A Midlands writer has told how going to a witches coven meeting in a Wolverhampton suburb was the inspiration for her new book.

Mother- of- four Lynsay Ashford has just released her second crime novel called Strange Blood, starring a forensic pyschologist called Megan Rhys.

The idea for the book - which is set in Wolverhampton and features a murder bearing all the hallmarks of ritual killing - came after she realised that holding down an ordinary job and being a white witch was a sensitive business.

She gained entry to the meeting via friends of hers who were interested in New Age matters.

It took place in a front room of a standard semi on a Wolverhampton housing estate.

"It was in a very ordinary estate in somebody's front room and there were about a dozen of us, all in normal clothes and we were given a robe to wear," she said.

"Their idea was to try and help someone they knew who was ill. They believe that if you try to put a bad spell on someone it comes back on you three-fold, so there was nothing sinister about it.

"The woman in charge, the high priestess was wearing a silver head-dress with crescent moons on it, while we sat on the floor round her. There was no sexual element to it, although I understand there is in other covens."

Attendees included a social worker and a teacher, but most people kept quiet about their day jobs, Miss Ashford said, and that sprouted the germ of an idea for a book.

"I realised that a lot of people were worried about their identity being revealed, because they didn't want people at work knowing what they were doing," she said. "They were worried it would change people's view of them and it would invite prejudice. I wanted to find out about that."

The author's real life experiences were also brought into play in her first book, Frozen, where she drew on memories of a trip out with the vice squad for a women's charity she volunteered for.

The former BBC Radio WM reporter now lives on the west Wales coast with her family and works part time for Honno Welsh Women's Press.

She will be signing copies of her new book in Waterstones, Wolverhampton from 12-1pm today.