Something Personal.

This week has had its ups and downs. Anxiety has a way of skewing one's view of the world. Sometimes I just need reminding of the wonderful friends and family I have. Thank you all.

Something Personal.

Sometimes the black dog howls. Its lies overwhelm me,
doubt and anxiety take hold.
Self confidence leaks away.
Does anyone know I exist?
I am alone.

I sit in chaos, claustrophobic clutter.
The world constricts me,
consumes me.
Does anyone care?

A blank page stares back, mocking me,
accusing me of failure,
pathetic, useless, unwanted.
Am I fooling myself?

A tinkle of the door bell, a knock rouses me.
An unexpected, smiling face,
Words of friendship, a gift.
A stranger asks how I'm faring,
Am I still writing?
They want to know more.

A house full of well-wishers, of friends and family
Of smiles and hugs, unconditional.
Conversation, music
and most of all,
Love.

  • Art/Photography:  I've designed the final poster for the Viola Stewart series... It arrived this week. Look for this at events.
  • Costume:  I've been helping our daughter make patterns for her current costume project.
  • Writing/Reading: Another scene rewritten, another edited. Then a hiccup - pinched nerve in my arm(but kept going. Taking a break today, to celebrate the anniversary of my arrival into this world. PS. I suck at poetry. Apologies.

Other little Green Men:  I have such cool friends. I'm working my way through a mountain of goat's cheese, dark chocolate and board games. I have  a new tea to taste and the most gorgeous purple orchid brightening up the kitchen. Huzzah Words and photography ©2017 Karen Carlisle. All rights reserved.

Derailed: A Procrastination Post

Yep, this post is late. I woke up today, not suspecting something was amiss. I went to a writing course on how to 'keeping writing' (I have a problem with procrastination and was looking for tips on how to combat it). Ironicly, when I got home I realised I had procrastinated with today's blog post. And now here I am...

Today I also found a really cool submission call for an anthology. I got excited; I had the perfect story! Then I remembered - I'd already published the story in my short story collection, With a Twist of the Nib. (Botheration!) So I decided I'd share that story with you today:

Derailed. © 2016 Karen J Carlisle

The sign clattered against the railyard fence as Adelaide City shuddered along the track.

KEEP OUT.

Registered Citizens Only

Beyond This Point.

Connor glared at the city-train as the suburbs thundered along the track, each carriage emblazoned with the area represented by its surviving citizens.

He yawned. There was another ten kilometres before Adelaide City passed. He pulled the thermal blanket up around his ears, pressed his body further into the cluttered corner of the station house and closed his eyes.

A loud boom shuddered the brick walls. Glass smashed on the platform, resurrecting the stench of yesterday’s rubbish dump.

Tomorrow he would look for new digs. Somewhere with less noise. Now he needed sleep. His dad used to count the carriages to fall asleep. Like counting sheep, he said. Connor cracked open one eye and (eyed the loco) through a shattered window caked in three-day old iced-coffee.

Tea Tree Gully, Collinswood, Walkerville.

The rhythmic thunk skipped a beat. Another shudder.

Connor opened his other eye. The suburbs were slowing. Wheels screamed on the metal tracks.

He was on his feet now. He folded up his blanket and shoved it in his backpack. The Cities never stopped until they reached the depot – and then only for refuelling and restocking.

The carriages wobbled and halted on the tracks.

Connor crept towards the station house door.

Muffled sounds of panic rolled along the innards of the Adelaide Central carriage. Vague shadows scuttled along the carriages, plastered themselves against the translucent windows, and recoiled away from the perspex.

Then silence. No movement.

Connor slipped off the platform, picked his way through layers of refuse and squeezed through a ragged hole in the wire fence. He edged closer to the train. The stench of rotting rubbish and manufactured food waste was stronger on the Tracks. He gagged, pulled his sleeve over his hand and covered his nostrils.

The central driver’s cabin was only a few hundred metres up the track. If he could convince the Caretaker, he belonged on the train…

Footsteps crunched on the other side of the track. Connor peered under the carriage. A pair of trousered feet, wrapped in well-worn silvered boots, stepped into view. Loose leather straps dangled over the double lacing.

He ducked behind a wheel. The Eastern Tracks weren’t a safe place to be. Scavengers raided the dumped rubbish pods – usually after each city had passed. It seemed one of them was curious.

The crunching stopped.

Connor held his breath.

Clank.

He dared not peek.

Clank. Clank. Clank. Click.

A flurry of cloth crashed onto the gravel next to Connor. He flung his arms in front of his face and cringed.

“What do you want, Scav?” it demanded.

“I’m a Logic, not a Scav,” cried Connor, bracing himself for the inevitable blow.

“A Logic?” The intruder squinted at him through a slit in her face wrappings. Dark eyes scanned his face, his hands, his backpack. Lines formed at the edge of the eyelids. The intruder lifted her balaclava. Her black hair clung to the synthetic, and crackled as she removed her mask.

“You’ll never board the train wearing that.” She chuckled and ripped the Hawking Rocks! patch from Connor’s backpack. “I met him once, you know - before The Blast.”

She trudged along the carriage toward the driver’s cabin. “Come on. I need your help if we’re to investigate.

“You’re a scientist?”

“Was. An astronaut.”

She threw her hands up in the air. “And look where that got me! Crawling back from the wrong side of the tracks, looking for anyone who hasn’t fried their brain cells.”

“Why the Tracks?”

“I could ask you the same thing. It’s like moths to a flame isn’t it? A trained Logic faced with a puzzle – why did Adelaide stop? It’s what they bred us for – our inquisitive nature.”

“It’s what they banished us for,” grumbled Connor.

She turned, her smile gone, and thrust her outstretched hand at Connor. “My name’s Lee, Captain Erin Lee. You can call me Lee.”

“Professor Michael Connor.” He shook her hand.

“Come on, Connor. Keep up.” She turned and strode up to the driver’s cabin, wedged between the Central and Unley carriages. “Keep up.”

“But, Lee, we’re forbidden to board any City, by law. If we get caught --.”

###

The cabin door hissed. Connor jumped into the engine after Captain Lee/Erin, as it clicked behind them. Lee grinned and handed back his tools.

A mangled mess of metal and wire sat in the pilot’s seat. Dark liquid dripped from its joints and reeked of machine oil. Soot covered the walls and roof. A lanky figure cowered in the corner; the braid on his uniform jiggled as he twitched. He peeked through his fingers and whimpered.

“Please, don’t eat me! I’m just the Caretaker.”

“Why would I want to eat you?” asked Connor.

“Everyone knows what happens to citizens who leave the city. The Tracks are full of flesh-eating Scavs.”

“Sca--?” Connor scowled. “I’m not a Scav.”

“You dress like one,” replied Caretaker.

Connor regarded their reflection in the cabin window. Mud-stained jeans, faded shirt, tatty jacket caught up in the strap of his backpack. Lee didn’t fare any better - a shredded long coat and dusty jumpsuit. He dropped his backpack onto the metal floor.

“I’m a scientist, and I don’t eat people.”

Caretaker’s eyes widened.

“What about her?”

Lee sat on the floor, examining a handful of circuit boards she’d pulled from an open panel beneath the console.

“She’s an astronaut. She doesn’t eat people either,” replied Connor.

“The electronics seem intact.” Lee jumped to her feet and dusted off her pants. “What happened to the autopilot?” she asked.

“I don’t know.” Caretaker sniffed and adjusted his jacket collar. “The city just stopped. We’re nowhere near Depot. Head Mechanic said the engine’s been sabotaged and the next city is only twelve hours behind us. I followed procedure and checked the driver’s cabin.” Caretaker pointed to the damaged automaton. “And I found the autopilot like this.” He slumped back against the wall and shook his head. “I’m not trained to fix things.”

“Another puzzle for you, Lee,” said Connor.

Lee grinned, snatched a screwdriver from Connor’s backpack and examined the lock of the carriage door.

“One for their Enforcer,” she said. “I’m where I wanted to be - on a city-train. Now I just need to get through this door.” She eyed Caretaker. “My training tells me you’ll have a key.”

Caretaker raised an eyebrow.

“You’re both trained Logics?” he asked.

Connor nodded slowly. “Are you going to banish us back to the Tracks?”

Caretaker shook his head.

“Our Law Enforcer is dead.”

“That explains why no one stopped us,” said Connor.

“An overworked Mechanic, no Autopilot, no Enforcer. You’re not doing a good job of caretaking, are you?” said Lee.

Caretaker’s eyelids narrowed.

“My job is to ensure the safety of the City. You need sanctuary. I need an Enforcer.” He glanced at the autopilot. “And possibly a temporary pilot. I’m sure a Logic could assume either, or both, roles.” Caretaker dipped his fingers into his vest pocket and pulled out a long silver chain. An electronic key dangled at the end. “Find out who sabotaged the autopilot, get the city moving again and you can access the key to the city.”

Connor’s eyes followed the swinging key. They would need a job if they remained onboard. He retrieved his backpack and stepped up to the city door.

Lee nodded.

“Enforcers Lee and Connor reporting for duty,” she said. ”I assume you can provide us with necessary documents?”

“We’ll stop by Provisions before I let you loose in the suburbs.”

Caretaker nodded and swiped the card through the lock.

Connor noticed Caretaker’s hand. There were fine cuts on the palm. One fingertip had electrical burns and there were traces of soot under the fingernails.

“Shut the door behind you,” said Caretaker as he scuttled down the corridor.

Connor tugged on Lee’s coat.

His hand, he mouthed.

Lee nodded.

“You finally noticed,” she whispered. “Did you notice the traces of oil on his trousers?”

Connor shook his head. Missed that one.

“He must have wiped his hands after he sabotaged the autopilot. Also, he’s not the Caretaker.”

Connor froze.

“How do you know?” he asked.

“Because I’ve seen the City records. The real Caretaker was thrown off the train five suburbs ago,” replied Lee.

The door clicked shut. Connor stared at her.

“Those experiments you were working on before The Blast…”

Conner’s heart skipped. He hadn’t mentioned what he had been working on.

“They worked.” She winked at him and lifted up her sleeve. An oversized watch with red LEDs blinked at them. Numbers counted down:

11:00:28

11:00:27

11:00:26

“We’ve got eleven hours to obtain documents, defuse the second bomb and nail this imposter.”

Captain Lee strode down the corridor.

“Do keep up, Enforcer Connor.”

THE END

©2016 Karen J Carlisle

You can read more of my short stories in With a Twist of the Nib. (eBook)

Where Ideas Come From

One of the first questions a writer is asked is: where do you get your ideas? 

For me, it can be a picture that inspires a quirky character who drives the narrative (as in The Department of Curiosities). For other stories it's a phrase that catches my imagination - as in 'An Eye for Detail' and Tomorrow, When I Die. 

Documentaries seem to trigger ideas for many of my stories, tickling my imagination with 'what if'? I begin to formulate alternative explanations, especially if they can provide a mystery to intrigue the ever-curious Viola. Doctor Jack was one such story. What if Jack the Ripper was being organised by a secret society in their nefarious plot to take over the Empire? It almost wrote itself.

From the Depths was one such story. This time it was a documentary on the Loch Ness monster I had seen a few years ago. A story had been bubbling in the back of my brain, and Viola demanded she get her shot at it. After all, she'd need a holiday after her recent shenanigans. A holiday at the sea was the perfect tonic.

But what would happen if there was something lurking in the waters off St Andrew's beach? And the story was born.

"Viola needs a holiday. But even while on holiday at the beach … there are things afoot."

A Cog is Dead song inspired the title: From the Depths. Perfect.

The eBook of the novelette, From the Depths, should be available as eBook, later this week (barring electronic hiccups). Tomorrow, When I Die (also novelette) should be available as eBook the following week - just in time for it's launch at the Steampunk Festival on 19th August.

  

The last novella in this current series, The Illusioneer, is planned for eBook publication in September, with the paperback compilation available in late September/early October.

Each will be priced at $1.99 - as they are longer stories.

And here's an excerpt from From the Depths:
A shriek pierced the air. Viola flinched. Brine filled her mouth and rushed up her nostrils. She spluttered, thrust her legs downward into the deep chilly water and kicked to keep her head above water.

Men shouted, their cries unintelligible through water-logged eardrums. The other bathing machine thundered into life. Chains rattled, the engine strained. Frenzied splashes of water accompanied its retreat.

The water trembled around her, pounding on her chest. Viola gasped for air. A new undercurrent tugged at her legs. She rubbed the salt from her eyes and searched the surrounding water. Nothing.v

Bubbles tickled her body and erupted on the surface. Something solid grazed her calf. Viola's heart jumped. The Lurker? Goosebumps crawled over her skin.

There's no such thing as monsters.

Water rumbled and churned. Waves sloshed against her torso. She jerked her knees up to her chest, struggling to untangle her limbs from the snarl of the heavy woollen skirt of her bathing costume.

There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters.

Viola shivered. She had drifted further from the bathing machine than she had thought; the candy-striped change box was nearly eighty yards away, the shore even more distant.

A crowd was gathering on the shoreline, waving their arms and shouting.

"Get out of the water!"

Two men swam toward her. Another bathing machine trundled in their wake. The sea hissed. Too close.

Spurts of water burst from the surface. A large shadow lurked beneath her.

Viola's heart raced, her breathing shallow. She wanted to run, to flee, to swim to the safety of the change box, but her arms refused to move.

There's no such thing as monsters.

The shadow turned and glided southward towards the headland. A trace of bubbles marked its course, fading as the shadow disappeared into deeper waters.

The two men splashed closer. Uncomfortably close. Their bare arms glowed white against the dark water.

"Get out of the water!"

***

Words and photos ©2017 Karen Carlisle. All rights reserved.