A key feature of Karitane is the shoreline - a long stretch of beach with the jutting headland at one end, and stacks of rock in the other direction. The sand slopes gently to the water and is perfect for building castles, the water, whilst cold, is great for a dip. Because of this, it’s popular with families, surfers, walkers, fisher-people; anyone wanting an escape from city and home for a while. (Side note, there are several gorgeous properties available for short stays!)
If you haven’t already guessed, Karitane beach is the location for Out of my Depth.
It’s a hot, blustery December day after the culmination of the school year. Lambing is done and dusted on the farm, and the protagonist’s family are after some hard-earned time out together.
Our protagonist is a girl fast approaching her teens, with a new passion for books and a tendency to push back if she thinks she's missed out. She hasn't yet learned to listen to her gut instinct, though the events of the day might change that.
Come along on the adventure, feel the sand under your toes, the sun against your back, and taste Pacific Ocean salt on the stiff breeze, for there's adventure afoot and our girl needs a witness; one who’ll see what happened from her point of view.
I seem to be in a little bit of a whirlpool of writing memories at the moment, and this story started very much as one of those. I did accidentally go swimming in a thunderstorm with my best friend, my mother, and my sisters. It was calm and still when we left and we had little idea of what was to come. Never before had such a violent storm overtaken our little corner of the Otago Peninsula, and had we known what was coming, we never would have ventured beyond the house! When our hair started to stand on end, we were confused and intrigued but we carried on. Then the heavens opened and the lightning, thunder, rain, and wind, let loose.
Whilst the event itself was worth a story, the effect on the senses is what I remember above all else. The strange quality of the light and the contrast in sound and sensation all amplified the experience, and it’s still clear in my mind now, nearly thirty years later! That’s what I’ve tried to focus on in this story, and to stress the fact that to be waist-deep in water during an electrical storm is about the dumbest place to be! Without intending to, we’d put ourselves in quite serious danger, and lived to see the tale.
Incidentally, just last year we had another massive thunderstorm (though I live at the other end of the farm now and was NOT swimming). It happened between Christmas and New Year, and late in the evening. It rolled on over us with constant flashes, and a bolt struck a tree less than thirty metres from the house. We’re surrounded by mature blue gum and macrocarpa trees atop a hill. There were taller trees the lightning could have hit, but one down an old, overgrown hedgerow wore the strike and looked like it had been clawed from tip to ground by a massive, angry bear. A thick macrocarpa with multiple trunks got struck, as did the tall tree next to it. When the storm had moved off, I went in search of the source of the massive flash that lit the window I happened to be in front of at the time, and found chunks of bark and wood on the ground. The sodden earth released its pungent odour, cut sharply with tree sap. I still struggle to comprehend the violence of that moment! By March, the tree showed clear signs of injury in yellowing foliage. Now, seven months later, it’s clearly dead, the foliage completely browned off, and the tree next door looks unhappy too!
I’ve done a bit of research around lightning, and positive and negative charges. My thought is that the tree must have had a higher charge than those around it, thus attracting the strike. Whatever the science, I can confirm that it’s just unbelievable to experience the power of a lightning strike at close range. The whole house lit white in a triple pulse, and the instant explosion of sound shook everything like an earthquake. My husband and children screamed from the hallway (the light tubes flooding them with light), I screamed, levitated, and ran! At first I thought our neighbour’s house had been hit. It was a massive shock to find ground zero closer to home. I’m not in a hurry to experience another thunderstorm, I’ll tell you that!
In this story, though, you’re perfectly safe. I’ve tried to give a sense of the sensations and bewildered wonder we experienced, so you can be immersed in it too.
Don't forget to check out the synopsis and Pinterest inspiration board, or to grab your copy on FREE Flash Fiction Friday!
Happy reading everyone!
I decided that the prompt itself demanded to be the opening of my story:
The boy’s plight caught me in the chest, however I didn’t feel that this story was his in the telling. Instead, the narrator is an observer, though no less part of the story. Both are caught in that hazy zone between boy and manhood, and both have weights on their shoulders that aren’t a boy’s to carry. They share desperation, drive, and more…
This story required research. I’m not a natural Western writer, but I have taken on historical fiction pieces in the past, and approached it from that direction. I wrote the guts of the story first, then went digging for information on the Western genre – particularly the identifiable features of Western – and swept back toward places I knew, lending them to the story. My experiences with gold come from the Central Otago region of New Zealand, particularly Cromwell, Arrowtown, and Queenstown. I panned for gold on school camp when I was eleven, but before that, family holidays to Bannockburn and Cromwell were spent out in the old diggings; dry, dusty places of shale, burning sun, and the evidence of the search for gold back in the late 1800s. I also borrowed from T.V. and movies, particularly scenes involving medicine and hospitals/infirmaries.
But how to get all that into 1500 words? Well, not easily! I had to balance what was important to the genre with the heart of the story, which essentially is the idea that a strike (yours or not!) could change a life. I found it addictive and used it to build the desperation within the story. If you want to find out how, I suggest you have a read when Joseph’s Gold comes up for FREE Flash Fiction Friday, or, if you can’t wait, Joseph’s Gold (and all other Flash Fiction Friday stories) is locked down to a tiny price throughout the month. If you’d like to check out the images I collected that helped inspire Joseph’s Gold, there’s a link just over here! I’d also love to hear what you think of the story, so feel free to pop a review on via the link. Plus, this prompt, and more, are available on my Prompts by Emily board on Pinterest, so go to it! Write your own version of the story!
Anyway, to the story!
I wanted to escape my flash fiction genre comfort zone (had enough of contemporary fiction yet?) this month, and I needed something sweet, light, and, escapist. The Invitation takes us on a 1950s (historical fiction!) beach trip with Tallulah, her beau, Emory, and his older, more experienced friends. At just seventeen, and living away from home, Tallulah is out of her depth in just about every way possible. With help and encouragement from her elder sister, Tallulah embarks on this trip, worried about what people (Emory included) will think of her in everything from her image and actions, to her swimsuit!
It's a little longer than standard flash fiction (300-1500 words) - you're getting a generous 2000 this month, though I expect you won't mind! The Invitation takes inspiration from the movie Brooklyn, though the setting is distinctly New Zealand in flavour, and has a teen romance at heart.
So, be brave like Tallulah and give The Invitation a go. After all, on Free Flash Fiction Fridays, it won't cost you anything!
February release: One Last Cuppa
George, an elderly farmer, lives alone on Victory Island. Except for dwindling visits from his granddaughter, Charlotte, and weekly ones from Department of Conservation officer, Ben, he's used to fending for himself and prefers it that way.
Tonight though, worries weigh on George's mind: he's concerned for Charlotte who is in a relationship with a man George doesn't trust, and a recent reminder of his own mortality frustrates him.
With much to think through, George makes a cuppa and sits down to consider how Ben might help to solve his mounting problems, for Charlotte's sake more than his own.
FREE Flash Fiction Friday Story 7 Feb 2020:
One Last Cuppa
Due to publication date, this story will be offered FREE for 24 hours on Saturday 8th of February (US Pacific Time). Future Free Fridays will actually happen on Fridays (US Pacific Time)!
All Flash Fiction Friday stories will be locked down to the
lowest price at all other times!
Hi, I'm Emily,