Books & Reading, Children's Fiction, Children's Non-Fiction

Turtles, dollhouses, and plants – what’s next?

With Ramble On in its final stages (celebrate the release at Auckland Central Library, Sun Oct 15) I’ve been busy planning my next projects. Here they are!

The Caretaker Series is, I’ve decided, just for me. These are books where I get to be as deep, dark, weird and fantastical as I like. It’s about getting ideas out of my head and into a story that other people can interact with. I’m up to Book Five of the series at the moment, about halfway through the draft, and have a couple of beta readers lined up to give me feedback.

The Train to Nowhere is an idea I’ve had for a while, and I’ve recently worked out how to best do the illustrations – with a miniature dollhouse! I wrote a blog post about it here if you want more details, but this is going to be a longer term project. It’ll probably be ready for photographing in early 2018.

And now for the new one… I’ve been playing with the idea of making a picture book about turtles for a while now, and returned to this idea a couple of weeks ago. I did a search for turtles in New Zealand, and the DoC website told me that the most common wild marine turtle is the leatherback. I’d never heard of them before, but they’re fascinating! They don’t have a hard shell (hence their name), and there’s still a lot we don’t know about these jellyfish-gobbling, dinosaur-age giants.

The storyboard is 95% complete, and I’ve been inspired by Jeannie Baker’s work to do this one in collage. Looks like I’ll have a few picture books in my future.

The final project is another long-term one. I feel like I didn’t give myself enough time to research for Ramble On, so I’d like to remedy that with my next adult non-fiction, which will be on New Zealand plants.

Yes, plants. Because they’re also fascinating. There’s this tree on this island that’s the last of its kind ever, and a native carnivorous plant that only flowers for like a week a year, and a kiwi botanist whose research of seaweed was important during WWII… like I said. Fascinating! So I’m giving my time to research this fully and will probably look at putting it together in late 2018, or possibly even 2019.

Well, you can’t stay I’m not staying creative. Looking forward to the journey these projects bring, but for I’m off for a walk and then the day job… have a happy day! xx

Books & Reading

New editions of the Caretaker Series

Changes are in the air, as they always are around me (not always my fault, just saying). The Caretaker Series is proving to be more popular than I thought it would – around 800 have sold across the three titles! – and I’ve had time to consider how they are presented.

I love the illustrations by Jane Thorne, and Chris at Book Printing does an amazing job of binding and printing them, with lovely recycled paper. However, I’ve noticed that children older than primary school age tend to dismiss them as childish, so it’s been in the back of my mind to change the covers. Also, as lovely as they look in person, they’re just not great at thumbnail size.

The other reason is entirely based on money. I’m paying royalties, which as well as paying the actual royalties is another administrative job to do. So, the new editions will have a simpler, older cover design, and they won’t be illustrated. They’ll be done through a print on demand company, which will allow me to sell overseas more easily and buy smaller runs at a time.

Now, the old editions of Lucy’s Story are all sold out (there are a few left at the Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop if you want to snap them up!) BUT there are a dozen or so copies of The Caretaker of Imagination left, and a bunch of Beyond the End of the World. There are also the gorgeous special editions – illustrated, printed on recycled paper, hand-bound right here in New Zealand, and signed by both myself and Jane – which are limited to fifty copies for sale. If you’re interested in any of these, you can get them from my Felt shop. Once they’re all sold, that’s it!

So this is what the cover of Lucy’s Story will probably look like. I’ll be ordering a proof shortly, and then it will be available for purchase. I’m hoping to get this out by June this year 🙂

New cover for Lucy’s Story: The End of the World
Books & Reading

Well, that’s one way to sell books…

This is a piece written by my friend’s husband. I’ll let it speak for itself! Below is a link to her website.

A Desperate Matter

The morning of the 20th Sept 2012 in Waikouaiti was idyllic. The sky was an azure blue, the lagoon was like a mirror and my porridge was of the exact correct viscosity. In other words, serenity had surrounded me to the extent that I was almost happy! That was until my wife Jo uttered the portentous words, “I am going to write a book.”

I hastily summoned my array of appropriate responses from my memory bank and having discarded “that’s interesting dear” (our relationship was still recovering from the last time I used that) settled on a neutral grunt. “Yes,” she said. “It will be a children’s book about Nicholas, our grandson.”

Now given that Jo had never written a book in her entire life I felt encouraged to enumerate the difficulties she faced in pursuing this goal. Needless to say, Jo ignored all my advice and embarked on her project.

Two years later, following an incredible number of draughts and the death of my serene existence, a manuscript was ready to dispatch to publishers. The first three publishers rejected the work outright, but one showed distinct interest – much to my surprise.

However, they eventually redeemed themselves by declining to publish the book. Well, that was a relief! Now serenity could return to my life and normal wifely service would resume (coffee in bed in the mornings etc.).  You can imagine my dismay when a friend of mine offered to assist my wife to publish the book!! This would involve actual expenditure of money and plunged me into despair. Needless to say that friendship has been terminated.

Jo was offered various costs for various print runs and was seduced by how much cheaper 5000 books were than 500 and ignoring my pleas for restraint proceeded to order 5000 copies. The books duly arrived and the problem of storage arose. Desperate efforts to locate the rather large pallet with in friend’s garages or sheds came to nought and the books were deposited in our lounge over my strident objections.

Now we come to the reason for my pitiable state and my plea for your help to relieve my suffering. As you will know if you have visited our house, the TV has been artfully located to allow me to lie on the couch and watch Trackside and Sky Sport from a comfortable position.

Now of course, my view of the screen has been destroyed by a large pallet of books placed right in the middle of the lounge!!! Oh, woe is me!! Several entreaties to friends to share the storage of sufficient books to allow a view of the screen have fallen on deaf ears and I am currently having to perch on the back of the couch or stand to access my beloved Trackside.

The only solution I can conceive is to sell the bloody things!! Will you save my sanity?

In desperation from a tortured man,

Rod Carson


If you’d like to help Rod out, you can purchase Jo’s book for just $10 a copy. Just go to her website, or flick her an email at jocarsonbarr[at]gmail[dot]com.
Books & Reading, Lucy's Story

Zee reads an extract from ‘Lucy’s Story: The End of the World’ [video]

So, I finally managed to get my first vlog done! Well… I sort of cheated, because it’s more a reading of chapters 1 & 2 in Lucy’s Story, and less of a video blog, but it’s my first time so I’m cutting myself some slack.

Now, this is a huge step for me. Public speaking is far from my forte, and I’m camera shy (when we watch our old home videos, you can see my dad trying to catch me on camera – as soon as I realise he’s here, I run away!).

Over the past few years, I’ve challenged myself to do more things outside of my comfort zone. Public speaking and being in front of the camera is so far away from my comfort zone that I’m taking little steps towards being able to confidently speak to an audience. In university, I chose assignments that involved a seminar or presentation, and thanks to my filmie friends have had a little experience in front of the camera. This year, I’ve even signed up to be an extra! Talk about pushing boundaries – whew.

Making a speech at the my first book launch.

So without further ado (because there’s been enough ado, methinks) here’s my first vlog! I’m aiming to get a few more up before launch day this Saturday, and then do vlogs regularly – hopefully once a fortnight at least, but we’ll see how things go.

Please do let me know your thoughts on the video, as I’m super nervous about it! What did you like? What could I improve on?

And of course… do you think you’ll read the rest of  Lucy’s Story: The End of the World? You can pre-order the eBook from Amazon now.

Books & Reading

NZ Independent Book Festival

“More and more people are now understanding the advantages of independently or self-publishing their own books using this type of publishing platform, be it in printed format or eBooks. The festival offers a great way to connect enthusiastic readers with enthusiastic authors.

Thinking about selling books: who is the best person to promote and sell their book than the author themselves? The plan for the NZIBF (see the Facebook page) is for it to continue to grow and become the premier book event of the year, catering to readers and writers of all genres.

With the support of independently and self-published authors, and private literary businesses, many more manuscripts will become the books found under readers’ noses.” – Louise de Varga, NZIBF

Interested? You can share in the festivities by attending the weekend, but also by making it happen! Louise is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Boosted (hence the video) which you can check out here and donate if you want to: