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Sunday, June 26, 2016

An Very Inconvenient Hiccup.

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2016/06/26/an-very-inconvenient-hiccup/

This week has had its up and downs. Three short stories are now with my beta readers and formatting of my next eBook, The Adventures of Viola Stewart: Three More Shorts, has begun. Work on the next book trailer is in progress.
But it has all been agonisingly slow.
Regular readers will know of my struggles with recurring migraines and anxiety, complicated by ongoing health issues that began about nine years ago. I had thought the current solution would tide me through. Alas, it has not.
Last month it became painfully (and I emphasise painfully) aware my body had yet again betrayed me.  Various treatments were tried. And proved inadequate. I have now consulted the appropriate specialists and have the verdict. A very inconvenient hiccup, with extremely poor timing.
I am scheduled for surgery next month (unless a cancellation bumps me up the list). It is major but also relatively routine and will have a recovery time of six to eight weeks. In this time I cannot lift or drive. Very, very inconvenient.
I am working on scheuled social media posts and updates on my progress, but please forgive me if I am not as visible on social media in July and August.
Most annoyingly, it has forced me to reschedule the publishing of Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales. (Insert various expletives here.) As a result I have been working to complete my next set of three Viola Stewart short stories. They are currently with my beta readers.
But I have a plan. And it is as cunning as... (sorry, got carried away there).
Rather than publish the Three More Shorts eBook, the Eye of the Beholder novella eBook and the paperback compilation, Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales, at the same time - publication will be staggered. I'm hoping this will provide you with something to tide you over until the paperback compilation is released (late August or early September at this rate - barring complications).
Tentative publication schedule:
  • Mid July: Three More Shorts eBook
  • Book trailer launch - some time in July or August.
  • Mid August: Eye of the Beholder novella eBook
  • 11th September (Aus Sci Fi pre-launch)
  • 17th September ( Steampunk Festival in Port Adelaide/official launch)
Please accept my heartfelt apologies at the ongoing delay. I'm hoping the surgery will solve at least one of my long-term health issues. Unfortunately the migraines and anxiety are not so easy to sort out. But I'm working on it.
See you on the other side.

Friday, June 24, 2016

When you can't wait for that chocolate cake fix...

original post (lost in the aether til now): http://karenjcarlisle.com/2016/06/19/when-you-cant-wait-for-that-chocolate-cake-fix/

Hello, my name is Karen and I'm a chocoholic.
You could say I haven't met a chocolate I didn't like (well, as long as it's dark chocolate) but that isn't entirely true. I'm not too fond of chocolate hot cross buns. There it is. My deep dark secret.
What is true is when I get a craving for chocolate cake, I can't always wait thirty minutes to an hour! Thank goodness for the chocolate mug cake recipe. Chocolate cake. In a mug. In about five mintues.
There are several recipes for mug cakes on the internet. Most are in US measurements. (insert sad face here). After trying a few, I came up with my own version, converted them to metric, reduced the sugar content and upped the cocoa. More chocolate!
The great thing about this recipe is in about five minutes you get steaming hot chocolate cake - and very little washing up. (Always a bonus).
You need:
  • a mug
  • a microwave
  • 4 tablespoons of self raising flour
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar (the originals called for four or five!)
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 3 tablespoons oil (I use olive oil as it is healthier)
  • 1 egg (I use freerange or backyard eggs)
  • splash of vanilla to taste
  • 3 tablespoons (or more if you want) of dark chocolate chips. This is optional.
I've made a video to show you how easy it is:

Best of all, If you cook from scratch you can use healthier ingredients, such as olive oil. You can reduce the amount of sugar and use free range eggs. Most of all, you can avoid added artificial colourings, flavourings, sweeteners and preservatives.
Have a go. And enjoy.

Photo Friday: Three More Shorts. Viola’s next set of Adventures

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2016/06/24/photo-friday-three-more-shorts-violas-next-set-of-adventures/

I've been writing like the wind this month. I'm at the tail end of rewrites and edits for the next set of The Adventures of Viola Stewart. The eBook, Three More Shorts, will contain adventures five to seven, with shorts from Viola, Henry and Polly's point of view.
Here's a preview in words and photographs - from handwritten notes, transcribed to computer, rewritten, edited and formatted ready to go and a reminder of the eBook cover.
  SS2bgroundcheck_2016KarenCarlisle where the magic happens EOM short stories 2016_copyright2016KarenCarlisle  rewrites2SSIEOB1606SS1EOB_rewrite3_160515eyeofbeholderrewrites_copyright2016KarenCarlislePoint of view done_copyright2016KarenCarlisle
  formatting1_copyright2016KarenCarlisle ViolaIcon_copyright2016KarenCarlisle Cover 3_final_3 more shorts Ebook SMALL
Note: Short story titles may change before publication.
All artwork ©2015 Karen J Carlisle.
All photos:©2016 Karen J Carlisle.
All Rights Reserved.
If you wish to use any of my images, please contact me.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Photo Friday - War of the Worlds Flash Back

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2016/06/17/photo-friday-war-of-the-worlds-flash-back/

waroftheworldsThis week I've been listening to Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds and was reminded of a brilliant night out with friends, when the Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation stage play showed at our local movie theatre. We attended in steampunk attire and - yes - we sang along.
Pics as promised:
  Catherine_copyright2013KarenCarlisle  Dave_copyright2013KarenCarlisle  Christian_copyright2013KarenCarlisle

A bit of background:

In 1978 Jeff Wayne made a concept album based on HG Wells' War of the Worlds. Musical Version of War of the Worlds starred some big names of the 70s, including David Essex and Justin Hayward (Moody Blues). Richard Burton narrated as the Journalist. I have it on the original LP and CD re-release. (read The Guardian article: Jeff Wayne and David Essex: how we made The War of the Worlds)
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation was released on CD in 2012. Again, it featured well known performers. The narrator/Journalist was Liam Neeson. The Alive on Stage! version was filmed and toured movie theatres around the world in 2013. (read a Review by The Guardian.Alive on Stage! is now available on DVD.
The London Theatre is currently performing the stage version, with Michael Praed. David Essex plays the Voice of Humanity and Liam Neeson's hologram returns as the narrator.
group photo
Photos (c) 2013 Karen Carlisle, (c) 2013 David Carlisle
All rights reserved
If you wish to use a photograph please contact me.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Power of Books.

orignal post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2016/06/12/the-power-of-books/

I hadn't realised series 10 of the ABC's Book Club has changed format. I sat down - tea cup in hand, a piece of home-made banana and walnut cake in the other - and cued up this month's episode. Bonus! There were two. It is scheduled weekly, not monthly for 2016.
Episode two was entitled: Books That Changed My Life. The question was asked of the four guest panelists. Their answers were varied: The Uncanny X-men graphic novel,  The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake, Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence and Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller. This got me pondering. What book changed my life?
I thought about it for a week. Many books have influenced me, but which one book had changed my life? This wasn't an easy question.
I come from a religious family. My faith was introduced to me at a very young age. The Bible influenced me greatly, from a very young age. It shaped my beliefs, my ethics. It guided me. It challenged me. It made me ask questions. But it didn't change my life because it had always been there.
I thought harder. I've read so many books, but had any caused a specific change in my life? Then it was clear. The book that changed my life was Lord of the Rings.
In high school I was an avid mystery reader - Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh. It wasn't long before I had finished the books in that section of the library. In grade eight, the school librarian, who made it her quest to widen a student's reading vocabulary, gave me a copy of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
A new, fantastical world opened up to me. I read and read Lord of the Rings. I sourced other books on Middle Earth. My library now boasts three copies of The Hobbit, three copies of Lord of the Rings, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Farmer Giles of Ham, The Lays of Beleriand, The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales and other J R R Tolkein essays.
It was a big part of my adolescence. But how did Lord of the Rings change my life?
First: I discovered speculative fiction. I could transport myself to a place where anything was possible. It provided an escape from a difficult family situation and the uncertainty of the eighties when world leaders had their fingers hovering over the 'big red button'. Once hooked, I found a hero in Doctor Who, I found adventure in Star Wars. Instead of physically running away, I absconded into fictional worlds where good triumphed over evil and friends were loyal, even against the odds.
This led to the imaginative world of Dungeons and Dragons. I now created my own worlds, drew up maps, created world histories and characters to fill the void. This inspired me to write my first book (still hidden somewhere in storage boxes). I wrote fantasy, science fiction and Doctor Who adventures. I researched history - leading into decades of historical re-enactment - and fell in love with words. Those early seeds grew over the years. Writing and speculative fiction came to my rescue in another time of need. Helping me to cope with anxiety.
I'm fortunate to have discovered Lord of the Rings at a pivotal point in my life - a time I was pondering life, the universe and everything. The themes of preserving our natural environment, resisting corruption, of loyalty and sacrifice for others and the ability for the smallest of people to make a difference in the world follow through the books. They shaped my life and re-enforced childhood teachings. I care for the environment, companion plant, save water, recycle. I worked twenty-eight years, looking after the health of others. I crave for a world where friendship and loyalty are more important than material wealth.
Over the years, I kept returning to Lord of the Rings - to the Ents who fought against the destruction of their home and defeated Saruman. I returned to Aragorn the hero, to Galadriel the elf-queen who resisted the temptation of the ring and to Samwise, the loyal friend - who I think was the real hero of the tale.
LOR collection

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday Flash Fiction Challenge: At Sun’s End

oringal post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2016/06/10/friday-flash-fiction-challenge-at-suns-end/

This week's Chuck Wendig challenge was simple: Must contain map. (with extra-awesomeness for making a map) Less than 1000 words. Challenge accepted.
© 2016 Karen Carlisle

Go east, it said. Follow the sun.
Dorcas peered over the bow. Salt spray ricocheted off the cabin’s glass. Waves slapped at the hull. The sun was nudging the horizon. Soon there would be nothing to follow.
“Get me that map, Squib,” she grumbled as she locked the ship’s wheel in position and pulled the chain dangling by her ear.
With a hiss and a puff of steam, a telescope detached from the cabin roof. Flecks of rust dusted her shoulder as it ratcheted lower, wobbled and suspended itself mid-air in front of her eye.
She peered through the eyepiece, grimaced and cranked a dial on the scope, focussing on the white caps of the tortured waves. Still nothing but sea.
“Capt’n, we’ve lost another one.” Squib glared at her from under crumpled eyebrows and thrust a rolled parchment in her direction.
“How many now?” asked Dorcas.
“Two, if you don’t count the cat,” replied Squib.
Dorcas bit her lip. They had come too far to turn back now. A pact had been made and restitution must be made. It would earn her two thousand guineas.
“I told them to stay below decks and out of the hold,” she said as she snatched the scroll and flipped open the parchment. She studied the map. Fading ink lines traced out the shape of a crescent island. To the south lay treacherous waters – rips and whirlpools enhanced by shadowy haloes of ancient ink.
Squib examined the array of instruments on the navigation panel and leaned over Dorcas’s shoulder.
“We should be…” His finger hovered over a serpentine figure on the map. “… Here.” He sucked in his breath and recoiled his finger.
Faint lettering rode the serpent’s back: Here be monsters.
Dorcas clenched her teeth, disengaged one of the brass levers beside the wheel and yanked it toward her. It thudded on the wooden frame. Its twin shuddered.
The engines below wailed. Gears screamed. The floor beneath their feet reverberated. Outside the wind silenced. The sea calmed. Grey smoke belched from the funnel and clung to the deck, like a shroud.
Squib lunged toward the levers. “Are you mad, Capt’n? We can’t stop here.”
“Do not touch those controls, Squib.” Dorcas stepped in front of her first mate and held her ground. “That’s an order.” She flicked a switch. A regular clang resounded along the deck. The signal was sent.
The engine sputtered to a halt.
Squib stared at her, eyes wide.
“But Capt’n…” He swallowed. “Here be…”
"Monsters.” Dorcas licked her lips. “Yes, I know.” She peered over the bow. Ripples surged across the sea surface.
Squib’s jaw dropped. His mouth twitched. No words came.
Dorcas glared at him through slitted eyelids.
“Prepare to jettison the cargo, Squib.” She eyed the unsettled water. Bubbles beaded on the surface. She grasped the wheel tight in both hands. “Now, Squib!”
Squib lifted the brass communication tube to his lips and blew.
“Prepare to jettison the cargo pod.”
A muffled voice replied.
Squib turned to Dorcas. “What is in the cargo pod, Capt’n?”
Almost there. Dorcas’s heart pounded.  Her breaths deepened. She remained silent and scanned the water, looking for any signs of…
“Are they ready?” asked Dorcas, her voice calm as the grave.
Squib barked orders down the tube. More muffled replies. He nodded, not taking his eyes off the water.
The surface convulsed.
“There!” Dorcas yanked back the second lever. The engines roared back into life. The ship inched away from the growing whirlpool.
Beads of sweat formed on Squib’s forehead.
A glistening tentacle, as thick as a horse, broke the surface and slid elegantly skyward. It curled toward the ship, raining water across the bow.
“Captain?” Squib’s knuckles paled as he squeezed the communication tube.
Dorcas’s breaths came more quickly now, matching her heartbeat.
A second tentacle slipped out of the water.
“Now, Squib!” Dorcas hissed.
Squib screamed down the tube.
Chains rattled below. The hull moaned. The ship lurched backward. The water seemed to boil around them. The tentacles halted, suspended above the cabin.
Dorcas swallowed. She had delivered on her part of the bargain. She held her breath. But could the deal be trusted?
An unearthly howl shook the ship. The tentacles quivered, and slowly pulled back as if revoking their claim. They hovered for a moment before sinking back into the depths.
Dorcas let out a ragged breath and grinned.
Squib slumped against the instrument panel, communication tube still in hand.
“What the --?”
“We’ve completed the bargain,” replied Dorcas as she unlocked the ship’s wheel and spun it northward. “Tell the men we’re heading home.”
Squib straightened his shoulders and looked Dorcas in the eye.
“Captain, what was in the cargo pod?” he asked.
Dorcas glanced sideways at him.
“A mother and child should never be parted, Squib,” she replied. Next time she would accept no less than five thousand.
And yes, I made a map.
Artwork (c) 2016 Karen Carlisle
All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Writing Research (or how to avoid falling down the Rabbit hole).

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2016/06/05/writing-research-or-how-to-avoid-falling-down-the-rabbit-hole/

Alice peered into the tunnel and grinned. "What wonders shall I find today?"
I don't know about you but, for me, research (particularly that of the internet variety) can be like falling down a rabbit hole. Don't get me wrong; sometimes the fall is exhilarating. Sometimes it is just another form of procrastination.
This month, my writing group's toolbox topic was research tips and techniques.
Have you ever spent two hours searching for era-appropriate phrasing or whether a shirt sleeve had a button or cuff link as a closure? My Google-fu fails me regularly. (by the way, it was a button.)
Something unexpected was unearthed by our discussion. It seems even the term research can be defined differently. The online Oxford dictionary defines research as 'the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions'.
To some in our group, 'research' meant finding specific proof to back up facts in a pre-written story outline, with research done in response to specific requirements, depending on the plot points of their story.
To others it was a multi-phase method, sometimes initiated by an idea, a mood, a title or a picture. Most (possibly up to 80%?) research was done before writing - a form of background immersion in a world or timeline (like the writing iceberg.) Once drenched in the ambiance of the chosen topic, we write, letting the story evolve - sometimes plotting, sometimes pantsing - and making notes for further research along the way. Maybe that's another difference between plotters and pantsers?
I'm a mostly pantser myself. Most stories start with a spark - a photo, a word, an idea. This is usually followed by weeks of research. A first draft follows. I then concentrated on the picky, specific research (see button vs cufflink comment above) as part of my first rewrite (usually when transcribing my handwritten draft to the computer).
My novella, Doctor Jack, is an excellent example of how I do my research.
Spark: I was watching yet another Jack the Ripper documentary. I find his story intriguing. Who was he? Why did he commit such horrendous crimes? Was it political? Was it a symptom of the endemic poverty of the area, was he a personification of middle class fears? Then the question formed: What if Jack the Ripper was being controlled by the Men in Grey, my fictitious secret society bent on taking over The Empire?
This question drove my background research. I investigated the details of the crimes, the political and social landscape of 1888 East London, the structure of the local police and London Metro Police, contemporary autopsy techniques and information about the main players - ie. suspects and Inspector Abeline himself. I watched various documentaries proposing new suspects, studied new forensic evidence (later discredited/dismissed). I watched episodes of Ripper Street and listened to various steampunk to create an ambiance.
I was ready to write the first draft (usually this is handwritten. It seems to engage my creative side more effectively). As I wrote, specific questions arose, facts needed checking. I noted them using 'TK'. This was a method other writers, like Gail Carriger, use. The letters TK are rarely found together in the English language. A TK computer word-search of the manuscript will pull up all the items needing further research.
My first rewrites involved transcribing my handwritten first draft onto the computer, researching specific 'TK' notes as I go. Sometimes clues or story specifics will be changed. Often I find reasons why I had added curious facts. In Doctor Jack, my cigar-smoking Inspector Abeline tinkers with clockwork mechanicals (a steampunk conceit and a way to connect with my female protagonist, Viola Stewart). Revisiting specific research on Abeline revealed the historic inspector had been a clock maker before entering the Police force.
Serendipity or research? I like to think the pre-research bubbled away in my subconscious and popped out when required.
This method isn't for everyone. It takes time but I feel I get a better handle on my stories. I can let facts and ideas bubble away so I can either find specific points where my story deviates from traditional history, or add in twists, facts or clues based on the research. Sometimes the process is organic. Plot points present themselves to me. I love it when this happens. If I hadn't done my pre-research I wouldn't have these inspirations.

Here are some tips for writing research:

  1. What is your writing style/ How much time do you have?
    Are you a pantser - letting your story evolve? Do more pre-research so you know your story's background well - even if the reader only gets to see the tip of the iceberg. This can work for plotters too but can take more time. If you are more comfortable plotting a story, or have less time to finish your story, then researching specific facts as you go, or after your first draft, may work for you.
  2. Write a list of topics or questions you need answered.
    And stick to these. Don't go chasing a titbit just because it sounds interesting.
  3. Use 'TK' notations in your draft or manuscript.
    TK computer word-search of your manuscript will pull up all the items needing further research.
  4. Google search: be specific with your questions. 
    eg. 'Who made jammy dodgers?' / 'What is the smell produced by the New Model No. 3 Smith and Wesson revolver, using 'black-powder, centre-fire, metallic revolver cartridge (1882)?' (is that specific enough?) - this was an actual question I googled for a short story. Maybe it was too specific? It led me to a YouTube video (useful to describe the sound) and book, Chemical Analysis of Firearms, Ammunition, and Gunshot Residue by James Smythe Wallis.
  5. Read and Use Wikipedia footnotes and bibliography
    The problem with Wikipedia is anyone can add to the pages. This means you can't always believe what you read. Read the footnotes, check out the references. Check facts for yourself.
  6. Don't forget books!
    Your library is your friend. I can order inter-library loans for research books, if my local doesn't have it. If I use the book a lot, I search online second hand book stores. (I bought a copy of Chemical Analysis of Firearms, Ammunition, and Gunshot Residue and have used it many times.)
  7. Keep folders (paper or computer) of your research
    I have both. I have boxes for specific story ideas, and computer folders and notebooks on specific research topics.
Some useful websites (I use for steampunk, alternative history)
  1. Boothe's Poverty Maps - This is a colour-coded map of 1889 London, showing socio-economic categories of each street.
  2. British History Online - http://www.british-history.ac.uk/catalogue
  3. Centre for History of Medicine (Harvard) - online 'Curated content from the Center for the History of Medicine's extraordinary collections'
  4. Google Maps - I often use this in conjunction with Boothe's Poverty maps.
  5. Gutenberg Project - digitised online books, from many countries, with searchable catalogue.
  6. Trove - historical newspaper clippings held by the National Library of Australia.
  7. UK Census (1881) - others also available online.
  8. Victorian Literary Studies Archive - list of various 'Victorian era' webpages
A shorter version of this post can be found on the Spec Fic Chic website.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Photo Friday: At The End of Darkness There is Light

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2016/06/03/photo-friday-at-the-end-of-darkness-there-is-light/
"At the end of darkness, there is light" is a quote from one of my works-in-progress - part of a dialogue between two characters. My protagonist originally says: At the end of light, there is always darkness. Her companion corrects her - a sort of glass half full thing. This reminded me of an element that draws me to specific artworks and often turns up in my photography - chiaroscurro.
Chiaroscurro (from the Italian - light-dark) is 'the use of strong contrast between light and dark', often using one light source to create a 3-D effect. The term is often used in art, cinema and photography. Leonardo da Vinci is credited as the pioneer in chiaroscurro. His paintings, The Mona Lisa, and Benois Madonna are just two examples of the style. The Matchmaker by Gerrit van Honthorst is later example.
Today I'm sharing some photos I've taken, inspired by Leonardo and chiaroscurro.
  dragonpurple_copyrightKarenCarlisle standing_copyright2015KarenCarlisle  museumstairs_copyrightKarenCarlisleSundial_copyright2015KarenCarlisleCaptainTrek_copyright2015KarenCarlisle
There is something about this contrast - something I find fascinating. Light caresses the object, accentuating it's features.
What is hiding in the shadows?
Yet there is light to illuminate our way.
The contradiction of light and dark fires my imagination and offers hope. To me, anyway.
My Dearheart reminded me that I seem to look for this contrast in music as well - such as the serenity vs growled warning in Disturb's version of Sounds of Silence, the vocal gymnastics of Kate Bush, quirky notes and stanzas in various other songs.
While fact checking for this blog, I found a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci:
The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.
- Leonardo da Vinci
I must have heard this quote before, possibly in my high school art class (where I fell in love with Leonardos's work). The memory must have surfaced when I was writing the dialogue the character's dialogue. Come to think of it, the story focuses on the light and dark of human nature. It seems I like chiaroscurro in my writing as well.
photos (c) 2009-2016 Karen J Carlisle.
All rights reserved.
If you wish to use any of my images, please contact me.