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Welcome to my writer's log. I'm using this blog as my writer's notebook to keep a record of my writing and research activities. You're quite welcome to swing by and have a look.

By Helen Steadman, Oct 13 2018 11:00AM


Two years ago today, I got the most exciting email of my life when Impress Books popped up in my inbox to say they were interested in publishing my novel, and would I be interested. I managed not to reply instantly shouting YES, YES, YES and composed myself for a whole 35 minutes before hitting send. (I'm lying, of course, I wasn't even a tiny bit composed!) So, it set me thinking about my second novel and its progress, and I thought I'd share it with you.


I’ve had quite a busy summer, working on Sunwise, the sequel to Widdershins. Sunwise picks up immediately where Widdershins left off, in August 1650, just after the Newcastle witch trials took place. And once again, the story is told through the eyes of both witch and witchfinder.



The notebooks I used to write Sunwise
The notebooks I used to write Sunwise

My lovely critique partner, Marita Over (friend, fellow author and poet), gave me lots of feedback and useful suggestions on early drafts, and then it went through many, many rounds of editing by me until I was reasonably happy with it.




First draft of Sunwise in manuscript form
First draft of Sunwise in manuscript form


Then, it was off to Impress Books with the typed-up version, where I held my breath until my editors came back to say they liked it. Since then, Sunwise has been through a couple of rounds of edits with my patient and helpful editors, Julian Webb and Laura Christopher. As with Widdershins, they saved me from some of my worst excesses (oh, how I love to repeat myself, and oh, how gentle they are when pulling me up on it)!


Then, onto the proofreading, first by me, and then by Megan Symons, with her eagle-eyed approach – spotting all kinds of horrible word stacks that had passed me by. It really is true – it’s almost impossible to proofread your own work because your brain is so familiar with the work that it sees what it expects to see, and it’s invaluable to have professional editors and proofreaders carefully reading your work.




I signed off the final typeset proofs in late August. And then came the exciting work on the cover, with suggestions going to and fro between me, Impress Books and the designers, Move Design, until we signed off the cover in September. Now that the text, the cover and the blurb are all approved and ready to go, Sunwise is slated for publication in April 2019. I can’t wait to share the amazing cover with you all – so watch out for the cover reveal in the run up to Christmas.


As part of my research, I spent some time practising how to make corn dollies, and a farmer friend, Michael Murray, was kind enough to provide me with a sheaf of barley to do this. As usual, I got a little carried away and started making countryman's favours. These would be given to a lover, and if they wore the favour over their heart, then the love was returned. I've sent these to Impress Books, and I'm sure my publicist, Lisa Galliano will think of something creative to do with them!



A bushel of corn dollies made by my own fair hand
A bushel of corn dollies made by my own fair hand


For now, I’m busy researching my third novel, which is about the Shotley Bridge swordmakers, who came from Solingen in the 17th Century. In the early summer, I forged my own sword (very exciting) and now I’m busy packing for a research trip to Solingen in Germany. No rest for the wicked!


Best wishes, Helen







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