Talking Story

No Water

Here’s a preview of the cover of a new work in progress called Birth/Hanau. Ever wonder what really happened the day Uncle Kahana and ‘Ilima found Zader on the reef at Piko Point? How did Zader become part of the Westin ‘Ohana? This novella answers those questions and more. In this book, the same story is told twice–once in Standard American English and once with a lot of Hawaiian and Pidgin mixed in with the English. It’s an experiment and story that I hope you’ll enjoy. It’s coming soon–more details when I know ’em.


Remember Friday Night Frights? My cousins and I would stay up late sprawled out on the living room pune’e and watch all the B (and C and D) horror and Samurai movies, blankets and pillows over our heads most of the time. I think those classic 5-4-4 your pants monsters are  to blame for all the emo wimpy YA/MG fantasy books on the market today. We’re all trying to convince ourselves that the things that left us sleeping with the lights on are no big deal. Jolly Fish Press graciously asked me to guest blog on this topic. The following is a repost.

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It’s all Dracula’s fault.

I bet I wasn’t the only kid who read Bram Stoker’s Dracula or saw one of the million film adaptations in a gloomy movie theater and then went home to sleep with the covers tucked tightly around my neck. Sweat poured down my face in the tropical heat, but there was no way I’d chance a vampire bite by sleeping with my neck exposed or a window open.

Fast forward a few decades and you’d discover that some of us who’d snarfed garlicky snacks before bed and slept with crucifixes under our pillows grew up to be authors, the kind of storytellers who reimagined and repackaged our make-sure-the-closet-door-is-closed and check-under-the-bed childhood fears into books and movies that fuel a thriving multi-million dollar Young Adult and Middle Grade fantasy market. Vampires, shape-shifters, ghosts, witches, zombies—pick one and you’ll find it on the current bestsellers’ list—are all deeply rooted in our cultural subconscious because of folklore.

The reasons folklore themes are so popular with YA/MG readers are obvious. One of the main purposes of folklore is to transmit cultural values and morals, directly speaking to a maturing adolescent’s desire to understand himself and the society around him. Our truest folktales wend their themes of good versus evil through all cultures, eventually becoming familiar archetypes that caution, entertain, teach, and ignite the imagination. It’s not surprising that the same kinds of stories that enthralled adolescents 500 years ago still enchant authors and readers today—in a modern upside-down-through- the-cracked-looking-glass kind of way.

Traditionally, folklore, myths, legends, and fairytales aren’t concerned with understanding the bad guy. Things go bump, bite, and burp in the night simply because they can. Virtuous characters survive by embodying the traits that a culture most reveres while villains are hoist with their own petards. The moral lessons these stories impart are simple; good engenders good, bad gets what it deserves.

My, how times—and cultures—have changed.

It’s no longer acceptable to simply fear and defeat the monster in the closet; we insist our heroes unlock the door, invite him in, and serve him a sugar-free organic macrobiotic snack. We want to understand him, save him, and show the world that it was all a misunderstanding. Popular modern vampire characters like Edward Cullen, Angel, Stefan Salvatore, and Eric Northman differ from the folkloric vampire in ways that make them less pee your pants terrifying and more like the odd vegan neighbor down the street who doesn’t like cats and wears sunglasses at night. For YA and MG readers, that’s key. Adolescents easily identify with the outsider; modern stories that take an archetypical irredeemable monster and turn him into a big misunderstood galoot are especially appealing because if the heroine can overlook the fact that the love of her life sees her wedding bouquet as garnish, there’s a good chance that the cute girl on the bus will overlook a slight overbite. Or propensity to snort instead of laugh. Or a closeted obsession with anime cos-play. The possibilities are as endless as the hope it propagates.

Which brings me full circle: if many of today’s YA/MG authors are reimagining the folklore monsters that made us sleep with the lights on and covers over our heads in ways that allow the protagonist to vanquish evil social prejudices and cuddle up with the claws, I wonder what kinds of stories we’ll be reading in twenty years or so when the kids who grew up leaving the windows and closet doors open and eating garlic-free midnight snacks get around to activating their voice recognition storyware and reimagining things that go bump, snuggle, and kiss in the night. Will they look back and say it’s all Edward’s fault?

From One Boy, No Water

Book 1 of The Niuhi Shark Saga

Jay sat back in his chair and scoffed. “You behind the times, Uncle K. Get plenny kine shark bite people: bull shark, great white, tiger, hammerhead—”

“No. Only one kine: niuhi.”

“No, I saw it on Shark Week! In Australia—”

“You stay Australia?”

Jay paused, confused. “No,” he said.

“Then why you worried about Australia?”

“I not, I—”

“Good. Then listen to your uncle. In Hawaii only get one kine shark for worry about: niuhi.”

“Niuhi?” Jay looked around the lānai. “What kine is that?”

“Told you,” said Uncle Kahana. “Man-eater.” He smiled. “Or man-biter. Depends on the mood.”

Excerpted from One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From One Boy, No Water

Book 1 of The Niuhi Shark Saga

“Jay,” said Nili-boy softly, “What’s the haps?”

“I saw…I think I saw a shark,” said Jay.

“Who’s a pretty girl, hah?” Nili-boy gave ‘Ilima a final ear ruffle and stood with a shrug.

“Probably. Get plenny sharks out there. Probably more than one.”

Jay bit his lip and nodded. “I think might have been two. One was big.” He looked at the Nili-boy, taking his eyes off the water for the first time. “Really, really big.”

“You seen sharks out there before?” asked Uncle Kahana.

Jay shrugged his shoulders. “Sometimes.”

“Big ones?”

“Yeah, but this one was…different.”

“Different how?” ask Nili-boy. “Different color, different fins?”

Jay looked at the ground, pushing sand with his toes. “I dunno how. I saw ‘em and I got chicken skin and I knew.”

Excerpted from One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From One Boy, No Water

Book 1 of The Niuhi Shark Saga

I sensed it first, some motion out of the corner of my eye, color darting too fast against the sun. I flipped off my jacket’s hood and whipped my head toward the Nalupūkī shoreline in time to see someone scrambling out of the ocean, surfboard under one arm, the other waving wildly. “Shark!” he yelled, “shark, shark, shark!”

“Jay,” I said, and then I was gone, running full tilt over the rocks and to the beach, ‘Ilima at my heels.

Excerpted from One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From One Boy, No Water

Book 1 in The Niuhi Shark Saga

Climbing over the first slippery finger, out the corner of his eye Kahana saw movement, a quick, angry flick of a tail near the far edge of the reef. Moving his hand to block the sun, he spotted the dark bullet shape cruising along the palm of the lava hand. He grinned and called, “Eh, Manō, I spak you! What? Hungry? Try off Waikiki beach, get choke white meat there! Ha! No way you going kaukau one skinny old man today!”

Excerpted from One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker. Copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Originally from Hawaii and a Kamehameha Schools graduate, Lehua writes fiction set in the imaginary town of Lauele, Oahu. Her newest book, One Boy, No Water, Book 1 of The Niuhi Shark Saga, is scheduled for hardback and eBook publication on Sept. 22, 2012 by Jolly Fish Press.

The Niuhi Shark Saga books are written in American English with lots of dialogue in Hawaiian Pidgin. Hawaiian Pidgin, or just Pidgin as it is called in Hawaii, is a polyglot language with its roots in Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, English, and Filipino. Hawaiian Pidgin developed as people from all over the world came to Hawaii in the 1800s looking for a better life. Over time, Pidgin has evolved into a heavily English-based language while retaining its original syntax, grammar, and lilt. While almost everyone in Hawaii today speaks, reads, and writes standard American English, true communication, the kind that speaks from the heart is in Pidgin.

This blog is dedicated to all Pidgin speakers and the stories we tell.

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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.