A-Z challenge, books, Kotahi Bay

G is for Gods

godsAcross the world there are many cultures, many religions. Some embraced, others hidden, some obscured by time and history. While New Zealand is a relatively young country in terms of how long people have been here, there has still been enough time elapsed since colonization to erode and discourage Maori beliefs and customs. Due to a primarily oral language, there is much about Maori life pre-colonization which has been lost, and knowledge of spiritual customs is one of those things that seemed to be swept away by the early missionaries to New Zealand.

I can remember even back in primary school, only hearing about Maori as being involved with the missionaries and noted the lack of stories and information about their belief system and practices before then. While we were told the Maori creation stories, and heard other legends about primarily Maui, I was curious about the (what felt like) completely missing information on the ways in which Maori interacted with these gods and their beliefs prior to colonization.

As someone with Maori heritage, this has always made me feel uncomfortable, like there were gaps in my knowledge, like those gaps were difficult to close because it seemed like the information I wanted was just not available. So I guess you could say that part of my explorations in Kotahi Bay are a way of internally resolving that lack, of finding ways to reconnect with the Maori gods through creating my own truths and interpretations of those gods. While they don’t play a direct role in the stories for the most part, their presence is felt in the world through their children, and the essence of them is certainly there. What I feel to be their essence, grounded in their connectivity to the world in which we live in, from the sea to the sky, to the harvest fields and the depths of the forest, animals and plants alike.

I’ve actually used the creation story as a basis for the overarching plotline in the series, so if you go and read it, you might get some ideas – I am certainly not going to spell it out for you 😉

I’ll be introducing some of the gods who are connected with my series in future posts in a little more depth. Not all of them make an appearance, but a good portion of them do.

life, writing

Gods of the living world

Growing up in New Zealand it’s impossible not to be exposed to some Maori culture. It’s taught in the schools, and the growing belief in celebrating all the cultures represented by the people of our nation has meant that there has been somewhat of a resurgence in interest in Maori culture and mythology.

Long overdue, I say.

I admit, by the time I got to my mid teens I was sick to death of learning about it – but that was mostly because other people said it was uncool. My mother was going through something of a ‘born again Maori’ phase, and it irked me. What can I say, I was a bit of an angsty teen 😉 It took me growing up a little more to really appreciate my roots, my heritage, and even longer to dare to write stories that captured aspects of that culture.

One of the things I love most is the mythology surrounding the Maori gods – they are a part of the living world, the landscape. Papatuanuku is the goddess beneath our feet, and her husband, Ranginui is the sky father that spreads above our heads. Their children embody aspects of the world – the sea, the forests, the weather and so on. Their family tree is heavily dominated by gods, but there are a few goddeses in the mix.

I’ve always felt a deep connection to the land, especially to the land around where I live, where Mount Taranaki keeps watch over us, and the sea can be seen in almost every direction, and the wind can be so punishing, that it’s impossible not to believe their are entities inhabiting the sky. New Zealand is a magical place, and I’m blessed to live here.



Maori Mythology

Following on from yesterdays post, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite myths from Maori culture. I’ve been doing some reading, and trying to find a way to mash everything into one post, but I just can’t seem to do it.

So, instead I am going to post some of the images I have come across, and let them speak for themselves. I’ll preface that by saying that one of the things that has always really appealed to me about the myths and legends of the Maori is how deeply connected they are with the world around us. As a child who was very prone to floating away with the fairies, the earthly basis of these stories helped to keep me grounded and gave me a sense of wonder about the world around me.

Maori Mythology

I remember driving to Auckland and passing through gorges and hilly terrain, and my mother telling me that these sheer drops and blunt cliff faces were shaped by the sons of Papatuanuku and Ranginui when they tried to carve their way free from the small space between their parents.

Maori Mythology, New Zealand

And I remember staring at the Kaitake ranges near our house, looking for the shape of the woman who had laid down to rest and never got up (I was trying to find a myth about this and couldn’t, so perhaps its just a story my mother made up 😉 )

And perhaps it was this grounding of the otherworld firmly in the real world that helped feed my fantasies and drew me inevitably, endlessly towards speculative fiction.


Internal cultural conflict – my musings

In the last few weeks I have been thinking a lot of about culture – what it is, what it means to me, and how I can incorporate it better in my writing. And it all started with Playcentre.

I grew up as a Playcentre kid, and so it was natural for me to return with my own children, though it took me awhile to remember it was an option. We’ve been going for three terms now and it’s made a huge impact on me, and my kids (even helped in making our decision to home school Ivy). Recently I’ve been going to some workshops as I work my way towards achieving Course Two, and a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending one called ‘Celebrating Culture’ It was a two night course, and really threw me for quite a loop.

Why? Because I haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about culture in general, let alone my own. I’m very accepting of people from all walks of lives and while I find different ways of living interesting, I’ve been more inclined to look for the similarities than the differences.

This negatively impacts on my writing. I paint my stories in broad strokes and while this is okay, it means that many of them never really come to life, unless they are in a fairly modern setting. I’ve struggled with this for a while now, and in particular with finding that balance between too much culture (I’m sure you all know those books that spend so much time detailing the world that you start thinking ‘okay, okay, now when are we going to get back to the story!?’) and not enough.

Out of laziness, I have avoided working on it, but I can’t put it off any longer. I want my stories to jump off the page at you, I want to draw you in with my words and have you experience the story as if it were real.

Throughout the course I was fascinated as we talked about what we thought culture was, and what our personal cultures were. Through discussion I realized that actually, I’m not very ‘typical’ in some areas, and that many of the rules I was raised with (and have since passed on to my own children) are quite culture bound. Maori culture bound, that is. And I had been unable to see that.

You see, I AM part Maori. Ngai Tahu. And I’ve been to several hui down south, Bruce Bay, to be precise. I even have memories of practising for a powhiri, welcoming Prince Philip to the area (back then there was no marae, but a hall where the hui was held), searching for fool’s gold in the river, smoking eels over a rubbish drum, and flax weaving too. These are good memories.

I also remember arriving down there and having this feeling that I had come home, even though I’d never been there before and I was probably only 9 the first time. It is the home of my ancestors and somehow, even at that young age, and without anyone telling me what to expect, I felt that very deeply.

And yet, for much of my life I’ve been denying all of this. Because I grew up in a culture where being Maori wasn’t a good thing, and being a half-caste was worse. And I am actually kind of pale, and I don’t look like a Maori (and I’m only 1/8th so really, not much of a Maori in the eyes of many). It’s an awkward position – on the one hand, I don’t look Maori so what right have I got to explore that, and on the other I am Maori but feel like I should keep quiet about that because its not something to be proud of. (Thank goodness the times have changed somewhat, huh?)

The older I get, and the more I learn and explore who and what I am (in all senses), the more I realize just how trapped I have been by my desire to fit in, and my fear of standing up for what I believe in. It’s only now, as an adult, with a family of my own, that I can cast off the boxes I’ve allowed to build up around me, and it’s only now that I can understand my mother’s journey to exploring her culture and Maori heritage back when I was a teen and wanted nothing to do with any of it—now, that I find myself on a similar path.

Which leads me here, to where I realize WHY culture has been such a struggle for me, not just in life but in my writing. Because if it’s not okay to be interested by my own, if in fact if it’s discouraged by society in general, why would I have interest in other peoples cultures?

Recently I have been doing a lot of thinking about my culture (all aspects of it—each of us has a culture of our own, after all), and finally I’ve come to see just how important it is to acknowledge, and embrace. It hasn’t been until now, when I am beginning to bridge that internal gap, that I have been able to see how I can integrate culture into my writing, without fear, and bring my stories to life. And maybe, just maybe, writing it out will help kick this internal conflict to the curb once and for all.


The healing powers of the beach


I’ve been trying to think of something ‘speculative fiction’ to write about today (make that yesterday – this post has been sitting in limbo for almost 20 hours due to simply having no time), but drawing a blank. I was in desperate need of recharging, so once Lauren had woken from her sleep we took off down the beach. I thought I’d take some photos to show you one of my favourite places in New Zealand.

I’ve spent a lot of time here working out the kinks in my stories, whenever I get stuck on something I know a walk on the beach will help to clear things up for me.


There are always going to be patches in a novel where things seem to have gotten twisted, or you may have written yourself into a corner that seems inescapable.

This is where I come when nothing else will work, I will always find something to inspire me or spur me on.


It’s everything that I love about New Zealand.


You know, this last week of blogging about speculative fiction has really inspired me. I feel much better connected with whats happening within New Zealand, I feel connected to my country, my heritage, and to my own writing more so than ever before. I have felt a massive swell of pride at being part of this, and I’m really excited to see where speculative fiction in NZ goes from here. Next year we’ll get to launch our website/organization, and who knows what will happen from there?

I’ve also felt encouraged to write more NZ based fiction – I think because most of what I read is set elsewhere, I’ve tended to follow suit. But I’ve been reminded of many things that I, as a New Zealander, and as a Maori, can tap into (yes, I know, I don’t look it, but it’s a big part of my heritage).

I started a story a few days ago hoping to have it finished for tomorrows post, but I don’t think it will be done. Things have come up and devoured my time. I’ll be posting a snippet though, the beginnings of the story and however much I manage to get written today.