Photo Friday: Life and Death(?), and a Flash Fiction Bonus

Rumours of my impending doom have been wildly exaggerated. This week I got the results from my twenty-four hour cardiac monitoring I've tried new strategies to curb the heart palpitations and flutterings. Nothing devastating but I do need to have further investigations. (If only I could control anxiety.) I'm working on new strategies - and I've managed five nights in a row without an episode.


Writing (and not discussing my previous career) has helped distract me from counterproductive thoughts. I've almost finished rewrites for the first (longer) short,  From the Depths, in Viola's third journal of adventures and am reworking the second story, Tomorrow, When I Die.

We've had record summer rains and everything is so green and full of life (usually everything is dry and brown this time of year).  We've had a few chill nights (huzzah!); I've even finished another octoscarf to sell at the Salisbury Secret Garden markets tomorrow afternoon.


And now for a bonus flash fiction.

The girls at the pbafm Words Out Loud radio show have a tradition. They randomly choose five words from a book of their guest for the day. The challenge is to write something, using all five words, in just ten minutes. Contributions get read out on air in the following session. On my visit on the show, the words were from John Malone's latest book of poetry, Seeing Things. The words were: red, yield, snail, piranha and Gazebo. They challenged me on the day; this was my contribution.

Enjoying the View

©2017 Karen J Carlisle

Humphrey was a fashionable snail. At least he thought he was. He'd recently taken up residence by the river. He lounged under his brand new red gazebo and surveyed the spectacular view. A wooden sign by the water shaded the yard from the midday sun. A fine crop of broccoli provided an abundant yield for his supper. Ripples glistened on the water. Perfect. He just couldn't understand why his friends hadn't joined him. Water splashed. He crawled out of the shade and edged toward the water. So cool. So inviting. Why had his friends been so concerned? Humphrey, don't go near the water, they cried. Humphrey leaned closer and touched the water. It shuddered. A large eye blinked under the surface. The piranha licked his lips, flicked his tail and swam away from the bank.
Why don't you have a go at the five word challenge? You have ten minutes to write something containing all the words: red, yield, snail, piranha and Gazebo.
This fortnight's words from my book, Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales, were: grinding, tranquil, warden, sputtered and jaundiced.
Post your stories or poems in the comments below. I'd love to see what you come up with.
Photos ©2017 Karen J Carlisle

Flash Fiction Friday: Cubicle #6

Another Chuck Wendig Flash fiction challenge. The theme was Insomnia: "Insomnia must figure in your story in some way." (1000 words).

Cubicle #6 was inspired by my stay in hospital on 4th July. Not my usual style. I hadn't slept for two days due to pains in my back and arms. Heart issues were ruled out - pinched nerves, extreme muscle tension. Oh the joy of back issues and anxiety!

CUBICLE #6 © 2016 Karen J Carlisle


Ping. Four hundred and fifty-one.

Ping. Four hundred and fifty-two.

Ping. Four hundred and fifty-three.

The sound echoed through the Emergency ward.

Ping. Four hundred and fifty-four.

Ping. Four hundred and fifty—

Jane clenched her fists and groaned. Each ping was a crowbar thrust into her temples. She peered at the heart monitor.

2.00 am.



She clutched her arm and peered over the end of her gurney. K: Large orange numbers marked/denoted/numbered her cubicle: '6-0'. Speckled grey linoleum lined the floor and seeped the bottom of the walls. Concertinaed curtains wafted in the artificial breeze of the air conditioner, trans-illuminated by the harsh fluorescent lights in the Nurses’ Station. Shapes formed in the imperfections of the re-constituted material – a face, a tree, a space ship, a doughnut.

Jane’s stomach gurgled. She glanced at the monitor.

3.00 am.


Jane yawned and surveyed the room.

A pile of folded cotton blankets sat on the chair beside the bed. Jane counted them. Five. Why white? They would be hell to clean. I’m glad I don’t have to do the laundry.

Reflections shone in the chrome of the chair legs. Shadows flashed along the tube as nurses flitted past the other side of the curtain.

Her eye tracked up to the shelves above the chair. Three boxes of disposable gloves – small, medium and large, a box of tissues and five Emesis Bags. She grabbed one of the bags. She twisted the neck of the bag just below the circular plastic collar.  Clever design. How many ways could she knot the bag into the nifty ‘lockable twist ‘n’ seal’ feature?



Pain clawed out from under her shoulder blade, escaped down her left arm, fingered around her elbow and spewed along her forearm to the wrist. Her fingers cramped.

4.00 am.


A buzz vibrated through her arm. Air clicked. Jane sucked in a breath, through gritted teeth. The cuff tightened. She concentrated on the muted voices outside her cubicle.

“It’ll be okay.” The man’s voice was tired, shaking – old.

Jane’s arm throbbed.

A muffled sob from the next cubicle.

Tighter. She held her breath. The cuff released and hissed.

The curtain swished. A flash of blue entered the cubicle.

“Hi, I’m Josh. How are you feeling?”

“Tired,” replied Jane. “I can’t sleep.”

Josh wiggled the wires attached to her chest and perused the monitor.


His pen clicked on the clipboard.

“Try to get some rest. The doctor will be in soon.” He slipped out past the curtain.

I’m trying.

The curtains swished in the next cubicle.

“Hi, I’m Josh. How are you feeling?”

The man mumbled a reply.

Jane’s eyes refused to close. She sighed and scanned  the posters. Apparently it was

‘OKAY to ask STAFF To WASH their HANDS’.

Another listed the Emergency Response Criteria and a green heart declared the cubicle to be a ‘Heart-Cardiac-protected electrical area’.

She glanced at her phone. The green message light flashed.

At least the phone still worked.

She slipped the phone closer and pushed a button.

5.00 am.


Pip. Pip. Pip. Another machine!


Jane frowned.


Pip. Pip. Pip.



Pip. Pip. Pip.


She buried her head deeper into her pillow. Pain thumped in her shoulder. Her arm burned and the back of her hand itched where the catheter had been inserted. Liquid dripped unseen, behind her head.

For God’s sake!


A phone trilled. Murmuring voices drifted into the cubicle.

“Who's next?” Shoes slapped on the linoleum as the voice faded into the distance.

Jane turned her head toward the monitor.

5.30 am.


Pip. Pip. Pip.


The trifecta of pips quickened, slurring into one long, ear-piercing note. A nasally voice crackled over the P.A. It sounded like a supermarket announcement.

Price check, cubicle six. Jane chuckled.

“Code Blue, cubicle five.”

A rubber sole squeaked on the linoleum.

“Please, not yet.” The old man’s voice cracked.

The machine silenced.

The man sobbed.

Jane bit her lip. Had someone…?

The pain returned, radiating into her back, crawling up her neck. Pins and needles pricker her fingers.

Jane’s heart skipped. She grabbed the call button.

A shadow crept along the curtain. It slid open, rattling like beads.

“Hi, I’m Doctor Wallis. How are you feeling?

“My arm hurts,” replied Jane.

The doctor scanned her notes, raised an eyebrow and stepped behind the gurney, out of sight.

“How long since you slept?” he asked.

Pip. Pip. Pip.

“Three days.”


“You must rest.” His voice was calm, almost hypnotic.

Pip. Pip. Pip.

Jane licked her lips. “I can’t.”


“You’re in safe hands,” he said.

The needle tugged in her hand.

Pip. Pip. Pip.

“We can’t do anything until you sleep.”


Jane’s eyelids flickered.

“What if I don’t wake up?” Her voice was slurred.

Pip. Pip. Pip.

Pong. It echoed like a sonar, searching for its prey.

Jane closed her eyes.



Photos:©2016 Karen J Carlisle. All Rights Reserved.

If you wish to use any of my images, please contact me.

Of Tesla, Hawthorn and Tea

This week I took on a short story challenge. It was a perfect example of following the carrot and the serendipity that ensues.

Here's an insight to how my convoluted brain works, how the ideas-research roundabout works.
  • The spark: I was given the 'seed' for this story: A mysterious journal is found. I hoped to relate the short to one of my current works-in-progress - a paranormal Victorian mystery I have planned: Wizard of St Giles.
  • Starting point: Wizard already had two main characters: one a priest, the other a hunter of the supernatural. I knew I wanted Tesla to cameo somewhere in the story - as his electricity (illegal in my steampunk world) would be a key plot point to our heroes' tactics.
  • Already written: I'd written a short, Blood Moon Rising, introducing the hunter, Martine.
  • What to add?: Why not an origin story, to explain how the priest came to his present circumstances. Why would he choose to go down that path?
  • Tesla Cameo: I wanted Tesla somewhere in the story. When I started writing The Department of Curiosities I decided steam technology came to the fore as electrical energy had been outlawed. I had a vague idea how this came to be, resulting in Tesla fleeing to America (because of his experiments). I had planned this to be explored in a third series in my steampunk world, The Wizard of St Giles.
  • Time for a cup of tea and prepare for story research.
  • Serendipity #1: As fortune would have it, these two books were on the library re-sale. Perfect timing! DSC_0967_Anne_Rustic_20160626115957939
  • Setting: Wizard was set in England. The closest Tesla had been was Paris. Martine is from Paris. Therefore Journal de la Lumière would be set in Paris. No brainer.
  • Time for another cup of tea.
  • Serendipity #2: Paris is a big city. Tesla lived on Boulevard Saint Marcel in the Latin Quarter where many students and professors stayed. Ah! One of the characters will be a professor. It was likely he would know and work with Tesla on his illegal (and secret) experiments.
  • Further Questions to Answer: Wizard's priest character didn't know of events happening in Paris. Why would he go to Paris? What was his connection? What would prompt him to start his quest? What if... his sister was married to a French professor? What if he accidentally discovered the necessary technology co-created by his sister's husband? What if her husband died mysteriously after Tesla fled to America to continue his experiments?  - Cue the supernaturals.
  • Definitely time for a cup of tea.
  • Serendipity #3: Research facts found: Tesla was Serbian, spoke eight languages (including French). He rarely wrote his own notes, as he had an eidetic memory. He was fastidious and his father was an Orthodox priest.
  • Decisions relevant to story: Eastern Europe has a wealth of legends.  Perhaps Tesla knew of these, particularly as his father was a priest.
  • Serendipity #4. Research on specific supernaturals: What kills them? I chose the Serbian method (in line with legends Tesla may have known from his homeland). The specific wood used in Serbia was Hawthorn - perfect to make the protective crates (explaining why the technology had not been retrieved as yet).
  • Hawthorn flowers, also known as Mayflowers, and berries stink! Like the dead. Perfect for olfactory descriptions.
  • Time for a celebratory cup of tea with bonus dark chocolate.

A long, convoluted journey finally wound its way back to the priest character in Wizard, providing connections between the characters in Journal de la Lumière and the parent story and hints at the reason why he chose his quest.

I love the serendipity of finding a fact, which sparks an idea, which (in turn) leads me on a trail of discovery. So many of my stories get filled with little tidbits I find on my journey.

All photos: ©2016 Karen J Carlisle. All Rights Reserved. If you wish to use any of my images, please contact me.