Moneyland novel: young readers respond

Youngsters on Wattpad have been digging Moneyland, a novel created for youth readers in 2017 thanks to support from crowdfunders in Northland and beyond.

Head over to Wattpad, where Moneyland is free to read online chapter by chapter, and see the book from an audience’s perspective.

Some of the fan responses from Wattpad: 

“I thought it was a very good book. I liked the character progression of Eden, and I think your book was pretty accurate because most books are not realistic and everything ends up perfect.” – Anastasia_1019

“I just completed reading MONEYLAND. Loved the concept and also the the ending which is quite rare for me.” – RedheadNation201

“I personally thought it was brilliant!! I couldn’t put it down, the book came across as very realistic in the terms of what could happen if people were to be cut off from the outside world.”

– unicorn_sparkles99 


“I loved it ! I’ve been recommending it to my friends .I read plenty of wattpad books and none that I’ve chosen at random so far this month have left an impression and this one has. *time to fan girl a bit* Pretty sweet writing and I liked how your ideas came to life on the page. I hated people and then loved them […] A book that’s made me look and my friendships and freak out a bit but otherwise as I stated earlier.I loved it !!”

– reader Nai_Lanie 


“WOW! … I found the connection to real life, with politics and class systems relatable. The messaging around value/money and people, very deep! I shed a tear as Eden came to the end of her journey in the dome… You told the uncomfortable scenes vividly. It wasn’t obvious that something bad was about to happen, or at least how bad the death would be. I can’t read this stuff usually, I’m more positive and fluff haha, but the way it was written you couldn’t stop reading it!”

– Kelly Stratford


“I’m deffinitly absorbed in it now… It establishes the privilege or lack of that the characters have had most of their lives. Eden is very unlikable, thats what made it hard to get in to but once it moves forward you still hate her but you really want to know what happens next. Its intelligent to read and well written, each of the characters has their own voice and dont appear to fall under one tone of the “writers voice”. The mumshine thing is great. Makes me want to call my mum that. It has everything a young adult novel needs but its not shoved in your face. Like the love story goes in between side characters not the main one.”

– Aroha Bell

“I’m on chapter 40 now and i absolutely LOVE it!!! I really don’t know how it will end but the changes and struggle eden has endured is amazing. Having been a teen mom myself i really related to that but also could not imagine doing all the things she has done in that environment. Watson is so weird yet lovely but i hope he doesnt take hope and i hope eden and hope get to see mumshine again. I cried over omar!

Ahhh i just really love it and know no matter what happens it will be great! I am such a fan of your writing style and storytelling!

Loved it. Love it. Thank you for sharing!! I have been going through some rough stuff lately but having something good to read has helped a lot. I hope its okay i have recommended it to everyone i know haha! “

– Haley O’Connor


“Moneyland is a well-written, engaging and clever novel. As such, there is not much that needs to be improved on or changed. 

There are only minor inconsistencies with the novel. The story flows well and is written purposefully. The characters are well-developed and believable. The main character Eden follows the arc of a true protagonist […] Esther, on the other hand, is quite a contradictory character, who at times acts as in a caring motherly way towards the group, but at other times can be quite cruel. I personally found them to be slightly confusing, but they do not in any way distract from the story and the other characters.

The strongest part of the novel is perhaps the ending. It is clever and engages the reader well beyond the last page of the novel. ‘Moneyland’ is a novel that deserves to be published and should make the author proud of his accomplishment.”

– Irena Ljubobratovic 


#dystopia #biodome #money #moneyland #millionaire #dystopian #artificialintelligence #dictator #food #foodscarcity #starvation #featured

There has also been a recent review of Moneyland on Bobs Book Blog…

Moneyland by Michael Botur. Pub. 2017. 

This book for high school students and young adults will give you a bit of a jolt. The language is choice in places and it is about some of the most loathsome teenagers I have ever read about.

The scenario is a good one though. Take a group of teenagers, give them a million dollars each and put them under a glass dome world for a year to fend for themselves. Can they do it without imploding?

The novel starts with the words being spat out like the author was in a fit of pique and it keeps up a torrid pace. Eden is a teenager who wants to lose her virginity and get the million bucks and have a cushy life. She may very well get the first option but the cushy life is way off the mark.

All the characters are shockers. They bully, talk badly to each other, have no sense of direction, have no clues of how to organise themselves, have no loyalty and basically deserve what is coming to them. Did they have a choice? Well it is set in 2037 in a World dominated by robots and mechanical Artificial Intelligence beings. Most humans have no work and no future and divided into two camps – Mech lovers or luddites. Perhaps this is a dystopian future.

Ideas in this novel seem to be drawn from Stephen kings TV series The Dome and William Goldings Lord of the Flies with the language spoken by the characters much like Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.

I did like the novel but English teachers are probably going to throw their arms in the air in horror. Check it out some will love it. It is totally irreverent.

Where you can get yourself a copy of Moneyland:


POEM ‘Rivers of Silver’ by Natalya Newman

The rivers ran with silver,
In the dwarven kings’ domain,
But then, but then,
The invaders came.

Far beneath
The places orcs creep.
A battle rages.
Blade against blade
Metal singing out in protest.
Magic burning holes
And killing many.
Wounding many more
In a struggle for victory.
Blood flowed freely
From the wounds that burned and bled.
The loss was great but surely,
Loss for a good cause
To ward off the invaders
That invade our humble home.
Our mines that we have worked on
For countless years and more,
Treasures untold in our caverns,
Gems and silver and gold.
But the invaders won out in the end,
Driving us from our home,
Now as we wander the lands,
We wonder the lands alone.
None would take us in and help,
None would save us.
So we built a shelter,
Which grew into a camp.
The camp grew and thrived,
And grew into a town.
The town was successful,
And grew into a fortress.
We grew and thrived as people,
And many years after,
We marched from our home,
Joyful, filled with laughter.
We then reclaimed our homeland,
As the invaders did before,
Those many years ago,
When the rivers ran with crimson,
Within the boundaries of our home.


“I have lived in many places and met many people. I used to live in England and moved to NZ around 7 years ago. I have live in Ararimu, Dairy Flat, Pirongia, and finally, Matapouri. Northland is a beautiful place and I have met great people here.” – Natalya Newman


New novel: ‘Baby’ by Annaleese Jochems

‘Cynthia can understand how Anahera feels just by looking at her body.’

Cynthia is twenty-one, bored and desperately waiting for something big to happen. Her striking fitness instructor, Anahera, is ready to throw in the towel on her job and marriage. With stolen money and a dog in tow they run away and buy ‘Baby’, an old boat docked in the Bay of Islands, where Cynthia dreams they will live in a state of love. But strange events on an empty island turn their life together in a different direction.

Baby is a sunburnt psychological thriller of obsession and escape by one of the most exciting new voices in New Zealand fiction.


Northlander Annaleese Jochems released her debut novel towards the end of 2017 and it’s been receiving rave reviews (

Annaleese, who grew up in Maramaku and Pakaraka and now lives in Wellington, is proof of how far Northlanders can go.

Born in 1994, attended Okaihau College. Annaleese won the 2016 Adam Prize from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Annaleese says she likes writing about the north “because it’s my home and because the colours there are better than anywhere else.”


Buy the book. ISBN: 9781776561667

baby cover

Sample chapters 16-17:



They’re having a fabulous conversation, where words mean more than they do, and everything is true. ‘We don’t always understand each other,’ Anahera has said, very frankly, and Cynthia has nodded.

Now Cynthia adds, ‘We don’t, no, no, we don’t,’ and she laughs. ‘We’re very different, but I try, and you try, and that’s what counts.’

Anahera sips her rum, and nods. They look at each other, and this is what Cynthia has always wanted to feel—that by making eye-contact with a dear, special person, she might become eternal. She feels it now, she feels herself expanding, and the enormous water laps at their boat from below.

The sun returns to them stronger with each day, and Cynthia stops counting them. Quickly, they finish the first bottle of rum, and Anahera produces a second. They lie close, nearly on top of each other, and at every full stop, between the sentences in Cynthia’s romance novels, she imagines rolling over, against Anahera, and telling her the dirty, truthful facts of her desire. Sometimes, Anahera herself rolls over and she says nothing, but Cynthia thinks her eyes press forward, like fingers. She’s sure they both know, and are both waiting.

Cynthia could list her needs, and all of them are love. She could list what she’s paid, given and sacrificed to Anahera, and it’s so much more than money now. It’s everything.

Anahera’s swims are longer, twice as long. But Cynthia’s happy for her—she must be even fitter!—and the time between them seems to have expanded. When Anahera’s gone, Cynthia remembers Snot-head and wonders where he might be. She plucks herself, looks in the mirror and feels sad, but each time Anahera returns she’s always pleased, and beautiful again.




They’re re-reading their books now, which is a bit boring, but in a lovely, predictable way. Anahera gets up, slowly and hardly using her arms to lift her weight, and goes around the side of the boat and into the toilet. Cynthia sits still and watches the door once she’s shut it. It takes Anahera less than three minutes to re-emerge. When she does, instead of returning to the sun and to Cynthia, she sits down at the table and looks into her phone, then types something. A message, she’s sent it. Then she looks up and sees Cynthia watching through the window. She looks back, and sets her shoulders.

This is the third time this has happened, but Cynthia knows that if asked, Anahera will assert her right to text whoever she likes. So, Cynthia rearranges her book in her lap, and peers down into it.

When Anahera’s settled back onto her belly and elbows to read, Cynthia gazes down into the parting of her hair, and sees it as a crevasse. She asks, ‘Where do you swim to?’

‘Oh,’ Anahera shuffles up, and points in the direction of an island. ‘There.’

‘To that beach?’ Cynthia asks.

‘Sometimes just towards it.’

Cynthia settles down to read then. She will not be unreasonable, she takes a glug of rum. Anahera has every right to send text messages, and visit a beach. ‘Do you want to watch The Newlywed Game with me tonight?’ she asks.

‘Yup, what’s that?’

The Newlywed Game is Cynthia’s current favourite. Some couples even got divorced because of it. They answer questions about each other, and have to predict each other’s answers to win. It’s good to watch on a phone, because the definition’s bad.


‘Salt Skin’ – novel by Bay of Islands author Michelle Rhodes

“Deep inside the ocean it is very still. After I drown there is a moment of nothingness. It lasts until I feel the broken shells beneath me and remember who I am. My name is Sunlight. My heart is beating. I’m alive.”


After a series of strange yet beautiful dreams, NorthTec student Michelle Rhodes asked herself two questions: What if a pale, water-breathing girl really did exist? And how was she going to bring her to life?Salt Skin by Michelle Rhodes cover

Salt Skin is the compelling tale of Sunlight West, a misfit teenager with an intense fear of the ocean. As Sunny learns more about her cursed bloodline, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about herself.

Rhodes drew inspiration for the paranormal novel from the Bay of Islands where she lives. While writing, she constantly reminded herself of her intention—to make an impossible concept feel believable.

When Sunny moves to the forgotten town of Procellae Bay, she doesn’t expect much. Plagued by devastating storms and shrouded in myth, it is a disturbing place. Amongst the shadowy residents, whispers flourish – of an ocean curse and ancient sacrifice – and the locals who trust in the old stories watch her, their chilling eyes laced with accusation.

Being back near the water is her ultimate fear. Haunted by the memory of nearly drowning as a child, she’s convinced the sea is calling her again. At night it breathes against her windows, luring her down to the moon-drenched tide and into the deep.

Mesmerising and unforgettable, Salt Skin will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Available on Amazon as both a paperback and e-book.

Website and blog:


For more information



“Thoroughly Enjoyable”

Compelling, well-paced plot that made the book hard to put down. Exceptionally vivid descriptions bring Procellae Bay to life.


“A Story with a Difference”

An enjoyable read, where a superstitious society goes to great lengths to hunt out the girl, a child of an angry sea god. Years of innocent deaths, of young girls with dark eyes and milky skin have plagued this seaside society and still, a curse has not been lifted.
A girl, Sunny West, is forced to move to this odd community. She hates the sea and moving to a seaside village could never be a place she would desire to live in. But upon moving to this place she meets Jake, the only reason she would be willing to stay. Although Jake, is not the true reason why she has come.
She finds dark secrets, not only about this community, but also about herself.
She learns that, in fact she is the girl they have been hunting for all these years. Will she survive here, once her secret is out, or will she be the next dead girl, with dark eyes and milky skin?


“Unexpected Twists”

This book draws you in from page one, completely unexpected twists in the plot. I am excited to read more from this talented writer.


“Stunning Read”

Absolutely LOVE this book and how original it is! I couldn’t put it down and know it would make a great movie. Beautifully descriptive. The drowning scenes especially have stuck with me. Characters are all unique and easy to relate to. Anyone reading this book will connect with them, I think. This author is definitely one to watch!



Sample of Salt Skin – Chapter One



When I was four I drowned.

For years I didn’t think about the events that had taken place on the lonely stretch of beach. I’d pushed them into the quietest part of my mind, where they stayed undisturbed for over a decade. But it seemed such things could never truly be forgotten, however much I wanted them to be.

I started having flashbacks that left me breathless, fearful. They were so real to me I could almost feel the sting of salt on my lips. Without warning I’d be pulled beneath the surface, struggling, helpless, watching bubbles burst like millions of diamonds around me.

I couldn’t understand why after all those years the shattered memory had begun putting itself back together.

As if something inside me needed to remember.



Chapter One


Despite the moonlight, when I looked across the field our house was lost to darkness. The pine forest behind it swayed in the wind and pushed shadows up over the roof. Inside, my mother and sisters slept.

I crossed the silver lawn, thinking it almost looked lovely. During the day it was merely a dying stretch of grass. I slunk around the side of the house, climbed a giant pine, and clambered through my open window. Nothing ever happened on my night-time missions. Sometimes my friend Miriam and I would jump the fence that separated us from the abandoned factories and drink cheap wine. Usually I just went walking.

Still wide awake, I plugged in my speakers and climbed onto the roof. My coffee intake that day had been excessive. I should have been finishing my English essay, but I pushed that thought aside. Lying back against the lichen-covered tiles, I watched the moon rise high above the trees and flood everything with light. It clung to my clothes and to the branches that pressed against my windows.

I stared out across the lawn, then behind me to the dark forest, and the familiar sense of urgency that I should have been elsewhere clawed at me. It was a strange sensation, a pulling of sorts, only I didn’t know how to follow it. More than anything I wanted to, but it was much more complicated than getting in my car and driving towards the horizon. My heart began beating recklessly because I was aware of missing something vitally important. The moon always did this to me.



“Sunny?” Brie’s whisper jolted me awake.

I was momentarily blinded by the morning light, and the room tipped as I tried to untangle myself from a particularly disturbing dream. What time was it?

When I realised it was still early I took a steadying breath and flopped back onto the pillows.

My younger sister eased the door open, which made it creak even louder than usual. I tried to ignore her. She inched into the room, tripped over a half-finished cup of coffee and landed in a heap on the ground.

“Morning,” I sighed.

“Sorry if I woke you,” and because she genuinely meant it I couldn’t be angry.

She threw open the wardrobe, and I watched her methodically sift through my clothes, looking for an outfit. The hangers clinked against each other as she chattered, and her conversation moved so quickly I found it hard to keep up. When she mentioned a boy’s name I groaned inwardly. Had Mum’s countless failed relationships had no impact on her at all?

“Perfect!” She yanked a top from my wardrobe.

I sat up, pressed my fingers to my temples and peered in the mirror. Sleep had evaded me until the moon was low in the western sky. It showed in dark circles beneath my eyes, making my skin appear paler and my irises even blacker.

Tonight would be no different.



Outside it had started raining. I heaped an extra spoonful of coffee into the filter, slumped at the counter and tried not to remember my dream. But it followed me all morning, coming back in fleeting, disjointed fragments. I’d dreamed of an ocean that was dangerous and rough. It shouldn’t have unsettled me as much as it did.

Rain splattered against the kitchen windows and flooded the shallow drains in our driveway. Maybe tonight there would be enough cloud to hide the moon. Mum had already gone to work and she’d left a letter that had come for me where I’d see it—tucked under the corner of the coffee machine. I didn’t need to open it to know who it was from. I had a stack of others, all in the same careful writing, put away in a drawer upstairs. They were from a grandmother I’d never meet, and I knew this one would contain the same question as all the others—would I please visit? I’d responded once, years and years ago, explaining it was difficult because we lived so far apart. But she’d ignored my excuse and kept writing. I ran my fingers over my name. Sunlight West; not ideal for someone who wanted to blend in. I stuffed the envelope in my bag before Brie could ask questions and looked towards the mess she was creating in the lounge.

“Where are those boots with all the buckles?” she called, and I looked down at my feet.

“You mean my boots that I wear every day?” They were heavy and scuffed and gave the impression I might sing in a punk rock band. Brie looked so gloomy amongst the mountain of flats and stilettos that I sighed and switched them for an even older pair of Converses. We ran through torrential rain to my car.

I drive an old Mustang with cracked leather bench seats and a big soft top that folds back. Even though I had nowhere to go, it was freeing to think I could fill the boot with clothes and leave if I wanted to. It made me feel less claustrophobic.

Brie slid in beside me and shook out her caramel-coloured hair. Usually she would have pushed back the roof to let the wind stream in, but not today. I backed out of the driveway and pulled onto the main road while Brie went through my minimal collection of makeup. She was piling on loads of mascara and too much lip gloss when we approached the busy bus stop.

Our sister Emily, who’s a year older than me, deliberately looked away from us, the smoke from her cigarette a halo above her. I rolled down the windows and turned the volume on the stereo right up so she’d hear it. Brie stuffed her fingers in her ears as I blasted the Rolling Stones.

I saw Emily glaring at us in the rear-view mirror as we passed. She was so bitter. Even though she didn’t have a licence, the fact that Mum had given me the car had been at the heart of countless arguments since, and Emily refused to let me drive her to school—or anywhere. At the time I sat my licence, I hadn’t given the possibility of owning a car any thought—the Mustang had been parked and covered in the garage my whole life. Sometimes if something is in one place long enough you stop noticing it. When Mum pressed the key into my palm, smiling, it had taken me a moment to understand the gesture.

At school I was restless yet tired; a frustrating combination. I stumbled through the corridors and fell asleep in history. The teachers frowned as I carved my name into the leather surface of my diary. West—the only thing my father had given me. That’s if you weren’t counting yet another reason why I don’t trust men.

I can’t remember him because he left when I was very small. I arrived when Mum was living in a caravan and growing sunflowers for a living. She had a mane of blonde hair and wore rings on every finger—I’ve seen photos. Emily’s dad had disappeared a year before that, and I often wondered how Mum dealt with all the abandonment.

She got rid of her incense and tie-dyed skirts as if she could shed those days like a cicada does its skin. Perhaps if she’d realised her hippy days wouldn’t last she would have named me something simple the way she had my sisters. Ironically, anyone in my blonde-haired, blue-eyed family would suit the name Sunlight better than me.



It was the next day, after another night of outlandish dreaming, that Mum told us we were moving. I had yawned my way through school, despite all the caffeine I’d consumed, and made plans to hang thick blankets at my windows the minute I got home. Maybe it would help, maybe it wouldn’t. I swear the moon can affect people; I’ve believed that ever since I googled lunacy.

In the rear-view mirror my face was washed out and tired-looking, my eyes the colour of Coca-Cola. The moon was already rising—huge and pale against the afternoon sky—and somehow I just knew I was in the wrong place.

As we sat waiting for the lights to change, I stared at my reflection until I didn’t recognise myself. Panic swelled in my chest. How long had I felt this way? The traffic light glowed green and I floored it to the front of a long line of cars.

If I’d known what was awaiting me at home, I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry.



I sensed something had changed the instant my fingers touched the cool handle of our front door. Inside, the atmosphere was stretched tight as if the house knew something I didn’t. I paused before entering the kitchen, listening. I couldn’t hear any heated conversations or the shuddering of door frames but for the first time in years, Mum was home before us. She was perched awkwardly on the couch, her mismatched socks distracting me for a second.

“Hey.” I slung my bag over the back of a chair and glanced around the room. Emily lay, oblivious to everything, on a threadbare rug that adorned the cold floor. Brie bounded past me to the fridge.

“So, guess what?” Mum said as she brushed her fringe out of her eyes.

I braced myself, hoping she didn’t have yet another man she wanted us to meet—and perhaps Emily was thinking the same thing because she finally looked up from her magazine, eyes full of suspicion. I knew, to some extent, she resented Mum for her bad choices. We’d witnessed her heart break more times than we could count, and it was because of her I’d learnt to guard my own so closely.

“You’ve got another date?” my sister muttered tactlessly, but Mum’s next words weren’t what any of us were expecting.

“I’ve been transferred. We’re moving.”

“What?” Emily spat, but Mum ignored her and instead flicked me an anxious glance.

My heart missed a beat when I saw the uncertainty on her face. There was only one place in the world that could be worse than here, and I looked at her in horror. “No!” But I already knew the answer was yes.

Emily found her argument before I did. “What about my friends?” she demanded. “I just made the cheer team, or did you forget that? If you paid even a fraction of attention—”

“Where are we going?” I interrupted, and suddenly all our eyes were on Mum.

“Way up north to a place called Procellae Bay. We have a house waiting for us right on the beach.”

My chest tightened and I drew in a sharp breath of air. “As in beside the ocean?” I asked stupidly. When she nodded, the room closed in on me.

“That sounds so romantic!” Brie gushed, twirling excitedly towards the stairs, her head no doubt full of sunshine and shirtless boys. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she was going in search of her suitcase.

“Romantic?” Emily didn’t try to hide the hysteria in her voice. “It sounds like something out of a bad Shakespeare play!”

“This is the position I’ve been waiting for! I’ll be practically running the radiology department up there.” Mum came to stand behind me so she could gather my dark hair into her hands. “I’m sorry, Sunny. I know how you feel about the ocean.”

But she couldn’t have. Not if she was suggesting this.

An almighty crash from upstairs distracted us, and I knew the contents of Brie’s wardrobe had just avalanched into the hallway.

“I need a new bikini!” she called seconds later. I sighed, turning back to Mum who still stared at me guiltily.

“It’s fine, really.” I forced a smile and cleared the table so she couldn’t see my face. I’m a terrible liar.



Later, in the sanctuary of my bedroom, I paced mindlessly, stopping every now and then to gaze out at the wet pines. Drops of rain clung to the needles like tiny fairy lights, and I was bewildered to realise I’d rather stay in this mind-numbing field than move anywhere near the ocean.

Just twice I’d seen it, a glorious expanse of blues and purples that seemed to go on forever. Mum said I was mesmerised by it that first time, my four-year-old self completely enraptured. We’d gotten up before it was light to drive the long, winding road out to the coast. I remember how hot the sand had been and hearing the gulls screaming through the sky. Emily and I had been making castles out of sea foam and then … what exactly?

I shuddered. If the memory alone troubled me, how was I going to live a normal life with the ocean breathing on my windows? I picked up my car keys, called out to whoever was listening that I was going to work on an art project, and stepped into the night.



I didn’t even take art but I don’t think Mum knew that. Brie had given me a calculating look from the couch but stayed quiet. She’s great like that. I always wondered how she had so much compassion when Emily often had none.

I drove aimlessly. As the landscape darkened and disappeared, my thoughts took over. Under different circumstances I would have been excited to leave this place.

If only they’d transferred her anywhere else. But Mum wasn’t to know just how frequently I revisited that day from my childhood, or the dread that accompanied me when I did. Sometimes I felt detached, unsure how to fill my days when I’d been so close to not having a future at all. But I couldn’t tell her that—I hardly understood it myself and didn’t want her to worry.

A house on the beach …

As a fresh wave of panic crept up on me, I fumbled around for a CD and slipped it into the player. The Cure came darkly back at me through the speakers, and I turned it up loud to try to block out my mind and the growing sense of unease that had taken over my body. Above the music, I imagined I could hear the haunting call of seabirds and a sighing ocean. Paramedics had called my time of death at eleven minutes past eleven on that desolate beach thirteen years ago. They say I’m a seventeen-year-old miracle child, but really I’m still drifting.



When I got home I flicked off the porch light Mum had left on for me and pushed the door open. The house was warm and smelled like herbal tea. I brushed my teeth quietly and made my way upstairs. Brie was settled on my duvet, yawning sleepily. “How’s your art going?” she asked with a lopsided grin.

“I just needed to go for a drive,” I said wearily, dropping my keys onto the dressing table and peeling off my jeans.

Brie hugged a pillow to her chest. “Emily told Mum she’s not coming.”

“Oh, okay.” This didn’t surprise me.

“Are you all right?” she asked, her pretty features all serious now.

“Yes.” I pulled on my pyjamas, hoping she’d take the hint and go to bed, but she was still staring at me.

I cupped my hands on either side of her worried face, wishing she wasn’t so hard to lie to. “Brie, I’m fine.”

“Are you scared about moving?” For fourteen she sure seemed to have everything worked out.




That night the ocean came for me in a starless dream. I walked beneath a giant moon, my feet sinking into wet sand with every slow step. The water tied ancient ropes around my ankles, and even though I knew I shouldn’t, I went deeper. It was so pretty, so persuasive. If I listened closely enough it whispered my name.

I tripped and the waves rose up to catch me. Fear pulsed through me; the kind that should only accompany something truly terrible, not just a regular nightmare. I was swept out, pulled under; saltwater poured into my lungs. I tried to claw my way to the surface and woke up screaming, a foreign word on the tip of my tongue.

“Pytheus,” I whispered, and was afraid because I didn’t know what it was or where it came from. Rain was beating relentlessly against my windows, and I could just make out the dark shapes of the pine trees being pummelled by the wind. I unravelled my twisted sheets and took a ragged breath, thankful that tomorrow was the weekend.

I was getting used to these dreams, as terrifying as they were.



On Monday I woke with a headache and only got up because I needed to drive Brie to school and empty out my locker. We weren’t leaving for a few days but I’d decided my time there was over. I’d been getting straight As up until recently, but at some point my concentration had floated far off into the universe where it had dispersed and become unreachable. I repeatedly told myself that change was good; however, during a painfully dull history lesson my fears escalated. The ocean swirled across the classroom floor and filled the building with strange noises. I tried to shake the memory but I was no longer sitting at school in a room full of others. I was four again, wading into the water in my little white dress …

Storm clouds floated dark and ghost-like across the sky. The way Mum told it, the beautiful morning turned bad within a matter of minutes. Before the waves had reached up to pull me under, an unnatural stillness came over the bay. Then the wind started to blow, and rain lashed from the sky. Everything after that is a vague distortion of sirens and havoc and … pain. The pain in my chest had been unbearable.

I sucked in a deep breath as the classroom came back into focus. Mum’s recollection of what happened next plays like a movie in my head. The lifeguards pulled me, limp and white, from the ocean twenty minutes later. I imagined my small body laid out on the sand as they tried to bring me back. My pulse was deathly slow until eventually they couldn’t find it. They’d already pronounced me dead when I came to. The doctors said I would never recover, that the brain damage would be too severe—yet I was back to normal the following week. Mum said people called me her little mermaid. I shuddered as the bell rang, and headed for the lockers.

Brie was there swapping books. Her locker was a collage of photos and colourful stickers, and I knew she wouldn’t empty it until the last minute. I punched in my combination and waited for the door to open, but it didn’t. I looked around for any teachers and then started pounding on it with my fist. They hated me doing that. There was a dent just below the keypad from where I had done it so many times, and the person before me too. It swung open and I was greeted with the usual dull grey space. The only decorating my locker had ever undergone was when Miriam had tagged our names across the back of it with a purple marker.

She was the one person I’d miss when we left. Even though we had nothing in common she was like a sister to me—not that I needed another one. When I’d told her I was leaving she’d offered to give me a tattoo so I wouldn’t forget her, but I had gently refused.

I emptied my locker of rubbish, swept my stack of books into my open bag and let the door bang loudly shut.

“Do you think Em really will stay?” Brie asked, and from the window I could see her on the field. She was jumping around in a tiny skirt, clutching red and white pompoms as if they were her lifeline.

This was Emily’s second attempt at her final year. Mum had begged her to try again, and I think the only reason she’d agreed was because some of her friends had also been held back. It wasn’t about grades for Emily, but a social life.

Brie was looking at me, wanting an answer, and I shrugged. Emily was still adamant she’d be staying in the city with her boyfriend. She and Mum had argued about it all weekend.

“I feel sorry for her in a way,” Brie said, and I knew what she meant. I’d once heard a teacher say to Mum she’d never met three sisters who were so completely different.

I blame it on our fathers.



In the days leading up to our move, I got up early, chucked an empty schoolbag on the back seat of my car and drove Brie to school. Then I snuck home. I knew Mum wouldn’t approve of me missing even a single class. She was big on things like that. Her education had been disorderly, her twenties much the same, and she wanted better for us.

I parked the Mustang, peered through the garage window to double-check that Mum had actually left, then stretched in the early morning sun. My moment of peace didn’t last long. The kitchen window was thrown open and the smell of cigarettes burnt the air; beyond it, Emily shouted incoherently.

I stomped inside and slammed the door, expecting her to head for the stairs when she realised I’d come home. Instead she stayed put, sobbing, the tear-streaked phone clutched in her hand. I slipped past her, hoping she’d ignore me, but she started up when I was heaping spoonfuls of delicious, crushed beans into the coffee filter. “He’s cheating on me!”

When I reluctantly turned to face her she looked awful. Dark shadows sat beneath her eyes and only now did I notice how thin she’d gotten.

“Hayden?” I asked, and even though I’d thought him half decent, I wasn’t surprised. What surprised me was that she’d thought it could ever end well.

“With Chloe, my best friend! How could they do this to me?” Tears were streaming down her face, and I crossed the small space over to her and sat down.

“Probably quite easily,” I replied, vaguely recalling an exotic, skinny girl with legs that belonged on the runway. All she had talked about was her recent nose job and trip to Paris.

Emily looked up at me and for a moment I thought she was going to defend her, but instead she just nodded glumly.

“So where are you going once we’ve gone?” I asked, pouring her a coffee.

She looked at me like I’d asked the dumbest question. “I’m coming with you!”


“What about cheerleading?” I couldn’t make sense of her rash decisions and sudden mood changes.

“Trust me, when I’m finished with Chloe I won’t have a place on that team and I’ll want to be as far away from here as possible.”

I didn’t ask questions. “Well, Mum will be pleased.” It was all I could think to say.


Two writing courses in Whangarei run by Michael Botur and Diana Menefy, beginning February

Write Club: Fiction Writing Crash Course

Kamo High School, Community Education Whangarei (CEW)

Tuesdays 6-8.30pm, starts February 20

7 weeks –  $70
Written fiction is the dominant form of writing in the world. Behind every film, book, TV show, great speech, news report and website lies written text, pulled from the ordinary and turned into something extraordinary. Tutor Michael Botur is a much-published author of novels, short stories, poetry and journalism. Every week you will be encouraged to produce a fresh piece of creative writing and by the end of the course you will publish a book with your fellow students. Join this class and let Michael introduce you to the world of fiction​
Course ID: A430
Tutor: Michael Botur

Mike’s publications and experience –




Northland branch of NZ Society of Authors – One day writing workshop for beginners

Saturday 17 February 2018 – 9.00am to 4.30pm

Location: Whangarei, Sierra Motel26 Western Hills Dr, Whau Valley, Whangarei 0112.

Registration closes on 12th February for our fundraiser for the Northland Branch “Writing Workshop for Beginners” on 17 February.

We still need a few more people to register for us to go ahead with the workshop.  Who do you know who might be interested?  Please forward this to them.  Thank you!

Writing Workshop for Beginners – Whangarei
Tutor:  Diana Menefy – award winning author, experienced tutor, mentor/assessor for NZSA (PEN Inc.)
Fee for the day:  $50 – please prepay ASAP (deadline 12th February) to confirm your place.
Covering the basics of writing fiction – short story (including flash) and novel.
For payment details or more information contact:
Suzanne Chappell 

Short story ‘Diving’ by Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee is a writer, designer and photographer living in west Auckland. Hannah describes Northland as a second home. “Growing up in South Head, I could have swum to Pouto had my parents allowed it.”

Hannah’s whanau collectively own a home in Whakapirau which they refer to as their ‘Marae’ and her Granddad is buried at the local cemetery up the hill. Half of her cousins hail from Whangarei, and half of her childhood clothes came from the dump at Waiotira (where she also lived as a baby for a bit).



Foraging was Emma’s favorite thing to do.  Fossicking through clearance bins, finding gems on op shop shelves and rummaging through dated items at the dairy were what brightened her days.  She scouted out the free courses she could apply to her degree (Te Reo Māori) and any free night classes she could apply to life (basic computing, cooking on a budget, introduction to mindfulness – all practical skills to have).

But the best feeling she got came from finding food.  Free food.  Cafe throw-aways, pilfered lemons from unwitting neighbours generous branches.  Discovering whether those random sprouting mushrooms were delicious, magical or poisonous, nicking unwatched bottles from exhibition openings – these were the things that really turned her on.  So when she met Eddie sparks flew.

Eddie had a key to a New World dumpster.  Not just any New World dumpster – the New World dumpster.  The one where those rich 60 hour a week $6 coffee slurping suckers shopped.  A former flatmate of Eddie’s was a manager there and ‘lost’ the key into Eddie’s happy hands.  Why this happened, Emma didn’t know.  And frankly, she really didn’t care.  All that mattered was that he had that key – she almost swooned at the thought of it.  She’d hit paydirt.

The first night she used the magic key they came back with a stack of still frozen ready meals: cordon bleu, cannelloni, beef stroganoff and a rainbow of curries – all still days off their best before date.  But she, as any other frugal foodie knows that meant they were fine.  Manufacturers set those dates on the inner limits of ‘best’ to minimise avoidable complaints and a tainted reputation.  They filled their backpacks and snuck back to her place to fuck on Emma’s manky couch, her freezer packed with gold.

The next night they swept the depths of Em’s new favorite store they found a large chocolate mud cake that had greased its casing from the inside leaving an unsightly smudge.  They freed it from its plastic prison and scoffed until their buttons popped then smeared the sticky remnants over their bodies in a hedonistic frenzy.

There were days where they dined on an assortment of cereals topped with lashings of unpopular toppings and sprinklings of nuts.  Occasionally there were cheese nights – where they hauled home still-cold hard fromage suffering from just a light smattering of mould.  They would compete to construct the most creative toasted sandwich and watch psychedelic films borrowed from the extensive University collection to enhance their cheese fed dreams.   And there were the ‘bread-man’ days.


It wasn’t all beer and skittles though.  There were a few times she’d sliced herself on broken glass inside the bin.  She’d torn her skirt climbing out once – but that was a rookie error.  She soon crafted a uniform better suited to the task (jeans, a fitted hoodie and sturdy Docs).  She’d had a crook gut from something or other a couple of times.  But this was just part of the risk that accompanied the pastime.  She thought of it as gut-training.  One day she would be immune to all forms of food poisoning and outlive everyone.

Actually, bad foods soon became part of the fun.  Throwing rancid passata and fetid fish off the side of the overpass turned out to be a laugh.  It meant the less successful missions were not completely in vain.  They could still delight in the splat and smash of glass onto the road below while they chortled hidden in the bushes.  It wasn’t your regular dinner and a movie date, but there were worse ways folk could get their kicks.

Until she met Eddie, Emma had never eaten (almost) fresh figs.  She’d never roasted fennel.  Until this point in time her diet mostly consisted of pies, chips, 2 minute noodles and day old baked goods.  She’d never even eaten miso or shitake mushrooms or peas that didn’t come from the freezer.  Being a full-time student wasn’t exactly lucrative.

In earlier life Emma’s family considered spaghetti bolognaise ‘gourmet’ .  And in their house it was when juxtaposed with the usual fare of sausages and frozen mixed veg.  When she was a kid they’d had to scrimp and save to just survive.  She had learnt what local weeds could stave off the hunger pains (nasturtium, puha, dandelion).  They’d mapped out where easy picking fruit trees grew and exactly when they came into season.  She was adept at looking hungry and sad when the primo lunchboxes opened up.

But in spite of Eddie’s endearing qualities (magical key), eventually her interest began to wane.  The truth was, besides the dumpster adventures they had little in common.  He was always ranting about poverty and sustainability and utilising collectives.  She could never go back to his place because he was currently squatting in an abandoned house – it was just too risky for him.  And he was teetering on the edge of going vegan which was just wrong because beggars could not be choosers.

By now her freezer was filled with gourmet meals, day old ciabatta, semi-squashed muffins and bag upon bag of premium dated soups.  Her cupboards homed countless crunchless cereals and snack foods and dented tins of exotic fruits.  She had gained about five kilos and fat sex just wasn’t cutting it.

So she decided to do the decent thing and call it quits.  And Eddie, with a steadfast metabolism, was fully aware of the magical qualities of that dumpster key.  Truth be told she wasn’t exactly the only chick he’d been taking out the back of New World.  And Emma was a bit of a drag.  She always wanted to go home early when he took her to parties, she didn’t take acid and she’d never heard of Heidegger even though he was completely relevant to her found object installation projects.  She’d basically saved him an awkward conversation.

And even though she had done the right thing, Eddie’s magical key was hard to beat.

So when she’d made her way through the snacks, meals and soups she was really hanging out for the next big thing.  She even considered getting back together with him, but having been broken up for a while now and she thought it might seem a bit ingenuine.  She’d also heard a rumour that the supermarket had started sprinkling broken glass liberally through the bin.  That sometimes they even had the temerity to poke slivers into the soft flesh of loaves of bread.  Fuckers.  Did they not understand this was how some people survived?

Having become acclimatised to having her diet so well supplemented, she had cut her food budget right back.  During the heyday of dumpster times she’d only had to invest in basics – the occasional onion, vegetable oil and sometimes margarine.  She resented the return to having to spend the little extra she got on food.  Every cent she wouldn’t have otherwise spent hurt a little bit more.

So she started collecting vegetable seeds from wherever she could bludge them and planted them in seedling trays she’d grabbed from the swaps bin out front of Kings Plant Barn.  She snuck into the community garden at night and filled little buckets with black earth.  Her water damaged window sills bowed with the weight of the multitude of green sprouts in varying states of growth.  She hadn’t really thought any further ahead than that.  I mean, she could keep some of them in pots on the deck.  But the problem with rentals was that you never knew when you’d have to uproot and leave, so her gardening could never go beyond the pot.

Maybe when the seedlings got bigger she would get a stand at the local Sunday market and make a few bucks selling them.  That would at least fund a few weeks of op shop trips.  Maybe somehow, she would breed the next big superfood and never have to worry about money again.  Not that she knew anything about plant breeding.  Yet.  Maybe she should look at changing her major again?

But the vegetable plan was all a bit slow.  There was no adrenaline in it.  Sure, it was kinda cool when the first little sprouts popped up, but after that, meh.  She started revisiting her old haunts at closing time: Muffin Break, Robert Harris, the coffee shop up the street from the flat but the pickings were slim.  There were a couple of soft touch newbies, but she knew this wouldn’t work long term.  And the rush wasn’t quite the same.

And then Emma had an epiphany.

She spent her entire weeks food budget ($16) on a couple of bottles of bubbly to celebrate.  She drank while she rummaged through her pantry searching for the most inedible, the most unusual, the most explosive residual bin foods.  She filled her back-pack with as much as she could comfortably carry, carefully stacking so as to keep everything intact ensuring there was room for her remaining bottle of Chardon.  She waited until dusk then filled with Dutch courage gapped it to the overbridge.

She didn’t need Eddie or his bullshit talk or his key.  She could be perfectly happy alone and this was the perfect way to say goodbye and move on.  She chugged hard on her bottle.  She didn’t need these things – the pomegranate molasses [hiff/splat/smash], the year ago expired red wine pasta sauce [tinkle], the totally stale cassava crisps which floated down to the motorway below like fat salty feathers.

She drank and she threw and she cackled and she drank.

She didn’t even need university.  She already had an education.  She just wanted the buzz and the thrill and all the free, free things.

She didn’t need any of that shit.  She had a new plan.

She threw each jar with purpose hoping for the screech of brakes, the crunch of twisting metal and people screaming.  Each jar bringing her closer to a 100% government subsidised lifestyle.



What’s on at NorthWrite 2018?

The NorthWrite 2018 programme has been planned to give participants renewed energy and drive for their writing. Presenters are all well-known within the New Zealand writing scene and we know you will learn much from their diverse talents, points of view and experiences. Northwrite 2018 image.PNG

NorthWrite runs from Saturday evening, 10 March, and through Sunday, 11 March. The Saturday night panel will be held at the NorthTec Apprentice Restaurant on the Ruamanga campus in Whangarei. Use Gate 3 (see map).  The workshops on Sunday will be held at the NorthTec Interactive Learning Centre, also on the Ruamanga campus. Use Gate 1.

NorthTec Map

The costs are as follows:

Saturday night panel:
All attendees $25

Sunday workshops:
NZSA members $75
Non-members $90

Registration opens 1 February. Lunch pre-orders will be available on the registration form.

The presenters: