In 2003, I went to Sierra Leone to work on a diamond project, and I visited many times over the next five years. The civil war had finished and the UN had collected the weapons, but the population was still traumatised. I visited the Tacugama Chimp Sanctuary outside Freetown several times. During one of the visits, I bought a DVD about the sanctuary and it mentioned the white chimp, Pinkie. She had lived at the sanctuary for a short while before dying of unknown causes. This has inspired me to use the sanctuary and Pinkie as characters in my latest novel, Africa Green, which follows on from Rebel Green It tells the story of Isabella, the youngest Green Daughter, who has become a journalist. I hope you will enjoy this tale of adventure, love and hope.
Getting to know me podcast
|Every week the Self Publishing Formula podcast focuses on a different indie author, and every week they ask them the same five questions about their writing process. |
– Why do you write?
– How do you write – are you a micro plotter or do you just go where the story takes you?
– Are you a full time author?
– What mistakes do you think you’ve made, and what have you got right?
– What’s your piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?
This is the interview I did for the podcast. Click on the link below to listen.
I hope you enjoy it.
|My books are now available at all retail outlets. If you prefer to use KOBO or Barnes and Noble or Apple or any of the other online bookstores, you can now get my books on all of them. Just click on the link below and chose your preferred option.|
Mary Kingsley and Pre-Order link for Rebel Green
Here is a second installment of famous women explorers you may never heard of. I’m please to say that I am on the final days of editing Rebel Green so I have put it up for pre-order: You can get it here I will be putting it up for beta reads in the near future and I would very much appreciate your opinions and sharp eyes to spot any typos. Watch this space for more info.
Mary Kingsley, the daughter of George Kingsley and Mary Bailey, and the niece of Charles Kingsley, was born in Islington in 1862. Her father qualified as a doctor and worked for the Earl of Pembroke. Both men had a love of travelling and together they produced a book of their foreign journeys, South Sea Bubbles. Her mother was an invalid, and she expected Mary to stay at home and look after her. Mary had little formal schooling but she did have access to her father’s large library of travel books.
When her father was at home Mary loved to hear his stories about life in other countries and willingly agreed to help him with his proposed book he was writing on the customs and laws of people in Africa. Although Kingsley did not consider taking his daughter with him on his travels, he gave her the task of making notes on relevant material from his large collection of books on the subject.
In 1891 Kingsley returned to England after one journey suffering from rheumatic fever. With both her parents bedridden, Mary took complete control over the running of the household. Mary even subscribed to the journal, English Mechanic, so that she could carry out repairs on their dilapidated house.
George Kingsley died in February 1892. Five weeks later her mother also passed away. Freed from her family responsibilities, and with a income of £500 a year, Mary was now able to travel. Mary decided to visit Africa to collect the material needed that would enable her to finish off the book that her father had started on the culture of the people of Africa. Mary also offered to collect tropical fish for the British Museum while she was touring the continent.
During 1893 and 1894 she visited Cabinda, the coastal enclave of Angola lying today between Congo (Kinshasa) and Congo (Brazzaville); Old Calabar in southeast Nigeria; and the island of Fernando Po, now part of Equatorial Guinea, near the Cameroon coast. Around the lower Congo River she collected specimens of beetles and freshwater fishes for the British Museum. Her adventures included a crocodile attacking her canoe and being caught in a tornado.
Kingsley returned in 1895 in order to study cannibal tribes. She travelled by canoe up the Ogowe River where she collected specimens of formerly unknown fish. Several times her canoe capsized in the river’s dangerous rapids. Mary also journeyed through dense forests infested with poisonous snakes and scorpions and wading through swamps trying to avoid the attentions of crocodiles. After meeting the cannibal Fang tribes, she climbed the 13,760 feet Mount Cameroon by a route unconquered by any other European.
News of Mary Kingsley’s adventures reached England and when she landed at Liverpool, she was greeted by journalists who wanted to interview her about her experiences. Kingsley was now famous and over the next three years she toured the country giving lectures on life in Africa. In her talks she challenged the views of the “stay at home statesmen, who think the Africans are awful savages or silly children – people who can only be dealt with on a reformatory penitentiary line.”
|Figure 1 Figure 1 Mary Kingsley sitting between Sir Claude and Lady Rose MacDonald in Calabar, 1895 (Royal Commonwealth Society Library, London).|
Mary Kingsley upset the Church of England when she criticised missionaries for trying to change the people of Africa. She defended polygamy and other aspects of African life that had shocked people living in Britain. Mary argued that a “black man is no more an undeveloped white man than a rabbit is an undeveloped hare.”
The Temperance Society was also angered by Kingsley’s defence of the alcohol trade in Africa. The African, she argued, is “by no means the drunken idiot his so-called friends, the Protestant missionaries, are anxious, as an excuse for their failure in dealing with him, to make out.”
Kingsley held conservative views on women’s emancipation. When the Daily Telegraph described her as a “New Women” she wrote a letter of complaint argued that “I did not do anything without the assistance of the superior sex.”
In a speech she made on women’s suffrage in 1897 she argued against women being given the vote in parliamentary elections. Kingsley claimed that the country already suffered from having a poorly informed House of Commons and believed that the “addition of a mass of even less well-informed women would only make matters worse.” According to Kingsley, “women are unfit for parliament and parliament is unfit for them”. However, women she believed were well informed on domestic issues and fully supported women taking part in local elections.
Kingsley first book about her experiences, Travels in West Africa (1897) was an immediate best-seller. In her second book, West African Studies (1899) she described the laws and customs of the people in Africa and explained how best they could be governed. Joseph Chamberlain, the government’s Colonial Secretary, wrote to Kingsley seeking her advice. However, Kingsley was such a controversial figure he asked her to keep their meetings secret.
Kingsley’s descriptions of the behaviour of missionaries and traders in Africa inspired the young journalist, E. D. Morel, to carry out his own research into the problem. This resulted in a series of articles entitled The Congo Scandal (1900) that eventually had an impact on government policy.
On the outbreak of the Boer War, Kingsley volunteered to work as a nurse. When the editor of the Morning Post heard she was going, he asked her to report on the war. However, her work as a nurse in Simonstown kept her fully occupied. In a letter to a friend in England, Kingsley explained how typhoid fever was daily killing four of five of her patients. She also described fellow nurses dying of the disease and added that she thought it was unlikely that she would survive. Her prediction was unfortunately accurate and she died on 3rd June, 1900. As requested just before her death, Mary Kingsley was buried at sea.
Mary Kingsley once wrote that there were only two things of which she was particularly proud in her extraordinary, though short, life as an explorer: that her scientific mentor approved of the fish she collected on her travels, and that she learned how to paddle a canoe “pace, style, steering and all” as if she were an African. As was her style, she was being far too modest. By the time she died at age 38, after having traveled alone through West Africa on and off for seven short years, she had become the century’s foremost authority on the area.
This was no small feat, given the extreme rarity of women traveling in this part of the world. In fact, many of the African tribes she studied and befriended had never seen a white person, let alone glimpsed an unmarried woman by herself. A passage in her book West Africa Studies portrays this fact best. In the book she writes of walking through the forest and encountering a group of men highly bedecked in shells, beads and other ornaments. Assuming they were a secret society (death is often the punishment for an intruder to such gatherings) she turned and fled, but was caught by one of the men. They were not, in fact, a secret society, but a party of monkey hunters on a hunt. To catch monkeys they covered themselves in decoration and sat in a clearing, waiting for the curious monkeys to come down out of the trees.
Not bound by secrecy, they did not kill Mary. Instead, they had her sit with them in the clearing. Since they thought she was the “queerest object they had personally ever seen,” they assumed the monkeys would react that way, too, and come down to see this strange sight.
This “queer” woman who had no formal education did more, in some ways, for the people of West Africa than anyone had before her. Her two handbooks, Travels in West Africa, and West African Studies, as well as her speeches and lobbying back in England promoted a new understanding and tolerance of these little understood tribes.
Just before her first trip to Africa, Mary had written in a letter to a friend that she was going to Africa to die. Seven years later, her life had changed so dramatically for the better that it is clear she no longer wanted to. But her life ended as she had lived it, tending others.
I hope you enjoy these posts. Let me know if you have any questions about them or any of my books.
Concrete Jungle is out
Armed with an MBA, geologist Sam Harris is storming the City.
But has she swapped one jungle for another?
Forging a new career was never going to be easy, and Sam Harris soon discovers she has not escaped from the culture of misogyny and corruption that blighted her field career.
When her heroic past is revealed at a mining drinks party, she finally achieves the acceptance she has always craved. But being one of the boys is not the panacea she expected. Her due diligence on a project uncovers a scam, and she is presented with the stark choice of compromising her principles to keep her new position, or exposing the truth behind the façade.
Will she finally get what she wants or was it all a mirage?
Concrete Jungle is the final book of the Sam Harris Adventures and completes the saga. It is not a standalone as it incorporates threads from all the other books. If you like strong female protagonists, international adventure and financial thrillers, and have followed the series, you’ll love Sam’s final hurrah.
No Cell Coverage
Thought you would enjoy these photos from Northern Brazil while you are waiting for Concrete Jungle. Only six weeks now and I’m struggling to finish in time. This is due to taking a work contract in Brazil to keep the wolf from the door. So if you haven’t already, please review my books and help me get more sales. I’d really appreciate the leg up.
Meanwhile, feel free to comment on the photos or ask me questions. Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year to all of you.
It’s almost time for Digging Deeper
Digging Deeper is based on my experiences in north-eastern Angola in 1998-99. We worked beside a project that was attacked by UNITA who shot some of the white managers and used others to carry their booty. The whole contract was a nightmare, especially since it was six months long with no break. The only relief as the odd Sunday football or rugby game on the solitary television, and clandestine fishing trips (forbidden for security purposes).
Sam Harris has taken the job, as I did, out of desperation for money. Like Sam, I was supposed to be based in the Capital, Luanda, but I found myself sent out to the provinces, near the UNITA base. Why didn’t I leave? Because they thought they could force me out. It became a battle of wills. I did six months, and, bonuses included, it paid for me to do an MBA. For me, it was worth it. I know it was crazy, but being a woman in that industry was always a compromise between swallowing casual sexism and the odd physical assault, and doing the job I trained for.
Digging Deeper is on Pre-Order for 31st of August. First reviews are in. Here is one I am particularly proud of:
‘Your writing (especially in Digging Deeper) HAS REACHED MY HEART, MY SOUL, AND ALL THE REST OF ME. (My spirit guides capitalized that and I agree).
Especially adorable are Pibe and Edison Jr. and the way Sam feels about them, and the way they feel about her. The Beatles were right: All You Need Is Love.
Digging Deeper is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious times a million!! It could be (and I think it should be) made into a movie.’