Judith Barrow is a mistress of dissecting the triumphs and misfortunes of families confronted with crime, disgrace and tragedy. In Sisters, her latest novel, she is at her brilliant best.
The Marsden family of Micklethwaite are doing okay; Eric and Eve, their two teenage daughters Angie and Mandy, and the baby Robert. There are the usual stresses and strains, the usual sibling rivalry, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then tragedy strikes, enough to damage any family, but when it’s exacerbated by lies and guilt, it seems the damage is fatal.
Resentful and hurting, Mandy goes to live with her aunt and uncle, Barb and Chris, in faraway Ponthallen (Wales is often shown as a place of refuge in Judith Barrow’s books). Mandy has a new life, new friends, even a new name, Lisa, anything to start afresh, but she can’t forget or forgive her sister. It’s no easier…
Well, here it is. Bethulia is officially launched today. My tenth novel – tenth published, that is, though probably my thirtieth in all. I’m venturing into new territory with this one. I mean geographical territory. I have set my previous books in West Wales, mostly north Pembrokeshire, where I live, and in Lyford which is a fictional version of Luton, where I used to live– oh and some set on one of Neptune’s moons. where I have never lived. This one is firmly on planet Earth, mostly in Oxfordshire, where I have… Have I ever mentioned that I was at St Anne’s College in Oxford, studying law?
If I have, I was both lying and telling the truth (something that features quite a lot in Bethulia). My headmaster at Sixth Form sent me there for a weekend introduction to Law, because he thought that was what I should study…
In my first published novel, A Time For Silence, there are two parallel stories. One follows Sarah as she investigates the mystery of her grandparents. The other is the story of her grandmother Gwen. The first is littered with confusion, as Sarah misunderstands just about everything that she discovers. The second is the truth, as it happened. That is why I wrote Sarah’s story in the first person and Gwen’s in the third.
A third person narration can plant red herrings, of course, or most detective fiction wouldn’t work. But it cannot lie. A first person narrative can do anything.
I have employed the same… method? trick? device? in Bethulia, with two parallel stories.
Here is the scene set. Three girls, Alison, Danielle (Danny) and Judith (Jude) have grown up as sisters. Closer than sisters even, determined that nothing will ever separate them. But once they’re adults, hormones intervene…
The definition of Public Relations in business is“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between businesses and the public”
In the past my focus has been on book marketing, which did include how to reach potential readers with blogs, social media and as part of the writing community. Whilst this recycled series will revisit those platforms along the way it is an opportunity to focus on some key areas of our public profiles that might influence the public to buy our books.
Please join me in congratulating memoir author, Beth Haslam, on the publication of her brand new book Fat Dogs and WELSH ESTATES. Beth has come along to Patricia’s Pen to tell you all about this sequel. Without further ado, it’s over to Beth.
Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates – Series Prequel
Thanks so much for inviting me here to introduce my new book, Tricia. I’m honoured.
When my publisher suggested I write about my upbringing in Wales, I hesitated. Why would anyone have the slightest interest in reading about my childhood? My publisher thought otherwise, so I reflected. Finally, the solution came to me.
Instead of focusing solely on myself, which, ironically for a memoir writer, makes my toes curl, I decided to tackle the project differently. I would produce a light-hearted account centring on the rich tapestry of my homeland.
This week we get a peek at Crime Cymru’s Jacqueline Harrett’s latest novel, published by Diamond Crime.
The Whispering Trees, published by Diamond Crime in November 2022, is the second in my crime series featuring DI Mandy Wilde and her side-kick, DS Josh Jones. It was inspired by a walk along the Nant Fawr corridor in Cardiff during lockdown. I imagined a body lying face-down and wondered who he was and how he got there. This extract is from Chapter One as Mandy and Josh arrive at the scene. In their banter as they drive from Cardiff Central to the woods Josh had speculated that it was probably a dog-walker who found the body.
The Whispering Trees
They pushed their way through a small crowd gathered on the pavement. At almost six feet, Mandy had the advantage of being able to see over the heads of most of…
I’m delighted to have poet, Regine Ebner all the way from Arizona, kick of the Tuesday Guest Feature on Patricia’s Pen for 2023. Regine is a favourite poet of mine and one of great inspiration with her wonderful imagery. She has come along to blog about her writing life so without further ado, let’s go over to Regine.
My Writing Life
Ever since my third grade teacher asked me to write the Thanksgiving class play, I was expected to be a writer. I went on to study creative writing in college and won awards. I co-authored a stage play, Minor Details, which was produced to be a sell-out to laughing crowds in Tucson. Later I wrote a screenplay and, although never produced, it won a couple of awards.
However, something was missing. I had long gaps between articles and journal chapters and, most of all, I…
I have read all of Thorne Moore’s books, so far, and I can honestly say this is one author who can turn her hand to any genre.
From her days when she was published with Honno and her domestic noir stories such as: Motherlove, to being published by Lumeand the enthralling Llys y Garn books that hold a blend of gothic mystery and family drama, for example: Shadows, to her ventures into Indie Publishing and her powerful Sci Fi novels, beginning with: Inside Out, and now as an author of Diamond Press (her first book with them being Fatal Collision) this author has a talent for compelling plots and characters (to quote a well-known cliche) that leap off the page and live with the reader well after the story is finished.
Alison, Danny, Jude. Three girls bound closer than sisters. Nothing can divide them.
Until Alison falls for Simon Delaney. Handsome, successful and ambitious, what woman wouldn’t want him? He’s surely her perfect husband. So why does she commit suicide?
If it is suicide. The police say yes, except for the driven DC Rosanna Quillan. She says no, but she can only watch as Jude and Danny fight for the prize – the widower. How far would either of them go to have him?
This is a story that grips from the start; the death of one of three women who have been friends from childhood. Initially drawn together by grief as young girls, and now, two of them again, Danny, Jude, as young women, with the apparent suicide of the other, Alison.
I say, ‘apparently’, because, thrown into the mix we have an unreliable narrator, the protagonist, Judith Granger. Brought back to England, from her work abroad by the dreadful news, her part of the story is told in first person point of view. And, to be honest, I was completely taken in by her actions. As always, I won’t give any spoilers in my review, but this is so difficult with Bethulia, because there are two plots here, but the same scenarios: one ambiguous, one explicit. And it takes the reader quite a while to get to that, “oh!” moment; that realisation of what is going on.
Because there is also an omniscient narrator, who follows the other characters, and relates their actions in a third person perspective.
And then there isSimon Delaney, the antagonist, who tells his story from his viewpoint, – a man it is easy to dislike, distrust, yetstill wonder about….
And each point of view brings conflicting emotions in the reader. And that’s about all I can say about the storyline. Suffice it to say, it’s riveting.
And, as always in Thorne Moore’s novels, every character, even the minor ones, have distinctive characteristics and dialogue that bring an instant image of them. The major players are multi-layered, well rounded, their personalities evolving; being revealed, as the book progresses. Those you learn to love, those who from the beginning reveal themselves to be … shall we say… dubious ( or worse!)Besides the three main characters,Alison, Danny, Jude, I particularly like DC Rosanna Quillan. There is a small but dramatic twist at the end of Bethulia, which makes me wonder if we will hear more of her.
A short word about the settings in Bethulia. Whether it’s the interior of police stations, churches, or the description of houses such as Jude’s memory of Alison’s childhood home, Summervale, “a forbiddingly brown house”, or the secluded converted boathouse, Bethulia, which was to become a haven for Danny, or the snow-filled streets of Oxford, and the ethereal Teifi estuary in Wales,the portrayals give an evocative sense of place.
This is a well written story told in the usual confident and erudite writing style of this author, weaving themes and plot twists effortlessly throughout. As you may have guessed, I really enjoyed this book, and I would thoroughly recommend Bethulia to any reader who enjoys psychological and action thrillers with a strong plot and and memorable characters. You won’t be disappointed.
About Thorne Moore:
Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister and made miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton.
She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” exploring the reason for crimes and their consequences, rather than the details of the crimes themselves. and her first novel, “A Time For Silence,” was published by Honno in 2012, with its prequel, “The Covenant,” published in 2020. “Motherlove” and “The Unravelling” were also published by Honno. “Shadows,” published by Lume, is set in an old mansion in Pembrokeshire and is paired with “Long Shadows,” also published by Lume, which explains the history and mysteries of the same old house. She’s a member of Crime Cymru. Her latest crime novel, “Fatal Collision is published by Diamond Crime (2022)
She also writes Science Fiction, including “Inside Out” (2021) and “Making Waves” (2022)
Delighted to share my review for the upcoming family saga, Sistersby Judith Barrow, available on pre-order for January 26th.
About the book
A moving study of the deep feelings – jealousy, love, anger, and revenge – that can break a family apart. … Sisters is another absorbing, emotional and thought-provoking creation from the wonderful Judith Barrow. Janet Laugharne
Two sisters torn apart by a terrible lie.In shock after an unbearable accident. Angie lets her sister Mandy take the blame, thinking she’s too young to get into trouble. But she’s wrong.
Mandy is hounded, bullied and finally sent to live with their aunt, where she changes her name to Lisa and builds a new life, never wanting to see her sister again. Angie’s guilt sends her spiralling into danger. Thirteen years later, they meet again at their mother’s funeral. Lisa starts to suspect something is wrong. Angie seems…
Today I’m really pleased to welcome wordsmith extraordinaire, Kathy Miles, to tell you about her memories. I’ve known Kathy and her works for some years, and today, for a change, I’m going to leave it to her to express her thought onPlaces in our Memories.
The places in our memories are constantly changing. New insight or knowledge might lead you to view a cherished place with different eyes; sometimes the place itself will have altered beyond recognition over the years, and your memory of it becomes elusive, so you ask yourself whether what you remember is the truth, or built upon a desire for it to be so. Sometimes they vanish. I live near the coast at Aberaeron, and sea-mists often obliterate the landscape so completely that it becomes hard to remember what it looks like on a hot summer’s day:
Some days the land is stolen from itself,
chimneys and slate roofs swallowed, village
and pit-head lost to this cold mouth of mist
as it muffles hymn and chapel bell, silences
the scold of crows that crowd around
the plough like a flock of ranting preachers.
In my case, these problems of recall are compounded by a breakdown I suffered in my mid-forties, which wiped away a good many of my childhood memories. What remains is fragmentary and fleeting; a series of impressions that appear occasionally, like landmarks emerging from a sea mist, or footprints that might at any moment be washed away by the tide.
Growing up in Liverpool, the sea and river were constants. My paternal grandfather and great-grandfather had been merchant seamen, and their love of the sea passed to my father and on to me. I remember standing with my Dad on the Cazzy, the Cast-Iron Shore on the banks of the Mersey, where the sand was rust-coloured from the residue of an old iron foundry. Dad was wearing a shirt and tie as always, jacket slung across his shoulders. His face had already reddened in the heat. We kept a wary eye on the tide. The river creeps quickly and silently over those mudflats, brimming up as suddenly as an unwatched bath. A slub of saltmarsh, shards of driftwood, and just up the river bank, old shipyards festering in the sunshine. From there you can see the outline of Welsh mountains across to Moel Famau. But it was the water Dad was staring at, with a kind of longing, as if he wished he could be whisked away to far horizons.
It was inevitable that our annual holidays would be taken by the sea. Cemaes Bay, Cornwall, and later on, Guernsey and Sark. Mum would pack a picnic basket with boiled eggs and sandwiches, a thermos of tea, and the three of us walked to the nearest beach, stopping on the way to pick field mushrooms for next day’s breakfast. I’d head for the nearest rocks, fishing net in hand, and was soon absorbed in a rock-pool, catching tiny shrimps and sometimes a rockling or blenny. Dad fished for mackerel from the shore, whilst Mum would scoop out limpets to use as bait, and patiently rewind my crabbing line when I’d tangled the twine.
Home in Liverpool was a small bungalow, built on farmland in the 1930s as the edges of the city expanded. It was eight miles from the Mersey, but still close enough for us to be able to hear the ferry hooters blasting out in chorus to mark the start of each new year. Dad took the train to work each morning, and in the evenings I’d race up the road to West Allerton station and stand on the bridge as his train came in, usually getting covered in steam and smuts. If trains can be special memories of place, then these old steam trains are mine, with their plushly-covered seats, leather strap to pull up the window so the door could be opened, and pictures hung above the luggage rack. Even now I still feel the excitement of boarding a train, the promise of new experiences and unknown places.
At 18, having failed most of my A levels, I went to work in the Everyman Theatre for a year. I had to retake my exams if I had any hope of getting into university, and we also needed the money. The Everyman at that time was a shabby building in Hope Street, in desperate need of renovation, but with a fabulous bistro in the basement run by Paddy Byrne and Dave Scott. My job was a combination of ASM and general dogsbody. I helped out in the wardrobe department, sourced props, answered the telephone and manned the box office. On one occasion I even appeared on stage, though as I was crammed into the frame of a large fabric-covered snake, it was hardly going to make my fame and fortune as an actor. The company then included Antony Sher, Jonathan Pryce, Roger Sloman, Alison Steadman and David Goodland, and the director was Alan Dossor, who produced gritty, contemporary agitprop plays. The actors shared a single dressing-room; costumes were often held up by safety pins or my dangerously-loose tacking stitches, and in one notable production of Caucasian Chalk Circle, Roger Sloman was carted off to hospital after being hit on the head by a large iron hook that descended from the ceiling at the wrong time. It was chaotic, but it was also fun. Everyone worked as a team, and when I left – very reluctantly – to go to university, I was presented with a large publicity poster of the whole cast as a present. Although the Everyman is now a state-of-the-art modern theatre, I’ll never forget that old building, which stank of fags and paint, sweaty tights and damp wood, and to me was as glamorous as anything in the West End.
When I came to Lampeter, however, I finally found my special place. The Everyman had been a wonderful experience, but I’d never felt truly at home in Liverpool. My Mum in later years said that Wales had stolen me away, and she was right. I had grown up with Welsh-speaking aunts, and from the moment I stepped off the rickety old Richards bus that brought me from Aberystwyth, I felt I had truly found my cynefin. Here I was near my beloved sea, and a landscape I instantly felt rooted to. In 1995 I published an anthology of poems and photographs, The Third Day; Landscape and the Word (Gomer Press), commissioning work from poets such as Dannie Abse, RS Thomas, Gillian Clarke, Sheenagh Pugh and Raymond Garlick. Travelling around Wales to photograph old Welsh sites gave me new places to tuck away in my memory, including the then-unrestored Aberglasney, where the photographer and I kissed surreptitiously in the Yew Tunnel, and a different chapter of my life began. If my memory of those early years is sometimes veiled in sea mist, and many of the places of my childhood no longer exist, the ones I have gained since then provide a constant source of delight, and inspiration for my writing.
Born in Liverpool, Kathy Miles is a poet and short story writer living in West Wales. Her work has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, and her fourth full collection of poetry, Bone House, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2020. Kathy is a previous winner of the Bridport Prize, as well as the Welsh Poetry, Second Light, Wells Literature, Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival and PENfro poetry competitions. She is a regular book reviewer and workshop facilitator, has co-edited The Lampeter Review, and guest-edited Artemis magazine.
Bone House (Indigo Dreams, 2020)
Inside the Animal House (Rack Press, 2018)
Gardening With Deer (Cinnamon Press, 2016)
The Shadow House (Cinnamon Press, 2009)
The Third Day: Landscape and the Word (Gomer, 1995)
The Rocking Stone (Poetry Wales Press, 1988)
Ugly as Sin and other clichés (Pentad Books, December 2020)
This is Otto, and he has a significant role in my new novel, Bethulia.
Okay, when I say he’s Otto, that’s my name for him. He is actually “The Teifi Otter” and he was presented to the town of Cardigan on the Teifi estuary by David Bellamy on behalf of the Dyfed Wildlife Trust, to celebrate its golden jubilee. He guards the old bridge across the river and has been known to wear a scarf and bobble hat in cold weather.
And when I say he has a significant role in Bethulia… well, he does, even though he receives only a couple of passing mentions.
Otters rank in my life with kingfishers and red squirrels. I am forever taking walks with people who suddenly stop, in a state of high excitement and declare “There’s an otter! (Or kingfisher/red squirrel),” and when I turn to see, it has gone…
Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday interview with Rosie Howard which was first posted in June 2019. Rosie Howard was the first pen name of the author who now writes as Poppy Alexander. She adores creating uplifting romantic fiction with strong, multigenerational friendships and idyllic country settings.
A small selection of posts I have enjoyed recently and I hope you will head over to enjoy in full.
Judith Barrowshares the fascinating and often tragic lives of three sisters, two of whom were also incredibly talented Virginia Woolf and her sister, the artist, Vanessa Bell, the daughters of the historian Sir Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Duckworth.
Debby Gies with a reminder that we need to take care of ourselves physically, mentally and physically and it is a good idea to get even what you might consider small concerns checked out as soon as possible.