Thursday, January 31, 2013


Click images to enlarge.
The nurse asked me if the Joyce part of my name came from an old relative. We got to chatting how there's been a renaissance of old names. It occurred to us that only the middle-class names are popular, not working-class names such as Ethel, and that perhaps this was one way working-class history was being erased.

 We had a chat about comics, how many she read as a kid instead of TV. She also told me all about star signs: she was a virgo, like my son, with an obsessive desire for things to be just so. I'm a leo. We both talked about how we enjoy painting for fun. She said she likes to go to her beach house with a friend. I said I didn't have a beach house but my kids are always walking sand into our shed, ie our house, and that was more or less the same thing. And we compared our knees some more....

 Now, it occurs to me, he was probably wondering why I wrote Tuesday the 30th of January on the first page when it was actually Wednesday the 30th....dyscalculia strikes again!

Stuff Dutch People Say #32: Names that sound ridiculous in English.
 ...why I thought it was Tuesday?....

The End.

If you want to read more of my comics, you can here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Toe day

My daughter asked: "How can you write a comic about your toe when it's so short?"

But I did. And tweeted it page by page as I drew it. You can read it on twitter where you can find me as: RaeJFenton. Let me know what you think.

If you want to know how I ended up having toe surgery today, you can read the first comic in the mini saga here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hope in

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T'other Rachel, fellow blogger and poet, Rachel Fox has a new project, collecting "All Our Hopes and Dreams" (contact her with yours if you'd like them to appear on the blog). Today, I was lucky enough to have a piece about my hopes and dreams included there, along with a couple of pictures. See if you can recognise which of the kids on bikes is me (because t'other Rachel couldn't!)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Snow coincidence

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Though I've written lots on how I write, I've never written a blog post about "How To" write. I'll tell you why. Because other people have written them already. Hey, I'm all for making efficient use of my time. The reason I'm posting this is because I just finished the first draft of the novel I've been working on since August. (I actually wrote the first chapter back in July, from a plan I've been working on and mulling over since 2007, when I first arrived in New Zealand - hint there, folks). Wellsy, one way I've been spending the snatches of time I've had away from writing has been to read other novellists' posts/advice on the whole process.

One blog I'd highly recommend to anyone contemplating the novel journey is Tom Vowler's. His debut, What Lies Within, has just been published (my copy's ordered) which proves he knows what he's talking about.

I was struck by the similarities between Tom's analogy and the very impressively illustrated one in the most recent blog post of another talented writer, Dan Purdue.

And the whole sculpture analogy brings me back around to how I write, because bookending the writing of my first ever novel - now safely stored out of society's way, no fear - I studied to become an artist then a designer. During this time, as well as painting, I made sculpture and pots (like Grayson Perry). Here's one of mine. Coincidentally, it's inspired by a landscape under snow.

Which - I like tying up plot threads - brings me to my final where to go for "How To" for this post: Catherine McNamara's got some excellent advice on both novel and short story writing, and as she quotes in her most recent post "coincidences happen when you are on the right path". Here's hoping.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Salt order

Happy New Year all! Hope you all had a grand holiday. Despite appearing to have only read eleven books EVER, according to Goodreads, I have been gorging on literature, which could account for my poor blog output! The less said about that the better. Call me a slim volume. Therefore, what better way to kick off the New year than with a review?


Saltwater is Lane Ashfeldt’s debut fiction collection. As the title suggests, saltwater is the theme running through all the stories, whether it be sea or tears. There’s tragedy here, but not the morbid, hang your soul out to dry sort of tragedy. Boat trips go wrong, lives deviate unexpectedly from familiar and unplanned routes, and new places are discovered, but there is no drudgery. There is, however, a strong sense that life, like the sea, is unpredictable. 

Ashfeldt is extremely good at revealing the inner machinations of her characters. She writes with un-showy prose yet her characterisations are visceral, even when describing the sea, volcanoes, the road to Titirangi (I know well), these are things that matter, are tangible. These stories feel real. It is perhaps no surprise, then, some of them are based on real events: family histories and fictions indistinguishable and all the more fascinating for the boundary blur. 

In her own words, the author says:
“the title story, ‘SaltWater’, is a fictionalised version of a family story. In August 1940 my grandfather’s cargo ship the Loch Ryan was attacked by German fighter planes in the neutral waters of the Irish Sea. My mother was already born, so the fact I am here does not give away the ending. This is actually one of the very first stories I remember being told as a child. Though of course I’ve gone and changed it.”

It follows on perfectly from “The Boat Trip” in which pushed-aside, ordered-about run-around girl Nola is reluctantly invited on a boat trip with her sister Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s friend Róisín.
Captained by Róisín’s uncle, the boat trip changes Nola’s outlook (to say the least).
Indeed, all the stories in Saltwater flow from one another so effortlessly, the settings evoked so clearly, this collection reads almost cinematically.

A favourite story for me was the magic realist “Catching the Tap-Tap to Cayes de Jacmel”, particulary for the old woman who speaks to the story’s protagonist in a “hoarse whisper” as they encourage one another in the aftermath of an earthquake at a cinema. This story won a global Short Stories prize. It's easy to see why. 

Many writers would shy from broaching such subject matter, rightly so, but Ashfeldt manages to tell simply, stories of real and imagined lives with empathy and respect for her characters. 

Another favourite is “Pole House” where “authentic” and “inauthentic” kiwi experiences are juxtaposed when a woman leaves the Piha bach she shares with her kiwiana making boyfriend and heads into the city via Titirangi’s Scenic Drive. This story could have gone horribly wrong in the hands of a less skilled or culturally aware writer. But Ashfeldt writes with intelligence and integrity and it’s clear from the locations of her stories she is globe savvy. The result is as stand-out as the pole house described within it. 

The forbidden looms ever close in these fictions, yet often it is not doing as they are told that saves a character's life.

Ashfeldt writes of the sea so convincingly that her prose is imbued with the menace and familiarity of it, lending suspense and drama to many of these stories, keeping the reader hooked until the very last line. 

Finally, like the sea, it’s the familiarity of Ashfeldt’s characters combined with the unpredictability of these fictions that makes them so very readable. 

Available from Kindle for a special reduced price of $2.99 for January. 
And you can read more about Lane's grandparents - the inspiration for the first two stories in this collection - soon, here