Friday 12 November 2021

Babes In The Wood by Mark Stay BLOG TOUR #BabesInTheWood @markstay @RandomTTours @simonschusterUK #BookExtract


The Witches of Woodville Part 2

July, 1940 

In a quiet village in rural Kent, a magical mystery leads to murder . . .

Woodville has returned to 'normal' after the departure of the Crow Folk. The villagers put out fires from aircraft shot down in the Battle of Britain, and Faye Bright discovers that magic can be just as dangerous as any weapon.

The arrival of a trio of Jewish children fleeing the Nazis brings the fight for Europe to the village. When their guardian is found dead, Faye must play nanny to the terrified children while gathering clues to uncover a dark magic that threatens to change the course of the war. And she must do it quickly – the children have seen too much and someone wants them silenced for good.

For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett comes the second novel in this delightful trilogy of war, mystery and a little bit of magic . . .

Babes In The Wood by Mark Stay was published on 28 October 2021 by Simon & Schuster and is the second in the Witches of Woodville series.
As part of this #RandomThingsTours blog tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you. 

Extract from 
Babes In The Wood by Mark Stay

The Many Merits of George Formby

Faye and Bertie were chatting on the bus home when a plane dropped out of the sky.

They had spent the day in Canterbury. Any other year and this would have been the Saint Irene’s Bell- Ringers’ Tower summer outing. A jolly old time visiting bell towers all over Kent, ringing their bells, trying new methods and, most importantly, quaffing local beers and ciders and scoffing homemade scones and cake. Alas, since the government’s ban on bell-ringing in June, their plans were scotched. It had been suggested by Mr Hodgson, the tower captain, that they still visit the towers, but ring handbells instead. This was greeted with much grizzling, not least from Faye.

‘Handbells ain’t proper ringing,’ she had said, with many murmurs of agreement from the rest of the tower band. ‘It’s like asking someone to play a concert on a grand piano and then handing them a bleedin’ accordion. It’s not the same.’

Mr Hodgson then suggested ringing tied bells – where the clapper is tied up so that it doesn’t make a sound – which they tried for a couple of practices at Saint Irene’s, but to pull on a rope and not even get the satisfaction of a bell actually ringing was deemed completely pointless by all concerned.

When it also transpired that there would be no beer, cider, cake or scones at the bell towers on the itinerary it was clear that the district outing needed a rethink.

Ideas were put into a hat, then put to a vote, and then ignored and argued over until a compromise was reached whereby Mr Hodgson pouted until he got his own way and they all went to Canterbury for the day. Mr Hodgson arranged for a tour of the bells of the cathedral, and he promised that the city would have plenty of beer, cider, cake and scones in its pubs and bakeries.

The day had been a success, topped off with the glamour of the silver screen when they all went to see the new George Formby flick, Let George Do It!, at the Friars Cinema. For Bertie – possibly the world’s biggest fan of the banjolele-playing comedy croonster – this was the cherry on top, and he didn’t stop jabbering about it all the way home.

‘I think my favourite part was the bit at the end when he went flying out of the torpedo tube,’ Bertie said, snorting a laugh. He and Faye were sitting in their favourite seats on the bus. Top deck, right at the front. Before the war they would sit here to enjoy the view, though these days all the windows on the bus were covered with anti-blast netting, a mesh that would pro- tect any passenger from shards of glass if a Luftwaffe bomb dropped nearby. The only view passengers got now was one through a net curtain, though some of the netting had a clear little diamond shape in the centre for nosy parkers to peer through.

The bus was dotted with shoppers. Mr Hodgson and the other ringers were flopped around them. The Roberts twins were still polishing off slices of sponge cake, Mrs Pritchett snored like a blocked drain, and Miss Burgess and Miss Gordon were both knitting what looked like two ends of the same scarf. Faye was the only one paying attention to Bertie.

‘Or, no, no, it was the bit when he sang “Mr Wu’s a Window Cleaner Now”, that’s my favourite. No, no, it was the bit when he had that dream and knocked Hitler’s block off. That, now that was funny.’ Bertie gave a little sigh of satisfaction. ‘You ever have a day you wish could last for ever?’

Faye had, but she kept it to herself. Not long ago, she’d used magic to speak to her late mother. Well, she was fairly sure it was her mum. Just a simple candle ritual at the hollow oak in the woods. The birds around Faye replied with a giddy cacophony of chirps and whistles that came to her as words of love and reassurance.

It only worked that once. She tried it again the next day, and the day after, but the birds did not reply. Birds were quieter in July anyway, she told herself. Many of them were moulting, making flight cumbersome, and singing would only draw them to the attention of sparrow-hawks.

Besides, she had been warned about using magic unsupervised. Mrs Teach and Miss Charlotte were overseeing her magical tuition now, and the witches wouldn’t stand for any nonsense, so Faye put aside any thoughts of trying again. She told herself she was being greedy and to be happy with what she had. At least she was given the chance to say goodbye and to tell her mother that she loved her. Few folk got that, especially these days. 

Mark Stay got a part-time Christmas job at Waterstone’s in the nineties (back when it still had an apostrophe) and somehow ended up working in publishing for over 25 years. He would write in his spare time and (he can admit this now) on company time, and sometimes those writings would get turned into books and films.

Mark is also co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast, which has inspired writers all over the world to finish and publish their books. Born in London, he lives in Kent with Youtube gardener Claire Burgess and a declining assortment of retired chickens.

Come and say hello at

Get free short stories at the Woodville Village Library

Twitter @markstay

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