Blackwater by Alison Williams

BlackwaterBlackwater by Alison Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blackwater is a prequel to The Black Hours and is a short novella telling the story of Alice Pendle’s mother and father. We first meet Lizzie, Alice’s mother in Eversley in Hampshire where she lives with her mother Maggie. They are medicine women or “Cunning women” as they are known, who use herbs to heal the sick.

Often feared because of their ways, they have already moved five or six times to avoid prosecution from those who would call them witches. This is the tale of how Lizzie and Samuel Pendle fall in love and what drives them to move to Coggeshall which is where The Black Hours begins.

This book will work well as a companion book to The Black Hours which deals with the English Witch Trials.

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The Black Hours

Find a copy here on or, read my review of The Black Hours here

Alison is also featured in my Editing and Publishing page at the top of the blog, got writing you want help with? Check out Alison’s editing services here

Catch up with my Guest Author interview with Alison Williams here

Guest Author Alison Williams

Today our guest is local author Alison Williams, writer of yesterday’s book “The Black Hours”. Here is a link to the book review.

Alison Williams

1) Where is your home town?

I live in Basingstoke, in Hampshire. I moved here when I was seven, moved away at 21, and then came back twelve years ago.

2) How long have you been writing?

I have always loved writing stories. I trained as a journalist, but then worked in education after my children were born and after a brief stint as a freelance writer. When I hit forty I decided to give up work, go back to freelance writing and also started a Masters in Creative Writing. It was as part of the course that I wrote ‘The Black Hours’.

3) What key factor made you want to write “The Black Hours”?

I’ve always been extremely interested in history and, in particular, women’s history. I find it rather sad that a man like Matthew Hopkins actually existed and did the awful things that he did, but that he is not really that well-known. In fact a lot of people that have read ‘The Black Hours’ think that I made him up! He was responsible for hundreds of deaths in England yet is hardly mentioned in our history books. Consequently, I really feel his victims have largely been forgotten – all too often they are just names on a list in a book or in a museum. We tend to forget that they were real people, with real lives, families, dreams, hopes and fears. What they suffered was dreadful and I really felt compelled to give them a voice. Although ‘The Black Hours’ is fiction and Alice never existed, the methods Matthew Hopkins uses in the novel are all methods actually used on real victims. I hope, in some small way, the novel pays tribute to those real victims.

4) Can you tell the readers a bit about Matthew Hopkins?

He is certainly a man shrouded in mystery. No-one knows exactly when he was born, but it is thought to be around 1620, making him only 24 when he began his witch hunting campaign. There is no information relating to Matthew’s childhood and adolescence, although it has been variously suggested that he attended school, spent his formative years on the continent and that he trained as a lawyer.  His performances in court may give some credence to this claim, but again, there is no evidence to support the assumption.  What is known is that, along with his colleague John Sterne, he was responsible for over 200 executions of suspected witches – more in that short space of time than all the other witch hunters managed during 160 years!

5) Why do you think Hopkins was successful in gaining support for his Witch hunts?

He operated during a time when Civil war had brought great unrest to the country. In times like this people are afraid and uncertain of their future and are perhaps more likely to blame other people for their misfortunes. I think also that Hopkins used fear extremely well – if you didn’t join in with the accusations, you may well have ended up being on the receiving end of them yourself! Also, life was short and cheap and hard and bad things happened all the time. People didn’t have the knowledge to always explain why someone was ill and dying, or why crops failed or why a woman suffered miscarriage after miscarriage. It was easy, and perhaps understandable, that they looked to others to take the blame.

6) Alice’s surname was Pendle, what do you know of the stories of the Pendle Witches from Lancaster?

I chose ‘Pendle’ as Alice’s surname as a small tribute to those executed in Pendle in 1612. I recently published an article about them on my blog. The story certainly has similarities, although it happened more than thirty years before Matthew Hopkins began his witch hunts. Again,  a woman was accused of cursing someone, and, in turn and probably under extreme duress, implicated others, who then implicated more, until nine women and two  men were executed, and one woman, in her eighties, died in prison. It is a familiar pattern, seen in many of these cases both in England and in many other countries around the world.

7) Were the English Witch Trials similar to the American Salem Witch Trials?

They were similar in that a kind of mass hysteria overtook reason and in that more women than men were accused and subsequently executed. Hopkins wrote a book ‘The Discovery of Witches’ in which he outlined his methods – the following year, trials and executions for witchcraft began in the New England colonies. In one of these cases, that of Margaret Jones, Hopkins’ methods of watching and searching were used.  And some of his methods were used in the Salem Witch Trials – so the two are actually closely connected.

8) What do you think was the most shocking torture that Hopkins administered?

Torture was actually unlawful in England, so Hopkins as very careful to use methods that were not regarded as such, however shocking they may seem to us today. Sleep deprivation was one such method that caused terrible suffering. But I think that ‘pricking’ was the worst, particularly as Hopkins cheated. It was believed that witches had marks on their bodies that would not bleed. So ‘prickers’ pricked the flesh with knives and pins until they found a spot that did not bleed. Hopkins had a retractable pin made so that, of course, his victims, when ‘pricked’ with this pin would not bleed.

9) What role did wise women have in the everyday life of poor villagers?

Wise women (and sometimes men) provided a service to those who could not afford to pay for a doctor or apothecary, using herbal remedies for ailments suffered by people and livestock. Some were also midwives, as Alice and Maggie are. Although wise women were accused of witchcraft, it was also often the case that wise women or other midwives were those that did the accusing – I wanted to show this through the role of Annie Everard.

10) I know you enjoy writing about the everyday lives of people in times gone by, what are you working on next?

Since publishing ‘The Black Hours’ I have had a lot of requests from readers wanting to know the story behind Maggie. So I have written a prequel to ‘The Black Hours’ called ‘Blackwater’, a novella that will be available as an eBook in March. I am also working on my next full length novel, ‘Remember, Remember’. I was researching an article and came across some interesting information about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. There was one source (and only one) that suggested Guy Fawkes may have had a wife. This got me thinking – what would it have been like to be married to a man willing to give up everything for his beliefs? If he was married, then his wife was a woman caught up in events she couldn’t control – something that interests me immensely. So ‘Remember, Remember’ imagines the plot from her point of view. I’m hoping to release the novel in November!

The Black Hours

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Thank you Alison and Good luck with your next books. I am currently reading Blackwater and a review will appear on the blog in May.

The Black Hours by Alison Williams

The Black HoursThe Black Hours by Alison Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Black Hours is a book that thinks about the actual lives of ordinary people who are mixed up in a period of history that is well publicised. Set in England around 1647, a time of Civil War and strong religious times. This book looks at the famous Witch Trials.

The author has interpreted some of the documented names and facts into a thoughtful story about the horrors of the period. We meet Alice Pendle and her Grandmother Maggie, wise women of Coggeshall who have used herbs and ointments to help and heal the villagers for years. When their midwifery skills result in the unfortunate death of a mother and child, people start to whisper.

Religious fears have been stirred up in the country and Matthew Hopkins believes he has a duty to God. He must rid the earth of evil in the form of Witches. With the law behind him Matthew arrives in Coggeshall and finds a supportive Minister and Lord of the Manor. Villagers are encouraged to sign witness statements condemning Alice and Maggie.

What follows is a horrific tale of their trials and suffering at the hands of Matthew and his supporters. This tale depicts the suffering of just 2 lives. During the actual period of history in question it is believed that between 200 and 300 women were similarly accused and tried. It was a terrible time and an example of how people are easily led and manipulated by their fears.

This is a well written glimpse in to the window of history.

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Alison will be our guest author on the blog tomorrow, do come back and read more about her.

Witches by RLL (Jan 13th)

WitchesWitches by RLL

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Witches is written as a Scottish Faery Tale, fast paced, it is full of magic and mystery. The writer has fun with the names of the 3 warring clans, Clan o’ the Hand, Tongue and Eye. All greedy to own all the land in the county, two of the clans try to make an advantage by hiring Warlocks and a Witch to give them advantage in battle. The Witch has the last laugh as Rory the swordsmen finds out for himself when he tries to unravel his role in the tale. I really liked the opening setting of the book where we are introduced to Selena Salem with her Witchfinder app. for her phone. It introduced the writer’s style of humour, hinting at what was to come. I would have loved the story to come full circle and for us to find out who her mystery guest was at the end. The tale contains some Scottish dialect throughout which gives the writing character and it contains bawdy jokes and innuendos for the readers entertainment.
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The Unicorn Girl by Melissa LeGette

The Unicorn GirlThe Unicorn Girl by M.L. LeGette

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A young girl has secrets kept from her, but this only causes her to search harder for answers. A world of magic opens its doors and Leah goes on her own quest, learning more about herself on the way. Witches, monsters, dragons and unicorns all become part of her destiny. I had a few doubts about the book at the beginning, but it soon grew on me and I wanted to race through it to follow the adventure.

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Witch Weigh by Caroline Mickelson

Witch WeighWitch Weigh by Caroline Mickelson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun easy to read romance about a witch and a fairy GodFather. Most of the action takes place at a health retreat. I wanted more which is the sign of a good book, I thought there was plenty more that may have happened, perhaps there is a scope for the next book.

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Guest Author Tracey Sinclair

Today my guest is Tracey Sinclair, welcome to the blog Tracey. Her book dark dates mixes vampires, witches werewolves and angels via a dating agency and has some great reviews on Amazon, do check out the link at the bottom of the page. Here are Tracey’s answers and tips;

1)     Tell me your name
Tracey Sinclair
2)      Where do you live?
3)      London (at the moment – I’m just about to move house!)

3)When did you start writing?
I’ve always written – I had my first short story published when I was 17.
4)What type of books do you like writing the most?
I like a variety of writing but at the moment I’m writing, and loving, urban fantasy
5)Pass on 3 tips about writing or publishing.
Don’t put off writing until you have time – you’ll never have time!
Don’t be scared of writing rubbish – you can always rewrite. You can’t edit a blank page.
Get a second opinion – or two or three – but trust your own instincts as well.
6)What was the last book that you read? How would you rate it?
The last book I read was The Year of The King, by Anthony Sher, about playing Richard III – I loved it.
7)Now choose just one of your books and add a link to it.
Dark Dates:

New England Witch Chronicles by Chelsea Bellingeri

New England Witch Chronicles (New England Witch Chronicles, #1)New England Witch Chronicles by Chelsea Bellingeri

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very good book about a popular subject. Well thought out and researched. I am a fan of the teen book sector as they are usually well written and don’t go into too much gruesome detail which is often a bit too disturbing. Good luck with the rest of the series.

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