(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Friday, January 31, 2014

You Choose... New Kids Fiction.

My friend George is a writer of Childrens’ and Young Adult Fiction. He has an amazing list to his credit including school readers, library reference books, chapter books, novelettes, novels and a short story collection – both fiction and non-fiction.

Some of you may be aware of his Gamers’ Quest trilogyGamers’ Quest, Gamers Challenge and Gamers’ Rebellion, some of which are on the current NSW and Victorian Premier’s Reader Challenge Listing.  Gamers’ Quests also won the 2009 Chronos Award for speculative fiction by a Victorian writer.

When I first met George in the early 1990s, (that feels so long ago now) he was fresh faced (and still is!) and wanted to act and write. He pursued his dream. Now his is a published author! I have both envy and respect for his talent, determination and organisational skills, which must be phenomenal. (Have you seen the list of projects he has in the works for 2014/15?!).  He inspired me to take up my pen and start writing again.  (Shhh, just don’t tell him that.)

YouChoose_cover01Now he has announced another series just about to be published.  You Choose… is a series of (at least four) choose your own adventure novels. I used to devour these as a teenager! The first two are due for publication in May, through Random Books:
  • The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove
  • Mayhem at Magic School.
(I do hope he gets to write some Doctor Who, one day - An Open Letter to Steven Moffat… and I would love to as well!)

You Choose... New Kids Fiction.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chapter 4 begins.

Things don’t always go as planned.  When I started this manuscript project I had a title, a heroine, a mysterious object and a basic story line. It was based on my short story - The Guest Upstairs - inspired by a random steampunk photo and the concept of the Turk Chess Machine. It very quickly changed form and has been growing organically since then.

My next step was to jot down a dirigible (airship) scene  that had been filtering into my dreams. I had read articles suggesting it was useful to begin by writing a ‘middle chapter’ – to get the feel for the characters. Returning to write the first chapter later would produce a stronger first chapter.  Not a bad idea.

As I continue to write, adding and shuffling around the story’s event timeline, that second chapter seems to be sliding further towards the middle of the book and a major rewrite. The events in chapter 3 have spilled over to chapter 4 (and a much more satisfying end to Chapter 3). Characters, motives and endgames have changed. So have the Chapter titles. All is in flux as the characters reveal themselves and their plans.

Chapter 4 – has begun with a 11 hour writing marathon and about 1500 words…
Here is an updated summary for  The Department of Curiosities:
  • Chapter 1:  Of  Rivals, Surprises and Escapes -approx 2500 words
    Favourite passage:
    “I think you have something of mine that I accidentally dropped?” The stranger’s green eyes glinted as he smiled back, scrutinising Tillie’s bustle.“Sir, we have only just met and have not been properly introduced,” she replied curtly.
  • Chapter 2:  Of Silks, Kippers and Secrets - approx 4800 words.
    I have battled with the revisions (especially one scene!) since 18th December. Dilemma #1: how much background reveal is enough/too much?
    Favourite passage:
    The smell of smoked kippers greeted Tillie as she entered the dining room. The buffet boasted a full range of delights, many of which were her favourites: bacon, fried mushrooms, eggs, toast and jam. Kippers were not high on her list.

  • Chapter 3: The Inventor, The Department and Curiosities. First draft: 4950 words. Dilemma #2: Is it time for some destruction and mayhem?Favourite Passage (first draft):
    “As Tillie reached for the banister, a pale grey limb snaked out of the blackness and snatched at her sleeve. Its sinewy talons floundered at the blue silk.
    Not my new silk dress!”
  • Chapter 4: Of Diaries, Ghostmen and Dispicible Acts. (not confirmed) First draft: 1500 words so far.
    Dilemma #3: reworking the events so there is only one explosive event per chapter.
  • Chapter 5: Of Assassinations, Resurrections and Discoveries. (title may change)
  • Chapter ?:  Of Trains, Dirigibles and Steamships. – First draft: 2100 words so far (incomplete) - This was the first snippet to follow The Guest Upstairs and specifically written for this manuscript.
Manuscript Word Progress:
Total Words:  
Revised Words: 
At 1st draft only:

Chapter 4 begins.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Costuming Capers

I have finally made a decision. The next local convention is in March and I need to sort out what I am going to wear! There are two days, so I need at least two costumes or be relegated to mundane wear.

The first option is wear an older costume. I have three possibilities here:
  • From Doctor Who:Fires of Pompeii - one of the Sibylline Sisterhood. This was originally made for one of the Australian Costumers’ Guild’s end of the year party. (if it still fits)
  • From Pirates of the Caribbean - Tia Dalma. This is one of my favourite costumes. I had so much fun wearing this! 
sybil donetia dalma 2012
  • Then there is my Ball costume  from last year, based on Ben Kensinger’s Otto and Victoria.  This is a forerunner right now as it has not yet had a convention outing.  It consists of a double frilled skirt, lace blouse and silk corset. I would really love to make another corset in blues/greens. We shall see.
All three of these would be suitable for the heat that is still around in March.  I really try to avoid too many layers at that time of year.

Next is the option of new costumes. I have dozens of costumes on my wish list. (sigh!) Many can be ruled out due to costs.  My requirement list for this years costume are:
  • it must be fun (I need more fun in my life)
  • minimum new materials to be bought
  • not too time consuming, as I am still trying to catch up on my (self imposed) writing schedule and
  • must be suitable for hot summer weather.
evilQVpiratemisfitsOne costume that ticks all of the above is this one – Queen Victoria from Pirates: Band of Misfits. 

I have rolls of linen – perfect for her drawers. Linen is the most amazingly comfortable and cool material! I have blue linen for the sash and some broderie anglaise edging. I just hope it is enough to trim the neckline, armholes and waist of the bodice. If not, I may have to either purchase some or rethink my options.

I have a pair of vintage white gloves (several actually) that I inherited from my grandmother-in-law. These will serve very well. A pair of well-loved vintage boots will round off the outfit nicely.

glovesvintage boot

This just leaves a crown, necklace and pair of (fake) scimitars to add as accessories. I can feel a trip to the toy store coming on, followed by some crafty work with Sculpey and cardboard.

Now, to see if this all pans out…
I will let you know my progress.

Costuming Capers

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Still Melted.

This week has been difficult. I have been utterly exhausted. I found myself taking mid afternoon naps. I procrastinated. A lot.  A migraine on Wednesday did not help. The result - I have not reached my planned target.

Was it writers’ block or just avoidance?  It was possibly both. I tried some techniques to get the words flowing. I left the manuscript alone and wrote about something else (blog entries).  I tried to stick to my schedule. The unpredictability of school holidays made that more difficult. I set a deadline to finish the chapter.  I rescheduled the deadline to finish the chapter (to Friday.)

I read some library books on writing. As instructed in one book, I took a step back and look at the big picture. I completed some writing exercises about my story.  I discovered a most scary thing – the ‘one sentence to describe my story‘ and the ‘125 word blurb.’ Ayee! I don’t even want to contemplate ‘the synopsis’ right now.

Even Writers’ Race had me floundering for something to add to my manuscript.  I did manage to write Thursday’s blog entry (800 words) so it was not a total loss.

Thursday: Finally, the house was quiet. I was determined to get something – anything – down on paper. I turned off the computer in an effort to curtail all distractions. I grabbed my pen and paper and sat, pen poised expectantly, waiting for the flood of prose. It was like pulling teeth. I re-read the chapter so far then added some more paragraphs. It took hours to finish the second scene with some pretty ‘ordinary’ words. At least something had been extracted from my brain. Any words -  to revise, rewrite and edit in the future – are better than none. Or so I  am told.

Friday: Mischief managed! The first (very rough) draft of Chapter 3 is done – just shy of 5000 words in all.  Phew. At this point I often leave my work, allowing it to mull over in my subconscious for a few days, before revising the work. However in this case, I will leave it alone for a while longer and move onto the next chapter, in an effort to return to a daily writing routine. A week or more space may give me a new slant on the clumsy words produced in the past few days.

Having left  the quagmire of chapter 3 behind for now, I got a start onto Chapter 4.  A tragedy looms…

Manuscript Word Progress:
Total Words:  
Revised Words: 
At 1st draft only:

Still Melted.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

More Than Just Cogs

First I was a fanatical follower of science fiction – Doctor Who, Star Wars, Blake’s 7. By the 1980s, I was attending 2-3 fancons a year. Then I was a roleplayer. In 1978 my friend Christine introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons.  Then I discovered historical re-enactment (Society for Creative Anachronism). For almost 20 years my life has revolved around the renaissance – either in researching and recreating the clothing of mid-16th century Florence or ‘living it’ at various events. I have visited Florence twice (once for the Janet Arnold Costume Symposium). I still have a fascination for the Medicis. I don’t think that will ever fade. (I even have some ideas for a book…)

Then, in the 2000 I saw the movie Wild, Wild West, then The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) Both had an interesting look. But it wasn’t really until the mid 2000′s (I can’t remember if it was 2004 or 2005) that I really worked out what ‘this Steampunk thing’ was. I was excited – yet another outlet for my historical curiosity and my passion for costuming. One advantage was that I could get away with ‘anachronisms’ – of a sort.

embdress5What is an anachronism? A: A thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned. (Google) In my case it is a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously modern.  

In medieval and renaissance re-enactment, there is a preference to keep everything within period. This is a fantastic challenge.  I have been documenting my research and attempts at recreating Florentine clothing on my Costume website – Purple Files/Florence Files, for many years.  Though I still delight in it,  I was ready for a new venture.

Perfect timing – 2005: I started hearing about a band called Abney Park, seeing steampunk costume pictures, on the internet. I revisited War of the Worlds and the Time Machine. My curiosity was aroused. Here was a combination of  cool Victoriana costuming and my first love – science fiction!

Finally, by 2008 (after stuffing around for a few years), I had taken my first steps into making steampunk costumes.  With just a little tweaking, all those years of renaissance corset making had come in handy – voila my first Victorian corset was created. That year we wore our first steampunk outfits to the Australian Costumers’ Ball (left). To our surprise, there was a small contingent of steampunkers. We spent a lot of the evening explaining what it was all about.

2008 SP contingent ballSince then the South Australian Steampunk contingent has grown. We have had a couple of large (open to public) events – The Voyage of the Olympia, picnics, movie outings (in costume), photo shoots and saw the film of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. (Yes, we sang along with it). Even a trip to the zoo. (Pith helmets come in handy when trying not to get eaten by the giraffe).


What I love about steampunk is that there is such a variety of ways to define it. There is no limit to the interpretations that can be created.

I love the definition in the tv series Castle’s episode: Punked: “…a subculture that embraces the simplicity and romance of the past but at the same time couples it with the hope and promise and sheer super coolness of futuristic design.”

More recently (since steampunk has become more mainstream – or is that just my imagination) there are more and more blog posts, memes and articles on ‘What is real steampunk’ or What is NOT steampunk. Some of the arguments are most likely valid but what saddens me is a small number of rabid followers that seem to spend most of their time telling people what NOT to do. Part of the allure of steampunk is that I do not feel part of a ‘cog in the machine‘ of fashion. I can find my own version, my own style. And enjoy it.

Okay, sticking cogs on a hat or a necklace may be steampunk inspired but does not necessarily add up to full-on steampunk. I will give you that. However the beauty of the movement/genre is its flexibility, its ability to enflame the imagination in so many different ways. This is why I celebrate it.

IMG_6853IMG_0427It provides me with the challenge to research Victorian fashion, sewing, lifestyle and history – if I wish. I can throw in some science fiction or Victorian science. Or not. I can be an explorer, a scientist or even a Scout Mistress (yep, done that  - and got the Kraken training badge). 

DSC_1196I can paddle in the steampunk pond, or experience total immersion of lifestyle. The choice is mine. (I must admit our lounge room has acquired another octagonal side table and glass specimen domes, which are great for keeping the dust down!) We are slowly refurbishing our bedroom with a Victorian/steampunk flavour. Steampunk even sneaks into my everyday clothing, on occasion.

I feel there is more freedom of expression for me, as a costumer, artist and writer.  It has provided me with a spark of enthusiasm, a story to write and the (maybe childish?) hope that humans can find basic courtesy and manners to make life just a little more pleasant.

More Than Just Cogs

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Few of My Favourite Things

I am still recovering from the recent heatwave. It has been hard to get words to string together in sentences. All is not totally lost however as  I have a few (possibly fevered) ideas and concepts swirling around in the brain matter. I decided to let them continue to bubble along for a for a while, hoping they will ferment into a satisfactory brew that I can  tap later.

That decision having been made, I decided to grab my camera and snap away. What arose was a collection best described as a few of my favourite things.

1. Books – is that a surprise? 2. Broccoli seeds. These are from my garden. I don’t do this as often as I would like. I usually forget. These are heritage ones.

brocolli seeds 14view from the bed2

3 &4: View from my bed. When I wake up I see some of my garden – including lavender, trees and the sky. Not a sign of the rat race (if I ignore the electricity pole). More books – some classic books and old fashioned styled pieces to set the mood for the day.

dave derigibleview from the bed1

5: My husband and dirigibles. He managed to score this (marked down from almost $100 to $19!)  He only just beat me to it – a purple dirigible!

6. Brown paper packages tied up with string. Seriously. I have received some cool stuff via the mail, wrapped like this. The first time one of these arrived in the mail, I was touched that someone had put a little extra thought into their sale. Now I usually wrap my ebay sales up this way, hoping to share the feeling with others. This is one of my costumes (and an octoarm necklace) now awaiting to travel interstate. I hope the recipient enjoys it as much as I did.

brown paper packages   MDM OD gird

Costume Bits: the costume I have sold was based on an Allori painting. The garb diary is here.
Art Bits: I did some calligraphy for a wedding card for one of my ‘day job’ work colleagues. It was so hot that the ink was drying in the nib, as I wrote!
Writing/Reading Bits: I have just ordered a G D Falksen book – Blood in the Skies. Looking forward to reading some of the Hellfire Chronicles.

A Few of My Favourite Things

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Week My Brain Melted.

Hell hath no fury like a South Australian Summer.

This past week South Australia has sweltered through a record length heatwave (over four days above 40 degrees Celcius – making it to over 45.) We only just missed out on a record high temperature of 46.1, on Thursday.

I have lived here for over 25 years. Each year I enjoy the winters more. Each summer I melt into a puddle,  praying for some relief (or to win the lottery so I could relocate for the summer. Tuscany would be perfect!) At least we did not get the predicted blackouts due to overloading on the power station.

All week I sat  imprisoned in the house trying to avoid the weather. What better time to do some writing.  It was a pity my brain was turning slowly to slush, parboiling inside my skull.  It was time for some stream of consciousness – just writing whatever came to mind. I managed over 1000 words  over those five scorching days.  I am quite happy with that. If I had just ‘splodged’ in front of the television I would not have achieved anything.

Next on my schedule is to finish off the chapter (possibly only 500 odd words to go) and then assess the feedback from my writers’ group. I am trying new ways of handling dialogue. The best advice I got was: Only read the dialogue (ignore all other words) and see if I can still follow the scene. Hmm… Some revisions to be done there. Such a simple tactic,  that makes so much sense. Thank you ladies!

Manuscript Word Progress:
Total Words:  
Revised Words: 
At 1st draft only:

The Week My Brain Melted.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Writing Motivation Tactic #1...

Writers’ race:
The Wednesday night Writing Race is back on after a ‘holiday’ over the Christmas-New Year period.   I had not realised how much I really missed them.  When I first discovered Australian Writers’ Marketplace Online held writing races, I thought it was just another social internet get-together. That was B.W.R. (Before Writing Race)

For those who don’t know about these events let me explain. This was first held on the Australian Writers’ Marketplace Online’s website. It was moved to Facebook, last year.  I found this a much easier format to access and follow.

Anyone can take part. Each event is ‘hosted’ by one of the AWM staff/bloggers. There is often a ‘guest’ author (usually from Australia, though we have had overseas authors) who are available for questions, give advice/inspirational quotes or take part themselves.  I have gleaned some very good advice from various authors and gained another local author as a Facebook friend.

The race lasts an hour. During that time you (as the writer) decide what you wish to achieve during this time. (This week, I was aiming for another 500-1000 words towards chapter 3.) Some write a short story or use the time for editing.  At the end of the event, everyone is free to share (or not) what they have achieved.  Some members will post some of their writing… or not. It is up to the individual as to how much they participate. Sometimes is just time for tea and bickies.

During last year’s writing races, I have penned at least 10 blog entries,  at least four short stories and written (or revised) at least 2000 words of my current steampunk manuscript.  It is one of the many motivational tactics I use to keep me churning out those words and try not to procrastinate.

During this week’s writers race I managed to complete this blog post and knock off another 500 odd words towards completing the first draft of chapter 3 – and  I managed to pen some parasol face-smacking carnage. Oh, that sounds horrible!

Um, it has a really cool intricately carved ivory handle…

Declaring my goals:Another tactic (#2) is ‘declare’ my goals. My word counts below are one way of doing this. I look at those numbers and try to keep them climbing.

Now I am off to my writers’ group for motivational tactic #3.

Manuscript Word Progress:
Total Words:  
Revised Words: 
At 1st draft only:

Writing Motivation Tactic #1...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


This is just a test, as the automatic forwarding seems to have stopped working…
tea hot BWPlease ignore the man behind the curtain.


Garden Art & Website Updates

succulant tablepiece2I have been pottering in my garden again (just before the our current heatwave hit) and experimenting with my new phone camera. I have been very happy with the results. The exciting part of my garden is that it is constantly changing.  Here are some of my most recent snaps:succulant tablepiecepostpot

The blue pot was a fortuitous find - just lying there abandoned on the side of the road. I scrubbed it up and gave it a coat of 'stone-look' paint, to match the letter box. It is now waiting some succulents to inhabit it. (This may have to wait until our temperatures actually dip below 40 deg C!) And finally, some produce from our garden  as salad and greens for our dinner.
Webpage/Sales updates: I have updated my webpage with the latest info on my writing and with details of the remaining stock returned from Bullina China Shop, following its closure. These are now available as direct sales. These include canvases (12x18") $90 + postage and framed photographic prints ($60-$85).  Details are available on Buy Art/Original Photography pages. For those not living locally, my original photography is available at at my Redbubble  store.ArchParisstreet2008
 Manuscript Word Progress:
Total Words:  
Revised Words: 
At 1st draft only:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Constructive Procrastination.

I was having a day where I could not get my thoughts (and words) together so decided it was worth going through some hand written notes for inspiration.  Some were almost illegible, having been written in the middle of the night. It was time to to do some typing. I started with a few paragraphs as a teaser to the story… then rewrote it.  And rewrote it.

I pulled out the manuscript and stared at it and … Oh… look a pretty shiny something on the computer…

Finally I moved onto typing character notes (all in the same place!). From there I just kept typing more on each character, their motives, their end game.  At the end of the writing spree, I had just over 1ooo words and a few new insights to my new friends (and their foes).

Time for a cup of tea but the keyboard kept calling me back. I started transcribing notes (that I finally collated from different notebooks) on the various plot points, scenes and occasional dialogue that I had jotted down over the past month.  Almost two hours later I had lost track of time but  had some quite satisfying bits down all in one place. Another 1000 words of background material have now been printed up and put with my manuscript notebook.

I may have been procrastinating a lot today but, in the end, I now have over four pages (single spaced) of very useful notes for chapter 2 and 3 (and future chapters). I think that could be considered constructive procrastination.

Manuscript Word Progress: 
Total Words:  
Revised Words: 
At 1st draft only:

Maybe I should  also add: Incidental/research words: 2000 (oh dear).

Constructive Procrastination.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I do have something to wear!

Most of us have said it: I have nothing to wear. (I even have an old tshirt that proclaims it). I have said it many times. I open my wardrobe, look at the row of full hangers and think it. A lot. What I really mean to say is:
I have nothing that I want to wear.(The cynic in me screams out: First world problems! Many people do not get an option.)

With the new year, I often get the downsizing/ culling bug. A new year. A new start. After a particularly stressful day, I decided to sort through my clothes. I pulled everything out and dumped it unceremoniously on our bed. The first thing to go were anything that were damaged – seams wearing or linings ripped.

Next was anything that  no longer fit. The hardest was anything that I had not worn for over a year. Some of these things are quite lovely but – honestly – I probably have not worn them as they do not ‘go with’ anything else. A wasted purchase. If I had not worn them in over 12 months, I most likely would not wear it over the next 12 months. (I have to admit that I did keep a few of these things…)

Some things went up for sale, others went to the Salvos or Goodwill. I try to recycle as much as I can.

After a strong cup of tea, I assessed the damage. I had a lot more room in the cupboard now. I could actually move things around and – shock, horror – see them! I found some skirts I had forgotten about. Some still had the opshop tag on them (I love opshopping!).

The best part of this is that I can now work harder on another ‘resolution’ of mine. With all the stress last year, I had got in the habit of just slipping on a pair of jeans and chucking on a tshirt (except on my ‘day job’ work days). I felt frumpy. This year, I am determined to at least try to rethink my options.

This is just in the first week (non-’day job’ work days – the weather varied from 20- 33 deg C!): Yep… I like purple.

2014 2   2104 1   1503911_10152111569787937_1567333205_n

2014 52014 6Manuscript Word Progress: 
Total Words:
Revised Words: 
At 1st draft only:

I do have something to wear!