Three Things I’ll Give You…

Two, you’ll have to earn –

I have some exciting news. My new book is coming out next year. There’s still a long way to go. Things like the allocation of an editor, agreeing the cover, and settling the launch date.


And if you haven’t yet read Breath of Africa, there’s still time!

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for ages. It’s partly because personal matters, advancing age and illness have intruded on our lives, and we have been gaining insight into the mysterious machinations of the National Health Service, which is creaking at the seams through sheer volume of use. Hospital corridors are the norm, as are the vagaries of wheel chairs, which can only easily be wielded when pulled backwards, unless one has the strength and the knack to push them forwards, which I haven’t.

Hours of waiting for appointments provide opportunities to bring out the faithful kindle, so long as I’ve remembered to charge it up and bring it. My mobile phone lies forgotten between handbags, and when I need it, the battery is flat or I can’t remember how to use the wretched thing.

Technology is creeping in. You can now tap on a screen to check in for appointments at some hospitals, but unless you’ve remembered to bring your letter or take note of the instructions which flash briefly before your eyes, you don’t know where to go and there’s nobody to ask anymore.

But at least we have the luxury of a Blue Badge. It is amazingly uplifting being able to park on yellow lines or grab a disabled space near the entrance. Although my conscience twinges at the thought of missed opportunities to walk. My life has become more sedentary these days and those hills not quite so inviting.

But back to those three things…

Because a significant portion of my readership really don’t like to bother with websites and social media, I’ve decided to reach out in a different direction.

I’m starting a Newsletter delivered to your email in-boxes. I’m also offering a FREE short story to subscribers, which bridges the gap between Breath of Africa and Grass Shoots. It is guaranteed to wet your appetite. And there will be a chance of another surprise nearer to Christmas.

To earn these gifts, you will of course need to let me have your email address – and please tell your friends. Click HERE, and on the right-hand margin of my website, SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter.

The short story CRADLE OF MAN will wing its way to you once you have answered a simple question.



Posted in Breath of Africa, Grass Shoots, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , ,

What’s a Webinar?

Let’s face it, we writers want nothing more than to huddle down in our lonely corners and be creative. However, a supportive publisher can make such a difference to our lives.

We know we have to move out of our comfort zone and shout amongst the clamour so that our little voices can be heard by the precious few who may turn into faithful readers. We also know that we are among the general run of authors who will seldom produce a block-buster; all we dare hope for is a steady stream of readers to appreciate our efforts.

I wonder how many publishers have actually invested in their writers? I’m not talking only about money. Advances and royalties go with the business, and editors are a necessity. Communities of authors can get together to share experiences, trade tips and support each other, and the internet is an easy medium. We at Crooked Cat are fortunate to have a friendly knowledgeable group and I always get a quick answer from somebody when I have a tricky question.

But things have been moving on. Behind the scenes, publishers do basic marketing across the internet. But it is fun and rewarding when we attend their get-togethers and meet each other in the flesh. From this, we can arrange joint events among ourselves, and profile pictures become real people.

More developments have happened as technology advances. Never did I think I’d ever take part in a webinar. Five years ago I hadn’t even heard the word. But now I look forward to a series which includes developing an author brand, making a marketing plan, social media, etc.etc. As we get used to the quirks of technology, the sessions increase in value, and it is fun hearing the different voices and matching them – sometimes with surprise – to the profile pictures. We encourage each other afterwards in online chat as we put the suggestions into practice. And it’s all free. We don’t have to waste time and expense in travel. It’s a win-win situation.

And now something special has happened. I have had the first of regular one-to-one meetings with my publisher. At last I have his undivided attention for a whole hour. I can even see him face to face as I talk, if I wish. (Yes, I know that first meeting didn’t go precisely as planned, and he had to have recourse to the telephone, but it wasn’t his fault that in my excitement I failed to unmute the sound on my computer. I’ll know better next time.) We were able to discuss covers and strategies and I offered to tweak the blurb on one of my books. I discovered why my author photo on their website was blurred.

“It’s too small, Jane,” he said.

My heart fell. I knew that in one of my bouts of clearing up the debris in my computer I had deleted the high-res picture, and I really didn’t want to spend hours delving among the back-ups or groping in ancient boxes for the original photograph taken ten years ago.

“I suppose I’ll have to find another photo.”

He said nothing. I sighed. Our hour was up.

Ten minutes later there was a knock on the door. Our private mechanic was returning our car after a service. He is also a friend and a keen photographer. I gasped.

“Have you got your camera with you?”

“No, but I can come by with it later on when I go for a walk. Why?”

I explained my problem.

Jane Bwye portrait.png

It took me a bit longer to re-vamp the blurb for I LIFT UP MY EYES and send it off, and it will probably be a while before the new wording appears on line, but I’m already looking forward to the next webinar.


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They’ve Tied Themselves Up In Knots.


Deja Vu?

Here’s an article I wrote for Kenya’s Karengata Chronicle on June 9th, 1984. Thought it might make you chuckle…

If I were a Martian, up in my satellite monitoring the people and events on earth – earth, that little pinprick of a planet in the vast expanse of the Universe, in the even greater immensity of space – if I were a Martian, I would report back to HQ that this colourful planet, with its abundance of beauty and immense potential, can be classified no better than one pathetic little loony-bin of mismanagement.

Take man, for instance. The basic needs for his life are food and good health. To attain these simple goals, he needs education. Simple enough, thinks the Martian as he surveys the great granaries of the world from his satellite, sails over the oceans teaming with fish, and scans the vast herds of animals below.

Man has begun to discover how to extract his nourishment from nature. What is more, he is actually continuing to improve his methods by research. So far so good. But what on earth is happening now? The Martian almost falls out of his satellite in astonishment as he sees members of the European Economic Community actually cutting down on their milk production and forcing their members to comply – when just a glance away in blazing Africa there are thousands of starving people who would give their eye teeth for a cup of the precious liquid.

They are also actually destroying vast quantities of fruit, and creating mountains of surplus meat, butter, cheese and wine – all in the name of protecting the prices of these goods on the local market. “Protecting the prices?” What is this strange idea which is permeating the Earth at this time? The Martian may well ask.

But that’s enough of nourishment. What of health? Surely, the Martian believes, this is just straightforward progress; and indeed it is. Medical research is healthy. It has its ups and downs, but look at the great steps forward: the stamping out of smallpox, the control of malaria, and the progress in cancer research. There’s nothing wrong with their scientists. The basic necessities for good health are understood by most of the world, and education programmes are sending tentacles into the far corners of the earth. People are living longer, healthier lives as time progresses.

But now what are they doing? In Africa there is talk of controlling the rising population because they cannot feed themselves; while in Malaysia they try to increase their numbers in order to step up demand and increase production. And in Europe and Japan, the sharp drop in birth rates has stunned them into realising that their biggest problem will be the support of their aged.

“Perhaps they’ll learn in time,” the Martian hopes, “to learn from and help each other.”

But even in the field of education he can see such vast anomalies from his perch in the satellite, that he wonders where it will all end.

On that minute little isle, Great Britain, the Martian witnesses with astonishment the closure of advanced faculties in world-renowned universities. They throw teachers and professors out of fruitful employment and turn away potential students with adequate qualifications – even medical students. Why? For the sake of economy – money – prices.

What is this strange commodity which is of such importance to those earthlings – so important that it transcends even the priorities of nourishment and education?

And at the same time in Africa they are frantic in their efforts to build more university colleges, provide more education at all levels for their people; their people who cannot get places at home, and yet who are prevented from filling those “empty” ones overseas, because the prices of the courses have been elevated to far beyond their resources.

Money, economics, inflation, interest rates, loans. The Martian does not really understand all these words, even though he’s been reading them over the shoulders of the earthlings for some time now. He wonders if the people themselves really know what they’re talking about.

“They’ve tied themselves up in knots,” he concludes.

But wait… what’s this: A bank gone bust in the US? Now there’ll be panic – or will it be covered up? The Martian remembers something like this happening in the 1920s. He wonders as he turns his satellite away and boosts it off into space, if the earthlings will ever learn.

In the meantime he prepares his report, and as a final recommendation considers that perhaps another monitoring exercise need not be planned for at least two earth-centuries. By that time, maybe, Man will have learned to pool his resources and be in a consolidated position to undertake negotiations with Outer Space. Or he might have blown his world apart in a nuclear war. But this item was not, thankfully, among the Martian’s terms of reference.

Posted in Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Of Flaming Exhausts and Flashing Headlights

(Based on my article published by the Daily Nation, Kenya, on April 13th 1966)

“Dammit – I’ve forgotten the tow-rope – and I need Nos. 6 and 7 box spanners.”

Bruce drew his dirty fingernails through his tousled hair in exasperation. He was sitting in the middle of my lounge surrounded by spanners, hoses, puncture outfits and tools of all descriptions and sizes. The sheaf of papers comprising the route card was abandoned on the sofa and a copy of rally tables resided in the dining-room beside dozens of pencils waiting to be sharpened. On the veranda wrenches and tyres, soap and pep-pills were jumbled in a pile and overflowed into the garden where pieces of safety harness and bottles and bottles of an energy giving drink were scatted over the lawn.

safari rally1You would never have thought that the East African Safari Rally was due to start the following day.

Gallantly I volunteered to go and get the forgotten items.

“Go to so-and-so’s,” he said. “Say it’s for me. They should give you 30% discount.”

That night, after attending the drivers’ briefing, we worked out average speeds, distances and times until our heads swam with dizzy numbers. Midnight, and we’d only finished the first leg.

“Never mind,” he said. “I’ll do the second leg when the time comes.”

The following morning as soon as the cars were released from bondage, there were mud-flaps to attach, spare wheels to fix in place and last-minute adjustments to be made to the engine. Then they nearly forgot to fill the spare can with petrol and to mend a faulty windscreen wiper…

All this had started the year before – in fact, from the very moment my brother-in-law had found himself irretrievably bogged on the previous Safari. I could understand his safari fever. Mine was bad enough, and I’d never even driven in a rally. Somehow the exciting anticipation of the event and the tense atmosphere before the start would just “get” me, especially if I were allowed to chase round after Bruce and ferry him from place to place.

The start never failed to thrill me – the jaunty flags, the screeching spectators, the pushing, rushing crowd. And of course the unmistakeable cars themselves with blackened bonnets and gleaming spotlights which snorted up the ramp and paused, ablaze with colourful advertisements, before skidding off between lines of yelling, whistling people.

Then I would hurry home to the wireless and for the next two days ears would be glued to the set, knobs twiddled and sometimes if I were lucky, exciting news gleaned from obscure wavebands.

Once we went onto the main road to wave the competitors by. It was a long, straight stretch of tarmac and the cars could be heard miles before they actually whizzed past, their gleaming paint now covered in mud and the numbers scarcely distinguishable in the rush of their passing. Some drivers would flash lights and honk horns, others wave and shout. Yet others would speed grimly past in desperate bids of concentration. Excitedly, we marked off the numbers as they passed and as a side-line we placed bets on cigarette ends lined along the tarmac. The person whose end was blown the farthest by the rush of the passing vehicle would gather in the stakes.

safari rally2

Each year we join the throng of waiting spectators at the Nakuru control. Hundreds of people crush into the veranda of the hotel and overflow onto the pavement hours before the scheduled arrival of the first car.

As the time approaches, tension mounts and heads turn at every suspicion of a honking horn or a snorting exhaust. Good vantage points are jealously guarded and there is a complete absence of manners.

Suddenly, a whisper is passed from person to person. An expectant silence descends upon the crowd and faint in the distance can be discerned the tell-tale rumble of a well-tuned engine. Closer and closer.

People push forwards and some break away to run down the road.

Whistles and cheers sound faintly along the route – and suddenly the crowd rises with a deafening roar as screams pierce the air and roof-raising cheers sound out to greet the first arrival, skidding to a stop opposite the control officials. The route card duly signed, the mud-spattered vehicle drives slowly between throngs of cheering spectators and parks to disgorge its tired occupants.

A lucky official wanders across the tarmac to gaze at the car from close quarters, a reporter disappears inside a telephone booth, and hushed questions and answers are passed from person to person as the crowd settles to await the emergence of the drivers for the send-off.

Soon, cars are screeching into the control with exciting frequency. The cheers and whistles seem to go on forever, and elation mounts higher and higher as roars accompany the arrival of popular light-flashing, horn-honking teams. Steaming cups of black coffee are passed round and empty beer bottles litter the tables. The night progresses and the crowd thins slightly.

Beyond the control ropes efficient rows of works teams wait. There is a lull. A car rolls up and stops twenty yards short of the control. I leave my vantage point and squirm past hulking greatcoats to the front ranks of the watching throng. The car is jacked up and the hiss of a blow-lamp fills the air as a sweating mechanic directs the blaze onto the front suspension. A towrope is fastened onto the arm, and with a protesting roar the engine of another car is revved up. It strains against the rope in a desperate attempt to straighten the obstinate rod, while the glaring headlights of yet another vehicle are directed onto the scene.

All the while, the driver and his navigator sit struggling with exhaustion in their seats, ignoring the sea of peering faces around them. Then he starts the engine and trickles into the control.

It is midnight and the biting cold is penetrating our sweaters. Bruce should have arrived an hour ago. Whispered rumours reach us that more rain has fallen and cars are bogged down. There are greater pauses between competitors. The trickle of news from the wireless has petered out. Then Bruce’s works team rolls up bringing news of more mud and holdups. We breathe sighs of relief when we learn that they are past the worst and should arrive in the next hour, but wonder if they have not run out of time.

We crane our necks and scramble to our feet at every tell-tale honk of a horn. But each time it is a false alarm. Anxiously we ask questions about extension of time. The minutes and hours tick by, and still no sign of Bruce.

It is not until 2.30am that their mud-spattered car grunts tiredly into the control. The two men clamber out, dulled by the drive and unable to talk much beyond the occasional monosyllable.

We press round them with hot coffee and sandwiches, but all they hanker for is the forty minute rest and the return to the road. There is a whisper that the time has been extended and we cheerily wave them out later on, with the knowledge that at least they have another hour’s grace.

Unable to prop our eyelids open any longer we fall into bed and dream of flaming exhausts and flashing headlights.

The next day we learn that Bruce, having suffered puncture after puncture, eventually ran out of tyres before limping back to Nairobi to hear that he had been time-barred. He stumbles out of the car and I take him home to sleep round the clock. He rises to discuss the possibility of obtaining a sponsored entry in the future, for there is always next year, and the next, and the next…

Posted in Authors, Kenya | Tagged , , , , , ,

Welcome, Jane

Thank you Tim, for inviting me to your place yet again. This is becoming a habit!

Tim's Blog

Today I am joined by fellow Crooked Cat author Jane Bwye.  Welcome back Jane! It’s been a few months since your last visit. Tell us what you have been up to since then.

Dear Tim – there’s nothing like a friend who makes you sit up and think once in a while. I can’t remember when I last visited, nor can I remember what I’ve been up to apart from my usual weekly activities. That’s scary. Is dementia creeping in – or is it just old age? I’ve been lucky with my health up to now.

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You ask about my second book, I LIFT UP MY EYES. This little novella was written on the rebound after BREATH OF AFRICA. The story had been simmering in the back of my mind for about twenty-five years. After a tragic accident which left her husband physically and mentally shattered, a friend…

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Making Readers Tingle with Fear

Welcome to Adrian Martin, new Crooked Cat author, who has an intriguing tale to tell. His debut novel is already burning a hole in my kindle, and has now been promoted to the top of the list. We have a few things in common, for I, too, was introduced to technology on a  word processor, and then I did a distance education degree at a late age. Over to you, Adrian – it is good getting to know you!

Hi, Jane. Thank you very much for having me guest on your blog. My debut novel, The Helland Reckoning has just been released by Crooked Cat and is set in the heart of the picturesque Cornish countryside. It is about an abducted child, a frantic mother and a stranger with hidden secrets of his own. Although it is now the complete product it took me several years to make it an enjoyable read, through a stop start process. I have written since I was in my early twenties, but it was poetry and not stories. I used it as a form of escapism while serving overseas in the army in Kosovo. I have recently read them, and if the truth be told they made me cringe, however, I was not to know that these were the foundation for a newfound love of writing.

In about 2000 I was given an old word processor by a friend, who had upgraded to a computer (yep I remember the world before technology seized control). At the time I was reading a lot of Dean Koontz, an author many of us have been inspired by, and naively thought I could do just as good a job! After all, writing a book is easy, right? I couldn’t have been further from the truth and was quick to learn this. At this point, I had no plot, no idea and no knowledge of the writing process, but nevertheless I began to type. The first thing I needed was a location, and there was a place that for some reason has stuck with me since staying there as a child; it jumped on my nose and slapped me in the eyeballs, Helland. It is a quaint hamlet just outside of Bodmin, but is buried deep into the bleak moorland. With a name like this, and the lasting impression Koontz was leaving on me at this stage of life, the only genre I wanted to write was horror. The idea of making readers tingle with fear excited me.

So, on and off for the next few years I tapped at the keys and eventually bought a laptop, which I could now take away with me while on my new career as a long distance lorry driver. Due to the long working hours it took me a while, but after about six years of stuttering, I finally had a finished manuscript, but now it was written what the hell did I do with it? I know, I will get an agent and make a million quid and retire overnight! How I can hear your tears of laughter from my desk as I write this. Anyway, after a few nice (and not so nice) get stuffed letters and a battered ego I shoved it away and left it to gather dust, hung up my mighty pen and moved on with life. But the next few years took a turn for the worst and nosedived, so much so I had almost become kamikaze during the lowest I had ever been. To get out of these holes and challenge life full on takes bottle and determination, and for someone special to walk into it and make you realise there are things worth living for.

And this is what happened when I met my now wife, she made me understand what was important in life, and that we only get one shot. I had already lost one marriage. It was then the dusty and yellowed manuscript was withdrawn from retirement and passed over to someone that my wife had got chatting to while trying on school shoes for the girls in Clarkes. Freya helped me to get the ball rolling again and work on something I loved, but it was after this I was introduced to someone who was to become my mentor and friend. As fate would have it, she lived in the same village as me so this blossomed away from Facebook and her honesty with what I had written still remains with me. There was a lot of work to do, but with her patience she taught me how to write, how certain devices were used and the do’s and don’ts. At the time it was hard work, rewriting everything that had taken years to achieve, and my confidence ebbed away, until I re-read the finished piece. It was then I submitted to Crooked Cat, who accepted the manuscript and published it in June 2016.

However, in September 2015, before my manuscript was accepted my wife had given me an ultimatum, either continue to be stuck driving trucks forever, or chase my dream of writing. A dream was achieved when I was accepted by Crooked Cat, it was a dream I had harboured for years and it was surreal when it happened, but that is not the end. My wife had spoken to the local college and found out about available courses and I subsequently gave up my career in driving and went back into education full time, where last year I studied an Access course in English, Literature and Creative writing, achieving mainly distinction grades. My journey will not be ending there, in September I begin my BA Hons degree in Creative Writing at Falmouth College of Arts.

My journey so far as a writer has not been easy, and nor has it been quick, but it is most definitely heading in the right direction as I move forward. The Helland Reckoning is my debut novel, but it will not be my last as I am working on other projects concurrently. That said, I now look back on the hard work that has gone into writing it and know I have the ability to put a full length novel together and turn it into something people enjoy reading.

Thank you so much to Jane for hosting me today, it’s has been a terrific experience and thank you to everyone who has bought The Helland Reckoning.

Product Details

Facebook link:

Amazon UK:

Twitter: @adymartin63


What should have been a fresh start for Katie Tremain and her twin twelve year old daughters, (Sarah and Tegan) in the heart of the Cornish countryside, quickly turns to tragedy when, Sarah goes missing in the bleak and snowy surroundings of Bodmin Moor. There are no footprints surrounding the house from where she has gone missing, and no evidence of the girl.

Before the police arrive, delayed by the unpredicted snowfall, a stranger arrives claiming he wants to help find Sarah. Katie has never seen this man before, yet there seems something familiar about him, and Tegan appears to have a connection with him. He has one stipulation – No police. Why, what are his true motives?

A missing girl, a broken mother, a lonely sister and a stranger. Together they look for the missing girl, and Katie is shocked when the stranger’s true identity is revealed, and sickened when she finds out who has her daughter.

This supernatural horror takes a mother to face her worst nightmare.

 Author Biography

Adrian lives just outside of Newquay, Cornwall with his wife, Lisa, and four children. He began writing while serving in the British Army, starting with poetry written on blueys (blue sheets of paper that fold into envelopes) as he was on a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. After leaving the army, he tried being a security guard, but found walking around the supermarket for fourteen hours a day somewhat monotonous, so decided to give long distance lorry driving a go. It was whilst doing this he began to pen “The Helland Reckoning”. The novel was inspired by the small hamlet of Helland, where Adrian stayed with a friend as a child. It had remained in his thoughts for many years, so it became the natural setting for the book. After five years of tramping around the U.K and Europe, he decided it was time to be home more, so began driving fuel tankers around Devon and Cornwall. After breaking his ankle playing football, Adrian was made redundant so set to work rewriting the manuscript. However, Adrian’s last job, working for a portaloo company (which was actually a lot of fun) made him want to chase his dream as a writer, so in September 2015 he returned to full time education studying English, literature and creative writing, achieving mainly distinction grades along the way. He begins a creative writing degree, at Falmouth University, Cornwall in September 2016. His hobbies include spending time with his family, writing, football, skiing, walking and Facebook! Feel free to hunt him down and chat.



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Great Summer Sale of Crooked Cat Books

2016Summer Sale

Have a browse here on AMAZON.  And check out my books below:

Breath of Africa

Will she ever belong to the country she loves? You can find out in this award-nominated book now on special offer!

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Why does she need to go for a walk? For the first time since publication, you can buy this novella for 99p. Health warning…… it is a book which makes you think.


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