Never judge a book by its cover but please buy mine!

Ruth HartleyBooks, illustration, Imagination, Reading, Reviews, Storytelling, The Shaping of Water, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, The White and Black Blues, Writing, Writing Process1 Comment

Book Cover design


The cover shows a tin heart nailed to a tree with the book title "The Tin Heart Gold Mine" in gold across it

“The Tin Heart Gold Mine” by Ruth Hartley. Cover design by Terry Compton Design

Cover of The White and Black Blues by Ruth Hartley

The Shaping of Water book cover









Dear Friends and dear Readers I have great need of your help.

This year I will be publishing my new book The Love and Wisdom Crimes. Its a book that has been 53 years in the making and 20 years in the writing. Next year I will publish my memoir When I Was Bad  which by comparison is a rush job done in 3 years. I think that good book cover design is essential in the marketing of books but I need to know what you think about book covers. Please, take time to generously fill up my comments page with your opinions about what you think of my covers so far – what book covers you like – and most important of all – what attracts you to a book. Does a cover matter to a kindle or eBook or an Audible reader? I am longing to hear from you all.

My salutary experience when I looked at the books I read!

I looked at the covers of my pile of books waiting  to be read and was surprised to see that on the whole, the book covers were not necessarily all that attractive, inspiring, or even of relevance to the story I chose. What makes you choose a book?  The thing is that when books are on a shelf in a bookshop, or library, or in your home, you only see the spine!

I realised that I choose books for the following reasons:-

A good review made me choose From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi and Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red.

If I know (and love) the writers. Atwood, Carter, Lessing, Le Guin, Rushdie, Atkinson, Brink, Gordimer, Coetzee, Roth, Gappah.

If I trust the publisher on the whole – to my surprise I found a majority of Penguin and Vintage books in my random pile. I wondered if this was about my taste in books or simply the way the book market is?

The books are news stories about topical Read More and Comment …

Blood Red Moon Poem – The Lunar Eclipse 27th July, 2018

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Family, Poetry, Zambia8 Comments




On a routine night the ordinary moon swims through a shoal of cloud.

It slides upwards as blotches of water vapour in saturated air slip away eastwards.

It’s a dead ball of dirt whose dust

was kicked about by two astronauts in 1969.

Held in place by Earth’s gravitational pull, it circles our planet,

one side dark as the space behind it, the other facing me always

keeps waxing and waning again and again.


I stare back.

Eye it.

Eyes blur.

I wipe my specs.


Bright-light neighbours


A walnut tree (Juglans nigra) black-blocks my viewing.

Son in Lusaka posts a pic.

Daughter in England taps out WOW!

Drought’s end obscures the Welsh sky.

The dead red Sky stone

looks quite 3D

like the one on TV.


Time spins slowly



THE MOON FLARES momentarily

and the eclipse ends.

– please let the light that shines on me – shine on the ones I love –

Captives of the Internet, to Facebook in thrall,

The extraordinary moon shines on us all.


Photos of the lunar eclipse taken by Alessandra Troielli on a farm near Lusaka, Zambia.

Thank you, Alessandra.

I got out of bed at 5.30 am to write this poem and thought of the poets I love and admire – Pascale Petit, Brian Bilston, Elodie Olson-Coons, George Szirtes, Tanvir Bush and many others – hope the moon shone on you all!

What is an identity? How do we identify ourselves?

Ruth HartleyCreativity, Family, Human rights, identity, photography2 Comments

How do we identify ourselves?

Two men are busy installing 4 large photographs on a stone wall.

Tanvir Bush’s photographs in the courtyard of the MDA Maurbourguet

What is identity? What criteria do any of us use to identify ourselves? Is it appearance? Tribe? Work? Status? Religion? Why do we need an identity? What do we use our identity for? To belong somewhere? To exclude another or many others? What identity do we think we have in someone else’s eyes?

We are always taking photographs or having them taken of us on cameras or on our smartphones. It’s the age of the selfie.

Do these images tell the truth about us?

How would or could we know?


Identities – a photographic exhibition

A man is looking at a series of phtographs displayed outside in a courtyard

Photographs in the Quinzaine exhibition of Identities

A man is looking at a serie of photographs displayed outside on a courtyard wall

Photographs in the Quinzaine exhibition of Identities








Every year Peleyre Association at St Lanne organise a fortnight’s exhibition of photographs in three places – Maubourguet, Madiran and St Lanne. Every year the exhibition is wonderfully stimulating. The photographs can be beautiful, challenging and funny. This year’s theme of Identities is especially thought-provoking and also extraordinarily varied and this year both my daughter Tanvir Bush and Read More and Comment …

The casual power of good storytelling in Zambia

Ruth HartleyPower, Writing, Zambia2 Comments

A Casualty of Power by Mukuka Chipanta

A Casualty of Power is an excellent action story that I simply couldn’t put down. It is well told and well structured and so engaging that you have to read to the end. It’s published by Weaver Books, Zimbabwe and Gadsden Publishers, Zambia 2016, 206 pages, ISBN: 978-1-77922-297-8

The hero’s plight

My heart was wrenched by the plight of the hero, Hamoonga Moya, who is a naive and honest young man with a gentle disposition, forced by circumstances of poverty, and a chance meeting with a attractive, feisty young businesswoman into a devastating encounter with a brutal politician. Read More and Comment …

Flying backwards to yesterday and arriving in tomorrow’s world

Ruth HartleyArt, Books, Creativity, The Shaping of Water, ZambiaLeave a Comment

Flying backwards to yesterday

In the forground a young blond girl cuddles a rabbit. Behind her are English cows in a field. Behind that are 3 different herds of African cattle returning home to their kraals at sunset.

‘Other Sunsets’ an oil painting by Ruth Hartley in the Lechwe collection



Was I flying backwards into a nostalgic and unreal fantasy about a past life? Even now Zambia feels like home to me, the place closest to my heart where I feel most deeply rooted. I lived in Zambia for 22 years and my dream had always been to have a plot of land, build a cottage on it and have a garden of flowers and vegetables, birds and insects, where I would always  live.



A time of change, of leaving and of returning

The Food Lovers Market at one of the big shopping malls in Lusaka

When I left Zambia in the 90s it was starting to recover after a time of political upheaval and change. There was major deforestation around the city. Many indigenous trees were being cut down for firewood so that people without electricity could cook food. I knew Zambia would be a very different place today. Lusaka, the capital city had grown enormously. I knew there were new shopping malls, offices, roads, houses and suburbs. It was a long flight from London but when I finally escaped from the airport I found myself unexpectedly in a garden city.



Lusaka – the garden city

A women sits under a tree with potted plants for sale in front of her

Selling plants at the Dutch Reform Church market in Lusaka

Zambians have embraced gardening, my friend Guida, tells me. I am stunned by how lovely the city looks. It is the end of the rainy season and so it is green and lush. Walled gardens spill out generously onto the road verges. The trees are huge and the varieties of flowers and plants are beautiful and extraordinary. I shake my head over the water bills that must be paid. Even in the poorer areas people are growing and selling plants and flowers. The house where I am staying has lemons, mangoes, grapes, raspberries, granadillas, guavas and roses. Such abundance fills my heart with joy.




Zambia – a country of artists

Cynthis zukas gestures at a painting in the Lechwe Trust Gallery. Wiulliam Miko is on the left

Cynthia Zukas explains the choice of art for the Lechwe Trust

A group of Zambian students sittin in the Lechwe Gallery

Art students from the Zambia Open University and Evelyn Hone College



When I lived in Zambia, I worked with artists who inspired me by their creativity and commitment to making art. Now on my return I am taken by Cynthia Zukas, a dear friend with whom I worked, to see the brand new Lechwe Trust Art Gallery. The gallery is the culmination of years of work and dedication by her. It is a treasure house of Zambian art kept for the nation. I meet old friends and new young artists, many busy working in the latest, new media. Zambian art and artists are alive and well and their work is as fertile and productive as the gardens of Lusaka. I also visit Gallery 37D and the stART Foundation run by Claire Chan. I am blown away by the art I see. Each gallery is also surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Arriving in tomorrow’s world

Cordyla Africana or wild mango in the forest on the old race track in the Lusaka Show Ground

Ruth with her new granddaughter












There are new bookshops in Lusaka. In Grey Matter I find a copy of my novel The Shaping of Water – that is thrilling – thank you Gadsden Publishers. I visit the old race course in the middle of Lusaka. It is now a Forest Reserve and in it I find 2 wild mangoes Cordyla Africana I planted 24 years ago. They are tall and doing well. All around me in Zambia, I see industrious, creative, kind and positive people working for a a better future for their children. Zambia is a country of energy and hope. I am here on a special visit to my family and I hold in my arms that small miracle – the blessing of my new grand-daughter. Today I have arrived in tomorrow’s world and I know that with with. these people in it, it will be a good and happy one.

Ruth holds up a copy of her novel The Shaping of Water which was on display in the Grey Matter bookshop