My First 200 Words Have Made it to the Finals + Belugas, Belugas, Belugas!

The final week of Deana Barnhart's amazing "Gearing Up to Get an Agent" Blogfest is drawing to a close, and the first 200 words of my young adult novel, The Mermaid Gene, have made it to the finals!

Wow, after last week's whirlwind, I am so honored to be included in the Top Ten again. The other finalists are amazing, and I can hardly wait for their books to take flight! Check out their entries here: Kathleen Rushall Interview Part 2 and Novel Contest Finalists, and also check out the great interview with one of this week's judges, literary agent Kathleen Rushall. Thanks again to Deana for organizing and being the maestro of this event; this has been so much fun!

Because my first 200 words are already listed on the post below, I will resist reprinting them in favor of waxing poetic about beluga whales for a few minutes.  My novel's main character, Kai Murphy, is sent to Alaska to study them, and they just happen to be some of my favorite animals on Earth.  (Convenient coincidence, don't you think??)

Courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons
Although Kai's research team is fictional, Cook Inlet's beluga whales are very real.  They were listed as endangered in October of 2008, and I became obsessed with their struggles when I moved to Alaska in June of 2007.  I volunteered on a beluga whale outreach team until I got my job at the Alaska Zoo, and I even submitted public comments during a scary NOAA public forum about the designation of critical habitat during the summer of 2009!

(I won't get political or preachy on you here, though.  The beluga whales' struggles are complicated and multi-dimensional, and beluga whale management is a sensitive and sometimes polarizing issue.  If you'd like to learn more about the belugas and form your own opinion, here's a great link to their struggles and backstory, courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Conservation Plan for the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale.)

I will, however, give you a little background on why I love beluga whales so much. :)

Courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons
Recognized by their distinctive white skin, Cook Inlet’s beluga whales are a well-known Alaskan icon. Growing to lengths of 10-15 feet and weights of 3,300lbs, they are characterized by robust, stocky bodies. A thick layer of blubber insulates them against the cold, and the absence of a dorsal fin allows them to move just below ice sheets without obstruction.

Cook Inlet’s belugas have been separated from the belugas of the Alaska’s North Slope for thousands of years, and they have developed many key biological differences—like enlarged foreheads and highly advanced echolocation systems, which they use to navigate through the inlet’s murky waters.

Courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons
Did you know?? 
  1. The English name "beluga" comes from the Russian word belukha, which translates into "white." Belugas are also known as white whales. At birth, beluga calves are generally dark gray. They gradually lighten with age, and upon reaching maturity, attain the white coloration characteristic of adult belugas. This white coloration protects belugas from predators by camouflaging them among the icebergs and ice floes of northern seas.
  2. A highly social species, beluga whales are extremely vocal. Long ago, scientists and sailors gave
    beluga whales the nickname "sea canaries," due to the birdlike sounds these whales make.
  3. Belugas are among the few whales that have un-fused neck vertebrae. This feature makes their necks quite flexible and gives their heads a wide range of motion.
  4. Belugas can swim both forward and, unlike most other whales, backward.
Wanna know more?  These four fun facts are courtesy of Sea World's ANIMAL BYTES, and you can learn more about beluga whales here: Sea World Beluga Whale Infobook.  Happy Reading!!