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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Of Balls, Steam and Wings.

The Australian Costumers' Guild holds its Costume Ball every year, in the last week of August. This year was the 18th ball. I have attended most balls since they were moved to Adelaide. It is an excuse to make a new costume (not that I really need one), a chance to kick up my heels and let loose.
I can shed my anxiety and my fear of crowds - hidden behind the protective facade provided by a costume - sometimes even unknown to my friends! I am not me. I am someone else - someone with confidence.  I am River Song. I am Tia Dalma. I am Donna Noble. I am a strong woman who will not be blamed for nothing.
riversong donname tia dalma 2012
Yet another reason I love steampunk costuming - female characters who are strong and know their own mind. This year I wore my latest steampunk - an aviatrix outfit (not yet seen in its entirety) . I had only my wings and armaments to finish. With the extreme wet winter this year, there has been less 'paint time'; fine weather this week allowed the rush to get the wings completed. My guns will need to wait a bit longer to come out to play.
On the night:
This year there was a strong steampunk contingent. I have been watching my friends' posts as they shared photos of their works in progress. It was exciting to see them in all their completed creations.
ACG ball 2014 groupAnd our outfits:  My wings were complete. My aviatrix outfit is almost complete. 
ACG ball 2014 us2

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mondayitis - My Second Book Blog Guest Post

I love The Dresden Files. A few years ago, I happened upon the television series. It had a fantastic atmosphere, interesting characters and just enough tongue-in-cheek to appeal to me. Then I found out it was axed after one series.
Wind forward another couple of years:
I discovered the television show was based on a series of books, The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher. Woot! I now have several of the books on my bookshelf, with plans to buy more.
Fast forward to last week:
Grave Perill Jim butcherI am fortunate to have friends who share my love of books, reading (and some of writing as well). Several of my friends write regular blogs. Suzie sells second hand books online and has a regular book blog - Suz's Space. She has a regular spot called Mondayitis where she writes a book review, as a narrative about the main protagonist usually from the point of view of an animal or item found in the book.
The concept caught my imagination. It sounded like fun. And it was. Harry Dresden's blue VW has always been a favourite of mine. Now it has its own voice, from the pages of Grave Peril.
You can read my guest blog - Mondayitis - Blue VW on Suzie's blog. While you are there, check out what Suzie is up to.
Mondayitis - My Second Book Blog Guest Post

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Of Firsts, Writers' Festivals and Personal Challenges.

I am not very good in big crowds, especially when I do not know anyone. I feel alone, vulnerable and anxious. I used to love meeting new people and new situations but, after protracted stress at my day job, this has changed. Having identified the problem, I am working on ways of dealing with it.
Salisbury writers fest 1 2014Yesterday's personal challenge was to attend my very first writers' conference - the Salisbury Writers' Festival.  My DearHeart dropped me off (to avoid parking issues - and for moral support) and I registered at the front desk. I found a seat (right at the back) and took a deep breath. So far, so good.  (One of the members of my writers group arrived after morning tea, providing a familiar face.)
John Marden, having absconded from hospital with a broken leg and dislocated ankle, kicked off the day with an informative discussion on how to stand out as a writer by using your own voice.
Heather Taylor Johnson shared her twelve year journey to publication, and her experiences with writer residencies.
Tales from the Bunker followed with authors Allayne Webster, Ruth Starke and John Marden, each discussing their books set in wartime - Paper Planes (Bosnian war), Tomorrow When the War Began (Australia is invaded) and The Anzac Tale (a graphic novel with anthropomorphised characters) - with tips on approaching the subject of war, particularly to a younger audience.
In Spontaneous Creation, much fun and brainstorming was had by the authors Sean Williams, Amanda Blair, Dan McGuiness and audience alike. There was nanna, crochet, cardigans, ray guns and Nannageddon.  I think I will have to write a short story based on some of these ideas!
Finally we heard from Jacinta di Mase Management and publishers from Omnibus Books, Hardie Grant and Allen and Unwin in Panel of Publishers, with a look into the possible future of the publishing industry - spurring more discussion over afternoon tea.
A second session with the publishers looked at The First Page. Twenty-four submissions were discussed, constructive feedback was offered for each submission.Salisbury writers fest 2014
When I decided to start the journey to become a writer (and one day maybe a published writer), I  created a list of things I had to do. One task was to learn more about my craft. This Festival was a major step in my writing process as well as a personal challenge - to mingle and chat with other writers.
Achievement unlocked.
Pity about the selfie fail.

Of Firsts, Writers' Festivals and Personal Challenges.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Of The Muddle of the Middle and Other Inconveniences

I am almost half way through my WIP (work in progress) - my steampunk novel The Department of Curiosities and have now reached the most dreaded (so I am told) part of a manuscript - the middle.  It seems this is where many novels fall into the doldrums. The real risk is to bore the reader, lose their interest or literally lose the plot.
Being an (up until now) pantser* - one who writes without a plan, by seat of their pants - I had been wondering how I would cope with 'the middle'.  I borrowed books, read blogs and asked advice on the subject. Words like mud, tricky, difficult recurred frequently. I had had not faltered too much with my short stories, nor my novella, but this was my first full length story.
What was I in for?
victoria visualStories can be broken down into three basic parts, like a three act play:
  • Act 1. The Beginning.The reader is introduced to the protagonist, who is often still in her comfort zone,  experiencing her first taste of conflict.
  • Act 2. The Middle.
    This is where the action and conflict is ramping up. The protagonist is discovering more about herself, often creating bigger problems as she tries to deal with each conflict. Some short term goals have been achieved but the bigger goal or problem can still be only revealing itself.
  • Act 3.  Resolution.
    The end is near. The characters are close to their goals, reaching a climax. Conflicts are resolved. Loose ends are tied up.  The protagonist is often left changed by the experience.
I now need to reveal more of the characters, their motives. I need to find the moment when my protagonist examines herself, that defining moment which would direct the rest of the story. Was she going to realise she was going to die as the odds were against her? Was she going to learn a significant lesson about herself? Was she going to learn and grow from her experiences?
What does this mean?1. I need to start plotting* more and pantsing less: Increase tension! New clues need to be dropped, and old ones elaborated upon. I can no longer just hint at things. I need to start delivering, providing more information, and possibly resolve some minor back story to allow for the story to move forward. I need to create the foundation for further revelations and, yes, more clues to be dropped for new conflicts.
Resolution 1: More action! Secrets will be revealed (no spoilers here), new conflicts will arise. I have a newly tabled list of events and consequences (and sticky notes) to help this pantser keep on track. Though I can not guarantee things will not change as I forge ahead.
2. I need to remember to 'show not tell': This requires at least minor information/ background dumps (that don't sound like info dumps). How do I reveal some major character history, which is now required to follow the changing story,  and not make it sound like a list of  he said, she did, they were... etc.
Resolution 2: One piece of advice I have read recently said: Try something new. I grabbed my nib pen and started writing diary excerpts describing past incidents and the thoughts of the character behind them - without actually telling the reader the full implications that will be revealed later in the story.
With any luck, I can avoid the muddy middle and keep you all intrigued. Now I am off to write a 
death scene... oops did I say that. tee hee.
* For more on the definition of pantser vs. planner,  visit the NaNoWriMo website.

Of The Muddle of the Middle and Other Inconveniences

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Flying Monkeys are Coming!

Do they know where to find you?

The August issue of my newsletter, Tea and Tidings, is due out tomorrow. If you are not on my email list – and want updates and exclusive news and information – then you can subscribe HERE.

tea 14



The Flying Monkeys are Coming!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

And Now for Something Completely Different.

Every Friday night we have a Family Movie Night.  The entire family sits down to watch a movie, sans mobile phones (though this is sometimes hard to police), have some quality fun time and eat too many potato chips.

Over the past few years, we have introduced our teenage daughter to several of the 1980s (and 1990s) classics we have loved:  Vibes, UHF, The Goonies, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth Princess Bride, Ghostbusters, MIB, The Last Starfighter, Back to the Future and James Bond. This week we watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I grew up watching Monty Python. During my university days, I listened to their LP’s over and over and over again. I knew The Four Yorkshiremen off by heart. I even watched The Holy Grail – frame by frame – as there was a rumour that there was a rabbit hidden in every scene (possibly frame) of the movie. I don’t remember finding one.

spamWhat I did find in their words and movies were:

1. words can be fun.

2. Silly words can be even more fun.
5… no 3. Clever humour is more satisfying than humour based on  the denigration of others, which is just another form of bullying.

4. Do not build a castle on a swamp

5. Spam can be a collectible, and

6. Kings have teflon armour.

Most importantly I learned then, and was reminded on Friday, that sometimes life should not be taken so seriously – something I need to remember more often.

Just remember:  Always look on the bright side of life and nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! 

And Now for Something Completely Different.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Of Weeds, Weeds and More Weeds... oh, and some gardening.

Since my last garden post, we have had rain. More rain. A lot of rain.

I won’t say too much rain – as an ex-farm girl (from Queensland), I have seen too many droughts; this rain has been a welcome thing. Dams over the state have been overflowing. Our local dams are 81-88% full – something not seen for a long time down here.

The upside of the rain? It has made weeding  an easier task. Those pesky weeds have been slipping out with much less encouragement than is usually required.

The downside? The weeds have been growing with wild abandon.

A few hours later, the first section of weeding has been (re)done. I have found my veges again!

weeding doneThere is still a lot more to go. At least I have found the entry to our front path, which was hidden amongst a jungle of soursobs. Now any visitors do not require a machete to find their way to our front door.  (left).  A few more stepping stones would not go astray either. There are a few muddy spots that could do with some work.

And yes, those pots need weeding as well. The potting mix needs beefing up so they can welcome the upcoming spring food crop.

Never a dull moment in this garden. 

Of Weeds, Weeds and More Weeds... oh, and some gardening.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I like Tea. I cannot lie.

As you may be aware (and I am surprised if you are not), I like a good cup of tea. Black (lactose intolerant). No sugar. English Breakfast, Prince of Wales, Blackrose (T2) are some of my favourites. I prefer to use a tea ball – better for the environment and I can mix up something different if I get the fancy. (The tea leaves do wonders in the garden.)

You will often find me tippling the tea while I am writing. I have one in my hand right now!

pots 1
pots 2

tea 1I collect teapots. There is not enough room for them all. I cannot help it. Garage sales and opshops (second hand shops) provide too much temptation. There are so many interesting versions of the humble tea pot. There is not enough room to store them all in the house. I now pot up my succulents in them.

That doesn’t even touch my collection of tea cups. This month I am showcasing some of my favourite teacups and mugs on Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. I hope you enjoy the photographic documentary.

Feel free to post some of your favourites.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When I Grow Up I Want to be a Writer - my first guest post.

It has been a bad week at work. It was spilling over into everything else. I was having one of those days – you know – where you start doubting yourself and wonder if your work is utter rubbish. All those questions were there: Why am I doing this? Am I any good? Have I improved my writing skills? Is my editing hopeless?

Then a friend of mine asked my to write a guest post for his blog on Boomerang Blog. He had been impressed with my writing enthusiasm (cool!) and requested I write from the point of view of a new writer trying to break into the industry. Maybe I could inspire other writers just beginning their journey? Wow! My first invitation to write a guest blog! But what do I write? I haven’t done this before. I put pen to paper and wrote.

purple BW crop
It is now done and edited. Best of all, he was happy with it – and my editing! (All that reading and research must have paid off.)

You will find my guest post - When I Grow Up I Want to be a Writer – on Boomerang Blog, hosted by  Boomerang Books.

Am I excited? Can I do this? Hell yeah!

A big shout out to George Ivanoff – thank you for asking me to write for you and for your continuing support.

George Ivanoff is an author of Children’s and Young Adult fiction (among many things) and fellow Doctor Who fan. Don’t forget to visit George’s website- Literary Clutter as well.

When I Grow Up I Want to be a Writer - my first guest post.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mischief Managed

July is over.

I packed up my things, rolled up my rucksack, snuffed out the kerosene lamp and pulled down the tent. I jumped on the bus, then waved goodbye to my camp buddy. Camp NaNoWriMo has finished. Life can (try to) return to normal.

I have put a load of washing on, verified my word count and collected some of my winner goodies. My goal was 15,000 words. I sailed past it, with a day to spare.  My camp buddy made her goal on the final day. I am so proud of her. She has had a busy month yet she still found the energy to complete her goal.

july 2014 15000 words b

Why do I do it?

It is one of the many tools I use as a procrastination-breaker. I provides a deadline. I have a word count target. (In the case of Camp, it is a self imposed one – much less stressful than the full NaNoWriMo in November.) I have a goal to chase – and I intend to finish it.

When I started my writing journey, my dream was to be a published (and paid) writer. I made a list of things I had to accomplish to reach this goal. One was to practice a regular writing routine. This blog was borne from that. Another was to learn to write to a deadline. NaNoWriMo has proven to be a useful tool in achieving that goal.

In April I made my goal of 10,000 words. For July, I decided to push myself towards 15,000 words. I made it! I won! I have never written that many words in one month. That makes this a personal win for me, not just a Camp NaNoWriMo win.

Over the past year, I have written – and entered into competitions – twenty-one short stories (great for deadlines). I have finished the first draft of my first novella Doctor Jack and have completed 40% of my manuscript for the full length novel, The Department of Curiosities. I am happy with my achievemnent so far. But I have a lot more work to do.

Now I have to work out how I will achieve the preset word goal (or at least try!) for the November round of NaNoWriMo. The rules change. The ‘winning’ goal is 50,000 words. This must be a new project. I can not start writing it until the first day. I can not add to an existing work-in-progress.

I already have several ideas whizzing around in my brain. I just hope I can catch one – and reel it all in on time.

The Department of Curiosities - Manuscript Word Progress: (43% first draft)
Total Words:  
Revised Words: At 1st draft only:

Mischief Managed