Three Treats To Come
Today we follow the trail to Denise Fleischer’s ingenious questions that prompted me to reveal … maybe not all … but, well, you’ll see. Denise, through her splendid book review site Gotta Write Network, is kindly hosting a blog tour spotlight of my latest book launched just last month on Kindle and in paperback. This includes an interview, a guest post and an excerpt from the new novel. I’ll let you know when the other two enter stage left.
Behind the Curtain
Back to the Q&Q. If you are curious about the creation of Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, the latest in the Amanda Cadabra series, read on …
Denise: In Book 6 of the British, humorous, cozy paranormal mystery series of Amanda Cadabra, you focus on the strange case of Lucy Penlowr. How are the readers introduced to the case?
Holly: The book begins with a dream that Amanda has while travelling to Cornwall with Detective Inspector Trelawney. She witnesses a fire in a grand house and a murder. Trelawney wonders if it has anything to do with the story of Lucy that they are going there to hear.
Denise: Who is Hogarth and why can’t he stop thinking about a case from 30 years ago where children allegedly began to go missing?
Holly: Retired Chief Inspector Michael Hogarth, of the Devon and Cornwall police, was and is Trelawney’s boss and best friend. He is also Amanda’s honorary uncle. The cold case has unexpectedly personal associations for Hogarth, and links to Amanda and Trelawney. At the end of the previous book, Lucy, from deep in the shadows, tells Amanda that it is time for Hogarth to tell ‘Lucy’s story.’ It may be that Amanda is the key to solving the case.
Denise: What is the history of Bodmin Moor? What’s located in this area?
Holly: Bodmin is a granite moor at the heart of Cornwall, the south-east peninsula of mainland Britain. It is at least 60 million years old, and humans have lived there for at least 10,000 years. Now few people dwell there.
Brown Willy is the highest point in Cornwall, and the moor is rich in Bronze Age monuments, stone circles and ancient burial structures. The landscape is of barren rocks set a lush green of grass, marram, moss and bog. It is perfectly safe during the day but after dark …. It is also known for the legendary Beast of Bodmin Moor, the haunted Jamaica Inn (made famous by Daphne du Maurier), the ghost of a Victorian murdered girl, and witchcraft!
Denise: Is there a reason Hogarth and Trelawney’s father, Kyt, are eager to tell Amanda about the case and about Growan House?
read more …
I hope that you enjoy the interview, and the book. Back soon with news of the next project. Meanwhile, here is the post-launch trailer which includes some beautiful footage of Bodmin Moor from professional cameraman Paddy Scott, and two talented amateur photographers.
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle
How We’re Celebrating?
The next stage of the launch of Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr has arrived. To celebrate this joyful event of the paperback release, we are having a free book day.
This time new readers can join the series with Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, free to download from Amazon. Or, if you downloaded Book 1 in the free deal weekend a couple weeks ago, this is an opportunity to continue the Amanda Cadabra journey with Book 2 at zero cost. This offer is just for today and tomorrow, 20th and 21st February, so please do get it while it’s hot.
Here, for your entertainment, is a 15-second video to give the new book a send-off.
Surely this is the final stage in the new sequel release? I hear you ask. Well, actually, there’s more. I’ll come back to that in the next letter.
Meanwhile, this is for all you fellow paperback readers. I hope you enjoy the new sequel. If you’d like to let me know how you get on with it, I would love to hear from you. Always.
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle
Launch day of the new book is approaching!
Where’s the book?
The sequel, Book 6 in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series is now with our editor, Kim, of Brockway Gatehouse Literary Services.
Daniel, our illustrator, is tweaks away from completing the cover. The book is with the Inner Circle of beta readers who check for any stray typographical and grammatical errors. Shortly, it will be going out to the VIP readers for an advance read-and-feedback before publication.
Free Book 1
Once again, as has become customary for a new book launch, Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, will be free for download for about 48 hours, so any new readers who would like a taster can enjoy the first book without cost.
What’s the line-up?
What can you expect next? First, the title reveal: a bit different from the one shown at the end of Book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths. Then a partial cover reveal with which to tease and tantalise! The full cover reveal will soon follow, however. A highlight will be the trailer video, then launch day, and the free Book 1 offer. No doubt there will be other goodies along the way.
What’s it all about?
Never before have I written a book so quickly. December was an amazingly exciting month for that very reason (as well as Christmas!). So what is about?
Cover witch, Amanda Cadabra travels into Cornwall, driven by the tenacious Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney of the Devon and Cornwall Police. Much to the inspector’s discomfiture, they are, of course, accompanied by Amanda’s irascible and incorrigible feline familiar, Tempest.
At his home in the clifftop hamlet of Mornan Bay, she hears a story from her honorary Uncle Mike and Trelawney’s boss, mentor and best friend. This is a tale whose ending Amanda must supply, solving a cold case murder up on Bodmin Moor, facing her greatest test yet, on her most perilous journey into the past.
Home, Sweet Home?
For fans of Amanda’s quaint English village of Sunken Madley, never fear, for the book ends up there, with all the familiar favourites at The Corner Shop and The Grange. There Amanda gets a warning about her next puzzle.
Finally, to all the new readers who have joined the Holly Bell Facebook page in recent weeks, thank you so very much for adding your valued presence.
Right … next on the list: the trailer!
Happy January reading,
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle
Amanda Cadabra Returns
After a long and winding road this year, I was reunited with my first love and what readers want most from me: writing books. Hence the recent dearth of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking. With everything else on the back burner, Amanda Cadabra Book 5 burst into life and is almost ready to emerge into the light of day. Beginning with — drum roll, please — the title:
And it is …
What if you’re new to the series?
This is the fifth in the British humorous cozy paranormal mystery series. Do you need to have read the first four books? No. It has its very own murder mystery, as does each of the novels. However, you’ll enjoy the story even more if you’ve read the preceding volumes. Why? Because there is an overarching story arc that comes to its conclusion in Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths. However, the new tale is also the jumping-off point for a new thread that will flow through books to come, so it’s also an excellent place to join the joy-ride.
There are a couple of spoilers in order to do a catch-up for new readers, and as a reminder. That’s just in case it’s been a while since you read book 4, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. By the way, in case you’re thinking of diving into the series, all of the books, 1- 4 are available in paperback as well as on Kindle.
What’s the series about?
Amanda Cadabra is an asthmatic furniture restorer and covert witch from the age of six. Her abode is the quaint English village of Sunken Madley, full of endearing eccentrics. Brought up by her loving magical grandparents, Amanda knows she must keep her unusual gifts a secret. Among them is a strange connection with her familiar, the irascible feline, Tempest. The other, ghastly members of her family met their end at the bottom of a Cornish cliff after a van accident. Or did they? The how and why are the cold case investigated by the personable but intractable Detective Inspector Trelawney throughout the series to date.
Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, will be free to download from Amazon for a couple of days after Book 5 launches. So you or your friends can try it on for size, and see if Amanda and Sunken Madley draw you in.
Book Launch Line-up
What then can you expect in terms of the book arriving on your screen or doormat? There will shortly be a cover reveal (our illustrator Daniel has been busily conjuring it), a trailer video and, at the end of the month, the first chapter will be free for you to read in a special edition of the International Dublin Writers Festival magazine. This coming weekend look out for the launch of Kindle version of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths. The paperback will follow as soon as my fingers can format it.
Where we’re at
Right now, the manuscript has come back from our star of an editor, Flora, and most of the sensational beta readers of the VIP Readers Group. The feedback so far has been everything any author could wish for.
Back soon with more news and hopefully, the unveiling of the new cover.
PS If you want to start the series:
Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle
We all agree that ‘write’ ‘book and ‘read’ should be spelt just so. Those are the agreed correct order of letters. I promised you a couple of weeks, in my post about misspelling, to give attention to The Rules. Precisely, what happens when we don’t all agree?
What rules are we talking about? So far, what I’ve written would pass the spell-checker, editor, beta reader and eagle-eyed book-fan everywhere. Now let’s try this:
Spot the Difference
I realise I was late for the theatre. But I had a flat tyre. I asked Dr Smith for help, but he said, ‘On my honour, I don’t know how! These wheels are aluminium. Can’t we just have a cosy chat?’
Now, depending on where you live, you may take exception to 7 things in that paragraph and declare about each of them,’ Whoever wrote that got it wrong.’ And if you live in the USA, you would be right. In US English it would read:
I realize was late for the theater. But had a flat tire. I asked Dr. Smith for help, but he said, “On my honor, I don’t know how! These wheels are aluminum. Can’t we just have a cosy chat?”
The first is British (or UK) English. The second American English. If you were taking a spelling test in one and used the other, then you would almost certainly lose points. New Zealand and Australia use mostly UK English. South Africa uses the identical form. Canada, as one would expect from the world’s third favourite nation, is easy-going, recognises both and comfortably straddles UK and US variants.
Pick One And Commit
As an author, that’s what I have to do. Well, sort of. I use British spelling throughout my novels and nearly always in these letters. Nearly? Yes, you may have noticed that I usually spell ‘cosy’ – as we do in the UK – as ‘cozy’. Gasp, shock, horror. Why this anomaly? It is because the title of the genre in which I write the Amanda Cadabra series listed as ‘cozy’. Generally speaking, the subgenre is written as ‘cozy paranormal mystery’. Check on Amazon, Kobo, or Itunes. Yes, but surely British publishing houses …? No, even Penguin describes that shelf with a ‘z’ Which, incidentally, here we pronounce as ‘zed’.
So, often the best you, as an author, can do is to pick a side: with exceptions, where necessary. ‘Why this moral elasticity?’ you may ask? For the sake of clarity. As writers, we are here to convey our story to you, in the most entertaining, enjoyable way possible. As my books are set in a village here in the UK, using British English is my way of seasoning the dish for your delectation. If anything does trip you up, each novel has a glossary of UK-US English terms used within the pages, and here on the website, you’ll find one too.
Your Rights As A Reader
It is reasonable to have certain expectations as the literary consumer. If you’re reading a novel set in Oklahoma in which all of the characters are locals, then you can anticipate that the book will use US spelling. What if someone rides in from England? You would still expect their dialogue to be written using US English because that doesn’t affect the pronunciation.
On the other hand, if the story is set in London, then it will almost certainly use UK spelling.
How about non-fiction? There are no holds barred here. An Australian author writing a treatise for the Australian market on the history of population movement from America may choose Australian English because of the intended target market. On the other hand, if the book was about emigration from Australia to the US and written for the American students, for example, then the author may choose US spelling.
The fact is that on a global level, the rule is that there are variants. The variant is only a letter or two difference. And what is a letter or two between friends? And there are only two versions or each one, as far as I remember. It’s hardly mayhem and revolution. Think of it as two flavours.
What’s In A Name?
In the end, language is a vehicle. It is a means to convey meaning, to create emotion, to enable us to understand one another, to co-operate, to share, to inspire, to co-create even. The widespread use of sign language, the facial expression, the body posture is testimony to the written word as just one way. Of them all, the written word is the love of my life. I love British English. Yes, it looks ‘right’ to me. But who would want to eat just one flavour ice-cream all the time?
Amanda Cadabra Book 5 continues to develop with a brand new minor character. Back next week with more thoughts for your entertainment.
Happy nearly spring!
PS If you want to start the series:
Writing, like having a student, teaches you. Well, of course, it gets you practising your craft, but there are 5 bonus extras.
For example, in the process of writing the Amanda Cadabra books, I have been enlightened on, among other things, joinery, architecture, Hertfordshire, the history of witchcraft, Cornwall, explosions, structural integrity, the paranormal, treatments for asthma, clinic design, reception areas, churches, stately homes, hidey-holes, cats and apples.
Broadly speaking, they all fall in a small number of categories.
The Big Five
Thes are location, history, costume, language, and customs.
Ok, but why go to all this trouble when it’s just a made-up story? Can’t you simply invent it? Valid point, but the background has to be believable for the plot to flow. Anomalies are distracting. I know that my readers are smart and well-informed. The Devil is in the detail …. if you get it wrong. So how does this work in practice?
X Marks the Spot
For Amanda Cadabra, I had to find a village on the outskirts of a big city. Why? Because it takes place in a village, but I’ve never lived in one. So a hamlet with the demographics of a city is something I can work with. I looked on the map and I was in luck. With the first one I visited, as soon as I drove in, I knew I’d found Amanda’s home.
However, some the action takes place in Cornwall, and it’s a while since I’ve been there. I needed Google Maps, Wikipedia, tourist websites, Google images, and YouTube videos. Finally, I began to see the small town where Inspector Thomas Trelawney lives and works at the police station. Researching place names in Cornwall and Cornish, I came up with Parhayle. His boss and best friend Chief Inspector Michael Hogarth, lives in a small village near the coast. I found the perfect candidate on raised ground overlooking the water and called it Mornan Bay.
Your chosen location will dictate the local flora and fauna: which bird is singing in the hedgerow in late June, what flowers are blooming in the meadow in early May.
What if you set your story right where you live? Well, have you ever shown visitors around your town? Probably, as I have, you’ve looked up points of interest. Which bring us to … history.
Back in the Day
Thanks to showing guests around my city, I learned the height of Nelson’s column, including the statue (169 feet 3 inches/61.59m), what the lions in Trafalgar Square are made of (bronze), when St Paul’s Cathedral was built (1675 to 1710), the length of Tower Bridge (800 feet/240 m), and the stone used for facing Buckingham Palace (Bath stone). Everything that exists in a village or town has a history that gives the location colour and texture.
To give Amanda’s home, Sunken Madley, I needed to research what people in villages did, how they lived. I looked up YouTubes of Village of the Year and listened to what residents said about their lives. My mentor, author TJ Brown also made me a present of two books: The British Countryside and The Book of British Villages . All of this helped me to get a sense of the location for the books.
Wearing Those Threads
If you set your story at any time in the past, you need to be able to mention, even if in passing, what your characters are wearing. Their status and income will also have a bearing on their taste in clothes. This helps the reader build a picture of each person.
Samantha Briggs in Books 2-4, is a fashion victim who runs riot with Daddy’s credit card on Bond Street. For her, I had to research high fashion that would be worn by someone in their late teens. Vogue and reports on the various fashion weeks were a great help here.
Amanda loves the colour orange and has a somewhat childlike sense of dress. I looked at a lot of orange clothes! Inspector Trelawney is always immaculately dressed in suit and tie. What sort of suits would he buy on a policeman’s salary? Shopstyle.com was a great help, so was GQ.
Language? Well, that’s easy. English surely? However, as I wrote to you last week, there is a great deal of variety under that umbrella term: dialects and foreign or regional accents. For Amanda Cadabra, I researched the Hertfordshire accent. I found some rare footage and a recording of some elderly folk speaking the way they did in that county decades ago.
One of my favourite scenes that I tremendously enjoyed writing is of two old Cornish friends in a pub in Cornwall discussing the weather. I had to listen to YouTubes and research Cornish dialect so that I could, phonetically, convey the rich flavour of their speech.
This Is How We Do It
Finally, we come to customs. These vary from place to place, just like language. And happily, they include food. I researched Cornish cuisine and reminded myself of traditional British favourites too: pasties, jam roly-poly, Victoria Sandwich, marmalade roll, scones and fairy cakes. Amanda, Trelawney and Hogarth each were given a favourite biscuit.
So there you have it. Novel writing is an education, but researching for your story is so much fun you don’t realise along the way just how much you are learning. You become five departments in your film production: costume designer, location manager, dialect coach, background researcher and local consultant. This is one of the great joys of being a novelist. And I am convinced that everyone has a novel in them.
I know that I promised to write more about writing in ‘English’ and just how elastic a term that is, and I shall come back to that.
Chapter 8 of Amanda Cadabra 5 has gone into the ring binder (which means its in it’s near-to-finshed form), and the book makes steady progress towards its release in the spring. The first of my crocuses opened today, and I drove past the first magnificent display of daffodils I have seen this year. So, the new novel is shooting up with the flowers. Back soon with more titbits from the writing life.
Happy Almost Spring,
PS If you want to start the series:
A Choice of Four Reactions
What is your reaction when you see a misspelling or an correct use of grammar? I did a poll on Twitter. Half said they were mildly annoyed, a quarter were extremely irritated, a quarter felt disturbed. No one picked the ‘It doesn’t bother me’ option.
What sort of bugbears are we talking about here? Common culprits are: ‘They’re is’ ‘Me, two’, ‘Come over hear’. Words that evade spell-checkers. How does it feel, just reading those? The chances are that if you a keen reader, it does not improve your mood. Why?
Here’s my theory. Chaos. Not ‘chaos theory’ but simply that we enjoy order. It’s calming. Agreed spelling and grammar is order: this is what we do, this is how we do it.
We are creatures who have relied on the recognition of patterns for our survival. When something deviates, it could indicate danger. The apple that is brown instead of green, the cheese that has blue fur on it, the smell that is too pungent, too sweet, the snap of the twig that breaks the silence. We recognise the thing that doesn’t fit, and it raises the alarm.
In the case of correct usage of language, it should raise a red flag in certain circumstances. If you’re reading the website or an email from someone that you’re thinking of employing, for example, the standard of communication can indicate that they are competent and attend to detail. (However, I must admit that I have tapped out emails in haste and after hitting the send button have spotted a mistake.)
Mistakes may be pardonable in emails. However, if one of these spelling transgressions appears in a novel or a work of non-fiction, it disturbs the flow of our concentration, our engagement with the narrative. The more we have paid for the book, the more we feel entitled to receive text that is expertly edited. That is a reasonable expectation.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t consistently annoy you, or not always to the same degree. ‘Yes, it does,’ you insist. Let’s do an experiment. Don’t you love those?
You get a letter from the Tax Office. It tells you have supplied incomplete information. The writer tells you:
‘Fill in and return in the next too days or you may face prosecution.’
Now you’re annoyed, right? If these people are going to make demands and induce stress, the very least they can do is spell correctly!
Now let’s try this.
You are in your garden. The family living next door are delightful people, and you have become good friends with them all. Suddenly their little girl pops her head over the fence, calls ‘hello’, and waves a piece of paper.
‘I wrote this for you!’ she says with glee.
She passes it to you, and there is a page of her 6-year-old handwriting, at all angles and surrounded by colourful doodles. You begin to read. It is entitled …
My First Storey
It jumps out at you, doesn’t it? But are you annoyed? No. She’s 6 years old, and this is her present to you.Not so sure that misspelling should be a capital crime now? Let’s do one more experiment.
Your current favourite author has just published her 9th book in the series that has you riveted. She seems, from interviews and social media, to be a charming lady too. You snuggle up, get cozy, coffee steaming on the table beside you, to take advantage of two solid hours of bliss.
However, for one reason or another, she brought this book out in a hurry. There in chapter three, is …(gasp) ‘She could not here what he said’. Oh dear. In chapter 5 is another, and throughout the book, there are a dozen such errors. Do you stop reading at any point? Unlikely.
Later you take up a novel that has been recommended by someone you actually don’t like all that much. Nevertheless, it sounds vaguely interesting. Hm. You begin to read … chapter 2 … typo … chapter 3 …. misuse of grammar and a missing word. By the mistake in chapter 5 …? Yes, you probably throw in the towel, thinking, I didn’t really want to read it in the first place.
Who’s In The Driving Seat?
Now we’ve established that our reaction depends on the circumstances. Good. Or is it? Isn’t the problem that we are allowing ourselves to be controlled emotionally by circumstances that we have chosen to engage with? What are the alternative reactions that could leave us less ruffled?
How about this: congratulate yourself on knowing how to spell and use grammar correctly, that the error has been spotted by your informed eagle eye, even allow the flash on indignation that you can’t get a refund and maybe … let it go. Does it really matter? Is it worth dwelling on?
Reading any book for the first time is to some extent a gamble: if we lose, we get minutes or hours wasted and disappointment. However, most of the time, we win; win entertainment, a roller coaster ride, the joy of the characters’ journey, the elation of the ending. It’s worth the throw of the dice, isn’t it?
If you find a favourite author who has let something slip in their book, there is one more thing you can do that will definitely make you feel good: drop them a line and tell them. I have a team of beta readers who do just this for me, and they are gold! And please, if you see me using ‘here’ it should say ‘hear’ or a trespass of that nature in something I have written, do, please tell me. I will feel nothing but appreciation.
However, what about when we don’t agree on the rules? What then? More about that next week …
Book 5 of the Amanda Cadabra British humorous cozy mystery series continues to grow. Back soon with more thoughts to entertain you.
Happy Valentine’s Month,
PS If you want to start the series:
What Do We Mean by ‘English’?
Before I first put pen to paper, or should I say, finger to key, on my first novel, I had a decision to make. What sort of English was I going to use? The answer to ‘do you speak English?’ is not a simple one.
If you’ve ever had a new phone, tablet, or other mobile decide, likely you’ve been asked to set up the language you prefer. Sometimes it’s defined by country. Usually as English, as spoken in England, Britain, and conversely as spoken in the USA. At other times, especially in dictionaries, the alternatives are categorised as ‘as spoken in North America’ or outside of it.
What is the difference? For example, here in the UK, we spell words such as colour and neighbour with a ‘u’ apposed to ‘color’ and ‘neighbor’ in the US. ‘Theatre’ rather than ‘theater’, ‘surprise’ rather than ‘surprise’ are two more instances. Which to choose?
The Amanda Cadabra novels are set in Britain, and so, as a British author, I choose UK English. But how to provide for those who might not be 100 per cent familiar with it? Simple; at the end of each book and here on the website, readers will find a glossary of UK-US terms and usage.
Good. So it’s all in UK English, then? Yes, but not everyone speaks in the same way throughout the UK. Accents vary tremendously. The books include Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, Hertfordshire and Cockney ways of pronouncing words. You may, upon a New Year’s Eve, have sung Auld Lang Syne. That’s the Scottish way of saying Old Long Since or, for old time’s sake. Beloved Sunken Madley resident Sylvia is from the East End of London, she’s a Cockney, and so she drops her ‘h’s. Hence she says ‘ello rather than hello.
Of course, there are also ways of pronouncing English that are special to any particular English-speaking country. Consequently, we have the favourite carer at Pipkin Acres Residential Home, Australian Megan, hailing a visitor called Gwendolen as ‘Gwindolen’ and Amanda as ‘Amenda’.
The word ‘foreign’ is a descendant of the Latin word meaning ‘outside’. That could be just ‘outside your village’ even. In Sunken Madley, retired headmaster Gordon French makes a point of reminding Amanda about newcomers. As he puts it, they are ‘not Village.’
In the days when most travelling was on foot, neighbouring settlements even a couple of miles apart, especially over steep terrain, were divided by the time it took to make the journey. In comparative isolation, each hamlet could develop their own unique ways of expressing identical ideas.
To this day, Cornish people, in the south-west of the UK, refer to Brits on the other side of the Tamar River, the traditional boundary of their land, as being ‘Up North’. Here on the other side of the River, we use the same term to mean the part of England up towards the Scottish border.
However, all in all, customarily today, we use the word ‘foreign’ as a designation of another country.
Dialect and Language
Along with accents are words that are peculiar to a region or land. ‘Ken’ can be used in Scotland for ‘know’. ‘Bairn’ can be heard in the north of the UK for ‘child’.
Next we move into actual foreign tongues. The Cornish language term bian frequently appears in the novels, as Grandpa’s term of affection for Amanda, meaning ‘baby’ or ‘little one’. There is a Frenchman in a Book 4, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, who speaks in French. In Book 1 we have some Swedish too. How to deal with these so readers can understand the words and sentences? The convention is put all foreign words in italics. As they will be likely unfamiliar, it will be apparent that the italics are not for emphasis so that flags them up as non-English. How to convey their meaning? There are two ways. One is by context, the other is by direct translation. Here’s an example of the first one
‘Muchas gracias,’ said the girl.
‘You’re welcome,’ he replied.
Even if you don’t know a word of Spanish, you can gather that what she said was ‘thank you.’
For the second method, here is an example from Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, for the use of the magical language of Wicc’yeth, spoken by the Amanda and her grandparents:
‘Forrag Seothe Macungreanz A Aclowundre,’ Amanda read the title, and attempted a translation. ‘For the Making of … Wonderful
The third way to clarify foreign language usage in a novel is to use English but state that the protagonists are now speaking in another language.
Why Do It?
Why complicate matters? Why not just make everyone in the books English.
First, because adding accents, dialect and terms from other languages words, adds texture, colour, variety and even entertainment in the misunderstandings that can arise.
Second, Sunken Madley is on the outskirts of London. The capital of England is one of the most culturally diverse in the world. So a village on its outskirts would naturally reflect that. This kind of consistency with the real world is vital for creating a story that is believable. The goal is to makes it as easy as possible for you to suspend disbelief and be carried into the narrative, to care about the characters, and to see it as easily as possible in your mind’s eye.
Why make in on the edge of a city at all? Why not make it in the depths of the countryside?
Simply because I want to follow the advice to ‘write what you know.’ I have never lived in a village. I have stayed in them and know people who have lived in them, but I have never had the actual experience. As a city girl born and bred, the edge of London is the best I can do. And you, my dear readers, deserve my best.
Book 5 is now climbing towards 20,000 words, which is about a quarter of the way through. Today I weaved in another strand! Back soon with more insights in the world of creating fiction and news.
One of my book reviewers was kind enough to say, ‘You write men particularly well.’ Several generous readers have remarked that all of the characters are believable, including the males.
How is it done? Not being an authority, I can only tell you how I do it for my particular cozy paranormal mysteries. How I put myself in their shoes.
First of all, I don’t think of the character as ‘a man’. The individual is simply a person. After all, in most cases, pregnant parents don’t think of their child as ‘he’ or ‘she’ but as ‘the baby’ for as many as nine months. They imagine sharing the things they enjoy with this individual regardless of gender, whether it’s Mozart or metal, sewing or soccer, art or astrophysics.
Second, the character, the person, is governed by social codes, the strongest of which is determined by gender. We can think of it as a fence. The shape can round, square, regular or with bulges in it. It can be a low ornamental flower bed border with gaps or 20 feet high barbed wire with an electric current of 7000 volts.
So, what determines the nature of this gender fence? The country where the character lives, the class he is born into and socio-economic background of his parents, his caregivers are all significant factors. For example, in the 1700s in Europe, an upper-class man was expected to wear make-up, have long hair, either his own or a wig, dress in silk, satin, velvet and lace, dance, speak French and write poetry. Consequently, a male who deviated from this was at a severe disadvantage. Georgette Heyer entertainingly explores this in her masterly historical romance novel Powder and Patch.
Fast forward 200 years and the general definition of manliness would preclude all of the above. Just for fun, let’s expand on that and look at how social class affects the fence. Take Billy Elliot, the film and musical based on the play Dancer by Lee Hall. This story has a boy growing up in the 1980s in the coal-mining stronghold of England’s industrial North East. Understandably, drawn to ballet, Billy comes up against the stone wall of working-class prejudice. However, he overcomes the monumental odds in the joyful finale.
By contrast, in About A Boy, the novel by Nick Hornby that was subsequently made into a successful film, our young hero has a very different shaped fence. It is 10 years after Billy’s formative years. Marcus, child of a folksy, adoring, middle-class mother, lives with her in a fashionable part of London and is encouraged to express himself artistically. He finds himself caught between her values and those of their trendy new friend, but nevertheless finds his own happy medium.
So now we come to our hero of the Amanda Cadabra British humorous cozy mystery series, Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney. As his name and role came to me, I saw him: fit, tall, mid-brown hair. I sensed his fence. Middle-class. That told me accent. Cornish, from a fishing port. His gender fence is shaped from working-class, traditional expectations and those differing ones of his parents.
A fence doesn’t have to be a limitation, it can be as far as our experience goes, like a tidemark or a boundary stone. Usually a child can attend only one school at a time or be educated at home, can only live in one place at a time. You can only swim in water, walk on land. What is Trelawney’s terrain? In this case, the system worked backwards. As I sensed Thomas’s character, I knew what his parents were like. His mother is passionate, energetic, and humorous, his father is gentle, quiet, kind. Trelawney attended university as anticipated and approved of by his parents. However, what he studied, his career choice met with doubt, even protest.
An individual then, is a person with fences. Some that that person knows are there, some they accept, others they move, some they escape by relocating, some they simply ignore or don’t notice. These are the things that, in my opinion, form a character. They are the things with which we can all, in some way or another, identify. That’s what makes that person sympathetic, makes us care about what they get up to, how they are treated and if they get a happy ending.
Scientific research now tells us that there is more difference between individuals than between genders. Once characters appear to me in my mind, I hear their voices. The more I get to know them the more I know what they would and wouldn’t say, what they would and wouldn’t do. They show me who they are, because or in spite of their formative fences. As people. Recognisable people. People Ideally, who will engage, intrigue, delight and above all, entertain you!
As a writer, it’s fun to set up notions of the boundaries in the imaginary world and then subvert them. Sunken Madley’s teashop is owned by two men, keen bakers and patissiers. The best shot in the village is a woman. The most intimidating presence is … a cat.
I hope that this brief sketch of a very complex subject, of how one author writes in one sub-genre, has been enlightening, and if you are an aspiring writer, shown you that writing another gender is a lot less of a challenge than you might think. If you are a reader, may this will enrich your experience of the books you read in general and the Amanda Cadabra series in particular.
What news from the writing front? I am now about 4000 words into Book 5 and breaking off to ‘pen’ this letter to you.
If you’d like to join the Amanda Cadabra voyage, Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth is on a 50% price drop until 14th January on Amazon kindle.
Back soon with more writing news and if you’d like to ask me about this letter, please drop me a line, or find me on Facebook and Twitter. Hearing from you makes my day.
Happy New Year!
PS If you want to start the series:
Sharing with you
A smile, a greeting, good wishes, cards or gifts, this, especially, is the time of year for sharing. You may not know this, but writers who sell their books on Amazon make very little on paperbacks (we have to pay the printing costs out of our percentage of the royalties). But, what I have I’m sharing with you. To make your giving a little easier, you can get a ten per cent discount during a short window.
For just 72 hours from Monday to Wednesday 10 – 12th December here’s help with your Christmas shopping. If you order now, you can be sure of getting that cozy fan present in time for the big day.
Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan. The story takes place over Christmas, and if you’re new to the book or the series, expect action, magic, laughter, surprises and bookish delight. (For those of you familiar with it, yes, it does have a brand new cover!)
Although this is the third novel in the British humorous cozy paranormal mystery series, each adventure is self-contained, with its own puzzle and er … body! It’s a by-the-fire (or in the hammock, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere) read for the winter before, during or after Yule.
Do you know someone who’d love an asthmatic, furniture-restoring young witch tackling a body wrapped in an enigma, with a dash of danger, topped off with a happy ending? Maybe a future fan of the genre? The most important thing is that you sign it to them with love.
And here is a little video about it to watch or send:
For a stocking filler, either for you or someone you to want to treat, the kindle version will have its own couple of free days just before Christmas Day. (Dates to be announced soon!) Sometimes you need that last-minute present or a little luxury to reward yourself what you may have put into making the occasion special.
Amanda Cadabra Book 5: 1000 words
On the writing front, I have news for you. Last night, I wrote the first 1000 words of Book 5. How did it happen? How does it feel? That is a story for another post.
Meanwhile, happy sparkles in the dark days.
PS If you want to start the series: