when water burns

Snakes, Cakes and Cars

Quick update from Sydney… I’ve been doing book stuff in Australia for the past week. Started in Brisbane last week and am just finishing up here in the beautiful Sydney. You can read about it here: Samoa News

Lots of new experiences for this Hermit as she gets out and about…like –

1. Telesa Book Cakes in Sydney. A special surprise from Sydney launch sponsors,Nia and Sean of  LNS Mobile Mechanics. Made by Melicious Cake House. I’m embarassed to tell you that I felt a bit tearful to see them. As a cake-addict, how awesome is having your books recreated as cakes?! (cue girly scream here.)

2. You know those super-cool cars that rappers (and gangsters and mobsters…cough cough) drive? The ones that bounce and adjust up and down, making noises like the Transformers? They’re called ‘low-riders’ but I like the name  “Flow-Riders.” Me and the Hot Man got transported to the Sydney launch in style by the Uso Car Club, courtesy of Poreta Mariner. Everywhere you go in one of these cars, people stop and stare. And when you pull up to a red light and the driver starts making the car do that UP-DOWN move, people start filming the car and cheering and getting rather excited.  It was a defn first for me. I must confess tho that riding in such a vehicle is NOT conducive to fabulously styled hair because they drive with the windows down and the wind is blowing everything to bits. And the padded ceiling in the car is really low and your head keeps getting knocked about and all the hairspray in the world cant stop that hairstyle from getting messed up. I arrived at the launch party looking like a storm had swept through me….

3. In Brisbane I was reminded why – as a kid – I always said I would NEVER go to Australia…snake phobia! The fabulous and funnny M.C for the launch night, Gau had a snake trying to crawl into her garage on the night we met up for a planning dinner. All she had to do was show me this picture and I was trying NOT to leap up onto the table, just in case one had decided to slither all the way into the city…into the restaurant…into the pot-plants next to us.  I was on high alert for the rest of the trip.

More updates to come…gotta go out for dinner on our last night here in Sydney.

‘When Water Burns’ Comes to Life on Screen.

I’m thrilled to release the trailer for the second book in the Telesa Trilogy: When Water Burns – produced by Jordan Kwan and a fabulous team of models. As an author who writes with a constant “film” in her mind of the story she’s writing on paper, it’s incredibly exciting to see a story come to life on screen, even for only three minutes. I’m proud to have the support of a fellow Pacific artist on his creative journey and I’m in awe at his talent. The modelling team who contributed to this trailer have been tireless ambassadors for Samoan literature. Love you all, love this trailer! Thank you.

Why Authors Require Assistants on Book Tours.

I went to Samoa for a four day whirlwind book tour that included school and library visits, a book signing, writing workshop, and more. I took Big Daughter with me. She was my designated “tour assistant.” My helper. My photographer and video documenter. My right hand. My bestest buddy. That friendly, smiley, personable young woman who helps her author mother to promote her new book.

Standing in line at Auck Airport and she complained profusely about how heavy her bag was. (She had to put all her clothes into her carry bag because none of us had any real luggage. Instead of suitcases, we checked in boxes of books.) Her Dad had to carry her bag. And his bag. So she could meander along. Looking for books to buy to read on the plane. (Correction – looking for books that her father could buy for her to read on the plane.)

Ezra Taylor is on the same flight as us. He greets Big Daughter. She barely notices because she is submerged in a book. Reading. Reading. Reading. There is no sign of that ‘friendly, smiley, personable’ young woman who is suppposed to be acccompanying me on my book trip.

On the plane and half-way to Samoa, the Hot Man reminds her she’s supposed to be taking photos of the trip. She exclaims, “Oh, I forgot the camera at home.” She doesnt look very sorry at all. Back to reading, reading. If you hoped to see some photos of our trip? We don’t have any.

We arrive. First on the program is a television interview at TV3 Samoa. Big Daughter is helpful and interested. But later that night when the interviews screen she tells me – “You talk too much. You look funny on TV. Why cant you answer questions like Ezra does?  His interview was very good.” Thank you Assistant for your assistance.

Next on the program is a radio interview early in the morning at Magik FM. Big Daughter is helpful and interested. Until radio staff want to take pictures and talk to her. Then she gets surly and tries to disappear. “I dont want to be in any photos.Why do they want to talk to me for?” There is no sign of friendly, smiley, personable-ness.

We go to Samoa College. My puletasi skirt is held up with lots of safety pins because it’s too big for me. (Thank you Jenny Craig.) The skirt keeps threatening to fall down. I have visions of it falling down – right when I stand up to speak to an assembly of students – and me being way too nervous to even notice that I’m skirt-less. I ask Big Daughter, “Can you please keep checking that my skirt isn’t falling down? Just in case?” She says, “Why do I have to do that for? Besides, Im standing at the back of the hall, filming you guys. I’ll be too busy. Why are you wearing a skirt that doesnt fit you properly anyway?” Thank you Assistant for our assistance.  I ask Mr Taylor to please let me know if I have a wardrobe malfunction during our presentation. He looks vaguely alarmed at the prospect. I think he even moves several more feet away. Probably wondering how in the heck he ended up here talking to students with this wacky woman and her safety-pinned skirt. Wondering how can he escape from this nightmare. Thankfully nothing malfunctions. After our speeches, we chat with students. They want to chat with Big Daughter. Especially since I told them all that she helps me write the Telesa books. They’re excited. Big Daughter isn’t. Surly face. She whispers fiercely, “I dont want to be in any photos or talk to anyone.”

We go to the book signing. Four hours on a hot Samoan afternoon, greeting people, signing their books, chatting about the Trilogy, taking photos. The team at Samoa Stationery Bookstore is very helpful. They bring cold drinks. They smile. Big Daughter sits inside the whole time. In the air condition. Reading, reading. The bookstore staff tell me “Don’t worry, we are taking care of her. She has drinks and snacks and we told her to choose whatever books she wants to have from the shop.” I am so glad that my Assistant is having a lovely time. Thank you Assistant for the assistance. When the event is done, friends and family try togreet her with hugs and kisses. She is submerged in a book. Reading reading.

It continues over the next two days. The girl who is so clever she’s in the gifted program at her school looks vacantly at me when I ask her to write invoices, because she’s trying to read a book. Asks “How much is the total for six books at forty tala?” For some strange reason, she is not interested in listening to her mother speak at another school. Or make a presentation of books at the public library. She flat out refuses to go to the High Tea at Plantation House. Because she says “thats so boring”. Instead she sits in the house and reads. Thank you Assistant for the assistance.  Then, to top it all off – my wonderful Assistant accidentally deletes all the footage from the book tour off our video camera. Just. Great.

I am not very impressed with my Assistant’s assistance.I am annoyed and frustrated with her.  The Hot Man patiently mediates between us. Tells me to be more patient, more nicer to our daughter. The two of them get lunch and chat and have great times together. Wthout me. The meanie mother. I meet up with a friend of mine who comments, “I met your daughter at the book signing. She is EXACTLY like you when you were her age.” Huh? “She didn’t like it when I hugged her. She didn’t want to be disturbed from her book. She didnt like smiling. She hides shyness with a distant, almost stand-offish expression. You were like that at school. I remember. And you still dont like lots of socializing or hugging either. And when you’re reading a book, nobody can connect with you at all.” I thought about it and realized that my friend was exactly right.

Big Daughter is A LOT like me. And the things that are the most like me? Are the things that irritated me the most on this book trip. How can I expect Big Daughter to be the epitome of friendliness, sociability, and cheerfulness – when I sure as heck aint?

Such revelations are most unwelcome.

I’m going to go read a book now. And practise smiling. And on the next book tour? I might have to take Little Son who is friendliness personified. The child who tells random women in airports, “I like your hair. You’re so pretty….do you have any lollies?” Yes, Im sure his approach will go down very well with readers. Except I will tell him to ask for donuts and Hostess cupcakes instead. 

Can you see Big Daughter in this picture? No. Neither can I.
She’s not in this one either.

Or this one.

 Aha! there she is.

As you can see, she’s happy to smile when she’s with her super awesome Dad. Huge thanks to the Hot Man for keeping the peace between me and Big Daughter!

You can read more about our trip to Samoa to release ‘When Water Burns’ at the following links:
The Samoa Observer
. Talamua Online News

How Much Attention Should Writers pay to Bad Reviews?

“Do me a favor and don’t waste your time reading this book…the story line is awful.”
 “I wish someone else had written this book because I think it could have been great if written by a better storyteller.”
“The writing and dialogue were VERY bad.”
“The main character completely ruined the book for me. She’s bipolar, jumping from one emotion to the next like its nobody’s business. If I had been the male lead I would have punched her in the face and never talked to her again.”  (A selection of less than stellar reviews for Telesa.)

Book reviews. Bad book reviews. They’re inevitable for an author. Especially in this electronic day and age when anyone can read a book and then tell the world what they think about it. Right away. All over the internet. The first rule of wanting to be an author is – make sure you are tough enough to handle it when people hate your writing. Remember that, If there aren’t any peope that hate your work – then you arent reaching enough people. Embrace the haters. The second rule is – make sure you are strong enough NOT to respond/react publicly to a bad review. Don’t rant, rave, scream or hunt down that reviewer and kill them. (Can you tell these are Lani Young’s rules and very unlikely to be found in any writing manual?) The third rule is – make sure you are objective and discerning and grateful enough to look at each bad review and find the constructive bits in it. Ask, how can that crappy review be helpful?

I am a new author. I have four published books in the universe and lots of short stories in the universe. But I am still very new and have lots to learn. About writing. Publishing. Distributing and promoting my books. I am new enough that every review of my writing – gets read. Every review – either makes me happy. Or sad. (Especially reviews that say I don’t know how to speak or write English properly. Ouch.) I have read a couple of hundred reviews of my books thus far. Every time someone takes the time to write their feedback, I am grateful. EVEN IF THE FEEDBACK SUCKS. Because I am now experienced enough to realize that there can be value even in the haters.  Particularly when you take the time to be constructive / specific in your feedback about WHY you enjoyed the book. Or WHY you hated it.

There are over 100 reviews on Amazon for the first book in the series, Telesa:The Covenant Keeper. 129 of them are 4-5 star. 3 of them are 2-star. I found the reviews to be extremely useful while writing the second book. Many people also write to me with suggestions and helpful hints about typos, characters, plot and more. Your reviews and feedback help me write. Some examples:
* Simone. I never expected there to be so much overwhelming response to this character. A common thread in book feedback was how much you all loved Simone and wanted to see more of him in the next books. Another reviewer contacted me with suggestions about Simone using fa’afafine specific language terms to help make him a more realistic character. You spoke and I listened. The reason why Simone has a bigger part to play in When Water Burns  is because you wanted him to.
*Leila. You found her to be a frustrating character at times as she struggled with issues of identity and trust. Some of you were understanding and said that “she’s a typical teenager and has been through a lot so I could understand why she behaved the way she did” while others just wanted to beat her up, eliminate her from the scene and then step in to “comfort Daniel.” I hope readers will find that in book two, Leila shows more maturity and development as a character. (and no, sorry Daniel doesnt need any comforting from any helpful volunteers…lol)
*Pace of action/plot/storyline. While some luxuriated in the detailed build-up to the Covenant Sisterhood powers and plot, others felt that the book was “slow” Particularly  in the beginning. I did lots of writing research on how to make books flow faster. Make the action more gripping and intense. I wanted book two to be a book that you could NOT put down. Big Daughter warned me somewhat apprehansively, “you better be careful Mum, theres so much explosive stuff happening in every chapter that readers are going to complain the book is too fast…”

I dont know about other authors, but I’m very glad that readers can instantly put up book feedback online. Your reviews, emails, FB and twitter messages help me in this writing journey. I hope you will enjoy the second book (and the third…) And please, keep those reviews coming. Even if they suck.

You Made Me Cry

What a week it has been. It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting here, exhausted and just a little bit stunned.

1. The electronic book version of ‘When Water Burns’ was released on Amazon on Thursday. I asked for your help with getting this book into the rankings and you responded. You bought 380 books in a single day.  I woke up on Friday morning to find that ‘When Water Burns’ was number ONE on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers List – which tracks books that move the most on the listings in a single day. Overall ranking, #379 out of 1, 190, 929 books. Number 1 on the People and Places Fiction List, Number 1 on the Mythology List, Number 5 on the Children’s Hot New Releases List. You made history for a book written by a Pacific author. You did that.

2. Today I went to Otara Market in South Auckland for a book signing event organized by Rasmus Pereira and the Shop Samoa team. I had never been to Otara Market before. (Rasmus is pretty sure that this was a first for Otara Market as well – a book signing.) Many companies and individuals worked together to sponsor the event and make it happen. Like SUGA Magazine, Levi Plumbing, DJ Meex, Keila Records, Yolande Ah Chong, Tatau Dance Group, the Te Ariki Vaine Dance Group, Miss Samoa-NZ – and more.  I was expecting a low-key morning with a few people in attendance – and the chance for me to check out the market shops and sample some of the food that Otara Market is (in)famous for. That’s not what happened. From start to finish, I was overwhelmed. There were masses of people wanting to get books signed. Wanting to have photos taken. Wanting to meet the cover models. Wanting to share their excitement and enthusiasm for the books and the characters. Not only that, but the organizers had worked together with different sponsors to host a great array of gifted Pacific artists. From dance groups to music artists and radio hosts and more – the day was one that celebrated Pacific talent and creativity. But the day was truly about you. It was possible because of you. The readers. The supporters. You that have embraced these books and these characters and gone out of your way to encourage a Samoan writer that is trying to write and publish her books on her own. Today was about YOU. You made it memorable. Special.

Mothers, daughters and grand-daughters celebrating a book together.

A professional athlete and an actress giving of their talents to bring a book to life.

A beautiful couple. 

A mum bringing her children to meet an author.

A community coming together.

Connecting with great friends.

Dancers sharing their talents ( and tattoos) with a captive audience.

Dancers sharing their fiery flair and beauty. 
Inspiring examples of Pacific women.
The next generation of readers…and writers?
A rugby superstar making the time to support a Pacific author – and our youth.

Dedicated fans showing their enthusiasm for the book (and for Daniel) via their T.Shirts.



Thank you for all that you do to make this writing and publishing journey possible. The last few days have shown me just how much you love these books. Just how much you are willing to do to encourage and uplift a writer of fiery Pacific stories. I’m humbled and grateful for every day that I can be living my writing dream.  Thank you for all that YOU do to make it happen.

(Ok, and now, I’m going to cry. Thank goodness you can’t see me. It’s past midnight, I’m really tired, looking at the pictures from the Otara event and I’m crying because you all blew me away with your support. I had no clue you were going to make a day like today happen.) 

And yes, in answer to those who have already begun asking me about book three…I am going to get serious about finishing work on the next book. ‘The Bone Bearer’ is in the works. And so is the Daniel novella – much of book one retold from Daniel’s perspective. Your support of my books makes it possible for me to write more. It’s that simple. This week, YOU made history. Today, YOU made my very first visit to Otara Market – an absolute joy. And tonight, reflecting on it all – YOU made me cry.

Thank you.

Brown People Don’t Read. Much.

We interrupt this program to let you know that Amazon.com has jumped the gun and the second book in my Telesa Trilogy, ‘When Water Burns’ is now available in a print edition. Right this minute. For $14.65.
 ‘When Water Burns’ – the second book in the Telesa Trilogy.

It’s not easy for a book written by a Samoan author to find a global voice. Thank you to all those readers who took a chance on the first ‘Telesā’ book and then were generous enough to share it – review it, blog it, tweet it, Facebook it, email it, harass their family and friends to read it. The Telesā series has the bestest readers in the world. I am in awe of your passion, enthusiasm, and fiery creativity as you have embraced this Pacific story. It is always a joy to connect with you, whether in person or in the virtual world.
Many people have been asking me WHY did I put out the print book first? What’s the delay with the electronic book. Its a long story, but here it goes…

* The first Telesa book was released as an electronic book in Oct 2011 on both Amazon and Smashwords. I chose this option as it was the fastest way to get my book out to a global audience. Many, many people chose to buy one PDF or Word document copy of the book from Smashwords and then copy it and email it to all of their friends and family. Twitter and Facebook were filled with people talking about how they shared copies with “everyone at my church…everyone at work…all my cousins…” and more. Our Pacific Islander communities overseas have been superb supporters, talking up the Telesa book in our churches, schools, councils and social networks. As a very new author, I continue to be grateful for the generous support of all those who help to spread the news about my book.

*However, as a Samoan author trying to take a very Samoan/Pacific story to the world – the file sharing severely hampers Telesa’s standing on the Amazon bestseller ranking. Back when I was trying to find a publisher for my book, more than 30 different agents and publishers rejected ‘Telesa’ and a common reply given was, ‘There is no market for a Pacific/Samoan young adult book.’ And so I published it myself. Mindful that many readers in Samoa etc do not have access to e-books, we took out a mortgage on our house to pay for print copies. It has been a challenge to get the Telesa books into mainstream bookstores in NZ and Australia. I have huge appreciation for the 25+ stores in Samoa and American Samoa that stock Telesa. Huge appreciation for the online book distributors (like Wheelers, Academy Books etc),  University Bookshops, Paper Plus,and other Pacific stores in NZ that support my books by stocking them. (And no love for Whitcoulls that said no, no, no.) Huge appreciation for the libraries in NZ and Samoa that have been so willing to support my books. I am honored that institutions like Auckland University, the Univ of Guam and several high schools have made Telesa a required literary text of study.

* I understand that it is something of a risk for a store/distributor to take on my book. There are no other Pacific authors writing in the Young Adult genre.YET. So how are stores supposed to know if there is a market for such a book? Perhaps the traditional book industry believes that brown young adults don’t read much. As an ex-English teacher of Pacific youth, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to get our young people to read – and enjoy it. To some extent, the book industry perception may be right then. But maybe, we all would read more if there were more books available that we could connect with? And more ‘brown’ books we could actually access easily. I can’t even buy a novel by world-renowned Albert Wendt from Whitcoulls here in NZ and he’s the mostest famous-est Pacific author on the planet. I can’t get a Sia Figiel book from anywhere either. I don’t know about you, but I find that disgusting. When literary masterpieces of Pacific fiction can’t get on the mall bookshelf, what chance does an easy fantasy read of Pacific storytelling have?

The international response to the Telesa e-books has shown that yes, there is an audience who wants this kind of reading material. And no, it’s not just brown people reading it either.

* But publishers, distributors and stores are not going to know this unless they can see the numbers. The cold hard facts. The stats. They need to see Telesa and other books like it rank on the world bestseller lists. The Amazon listings. The New York Times listings. Only then will they be willing to publish more of our stories, distribute them, put them in libraries and schools worldwide and even make movies about them. This will not happen as long as we file-share and as long as we are content to keep quiet and not make our buying, reading voices heard.  I may be the first Pacific YA writer to publish electronically but I certainly do not wish to be the last. There are others writing great Pacific stories and poetry right now, powerful young writers like Seti Matua, Samantha Peckham-Togiatama, Maryanne Pale, Sita Leota, Nydia Aloaina, James Toma and many more. I look forward to the day when I can log on to Amazon searching for a good book to read and be able to choose from a myriad of Pacific authors writing captivating stories from all the different places and cultures that make up the vibrant fabric that is the Pacific. We all have a part to play in helping to make that happen. We need to support our Pacific storytellers so they will write more AND we need to  harass stores and distributors for ‘Young Adult books written about us, for us, and by us...’

*I was hesitant to release the electronic version of ‘When Water Burns’, wanting to first address this issue on my blog and so, I have released the print version on Amazon.This is not a financially wise choice for me. Amazon sells my print book for $14.65 USD. I get $2.30 of that. Compare this with the electronic version which will release for $7.99 USD, I get $5.59 of that. Do the Math. But then, this journey is not just about the money. Since Telesa’s release, I have held regular free download promotions and given away more than twenty thousand electronic copies. Everywhere I go, I donate print books to libraries and schools. The most rewarding part of this journey has been the feedback that says, ‘I hate reading, but I read your book in two days…I’ve never read a book before until I found Telesa…Your book has made me want to visit Samoa…This story makes me want to learn more about my heritage…’ Yes, I am a writer trying to earn a living with my writing, but I am also an educator who is passionate about nurturing a love for books, fueling creativity and igniting a fire for our culture, legends and ancestry.

 I believe that our Samoan and Pacific stories are powerful enough, good enough and unique enough for the world stage. I also believe that our stories can have a global market that goes beyond Samoans everywhere.People are calling ‘Telesa’ the “Pacific Twilight”. I bow to that as a huge compliment. But I also hold my head high and affirm that this is not some tawdry rip-off of a sparkly vampire series. It’s a unique something special all its own, –
supernatural elements grounded in Samoa of old

the reading and seeding of myths and legends and lores untold
genealogy and story strung in the integrity of line

Pacific epistemologies wrapped in passion sublime…
Its ancient mythology meets teenage biology…a kind of Sex in the city meets Hex in the Bush!’ 
(Prof Selina Tusitala Marsh)

In two weeks, the electronic version of ‘When Water Burns’ will release on Amazon. I am hoping for your continued support for the Telesa Trilogy books. Fa’amolemole, I am asking that you purchase your e-book from Amazon. I am asking that you refuse to file-share.

Fa’afetai tele lava.

A Day in the Life of a (Slightly Demented) Author/Blogger

(An alternate title for this blogpost would be: “Why You should Never trust Book Deadlines from Authors who have Five Children, especially disorganized, chaotic authors – because their books will ALWAYS be Late. Always.”)
A Typical Monday
I get up at 5.30am, which I absolutely hate doing, especially if I’ve only just gone to bed at 2am. I then tackle the toughest task of my day – waking up my 13yr old daughter. She really does sleep like a log and if we ever got robbed, thieves could roll her up in her blanket, carry her out of the house and she still wouldn’t wake up.
6am. I drive my teens to Seminary which is a youth  scripture-study class run by our church. It’s on 5 days a week for every school week of the year.  While they’re in class, I go for a run. Or more aptly, a ‘very brisk walk alternated with a shuffly, jiggly sort of jog.’  I’m terrified of killers and attack dogs, so I usually just go many times round the block or the parking lot. If it’s raining (or if I’m feeling lazy)  then I take my laptop and cram in some writing time.
7am. Back home. Mobilize the troops for breakfast and family prayer, then teenagers take off to catch the school bus while me and the three Terrors attack the house chores. We rush through dishes, floors and lunchbox prep. (My 8yr old son is the fastest, bestest vacuumer in this solar system.)
8.45am. Take the Terrors to school. Stock up on Diet Coke on my way home.  Spend the next hour doing vital life-preserving things like…laundry and shutting the doors to all my children’s bedrooms so I’m not confronted by their chaotic messes.
10am – Write stuff. And eat lots of snacks. I’m sorry to say that I often consume way more Doritos then actual pages written…
1pm – Emails. Update all social media. This can take anything from an hour to two spread out over the day and includes, updating my blog Sleepless in Samoa, Facebook author site, Twitter, Goodreads, skim thru publisher/author blogs that I follow.
2pm – Run work errands eg. Post Office to mail out signed book orders, drop off books to local indie bookstores who stock my book TELESA, that kind of stuff.
3pm – Get the Terrors from school.  Try not to yell at Little Son for losing his shoes AGAIN, playing rugby in the mud AGAIN and ripping his school uniform AGAIN. Try not to freak out when Little Daughter asks, ‘Mum, did you ever like a boy who was older than you at school?’ Try not to crash the car when the 4yr old Beast is having a tantrum because I won’t detour to McDonalds.
4 to 6pm – The part of my day when I wish I could clone myself and have six of me. One to cook dinner and bake cookies .  One to help Little Daughter with her homework. One to test Little Son on his spelling words. One to play with the Beast on the trampoline so she wont stand in the middle of the kitchen bellowing ‘Nobodys playing with me! I got nuffing friends.’  One to drive and get the teenagers from Debate Club and rugby practice. And another one to lie on the bed with earphones on, blasting Eminem and muttering This is not my life. This is not my life. Any minute now,  Im going to open my eyes and be a stunning supermodel in a glorious mansion with Ryan Reynolds cooking me dinner. Oh, and my book would be all written. And at the top of the bestseller list. Any minute now…

7.30pm – Ideally, all small and filthy children will be showered and fed by this time. This usually involves lots of threats/blackmail/coercion/pleading/the muttering of curse words and the drinking of copious amounts of Diet Coke. (By me, not the filthy children.)  Teenagers do dishes and then sneak off to do Very Important Things. Like Facebook . Text their friends that they just said goodbye to a half hour ago. Weights in the gym downstairs.  And supposedly to do homework in the Dens of Darkness that they call their bedrooms…
8pm – I read stories to small and very clean children. And then they are supposed to go to sleep. Ha.
9pm – I read a book on my Kindle. Partly because when you’re a fiction writer, reading a revolting number of novels is called “RESEARCH”. And partly because that’s how I relax and not be too mean to my children.
10pm – I write some more.  The bestest time to write anything, anywhere, anytime is when the house is asleep.
Midnight. Or maybe 1am. Or maybe 2am. Or 3am. – Sleep.
And there you have it. A day in the chaos that is Lani’s life. (So please don’t be mad at me about ‘When Water Burns’ missing its March release date. It’s with my editor and will be ready soon. I promise, with donuts, doritos and Diet Coke on top….) 
In case you’re wondering where the Hot Man is in this scenario – he travels often for work . Leaving the Fabulous Five Children at my mercy. *cue evil witch laughter*.  In spite of my chaotic schedule I’ve managed to finish several books so far. Narrative non-fiction account ‘Pacific Tsunami-Galu Afi’,  the YA Fantasy/RomanceTELESA series, and a short fiction collection ‘Afakasi Woman’  – which are all available on Amazon. If anyone has the secret for cloning one’s self, I would sure appreciate it if you shared it with me because then I could churn out way more books with much fewer headaches. I think…

Telesa – The Creation Story

There are many tellings of the Creation Story in Pacific mythology. To celebrate my birthday (yay!), I’m sharing this piece from ‘When Water Burns’: the Creation Story – according to Telesa legend. If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of these fierce protectors of the earth, then this will answer your musings!
In the beginning there was darkness, a great expanse. Tangaloa-lagi moved upon the face of the darkness  and after a time, the god grew tired and rested. And where the god stood, there grew up a rock. Then Tangaloa-lagi said to the rock, “Be thou split up” and hit the rock with one hand.  It split open and the earth was brought forth on the one side and the sea was brought forth on the other. And the earth glowed red with fire and the sea enveloped it and water burned at its edges. Tangaloa-lagi reached down and took of earth and mixed it with water, fashioning it with godly hands to make Man. And then the god breathed life on that which had been made.

“Let the Spirit and the Heart and Will and Thought go on and join together inside the Man.”

And they joined together there and Man became intelligent. And Tangaloa-lagi joined Man to ele-ele the earth, through the creation of Woman who would be the fatu, the heart. ‘Fatu-ma-le-Ele-ele’ meaning Heart and Earth. 

“Let Earth give nourishment to Man and let Man always treasure her as his heart beats with the red blood of life. Let Earth be the rock man stands on to give him strength. The trees that will shelter him. The waters that will sustain him. Let Earth’s fire be the heat that warms him. And in return, let Man be the protector. The guardian.”

But Tangaloa-lagi saw that as Man multiplied and replenished the earth, his heart grew cold and greed ate at it like the poison of the stonefish.  Tangaloa-lagi saw that Man trampled the earth beneath his feet and bowed Woman to his will. Earth’s cries moved Tangaloa-lagi. So again the god of all, took pieces of earth and mixed them with water. But this time, Tangaloa-lagi breathed upon this creation with the raging winds of the expanse. Touched it with the jagged fire that rains from angry skies and made a telesa. She was beautiful. Her name was ‘telesa matagi.’ Sacred one of storms. Air.

Then Tangaloa-lagi cast a fiery net upon the waters and drew forth ocean’s might. The crashing wave. The surging tide that speaks to Masina the moon. And all the living things that swim and creep in the midnight blue depths. All this Tangaloa-lagi fashioned with godly hands into another. She was beautiful. Her name was ‘telesa vasa loloa.’ Sacred one of ocean. Water.

But Tangaloa-lagi was not satisfied. Listening to the cries of ele-ele, feeling of her pain as Man’s heart spurned her, rage filled the god of all things. Reaching deep within Earth’s core, to where molten rock flowed and life pulsed, Tangaloa-lagi brought forth fire and melded it with earth, cooled it with ocean and made ‘telesa fanua afi.’ Sacred one of earth. Fire. She was beautiful. She burned with all the strength of ele-ele. Her heart beat with the fire that would eclipse man’s. He that had betrayed Earth. He that was meant to be the heart but had instead chosen to be the destroyer.

Tangaloa-lagi looked upon what had been created and saw that it was good. “My daughters, yours is a godly trust, an eternal birthright. You will covenant to watch over ele-ele and fill the chasm left by an unfeeling Man and be her heart. You will speak with the voices of wind, water and fire. You will stir man up to a remembrance of his sacred partnership with earth.”

Then Tangaloa-lagi fashioned with godly hands – a carved talisman. The Covenant Bone. Whale bone interlocked with shark tooth. Boar’s tusk encrusted with shimmering iridescent oyster-shell, adorned with black pearl and gleaming river rock. The fierce razor-bite of the swordfish. The soulful deep green promise of jadestone. All these Tangaloa-lagi  interwove to create a talisman of three distinct pieces, which was then washed in the blood of a god, imbuing it with the very essence of Tangaloa-lagi.

“The Covenant Bone will unite the three elements. It will allow the gifts of many to be woven as one, making it possible for the telesa who bears it to wield the gifts of her sisters into one supreme power. For it is only when there is harmony between earth’s gifts, that there can be peace. And life.”

Tangaloa-lagi looked upon telesa fanua-afi. “One day, when earth’s greatest dangers threaten – you will be the one to unite your sisters into one covenant. You will be the one chosen to reach out to embrace man once again as the heart. So that all will be as it should. ‘Fatu-ma-le-ele-ele’ You will give your fire so that Man may live. And he will give his heart so that earth may live.”

And thus did Tangaloa-lagi create telesa.

To watch over earth and be the heart that Man refused to be.

Dark and Dreadful Secrets AND When Water Burns – pg 77

I’m being forced to reveal some dark and dreadful secrets….they start with a piece of my next book ‘When Water Burns’ because I’ve been tagged for the Lucky 7 MEME by Lan at ‘The Write Obsession’
The rules are:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines ( sentences or paragraphs) and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 writers and let them know.
Thanks Lan! ( I think.) 
So here’s a piece from page 77 of ‘When Water Burns’.

One of the most disconcerting things about being the ungifted daughter of a telesa, is having your mother grow old – and remain ageless. While an increasingly worn face and grey hair greets you in the mirror. As a taulasea, natural healer, Salamasina well knew all of the concoctions which the telesa drank to help retain their youthful looks and yes, there were years long ago when she too had brewed them for herself. For vanity’s sake. But there is an ingredient for true telesa youth which could not be replicated. Power. Fanua ola. The life force of our mother earth. Every time a telesa called on her mother earth to unleash her gifts, that same power coursed through her veins with a rejuvenating effect. Renewing tired cells. The more a telesa used her gifts, the stronger she became. The older a telesa, the more potent her gifts. And the more hauntingly youthful was her beauty.

Which is why, when Salamasina answered the sharp knock on her door that morning, and saw the woman who stood there, it was like seeing a ghost from her past. A face unmarked by time. 

The face of her mother. 

Seven MEME Questions have to be Answered as well…
1. What is your dream vacation? An air conditioned 5 star hotel with superb room service that’s right next to a gigantic shopping mall and my Kindle loaded with all the latest books from my favorite authors. And not a single child anywhere. ( Sorry Fabulous 5. For some strange reason, you are never included in my perfect vacation dreams…I wonder why?)

2. Are you spontaneous? Or do you like to plan? I do like to write a lot of lists. They make me feel organized. But truthfully, I get all my bestest ideas for projects/events etc the night before. Or that day. Then I run around like a headless chicken on crack to make it all happen.

3. One thing you want to do, but don’t dare do? Get a tattoo. Like a malu. And maybe something on the back of my neck. And on the inside of my forearm. Behind my left ear. On my lower back. I can dream, right?

4. What’s your biggest phobia? Snakes. And attack dogs that bite unfit  fat chicks who don’t run fast enough to escape them.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you want with you? (not incl yr laptop or family.) My Kindle, Diet Coke and Hermione’s magic bag of camping survival tricks. 

6. Name three blessings in your life. My family. The sacred opportunity to be a mother. (Nothing tests me or teaches me more.) And my skinny legs. (they are great diversionary tools)

7. What was your nickname in high school? Mata lulu. Translation – Owl Eyes. (And trust me, there was nothing kindly, endearing, or cute about it…)

8. If you could meet the President of the US what would you say to him? You’re amazing but I would really love to meet your wife. Is Mrs Obama around?

9.If you could be any literary character for a day, who would you be? Lady Macbeth. Just because she connects with my inner psycho fierce bad-a** self. 

10. A favorite quote?  “No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.”  
                                           Alice Walker.
Thank you Lan and Gossip Girl for the fun MEME. And now the funnest bit…tagging some more writers! If you dont have 77 pages yet then pick page 7…or 17…or 27…
*TL Jeffcoat
*Paige Kellerman
*Sophia the Writer
*Seti Matua at LeFolauga ( Come on Seti…I dare you! Just a few lines from pg 77…you can do it!)
*Maryanne Pale ( I know you’re not writing a book but would LOVE to have you share some of your poetry for this MEME feature…seven lines even?!)
*Alica McKenna Johnson
*Julianne Dodd (Hopefully the fun hot bits are on pg 77…) 
Have fun people!

No I’m not Rich and I haven’t met Ezra Taylor.

Wherever I go, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the writing and publishing of the TELESA book. Some of them serious, “How long did it take you to write?…Is the book about Ezra Taylor?…Are you rich now?” And some of them, not-so-serious, “Can I be Leila in the movie version of the book?…Are you afraid the real telesa is going to punish you for writing it?” Once and for all, this post is to answer the serious questions. Some Random TELESA Book Trivia.

1. All up, the book took me 6 months to write and rewrite. Another month for editing and another month for formatting. The toughest part was formatting it. I’m hopeless with Word document intricacies and there was a lot of cursing and general witchiness during my attempts to prep TELESA, first as an electronic book and then as a print book. I hope and pray that formatting the second book will be provoke far fewer curse words.

2. No. I did not base the character of ‘Daniel’ on rugby player Ezra Taylor. I had never heard of Ezra or seen any pictures of him until a few months ago when I was formatting the book and planning the TELESA promotional campaign. A sister-blogger ( who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty), pointed him out to me. He’s a great role model for our Pacific youth in many ways. I’m grateful that he accepted the invitation to be the cover model and he has generously ‘gone the extra mile’ and assisted with book/video trailers and more. No, I have never met Ezra in person. Photoshoots etc were arranged via phone, email and Twitter. (I’ve met his mum though and she’s super cool and an inspiring Pacifica woman – which probably explains why her son is kinda cool too.) When I  read the TELESA book and as I continue working on the second one, I do not envision Ezra when I’m writing Daniel and Leila’s story. It would really kill the creative process if a real person invaded my thoughts while I was writing! Daniel is completely fictional – although many of his qualities were inspired by a blend of characteristics from different boys/men I have met in my life.

3. I can’t point to one place or moment where I got the idea to write TELESA. I grew up with the telesa stories and warnings like most young Samoan girls but I found them fascinating rather than frightening because I don’t believe in ‘witchcraft’ or demons etc. It annoyed me that nobody could answer my questions about telesa. I wanted to know more about her and so I resorted to imagination to fill in the blanks. I have used several key names from our Samoan mythology eg. Nafanua, but I have deliberately mis-spelled others eg. Saumaeafe – because I’m NOT writing about the character from the legends and I do not want people to assume that I am. Read the disclaimer at the front of the book – I’m not an expert on Samoan legends/mythology, I’ve made up everything and anything in the book – so please don’t sue me or throw stones at me if the story doesn’t ‘match’ whatever legends you were told as a child. Another source of inspiration was the X-Men. I loved X-Men comics and the idea of mutants, people gifted/cursed with special abilities has always enthralled me.

4. Yes there are more TELESA books coming. I can say with 100% surety that there will be three books but I am also dabbling with the idea of several others after that. (They may not have Leila and Daniel as the key characters though because they will be taking up the storyline of other telesa.)

5. No I have not made lots of money on the TELESA book. Most people are illegally file sharing the e-book with gazillions of friends and relatives. I anticipated this though and so I didn’t run out and buy my Hummer dreamcar. I’m grateful that people want to read my book enough to steal it – share it because I’m a nobody writer with her first fiction novel – and even opening my book to the first page, is taking a risk on your part. At this point in the game, I’m thrilled people are reading it, never mind how they got it. I received my first royalties cheque from Amazon in the mail last week for the Sept sales of the e-book – a whopping total of $245 USD, which will allow me to get McDonalds for the Fab5…a couple of times. When someone buys a print book off Amazon for $12, I get $3.00 of that. This is still a better deal than that offered by a publishing company, because most of them will only offer 8 to 10% royalties. So if they sold my book for 12, I would only get $1.20…eek! I had to invest a big chunk of money into printing TELESA books here in NZ – but those sales are the ones that bring in the most return. Enough to pay off my book loan, fund launches, and then reassure me (and my bank) enough to get me a second loan to print another lot of books. Maybe by the time “When Water Burns” is out, I will be able to answer ‘yes’ to the money question. (When I tell you that the Hot Man has quit his night job as Head Security at an Auckland nightclub…then you will know that the TELESA book is finally making us some money!)

Hope that answered your questions as well..if you have more, please ask away! All comments / questions go in the draw to win one of TWO Telesa book t.shirts.  It’s been 3 months since the release of the TELESA e-book. To celebrate, and to thank you all for the awesome support on this journey,  I have TELESA t.shirts to give away.

T.shirts come in white with EITHER the Daniel book cover image OR the firegirl Amazon bookcover image. Sizes M, L, XL 

Leave a comment / question and I will randomly draw TWO winners at midnight on 30th Dec. If youre having trouble commenting on the blog, then please add it on the Facebook page, all quetions/comments there and here will be in the draw. There will be more T.Shirt giveaways as we welcome the New Year, so stay tuned. Good luck!