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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: Curiosity...

I apologise for the late post today. I have been busy with flash fiction and short stories over the past week. My short story is destined for submission to an Australian anthology, the flash fiction (in this case under 1000 words) was a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig on his blog, Terrible Minds . This week’s theme was to ‘Roll randomly on the three tables below, and you will select three things that must be contained within your story.’ 

Why not? I rolled the dice. The result –

  • Table 1: A strange bird
  • Table 2: A vampire
  • Table 3: A shoebox of full of photographs.
Challenge accepted. Needs more work but a good start for a quick challenge. 967 words in all. Just made the limit. Phew.

by Karen J Carlisle (c) 2015

Fixer-upper? That was an understatement. No wonder the old house had been so cheap! If Sam had known the place needed so much work, she wouldn’t have bought it.

She glanced at the plastic bags piled up in the corner of the lounge room. It had taken all day but order was finally being restored. Maybe the old house had some life left in it yet?

She let out a long sigh and leaned on the wall next to the fireplace. The panel moved under her shoulder.


A secret door? These old houses are full of surprises.

Sam opened the panel to reveal a hidden cupboard, reaching all the way to the ceiling. She craned her neck to scan each dust-caked shelf.

Nothing.  She reached for the top shelf. Too high.

Sam returned to the dim hallway to fetch the small step ladder. Daylight was fading; she should return tomorrow, when the electrician had reconnected the power. She glanced up into the mirrors that ran along the wall. The cupboard beckoned. Sam checked her watch and bit her lip.

Just enough time to check that last shelf.

She grabbed her old camping lantern, flicked it on, and returned to the lounge room. She climbed the ladder and slid the lantern on the top shelf, above her.

Still too short. Next time I bring the full-sized ladder.

Sam raised herself on the balls of her feet and stretched her fingers toward the back of the deep shelf. Her fingertips brushed against something.

A box?

She leaned forward, edging her finger around the box until her fingernail hooked into a thin slit at the corner.

Caw, Caw!

Something flapped around her head.

Sam sucked in her breath. Her entire body tensed. She threw her hands up for protection, as her head jerked forward, smashing her forehead into the edge of the shelf. The ladder toppled. The light faded.


Sam sat up slowly and cursed under her breath. The room floated around her. Muffled sounds broke though the silence. She shook her head, trying to halt the spinning.

Big mistake!

The room warped around her. Every one of her internal organs somersaulted. In unison. A chill crept along her limbs. She swallowed the vomit that ascended in her throat.

Remain calm.

A few drops of blood dripped onto her apricot blouse.

She wiped her forehead.

Not much blood. Probably from hitting the shelf. Check for other damage. A torn sleeve,  jeans covered in dust. It could have been worse.

Sam scanned the room. The ladder lay beside her – an old shoebox crumpled under one bent leg.  Photographs were strewn over the floor. Some were very old hand-tinted, sepia photos. There were family portraits – a father, a mother and a boy in Victorian clothing; a few photos of just the mother and the boy, dressed in black; and several photos of the child and a strange bird. They documented the boy growing into a man – always accompanied by the strange, black bird sitting mid-air beside him.


A large black bird sat watching her. It cocked its head and blinked. It shimmered for a moment before solidifying. Sam rubbed her eyes. The bird remained. Watching.

I must have hit my head harder than I thought.

The photos swirled around her and plopped back onto the floor.

I didn’t feel a breeze. Sam rested her head in her hands. Definitely concussion.

She scanned the photos around her. Thin handwriting covered the back of one: Donovan – aged 16. Sam reached for the photograph.

“I am sorry to intrude.”

Sam spun around to face the hall. A few seconds later her head caught up. A shadowy figure stood in the doorway, silhouetted by the reflections of the fading sunset in the mirrors behind him.

“The door was open. The agent said you would be here.” An English accent.

The man stepped into the light of the fallen lantern. He glanced past her. His eyes widened.

“Oh, can I help?”

Sam pulled herself to her feet, leaning on the fireplace to keep her balance.

“Yes, sorry about the mess. I am still cleaning up, Mr…?”

“Just call me Vinnie.”

The man took a step closer. He looked familiar. He was tall, dark and well-dressed, like he had just come from a wedding – or a funeral.  Sam glanced back at the photos.

“Oh dear, are you a relative?”

“Yes, my family lived here for a long time.”

“I am so sorry. The funeral was today, wasn’t it?”

The man nodded.

“Your grandfather?” she asked.

” Son, actually.”

Now Sam’s hearing was playing tricks on her too. She rubbed her temples and slowly shook her head. The light-headedness had returned. She felt queasy. Vinnie’s face blurred.

“You look like you need some help,” said Vinnie.

“I fell off the ladder. I think I have concussion.”

“I think you need to rest for a while, to adjust.”

Sam stumbled into the hall. Vinnie followed.


There was a flutter of wings in the corner of her eye. The bird landed on Vinnie’s shoulder. He didn’t flinch.

Obviously a figment of my imagination.

They walked down the hall towards the bedroom. Sam glanced into the mirrors. The bird followed her, sitting stately on … Nothing. It bobbed mid-air, just behind her. Sam turned to Vinnie. He smiled. The strange bird blinked back at her, from his shoulder. She checked the mirror again. No Vinnie.

“You’re a…”

“Don’t worry, Miss Samantha. We will look after you.”

Sam felt cold. The light-headedness returned. She searched the mirror and saw nothing but the bird bobbing beside her. She squinted, trying to focus on the fading lantern in the other room. A body lay on the floor, dressed in an apricot blouse and dusty jeans.


Flash Fiction Challenge: Curiosity...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Steam, the Punk and the Writing

The first appearance of the word steampunk was in Locus Magazine in 1987. The term was coined by SF author K W Jeter to define specific speculative fiction works and is a tongue-in-cheek variant on cyberpunk.

What is Steampunk?

The simplest definition of steampunk is to describe it as Victorian science fiction. To elaborate: Victorian: set in the 19th century, with the science fiction element  containing modern technology powered by steam.

In reality steampunk is more complex. It is a creative movement re-imagining analog technologies, mechanics and inventions – powered by steam – and set in the industrialised 19th century. It now encompasses not only fiction, but art, fashion, music, cinema/TV and fandom.

The Steam - The essence of steampunk can be described as an imaged alternate history or future where electricity and petroleum technologies did not dominate, and where steam/ geared, analog technology gave rise to its own versions of modern technology.

The Punk – a philosophy of bucking the system, going against the convention to declare an individuality in style, attitude and gadgets. In a way steampunk is a rebel with a cause – to be free of the norm.

One of my favourite definitions comes from the TV show Castle (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.

As a writing genre, it is a sub genre of science fiction and fantasy; steampunk is now listed as a separate sub-genre on Amazon and Goodreads. It can contain fantasy, horror or historical aspects. It is usually written as alternative history or alternative fantasy.

Steampunk stories are often set in 19th century Western civilizations, such as Victorian England (or the Wild West) where there was a rapid urbanisation and expansion of Empires, a plethora of inventions and scientific discoveries, telecommunication and the rise of mechanised manufacturing and industry.  Recently more stories have been set in Asia or Africa. Steampunk has also crossed over into other genres such as YA, Romance, Erotica and with Gothic/paranormal crossovers such as Gaslamp.

There is sometimes a fine line between Victorian (historical) era and steampunk novels. There is no rule to how many steampunk elements need to be incorported into a story; it can be subtle or over reaching, creating a very blurred line in some cases.

Steampunk has increased in popularity over the past decade. There are books on writing the genre and even an article on How to Write Steampunk in Writing Magazine.  It has infiltrated into mainstream media and fashion. Steampunk inspired fashion featured in the Fall 2012 line from Prada, Retro G Couture.

Icons and Idiosyncrasies:

Steampunk often includes the following:

  • Goggles are probably the most recognisable steampunk icon. They are often found used in pastimes – eg. driving, inventing, mechanics etc. now commonly seen in the fashions and one way to help delineate from historical 19th century styles and modernity.

  • historical or fantasy setting/world or retro-futuristic

  • alternative history – 19th c industrialised setting and society,  or post apocalyptic

  • steam powered gadgets and machinery

  • gears are a familiar icon – relating to engines, pistons, wheels, mechanics.

  • modern inventions as envisioned with 19th century, steam-powered mechanics, eg. mechanical/analog computers

  • airships and dirigibles

  • often relaying the Victorian optimism for the future, encompassing a sense of adventure (often found) in the Empire

  • oh, and kraken/octopuses/squid are not uncommon, whether gigantic, mechanical or symbolic (cool – I love cephalopods)

Examples of Steampunk:

  • Literature – novels by HG Wells and Jules Verne. Modern novels such as William Gibson’s The Difference Engine, KW Jeter’s Infernal Devices, The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. Graphic novels such as The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

  • Movies/TV:  Captain Nemo, Steampunk Boy, Wild, Wild West, Sherlock Holmes, Murdoch Mysteries, Warehouse 13. The steampunk theme has been used in episodes of TV shows – with varying success – like Castle (Punk’d – liked) and CSI:NY (Time Up) and NCIS: LA (Random On Purpose – disappointing).

  • Music: Professor Elemental, Abney Park, The Men Who Will Be Blamed For Nothing and The Cog is Dead – to name but a few.

  • Games: Bioshock II, Arcanum,

And the Writing I have written science fiction, fantasy and even science-fiction comedy (or at least tried to). But I most enjoy writing steampunk. It meshes my long-time love of science fiction with my love of history and historical re-enactment. I can identify with the steampunk philosophies of creativity, decoration, self-reliance and the Victorian optimism for the future – even in the face of danger, and dastardly deeds.

I often find a delicious contradiction between the passions and machinations that are concealed beneath the expected manners of Victorian society. I love the rampant enthusiasm for new adventures, scientific discoveries and inventions. Steampunk allows me to rewrite history to allow my female characters to exert themselves, to rebel against the conformity present in history. There are so many possibilities I can write – political intrigue, murder, mystery, myth and magic, treachery and adventure.

And the clothing is cool too.

Work-in-progress: The Department of Curiosities

Watch this space for more steampunky goodness throughtou February! 

The Steam, the Punk and the Writing

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Saga of the Hallway Bookshelves.

‘My, you have a lot of books,’ she said.

‘Wait til you see the rest of the house,’ I replied.

We picked our way way through the narrow hallway. The bookshelves surrounded us, lining most of the available wall space. They groaned under the weight of tomes, accumulated over the past twenty-two years. Novels were packed, two deep, into each shelf. More books were squeezed horizontally into the vacant spaces above them.  Science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, murder mysteries. movie tie-ins, classics, Doctor Who; there was no prejudice here.

Knick knacks and keepsakes crammed any spare ledge too small to hold a book.  Every spare corner dripped with fannish collectibles and badges of geekdom. A gallery of photographs lined any wall not clad in publications. I was in danger of becoming the crazy book lady to be featured on next week’s episode of Hoarders.

We navigated our way to the lounge room.


‘Yes, thank you.’ She scanned the room. More bookshelves. ‘Oh, I loved reading Lord of the Rings. Is that HG Wells?’

I nodded, both proud of my immense collection and yet rethinking the need for a serious declutter. I gazed through the doorway, into the hallway. Half-naked walls caught my attention – wall devoid of useful shelving.

‘I don’t suppose you know anyone who is willing to help move furniture,’ I asked. ‘We scored a free bookshelf, last month, and it is too heavy for me to lift. We are replacing the small bookshelf with a bigger one.’ I smiled and poured the tea.

‘Not a problem. When do you want us?’

‘Fantastic. How about Saturday? I’ll cook dinner.’


I spent most of Saturday relieving the undersized bookshelf of each book, each collectible, each memory, and stacked the treasures in piles on the floor. Finally we were ready. Our friend arrived, husband in tow, ready to help with the transformation of the hall.

Enter one larger wider, and altogether more impressive, bookshelf capable of redistributing the literary content of the hallway in a tidier, more spacious manner. (thanks to Freecycle). We lugged it from the trailer into the hallway. My goodness, it was heavy.

We dragged it in position only to discover it was more oversized than expected. Not only was the lone power point now inaccessible, but the dark monolith drastically reduced the natural lighting that shone into the hall from the doorway.


Dinner was served. A great conversation was had. An agreement for our friends to relieve us of the smaller bookshelf was made.


It was Sunday. I stood in the shadow of the goliath and stared at the grain in the wood of the shelf. I would not let this beat me. I whipped out the tape measure and ran it over the three untouched bookshelves.

Yes, there was a solution.

‘Dearheart, can you please help me?’

A major reorganisation ensued. Instead of replacing one bookshelf, we were now shuffling three (of the four) overstuffed bookshelves around in a small hallway. But wait. There’s more. Each bookshelf had to be stripped of their contents, their positions swapped and then restocked with the booty. This was a family challenge.

Six hours later…

bookshelves 150118abookshelves 150118fWe now had a tidy hallway, with books neatly stacked into impressive wood-grained bookshelves and keepsakes artistically arranged on their mantles, for viewing pleasure.  To our joy, there was even some free space (which was quickly filled with overflowing bounty from other bookshelves in the house).

Our quest was ended. Order had returned to the hall. All was right with our little patch of the world. So ends the saga of the hallway bookshelves. Now onto this weekend’s adventure…

The front room!

bookshelves 150118e

 *So begins the de-cluttering of the entire house, though some would still say we live in chaos. At least it will be organised clutter and chaos.

Last count : 14 bookshelves, three ex-CD cabinets now masquerading as bookshelves, 3 long wall shelves (and more planned)

The Saga of the Hallway Bookshelves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January Tea and Tidings - flying out today

Do you like reading my blog?

Are you interested in knowing more about my writing or backgrounds to my stories?

Do you want to read preview snippets of The Department of Curiosities or The Adventures of Viola Stewart?

Are you dying to know more about Doctor Jack?

Do you want exclusives or information before it is revealed on my website?

Invite your friends as well, and subscribe to my monthly newsletter – Tea and Tidings with this form, or at the sign-up page. You can follow my blog by email as well. There is a widget for that, on the right sidebar.

Subscribe to Tea and Tidings

* indicates required

Email Format

Powered by MailChimp



January Tea and Tidings - flying out today

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The One Where I Learn to Kill My Darlings: Rewrites & Edits.

There various stages involved in writing a story, whether it be a short story, a novella or a full-length novel (or screenplay or…)
  • Inspiration
  • draft/writing
  • revising
  • editing/polishing
  • publishing
Though it is not really that straight forward. Steps 2-4 can be repeated ad nauseam. A phrase I have heard often of late, says it all: Write. Edit. Repeat.
(and repeat and repeat?)

Like most writers, I prefer the actual writing bit – the initial flush of creating a story. Inspirations can be found everywhere – photos, people, phrases, sounds, even smells.  Then, I get to make things up. Anything. People, places, exciting stories. Freedom! I have control (or that is what my characters would like me to believe).

Creating words can be immense fun (most of the time – except for writer’s block). It is a joy to discover favourite characters. It is entertaining to put them into hot water and see how they react. There is also a lot of looking out of windows and day dreaming (which is actually a sign a writer is at work) in order to find the words appropriate for such adventures.

Then I get to rearrange stuff. Rewriting – moving the furniture about to style the room, with a theme, interesting characters and an engaging story worthy to present to any discerning visitor.

Now I have it – a manuscript. What do I do now?

Edits. Not my favourite step in the writing process. The major processes in editing are:

The Big Picture: structure, plot arcs (primary and secondary), character arcs (development, conflict and resolution). Does it work? I have a wonderful writers’ group and trusted beta readers who help me with this. But wait, there is more.

Middle picture: The next step is to examine each chapter or scene. How does each begin and end? Does the plot work? Does each scene add to the overall development of the characters and to the story? Does the Point of View work? Are there too many Points of View? Is there head hopping*? What is the character’s motivation? How do they react to conflict? It is resolved logically?

Small Picture: Finally we come to the paragraphs, sentences and individual words. Is the each event happen at the power point - the beginning or end – of a paragraph? Look at rhythm, pace and use active verbs. Make sure those words show and not just tell. The best advice I have heard is to read it out loud. Stilted dialogue or clunky words will stand out.

Spelling, grammar, removing weak verbs, repetition and punctuation – all very necessary parts of the editing process. This brings back memories of English class, with subjects, predicates and dangling participles. Oh dear, the teacher said: One day you will need to know this, and you will thank me. He was right.

Life is made easier with word processing programs. First search for the following:
  • spell check
  • overused words – then, but, slowly etc
  • look for -ly words: extraneous adjectives
  • grammar errors
There are many books and workshops dedicated to the art of editing. We have to learn to kill our darlings. To be willing to sacrifice that favourite sentence, word or scene in order to polish the story and do our characters justice. I have to be ruthless. (Easier said than done.)

Right now I am editing two short stories. I will let you know how I go. I have a box of tissues, a red pen and a block of chocolate to fortify my resolve.

Even with all of the above, the best advice I have ever read is:

Write. Edit. Repeat.
If you intend to publish, don’t do your own final edit. Find a professional editor.

( * Head hopping: slipping between points of view, which can be confusing.)

This blog post had 26 revisions… That is a lot of write, edit, repeat.

The One Where I Learn to Kill My Darlings: Rewrites & Edits.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Beginnings

DSC_4865We have had record summer rains here in South Australia – a welcome relief after a week of bush fires. Officially we have had 45mm so far this month. At home, I have recorded almost sixty millimetres in our front yard. Twenty-eight millimetres on the first day alone!

Sadly, some of my friends get depressed with extended overcast or rainy conditions. (It is a common thing). I just want to hug them.

Me? I get excited. I have been known to frolic in the rain. The moisture in the air allows me to breathe. To me, rain means life. Plants will not grow without water. Animals will not survive without water. We will not survive without water.

I am sitting at the table, writing this post. The back door is wide open. There is a refreshing breeze playing over my skin. The leaves are rustling. Somewhere, someone has been mowing. The delicious smell of freshly-cut grass is filling my nostrils (thank goodness I am not allergic to pollen!)

I am in heaven – a welcome respite from the dust bowl that is usually our summer down here. I am full of hope. Life is full of promise.

I could not resist pottering in the garden this morning. I must have looked a sight, covered from head to toe and wearing my big floppy hat in an effort to avoid the sunlight. The antibiotics for the smoke-induced bronchitis warn against exposure to sunlight while taking them. I feel like a vampire – cringing from the sunlight, trying not to explode into flames.

Everywhere around me was new life springing up with the rains. New lemons are budding. Flowers burst, promising more to come. A whole colony of tomatoes have moved in, seemingly overnight. Tiny seedlings of spinach and silverbeet have invaded the garden beds. Self-seeded lavenders are popping up in pots and crevices. I will have a big job in replant all of the seedlings when they are ready to transfer to new homes.



DSC_4908  DSC_4923

I love the wonders of my garden. Each corner offers new delights and promises of new beginnings.

What delights you?

New Beginnings

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The One Where I Confess to Procrastination

This past week has been long and emotional. The muscles in my back and chest are screaming in protest, after coughing fits set off by smoke. I am due back to the doctor next week for a check up. It has taken all of my mental effort to get out of bed.  My manuscript has been neglected. I had not written for over a week.

I have managed to revisit early Joss Whedon, via the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I jumped down the internet rabbit hole and just kept falling further and further into the troll-fed pits of doom (Note to self: do not engage. Do not feed the trolls. Do not let them drag me deeper into the depths of social media doldrums). I have stared, bleary-eyed, into the garden and watched the birds play in the unseasonal rain. In short, I have been honing my skills in the art of procrastination.

And I got really good at it.

It takes twenty-one days* to develop a habit; it takes but one to break it. During 2014, I worked to develop a habit of writing daily. I initially wrote four days a week and succeeded in an (almost) daily writing routine after quitting my full time job.

I really enjoyed the writing.

I was barreling along, with the end of my first draft in sight. Clues were piling up. Revelations were being, well, revealed. The fate of a major character was at hand. Cue a major attack of procrastination. Any excuse would do. Preparation for evacuation due to a local bushfire was a reasonable excuse. This passed. Minor upper respiratory illness was another reasonable excuse. My hard-earned, daily writing quest was vanquished. I achieved nothing.

I had excuses but what was the real cause for my apathy?

Why was I avoiding it now?

While down the rabbit hole, I scooted off down side-tunnels to research how fellow writers tackle the Many-headed Procrasti-beast. I then picked up my pen (which is mightier than than the sword in such writerly quests) and found some answers.

One of the main weapons of procrastination is fear: fear of failure, fear of completion, fear of rejection and the reluctance to kill off our darlings. (I will spare you Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition skit played out in my head just now). Fear has been my nemesis of late.

First rule of conquest – know thine enemy. So here it goes (in a more logical order of their appearance):

  1. Fear of Failure goes like this: Oh my god. A blank piece of paper. What if I can’t find any words? What if the words are rubbish? What if I run out of ideas? What if my muse abandons me. (Blaming an anthropomorphic personification of a conceptual ideal sure beats accepting responsibility for my own actions.)

  2. Reluctance to kill off my darlings. This can relate to particular pieces of writing or beloved characters. It starts with: I love that sentence. I love the sound, the images. Hey, I wrote that! It is from my soul. It is my precious. So what if it doesn’t fit the story? I don’t really have to edit it – do I?  or

    I have really grown to like this character. Oh dear. Do they have to die? But… what if I changed the story? Surely I can rewrite everything/come up with a plausible reason they survived being blown up by a volcano/Aw, come on! Do they really have to die?

  3. Fear of completion: So, I did not run out ideas. Phew. I can see the end in sight. The music is reaching its crescendo. The house lights are preparing to shine. Where do I go from here? Editing is not such a big deal, is it? Then what? What! I have to let people read it? Eep. If I don’t finish then I won’t have to take that next big, terrifying step.

  4. Fear of Rejection: That is it. I am finished. Huzzah!  What? I have to let my work be judged? If people read my work, what will they think? Am I good enough? What if it is all crap? What if the story stinks? What if it was a waste of my time, their time? If I don’t finish, then I won’t have to face rejection.

What if…

I took a deep breath. I marshaled my defence:

  • Organisation: Start with a plan of attack; write a list. First I wrote a list of what was causing my procrastination (see above). Next I wrote notes on the characters and plot – in an effort to avoid running out of  ideas. As a (mostly) pantser, I find this challenging. I started with notes to the end of the chapter.

  • Accountability: Hello, current blog post. If I write it, I have to do it. I hereby solemnly swear to pick up that pen and write something — anything. 

  • Productivity: It will take 21-66 days (or much longer) to develop good writing habits – again. I need to start now. I started today. 700 words done. Tomorrow I will write more.

  • My Goal: Unless I move forward there is no way I can attempt to achieve my dream goal – complete a novel, have it published.

My dream starts here, today. Again.


*according to Dr. Maxwell Maltz. There have been many differing statistics. 28 days is commonly quoted. One study suggested at least 66 days are required.

The One Where I Confess to Procrastination

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Of Family, health and things that matter.

I had planned to write a post on procrastination this week… but that all changed. Extreme weather and unpredictable gale force winds combined to create the perfect firestorm. A fire lit on a total fire ban day, was all that was needed. (A police Investigation is still ongoing)

canon EOS600D 2We woke to the smell of smoke, the news that there was a raging fire in the Adelaide hills reaching to only ten kilometres away.  A state of emergency had been declared. Roads were blocked. Friends were evacuated. Relatives (on prepare to evacuate warnings) were preparing to stay and fight the fire. We were on watch and act. The smoke was too close for comfort.

smoke fallingSmoke blanketed the suburbs (including ours) on Saturday. I suffer from upper respiratory problems with dust – and now smoke, which was making it hard to breathe. We packed our evacuation bags and made arrangements to visit friends, if the smoke thickened.

Adelaidians still talk of Ash Wednesday; it is always on our minds. Each summer we scan the skyline for smoke, hoping the firebugs don’t return.  The emergency box was packed years ago (after a minor earthquake) – battery operated radio, torches, spade, those silvery survival blankets etc.

I had always thought I would agonise over the decision of what to take in case of fire evacuation.  We have a large library of DVDS – favourite tv shows (some very hard to find), over thirteen bookshelves of books, including out-of-print reference books and a room of various costumes I have spent hours making. I would hate to lose them. I thought, when the time came, I would panic at the indecision of what to save.

I grabbed my handwritten manuscript (the major drawback of not exclusively using the computer to write and backup my work). We packed legal documents, wedding photos, three days clothing, our computers and backups. We rang around to see who could look after our cat.

I scanned the bookshelves and DVD library – my Doctor Who, my copy of out of print, expensive reference books, my steampunk accessories. There was no more room in the car for everything I would like to take.  But did I really need them? Would I despair if they were consumed in fire? Instead of anxiety, there was calm; they are but things, possessions. They remained, resplendent on the shelves.

The smoke thinned. I consulted my doctor, due to my breathing issues: pharyngitis, sore throat and ears but my lungs and chest were clear; my anxiety had crept back over the past five days, with worry about family and friends.

On Tuesday we heard the devastating news: our friends house had been gutted. They had lost everything but they were safe. Despite their loss, they were more concerned I not worry about them.

Today we have life-giving rain. It has brought respite to the heat, moisture to the air and the land, and washed away anxiety. After a week, the fires are now under control. The worst is over.  Though property and wildlife were lost, human lives were spared. Our friends and family are safe.

The most important things in life – the things we need to hang onto, hold close and fight for – are those things we cannot replace – our family, our health, our friends, our passions.

I have my family (and cat). I have my friends. I have my health. I have my writing.  Everything else is just decoration.

Of Family, health and things that matter.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Welcome to 2015!

Welcome to 2015.

I hope you all had a joyous (and safe) time. We had a ball on New Year’s Eve, seeing in the new year with friends  and family. On Thursday we saw the last installment of The Hobbit.
(edit - because unpredictable things happen in just a few days)
Today we are packed, prepared to evacuate if the worst should happen. I have my family, papers, photos, the cat and my manuscript packed (he downside of handwriting and no computer backup).  some friends have been fighting the fires as volunteer firefighters. Friends have been evacuated from the hills, and closer, due to the bushfires in the Adelaide Hills. Relatives decided to stay and protect their property - so far they are safe. We should be safe at home, but the smoke has been an issue; fires are unpredictable if the weather changes drastically - we will assess our situation. I pray everyone is safe, the fire is controlled before the return of predicted catastropohic weather conditions.
(end edit)

For new readers, here is a smattering of what I will be chatting about in 2015:

My Writing: Current works-in-progress (WiP) are my steampunk novella, Doctor Jack – now with my beta readers, and my novel-length steampunk adventure, The Department of Curiosities.The Department of Curiosities – Manuscript Word Progress: (95.75% first projected draft)Total Words:  

Photography: Life got in the way, last year. I let my photography slip. This year I shall not. I rediscover the beauty in the world through my photography. I need more beauty and wonder in my life. Here are two photos from Christmas gatherings.

maroons tree decorations 2014

beeMy Garden: I love my garden. It calms me. It delights me. Pulling out the weeds is a great way to vent frustrations. Digging the dirt and planting seeds connects me to my roots (pun not intended) and to the Earth. I can watch the bees or listen to the birds for hours. (Right: More gratuitous photography from my garden.)

We share our plot of land with the native bees, blue-tongue lizards, spiders of many persuasions, skinks, geckos, dragonflies and several species of bird – all within 16 km of the city. I love Adelaide!

I could do without the errant fruit rats, termites, redbacks and whitetails, and hope the galahs and cockatoos leave my fruit alone this year.

Costumes and Art: I always try to find time to do something arty – draw or make costumes. I share some costume diaries here occasionally.

books christmas 2014Reading: My family know me all too well. I now have wondrous new stories to devour: Gail Carriger’s Waistcoats and Weaponry, and The Extraordinaires series by Michael Pryor. I am still waiting on my Dearheart to finish Terry Pratchett’s Steam, so I can get stuck into it as well.

And, just every now and then, I will sneak in a post about Doctor Who (I have been watching for 40 years now) or the delights of tea and dark chocolate.

I hope you will join me for the rest of 2015. It is a time for new chances, for renewing enthusiasm and rekindling dreams.

What do you want to rediscover this year?

Writing:  You can subscribe to my email newsletter, Tea and Tidings, for updates, extra content and exclusives.
Art & Photography: To buy some of my art, visit Redbubble and Off the Artboard and Zazzle.
Costumes: For more on my costumes, check out my Purple Files/Florence Files page.

Welcome to 2015!