If I have to read that one more time…

Edits. I hates them. But not why you think.

Yes, they take for... ever. Hours scribbling on paper, crossing out words, adding others, checking references. My back burns, my eyes ache and that niggly tickling pain creeps down my leg. (Sciatica sucks.)

I've lost count of how many times I sift through my thesaurus looking for that one word - the perfect one - to describe a character's mood, to show how they feel; stomping down the hallway conjures up a completely different image to inching down the hallway. (In this case: her footsteps padded on the carpet runner...)

But rewrites and edits are one of the most important steps in writing. They can take longer the first draft (depending on the quality of the first draft). Some of my stories have three rewrites; others - such has Tomorrow, When I Die - take up to eight or nine rewrites. It depends on how well the story was planned out, how much research was done (or needed doing), whether the story had taken a left turn and wandered off into uncharted territory or, in my case, how ill I was when scratching out the first draft.

There is nothing more annoying - or disappointing - as reading a story with dangling plot lines, sloppy writing or bad grammar. I've seen whole sentences repeated on occasion. I just don't understand how such stories get published - even by the big publishers. It seems to be an acceptable way of cost-cutting for some. <Insert heavy sigh and enormous sad face here.>

But what's the real reason I hate editing?

When I've read through a story for the umpteenth time, the fun and games seem to lose their gloss. It would be different if I could just enjoy the adventure - but no - I have to examine, judge, decide. I have to keep count of how many times a character has 'raised an eyebrow', whether they are sitting down or standing up and ask myself: 'can she really see that if she's hiding under the desk?'

It gets to a point where the manuscript gets slapped on the table and the house shudders with: "I can't take this any more!"

And that's when I know. It is done. It is time for my editor to check for commas and spelling mistakes. I press send and await her report.

I pour myself a cup of tea, nibble on a piece of chocolate and catch up on that series I missed... but not for long.

There's still one more story to finish. A new story. One last adventure for Viola and her friends. I'll miss them. They've taught me a lot. (The good news is the editing funk is not permanent; when I go back and read the stories next year, it will be all new again.)

Now, where are my notebooks for The Illusioneer?

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.