Today sees the unveiling of the new cover, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, first in the (to date) 6-book British humorous cozy paranormal mystery series. The question is,
Why the change?
The series is about to enter a new era. But more that later. As the first book is most likely the first in the series that new readers will see, it needed something special. Rather than re-moulding the scene on the previous cover, I told the story of the book to our illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña, and left it up to him to let his imagination form his own creative ideas.
Out of 6 sketches that Daniel supplied, this was the scene that we both thought was the strongest.
Daniel has conjured a combination of modern era, magical whimsy and the golden age of the cozy mystery: the 1930s. Research time runs into many hours, following my nose down narrow alleys to obscure websites and broad streets of mainstream sources like Wikipedia. To supply Daniel with reference images, I scoured pages of 1930s covers. The colour palette of the cover echoes that period, even Amanda’s dress neckline is out of a vintage illustration on an authentic dress patterns packet.
The setting is a room in a Tudor house, Sunken Madley Manor. The wardrobe door and the door are from period furniture, and the edge of the tapestry on the right of the cover is drawn from an example using Tudor pictorial and decorative traditions. The Holland cover (sheet for protecting furniture) over the wardrobe adds a ghostly feel.
The light coming between the partly open curtains, suggests we are peeking through them, getting a look at a secret scene, as privileged viewers.
The Emerging Final Version
As Daniel adds each new layer, new aspects and details become apparent that could benefit from tweaking. Daniel patiently applies these and sends back iteration after iteration until it is perfect. Finally, it goes to Tim, my mentor who acts as design consultant and to Kim, our editor.
Then, it’s ready for the partial reveal. Next, it is loaded on Amazon, ready to pass their quality control and be published. At the same time, the full cover reveal is announced here and on Facebook. Usually Twitter and Instagram get a look-in too.
This is a process that can take from weeks to months. From seed to seedling, to sapling to mature tree. It’s organic and well as procedural and takes an artist with an intuitive understanding of the spirit of the series as well as technical expertise. It also takes a good personality fit. Working with Daniel is immensely enjoyable. There’s a high of excitement every time he sends a first sketch or a new iteration. I love seeing his ingenuity in creating scenes and details I would never have imagined. Being able to work so closely with ‘a creative’ is one of the great unexpected perks of being an independent author.
What Else is New?
The map of Book 1, Sunken Madley in Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth has been updated with the smartened up versions of some of the most important buildings and locations in the village.
Tomorrow Book 1, in its smart new outfit, is being entered for an award. Later this week, I look forward to typing up more midnight notes (still coming) for the new sequel.
Back soon with more news.
Wishing you a happy conclusion to spring,
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
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
The Big Change
It’s massive now. It wasn’t then. Oh dear, can it be cured, I hear you ask. I do hope not. What I am describing is the collection of books written for teenagers, middle grade and young adult.
Only in recent years have these sections of the library blossomed into a wealth of literature that offers entertainment, reassurance, understanding and insight to young people.
Oases in the Desert?
From 11-14 were crucial formative reading years for me. But in the comparative desert of books for that age, how did I find the authors that would one day contribute to the creation of Amanda Cadabra and her cozy paranormal mystery world?
The answers lie a click away. Short story author and poet
has just generously treated me to a guest blog post space on her splendid book review website,
The World of My Imagination
. If you love books, do check out her YouTube
. It is simply one of the most beautiful and moving videos I have ever seen.
And now to revelations of my love affair and subsequent teenage dreams … Just click the image and …
Back soon with news of the paperback version (it’s now available on Kindle) of
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths
, now very close to publication. Plus one more free day for Book 1.
PS If you want to start the series:
Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle
It was love at first sight. Just over two weeks ago, our outstanding illustrator Daniel sent me four sketches from which to choose. I had a breathless moment when I laid eyes on the fourth one. I kept looking back at it. Knowing it might be the most challenging of all of the compositions, I was confident Daniel could make it work.
Balancing Act and Countdown
I’d given Daniel two or three possible cover scenes from the story. They would need to be arresting and attractive but with no spoilers. There also needed to be some continuity with the previous covers in the series.
Daniel was due to go on leave shortly. He sent me the various stages, and I asked for tweaks that he patiently made. Knowing how industrious he is, the last thing I wanted was for Daniel to have to work on my project during his vacation. With just 4 hours to go until his departure, the cover was done!
Here it is for your viewing pleasure. For me, it’s the best Daniel has produced for the Amanda Cadabra series. I was thrilled. My mentor’s reaction was — and please bear in mind that he works in graphics — ‘Wow, classy.’
We are only days away from the launch of the book, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths, so I’m working on the trailer video now. The book is due to become available this weekend on Amazon, first of all for Kindle.
As though things weren’t happening fast enough, Book 6 has started writing itself! If you would like to know what the title of that new book will be … you’ll find it at the end of Book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths.
Back on launch day with news of trailer movie magic and the paperback edition.
PS If you want to start the series:
Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle
What is something so grim as illness doing in a light, comfortable mystery? Let me tell you a story.
Back in the day, I went on a first date. It was with a Welshman, in a beautiful spot on the river Thames: Maidenhead. The restaurant was right by the water, blue from the sky from where the sun was shining. It was a golden day, and I was hopeful of passing an enjoyable lunchtime.
And then …
My date began to discourse. He gleefully related anecdote after anecdote of disease and resulting fatality.
‘There was this man, you see?’ the Welshman continued with relish. ‘It was in the papers. Twenty-five he was and fit as a fiddle, so he thought. An athlete. And then. One day. He dropped dead. Stone dead.’
‘Really?’ I asked curiously.
‘Tuberculosis! Didn’t know he had it. Well, doesn’t that just go to show? You never know.’
I repeatedly tried to turn to the conversation to happier themes, but with determination, he wrenched it back. Finally, realising what I was trying to do, he explained,
‘I like a bit of death.’
As you can imagine, I excused myself as soon as possible, and we did not have a second encounter. But what is the point of my sharing that with you?
It’s that the story is amusing. It has likely made you smile, even laugh. It has lifted your mood, even though it includes sickness and mortality. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that medical matters can have a place in light literature.
Health Issues in the Great Cozies
Let’s look at one of the novels Daphne du Maurier, who has been listed as a cozy mystery author. In Rebecca, it is a health condition that is the key to unlocking the puzzle of ‘what happened that night?’ There are no disturbing medical details. They would be extraneous to the plot and the genre. We are simply informed of the illness.
In The Pale Horse, Agatha Christie uses disability to throw us off the scent. Miss Marple’s recovery from illness takes us to warmer climbs where she might convalesce in A Caribbean Mystery.
A popular device in whodunnits is the victim’s medication, being used as a vehicle for murder most foul: an overdose or substituted with a dangerous substance or with something harmless but depriving the patient of necessary medicine. What is crucial is the treatment, if you’ll excuse the pun, of the illness. That is, no graphic details, just as a cozy murder takes place usually off-camera.
Why Asthma for Amanda?
So we come to medical matters in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series. I have been asked why I gave our heroine debilitating asthma. Doesn’t that make her weak? Physically, yes, she is below par. However, that is the very reason why she needs the indispensable component of the genre, magic. She also relies on her familiar, who is, in a sense, her seeing-eye cat.
The origin of Amanda’s asthma provides a vital part of the overall story arc of the series. It also gives her a reason to be at the clinic constructed during Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. It creates balance with Inspector Trelawney. He surpasses her in fitness, but she has the greater, and vitally important, mystical abilities.
A Bit Special
When I researched the format, the formula for a cozy paranormal mystery, I knew that I wanted mine to be a bit different. Amanda’s physical limitations give her the opportunity to develop and demonstrate other kinds of strength. On the other hand, at the same time, it makes her grandparents and fellow villagers disarmingly protective regardless of however provoking their quirks might be!
A medical condition sees the dispatch of one of the less likeable characters. It also influences Granny and Grandpa’s decision as to which level of existence they choose and when.
So, I hope you’re satisfied with the place of medical matters in the cozy context. Even fatalities, the very heart of a whodunit. Perhaps, after all, you’ll say as regards your taste in literature,
‘I like a bit of death!’
Meanwhile, I am now 30,000 words into Amanda Cadabra Book 5, with 15 chapters complete and pretty much finalised.
Back next time with more musings for your entertainment.
PS If you want to start the series:
Amazon, Apple Books,
Kobo and others.
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:
Do You Love Romance?
‘Not at all. I don’t want any of that primrose path stuff cluttering up the plot,’ you may say.
Fair enough. When I feel that way, do you know which aisle I head for? The children’s section. (Except for that chapter in Tom Sawyer. You know the one.) Want to include more grown-up fiction? A thoughtful reader has compiled an excellent list on Goodreads: here.
Bring It On
Can’t get enough of that St Valentine’s Day feeling? Looking for a romance novel? It’s not quite that simple. There’s a spectrum. At one end we have ‘clean romance’ or as, Barbara Cartland, doyenne of dalliance, called it ‘pure romance’. Simply put, this is where the protagonists behave with a degree of decorum, and the narrative ends at the bedroom door.
Then we have a middle section where the story takes us from tasteful action with the chamber that goes up to erotica. Do not confuse this with porn, by the way. Writing erotica well is an exacting art, and for our purposes would have a romantic context.
Love in A-midst – Cocktail
Some of the significant romantic works of fiction are not through and through romance. Really? Take Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, for example. These are as much thriller as on the subject of l’amour. Gone With The Wind is as much historical fiction as the latter. (Reading that actually got me studying The American Civil War.) So it may be worth browsing other shelves for your next romantic read.
Just a Dash
If you’re finding that no genre is safe from the fond flame and don’t mind or want, just a soupçon of two hearts that beat as one, then this is where you have the greatest scope for a full library and hours of literary enjoyment. Isaac Asimov, in his epic Foundation science fiction series, finds time and space for the tender passion. If you’re peeking around the door at horror, you’ll find romance elements in the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein.
Fantasy? The Lord of Rings has a wistful sampling of true love. Terry Pratchett in his Witch and Discworld series clearly felt that no story is complete without romance.
And Now We Come To It
It was only a matter of time. Cozy mystery. In my particular case, cozy paranormal mystery. Where does romance sit in that? Here is my experience.
When, two years ago, the genre was explained to me by fantasy writer TJ Brown, I went off in search of the rules of the game. Back then, I gained the impression that readers preferred their stories without romance. I duly wrote Amanda Cadabra Book 1 accordingly. Amanda and Inspector Trelawney move from distrust, suspicion and irritation to a connection of some description by the end of the book.
Revelations From Readers
And then … I found readers were seizing with enthusiasm on the possibilities of a warmer liaison between the two. Tim had wisely said to me that your readers will tell you what they want. The Readers had spoken. I was only beginning to get to know Amanda and Trelawney. Through books 2 – 4 and into 5, I let them develop their connection at their own place. They are, of course, kept in a holding pattern by the professional nature of their relationship. If you are reading the whole series, I do hope that you are enjoying seeing how it unfolds and where it goes!
Since my maiden voyage into cozy, I have discovered many, if not most, books in the genre include a romance component. Consequently, I gather than most readers like this side order served with their main cozy course.
That concludes this brief foray into the flutterings of the heart in literature. Amanda 5 is now 21,000 words in, and 5 chapters are much as they will be when delivered to you.
Back next week with more ponderings for your entertainment.
Happy last weeks of winter,
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.
If it’s a cozy environment, why have villains in it at all? In a word, contrast. As Shakespeare wrote: ‘How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world’. Our warm and fuzzy setting, while not a naughty world, has dusky elements that only our bright and plucky main character, usually female in this genre, can overcome.
The Scale of Villainy
Baddies come in various degrees of baddiness. On one end we have the uncontrollable psychopaths with no moral compass whatsoever: Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs, Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, Mr Hyde from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
With reference to the photo above, this is a lookielike of James Bond arch-villain Blofeld’s cat. A mention therefore must be made of villains you love to hate. From the beginning we don’t take them seriously so there is a diminished sense of threat. They openly revel in their misdemeanors so there is no mystery.
Next, there are those who perhaps did once have a sense of right and wrong but are overcome by emotion, for example, jealousy: Mrs Danvers in Rebecca and Iago in Othello.
Finally there are good people who do bad things. Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester makes the best of a bad situation with his first wife. He arranges for private medical care, as it were, while living a lonely and despairing existence. Rochester fights against his growing attraction to Jane which manifests itself as abruptness. However, at last, out of desperation, he attempts a deception that, exposed, leaves Jane traumatised. Good person; bad deed.
The Way You Tell ‘Em
Where do these figure in cosy mystery? Turning to the queen and godmother of the genre, Agatha Christie, we observe her treatment of villains. The author has ‘evil’ in one of her titles and even the apparently mild Miss Marple uses the adjective ‘wicked’. Christie’s murderers are cold, calculating killers who, in pre-1965 Britain would have faced execution.
In the cosy genre we eschew the gore of the rampaging axe-wielder using unacceptable language to express his dissatisfaction. However, we do have our pick of the scale if we present them apparently palatably. Christie accomplished this cleverly. Her murderers appear normal, even likeable or sympathetic, until the dénouement, the unmasking at the end. Then the part of our cosy world with the dark patch of unsolved crime is lit with the beacon of truth.
This leads me to believe that the secret to wring baddies in a cozy mystery, is to do with presentation.
Learning on the Job
I developed much of my own method courtesy of TJ Brown author of The Unhappy Medium, when I had the privilege of top editing his novel Tom Fool, second in the comic paranormal series. Top edit? This is the final check for continuity, flow, and includes analysis of the mental and emotional terrain of the book. The editor looks at how well they work and suggests any way that they might be improved. And here I learned about how to write villains in a fun read.
Tim’s principle baddies are evil, so evil that he nudges them into caricature. His lesser villains he renders ridiculous in their obsessions. (Rather like Cruella de Ville in The One Hundred and One Dalmations) There are scary scenes, moments of chilling fear and split seconds of shock that, with a word, a phrase, or sentence, he artfully switches to helpless giggles on the part on the reader. Tim’s tools: absurdity and diffusing. Of course, all nasties come to a sticky end and justice is served while the heroic goodies live to fight another day.
I learned so much from those weeks working with Tim, who finally convinced me I could write a novel of my own. That was when he told me of a genre hitherto beyond my ken: cosy paranormal mystery.
The Miscreants of Amanda Cadabra
The baddies in the Amanda Cadabra series, similarly to Tim’s approach, are in two tiers: the shadowy witch-clans of the Cardiubarns, Granny’s family, and the Flamgoynes, their cold-war-style foes. From birth, the threat to Amanda is very real and dictates her secretive life-style. Although I prefer to avoid such weighted words evil and wicked it is clear that both clans are thoroughly ill-intentioned. Nevertheless, the amoral fashion in which they do not hesitate to bump each other off tips edges them towards comic.
Each book has its own mystery. However, there are no psychopaths among the criminals, who are driven by emotion such as jealousy and fear. But wrong has been committed and fairness to the victim dictates that they are brought to justice, which of course they are.
This being the world of warm and fluffy (with an edge), no character to whom we have become attached perishes. However, even if it is an outsider, it is still a case for our heroine of ‘ritin’ ‘rongs’, in the words of Richmal Crompton’s incomparable William. When Amanda does so we share the moment with her and our sense of balance in satisfied, our faith in the ultimate victory of light and right restored.
The subject of villains and their treatment in literature is a vast and deep one. This is but my take of an overview and a how-I-do-it.
The manuscript of Book 5 is now laid out on my carpet, a crucial stage in its development. It is growing into the dish that I hope will be for your cozy delectation.
Back next week with more ponderings, revelations and news.
Happy Winter Days,
PS If you want to start the series: