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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

webpage outage

Hi everyone.
My website is down temporarily. Working on it...
sorry to anyone trying to access it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Change of Plan.. (or squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!)

Firstly, hello to my new readers!
There is usually something new from me ... most days. Some of you have found me via Australian Literature Review, via Facebook or my website.  Feel free to share and don't forget to subscribe via Google+ or email.

I was going to write more on my painting today, as the past few days have been mostly about writing my short stories. My confidence had been taking a bit of a battering due to the 'from-hell' experience I had when trying a new approach to my writing. At the same time, I had entered several short story competitions and had zilch feedback. 

This was to be expected as most competitions do state they will not 'enter into correspondence' or 'we will not given confirmation of receipt'. As a result, sometimes I am not even sure if the entry had been recieved. For email submissions, I do tick the 'read receipt' so at least I know when email submissions are received. However, I did receive one (automated response), from a writers' group short story competition, that thanked me for the entry and wished me luck. That was a nice touch.

In the past few weeks, I have been doubting myself.  I have a friend (ex-teacher and scientist) who gives me good advice and very constructive criticism (and doesn't mind proof reading for me). This helps me keep perspective. It is one thing when family and friends like my work but the question that starts nagging is will anyone else? I am getting more regular readers (thanks to you all!) so I know, dear reader, that you are enjoying the blogs. But what of my short stories, many of which cannot be published before they are either accepted or rejected? 

Earlier in the month, I had entered An Eye for Detail into the Australian Literature Review's Short Story competition. (theme: Mystery/Dectective). If you have been following my ravings for a while, you may have read about it in Research, Research, Research and Fashioning a Scroll and a Short Story. This was written with some of the 'write what you know' theory. My alter-ego is an optometrist so I know the workings of the eye and modern eye testing. 

I did a lot of research into early practices, even when women were in the profession. (which was earlier for a doctor than for an optician). As a result the story was shifted thirty years later to 1870. This was also cathartic, as I have been having stress at my 'paid' work.  Writing this short story made me deal with a lot of issues just so I could even write about the subject. In the end it helped me wrap my head around things and, as a bonus, I have a set of characters that I will definitely use again. 

Yesterday, I got an email that actually made me 'squee!" I have been shortlisted for the Australian Literary Review Short Story competition with this story! I am actually covetting part of the prize (which was the reason I entered this competition) which is professional feedback on my writing.
You can find the story at: Australian Literary Review website. Please leave comments there, and let me know what you think here. 

I am now crossing my fingers! 


Following on ...

Following on from my thoughts yesterday...

I am now finishing off my last short story, for this month. 1200 words were done in my usual 'spew everything forth' method, with a few paragraphs after the introductory passage and an extra scene to fill with the remaining 800 words, I sat and did a little planning so I know the final direction of the piece. This has been a much more enjoyable process. 

Thursday, I was hoping the words didn't run dry. I managed to fill in the early paragraphs, setting the scene a little more. I was reasonably happy with the outcome. Last night (as is often)  that missing scene started forming itself (when I was brushing my teeth!) I have a small notebook by the bed that now has a paragraph or two, with notes. This is what I faced on Friday.

By lunch I had filled both 'holes' in the story, with an initial word count of 1915 words. After an intial proof reading, two rewrites, more proof reading, some editing and typo corrections, the final story Fashioned in Black was ready to post. One day before the postal deadline. 

This was a much more comfortable and more enjoyable write. I have a feeling of satisfaction and achievement that I did not get with the last story. This week has been an interesting experiment and I have discovered more about my writing processes, the genres I prefer to write and why I write. I have found that I have to write what I love; if I was forced to write something that I cannot put my heart into, the whole process is torture rather than a fun challenge. 
And then what would be the point.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bogging up holes...and Pulling Teeth

I had the beginnings of a perfectly good  short story. The liked the idea. I was reasonably happy with the prose, I had another thousand words before I hit the maximum limit for this project. I had a beginning, part of the middle and a definite end. But it lacked a scene in the middle. 

My usual method of writing is to conjure up a main character, devise a reason for their being (at least in the story) and envisage a place for them to inhabit. Sometimes this was detailed. Sometimes this was very sketchy. For one story, this actually involved a complete family tree. 

Once this was achieved, I would have at least a vague idea of the ending I would like, or a twist or concept that I wanted to weave into the story. Then I would have to wait for those initial words. If they spilled out easily onto the page, I could write easily and have at least half of the story done. But there was no real plan. It just happened. The danger was always looming... that I would run out of words or write myself into a hole and have to do a total rewrite which costs a lot of time.

Recently, I have been experimenting with more organisation, attempting to plan at least the basic skeleton of the entire story (from the beginning) in an effort to reduce potential writers' block. However, there are always teething problems with starting a new method. I have just finished and posted a short story called Pieces of Time using this new criteria. 

For a while, I doubted that I would be able to finish this story using an unfamiliar approach to the writing. The first thousand words came easily, as usual; when it came to the crucial middle section, where we learnt more of the two main characters, it all fell quickly into a heap... and a week of frustration. Technically, I had the basics worked out but no words came. I could not follow the set structure. What did fall onto the page were more appropriately called Pieces of Crap. I wanted to go off on a tangent, but decided to try to stick to the plan. 

Eventually, I remember the number one mantra: Write anything. Even if it is crap. Six hundred words, four hours and well after midnight later, I crawled into bed feeling quite annoyed and ineffective. In the morning I surveyed the damage. While I was not happy with the construction of many sentences, I had at least got the intention down on the page. I spent the entire day re-writing, editing and grumbling. 

Finally, this morning Pieces of Time was finished, printed and in the post. While I was reasonably satisfied (though not overjoyed) with the outcome, this story involved the most unenjoyable writing process I have ever tried. I decided that writing to a completely set out rigid structure is not really how my brain works. It is not for me.

Where to now? Well, I can't just keep spewing out stories and hoping that it will all fall into place with absolutely no structure to follow. Conversely, after such a bad experience, I have realised (even though I get anal with the background and descriptions on occasion) that planning the structure of every part of my stories is also not conducive to my best work, nor to my stress levels so I have decided to try to land somewhere in the middle... hopefully.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Painting Prose

It has been a busy day. I was back writing (or re-writing more accurately) my short story A Piece of Time. It has to be posted within the next two days, so the deadline nerves are looming. I have just finished printing it out for the final proof read. It is the most 'mundane', non-fantasy/non-speculative fiction piece that I have written so far. 

The whole project has been a learning experience; I had a lot more issues with writers' block on this one. I have a myriad of ideas that would take it on a more speculative fiction slant. I had to curb the urge to go in that direction. As a result, I have discovered that I definitely prefer the fantasy/ speculative genre.

Having spent most of the day writing, re-writing and editing I decided to take a break from prose and do some painting. As you have probably read, in Been Painting, What to do on a Wet Saturday and Scribey Stuff, I have been working on a matching pair of scrolls for a re-enactment group. Today I started on the second scroll. 

The flora and fauna are now complete and the scroll is drying, ready for both to have the gold added for the acanthus leaves and the portrait to be finished. I will leave you with some pictures ...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Ownership of Celebrities

Tuesday was a sad day. When I got home, I was greeted with the unexpected news that Professor Mick Aston had died at the age of 66. So young!  Time Team followers will know Mick (as opposed to Mick the Dig), professor of Archeology, having taught at the University of Birmingham, University of Oxford and the University of Bristol. By all accounts, he was a warm, funny and caring man who had a great enthusiasm for archeology and making it accessible and understandable to everyone.  

For almost 20 years I watched him on the television.  He was almost like a friend. And there is the crunch; I did not actually know him. (more's the pity). The media, and particular social networking, has made many celebrities more accessible. Our culture has become one of voyeurism, lapping up every smallest detail about just about everyone. Knowing the smallest details, we now feel like they are our friends.

We 'friend' not only  actual friends but also acquaintances and people who have never even met! We 'friend' companies, causes and celebrities (real or via other fans - how can you tell sometimes). Having now created a perceived relationship and false intimacy with unknown entities, we then proceed to dole out advice as we would normally only do to our closest family and friends.

Along with the trend of internet bullying, where people feel that they have the right to coerce and torment anyone without care for the consequences, there is a trend on the internet for people to attempt to contol others. Whether this is by demanding change in company policies (sometimes good), attempting to control the course of television shows (that is what writers are paid for and what producers pay to do) and even vilifying individuals in the public eye. 

Even celebrities have taken to vilifying other celebrities. Recent articles on Nigella Lawson have scolding her for being quiet. Fortunately, most have supported her. Sadly, that is not often the case. Recently Matt Smith resigned his stint playing Doctor Who. Incredulously, some of the internet rant has been damning. It seems some 'fans' are too fanatical and have voiced their feelings of betrayal over him abandoning them. (!!?!)

Firstly, please remember the courtesy and ettiquette that your mum, dad or grandparents should  have taught you. Secondly, do you really own  that person. Does anybody? 
Matt Smith is an actor. His job is to act.   He felt his time had come to move on. I am sad to see him go but I understand that it is his life. He gets to make his own career choices. We have no right to try to force him to conform to our  (selfish) vision for his life. 

Nigella Lawson is a woman who appears to be a victim of domestic abuse. Unless you have been in her shoes, you cannot know how she feels nor demand how she should act, let alone threaten to boycott her shows and deny her of a living (!!?!)

As a population, we are becoming less polite, less tolerant and more selfish. How would you feel if someone treated you in the same way? Would you tolerate the pressure on you and your personal freedom? Many of us live in countries where we have personal freedom. We are lucky! So why do we insist on trying to infringe on the freedom of others?

My grandmother   used to say 'Treat others as you would like them to treat you.'  Think about that before you send your next twitter or FB post. Then think about it again.  Maybe we can learn to play nice again. 

Just... Maybe...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Been Painting....

I am taking a few days break from writing to finish off some painting I had promised to do. If you want to see some of it on the go, there are pics and discussion in What to do on a Wet Saturday and Scribey Stuff.

Today, I started painting the animals and flowers and vines. I used a medium green for the vines, then highlighed with a yellow and used a darker green for shadow and leaf veins. The flowers are red, orange and white. The strawberries are not finished and need highlighting, as do some of the red flowers.

I had the most fun painting the animals which are based on differing medieval manuscript appearances of them. There are three levels of colour, raw umbra mixed with a light yellow as it was a tad too dark, there is a light yellow and a 'mix of the lighter raw umber and light yellow' to make the median colour.

This leaves the acanthus leaves (the spikey curly leaves that have not been painted as yet. I am toying with making them gold with some shading, to lighten the project.

Then there is the matching scroll to paint!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Winter's Sunday.

Today was cold. Finally  winter has really decided to announce itself. The rain, and fleeting sunshine, was lovely but the wind chill factor was not at all pleasant.  As a result, I spent little time in the garden. I did manage to do  a little weeding; with the rain the ground is soft and it is so much easier to extract those stubborn weeds with long tap roots.

I also managed to pull a lot of rocket (lettuce) to take to work tomorrow. (Not a favourite in our household.) I sowed a mixture of lettuce seed and the rocket had decided to, well, rocket ahead of the green and red lettuces.  While I was there, I also thinned some of the broccoli seedlings and moved them to the now vacant spaces.

Today, I decided to concentrate on some artistic adventures. I managed to make a couple of sets of amulets and matching earrings in my Ocotarm series. You may remember my bookmarks that are now available also.  (New Portable Art to Carry with You)

These have pierced drop earrings and an amulet on adjustable leather cording. Earrings $15, amulet $15

I have also some individual amulets on cording. Large $20, Small $15. And finally, a bangle in silver $15.  

More information can be found at my website for my Portable Art or on my Facebook Page for Ocotarm Jewelry.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What To Do On A Wet Saturday.

So what did I do this Saturday?

This week, as you know, has been a challenge for me; avoiding decisions, procrastination and writers' block.  Writing about this, and the associated thoughts, here has been very cathartic. Writing tends to do that for me. It is a way of collecting my thoughts and getting them out in the open where they don't seem so scary.

After a much needed therapeutic massage to get rid of the stress knots, we had some family time and rewatched a Harry Potter movies/books. There are some very interesting and clever concepts in the story. Something small but makes complete sense, is the use of the wand against the throat to amplify the voice instead of a microphone. There are lots of little things that we take for granted that have been playfully twisted. Some food for thought there...

Having recharged my batteries, I knuckled down and decided on a background colour for the scrolls. I mixed up some guache, using peacock blue, lightening it with white and then adding a touch of black to make it more greyish. Unfortunately the photo turned out too blue here. (on my phone-of-convenience again)

The backgrounds, of the matching pair of scrolls, are now both done. I have highlighted the text/minature squares with gold to brighten it up.

Here is this afternoon's work. Now to leave it to dry before the flora and fauna are painted. I have shown part so far, so that (hopefully) the recipients will not realise.. If you guess, please don't tell. These were taken on my Canon so a tad closer to the actual colour. 


I am feeling much more contented now that I have been more productive.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Thank God its Friday!
It has been a long week with frustration, procrastination and achievement in so many areas. My alter ego paid work has been very stressful but it looks like this is slowly improving.

The biggest frustration has been my lack of decision making about the background colour for the original scrolls I need to be finished by the end of the month. Whether it be in decision making or its ability to compound the fear of failure, lack of confidence is possibly the most destructive force in my life. I have been struggling with this over the past 8 months due to ongoing paid work stress. 

During this time, my photography has provided instant satisfaction on the days where I needed the knowledge and psychological sense of completion. Creating is something I often fall back on when I am feeling anxious. It provides an outlet that gives a more immediate result and taps my artistic brain. It is here that I usually have the most confidence. 

I have struggled with a mini writers' block this week. I am in the middle of writing two short stories. I have completed the first draft of one and discovered that I have another 1000 words to play with. While it is complete as is, it could do with some more meat on its bones! The other story was mentioned earlier this week. I am  on my third draft of that segue into the new scene. The words have refused to play nicely. At least, I have been able to flesh out the form and plot of the story so, when the words do behave, I know what I am aiming for. 

There has been some success in the writing field however. Several months ago, I wrote a children's picture book story (minus the pictures so far) called If I Were a Dragon. Today, I managed to compose enough confidence, gaining the strength to enter it into a Writer's Festival competition specifically for Picture book manuscripts. Wish me luck! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Second Guessing and Over Thinking Things.

I have always had gut feelings about things. About people. About stories. About my actions. I often get 'vibes' from people. There is something that just says they are lying or they are good people. Usually I am right. I recently did a survey for a research project that was investigating how accurately people judge facial expressions. I got 34 out of the 36 correct. The average was about 25. 

My husband hates it, when we are watching a 'who-dunnit' movie and within the first fifteen minutes (or so), I declare they did it. Often I am right. Sometimes it is obvious. Sometimes I don't know why; it is just a gut feeling that I have. Maybe it is a subconscious noting of body language and facial expressions and subtle clues.

With my stories, I go with my gut much of the time. I will get a rough idea of what the storyline is and the characters that reside there. From there, I let it flow. I have remarked before that sometimes the characters have a mind of their own and can take a story in a totally different direction than I had envisaged. Unfortunately, this also means that sometimes they are stubborn and won't do anything. I am trying new methods to avoid this situation now (a story spreadsheet was one recommendation. We shall see how this works in the future.) 

However during the past year, I have been second-guessing myself. I am told this happens with the stress which has plagued me for the past year. I am told that I should not doubt myself. I keep getting told don't over think things. I am trying. 

Today, I finished inking up two scrolls I have been working on. After a few days drying, they were finally ready to have a few ink mistakes corrected (now done) and tidied up with the pencil drawings now removed. I had worked out the colours and was ready to paint. 

Then doubt crept in and I second-guessed myself. I wavered. I procrastinated. I did a little more research (always a good procrastination tool) and then decided it was too late to start painting today. I was over thinking everything. My confidence was down.

I have been learning ways of relieving stress, reducing my over thinking and trusting my 'gut' again. My writing has been very cathartic in my struggles this year. It has been one of the few things that has remained stress free and I has continued to strengthen my confidence. 

My 'gut' has also not failed me with my photography (and usually my art. Today was annoying.) When I can't write, I draw, design or take photographs. Today when I was debating colour schemes, I grabbed my camera and revisited that mushroom out front. It has now got a sibling! In the fading afternoon light, I snapped some photos  of them, this time with my Canon and not just impromptu phone camera shots. This was one of my favourites, taking advantage of the natural lighting of golden glow of the late afternoon.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

When I Am Not Writing...

I have an idea for a short story, a little less fantasy/speculative fiction than I normally write but today I had problems getting the words to flow. I did manage 645 out of maximum of 2000 words so I have got  a start on it. There is just this segue scene.... 
So I took a break to let them muddle about, in my head, and see if they will come out to play tomorrow. 

My break  consisted of  some arty stuff and some garden-y stuff. 
Firstly, I tried out some new designs for Octoarm jewelry. Right now I have two new purple necklaces ($15+postage each). I have almost finished two sets of necklace with matching earrings. One set in purple and the other in red. I also made up some new bookmarks in red, green and blue.

Then some gardening: We had an old twenty-year old golden diosma bush in the front yard. Over this past (very hot) summer, it died. Since then, it has been a large, brown eyesore welcoming everyone's arrival at our house. Yesterday, we decided it had to finally go. (This photo was taken at 9.00 pm so is very dark...) My husband assisted me in digging it out.

This was no an easy task as we had to coax out all of the roots and then do a modern archeological dig to find the water pipes. We had previously 'dialed before we dug' so knew roughly where they should have gone. The information supplied, however, is not very detailed so today we returned to the scene of the crime and just kept digging along the pipe to ascertain its path. Luckily, it was in the opposite direction to our preferred place for the new lemon tree that will replace it!

The next step is to dig in buckets of old manure and compost and let it settle for a few weeks before we go shopping for a new dwarf lemon tree!!

Have a productive day, dear readers!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Rule of Three

Publishing this manually... and late... sorry. I had tried the automatic publishing but it did not work... again.

There once was a young girl who read lots of books. She particularly loved fantasy and fairy tales - traditional, modern and futuristic. She dreamed of one day becoming a writer as she longed to create some of her own magic and share it with friends, family and everyone else. 

After many years of denying her passion, she finally started writing again. She wrote from the heart, she wrote often and researched in an effort to improve her writing. 

One day she came across an article entitled 'The Rule of Three' and realised excitedly that she had been doing it!

What is the rule of threes? 
In writing, the rule of three is based on the principle 'that things that come in threes are inherently more satisfying, funnier and more effective than other numbers.' (Wikipedia)

You can find it in traditional fairy tales-  Goldilocks and the Three Bears, three dogs in The Tinder box and Rupelstiltskin who spins straw into gold three times. You can find it in the classics - the three ghosts of Past, Present and the Future in A Christmas Carol, and the three witches in McBeth and in the Welsh Triads. In rhetoric, public speaking and adverting we can find many famous quotes encompass the rule of threes: 
  • Friends, Romans and countrymen..
  • Slip, Slop, Slap (Australian anti-cancer campaign)
  • Veni Vidi Vinci (I came, I saw, I conquered) 

One of my favourites that comes to mind is the movie (and theme): The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

A story works best with a beginning, a middle and an end. Plays often have three acts for the same reason. A setting is established, tension is created and finally the story is resolved. In comedy you have the set up, anticipation and the punchline. In public speaking, it re-enforces a point and makes it more memorable.  

Maybe we are conditioned to respond to the grouping with its pervasion into our cultural heritage? (Or not.) We have come to subconsciously expect things to happen in threes. it seems to re-enforce a point and make a story feel more complete. It takes a minimum of three things to create a pattern (which explains why I subconsciously put three incidents in most of my stories!). It is simple, it is effective and it works.

"Cool!" exclaimed the girl, as she continued to write and write and write. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Violence is Not an Option.

Some may envisage domestic abuse to be exclusive to the domain of lower income areas, lack of education or unhappy relationships. This is is not the case. It spans all classes, educational backgrounds, races, religions, income levels. No one is immune. 

Domestic  abuse is not just physical violence. It is a form of control that can be financial, emotional or pyschological as well. It is not just husbands; it can be wives, other relatives or carers. Children can be victims as well. It does not only happen in the home. No one is immune.

This week there has been a very public reminder that no woman is immune to the possibility of violence. My heart goes out to Nigella Lawson. We do not know how long she has had to suffer under the control of her husband. We do not know the circumstances that set off such a public display of violence and humiliation. To compound the pain, onlookers stood by and did nothing. Photographs were taken but the police were not called. Photos were sold, (most likely) profiting on the pain and reinforcing the victim's fear that no one can be trusted.

Many turn a blind eye. They do not want to interfere. They do not want to become involved. Maybe the problem will go away? No one should have to live in fear. Open your eyes. Be brave. If you see someone who may be in pain or fear, do not walk away. 

Then a careless radio presenter confronts Nigella Lawson, accusing her of ignoring the domestic abuse that she has been a victim of! Calling out a victim, demanding that she make a stand on domestic violence and effectively threatening to take away her livelihood if she did not do so, is bullying. It is easy to pontificate on twitter and the internet but until you have experienced domestic abuse, you cannot understand the myriad of pressures involved. It is not as easy as 'just reporting it'.  ...  Shame on you Ms Dunleavy! 
(Another example of internet bullying made so much easier when face to face interaction is denied.) 

There are many reasons why victims may not seek help. Victims of domestic abuse can have a difficult time admitting they are victims. They may feel embarressed, ashamed, alone; that they cannot trust anyone. It is easy for those who have not suffered from domestic abuse to judge. How can they understand the complicated emotional mess that is associated with being controlled. It can be overwhelming, isolating and never-ending. No one should be judged. No victim should have to feel ashamed. 

If someone had recognised the signs of domestic abuse, if someone had shown support, if someone had spoken up, then I would not have been the victim of domestic violence as a child and of insidious domestic emotional abuse as a young adult. I survived. I pray that Nigella Lawson will find peace.

Fight domestic violence. Fight bullying. NEVER shame the victim.

Onward and Upward.

Friday, I spent most of the day doing final edits to  An Eye for Detail. How many times can I read and re-read a story and find more typos, sentences to rewrite or silly mistakes? Well, more than I would have hoped, actually. This is the frustrating and less glamourous task in writing. This is where I really find out if I actually like my characters. This one is a keeper; she will be returning in other short stories I am certain. I am not sick of her as yet. 

I have now read the story about fifteen to twenty times ( I actually lost count) and my proof-reading for the week has read it about seven, including four times just today! I think he is a bit 'over it' as well. Each time, he found errant commas, missed words or doubled up words (I was getting tired when I last re-worked it). My favourite was one of the main characters greeting the other with "Good morning," when it was actually in the late afternoon. Hmmm... that was corrected promptly. 

On the penultimate pass, I decided that those few sentences that had been really annoying me, as they did not quite track, were toast! I rewrote them and finally I am at peace with them. Interestingly, my proof reader had mentioned that there was something nagging him but he could not quite pin it down. On the final read through, he admitted that it was no longer an issue; I then told him about the rewrite (just a couple of words changed and re-shuffled). "Ah!" was the response. 

So, that was my exciting Friday. Polishing up a short story. While I still think it is not perfect (I never do), it is at a point where I had to either send it off for judging or ditch it and rewrite the entirety. For better or for worse, it is done. I faced my fear of rejection; It has been sent and now I can rest while my brain subconsciously tries to find another scene to add to my next short story...

Onward and upward.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pretty Pictures

I have been a slack bum today. Honestly, it has been a bad day. I have been feeling off all day having had a head splitting migraine for part of the day. I did manage to get for a drive (well, my husband was driving as I was not probably safe to do so) as we visited the relatives. I managed to take a few photographs; so in place of witty comments (of which I am not capable today) or deep, thoughtful ponderings (which makes my head hurt too much), I give you pretty pictures.

Looking at them, I must apologise as they are from my old mobile phone. When my contract is up in October, I will be looking for something with a better camera; this one has been dropped a few times and I think the lens has been damaged. It also does not cope well with the low, afternoon sun hence some funky colouring...

Firstly a topic close to my heart. Do you have Suspended Coffees near you? When you buy a coffee (or soup in some cases), you pay for another one. This is then given to a less fortunate individual (often homeless) when they come in to the cafe. A way of paying it forward to those in need, especially over winter. Some of the cafes in Westfield are now are doing it... (finally!) https://www.facebook.com/SuspendedCoffeess?hc_location=stream

The second and third shots are from vapour trails seen overhead while driving home.  

And some shots from my garden. There are so many shots you can take close to home. The mushroom popped up this morning and is about 15cm in diameter. Won't be risking eating it though; there have been several reports of hospitalisation, this season, due to wrongly identified mushrooms. The mushroom shot is my favourite taken over the past few weeks.

Tomorrow I will have something more intellectual to present... as long as my head clears. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fear of Fear Itself.

I have written about procrastination before (Putting off til tomorrow... oops it's today) I started seriously thinking about the short story An Eye for Detail around 24th May. I wrote down some ideas and then sat on it. I did some research and then sat on it. I used several excuses to put off starting. 
  • I just need a little more research
  • I can't find the words for the perfect opening paragraph
  • I want to let it all settle, to let the story bubble away so that it will all make sense later
  • I need to get the house work done
  • my other work has been stressful and I have to relax
  • what if no one likes the way I write 

Sometimes it is genuine writers' block. Sometimes the story genuinely has to bubble away for a while to allow the characters to develop so that the plot can form but I can't always use this as an excuse. Sometimes the housework does need doing... but I can't always use this as an excuse either. 

I sat down earlier this week and tried to analyse the real reason behind my procrastination (I can't speak for other writers but suspect that the following is probably a universal one)
  • the fear of an empty page and writers' block
  • what if it is just really bad /fear of rejection 
  • If I have lots of time, it should be perfect. If I have little time, then I have an excuse for it not being perfect.
In essence it is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of fear itself. 

I have read several times now, you can't call yourself a writer unless you actually, well... write! Don't worry if it is not fantastic, mind-blowing prose. The best piece of advice I have read was: Anything is better than nothing. If nothing else, it is learning the discipline of extracting words, from the mind, to describe the thoughts and ideas that reside there.  Recently, when I have had a block and started to procrastinate, I have tried writing something else. I have written about a random writing exercise in  Practice, Practice, Practice. Even this blog is a form of practicing the discipline of writing, as it provides me with a regular deadline. (even if the writing is not perfect).

Once committed to paper (or word processor), these words can be filed away or reworked. They can be used as notes or starting points, when a writers' block hits, in the future or used as part of a larger project. If they are not committed into readable words, then they are just that - an idea.  I am getting a box full of handwritten notes and a whole computer folder of 'use later?' and 'utter crap'. (Yes, they are actually named that).

I have also read (paraphrased here) that many people say they want to write but don't actually put pen to paper (or finger to the keyboard). Others start writing and then stop, never to finish any project. The second best advice I have read was: You can only call yourself a writer if you finish the story! When I am having a bad writing day, I keep telling myself this.  So when did I call myself a writer? I stuck to this definition and only dained to call myself a writer when I had finished a few stories and sent them off. (though I have also read since then, that blogs count in this definition). 

I often think of the above when I start procrastinating. Truthfully, is doesn't always get me off my butt. What it does is to remind me that I am not alone in my struggles. It gives me inspiration to write... something. Anything.  

Finally three weeks later, I am on the downhill slide and this short story is almost done. During this time, I have written down an idea for another short story, finished a section of an art project that I have (not surprisingly) put off and completed a first draft of another short story. I have now managed 2973 words, a spell check, a major edit, three minor re-edits and four proofreads (hopefully with the last one to go) of An Eye for Detail.  

It is due to be emailed out by the 20th so I have another week for the final stage. Fear of rejection. Every time I reach this stage of a short story, I start wondering if it will be good enough. I balk at the possibility of rejection. I then think of my two mantas (outlined above), yet again. 

Anything is better than nothing; it will never be perfect. and
You can only call yourself a writer if you finish  the story!

Within the next two days, I will regain my resolve, boosted with the above advise, and email the story. If I don't, I cannot call myself a writer and the dream will  dissolve. I would love another 1000 words to fill it out more but I am restricted with the word limit of 3000. I am content with the imperfect version I have now. I have come to terms with the fact that the story will never be perfect. I will keep the character development and interaction rather than re-writing and adding more detective stuff. It my choice. 

The competition is really just an excuse to give me a deadline and a spark for an idea. Ironically, I write because I enjoy it; I write because I have to. 
Yet I still procrastinate.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fashioning a Scroll and a Short Story

Wednesday was a busy day. Firstly, there was some housework was finished. Once the domestic chores were done, I could work on some things that were more fun. (My mother always said I had to finish my chores and homework first).

I have been procrastinating. Yes, I admit it. I have mentioned a scroll that I have been working on in my post The Makings of an Almost Period Patent of Arms.  I had finished the pencil sketch  and inked up the design, almost two weeks ago. Following several practices, I decided I really should 'bite the bullet' and finish the calligraphy. Calligraphy makes me nervous. If I make a mistake at this point, I have to redo the entire scroll. Or, in this case, the matching pair. It is like getting the nerve to take the first cut on expensive material. What if I screw it up?!

After a cup of tea, I finally found the courage and spent two hours writing the calligraphed text with a nib pen. I am now waiting for the two items to dry and I will have to do a little touching up. It was nerve wracking but finally it is complete. I am leaving this project for a few days now, so I can recover. However, the next phase is the painting. I love the painting. Such fun!!!

Project two: 
I have a few more short stories I am hoping to complete this month, all being well in the creative department. I had a quick look over An Eye for Detail. Did a quick edit and plan to return to it this weekend for final editing as it is due on the 20th. 

While I was catching up on some television during my break, I caught a really, really bad conspiracy documentary. It was actually quite entertaining and proved to be a great relaxation tool (probably not what the maker had intended though). There was one line that caught my imagination. Then a random sentence from a bit of research sparked an idea to match up with that line... 

An hour of research, a few hours of writing later and I have just finished 1117 words of the first draft of a short story titled Fashioned in Black. Hopefully this can be molded into something useful. If so, this is earmarked for one of the open themed short story competitions due at the end of the month.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Live in the Moment

Good morning everyone. Today I have been off at appointments and did not have access to my phone or computers. For a while, there was no rush to get things done. I was living in the moment, as I have been told to do to relieve stress.

Some random thoughts from today...

The rain is light today. The world is crisp. The air is cool. The dust is settled. Finally Winter is here. I can breathe. The rain has also been beneficial to the lavenders I replanted a couple of days ago. The carrots, spinach and broccoli have sprung into life and enjoying the moisture. I won't have to water the garden until the end of Spring, unless we get another dry spell. I love this weather.

Why is it that drivers speed up in the wet weather? They creep closer to the car in front of them, carve the traffic in the other lane and run red lights. For some unknown reason, it seems that indicator lights cease to work whenever there is rain. Someone should really talk to the car manufacturers about this one. 

There was a raven in the front yard when I arrived home. Its white eyes watched me alight from the car. They followed me as I did some impromptu weeding in the vegetable patch. It smiled at me as I through it a curl grub that had dared to invade the garden soil. It cawed its approval and waited until I was checking the mail before it took advantage of the free food. As quickly as it swooped, it flew back up onto the roof where it watched me enter the house. 

One of the most relaxing things in the world is a cup of tea, some dark chocolate and a good book. Even more so when the rain is falling rhythmically onto the roof, tinkling on the skylight.

Live in the moment. Revel in the world's wonders.  Enjoy life.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Books, Gardening and Octoarm jewelry

Monday was the Queen's birthday public holiday here. After half a day of clearing the garden, digging holes and preparing the soil, I dug up some self-seeded french lavender and transplanted three of them into  the existing lavender hedge. I am hoping they will grow and fill up some holes opening up in the hedge; the oldest section of the hedge is almost twenty years old and is becoming very sparse. This was made worse by the very hot, dry summer we had this year. I forgot to take a photo today, and will be working tomorrow, so I will post pictures later. 

I took a break for a couple of hours and indulged in tea and a book. I am currently reading Gail Carringer's third book of her Parasol Protectorate series: Blameless. I am enjoying her tongue-in-cheek writing style. I am adoring the characters and am minded to make some costumes. I was inspired, early this year, to make a t-shirt based on these books, which can be found on Redbubble.

By evening, I was itching to create something else so I decided to extend the Octoarm range and try some jewelry (my daughter was asking for some). I did my first attempt at some necklace pendants and a bracelet. What do you think?

So far I have a bracelet (I am planning on making one that wraps around the arm), a large and small Amulet with adjustable straps.

Lest we forget.

Alzheimer's disease bites the big one. Luckily, I have had no known incidents of Alzheimer's disease (and very little dementia) in my family. I remember great aunts and uncles full of life, intelligence and independence. I am proud of them. I hope one day to be like them. Though genetics is apparently not a big factor.

I am told that physical activities that involve random decisions (like freeform dancing) may help. There are certain foods that may be preventitive, such as a Mediterranean diet. NSAIDs may reduce the risk. Exercise is beneficial - both physical and intellectual and social interactions. Use it or lose it, my grandmother used to say.

As a writer and artist, I rely on my creative brain, as an optometrist I rely on the logical part of my brain. I revel in my brain. I love to use my brain. I love to feed my brain with words and experiences. I love learning new things. I love to test my brain with writing exercises, playing games, creating things. I love creating things. My husband often says I get grumpy if I have not created something for a while and tells me to go write something or make something. 

What would I do if I lost my cognitive functions? I have a suspicion I would be one of those grumpy old women that know they are losing it. I find this one of the scariest things that could happen to me. I have great respect for those who have to live with it, for family that have to deal with it and for carers that help those who suffer from it. 

On Sunday, we attended the wake for my husband's grandmother. I met her 17 years ago. She welcomed me into the family and we clicked straight away. She was such a wonderful lady. I wish I had got to know her better before she started forgetting. She was a wonderful woman with a wicked sense of humour. She was independent until she was stricken with Alzheimer's disease. She was eighty. She died on her eighty-seventh birthday. 

RIP Alma . You will be missed. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Yesterday our household played host to, not only a kids girly birthday party but also the added bonus of a girly sleepover. I am soooo exhausted now.

It was a typical tweens party; There was sugar, sugar and more sugar. There was party pies and sausage rolls, chocolate, more chocolate, chips, buscuits, pizza and more, you guessed it - sugar! Dip with cheese and carrot sticks was the concession to some sort of normality.

There was much squeeing, squealing, gossiping and giggling. Who would have guessed that pass the parcel still elicits excited jumping up and down of nearly teenagers? Go figure. Of course, what sleepover is complete without movies, painting of the fingernails, temporary tattoos and ...
more sugar! (and popcorn).

Finally they sleep! Thank goodness. So now I can get some too.
but I didn't get much. Between the 'She's not gone to sleep yet." and the cat having another hissing fit, I got very little sleep. Do cats have nightmares? I wonder. She is still our friend and wants hugs and patting but will not go near one side of the bed (where the hysterics all began). I had to sleep in an awkward position, last night (and am paying for it with back and shoulder pain today) but when I tried to move the cat near that side of the bed, off she went again. She looked terrified! Poor thing. Poor me. I am a walking zombie today. 

I am not expecting much improvement to the day; we are off to a memorial later today. Hence I don't see myself doing much writing today. 

My long weekend can only improve tomorrow. I hope.
Hope you all have a good day. 

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." (Martin Luther King Jr.)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Some Words...

This morning I slept in. Our dear old geriatric cat decided that something as amiss at 2.45am this morning and started growling and hissing. Obviously she could see something we could not (or had a bad dream.) She would not let us touch her... we spent a couple of hours trying to both calm and avoid her. This morning she is marginally better. She will let us touch her now but is still wary.

So, it looks like this will make today's blog and not be an addendum to yesterday's. 

I spent most of yesterday trying to write the remaining 1700 words for the first draft of my current short story. There were two occasions where I had a mini-writers' block. Both were at scene changes. I knew the part of the plot that I wanted in the scene. I knew what I clues were revealed and most of the dialogue. I just could not start that first introductory paragraph for each scene. No burgeoning virtual orchestra accompaniment to my scene opening. 

After a few little breaks, some garden weeding and several cups of tea, a version came to me. Though not perfect and will be in for a couple of edits, I am satisfied that I have something now to build on. As usual, the characters decide to twist the plot slightly. In this case, I was happy as it meant that a whole scene of 'searching' for the culprit was unecessary. A unhappy circumstance allowed the story to skip ahead and save me about 700 words. 

I now have the first draft completed: 2937 words so far, four deceased, one heroine injured, police baffled, bad guy caught but not before inflicting unwanted damage... A successful day but more work is required.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Breathing easy..

Obviously somewhere time zones have changed. A few months ago, Australia finished with summer daylight saving and I had to remember to publish my post an hour earlier (when I was not at my other job). Now I find that my post, from yesterday (Thursday here) actually got published officially on Wednesday. I am sure I did not hit that publish button too early. Maybe I did? I was very tired yesterday. I think I am fighting something. But that is not what I wanted to post about today....

Today is the 7th of June (here). It is finally winter! I have suffered through our summer and managed successfully not to melt too much. I struggled through breathing, with the low (almost non-existent) humidity and frequent dust storms (which I am allergic to)... eeek dust! I absolutely adored autumn which is possibly my favourite time of year. Here now is the winter of my content! (oh that was bad, I know.) 

I have already mentioned the glorious rain! We are lucky to remember what rain is, over the summer here. It reminded us last week. (I should point out I am an ex-Queenslander and lived through the 1974 floods, 2 cyclones etc... so it was only a little bit of rain as far as I am concerned) Our water tank overflowed, the ground got a good soaking and the pots got a good wash out to remove the salts they accumulate from tap water. Everything, in the garden, is crisp, clean and deciding to shoot up like mad. The garlic has decided it wants to be out in the fun too! The broccoli, in the front yard, is also loving this weather.

A lot of the dust outside has been washed away. It is a pity that it could not be removed so easily from inside the house. My poor husband has to put up with me opening the front and back doors, even on a 13 deg (C) day, to let the cross breeze through. This will help reduce the dust settling and provide fresh air. I am not a big fan of air conditioning and closed up rooms. In summer there is little choice. Now I get one! He is now used to me telling him to put another jumper on.

Winter is also a great time to do major garden work or landscaping. It is just way too hot to attempt it in summer, here.  I have about five self-seeded french lavenders that have been growing for a few months now. They are earmarked for plugging up holes in my lavender hedge that marks our front land boundry. This hedge has been there for almost 20 years and has had one part replanted two years ago. 

I am hoping to put these smaller plants in now, as the older ones did not cope well in summer and are going spindly. The plan is that they will have a few years to grow before the older lavenders definately have to be removed. I am hoping that the ground will be dry enough to dig their holes adding manure and compos, so the plants can be added in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nothing Exciting Happening Here...

Nope. Nothing on writing today. The rain finally stopped a couple of days ago; we had more than half of the expected rainfall due over Winter by June 2nd! Great for the garden and great for the local dams. The farm girl in me has been head over heals! Only now, is the ground starting to dry out enough that I can get some gardening done. 

I originally went outside to do some weeding around the lettuce and broccoli... then decided that the strawberry beds needed some tidying up. While pruning them, I found about forty runners that were starting to take root. So I just  had to start potting them up. This also meant that I had to rejuvenate the soil in the wheelbarrow we use for growing vegetables as I was now running out of places to put the strawberry runners. 

Two hours later, I am out of potting mix, have used up almost the entire bag of straw and have a rejuvenated strawberry patch, a wheelbarrow and two pots full of new strawberry plants with still plenty to give away!

Nope. Nothing exciting happening here. Move along.

More Writing and some Useful Sites...

I have discovered some fantastic websites for Victorian Era research or for prompting ideas for writing!

Just to name a few!

Tuesday, my brain did not want to stop. During my lunch break, I managed to crack into the next scene of my short story. Last night, I typed the days writings into the computer. Total words now 1301.

The frustration now is trying to find information on the number of police per Divsion and if there were sub-divisions in 1870.  Having searched through the census report for 1881 (the closest to my tentative dates), I found some very interesting and unexpected jobs held by females at the time!

After a few hours of mulling over the new information and having reviewed the story so far, I am contemplating moving it ten years later. Firstly, one of the critical clues may not have been used by a woman in the 1870s (though this is fiction) but it has been niggling at me. Secondly, the main reason for setting it in 1870 was her association with an historical person; he was in the area at this time. Yesterday the historical figure became redundant (at least for this short story), so I can easily move the timeline without any consequences to the main 'clues' and plot devices...

More writing today...

Have a good one.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Research, Research, Research

I had thought that I had most of the required research done for my current short story 'An Eye for Detail'. I had a rough plot sketched out and had scenes on the pinboard but it took the best part of a week to really get into the correct headspace to write the opening scene. I wanted to give a sense of who the main character was and what she did so I could get straight into the mystery...

I struggled for the right words. If I cannot get an inspiration for the opening scene, it is so much harder for the rest of the words to flow. My brain needs to visualize the opening scene (I get complete with opening music in my head) or it refuses to go any further.

Finally they came to me. In the middle of the night I was scribbling in my notebook. Seven hundred words in less than an hour and the first draft of the opening scenes were done. Again,  the initial creative spurt is often written by (often illegible) handwriting!

Yesterday, I retyped the opening onto my computer (first edit was also done, reshuffling and rewriting some sentences). I was now ready for the next section of the story - the discovery of the actual mystery. But...

Almost straight away I realized I needed to do more research into some historical facts:
Did the police station in the area actually exist in the 1870s? What street in that area was low income, middle class professions and upper class nobility? More research!

I found copy of Charles Booth's Poverty Map of the nineteenth century and then spent over an hour 'walking' around the streets via Google maps street view. This has proved to be a very useful tool, giving me an idea of how far it was to the local 'nick' and how the character would have arrived there.

With most of the day now gone, it was getting very late... again. This time it was just a few paragraphs and notes (that will need heavy editing) were jotted down. There was to be no late night as Tuesday is my work day (for my alter ego). 

Back from work now, and back to my passion of writing... hence the late blog. Tuesday are like that.

Monday, June 3, 2013

More gallery showing, Portable Art for Sale and lots of Framing!

This weekend, I have been putting together items to sell at a new location:
A Rare Notion - a shop in the Adelaide Arcade in the city. 

You can find the shop at 110 Balcony Level, Adelaide Arcade. The lovely Mandy sells jewelry, craft and art supplies, vintage clothing and collectibles. 

I now have some of my Octoarm bookmarks, badges and The Question mugs available for sale there.


I have also got some of my original photography on mini-gallery display and for sale at A Rare Notion. Pink, Yellow and Dots are now available for purchase as matted 5x7 " in an 8x10" frame, for $30.
It was definately a day for framing today. I have also framed my latest photography work, Writing and hope to have it on sale soon.

Today, I am making some more badges for sale and planning a new tshirt...

Just for fun, we dug out some of the autographed photos we have collected at recent conventions. We spent the afternoon framing them and (my now  thumb-sore) husband did some hammering so we could put them on the playroom wall. Somewhere in boxes or suitcases, I also have various autographed photos, from the many conventions I attended in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s... 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A (Self Imposed) Writing Challenge...

I am supposed to be working on another short story at the moment and have finished most of the research for it but... while all of that information is perculating through my brain and I have a rough idea of the plot basics, I am finding it hard to actually write the prose for it, just now. 

Recently on one of the FB pages I follow, this photo was posted: 

It had a caption: What's the story behind this? 

I took this as a challenge... 
I would write 2000-ish words based on this picture and endeavour to finish the story in two days - no matter what! This was an exercise in trying to work around writers' block and finishing to a deadline. 

I just needed to check some dates and information of the penny farthing (which was actually known as the 'ordinary' bicycle when it was popular). The name penny farthing only really came into fashion after this time. 

I decided to use this exercise to try to stick to a different style of writing, making this a story not involving supernatural creatures or gaslight/lamp or steampunk themes. I had to rewrite several paragraphs, as I kept slipping in gaslamp creatures and then having to remove them.

While The Wager not my favourite short story, I am happy that I achieved the writing exercise as I had prescribed it. It was completed in two days and totaling 2060 words. I would have loved to have used another 1000 to 1500 words and delved more into the Uncle and Miss Elizabeth Symes, and given a more steampunk slant.. sigh...

It is good to try different styles of writing every now and then. 

Photo Shenanigans and experimenting.

The past few days, I have taken a break from writing and have been playing with different effects on some of my photos. I admit I love the 'toy camera' look (as some call it) and the effect of desaturated colours and increased contrast. I found a 'toy camera' setting that does this in-camera on my Canon. I really do like this effect (right: Writing)

Other effects I can do in-camera include grainy BW and fisheye. Interesting to know they are there, for future reference. I use BW a lot but the fisheye possibly won't be used often.

I had a play with the basic Irfanview program (something many should have), in an attempt to recreate the 'toy camera' effect above. Firstly, I increased the contrast to about 3/4 along the scale, then reduced the saturation by about 1/4. These are some of the results. The first photo had less contrast, the second (steampunk attire) had more contrast. 
There is less blue than in the in-camera 'toy camera' so I can't really claim it is recreating the effect above.  However, with more playing, I prefer the higher contrast photos and tried some more below. I think I will have to keep this in mind for some future work...

My favourite photo from today's experiments is this one below (of my husband).