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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Of NaNoWriMo, Wizards and a new Novella.

November is going to be busy. In February, I booked four weeks holiday (that is a whole complicated story unto itself). I intend to attend my brother’s wedding, try to catch up on garden landscaping and sorting out the edible plants for summer, attend two workshops, Supanova (convention) and a work conference – just to name a few. Most of all, I intend to give my first full-on NaNoWriMo a really good attempt. I look forward to a creative distraction to current stresses.

I attended both NaNoWriMo camps this year – in April and July. Camp is like a mini-NaNoWriMo – you can choose your own project/s and word limit. For my very first camp, I aimed for 10,000 words. I finished with 15,000 words for the month (a record for me).

Doctor Jack‘s first draft was finished in May – totaling 35,000. My first novella (now with my beta reader). In July I decided I needed complete rewrites on a short story, The Day of the Dirigible and make significant headway on my work-in-progress, The Department of Curiosities. The experience was invigorating. I procrastinated less, I wrote more.

April BLog Posts: Now I have done it! There is no turning back? / Of Deadlines, Short Stories and Novellas / Of Post Camp Progress, Pantsers and Plotters.
July Blog Posts: Of Rewrites, Camps and Villians.

November’s NaNoWriMo has a new set of rules and will provide a much bigger challenge. Word goal is 50,000 words. I cannot start writing it before the 1st of November. I can outline the plot or characters. In the past, the project had to be a new one. Recent changes appear to allow for continuing with a current WIP, as long as it is new writing and no rehashing of previous work.

As this is way above my personal best word count for one month, I will not be disappointed if I do not make the target.  If I do manage to keep my muse on target, curb my procrastination and manage to make the goal, I will be overjoyed!

Whatever the outcome, I have two options now open to me: to make a start on my second novella, The Wizard of St Pauls or forge ahead with the first draft of The Department of Curiosities.

The Wizard of St Pauls is a story has been mulling around in my head for over a year. It is more gaslamp than steampunk. It is set in the same steampunk world as The Department of Curiosities, with a different agency battling a unique section of society.

On the 1st November, I will know which way the muse takes me. I will keep you posted on my progress and word count, via November’s posts.

NaNoWriMo Word count.
Total Words- first draft:  

Of NaNoWriMo, Wizards and a new Novella.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Of Thankfulness, Sharing and Christmas Spirit

No matter how stressed my life is, I am thankful. I live in a country where I have personal and religious freedom, relative safety and major political stresses. (I shall refrain from a rant on the short-sightedness of the current government.) I have a roof over my head, a loving family and food to eat.
We do live in the lucky country.

Christmas is less than two months away. Celebratory-specific items are already filling the shelves. Santa is readying for his annual parade through Adelaide streets to take up residence in his cave. (No rants on the materialistic nature of the season either.)

Today I am grateful. Today I think of all those who are less fortunate than me, of the millions of children who have very little. Today I braved the claustrophobic hell of the local shopping centre. With my family for support, I gritted my teeth and endured the crowds. Our goal: to buy items to fill this year’s Christmas Shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.

This is the sixth year we have participated in this project. It is simple. Fill a shoebox with items – Six things to light up the world of a child in need: something to love, something for school, something to wear, something to play with, something for personal hygiene and something special. Add $9 to cover transport costs (we pay ours online) and drop it into a collection point (one of our friend organises one). The boxes get delivered to children in countries throughout Asia and Africa and other places where children are less fortunate.

shoebox 2014 contents   shoebox 2014
It was well worth the discomfort of the crowds to share a little joy with a child.
You can donate  to Operation Christmas Child, via their website.

Of Thankfulness, Sharing and Christmas Spirit

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Off the Artboard: Octoarms go live on etsy

octoarm bookmar2kI have a fascination for cephalopods. (Handy, as they seem to be a steampunk trope.) I was reading 20,000 Leagues under the sea and had an image of a kraken crawling out of the book. This sparked an idea which compelled me to make my first Octoarm bookmarks, starting my Portable Art Collection.  It was not long before I started making necklaces and earrings.

I have been rather distracted lately. Life has been… interesting. With some major stresses, even writing has been more difficult this week. In an effort to distract myself from current issues, I have delved into my box of creations and did some organising – and was inspired to make some Christmas tree decorations, which have been added to my Portable Art – Octoarms page.

Cephalopods and Christmas – cheered me up. I hope you will enjoy them as well.  Why not share the cheer with a fellow geek? Christmas is not far away.

You can now buy Octoarms earrings, pendants, bookmarks and tree decorations at my new etsy store: Off the Artboard.  Payments via Paypal for your security.

etsy banner off the artboard

Off the Artboard: Octoarms go live on etsy

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October Tea and Tidings - flies out tomorrow.

Do you like reading my blog?
Are you interested in knowing more about my writing or backgrounds to my stories?
Do you want to read preview snippets of The Department of Curiosities or The Adventures of Viola Stewart?Do you want exclusives or information before it is revealed on my website?

Then subscribe to my monthly newsletter – Tea and Tidings with this form, or at the sign-up page.

October Tea and Tidings - flies out tomorrow.

On Character Development: What was the thinking behind that?

We all want engaging characters who will grab the attention of our readers and entice them to keep reading.  Advice abounds. Books have been written, blogs posted, lists compiled – all to aide in the development of believable protagonists and antagonists (and secondary characters).

Many lists start with basics – the physical attributes of the character – name, age, how they dress, ‘quirky tick’. Other recommendations encourage us to delve into their background – where do they live? Where were they born? What is their vocation? Childhood, friends and family relationships can all help mold the character – either heroine or villian. All of the above can effect how a character will react to the various conflicts writers throw at them.

One writing mantra that is constantly drummed into my brain is:  use active not passive writing. Our characters must do things. The most elaborately created background and detailed descriptions will not make a character do something. Throwing plot twists at our heroine will not always guarantee she will be forced into action. For this, our characters must have motivation.

Ask the following questions:
  • What is their greatest desire, their motivation?
  • What does the character want – from people, from any situation?
  • Will outside influences alter these desires?
  • How far will they go to obtain it
  • What will they do when their goal is realised?
By asking (and answering) the above, our characters should will evolve, revealing their personalities in response to the developing plot. This change should be ongoing. Ask the questions often; each interaction, every event has the potential to lead each character in a new direction, driving action and possibly altering our character’s motivation. From these little things, stories can grow.


On Character Development: What was the thinking behind that?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Of Gardening, Writing and Maniacal Grins.

I love my garden – the smell of the flowers, the buzzing of the bees, the song of the birds. I love my veges, my flowers, the native animals that scamper amongst the undergrowth.

When I feel sad, I reconnect with life by planting something new. This week three new heritage Italian tomato seedlings were nestled into their new home in the vegetable beds in the front yard. When I am angry, I stomp around on the gravel paths, take a spade to the untamed earth and do some landscaping, or grin maniacally as I wrench errant weeds from the earth (which is extremely satisfying – you should try it). I now have two full wheelie bins ready for green waste collection day. (Our council also has recycle bin collection, which makes me a happy little eco bunny.)

I love writing. I have often used my garden as an analogy for my writing. When I scribble down story notes, I am sowing seeds. When I write my first draft, I am planting seedlings. When I am I editing ruthlessly (hopefully with the maniacal grin), I am pulling out weeds. Rewriting large swathes of manuscript is like taking a spade to entire garden beds, moving the soil around or throwing rocks aside in an attempt to change the landscape of the story.

Though most of the time I fly by the seat of my pants, allowing the ideas and words to flow, there is always a quiet voice tempting me to revise, restructure, to just take a peek at that last chapter and rewrite.

Maybe that explains why I cannot decide between my ordered Tuscan-style potted fruit trees and the rambling English country garden that self-seeds. Both create unexpected  delights.

How can I choose one over the other when both provide such wondrous exhilaration – when both fill my soul with joy and keep me going, even in the darkest of times?


Of Gardening, Writing and Maniacal Grins.

Plotter or Pantser?

I love chatting with other writers. I learn so much.  Recently over at Steampunk Empire, one of our members created a group called: Scribblers Den. Less than a few weeks in and I am finding the varying discussions very useful and inspiring. One was the simple question: Pantser or Plotter?

A what? you say.  I first saw these terms coined in NaNoWriMo. A plotter (or planner) outlines their story in varying detail. A pantser free writes – by the seat of their pants, if you will.

This post is based on my reply.

I am essentially a pantser. But…

I get an idea – a feeling or atmosphere I want to create. I know the basics – the main character, something happens, how I would like it to end. I make notes on various scenes I can see in my head. Often the characters change the story.

I have tried to plot an entire story. At the time, I had been reading a slew of blogs and writing advice regaling the advantages of complete story outlines. I felt compelled to give it a try. I felt constrained. The characters complained. I was a grumpy sod the entire time I wrote the story. I could not wait to finish it. It suffered. Full on plotting was not for me.

Note: I do have an admission: the more I write, the more notes I make. I have to; the story keeps getting more complicated. Some threads need to be documented so they don’t end up remaining unraveled. This could be construed as plotting. I do not deny it.

I have boxes and folders for notes for specific chapters or events of my manuscript (and other stories). These notes get shuffled around into whichever box I think they may fit into at the time. This provides a rough sketch for various chapters and what events may (or may not happen) – along the lines of:

‘Ch A:heroine finds clue/discovers some background.

Ch B:Big Bad has minor win/escapes.

Ch C:Explosion. who survives? how?

Ch D:Chase ensues.

Ch E:Heroine is betrayed.’

Sometimes Ch A will end up being Ch F, as the Big Bad decides Ch E is his first concern. (Follow?)

The first chapter I wrote – the one that got me hooked on writing my current manuscript – The Department of Curiosities – was actually intended to be Chapter 2. It has now been pushed to possibly Chapter 11 (subject to change).

When I start a chapter, I read all my notes. I keep some and move others, depending on how the story has changed. Some get ditched into my ‘maybe some other time’ box. Sometimes I ignore all the notes and just go with the flow. I may write some vague notes on the antics events for the current chapter and possible consequences for future chapters. Occasionally this may mean the ‘exact’ events of the ending changes (though the basic essence and feeling of the ending, and the fate of the protagonist has remained the same).

This makes for slow writing but I have been much happier allowing my characters more flexibility. I feel less claustrophobic. I have more fun. I can play with the words. It is more cathartic. I find I get more interesting plot twists and machinations.

That is me. A mostly-pantser who tries to reign in the chaos with occasional plotting, who gives into the cacophony  (I love that word!) of voices in her head.

organising boxes

A bit like my gardening.

Plotter or Pantser?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I33: Commissioned Book Cover Update

Last year I wrote about an art commission for a historical fencing book. I33-Fencing in the Style of the Walpurgis Manuscript. (Book Artwork- Mischief Managed).

final bookI attended the Photoshoot  where  several of the fencing stances from the original fencing manual were re-created for the book’s internal photographs.

I have now received my copy of the book.

For any historical re-enactors or Society for Creative Anachronism members, let it be known that Andrew (William Blacwode) has been asked to become a member of the Laurel for his research and works in historical rapier fighting, including this book.

I am proud to have been involved in the publication of his book. You can buy I33-Fencing in the Style of the Walpurgis Manuscript at Amazon and Lulu.

I33: Commissioned Book Cover Update

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blood Moon Rising

Yesterday was a full lunar eclipse, also known as a blood moon. I was going to write a post about Victorian astronomy but a friend of mine at mentioned she was going to as well. (check it out at Cogpunk Steamscribe).  What to do? I was inspired to write a piece of flash fiction introducing a new character I have been playing with.

Blood Moon Rising.

by Karen J Carlisle.

Somewhere in the moonlight, soft footsteps circled, scraping lightly on stone.

A loud crack echoed through the walled courtyard.  A low growling followed. It ricocheted among the stone pillars and statues that erupted from the flagstones, making it impossible to trace the sound’s origin.

A warm summer breeze jostled the branches of Martine's chosen refuge, masking the faint noises around her. Slowly the sky darkened. There were too many shadows.

Summer solstice had slipped by yesterday, without any excitement. She knew it had been too easy.

She looked up to the sky, and studied the moon. Her eyes narrowed, nothing but slits exaggerating the furrow that grew on her forehead.  As the sanguine shadow crept across the moon’s surface, blood coursing through its veins.

A blood moon. Change is coming.

Such portents could not be ignored. Again.

Martine took a measured breath. She reached back and pulled a small crossbow from a hidden pocket beneath her bustle. She hesitated, her gaze darted across the courtyard. Shadows danced over the dim garden. She bit her lip and pulled the string tight and eased the silver tipped bolt in place.

The growl was behind her now. Close. The hair on her neck jumped to attention.  She turned, snarling in anger. A large hound leapt toward her, hovering for a moment as the bolt drove into its chest. With a whimper, it fell at her feet.

Shadows flitted in the corner of her eye.

Martine shoved a second bolt into the crossbow. Too late.  It was knocked to the ground by a flurry of darkness. She dodged backwards, landing hard against the stone wall.

Her hunter had found his quarry.  A sliver of tooth jutted onto his lip. He was young, not yet able to control the changes.

Martine wrenched a small branch from the hawthorne beside her. She smiled, baring a perfect set of extended canines. “You should avoid strangers during a blood moon,” she whispered.

He glanced at the blood moon above them. A thin sliver of light threatened to chase away the shadow.  He licked his lips and swallowed.


blood moon Karen Carlisle c 2014

Blood Moon Rising

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Of Dust, Allergies and Chapter Beginnings.

I last provided an update of my progress (and favourite passages) to Chapter 6 – in Of Rewrites, Camps and Villians. I have been remiss. The first drafts of Chapters 7, 8 and 9 are now complete (and awaiting a rewrite and beta reading.)

Last week, the weather took a turn to the horrendous. The wind was blowing down from the north, bringing with it heat, dust and more dust. I had battling sinus and puffy eyelids and prepared myself for the horrors of the South Australian summer that is looming.

Through streaming eyes I managed to get the first (and larger scene) in Chapter 10 almost completed. Then days of procrastination and allergy-induced lethargy ensued. At last there was a return to the cooler weather, and writing. I could breathe.

The story so far: (55.7% of projected first draft is now completed)
  • Chapter 7:  Of Lies, Damned Lies and Treachery (4300 words)
    Dilemma #7: A certain character’s name is still eluding me!
    Favourite passage so far:
    ‘Tillie rolled up the sleeve of the borrowed Chinese robe. The unconventional outfit had proven very comfortable when sitting for hours at the desk. She fancied such an ensemble would also prove quite useful in future assignments/adventures. What would Aunt Prudence say to that? Tillie snorted softly.

  • Chapter 8:  Of ? , Photographs and Paranoia (5628 words)
    Dilemma #8: Keeping the middle of the story interesting and completing the chapter title without revealing too much.
    Favourite passage so far:
    ‘You are pale.’ he said as his gaze roamed over her face. ‘You look like you have seen a ghost.’“You know very well, there is no such thing as ghosts, Professor Allington,” she replied.‘Oh dear,’ the Professor said, as he stepped towards her desk.Tillie swallowed. Had she left something behind?‘What have you done to your dress?’Tillie let out a slow, quiet breath. ‘Ah, yes.’

  • Chapter 9:  Of Manipulations, Revelations and Reunions (5052 words)
    Dilemma #9: Why is my favourite character the Bad Guy? I need to change the Professor’s name.
    My favourite passage so far:
    “Have you ever been to the seaside?” he asked.
    Tillie’s eyes widened. She remembered playing in the sand as a child. Not in England, but Egypt, during one of the many adventures with her father.
    “We could take the train to Southend,” said the Professor.
    Tillie’s gaze dropped to the floor in disappointment. Not Egypt? she thought.
    The corner of the Professor’s moustache dropped with his smile. He wrapped his arm around Tillie’s shoulders.
    “How thoughtless of me, Miss Meriwether. You must be exhausted after such an ordeal. I shall have to get you home to a comfortable bed.”
    “Should you?” said Tillie.
    Professor Allington dropped his arm from around her shoulder. His face glowed red. “What I meant was…”
    “Thank you, Professor Allington. I do need some fresh clothes.” Tillie smiled. Egypt could wait for another day.’

  • Chapter 10:  Of Assignations, Suspicions and Escape.
    Chapter ?:  Of Trains, Dirigibles and Steamships. – First draft: 2100 words so far (incomplete) – This was the first snippet to follow The Guest Upstairs and specifically written for this manuscript. It signifies a significant change in the story.
The Department of Curiosities – Manuscript Word Progress: (55.7% first draft)

Total Words:  
At 1st draft only:
Revised Words: 

Of Dust, Allergies and Chapter Beginnings.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

September Steampunk Accessories Roundup.

I keep hearing the words of my mother, as she councelled me in my final year of high school: Don’t wish your life away now. Time passes more quickly, the older you get. Enjoy it while you can. As often is the case, experience proved to be true. September has disappeared as quickly as it had arrived.  Where did it go? Why did I procrastinate so much? I did manage to finish Chapter 9 of The Department of Curiosities, so all is not lost.

I posted the final installment of my Steampunk Accessory photo library on Twitter, my Pinterest page and Tumblr page – Off the Artboard. There are so many items I did not manage to catalogue (and so many more I have on my wishlist). For those who don’t like social media hopping or don’t have a Pinterest account, I am posting thumbnails of the photos here – as promised.

Many of my accessories were made by me, (some with help from my my DearHeart), found in opshops or garage sales. A few were purchased ‘new’.

1. Exploring Canary 2. Sundial/compass 3. Explorers belt 4. Bowler and goggles 5. Octopus brooch 6. Opshop leather bag 7. Fairy Repellent 8. Pith helmet.

1 mining help  2 comiccon14 3 explorers belt 4 bowler and googles 1 5 octopus brooch 6 bag leather opshop 7 fairy repellent 8 explorers helmet
9. Belt buckle 10. Brass Otto (and Victoria) Top hat 11. Octopus amulet 12. Handmade brooch 13.Leather  bolero 14. Aviator cap 15. recovered lace parasol 16. Octopus ring

9 buckle alternative 10 otto hat 2 11 bowsens whistle octopus necklace 12 brooch 13 leather shoulder coat 14 aviator cap 15 parasol2 16 ringoctopus 
17. Kraken cardigan 18. Top Hat 19. Boswain’s whistle 20. Scout hat 21. stripey socks and vintage boots 22. Military style vest 23. Striped bolero and overskirt (summer) 24. pinstriped corset 25.Teabox, canary and Victoria portrait.

17 kraken 5 on 18a tophat quirky stylin 19 boswain whistle 20 scout hat 21 socks and vintage boots 22 vest 23 striped shoulder jacket and overskirt 24 corset 2 25 tea box canary victoria 
26. brass telescope (part of sextant set) 27. brass compass (part of set) 28. Aviator wings. 29/30. Self portrait – a few of my favourite things.

26 telescope and explorers helmet 27 compass 28 wings 30 selfportrait13 
Photography (c) Karen Carlisle, David Carlisle and David Ruwoldt.
Any requests for what you would like me to post (on twitter, Pinterest or Tumblr) over October and November? Leave me a comment.

September Steampunk Accessories Roundup.