If you're looking for some of the Hunter's best summer reading, start here.
The best yarns the region has to offer are unfurling on this page throughout December and January for subscribers as part of this year's short story competition.
Finalists will be revealed daily in the Newcastle Herald and online until the winner is announced on Saturday, January 25 2020.
Read last year's finalists here.
Cast your vote for this year's People's Choice Winner
MONICA AND MICHAEL by Phil Williams
To leave me out here, abandoned in this overgrown backyard is criminal. Since they dumped me I've felt frail, vulnerable and depressed. I miss my friends and I miss Michael. He was so good to me. There's no-one to talk to here. I'm so lonely.Read more
JINTY by Holly Bruce
'The will contains various conditions,' Janette tells me when she calls. This, at least, is no surprise. I wouldn't have imagined Leo writing anything other than a declaration of detail. Read more
TRUTH BE KNOWN by John Gallop
Meegan picked up the two boxes, bread and orange juice cups and put them on the bench. She washed her face at the basin and straightened her hair with her fingers, then flushed away Shannon's vomit. Read more
LIVING THE DREAM by Shane Farrell
"George must be away again", James said to his wife Lisa as he was peering over the side fence. Seeing the grass was overgrown again, the chair under the tree languishing from the overgrowth of uncut grass, barely visible from last Christmas where James had sat with George and shared a beer to celebrate another year of neighbourly friendship. Read more
GAGGING ORDER by Mark Konik
Viv still didn't know why she'd decided to come. The morning walk, a coffee run, followed by the beach, lunch at home, then back to the beach. She wasn't even sure if some of her friends wanted her here. It was as if she had something to be sorry about. She would stay a couple of nights, and then say that her mother was unwell and that she needed to go home. Read more
THROUGH THE WINDOW by Rhianon Holmes
Scrubbing the speck of leftover food from the plate, I squeezed the sponge in the water and placed the dish on the rack.
I picked up the next plate and shifted carefully on the stepping stool, daring a glance out the window where the neighbours played in the street. Read more
ABOMINATION by Diana Threlfo
Since the offending property lies opposite mine, I'm pressed into joining a delegation, led by Agnes, that approaches the young couple one cool evening. Three of us hang back behind our leader who shivers in the stiff breeze and calls through the screen door.Read more.
THE PINATA by Karen Whitelaw
He slinks into the backyard with a giant plum pudding inside a black plastic bag. Well, that's what it looks like. No one's ever covered their pinata before. We usually parade it in, loud and proud. Jonathon is breaking with a tradition we didn't even know we had. There is to be an unveiling. Read more.
SUMMER OF SNAKE by Brydie Piaf
The Summer of Snake always left the kids shrieking excitedly, each retelling gaining another animated layer to it. There'd been four more snake sightings that summer. Hungry and thirsty just like the rest of the wild life around them. Until just like the birds, they stopped coming. Read more.
JACK by Linda Mueller
Jack didn't like the other human in Louise's house. The male one. Louise had tried to introduce them but Jack knew He was not a cat person. When he saw Him Jack scrambled back into Louise's arms, pinning himself to her. Jack couldn't help but scratch her. Read more.
KNOCK SOME SENSE by Tyler Fox
What brought her here? Did he kidnap her, dress her in this? A domestic goddess dead before her time? She races for the door to find nothing but blue night and pitch black silhouettes. "If that ham eats itself, we'll have something to worry about?" he booms. More cheering, another ringing endorsement. Read more.
THE SUMMER OF '87 by Alison Jordan
The screen door flew open, metal banging harshly against the bricks as Tinnie stumbled down the stairs. He regained his footing and dashed across the backyard, casting a fearful look over his shoulder. A moment later a man with close-cropped dark hair shot out of the house in pursuit. Read more.
THE WINDOW ABOVE THE SINK by Desmond Doyle
He bellows with an uneasy chuckle, his thoughts conflicted; hopefully thinking ahead to the next delightfully prosaic task of filling the bathtub, while at the same time dreading what he knew deep down what was to come next. His mind clouds as the completion of his task concludes the escape to a memory that can only be seen through the window above the sink. Read more.
THE LONG ROAD HOME by Julie Pearce
The salty air tickles Bill's nose. He squints upwards as the cotton wool clouds float overhead. All too soon their hiatus is at an end. It was time to make tracks back to the farm and bid farewell to paradise.Read more.
TRAPPED by Kelli Hawkins
His father had worn his RFS uniform to talk to the kids about fire safety at the end of last term. So lame, Tank told him afterwards. Now, the other boy smiled. Thrust his lit cigarette towards Bucket. After a pause, Bucket took it. Read more.
THE WINDOW by Janis Rose
I too had explored this beautiful landscape in my childhood. It was a privilege that I could now share with my own young family. Yet now it was more about tasks - lawns to mow, land to be irrigated, gardens to be watered and weeded, bills to be paid, animals to be fed, part-time work - and my family to be nurtured.Read more.
FLOATING by Kaye Leighton
During the summer of our shared thirteenth birthday something changed between us, and the easy way in which we had done everything together began to stifle me. Read more.
SIGHS by Jessica Grant
It seemed that she communicated in sighs rather than words now. Timmy spilled his juice. Sigh. The dog vomited on the carpet. Sigh. The electricity bill arrived. Sigh. The cracked tile above the bath -the one she had asked Dave to fix at least 12 times- fell off and broke the soap holder. Sigh.Read more.
AUTOPILOT by Karin Schmedtje
Amelia loved her mother but was disappointed that she never made something of her independence. Amelia had to fight for hers. She had married Dave all loved up straight out of high school. Only after, had he shown his true colours. Read more.
UNDERCOVER by Jessie Ansons
In the bathroom, the cat stretches his neck to peer into the make-up bag I've put on the windowsill. He looks back at me with critical eyes: Men don't wear makeup. Read more.
THE CORMORANT by Dan Shushko
She noticed a girl, about her age, bending down looking into one of the pools. Tamara thought that a friend might make her holiday less boring and walked towards her. When she got to the girl, Tamara saw that the girl was only wearing a pair of board shorts and t-shirt. She must have been freezing. Read more.
THE VEGGIE PATCH by Bronwyn MacRitchie
Dad plonked a bulging shoe box jammed with packets of seeds on the breakfast table between the vegemite and melting butter. 'Today,' he announced,' we're going to build a veggie patch. Everyone will pitch in.' Read more.
AFTER THE FIRES by Niko Campbell-Ellis
I dumped the dog on the passenger seat and started the car. What had I forgotten? What thing would I remember when it was too late? Wallet, phone, children ... that would have to do. Read more.
THE CAT by Kristen Mair
He rights the cat and easily replaces the eye. The robot cat flicks its ears and tail like its rebooting and acts normal again. It licks a paw. "So what do you think, Bailey? Ready to take it home?" Read more