Sarah: Welcome back to Dear Writer. So today we are on to Episode 8, which means this show has been running for eight months. We do have some exciting news today, which we will tell you a little bit later. Merry Christmas, everyone, by the way. Because the day this comes out, it should be Christmas. We’re not… in… it’s not Christmas day here as we are recording because we typically record it a little bit ahead of time. But yes, I hope you enjoy this as your stuffed full of Turkey.
Ashley: Yes, hopefully. I’m very excited to share our news with you guys at the end of this podcast. And I’m also very, very excited for Christmas. I feel like this whole year has been exhausting, even though I haven’t really done anything or gone anywhere. But the end of the year really can’t come fast enough to be honest.
Sarah: I agree. It’s been a strange year.
Ashley: Definitely, definitely. It’s been quite interesting. We went out for our work Christmas party. Earlier this week on Thursday, and it’s the start of the America’s Cup at the moment, in Auckland.
Sarah: Oh wow.
Ashley: So, it was a bit strange to be like in packed bars, packed—the whole viaduct was packed with people. But it was, it was like weird but also kind of nice because it felt a lot more normal, you know, than it has been in the past.
Sarah: Yeah, in Calgary, it’s gone a bit downhill again, and we’re now kind of in isolation again, to a certain extent. It’s not quite as bad as what it was before, but.
Ashley: Well, I still have Dan home for a bit of time. I assume he gets time off for the Christmas holidays.
Sarah: Yes. Yeah. But yes, it’s like, there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t open and it’s kind of confusing because you like I’m not sure whether this place is open or not. Like, what’s the deal now because I know the rules have changed and who has changed them and who hasn’t changed them. Can I go to this place or… yeah it’s just very confusing because it’s not as strict as what like initially was but then, it’s still very confusing as to what’s actually open.
Ashley: Right, some sort of weird intermediate level.
Sarah: Yeah. Exactly.
Ashley: It does sound really annoying.
Sarah: Yeah. Like I booked onto a basic life support course for my nursing, because you have to have that before you’re employable. And I… it’s like a blended online one, so I’m doing like two hours of sort of online course. And then on the second of January I’ve got my in class component. But yeah, that’s another thing, it’s like, well, this this course running as per usual? I don’t know. Like, am I going to get there and be like, no one’s here. Who knows.
Ashley: Probably find out on the second of January, they’ll be like, oh, actually. Sorry. There’s no in person component. And you’re like, I’m already here.
Sarah: Precisely. So it will be interesting, but yeah. How’s your writing been going?
Ashley: It’s been very up and down, I think, the past month. So we did start writing our new Ancient Greece book and we… I think both of us—oh you finished an extra one—had finished our first two chapters. My first two chapters were from the same person’s point of view, and set in ancient Greece, and I felt like I got quite a good handle on his voice, in the end. And I kind of wished I could have just version all of his chapters. Got them out of the way. But I think that would have been a bit difficult with like plot issues and things like that.
Ashley: But now I’m up to I guess our shared character and it’s been a lot more challenging, mostly because I was stuck in the mindset of the first one. And it’s in a completely different setting which has made it difficult as well. And Sarah had written the first chapter, so some of his voice was already set. So it’s been a bit difficult, having to try and fit like it into that voice, if that makes any sense.
Sarah: Yes, yeah.
Ashley: But, it’s going. What about you?
Sarah: So I started… I’ve done three chapters now and I’m on to the fourth. So the first two for me were the opposite. They were in modern day and they were two different characters. But then I struggled for my next one, because Ashley had the one before it, which isn’t quite finished. And so then… like it didn’t alter it too much because I knew what was going to happen, but then at the same time, it was a little bit tricky because I was like, well, is something going to happen in this one beforehand that doesn’t quite link it. And I was also writing this character in a… I’d gone from the modern day to ancient Greece and as we discussed last time, it’s a time travel series. So this character, I was writing him and I’m on setting and then suddenly he’s thrust into the past like a totally different setting. And it’s really hard to make something that is actually impossible seem believable, as well so I struggled quite a lot with that. Especially as the character was in, like, denial.
Ashley: I think you did a good job. It came across it came across well. And I like that you’re not… I feel like the only reason people might think he’s in Ancient Greece is because of my previous characters two chapters.
Sarah: Yes, yeah.
Ashley: That hints that that’s where it’s going.
Sarah: The readers are gonna know, but…
Ashley: Yeah. But it’s not…
Sarah: That’s kind of okay.
Ashley: Yeah it’s not super obvious.
Sarah: He doesn’t know.
Ashley: So I think, I think it worked well.
Sarah: Yeah, so it was challenging and then now I’m like back to the modern day again. And yeah, it’s just. It’s a bit… the transitions is a bit confusing. I don’t think it will read confusing, it’s just like quite jolting to change settings so often, so. Because I also thought about—
Ashley: Writing all of Cassie’s.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah, writing all of this one character’s whose… because all of hers is in the modern day. So I thought about doing all of hers, because the past plotline doesn’t have an effect on hers, so I could potentially do all of hers at once, but then the problem is, is that I really need to be keeping up with our joint character as well. Or else Ashley is not gonna be able to move forward at all.
Sarah: Which would be problematic.
Ashley: Because my other character’s quite intertwined with our joint character. So that was the one issue with if I was able to write the one that I write on my own, because their storylines are so entangled, I think it would get really complicated.
Ashley: So just have to suffer through it. I think we’ll get better. I feel like, hopefully, being able to change voice to Cassie’s voice will really help as well. Eventually, once you get a bit more uses both characters. You’re like, oh, it’s Cassie. It’s the present.
Sarah: I sat down like, yesterday and tried to stop my fourth chapter. And I literally—literally, I can’t even say that today—wrote you know, Chapter Eight. Cassie. And then I couldn’t do any more. Just shut the laptop, moved away, and then this morning when I sat down I kind of had an idea of how I was going to start it, and I got like 700 words down which is pretty good for me in like an hour and a half or something.
Ashley: So yeah, that’s good.
Sarah: Yeah, I wasn’t too unhappy with that.
Ashley: Good effort. Want to try and finish my chapter today I’m halfway. I think the hard bit’s out of the way, as well. So now will be the exciting part. So I think, I think I can… I think it’ll be all right. Got a lot of Christmas shopping to do today though, so we’ll see if I get time.
Sarah: We just do all ours online these days.
Ashley: Hmm that’s smart, that’s smart.
Sarah: You know, my whole family’s in New Zealand. So just like order things online, send them to a family member who I’ve… who this year, it was my younger brother, Matthew. And I was like, you’re Santa this year. Here’s some money for wrapping. Go.
Ashley: I tried to go Christmas shopping yesterday, I left work a little bit early, and all I managed to do was buy Reilly a toy. And I was like this has gone well.
Sarah: It’s the most important gift, though the dog. My parent’s dogs get so excited. Every Christmas, they try and open everyone’s presents.
Ashley: So cute. I have a feeling Reilly might do that. He loves to chew things, so I’m a bit worried we’ll get to my parents place with all the gifts and like five minutes later be wrapping paper shreds everywhere.
Sarah: Probably. Ah dear. Anyways, we should get started with our main discussion.
Ashley: Yes. Do you want to explain what the plan tentatively is?
Sarah: Yes. We decided this time to read a few of our favorite passages from other books, and have a bit of a discussion on the things that we like about them. And we’re also going to read a few passages from our own book. We decided with ours that, so we don’t give the entire plot line away or anything, we’ve just chosen short passages from our first book. Because that was the other thing is that, if we included them from like the first, second, and third, it would potentially be very confusing. So we’ve…
Sarah: We’ve used the first four chapters of our first book. But yeah, we’ll get into that after reading through a few other ones from other people’s books that we really like and which inspire us. Did you want to start first with yours?
Ashley: Sure. So during the first lockdown. I… just before it happened, like maybe two weeks before it happened, I went to a secondhand book sale. And I had always wanted to read some Stephen King, but I was a bit worried because I don’t do well with scary things. And a couple friends of mine who also don’t do well scary things had tried some of his novels and couldn’t finish them because they were too scared. So I did not choose those, those books of his. So I chose another book called The Stand, which, in hindsight, maybe wasn’t the best choice because it’s about a pandemic.
Sarah: It’s supposed to be really good, that one, though.
Ashley: A pandemic and the virus strain has killed… 99.9% of the people it infects. So I didn’t really realize that was what it was about when I purchased it. I just thought it was a survival story with like a… sort of like a dark Prince type character going through it. I started reading it during the first lockdown. And like, ah, it’s also about a pandemic. This is great. But, it has been… I’m about halfway through, which is saying something, because it is, oh. Almost 1500 pages. So I’m halfway through, which I think is a good achievement. But there was one passage that really stood out to me when I was reading it. So that’s the first one I’ve decided to share. It comes from chapter 23, which is I don’t know, within the first 200 pages, I think. So here we go.
“In Mountain City there was a man named Christopher Bradenton who would see that he had a clean car and come clean papers and then the country would come alive in all its glorious possibilities, a body politic with its network of roads embedded in its skin like marvellous capillaries, ready to take him, the dark speck of foreign matter, anywhere or everywhere—heart, liver, lights, brain. He was a clot looking for a place to happen, a splinter of bone hunting a soft organ to puncture, a lonely lunatic cell looking for a mate—they would set up housekeeping and raise themselves a cosy little malignant tumor.”
Ashley: I just love the metaphor that he has created with this, especially because it’s obviously a book about a pandemic and health sort of related things. And this is… this is describing one of the characters to put it into context. And I just find the words that he’s used is very, it’s like quite dark and haunting, but also relates really well back to, I guess, the overall theme of the book, which I quite like. What, what did you think just kind of getting that one little passage?
Sarah: I quite like the last sentence of it. You know, he was looking… he was a clot looking for a place to happen, a splinter have a bone hunting a soft organ to puncture, a lonely lunatic sell looking for a mate. They would set up housekeeping and raise themselves a cozy little malignant tumor. Yeah, the metaphor of children being… being tumors is quite interesting.
Ashley: I enjoy it. I just, I remember reading it. I turned to James. And I was like, this is a great piece of writing. He was inspired in this moment because it just works so well and the images that it conjures up when you read it, you’re like, oh, this isn’t a great person.
Sarah: It’s very… I just think it’s very clever. Like, yeah, the words that he’s used yeah, to bring that whole pandemic feel to it. And also to describe a very every day kind of situation of like two people looking for love, and then creating a family and it’s like a very dark interpretation of that.
Ashley: Yes, yes.
Ashley: I guess fits of his genre as well.
Sarah: Yeah. He’s a very clever writer.
Ashley: Yes, I agree. I agree.
Sarah: I like clever writers.
Ashley: Me too, me too.
Sarah: I hope I will one day be one. It’s what I aspire to.
Ashley: Work in progress, right?
Ashley: What’s, what’s your first little except that you want to share?
Sarah: So, if you’ve read the blog, you will know that for us, for our novels, a comparison is the John Marsden series, The Tomorrow When the War Began series. And, when I was a teenager, I really loved his books. I just felt like they were so action packed, and they really keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. And even his… even when there’s not action going on, it’s still very, very good writing. And so I did struggle to choose. I knew that I wanted to choose from one of his books—I think there’s about seven to that series—and so I did actually quite struggle to choose like just one little section from them. But in the end, I ended up looking in his second novel, which is The Dead of the Night. And the quote comes from chapter five.
“I was feeling pretty unusual, walking back across the paddocks. I imagined a huge shadow of me was moving across the sky, attached to me, and keeping pace with my little body on the earth. It scared me, really scared me, but I couldn’t escape it. It loomed over me, a silent dark creature growing out of my feet. I knew that if I reached out to feel it, I would feel nothing. That’s the way shadows are. But all the same, the air around me seemed colder and darker, as the shadow clung to me. I wondered if this was the way my life would always be from now on, and if for every person I killed the shadow would grow larger, darker, more monstrous.”
Ashley: I do love John Marsden.
Sarah: Yeah, so I just, I kind of felt like that was a really good way of like showing her guilt, and how her guilt was just continually growing until like this monster and this thing.
Ashley: It seems like it’s one of those passages that makes you feel what she’s feeling. A lot of emotive words in there. And so, when you read it out you could… you felt exactly the way she was feeling, which I always like in books.
Sarah: Yeah, he has quite a narrative style, I think. Like reading through his series you certainly… it’s hard to explain because it’s not… like it’s not disruptive to your reading experience. It’s not like you know someone’s preaching to you, this happened and then that happened and that happened. Like you still feel in the experience with the character, but she… she does tell it very much like a story, the character does. And I think he really gets a handle on her voice like right from the very start, which yeah really helps you imagine exactly what she’s feeling and what she’s thinking every step of the way so you become quite attached to her, as a reader reading this character. And you can quite relate with her. Yeah.
Ashley: I really like the last sentence of that paragraph. The I wondered if this is the way my life would always be from now on. And if for every person I killed the shadow would go larger darker, more monstrous. I like it. It’s one of those sort of foreboding sentences, where you’re like, oh, how many more people is she going to kill. What’s going to happen to her? Raises lots of questions.
Sarah: Especially when you you’re thinking, this is only the second book out of seven. It’s like she goes on like this downward spiral from book one.
Ashley: I also loved that series. I remember we used to read it not together, but together. If that makes any sense.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah. Our like, little mini book club/study.
Ashley: Yes. I actually bought Tomorrow, When the War Began at the same… oh no. At a secondhand book sale recently. I saw it there and I’ve been… I’d lost or I thought I had a copy. But it turns out I didn’t have the first one.
Ashley: I’ve got a couple from in the middle so might read that over Christmas again. I don’t often reread books. So that’s saying something.
Sarah: I love that series. I could reread it a million times. And it’s funny because it’s one… I guess everyone has that book and they’re teenagers that they grew quite attached to. But, yeah. Would you like to continue with your next passage?
Ashley: Yes, so I was gonna say, speaking of books that I might reread—given I barely reread books ever—my next choice comes from a novel called Song of the Hills which probably has to be one of my absolute favorite books I have read as an adult. It’s by a lady called Margaret Evans and it is… It’s one of those stories that follows someone’s life. Usually I’m not super into those kind of books. It’s set in the 1900s, when she’s a child and it goes through both world wars, but she has the gift of sight. So she’s slightly psychic. But very… like sounds weird. Very tastefully psychic so she doesn’t know how to control it and just occasionally she has these visions, and obviously she goes through quite a lot in her life, both world wars and she’s in a poor steel works town in Wales. And it’s just one of those books where it really hits you hard in your heart. So I would highly recommend it. And there’s a sequel as well. But the quote that I’m about to read to you, comes from chapter six. It’s about basically, her father, go with that. So here we go.
“He recalls the nights in the trenches, watching such skies, stomach hollow with fear. He thinks how it will be, telling this to his children when he gets back; imagines Joe’s face rapt with attention and Hannah half-fascinated, half-horrified. But sparing them the worst, of course. And the fear, they’d not understand the fear… they’d need to be here to understand that. Thomas prays that never will his children know the like of Passchendaele.
A bomb explodes quite near and he lies back, waiting for the planes to pass. Then he hears a whistling unpleasant whine, getting louder, and seconds later the tent disappears in a blinding billowing light.”
Ashley: Her whole book is written like this. It’s just so um, intense and very emotional, but I like it, I like it a lot. Yeah that’s all I’ve got to say. I just really enjoy her style.
Sarah: I like the descriptive terms, especially the billowing light. You can really imagine just how it like, the lights just fans out. Um, and encompasses everything.
Ashley: Yes, definitely. Yes.
Sarah: And the whine before the bomb explodes as well. The whistling unpleasant whine.
Ashley: It’s one of those passages where you could feel something’s coming from the start. But you’re not quite sure where it’s going. And then as you get further through you’re kind of like, uh-oh, this is going to end well for this character. Oh no. Oh no. But yeah, it’s an excellent, excellent book. I’d recommend it.
Sarah: I think both of the ones that you chose has got me like, oh, I really want to read those now. Going to have to put them on my reading list.
Ashley: Yeah, you should, you should. Yeah the tagline for the Song of the Hills is ‘a haunting story of love and war’ which I appreciate. Because she can see ghosts and it makes me really happy that that’s how they’ve sold it.
Sarah: So, my next one—which most people will know of—I decided to read Gone Girl. I’d actually seen the movie ages ago. So I already sort of knew what happened. But I’d never read the book until this year. And so, I… if you’ve listened to other episodes my own book that I’ve been working on by myself is a psychological thriller. And so this one was kind of like a little bit of research for that in terms of trying to read within the genre. And yeah like it’s just really well crafted, and it’s quite fascinating to read it, especially… well, it’s like an unreliable narrator that she… the mechanism that she uses to tell, to tell the story. So you’re never quite sure what’s going on. And this one packet ergh, passage…
Ashley: Package. Kind of like a package of words.
Sarah: This one passage… really it, it actually goes on a little bit beforehand but I didn’t want to make it like, too long. So I just chose like a short bit at the end of it, um. But yes, I’ll read it now anyways. Okay.
“The news report would show Nick Dunne, husband of the missing woman, standing metallically next to his father-in-law, arms crossed, eyes glazed, looking almost bored as Amy’s parents wept. And then worse. My long-time response, the need to remind people I wasn’t a dick, I was a nice guy despite the affectless stare, the haughty douchebag face.
So there it came, out of nowhere, as Rand begged for his daughter’s return: a killer smile.”
Ashley: I like it. I love how the characters described. It’s one of those ones where you can picture it completely just from what they’ve put down which I…
Sarah: Yeah, so I should just say, this is from his own viewpoint, like he’s looking back on himself as he’s watching the broadcast and just feeling like shit. And, yeah.
Ashley: You can tell that. You can tell it from just from the short passage.
Sarah: But yeah, I love that um in it, you know, he’s just seeing himself and he knows his flaws and he’s kind of developed like this kind of way of trying to make himself same friendly, but then it comes off really wrong. So you can really kind of feel that, and you’re really kind of cringing for him as you’re reading this paragraph.
Ashley: Definitely, definitely.
Sarah: But then also, at the same time you’re wondering, is he a killer? Because it’s still, you know, it’s a possibility. So, I think it’s quite well done. That whole book.
Ashley: I was just about to ask, did you enjoy it, overall? I haven’t, I haven’t read it. I’ve seen the movie. But I haven’t read the book.
Sarah: I really enjoy it from especially like a writers viewpoint, I think. I do think that she potentially goes a little bit far in some respects with… and I know I’ve heard other people comment on this before, where they couldn’t connect with some of the characters because…
Sarah:I mean it’s told by the viewpoint of two characters, which is Nick in sort of real time, and then Amy his wife, the woman who was missing, through her diary. And so I always feel like Nick is the main protagonist of that story. And I think he is relatable. And even Amy’s relatable, but because there’s her diary, it’s a little bit more distant. And because you’re trying to relate with Nick at the same time, it’s a bit confusing.
Sarah: Because, yeah. Especially if you’ve seen the movie, then well. I’m not gonna spoil it in case, someone hasn’t. But yes. It… I think it is a little bit hard to relate with some of the characters depending on whose side, you kind of take. It makes it hard to read the other viewpoint, because you’re like, ugh, really?
Ashley: Do I have to read her right now.
Sarah: Or do I have to read him, even, because he’s not exactly a saint either so… yeah.
Sarah: But it is very well crafted and yeah, she uses the unreliable narrator mechanism very well.
Ashley: Maybe I’ll have to give it a go. Get a copy out from the library and read it. Add it to my ever growing pile of books to read. I’m terrible. I’m terrible with reading books. I will. I’ll try. Um, should we move on to some passages about our book?
Sarah: Yes, I’m so excited for this.
Ashley: So Sarah and I thought it would be fun if we chose passages from each other’s writing. So, for a bit of context. Our book’s multi perspective and Sarah writes the perspectives of Lizzie and Dylan, and then I write the perspectives of Grace and Levi, so I picked the one except from one of Lizzie’s chapters and an excerpt from one of Dylan’s chapters. So it should be good. I’m excited.
Sarah: Yes. And I picked one from Grace and one from Levi. I think the best way to do this would be to do in order of the chapters, because we… as I explained before, we chose excerpts from the first four chapters. So I’ll go first with Levi, who writes chapter one. Or Ashley, who wrote chapter one but you know.
Ashley: No, Levi wrote Chapter One!
Sarah: That’s what it feels like sometimes when you… So this is kind of like an in the midst of the action.
Dylan reached the front door first.
I came up behind him, and immediately felt like something was wrong. The night was still, except for the rain pounding on the verandah. But an undercurrent of unease made the hairs on my arms stand up in alarm. To top it off, the front door swung on its hinges with the wind, banging rhythmically against the doorframe.
“What the hell?” Dylan said as we both stared at it.
“I don’t like this,” I said. All my instincts told me to run.
“Is anyone home?” Dylan called out. “Is everyone OK?”
“Hello?” Dylan said, louder this time.
“It looks like the place has been broken into. Should we go in?” I asked. “Or maybe we should just call the police.”
“It does. Someone might be hurt, though,” Dylan said. “We should check just in case.”
I ignored the feeling in my gut that told me to get the hell out of there, and stepped forward. I pushed the door open, revealing a long, dark hallway. I glanced back at Dylan, who encouraged me forward with a small nod. With an air of false confidence, I stepped into the dark house. My sodden shoes squelched along the wood floor, and water dripped from my soaked clothes. I crept down the hallway with Dylan at my back.
Sarah: So yeah, this is just when things are beginning to happen. And I’ve noticed that Ashley’s getting really good at weaving and description to build tension, and I really liked how she painted a scene that’s sort of growing ever more disturbingly wrong. And you could really visualize it. But also, there’s like pieces throughout her writing that really tell us about the characters. Like Levi gets scared, but then he never wants to admit it. And then the air of false confidence. Yeah, it’s just Levi down to a T. So he’s just like, yeah. Everything’s all good, but actually it’s really, really not. But then also, like, it’s not really seen here, but Ashley did a really great job at showing both his fear, and that’s not really explained in this particular except how his backstory and it makes him a bit more cautious than Dylan, who sort of attributes the scene to more everyday occurrences and as a bit more in denial then Levi about what’s going on. So I thought that was really interesting.
Ashley: I’m glad you enjoyed this part. Funnily enough, one of my favorite sentences from the entire first chapter was the one that you chose. It’s the… the to top it off the front door swung on its hinges with the wind, banging rhythmically against the doorframe. For some reason that’s like weirdly, my favorite sentence from that whole chapter, so when I saw it in there, I was like, oh, she liked it too.
Sarah: I do. I really like that first sort of scene as they’re coming in. Because it, it suddenly like starts to go downhill really fast. And you’re just like oh my god, what is going on.
Ashley: Something’s gonna happen, especially obviously the part before is not in there but it gets… it’s not like too suspicious but you’re like something might be a bit off.
Sarah: Yeah. So I think we’ve explained this before, but just to put it in context as well. Which it doesn’t really give anything away, if I say this because if you were to buy the book, it would be in the blurb anyways. So our book is about a war that breaks out in New Zealand. And so this is their first indication that something has happened. So yes, it was quite an exciting kind of read when you start getting into the, the action in that scene.
Ashley: I guess this then flows on to Lizzie’s chapter, which is chapter two. And the section. I’ve chosen is actually the first two paragraphs of this chapter, and I think once I read them out you’ll probably understand why I chose them. Okay.
“Looming purple clouds blotted out the evening sun, and in a hurry, the rain came. Living rurally, I was well used to the sudden nature of it, especially now, in springtime. Before long, the paddocks were swamped with deep puddles, and the sheep huddled under a dripping tree, staring bleakly back at the house and cursing us for their freshly shorn coats.
Not that I felt sorry for them. I was still bruised black and blue from helping Dad wrangle them for the shearer, who hadn’t been impressed at our amateurish methods, and our kitset yarding system. It was clear we were new to sheep farming. Cattle had been much easier, but no one in New Zealand ran cattle anymore.”
Ashley: I love scene setting so much. I really do. And I think the connotations that you chose for this passage, Sarah, are spot on with the words like looming, blotted, swamped, huddled and bleakly. You get a very vivid picture of the scene that Lizzie is describing to us. And it also like helps evoke some emotions of the time as well because you haven’t picked… like you know you can have happy springtime rain with flowers and you know the grass is wet but I could smell it and blah, blah, blah. This is not the picture that you paint. And right from the beginning, get a sense that something is wrong, and things aren’t going particularly well. And then you get to the second paragraph, which sounds normal. You know, it’s a soggy day on a farm. And then there are, but then a few points that come into it that make you question things. Like why is it kitset? Why can’t New Zealand run cattle anymore? And so you get this… this feeling that you’re seeing something very normal but there’s some undercurrent in there that really doesn’t sit right. And that’s actually one of my favorite ways of starting chapters. I don’t know… I think I talked about it in one of our other podcasts where I said I really like it when or books or even chapters open with a situation that is a bit unusual and it makes three to ask questions about it, and then they have to find—keep reading right, to figure out what’s going on. So I think this… the beginning of this chapter, definitely does that.
Sarah: Yeah. It’s interesting, like since… cuz… well, it’s not entirely rewritten especially even that beginning part, but we did… when we went through and like fixed the first few chapters, I tried to build that setting a little bit more. And yeah, it is a piece of writing that I’m like, yes, I like the, the start of it too, because it does really feel like… I grew up on a New Zealand farm and so it really does feel very New Zealand, except for that last line with the, the cattle. Because if you know anything about New Zealand, dairy is one of our major exports. So it’s kind of like what the hell has happened?
Ashley: Like, why don’t they run cattle anymore? That’s really strange. And why suddenly sheep now?
Ashley: So enjoy it very enjoyed it very much.
Sarah: And yeah, I have also had the fun of wrangling sheep for the shearer.
Ashley: Like I can relate to Lizzie.
Sarah: If you’re not used to it, you do get bruised a bit black and blue.
Ashley: I like that you’re able to put actual experience into this, into this chapter. It helps.
Ashley: I wouldn’t have been able to do it as well. I’ve never lived on a farm. I’ve never wrangled sheep. I would have had to google it. How to wrangle sheep…
Sarah: I just remember this one. You… when you’ve got the yarding systems, you open one gate to let it through to where the shearer is shearing. And you several in a chute. And you kind of work the gates to be able to let them in and out. But they don’t always do what you want them to do, and I opened the gate to let this one sheep go. And the next one decided that they wanted to go too. And I like, dove forward, and I just leapt on it, grabbed it’s fleece. And then, because I’m a very small person, and this sheep was quite a large, very strong sheep, it literally pulled me a meter in the next direction and I like slammed into—because they have these tall handles that stick up from the gate that you can use to open and shut the gate with—and I just slammed into this handle I was like, ow! And then dad’s tryna get it back in and I’m just hanging on for dear life. But that’s my experience of sheep shearing.
Ashley: I’m hilariously imagining this as like a boss battle, Sarah versus the large sheep.
Sarah: It really was. Just that entire day. I was so exhausted afterwards. And it didn’t help that the sheep had all broken through a fence and stuff. So we had to… before we even got them into the yarding system. Because Mum and Dad had cut the fences when… because they, they moved their… they had a house that they moved. And, I’m trying to explain this… an actual house that they moved and put on a piece of land. So they had to cut the fences to be able to get the house in, because they got a nice new villa that they did up and stuff. Well, not a new villa, an old villa, that they did up. Anyways. So, they hadn’t fully repaired the fence and the grass was so long that we couldn’t actually see that the bottom wires of the fence were missing. So most of the morning was spent rounding the sheep back into the paddock. And then the rest of the afternoon was spent in hot sun shearing these sheep, and it was the most exhausting day of my life.
Ashley: That sounds really exhausting. But… but speaking of moving house—physically moving houses—the other day, so to put it into context. James and I live down a shared driveway. So basically, the driveway runs in front of our house and there’s four houses like you know, we’re the third one down. So it’s like 1,2,3,4,5. And across the driveway there’s a fence and then on the other side, there’s more houses, like a complex of houses is like four or five houses but anyways. We’re like hmm, that’s a weird noise. It was probably nine o’clock at night, lots of beeping and things, we’re like that’s very strange but didn’t think anything of it. Wake up in the morning, I open the curtains and they had moved five houses.
Sarah: What? Five!
Ashley: They were there in the evening. And by the time morning came around, they were all gone. So now there’s a clear like sightline from our house to the road. That’s probably, oh five houses away. It’s just this hole.
Sarah: That’s hilarious.
Ashley: How did I miss them moving five houses?
Sarah: That is so funny.
Ashley: It’s so… so confused. We’re both like…
Sarah: And in the night, magically five houses disappeared.
Ashley: Yeah. They must have been working really quick.
Sarah: Oh my goodness.
Ashley: So yeah, that reminded me of the vanishing houses. That was literally two nights ago.
Sarah: That’s funny. Um, so we’ll move on to Grace’s one in chapter three. Okay.
The sound of truck tires crunching on gravel silenced us.
I rushed to the window and cracked the blinds. Two army trucks crawled up the drive, their headlights beaming harshly. “Soldiers are here,” I whispered as I backed away.
“That’s our cue to run,” Levi said, his voice low as he ran to the backdoor. “Come on!” Dylan was right on his heels.
“Go, Lizzie,” Jaden said as he dashed into the kitchen and pulled a butcher’s knife from the drawer.
Lizzie followed Jaden into the kitchen. “But, Jaden—”
“Go!” Jaden ordered, giving Lizzie a little push.
I gabbed Lizzie’s wrist. “Come on, Lizzie,” I said, as we stumbled together to the backdoor where Levi was frantically trying to open the ranch slider.
Heavy boots pounded up the wet path to the front of the house.
Levi jiggled the key in the lock, frustrated. “Damn it. It’s stuck.”
“It does that sometimes,” Lizzie said, pushing her way to the front and taking over. “Let me do it.”
“Elizabeth Watson. Open up. This is an order!” a man yelled as he bashed his fist against the front door.
My heart pounded against my ribcage as the furious knocking continued.
“Hurry the hell up,” Dylan said.
“Elizabeth Watson. Open the door. This is your final warning!”
“I got it,” Lizzie said, sliding open the door and revealing the storm raging outside. Levi and Dylan sprinted out into the night. But it was too late for us.
Ashley: This is typical Lizzie. Sorry, I just always…
Sarah: I know! It’s something I was going to talk about.
Ashley: Sorry, continue.
Sarah: So yeah, sometimes well I’d firstly comment on the way that Ashley built tension into this part of the chapter. Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that plays a really significant role in the way tension develops. So instead of simply rushing out the door, the key gets stuck, and they’re all struggling to get out the back door while there’s soldiers pounding on the front door. And again, Ashley really weaves in words that described Grace’s mindset. You can really tell that it’s Grace, we’ve talked about this before, how Grace and Lizzie are very different, particularly like just using certain words that kind of show how Grace is really dark and fearful and very pessimistic. Like she rushes, she whispers and backs away. She stumbles, her heart pounds. But then, most telling that we’re reading from Grace’s point of view is the last sentence: It was too late for us. Because they’re not even caught at this point. And she’s already given up!
Ashley: Is very, very Grace-like
Sarah: And yeah, the other characters are really on point with their actions. Especially Lizzie when she says, Let me do it. Cause that’s basically…
Ashley: Takes over, pushes in front.
Sarah: Yeah that’s Lizzie all over and Jaden’s trying to tell her to run and to go and she’s like, but… Cause she never does what she’s told.
Ashley: It’s very accurate for Lizzie, she, she’s very stubborn. Very stubborn, but it’s quite…
Sarah: It’s very well done to show like all those things in such a small paragraph. So.
Ashley: This is I guess one of the first times all of these characters are together. In the book.
Sarah: Yes. And yeah, I was gonna say that. So, Levi and Dylan kind of go to them for help, so that’s kind of how they all end up together because yeah. Levi and Dylan were wandering around the countryside.
Ashley: Yeah, on their own. With a gun. It would be such a strange sight. If you know, imagine if they had been wrong in their assumption that things were a bit off, and you just see them creeping around the back streets…
Sarah: It’s kind of like, no wonder… but we won’t go into that because you’ll have to read the book, but I think. Yeah. We both did quite a good did quite well in making it believable. And their reactions to all the stuff that’s happening, so.
Ashley: Yeah it does kind of help that we went back and rewrote it because we already had a very good feel for these characters.
Sarah: Yes, yeah. So this is after quite a few edits. If we read the… maybe one day we’ll do a read of the first ever draft, because we… we still we keep all our drafts, so. And you will see just how vastly different it is and how embarrassing. We’ll have to work up courage, before we even show that I think.
Sarah: If we ever show it.
Ashley: It will definitely make other people, I think, feel better about their writing.
Ashley: And people don’t start off…
Sarah: Maybe we’ll share that when hopefully we’ve published this and received compliments and hopefully good reviews. And cross our fingers for good reviews, because if we get terrible reviews. Because otherwise we’ll be like, well, you didn’t see the first one. Maybe we should do that. You know, like put out the first one and then be like now read the actual one, and then we’ll get all good reviews when they read the first one and then compare it.
Ashley: Yeah they’ll be like, wow, so much better! Alrighty. So, the last little reading we have is from Dylan’s chapter. So that’s chapter four. And because both of the passages Sarah picked—it was more by virtue of I think the chapters, more than anything else—were quite action packed, I decided to basically purposely to choose sort of different style, like different things for Lizzie and Dylan’s chapter. So Lizzie’s I picked the scene setting at the start, and I’ll just read you Dylan’s now.
“Looks like we’re in the eye of the storm,” Lizzie murmured, staring up at the moon.
“Something like that,” I agreed. With the clear sky above, I noticed the small tendrils of dawn’s light beginning to break through the dark.
“You know, every time I close my eyes, I see him die,” Lizzie said, her voice shaking.
I didn’t know what to say, so I dug my hands into the pockets of my jacket and looked at her with sympathy.
“Do you think it will go away?” she asked, trembling.
I glanced downward as the face of the soldier I’d killed reared up. “No,” I said honestly. “But, after a while, it might lose some of its sting, and some of the power to hurt you,” I said with a hopeful smile. I prayed the same would be true for me.
Ashley: This is probably one of my favorite conversations between Lizzie and Dylan. I’ve always really liked it as obviously it’s gone through a number of different iterations, through many different drafts. But I’ve always really, really liked it. And I think it’s because it feels real and raw, which is something that’s very unusual for Lizzie, because she’s not often vulnerable. And this is probably one of the few moments throughout the series where she is… where she admits she was vulnerable and kind of allows people in a little bit. I also really like this piece because it feels natural. And people actually talk like that. Because I read it out and it didn’t feel weird, if that makes any sense. Like, it felt like it’s exactly how people in that situation would say these things, which I think is really important with dialogue, because sometimes you, you read passages and you’re like, people would never say this ever or you know. The conversation goes and it feels very robotic or it doesn’t feel, like true to the characters or anything, but I think this one definitely as especially because Dylan’s… Dylan’s quite a sensitive guy. And I think that comes across very he’s very contemplative as well. I think it comes across very, very on point for this
Sarah: I really like the paragraph as well, just because it’s the first time, as well, that Dylan and Lizzie actually really talk by themselves, and not with… because you know they’ve only really just met.
Ashley: But I really liked it. I also quite like in all four of the passages we’ve chosen, I feel that you can tell that it’s all different perspectives. They’re all quite different.
Ashley: The way that things are written. Which I appreciate. We tried very hard to make some very distinct voices.
Sarah: I think we have pretty good handles on them all now.
Ashley: I think so too.
Sarah: I mean, and we do like edit each other’s. So it’s… if we had to write from the other characters we, we can. It’s not like Ashley’s never written Lizzie stuff or I’ve never written Grace’s stuff or whatever. But I think we probably would struggle with each other’s characters, but we do sort of know and have a handle on who they are. So that in our characters, when they talk to them, we can make them respond in appropriate ways.
Ashley: Yeah. I think so. We like Lizzie, obviously, when I write things from Lizzie’s perspective, it’s, it’s a bit harder and Sarah will often like fix minor things. Like oh, she probably wouldn’t use that word, or maybe she wouldn’t you know do that gesture or whatever. But I do think we mostly have them down.
Ashley: Is there anything else you wanted to add about any of the passages or anything?
Sarah: I don’t think so. I think it’s been like a little nice… just going over them. Are we moving on to mistakes of the month yet? Because…
Ashley: We can, yeah.
Sarah: I’ve already got one that I just found which is not… actually… I didn’t plan on this. But as I was reading, I came across this mistake. And was like urgh, really, like, another one. Which means we’re probably gonna have to change it. I gabbed Lizzie’s wrist.
Ashley: Oh no! What?
Sarah: I gabbed. I was like, seriously? I was reading it, and I was almost gonna say something when I finished reading it, but fortunately I didn’t actually read it out, but yeah. Even as we copy it out and into a new document. I still didn’t catch that until now. This is why reading out loud works.
Sarah and Ashley: Oh my goodness.
Sarah: Yeah. We’ll move onto…
Ashley: Well I guess we’re onto mistakes of the month.
Sarah: Would you like to kind of, well, carry on from that, I guess?
Ashley: Sure. Because we’ve been writing our new Ancient Greece novel, I have had quite a few crop up. I think these are all from one chapter after I’d done the first draft of it. And then went… went over it again. I don’t even know how to say this character’s name. I’m not gonna lie. I’m gonna give it a go. I’m gonna give it a go.
Sarah: That’s funny, because I was just thinking that.
Ashley: I’m gonna go with Coerantadas, is what I’m going to go with.
Sarah: Yeah, that sounds…
Ashley: Coerantadas is what I want to start with. So here we go. It says: Coerantada said as he ran his finger through his long gray beard. It was supposed to be fingers and I was gonna leave it. But then I was, you know, imagining the scene in my mind and the image of a man running like a single finger through his long gray beard, it made me laugh so much that I had to change it.
Sarah: It’s kind of one of those ones where you almost wouldn’t notice. But yes, we’re now that you like mention it, just like one finger like just kind of like stroking down his beard…
Ashley: Yep. So originally I was oh it’s not a big deal and then I was like hmm, actually, I might change it. So I did to change it to fingers. So the next one, still the same chapter. It was, a politically adept man would let Sparta pass through without causing an indecent. Instead of incident. That one took… I read through quite a few times before I found that one.
Sarah: How indecent.
Ashley: I know. Cause an indecent. What was he going to do? And then the final one, actually, I did find another one before. So I might read that one out later. So the final one: As Lycus approached Leontiades stepped into his bath instead of path.
Sarah: I just love that. Just casually stepping into a bath.
Ashley: I know, I was like oh my gosh…
Sarah: It’s possible in Ancient Greece.
Ashley: It is possible. It was very out of context though because they’re walking through the city someone’s like, he’s following another character and steps out in front. I’m like oh, steps into his bath. I’m gonna see if I have my other one up that I found yesterday.
Sarah: Shall I tell mine while you…
Ashley: Yeah, yep.
Sarah: While you look for that. So I only really had one. But, so it was missed word mistake which turned out to be quite hilarious. And when I was writing I found a piece that was meant to say: She chewed on her bottom lip, still unsure. However, I left out the word lip by accident and it became: She chewed on her bottom, still unsure.
Ashley: That’s amazing! That’s amazing.
Sarah: That’s a really, really weird image. Chewed on her bottom.
Ashley: I’m just imagining… I get images of my puppy at the moment, because he always like tries to bite. You know, when he’s like itchy? So I’m just thinking like, [gnawing sound].
Sarah: Oh yeah I did have one more, it was really minor but I’ve done this a couple times actually. Somehow I accidentally called our protagonist Simon a she at one point: Simon tried not to sigh, sure, she said. It’s just kind of funny because you know, I been going through my other book changing these genders and then suddenly I get all these popping up with our main character being a she. Which I’m like, whoops. But yes.
Ashley: I did find my other one. This one was from yesterday. Okay, so this is from Simon’s chapter which I’m currently attempting to write, and this kind of highlights the difficulties I have been having I think. So it says Simon stepped down and stripped into the shower. It was meant to be Simon stripped and stepped down into the shower. But I was like, what the hell have I just written? Simon stepped down and stripped into the shower. It’s how it works in his world. I’m just imagining with clothes flying off.
Sarah: I was gonna say I wouldn’t put it past him though.
Ashley: I ended up deleting the whole sentence but I thought it was hilarious. Anyway, so yes, that was the one I found yesterday. I’ve had quite a few amusing ones.
Sarah: Oh, that’s funny.
Ashley: I’m glad mistakes of the month’s back properly now that we’ve got actual things to share.
Sarah: I agree. So last time we mentioned that we would be making some goals for next year, considering it’s the end of the year now. So we have actually gone away and made some goals. Would you like to share yours first, Ashley, or?
Ashley: Sure. So I’ve kind of done some short term goals and then a more long term one as well. So the short term one was fairly straightforward, we would really like to get our books published, especially our teen fiction series. And we’re open to either method of publishing either traditional or self-publishing. So I guess at the moment we’ve been sending it out to some agents and things, querying, and if that kind of falls through, we will hopefully start up our company, and then get that sorted so that we can start self-publishing them, which will be exciting. I feel like it’s been a long time coming.
Sarah: Yes, very.
Ashley: And then, on top of that, I’d like to finish our current historical fiction novel, which I think will be a challenge. Like well we able to do it, like we will be able to do it. I think it’s going to be definitely a challenge because it’s a lot more complicated and different to what we’ve written in the past.
Sarah: I think editing might be a challenge for it, this one.
Ashley: I think so too. I think so too.
Sarah: Not really looking forward to that part.
Ashley: No. We might have to—I’m not even gonna think about the editing. So also, I did set a longer term goal. So sort of thinking within the next 10 years-ish. I’ve mentioned, I think briefly that I do have a couple ideas for my own novels. But I still feel like I’m not a good enough writer or mature enough, basically, to do it justice. I would really like to grow enough as a writer to be able to write the novels I really want to write, well. They’re both set like World War One, World War Two. So I really want to make sure that I do it, you know, right. And well. What about you?
Sarah: So, um, I also did short term goals and long term goals. And I would like to get our books published too, but to be specific, if we haven’t had any method [luck] through traditional publishing I was going to make a goal of incorporating our company of witnessing creations and March, with view of having our first book, When the Rain Falls potentially indie-published by mid-year, and The Price of Pandemonium and Darkness, Set Us Free to follow. Obviously dependent on how querying goes and sort of other things, like if we did get picked up by a traditional publisher then that… we probably wouldn’t see these books being published for like another good year probably. But there’s you know… that’s, that’s the plan. And I guess you know goals don’t always have to follow… through. So…
Ashley: Definitely seems like a realistic timeline as well.
Sarah: Yeah yeah.
Ashley: I think. Definitely doable.
Sarah: Also, I would like to finish our current Ancient Greece novel by the end of the year. And hopefully have started planning our next book, whether that be the second Ancient Greece novel or the next in our teen fiction series, I’m not sure, but one… probably one of those two.
Ashley: Yeah, I’m not sure which one it would be either. We might be sick of ancient Greece by then. Just like we get sick of writing in a teenager’s brain.
Sarah: Yeah, I’m thinking it might be like a… might do like a one to one kind of thing. We’ll see though. I’d also like to finish editing my own book and get that on the way to publishing, whether it be traditional or indie I haven’t quite decided yet so. In the long term 10 year plan, I’m hoping to be able to earn enough money through my writing to be able to decrease the work that I do for a paid salary, obviously, at the moment, I’m still not working, but. So I am like, this is my job! But yeah, hopefully next year I will be nursing again very soon. And my ideal vision is about two days like one to two days of nursing per week and then the rest of it in writing.
Ashley: That sounds ideal.
Sarah: Yeah, well like, you know I have had a significant amount of time just being at home and simply having the writing. And even before that, like I think have mentioned once before I did like a year of studying where I was working as well, and I was like doing study most of the time, and then I was working like one day a week. And for me that just feels like a really good balance because you still get a bit of the social, you still keep your skills like it’s… up to date. As far as like the nursing. And you still get that problem solving and the sort of stuff that nursing offers me, because it’s quite a, you know, a technical career that has… you know it’s… it’s constantly evolving and things are constantly changing and you need to keep up to date. So yeah, I quite enjoy that aspect of the career and no have really missed it. So I would never probably want to go like completely full time writing, but certainly, having like a better balance would be really nice and being able to kind of choose between… having, having the option to choose would be nice.
Ashley: That sounds like a really great plan.
Sarah: Yes, yes, that is My goals. We kind of structured it so that we do like initial goals, and then 10 year goals, because I always find five years is kind of that middle range, where you’re like, you’re not quite sure what the heck’s going to happen at five years.
Ashley: Yeah. You could…
Sarah: 10 years, it’s kind of like, oh, you’ve got a little bit more time if you haven’t quite managed to…
Sarah: Yeah, but we’ll see. I have heard other podcasts that I’ve listened to, like, The Creative Penn, for example, is one of the ones that I listen to quite regularly. It’s interesting to see other writer’s progression towards their goals and it seems that… I mean, not everyone is you know fully author entrepreneur by two years or five years, but the amount of stuff you can do in a short… like in five years time is actually probably quite a lot. So it would be nice to see if we could achieve those goals earlier than 10 years but you never know.
Ashley: You don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly, we’ve given themselves some sort of bar, to work towards.
Ashley: Yeah. Shall we announce our exciting changes coming up?
Sarah: We definitely should. So as we were kind of going over our goals, we did revisit the things that we’re doing to grow our with author platform. Like this podcast, we looked at our blog, because you know it has been a year now since we started our blog. And just kind of trying to assess what things are working for us, what things we enjoy, and where we want to head with them in the future. So, I don’t know whether… do you want to?
Ashley: I can explain. So both of us really enjoy recording these podcasts, whether or not you know a lot of you listen to them remains to be seen. But we enjoy recording them and it feels less like a chore, then sometimes writing our blog posts feel like. So we thought we might put a bit more energy into expanding our podcast, but unfortunately that means all take out a bit of time of our blog posts. So our blog posts are going to move from being weekly to bi weekly. So not too much of a change.
Sarah: Yeah, so you’ll hear from each of us like once a month, so I’ll write in one two week slot, and then there’ll be two weeks, and then Ashley write. So you can obviously see where we’re headed with that.
Ashley: And instead of that we’re going to start sort of expanding our podcast. So our usual podcast, so this one that you listen to today, will still continue monthly. But we’re going to be adding in some miniseries which will come out weekly, basically. Which means that in one given month, you will have our usual main podcast, plus one episode from each of our miniseries. So the first one of our miniseries, we are calling Creative Life, and it’s going to be about how we culture creativity in our everyday happenings and whatnot. I think we might leave the names of the other two… keep them under wraps until the next episode.
Sarah: We’re going to start in the new year doing this, so there’ll be probably, I think there’s a period of just over a week, I think that will set for the first Creative Life one to come out on… I think it’s the fourth? Because we’re going to change the day is other thing that we’re going to do. So rather having it coming out on Friday, when everyone’s sort of getting into the weekend and we figure you know, it’s easier for you to listen in the car during the week. So we’re moving it earlier on in the week but we didn’t want to have them too close together. So we just decided to start in the new year. And the first one is going to come out, sort of on in the night of the fourth. So by the Tuesday, the fifth, it will be available for you. That first Creative Life episode.
Ashley: Yes. And in that Creative Life episode, we’re going to be talking about how we can culture creativity through going out into nature. How does us being in the outdoors inspire creativity.
Sarah: Yes, very excited.
Ashley: It will be very exciting to talk about I think. I’m gonna enjoy it. Anyway, so I hope everyone enjoyed today’s podcast. There’s going to be some exciting changes in our podcast in the new year. Like always, if you have any mistakes of the month, please send them through. You can contact us through the contact form on our website, which is www.lindersoncreations.com, or you can get in touch through Instagram. Sarah’s fairly active on Instagram at moment. She will… I’m sure she’ll give you a timely response.
Sarah: And Facebook. Did we mention Facebook?
Ashley: And Facebook. I did not mention Facebook.
Sarah: If you listen on Apple podcasts, please rate and review our show. We would love to hear from you. And if you listen on another one, I know not all podcatchers have the ability to ratethe show, but if it does, please rate it and subscribe. Because we love having you here with us and speaking to you.
Ashley: Yes. Merry Christmas to everyone. I really hope wherever you are, that you can at least make the most of having a bit of a break from work. If you’re able to go to work. And catch up with family, whether it be in person or virtually. I’ll definitely be catching up with my sister virtually, because she’s in Canada so, I get that, as is most of my family. So yeah.
Sarah: So yeah, I was just gonna say Yeah. Merry Christmas, everyone and to those people who don’t celebrate Christmas just have a happy day!
Ashley: Happy writing everyone.