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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Published Art - I33 Fencing in the Style of the Walpurgis Manuscript

For those who love period fencing (as I do) and want to try something a little different, a new book is now available for purchase:   I33 Fencing in the Style of the Walpurgis Manuscript. Last year my friend Andrew Kenner asked me to do some illustrations for this book. It is based on a 13th-14th century German fencing manuscript, the world’s oldest known fencing manual. During 2013, I posted some of my artwork (based on the period style) as it was being created. You can see more here:  Book Artwork Commission, Commissioned Art and Book Artwork – Mischief Managed

Andrew travelled to Europe to study the original manuscript then wrote the discussion and rapier exercises, based on the early period text. Andrew is a Provost for period fencing in the Society for Creative Anachronism (where he is known as William Forrester de Blacwode). He has been studying and teaching from the I33 manual for some years now.
gawler church cathy and steve13 02

In February 2013, we took a drive up to Gawler and did a photoshoot for the manual. Cathy Spencer and Steve Hancock took photos of our fencers in action, offering a more realistic interpretation of the early style of artwork. I did a photo shoot of the photo shoot, and of the lovely church (we had permission to photograph at.)

gawler church door photo13 02   gawler church cathy and steve photo13 02 
The book is now complete and available for purchase at Lulu:  I33 Fencing in the Style of the Walpurgis Manuscript by Andrew Kenner. The black and white version is $24.94 + postage.

I am now eagerly waiting my copy!

gawler william 1302

Art/Photography: I had not realised that I had not posted photos from this photoshoot before.

Costume Bit: I am working on my pinstriped Victorian corset for steampunk and dieselpunk costumes.

Writing: Chapter 6 is on the go. I have hit the 30% mark on the projected word count. Next month I am ‘attending’ Camp NaNoWriMo.

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

Published Art - I33 Fencing in the Style of the Walpurgis Manuscript

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gardening Adelaide / Full Circle

Regular readers will know how much I love my garden. It calms me and keeps me centred. I love digging in the dirt, getting my hands dirty and watching things grow. The seeds of my passion were sewn in my childhood.  I lived on a dairy farm. We used to milk the goats before school, then again when we got home. We had self-sufficient water supplies and a generator for when the power went out.  My grandmother lived in town and grew vegetables and fruit.

As an adult, I lived in the city. I lived in flats, apartments and units – all of which had gardens you could barely park a car in. As they were rentals, little could be done other than growing potted plants. Mind you, I was too busy to think much about gardening or my time on the farm.

Twenty-two years ago I bought a house with a generous front and back yard. It wasn’t ninety acres – but it was mine. I had plans of self-sufficiency, one or two animals and an overflowing kitchen garden.  Though I did not have a lot of time to bring my grand plans to fruition, I was spurred on by the newly created Gardening Australia on the ABC. They explained and demonstrated ecological friendly gardening methods. I was hooked – as little chemicals as possible.

Over the years, my growing desire became a passion. I love pretty flowers but, above all, I had to grow things – to fill the gardens with edible plants.  Bit by bit, I started filling up the nooks and crannies in the garden. My pride and joy is my ‘monk’s garden’ design. Instead of herbs, I use it as a four bed rotating scheme for vegetables.

Bed 2 carrots leeks 1

This summer was one of the hottest Adelaide summers on record – twelve days of temperatures above 40 degrees (Celcius), in a row. This singed my apples, shriveled my tomatoes, lettuce and silverbeet. Two of my potted lavenders did not survive the heat and our first crop of oranges and lemons dropped off the tree.

Now Autumn is here I am able to venture out into the garden again. My fingers have been itching to get out there and dig the soil.  Armed with my updated crop bed rotation scheme for this year, I have now dug the first bed for the season. Round one of carrot seeds are sewn. (Round two goes in on the right in 3 weeks).

1st apples pick b1st apple pick

Our first apple harvest is beginning. We did lose a few to the birds (which finally found them). I will have to acquire bird netting before next season. In the mean time recycle, reuse and make do – I have upcycled some old shiny CDs, adding grumpy eyes on them. There have been a lot less birds in the past few days (until they work it out).

brid detterent CDs 1

Last week I scored some rhubarb crowns for only $2 each! The big decision is where to fit them as they will be residing there for at least three to four years.

Best of all – Gardening Australia has now returned to our television screens. This year is its 25th year anniversary. I cannot believe I have been watching it for that long. I already have more ideas, more challenges and planting hopes. For now, back to the planning…


Gardening Adelaide / Full Circle

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Of Lessons, Practice and Satisfaction.

I often say – “I learn something every day.”

In fact if I don’t learn something new, I sometimes get disappointed. There is a wonderful world out there – so much knowledge, so many talents and skills that are to be found in our Earth’s inhabitants. If I can but glean just a miniscule amount from any of them, then I am happy.

Though our writing group only officially meets once a month, it is one place where I always learn something (and not always about writing). Last month, I had very useful constructive feedback on Chapter 3 – of The Department of Curiosities.
  1. on dialogue, setting out dialogue and associated action
  2. building tension, plot and storyline – specifically within a chapter.
  3. culling, minimising or spreading around ‘information/background dump’
I finished the rewrite to both chapter 2 and 3, spreading out background where it was more appropriate – and to reduce boredom.

This month, I proffered the first part of chapter 4 - Of Diaries, Ghostmen and Despicable Acts. I steeled myself for another long list of rewrites. In the end I had less than 1/4 of the rewrites as last month.   I was complimented on the improvement in dialogue and pace of the story.  I came home and finished the rewrites on the same afternoon.

It is extremely gratifying when I get constructive feedback. Without it I could not learn more of the craft of writing. Without it I could not gain the confidence to try new things. There is a comforting sense of satisfaction when I realise that I have actually learnt something – and even more when I have put it into practice.

Tomorrow I look forward to writing more – and learning more. I love this writing gig!

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

Of Lessons, Practice and Satisfaction.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Penultimate Penumbra

I am in mourning for our old gum tree. When I bought my house twenty years ago, it was already a large gum, spreading its branches and shade over our driveway. It was a significant tree. It has shaded our front yard, house and was an effective natural carport for our car. It has been home to possums, koalas, galahs, cockatoos, crows, magpies and rosellas.

The gum tree made our house easily identifiable to visitors – just look out for the large tree and streetlight. It blocked much of the streetlight from glaring in our bedroom window at night.

panoama On the weekend we drove home – and drove straight past our house. We did not recognise it. Two-thirds of our tree was gone! Gone was the shade for the garden. Gone was the shade where we park our car. Hello to extra heat in summer!  (It was the major shade on the north side of the house.) The migraine-inducing reflections from cars now pierce the front window into our lounge room.

Had I known the council was about to destroy most of our major oxygen producer, I could have enjoyed its penultimate penumbra and celebrated it appropriately. But… No warning. No letter from the council. Not happy Jan.

This is our poor tree now. I can understand trimming the tree on the side of the footpath – for safety. This has been done before. But this is just butchery. You can see where the two main branches were removed. They were not diseased. They were not encroaching the power lines; they had been given a short trim only a month ago (by either the council or the power company).

treegone1b treegone2

 We used to be able to open our front curtains and have no worry about the neighbours or passing drivers observing us. I now feel naked. The road noise has increased. I have contacted our local council. They said they did not have to inform us (even though it may have come under ‘a significant tree’ ruling.) I now await any reply. I won’t be holding my breath.

I mourn for my tree.  I now have more noise, less privacy and more migraines unless we avoid our front room. I now hug my tree everyday.

The Penultimate Penumbra

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Of Procrastination, Frustrations and Compromises

Rewrites. I hates them. Unfortunately they are a crucial part of writing. Without them, my work would be a stream of consciousness devoid of any consistency, order  or structure. It is just word vomit – getting ideas down on the page before it slips out of my head. One of my writing friends doesn’t like me calling it vomit. (I do apologise to her.) Technically it is called the first draft.

Every writer has a different method of rewriting the first draft. Some write their entire novel as first draft before revisiting any of the manuscript for a rewrite. Some rewrite every page as they go. I fall somewhere in the middle.

I had originally intended to write the entire manuscript of my steampunk novel before I attempted any rewrites. This changed as the work progressed. I wrote the first two chapters back to back. As I started the next chapter, I was feeling lost – not sure where to go or what had happened.  I had intended to keep plugging on but started feeling more frustrated. I procrastinated. Two weeks went by with no significant progress. Had I lost track of the plot?

After handing the rough chapters into my writers’ group (and received very useful feedback), I decided to return to the previous chapters and implement some suggested changes. This proved to be the tonic I needed. In returning to the rewrites, I had the opportunity to review where my characters were up to, make some needed changes and redistribute two pages of character background stream of consciousness. I felt in control again, having pulled together all the pieces.

I had to compromise some of the background as it was superfluous. I may reveal it later – if necessary.  Words finally started flowing again. I am now two chapters ahead and ready for rewrites after this draft is complete.  For now this seems to be working though I reserve the right to change my methods as need be.

I have now reached 27% of the projected word count for the manuscript of The Department of Curiosities and have lots of ideas still ready to spill on the page.  Though I hate doing rewrites, I must admit that I do have a huge sense of satisfaction when they are done. (I will probably voice my dislike for them right up until the final round of rewrites when I have completed the full manuscript.)

Number of rewrites for this blog: 5

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

Of Procrastination, Frustrations and Compromises

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Of Costumes, Patterns and Fittings

My Queen Victoria costume has been progressing slowly – I have been sidetracked. For six months, I have been lamenting that I need a new corset. Though my original Victorian corset was a rush job, it has served me well.

Now it is too large and the lacings overlap. The shape is not correct and it does not hold the girls in very well. The problem? I need someone to help me fit the pattern properly.  I was planning on using this corset for my current costume project but…

A message went out to the Australian Costumers Guild.  It really was not a difficult task to distract me. I was off to the corset making workshop. Thanks to the wonderful Lynne, I now have a working pattern.

1Here is my progress so far:
3I based the corset on an 1890 corset pattern, based on an extant item. This was drafted to the original sizing, when women were an average height of around 5 feet.


I used a pattern with larger sizing and redrew the pattern pieces to fit the style of the extant corset pattern.

I then used this as a toile and my friend Lynne helped me with the fitting.

I will post more pictures as the corset progresses.

Of Costumes, Patterns and Fittings

Day Light Savings... rescheduling

I believe day light savings has finished now in the US? I am trying to reschedule posting times… so please be patient with me.

Day Light Savings... rescheduling

Monday, March 10, 2014

Apologies to you all

I must apologise for no post on Saturday.

I have been having computer issues. I have this hate/hate relationship with my computer at the moment.

The post I had scheduled for Saturday did not work. The crossposting/forwarding spat the dummy. It has taken days to sort it out.  The post has been manually posted today. I hope you found it.

Apologies to you all

Now I Have Done It! There Is No Turning Back?

Last year, I contemplated it. But piked out. (something to do with too many things on my plate…) This year I have planned a month off work in November for it and have signed up. What for, you ask?

“NaNoWriMo”, says I.

“National Novel Writing Month.” - http://nanowrimo.org/

Over the month of November, participants aim to write 50,000 words – the size of a novella. NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organisation which encourages writers to, well – write! The website hosts forums, articles and guest columns – all in an effort to kick writers in the butt and get them doing what what writers should be doing.

That 50,000 words (in 31 days) is a daunting task but I am hoping to get one of my stories extracted from my brain and onto paper by the end of the month. The novella length should be about right. I hope.  I see it as yet another way to avoid procrastination and get the words done. Now I have said it, I gotta do it.

But wait! That is not all. Yesterday I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo. Okay, I heard you.
There are two of these. One in April and one in July. This version of the event allows for the writer to choose between 10,000 and 999,000 words. I am using this option to dip my toe into NaNoWriMo.

My goal for April is 10,000 words. I am planning on writing a new short story starring my two Victorian doctors – Viola Stewart and Dr Collins – who were introduced in  An Eye for Detail.  Any remaining words will be written towards a second short story or my work-in-progress - The Department of Curiosities. Doctor Jack is an alternative historical/steampunk(ish) mystery.

Eep. Now I have put this all out there, I had better back it up.  Wish me luck.

Now I Have Done It! There Is No Turning Back?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

There is a Wonderful World Out There...

If only we would take some time to actually look at it!

This week I have been fascinated (gobsmacked and infuriated) at how many of us walk around, head down staring at our phones. I have been amazed at how many near misses there have been. People just don’t seem to observe their surroundings any more. Maybe we don’t want to acknowledge the real world? Maybe it is all too stressful, too tiring or just too boring?

This got me thinking… How observant am I?
Yesterday I had a specialist’s appointment in the city. As my husband also had to go to the city, we saved petrol (and the environment) by taking just the one car. I had arranged to meet him after my appointment had finished.

I walked several city blocks to our meeting point. It was a beautiful day. A pleasant breeze tugged at my hair, bringing with it tantalising smells from the cafe across the road. While I waited I took in the sights.

Several pedestrians had their head down, texting or checking emails. (Or maybe their GPS for directions? I really had no way of knowing.) One looked up at me just in time to avoid running into me. I smiled. He looked very put out and strode off down the street.

One thing I have learnt, as a writer and artist, is that there are so many potential stories to be found. Anywhere. Just standing on a street corner. I have no doubt the man who almost ran into me, will end up in one of mine.

observantWhile standing there, I spied something very unusual – not 30m from me. It made me laugh. So many ideas popped into my head. How did that get there. I took this photo – for proof.

How observant are you? What do you see in this photo? How many stories does this one picture suggest to you? (This is not photoshopped.)

Did you notice the car that ran the red light? Did you notice the red light? It was recycle rubbish day. There will be some roadworks or work on the pipes soon. There is a local election coming up. Did you notice anything else?
Let me know if you want me to post the close up!

There is a wonderful, exciting world out there. It is full of so many stories, so many opportunities. Why not take a look for yourself and enjoy it.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Of Rewrites, Rethinks and Personal Firsts

This week has been full of hard work,  angst-ridden decisions and conflicting emotions. Earlier this month, a friend of mine posted me information on an opening for unsolicited submissions (rare)  for children’s picture book manuscripts (even rarer). Though there are now a few publishers who have a monthly submission process.

I was stoked – and rigid with fear  at the same time. I had two stories (‘under 600 words preferred’) suitable for the ‘children’s picture book’ genre.  A little tweaking and minor rewrites (as I had written these several months ago) and they were ready for e-mail submission. Almost.

I did not have to write a full submission letter. The publisher just wanted a ‘paragraph about yourself’.  It took me almost a week to write that one paragraph. As a writer, I want to make myself sound interesting and my story exciting – but at the same time, I do not want to sound like a twat.

I asked my husband to “describe me.” He was no help. I asked my friends for a ideas – what sort of thing would a reader (or in this case, a publisher) want to know about me?  In the end my friend Mark had a great line – which I… borrowed. (with permission, of course. Thanks Mark!)

So the following were submitted:
  •  My Cat is an Alien - one child’s scientific explanation to prove her cat is an alien
  • If I Were a Dragon - A young boy’s fantasy about being a dragon – maybe he should be careful what he wishes for? 
  • email cover letter with
  • a paragraph about myself, adapted from my bio:
    Karen Carlisle is a part-time optometrist who has worked with children for over 10 years. She lives in Adelaide with her husband, her daughter and her ancient Devon Rex cat. She loves fantasy fiction, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk, and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratic or airship adventures with her daughter. Karen has always loved chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.  She is not keen on South Australian summers.
This one paragraph has made me rethink many things – how I want to present myself, as a writer, to the world. (This also lead to some culling and rewrites on my website.) I had thought writing that paragraph bio had been difficult.  Ha! The hardest part was pushing that send button. With that one little movement of the index finger, decades of self-doubt, confidence issues and the fear of rejection all surface and jostle to be heard once more.

This was a first for me – the first time ever I have submitted anything to a publisher. Somehow I managed to avoid sending a query letter or a submission letter and have to find an agent first. (Thank goodness for unsolicited submissions – a beneficial side effect of e-books, I believe.) If I had not done so many short story competitions last year, I may not have had the courage to hit that send button.

I am not holding my breath for a call back or reply. In reality, writers get a significant amount of rejections before any acceptance. Statistically, I am doing well with my one short-listing in 2013. I have cleared a space on my wall to pin up my rejection slips. Each time I look at them, I will not think of failure. I will remember my perseverance in finishing each story and the courage it took to send it in – rejection or no, I am in that 5-10% that have made it that far.  That is a good thing.

Manuscript Word Progress:

Total Words:  
At 1st draft only:
Revised Words: 

Of Rewrites, Rethinks and Personal Firsts