#FlashFiction – “The Longer You Stay…”

Hello all. I know, I know, it’s been a month since I last posted anything here. Apparently my brain can only cope with one creative pursuit at a time and for a while, The Thornthwaite Inheritance: The Musical was taking up all my creative brain space. Doing an original musical was a new experience, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to pursue it. Not to mention that meeting my castmates and hanging out with them, both in rehearsal and outside of it, is pretty much what has got me through 2020.

The show closed last Friday, and then the weekend was spent packing things away and after-partying. Then on Monday, it was like a switch was flicked in my brain. Writing mojo was back. I just had no idea what to write (though I’ve been working on a few things).

Today my lovely friends at Swell Publications (who I also met thanks to Thornthwaite) posted the following writing prompt on their Facebook page:

“What are you doing here?!”

“What am I doing here? What are you doing here?!”

“It’s my funeral!”

I came up with an idea almost immediately, and couldn’t wait to get away from work so I could start working on it. The following story is the result. I did a quick proofread but it is basically a first (and only) draft so please forgive any weirdness on that front. It’s a sort of bittersweet ghost meet cute, which feels rather on brand for me. 😄 I hope you enjoy!

The Longer You Stay…

The girl can see him, which is Jake’s first sign that she’s different to everyone else in the chapel.

“Who are you?” he asks. “What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?” she retorts. “Isn’t there a heaven you should be getting to?”

Jake gestures to the crowd and the coffin on the raised platform at the front. “It’s my funeral. Thought I’d check it out, you know? See who showed up?”

The girl’s expression shifts almost instantly to sadness. “I’m so sorry, Jake.”

 “How do you know my name?”

She smiles, but her expression remains melancholy. “You haven’t changed a bit since Year Ten at Dickson Valley High.”

Jake takes a step towards her. He’s still not quite used to the weightlessness of being a ghost, and he travels slightly too close. He’s only a few inches from her face now, but he takes the opportunity to study her features before stepping back. Finally, a name comes to him.

“Mel Shepparton?” 

“The one and only.”

“You died eight years ago.”


“And now… what? You spend your time hanging around funeral homes?”

“Not all the time. Sometimes I just… get a feeling that there’s someone here I should show up for.”

“A feeling?”

“Did you know I had a massive crush on you when we were at school?”

She grins. Jake doesn’t know how to respond. They might technically be the same age, but Mel still looks like the teenager she was when she died. He hasn’t really thought about her in years, and now here she is, declaring that she once had feelings for him five minutes into the conversation.

“Sorry,” she says, sensing his discomfort. “I’ve embarrassed you.” She swiftly changes the subject. “Have you tried walking through a wall yet?”


It’s like she knows he hasn’t worked up to that yet. Despite being aware of his incorporeality, Jake has spent the first week of his afterlife trying to avoid situations that would remind him of his new state. Trying to walk without hovering above the ground has been challenge enough.

Mel has moved to the door at the back of the chapel. She’s standing there, waiting, one hand extended to him.

“Come on,” she says. “It’s fun.”

Slowly, he moves to join her at the back of the chapel. When he turns back to look at the crowd one last time, he realises he’s missed a fair chunk of the service. His mum is at the lectern, speaking about what he was like as a kid. His dad is with her, his arm around her shoulders. He hands her a tissue when she stops speaking due to the tears.

Jake feels something on his arm. When he looks down, he sees Mel’s hand there. Huh. So ghosts can touch other ghosts? They just can’t touch anything else. He looks up and meets her expectant gaze.

“The longer you stay,” she says, “the harder it will be to leave.”

Jake looks at his mum again. She’s composed herself and is speaking again, this time about how he ran away from home when he was five, but came back when he discovered the corner store was closed after dark and he couldn’t get the lollies he wanted.

Jake swallows. Mel is right, he realises. He can’t stay here, trying to cling onto his old life. He takes hold of Mel’s hand. She grins.

“Ready?” she asks.


With a lurch, she pulls him into the air and through the solid wood of the chapel door. For a second, Jake doesn’t know which way is up. Then he’s tumbling out the other side. Mel is waiting for him a little way down the path. He doesn’t try to walk this time; instead, pushes himself through the air and catches up with her in a second.

“This is just the start,” Mel says, a smile lighting up her face. She takes his hand again, and Jake let’s himself be pulled away.

Snippet Saturday – August 29, 2020

A small spiral0bound notebook being held between a thumb and forefingers. The text on the cover of the notebook reads "Snippet Saturday"
Snippet Saturday

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a month since I last updated here. I thought for a while that I was going to get back to my novel, but then I spent several weeks thinking about that and not having the energy to do anything about it.

I had thought if I were only to manage one 2020 Writing Goal, then “Finish the draft of the novel” should be it. But now I’m thinking maybe “Submit 4 short stories” is more doable.

So a week ago, I scouted Literarium for some places I could feasibly submit to, did some brainstorming, and now I’m working on a short story called Quiet for The Voyage Journal. I read a number of the stories on there when I was sussing out their style and I encourage you take a look! There is some really great YA short fiction on there.

The premise of Quiet is that my two main characters both hear others’ thoughts, whether they want to or not, but when they touch, it cancels out the power. I haven’t figured out all the world-building just yet, but the main issue is that any kind of magic/supernatural ability is unwelcome and children discovered with these powers are called witch-children. That’s where this paragraph comes in.

The circus is supposed to uplifting. A sign of hope. Look at the brave witch-kids putting on a show. Finding their way in their world. Making something of themselves. People will part with their money to gawp, but would any of them think about giving a witch-kid a job? A home? Would they spare a glance if they saw the same kid on the street?

Circuses and dragons really do seem to be all I’m writing about this year. I’m glad I have them both on the list on my homepage. 😂

I hope you enjoyed this one! Talk again soon!

Snippet Saturday – July 25, 2020

I’m scheduling this post because I’m running around a bit today – my birthday party is this afternoon! My birthday is actually tomorrow but I have a rehearsal for the musical I’m in… which will probably mean extra cake and stuff, and honestly, I love rehearsing… but also means there’s no opportunity to get together with a group of good people. Hence today.

I’m fortunate in that I’m able to get together with good people, and I am very grateful for that fact.

GIF description: Audrey Hepburn accepting an Academy Award. She is wearing a sleeveless floral, white dress. She says “I’m truly, truly grateful and terribly happy.”

But anyway, enough about that. Here is a snippet from my current untitled WIP. The dragon, Nanorae, has just unceremoniously dumped Gwen, the witch, onto her back so they can fly to where they need to be. Gwen is less than pleased.

“Rae, what are you doing?” Gwen shouted against the wind, struggling to find purchase for her feet anywhere along Rae’s scaly back. She eventually sat each foot in the space where Rae’s arms met her torso. She clamped her eyes shut. No way was she going to watch the village rapidly disappear below her. The air became colder and she shivered, trying not to let the involuntary movement loosen her grip on Nanorae’s neck. How high up were they that the temperature had changed that much? She didn’t dare open her eyes to check.

Rest assured that they do manage to reach their destination unscathed, but Gwen has to spend a few minutes getting the feeling back into her arms and legs, which were gripping Rae so tightly they all went numb.

I was hoping that I would have a first draft of this story knocked out by the end of this week, but that hasn’t happened for various reasons. I’m hoping another week at most, as my timeline’s pretty tight by the time I factor in beta readers and the like. Entries close August 31. This week is pretty quiet, so fingers crossed, but I can only do my best.

Talk again soon.

Snippet Saturday – July 11, 2020

Hello everyone!

I hope this week has treated you well.

The last few weeks I’ve been stressing about a short story competition. Protip: don’t enter a competition where you have to pay the sign-up fee before you find out the theme. It wasn’t a massive sign-up fee and I could have just let it go, but I wanted to submit something to justify my money. That was back on June 3, and I have finally submitted it today.

In celebration, here are the final lines from “Sign Me Up”, a story about three Russians trying to save some dragons:

“Is it always like this?” Natasha asked, breaking the silence.

“Like what?”

“Loud noises and flares and dragons trying to kill us even as we’re trying to save them?”

Mikhaila grinned. “Pretty much. You up for it?”

Natasha looked down at her hands. They were shaking now the adrenaline was wearing off. She looked back to Mikhaila and returned her grin.


Next week, I’ll return to the story I shared from last week. There will be more Gwendolyn Gummesh and stinky magic for you to enjoy!

Until then!

Snippet Saturday – July 04, 2020

In the interests of trying to blog with some kind of regularity, I am implementing Snippet Saturday. Not to be confused with Snippet Sunday, which is a fairly popular blog hop. I’m not good at blog hops; it’s better for me to just do my own thing. I can schedule a few of these at a time, meaning I hopefully won’t get behind.

To start, here are the opening lines from my new short story:

The entrails reeked of magic. Gwendolyn Gummesh grimaced as she poked the innards with a stick.

“And you really didn’t smell it?” she asked the dragon standing next to her.

I’m having fun with this story at the moment. I’ll have a bit more for you next week.

Happy 4th of July to my American friends, and Happy Saturday to the rest of you. Have a great rest of your weekend.

2020 Writing Goals – Mid-year Check-in

A photo with a phone, computer keyboard, headphones and a notebook and pen. The text reads "2020 Writing Goals"

At the start of this year, some writer friends and I chose a word as the theme for the coming 12 months. Mine was LEARN.

With everything that’s gone on in the past few months, I’ve been doing a fair amount of learning, not just about writing but life in general. Learning how to make work from home, well, work. Learning how to deal with two of us working from home and therefore being in each other’s space a lot more than usual. Learning how to fit creativity in around added stress levels (there has been a lot of ebb and flow).

Here we are at the halfway point in the year. In some ways, it feels like the last six months have dragged on beyond belief, and in other ways it feels like it has flown by. But it’s definitely a good time to check in on the goals I set myself at the start of the year.


  • Don’t sign up for any challenges with arbitrary goals, e.g. word count goals

Okay, I briefly did sign up for one. In April? No, I think it was May. It was a 500-words-a-day challenge, and I managed it for a little while but ran out of steam about halfway through the month. I’ve been doing a lot of “authoring” (what the #6amAusWriters group calls any non-literally-writing writing business) this year, so making sure I don’t get caught up in challenges has definitely bene important.

  • Submit stories to four anthologies or short story competitions

I’ve just got beta reader feedback back on what will be my third submission for the year. This will be going to Globe Soup’s 2020 Summer Short Story Competition. I signed up for this because I was feeling uncreative, and thought that the push of having to pay the sign-up fee before finding out what country was the theme for this year might have given me a good push. It turned out to be a country I know nothing about, so I don’t think the story is my best work. But still, it’s something I wrote. The results come out on July 22, so we’ll see.

I’m also working on a short story for the Scarlet Stiletto Awards, which are run by Sisters in Crime Australia. The rules are that all authors must be female-identifying, as must the main character in the story, and the story must involve a crime or mystery element of some sort (they are a crime-writing organisation after all). There’s a cross-genre category, so I am trying my hand at a fantasy mystery involving a stolen dragon egg.

  • Finish the first draft of Facing the Music

I guess I need to readjust this goal. I sort of consider the first draft finished, even though it isn’t complete. I made a spreadsheet with a short summary of every scene and the characters involved a little while ago. I realised I had a lot of filler scenes, and a lot of the plot has changed in my mind since I wrote the first draft. There didn’t seem to be much point in writing the ending and pretending I’d made all those changes before I had.

So once I finish my Scarlet Stiletto submission, my plan is to come back to this. I’m going to go back through the original spreadsheet and make a new one, getting rid of unnecessary scenes, adapt the ones that need adapting, and then start working on new content. Eeeeee!


  • Listen to two episodes of a writing or publishing podcast each week.
  • Complete Ingram Spark’s self-publishing short courses (there are three and all take under 2 hours to complete)
  • Complete self-publishing course on Australian Writers Centre.
  • Complete at least one other short course on self-publishing/book design (e.g. through LinkedIn Learning)

Given my spiel at the top of this post, it’s a shame the active learning goals I set myself have fallen off the radar a bit. To be honest, I’d completely forgotten these goals.

Having said that, I did do Bryan Cohen’s 5 Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge in April and I intend to participate again in July. This was why I was hoping to have A More Complicated Fairytale re-organised by July (see below). I have updated the blurb in the lead-up to the current challenge, so we’ll see if that affects sales.

I’m still booked in for Ellie Marney’s self-publishing boot camp, which was rescheduled to October, but I’ve still got no idea whether that will be offered online or whether I’ll be expected to travel down to Melbourne for it (and whether I’ll be willing to make that trip if it comes to it).

I’ll have to have a good think about how to work these other goals into my schedule.


  • Give A More Complicated Fairytale some love. 

I have registered with Thorpe-Bowker and have an ISBN assigned to A More Complicated Fairytale so that I can publish it outside of Amazon. I had plans of doing that in July but with July upon us, that might not happen yet. I need to finish re-formatting the paperback and still commission a cover before I can start publicising it. Still, progress is progress!

In the process of reformatting it, I’ve also been reading it for the first time since it was released in 2016. There are scenes I’d entirely forgotten! While I am sure that I could write the same book but better with the skills I’ve learned in the intervening time, I’m sticking to just lightly editing it. I don’t want to change it too much from what people have already read, but wow, past-Emily used a lot of weak and filler words!

  • Self-publish Operation: Sugarplum as an ebook once Christmas: Australis exclusivity period ends.

I’m actually intending to do this around Christmas time. Maybe late November or even early December. I could do a Christmas in July type release, but I think actual Christmas would be better. I’ve also got a sequel in progress that I’d like to have ready to go not too much later, maybe January/February. Fingers crossed I have that one ready by then.

  • Compile short stories that don’t get accepted elsewhere into my own collection (if some do get accepted, maybe this could be pushed out until other exclusivity periods end).

I said in my January 1 post that this goal would depend on a number of things such as whether any stories got accepted, how many I actually wrote, that sort of thing. At the moment I don’t really have enough for a collection and if I’m planning to get back to novel-writing after my current WIP, then I think this will have to wait a while. I can have it as a long-term goal.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Looking over everything now, I think I’ve actually had a pretty decent six months writing-wise. Given everything that’s going on in the world, it would have been easy to never pick up the metaphorical pen at all.

Here’s hoping for another six months of fair-to-decent progress and some finished WIPs!

Writing Update – 18 May 2020

Does anyone else feel like time is passing at twice its usual speed lately? I don’t know. I’m finding it all very confusing, and I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since my last post!

I’ve been doing some work on the A More Complicated Fairytale book description. When I was doing Bryan Cohen’s five-day Amazon Ads Profit Challenge last month, I realised how lacking my description was. There were no stakes at all! Nothing to make a reader smash that one-click purchase button! While I learned a lot in the April challenge, I’ve signed up to do it again when it runs in July, meaning I’ve got until then to get my re-launch ready.

I don’t know whether I mentioned here that I bought my first ten-pack of ISBNs recently, too? That certainly made me feel all professional author-like! Previously, AMCF has only ever been published through Amazon, so I just used the Amazon-supplied ISBNs. But now that I’m taking it wide, I need to look after that myself.

I’ve been also been adding words to my as yet untitled sequel to Operation: Sugarplum. I’ve realised that my antagonist is rather… un-antagonistic, so I’ve had to have a bit of a think and up the ante on this one.

Here’s an excerpt I posted on Facebook last week. A glitch in the game means Clara has woken up inside a non-player-character (NPC) in the virtual reality fairy tale game.

Max’s mind raced. He couldn’t wake Clara up outside the game. Almost like she was in an enchanted sleep… and here she was, in a Sleeping Beauty character, awake and walking around, as though the curse had never happened.
They’d been swapped.


Last but not least, I’m prepping my May newsletter to go out in the next few days. If you’d like to sign up, click here. You’ll get a free short story in the mail. 😉

That’s it from me for now. I’ll talk to you soon.

Sunday Summary – May 03

How can it be May already? After March dragged on forever, April seemed to be gone in the blink o an eye!

In spite of everything, April was a pretty good month in Chez Wrayburn. Working from home kicked in, which took away a lot of the stress we’had been feeling about having to still show up for work each day, either paying exorbitant parking fees or catching public transport.

It is getting incredibly cold here, which is making it hard to really stick to my usual 6am writing habits. But I’m at least getting myself in front of a keyboard by 6:30 on most weekday mornings, and usually before 7am. So it still counts! I think there will be more writing in bed as the season goes on.

I have been thinking about how to keep this blog active, and have come to the conclusion I’m not very good at blog hops… I’m good at blogging, but not hopping, and I have never felt comfortable with posting in such things and getting lovely responses to my own post then not returning the favour.

So I’m not going to to do any more of that.

I am going to still post excerpts from my drafts every now and then, and I thought it might be fun to do other things like “Typo of the week”, and I might cross-post my writing-related Instagram posts here, too.

I’m currently in the middle of a return to the Operation: Sugarplum sequel. I’m hoping I might have this finished in a couple more weeks. Before yesterday’s writing session, I was only about 2200 words in. I’m now closing in on 6000. Sugarplum was roughly 12000 words, and I suspect this one might be a bit longer.

In the past week, I’ve also revisited Facing the Music, and written myself a very basic summary of each chapter in the first draft. Even though the ending was very scattered, I’ve decided to start looking at it in terms of revisions and rewrites, and make a start on Draft 2. If it doesn’t happen before then, I might make it a July Camp NaNoWriMo project.

Before I sign off, since I mentioned it, here is the typo of the week:

Max lipped his lips before he opened his mouth.

I don’t know exactly what lip-lipping is, but I thought it sounded vaguely uncomfortable.

And with that, I take my leave. Until next time.

2020 Writing Goals – April Check-in

the start of this year, some writer friends and I chose a word as the theme for the coming 12 months. Mine was LEARN.

Now the start of the year feels like a million years ago, but actually, I’ve been ticking things off on this list more so than I thought. That’s why check-in posts are good. I’m only listing the goals I’ve made progress on here, but you can read my full list of goals here.


  • Submit stories to four anthologies or short story competitions – 2/4

I submitted to Cantina Publishing‘s upcoming anthology Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. This short story took over a month to get down on paper in a way I way happy with. If you were following my Weekend Writing Warriors posts in January and February, you would have read a few excerpts featuring my dragon hunters, Helena and Tori. The rebels Jules and Ada got edited out in the third draft, but I’ve filed the whole rebel story line away for a bigger WIP one day.

I didn’t get accepted for this one, but they received over 500 submissions, so I suspect I am probably in good company!

I also submitted my short story The Old Boy to The Big Issue Fiction Edition 2020. This went through 5 drafts when I submitted it for the Australian Fairy Tale Society’s anthology, South of the Sun, last year but I still found additions and edits to make before this new submission. A writer’s work is never done.


  • Listen to two episodes of a writing or publishing podcast each week.

This started out well but has fallen off in the last few months. Maybe I should put a few on while I’m working from home, get back into that way.

  • Complete Ingram Spark’s self-publishing short courses 1/3

So far I’ve completed the How to Self-Publish course. It’s very 101 and there wasn’t a lot in there that I didn’t already know, having been researching on and off for a while now as well as hanging out with a lot of indie authors. But it’s good to have that foundation, I suppose.

  • Complete at least one other short course on self-publishing/book design (e.g. through LinkedIn Learning)

I was booked in to do Ellie Marney’s self-publishing boot camp in Melbourne on the first weekend of April, but of course, that has been postponed. I’m not sure whether the intention is for it to be run online or in person but it has been moved to October, so I guess we’ll have to see what the situation is then.

This week I am doing Bryan Cohen’s five-day course on Amazon advertising. We’ve done “session 0”, i.e. prep work, so far and I feel like I’ve already learned a lot! I think this one’s going to be very useful.


(myself and my books)

  • Start mailing list
  • Set up author website

Well, here you are on emilywrayburn.com. One thing about everything being shut down is that I have a budget for things like domain registration, because I’m not spending it on theatre tickets. And the first issue of my newsletter went out on March 19, with the second one coming soon. So I guess I can tick off these two goals!


  • Give A More Complicated Fairytale some love. 

I’m actually thinking of doing a big relaunch for this book. It deserves it.

For a couple of reasons, I’ve decided I’d like a new cover and I’ve found a designer I’m going to approach.

I know that the description, keywords and categories on Amazon need a good revamp.

I also want to upload the paperback through Ingram Spark so that I can distribute it more widely, and get it printed in Australia. That requires buying ISBNs and things like that, so it’ll take some time.

So this is a project worthy of its own check-in posts, and I’m excited to take it forward.

So that’s where I am right now. Doesn’t look too bad when I see it all listed together here. I’ll check in again when I’ve got more to add.

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 08 – April 05, 2020

Weekend Writing Warriors

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

Uh… hi. Yes. It’s been a while. This year, right? Yikes…

But on a happier note, look, I have a real website! This is my first post for emilywrayburn.com rather than lettingthevoicesout.wordpress.com. Pretty psyched to finally get that set up. 🙂

Anyway. After a long hiatus, I have found myself writing the past couple of days. I pulled out my 2019 NaNoWriMo project, which I abandoned halfway through November in a fit of disgust… Funny what a few months can do because when I read over it on Friday night, I liked what I saw. Writing, huh?

This project is as yet untitled, but it is the sequel to my novelette, Operation: Sugarplum (find out more under the “My Books” tab above). I’ve rewritten the beginning, and here we have Clara and her boss as Clara prepared to leave for the day to go help Max out at Drosselmeier Industries.

“And you’re sure you’re not leaving me for a job with your video gamer boyfriend?”

Clara rolled her eyes at her boss. “Okay, first of all, he’s not my boyfriend. Second of all, I don’t have a clue about creating video games, I only play them. And as I have already told you this is a one-off. They needed an extra hand to supervise kids at the launch party tonight.”

Lacey still looked dubious. “You say that, but you’ve been spending an awful lot of time with him.”

She has her reasons, Lacey! Sure, “he’s cute and makes me laugh” might be some of them, but there are others, too! 😉

I’ll see you here again soon! Don’t forget to visit the other Weekend Writing Warriors at the link above.