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!
Now, onto Grandad's Wild Ride, behind the scenes...
It all started with a small red go-cart being restored on the TV show, The Repair Shop. A sweet grandfather had brought in the small, red racing car he'd played in as a child. Beaten up and rough around the edges, it sparked just enough of something for me to write down little red racing car in my notebook. The grandfather wanted his cart restored for his grandchildren to enjoy, and the result was a candy-red racer fit for children to have a ball with!
My story didn't come easy though. My children have had colds, the children I look after have had the colds too, and to top it off, I got the cold, but still, I had a story to write for all of you! I had many false starts, not writing more than a few words. Finally I stepped back and decided to mull it over without the pressure of writing anything down. I thought about the grandfather's cart, and his hopes for his grandchildren. A memory came to me of my Mum's father, Grandad Lance, who passed away a decade ago, and his dare-devil, get-stuck-in attitude with us, his grandchildren. Many years ago now, my father made my sisters and I a go-cart out of a tip-trolley. It was narrow and a bit tricky to steer, but boy could it go! We only found just how fast after Grandad visited and couldn't resist having a turn himself!
I've also written about my father's father in the last couple of months. He passed away two years ago, and with my grandmother passing recently, my grandparents have been on my mind. Grandad Ray's story is Burning the Cow, and it felt as if Grandad Lance wanted a turn too.
The melding of all these fragments of ideas has resulted in Grandad's Wild Ride, a fast-paced flash fiction full of fun! Enjoy!
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!
Welcome to my first and long-time-coming blog post!
Many of you will have read my news page on my website, which has been my hub for sharing about what’s been happening in my personal and writing worlds for over a year now.
You’ll have also seen that back in May I mentioned a new project. Well, this is it, my blog, and it’s taken quite some time to build enough courage to get on with it. I’ve decided to move my news on over to my blog too as it’s getting a bit long-running. Hopefully here you’ll be able to find what you want more efficiently, and I’ll be able to do more with each post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this change: whether you prefer it this way or if you’d rather I went back to the news page, and what you’d like me to post on (Any burning questions? Something you’d like my take on? Please let me know!). I’m all about helping fellow writers get started on their path to writing, and sharing my journey to help others, so let’s do this together!
August has been rather a mucky month all round in my world. Bugs and illness have gone around in a revolving cycle, and I’ve been involved in preparation for both girls’ upcoming stage performances.
My eldest is will turn seven at the beginning of September (how fast did that time go?!), and her school has been busy preparing for this term’s big events: Stars On Stage (performing arts through dance held at Dunedin’s Regent Theatre), and Polyfest 2019 (Maori and Pacifica cultural performances from Otago’s early-childhood, primary, and secondary schools). My big girl likes to get involved, and it seems these challenges are transforming her focus and self-awareness. The theme for their school’s Stars On Stage performance is ‘Everyday Superheroes,’ focusing on positive self-talk, and how our actions toward others make our world a better place. Having been lucky enough to catch a few rehearsals, I have to admit to a few tears of pride in hearing their own voices throughout the soundtrack. It can be a daunting experience for young children – performing on a real theatre stage before a real audience that sells out so fast you’ve got to have your game face on when buying tickets! My mother took on the challenging task of making costumes for the two junior classes – rainbow tutus for the girls (the boys get to wear awesome undies over their leggings), and superhero capes for all. Now she’s a particular woman, my mother. She takes care with each and every item, is neat, measures each time, double and triple checks, and has gone to great lengths to make sure each child has the perfect costume. I offered to help, and she accepted, and somehow our two methods (her careful and individual way, and my ‘how can I do multiple layers at once?’ try not to give Mum a heart attack with my more freeform approach) somehow blended together and we got it done! I can tell you, three hours in the kitchen spray-gluing twenty-odd red hearts onto the same number of yellow capes can test one’s husband’s patience (as well as quite giddy!), and cutting hundreds strips of tutu netting whilst bent over on the lounge floor is rather hard on the bod! The best part of the whole thing by far, though, was seeing our small, country school up there smashing it on stage like pros and overcoming a week of difficult challenges and events to fulfil their goal. My big girl was buzzing afterward, and I was filled with masses of parental pride, not just for her, or for her class or school, but for all the children participating. They all did themselves and their schools proud.
So that’s Stars on Stage down, and just Polyfest to go early in September. I’ll tell you how that goes next month. Both of my girls are in on this – Miss Seven will perform with her school at the week-long festival opening, and Miss Four will perform with her kindergarten later in the week. Boy this parenting gig can be busy at times, daunting too, but ever so rewarding!
On the writing front, I’m gritting my teeth and pushing on. I’d hoped to have my second novel well on the way to publication by this time this year. It turns out novels can be more like unborn children – they’ll pick the date and time their born, not me – and my ‘unborn’ novel has proven to be just as stubborn and overdue as my first! It’s been through two complete scrap-and-start-again re-writes to this date, with something plain wrong in the theme and plot. So, I’ve forced myself to sit down and ‘pants’ (write off-the-cuff) less and plot more. I’ve gone right down to the bones and tried to dig out the deeper issues to explore. This means into the tried and true writer zone of fear: using personal experience deeply to tell a meaningful, important story. In this novel, I’m exposing traits I myself have had to lay bare and overcome. It’s astounding how the simple act of writing about something that happened to you (even years ago) can drag those raw and sometimes ugly feelings writing to the surface again. Those feelings can make just the thought of sitting down to get started feel impossible, and I’ve had to dig deep just to open my laptop some mornings (cue procrastination!). What happens in my novel isn’t a direct recount of my experience, in fact, it’s quite altered, but I’ve used enough elements to make me relate very closely to my protagonist’s plight. My hope is that by using personal experience in this book, I can accomplish three things: 1, I can delve deeper into my own thinking and healing and let go of the past some more; 2, that the experience I bring to the story shines through and enhances the protagonist’s journey; and 3 (perhaps the most important), that people out there experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses, especially those like me that didn’t initially recognise mental illness within themselves, gain some insight and/empowerment to change the course of their own journey. It’s scary, demanding, and sometimes exhausting, but it feels necessary; I’m compelled to write this story both for myself, and more importantly, for those in need of encouragement and help to seek help for and overcome similar challenges. I’ve had to put impatience aside. That’s what both my first novel, and this one, are teaching me: writing takes patience, whether you’re naturally inclined or not. It’ll come right in time, and rushing it will result in a story that is less than what it’s destined to be. So, I’m going to plod on. I’ve got plot enhancements to make and research to do, but I feel I’m on the right track now, so here’s hoping I’ll have something new for you sooner rather than later!
Finally, I’ll share this realisation: my experiences as a parent and writer are forcing me to grow within myself. I’m no longer the shut-down victim of experience, incapable of making positive change for myself person that I used to be. I’ve changed, my circumstances have changed, and my thinking has changed. I can control some things and not others, and stressing about it doesn’t actually help. I can stand up for myself and no longer need to worry about how the choice that is best for me impacts those outside of my family. I can say no, that doesn’t serve me, and be done with it!
I hope that by sharing my experiences and thoughts, other people out there, writers or not, can find some familiarity, comfort, humour, healing, learning, or inspiration useful to their own lives. If you have questions or (respectful) comments, please feel free to share!
Until next month,
Hi, I'm Emily,