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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Give bees a chance

I am hoping that you , dear reader, will excuse my post today if you consider it too political. I am not intending to promote politics but am just voicing a concern I have had for many years now...

As many of you may know, I am a gardener. I like to potter. I have a constant battle between the ordered, control freak in me who loves the symmetry and order of Tuscan gardens, and the hidden wild child who loves rambling, self-seeding English cottage gardens. Many things just pop up around my garden. I love it that way!

Much of my garden has edible plants: Vegetables include broccoli, lettuce, spinach (we can never have enough spinach), carrots, leeks, garlic, kale, shallots and silverbeet. In summer, we also had tomatoes and beans. I am even giving potatoes a go. Most of these plants also have interesting textured leaves and beautiful flowers once they self seed. We also have two different apples that produced fruit for the first time, this year. Unfortunately, we have an ant problem; they ate our orange flowers! We also have some plants that some people do not realise are edible including English lavender, several roses, nasturiums, violets, hibiscus (though I have not eaten those yet). 

We do not use chemical sprays. I want to be able to eat anything, at any time. As a result, we also have a lot of native animals, including blue-tongues, geckos, possums (ugh) and occasionally a koala. We often play host to dragonflies and butterflies though, sadly, there have been less dragonflies of late. We have several different variety of birds including rosellas, ravens and honeyeaters.  

Best of all, we get bees. Lots of bees, including native bees. Though allergic, I encourage them. I have flowers (especially in blues and purples) peppered amongst the edibles, specifically to encourage my bees and beneficial insects. We have an agreement; the bees polinate happily and do not sting me, while I garden and leave them alone. This has worked well for over twenty years. 

And the point of my rant...

I have been very disturbed for many, many years about two main things: the growing trend to try to control seed production and the decline of bee numbers. 
Recent overseas events have been of serious concern. The possible rulings that would make it illegal for seed gathering from one's own garden for the next crop, the possiblity of terminator seeds, the large company controls of seed production, laws to protect companies from prosecution for harm done by their modified seeds, or their pesticides (how incredulous is that !!!!!) and most of all the decline of bees, particularly in the US and in Europe. 

I have been saying for years: the next major war will be over food production and/or control of water supply... One third of our diet comes from plants that are bee pollinated. This year, there are areas of the US where the loss of bees is so significant, it is now predicted they will not have enough pollination and fruit and nut trees will fail next year!

Just take a gander at these:

Biodiversity and responsible use (or non-use) of pesticides, particularly organic farming may give us hope so why control and limit seed production?
and the loss of bees could mean more than just reduced food production, if these studies prove to be true:

Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying "If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live"

Whether by famine or war, this could become a prophetic prediction. In the meantime, my bees will continue to feast on my garden for as long as they want - chemical and pestacide free and I shall risk allergic reactions for these wonderful creations to whom we owe so much.

No one is messing with my babies!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Portable Art to carry with you

After some deep-thought posts, here is a lighter one. I have been doing some more arty stuff.

Introducing new  Optoarms bookmarks. Something new I have been making for the discerning gentle who has an affinity for octopi!

These are available direct from my website for now.

Each is individually made, so pictures of each one will be posted as they become available.

1. Light Brown OCT0B1
2. Dark Brown OCT0B2 

3. Gold OCT0G1 

4. Silver OCT0S1

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Smell of books

Though we have a kindle-clone for travelling, I must admit I do not like reading it and besides one e-reader does not give me the excuse of having a really gorgeous, floor to ceiling, glass-doored wall of bookshelves (pretending to be a really gorgeous Victorian library that I covet). Does it?

I still love real paper books and the lovely vanilla-like smell they develop as they age. (They could sometimes do without the dust though). There is something about cracking open a book and turning the pages, sometimes getting ink on the fingers or sitting in front of one of my bookshelves and trying to decide what to read next. I love trolling through book shops, particularly second hand book shops, looking for a book that catches my eye - a classic, a favourite or something I have newly discovered.

I read recently (online ironically) that you can actually get a perfume that smells like old books! Believe it or not.

There has also been studies into the chemical changes that actually make old books smell the way they do. It results from various volatile organic compounds such as acetic acid, benzaldehyde, butanol, furfural, octanal and methoxphenyloxime, just to name a few.
The research paper can be found at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ac9016049

After the smell of freshly cut grass after the rain, the delicious smell of old books is one of my favourite smells. It stirs up memories and transports me to another world. If you are a regular reader, you will have read my blog on what causes the smell of cut grass (http://offartboard.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/the-smells-of-reminiscence.html ) Now I have yet another  favourite smell to chalk up to 'volatile organic chemicals'. Sigh. But can I resist breathing in deeply when passing the local parklands, or a second hand book store?

Can I?

Probably not. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Practice, Practice, Practice. An impromptu writing exercise.

I noticed, dear readers, that many of you prefer gorey Vampires to Victorian stories. Hopefully you will like today's offering.
As today is my 100th blog post (partying will ensue later)... I give you a full story.

Yesterday, my friend Alonya and I were chatting away online.. I was supposed to be writing; she was supposed to be studying. She proposed some fun and started off a story. Some of you will probably recognise it as a form of writing exercise. Each person writes a sentence or paragraph and the next person is left to take up the story. Here is the result, published with permsission: My words are marked by 'K' and Alonya's with 'A'. 

Kitty versus the Zombies.(named post-writing)

A:  High on the seventh floor in an apartment on the other side of the country...
K: a cat pushed its way through the cat flap to find its owner lying face down in a pool of blood most inconveniently having had knocked over the food bowl.
A: On her neck was 3 claw marks...
K: suprisingly large for the small cats that frequented the abode.
A: But she had been researching claw marks for her writing and had discovered that cats have 5 claws on each front paw and 4 on each back foot.
K: Hmmm... thought the cat. I must really find a new residence. This one is getting too crowded.
A: However that cat upon trying to leave the residence found that the unusual sized door was in fact locked, thus trapping it inside alone with the dead owner.
K: There was a murmuring behind her. She turned to see her owner staring at her with blank eyes, clawing her way slowly along the floor towards where she sat.
A: Thought the cat. Here we could have some fun.
K: Maybe I should point out that it was sheep's brains in the food bowl.

A: As she nimbly jumped over the slow moving owner to a vantage point high above the shambling mound that once fed her...
K: ... she knocked over the candle that had been carelessly left alight.
A: As the wax dripped onto the floor the owner realised that the fire from the candle was something to be feared. The cat also was fearful of fire as had all animals been since the dawn of time.
K: Luckily, the owner had a habit of leaving the window open. Now if only she could guarantee landing on her feet, from the seventh floor!
A: The cat leaped out of the window in a single graceful movement to discover that the window lead to the balcony overlooking the river.
K: She glanced behind her. She would miss being fed and cuddled but there were many more (less-Zombiefied) owners in the world. That is what crazy cat ladies were for.

A: Scanning the area from the vantage point, the cat saw there was another balcony, just a short jump from her own balcony. Knowing that the other balcony was owned by another feeder that liked cats and would provide a sunny spot for sleeping and a full food bowl.
K: She could now smell the faint odour of burning flesh and hoped she could insinuate herself into the new household before the flames really took hold.

A: Upon landing on the wall of the balcony, she was immediately confronted by a large figure dressed in a shiny set of clothing unlike she had ever seen before. Kicking up her haunches ready to pounce, the shiny figure started to slowly move towards her.
Clank, clank, clank.
K: The cat, having led a relatively sheltered life until now, had never seen medieval (oid) armour before. Mind you, she had never encountered a zombie before either. This would really be something to tell the grand kids!
"Kitty!" cooed the metal encased stranger.

A:The armoured hand reached out towards the cat, hand opened. As the hand came closer she heard her name coming from the other seventh floor apartment.
K:  The cat blinked sweetly at the helmeted face. Hi, I am Kitty it thought. I don't know who that strange non-person is calling.
A: Kitty launched herself at the figure, all claws unsheathed ready to catch on as she landed.
K: As she glided through the doorway, into the new apartment, the figure lifted it's visor to reveal blank staring eyes and a drooling grin. 

Oh, f...! thought Kitty, as she twisted to avoid the armoured figure and landed inside the apartment. She looked up to see a sea of zombified faces looking at her....

A: Letting out a screeching yelp she launched herself in an all out panic streaking through the slow moving legs of the gathered zombies.
K: By chance, the last zombie to arrive to the gathering had left the front door open. Kitty barreled towards the door, sliding into the hallway and towards the lift. Smoke was starting to seep out of her old apartment, a thin layer collecting in the hallway. The door rattled and then opened. 
Flaming zombies! Kitty screeched as her ex-owner and her new friends shuffled through the smoke towards her.

A: At that moment, the lift door opened.
K: Kitty headed to the lift, the zombie hoarde following determinedly. She jumped into the lift. After what seemed several lifetimes, the doors slid shut, severing one of the probing zombie hands as it left the rest behind.
A: But Kitty realised she had a problem. With the doors closed behind her, she had no idea how to make the magical box work.
K: She could hear the scraping on the door of the box as it sat there for a few minutes. There was a sudden shudder as the lights on the wall lit up and flickered. The box started moving...
A: Down. Kitty realised that the box was falling. Crouched into the corner of the box she waited. With her ears flat, tail all fluffy, she waited. For the impact of the box. Suddenly the dropping stopped and the doors opened with a woosh. She could feel fresh air on her sensitive nose.
She turned back towards the apartment building, now engulfed in flames. She decided apartment living was not for her; too many zombies. She walked off with her dignity intact, to find a crazy cat lady, preferably one that was very much alive.

It was a fun afternoon. This sort of writing exercise keeps me on my toes, not knowing where the story will lead. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks Alonya!
(My first zombie story)

Give me Something to Write About!

Sitting, staring at an empty screen is one of the most frustrating and scary things. Words want to come but they are locked up, beating on the door to be let out but they are trapped. I needed a topic. I said to my husband "Give me Something to Write About!" We both laughed. (not everyone will get that reference). Now I have the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on replay in my head. Give me Something to Sing About was one of the pivotal songs in that quirky episode Once More with Feeling - the perfect way to get so many back stories all out in the open in one single episode. A truly 1950s musical-esque way to cut several episodes of explanations from the series.

That brings me to something that, if encountered, would be a very scary thing indeed! Vampires. Not the wussey, touchy feely vampires of recent romantic teenage fiction but the gritty, rip-yer-throat out kind. The kind I really, really would not want to meet in a dark alley unless I was armed to the teeth with a non-wavering faith, silver crosses, holy water, multiple wooden stakes (preferably on a multiple barreled crossbow for rapid and maximum impact) and a definate means of escape. Or a vampire slayer as back up.

Vampire lore has been around, from the dawn of time, in many different cultures. In Europe vampiremania led to people being buried with stakes in their hearts and sometimes bricks in their mouths to prevent them rising to inflict carnage on the living. Both the shrinking skin of corpses that made it appear that it's nails were still growing and those poor souls inflicted with the hereditary blood disease porphyria seemed only to confirm folkloric myths. (The disease was described by Felix Hoppe-Seyler  in 1871.)

Vampires appeared in poems and novels, form the mid 1700s onwards, including The Vampyre, Jules Verne's The Castle in Transylvania and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Television and movies took them up with a relish with Nosferatu being a classic amongst all of them. Myths and folklore have been around for a much longer time. Vampires shunned the light-giving sun, were blood thirsty, erotic, demonic, self-serving and just plain nasty. (In the 1990s, I must admit I loved the televeision series Forever Knight, with a vampire police detective trying to redeem himself... but there was still the classic blood suckers and danger involved with confronting one). One thing they did not do was sparkle in the sun!

Traditionally, vampires embodied our fears (of the dark and of dying), they represented  a separation from community, anti-social behaviours, repressed sexual desire and our inner darkness which Jung called our shadow, the dark part of ourselves that we do not want to admit to. The scariest thing being losing oneself or soul. They were the cursed.

There was always a dangerous, (sometimes not so) slightly erotic tinge to the classic vampire stories but there was always the threat of the untamed monster turning, risking both life and soul. Times may have changed and we may now be more immune to horror, no longer scared of the metaphorical dark, no longer worried for our soul and our modern sensibilities and thinking may have progressed beyond the Victorian but surely this should have dictated that vampires were depicted as even more depraved, more terrifying and more evil. Recent teenage vampire novels have neutered many vampires, making them soft, cuddly (though slightly cold) boyfriend material with the prospect of joining them in happily wedded undead bliss... 

"Its alright if something's come out wrong,
We'll sing a happy song,
And you can sing along" 
-  Something to Sing About (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once More with Feeling)

No matter how sophisicated or civilized a vampire may seem, it is not safe to dabble on the darkside. There will always be consequences. You had better be either willing to accept them or be very well protected. (Even Buffy suffered consequences when she and Angel finally gave into their desires.) When did it become socially acceptable to murder someone (that you supposedly love) by draining their blood.
"Oh, it is okay, as we are going to get married and unlive happily ever after."
I have found some of the most recent novelisations and resulting movies are promoting some disturbingly unhealthy behaviour towards women... but that is my personal opinion.

There is a t-shirt (that I own)...
Then Buffy Staked Edward.
The End.

Give me the wooden stake! I would rather die with my soul intact, thank you.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Victorian Shenanigans

This past week, I have been researching Victorian traditions, ettiquette and trades possible for women. I am working on a mystery short story and intend to set in the in the second half of the 19th century. Write what you know  is often quoted. Well, I know about being female more than male, would prefer the protagonist to be a female. She is a widow, educated and has a trade. (can't be a doctor as it is pre-1870-74 when women   - well at least Dr Garrett - were registered as doctors. I don't want a nurse either.) Letter writing and scientific advances, of the time, have also been high on the got-to-get-right list.

This story's theme is mystery/detective; it won't be steampunk or gaslight/gaslamp but most likely a basic, straight forward historical Victorian mystery... though the steampunk is creeping in more and more as I get ideas. I wonder if the competition judges could handle that (they did want an 'everyday' investigator but did not state modern day.) 

I have a 1000-3000 word limit for this short story; I think I will need the full 3000 as I have already culled two ideas which would require closer to 5000 words to set out clues and resolve the situation for the characters and the mystery. For inspiration, I have been watching early Poirot (yes, I know it is set much later) Sherlock Holmes, and Murdoch Mysteries. 

For now, I have a kernel of an idea for the mystery which I hope is not too non-mundane for the judges. I have an almost fully set out female character with a not very pleasant set of circumstances she will find herself in. Whether they like a speculative fiction piece or not, I shall find out eventually.

Until then, I will try to finish concocting ideas and commit to writing, next week... hopefully.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thank you Mr Wells & Jeff Wayne

Last night a group of like-minded friends, and I Steampunk'd it up for a showing of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds: The New Generation (Live!) at the local cinema. I have always loved this musical version of HG Wells' wonderful book. (I have it on LP and on CD.) It has been updated with new musicians, singers and narrator (Liam Neeson). It was totally awesome!

Here is a taste of what we saw: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xBw9uEcYSm4

I first fell in love with the notion of steampunk in the early to mid-2000's with my first oufit being worn to a Costume Ball. Since then we have been collecting bits and bobs for varying outfits for varying events.

We could not miss the opportunity of attending War of the Worlds in steampunk attire, could we?

Traditionally, the group does a photo shoot before (and sometimes after as well). Yes, there is a serious lack of guns; we tend not to need weaponry for public outings to the cinema!

Here are just  a few photos for you!



Friday, May 24, 2013

Putting off til Tomorrow... Oops, it is today!

Procrastination. This is the bane of a writer's (and artist's) life. It is a familiar friend of mine. Yesterday I used the excuse of back and hip pain. (Well, it is hard to draw or write when I have a splitting headache!) I did some preliminary work on some calligraphy that I HAVE to finish this week so I will be on track for finishing the painting and illumination next week... So, I suppose that is not procrastination...

I went through my mobile phone looking for pictures I had not yet organised. I tinkered with some effects and here are some results (I like the effect of reducing the number of colours but you will need to view the images on a larger scale to get the full effect)

And that is procrastination...

I often do research for planned short stories. For example, my next short story An Eye for Detail, is set in the late 19th century. As the main character is female, I had to ensure that her trade was an acceptable one for a single woman of the times. (amongst other items I had to research). 

At the same time, more mundane research brought me to the Scrivener program.  I have been contemplating obtaining a dedicated computer program, for my writing and hopefully this one will facilitate the associated research and save time and energy. Well, that was the plan. As usual, it took me a few days just to work out the basics it, via the tutorial. Last night, I was up into the wee hours adding in some of my research. The result? This morning every bone aches, my eyes are tired and I slept in. I am hoping this won't become a regular stand off - me versus the computer! 

However, the program does have some very nifty templates that will force me to actually write down aspects of my characters that have, until now, been locked away in my thoughts. After the marathon, of last night, I have also consolidated some peripheral ideas, changed some of the heroine's background and finally pinned down the date to a much smaller timeline. I have also changed some aspects of the basic storyline. Overall, this could be a good tool... if I can only get the hang of using the program...

So this morning, I wondered what to write for everyone. I procrastinated, had several cups of tea, tinkered with some photographic images and finally decided to just simply share my day with you.

Have a  productive day!

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Sleep. The blissful but elusive state that prevents my sanity from fraying . Sleep. The welcomed rest from my day's trials, the sinking into unconsciousness that brings rest and delight with its restorative powers. Why does it elude me? Where is the guaranteed soporific to lull me into welcomed oblivion?

My shoulder  aches, the persistent pain keeping me awake. The hip nerve sings discordantly, weaving its path down my leg reminding me of every smallest movement. Pain. Why do you not elude me? Give up your persistence. I do not mind in the least.

Yet every waking hour reminds me that I am alive though I would prefer to be reminded in another way.
Where is my energy that was once abundant? Gone are the full days of landscaping, the endless walking and  late nights without consequence. Now after just a few hours of exertion, my body betrays me. There is resentment, denial and the determination not to fail.

Yet my thoughts and resolve remain strong. Words do not fail me; they provide comfort. My imagination gives me hope. All is not lost.

Sleep. Why do you elude me?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Woman in Black.

Today, I am the woman in black.
I mourn for society.
I mourn for the Earth.
I mourn for its inhabitants.
I mourn for the loss of innocence.
I mourn for rise of apathy.
I mourn for the loss of compassion.
I mourn for a life that once was.
Today, I am the woman in black.

Everyone has their own inspirations, their own hopes, their own dreams, their own abilities and their own beliefs. Personally, I hope that people will remember how to think more of others and not just themselves. I dream of   a world not spiraling into decay. I dream of a world with renewable energy and the return of clean air to breathe. I dream of a day when there will respect for all, no matter what their faith, their race, their preferences or their social standing. All of these things dictate the life I lead and how I treat others.

I strive to repect my fellow human, yet constantly I see and hear the  bombardment of  hate, bullying and the political or economic arguements, usually intent on only improving one 'side's' lot. We are on the brink of war, not just of the nuclear kind, but of individuals struggling  to be 'top dog', whatever the cost. Why can't people just play nice, together?! 

I was blessed with intelligence, artistic gifts and I believe that I am loved. What else could I ask for?

I am me. You are you. Together we can create a change. 

Be excellent to each other.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Material obsession

I have had a bundle of emails and messages from various people about making some of my designs available as material. I have been putting it off and then I got another missive asking if I had material designs for sale. 

I have ordered from Spoonflower in the past and have now done some research on selling designs through them. http://www.spoonflower.com/welcome. So I visited Spoonflower and set up a Studio, deciding to start with some of my current designs. I  used the most popular designs viewed on Redbubble and downloaded The Question, Steam Trek and Marie Octonette designs then ordered swatches. This was recommended by Spoonflower to check the colour renditioning before finalising the design. 

 The swatches have now returned!

It is now official. I have three of my designs on Spoonflower. For those who don't know Spoonflower - it sells materials with artists' designs, or you can design your own! Designs are available in material, wrapping paper, wall paper and decals. My studio/shop is called Off the Artboard and  is viewable at: http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/offtheartboard

I started with the most popular designs from Redbubble and have now to decide what else to make available.
If you have any ideas of what I should put up next, let me know. I value your feedback!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What is in a Name?

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet?"
- Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare.

Names, names, names! Argh!

Names are one of the hardest things to decide upon. I have just finished creating a new roleplaying character (rogue) and what was the hardest part of the whole process? You got it - deciding on the name. Making the task harder was the fact that it is an elven character. Not only did I have to decide on a name but it had to be an elven sounding name that did not sound too twee. I had a nickname, months ago but needed a full on elvenesque-knock-yer-socks-off-in-yer-face-I-am-an-elf-so-bring-it name for when she wants to be pompous and show off. (I need a handle on a character before I can really play them.)

 At least there are some Elf name generators online, you say. That may be but this was of no real help. If anything, it made my job even harder. I started with a meaning, based on her personality. No help. The resulting name either sounded so Lord-of-the-Rings wannabe or sounded so horrible phonetically that I could not bear even the thought of being called that for the next few years. (shudder). So I just randomly went through a list of generic Elven names maybe something sounding like her nickname. Eventually I came up with something bearable... She introduces herself by her nickname anyway. I could have saved so much time if I was not so pedantic with my characters... oh well...

Then there are stories and character names. There are two schools of thought on naming characters in stories: Firstly, just put in a dummy name or blank, continue with the flow of the story and add a name later. I have used this method twice. I use 'XXX'- usually in red so I can see all references later. (It also reminds me to PICK A NAME!) I found this makes it very hard for me to identify with the character(s) when stories are character driven. If I can't get a handle on him or her, then I find it so much harder for the story to develop and the words to flow.  

Method two is (of course), finding a name for each character before I start. I can waste days (and sometimes weeks) picking a name for my characters; they aren't really complete until they are named and until the characters are fully formed, the story cannot truly unfold. Sometimes, I even complete the whole family tree, requiring many, many more names. I am a glutton for self-induced punishment!

So, having decided that names must come before writing the story, I now had another set of options laid out in front of me: do I pick meaningful names that describe the characters personality/ foibles/ fate or use an ironic/ opposite name, like Angel who is really a hideous, villainous piece of scum. Or.. do I just randomly pick a name from a baby name book, as many would do when naming their child?

Which brings me to naming our child... (and I thought naming characters in a story was difficult?!). Honestly, we started looking at names over a year before we even started trying for a family. Heck, I had better just start writing a list of names for any possible story I may ever contemplate writing.. 

What's in a name?
Well, a flower called stinkingshittabooger might smell as sweet but would you want to risk it... and would you really want to kiss a guy with a name like that? He would want to be drop dead gorgeous!

So I am off to get the baby names book out.. 

There once was a writer who...

There once was a writer who love writing. She spent hours with pen in hand searching for the the right words  to share the images that swam in her head. One day the naughty words would not behave and she was very sad. 
"I love writing," she said. "Why is it that writing does not always love me?" 
Now in another part of the Kingdom there was a story just waiting to be told. It was sad as it could not find a writer to help it...

I love writing! I find it hard to describe exactly what it is that I find the most satisfying; Ironically, it is one of the most elusive things to put into the written word and is is also one of the most frustrating things I try to achieve. (go figure!) Conversely, I am in complete bliss when I am staring at a completed work, the words melding into a pleasing gestalt. Life is contradictory and yet awesome at the same time. Gotta love God's sense of humour there!

It is the loneliest feeling when I am staring at a blank piece of paper, or computer screen, waiting for the inspiration to turn on the flow of words. They can be very stubborn and refuse to co-operate on many occasions. There have been a few suggested themes or subjects that have eluded me, engendering no creative spark. Most have eventually bent to my will and agreed to be written in some form or other. Some of them are still lurking in my imagination, simmering away politely but refusing to bubble over. (I will get them later!). 

Maybe I need to learn more control but generally I have to have one (just one is enough) flicker of an idea, an angle that will allow itself life. An example of this is a short story I finished yesterday. The theme  was a retelling of a fairy tale. I set to researching my childhood fairy tale compendiums (I do love the Brothers Grimm and Andersen's fairy tales) for a known but not Disney-ified tale. There were some that have always bothered me. I mean why would you marry a King who threatened repeatedly to kill you... and could you really live happily ever after under those conditions?

For a few months, I have gone back to this project using a differing fairy tale as inspiration. I went through about seven (ironically) including a werewolf as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, before settling on one. Friday, I sat down with a few versions of the tale, as reference. It would not behave in modern writing styles, so I wrote it to be read aloud, with the long flowing sentences found in many fairy tales.  Yesterday I completed editing and polishing. Finally, I was in complete euphoria when at last the words almost wrote themselves. A fairy tale only works when written as a fairy tale!

And so it was that the writer overcame all of her trials and finally found the lonely story. Together they found a joy that could not be described by the non-writers in the Kingdom.  And after only a short time, all the edits and rewrites were completed and the story had a brand new life. The writer was more happy than she had ever been. And they lived happily for the rest of their days... until the next story was due.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Just Wanting to Belong

I am a Geek. I have known it for years. I have revelled in it for years. To me, a Geek is an enthusiast who is able to enjoy their interest, even if it is not mainstream. In the past, we have been in the minority, enjoying our Geekdom and the small groups of like-minded friends we have met along the way. We had a uniqueness that was all our own. And we liked it that way. 

Now our world has been invaded by the mainstream. There has been an embrace of Geekdom by many of those who used to tease us for our hobby and entertainment choices. While some have delved into our lifestyle with fervour, some are happy just to flirt with it. Reading the many blogs, spruking Geekdom, that have now become popular there is a mixed feeling on this invasion. Some die-hard Geeks resent that their world has been changed, possibly irrevokably. They resent the intrusion into their exclusive world where they united, safe from the popular set who sometimes vilified them. Now they feel they are being vilified from within the ranks.

Harsh words but it cannot be denied that united, Geeks were safer in numbers. At school, I was part of the smart kids circle. We got top marks, we loved books, science fiction and were considered the Geek set. There were about a dozen of us, creating safety in numbers. Though we did not hang with the popular kids, we were not ostracized excessively. As a group, we were invited to occasional popular parties. With one or two of the popular set, we would feel like the pet puppy who was useful as we could help out with the homework but, as a general rule, most of the A Crowd  treated us as individuals with a strange hobby. So for me, high school was not as traumatic as some of my new Geek friends. I was lucky.

Maybe this is why I don't hold the view of some of the blogs I have read on the internet. Compared to some Geeks, of my generation, I have had a sheltered life. Still, I feel that the influx of those who now identify, even in some small way, with the rest of us Geeks is a good thing. Without new blood, we will become a small incestuous group with our thoughts narrowing as we get older. Maybe this is what we are seeing in some of the essays on why Geekdom should stay pure? 

I have admitted that I did not bare the full brunt of the Geek-hate that some of the authors may have had but I had friends who did and I have still had my fair share of harrassment. The biggest issue my friends and I had were that of belonging and the need not to be excluded. There is a human need to belong and we, as Geeks should understand that need. In the past, we have embraced those who were sometimes considered outsiders, why can't we now accept the more mainstream and revel in the knowledge that we have now been vindicated? If we remain exclusive, we have the danger that we will then become the bullies, vilifying those who now want to fit in us. We no longer have to work hard to fit in with them...

We do run the risk of our niche being taken over, becoming mainstream and then the popular, gorgeous set ostracizing us anew. That is a risk we may have to take.  Maybe they now want to be part of our culture because they have seen how much fun we have? Maybe they did not wish to take it over? Here, I must  also admit, there is a little bit of me that envies the attention the new, gorgeous fans attract. It used to be skill that was deified. Now the beautiful are glorified, yet again.  But if it is just a fad, it too shall pass and they will grow bored and move on to their next fancy. But those who stay will be part of us.   And with that inclusion, we have been accepted more by outsiders and the media.

What makes a Geek anyway? The definition is fluid. Maybe some of the popular set have envied us and want to belong as well?

Be excellent to one another!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Short Story Sagas...

I have just finished a short story for a competition, that was to be under one thousand words. Nine hundred and ninety two words completed. Mission accomplished. This was an effort. I had so much potential back story that I would have loved to have included but alas, necessary editing (both my friend and my foe) would not allow it. How I would have loved to have explained the aunt's background and some of the deeds done. Sigh.

This one was  a straight Crime story and will soon be sent off to Bloomsbury for their consideration. I went through two different ideas before I hit on this one. Being a crime story, I did not want to mix in too much of speculative genre and besides, it is good to practice alternative styles on occasion. How I wanted to put in psychic abilities or a ghost or...

With three edits and a final polish behind me, it has now been sent off to someone who is willing (and able) to give me a constructive criticism. I am now awaiting  the myriad of potential spelling mistakes that I have missed and the docking of several commas (I am sure - I use a lot of commas!)

I have also returned to my gaslamp short story which has been edited and polished and had its first proof reading. Some tidying up is now required and then it may be ready to send of to an e-magazine for its consideration as well. Busy, busy...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Trolls, trolls, go away. Don't come back any day.

This week a very brave woman revealed, to the world, something she could have kept private. It possibly could have stayed unknown for some time; no one had found out about it during the months that she, and her family, have dealt with the decision and its outcome. She revealed it to the world in a hope to help and possibly save the lives of other women. This announcement should have been heralded with applause for her bravery, for her honesty and for the solidarity she showed with other women who also face the 'Big C'. 

This woman was Angelina Jolie. With her family history,and the revelation that she carries a gene mutation that increased her chances of breast cancer to 87%, she decided to undergo a double breast mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. This has now reduced her chances of cancer to 5%. This would not have been an easy decision. The decision to make it public was even more brave, particularly in view of her celebrity and being famed for her curves. 

Following the news of this decision, I held my breath. As with everything these days, social media is set off a-twitter with anyone and everyone giving their opinion. Me included, as is obvious by this post. I had hoped  that humanity had some decency left. Just a little shred of compassion and non-narcissism from social media would not have been too much to hope, I would have thought, considering it is really none of our business anyway. 

The early signs were promising. There was hope for the world yet... but I should not have spoken so quickly. News stories and blogs are now surfacing, revealing the self-absorbed culture we now live in. I have previously lamented on the direction the hive mind of the general populace appears to be taking, and these reported reactions and comments only serve to re-enforce what others are also observing.

This is the evil side of social networking, where trolls feel they can say anything they want (usually about people they don't even know!) without fear of consequences or caring for the feelings of others. It is a sad statement on what the world has become, when a brave woman tells the world of her decision to help other women facing or fighting the spectre of breast cancer, and the trolls surface, with some fans only able to think of themselves. She should be praised for something many people don't have these days - bravery and compassion for others. Badly done trolls. Bravely and wonderfully done, Ms Jolie.

"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving" (Dale Carnegie).

And then there is just a flicker of hope, enough to spark hope that all is not lost... Locally, a family lost their house and all of their belongings in a bushfire that scorched over 600 hectres of land. They have publicly declared that they consider it an accident and do not have any ill feelings towards the person who (legally) had a burn off that went out of control. The people of Adelaide have opened their hearts and their wallets to support the family.

In adversity, we see a true nature of a person's character.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Social Side of Marketing

Networking is a buzz word that has been around for some time now. First we had business networking, giving professionals the opportunity to create and act on business opportunities. Perfect for growing your company or business. Very quickly networking became a social phenomenon spawning Blogger, Livejournal, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. 

Mark Zuckerberg would probably love it if you thought that networking was a modern construct but Victorians had it down to an art form. From a girl's Debut, the social circuit involved balls and opportunities to find a suitor. The Freemasons were adept at socio-economic networking, taking it to an international level which still exists today.  Victorian Visiting cards were used to show social standing and governed, as everything in the Victorian era, by complicated and strict rules and etiquette.

Whether it is social or professional, networking is one of the best ways to 'spread the word'. In my other-professional life, I have learnt the importance of word of mouth networking. Nothing beats it for advertising! For twenty-six years my loyal client numbers have grown, by word of mouth. I have one family of regulars who now span three generations and many that span two.  

Now, as I try to grow my reborn vocation as writer and artist, I am networking in new ways. These days that also includes social networks. I have the traditional website: Karen Carlisle Creations. I am told it is old school, as it does not allow for social interaction. These days, more interactive format is required as well. Social networking is a must to be known. 

I have business cards that I hand out to people who are interested. Yesterday, my neighbour popped in for a social visit. He has a new job and the byproduct of the visit, was networking his new postition... just in case. No problem! I suggested he mention me to any of his friends that might need t-shirts and directed him to Redbubble.

Currently, I have a Facebook page Karen Carlisle Creations/ Off the Artboard/ Katdb, encompassing my differing artistic personas - both professional and re-enactment - where I can provide updates on current projects and products. I have this blog Off the Artboard, as a tool for both practicing and showcasing my writing skills. It also allows me to discuss my creative processes in my varied projects. It allows me to share a little of myself with you, dear reader. 

For, these days, share and network we must. Artists have to compete with cheaper factory lines (and unfortunately rip offs as well). Our ammunition is networking. So go forth, dear reader. If you like what you read, if you like what you see, share this with your friends. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

T-shirt Tish the Terrible!

Back in early March, I posted about Apazines and one I had contributed to for a few years (over fifteen years ago.. oh my gosh! How time flies). This apazine was based in America and was part of the Furry Fandom (anthropomorphic stylisations of animals) scene at the time. Back then there was not many Furry Fans here in Australia. Recently I have seen them at Anime and Pop Culture conventions. I am amazed at some of the costumes the fans make!

As it was an apazine, each member sent in their contribution to be added to the gestalt. Mine was entitled Off the Artboard. As part of my contribution, I did artwork inspired by my Devon Rex cat (who is now a geriatric old cat of 20 years old - the average for this breed of cat is 10-15 years!) I had previously mentioned a recurring comic strip. Unfortunately, I have been only able to recover one of them. (I know the others are somewhere!) Its title was Tish the Terrible, as she was a clever and sneaky cat responsible for the destruction of curtains and the failure of fixtures for window blinds.

This was originally inked up, after sketching the original. I tidied it up a bit and then added colour to become my latest t-shirt: Tish the Terrible. Now on Redbubble.

Another one of the pictures from my contributions based on Tish the Terrible. Yep when I was getting married...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Exclusive Mugs Now Available

Ah! I just found a button which allows me to schedule my posts on time, for those days I have appointments... let's see if it works! ... and it didn't. Will try again next time

On the first of May 1st, I wrote about the new range of mugs I have available at Zazzle.
I started with images from The Octopus/Kraken series. 

  • #1 Kraken Chestburster
  • #2 Deep Sea Ballooning
  • #3 In the Shade of Octopus
  • #4 Steam Trek
  • #5 Marie Octonette.
I will be adding more to this range, over the next month.
Today, these arrived!

This is the new range of mugs available.
The Question. 

This design will be exclusive, only available as direct sales via my website or at future personal appearances. They sell for $20 

Also on Portable Art: Carry it with you!, I have badges available, including this design.

Details  on Portable Art: Carry it with you! can be found at: 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Scribey Stuff

On a lighter subject today...

I had previously finished the pencil work for those two scrolls which are award scrolls, as part of the medieval re-enactment group I belong to. Now for the inking. I use Windsor and Newton inks. As this is a gift for deserving gentles, so it must be not only (hopefully) beautiful but durable. Hence I use waterproof inks so that the work will not run.

I love drawing with a nib pen, using the inks. I have about five different nib holders. All are slightly different in shape. Depending on how I am feeling and what I am drawing on the day, will dictate which nib holder I use. Today was my good old favourite! My preference is for Mitchell brand nibs which are purchased from Premier Art in Adelaide. They usually have them in stock.

Have you ever used parchmentine? I love it. The ink and nib, just slides over the surface of the parchmentine. It is more affordable than vellum (tanned and prepared calf hide on which many early books where illuminated and written) but looks very similar in colour (if you don't get the white version). It also has a translucence about it, reminiscent of vellum. I am told that working on parchmenetine has a similar feel to vellum. Parchmentine also has the advantage that I can use a razor blade to gently scrape off any inked mistakes, without damaging the surface of the parchmentine. I have not worked on vellum as yet but have purchased a couple of pieces I hope to get the courage to use sometime. 

I have altered the following inked drawings, to make it less obvious who they are intended for. I would prefer it to be a surprise! If you have any inkling... do not tell!!!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Fight the war!

(Sorry I am late. Dealing with real life as my husband was made redundant yesterday... here it is...)

The morning news reported that plagiarism is currently rife in Adelaide University. There were ninety-five students charged with plagiarism, last year. Blame is running thick and fast. The University has stated that students need to be taught how to research properly and write original reports in Primary school. Maybe there could also be a compulsory lecture (or lectures) at University on how to do this, for those who don't have the skills. I also recommend that this should contain  information  on legal, copyright and moral reasons as to why plagiarism is wrong. 

For those who are a bit fuzzy on what plagiarism is a definition from Wikipedia, a commonly used source (so it is a wonder that these students don't know about plagiarism) :
"Plagiarism is the "wrongful appropriation" and "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work." (Wikipedia, 2013) - 

Note that this is a quote from Wikipedia. A quote recognizes the source and therefore is not plagiarism, as it is not being claimed as my own definition. When quoting a quote, the writer should cite the source of the quote, and place the entire quote in those funny little squiggly lines that we use for dialogue or for inches... Guess what! They are called 'quotation marks'. A quote should also be related to the essay or discussion. There is not point otherwise, is there? 

Under fair dealing,  there is a specific list of situations where copyright is not compromised, such as allowing something to be used for study or research (or for parody - a 2006 amendment to Australian Copyright Law). Ah, says the unscrupulous or just lazy writer, I can just put quotation marks around it all and I can get away with it. Not so. Essays are designed to show your knowledge, your understanding of the subject. A thesis is written to put forward new ideas, facts or research. How can this be done with only a list of quotations? Nothing would be your original work! (Did you note the three quotes in the quotes from Wikipedia above?)

My regular readers will now be exclaiming: 'Here we go again!' They would be right. If we remove any emotional argument, there is one huge fact staring us in the face - Plagiarism is ILLEGAL!  For those who love Google, a quick search on 'plagiarism law Australia' gave me the following links in the top 10, with similar results for worldwide searches:

In Australia, writers, artists, even researchers are covered by the Copyright Act 1968. The copyright does not need to be registered. Once created, the work becomes automatically copyrighted. Not only is the original author, artist or creator covered by this law but so is the student writing an original essay or thesis. Whether the plagiarism is intentional, or due to innocent misunderstanding or ignorance of the law, it is still plagiarism. 

This is the same in the art world. My long-time readers, have heard of an artist friend of mine who original photography has been plagiarized (effectively stolen) and used on t-shirts which have surfaced in clothing shops interstate. Who knows how many have been sold overseas. This is not just her passion, but her job and livelihood. Someone has stolen her hard work: she concieved the idea, paid for a model, makeup artist and camera equipment, spent time creating the work, marketing it and selling it, with appropriate copyrights. Just because the same image can be found on her facebook page, or her gallery on her professional website, does not  make it fair game either. This does not make it public domain. The internet does not negate the legality of her copyright. She still owns the copyright.  

This goes for anyone's orginal work! Even this blog post - and my artwork! I have also had occasion, where I have found some of my photography on another's website, without permission and without acknowledgement that is was my work. I politely asked for them to remove it, or at least acknowledge the photographer. Luckily, this was resolved... eventually. 

Most people are decent, respectful and do the right thing. Unfortunately, there are enough of those who don't, for whatever reason. I just ask that people be aware of where items, images and quotes come from. I ask that they acknowledge the original authors/artists, that they don't plagiarize or use their work for their own profit. Most of all, I ask that in your everyday internet usage, you are aware of this and that you make others aware of this. If we can teach school children, university students, current and future internet users, then maybe we can change the plagiaristic culture that is forming on the internet. Setting an example and educating others against this, is our best weapon. 

Go fight the war!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Commissions and Challenges.

I was working on commission design work yesterday. Could be an interesting collaboration. I am  currently designing embroidery designs (with a steampunkish bent) for a professional machine embroiderer, here in Australia. This is all new to me, so I am learning about the sizing, numbers and other requirements. I am just a little bit excited. I have not done much with machine embroidery previously and I am hoping this may pan out. Maybe this could become a more regular gig? 

Thursday, I spent and hour collating reference material and  three and a half hours designing some stand-alone designs. These can also be used together to form a type of collage. I am thinking of an underwater scene with colonists and their working sea creatures. For this project, I have had to consider all the elements as an individual image, yet related to the others. I can't leave the edges open ended. there has to be a completeness of the image and I am restricted in size to 100 mm for each image. 

There will be approximately eight to ten images in total... and there will, of course, be an octopus! As this is commission work, I will post pictures when all is finalized, so watch this space! If this collaboration is successful, I may be designing some more in the future. This could be interesting!

On a completely different note... you can now get your own image in a Star Trek figurine... just like in Big Bang Theory.. so cool!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Exhaustion & Creation.

Yesterday was a rough day, not creatively or artisticly but physically and mentally. I spent most of the afternoon fighting to stay awake. In the end my eyelids betrayed me. Nanna naps have never looked so good! I have been fighting some stressful situations, over the past few months. Finally I am climbing out of the hole but it has (and is) extremely mentally exhausting and this eventually translates into physical symptoms. 

So no gardening today; Luckily this is not my only the creative outlet. 

Not long ago I started designing some original 'scrolls'. They were put on hold, as some of the information has not been finalised. I have received notice that all the information, required to fill the text, is now confirmed. Brandished with my pencil sketches, I needed to transfer them to parchmentine (paper treated to look vellum-like). I don't own a light table, at this stage. I have no room for it. My friend who owns one, is away on holidays, so that option was not available either. The solution was my old friend, the back window! 

Any light shining, from behind the original, makes it much easier to see so that it can be traced onto the parchmentine. This way, I don't have to deal with any damage on the parchmentine surface, from using an eraser when sketching the original.  A similar method can be documented, in the Renaissance, for tracing embroidery patterns onto linen. Using a candle (or available light source), under an embroidery frame. 

There is one downside however, and I am experiencing it right now. I have to hold my arms up at an unnatural angle for hours. I had two scrolls to trace across today. Now the tendons around my elbows are really complaining. Thank goodness for calandula cream! 

So for now, having typed this blog post, I am giving them a break and catching up on some reading and favourite television show.... and dinner is salmon, salad and chips!

Bye for now.

Oops, trigger happy post last night

To my regulars, today's post was published last night. The next post will be tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some pictures:
The first was taken at a Gawler Church. There was a flock of cockatoos.
And more cockatoos at a recent picnic, in Adelaide. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Curse of Black Spot

Some fun for the 7th May...

Organising and Collating and Tigers - oh my!

I have so much on my plate right now. I have 3 commissions - all in the creative phase, one short story on final edits, three independant ideas, two short stories I am hoping to finish in this month, up to four next month, as well as two scrolls for my re-enactment group. Time for some slowing down and organising what needs to be done by when...

Now an hour later and I have a list of competitions and magazine 'call' deadlines that I would like to complete. There are twelve in all. Eek! They vary from one thousand to five thousand words in preferred length. As I mentioned yesterday, I have three story ideas already on the boil. Two are independent of the above list. The real challenge is to come up with something fresh and new for each individual story. Though I really love the open themes, I like the challenge in creating a story to a set theme. This could actually prove useful with the number of stories I wish to attempt over the past few months. 

Though not as gut-wrenching as the book culling process or the story editing process, I have had to make some decisions today. Gone (for now) is a story I have been looking forward to. It will not fit any of the soon -to-be-due themes and I will definately need longer than the allotted word limit for the others. However, the idea will continue to bubble in the background so all is not at a loss for it. One competition I would like to enter, may not happen. It is one of the longer ones (at up to five thousand words) but is due at the end of the month. I have an idea for it but if I cannot get it finished, edited and polished in time, I will not enter it. As this is an annual competition,  I can always work on it for next year. 

After a hiatus, I can also finally get cracking at two original design scrolls. I have mentioned these in a previous blog, in April, but had to wait until some details were finalised. Now that they have been, I can continue. However, I will need to find a light table that I can borrow, or use the 'old tape on the window on a sunny day' trick. Look for future posts on guache, calligraphy and ink work in the near future. I have three weeks to complete this project. The design work is done so it is just a matter of applying it. 

The tigers?
They could appear in one of the short stories I have planned... but that would be telling... 

Ideas floating around in the Ether

Some days, I struggle for the spark of an idea, a story, or inspiration for artwork. Other days, the ideas drop from the sky, falling around me like hail - hard, fast and hard to avoid! I have mentioned previously that I have note books in convenient places to jot down ideas, notes or phrases that pop into my head.  This week,  the notebook has been very useful. I have had three ideas for short stories. A couple have the potential, with work, to be extended beyond that. 

What I find fascinating, is how varied and unexpected are where and what can trigger an idea for a short story. The first idea grew from two simple lines about a fact related to how much sleep we get in our lifetime. I happened across the fact by accident. I had possibly skimmed over it several times before but this time it caught my imagination and an idea was born. It has two incarnations: one is pure science fiction, the other has a steampunk feel. Currently, I am leaning more steampunk right now, most likely as the story I am currently working on is based in the Victorian era. That could change by the time I start on this, in earnest.

Sometimes it is just an idea for a title which can then spurn a slew of ideas, all spilling out. This was the case for the second of last week's revelations. The short story theme was the Fae. Immediately the words La Fée Verte (The Green Fairy) were there. My train of thought ran through different fairy tales, myths, legends and customs. Following some more research, I have two vastly divergent basic storylines. One dark, one more positive. One is the subject of my next short story; the other will possibly be incorporated into a novel length story I am working on. 

Just now I have finished writing down some ideas for another short story. This will most likely have one of my current characters, or possibly one of her friends, returning to wreak havoc. I got the idea while I was waiting for a doctor's appointment. I had just collected my copy of the latest Archeology magazine. In it was an article related to body snatchers in Victorian times. 

This week, I am polishing up a short story, the inspiration for which followed a particularly bad migraine. I can't stop them, so I might as well make them useful. 

Having commented on how easy some stories can be created, I have to admit that this has been a very good week. For the past three weeks, I have been mulling over ideas for a Twisted Fairytale themed short story competition. Just when I think I have an idea, it slips away. The few I have jotted down,  I still have a month and a half to see if I can be inspired and come up with an interesting perspective for this one. I will let you know how I go.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Medieval Fair Photoshoot 2013

This weekend was the annual Medieval Fair at Gummeracha, in the Adelaide Hills. This was the first year that I had not been a performer/ volunteer for the re-enactment group to which I belong. Unfortunately circumstances had changed this year and our normal set up and numbers were not happening. So I decided to 'play the tourist' with my camera and just take it in the atmosphere. The whole time I was there, I kept expecting to have to run off to do something.

It was a very strange thing to see the whole Fare from the other side. I actually managed to get to just about all of the merchant stalls, many of which belonged to friends of mine:
Brenda runs Colonial Lake Books and sells historical re-enactment, period cookery, spinning, embroidery and many more books worth covetting.
Terry (who made my wedding dress) runs Dragons Blood Creations, making and selling corsetry, Goth, Steampunk, Medieval and wedding outfits for  extraordinary people. 
Anwyn sells renaissance and medieval braid, amongst other things. Her website is The Sign of the Lambtree.
Steve the Cooper makes beautiful tankards, buckets, chests and many other professionally made woodwork!
Mike makes chainmail products 
I am so blessed to have so many talented friends!

For my photo shoot, I used available light and opted for candid shots. 
Firstly some generic shots:


and some portraits:

with my favourite photo of the day, being one of my friend Jo, also a talented artist and has a FB page The Art and Creativity of Joanna Malloy.