Tag Archives: Writing

Flash Fiction

Fresh Figs: A small, yet delectable dessert; Flash Fiction: a small, yet delectable reading experience

Sheer and utter relief, those are the emotions you experience upon the completion of a story. No matter how short, no matter how long, the writing takes its toll.

I’ve just now finished a piece for this month’s Flash Frontier. Flash Frontier is a great site that supports writers of flash fiction both in New Zealand and internationally. It’s some time since they’ve published anything of mine, but it feels good to be finally getting back into writing after a couple of years off helping a friend with less creative writing work. In fact, for a while, I wondered if I’d ever be able to get started again.

Flash Frontier’s theme for March is ‘flora and fauna’. As usual the guidelines are non-restrictive; how you approach the theme is up to the author. This leads to a wide range of stories being submitted for consideration, and once published they make for thought-provoking reading. I think it’s magic that a simple topic can be interpreted in so many different ways.

I started my story the way I always start stories, with the germ of an idea. I’ve mentioned before that when it comes to writing, I’m a ‘pantser‘. This means that I “fly by the seat of my pants,” don’t plan out anything, or plan very little. I’m frequently surprised at where my stories end up. It’s as if the characters have been inside me all along, vying for the chance to share their experiences.

(The other type of writer, by the way, is a ‘plotter’. I think you can figure out for yourself how that kind of a writer works.)

If my story is successful you’ll be able to read it when Flash Frontier’s March edition is published. And if not, there will still be many excellent stories to enjoy. It’s definitely worth checking out every other month.

There’s actually a funny side to this particular project. The fiction published by Flash Frontier generally has a word limit of 250. Occasionally, there is a special 1000 word edition. For some reason I thought the March edition was one of those and I’d been working at shaving the final 10 or so words off my 1000 word version. Then I re-read the submission guidelines. Uh-oh!

It’s such good practice to cull huge chunks of unnecessary words out of a story.


Te Kōrero Ahi Kā

Jane Percival
Would you eat this sausage?

SpecFicNZ has included one of my short stories, The Mysterious Mr Montague, in their latest anthology, Te Kōrero Ahi Kā: To Speak of the Home Fires Burning.

Te Korero Ahi Ka - Cover 600
Te Kōrero Ahi Kā: To Speak of the Home Fires Burning.

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is an anthology of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, showcasing work from award-winning and emerging members of SpecFicNZ (New Zealand authors, poets, artists of speculative fiction).

About The Mysterious Mr Montague

It’s funny how the senses can enhance memories. The addition of a taste, a smell, or a touch, makes the memory more stable, somehow, transforming it into an easy-to-access snapshot of a place and a time that you visited; able to be examined whenever you wish.

A butcher’s shop has a particular smell. And the smell of such a shop in the 1970s is nothing like the odour of the meat section of a supermarket. It smelled of blood and sawdust. Rattling plastic strips kept out most of the flies, and in Summer, a lazy ceiling fan would push the air around, just a little.

If I smell fresh blood today, I’m transported back to my uncles’ shop. It, too, was situated in Kilbirnie, Wellington; but there, the similarity ends.

How to purchase the book

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is currently available from Amazon (for Kindle or Paperback) and The Book Depository. It may also soon be available in a bookshop near you.




Around the Block

An Autumn pomegranate, spilling seeds.

Around the Block, a flash fiction piece I wrote for Flash Frontier, has been published in their April edition.

Flash Frontier’s theme for April is ‘slow’ and as with other stories I’ve written, Around the Block is a fictional piece with its origins in my own experience. (In December 2015 I wrote about the mix of fact and fiction for Headland magazine, when they posed the question, “Do we write what we know?” in Seeds of a Story.)

I really enjoy reading flash fiction and I’m especially fond of the New Zealand variety – I like to read our own narratives. And reading a complete story restricted to a mere 250 words reminds me of the surprising burst of flavour you get when you bite into a tiny pomegranate seed.

I hope you’ll take the time to visit Slow. I think it’s fascinating to discover how other writers interpret a simple theme. And the stories pack plenty of punch!

A good piece of flash fiction should leave you thinking.

Or satisfied.

Or… well, I think you should find out for yourself.





The windows rattle.

Outside, the lawn is mottled with smashed leaves
from the cottonwood.
Flax pods heavy with rain thud against each other.
A tui clings for dear life, and is whisked away.

The Northeasterly is not kind to my garden.
Branches snap, flowers shred,
hens scatter.

It passes through the mosquito mesh.
Invisible fingers lift the tapa cloth off the wall
then let if fall.
I’m reminded of Nalauaki.

Torrential rain is its companion.
Waves break against the stainless steel flue.
A million tiny coral flecks rattling with shells.

It’s been so long since it’s been windy.
I’d almost forgotten.

Jane Percival, March 2016


Spooky Time of Year


The Bookshop

This year, Halloween coincided with NZ Bookshop Day.

To celebrate this fortuitous collision, Speculative Fiction NZ challenged its members to write a short story that combined the two. Imagine my delight when I heard that my submission, The Bookshop, had been placed second!

Three Spooky SpecFicNz Stories for NZ Bookshop Day

The Bookshop is about a woman, Charlotte, who returns to the home of her earliest memories, to try and make sense of her past. Once there, she must overcome her fears and fulfill her destiny.

When I started writing this story, I had a very clear picture of the bookshop itself. I knew that it was old and no longer occupied – it was spooky, after all. I pictured it as a smallish, stand-alone, two-storey, weatherboard building – run down and neglected. It had been empty for decades, and yet, there were still stacks of old books inside, along with the memories.

I tried to think about why the bookshop had been vacant for so many years… What (if anything) had happened, and when? It was a fun challenge!

The process of writing can be very much like a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are all the ideas battling for favour inside my head, waiting to be selected and placed within the frame that is the story itself.

Halloween Writing Competition


Spooky Bookshops Challenge

Check out SpecFicNZ’s ‘Spooky Bookshops‘ challenge.

This year, Halloween falls on NZ Bookshop Day. To celebrate this fortuitous collision, they are challenging members of SpecFicNZ to write short stories that combine the two.

Send them your stories of spooky bookshops, booky spooks, or spooked books and be in to win $100!


Length:      1000 – 2000 words
Deadline:   30 September 2015

Stories should feature both bookshops and Halloween/general spookiness.

Additional information about the challenge is available here.

About SpecFicNZ / How to join

Information about SpecFicNZ and how you can become a member is posted on their website.

Micro Madness



June 22nd is National Flash Fiction Day NZ.

The piece of flash fiction I submitted for consideration didn’t make the cut, but that’s how it goes with writing. The actual task of working towards something and fine-tuning your work, is an ongoing process, and it’s one that I do enjoy, even though I don’t have high expectations.

And when you do have a story accepted, no matter how small, it’s as exciting as winning a lottery.

This year, as part of the lead-up to National Flash Fiction, there has been a parallel celebration of micro fiction. Writers were asked to submit works of 100 words or less, and one story has been featured each day since June 1st.

Today my micro story, Blue is featured.

Members of my family will recognise that part of the story is drawn from my father’s experience as a child. That’s what I tend to do… write about things that have happened to me, or that I know about from friends or family.

If you are interested in hearing more about Micro Madness, National Radio’s Standing Room Only programme featured the following interview, yesterday at 1.00 pm.

Link to Micro Madness interview.

Poetry and Inspiration

Reacquainting myself with an old friend

I was enjoying reading I. K. Paterson-Harkness’s recent blog on Haiku and thought I’d post something of my own. My interest in poetry and the actual writing of poetry has been rekindled lately, to the extent that I’ve purchased a couple of books to get me back in the mode (or is it in the mood?).


One was Six Centuries of English Poetry Tennyson to Chaucer: Typical Selections from the Great Poets, (1892) by James Baldwin, and the other, Above the River: The Complete Poems, by (author) Professor James Wright.

I chose the first book to reacquaint myself with some of the works and the styles of the classic poets, some of whom I read decades ago, and others of whom I’m sorely ignorant.  And as is often the way for me, I heard one of James Wright’s poems being read last week on National Radio and liked it so much that it spurred me to purchase more of his work.

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in
Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

(James Wright)

Poetic Forms

Paul B. Janeczko, A Kick in the Head
Paul B. Janeczko, A Kick in the Head

Another book I’ve loved for years is Paul B. Janeczko’s, A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms (2005).  This book lists 29 different poetic forms and provides examples for each. I’d recommend it if you are interested in the challenge of some of the more complex styles.  The illustrations are neat, too.

Haiku from a Distant Summer

Here’s my Haiku offering… something I wrote way back in 1995 when I was living in St Leonards, Dunedin.

Dry parched hills
in the eyes of our cats
amber, gold and brown.

rapid fluting melody
I catch my breath
as they fly

Flax seeds
ripening broom pods
caught on the breeze

Arid creek
quiet noise
sunlight dulled by
brackish pool

Jane Percival
(March 1995)

Pantsers versus Planners

Driving home at dusk.
Driving home at dusk.  The waters of the Kaipara eerily luminous in the distance.  Rows of maize stretching out to the right.  Patches of dark Mānuka fringing the road.  The glow of the headlights on dusty gravel… I almost feel I could write something decent.

Water Baby

My daughter Immi approaches writing quite differently from me.  Apparently I’m a ‘Pantser‘ and this is quite true.  When I start a story I really don’t have much of an idea of where it’s going to end up.

I said I’d post a link when my short story, Water Baby, was published, so here it is…

Fiction on the Web, UK

Inspiration comes in flashes.  And is very elusive.  I might feel a surge of something when glimpsing a certain scene, but I haven’t worked out how to hold on to it.


Thoughts on Writing


Keeping on track

When you make the decision to take writing seriously, you are faced with the ‘grind’ of trying to write each day, and then not knowing if you are on the right track with your stories.

There is also the matter of personal confidence.  Creating anything involves giving up a part of yourself.  Whether you are a visual artist, an actor, a singer, a songwriter, or a practitioner of creativity of any kind… once you put a piece of yourself out there, or even express the desire to do so, then you are placing yourself in a position where people can (and will) comment on your offerings.

This is scary.  You have to move beyond self-doubt and the fear that whatever you do ‘won’t be good enough’.  You have to be able to say to yourself, ‘So what if it isn’t?’, and get on with it.


A mote of dust in a sandstorm

The internet has completely changed things for this hopeful author.  Where once I might have slaved alone for years over a book or a collection of short stories, I now have the opportunity to take some time-out.  I can respond to the challenges provided by the numerous sites that accept one-off pieces of work – from Drabbles, through Flash Fiction to the more familiar styles of writing.  All the while, still scribbling away at my longer projects.

Even so, I do this with the knowledge that there are immeasurable numbers of people out there working at the same thing.  It’s a world-wide market and I am just one tiny speck, one individual writer tapping away at the keyboard, trying to draw out my thoughts and weave them into something cohesive that I can express with a degree of eloquence.  I suppose the aim is to find my own original voice, amongst all the others.

It’s both exciting and depressing.  But the urge to write is strong.


Sharing a piece of yourself

Back in July I wrote a short story, ‘Water Baby’, for a project entitled ‘Strange Little Girls’.  Water Baby was unsuccessful for that market so I submitted it to a few other places and heard last week that it’s been accepted for an online publication.

This felt really good.  But I also experienced a secondary feeling that I was struggling to identify.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it was an infinitesimal feeling of loss.

Until a piece of writing is published, it’s all your own.  Then it’s out in that big, wide world, hopefully to be read by someone.  (That’s what you do it for, right?)

It will be dissected by some.  Dismissed by others.  Read and enjoyed by a few?  Maybe… I’d like to hope so.  But you’ve effectively given it up to the masses.  Your baby has grown up and left home.

And because it’s the age of the internet, feedback will be pretty damn quick.


(Water Baby will be published on 16 November and once it’s up, I’ll post a note about it.)

PS.  I know the ‘baby leaving home’ bit is corny, but that’s what it feels like. 🙂