Talking Story

Niuhi Shark Saga

The 19th Biennial Conference on Literature and Hawai’i’s Children takes place June 7-9 at Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii.  I’ll be hosting two workshops–one specifically for teens–all about writing fiction in authentic Pacifica voices and answering questions about traditional and self publishing.

On Thursday, June 7 at 7 pm, the Honolulu Theater for Youth will be performing excerpts from works by Lee Cataluna, Patrick Ching, and Lehua Parker. The performances are also FREE, but you need tickets. (Link below)

The conference is FREE for all attendees, but you have to register. Teens will need parental/guardian permission to participate. (Link below)

Download the flyer with the schedule and more info.

Conference Registration

Free Tickets to Honolulu Theater for Youth performances of work by Lee Cataluna, Patrick Ching, and Lehua Parker.

Hope to see you there! Be sure to come by and talk story with me!

2_osns_med_resNote: Tales From Pasifika is a website dedicated to reviewing stories that explore Polynesian and Oceanic cultures and themes. If you’re looking for a good book that fits into the Pacific-Lit category, this is the place. Tales From Pasifika is reviewing the Niuhi Shark Saga. The following is an excerpt from their review of One Shark, No Swim, book 2 in the trilogy. To see the whole review, click here.

Tales From Pasifika Review

Writing sequels is a very challenging task. You have to not only expand the story, but also – or rather more importantly – keep it interesting for the readers. And children, as well as young adults, can be a particularly demanding audience. But for Lehua Parker this seems to be no problem. The second book in the Niuhi Shark Saga is just as good as the first one.

Quite honestly, this volume doesn’t really feel like a sequel. It is simply a continuation of the tale; only this time you go deeper into the world the author has created. Now you are almost like a resident of Lauele Town, who dines at Hari’s and goes surfing at Piko Point every other day. You know the people, you know the place. And you are well aware that there is something going on with one of your neighbours, so you’re dying to finally uncover the truth.

‘One Shark, No Swim’ answers a lot of questions the reader might have had after finishing the previous volume. Zader’s past becomes clearer as new, and interesting, facts come to light. However, if you think that all the pieces in the puzzle will fall neatly into place before you reach the end, you are very much mistaken. Because with every single answer, more questions arise. Who? What? Why? When? Where? You may try to guess, you may try to predict what happens next, but you can’t bank on it. And that is the true beauty of this series.

Now, as the plot unfolds, you become more acquainted with the characters. In this book, Zader leads the way. He is a true protagonists, a central figure of the narrative. And although the story isn’t told in the first person, you see the world through Zader’s eyes. You start to understand what he feels being a ‘different’ kid. You sympathize for him and cheer all the louder when he’s one step closer to discovering his true nature.

Of course, when mentioning the characters, you can’t forget about Zader’s family, especially uncle Kahana. This no-nonsense, wise, and funny old guy, sometimes treated like a big baby by his relatives, is a real star. Himself a man of many secrets, he is a mentor, a teacher, a protector, and a guardian of ancient Hawaiian culture. His complex persona makes him a little unknowable and therefore very intriguing. I wouldn’t mind having an uncle like Kahana, and I think you wouldn’t either.

The engaging plot and great characters are wrapped in beautiful words. Lehua Parker’s writing style is so fine that you can’t help but marvel at what she has created. It is not easy to write a novel that would suit children and adults alike. And yet she managed. The informal language (with an added bonus in the form of Hawaiian and Pidgin), vivid but not overwhelming descriptions, and a perfect dose of humour make this book an ideal read for any age group. No one will get bored, no one will be disappointed. It’s a title for the whole family. But be careful! It is possible that you will fight for the copy, so better buy two; or maybe even three… Just in case.

If you have read the first volume in the Niuhi Shark Saga, you literally have no choice but to read this one too. If you haven’t, you should catch up as soon as possible. Because the books are fantastic. Period.

Mahalo nui nui, Tales From Pasifika! You can find the entire Niuhi Shark Saga on Amazon:  One Boy, No Water, book 1; One Shark, No Swim, book 2; One Truth, No Lie, book 3;  and a companion story Birth: Zader’s Story. More books related to the series coming soon.

1_obnw_hi_resNote: Tales From Pasifika is a website dedicated to reviewing stories that explore Polynesian and Oceanic cultures and themes. If you’re looking for a good book that fits into the Pacific-Lit category, this is the place. Tales From Pasifika is reviewing the Niuhi Shark Saga. The following is an excerpt from their review of One Boy, No Water. To see the whole review, click here.

Tales From Pasifika Review

I’ll tell you something about myself: I don’t like children’s or Middle Grade/Young Adult books almost as much as I don’t like fantasy/magic realism genre. I decided to give the Niuhi Shark Saga a chance exclusively because it is Pacific Lit. I bought the three titles, but I was still quite (or rather very) sceptical. But then I read a few pages. And a few more. And suddenly I was officially hooked.

So yes, I admit, this is a fantastic book. Lehua Parker wrote a beautiful tale full of magic and authentic Hawaiian vibe. She managed to bring the local legends back to life, giving readers – young and adult alike – a chance to get to know the Aloha State and its fascinating culture. Actually, the references to Hawaiian lore are what makes this novel stand out! It doesn’t deal with werewolves, vampires, or wizards – so omnipresent in today’s popular literature – but draws from the ancient beliefs. So we have sharks, and ti leaves, and the mysterious Hawaiian martial art of Kapu Kuialua (which is considered sacred and taught underground since the mid-1800s). All this definitely makes the story feel fresh, unique, original. And isn’t that exactly what we expect from a good book?

Now, although the novel is somewhat focused on Hawaiian culture, it has several underlying themes that teach valuable lessons, as befits children’s and Young Adult literature. Together with Zader and Jay, readers learn how important it is to have family you can always count on, to do what is right, to overcome your fears, to respect the nature, and to never forget where you come from. You can’t run and hide from your problems; be bold and brave; whatever happens in your life – face it! This is such an inspiring message for young people, who often struggle to find their place. Zader’s and Jay’s experiences will surely give them courage, and uncle Kahana’s wise words the needed moral guidance.

Speaking of uncle Kahana, I have to praise the characters. They are unbelievably well created and defined. From Zader and Jay to Char Siu and the Blalahs to uncle Kahana (who is my favourite), every one of them is a distinct person with a distinct voice and personality. They are complex, plausible, and easy to identify with. They are like us: they make choices and decisions – sometimes good, sometimes bad; they have their dilemmas; they learn from their mistakes. They are ordinary people; ordinary in their extraordinariness.

Of course, it’s one thing to build strong characters, but it’s another to show the relationships between them. Lehua Parker succeeded in doing both. The interactions between Zader and his brother or uncle Kahana, the interactions between the teenagers, and finally the interactions between the adults are incredibly well thought over. They influence the story, making it much more convincing and compelling.

Do you know what else makes this novel so believable? The language – Hawaiian Pidgin, to be precise. You’ll find it in every single chapter and, quite possibly, on every single page. To people who don’t speak Pidgin (or Hawaiian), it may cause some problems, but there is a dictionary at the end of the book, so you can always use it. I think the addition of local creole was a genius idea. Well, you can’t really write a story set in Hawaii and have your characters say ‘Thank you’ instead of ‘Mahalo’, can you?

‘One Boy, No Water’ is a must read. If you have a youngster at home or are looking for a great gift, this should be your number one choice. Because this colorful island tale is engaging and appealing, thought-provoking and amusing, uplifting and wonderfully hopeful. It is like a breath of fresh Hawaiian air taken on a sunny day. Unforgettable and not to be missed. But, let me give you a piece of advice here, buy all three books at once – after the first volume you’ll be hooked; just like me.

 

Mahalo nui nui, Tales From Pasifika! You can find One Boy, No Water and the rest of the Niuhi Shark Saga One Shark, No Swim and One Truth, No Lie and its companion story Birth: Zader’s Story on Amazon. More books related to the series coming soon.

Ever wonder how Zader became part of the Westin family? Birth is a novella about the day Uncle Kahana found Zader abandoned on the reef at Piko Point. There are two versions in the eBook–one told with Pidgin and one told with standard American English.

Check it out on Amazon.

chefhat

As the author of a series, I’m often asked by other writers about character development—specifically, how should characters change from one book to the next. I always say it all depends on whether your series is more like a fast-food burger or a chef’s table dining experience.

You know us Hawaiians; it’s all about the food.

When you walk into a burger joint, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. Some series, particularly detective fiction like Robert Parker’s Spencer series, are structured like your basic grilled patty in a bun. First book to last, Spencer changes his underwear and not much else. A crime is committed. It gets solved. Some shooting, drinking, and bed-hopping happens in between. The order the books are read in doesn’t matter much more than having a bacon cheeseburger one day and a jalapeño ranch burger the next.

For burger-lovers, this consistency is a good thing. For authors making bank with a series, it’s awesome. With infinite combinations of new toppings and special sauces to season the plot, there’s no reason to mess with the character of the ground chuck. And with no over-arching storyline, the series never ends.

But no matter how juicy, few people crave burgers all day every day. Variety being the spice of life, it should be no surprise that some series are the literary equivalent of a multi-course chef’s table meal. When you sit at the chef’s table in a restaurant, you relinquish control over your dining experience to the chef who determines the pacing, ingredients, and presentation of each course. For readers, it’s about savoring each dish on the way to dessert.

Think of the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. In each book the wizardlings had adventures and obstacles, but there was a more important over-arching tale involving Voldermort and Harry that advanced until it was resolved at the end of the last book. Now imagine knowing from the beginning Dumbledor’s end game and Snape’s true character—you’d be eating dessert first and spoiling your appetite for all the delicious tension built in the previous six books.

Just as a chef considers the textures, flavors, and juxtapositions of each dish in his set menu, the author of a cohesive serial story forces characters to change and grow from book to book, ultimately piquing the reader’s hunger for the next course. In a burger book, character development is secondary to the plot. A juicy char-broiled book series is all about enjoying similar experiences with beloved characters over and over again.

Here’s another example.

The Niuhi Shark Saga is a multi-course luau complete with roasted pig, hula dancers, and cake. It’s one loooooong story broken into bite-sized MG/YA books.

Through the series Zader, the protagonist, changes from the odd kid who always has to be rescued to the kid who questions everything to the young man who determines for himself how he will live his life. In each book I have to consider where Zader is in terms of his eventual transformation and where the other characters are in relation to both Zader and their own conflicts and ambitions. It helps that many of my characters are going through adolescence, arguably the biggest transformative time in anyone’s life.

In book one, One Boy, No Water, Zader is hiding in the shadows. There’s a lot of symbolism about young, tender things growing in the protective safety of the reef. He has Uncle Kahana, Jay, and Char Siu to guide and support him, and he’s pretty comfortable being led. At the end, Zader recuses his brother from a paralyzing fear and himself from bullies. This triggers his predator nature, and it’s obvious he’s outgrown the idea of camouflage as safety.

In book two, One Shark, No Swim, Zader’s grown enough that he no longer accepts what he’s been told as fact. Uncle Kahana is unwilling to deal directly with the changes he sees in Zader, and that causes problems. Char Siu, Zader’s gal-pal, is starting to understand that there’s a big difference between boy-world and girl-world and she’s navigating deep water while the boys are still splashing in the shallows. Jay begins to get caught up in competitive surfing, leaving Zader alone on the sand. These conflicts and others finally drive Zader to listen only to himself and to make a choice no one expects.

In book three, tentatively titled One Fight, No Fist, there are consequences for Zader’s choices. He’s older, more secretive, and both less trusting and more protective of his family and friends. He’s bolder, more aggressive, and is ready to take the fight to his stalker. He’s so far from where he started, he’s almost a different person. Consequently, all of the other characters have to change and adjust to this new person—or better, don’t adjust—and the reader can watch the sparks fly.

The changes the Niuhi Shark Saga characters go through are really the storyline that ties the books together. Without character growth the series would be like The Simpsons tv show—Homer chasing one doughnut after another, hanging out at Moe’s, and never learning or suffering from the consequences of his adventures for more than 30 minutes.

Now there are a lot of doughnut lovers who crave that consistency. Go, Homer, go!

But if you’re in the mood for something different, try a little of my Niuhi Shark Saga lau lau and poi. But be sure to leave room for the killer pineapple-upside down cake. You won’t believe what happens next!

Excerpt from One Shark, No Swim available Sept. 21, 2013

 

full_2_bigJay and I were putting the finishing touches on our awesomest project ever: a cardboard sled shaped from Hari’s tv box. It was huge. We were sure we’d break land speed records racing down grass hills. We might even catch air.

Char Siu pranced over the curb and struck a pose, hands on her hips and one shoe delicately balanced on its point. “What do you think?”

Jay didn’t glance up. “We’re busy, Char Siu.”

She thrust her lip out. “You never even looked.”

“You’re wearing your Mom’s old church shoes. Why? Did ‘Ilima eat one of your slippahs?” Jay yawned.

“I gotta practice, Jay. Lisa Ling told me all the girls wear heels at Ridgemont.”

Jay turned to me. “You ever see Lili wear heels to school?”

I shook my head. “No.” Our sister Lili was going to be a junior at Ridgemont next year.

“Her friends?”

“No.”

“Sounds like Lisa-kine shibai to me,” Jay said.

“You just don’t know, Jay,” Char Siu said. “We’re not in elementary any more. All the girls our age wear ‘em. You’ll see.”

“Good thing we’re not girls,” I said. “I wouldn’t last a minute walking around in those shoes. Pohō, that.”

“Hard for run li’dat,” Jay said. He looked up at her. “Hard for see li’dat, too.”

“It’s called make-up,” she said.

“I’ve seen make-up. My Mom wears make-up. Lili, too. Her stuff is all over the bathroom. But make-up doesn’t make mempachi eyes li’dat. That’s something else.”

I looked a little closer. Char Siu’s eyes did look bigger, rounder, like she’d opened the door and giant spiders jumped out. One eye twitched and then stuck half open-half closed.

“What’s wrong with your eye?” I asked.

“Nothing!”

“Then why is it sticking to your face like that?”

“Ho!” Char Siu reached up and peeled something off her eyelid. “The stupid Scotch tape won’t stay. I told Lisa it wasn’t right.”

One eyelid looked normal now and the other still looked like it was keeping track of a man-eating bug. She reached up and peeled something off the other eyelid and suddenly she looked normal.

Well, normal for Char Siu.

All excerpts and short stories copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpts from the Niuhi Shark Saga by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. Illustration by Corey Egbert. No part of these excerpts may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. No part of these short stories may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

The following is an excerpt from One Shark, No Swim available everywhere September 21, 2013.

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When Kalei’s shark head broke the surface of the large saltwater pool at Piko Point, all he was thinking about was raw ahi tuna sliced thinly and spread like a fan on a bed of green cabbage. He smacked his lips remembering the last time—how the hot wasabi paste and shoyu burned his tongue and how the flavor of wood from the chopsticks lingered in the back of his throat long after he’d swallowed each morsel of fish.

Remember to chew, he thought. Humans chew.

For Kalei, eating fresh ahi was no big deal, but having someone else catch, clean, and serve it sashimi-style on a platter was once in a blue moon special. When a spicy sashimi craving hit, there was only one place to go: Hari’s in Lauele Town, Hawai‘i.

So really, how big could Hari’s new tv be? Kalei thought. Last night, Pua kept raving about how it’s just like being in the picture. Right. As if that’s even possible sitting at my table way off the lānai in the shadows of the oleander bushes. But with Pua, you never know. She’s so fascinated with humans, she’s becoming one. He scowled, annoyed that his sister Pua planned to live as human when her daughter Lē‘ia started school in the fall. Even if I thought Father would agree, I’d be against it. Whatever. No matter how she pleads, Pua can’t make me visit or stay, and I won’t, even if she promises to keep shoyu and wasabi in the boathouse and gets a big screen tv with premium sports channels. I’d still have to catch my own fish. And no way Pua’s ever gonna slice it and serve it to me on a platter. He nodded to himself. Regardless of what Pua does, I’m keeping my special table at Hari’s. It’s the only place I’ll ever be able to watch a football game or sumo match in peace.

Sumo! If that new tv of Hari’s is as big as Pua claims, I’ll have to make sure I’ve got more than a sashimi platter of fish in my gut before watching, something like a couple of monk seals or a huge chunk of pilot whale. All that sumo meat in slow motion is like catnip if I’m not careful and with Pua and Lē‘ia living in Lauele, we can’t afford another missing tourist rumor.

With only the moon as his witness, Kalei gracefully shifted from Niuhi shark to human form and started treading water, working his way to the edge of the tide pool. Pausing to wipe newly human eyes, Kalei inhaled his first breath of air, pulling the oxygen deep into his lungs. Forcing the last tang of seawater from his body, he paused.

Blood.

All excerpts and short stories copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpts from the Niuhi Shark Saga by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. Illustration by Corey Egbert. No part of these excerpts may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. No part of these short stories may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

Click here to go to
The Niuhi Shark Website.
Get the Books
One Boy, No Water
Zader's living like a fish out of water.
One Shark, No Swim
Because even out of the water Zader's not safe.
One Truth, No Lie
Zader's greatest fear walks the shore.