With the countdown to 25th December in just hours now, here’s a little help with eleventh-hour preparations:
From Sunday until Christmas Eve, the Christmas cozy paranormal mystery, Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan is free on Amazon Kindle. For 72 hours, this is for you to download, send as a last-minute gift, stocking filler or reward to yourself. After all, you deserve a treat, especially now.
Here’s a little video you might like to send to someone who needs to beat the clock. Or they may be a fellow fan who loves a humorous British whodunnit with a wandful of magic and a hint of romance sprinkled on the top.
This is the last special offer of the year. Still, I will have news of one for January 2020, especially for anyone who would like to start on the Amanda Cadabra series. More of that next time.
Meanwhile, here is my latest article for the Books Go Social Magazine – Holiday Reads. If you’d like inspiration for seasonal literary indulgences, follow the link where you can read or download the magazine and enjoy a wealth of recommendations and ideas.
And so to conclude, may I wish you the very best of the holidays, love, friendship, sumptuous food, beautiful settings, merriment and all that is fine and light and of good cheer.
Back next week,
PS If you want to start the series:
The poisoned sherry, the gunshot from the snow-covered terrace, the knife beneath the festive tree, the blackmail note inside the gift-wrap. How can we resist?
With mystery, thrillers and crime topping the Kindle charts only just behind romance, what is the appeal of the genre at this time of year?
People gather who customarily avoid one another like the plague, but under familial pressure, a sense of duty, or fear of isolation, duly attend the party. Let us set aside the convivial ideal gathering, and inspect instead the potential for delightfully deadly conflict.
Hosts prepare exceptional food, guests dress up and bring presents: all potential pawns in the battle for status, approval and a place in the family head’s will! The cooking of an ambitious feast causes tension in the kitchen. Old feuds are rekindled. Light the blue touch paper … and stand back.
The writer will set us up with apparent comfort and joy. The fairy lights, candles, tinsel and baubles on the tree, sparking wrapping and satin ribbon adorn the setting. Cards are exchanged, full of sentiment, heartfelt or spurious. Seasonal music fills the air, carols in the village church, singers with lanterns outside the door, old favourites around the piano and on the radio. The banquet is rolled out, to oohs and ahhhs as the turkey or goose in all its golden splendour is borne from the kitchen. The pops of the crackers sound, the laughter at the awful jokes, paper crowns. perched comically. The tastes of the savoury and sweet are relished. A feast for the senses. Smiling faces, goodwill … and then ….
The sudden, shocking interruption. The dive into a world of plots, suspicion, passion and dark deeds until the awful truth is revealed. Contrast follows again with the happy ending, the victim given justice, and the innocent exonerated. The lights come back on, the toast is drunk, and the Christmas spirit is all the greater for the drama that has unfolded.
For an example, I reach for a Christmas crime by the godmother of the cozy mystery: Dame Agatha Christie.
Interestingly her prime cozy sleuth Miss Marple is unavailable for the winter celebration. However, her Belgian private detective, Hercule Poirot, comes to our rescue in a short story. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is the one Christie that could only have unfolded during that time of year.
Poirot rejects the whole idea of the traditional rural English Christmas. The countryside signifies the damp and chill of old stone mansions, and, he declares, the occasion is, in his native land, reserved for children. However, the plight of a hapless prince and royal scandal are in the balance. The young man has been robbed of a priceless family heirloom: a suitably red ruby.
The trail leads to Kings Lacey. With the promise of efficient central heating and hot water, our beloved Belgian agrees to join a family party there. Dinner brings a dazzling surprise with an unexpected object in the plum pudding. How did it get there? Soon there is a more pressing question as the red and white of yuletide turns to blood on the snow. Who is responsible for the footprints leading out to the body lying in the garden?
Christie throws in twists and turns to bring the path to a satisfactory conclusion. Not the best written, but it is her most Christmassy and tosses us from interest, to anticipation, to engagement, to shock, to resolution and back to seasonal joy.
However, I would suggest that our attachment to Christmas crime goes back far earlier than Christie. At the dawn of our human consciousness, the first mystery surely would have been why nature died, the days darkened, the air chilled. And then, a further curiosity, why the earth revived, lightened and warmed.
It is innate in us all to seek cause and effect. Could it be that at this time of year we have some genetic, tribal memory linking us to that first puzzle? Our forebears attempted to explain it, with what we still do: telling stories. An example is the tale of the battles at the solstices between Oak, king of summer and Holly, lord of winter.
Isn’t that what a mystery is? Not cause and effect, but effect first: a dead body. Who or what caused it? Whodunnit.
So as the death of nature resolves into the beginning of the lengthening of days, what better genre to celebrate with than a mystery? In harmony with the seasonal spirit, what better than a cozy mystery?
As a global event, the solstice is celebrated or has a history of celebration in some form or another across the world. Whether with tinsel and glitter, candles and bonfires, smiles and laughter, add a mystery, and let there be light.
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.
The moment has come. With Tuesday’s release of the paperback of Amanda Cadabra and the Rise of Sunken Madley, Book 4 in the series and the free days for Book 2 almost upon us, here is a new video made for you in the past few days.
The new video is just out. It is a reading of the first chapter of Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and the Cellar of Secrets by me with some clips and images to entertain you while you listen. If you prefer to read along or just read, the text of the chapter is below.
In case, you’re wondering …
What goes into making a reading video like this?
It takes days. First, you need a good quality microphone, and I use the Rode NT, which I can plug into my computer. Some people have more sophisticated setups, but this does the job. Next, you need headphones so you can hear yourself read and also pick up on any interference or background noise that you don’t want. Next, I make sure I have ‘the script’: sometimes a printout, sometimes an ebook version. It helps to sit comfortably and to position yourself the optimum distance from the mic, which is about 6 inches. I use a floor stand for this.
What about background noise?
Without studio conditions, sound echoes off any hard surface: walls, furniture, doors, technology. So I use a foam filter, the shape of half a large tube that sits behind the mic. Next, I plug in the mic and make sure that the program I use and the computer recognise that that is how the sound is going to come in. Also, I set the recording to playback through the laptop or desktop speakers, depending on which I’m using.
If the ‘one, two, three, four, testing, Mary had a little lamb’, and the silence in between is ‘clean’ and clear then, there is a followup step: turn off all appliances that create background noise. That’s the tech set up.
So I can just go ahead and read and record now, right? Not quite. The enemy of voiceovers is mouth clicks. Those are extra noises your tongue makes releasing contact with it’s surrounding walls, floor and roof, so to speak. You want just the right amount of moisture around. How do you achieve this? The night before I make sure I have plenty of water to drink and the next morning too. I have tea or water handy and take sips every few sentences.
What if any get through regardless? Most can be edited out, but it’s time-consuming. I usually make two or three recordings of the whole chapter so that I can cut and paste from whichever one is the ‘cleanest’.
How long does each chapter take to record?
On average, 15 minutes to read. It can take longer. If you stumble over words, misread the script, hear your mouth clicking away, or neighbour slams a door, a car revs outside, a plane makes a low flyover, a helicopter passes … you get the idea. Then you have to stop, wait if necessary and re-read the sentence or phrase.
That’s just the recording. Next comes the editing. It’s a long and painstaking process to get the very best version possible. Additionally, it might sound too nasal or tinny, and that is adjusted using the graphic equaliser that comes with the program I use. I listen through both headphones and the computer speakers to check the quality.
Now the recording of the chapter is settled. What next? I add the introductory music that plays at the end too. This time, in a first-ever, I added some sound effects to signify the scene changes.
While you listen?
All done now? Not yet. I think it enhances your, the reader’s, experience if you have some visuals. This means gathering stills and clips. The still photographs need to be edited so that they are video screen shape. As all of the Amanda Cadabra books involve a trip to the past, one or two may need to be turned into a black and white or sepia version. As they are prepared the video is assembled, the audio track is added, and the stills and clips are synchronised with the text. Credits are added at the end.
Now it’s ready. Time to prepare this letter to you and announce its release. Just click on the screen above to be transported to Sunken Madley, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. You’ll have 72 hours to download the book, free from Amazon from Tuesday to Thursday, 29th to 31st October. Both Book 2 and Book 4 will unite in a doubt cover reveal before then right here. Yes, Book 2 is getting a makeover!
Happy reading and listening,
PS If you want to start the series:
Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets
Why Amanda Found the Body
Call a doctor or search for clues? Amanda Cadabra took the few vital seconds to make the decision.
But then, she had never been impulsive.
‘Mrs Cadabra, with the best will in the world from you and your husband, your granddaughter could not have had a normal childhood.’
In response, the lady seated with regal posture on the chintz sofa, inhaled, and raised an eyebrow, rendering her larger violet eye even more magnified than usual. Her piercing glare demanded an explanation. Detective Sergeant Thomas Trelawney of the Devon and Cornwall Police was not easily intimidated, as Vic ‘The Headbanger’ Hardy could have told anyone brave enough to have asked him.
However, on this, his first visit, to 26 Orchard Row, Sunken Madley, Trelawney needed to make some kind of connection with Senara, Perran, and their beloved granddaughter and adoptee Amanda. These three were, after all, the only witnesses to the day of the incident, 28 years ago, that he was here to continue investigating.
‘Here’ was a village that had grown up out of the rural landscape over a period of 800 years. It lay 13 miles to the north of the Houses of Parliament, and three miles south of the border of Hertfordshire. Herts, as the abbreviation is styled, was home to Jane Austen’s Emma and the seat of the burgeoning aircraft industry in the last century. Since those days, the county boundaries had been moved so that Sunken Madley was now, technically, on the outskirts of Greater London.
Nevertheless, Sunken Madley still was, in spirit, a country village, off the beaten track, hidden by the encircling trees. It was distinguished only by its orchard of Hormead Pearmain apples, and fine stained-glass windows, adorning the medieval church of St Ursula-without-Barnet. Of particular interest to students of the art, was the composition of the saint and the little bear with the bag of apples.
A gust of wind cast a pink handful of cherry blossom against the living room window as Trelawney’s hazel eyes returned Mrs Cadabra’s gaze politely but unwaveringly. He said mildly, ‘In other words, Amanda wouldn’t always have been able to play in the fields, run up and down the garden, maybe eat anything she wanted, like the other children here could.’
‘One couldn’t expect you to know this, Sergeant, not having any of your own,’ Mrs Cadabra pronounced with sympathetic condescension, ‘but,’ and she took a loose hairpin from her white victory roll, ‘children … adapt.’ She speared the accessory back into her coiffure to signal that the subject was closed.
Trelawney hadn’t finished. He thrived on puzzles, bringing order to chaos, and justice to the wronged. However, above these assets, his soon-to-be-retired boss, Chief Inspector Hogarth, trusted his seasoned judgment, especially of when to operate with a light touch.
He swivelled his tall, slim, grey-suited form towards Perran, who smiled kindly and said, with his gentle Cornish-flavoured voice, ‘I know what you mean, Sergeant. But Amanda was always a very special little one. Since she was a bian, a baby, she spent her fair share of nights in the local hospital when we didn’t know if she’d pull through. We did our best to help her, but in the end, she learned the hard way that her choices had consequences.’
‘Did that make Amanda fearful? Wary?’
‘Oh no, Sergeant, just careful, wise even, beyond her years. Though in others she’s young for her age. But, as Senara said, she got used to things, like carrying her inhaler, avoiding certain food, watching the pollen count. Amanda always says, ‘It isn’t terminal, after all, it’s just asthma.’
It was asthma that had brought Amanda Cadabra to this moment, this room … this body.
She felt for a pulse.
It had all happened a great deal sooner than anyone in the village could have expected. Even Dr Sharma, who was in the know, when she told Amanda about the new allergy clinic, had said that it was months away.
Amanda had dropped in, to collect a repeat prescription for her asthma inhaler, on her way to see about a furniture restoration job. An eager trainee from infancy, Amanda had taken over her grandfather’s business.
Asthma and furniture restoration were unlikely bedfellows, with the toxic chemicals, dust, and hard physical labour. This had niggled Trelawney from the first time he had read the case file three years ago.
Amanda’s secret levitation skills enabled her to cope covertly but ably. Trelawney, however, was a long way from even contemplating this possibility. And even if he had been able to, it would have been only with extreme scepticism and inexplicable discomfort.
Still, Amanda took sensible precautions and always had her inhaler handy. Dr Sharma was a respected and gifted physician, and between her own magic and the general practitioner’s medicine, the asthma was under reasonable control.
However, there was no denying that Amanda’s chest momentarily tightened when Neeta Sharma had told her where they were going to build an allergy research centre.
Last weekend was a roaring success. Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, Book 4 in the British humorous cozy mystery series, is now available. At the same time, Book1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth had 1000 downloads!
Here’s a little video to extend my thanks to everyone who supported that weekend in one way or another, even just by visiting this site:
Here is the very first review. Click on the image to read it:
What’s next? The release of the paperback of Book 4 is expected this month, together with a special Hallowe’en offer on Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. This is especially for readers of Book 1 who would like to carry on with the series, and anyone looking for a Hallowe’en gift. More news of that to follow.
Book 2 will have a new cover by our resident illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña. I hope to bring you a special interview with him soon. Daniel has travelled the world to study and find inspiration for his remarkable art. I think any aspiring artist, art-lover or studier of book covers will find his experiences and observations as fascinating as I did.
Looking forward to being back with more news for you.
It is my great pleasure to open the curtain (just enough) on the cover art by my new illustrator Erik Patricio Lúa who has been working tirelessly, bringing his extraordinary talents to the table to create the image on the jacket.
And now … for the title:
The action continues 10 days after the events of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth finish. Covert witch and asthmatic furniture restorer Amanda, and her grumpy cat Tempest, are confronted by a suspicious death.
‘Being the person who finds the body never looks good.’ Amanda has no alibi. There’s only one witness, whom the police can’t see. Grandparents Senara and Perran tell her to use her resources. But what to do when they are exhausted? Time is running out. Amanda has asked too many questions. There’s no going back. The answer is in a place only she can go: The Cellar of Secrets.
Readers who enjoy the first book will be pleased to find that Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney and former Chief Inspector Mike Hogarth return, together with the villagers, including Joan the postlady, Mrs Sharma at the post office, the ladies at The Grange, and Mr Hanley-Page, the demon driver, among others.
There is excitement in Sunken Madley over an event on the edge of the village that is drawing in a number of visitors and a new workforce. But not all are what they seem.
This book has its own stand-alone whodunnit, but you’ll relish it even more if you’ve already met the villagers and the Cornish detectives in Book 1, where the series’ underlying mystery begins.
Four more goodies:
- The release date can now be announced: Sunday, 16th December, in time for Christmas.
- The paperback will be following close on its heels.
- Look out for the new trailer release in the next couple of days.
- A full cover reveal will follow soon.
If you are enticed by Book 2 and have yet to read Book 1, then a day or so after the launch there will be a free promotional Kindle e-book day to allow fans of Book 2 to catch up and download Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, saving their cash for the new sequel and the paperback.
Looking forward to entertaining you in the world of Sunken Madley with Amanda Cadabra.
If Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth delighted you in any way, there is still time to post a review on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, any social networking site in fact, or Goodreads and Bookbub. I would be overjoyed.
Tomorrow, Sunday, 28th October 2018, is the big Halloween offer day. Amanda Cadabra and the Hidey-Hole Truth will be available to download on Amazon Kindle free for 24 hours. Have you been waiting for this moment to read it before the sequel comes out? Do you know someone who would enjoy an entertaining new cozy paranormal mystery for Halloween or for some curl-up-on-the-sofa time? Then please do take this opportunity, and also share the love. Just click the link below for your country’s Amazon to go straight to the page.
This is the third of the limited KDP free promotion days. This time Books Go Social, Fussy Librarian and Awesomegang will be spreading the word, covering thousands of their subscribers of eager cozy mystery readers so tomorrow will be an exciting day. As before, I am looking forward to sharing the results with you.
To any authors out there, I would highly recommend Books Go Social to you, not just for their book promotional services centred on Twitter but for their highly valuable tailor-made advice, second to none that I have so far come across offering this service.
For example, thanks to Books Go Social I have realised that although there are various email services for you to sign up to for your areas of particular interest: Sunken Madley Inspiration, Tempest, VIP Readers Group, there wasn’t one for those of you who would just like to keep in touch and get general news. So here it now is, in all its glory. Do come on in and join us.
Remember, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth is also available in paperback if you’re looking for a last minute spooky Halloween present, complete with the mysteries of wtiches, ghosts, a body and secret tunnels.
In the next post, I expect to have some tantalising news about the sequel!
Meanwhile, I wish you a happy weekend.
Back to Book 2 …!