Meet author Jeff Gardiner

Today, I'm delighted to welcome multi-published author, Jeff Gardiner, who is currently celebrating the release of his latest novel, Pica, released through Accent Press.

Over to you, Jeff!

PICA is the first in a trilogy that explores our relationship with the natural world, and how we can rediscover its ancient magic and secrets. It touches on environmental issues and has a modern setting. I’m going to give a little insight into a few of the main characters – hopefully avoiding major plot-spoilers.
  • Luke is a teenage boy who hates being dragged out for walks in the countryside by his enthusiastic parents. They enjoy pointing out the ‘fascinating’ flora and fauna. He prefers computer games or shooting animals and birds with his air pistol. Luke begins as a stroppy and cynical teenager who finds anything that doesn’t involve a screen or violence ‘boring’. School is a mere treadmill for him, and he’s become disaffected, with no real aim in life. Until Guy turns up…
  • Guy is the enigmatic ‘outsider’. He’s fostered and new to Luke’s school. His unkempt appearance and unusual features make him an immediate target for bullying. But Luke soon recognises that Guy’s differences make him interesting. Guy seems to have a power to attract wild creatures that allow him to handle them. He shows Luke some of the wonders happening around us every day, and then he begins to let Luke in on some of the more extraordinary and fantastical secrets of nature.
  • A magpie (Latin name: Pica pica) is persistently knocking on Luke’s bedroom window, and however much the boy scares it away, the bird returns. He keeps seeing magpies. Is it the same one? Are they ganging up on him? Is it trying to communicate with him? One day he lets it in.
  • Connor and Simon are annoyed that their so-called friend seems to have snubbed them for Guy – the weirdo. They begin to suspect that something strange is going on, and spread rumours that Luke and Guy are gay. This gets round school quickly and leads to homophobic cyber-bullying.
  • Guy mentions his real mother who is too ill to look after him. He wants Luke to help him find her, and yet seems to have no idea where she is.



Luke is bunking school and decides to explore an overgrown roundabout near his home, thick with trees and thickets, which he imagines must be a great for a den or hiding-place. In the middle is a little clearing containing a surprise…
There – just a few inches in front of me – another face peered straight back into mine with cold blue eyes in a curious expression. I recognised it immediately. Guy.
I felt his hot breath. It smelt stale and its reek clung to the insides of my nostrils. But still I couldn’t move. His black hair fell in matted curls around his eyes and his teeth were yellow and jagged. To my horror he leaned in until his nose touched my cheek. And then he sniffed me. I swear it. He sniffed me! Like he was some kind of dog testing to see if I was friend or foe. His eyes scanned my entire face; covered the whole area whilst staying only a few centimetres from my skin. And then he suddenly pulled his head away from me and scampered back to the middle of the glade now filled with rabbits.
It seemed Guy saw me as no threat. Just like the first rabbit. He didn’t give me a second look after the very close inspection. Instead I watched him with mounting curiosity. What the hell was he doing in here? How had he got there without me hearing him?
My fascination grew as Guy fell over playfully onto the grass, miraculously without crushing any rabbits which now swarmed over what floor-space there was. He lay on his back and the rabbits came to him. They clambered on top of him; they nuzzled his hands and face; they hopped out the way happily when he shifted or rolled over. He played with them as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They appeared to respond to his every movement and sound. The rabbits crowded the space in their hundreds and yet all their movements were synchronised like liquid, flowing this way then that.
I watched this strange boy interacting with the rabbits until I wondered why the hell I was still there. Why was I so intent on watching this weirdo frolicking about? Had I suddenly turned into some kind of wimp who loved fluffy bunnies? Or worse ... watching boys roll around in the grass? Hell! What was happening to me?
One part of me wanted to leap forward and punch this saddo really hard in the face. Maybe I could stomp on a few rabbits too for good measure. Watch their guts and brains ooze out under my shoe, whose soles I could then wipe clean on Guy’s shirt.
What stopped me was the other part of me which insisted that this boy meant me no harm and didn’t deserve such treatment. In fact, there was something entirely interesting and mysterious about him. His incredibly strange behaviour was both intriguing and embarrassing – at the same time. Should I hate someone just because they were weird? Certainly, if the others at school knew my parents were friends of his I’d never hear the end of it and might just as well commit suicide. It would surely be social suicide to actually hang out with him.
Without really thinking it through I stepped out and into the clearing, but as I did so, all the nearby rabbits skittered away. I didn’t have the guts or even the desire to stamp on them. Instead I just found a place to stand, and waited.
Guy jumped up with impressive agility and walked boldly up to me. His eyes darted around as if checking different parts of me randomly before putting all the images together in his mind. I was grateful he didn’t sniff me again, but his lips definitely twitched into a smile. It occurred to me that he might fancy me and was ‘checking me out’.
Then he put out a hand – more in greeting than in intimacy. I offered mine cautiously and they gripped each other. His skin felt surprisingly gnarled and hard. I pulled my hand away quickly and began to retreat. He didn’t react, but just watched me with a look of curiosity as I backed off.
Deciding not to look back again, I shoulder-barged my way through the thicket in a direct line. It wasn’t the same way I had entered, but I just wanted to find my way outside as quickly as possible. I burst through the final section of undergrowth, feeling something scratch my cheek as I found myself back on the grassy edge, surrounded by speeding cars.


Jeff Gardiner is the author of four novels (Pica, Igboland, Myopia, Treading On Dreams), a collection of short stories, and a work of non-fiction. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and websites.

Pica is the first in the Gaia trilogy – a fantasy of transformation and ancient magic, which Michael Moorcock described as “An engrossing and original story, beautifully told. Wonderful!”

“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)

For more information, please see his website at and his blog:

I'm chatting about history with author Jennifer C Wilson

Today, I'm chatting about history with fellow Crooked Cat, Jennifer C Wilson (author of the intriguing and highly entertaining Kindred Spirits: Tower of London).

Come on over and join us on Jennifer's Blog! We'll see you there... :-)

Explore the Tower of London with author Jennifer C Wilson

Today, I'm delighted to welcome author Jennifer C Wilson. Her recent release, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, will make you giggle. Follow the ghosts of King Richard III, and Tudor queens Katherine Howard and Anne Boleyn as Richard as they while away the nights – and the days – at the Tower of London! But Richard is on a quest...

Over to Jennifer...

Hi Cathie, thanks for being so kind as to invite me onto your blog today.

If we’re honest, it’s hard to resist “targeted overhearing” when we come across interesting conversations (Ok, yes, I mean eaves-dropping!). But what about historical eaves-dropping? What was really said behind closed doors? Given that we clearly can’t know for certain, we may as well be a little creative… And going even further, adding the idea of chatty (and chatting) ghosts, the possibilities are almost endless.

Once I’d had the niggling idea of Richard III and Anne Boleyn bonding in a mutual dislike of Henry Tudors, the voices of the Tower of London just wouldn’t stop coming. Richard’s brother, Anne’s brother, Katherine Howard, Jane Boleyn – all fascinating characters who just wouldn’t stop whispering.

So I let them.

There are so many tales in and around the Tower, the hardest part was picking which to follow. Even now, I’m reluctant to read too much about the Tower, for fear of finding somebody else who I wish I’d included. Maybe one day I’ll pay some others a bit more attention.

For now though, I hope you enjoy meeting the ones which came along for a chat this time. And, until Thursday 4th February, it is available for just 99p/c. Happy ghost hunting!

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London:

A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.

With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave? But foremost – will the young Plantagenet Princes join them?

About Jennifer Wilson:

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015.

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