Creating an atmosphere to write

Music, ambience, views, nature, books… what helps set the scene for you to pen your next great story?

I go through moods with how I like my environment while writing. I see so many of those playlists on the internet, sometimes I feel like I’m missing something, because while I like to have music playing in the background at times, I don’t associate particular songs to a scene in a storyline.

So I have different modes when I write. At times I like complete silence. Which is fine when your home by yourself, but when you’re not, I need to pull out those noise cancelling headphones to get some work done before I succumb to the urge to bludgeon someone with a heavy blunt instrument.

Other moments I love having an ‘80’s playlist in the background. Something about sense memory of a more innocent time when I was growing up helps to free up my inspiration. Like I’m shedding the stresses of adult life and going back to a time when anything was possible. Music from this time period is like that old oversized cardigan, it’s familiar, you know all the lyrics, and you could listen to the soundtrack and never get tired of the melody. Can’t say my housemate particularly love the retro playlist on repeat, but hey, it’s not about them… and I can always listen to it on my headphones. No harm, no foul, let me dwell in my happy place unencumbered.

I also have moments where I love some easy listening or playing Andrea Kirwan in the background. Her voice melts away my headache and puts me in the mood to write a more intimate, emotional scene. Great for love scenes or creating angst. I’m a mood reader and a mood writer. I don’t have to craft a story sequentially, I can jump forward and backward in the storyline and pen a scene if I have a particular feeling I need to currently capture… yes I’m a plantser! (A combination of a plotter and a pantser for those of you who have not heard that term before.)

Visit Andrea’s website at http://www.andreakirwin.com

Dance music: those feverish times when my fingers are flying over the keyboard, like a coffee fuelled writing sprint. The volume is not too loud to pierce the bubble of extreme concentration as I channel from some other creative dimension. This is particularly useful in action scenes, or when my fingers on the keyboard cannot keep up with my overactive brain. While it feels productive and fantastic in the moment, often when I re-read the days work, some of it is embarrassingly discordant… like and actual monkey took over and was banging at the keyboard.

Ambient noise. Rainforest. Café, office, library… Public places also makes me productive. Something about needing to block out your surroundings to write. And the other layer of people watching you sitting there at a laptop makes me want to look like I’m a productive member of society. Knowing you are being watched is a great motivator, or being surrounded by other productive people make you want to pull your socks up and get to work.

But no matter where I’m working, I need a clean and clear workspace. If I’m writing with paper and pen, I need a bright and light area, whether indoor lighting or plenty of sunlight. There are also moments where I like to sneak down to the computer at night time and write in the darkness. It feels sneaky, intimate, like you’re undertaking subterfuge.

I also love a view of nature. Whether I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the coast line. Seeing the rolling hills meet the sand and a stretch of white-capped waves rolling in from the horizon. Or down in the sunroom amongst rainforest trees, colourful parrots singing a tune, and a natural spring that brings a serenity with its waterlilies and ducks.

I don’t think I could work in the same place every day forever. It would feel stale after a time. The creative beast needs to be fed with sensations, sights, sounds, and stimulated with verse. Reading helps, conversations, observation, even daydreaming. It is the best way for me to stave off writer’s block… well I don’t necessarily get writer’s block because I switch up my environment, habits, what I’m working on so much that it never gets boring. That, and having a routine (whether I follow it or not) are great guides to keep the prose flowing.

And don’t forget to cut yourself a break. Good writing does not explode from you immediately. Writing is a process of inspiration and creativity, reviewing and editing, fine-tuning, and outside feedback. A solo endeavour, but a group experience. Writer, Reader, Reviewer…

There is no set structure for how to write, just many avenues you can try out for yourself and see what works. You’ll find your groove, fall out of it, and find inspiration again. The key is to never give up and never stop trying different methods. I routinely spring clean my office and re-arrange the furniture, pictures, colour scheme, it give the space a different feel and when I sit down to write it feels fresh and new – with no mistakes – and somehow leave me invigorated and ready to tackle the next challenges.

What are your tips for creating an ambience fit for writing? I’d love to get a writing group together, but living remotely, it’s not necessarily an option. Online doesn’t feel the same. Escaping to the university library is the next best thing. I even went and did a few weeks work at an empty desk in a friends office and it really helped get me out of a low productive moment. There’s always a way…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Rebels of Eden’ (#3 Children of Eden) by Joey Graceffa and Laura L. Sullivan

Richly themed sci-fi with slow pacing.

Rebels of Eden (#3 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Rowan is finally in Harmonia, an Earth-friendly, sustainable commune in the wilderness she always thought was dead. Even in this idyllic world, she finds no peace. Harmonia has strict rules—and dire consequences. Thinking about Eden is forbidden, but she’s determined to rescue the loved ones she left behind. Though they are in terrible danger, her pleas for help are ignored.

After months of living as one with nature, a shocking reminder of her past pushes Rowan to act. With the help of new friends, she infiltrates Eden. What she discovers is even worse than the situation she left behind. In the chaos of civil war, Rowan and her friends join forces with the second children and other rebels trapped inside. They fight for their lives, and for the future of humanity in this broken Earth.

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The end to the trilogy brought about in formidable sci-fi finesse. It took me a good long while to get into ‘Rebels of Eden.’ Again out protagonist Yarrow/Rowan is in completely unfamiliar territory and a new place with new characters. It was disorientating. I found it hard to connect with her when we had a new world to build… only to have is thrown aside when we return to familiar ground introduced in the debut ‘Children of Eden.’

The concept of this trilogy does not feel all too original. And some aspects and symbolism introduced in ‘Elites of Eden’ were not addressed at all. While this trilogy is entertaining, fairly well written, and mostly engaging; it was well… messy. The main storyline did not feel strong or episodic for each instalment for this series. For the most part the plot makes sense and the main points are resolved, but not in a poignant, neat way that I’m used to in most of my science fiction reads. Maybe skill will come as Joey Graceffa grows as an author.

The writing style felt a lot different to the start as well. Again, I don’t know if this is down to Graceffa’s evolving style as he gains experience, or a different collaboration of team members behind the scenes in delivering this book to publication. It lacked the wide-eyed wonder and innocence of its prequels, and was frequently lost to long and unnecessary exposition.

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We get a more determined and together Yarrow/Rowan for a protagonist, and for the most part I liked her strength. There were too many situations that lost their realism for me. And I didn’t feel a strong connection to her past.  But on the whole, character development and character arcs are much better in this conclusion than I’ve come to expect from prior in the series. You can get a sense of Graceffa gaining mastery of the elements of crafting a story here.

I did feel like the pacing was way off until the last 80-50 pages. This was a real difficult one to get into. I have never put down a novel so often. In the end I pushed myself through just the get it finished. But I enjoyed the ending. Somewhat anti-climactic, but hit all the right notes to fill me with satisfaction.

I have a big soft spot for the themes, diverse characters, and technology explored in this series, all the while touting the importance of the environment and connection to the earth; but I feel like the series needs to be developed and worked on a bit more. All the elements are there to make this a truly outstanding collection, but it just didn’t quite get there. But it has left me excited to see what comes next from Graceffa. He has a great imagination, can build tension, write interesting characters and explores fun themes.

Overall feeling: Felt like a long journey but finally got there.

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Rebels of Eden (#3 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Spineless’ by Susan Middleton and Sylvia A. Earle

Eye-popping photography of fauna not everyone gets to see up close – and this is definitely up close.

Spineless Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Non-Fiction, Photography, Nature, Biology

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

In Spineless, acclaimed photographer Susan Middleton explores the mysterious and surprising world of marine invertebrates, which represent more than 98 percent of the known animal species in the ocean. They are also astonishingly diverse in their shapes, patterns, textures, and colors—in nature’s fashion show, they are the haute couture of marine life.

This collection of more than 250 remarkable images is the result of seven years of painstaking fieldwork across the Pacific Ocean, using photographic techniques that Middleton developed to capture these extremely fragile creatures on camera. She also provides short essays that examine the place these invertebrates occupy on the tree of life, their vast array of forms, and their lives in the ocean. Scientist Bernadette Holthuis contributes profiles describing each species, many of them for the first time. Middleton’s book is a stunning new view of nature that harmoniously combines art and science.

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A break away from fantasy and contemporary books to escapism of a different kind, ‘Spineless’ tempted my imagination as much as any YA novel or artwork in a gallery. Comprised of jaw dropping photography with just enough detail to awe and inspire, igniting the inner observer and scientist in us all. Plus, touching on the artistic with hues of colour and iridescence expertly captured through the lens.

I loved the literary and pop culture quotes scattered through the narrative it provided an additional tidbit grounding this amazing work in the now for folk who don’t have a science degree.

This whole book is a great snapshot of the environmental and scientific landscapes. ‘Spineless’ gives you a great deal of technical oversight, as well as educating the reader about our environment and its threats. But on the whole it simply illustrates the beauty of nature and adaptation in the invertebrate world.

The writing style is both academic and flamboyant at the same time, drawing the reader along on an adventure both informative and inspiring. I was certainly ready to jump back into my marine biology studies after reading the book.

A great addition (and better than a glossary) were the inclusion of Species profiles towards the rear of the book. A photographic reference and brief zoological description.

We also get a bit of the behind the scenes mechanics of how this photography was executed in the final pages, which I feel not only adds credence, but is yet another aspect of inspiration for those thinking about producing their own accounts of nature through the lens.

Overall feeling: Inspiring (and a little fish in shock and awe)

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

LONERS : themes behind the sci-fi series

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A look behind the curtain into the creative process.

I was asked by a friend last week, when discussing my progress on the science fiction series I’m writing, what the significance of the titles were? So I thought I’d share my answer to the inspiration here as well…

The main novels in this collection all bare names of a deity from ancient Earth mythology. The books themselves do not involve Gods, or their mythology. It’s merely symbolic. Although we could view aliens and their technology as god-like: and that’s as far as the collusion goes.

Each book in this series, with exception of the first (‘Prelude’) follows a theme that the name incites. Asherah in Semitic mythology is the God of the oceans. Or Mother Goddess. She is also purported to be God’s wife. What better idea for the conception for a series of books? So, when Taylor finds herself on a strange planet entirely covered in water, the only human in an alien world, I felt a kinship with the name.

At the beginning of each novel there is also a quote around the mythology of the deity pertaining to the theme of the novel. It’s from some imaginary tome in the LONERS universe. I’m a big fan of literary quotes at the start of books – they help set the tone.

Hestia is the goddess of the home and hearth. Which this next book in the series deals with Taylor surviving on a harsh desert-like planet with three suns. It appears to be inhabited by… something adept in advanced technology. But there’s a heavy theme of surviving in the outback on her quest to get back home with this installment.

Gemini is the most recognisable name, which needs little explanation, as both the stories of Asherah and Hestia collide in an unexpected way.

The final book in the collection (for the time being) is Isimud. Drawn from Sumerian mythology, who is a messenger of sorts, delivering news of consequences to other Gods. Isimud is usually depicted with two faces, one staring into the past, the other into the future. With the nature of space travel and the space-time continuum this deity was the perfect choice for venturing out into space answering a message… but that’s about the most insight you’ll get for this novel 😉 Not about to spoil you on any plot points.

Themes aside, I’m really proud of the mix of adventure and science fiction that follow our protagonist heroine Taylor. Who, after being caught in a weird explosion of light, finds herself having to fight for survival in a myriad of alien situations. A story of hope and humanities will to keep on keeping on.

Taylor is a mix of a nerdy biologist and a girl who loves hiking and the outdoors. She’s going to have to use all her intelligence, wits, and will to make it through another day to survive.

Aiming for a late 2017/early 2018 release date.

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thanks Life. Thanks Writing.

city-vs-country-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleKnow thy neighbour…

I’ve mentioned many times in my posts about my move to the country to pursue writing… but today it dawned on me – literally a ray of sun broke through the dappled clouds as I sat on the balcony with dinner (and a glass of champagne) staring at the coastline, feeling relaxed… I know all of my neighbours. We talk often. I even know the staff at the local stores I shop at regularly. And I can’t say that for the city I lived in for seven years prior to moving here.

What is it about crowds that allow us to disappear?

I even have long friendly chats with our Postie – she’s a lovely woman with a daughter just about to graduate high school and we joke over all manner of life’s predicaments.

When I stare out the window I always get some small surprise. Local wildlife putting on a show. Last week it was millions of white butterflies, this week all the rose bushes are starting to blossom in hues of ivory and pink.

I’ve always said I’m a city girl at heart, and I stick by it. I miss the shopping, outings to catch up with friends, choices for dining out… and wearing nice clothes – and heels! Okay now my girlie girl is starting to show. But living in the country has afforded me to follow my writing seriously, though, it hasn’t come without some sacrifice.

Writing is such a solitary endeavour. Sometimes when I look up from the computer monitor a whole week has gone by and I haven’t stepped outside the house. When inspiration takes over and your furiously typing time has a way or sneaking by.

So, in the theme of thanksgiving – even though it’s not something we celebrate in Australia – I’m thankful for the place I live in, and where I’m at in my life right now. No complications. Free to follow the grammatical muse. I appreciate my surroundings and acknowledge the inspiration it brings. And I LOVE that I get to do something fulfilling every day. Write.

It’s by no means altruistic or world changing, but it fills me up and pays me back tenfold.

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Week Away (which means no NaNoWriMo for me)

Old high school friends visiting that I’ve known for years, an underwater walk with sharks, and venturing across the tundra at Australia Zoo.

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I was thinking about scheduling some posts for my week away from the keyboard, but it turned out I was too busy getting the guest house ready for visitors – my place was like an episode of ‘The Block.’ I was running around buying styling items, painting, assembling furniture, covered in all manner of dirt, dust and hues of paint. And I never knew my body odour could get so bad… peeeyouuu!

But the space looks fantastic and I’m very proud of the effort.

So instead of creating prose at the computer this week I’ve been staying up late with a glass of champagne reminiscing over high school days, giggling at our antics, and catching up with each other’s lives until late into the night. The days have been filled with wildlife. Sea Life Mooloolabah is a huge favourite of mine – my Marine Biology roots express themselves and my friends and family get a personalised tour through the exhibitions, regaled by my stories of encounters in the wild. I may or may not embellish for artistic and humorous purposes… that’s just the way I roll. Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin’s brainchild) was fun, and attending in the off season, means no lines, plenty of time to stand gazing at the wonderful animals without getting jostled for a prime viewing spot from pushy tourists. Its open plan, ornate gardens and massive statues give a great ambience to the zoo experience. There are no cramped cages and unhappy animals here. Most are rescued or unable to be released into the wild due to being bred in captivity – not that I’m a stout activist, but it is reassuring that the animals are benefiting from care here rather than being abducted from the wild for our amusement.

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Today we just got back from a rainforest walk to the local waterfalls, which was great to spot all the kaleidoscope hued tropical parrots and parakeets and a chance at glimpsing some platypus in the wild (lil’ buggar was too fast for me to snap a quick pic). The only down fall – my hayfever and being covered in sweat from a muggy day – I so wanted to “accidentally” fall into the water at the falls, but forgot to bring a towel and wasn’t about to treat other bushwalkers to this winter padded body.

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After life in the city, moving up into the mountains dotting the coastline has left me with a renewed appreciation for flora and fauna and is always a peaceful and inspiring backdrop for writing.

So if you were wondering where my regular posts were this week – I’ve been renovating, and then got lost in nature. I’ll be back to regular posting in the next day or two, refreshed, revitalised and feeling greatful.

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Mountain Apocalypse

Novel-esque dystopian conditions make for interesting living on my mountain top.

 Mountain Apocalypse by Casey Carlisle

 

Some days I feel like my life mirrors the post-apocalyptic YA novels I enjoy reading. I was forced offline yet again from failing hardware. Finding a solution with my smart phone and an online order, thinking I was being clever ensuring a quick resolution, I ordered the parts needed and awaited for them to be delivered to my door. When in reality it added an extra month to my hiatus from the world wide web. It would have been so much quicker to suffer the forty minute drive to a regional centre and purchase the parts in person. Grrr!

 

That was my easiest obstacle to overcome these last few weeks…

 

We ran out of water.

 

Nothing to drink, no showering, I couldn’t even wash my dirty dishes. Learning all the life hacks up here is character building. Living on a remote range means I have to pump my water from a rain tank or from the natural spring…. It’s no longer as easy as turning on a tap and paying the bill at the end of the month. Just like my writing had resorted to the primitive: writing on paper with a pen, it was strangely exhilarating to overcome these obstacles.

 

The fact that the days up here are incredibly humid and temperatures average between 32-40 degrees Celsius – you get hot and thirsty! (Not to mention develop somewhat noticeable body odour) I was concerned about my three fur babies in the extreme heat – they are covered in tick luxurious hair and used to the cool Melbourne weather… for three days they did not stop panting. It called for plenty of douses in the shower with cold water (until it ran out) and trips in the air-conditioned car. I’d Maguyvered a tray to slip over the steering wheel to act as a desk, the blessedly chilly air from the vent and novel make-shift office, only spurred my imagination. I managed to scribble out the plot points for a sequel and finished writing a few chapters.

 

Next week a cooling unit is going to get installed into the Writer’s Cottage – thank heavens. But will the quiet everyday pace be less challenging and my writing suffer?

 

At night I’m battling toads, and all manner of biting insects – I have what is dubbed our ‘snake rake’ when venturing outside, a torch in the other hand following the dogs to relieve themselves while I stand guard. It’s pitch black out here… you really can’t see more than a few metres in the glow of the led light. But looking up – it’s breathtaking the amount of stars you can see filling the night sky. You only really see snakes in the daytime when it’s hot, and the trusty rake is used only as a deterrent for all the curious local wildlife. All the critters up here are BOLD. They aren’t used to predators or human habitation. Birds will practically eat from your hand. Reptilian and rat-things simply stare at you uninterested. And there I am, this crazy redhead, waving my rake and hands telling them to ‘shoo!’

Yeah right lady, this is our mountain.

Talk about a fish-out-of-water story!

 

You have to dress practically here – gone are my business attire and high heels – I’ve had to purchase “gardening outfits” that make me look like I’m about to venture off on a long hike. But I suffer the fashion crisis rather than get sunburnt, bitten, scratched, poked, or slip on my backside. I’ve already done all of those things, and value these new rumpled clothes and hardy footwear – if only there was something to stop me from walking though spider weds and swatting-waving for ten minutes afterwards in hopes the creator of the sticky structure in not still clinging to me somewhere.

 

I half expect to see Katniss break from the trees with her bow and arrow…

 

Really, I’ve only been living here four weeks and already sustained a hip injury, bitten by spiders, had a tree ant fall into my top and wreak havoc, bruised my legs so badly moving boxes and furniture I look like I fell down a ravine, poked myself in the eye with a stick (don’t ask) and turned beetroot red from overexposure (10 mins in my case) to the sun.

 

But for some reason, have written one of the highest word counts in a while… so there is a lot to say for unplugging and returning to nature.

 

Let’s just hope my situating does not escalate, although I’m prepared. Bring on zombie frogs and vampire wombats I say!

 

What difficult situations have inspired your writing?

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

When do you write? How do your write?

Where dou you write by Casey Carlisle

Hermit writers, coffee huggers, napkin scribes… we all have our own way of spanking our inner moppet.

I have colleagues that can write anywhere, but for me that only happens when I’m in ‘the zone,’ a sink hole could open up and suck down the entire block and I’d be none the wiser. Unfortunately those moments (of manic writing) aren’t so frequent.

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If I have my earphones and cell phone, while listening to whatever playlist I’m in the mood for, it enhances my ability to shut out the world and focus. The tram on the way to and from work was the best place for me to utilise some downtime. Sometimes in the park, library or a café. I think without music I’d lose the best tool I have in helping me to write. (Secretly – having the earbuds in helps block out the flatmate and his frequent nonsensical blurts, and other noises *cough-farting-cough*. He loves to think out loud and constantly pulls me from the narrative I’m creating.)

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Now it’s all about the nature fest!

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Comfortably set up in my new digs, offering frequent trips outside the study – or just the magnificent view – inspire me… a natural spring, view of the beach, discovering edibles on the property macadamia, avocado, orange, mango, brazilian grape (jubuticaba), paw paw, and lemon fill my nose with cool fresh scented mountain air, energizing me to work (and tempt me into adding more to the garden beds – who knows I could develop a green thumb and live self sufficiently? Here’s hoping 🙂

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My new soundtrack while at the computer consists of wildlife – ducks and ibis on the spring, kookaburras laugh every evening, colourful rosella parrots, frogs galore (tiny ones) and a multitude of insects… such a change from the city. There is less noise to block out and I’m finding focus easy.

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With the warmer weather, I’m more inclined to be found outdoors, scratching on a pad with an old fashioned pen. I’m a little wary at times because I spotted a snake yesterday, weaving past and up into a tree. I had visions of happily scribing away before a ninja tree snake descended from above. Bonsai!!

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The sky is so clear at night and I can see far more stars compared to the Melbourne skyline. I’d love to perch on the balcony and tap away at the laptop, but until I get a screened enclosure, I’ll have to skip it. The mosquitoes are like an itchy death squadron and I’m covered in ugly red bumps.

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So, for now, I keep to the study and coffee shops (and maybe poolside at my Aunty’s house) until I make a few changes. And who knows, the beach is fifteen minutes away and there are so many quaint places of interest close by. Next time I feel claustrophobic a short drive and a change of scenery…

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Where is the best place you find your muse? Do like to shut out the world or be in the thick of it?

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Do you always use a computer to write, or switch it up with an old fashioned typewriter or pen?

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.