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Tuesday 7 October 2014

TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION - a guest post by Jane Bwye

Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming fellow Crooked Cat author Jane Bwye to my blog.  Her astonishing first novel, Breath of Africa, was nominated for The Guardian First Book Award 2013.  Today she celebrates the launch of her new novella, I Lift Up Mine Eyes.

Welcome, Jane!

Sue, thank you for having me back on this auspicious day – you talked about family histories on my blog a few weeks ago. We writers are taught to tell of what we know, and our families are ingrained into our very beings. I’ve often said that my family is my life.

And my life is a patchwork of catching up with the past. I’ve come to writing books late because of the demands of family, but along the way have stumbled upon some extraordinary icebergs.

I only met my father a couple of times. He had an Austrian surname, which changed when he became naturalised British. I’m told that General Orde Wingate is a vague ancestor. There must be a semblance of truth, because Wingate was my father’s second name. But I’m too busy to go digging.

In the year 2000 I found a half-brother (I’ll call him Jim) in Cape Town and enjoyed supper with his family. It was weird; we started arguing with each other over a triviality, just like typical siblings. He has two younger brothers living in South Africa, and we have a half-sister from yet another mother. “Our father,” as we called him, had passed away the previous year, which unsurprisingly was news to me, and then this sister appeared out of the blue…

I wondered if Jim thought she was after an inheritance, and I quickly quelled any similar thoughts he may have had about me, the first-born (I think…).

He told me that when he was twenty-one, he went on a long car drive with our father through the South African desert from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Jim had been brought up to believe he was the eldest son. They picked up a newspaper from a wayside eating place and Jim opened it as they continued their journey. Spread across the inside pages was a glamorous photograph of a woman hanging on the arm of a film star.

“Sue C-,” said Jim. “Dad – I wonder if she’s a relative of some sort…”

Our father braked hard and pulled into the side of the road. He snatched the paper from Jim’s hand and studied it.

It turned out Sue C was a half-sister, from his second wife in what was then Rhodesia. The remainder of the journey was spent in outrage and recriminations. Jim never did get on with our father. He told me as a small boy he was made to play tennis, but in a fit of temper, smashed the wooden racket over his knee and refused point blank to carry on. Our father used to attend Wimbledon every year; I now know the source of my love of this game – it must be in my blood.

The story gets weirder, but I’m not divulging any more, as the seed of another book is germinating in my mind. Truth is indeed sometimes stranger than fiction.

People ask me how much of BREATH OF AFRICA is autobiographical. I say the story is made up, but the scenes draw from my experiences in Kenya. But a close friend pursed her mouth when I told her this.

“It’s not fiction,” she said, with a knowing look. But even she cannot know everything.
Which brings me to the present. Today - Tuesday 7th October - my second book, a novella, I LIFT UP MY EYES is launched! 

There is no hint of Africa in its pages, but there is a sense of loss and frustration and an attempt at coping with some of the hard knocks which life can throw at you. There is also love lost and found, and a life-changing situation.

Here, the characters are a fictitious conglomeration of people who may have crossed the paths of my life; but who is to say how much of the emotions are mine and those of my family?

Wow, Jane - what a fascinating story!  Thank you so much for sharing it! 


To buy Jane’s new book, click here.

Jane Bwye’s website:

Thursday 2 October 2014

WHITE LADY - A guest post and giveaway by Jessica Bell

Today I have a very special guest on my blog - the author Jessica Bell.  If you'd like the opportunity to win a free e-copy of her latest thriller, read on!


To celebrate the release of Jessica Bell’s latest novel, WHITE LADY, she is giving away an e-copy (mobi, ePub, or PDF) to the first person to correctly guess the one true statement in the three statements below. To clarify, two statements are lies, and one is true:

For the first half of the book, ...

a. Sonia never swears in the hope that she will appear more respectable.

b. Sonia never uses contractions, in the hope that she will sound more sophisticated and sane. (i.e. will not, instead of won’t)

c. Sonia tells everyone that she was born in America, and pretends to have an American accent.

What do you think? Which one is true? Write your guess in the comments, along with your email address. Comments will close in 48 hours. If no-one guesses correctly within in 48 hours, comments will stay open until someone does.

Want more chances to win? You have until October 31 to visit all the blogs where Jessica will share a different set of true and false statements on each one. Remember, each blog is open to comments for 48 hours only from the time of posting.

If you win, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to download the book.

Click HERE to see the list of blogs.


*This novel contains coarse language, violence, and sexual themes.

​Sonia yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats.

While being the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord and simultaneously dating his best mate is not ideal, she’s determined to make it work.

It does work. Until Mia, her lover’s daughter, starts exchanging saliva with her son, Mick. They plan to commit a crime behind Sonia’s back. It isn’t long before she finds out and gets involved to protect them.

But is protecting the kids really Sonia’s motive?

Click HERE to view the book trailer.

Click HERE for purchase links.

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, is the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Connect with Jessica online:

Wednesday 1 October 2014

CREATING THE CRITS - a guest post by Emma Silver

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming fellow Crooked Cat author Emma Silver to my blog.  Her latest novel, Blackbrooke III: King of Queens (the third book in her Blackbrooke trilogy) will be released on 14th October 2014.

Welcome, Emma!  Over to you...

Creating the Crits

I always wanted to write something that would scare my readers. We live in an age where very little frightens people. With the emergence of realistic video games and awesome special effects in movies, we’ve become somewhat desensitised. 

Yes, everyone’s fast to blame the hyperrealism of the media. However, I believe we’re not scared because everything has been…well, done. 

We’ve seen and read it all: ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches etc. Is there anything left? 

Blackbrooke started out as another tale of folklore. The town was inhabited by all of the above and I wrote the whole book that way. It was only when I sent it to a prominent literary agent that it evolved into what we have now. 

Although she politely turned down the thrilling opportunity to represent me, she gave me the best constructive criticism of my life. Apparently, vampires et al equals a yawn fest in young adult horror. 

I didn’t want to go back to the drawing board, but she was right. Instead I had a good long think about my fears. 

As I child, did I believe witches hid under my bed? Were werewolves lurking at the bottom of the stairs when I turned the light off behind me? 

Of course not. So, what did scare me? 

When I woke up in the middle of the night and screamed for my parents to come, I always rambled about the same thing: 


Different for every child, but every bit as scary. 

With this in mind, I created my own monsters for Blackbrooke and they became an amalgamation of everything I hated: 

Sharp teeth. Check.
Long necks. Check.
Red eyes. Check.
Hunched shoulders. Check. 

I made my own fears come to life and the reaction from the readers has been incredible. Some told me they felt genuine fear going to bed after reading the books, with others even having nightmares.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proud of terrifying my good reader folk, but I can’t say I’m not pleased I’ve managed to reawaken the fear of the monsters under the bed. 

I sometimes wonder whether I could have evoked the same reaction if the Crits were still vampires. 

I very much doubt it. 

Blackbrooke III: King of Queens is released 14th October, courtesy of Crooked Cat Publishing.

You can follow Emma on Twitter @emma_silver or head to her blog