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.

Photo Friday: A New Steampunk Hat for Nullus Anxietas

This weekend is Nullus Anxietas VI - an Australian Discworld convention. This is my second (third if you count the Unseen University Convivium held here a few years ago). I love these conventions. They remind me of the old fan cons. It's all about chatting, debating, having fun and - for me - the costumes! This week's Photo Friday is a pictorial costume diary. I made a paper pattern. Cut out the foam and glued with hot glue (had to thin out the tip to get a point).

  

Started gluing on thin foam bits to simulate riveted panels.

  

Of course, no costume is real unless there's blood - or in this case - hot glue burns...

I used Araldyte to make lots of studs. Lots and lots of them... Then I painted it black. Then used Rub'n'Buff to glam it up. And here is the final hat: a steampunked witch's hat to wear on the steampunk panel (and there are other plans for it as well.)

Here's the video costume diary.

[embed]https://youtu.be/URf1TLrWoYY[/embed] I'm also doing a writing workshop - Write your own Discworld story. Come say hello if you are attending. I'll be posting more photos to twitter and Facebook over the weekend, so watch out for them.

Photos and Video ©2017 Karen Carlisle. All rights reserved.

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?