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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Plan B

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2017/05/28/plan-b/

I've been struggling this week - well a couple of months really -  trying to keep from drowning in anxiety. News and social media has bombarded us with images of recent horrific events and celebrity deaths. More recently there have been almost-tragedies closer to home. My mind has been chattering away, creating worst-case scenarios, second guessing, panicking me into petrified inactivity.
One of my triggers is empathy. I find myself crying (I mean really bawling my eyes out) over news stories - a lost child (their parents must be worried), a car crash (and the devastation of those left behind), a terrorist attack (how could someone hate others so much). The pain manifests itself as palpitations, muscular spasms, migraines... The list goes on.
It's one of the reasons I had to quit my old career. I'd come home and worry . I'd worry about my patients, worry about missing things, worry about dealing with the company powers-that-be. I've tried cognitive therapy, relaxation, mindfulness and hypnotherapy. (I reacted badly to meds.) But it is difficult to turn off the reason why I started that career and the very thing that spurred me to stay in the job, years longer than I should have.
Writing helps. I can channel that empathy. How do my characters feel? What will they do? What was the thinking behind that? But sometimes it gets all too much. Even the writing freezes up.
Then I retreat into books and get lost in their pages. But even that escape has been thwarted recently. When I was ill I tripped, damaging my spectacles. As a result, reading is a chore and brings on migraines. (Have you tried reading with askew progressive lenses? argh!)
So it's plan B for now. I have a list of vaguely-writing-related movies - some inspiring, some just a bit of fun. Some are, well, dubious but, nevertheless, contribute to pulling me out of my funk. Yesterday I pried open my current WIP box and picked up a pencil.
I thought I'd share my current list with you:
  • Anonymous
  • A man for all seasons
  • Eat, Pray, Love
  • Ghostwriter
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic
  • Bright Star
  • Cinderella Pact
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • Inkheart
  • Julie and Julia
  • Authors Anonymous
  • Music and Lyrics
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • The Rewrite
  • Becoming Jane
  • Miss Potter
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • Bridget Jones Diary
  • Never Been Kissed
  • Little Women
  • Love Actually
  • Paperback Hero
  • Sliding Doors
  • So I Married An Axe Murderer
  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • Romancing the Stone series
  • Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story
So now you know one of my deep, dark secrets. Please don't judge me.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Photo Friday: Chocolate at the Heritage Museum

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2017/05/26/photo-friday-chocolate-at-the-heritage-museum/

Regular readers will know I love chocolate. Dark chocolate specifically. So when the Tea Tree Gully Heritage Museum organised a display revolving around the history of chocolate, I was in! And so was my editor, Sharon.
Time for a road trip!
The heritage museum is housed in the building and grounds of the old Highercombe Hotel, built in 1853-4. It has hosted council meetings, dances and public meetings and served as  a school from 1875-1934, with the front half of the building becoming the post office in 1879. (More information is on their webpage.)
Each room was set up with facts, history and information on chocolate...
original packaging and posters...
and some famous chocolate quotes.
Volunteers had been busy making visual chocolate treats, scattered throughout the house.
Some real...
... like this top hat decorated with chocolate trim and Cocoa Chanel with her chocolate-inspired accessories. Chocolate even replaced the corks on this hat.
Some, like these delicious-looking felt treats, were not so real.
Finally we climbed back down stairs for some morning tea and homemade chocolatey treats.
Thanks to the volunteers at the Tea Tree Gully Heritage Museum for a lovely (and educational) morning.
Photos ©2017 Karen Carlisle. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why Indies? Guest Post by Jack Tyler

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2017/05/21/why-indies-guest-post-by-jack-tyler/

Jack Tyler allowed me to share his thoughts on reasons to read Independent authors.  Jack is a member of Scribblers Den (steampunk writers group), an author of steampunk (Beyond the Rails series) and other punk-genres. You can find him at Blimprider at writing.com or Jack's Hideout. Take it away, Jack...


A simple question. Why should you, an experienced reader, carry a selection of independent authors on your reading list? For a very good reason. Originality.
What was the last original movie you saw? Can't think of one? That's because no one is making them anymore. That's why we're inundated with remakes of old movies, reenvisionings of old TV shows, old, popular books "brought to life" by the "magic of Hollywood," episode CCXLVII of the big Space Saga. No one will take a chance anymore that something, God forbid, might not rake in a billion dollars a day.
Books have gone down the same path. Publishers, unwilling to take a risk, compete with one another to shovel out copies of copies of copies of The Last Big Thing. Where is the grand fantasy tale that doesn't follow Lord of the Rings to the letter? How many versions of Twilight can you read before you can recite the plot points before you come to them? You may be surprised to hear that those cutting-edge stories and novels are out there waiting to be read, and I'm going to tell you where to find them.
In the files of independent authors. While traditional publishers cling to the center of Writingtown, searching the carefully tended lawns for the next retelling of a tired old tale, independent authors, just as independent filmmakers and musicians, are out on the fringe, past the edge of the map, chronicling the tales that no one has yet heard, that have yet to be told. These are the stories you want to read, the stories that are worth finding, the jewels that you'll remember long after the last elf/dwarf/human/orc slashfest is in the landfill and long forgotten. These are the heirs to the tradition of storytelling.
Authors decide to self-publish for any number of reasons. Some because we have been rejected by traditional publishers, often for being too original to suit their no-risk publishing model. Some have gone indie because we didn't want to get involved with the "you do the work, and we'll keep the money" policy of the big publishers. Some of us are well-known traditionally published authors who have been screwed out of our due one time too many, but we all have one thing in common: We answer to our creative muse, and no one else.
We have all had an experience, maybe more than one, with an independent author who had no business writing a grocery list, let alone a book, and some of us may have said, "Enough of this! I'm sticking to the Big Five from now on." That's your choice, but you do yourself a grave disservice by that reasoning.
We all try new products every day. Whether it's a new makeup, pain reliever, pipe wrench, or ball-point pen, we have all gotten our hands on one that doesn't do what the advertisement said it would. But do we then say, "I'm never wearing makeup again!" Of course we don't. We learn to be more careful consumers. There are many ways to carefully consume books, one of them being to never stray from the big names. Again, that's your choice, but there are ways to find the quality indies as well, and if you want to read the books that are telling the new stories, you must include indies on your reading list. How do you find quality indies? Amazon.com is a huge help. Most of us publish there because they make it so easy, and they provide useful tools. Look for an indie who has high ratings, even if there aren't too many of them. A low rating isn't a deal-breaker either, unless that's all there are, but ratings can help. Then once you find a book that looks interesting, use the "Look Inside" feature. Yes, it only shows you a few pages, but if the author can't write, you won't need more than a paragraph to determine that. Then, of course, there's the tried and true method, word of mouth. If someone you know and trust is recommending an indie, by all means, take a look. You may discover worlds beyond imagining that lie at the tips of your fingers. So, come on out to the fringe; we're waiting to welcome you.
You can find Jack at: Blimprider at writing.com. His books are available on Amazon:

Friday, May 19, 2017

Photo Friday: What’s New?

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2017/05/19/photo-friday-whats-new/

I love my family. They know me all too well. This Mothers' Day I got some nifty pressies: a book on Victorian World of Science, octopus-fingers and a teacup wind chime, with spare spoons for those days I am flat. It's now hanging in my writing nook. (I may hide some emergency chockies inside.) We watched Eurovision, had pancakes, bacon and maple syrup for lunch (yum!) and finished the day with a new episode of Doctor Who. Perfect.
While on the subject of tea (okay, well sort of), I have a new teaball to add to my collection:
I've also been busy creating new crafty surprises to purchase at upcoming events. Now the weather is cooler, I can get back to crocheting some fun new steampunky stuff. I've finished another green octoscarf and something new - top hats!
These are the first two completed. It took a few practice runs to work out the best combination of stitches to give the shape. It's green too - a hatter's chapeau, trimmed with purple.
I've also made some octopuses. (Are you surprised? I thought not.) This one will end up on either a dark purple or black mini top hat. This is what it will look like.
These (or similar) will be available at my next talk (Aus Sci Fi: Talking Steampunk) in June and Adelaide Supanova in November. I'm hoping to finish a few more in different colours before then. Prices start at $15- $25 (depending on decorations). I can take a limited number of orders for collection at the events.
And finally - this arrived in the post yesterday. I need to start reading faster! Sigh.
Photos ©2017 Karen Carlisle. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

When It's Gone...

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2017/05/14/when-its-gone/

You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

It’s a well known phrase made popular in a musical lament, triggered by the slamming of a door and the departure of a big yellow taxi. I didn’t need a taxi to remind  me of how much I take things for granted – just the demise of my smart phone.

Regular readers will know of my love/hate/frustrated relationship with technology. I’m mostly old-school. Much of my writing starts in handwritten form. I love interesting and beautiful note books and enjoy filling them with new stories. I prefer to draw with pencil and nib pen over digital work on the computer and I still prefer to watch television or DVDs over streaming (well, that’s not that low tech but makes me a dinosaur in the modern world of streaming and on-demand internet viewing). I need to touch an item, feel it in my hands and interact with it.

I’m not totally inarticulate when it comes to technology. I’m learning and, though sometimes it’s a struggle (and frustrating to my Dearheart who works in IT), I use technology to edit videos, design covers, format my own books, do research (huzzah for access to far flung libraries and museums), communicate via social media and write my blog. It’s been a slow process, but I inch forward.

I must admit I’ve grown accustomed to the convenience and speed of the digital age. I let my guard down.

And got a bit slack.

It was Thursday. Sun was shining. I was taking it easy, as I was recovering from gastro, and checking my social media accounts on my smart phone. One of the apps was acting a bit screwy so I did what I had been told previously by the phone tech – I restarted it.

Except it didn’t, restart that is.

After a few minutes of furiously pushing buttons, I looked up the manufacturers webpage and asked: How do I restart my phone when it won’t turn on? I followed the instructions, and pressed the reset button. A faint buzz gave only short relief. The screen remained dark. No flashing lights. No familiar tune to accompany the hoped start up.

I tried a two minute reset and plugged the phone in to charge, as instructed. While I waited, I downloaded the official back up program, plugged in the phone into the USB port on the computer and crossed my fingers. A sharp bing on the computer advised me that the computer could not find my device.  Certain words wafted through the house.

I rang my provider. Perhaps they had some words of wisdom for the technically un-inclined and very much frustrated? The helpful young man talked me through his book of fixes – a repeat of the processes I had just performed.

You guessed it. They didn’t work second time round either. I was advised I would have to bring the phone into the store. Their techies would need to work their magic. But – they stressed – a reset would wipe anything on the phone itself, so I should back up the information.

Um… not happening. My computer refuses to play ball.

Did I have my photos/videos (etc) on the SD card?

It didn’t automatically do that?


Well, I’m screwed then. (Dang, dang, dang, dang, and dang!)

I now have a loan phone – sans the following:

  • calendar appointments
  • photos not transferred to computer (I should have used my SLR!)
  • videos (see above)
  • recordings of talks, events (again, many not transferred) and notes for stories (next time I’ll try not to be so clever and I will write them in one of my many notebooks strewed around the house and in my handbag)

I can hear the thunder of head slaps from the more tech-savvy readers: What! Didn’t you back them up?

(Insert heavy sigh and shaking of head here.)

I shall learn from my mistakes: Back up. Back up. Back up.

Yesterday I backed up my stories onto not one, not two, but three USB sticks –  just in case the computer decides to go on holiday as well. There is no way I am losing all that hard work. I’m trying to recreate notes, checking appointment dates and requesting friends and contacts send me their details. Then I shall back them all up – digitally and on paper.

This entire episode reminds me of how much I (and we) rely on technology. I do have a (paper) address book but unfortunately I’ve been rather slack in adding new contacts to its pages. I still put some appointments on the family calendar (a steampunk version hanging on the wall). I’ll be more diligent in this from now on.

Yes, this is a first world problem to be sure. It only serves to reinforce my wariness of technology, and curse the extra time spent (time I am still assured it should save me) to ensure it does not negatively impact my life. At times like this I feel empathy for those facing the dawn of the twentieth century, experiencing new (albeit low tech compared to our gadgets) technologies and struggling with the changes wrought in the name of progress.

Perhaps that is why I love writing steampunk?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Photo Friday: Free Comic Book Day

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2017/05/12/photo-friday-free-comic-book-day/

Last weekend it was Free Comic Book Day. This year, four local comic shops participated (I think that is a record for Adelaide). So... road trip!
First we were off to Gamma Rays Comics - the newest shop in the quartet - where I found the first comic on my list: Doctor Who (of course). Next we headed to Adelaide Comics - with a slight detour to their new digs in Gay's Arcade (one of the historical arcades in Adelaide, built in 1885).
A short trek to the other end of the Mall, first to Greenlight Comics where I met up with some friends - Dr Mike (Universe Gun) and Jess Cate (Heart of Millyera comic and Jennifer, fresh from doing makeup for an upcoming movie). And finally (after summoning up all my will power to bypass Haigh's Chocolates) we arrived at Pulp Fiction Comics to snafu some final comics and an impromptu chat with Pontip and more friends!
Here I am - a very happy camper.
And a closer look at my stash. 
Photos ©2017 Karen Carlisle. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Steampunk: Science Fiction or Fantasy?

original post: http://karenjcarlisle.com/2017/05/07/steampunk-science-fiction-or-fantasy/

Recently I've participated in some interesting conversations about the classification of steampunk, as a writing genre. Many writing/steampunk blogs consider it be part of the fantasy branch of speculative fiction. Friends seem divided. Book shops (and Amazon) often place steampunk books in the science fiction shelves. So let's have a closer look and you can decide.
First, let's discuss some definitions. What is science fiction and what is fantasy? I could easily allocate an entire blog post just on the definitions but I won't.
Isaac Asimov said it best:
"Science fiction, given its grounding in science, is possible; fantasy, which has no grounding in reality, is not."
So, science fiction deals with things that might possibly happen, or have happened. Fantasy deals with things that will never happen, have happened or ever will happen, the impossible. Easy, right?
Well, lets define steampunk (not an easy task in itself).
Steampunk is the name given to a genre of fantasy or alternative historical stories – usually set in the 19th century or an alternative future reminiscent of the 19th century – with the science fiction element  containing modern technology powered by steam. The amount of steam and gadgetry is variable. Sometimes supernatural themes may be incorporated. Think of it as retro-futurism with a Victorian science fiction twist. (from my steampunk page)
Hmm? I'm hedging my bets and used both fantasy and science fiction in my definition.
Let's try again, with a few more defintions:
    • Google defines it as "a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology."
    • The Urban Dictionary defines it as: "Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan "What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner." It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes."
  • And the Steampunk Bible defines it as "a grafting of Victorian aesthetic and punk rock attitude onto various forms of science-fiction culture."It even gives us a formula: Steampunk = Mad Scientist Inventor [invention (steam x airship or metal man/baroque stylings) x (pseudo) Victorian setting] + progressive or reactionary politics x adventure plot.
Maybe the origins of steampunk hold a clue?
KW Jeter first coined the name, 'steampunk', in 1987 (not 1887). Some consider works by HG Wells or Jules Verne as steampunk but these were science fiction (or 'science romances' written in the 19th century). The writers extrapolated possible futures (there's that word again), based on plausible advances in science - as they knew it (or thought they did) ie. the science of their time. But we now know things like phlogiston do not exist. Modern speculative stories using such forms of energy would now be consider fantasy (impossible) and not  science fiction. Steampunk, having been born in my generation, is a completely different animal.
Confused yet? Let's investigate further: Steampunk = steam + punk.
Traditional steampunk's aesthetic is dripping with technology. You can find airships, steam-machines, automatons (robots) and gadgets galore - usually steam-driven; all things plausible within Victorian beliefs of the time. While usually set in the past, it can embrace apocalyptic futures.  Travel in space and time are common tropes. Sounds like science fiction, eh?
The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, tells of an alternative history revolving around the consequences of Charles Babbage's analytical engine (A working difference machine based on Babbage's engine has been built.)
Then there's the punk part: Social commentary, contemplating technologies effect on people (albeit steam), the role of women, the battle of the classes, racism, slavery or colonialism, can all be found in many steampunk stories. All are reminiscent of the long tradition of social commentary found in science fiction.
Then some steampunk stories incorporate mythical or supernatural creatures and magic. Gail Carriger's Soulless has vampires and werewolves.  Boneshaker (Cherie Priest) has zombies. Other stories incorporate magical machines or fantastical energy sources. Airships sail through the vacuum of space. Improbable you say?  Yes (but fun). So is steampunk fantasy after all?
In a true spirit of fun and thumbing its nose at the literary establishment, steampunk blurs the line between science fiction and fantasy, providing an entertaining alternative for readers. It's a hybrid genre still in its adolescence, with too much punk to be defined only as fantasy and too many fantastical elements to be considered solely science fiction. Perhaps that's why I love it?
So, science fiction or fantasy? What do you think?