesting, Shelley. :)

  3. Hey Nadia, Love your premise and your picture. The background is perfect with your coat.

  4. Hello Sandra and Nadia. Fascinating post Nadia, I've learnt a lot about the practicalities of being a mermaid! I am reading your book at the moment and look forward to reviewing it on my blog on the

  5. Hi Lyn,
    I love Nadia's premise. I'll be anxious to read the review.