Wednesday, February 10

Writer Interview: Beatrice Hale

Dunedin author Beatrice Hale
Hello and welcome, Beatrice.Please tell us a little bit about yourself:
First of all, I’m Scottish, from Aberdeen. We’ve been here for over forty years, however, having come for my husband’s job. When you get a good place with good people, you don’t move unless you have to! Secondly, I’m a very devoted and proud grandmother to three delightful grandchildren, who love to do the things I like best such as cooking and gardening.
And I retired as a social worker for older people, and working for family caregivers, in 2006-7 and decided that now was my time to write what I wanted.

"No Space to waste" by Dunedin author Beatrice HaleWhat genre, and what is your latest novel about?
I write mostly non-fiction, gerontology and caregiving, and years ago I wrote on herb-gardening; but I have written two children’s stories, Ice Escape, the story of a rescue of pioneer flyers, American Aces, father, mother and 2 children, by a Scottish fishing boat. No Space to Waste is a briefer story about a boy and his grandfather who grew potatoes in rubber tyres.
My most recent young adult novel The Resolute Heart is about a young man who was press-ganged from his home in Fife, Scotland, to serve in Nelson’s Navy. His wife followed him, and after some adventures found the boat where he was serving, boarded and became a surgeon’s assistant. Together they unmasked a mutiny, and a plot to take at least some of the British frigates over to the French.

What’s your writing style, do you plan everything first, or write and see where the story leads you?
I planned No Space to Waste, and Ice Escape followed a pattern, but I wrote The Resolute Heart as it came to me – sometimes at 2 a.m. A very awkward time.

"The Resolute Heart" author Beatrice Hale, cover designer: Kura Carpenter
Where did the idea for The Resolute Heart come from?
I got the idea from reading some of my ancestors’ stories, sent me by someone in Scotland who had been researching our ancestry. I’ve always been interested in my ancestors – one side came from Fife, and t’other from the west coast, members of the Cameron Clan, and somehow the two sides got together in Aberdeen. From reading about Harry’s being press-ganged, and his wife following him, I thought it would make a good story.

Which character do you most identify with and why?
Probably the mother in The Resolute Heart, the one supporting the home fires/gathering the herring/selling at market, keeping going while others had the fearsome adventures.

What was your favourite and least favourite part in researching for the novel?
I loved the research but would have been even happier if I’d been able to walk along the streets of Cellardyke in Fife, where my family came from, so that I could continue absorbing the atmosphere. I’ve had a few visits, but I’d like more.

Why did you decide to venture into self-publishing?
"Ice Escape" by Beatrice Hale, cover designer Kura CarpenterSpeed of getting things out. At my age (mid seventies) I can’t wait for publishers’ decisions, and then the time to get the books out. I’d much rather someone else did this, but I want to see the books in my hand, fast.

What has been the hardest part with promoting your work?
Not knowing quite what to do and where to go.

What tips would you give to others considering publishing that you wished you knew when you started?
Go for it! Find others who can help, join NZSA which is an excellent organisation, become more computer literate. I needed to know more about printing fonts, sizes, sizes of covers at the end, though the cover itself is brilliant (of Ice Escape), I managed to make a mistake on sizing it when I got a few books printed.

What else have you had published, and what is coming up?
Recently, I’ve published Ice Escape and The Resolute Heart, but before then I was working in Non-fiction and published Family Transitions in Caregiving (Patrick Barrett, Beatrice Hale, Mary Butler) and The Age of Supported Independence (Beatrice Hale, Patrick Barrett, Robin Gauld). Before that I published with Longacre The NZ Pleasure Garden.

Coming up? I’m hoping to have Simon Says, a book about a young carer whose mother is sick and who gets bullied at school, and Lucas catches the Light and I don’t know what that’s about yet! What I’m currently working on is The Story of Caregiving, a meander through the past looking at how people gave care to older family members. I begin by discussing work on Neanderthal peoples, and move on from there. Very interesting, hugely ambitious and I just hope I can finish it.

Thanks so much for chatting with us today. Where can we buy your books? 
Ice Escape is available via Amazon and Smashwords
and The Resolute Heart, through Amazon as Kindle ebook and Paperback.

You can also connect with Beatrice via her Amazon Author Page HERE
And on Linkedin HERE

Wednesday, January 27

Did I ever tell you about the time I got a book deal?

Just a quick post to share my news, New Zealand publisher Paper Road Press has acquired my debut novel "Wicked by Blood: The Kingfisher's Debt" an urban fantasy set in Dunedin. You can read their announcement HERE

Tuesday, October 27

SQ Magazine Edition 22

I was thrilled to be asked by the team of Sophie Yorkston and Gerard Huntman to provide the cover for Edition 22 of their long-running (and award-winning) SQ Mag speculative fiction ezine. Here's what I came up with:

SQ Mag, speculative fiction ezine, Edition 22, cover designed by Kura Carpenter

SQ Mag is published by IFWG Publishing Australia, it's a donationware ezine featuring short stories from Australian and New Zealand writers - I often see familiar names of SpecficNZ members.

Read Edition 22 of SQ Mag online or subscribe today and you can choose the format which suits you best. It's free to join!

Thursday, June 18

Interview with Victoria Nelson author of 'Romana'

I've been very fortunate to work with Californian author Victoria Nelson on a few projects, and I was delighted when Victoria asked me to do the artwork (following her design) for the cover of her novel Romana, which I know has been a labour of love for her over the past five years.

"Romana" by author Victoria Nelson, cover artwork by Kura Carpenter

Please tell us a little bit about yourself:

By profession, I'm a freelance writing and research tutor. I never thought of myself as a creative writer since I believed my talent was for research and writing about Literature. I surprised myself, however, when I began writing my first stage play, L. is forSayers, in 1998 followed by a screenplay, Jack Marlin, PrivateEye: The Case of the Barbary Blackbird, two years later, both of which I completed and self-published. 

The funny thing is that my family always told me my imagination and temperament would make me a good novelist, but I never bought it. Then, unexpectedly one day, in came the muse—it spoke and I wrote. In terms of Literature and storytelling, however, my research background proved to be providential since one needs to conduct a fair amount of research in order to write a credible, satisfying story. It also makes the difference in being able to show rather than tell. 

Looking back, I can see that I have always been involved in writing of one type or another, but I did not presume to think of myself as a writer, not until my family began using the term. For me, writing entails a lot of responsibility since words have a major influence on shaping people's worldview and influencing their actions.

"Jack Marlin Private Eye" filmscript and "L is for Sayers" play by author Victoria Nelson, cover design by Kura Carpenter

You mentioned that you write about Literature. Can you tell us a little more about it?

I am including here the titles of the articles I have published beginning with the most recent. I believe that when a person is drawn to the study of Literature, he or she wants to explore a variety of genres. I suppose this remark leads us to ask what is Literature? The simplest definition I can think of is writing (novels, plays, poems, essays etc.) that serves what Socrates has termed "The Good." I am especially interested in foundational works. In other words, I want to study the same books that served as the inspiration for my favourite authors. 

For example, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were great fans of Rider Haggard whose work inspired the creation of Indiana Jones. I too am interested in Haggard and plan to write a piece on his dealing with subterranean themes.

  • "Dark Journey into Light: On the Road with Jack Kerouac." Saint AustinReview. (November/December 2014).
  • Burnett, Grahame, and Barrie: Neopaganist Idealism during a Golden Age.” Saint Austin Review. (March/April 2011).
  • Don Quixote: Madman or Mystic.” Saint Austin Review. (May/June 2010).
  • Teaching Ian Fleming’s James Bond Thrillers from a Catholic Perspective.” Saint Austin Review. (May/June 2008).
  • Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins: Moving beyond Paradise to the New Jerusalem.” Saint Austin Review. (May/June 2008).
  • Rosemary Sutcliff’s Arthurian Trilogy.” Saint Austin Review. (December 2002).

What genre, and what is Romana about? 
The story is about a quest and is medieval themed rather than a strict historical account. One person put it very nicely when she said my book is more about how things should have been, could have been, rather than how they were. Yet, I believe we can't just say the Middle Ages was this and not that. History unfolds on a continuum and is being made as we speak. One of my favourite passages of fiction that best describes my own values and motivation for writing is from Tolkien's Return of the King where Sam sees the light of a lone star shining down on the smoking ruins of Mordor and
The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
I believe the Middle Ages, in spite of warfare and politics, was like any other time in history—there is always a good side to people who, in spite of the times, retain their humanity and seek to defend and preserve it in others.

What type of Reader is likely to enjoy this story? 

Fortunately, I have had good success with people from all walks of life enjoying my story. I think one of the reasons for this is that I strive to make my writing accessible to everyone no matter their taste in Literature. My motto for writing is to make people feel good about themselves and the world they live in—in a word, to give them hope. I try to communicate this idea in everything I do ranging from editing students' papers to storytelling. 

Surely, people who are interested in the Middle Ages might relate more easily to the story, but I have written it with a diverse reading audience in mind. Books similar to Romana are the ones which have nurtured my own inspiration and whose authors have served as my mentors. Some of my favourite examples include C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ian Fleming.

Where did the idea for the story come from?

Apart from an ongoing fascination with everything Medieval, some of the early chapters were inspired from RP gaming and my interest in swordsmanship. In the beginning, it was not my intention to write a book, then one day I realized I had enough material for a full-length novel. The ideas just kept coming. It was as if I was taking dictation from my characters. And I discovered that the more rounded the characters, the more animated and articulate they become. 

One of the most delightful things about creating characters is to hear the way they speak to one another. One asks a question and the other answers, and sometimes it happens so fast, I have to laugh and write fast to keep up with their antics. I also learn from them. When faced with a difficult task, I sometimes ask myself how would one of my characters handle such and such a circumstance. Lewis and Tolkien both shared that they wanted to write the kind of books that they themselves would enjoy reading. I believe my story has its roots in this same sentiment.

What was your favourite and least favourite part in researching for the novel?

My favourite parts of the research had to do with learning bushcraft and outdoor living. The Internet provided me with invaluable information on everything I wanted to know about survival in the wildness. It also enriched my outlook on life and fostered a more intimate connection with nature. As part of my research, I reread Sir Gawain the Green Knight, both Tolkien's and Simon Armitage's translations, paying close attention to the descriptions of the landscape and accounts of field dressing. In terms of hunting and field dressing, it was amazing to learn how little has changed over the centuries. 

I also read Hilaire Belloc's, The Path Rome which chronicles the author's walk from France to Rome and has beautiful descriptions of the people and natural landscape throughout.

I can't really say that I had a least favourite part of the research since I enjoyed the entire venture. The book itself was my own personal quest. But to be fair, there were some parts that were more challenging than others. The two most difficult challenges involved creating a variation in food and landscape. I remember once reading about how Ian Fleming's publisher told him that James Bond could not always be eating scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee, which was one of Flemings' favourite meals. This advice led to the books' more affluent (shaken not stirred) fare later on. 

For my story, I researched medieval cookbooks and films in addition to the literature of the time after which I added some touches of my own that I believed were entirely possible, and will continue to use in the second volume. In terms of varying the landscape, the work of creating no two sunrises or sunsets the same really took me to task.

Why did you decide to venture into self-publishing?

One reason I decided to self-publish was because I had been turned down multiple times or simply ignored by publishers for other projects. Looking back however, I am grateful since venturing into self-publishing has provided me tremendous scope for controlling every aspect of my work.

What has been the hardest part with promoting your work?

I believe one of the hardest parts of promoting my work is keeping one's mind on the task at hand while waiting for the book to sell. Equally difficult is the job of encouraging people to buy the book, read it and recommend it to their friends. When I really feel down about people not buying my books, I picture Miguel de Cervantes unjustly sentenced and sitting in jail, penniless, a family to support, and the author of one of the greatest books of all time. 

Aside from your question, let me add that when I first graduated with my masters in English Literature, I was at a loss for what to do next. I had been working as a private tutor, primarily for international students, which I still find very rewarding. Yet, I was in a kind of circling and hovering pattern trying to stay a step or two ahead of the bailiff. In desperation, I immersed myself in Cervantes' novel Don Quixote and had a revelation, a kind of inner vision; I saw my life as a puzzle floating around my head in a million pieces and reading Don Quixote brought all the pieces together in a beautiful whole. 

I believe this is what convinced me of the healing, life-affirming power of Literature and of wanting to promote my work for that purpose.

What tips would you give to others considering self-publishing that you wished you knew when you started?

The first tip is to make every effort to ensure that one's punctuation and grammar is correct since revisions can be very costly and compromise one's credibility. The second tip is to be careful of having too high an expectation. We all need some type of expectation and motivation to keep us going. I think that the greatest motivator for beginning and finishing a writing project is to believe with your whole heart and soul that what you have to say has some value. But it saves a lot of heartache not to have too high of an expectation that a book will sell. Unfortunately, writing is rarely the magic bullet for paying the bills (as a rule). However, I believe if we write for the love of the craft, and to help people to feel good about themselves and the world they live in, we begin to move on the right track.

Where can we buy your books?

My books can be purchased through and CreateSpace Direct, also in Oakland California they're availble at BlackSwan Books 4236 Piedmont Avenue.

And there's also a Facebook page for Romana.

Thanks so much for sharing your writer's journey with us, Victoria, I wish you (and Romana) all the best :)

Friday, May 22

Designing Fabric

Sewing is my hobby and for a while now I've been thinking how fun it would be to design some fabric. I've finally taken the plunge, and wanted to share my very first fabric design, which I will be submitting to Spoonflower at some stage.

"Mermaids" designed (C) Kura Carpenter 2015

Wednesday, April 8

Interview with author Patrick G Cox

Author, Patrick G Cox, is a veteran of the indie publishing scene and I've had the pleasure of working with him a few times, most recently when custom-designing the cover for Pat Cox's latest book, Harry Heron: Midshipman’s Journey.

"Harry Heron: Midshipman's Journey" author: Partick G Cox, cover designer: Kura Carpenter

Q: What is Harry Heron: Midshipman’s Journey about?

The basic story is about two boys from very different social backgrounds growing up, but there’s quite a bit more to it than that. To start with they’re Irish, and though Harry’s family have some connections, they aren’t in possession of wealth and ‘office’. Ferghal, Harry’s companion, is the son of his father’s Head Groom and a Roman Catholic in a period and a place when being a ‘Papist’ barred you from a lot of things. 

As a ‘younger’ son, Harry knows his inheritance will be limited, so he faces the choice of Law, Army or Church for his future. He chooses the Navy, and Ferghal is determined to follow. Thus their ‘growing up’ takes them to London, where Harry must first find a patron and sponsor, then to a ship. With the Peace of Amiens, they transfer to another ship and find themselves sent to Australia and thence to India and Arabia. Adventure is lurking for them at every turn until the ship turns for home again and a resumption of war with France.The story is also an ‘introduction’ to a future world Harry and Ferghal could not have imagined. In the final chapters the reader is given a hint of that future when they meet one of Harry’s descendants, now the Captain of a Starship as he contemplates a replica of the memorial brass dedicated to the memory of Harry and Ferghal.

Q: What sort/age of readers would most enjoy it?

I would really like to think there is something here for readers of all ages, but realistically, I would guess, since it is the ‘introduction to a longer story arc that takes us (and Harry and friends) into the far future, that it will appeal most to Young Adults, those who like ‘historical’ settings and science fiction - because that is where this story is going after this book.

Q: The Napoleonic 1800s is a popular era for historical writers, what is it about this time that draws you as a writer to it?

Probably because it was an era in which men achieved massive feats with only their own muscles, ingenuity and resources to help them. It was an era in which the ‘reach’ of authority vanished at the horizon, once you were out of sight, you were own your own.
Reading the journals of Captains and officers from that time, you get a real sense of the freedom of action they enjoyed. They didn’t have some politician in constant contact trying to micro-manage world shaping events on the other side of the globe. Each Captain was, in effect, a ‘king’, the ruler of everything and everyone on his ship, and he had to be a diplomat as well, representing King and country in distant lands. 

Communications were slow, it took almost six months to send a letter to India for example, and almost the same to Australia. By the time someone in Whitehall or Westminster heard of some event on the other side of the globe, some local commander had either dealt with it, or fallen victim to it. I sometimes think things worked far more effectively than they do now as a result.
What draws me to it, and I suspect other writers, is that it is so rich in larger than life characters. Many of them not from rich and powerful families. A lot, like ‘Captain’ James Cook (his actual rank was Lieutenant), self-made men in command of small handy ships that kept the trade routes open, carried orders to and from the grand fleets and in between achieved some remarkable feats of navigation.

Q: I understand this novel was released some years ago, but has now gone through a complete rewrite and edit. What gave you the push to take on such a big task?

It started out as an attempt to get the original available to readers on Kindle and other e-formats. It was one of my first attempts at a novel and, as Janet Angelo, my editor and publisher, of IndieGo Publishing, quickly pointed out, it had a number of ‘structural’ problems. She felt, and I’m sure she was right, that the combination of the longer science fiction sections with the historic parts created a number of problems for readers. Those who like ‘historic’ settings and stories would not identify with the ‘scifi’ bits and vice versa. She also pointed out that, though there was a good story, it lacked any purpose other than to be an introduction to a future story.

So she persuaded me to write a new start to the book, going right back to Harry’s childhood. Which took me back to Ireland in the 1790s and all the unrest and upheaval of that period that culminated in the two failed French invasions and the bloody uprising that paved the way for the ‘troubles’ still plaguing that beautiful country. With that done, it was time to look hard at the ‘scifi’ element, and in the end I retained only a fraction of it, right at the end, to link this story to the books which follow it in the series. The result is, I think, and I hope readers will agree, a very good story and a good book.

Q: As someone who is a pioneer in self-publishing, what recent changes have you seen that benefit the self-publishing/indie author?

Funny should ask this, I was just reading something about the way the whole publishing industry is changing. It has certainly changed since I first published this book - under a different title I must add. Self-publishing isn’t an ‘easy’ option. For one thing you are venturing a substantial investment in your work, and secondly, selling isn’t just a question of putting the book online or even, if you’re lucky, into shops. There are a lot of sharks in the self-publishing ocean as well, and you do need to make sure you know what you’re buying into when you sign a deal with someone.
Something else to be aware of is that ‘Print on Demand’ cannot compete with traditional printing in terms of pricing. Typically a PoD book will be priced at twice that of a traditionally printed copy. That means your book is unlikely to compete on the shelves of a book store with a Best Selling author’s book from a Traditional publishing house. But, this is where e-formats help. In electronic formats every playing field is level. 

A word of caution though - if you want to sell further books, make sure the formatting, editing and presentation is first class. There are a lot of badly written, badly edited and badly formatted ‘books’ available - and they drag everyone else down.

What has improved, in my view, is there is now more awareness of the pitfalls among would be authors, and there are resources and services available to ‘independent’ authors to get their books polished, edited and hopefully ‘sold’ to a publisher. I have benefited from having an editor with a publishing background on my side. Plot problems, typos, gaps in the story are all things a good editor flags immediately, and as an author, I can address them. This is something that is lacking in many ‘packages’ sold to self published authors.

Ironically, as self-published authors are cleaning up their work, polishing it and making sure it is ‘quality’, many of the traditional publishers seem to be slipping. Maybe it is because I am now conscious of the problems in my own books, I find I’m spotting typos, grammar errors, and other problems in traditionally published work. I’ve even seen glaringly mislabelled captions, entire pages repeated and passages misadjusted in books by famous authors. I’m told this is because many publishers now don’t employ separate ‘proof readers’, but leave it all to an ‘editor’ who may be engaged in dealing with four or five books at the same time.

Q: What tips would you give to others considering self-publishing that you wished you knew when you started?

Get an editor. Listen carefully to what they say about the problems, and the improvements they suggest. 
If you’re using a historic setting, research it. There’s nothing more irritating to many readers than inaccuracy when writing about historic events. Even details of uniforms and ranks are essential, and even modern ships take weeks, not days, to cover long distances, and sailing ships a lot longer. Many years ago I was completely put off the writing of a very good author, by one simply glaring error - he had a sailing ship cover a distance of some four thousand miles round the Cape of Good Hope to reach an island in the Atlantic in a few days.

Write the story, and then edit, edit, edit. Sometimes you really do need to ‘kill’ some beloved part of the narrative you’ve created, simply because it is too long, or not relevant. Then choose your publishing package very carefully. You’ve invested a huge amount of time and effort into creating the book, invest some money into getting the best package - and then be prepared to ‘market’ it. That takes a lot of time and effort, and sometimes money. There are something like 2 million new titles published each year, getting noticed takes a lot of effort, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Q: Can you tell us in on your next writing project?

With pleasure. I have three in hand, two complete - one, also set in the 19th Century and twenty years after Waterloo is with my publisher at the moment - and two more being edited and polished. The book currently going through the pre-publication process is set against the background of the Thames, and the trading barges that carried the goods and some would say the wealth, of Britain to and from London and the crowded shipping in the Port of London. It has crime, corruption, hardship and courage. The research for it was an eye-opener in many ways. I’m hoping to follow this with another 19th Century set novel also revolving around the Thames and the East End of London.

Q: Where can we buy your books?

The books are on sale through any good bookstore, Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble and other online outlets, including of course my publisher IndieGo Publishing
 In electronic formats, it is also available from iTunes, Kobo, and Google Books. A full list with the links is available on my website

Happy reading!

Thursday, April 2

Article on Cover Design

Today I'm sharing some advice on Cover Design Essentials (in my opinion) over on the blog of kiwi writer Darian Smith,
please check it out the article A Book By Its Cover