Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. holiday short story: Lost

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Lost

By Jenniffer Wardell

It was always best to stomp your snow boots clean before breaking into a client’s house for the big reveal. Kate was sure management wouldn’t approve of Fairy Godmothers wearing snow boots at all, but they weren’t the ones having to trudge through foot-high snow drifts. What they didn’t know would keep Kate’s feet warm.

She’d already figured out where the kitchen was, so her next step was to transport herself inside. Once the glow from the magic disappeared, Kate scanned the room for her client. It was the usual wicked stepmother fostering situation, so odds were the girl would be curled up by the fireplace….

There was no girl. Instead, there was an older man in a red, fur-trimmed outfit that was about a century or so out of fashion. He had a bulging bag slung over his shoulder, a hat with a puffball on the end, and he looked desperately lost.

Which was good, because he had definitely not been mentioned in the file. “Sir?” she said carefully, trying to figure out if he had a weapon on him anywhere. Sure, he looked harmless, but there were plenty of people who used that as camouflage. “I’m sorry, but you really don’t look like you’re where you want to be.”

“I don’t think I am.” The man’s voice was so warm and friendly that Kate immediately suspected he was a sorcerer of some kind. No one sounded like that naturally. “I’ve been to five houses now, and there hasn’t been a single Christmas tree, set of wooden shoes, menorah, or any other signs people use to celebrate the season.”

Kate’s brow furrowed in confusion. “I’ve never heard of Christmas trees or menorahs, and the only people I’ve ever heard of who wear wooden shoes are a few of the older fairies.”

“Fairies?” Now the man looked alarmed. “Those wings aren’t just a costume, are they?”

“Nooo.” Maybe he was getting senile. His family or assistants should really be keeping better track of him – magic could be dangerous even in full possession of their faculties – but it wasn’t his fault. Maybe she could help him get home after she’d finished with the initial client meeting. “Why don’t you sit down for a little while. I need to talk to someone who lives here, but then after that I can help get you where you’re supposed to be.”

“That’s a kind thought, but I have far too many things to do tonight.” Reaching into his pocket, the man pulled out what appeared to be a crystal ball swirling with snow. He held it up to the moonlight to peer inside it, flicking a finger against the side. Immediately, it turned the deep black of the night sky, strange lights swirling inside.

After a moment of studying it, he sighed. “I knew I should have taken a left turn at the Andromeda Galaxy.”

Yep, definitely senile. She couldn’t let this man go out wandering on his own, for his sake if nothing else. “Sir, I understand about being busy, but maybe I can help you with that, too.” Kate stepped towards him. “If you could just wait a few minutes….”

“No need, my dear. It was so much simpler with the sleigh, but I’ll get the hang of this yet.” Putting the crystal back in his pocket, he slung the bag around so he could reach inside. “Now, I may be in the wrong universe, but you are definitely on the nice list. And I can’t leave anyone on the nice list empty handed.”

“That’s very sweet, but I really don’t need anything.” Sorcerers, especially crazy ones, tended to have a … strange view of appropriate presents. “Let’s just….”

“Ah, here it is.” With a satisfied expression, the man pulled a small, wrapped present out of the bag. The paper appeared to be covered in pine trees with little stars on top, and when she looked closely her name was on the gift tag.

Surprised, she looked up at him. Most sorcerers couldn’t read minds, and she’d taken over Daisy’s client when the other woman had gone home sick with the Giant Flu. No one was supposed to know she was here. “How do you know my name?”

The man’s eyes twinkled. “Christmas magic, my dear.” Then he laid a finger against the side of his nose, winked at her, and promptly disappeared.

Kate stayed where she was for a moment, staring at the space he’d been. She still didn’t know what this “Christmas” thing was he kept talking about, but she was definitely going to check news reports for the next few days.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. short story: The Elf Question


I have no idea when Walgreens got into
the elf shoe business.
The Elf Question

By Jenniffer Wardell

Shoemaker Elves were a completely different species than their taller, more elegant cousins. It was never a good idea to confuse the two, particularly within earshot of a representative of either species who had been drinking heavily. Shoemaker Elves were actually more closely related to fairies, and sorting out who had started calling them elves usually took a good working knowledge of linguistic history and the willingness to tolerate a lot of shouting.

Neither species tended to show up in the Fairy Godmothers, Inc. offices, generally preferring to sort out romantic matters among themselves. This news had no effect on the young Shoemaker Elf sitting on the other side of Kate’s desk, her traditional blue cap clutched to her chest. “I know, ma’am. It’s also not very normal to have clients pay you for themselves. But I’m desperate.”

Kate leaned forward, eyeing the girl carefully. “But you don’t want one of the packages we have available.”

“No. I want you to come to my mother’s party and whisk me away to dental school.” She smiled hopefully. “It’s the only way they’ll let me go.”

“What I’m confused about is why the say-so of a Fairy Godmother would help the situation any.” She noticed the girl’s hunched shoulders, a very unusual gesture for a Shoemaker Elf. When you were short, you generally held on to every inch of height you could get. “I would think Shoemaker Elf parents would approve of dental school. Working on teeth has the same kind of craftsman spirit.”

“Well….” Clearly, the girl hadn’t thought her story through as well as she should have. “They’re very traditional, and though they’ll look at me kind of funny a Fairy Godmother will cause just the right amount of fuss. They’ll have to let me go, because making that kind of scene and then not doing anything about it will just make people talk more….”

“And finding out that their Elven daughter is pretending to be a Shoemaker Elf won’t cause enough fuss?”

The girl sighed. “I’m sorry, but people get so disappointed because I’m really bad at the whole snooty Elf thing. I thought you’d like me better if I seemed like I whistled while I worked.”

“That’s dwarves, kiddo, but it’d probably be a good idea not to mention that particular stereotype to any of them.” Taking pity on her, Kate pulled out a new client form. “And I’m fine with however you want to dress. But if you go around in that outfit, people are going to start asking you to fix things.”

As if conjured, one of Kate’s co-workers chose that moment to pop her head around a corner. “Hey, are you a Shoemaker Elf? I have this desk chair I’d really like you to look at….”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

So You Want To Rule The World: The Hiring Process


The perfect scapegoat.
The Hiring Process, or Torture is Optional

Admittedly, going through the HR process is one of the less entertaining parts of beginning one’s evil empire. Some supervillains may be able to gather people around them just on the basis of their charm and savoire-faire. However, it would be wisest to assume that this is not the case for you. Not to be rude about it or anything, but the results of such an assumption about one's self can produce some downright embarrassing results, such as big muscular men laughing at you and slapping you around like a girl. Also, the few, blessed individuals that such an approach does work for are generally to smart to assume such a thing anyway.

Simply conscripting people and forcing them to work for you is also an option, but it is a general rule that anyone makes a better employee if they are being paid. The better you want the employee to be, the more money you should pay them. This of course, doesn't count in cases of brainwashing, but it's not very cost or energy effective to use the practice on a large group of people.

Also, when someone breaks out of brainwashing, they are left with a most distressing urge to kill you, along with any employees you have tried to avoid paying. So hiring them is simply smarter.

In this economy, even a supervillain with very little mayhem to his or her name should have a relatively easy time hiring goons, technical staff, or any other employees needed in your world domination plans. Though you should  be able to access even the most legitimate employee sites, Craigslist may help you find the sort of employees that will be more comfortable with the basic requirements of lawbreaking.

True, this method won’t exactly find you the cream of the crop, but that can be solved by having the candidates meet you at an abandoned office building and having them undergo whatever tests you might find necessary (tell the rejected ones that you were casting for a reality show, and you won’t have to kill them to keep them from talking to the authorities). If they start asking about benefits, tell them you’re a start-up that is currently hiring employees only on a contract basis. Benefits, naturally, are dependent on company successes.

Note: Competitive reality shows, particularly ones such as "Survivor," may also be an interesting location to seek future employees. Though winners should be avoided - they already have money, and will have the kind of egos you don't want in underlings - those the winner has manipulated should be perfect for your purposes. This is especially true if they're muscular and not terribly bright. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Handbook for Supervillains: The Joy of Minions


Note: Minions should rarely be this
colorful.
The Joy of Minions, or Why You Need Employees

As I discussed in chapter one, ruling the world is simply too large a job for just one supervillain (yes, even one as impressive as you - have you been paying any attention?) Most other worthy supervillain ambitions also fall into this category, the only possible exception being if you plan to do something with computers. (And if that's the case, then I feel it's my duty to tell you that computer-based plans for world domination don't get much further these days than scaring traditional news media. Besides, anonymity is the name of the game with hacking-based evil - the only thing you could really do under your own name is the takeover of a company, and with the economy the way it is that can be accomplished by a reasonably clever and well-funded 12 year-old).

If it helps, don’t think of them as personnel. Goons is quite a popular term, but can seem out of place if the employees aren’t suitably hulking. Minions, however, can be applied to a far wider range of staff. Minions can be made to do all sorts of dirty work, from helping to build your fortress of terror to arguing with the phone company that no, no one from this number ever made a 20 minute long distance phone call to San Quentin, and you have no idea why they would even think such a thing.

Also, they tend to be very convenient for standing in the way of bullets that would have otherwise ended up in your very attractive person (bodyguards, one of the greatest uses for minions that I have personally ever heard of) or throwing themselves on the hero in a fight. Of course, unless they are particularly impressive minions, they will be immediately defeated by the hero by something as incredibly ludicrous as a single punch to the jaw.

Yes, I know this is unfair. I completely agree with you, and would urge you to write your congressman (or have them assassinated, depending on your opinions of civic involvement) if I thought it would do any good. But it won't - it's written into the heroes contract, and there's nothing we can do about it. So I would advise you to, instead of worrying about it, allocate more minions for just that purpose, and consider every time they fall as one less bruise for you.

Also, minions endowed with a certain degree of intelligence (not as common as you might think, sadly) are great at information gathering. The obnoxiously snobby fellows with headsets and mouthpieces stationed in front of computers that always seem to be surrounding international supervillains in the movies are great examples of this. They always seem to be shouting something to whoever has been declared in charge for that particular scene, and it must be important enough that they haven't all been shot before this (though I suspect one of them is there strictly for ordering take-out). The great failsafe is for one of them to be "watching the perimeter," but any other information they should get for you is, of course, completely up to you. You can't expect me to handle everything.

As an added bonus, minions simply make you look more cool. Don't ask me why this happens, but the general thought process of anyone watching seems to be "Well, I thought he was the scum of the Earth (don't kill them at this point - it gets better) but he does seem to be able to control all these people. Oooooooh, he must be much more scary and impressive than we thought!" The fact that most of these people are here simply because you have promised to pay them a healthy sum of money (whether you'll actually deliver is entirely up to you) and they are less scrupulous then some of their fellow humans is for some reason never mentioned. For the sake of your image, I suggest you keep it that way.

Next: The Hiring Process, or Torture Is Optional

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Flash fiction #2: Gods of the Party


Artemis, like all goddesses of the
hunt, tended to be a little too fond
of camping. (Wikipedia)
One of the groups that gets mentioned in “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” is the National Association for Retired but Still Mighty Gods and Goddesses (NARSMGG). They don’t get much play in the book, but the idea just fascinated me.

Gods of the Party
by Jenniffer Wardell

They let Hephaestus and Aphrodite plan the Winter Solstice party.

Hephaestus was a god of building things, and unlike most of the pantheon knew how to plan for things that didn’t involve smiting. And goddesses of love and beauty always knew how to throw great parties, even if it was just so they’d have the proper setting to shine in. Also, most of the club members couldn’t remember hearing the two scream at each other very often, which was a rare thing among married deities and always a plus.

(What no one said out loud was that they were quickly running out of options. A giant snake broke through the wall and crashed every party Odin and his family tried to throw, and Coyote couldn’t be trusted to stick to a budget. Everybody agreed that Osiris was a nice guy, but after last year everyone also agreed that gods of the dead should never be left in charge of party planning. Kali was a fun girl, especially for a goddess of destruction, but she tended to throw chairs.)

It turned out, though, that the reason Hephaestus and Aphrodite rarely screamed at each other was that they were rarely in the same kingdom at the same time.

“I’m not building you a new sound system! The old one works just fine!”

“It’s fine for normal gods, you lump, but I need something as magnificent as I am!”

“Well, whatever you come up with had better be pretty small, or there won’t be room for both it and your swollen head!”

“Ares thinks my head is gorgeous!”

“You idiot, your head isn’t what he’s looking at!”

In the end, the only way to avoid bloodshed was to have two smaller parties. The quieter gods went over to Hephaestus’s place for hot chocolate and a cozy forge fire, while the wilder gods went out drinking with Aphrodite.

The fact that the club building was still standing at the end of it all automatically made it the most successful party the gods had ever thrown.  Hephaestus and Aphrodite were unanimously voted as the club’s permanent party planners.

Well, almost unanimously. But there was no pleasing even a godess's mother-in-law.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Fairy Godmothers, Inc." flash fiction: "Petalphobia"



Thanks, Wikipedia!
One of the defining traits of being a geek is the need to know all the little facts and stories that don’t make it into the movie, novel or comic series. I’m a super geek, which means I can’t stop the need even when it comes to my own novel. So I’m collecting here all the super-short stories (flash fiction, I believe their called) and other little bits that emerged when I wanted to explore more of my world than could successfully fit in a novel. This first bit is a memory from Kate’s childhood, and came of me wondering what it might be like to actually be related to classic fairies.

Petalphobia

Kate was 12 before she met any of her full-blooded fairy relatives. A distant cousin was graduating from flight school, and his parents had apparently invited everyone who might be at all willing to give their son a present. Her own parents, surprisingly, had decided to go.

The obsession they’d all had with plant life was disconcerting, to say the least. The students had worn magically-enlarged helicopter seeds on their heads instead of mortarboards (this was fairy flight school, after all), and everyone had insisted on at least one major piece of floral wardrobe. One woman had an entire skirt made out of petals, making her look like an enormous peony who had gotten lost and wandered into the event.

Later, Kate discovered that this woman was her great-aunt Peony. “What a remarkably … uncolorful child,” she had said, bending over close enough that Kate was choking on the petal skirt. Her parents didn’t seem to notice, so Kate took matters into her own hands and fought her way free. The skirt, which hadn’t been magically protected, ripped as easily as any normal plant life would.

Kate fell backwards, staring up at the now horrified-looking old woman. Her wings hurt, she hadn’t had anything to eat but candied petals for two full hours, and no one was around to yell at her. “Your skirt looks like a goat’s been chewing on it,” she told her great-aunt, not feeling guilty in the slightest.

Thankfully, the more flowered-covered relatives ignored her for the rest of the evening. For the next six months, though, Kate couldn’t help but feel nervous every time she got near a peony.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Fairy Godmothers, Inc.


My new book, “Fairy Godmothers, Inc.,” is being published in late April 2013 by Jolly Fish Press. http://www.amazon.com/Jenniffer-Wardell/e/B005RREFUM The wonderful people at Jolly Fish are putting together an official site for the book now, but the members of The Next Big Thing blog hop are giving me a chance to give you guys an early introduction to the book.
The Next Big Thing: Fairy Godmothers, Inc.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’ve always wondered why fairy godmothers go around sneaking poor girls into fancy dress balls. The only answer that made any sense was that they must be paid for it.

What genre does your book fall under?
Fantasy/humor/romance. Yes, I know there’s no section in bookstores for that, but why limit yourself?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My publisher, Christopher Loke, mentioned Emma Stone for Kate. Kate was flattered by the comparison, naturally, but is sure she’s nowhere near as pretty as Emma.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Kate, an employee of Fairy Godmothers, Inc., falls in love and saves the day in the middle of her most complicated assignment yet.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft was so long ago I genuinely don’t remember. Let’s just say that Kate and I have known each other for a very long time and leave it at that.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
All fantasy humorists dream of one day being compared to Terry Pratchett. People who have read early drafts have also compared to Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms books and Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I love fairy tales, but the heroines were always so good and beautiful that I kind of wanted to smack them with something. What about the witty, sarcastic girls? What about the girls who no one notices? What about the girls who have never really fit in anywhere? I wanted THOSE fairy tales.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
“Fairy Godmothers, Inc.” is what happens when fairy tales and reality collide.
Thanks everyone! You can also check out other blogs in the blog hop, including our useful, interesting and funny home base, Slow Stir: http://shaundawenger.blogspot.com/ Jolly Fish can be found at http://jollyfishpress.com/

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Handbook for Supervillains: No Capes


This is your competition in Cleveland.
Give up now. cleveland.about.com
So You Want To Rule The World
No Capes, or Edna Mode Was Right
When creating your villainous look, one of the greatest temptations besetting those starting into the evil life is the cape. Whether you’re fighting a costumed crusader or styling yourself as the evil  overlord of your Eastern European country of choice, it’s easy to imagine yourself sweeping aside some long black cloak as you order someone executed or cackle about how you have the hero in your clutches. (Note: Many of those cape/cloak fantasies probably include revealing your evil plan to the hero, just so you can bask in how clever you are. A later chapter will discuss why this is in fact one of the dumbest things you, as a villain, can do.)

Fight this temptation, young evildoer. Capes are a relic of a bygone era, and will not only limit your flexibility as a villain but also hamper you should worst come to worst and you end up in a fistfight. A flunkie who has designs on your power can also easily take you out if you hamper yourself with a large sweep of fabric attached to your neck. Though you can find ways around it – electricity sticks are a fun choice, and can be adapted to match any color scheme  – why open yourself up to the possibility? If you’d like, you can electrocute them anyway and not worry about your life being at risk.
Beyond the practical applications, capes also add an element of cheesiness to your villainous persona that will inevitably limit the kind of heroes you attract and your ability to terrify the greatest possible swath of the populace. Dracula used to be terrifying, peering over his cape as he hypnotized innocent women into baring their necks, but these days his classic profile is little more than a parody or a kids’ cereal mascot. Loki can get away with it, but anyone else who wanted to do the same thing would also have to rant like a mad god, which can get tiring.

Capes – especially fur capes, which are the kiss of death unless you happen to have wandered into a medieval fantasy world – are no longer terrifying to modern audiences. Don’t let yourself become a relic, or if you do at least do something fun to get there like attempting to steal the moon.

Next: The Underwear Question, or It Didn't Work For Batman

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Handbook for Supervillains: The Female Villain


So You Want to Rule the World

The Female Villain Persona, or Yes, Even Evil is Sexist

The unpleasant truth of the matter is that the majority of the world’s most well-respected supervillains are male. If you’re a woman and have an overwhelming pull towards villainry, you’re usually expected to be the girlfriend of some more powerful villain or sleep with the hero before betraying him. Sure, you get great outfits, but that’s not going to win you the kind of respect that say, subjugating a small country would.

Even the best villains fall into this trap. Talia may have been the mastermind in the latest “Dark Knight” movie, but who do we all remember? Yes, Bane. He got to make the dramatic proclamations, while she missed several opportunities for solid evil name recognition by pretending to be a good guy. This, my friend, will not get people quaking in their boots at the mention of your name. After all, branding is just important in villainry as it is in selling shoes.

 (Just a note to keep you from offending someone you shouldn't and having them convince you to apologize with a ray gun -- "villain" is still the politically correct job title for women who choose this profession. In fact, the only term still under evaluation from several joint committees on political correctness is "bad guy."

"Bad girl" was briefly considered as a replacement, but several women's rights activists in the supervillain community attending the meetings felt that the term was derisive to women and still segregated them from their peers. Since they had conveniently armed themselves before arriving, the rest of the group tended to agree with their viewpoint quickly. "Bad person" is a current favorite, though a small but vocal writer's coalition is complaining that it just doesn’t sound as catchy.)

So, my sisters in dastardly deeds, don’t let yourself fall into the “girlfriend” trap. Believe me, there will be ways to trick the hero without sleeping with him, and the other villains will respect you for it far more. If nothing else, get one of your female flunkies to sleep with him while you get to do all the dramatic grandstanding and evil rants that are some of the most solid benefits our profession has to offer. Then, when the hero thinks he’s lured your flunkie over to the good side, have her bring him to you so you can stab him. Or stab them both, and prove you’re above this whole seduction nonsense. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun with it.

Next: No Capes, or Edna Mode Was Right

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Handbook for Supervillains: Choosing a Persona


So You Want to Rule the World
Choosing a Persona, or Step Away from the Spandex
Be VERY careful with these. The object of the entire super villain persona is to strike fear into the hearts of innocent townsfolk and surrounding superheroes, not make them want to laugh their heads off.  Generally, any villainous identity that involves brightly colored spandex, killing your enemies with normally harmless items (“Fear my eggbeater of terror!”) or costumes that include anything that could easily be handed out as a party favor falls into this category.
Comedic super villains are never allowed to win, unless they are heroes or are lucky to find themselves in a gritty reboot. The place of the absurd villain is to be defeated in a comical manner, often through use of some sort of pun related to the villain’s name. These people are forced to constantly wear horrendous costumes (this is discussed in further detail later), never get a single good line of dialogue, and never, ever get the girl.
Still, even more traditional themes require a delicate balance. Death is widely seen as terrifying, but if you call yourself Mr. Death you’ll need to start piling up the bodies before you’re taken at all seriously. Trying to make yourself sound scary is often seen as an amateur move, when if you are truly scary you could be called “Florence” and people would still back away from you in terror. Instead, call yourself something something simple, such as D, and carry around a large weapon you know how to use (Not Mr. D, though. That’s just asking for trouble).
If you’re uncertain as to whether your planned villainous persona can be taken seriously, walk into an appropriately disreputable bar and introduce yourself in character. If you’re ignored or laughed at, go back and try again. If people start inching their barstools away from yours, then you have a winner.
Note: A comedic villainous personal can occasionally come in handy, such as when you want to distract the guards while you make off with [insert name of precious treasure here]. If that’s the case, then any mortally embarrassing costume that still leaves you room to maneuver should do the trick. I would suggest only using it once, however, and perhaps switch through an entire gallery of embarrassing costumes to confuse the heroes further.
Next: The Female Villain Persona, or Yes, Even Evil is Sexist

Friday, October 5, 2012

Q&A with author Lehua Parker

Lehua Parker’s 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.

What was your inspiration for One Boy, No Water?

One Boy, No Water had its genesis in an image from a movie I saw when I was seven. The person responsible for all the missing villagers was revealed to be a young man with a gaping shark's mouth where his back should be! He'd kept his back hidden and had been living in the village all his life. Over the years my mind kept returning to that image wondering ‘what if?’ The answer to some of those questions is the Niuhi Shark Saga. One Boy, No Water is book one in a five part series.

What was your favorite thing about the process of writing the book?

Getting so caught up in crafting the story that I completely lose track of time. I love writing in the wee hours when the house is dark and quiet and it's just me, the glow from the computer screen, and a dog or two sleeping at my feet.

What was the most challenging thing about the process of writing the book?

It's one of the themes in the book: staying in balance. When I'm working on a book, I start out by reading everything I can get my hands on that might in some way relate to some vague ideas I have about characters or plot. I bang out a couple of chapters just to see what's percolating. I research a bit more and think a lot. I sketch out a rough outline of the plot—or what I think is the plot. I tinker around with it a little and think some more. Up until this point, I can still function in the real world. The kids get hot meals and clean clothes and can expect to get taken to soccer and piano on time.

And then it happens. At some point it all comes together and I get obsessed. I lose all balance and perspective. I basically lock myself in my office and write, sometimes for fifteen or twenty hours straight. If I didn't have to eat or sleep, I'd probably sit at the computer until it's done. Fortunately in my non-book writing periods, I taught the kids how to cook and do laundry.

To try to keep balance in my life when I'm deep into a book, I write one day (and night and sometimes the next day!), then take a day off. I'll read what I wrote, have an actual conversation with my husband and kids, nurse the carpel tunnel in my wrists and pain in my neck and shoulders, and get some sleep. It starts all over again the following day when I'm in the shower mentally working out how what needs to come next in the story is going to happen.

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.

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


Friday, September 28, 2012

A Handbook for Supervillains: Setting Goals

So You Want to Rule the World: A Handbook for Supervillians

Chapter 2: Setting Goals

Or, Small is the New Big

This may not be as simple as it seems for the beginning supervillain. Sure, everyone says that they want world domination, but is that what they're really looking for? There are a lot more options for a forward thinking individual than current publicity today shows.

There's nothing wrong, of course, with wanting to rule the world. It's a fine goal - one your mother could be proud of, if she was the kind of woman to get a kick out of such things. Many worthy notables in the profession have shared the same goal, including several villains on Wall Street and in the entertainment industry (all bow to the great Oprah). Historical supervillains such as Attila the Hun, Ghengis Kahn, Napolean, and Alexander the Great had similar ambitions, though these later individuals had the advantage of considering the world a much smaller place then we now know it to be, so they had less territory to cover. Still, a villain who chose this as an ultimate goal would be in very worthy company.

The only problem is, they wouldn't be in particularly successful company. Because, though ruling the world is a very nice aspiration for any villain to have, it is an impossible one to actually obtain. There is no way that only one person can control the whole world, no matter how powerful or devilishly good-looking you are.

Yes, yes, I know. Cue the chorus of all supervillain hopefuls currently reading this that want to voice their heated denials to the last statement that I just made. One, two, three - "But I can do it!" There, now that we've gotten that over with, we can stop any attempts on your part to try and prove this to me, and most definitely the gratuitous boasting that is certain to go along with those attempts (not that I disapprove entirely - I myself have participated in gratuitous boasting on several occasions, and generally find it very relaxing. Now, however, is not the time), jumping right to the point where I explain why all of you are wrong.

Unless you happen to be fortunate enough to lead an alien race who sees earthlings as lower life forms and is conveniently equipped with a large and scary fleet of very well-armed spaceships (in which case, you would technically not be considered a supervillain - more like an impartial enslaving and destructive force. Most aliens aren't allowed to enjoy world domination, a stigma which will be discussed later), the entire world is simply too large a territory for one supervillain to keep an eye on. And it's impossible to truly be the complete ruler of any area unless you can be exactly certain what's going on in every area of it. The often used phrase "information is power" may be a cliche, but that doesn't mean it doesn't know what it's talking about. This is particularly true when one has to deal with pesky resistance movements.

There's no need to be upset, though. Just sit down on your great and dreadful thrones for a minute and think about this. Do you really want to rule the entire world? Or do you simply want a large enough chunk of it to keep you supplied with money, love slaves or your chosen gender, and people willing to cower and/or bow in front of you? It’s as easy to steal what you want as it is to order it handed over to you, and in small territories there’s no place for those annoying heroes to hide a secret army.

When you rule a small territory (such as a floating island or terrifying mountains stronghold) you get to lounge about and enjoy your evilness. Conquer something much bigger than that, however, and you actually have to spend time managing your holdings. That my evil young supervillain hopefuls, is code for paperwork. And if we wanted to deal with paperwork, we wouldn’t have bothered with becoming supervillains in the first place, would we?

Next: Choosing a Persona, or Step Away From the Spandex

Friday, September 21, 2012

So You Want to Rule the World: Introduction

So You Want to Rule the World
(or maybe just downtown Manhattan)

- A handbook for supervillains

By Jenniffer Wardell

Introduction

Everyone who has gone through high school knows that, while that point in the educational system is very focused on future career opportunities, there are certain vocations that counselors just aren't willing to cover. Injuring yourself in viral videos, for one thing, or becoming one of those poor costumed creatures you see on street corners.

One of the most ignored professions, however, is that of the supervillain. No class offers the barest hint of instruction to ease a student's way into this well-established but generally unrewarding field. Even counselors are unwilling to mention this field to students when they are trying out various career fields. Whether this is done out of ignorance or outright malice is uncertain, but either way it keeps precious new blood out of the field and causes the profession to stagnate.

The educational system, however, is not the only one to blame for this lack of awareness. No one seems to be willing to guide young supervillains through the challenges and unexpected pitfalls that come with the business, or continue to educate established villains that their skills might remain fresh.

So here it is, the complete guide to being the best supervillain you can possibly be. Whether you are trying to perform your crimes despite the harassment of a fully licensed superhero or a karate master who works as a fry cook in between bouts of rampant heroism, these ideas may actually help you win (or at least look less pathetic as you lose).

Note: For the purposes of this book, the term villain and supervillain will be interchangeable. Technically, there are several differences between the two, with a certain higher scope of evil generally being attributed to supervillains, as well as a tragic fondness for unfortunately-colored spandex. But the strict use of the word supervillain might be somewhat off-putting to certain suit-wearing evil individuals who have as much potential for a grand power play as their more gaily costumed brethren (also, I fear their lawyers). Besides, the word villain doesn't take as long to type.

Next up: Setting Goals, or Small is the New Big

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Come here, my pretty….

The Internet is like the ultimate lure and containment trap.

First, you have the lure. Generally, the lure you’d use would depend on what you were hoping to catch – certain fish respond better to certain bait. But the Internet is so massive it has no need to limit itself – there are YouTube clips of idiots falling off high places, endless discussions about esoteric points in obscure sci-fi movies, make-up tutorials, visual homages to Edward Cullen’s supposed magnificence, and cat videos. If you have an interest, someone online has put up a page going into way more detail about it than you ever imagined possible.

Once they have you drawn in, they start to disorient you. Sometimes the initial site can do this – message boards are both great for long conversations that will suck up hours without you realizing it – but the real power is in the links. Like a little trail of electronic breadcrumbs, they lead you deeper and deeper into the maze of websites full of distracting information and shiny pictures. Hours later, you have no memory of what you had initially meant to do or what is going on in the world outside of the computer screen. Worse, you don’t want to leave the magic computer screen, because it’s constantly rewarding you with some new factoid or bright spangly every few clicks. You’re happy in the trap, and wouldn’t leave if you could.

The question is, who’s trapping us? The simple answer is corporations, but your average business executive just isn’t that clever. My vote is our future alien overlords.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Keeping it all in the air

Early Egyptian depiction of juggling - Wikipedia
I’m in awe of those people who can do 20 different things at once, whether through meticulous organization or some secret superpower somehow manage to juggle complex work responsibilities with keeping a car and home together. And if they have children … whew. Each kid is a complex juggling act on its own, with new surprises constantly being thrown at your head every five minutes.

For me, I can barely manage just myself. I’m pretty good at getting my stories in on time and making sure the newspaper gets together – as far as I can tell, layout is kind of my version of knitting – and there’s always time to go back and edit unruly novel characters back into some semblance of order. But everything else – keeping my car functioning, making sure I have food in the fridge so I don’t constantly give in to takeout, keep an eye on my seriously depressed and potentially suicidal bank account, making sure I look like a functional member of society – is exhausting. And I know I’ve got maybe four, five balls in the air, tops.

So for those of you doing complex routines with responsibilities that would be twenty balls, four chainsaws, and a matching sofa and loveseat, my hats off to you. If the world was at all fair, you would be hearing constant riotous applause from those of us in awe of your dexterity and determination.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A kid in a grown-up’s body

I don’t think I ever really grew up.

Honestly, who would want to? True, it’s always fun to be able to stay up late, and at first glance the toys of adulthood seem far cooler – speeding along an open road in a real car beats Hot Wheels every time. But when you’re an adult you also have to pay for all your toys, and the sheen of a good imagination is always going to make something more impressive than my bank account could match.

And oh, man, there are some cool kids toys that no longer fit my arm. I saw a little girl with a set of claws that actually had a sword attached. While I restrained myself from asking if I could play with it – like I said, it no longer fit my arm – I really, really wanted to.

Which is why I’m pretty sure I haven’t managed the whole “grown up” thing yet. I hold down a job, yes, but that’s really no scarier than school used to be. And I pay bills, but I was also pretty good at turning in my homework. In exchange I still get to happily go to kids movies without worrying about stealing a child for cover, read comic books without trying to argue that they have socio-political subtext, and take advantage of any and all swings I come across.

Sometimes, there’s even someone on the swing next to me. There are fewer grown-ups out there than most people realize.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

PBS in my DNA

I’m a full-time journalist and about to be a published novelist, and I’m just now realizing how much PBS made me a part of who I am.

My earliest years are a combination of “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” both ingrained in me so deeply that lines from different segments will still float through my head occasionally. It’s a standard line now that both shows make education seem fun, but they also taught me things I never found in a textbook. Through those shows, I found out that words have a wonderful rhythm that can be as fun to play with as any toy. I found out that everyone has their own story to share, and you can find out the most wonderful things if you’re just brave enough to ask a question. I learned that it’s okay to be scared, but that things will probably work out if you take a deep breath and jump in.

Then there was Bob Ross. I’ve never really painted, and most certainly not with oils, but when I was a kid he was the only creative person I knew. In a way, he opened up the entire world of creativity for me. You could watch him paint these beautiful, complicated scenes, and he would break it all down into these simple-sounding steps that made it seem like anyone could make something that beautiful and complicated. I know Ross really believed that, and he was warm and encouraging enough to feel like the kindest, most loving teacher in the world. There were no mistakes, only “happy accidents” that you could turn into something wonderful. On a more fundamental level, the fact that he loved what he was doing radiated out of him every second he was onscreen.

Bob Ross might not have succeeded in teaching me how to paint, but he definitely taught me that making something out of nothing is one of the happiest, most welcoming experiences a human being can have. How was I supposed to say no to that?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Learning to appreciate August

August is the most bittersweet month of the year for students, a desperate attempt to slow down time so those last few days of summer freedom can be appropriately savored.

Even if you liked school you find yourself hating the thought of going back, and so you start trying to partition each moment down to a trickle so you don’t miss anything. At the same time, that first day back in school looms over the top of every moment, making it sweeter and reminding you it’s going to end. It’s passionate, intense, and in the end completely exhausting. 

Summers aren’t nearly so exciting when you have a real job, since bosses and the need to pay bills keep you attached to your desk no matter what month of the year it is. One thing it has done, however, is give me back August, which is a perfectly pleasant (if hot) month when I’m not dreading September. The skies are blue, school crossing zones/speed traps haven’t been turned back on yet, and my schedule is starting to clear out. It’s almost relaxing.

Of course, I don’t mention this to the students or teachers I still know. I don’t think they’d appreciate the sentiment.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Success, failure and bronze medals

stock photo
Sitting at home, it seems obvious which are the best medals to get – gold is better than silver, and silver is better than bronze. But when you watch the faces of the athletes, both as their waiting for their scores and just after they find them out, it doesn’t seem that simple anymore.

Sure, everyone wants to win gold, even if they’ve never been to the Olympics before and it’s a huge accomplishment to simply be in the running. The gold medal is the dream that got them here in the first place, standing on top of the podium with tears streaming down their faces as their national anthem gets pumped in over the loudspeakers (hopefully accurately). And I don’t think there can be anything more agonizing than fourth place, knowing you came so close to recognition but going home empty handed.

With second and third place, however, things become more complicated. Half the time, the person who ends up with the silver medal always seems crushed, either trying hard to look blank for the cameras or openly weeping in what is definitely not joy. Third place, on the other hand, usually seems pretty thrilled, grinning for the cameras with equal measures of relief and delight. Sometimes it’s reversed – bronze medal winners are never happy when they fall from a higher spot, and some silver medal winners have been thrilled – but in general third place seems like a happier spot than second.

I think the difference is where the line was in the athlete’s head. For the bronze medalists, it’s behind them – they did just good enough to make it inside medal territory, and so they feel relieved and proud of themselves. For silver medalists, however, it’s in front of them – they didn’t quite do good enough to win the gold. Their success is technically bigger than that of the bronze medalists, but all they can see is the failure.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Olympics: sports for the rest of us

Thanks, Wikipedia!
The Olympics is like a sports-primer for non-sports fans, giving us just a taste of what all the fuss is about. Normally, we have to duck office conversations every time football (or basketball, or baseball) season comes around, either nodding at what we’re pretty sure are key moments or accepting the confusion of co-workers when we admit that we don’t have a favorite team. Honestly, we don’t know enough about any of them to care. 

But during the Olympics, we all have the same home team. And instead of focusing on details of gameplay that make no sense to the sports ignorant, they have crying athletes achieving once-in-a-lifetime victories (or missing them by heartbreaking inches) and mothers sitting in the audience. They have backstories designed to make you care about them as people almost more than as athletes. You have easy-to-understand records (the guy with the most medals wins) and calls from the president.

With all that coming at you, it’s hard for even the most sports-ignorant not to feel some team spirit cropping up. To cheer at a moment so obviously great that even we can understand why. To feel like you know the athletes personally, even though you’ve never met them before in your life.

And for once, we can keep up with sports conversations at the office.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Guest Blog: Read Before You Write

By Cristopher Loke, Executive Editor for Jolly Fish Press and author of "The Housekeeper's Son."


READ BEFORE YOU WRITE

As authors we often blog and talk about writing and the publishing industry, and as we busy ourselves in pursuing the dream of being published and read, we sometimes forget the importance of reading. As busy as we all are, there should always be time for reading. Because, after all, we are in the business of books.

So, let’s talk a little about reading and why it is important. First, as authors, we are storymakers. And as such—as eery as this may sound—we feed on stories to churn out stories. It’s like The Lion King’s circle of life. In order for us to write well, we must also read well. Here are a few reasons why authors should be reading every day:

EXPLORING NEW WORLDS
That’s right. How are we to create awesome worlds and universes for our readers to explore when we have not yet explored any ourselves? While there are some mighty authors out there who can invent something spectacular out of nowhere, most of us aren’t blessed with that degree of godsend. So, we have to discover things for ourselves. JK Rowling based the Harry Potter series on Greek mythology, while Gregory Maguires’s Wicked is derived from the popular Wizard of Oz. Good books always come from somewhere, whether it is a seed planted by another book or article, or an experience faced by the author. Most of the time—I’m willing to bet—they come from something that the author has read.

THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT
Ah, this is perhaps one thing that I love most—the gift of discernment. And yes, I got it from reading. Being an avid reader, I am not only able to explore new things and discover foreign worlds and characters, I am also able to learn what makes a good book and vice versa. When I read a book I love, I instantly recognize the qualities in the book that I relate to and love. With such impressions in mind, the next book I read will have to at least be of equal quality, or better. By reading a diverse selection of books, I have learned what works for readers and what doesn’t, which, in turn, helps me in the crafting of my own book. Suddenly, I find myself editing out everything I hate about a book, only leaving in all the elements that work. And this all comes from the perpetual habit of reading.

A SENSE OF BELONGING
How many times have we recognized our desire and passion to write, yet we are faced with the dilemma of not knowing what to write about? We want to write so much that we have forgotten to look inside and ask ourselves the ultimate question: What genre do I write best? Which genre do I belong?

True, some authors may argue that a good author can write anything. But in the publishing industry, it is very important to write within the genre that you love most. No point writing about airplanes—even if you’ve done great research—when your love lies in vampires and goblins. As authors we must first identify ourselves before our readers can. And in the book-selling business, we all know how powerful loyal fans can be; they can rake up your sales because they love you and your work. By reading, we are not just exploring new worlds, we are actually “shopping” for the best world to belong to. In other words, we are finding the genre that we, as authors, can feel most at home.

While I can continue on with a myriad of other reasons why every author should make time to pick up a book and read, the three that I listed are perhaps the ones I think are most important. And of course, reading should not only be important for authors, it should be a habitual practice for everyone. Because books don’t do well sitting on shelves. Because literature is an integral part of our civilization—both in its rising and falling. And to be able to contribute to the world of books and knowledge . . . what better honor can there be?

Christopher Loke, executive editor for Jolly Fish Press, has made a splash in the writing world with his powerful and touching novel, The Housekeeper’s Son. This novel explores how far a mother can go for love. The answer? Murder. The Housekeeper’s Son is available as a hardcover and ebook through all major online retailers and a local bookstore near you. Visit TheHousekeepersSon.jollyfishpress.com for more information.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Proving my worth

The kanji for worth (with thanks to about.com)
I forget things.

Sometimes, this is where on earth I just put the cordless phone I was holding five seconds ago. Other times, it’s the fact that, when I was in jr. high, I was so terrified about getting a good grade in a class I already had an A+ in that I seriously tried to steal my mother’s books to get extra credit. It’s survived now as a funny story, but at the time I was so desperate to get an A that the fact I already *had* an A didn’t console me in the slightest.

Looking back from the peaceful vantage point of relative well-adjustment, I can see that I was so desperate to be the smartest because I was absolutely desperate to prove my worth to the people around me. I couldn’t fit in with the other kids, and felt that the fact I didn’t even really want to – I was lonely, but they were stupid – was another flaw in me somehow. But I was smart. I was smarter than any of them. And if I could keep stacking up those As, I could show the world just how wrong they were to dismiss me.

Now, I’m not nearly so desperate anymore. I’ve found people who can see my worth without me having to prove it to them – not many, true, but as many as I need. More importantly, I can see my own worth clearly enough that I don’t doubt it anymore. And I wish more than anything that I could reach back in time and convince my teenage self of that very thing. Maybe even hug her.

She’d deserve it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Desperately seeking Self-Googlers Anonymous

Don’t Google yourself – it’s embarrassing. Of course, I’m saying this as a long-time self-Googler, a shameful secret that I’d like all of you to forget the moment you finish reading this post. Even if you do pop your name into Google now and then, you aren’t supposed to actually admit it to anyone – the hobby suggests some awful combination of desperation and narcissism that normally make people back away from you at parties. Do you really care what complete strangers think about you? (I don’t think I care, exactly, but for some reason I have to KNOW.) Do you even know how the Google rankings work? (I think I do, sort of, in that vague yet unspecified way that leaves me content but completely unwilling to explain it out loud in case I end up sounding stupid.)

Of course, as a writer with several articles posted online I have a variety of legitimate reasons for my name to come up in a search (also, an oddly spelled name is extremely useful for weeding out potential Google-clones). But I’ve also run into a desperately unfortunate picture from college, when I was quoted for a newspaper article and ended up with a photographer who apparently found the worst conceivable angle to shoot me from. I had been successfully repressing any and all memory of this picture, at least until Google dug it out of some dark corner of the Internet and helpfully reminded me of its existence just recently.

I suppose it could be worse – anyone on Facebook who might have embarrassing photos of me seems to take my just-short-of-death threats quite seriously – but every time I see the picture I swear I’m never going to put my name into Google again. This vow usually lasts about a week, maybe longer if I’m feeling particularly self-restrained for some reason.

Anyone know if there’s a Self-Googlers Anonymous out there? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No more “If only”

Do it now. Whatever small but terribly important thing you’ve been promising yourself you’ll do the minute you get a few spare minutes – call someone you haven’t spoken to in far too long, tell someone you love them, have that crazy adventure you’ve always dreamed of – go do it right this very second.

I know how busy we all are, scrambling to keep afloat in an economy that seems more determined than ever to pull us under, and that even the most well-meaning heart sometimes can’t do anything but put off the things that matter most. We’ll get to it, we think. As soon as I find a moment I can breathe.

And then something terrible happens, and that moment never comes. You’re the one who gets a call, telling you the last news you wanted to hear, and that item on your to-do list spins forever out of your reach. Someone’s died, or you’ve lost your job, or a fire has eaten up everything you ever owned. You lose your chance, and that item on your to-do list will haunt you no matter how small it was. If only you hadn’t put it off for so long. If only you’d known.

So go do it. If you won’t listen to me, listen to your own mythical future self, who wishes more than anything that you’d done it when you had the chance.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Losing my mind in the summer heat

The kanji character for heat
I'm not designed for heat waves. I feel like I'm being constantly baked in an enormous oven, with whatever intelligence I normally possess being cooked out of me like the water in a cake. Of course, it’s entirely possible I just bungled the culinary metaphor I was trying for – since higher-level brain functions are being baked out of me, I end up unable to focus on anything but how incredibly, all-consumingly hot it is. So I'm not only less smart, I also become a boring conversationalist. It’s terribly embarrassing, or at least it is when I get into some proper air conditioning and can actually think again.
This year, I even feel guilty about how much I hate the heat. With so many people losing their homes to fire, or sitting in the sweltering dark because they haven’t had power for almost a week, I admit I’m in the back of the complaint line. But I still dream about climbing into the bottom shelf of the freezer section for a refreshing nap (if there are any kids reading, don’t do that), and longingly look forward to the moment when the first cool breeze touches my face again. I’ll get my brain back. In a way, I’ll get myself back.
Which will be good, because I’ll have to start driving in snow again. Still, I’ll at least be able to have an intelligent conversation with the tow truck guy.