The Little Ecuadorian Mermaid


Graffiti mermaid at the Lola Starr store in Coney Island

By Zoraida Córdova

Welcome as we kick off our LATIN@S IN SCI-FI & FANTASY MONTH!

After the release of my first book someone told me that mermaids were cool and all, but I should write about my own “experience.” I remember the words more than the guy who said them to me. Now, I believe that fantasy stories are a great metaphor for coming of age. I have a 16 year old dude who turns into a merman and the first thing he worries about is how his body changes (typical boys). In Blood and Chocolate, the very sexy werewolf is a metaphor for the changes girls go through when they menstruate. Hell, watch the first three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for stories that are magic, but still mirror “normal” teenage coming of age.

mermaid laptop

My laptop

But when this guy told me all these years ago to write about my “experience,” he wasn’t talking about coming of age, he was talking about my immigrant experience. Some time ago, I put out a question to Twitter for links to Latin@s writing YA fantasy, and I got back “Have you read Isabelle Allende’s YA series?” (She is a BAMF in her own right, but still). While I love contemporary stories, and I think it’s important to read all kinds of narratives that show how different each Latino experience is in the U.S., the stories I want to write are about magic.


from @Pocoquattro

I grew up listening to my grandmother sing to me. I grew up reading fables and getting scared of el Cuco and la Llorona. When I started writing The Vicious Deep trilogyI knew I was writing a book that had been brewing in my head for years. For a long time when people remarked “You speak English so well,” I would respond with “All I did as a kid was watch The Little Mermaid,” so that’s how I learned to speak English. It’s true, I watched it every day, rewinding the VHS as soon as Ariel got her happy ending. Whether or not it was my vehicle for the English language is debatable, but it’s become part of the story I tell.

I’ve always been drawn to magic and magical things. I want to believe in magic, and the way that I can show that is through creating magical worlds. When I was in high school my favorite books were about vampires and witches and dragons. It was book browsing at a B&N with a friend that pushed me to really write about mermaids. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I can’t find a mermaid story that I really love.

Him: So write one.

Me: Yeah…

THAT’S IT. I listened. I took a notebook with me to the beach (Coney Island, obvs) and this story LITERALLY poured out of my head. (Two points from Ravenclaw for improper use of “literally.”)

Mermaid on the ground in South Beach.

Mermaid on the ground in South Beach.

If you don’t see the story you want to read on the shelves, write it. Mermaids have always been magical to me, but it wasn’t until someone else pointed it out that I realized I could add my own mythology to my favorite magical creatures. Lately, we’ve been talking about diversity a lot, and I think the same thing applies to that. You don’t see yourself represented? Write your own story. If you want to write about magical ponies that travel through time, do it. If you want to write about the story of a girl who is looking for summer romance, do that, too.

I wonder if the reason there aren’t more Latin@s writing as much SF/F is because people (like that dude mentioned earlier) assume that the only story we have to tell is one of immigration or assimilation. And that’s just not so. If you check out this list from Cosmopolitan of 5 Latina YA authors to look out for, all of these stories fall in SF/F category. And if you go to Diversity in YA, they have an awesome list of just some Latin@s (authors and/or characters) in SF/F.

Tomorrow is the launch of the third book, The Vast & Brutal Sea.  I want to share some images of mermaids around town. I asked the lovely ladies of Latin@s in Kid Lit (and some from Twitter friends) to snap photos of mermaids if they happen upon them:

photo (11)

Original art by the super talented Lila Weaver

photo (9)

From Stephanie Guerra. Cafe Torino, downtown Seattle

Triton! South Beach

Triton! South Beach

The Sagamore Hotel in South Beach

The Sagamore Hotel in South Beach


From @PoccoQuattro.

A friend sent this to me. Art by Paul Webb from St. Louis.

A friend sent this to me. Art by Paul Webb from St. Louis.

And now from my apartment, the Chateau Mer-mont: 

mermaid bottle opener

Her tail opens bottles. That’s talent.

mermaid and coney

My bookend…not holding up any books.

mermaid fancy

My fancy mermaid being fancy


I hope from now on you’ll start seeing mermaids everywhere. For now, follow my blog tour over at I hope you enjoy the rest of our SF/F month!


Swim with the fishies like,


The Road to Publishing: The Big Q–How to Write a Query Letter

For this series of posts, we are writing about the road to publishing. You should start with our overview and then read this post about working with beta readers and critique groups. Today, Zoraida tackles the query letter.

By Zoraida Córdova

So you wrote a book.

First of all, congratulations. Writing a book, whether it’s fiction or non fiction, 1k words or 100k, it is no easy feat. Once you’ve revised and gone through the critique process, you’re ready to put yourself out there.

What do I need?

I’m glad you asked. First, you need a query letter. I know, you’ve already written all the words, now you’ve got to write a couple more!

Where do I start?

Round up the agents that you want to work with. Always make sure that they represent the kind of book you are shopping. If an agent says they only rep Adult Romance and Women’s Fiction, then you probably shouldn’t send them your Middle Grade Action Adventure told from the POV of a young boy.

Some good places to start are:

Agent Query

Writers Beware (I’ve been reading this site since high school and learned a lot)

Publisher’s Marketplace (Warning: keep to the agents. Don’t get discouraged if you see deals that are similar to your work.)

Writer’s Digest

Basically, do your research.

Great, so let’s write the letter.

The Vicious Deep (The Vicious Deep #1)Keep it simple, professional, but still be yourself. Let’s work with my novel, The Vicious Deep.

I’ve seen query letters start one of two ways: with something flattering about why you are querying the agent and your MS title or with your novel hook.

I like to start with the novel hook because if you’re querying the agent, then it’s a given that you a) like them b) like the work they represent c) did your research.

Dear Ms. Rosado, (From my agent, Adrienne Rosado, herself: “I’ve had authors congratulate me on placing a title for an author I don’t represent and who have started their letters to me with ‘Dear Mr. Rosado.’ A little research goes a long way.”)

Tristan Hart is a playboy, a lifeguard, and after a freak storm on his home shore of Coney Island, a merman. (A hook. No pun intended)

He discovers that his grandfather, the sea king, is getting on in years and has set up a championship for the throne. Along with four eligible mermen, Tristan must piece together the three parts of the trident and return to court in a fortnight. The trident pieces could be anywhere in the world, and armed with his good looks and a family dagger, Tristan doesn’t know where to start. With the help of two court guards, Brooklyn’s supernatural alliance, and his reluctant girlfriend, Layla, Tristan is on his way to retrieving the first piece of the trident. But the champions aren’t the only ones fighting for the throne. The Silver Mermaid, ancient and powerful, has broken from her prison. She’s got an army of vicious merrows at her disposal, and she’s got her sights on Tristan Hart. (Summaries are the hardest because how do you whittle your 100k words into a tiny paragraph? Start with your Character, Challenge, Goal, Obstacle. I know there are plenty of subplots in your novel, but try to stick to the major one for now.)

THE VICIOUS DEEP, a YA urban fantasy complete at 100k words, is the first in a trilogy. It will appeal to fans of Charles De Lint, Holly Black, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I believe my work would be a good fit for you because of your interest in fresh YA fantasy. (Make sure your manuscript is complete. Don’t lie about this. I know you want to get your book into agents’ hands, like, yesterday. But you’d do your work a disservice if an agent asks for the full manuscript and you only have half of it.  Also, include something personal about the agent you are querying. You might have heard them speak at a conference. You read their bio on the agency website, etc.)

I studied English Literature and Latino Studies at Hunter College. In 2004 and 2005, I attended the National Book Foundation Writing Camp. My short work has been published in the anthology GROWING UP GIRL. (Credentials, if any. You don’t have to have an MFA in Children’s Literature to write a novel. It’s great if you do, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t. I certainly don’t, and I still managed to get my books published.)

I look forward to hearing from you.


Zoraida Cordova

What now?

After you’ve spell checked and read your query over, it’s time to send it out. Always double check the submission guidelines. All agencies will have this page. This is an example from my agency.

Former agent Nathan Bransford says that you should always include a five page sample of your work.

I believe this is will also save time in the back and forth process with the agent. Now that they have a tiny sample of your work, they can know if they want to see more.

For further questions, comment here, email us at, or message us on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t be shy!

Good luck!