The Electric Girl by Christine Hart Genre: YA SciFi Fantasy, Magic Realism
Polly Michaels is trying to forget that her mom has cancer. She keeps busy at school and plods through a normal social life. Until a freak electrical storm and a unicorn appear in the orchard next to her house.
Sy'kai wakes on an orchard floor to the smell of rotting cherries and wet earth. She doesn't know where she is-or what she is-but she knows something is hunting her.
Polly recruits her friends to find the mysterious creature she saw from her window while Sy'kai, a confused shape-shifting endling from another dimension tries to piece her mind back together. Once the human girls find Sy'kai (whom they nickname Psyche) the mystery unravels and the danger facing all of them comes into focus.
A gritty struggle ranges throughout the girls' rural hometown and in the wild terrain around it. All while two questions hang over their heads. Can an alien deliver a miracle for a human mother? Can a group of teens defeat an interdimensional demon?
Polly crept softly downstairs and into the vaulted kitchen. In the window behind the double sink, her mom’s stained-glass butterfly reflected a glint of moonlight. Her gaze darted from the window to the sliding glass doors across the room, behind a small round oak table. A greasy takeout box and two plates of chicken bones on the counter—her mom’s only half-eaten—glistened in the faint light. She paused next to the table, gripped the padded back of a dining chair, and leaned toward the glass door. She peered out, across the backyard and into the orchard.
A large beacon of light flickered in the trees. It moved, as if floating. No, not floating—walking. The intense glow, marked by dark strips of trunk and branch, moved at a measured pace. She squinted, trying to make out an outline of . . . whatever it was that meandered through the trees. It’s an animal. It has to be!
She lifted the latch on the sliding glass door and gently opened it. Chilly night air rushed in, smelling of ozone and the earth. Her flannel nightgown billowed in the breeze. She placed a bare foot on the smooth concrete of the patio. The cold was sharp and shot straight through Polly, causing her to gasp, but she forced herself to keep moving. She stepped all the way out and slid the door back into place, almost closing it but not quite.
The roving light in the orchard had grown larger. It was weaving between the dark rows of trees in the distance. The undulating pace of it . . . it wasn’t human. Whatever it was, it was moving—walking, she thought, but not on two legs.
Polly put one foot in front of the other, compelled by her need to know. She crossed the backyard, reaching the bumpy bare earth of the orchard floor. She steadied herself against a tree trunk as adrenaline raced through her veins. She leaned into the tree, hoping to conceal her figure without losing sight of the creature, whatever it was.
She waited, watching in both awe and terror as the glowing animal came closer. The creature made no sound at all. Polly watched, eyes trained on the glow itself, until finally she could make out a shape—a long, muscular torso flexed above four knobby legs. Pointed ears flickered. It’s a horse! A white mare! Oh my god, she’s so bright.
The horse turned its head, flashing a spiraled horn—unmistakable against the dark branches around them. NO WAY!
“Polly? Are you out there?” she heard her mom call. She turned to see her mom’s silhouette standing in the kitchen. Her mom flicked on a light, spilling yellow across the yard. Polly whipped around to see the unicorn again, but the orchard had grown dark, full of silent indigo trees.
The glowing animal was gone.
Located on BC’s beautiful West Coast, I write from my suburban home outside Vancouver. I love writing about places and spaces with rich history and visually fascinating elements as a backdrop for the surreal and spectacular.
In addition to my undergraduate degree in writing and literature, my background also includes corporate communications and design. I am a current member of the Federation of BC Writers and SF Canada.
When not writing, I have a habit of breaking stuff and making stuff – in that order – under the guise of my Etsy alter-ego Sleepless Storyteller. I share my eclectic home and lifestyle with my metalworking husband, dancing daughter, and future rocket scientist son.
Today we’re talking to traditional-turned-indie writer Christine Hart. She’s an author from the suburbs of Vancouver, BC who just made the jump to self-publishing after over half a dozen traditional titles. Christine worked on this book throughout 2020 while balancing kids and an Etsy shop. So, she’s got lots to say about all her various forms of making, in the context of being indie during a pandemic. Including making her own custom merch.
Christine, can you tell us a bit more about what motivated you to roll DIY pendants into your promo for this new release? The former marketer in me thinks it makes sense to cross-promote between my various endeavors as much as possible. And the artist in me is just looking for another excuse to make something pretty. Since I started writing fiction in 2007 and making handmade jewelry in 2008, I’ve noticed that I tend to slip between a year of writing and a year of metalsmithing. I wanted to challenge myself to better balance both practices.
I think crafting a plot and designing a jewelry collection work similar muscles in my brain, so I find them equally rewarding. Likewise, restructuring a plot point that isn’t working or troubleshooting a step in the fabrication process can be truly satisfying when I finally solve the problem.
And the ways in which writing and metalsmithing are different complement each other nicely for me. If I need to stop staring at words and analysing language, metal and stones have the ability to transport me back into that state of wonder I’m always chasing.
Is there any symbolism in the design of these pieces? In the case of these pendants, materials matter more than the design itself. Copper plays a prominent role in my trans-dimensional shape-shifter’s health and abilities. And mood stones were just a really fun way to keep us rooted in 1980s culture.
I used geometric shapes and chevron markings to try to achieve a look that’s both primal and still capable of evoking fractal imagery. They were made with mental energy by a being whose natural state is her astral form. They had to look weird no matter what.
We’re dying to know; which came first, writing or metalsmithing?
I am a writer by training and trade. I started out after university working as a communications specialist. So, when I freelanced, it was strictly as a non-fiction writer for youth magazines, usually related to whatever type of employer I had. I covered careers and education as well as travel, vacationing, and real estate.
But I really wanted to write fiction. I didn’t think it would go anywhere at the time because I didn’t think I had the right training. I thought fiction was too different than the article style I knew, but I did it anyway (because I’d gotten that advice from a successful author I trusted) and my debut, Watching July, came out of that process.
The path to making jewelry was quite different. I’ve always been ‘crafty’ although we didn’t really use that term when I was a teen. In high school I loved art class and took the sewing part of home economics, as well as a textiles, arts, and crafts class.
Another important variable here is that I’m very petite. I’m not ultra short (still 5’3” I think) but most mainstream pendants, rings, and bracelets are all way too big for me. I have tiny hands; my wedding band is 3 ¼, which if you know ring sizes, puts it into perspective. This doesn’t make me a better (or worse) metalsmith. But it is the reason I’ve always had to make my own bracelets, rings, and any pendant I want fitted like a choker. I started out just beading and my skills evolved. Eventually, I was making too much jewelry for my personal use and I had to either open an Etsy shop or stop making things all the time. And although I started out using cold connection techniques, I eventually gave in and learned to use a saw, torch, and metal plating equipment.
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