Widdershins by Helen Steadman

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My enormous thanks to Natalie Clark at Impress Books for an advanced reader copy of Widdershins by Helen Steadman in return for an honest review.

Widdershins will be published in paperback on 1st July 2017 and is available for pre-order here.

Widdershins

widdershins1

‘Did all women have something of the witch about them?’

Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane will soon learn that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world.

From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witch-finder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft.

Inspired by true events, ‘Widdershins’ tells the story of the women who were persecuted and the men who condemned them.

My Review of Widdershins

Jane learns the ways of natural healing from her mother. John is an orphan affected by his bad luck. Each is a product of their time.

Widdershins is absolutely brilliant. Read it.

I’m not sure I can bring myself to say anything else, so wonderful was this story, but I’ll try.

Set in the mid seventeenth century, Widdershins paints the most vivid and disturbing portrait of the times. Helen Steadman shows humanity (or frequently the lack of it) nature, superstition, the church and authority, relationships and life at all levels in a totally absorbing and disturbing read. On occasion I could hardly bear to continue and I kept stopping to put down the book and recover my composure before I read the next part so enraged was I by the attitudes displayed. I had a good idea intellectually about the era and how women were treated, but I’ve never experienced that knowledge so viscerally and emotionally as I did when reading Widdershins.

The characters of Meg, John, Jane, Tom, Annie et al were described so wonderfully through their speech and actions that they came alive as I read. I utterly loathed John but understood him completely so that alongside my hatred, Helen Steadman made me feel sorry for him too. That is masterful writing. I don’t want to reveal any of the plot for fear of spoiling the read for others but there were elements in Jane’s story that had me exclaiming aloud and giving her advice until my husband thought I’d gone quite crazy.

Widdershins is inspired by actual events but this is no dry retelling of our history. Helen Steadman is as much a witch in her spellbinding ability to enthral the reader as any of those in the story. I’m not usually overly fond of dual narratives but the stories of Jane and John absorbed me entirely and as their lives began to converge my heart genuinely thumped louder. Widdershins is historical fiction at its best, but it’s also a roller coaster read of emotion and thrills too.

I really like the way Widdershins is divided into three sections, perhaps representing the superstitious number three and its significance in the holy trinity and folklore that underpin the story.

However, an aspect that I think really took Widdershins from a very good read to an outstanding one for me was the overall quality of the prose. There’s a cracking plot, historical accuracy, naturalistic dialogue befitting the era and wonderful characterisation, but best of all is the beauty and rawness of the language. The natural descriptions took me back to my childhood and I felt there wasn’t a word out of place. I was there with Jane picking elder flowers for example.

Initially I wasn’t especially looking forward to reading Widdershins as I thought it might be dry and ‘worthy’. Instead I discovered a vivid and dynamic story that transported me back in time it and cannot recommend Widdershins highly enough.

About Helen Steadman

helen steadman

Helen Steadman lives in the foothills of the North Pennines, and she particularly enjoys researching and writing about the history of the north east of England. Following her MA in creative writing at Manchester Met, Helen is now completing a PhD in English at the University of Aberdeen. When she’s not studying or writing, Helen critiques, edits and proofreads other writers’ work, and she is a professional member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.

You can follow Helen on Twitter and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat by Coral Rumble and illustrated by Charlotte Cooke

owl & pussycat

It gives me great pleasure to support Faye Rogers in bringing you The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat by Coral Rumble today. Published on 4th April 2017 by Wacky Bee Books, this children’s story is available for purchase here.

There’s more about The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat on Goodreads.

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat

owl & pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea, in a box on the living room floor. They sailed away for a year and a day and these are the things that they saw… Join two curious children on a quirky adventure, loosely based on the classic Edward Lear poem, The Owl and the Pussycat​.​

My Review of The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat

Based on Lear’s The Owl and the PussycatThe Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat is a delightful modern take on the poem.

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat takes very little time to read, but the text rhymes well and provides some lovely new vocabulary for young children with words such as ‘dangling’ and ‘jangling’. Despite the textual brevity, I can see hours of fun and educational value in this book. it’s not just the main text that has wit and rhyme, but the small touches that reward extra time spent in reading the story are lovely. The fact the boat, with a nod to Lear, is called the ‘Petit Pois’, the passport stamps (especially for Pirate Cove) and the wanted poster for the seagull all add layers of detail and language that appeals to adults and children alike.

I love the focus on nature as so many children live in inner city environments and there is so much joy in the discovering new creatures like the swordfish, puffin and lobster. The way in which the little boy wears glasses is a real benefit to those with children struggling with sight early on and I liked the fact the two children are dressing up and using their imaginations as they ‘sail’ away in their cardboard box.

However, it is the wonderful illustrations that give verve to the book and bring the text to glorious life. They are simply glorious. I also think they add to the numeracy too, perhaps counting the audience members at the flute concert, or the number of times the naughty seagull appears.

In The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat both text and illustration combine to make a wonderful read that children of all ages can enjoy. It’s a really lovely book.

About Author Coral Rumble

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I have worked as a poet and performer for many years and I’m proud to have my work featured in Favourite Poets (Hodder). I have three published poetry collections of my own and have contributed to more than 150 anthologies. I am also one of the writers of the popular Cbeebies programmes ‘Poetry Pie’ and ‘The Rhyme Rocket’. I have given workshops in some fairly unusual venues as well…the grandest of which being Buckingham Palace!

You can find out more about Coral on her website.

About Illustrator Charlotte Cooke

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I was thrilled and proud when my picture book The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat was highly commended for the Macmillan Children’s Prize in 2010. Since then I have gone on to illustrate many other picture books and I enjoy making the occasional card too. When I’m not in my studio I’m usually outside running or playing referee to my two kids.

You can follow Charlotte on Twitter and visit her website.

There’s more about and from Coral and Charlotte with these other bloggers:

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Friendship: A Guest Post by Lucie Wheeler, Author of The First Time Mums’ Club

First Time Mums Club cover

I love hosting new to me authors, and it gives me great pleasure to welcome Lucie Wheeler to Linda’s Book Bag today to help celebrate her lovely new book, The First Time Mums’ Club. Lucie has written a smashing post about friendship which is at the heart of The First Time Mums’ Club.

The First Time Mums’ Club was published by Harper Impulse on 5th May 2017 and is available for e-book purchase and paperback pre-order here.

The First Time Mums’ Club

First Time Mums Club cover

Meet Pippa…

After years of trying and a failed IVF attempt, Pippa is thrilled to see two little lines appear on a pregnancy test. Finally a precious baby to call her own. This is all Pippa has ever wanted…if only husband Jason could show just a little excitement.

Imogen…

A baby is the icing on the cake for Imogen and Alice – proof that their love for each other can overcome any obstacle. But when Imogen starts receiving malicious texts, it’s clear that not everyone is thrilled about the girls’ good news.

And Ellie…

A drunken one-night stand and Ellie’s life is ruined! Pregnant, jobless and the relationship with her best friend, Chris, over- forever. Because Chris just happens to be the father of Ellie’s baby…and potentially the love of her life!

For these first time mums the road to motherhood is bumpier than most!

Friendship

A Guest Post by Lucie Wheeler

I’ll be there for you….

I love the saying that “friends are the family we choose ourselves”. I even have a plaque …

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Friendship was always a crucial element that I wanted to include in my writing. All the stories I write, involve friendship on a multitude of different levels. And friendship plays a key role in The First Time Mums’ Club with Ellie, Pippa, Imogen and Zoe forming an amazing friendship bond.

My friends are there to hold me when I am sad, congratulate me when I achieve, laugh with me when I am silly and kick me into shape when I go off the rails. I honestly do not know what I would do without them in my life. And I think it is important to have different groups of friends too. I have a number of groups of friends who help me in all sorts of different ways:

The Romaniacs

   Romaniacs

These girls are my lifeline in writing and a lot of the time, personally too. They are always there to push me harder to achieve what I want to achieve, career wise. They are my shoulder of support, my inspiration and my sisters. I class each and every one of these lovely ladies as my family. Thank you Celia, Laura, Catherine, Sue, Vanessa, Debbie and Jan.

My long term friends

Kayleigh

Kayleigh: she’s my longest best friend. We have known each other since we were toddlers and she has been my rock. My daughter calls her ‘auntie Kayleigh’ and she really does hold a special place in my heart. She has been the most stable thing in my life prior to having my daughter and I know she will be my best friend forever. She is one of those people who has so many friends and is always socialising with someone – and I can understand why, because she knows how to be a great friend. I am very lucky to have her in my life. She holds an element of Zoe’s social side and, like Zoe, Kayleigh is the type of person that people feel able to open up to and go to for advice.

She gets married this year too and I am honoured to have been asked to be her Maid of Honour!

Tarnya: I have known Tarnya since we were at college doing our Performing Arts Diploma. Tarnya has always been there for me, through thick and thin, and I know she always has my back. Regardless of whether I am right or wrong in a situation, Tarnya is the girl that will be at the front, fighting my corner and then asking me afterwards what actually happened! Her unwavering loyalty is amazing. She has an element of Ellie in her!

Hannah: An incredibly special human being. We have been friends for about 8 years and I know she is going to be in my life forever. She is the weirdest person I know! Never before have I met someone so crazy, yet sane. So full on, yet passionate. So honest, yet supportive. Hannah will tell me if I have done something wrong, but she will be by my side to put it right again. She keeps my feet on the ground but equally, pushes me to fly. She makes me feel like part of her family. We go holiday with Hannah and her children at the end of this month and I am SUPER excited. Hannah has Pippa’s caring side and Imogen’s love for children. If I owned a nursery, Hannah would be my first employee because her love for children and making them laugh is incredible. She also makes me laugh – a lot!

My university friends

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I knew it would take a lot of juggling going to university and I resigned myself to that fact that I wasn’t there to make friends! How wrong I was. I’m very lucky that my year group, as a whole, are fantastic and we all get on so well. Naturally, we do have our little close friendship groups within the year but I honestly feel like all of them are my friends and I could walk in and sit with any of them and not feel uneasy. I do have my close friends though and so I would like to shout out to Leanne, Abi and Alex for always being there for me and helping to keep me sane! Also special thanks to Claire, Ben, Louise, Esther, Katie and Hannah for giving me the laughs needed to get through a degree. I know I have made some friends for life.

My virtual friends

Well, this group of people play a massive part in my everyday sanity. I am very lucky to have such a wonderful group of online friends. Most of these online friends are authors, agents, editors and bloggers. And each and every one of them play a huge part in my everyday life. I couldn’t possibly name everyone but I just want you to know that you are all wonderful people. I wish I could post photos of you all.

About Lucie Wheeler

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Lucie Wheeler lives in Essex with her husband and daughter, and her English Bull Terrier, Dame, who loves to sit under Lucie’s desk as she writes and keep her feet warm. Never one to sit still, Lucie always has lots going on in her life. Currently, she’s writing her novels alongside studying for a degree. She is also one of The Romaniacs.
Lucie loves reading, spending time with friends and eating chocolate – when she gets to do all three, she’s a very happy lady!

You can follow Lucie on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

First Time Mums Club

A Few of My Favourite Things: A Guest Post by Jane Lovering, Author of Can’t Buy Me Love

Can't buy me love

I’m delighted to be helping to celebrate the paperback publication of Can’t Buy My Love by Jane Lovering.

Published by ChocLit on 9th May 2017, Can’t Buy Me Love is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here. To celebrate and in keeping with the title, I asked Jane about her favourite (free) things and luckily she agreed to tell me!

Can’t Buy Me Love

Can't buy me love

Is it all too good to be true?

When Willow runs into her old university crush, Luke, she’s a new woman with a new look – not to mention a little bit more cash after a rather substantial inheritance. Could she be lucky enough to score a fortune and her dream man at the same time?

Then Willow meets Cal; a computer geek with a slightly odd sense of humour. They get on like a house on fire – although she soon realises that there is far more to her unassuming new friend than meets the eye …

But money doesn’t always bring happiness, and Willow finds herself struggling to know who to trust. Are the new people in her life there because they care – or is there another reason?

These are a few of my favourite (free) things …

A Guest Post by Jane Lovering

Can’t Buy Me Love by Jane Lovering is out now in paperback and, to celebrate, Jane is sharing her three favourite things … that are free!

  1. Walking my dogs.  Well, I say ‘walking’, it’s more of a controlled sprint; my young dog likes to run everywhere and, because she’s a Patterdale, she has to be prevented from chasing and/or attacking things.  So walks can be a little bit fraught at times.  But, because I live in the most beautiful part of the country (sorry, might be a bit biased), there are lots of places to go, beaches, moorland, open countryside …  And, because I live in the wilds, I don’t even need to get into the car to be able to walk for miles across stunning scenery.  Do I sound smug? I don’t mean to.
  2. I am a huge fan of my bed.  Left to my own devices, I doubt I’d leave it, except for the essentials. It’s big and cosy and I have two duvets and an electric blanket (see above, re living in the wilds, which means big, cold house) and a big pile of books that make me feel guilty on a daily basis.  There’s nothing like climbing into a big, warm bed after a busy day and curling up under forty layers of … actually, I have no idea what my duvets are made of, but they are snuggly so I don’t care … and sleeping for nine or ten hours.  This may seem like an unnecessary amount of sleep, but I had five children, so I’m owed about twelve years of sleep backlog, which I am making up.  And then I wake up to sheep and birdsong, and a Patterdale threatening the milkman.
  3. There is nothing in the world quite so much fun as a really good giggle.  Whether it’s laughing with friends or watching something alone on TV and having a good snort, laughing just makes me feel generally that the world is an all right sort of place. So, whether it’s an episode of iZombie (which I adore, it’s not as scary as it sounds) or re-reading a Terry Pratchett novel, or just watching the cat fall in the pond (again, you’d have thought she’d have learned by now), I really enjoy laughing.  Sometimes I just laugh randomly, if I have an amusing thought, which I am coming to realise makes me look like a mad old woman, but, well, maybe that’s no so far from the truth!

About Jane Lovering

Jane Lovering

Jane was, presumably, born, although everyone concerned denies all knowledge. However there is evidence that her early years were spent in Devon (she can still talk like a pirate under the right conditions) and of her subsequent removal to Yorkshire under a sack and sedation.

She now lives in North Yorkshire, where she writes romantic comedies and labours under the tragic misapprehension that Johnny Depp is coming for her any day now.

Jane’s likes include marshmallows, the smell of cucumbers and the understairs cupboard, words beginning with B, and Doctor Who. She writes with her laptop balanced on her knees whilst lying on her bed, and her children have been brought up to believe that real food has a high carbon content. And a kind of amorphous shape.

You can follow Jane on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

Waste Paper: A Guest Post by Sheila Newberry, Author of The Punch and Judy Girl

Punch and Judy Girl cover

I’m so pleased to be featuring The Punch and Judy Girl by Sheila Newberry on Linda’s Book Bag. Sheila has kindly written a guest post all about how she began as a writer that I’m delighted to share with you today.

Published on 4th May 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre, The Punch and Judy Girl is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

The Punch and Judy Girl

Punch and Judy Girl cover

CAUGHT BETWEEN FAMILY AND DUTY – CAN SHE FOLLOW HER DREAM?

Suffolk, 1925.

After the death of her father, a much-loved Punch and Judy man, May Moon packs her bags and moves to the seaside in the hope of continuing his legacy.

Already tasked with looking after her younger sister, May little imagines her summer will grow tougher still. Her long absent mother has finally returned – and with an agenda all of her own.

But as May struggles to balance her family’s competing demands – and honour her father’s legacy – she’s surprised to discover her passion for performing grows ever stronger.

As the world around her begins to change, might she finally be able to find a dream of her own?

Waste Paper

A Guest Post by Sheila Newberry

A few years after the end of the war, we girls at grammar school who were about to launch ourselves into the world of work were questioned about our choice of future careers.  Most girls wanted to be teachers or nurses, one a scientist, all choices which were greeted with approval. When it was my turn, I blushed and said simply  “I want to be a writer…”  A pause, then came the answer:  “But Sheila, don’t you know there is a shortage of paper?”  I have been conscious of that ever since…

I learned to read and write at three years old, but my mother said I was telling stories to myself in my cot.  She and Dad used to listen outside the door.  I guess it was my way of getting off to sleep. I was a premature baby, almost born in an Austin 7 en route to Suffolk where Mum was going to care for her sister who had just had a baby herself!  She made it to the top step of the stairs at Auntie’s house and I decided to put in an appearance!  I was bright yellow with jaundice and baptised hurriedly.

When I was seven I entertained the school on a Friday afternoon in the village hall to a long-running saga about a black-eyed pirate called Bill.  I made it up as I went along and was so absorbed in the story I wasn’t self-conscious, until the hall caretaker told my aunt (with whom we stayed at times during the war, after being bombed out) how he put down his bucket and mop, and like my parents, “listened outside the door.”  Then I felt too shy to continue.  However, I was writing all the time.  Shortage of paper then indeed:  kind friends cut the flyleaves from old books for my use!  I wrote my first “book” before I was ten, in purple ink, all sixty pages of it, probably purple prose as well!

Later, when I was fifteen, I won an essay prize.  The subject was Waste Paper, just up my street.  I was an avid collector, especially of ancient comics, though my mother pointed out to me that there wasn’t much point in replying to the reader who wanted a penfriend, as “she must be thirty by now!”  I nearly didn’t enter this inter-schools competition set up by the local paper, because I had dashed off pages in my usual awful scrawl, “You let your pen run away with you,” as Dad said. The Head mistress appeared with my script and said:  “The deadline is tomorrow.  Stay after school and rewrite this with no blots!”  Reluctantly, I did, and my form tutor kindly delivered my effort by hand.  I thought no more of it until one morning I was puzzled by girls coming up to me, and saying “Well done!”

I had come first out of 3,000 entries.  I was embarrassed because the Head Girl had come second….  Years later, my old Head Teacher wrote to me, “You have a gift, Sheila, I do hope you use it!”  Well, I try, I really do, Miss C.

I married young and John and I brought up our five boys and four girls on a smallholding in the Weald of Kent.  The house was in a poor state of repair, we had mice under the floorboards and bats in the loft, but we loved it all.  We had numerous pets (as well as the “pests”) – I never stopped writing, and the children were a great inspiration!  I wrote articles on family life for magazines, and short stories for the American bible-belt for children.  With the welcome dollars we purchased a large portable swimming pool.  The children all learned to swim in it, but all I could do was float in an old tyre with the current baby on my lap!

I was also village correspondent while we lived in that village. Emboldened, I began to write romantic short stories, set in the past, and had wonderful feedback from readers. My editor told me I should write books, “because we all want to know what happened next!”  So I did.

I will go on writing, I hope, until I drop. I am writing the biography of my great-grandmother Emma, a story-teller herself, and a remarkable woman.  I have reached 1862 right now – it was entitled Nelly Has Made You a Chocolate Cake, but is now The Forget-Me-Not Girl. There are many more stories to write – and thank you for reading this!

(And thank you Sheila for sharing this story with us!)

About Sheila Newberry

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Sheila Newberry was born in Suffolk and spent a lot of time there both before and during the war. She wrote her first ‘book’ before she was ten – all sixty pages of it – in purple ink. Her family has certainly been her inspiration and she has been published most of her adult life. She spent forty years living in Kent with her husband John on a smallholding, and has nine children and twenty-two lively grandchildren. They retired back to Suffolk where Sheila still lives today.

All of Sheila’s books are available here.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon

The last piece of my heart

I don’t actually know which lovely member of Books and the City @TeamBATC for Simon and Schuster sent me a copy of The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon, but whoever it was – thank you!

I was fortunate to meet Paige Toon a year or so ago at a blogger event but I have never read one of her books before. What a fool I’ve been to leave it so long!

The Last Piece of My Heart will be published by Simon and Schuster on 18th May 2017 and is available for pre-order on Amazon paperback, Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Waterstones, WHSmith, Kobo and Google Play.

The Last Piece of My Heart

The last piece of my heart

When life feels like a puzzle, sometimes it’s the small pieces that make up the bigger picture… Join Bridget on a journey to put her world back together.

A successful travel journalist, Bridget has ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog about the missing pieces of her heart into a book. But after a spate of rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition.

Nicole Dupré died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel. Tasked with finishing the book, Bridget is thankful to have her foot in the publishing door, even if it means relocating to Cornwall for the summer and answering to Nicole’s grieving husband, Charlie…

My Review of The Last Piece of My Heart

Bridget needs to write a new book. The trouble is, it’s not necessarily the one she want to write.

I cannot believe it has taken me so long to read Paige Toon. I have half a dozen of her books on my shelves but have never actually got round to reading anything before today. And as I write this review I mean one day. I started reading The Last Piece of My Heart this morning and simply couldn’t put it down. I read through my lunch and dinner and all the other things I should have been doing because from the very first word I was totally invested in what happened to Bridget and I was desperate to know what would happen.

Unashamedly chick-lit in genre, The Last Piece of My Heart represents the very, very best writing of its kind. It is an effortless read that develops emotion so skilfully that it is impossible not to be caught up in the story. Yes, I was expecting a happy ever after ending (and you’ll have to read it for yourself to see if I got one), yes I expected a hunky man as the male protagonist and Charlie doesn’t disappoint, but there’s so much more to this writing than the simple formulaic construction I was expecting.

Firstly, I absolutely loved all the characters, especially Bridget and Charlie, and even those whom I also disliked in the story I appreciated as well defined human beings . It says something that I found baby April a real delight to read about. I’m not maternal and I usually loathe the representation of children in fiction but I felt the balance here was perfect; realistic and unsentimental so that April’s presence enhanced the reading experience for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed the insight into how writers conduct their research and felt Paige Toon’s ability to create a sense of place, be it Cornwall, Thailand or the interior of the camper van Hermie, was very finely wrought so that I could imagine all the settings in my mind’s eye. The playlist of music added an extra dimension to this effect too.

Alongside the elements I was hoping to find was a treasure chest of emotion, a vivid picture of love and grief and a hugely entertaining and enjoyable story that drew me in and captivated me. I absolutely loved reading The Last Piece of My Heart and recommend it wholeheartedly to those looking for the perfect summer read.

About Paige Toon

paige toon

Paige Toon was born in 1975 and grew up between England, Australia and America, following her racing driver father around the globe. A philosophy graduate, she worked at teen, film and women’s magazines, before ending up at Heat magazine as Reviews Editor.

You can follow Paige on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

The Challenges of Writing A Sequel, A Guest Post by Anne Coates, Author of Death’s Silent Judgement

Death's Silent Judgement

I’m delighted to welcome Anne Coates back to Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate her latest novel Death’s Silent Judgement. I’ve met Anne on a number of occasions and she’s utterly lovely. Previously, Anne kindly wrote a super post for me on the influence of reading on writing that you can find here.

Death’s Silent Judgement is book two in the Hannah Weybridge thriller series and is the sequel to Dancers in the Wind.  Published by Urbane Publications, today, 11th May 2017, Death’s Silent Judgement is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here or via the publisher here.

Death’s Silent Judgement

Death's Silent Judgement

Death’s Silent Judgement is the thrilling sequel to Dancers in the Wind, and continues the gripping series starring London-based investigative journalist Hannah Weybridge.

Following the deadly events of Dancers in the Wind, freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is thrown into the heart of a horrific murder investigation when a friend, Liz Rayman, is found with her throat slashed at her dental practice.

With few clues to the apparently motiveless crime Hannah throws herself into discovering the reason for her friend’s brutal murder, and is determined to unmask the killer. But before long Hannah’s investigations place her in mortal danger, her hunt for the truth placing her in the path of a remorseless killer…

The series is very much in the best traditions of British women crime writers such as Lynda La Plante and Martina Cole.

Three Things That Were Difficult

About Writing A Sequel

A Guest Post by Anne Coates

Only three? I thought when Linda gave me this brief.  Sometimes just getting words on to the page was challenging enough! However I did find that, after a very skeletal first draft, the narrative created its own momentum and the characters led me by the nose or kicked me in the rear.

When I started writing Death’s Silent Judgement, I had no idea where it was going. For me – and Hannah – it was a journey into the unknown. I’m definitely not someone who plans each chapter and knows how the novel ends. So in one way I felt free to explore characters and themes with few restrictions – except that some of the characters, apart from Hannah, had appeared in the first book and so they had their own history to be accommodated.

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One of the challenges I had was making sure the timeline worked as Hannah’s life continued. In Dancers in the Wind, Liz Rayman is mentioned as working for a charity abroad and being away for the birth of Hannah’s daughter. In the first book I had used the name of a well-known medical charity but at proof stage I was able to change this to a fictitious name as, by then, I knew there were serious problems at the outpost where Liz had been working. In fact the finished manuscript of Death’s Silent Judgement was sent to Urbane Publications two weeks before Dancers in the Wind was published in October last year so there was little room for manoeuvre.

Initially, Death’s Silent Judgement, began further into the future but then I decided that wasn’t working as too much would have to be explained about what had happened in the interim. I moved the setting back in time but then I also had to change what characters were wearing as we were in a different season. This also affected which characters could be where – I’d had Linda going to be with Hannah after she discovered Liz’s murder but moving the timeline back meant she had just had a baby and wouldn’t be available!

I also had to ensure that any references to what had happened in book one would be understood by readers who may be starting at book two. I was blessed with two readers who checked this for me. One who’d been a reader for Dancers in the Wind and one who was coming new to the series. Fortunately they both thought that Death’s Silent Judgement worked well as a sequel and as a stand-alone.

Parts of the back-story could be explained quite naturally in dialogue and certain things that jogged someone’s memory in the narrative. Some of this was achieved with flashbacks to conversations between Hannah and Liz, as I very much wanted Liz to be a presence in the book, not just a body at the beginning.

My hope is that with Death’s Silent Judgement, I will surprise readers with how characters from book one are more involved in book two. My daughter (who hasn’t read book two yet) was surprised at the death of one of the characters in Dancers in the Wind who, she’d assumed, would be part of the team solving the crime in the next book. Glad that wasn’t predictable!

Challenges apart, writing Death’s Silent Judgement has been a great adventure for me, one I hope will satisfy readers as well.

Currently I am writing the third book with a different set of characters plus some of my favourites from the previous two. Time has moved on a couple of months and the murders are getting nearer to home… Still struggling with the first draft but this time I have some great reviews of Dancers in the Wind to keep me focused and to spur me on during darker moments.

(All the best with juggling that Anne!)

About Anne Coates

anne coates

Anne Coates is a freelance editor and author. While editing and abridging other peoples’ novels and non-fiction, she has contributed short stories to magazines like Bella and Candis and wrote two novels that never saw publication. One afternoon she re-read the second one, saw its potential and rewrote it, restructuring the narrative and adding and subtracting scenes. This work became Dancers in the Wind to be published by Urbane Publications on 13 October, 2016.

Some of her short stories appear in two collections: A Tale of Two Sisters and Cheque-Mate and Other Tales of the Unexpected both published as e-books by Endeavour Press. Anne has also written seven non-fiction books ranging from a history of Women in Sport (Wayland) to Applying to University (Need To Know) and Living With Teenagers (Endeavour Press).

Anne lives in London with three cats who are all rather disdainful of her writing as they have yet to appear in her fiction although a dog has!

You can follow Anne on Twitter and visit her website. You’ll also find Anne on Facebook.

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