I have just written the first thousand words of Amanda Cadabra Book 5. This is the right moment to answer the question, what does it feel like to do that? What is the creative process? Did I force myself to sit at a desk and commit to writing a certain number of words in an afternoon? Some great works of fiction have been created using such discipline. However, in my case, this is how it happened ….
Where to start?
It’s been a few weeks since I finished the fourth in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mysteries series. So after a plot map – a rough one then a tidier one, both in a big sketchbook – the first step was to reconnect with the last book, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. Next, I checked where we’d got to in the story arc, what our characters know, and what has been shared with you, dear readers.
I like to weave the strands of the self-contained story of each book in and out of one another, together with the over-arching plot that runs through the whole series. Consequently, I made notes on the plot sketch of what needs to interspersed.
Researching the Real World
Each book includes settings and details that are new to me. For example, for Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, I had to research spies, bombs and air-raids. For Book 3, Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan it was how they celebrated the end of the first world war that Christmas, structural damage, and 1930’s firearms.
For this sequel, I followed my nose in and out of research on Wikipedia and other internet sites. And then I knew. The first chapter suddenly was obvious to me. I had the document open with the first few lines. I pulled it up from under my browser windows, and my fingers began to type. The lines came quickly with no time for spelling or grammar checks. Out it flowed as though I were taking dictation from my own mind.
Soon I am between two worlds: this one and the world of Amanda Cadabra. As I type, I move more and more into that fantasy existence … My eyes are on the screen, my fingers tapping on the keyboard, but before my eyes is … the sitting room at 26 Orchard Row, in the English village of Sunken Madley. I am seated on the chintz sofa of the Cadabra’s house beside Granny – Senara Cadabra. Before me on the coffee table is a cup of tea in a white, delicately floral patterned, Wedgwood china cup. I see Amanda handing Inspector Trelawney a matching dish of shortcake. I can see the plate. I know the design, the gilded edges …. I know how the room smells, how each person smiles, the exact colour of their eyes, the timbre, intonation of each voice … It is as though I hear them speak rather than give them their lines. They give me theirs.
Three hours later, and I’m back. I’m hungry, thirsty, stiff, and the room is stuffy. How do I get back into my body and the real world? How else … with a cup of tea!
And that, for the most part, is how all of every book comes to me. In between, I have to do a great deal of checking and learning. Yet somehow I remain in the fantasy zone as I come and go between fiction and non-fiction. Any fact at all of which I am not certain must be verified. That is part of world-building, or perhaps it is simply what allows me to perceive that other world.
What does it mean?
Some theorise that when an author writes fiction in this way, they are seeing a reality that exists somewhere on some plane or other – an alternative reality, another universe. Others say that we are creating a reality that then somehow, somewhere comes into being.
In my case, all I can say is that it seems real to me when I am immersed in the creative experience. That is what enables me to make it real to you, so that you might have that door at the back of the wardrobe, the way through the looking-glass, the ticket for The Hogwarts Express, down the rabbit hole, the leap into the chalk drawing.
So when I finish a book and load it onto Amazon, what I am really saying is,’ Come with me … let me share with you … let me show you this other place of mystery, magic, people to know, love, relate to, suspect. This cozy place where, ultimately, good will triumph, and at the end of each book, for now at least, all is right with the world.’
Thank you to every one of you who have read or plan to read one or more of the books, even just looked at a cover, come to visit this site, peeped through the keyhole, or encouraged me to keep writing.
Why do I do it? Why do I write? Because I can’t help myself!
Don’t Force It
Can I make what I have described happen? No. I have wait for the wave. Sometimes you just have to sit on the beach and watch the sea, admire the sky, listen to the gulls, tend your surfboard. There is always the clam and mussel digging of marketing, the rockpool, net-and-jam-jar visits of research and, sometimes, it’s just a matter of lying back on the sand.
Yesterday, book reviewer Nicole Pyles kindly published her recent interview with me. If you’d enjoy a little more insight and inspiration to continue with or create some fiction of your own, you’ll find it here:
Next weekend, I’ll have news of the free Kindle days that will be just before Christmas Day to help with your eleventh-hour gifts. Until then,
PS If you want to start the series:
Just one more day. The excitement mounts! Tomorrow, paperback fans, you will, literally, be able to get your hands on the real-deal, hard copy of new new British, humorous cozy paranormal mystery sequel, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley
Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets will be free to download from Amazon from tomorrow for three days (29 – 31 October). Here’s a video to entertain you and that you might like to share, if you have friends who enjoy cozies.
Meanwhile, here is the new paperback cover of Book 4, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, beautifully illustrated by our new talented artist, Daniel Becerril Ureña. In addition, he has given Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, a makeover, and here it is ahead of tomorrow’s first free day. Daniel has led a fascinating life to date traveling the world, enhancing his skills. An interview with him is coming up here presently. There will also be an interview with professional beta-reader Flora Gatehouse. If you’ve every wondered how to turn your hobby into something more, see how Flora made her journey.
If you’re new to the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series, you might like to watch the trailer for Book 1, to get a taste of it. The ‘Inspiration’ page will tell you about the real Sunken Madley, the village where Amanda lives and most of the action takes place. If there is anything you would like to ask me, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.
Looking forward to being back with a launch report for you, and news of the next highlight.
Where do you stand? Is horror more a of the Hallowe’en genre, or do you come down on the side of cozy paranormal mystery as the true seasonal read? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
With the kind permission of Books Go Social, here is an article they have just published in their Hallowe’en magazine. It’s choc full of new books ripe for the pumpkin weeks as well as short stories and extra treats.
The next article will herald the launch of Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley in Paperback and a special offer on Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. 29th – 31st October are the dates to look out for.
Meanwhile, dear readers, here is my case on the crucial question of …
“The True Hallowe’en Genre
Go on .. guess …. Horror, right? Are you sure? Sure you don’t see the one standing behind it, lurking in the shadows, breathing quietly in the night ….
The rival contender is none other than the comparatively new kid on the block: the cozy paranormal mystery. If you haven’t yet investigated its delights, here is a brief summary:
There is a mystery, customarily murder. The sleuth is most likely an amateur female, usually a witch. There are ghosts. There is no explicit engagement of a romantic nature. The untimely death typically takes place off-stage. The language is inoffensive, and descriptions of fatalities and casualties are not graphic.
Here’s a rundown of horror from literary historian J. A. Cuddon: ‘A piece of fiction in prose of variable length … which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing.’ The cause of extreme unease is often, but not necessarily, supernatural in nature.
Hallowe’en Story Roots
So which of these is most faithful to where Hallowe’en comes from? Where is that? Closely allied to the Feast of Samhain (sah-oo-wn) that celebrated the turn of the season, it was a time to remember the dead. First, saints, then everyone. Presumably, not everyone had fond memories of those who had passed, or had reason to suspect that the deceased had less than fond memories of them! Consequently … the moment had come for some anti-phantom action. Time for a costume change and to see if you could out-ghost them with a scary makeover, and send them scurrying back to the Netherworld.
On the other hand, there was a useful aspect of the three-day spectre-fest. As the veil between the human and spirit worlds was thought to be thinnest at that point in the calendar, what better time to tune in for the inside track on where your future was headed? What you need, then, was a diviner. In short, a witch.
See where we’re going with this? There you have it: witches and ghosts. Furthermore, it would be reasonable to assume that those were the two focal points of the stories that were told on the three nights of the Hallowe’en celebration.
You might appreciate a word on the subject from M R James, a giant of the genre, of what makes a ghost story: ‘A pleasing terror’, no ‘explanation of the machinery’, set in ‘those of the writer’s (and reader’s) own day,’ with an absence of gratuitous physical intimacy or exsanguinations.
Surely cozy paranormal mystery is the closer fit with that list. So, if it really is the grassroots and culture of the Hallowe’en story, how did it get hijacked by horror?
The Horror Connection?
Here’s my theory. It’s all because of a film. A film called … yes, that one: Hallowe’en. Made in 1978, and in case you’re not au fait with the cult classic, here’s a brief summary.
On Hallowe’en night, a 6-year old takes a knife into overly close quarters with his sister, resulting in a fatality. Thought to have some mental health issues, he is delivered into the hands of a secure facility, where he becomes resident. Fast-forward 15 years. He is being transported to a court hearing. It is the same night of the year, please note. He escapes and goes off to stalk an intrepid teen (Jamie Lee Curtis), littering the plot with bodies along the way, and provoking much screaming.
It did well at the box office and has been the subject of analysis over the years. The result for our purposes is that, because of the title and the popularity of the movie, the season became linked with themes associated with horror.
Is Cozy for Horror Fans?
So, even if cozy paranormal is more Hallowe’eny, what if you are a fan of more hardcore speculative fiction, would you enjoy a walk on the perkier side? You’d be surprised how many horror and dark fantasy readers do enjoy a break with a taste of something lighter. You’ll find that cozy paranormals are not less, just different: surprise rather than shock, with puzzles, riddles and laughs out loud. Maybe even making the experience of your favourite genre that much more enjoyable by contrast.
Where to start? The top-selling authors currently, according to the latest K-lytics statistical report on the genre, are Annabel Chase, Amanda M Lee and Tegan Maher. You can check them out on Amazon.
So this year, why not get back to our Hallowe’en story past, dig up a cozy, something not too grave, let it spirit you away to a mystery in a charming village and entertaining characters witch you will love, without a ghost of a chance of a sleepless night afterwards.
I hope you enjoyed the article and, if you are an author or feel you have a book in you, I can highly recommend Books Go Social to ease your path in creating and promoting your book. Highly affordable and tremendously helpful, they have attracted a community of kind, caring and supportive members of the publishing community, writers of both prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, bloggers, reviewers, editors, and most importantly of all, readers. There is a special group just for them. You can check them out here: Facebook – authors, Facebook – readers, Twitter.
As promised to you, here is the video with visuals as well as my reading of Chapter 1 of the new Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. I hope that you enjoy it. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on it. The next is below if you’d like to read it as well.
Into the Globe
‘It will all be over very quickly. One way or another,’ said Aunt Amelia. She stared intently into the glass sphere on the round, lace-covered table.
‘Very quickly?’ asked Amanda Cadabra, pushing back her mouse-brown hair and glancing up from following the goldfish. Unlike her aunt, it was pretty much all the ball ever showed her.
‘An hour only, perhaps.’
‘And the villagers? Everyone will see it. If the magical world is supposed to be so secret and the entire Flamgoyne witch-clan descends upon Sunken Madley with fire, brimstone and hurricane, that is going to raise more than a few eyebrows on a whole lot of Normals, assuming that any survive.’
Amelia frowned into the globe ‘The village will empty.’
Amanda looked at her in wonderment. ‘How come?’
Her aunt shook her head, ‘That is not shown to me …. The glass is clouding … I’m sorry, Ammy, that’s all.’
‘I’ll have an hour to somehow repel them — without striking a single blow — but the village will empty?’
‘And I will have to defend it alone? — But no, you said I’d have help.’
‘That’s what it showed.’
‘So just me and my … helpers … whoever they will be.’ Amanda pondered, doubtfully.
‘Rrrrrr,’ interjected Tempest, in a marked manner.
‘Principal among whom will be Tempest, of course, ‘she added for the benefit of the thick, grey ball of grumpy cat, curled up in the most comfortable chair in the room.
Amanda’s familiar preened himself.
Not that I’m getting involved, he thought. This is a test for my human. But I’ll lend a paw if absolutely necessary. Dear me. The very idea is exhausting. How tiring this species is.
He shut his eyes and went to sleep.
Amanda Cadabra stared at the sky. The thunderous swirl of cloud was racing towards her village of Sunken Madley. She stood at its heart, before the green, opposite The Sinner’s Rue, on the old crossroads. She stood, feet planted apart, wand pointing at the ground, ready. Tempest sat by her side.
‘How?’ she wondered. ‘I’m just a furniture restorer. I have asthma and an annoying cat. I should be in my workshop, polishing Mrs Kemp’s aunt’s commode. How in the world did I come to this …?’
It was a recurring dream, but the situation was imminent, and the question was both real and pressing. The answer might have been said, and was by Granny, to be that Amanda had brought it on herself.
‘If only,’ Senara Cadabra had lamented, ‘you had not cast that spell. The very one your Aunt Amelia warned you not to perform, if you didn’t want to bring the Flamgoynes down upon the village.’
On the other hand, Grandpa, in his light Cornish accent, said that she had had no option.
‘When the crunch came, it was a choice between saving herself and the inspector, or sending up a beacon that Sunken Madley was the epicentre of powerful magical activity.’
Former Chief Inspector Hogarth of the Devon and Cornwall police saw it another way: an opportunity to solve a cold case that was over 30 years old.
Aunt Amelia, Amanda’s confidante and would-be divination tutor since she was nine years old, not only refrained from repeating I-told-you-so but was both sympathetic and constructive.
It was January, one of their regular Tuesday dinners together. Leaving the tea brewing in the kitchen, Amelia Reading, in deep red velvet splendour, sailed into her sitting room, her long dress wafting behind her, and seated herself.
‘Let’s see if the crystal will tell us more about the help that will come to you.’ Amanda, sitting opposite, could only see, reflected in the glass surface, Amelia’s bright brown eyes in a face framed by a chestnut bob. Apart from that, all she ever got was goldfish or a plastic Paris in a snowstorm. This had been the case for more than 20 years. Until now.
Suddenly, Amanda was electrified. ‘Wait!’ she cried excitedly.
‘Aunt Amelia. I see something!’
‘What, Ammy? What do you see?’
‘It’s … a big … banjo? …. No! Cello. It’s a big cello … it’s getting smaller … a violin? No. Oh.’ Her enthusiasm deadened. Amanda looked at Amelia questioningly. ‘A viola?’
Her aunt chuckled. ‘Ah, well that does happen in divination if you ask the same question twice or more. You get a joke or gibberish. At least this wasn’t the latter.’
‘The message is the same as the one I got from our conversation about having help to defend the village: find Viola. Except it’s not vee-oh- la, it’s Vie-oh-la.’
‘It shows you’re on the right track, and what a break-through for your divination, sweetie!’
Amanda was cheered.
‘You’re right, Aunt, on both counts. OK. So, what do we know about Viola? She was a friend of Granny’s. They met during the war. She was living here back then and told Granny, or “Juliet”, as you called her in your story, that she and Grandpa, “Romeo”, could have a peaceful life here. Yes? There wasn’t any more than that, was there?’
‘I’m afraid not.’
‘So, at least, the crystal ball confirms that this Viola is still alive. Unless … she’s not a ghost, is she?’
‘Was the cello — viola — clear or transparent?’
‘Perfectly clear,’ answered Amanda.
‘Alive then, I’d say.’
‘She must be old then …. I’ve thought of three people that she could be — Ah, the tea must be brewed by now. Shall I go and get it?’
‘Oh, use magic to bring it in. It’s perfectly all right here,’ Amelia assured her. ‘I’ve got this place as psychically secure as Fort Knox.’
Amanda pulled a certain Ikea pencil out of her orange woollen jacket pocket, flipped up the end and extracted a tiny slim wooden shaft topped with a citrine. She leaned across so that she could see into the kitchen, pointed the wand and said,
‘Aereval.’ The tea tray, bearing its load of Devon rose-patterned Wedgwood pot, cups, and bowls containing milk and sugar, two silver spoons and a plate of gingernut biscuits, rose from the worktop beside the kettle.
‘Cumdez,’ instructed Amanda. It glided through the air, along the passage to the sitting room and hovered.
‘Sedaasig.’ The tray lowered itself gently onto the table beside them. Amanda would not usually have bothered with a wand, but there was hot liquid involved, so extra control was needed. Hopeless though she was at divination, this was her special, and exceedingly rare, magical talent: a Cadabra family trait inherited from her grandfather. It enabled her, in spite of asthma that was all too easily agitated by physical exertion, to carry on the family business of furniture restoration, with all of its strenuous activity. Of course, any spell-working had to be conducted out of sight of Normals.
‘You were saying, dear,’ Amelia reminded her, adding sugar lumps to the teacups. ‘Three possibles.’
‘Yes,’ replied Amanda. ‘Mecsge,’ she added. The spoons began stirring. ‘There’s Mrs Uberhausfest, who distinctly told me that she and Granny had been friends for over 50 years — and you know how fond Granny is of her, invoking her whenever she talks of how, “we both did our bit in the War”.’ And with her line of work, if anyone could organise a Home Guard, she could!’
‘And the other two?’ enquired Amelia.
‘Sessiblin,’ said Amanda. The spoons stopped stirring. ‘The ladies who live at The Grange. Miss Armstrong-Witworth — the one who worked as a field agent for the government many years ago, I told you? But I gather she always operated alone, so not an organiser, I’d say — well, she and Granny never seemed very close at all, so, out of the two of them, I’d plump for Miss de Havillande. Both she and Granny are strong-minded, outspoken, definitely organisers, and with Views on every subject. In fact, I’d often thought they could have been two peas in a pod!’
Amelia laughed. ‘I know what you mean.’
‘Although,’ remarked Amanda suddenly, then stopped to think.
‘Yes?’ encouraged her aunt.
‘Well, what if … Viola isn’t a woman, at all?’
‘I think I see where you’re going with this, but carry on.’
‘Well. Viola isn’t from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is she? She’s from Twelfth Night. She’s the sister, cast up on an enemy shore, who, believing her brother to be drowned, takes on the disguise of man and gets a job working for the local count. So what if Viola is a sort of code name, but for a man?’
‘Or a woman pretending to be a man?’ Amelia hazarded.
‘Possibly, but I don’t think you could live in Sunken Madley and carry off a disguise like that for the better part of a century.’
‘True. What men would be eligible for the role of Viola, then?’
‘Well … old Mr Jackson, but he retired to Eastbourne to live with his son, so I don’t think it can be him.’
‘Someone at Pipkin Acres Residential Home?’ suggested Amelia.
‘Possibly …. But … well … what about Moffat?’
‘The Grange ladies’ butler?’
‘He’s far more than the butler,’ Amanda pointed out. ‘He’s pretty much run the house and estate for them all these years, and no one knows how old he is.’
‘That gives you four candidates then: Mrs Uberhausfest, Cynthia de Havillande, Gwendolen Armstrong-Witworth and, er — does anyone know his first name? — Moffat.’
‘Yes. And, I gather, Viola will be the means of assembling the rest of the people who will help on the day that the Flamgoynes attack.’
‘What’s your next move then, Ammy?’
‘Well … what I need is a reason to visit Irma Uberhausfest. And soon.’
Fortunately, thanks to stilettos, a spanner and a piano, one was in the making.
I hope that you enjoyed Chapter 1.
Looking forward to bringing you news of the paperback launch, and a suggestion for Hallowe’en.
It’s Movie Day! You’ve seen the title, you’ve seen the cover … now here’s the film: the trailer for Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. The new sequel in the British cosy paranormal mystery launches on Sunday, and there will be only two more significant events in the run-up between now and then. But first, the trailer:
Next stop, the chapter 1 video.
Remember, you can join the series with Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, free from Amazon at the weekend. That’s this Saturday and Sunday, 28th and 29th September 2019.
The launch day clock is ticking …
Oll an gwella (best wishes)
Hot off the virtual press in its final incarnation comes the full cover of Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, fourth in the British cosy paranormal mystery series.
It’s all thanks to our new illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña who has been labouring tirelessly to get it to you today. Feedback so far has been 100 per cent positive. The cover is as the book will appear on Amazon shortly.
So what’s next? Tomorrow sees the release of the trailer! Where can you see it? Here, on YouTube (on my new channel), Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, if all goes according to plan. Please let me know what you think of it so that I can build them better and better for your future viewing pleasure.
Meanwhile, the manuscript for Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley is now complete, bright and shiny, thanks to the endeavours of my superb editor, Flora Gatehouse, and the valuable contributions and suggestions offered by the VIP advance readers. There are still spaces remaining in this limited numbers group if you’d like to join for Book 5. Alternatively, you can simply keep up to date by adding yourself on the keep-in-touch page.
At the end of the week, there will be the release of the audio-video of Chapter 1 of the new book. The text will be on here so you can read, or read along, but the feedback on the visuals that go with the reading has been enthusiastic so far!
Until tomorrow …
Oll an gwella, (Cornish for ‘all the best’. Yes, still learning, by candlelight late at night.)