20 November 2012

Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem

Hello everyone.  Today we have a guest blogger.  As usual, please treat her with the same "respect" and attention as you do for me.  Well, maybe a little better.

Meet Melissa Lemon

Creative Genius
Punctuation Patrol(wo)man
Twister of Fairy Tales

Let's start off with a few get to know you questions:

1-Toothpaste-gel or paste?
 Paste. Gel belongs in hair. Not my hair, of course, but other people's.

2-What was your first thought this morning? (If appropriate.  If not appropriate, please edit or make something up.)
I can do it. I can get out of this bed. I can. I can. Half an hour later it was true.

3-Do you prefer the sunrise or the sunset?  Why?
Aesthetically I have no preference, but symbolically I prefer the sunrise.

4-If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it by and why?
I would choose a lot of places, but basically here are the requirements: somewhere in Europe that is breathtakingly beautiful and not overly populated.

Enough of that, now onto the good stuff:

5-If you could have lunch with any character in literature, who would it be and where would you go?
I'd have to say Amy Dorrit. Reading Little Dorrit was like finding a lifelong friend. I would take her to an outdoor cafe in a charming small town. I don't currently know if such a place exists, but we're talking about a fictional character anyway so I guess it doesn't matter.

6-What keeps you writing after your characters have betrayed you and your plot has fallen to pieces?
That never happens to me. I have no idea what you're talking about.

7-When do you know that it's time to break up with your current work in progress?
Hmmm. I'm a little too tenacious for an actual break-up. There are times that I take a "time-out." This usually happens when said work in progress is 1- Driving me crazy. 2- Driving me crazy. OR 3- Driving me crazy.

Specifically about Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayem

8-How did Snow Whyte make it to the top of your "to write" pile?
I know this is going to be hard to believe, but it ate its way to the top. You should see the holes in all my other manuscripts.

9-If you had to use a comparison between say the Disney Snow White, and your version, how would you describe it?  Water to Kool Aid? Pinto to Mustang?  Generic napikin to Bounty Paper Towel?  Feel free to be creative.
A vase of daisies to the Denver Botanical Gardens

10-What is your favorite aspect of the story?  Why?
I love the orchard Kat grows up on. I pretty much wish I lived there. I also enjoyed naming the dwarfs. Each name means "short" in another language.

11-If the main character from Snow Whyte could meet anyone (fictional or real) who would it be and why?
I would love for her to meet King Fredrick. He did save her life after all. Too bad he's dead.

Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayem
Stuck in her family's apple orchards, Kat's got plenty of work to do and only pesky Jeremy to help. But when Jeremy convinces her to run away, Kat will discover that nothing---and no one---in her life is quite what it seems. Wonderfully reimagined, this is the magical tale of Snow White as you've never read it before!

Jo's comment:
I haven't reviewed this book yet, but it's brilliant!  It comes out on December 11th. If you love a fresh look at a classic fairy tale, read it. The viewpoint of the novel alone was enough to keep me enthralled. 

Visit Melissa at:


18 November 2012


Synopsis: (hijacked from IMDB)
Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

Why did I watch this movie again?

Uh, Daniel Craig.  Bond.  Fighting. Guns. Judi Dench. Why wouldn’t I watch this movie?

After the last one, I was prepared for the more Jason Bourne/action film that I knew this would be.  But we’ll go into that later.

4 out of 5


I liked most of the characters.  For what they were going for, Daniel Craig did a great job as Bond. I love Judy Dench as “M” and most of the supporting characters fit in quite nicely.

There were a few dropped in for convenience, which I think a writer could have woven into the existing cast, but I’ve never tried to write a screenplay, so I can’t really talk.

The bad guy started out awesome, but by the end was quite lackluster.  If you’ve got a guy with a grudge, unlimited cash and more brains than he knows what to do with, at least give him a more creative plan than blowing stuff up.

3 out of 5

Did I care what happened?

Yes. I got sucked in.  Bond goes a little more vulnerable in this film (kind of introduced in the prior two of the set) and I actually wanted more explanation about him and his past and his feelings for MI6 and M.  I caught on, but they could have drawn the audience in better.

3 out of 5

Plot Holes

Uh, there are always plot holes in a Bond film, and this one did not disappoint.

The catalyst for the entire film is a list of all the agents embedded in terrorist organizations.  Kind of an old idea, but okay. The list gets stolen and the bad guy starts to leak it.  Agents getting killed, M is to blame, Bond is out of the picture for a bit…and then the list just disappears.  Poof.  Why would to bad guy give up on that?  We have no idea.

The other one I mentioned before.  This bad guy is creepy and brilliant, but his end plan is something my eight year old nephew could have come up with.  No, my nephew would have had a better plan.  Work smarter, not harder people.

3 out of 5

How many times did I yawn?

No yawning.  The pacing felt pretty good.

4 out of 5

Cool Factor

Well, there were a few fighting moves that I wanted to rewind and see again, so that gives the film bonus points.   No really cool gadgets (which they have a lame explanation for that is only kind of funny) which was disappointing.  I did love the end fight, even though the actual motivation behind it was dumb, but the action didn’t stop and I liked it.

3 out of 5

The End

I liked the end and the promise of things to come. 

4 out of 5

Overall Enjoyment

Even though this film had its problems, I did enjoy it. I’ll probably own it.  I do miss the old more espionage based Bond films, but this one kept me interested and involved.

4 out of 5

That's a Purple Belt!

11 November 2012

What You Can't See

The difference between a brown belt and a black belt in Kempo is both huge and minuscule.  To give you a visual example, at white belt, when you go to kick someone in the solar plexus your target is about the size of a dinner plate.  No joke.  Pretty much if you get your kick in the general area of your target then you’ve accomplished your Kung Fu task for the day.  Yay!

As you progress up the belt system, that target gets smaller and smaller.  Large dinner plate to smaller plate to salad plate to softball to baseball to golf ball to a quarter.

That last jump, from something around the size of a golf ball, down to a quarter is the hardest one to make.  This is the level of skill that the instructors are looking for when they are preparing you to test for a Black Belt.  There are about a thousand other things involved, including speed, tenacity, endurance, confidence and desire, and they all need to be fine-tuned down from a dinner plate to a quarter.

It took me forever to go from my brown belt to my black belt. And even now I know that there are things I do really well—targeting, precision and control—as well as things that get me every time—sparring and intensity and the ever dratted snap.  I can do it with a towel, but not my fist.  Still working on it.

In the writing world, it’s easy to see the first steps that you make as an aspiring author.  For instance, when you figure out how to write good dialogue, sentence structure, hooks, description and endings.  All of those things show up loud and clear.  But once you get into the nitty-gritty, it sometimes doesn’t feel like you’re moving forward anymore.

However, I promise you, that you are.  Maybe your skill level for writing good dialogue has come down from a dinner plate sized target to a softball.  That’s an easy change to see—you can practically measure it when your writing group no longer rolls their eyes when they come to large sections of characters talking.  But when it goes from a softball to a baseball, the distance isn’t as easy to discern, but that small step is just as important as all of the big ones you took to get there.

How are you supposed to kick someone in the solar plexus if you can’t even get your leg up that high?  Start at the beginning, build strength, get flexible and learn the technique.  Then worry about getting the shot in just the right place.  And one day you’ll suddenly find that you can kick people all day long (you know, make people laugh until they cry with the witty banter you write), and for some strange reason, they keep coming back for more!

07 November 2012

Experience and Determination

When I was researching real locations to put into my novel, New Sight (due out next October from Jolly Fish Press, in case you forgot), I found a little known spot in Canyonlands called Druid Arch.

Not Delicate Arch—that's Arches, and I've been there—but Druid Arch, so named because of its resemblance to Stonehenge in England.

Well, of course Google did wonders for finding pictures and even describing the long hike into the arch. On one web site they showed the elevation changes. Technology is pretty amazing, I have to admit it.

But ever since I used it as a location in my novel, I've wanted to go there myself. I live in Utah, and Canyonlands is only 4 or 5 hours away. So really the place is pretty accessible.

Some of you might remember that two friends and I tried to get to Druid Arch last November. The day we hiked was the only day it rained, snowed, hailed, blew and in general caused us to be miserable for about five hours. We couldn't even get to the trail head, so we used another trail (a much harder trail) and only got half way before we turned around—tired, wet and sore. We had fun, but didn't make it to the arch.

I had planned to try the hike again in April (this is the Utah desert, people, going in the summer is insanity at its finest) but I got some lovely tendonitis in my knee and simply going up the stairs was excruciating for about a month. No hiking for me.

By the time this fall came around I was determined to make this hike happen. I found two suckers, er, friends, to come with me. I trained—not as much as I should have, but I did put some effort into it—bought treats, replaced the bladder in my Camelback and headed out a few Fridays ago for Moab, Utah.

The next morning we went into Canyonlands and started out for Druid Arch.

The length of the trail is 11.5 miles round trip. The beginning quarter of a mile is up, up and up with more up. Then it kind of levels off on top of the plateau before diving down into a canyon bottom.

The trick to one of these trails is to follow the little piles of rocks called carions. (As seen below) They're cute and adorable and very helpful...as long as you keep your eyes out for them. I missed a few (in my defense we were walking along a dry river bottom that was loaded with rocks) and we took two detours. One led to a secluded pond that held dark, murky water from which I was certain a many tentacled reception waited to greet those who wandered too close. We backed away slowly until we found the right path. You know, the one that led up above the pond.

At one point I could feel that we were all getting tired and discouraged. We'd put a time limit on the hike and agreed to turn back if we reached half way and weren't a the arch yet. For safety more than anything else. But we carried on (because my sucker friends are awesome) and finally spotted the arch.

Although we didn't know it was the arch, because we were looking at it from the side. The sun was right behind it, so I couldn't get a good picture. But that's when we hit this.

Uh, ladder and then climb straight up those rocks? My legs did not want to play anymore, but my determination won the fight and we clamored up that very daunting looking path. About ¾ of the way up, I looked to my right. And there was the arch! I could see daylight through the legs. Yay! That gave us the energy to scramble the last twenty feet to the lookout point.

It was awesome. Like most hard things that I've accomplished in my life, I wouldn't trade the day or the experience for anything in the world. I wasn't sure I was going to make it a few times, but my friends and our combined determination won out, and now we have a great story to tell along with the idea to make it an annual event.

Kind of like Nanowrimo—look at me transition there! Writing a novel in a month is an insane idea. But people do it. I've done it for like eight years in a row. Others are even more crazy than I am and go for more than 50,000 words in a month. Well, this is that month. Rev it up everyone, it'll be rough, you'll want to turn back, tears may be shed and notebooks may be tossed across the room, but you can make it! Just keep those fingers flying over the keyboard and it will all work out. Granted, parts of it may suck, but others will not, and when you're finished, you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Good luck fellow loony bin inhabitants. I will see you on the other side!

02 November 2012

The diabolical mind behind One Boy, No Water

Hey everyone, today we have a guest blogger. I expect you to treat her with the same disrespect that you give me.  Say Aloha to Lehua Parker!  Oh say it, you know you want to...

Aloha, Jo Ann! 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.

Let's start off with a few get to know you questions:
1-Toothpaste-gel or paste?

Pretty much whatever’s cheapest that promises no cavities and movie-star sparkle gets tossed into the cart. This cracker jack decision making process usually happens at midnight after discovering the tooth fairy has already flattened the current tube by running it through the pasta maker.

2-What was your first thought this morning? (If appropriate.  If not appropriate, please edit or make something up.)

Looks like the kids made the bus since no one banged on the door for a ride. I’m a night owl living four time zones away from where my body thinks it should. About three years ago the kids came to us and said, “We think we would all like it better if Dad helped us with breakfast in the morning and Mom slept in.” Seriously. And they’re right; we’re all happier.

3-Do you prefer the sunrise or the sunset?  Why?

Sunset because if I see the sunrise it usually means I’ve stayed up all night. Again.

4-If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it by and why?

In a house right on the beach on Oahu, Hawaii, somewhere far off the beaten path with miles of pristine beach and reefs to SCUBA dive and no neighbors so I could run around in a swimsuit all day. Oahu because if I wanted to spend a day in busy Honolulu or Waikiki I could.

Enough of that, now onto the good stuff:
5-If you could have lunch with any character in literature, who would it be and where would you go?

Hermione from the Harry Potter series, and we’d go to The Three Broomsticks Inn in Hogsmeade. Over butterbeer she’d dish about JK Rowling and I’d tell her she could do so much better than Ron.

6-What keeps you writing after your characters have betrayed you and your plot has fallen to pieces?

Deadlines. Without them looming over me, it’s too easy to say, “Well, that’s terrible. Think I’ll go lie on the sofa and eat a piece of cake.”

7-When do you know that it's time to break up with your current work in progress?

About the time I hear the chocolate cake calling. Seriously, if I’m bored by it, no way it’s going to appeal to anyone else. But I usually say it’s not you it’s me; I’m just not ready to commit; I need to be free to write other stories. Maybe someday, when we’re both in a different place…

Specifically about One Boy No Water
9-How did One Boy No Water make it to the top of your "to write" pile?

In its current state as the first book in a five book series called the Nihui Shark Saga it didn’t make it to the top of the to do list until I sold the concept to Jolly Fish Press. This story and I had an on-again/off-again flirtation and a series of one night stands eight years ago. After a seven year split we reconnected, sought counseling, and worked out our many issues. I realized this story was really a MG/YA series in disguise and not the complicated braided novel for adults that first caught my eye. JFP gave me the deadline I needed to go all boot camp on the story and stomp it into its current shape.

9-In OBNW, the main character has a strong aversion/allergy to water. Do you have any allergies? If not, is there anything you wish you were allergic to?  Vegetables or perhaps manual labor?

My family would say I’m allergic to housework and laundry. Part of the reason I started writing novels was it sounded like a legitimate excuse for all the dishes in the sink. Now I’m hoping to earn enough to pay someone else to take care of it all.  However, I did recently discover I have a gluten allergy, which means no more chocolate cake on the sofa. Another reason I have time to write!

10-If the main character from OBNW could meet anyone (fictional or real) who would it be and why?

Without giving too much away, if Zader could meet his biological parents his life would change in ways he can’t imagine right now. He wasn’t abandoned, he was hidden. These are the big questions in the series: Who is Zader, why was he hidden, and what will he do when he and others discover the truth?

On a side note, Uncle Kahana would love to talk with his father again. As hinted in One Boy, No Water, Uncle Kahana’s relationship with his father wasn’t pono, a Hawaiian word that means being in balance or correct, and with his father’s death he hasn’t had an opportunity to fix it. That’s affected him and his decisions his entire life.

Char Siu would love to meet Psy of Gangnam Style fame, but that’s for book two!

Cool stuff about Lehua

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, two cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.

In case you wish to stalk Lehua

Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/LehuaParker
Twitter: @LehuaParker
            Goodreads: Lehua Parker

Thanks for playing, Lehua!  Good writing.
Go check out the novel everyone.