Friday, November 23, 2012

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Sometimes I wonder about this whole blogging thing and if I’ll continue to find something to talk about in the months to come. So I was reading the recent post of my fellow JFP author, Liesel Hill, ( and the format gave me an idea, which I will emulate here.

In the vein of Thanksgiving, I will share with you a story I wrote years ago while living in Manhattan, NYC.  This was long before I ever considered writing for kids; years before I even thought of having children. It was also a period in my life where gratitude didn’t play such a great part. I was too into my own world.

Yet, I believe that what happened was needed to wake me up, to help me realize how lucky I was. It took years before I got the message though… as you will see. 

            I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I hurried south on Seventh Avenue.
            Tucked firmly under my arms, the computer keyboard I had purchased just yesterday was wrapped in a bag I had accidentally torn.  Such a waste of my time I fumed, storming across 38th Street.  I have so many things to do today: clean the house before Derek comes for dinner tonight, buy groceries, call my parents, do my wash.  And here I am wasting time because I have to return this dumb keyboard.  Why did that foolish salesperson have to sell me this defective piece of junk.   
            I saw him out of the corner of my eye, through the blurs and shapes of New York's masses.  Traffic had gridlocked, and across the street I caught a glimpse of his white T-shirt, of a tin can resting on the handle of a wheelchair, his look of expectancy as he observed the pedestrians scurrying by.  I tore my eyes away from this man whose hopeful, smiling face contrasted so heavily with his circumstances.  My hands felt cold, despite the sun's clammy heat.  I quickened my pace even more, trying to avoid the hordes of people swarming around me.  I wanted to swat them away like flies.
            I knew what I would tell the salesperson when I got there, I knew exactly what I would say and how I would say it.  It's defective, I would shout and I would glare at him so that he would know just how angry I was.  I want my money back.  End of story.
            I looked back and saw his hopeful expression fixed on the scuffling mob. A tin can rested on the handle of his wheelchair.  He was black.  A man walked by, a tall, white guy, who threw some coins in the can and continued on without stopping or even looking down.  The man in the wheelchair, I placed him at about twenty-five, gave him a wide smile of gratitude, which was never seen.
            Today had started out so well.  Until I had turned on my computer, equipped with its new keyboard, and it still wouldn't work.  All my plans ruined.  My day shot.
            Penn Station.  One more block, down the stairs and to the right. 
            I would give him $1.00, I told myself.  No.  $5.00.
            "May I help you?" a Chinese man with a baseball cap asked, the same guy who had sold me this defective equipment.  I yanked the keyboard out of the bag, banged it on the counter.  My eyes gave full vent to my frustration.
            "Yes.  I bought this here yesterday.  It doesn't work.  Here's my receipt."
            "No problem.  We'll exchange it for you."
            "Thank you."
            Imagine being stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, never able to walk or dance or stand.  Never to play sports, to run, to feel the joy of movement.  I would give him $20.00.
            I tapped my fingers on the counter.  What was taking so long?  I turned around and stared wide-eyed at the grim-faced, dark-complexioned woman glaring wide-eyed at me out of the full-length, rear-wall mirror.  I looked like I was pouting, I noticed in surprise, and I had this deep frown on my forehead.  I adjusted my face, forced a smile.  My hair needed a cutting.  It was all over my cheeks and almost touched my neck.  Do I have time to go to the hairdresser today?
            "Here you are ma'am."
            "Receipt please," I said, swinging around.
            $20.00.  I could afford that.  I allowed myself to speculate on his surprise, his gratitude when he saw...
            "Here you are ma'am."
            "Thank you."
            "Come again."
            I rushed outside, my new keyboard in its new bag bouncing at my side.  35th Street36th Street.  Where had I seen him?  I ran a few steps.  Stopped.  Ran again.  Where was he?  I started to cross 37th Street, along with about thirty other people.  The light turned red.  A taxi honked.  The driver cursed.  Suppose he had gone?
            Then I saw him.  Sitting in the same spot, with that same avid look on his face and the same steady flow of pedestrians darting around him.  Several people placed money in his can.  The man grinned up at them.
            I hurried across 7th Avenue.  I could picture his reaction at my generosity.  He would give me a wide smile, wider than he had given anyone else.  I would say: "You are very welcome," and smile down at him in a fully non-condescending way.  Equal to equal.
            A man approached him.  About the same age.  Same dark color.  He stooped to eye level with the man in the wheelchair.  They started talking and laughing with what appeared to be the ease of long friendship.
            Yes.  He would look at me with gratitude, and I would say: "You're welcome."
            I stopped in front of the wheelchair and froze.  The tin can had been welded onto the handle.  The man continued laughing and talking with his friend, unaware of my presence.  Both men appeared relaxed, happy to be in each other's company, stealing a few moments of camaraderie from Manhattan's hustle and bustle.  But, how could he laugh like this?  What could a man with no arms or legs, not even the stubs of arms and legs, possibly be happy about?  How could he laugh in such a carefree manner with the knowledge that he could never embrace a loved one, be it man, woman or child? 
            My hands trembled as I fumbled with my wallet.  When last had I felt as relaxed or at peace with myself as this man who, in my mind, had nothing?
            "Here," I said, waiting.
            The man looked at me.  Eyes warm, a deep brown, held mine.  I placed a $1.00 bill in his can.  He nodded and turned back to his friend.
            I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I made my way up Seventh Avenue

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Very First Interview

When you get a moment, please check out my first interview ‘about me’ by Amie
Borst. Amie is not your typical interviewer. She has a way with phrasing questions that gets people to bare more than they ever thought they would. Here is the link to her site.

And please… don't judge me.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Meet Lehua Parker, Author of One Boy No Water

Today I am featuring author Lehua Parker, who is here to guest blog about her new book One Boy No Water, a middle grade fantasy that even adults will enjoy. You can read more about this amazing book in the review I gave in September.

And -- drum rolls please -- Lehua has kindly offered to give away a copy of One Boy No Water. To win, enter below:  

AMM:  Welcome Lehua.

LP:  Aloha, Ann Marie! Thanks for letting me drop by to answer a few of your questions about my MG/YA novel One Boy, No Water, book one in the Niuhi Shark Saga. It’s available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon in hardback, trade paperback, and ebook.

AMM: Does the story come from some mythology in Hawaii?

LP:  Most cultures have stories about shape-shifters. Throughout the Pacific there are many indigenous tales and legends about people who can turn into sharks, so I guess it’s loosely based on some of these ideas.

AMM: What inspired you to write One Boy One Water?

LP:  When I was in second grade we watched a film from the Legends of Hawaii series. In the film, villagers kept disappearing and it was feared they were eaten by a large shark. There’s a moment when the man-eater is discovered when they rip the cloak off the shoulders of a young man to reveal a gapping shark’s mouth where his back should be! I’ve carried that image in my head since I was seven, trying to wrap my head around the idea that his parents kept this secret hidden his entire life and that he was eating people he knew. All the answers to the why, how, and what if questions I asked myself eventually turned into the Niuhi Shark Saga.

AMM: Do you speak Hawaiian Pidgin English daily? With your family?

LP:  Unfortunately, I rarely speak Pidgin. It’s in my head, not my mouth anymore. Although when my kids were little I once overhead this conversation:

Daughter: Is Mom really mad at us? Are we in serious trouble?
Son: I think we’re okay. She yelled at us in English. When she’s really mad she yells in Pidgin.

AMM: So Lehua, were you born in Hawaii?  

LP:  I’m the eldest kid in my family and my parents were in college on the mainland when I was born. My Mom and her family are from the mainland and my Dad and his family are from Hawaii. When I was six weeks old, my parents went to Hawaii to show me off to my paternal grandparents and ended up staying to raise a family, which was probably my father’s plan all along!

AMM: How long did it take you to write One Boy, No Water?

LP:   Once I figured out who the audience was and how I was going to handle the Pidgin, it went very quickly. I took about 20,000 words from a manuscript I’d worked on about six years earlier, tweaked them and added another 30,000 words in five marathon days over two weeks. But I’d been thinking about the story for years, so it’s not quite accurate to say I wrote the whole book about 100 hours.

AMM: Is there a message in the story you would like your readers to grasp?

LP:   One Boy, No Water is about Zader understanding that he can’t run from trouble. When you’re in the ocean and a big wave is coming, you have to swim as fast as you can toward it. That way you can control what happens to you, whether you go over, under, ride it for a while, or power through it. If you try to run to shore, the wave will pick you up and you’ll have no control as it spins you like you’re in a washing machine and tosses you up on the beach, spitting out sand if you’re lucky. In Zader’s life, the trouble is coming like a tsunami and it’s pointless for him to try to hide anymore.

AMM: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

LP:  Initially it was figuring out who I was writing for and how I was going to handle all the foreign language and culture I wanted to use without explaining too much or too little. To keep kids familiar with the culture engaged, I wrote a lot of inside jokes that add but don’t detract from the main story if they’re missed.

AMM: Can you give a hint to the sequel?

LP:  Remember the tsunami I mentioned earlier? In book two the troubles get bigger and the stakes get higher. Zader learns for certain what he is and a little bit about why his mother hid him with the Westin family. Kalei finds out about Zader and it’s a cat and mouse game as Kalei pursues him. There’s more about lua and hula and surfing and art and mud sliding and Uncle Kahana’s mysterious friends. Stay tuned!

AMM: What is the best part about being a children’s writer?

LP:  After imagining how a kid might react to something I’ve written, I love talking to kids about books and writing. Their imaginations are so much bigger than mine.

AMM:  What are you working on now?

LP:  Book two in The Niuhi Shark Saga. It’s due to Jolly Fish Press in early December and will be published in August 2013. The working title is One Truth, No Lie.

AMM: What are some fun facts about you?

1.     I don’t have any cavities.
2.     My favorite treats when I was a kid were squid jerky, pickled and salted plum pits, and soy sauce and seaweed flavoured rice crackers, otherwise known as dried cuttlefish, crackseed, and kakimochi.
3.     I didn’t learn to SCUBA dive until I lived in a desert thousands of miles from the nearest ocean. Highly ironic since some of the best diving spots in the world were my childhood backyard.

AMM: What is your favorite holiday?

LP:  It’s really hard to pick just one, but if I had to it would be Halloween, although I don’t like gore or horror. Zombies seriously creep me out. But when our kids were very little our house was out in the country. None of the local kids could trick or treat easily, so we’d host a big neighbourhood tailgate party. Even though a lot of the surrounding fields are now subdivisions and our kids are too old to trick or treat, families still come with their jack-o-lanterns, candy, and lawn chairs. The adults hangout and joke around as kids in costumes swarm like bees, begging for candy. Over the years it’s grown to include a kind of potluck dinner of soups, breads, and hot apple cider. To me, Halloween kicks off the holiday season, not Thanksgiving.

AMM: And finally, Lehua, if you could choose another passion, what would it be?

LP:  If I were smart, I would choose exercising or housekeeping because my life would be easier if I really enjoyed those kinds of things. The reality is more like reading good books, eating ice cream, and going to the beach. The ultimate would be reading a good book while eating chocolate ice cream at the beach, especially if the book was waterproof and I could be in—or under—the water at the same time!

Brief Bio:

Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. So far she has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a poet, a web designer, a mother, and a wife. Her debut novel, One Boy, No Water is the first book in her MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, four cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.

To find out more about Lehua:

Facebook author page:
Twitter: @LehuaParker
Goodreads: Lehua Parker

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Sunday, November 04, 2012

And they all lived happily ever after…

As a child, I used to love reading those words at the end of fairy tales. Just the knowledge that everything would be all right from that point forward was enough to make me happy. Cinderella’s life would be perfect. Snow White would marry her prince and live a life of luxury and joy. Beauty’s Beast was now a kind, gorgeous man who would take care of her and love her forever.

No more problems. No worries. Ever!

If only that could be true for me.

Growing up, I had these thoughts:

-- Once I have a boyfriend, people will see I’m pretty and popular.
-- Once I get married, I will have someone who would put me first and love me forever!
-- Once I have children, my life would be perfect. I would be the best mother, with the best children. I would know all the answers. I would be a great teacher to them and prevent them from making the mistakes I made.

In my thirties and onwards, one thought predominated over many others:
-- Once I get a publisher, my worries would be over. I’d write and people would love my books. There would be nothing else to worry about. My life would be set! And if I make the Best Sellers List, well then… need I say more?

And in the past few months, here is what's been rattling around inside my head:
-- If I can get several hundred likes on FB and if lots of people comment on my posts, then I’m in the loop. I’ve made it!

I could go on and on. But the thing is, life’s not like that. Even when I end up getting what I want, or think I want, I still have an unsettled, niggling something in my heart, or in the pit of my stomach, depending on the situation.

I  now realize that life isn’t all about getting or having. It’s more about feeling. Feeling good about oneself. Feeling happy. Feeling okay. Accepting ourselves for who we are, regardless.

Easy to say. Even easy to figure out. But it’s sure hard to have this realization resonate in my heart and to execute day after day after day.

I’m aware though. That’s a good start anyway.