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A good story is one that resonates with its audience.

Period.

This afternoon I had a lot of things I had to do. Writing deadlines dangerously due. Horses, cats, and dogs to care for. House to straighten. Plants to water. Chili to make. Did I mention deadlines?

So, of course, instead of putting my nose to the grindstone, I grabbed a book I’d been meaning to read since my college son came home for Christmas and said, “You need to read this.”

“Manga? I don’t read manga,” I said. “I can’t draw to save my life. When I was directing videos, they hired someone to redo my storyboards, they were so bad.”

“But you create stories. You need to read this.”

I thanked him and said I’d get to it. I knew he wouldn’t recommend it if he didn’t think it worthwhile. I stuck it on the credenza in the living room where it sat, staring at me, until today when I plunked down in front of the fireplace for a couple of hours.

Fireplaces and books are the one good thing about a snowy day.

I wasn’t avoiding writing—not really. Sometimes you do have to push through a tough spot, but I’m facing three tough spots in three different works, and I knew staring at the computer wasn’t going to solve any of them.

But maybe a couple of hours reading a book on craft would shake something loose.

Now I’ve read and studied a hundred or more books on writing and editing. I could start my own specialty bookstore with just what’s lying around my office. I’ve taught courses on story structure, and have edited professionally for decades.

But this book reminded me of a few things I haven’t thought of in years.

Manga in Theory and Practice by Hirohiko Araki is map of how he approaches his work as a mangata, an author and illustrator of Japanese manga. His best known work is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, arguably one of the most successful shonen manga ever created. His primary target audience is boys 12 to 20, although the real audience is much wider.

Araki knows how to deliver what his readers (and editors) want, but his dissection of what makes good manga great seems diametrically opposed to what is generally considered good story structure to Western-trained writers. The action always rises. The hero always wins. The hero must act in a positive accordance with society’s values—even a seemingly bad action must be done for a noble reason.

In his book, Araki discusses his four key elements of manga: character, story, setting, and themes. The most important, he feels, is character. He spends a lot of time creating detailed character sheets before he writes one word or draws one line, and often includes things that strike me as uniquely Japanese, like listing a character’s blood type because that reveals important character traits. His approach is to create a cast of contrasting characters, give them motivations, and then turn them loose in settings. The dialogue and action flows organically—an approach also used by western writers like Stephen King.

Araki uses specific story beats to drive his story: ki-sho-ten-ketsu, introduction (ki), development (sho), twist (ten), and resolution (ketsu). While there can be several ten beats in a story, there is never the classic try-fail cycles we see in western literature. The action always rises and the antagonists increase in power as the hero grows. The best way to describe this is to think of an underdog baseball team who rises from backyard ball games to the world championship without ever losing a game.

It kinda boggled my mind.

But when I remembered his audience and why Araki writes, it all made sense.

Araki’s rules are founded on principles defined by his audience’s strong likes and dislikes. Heroes that fail? Boring. Heroes that make poor choices? Why am I wasting my time and money?

These conventions absolutely work for his audience—and that’s the key, I think.

Shonen manga readers identify with the heroes. They want to be entertained. They want to see themselves succeed. When the hero wins, it gives them hope that they, too, can face hard things and win.

I’m not certain if this structure and approach directly translates to western stories. For young readers, certainly. Others, probably not. But I’m going to think about this as I tackle my three stubborn works-in-progress.

There’s much more in Manga in Theory and Practice than what I’ve covered. I loved his focus on the first panel, that it makes or breaks the story if the reader won’t care enough to turn the page, and how he says write the story that speaks to you, put your ideals on the page, or the work won’t sing.

My son was happy to hear I finally read his book. He says he’s got a long list of friends in line to read it. I ordered my own copy of Manga in Theory and Practice  to put on my bookshelf next to On Writing, Save the Cat, The Story Grid, and The Anatomy of Story.

Not all stories are western stories. It’s good to remember that.

Manga in Theory and Practice by Hirohiko Araki is available from Amazon in hardback and eBook.

Rell never imagined an 18th birthday like this.

When Rell’s stepmonster Regina summons her to Lauele, Hawai’i, she knows better than to expect umbrella drinks, birthday presents, and open arms. The most she hopes for is some quality time with her twin step-sisters, a walk on the beach, and a little fun at a charity auction sponsored by her father’s corporation.

From the moment Rell lands in Honolulu, her life turns upside down as she reconnects with her Hawaiian heritage and discovers she’s surrounded by hidden agendas, lies, and ancient family obligations.

To save Lauele and Get Wet Prosthetics, Rell will have to navigate an island filled with Menehune day laborers, a snow goddesses’ vacation rental, a toppled sacred ‘aumakua stone, disappearing clothing, ‘Ilima as a not-so-fairy-godmother, and—worst of all—her stepmonster’s lawyers.

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Rell’s Kiss is a standalone novel inspired by Cinderella. It is Book 2 in Lauele Fractured Folktales, reimagined stories inspired by the world’s oldest tales retold with a Hawaiian twist.

Lauele Fractured Folktales are loosely connected standalone stories in the Lauele Universe that can be read in any order.

Rell’s Kiss features characters from the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy and other works by Lehua Parker. Chronologically, Rell’s Kiss comes after the events in One Truth, No Lie, Book 3 in the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy.

EBook available from Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. Paperbacks coming soon!

An earlier version of this story was published as Rell Goes Hawaiian in Fractured Slipper, a collection of Cinderella stories published by Tork Media.

When you’re dating a Niuhi shark in human form, there’s no such thing as a casual Hawaiian fling.

The last thing Justin wants is complications. Jilted at the altar, he’s spending his pre-paid Hawaiian honeymoon alone—sort of. Sasha, his ex, won’t get out of his head. Frustrated, he takes a walk at sunset and discovers a beautiful woman asleep on the sand.

But Pua’s not really a woman.

A shape-shifting Niuhi shark, Pua feels compelled to visit the beach at Lauele. She doesn’t care that it’s forbidden by her father, the ocean god Kanaloa, or that breaking kapu can only end in blood, tears, and teeth. Justin’s a tourist. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Nobody’d even miss him.

What starts out as a casual flirtation soon turns into a high-stakes cat and mouse courtship as neither Justin nor Pua are who—or what—they seem.

Lauele—and their world—will never be the same.

________

Pua’s Kiss is a standalone novel inspired by The Little Mermaid. It is Book 1 in Lauele Fractured Folktales, reimagined stories inspired by the world’s oldest tales retold with a Hawaiian twist.

Lauele Fractured Folktales are loosely connected standalone stories in the Lauele Universe that can be read in any order.

Pua’s Kiss features characters from the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy and other works by Lehua Parker. Chronologically, Pua’s Kiss comes before the events in Birth/Hanau and One Boy, No Water, Book 1 in the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy. It tells the story of how Zader’s parents met and the events that ignited the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy.

EBook available from Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. Paperbacks coming soon!

An earlier version of this story was published as Pua’s Kiss in Fractured Sea, a collection of Little Mermaid stories published by Tork Media.

 

Lauele Fractured Folktales are here!

These newly imagined stories are loosely inspired by classic western fairy tales and told with a Hawaiian twist. First up are Pua’s Kiss and Rell’s Kiss. These stories will be available in eBook from Amazon and KU on January 8, 2020 and are published by Makena Press. Paperbacks will be available in February. Nani’s Kiss will be available in eBook in February, with paperback soon to follow.

In the future, I’m planning to write more Lauele Fractured Folktales based on the world’s oldest stories and told with a Hawaiian twist. What are some stories you’d like to see?

 


Pua’s Kiss is inspired by The Little Mermaid and tells the story of how Zader’s parents met. When you’re dating a Niuhi Shark in human form, there’s no such thing as a casual Hawaiian fling. It’s a prequel to the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy, but it’s NOT for middle graders or elementary students. It’s a hard PG 13+ with a fade to black sex scene.

 

 

 

 


Rell’s Kiss. is inspired by Cinderella and tells the story of Rell Watanabe who is summoned to Lauele by her stepmonster and finds herself dealing with Menehune day laborers, Poliahu’s vacation rental, a desecrated ‘aumakua stone, and ‘Ilima as a not-so-fairy godmother. Rell never imagined her 18th birthday like this. The story takes place after the events in the Niuhi Shark Saga trilogy and is a sweet PG romance appropriate for all ages.

 

 

 

 


Nani’s Kiss is inspired by Sleeping Beauty and Beauty & the Beast. After discussing this story further with my editor, I decided to rework it significantly before publication. I’m hoping to release it in early February. The story takes place in the far future on the planet Hawaiki in the space port of Lauele Iki. It’s PG-13 for its mature themes of politics and violence, but PG in language and sex.

 

 

 

 


Lauele Fractured Folktales eBooks are currently only available on Amazon. More stores and formats coming soon.

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When you’re allergic to water,
growing up in Hawaii
isn’t always paradise.

With Niuhi sharks,
even out of the water,
you’re not safe.

Everything you thought you knew
about Zader is a  lie.