Could you? Ever thought about it? Someone ever told you that you could do this professionally?
What? Make the transition from reader to beta reader to reviewer/blogger to pro beta reader to editor. That’s quite a journey, you’re thinking? You’re a reader, so you’ve made a start. But would it be possible to turn your favourite hobby into something that actually generates income? Well, here is someone who’s done it. It is my privilege to interview my treasured editor, who has been with the Amanda Cadabra books from the very beginning, Flora Gatehouse, pro beta reader and literary enthusiast:
Flora, I think, people who don’t write at all would like to know how you became a book reviewer.
I have always loved books; I remember as a child reading anything I could get my hands on and that love of reading has stayed with me all the way into adulthood. I’m not quite sure how I became a bona fide book reviewer though. I have always waxed lyrical about my favourite reads to my family and friends, hoping to encourage them to read one book or another. I love it when someone reads and enjoys a book that I suggested; it’s quite a thrill. I eventually decided to use my blog, to put pen to paper, as it were, and put my thoughts and suggestions out there. I have been writing book reviews in increasing frequency over the last four years and have even written a post about it – How Do I Start? – that gives some basic pointers and highlights the questions that I ask myself when I write reviews.
How do you know what books to read?
It may sound obvious but I read the books that I think I’ll enjoy. I’m persuaded by the front cover, the blurb on the back and the general opinions about the story that I find on Amazon and Goodreads.com. Of course, if I’ve read other books by that same author and enjoyed them, I’m already halfway sold on it. Reading is my hobby and my passion, so I want to reduce the odds of the book I pick up, not being to my taste by avoiding genres, themes and authors I’ve read in the past that weren’t my cup of tea.
How do you decide what is good?
Lol! That’s a loaded question, Holly. Deciding what is “good” is a wholly subjective thing. Many of my fellow book bloggers have recently decided to stop “rating” books as everyone’s idea of what is good (or not) is different. For me, I’m looking at the way the story is told as well as the story itself, for example, I don’t like it when the flow is stunted by too many things that a good editor would pick up (spelling, grammar, punctuation, plot holes, inconsistencies, etc), I hate it when a book ends on a perilous cliff-hanger and I always want to be emotionally connected to the protagonists; I wrote a post about some of my expectations regarding the leading female character too (OK, it might have been a bit of a rant, actually so, sorry in advance). If a book can make me laugh, cry and hold my breath, then I’m going to enjoy it more and rate it higher; I want to be swept away and drawn into the adventure.
How do you separate whether it’s your sort of book or not from its worth as a literary work?
That’s a tough one. The definition of literary work is a written piece of art but what is art? I don’t think it’s my job to decide whether a book is a literary work or not. My job as a book reviewer is all about giving other readers my opinion about the story, to help them decided whether a particular book is their sort of thing. As a beta reader, my job of reviewing a book has a slightly different directive; as well as my opinion about whether I liked the story as a whole, I’m also giving the author a detailed critique about every aspect of their unpublished manuscript.
How do you become a professional beta reader? What is that? What criteria do you use?
A beta reader is someone who reads an unreleased work of literature or other writing, who gives feedback from the point of view of an average reader to the author (similar to beta testing in software). The feedback is used by the writer to fix remaining issues with plot, pacing and consistency. Many authors send their manuscript off for beta reading so that they can gain some unbiased insight; ensuring that their book is well suited for readers, is conveying the right message and is enjoyable to read, before they move on to final editing or publishing.
I almost fell into beta reading by accident, although looking back it does feel like a natural transition. As I mentioned before, over the last 5 years I have been reviewing books that I’ve bought or been given by family and friends, but I have also been given ARCs (Advance Reader Copy) from publishers and authors in exchange for my reviews. The combination of my passion for reading, attention to detail and my skill set developed as a teaching assistant, has lead to my hobby developing into a service that I offer authors.
I charge a fee for my beta reading service but what do I do to earn it? Well, as I have already mentioned, as a beta reader I complete a detailed feedback report answering thirty questions about an author’s manuscript. I have arranged these questions into seven specific areas; opening scene, characters & dialogue, plot & conflict, flow & pacing, setting & world building, writing style and overall impression. Answering these in-depth questions, gives an author a comprehensive analysis of their story but if they’d also like to know which scenes made me cry, chuckle or shiver in fear, I offer also offer in-line comments as an additional service. In-line comments are when I write my immediate thoughts, feelings and comments directly into their manuscript using MS Word Comment.
What are your top 2 favourite books?
Lol! Holly, I can’t answer that! It’s like asking me who in my family I love the most! 😉 What I will tell you is what my favourite genres are. In my long history of reading, I’ve read everything from the classics to horror to historical romances to science fiction and loved them. Since getting my first Kindle in 2013, my reading passion has been firmly rooted in the paranormal romance, urban fantasy and cosy paranormal mystery genres. As a cosy paranormal mystery writer yourself, Holly, you are one of my favourite authors; Angie Fox, Victoria DeLuis and Kristen Painter being on that exclusive list too. Please keep writing.
Thank you for wanting to interview me, Holly, for your blog, it’s not often that I sit this side of the table. 😉 I hope that your readers enjoyed it as much as I did. The book blogging community is a wonderful place, full of supportive, kind-hearted souls who love talking about books. If any of your readers were thinking about reviewing the books they read or starting their own book blog, I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve made some amazing friend, met some awesome authors and I’ve loved every minute of it; I can’t imagine my life without it.
Bye for now and happy reading.
Thank you, Flora, that was inspiring. And what a lovely compliment! We can follow Flora on https://florasmusings.com/ and, if you’re a writer find out more here https://florasmusings.com/beta-reading/.
A writer? Yes why not. I’ll tell you how I got from editor to writer. But that’s a story for another day! Perhaps next time, when I’ll be back with news of a new video and plans for a special Christmas event or two.
First of all, I would like to thank everyone one supported the launch of the paperback edition of Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, together with the free days of Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets on Amazon. Even just by reading this blog, you help.
The sales were at a record level, and the downloads almost matched those of Book 1 a few weeks ago: 1,000! The highest sales have come from the latest book,, so your throng is gathering force (encouraging me to get on with writing Book 5). To all new consumers of Sunken Madley mysteries, welcome, and I hope that you are enjoying the journey.
Before I go any further, I would like to offer an apology for the paperback release date being delayed for a day. The publication process took longer than it has in the past, however now I am forearmed for future releases.
Also as of the time of writing the paperback has yet to be linked to the other books so here is the direct line to it:
Meanwhile, as you may have noticed, I am writing to you more often. To let VIP Readers and subscribers know when I post a new letter to readers, I am setting up a system to send an email to let you know the title of the article and a link so you can catch up if you’d like. I’m testing it this week to make it look as appealing and useful to you as possible. It will be offered next to VIPs and then if it passes muster with them, to you who have also kindly agreed to keep in touch. This the first time I’ve done something like this, so any feedback would be a boon.
If you’d like to be included just click: keep me in touch, and know that you can unsubscribe at any time.
A brand new feature that I’m rolling out to give readers and potential readers more avenues to communicate with me is now on the Holly Bell Facebook page. Our illustrious illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña is creating an image of her.
Her name is Ivy, she is my chat assistant, and she’s a little robot. She’s always there. However, you can click on a ‘talk to a human’ where you can message me personally. I’m teaching Ivy to work here on amandacadabra.com too, so if you’d like to try her out that would be splendid. Even better, if you could let me know how she gets on with helping you. I’m hoping that this is an extra feature that you will like, and will help you to get to know more about the world of Amanda Cadabra, and the creation process.
There is also a new page on here called The Books, a quicker way of you finding the features about them that you want to read, see or listen to.
Next week I’ll be back, I hope to be featuring an interview with a member of the team, my editor. Have you ever wondered what it takes to go from book worm to beta reader to editor? All will be revealed …
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.
If you’re new to the Amanda Cadabra mysteries, 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.
Where do you stand? Is horror more a of the Hallowe’en genre, or do you come down on the side of cozy paranormal mystery as the true seasonal read? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
With the kind permission of Books Go Social, here is an article they have just published in their Hallowe’en magazine. It’s choc full of new books ripe for the pumpkin weeks as well as short stories and extra treats.
The next article will herald the launch of Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley in Paperback and a special offer on Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. 29th – 31st October are the dates to look out for.
Meanwhile, dear readers, here is my case on the crucial question of …
“The True Hallowe’en Genre
Go on .. guess …. Horror, right? Are you sure? Sure you don’t see the one standing behind it, lurking in the shadows, breathing quietly in the night ….
The rival contender is none other than the comparatively new kid on the block: the cozy paranormal mystery. If you haven’t yet investigated its delights, here is a brief summary:
There is a mystery, customarily murder. The sleuth is most likely an amateur female, usually a witch. There are ghosts. There is no explicit engagement of a romantic nature. The untimely death typically takes place off-stage. The language is inoffensive, and descriptions of fatalities and casualties are not graphic.
Here’s a rundown of horror from literary historian J. A. Cuddon: ‘A piece of fiction in prose of variable length … which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing.’ The cause of extreme unease is often, but not necessarily, supernatural in nature.
Hallowe’en Story Roots
So which of these is most faithful to where Hallowe’en comes from? Where is that? Closely allied to the Feast of Samhain (sah-oo-wn) that celebrated the turn of the season, it was a time to remember the dead. First, saints, then everyone. Presumably, not everyone had fond memories of those who had passed, or had reason to suspect that the deceased had less than fond memories of them! Consequently … the moment had come for some anti-phantom action. Time for a costume change and to see if you could out-ghost them with a scary makeover, and send them scurrying back to the Netherworld.
On the other hand, there was a useful aspect of the three-day spectre-fest. As the veil between the human and spirit worlds was thought to be thinnest at that point in the calendar, what better time to tune in for the inside track on where your future was headed? What you need, then, was a diviner. In short, a witch.
See where we’re going with this? There you have it: witches and ghosts. Furthermore, it would be reasonable to assume that those were the two focal points of the stories that were told on the three nights of the Hallowe’en celebration.
You might appreciate a word on the subject from M R James, a giant of the genre, of what makes a ghost story: ‘A pleasing terror’, no ‘explanation of the machinery’, set in ‘those of the writer’s (and reader’s) own day,’ with an absence of gratuitous physical intimacy or exsanguinations.
Surely cozy paranormal mystery is the closer fit with that list. So, if it really is the grassroots and culture of the Hallowe’en story, how did it get hijacked by horror?
The Horror Connection?
Here’s my theory. It’s all because of a film. A film called … yes, that one: Hallowe’en. Made in 1978, and in case you’re not au fait with the cult classic, here’s a brief summary.
On Hallowe’en night, a 6-year old takes a knife into overly close quarters with his sister, resulting in a fatality. Thought to have some mental health issues, he is delivered into the hands of a secure facility, where he becomes resident. Fast-forward 15 years. He is being transported to a court hearing. It is the same night of the year, please note. He escapes and goes off to stalk an intrepid teen (Jamie Lee Curtis), littering the plot with bodies along the way, and provoking much screaming.
It did well at the box office and has been the subject of analysis over the years. The result for our purposes is that, because of the title and the popularity of the movie, the season became linked with themes associated with horror.
Is Cozy for Horror Fans?
So, even if cozy paranormal is more Hallowe’eny, what if you are a fan of more hardcore speculative fiction, would you enjoy a walk on the perkier side? You’d be surprised how many horror and dark fantasy readers do enjoy a break with a taste of something lighter. You’ll find that cozy paranormals are not less, just different: surprise rather than shock, with puzzles, riddles and laughs out loud. Maybe even making the experience of your favourite genre that much more enjoyable by contrast.
Where to start? The top-selling authors currently, according to the latest K-lytics statistical report on the genre, are Annabel Chase, Amanda M Lee and Tegan Maher. You can check them out on Amazon.
So this year, why not get back to our Hallowe’en story past, dig up a cozy, something not too grave, let it spirit you away to a mystery in a charming village and entertaining characters witch you will love, without a ghost of a chance of a sleepless night afterwards.
I hope you enjoyed the article and, if you are an author or feel you have a book in you, I can highly recommend Books Go Social to ease your path in creating and promoting your book. Highly affordable and tremendously helpful, they have attracted a community of kind, caring and supportive members of the publishing community, writers of both prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, bloggers, reviewers, editors, and most importantly of all, readers. There is a special group just for them. You can check them out here: Facebook – authors, Facebook – readers, Twitter.
Recently had the privilege of being interviewed by reviewer, book blogger, and pro beta reader and editor, Flora. She suggested that I share with you what that felt like and some secrets of my writing process. First the interview:
Hi Holly and welcome to Flora’s Musings…
Flora: I have been completely captivated by the world that you’ve created for your Amanda Cadabra series and have lost myself to the village of Sunken Madley and it’s residents; I want to go there – despite the murderous happenings. Lol! What story have you lost yourself in, either recently or in the past, that has left a lasting impression on you even now?
Holly: It has to be Lord of the Rings.
When I was reading it, it felt more real than reality. It was all I wanted to think or talk about! More than any other book it taught me about world-building, especially a world with fantasy elements. It plugged into my love of history, and the richness of the context made the whole saga utterly believable. I revel in Tolkien’s use of language in creating characters and regions, and the emotional terrain is vast. It is glorious escapism, full of valuable life-lessons absorbed by osmosis and has been a how-to for me as a writer. It is one of my oldest friends.
Flora: I have to confess that I haven’t actually read any of Tolkien’s work (I’m ashamed to say the length puts me off) but I LOVED the films; they’ve become some of my favourites. As we’re on the subject of favourites, what are your top 5 favourite books?
… read more
So what was that like?
This is the first time I have been interviewed, and I delighted in the chance to talk about the books I love. It made me feel a step closer to JK Rowling too! The contributions of, and connections with, book reviewers and bloggers are highly valued and immensely enjoyable aspects of being a self-published author.
I’m often asked about my ‘writing schedule’. I don’t have one. I go with the flow. When I’m creating the first draft, that’s where the enthusiasm lies, but it can divert into editing what I’ve written. Sometimes the stream is fast-moving, others slower. What it carries me towards varies too. At the moment it’s formatting the paperback of Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, Book 4 in the British humorous paranormal mystery series, and marketing. When I’m in full-flight, story-composition mode, marketing sits on the back burner. By the time the book is out in ebook and paperback forms, the sequel is in the first stages of coming to the boil, gently warming.
This is how I think of it: like a snow leopard pregnant with a kitten, which is for about 101 days. That’s about how long it takes to produce a book, from the first taps on the keyboard to the launch day. Once the process has begun, it has a life of its own. The leopard queen can’t take time off from it and come back later; this cub is coming, it’s being born, all the mother leopard can do is go with it.
Sometimes the growing new book can keep me awake as the characters wake up and start talking one another, or plot twists and ideas come to me. I might forget to eat or drink or keep wandering to the kitchen to feed what’s forming in my brain.
To me, although, I’ve yet to actually try it, the best analogy is surfing. You can have the board, but you need the wave, a creation of nature, a vital force. Once I’m on it, it will carry me up and onto the beach, to the golden sands of completion and the book that will be in your hands and mine, a real, tangible form, which brings me back to … my kitten. When I see the paperback for the first time, I can’t help but coo and say, awww isn’t it cute!
Yesterday a reader emailed me with a comment and link to his review. It was as though the room had suddenly filled with flowers! What a moment. When someone else likes your fluffy newborn and tells you in one way or another, it’s bliss.
I’ve tried writing in other places like cafe’s and parks, but east, west, at home is best, quietest, easiest to take tea-breaks in. Candles lit, wind sighing in the chimney, herbal infusion before me and a day, today, of formatting and other creative alternatives ahead. Including at least 15 minutes of learning Cornish for fun. That’s this author’s ‘schedule’. This author’s life. And it’s sweet.
News to come of the Hallowe’en event!
Happy Pumpkin Season,
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.
As promised to you, here is the video with visuals as well as my reading of Chapter 1 of the new Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. I hope that you enjoy it. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on it. The next is below if you’d like to read it as well.
Into the Globe
‘It will all be over very quickly. One way or another,’ said Aunt Amelia. She stared intently into the glass sphere on the round, lace-covered table.
‘Very quickly?’ asked Amanda Cadabra, pushing back her mouse-brown hair and glancing up from following the goldfish. Unlike her aunt, it was pretty much all the ball ever showed her.
‘An hour only, perhaps.’
‘And the villagers? Everyone will see it. If the magical world is supposed to be so secret and the entire Flamgoyne witch-clan descends upon Sunken Madley with fire, brimstone and hurricane, that is going to raise more than a few eyebrows on a whole lot of Normals, assuming that any survive.’
Amelia frowned into the globe ‘The village will empty.’
Amanda looked at her in wonderment. ‘How come?’
Her aunt shook her head, ‘That is not shown to me …. The glass is clouding … I’m sorry, Ammy, that’s all.’
‘I’ll have an hour to somehow repel them — without striking a single blow — but the village will empty?’
‘And I will have to defend it alone? — But no, you said I’d have help.’
‘That’s what it showed.’
‘So just me and my … helpers … whoever they will be.’ Amanda pondered, doubtfully.
‘Rrrrrr,’ interjected Tempest, in a marked manner.
‘Principal among whom will be Tempest, of course, ‘she added for the benefit of the thick, grey ball of grumpy cat, curled up in the most comfortable chair in the room.
Amanda’s familiar preened himself.
Not that I’m getting involved, he thought. This is a test for my human. But I’ll lend a paw if absolutely necessary. Dear me. The very idea is exhausting. How tiring this species is.
He shut his eyes and went to sleep.
Amanda Cadabra stared at the sky. The thunderous swirl of cloud was racing towards her village of Sunken Madley. She stood at its heart, before the green, opposite The Sinner’s Rue, on the old crossroads. She stood, feet planted apart, wand pointing at the ground, ready. Tempest sat by her side.
‘How?’ she wondered. ‘I’m just a furniture restorer. I have asthma and an annoying cat. I should be in my workshop, polishing Mrs Kemp’s aunt’s commode. How in the world did I come to this …?’
It was a recurring dream, but the situation was imminent, and the question was both real and pressing. The answer might have been said, and was by Granny, to be that Amanda had brought it on herself.
‘If only,’ Senara Cadabra had lamented, ‘you had not cast that spell. The very one your Aunt Amelia warned you not to perform, if you didn’t want to bring the Flamgoynes down upon the village.’
On the other hand, Grandpa, in his light Cornish accent, said that she had had no option.
‘When the crunch came, it was a choice between saving herself and the inspector, or sending up a beacon that Sunken Madley was the epicentre of powerful magical activity.’
Former Chief Inspector Hogarth of the Devon and Cornwall police saw it another way: an opportunity to solve a cold case that was over 30 years old.
Aunt Amelia, Amanda’s confidante and would-be divination tutor since she was nine years old, not only refrained from repeating I-told-you-so but was both sympathetic and constructive.
It was January, one of their regular Tuesday dinners together. Leaving the tea brewing in the kitchen, Amelia Reading, in deep red velvet splendour, sailed into her sitting room, her long dress wafting behind her, and seated herself.
‘Let’s see if the crystal will tell us more about the help that will come to you.’ Amanda, sitting opposite, could only see, reflected in the glass surface, Amelia’s bright brown eyes in a face framed by a chestnut bob. Apart from that, all she ever got was goldfish or a plastic Paris in a snowstorm. This had been the case for more than 20 years. Until now.
Suddenly, Amanda was electrified. ‘Wait!’ she cried excitedly.
‘Aunt Amelia. I see something!’
‘What, Ammy? What do you see?’
‘It’s … a big … banjo? …. No! Cello. It’s a big cello … it’s getting smaller … a violin? No. Oh.’ Her enthusiasm deadened. Amanda looked at Amelia questioningly. ‘A viola?’
Her aunt chuckled. ‘Ah, well that does happen in divination if you ask the same question twice or more. You get a joke or gibberish. At least this wasn’t the latter.’
‘The message is the same as the one I got from our conversation about having help to defend the village: find Viola. Except it’s not vee-oh- la, it’s Vie-oh-la.’
‘It shows you’re on the right track, and what a break-through for your divination, sweetie!’
Amanda was cheered.
‘You’re right, Aunt, on both counts. OK. So, what do we know about Viola? She was a friend of Granny’s. They met during the war. She was living here back then and told Granny, or “Juliet”, as you called her in your story, that she and Grandpa, “Romeo”, could have a peaceful life here. Yes? There wasn’t any more than that, was there?’
‘I’m afraid not.’
‘So, at least, the crystal ball confirms that this Viola is still alive. Unless … she’s not a ghost, is she?’
‘Was the cello — viola — clear or transparent?’
‘Perfectly clear,’ answered Amanda.
‘Alive then, I’d say.’
‘She must be old then …. I’ve thought of three people that she could be — Ah, the tea must be brewed by now. Shall I go and get it?’
‘Oh, use magic to bring it in. It’s perfectly all right here,’ Amelia assured her. ‘I’ve got this place as psychically secure as Fort Knox.’
Amanda pulled a certain Ikea pencil out of her orange woollen jacket pocket, flipped up the end and extracted a tiny slim wooden shaft topped with a citrine. She leaned across so that she could see into the kitchen, pointed the wand and said,
‘Aereval.’ The tea tray, bearing its load of Devon rose-patterned Wedgwood pot, cups, and bowls containing milk and sugar, two silver spoons and a plate of gingernut biscuits, rose from the worktop beside the kettle.
‘Cumdez,’ instructed Amanda. It glided through the air, along the passage to the sitting room and hovered.
‘Sedaasig.’ The tray lowered itself gently onto the table beside them. Amanda would not usually have bothered with a wand, but there was hot liquid involved, so extra control was needed. Hopeless though she was at divination, this was her special, and exceedingly rare, magical talent: a Cadabra family trait inherited from her grandfather. It enabled her, in spite of asthma that was all too easily agitated by physical exertion, to carry on the family business of furniture restoration, with all of its strenuous activity. Of course, any spell-working had to be conducted out of sight of Normals.
‘You were saying, dear,’ Amelia reminded her, adding sugar lumps to the teacups. ‘Three possibles.’
‘Yes,’ replied Amanda. ‘Mecsge,’ she added. The spoons began stirring. ‘There’s Mrs Uberhausfest, who distinctly told me that she and Granny had been friends for over 50 years — and you know how fond Granny is of her, invoking her whenever she talks of how, “we both did our bit in the War”.’ And with her line of work, if anyone could organise a Home Guard, she could!’
‘And the other two?’ enquired Amelia.
‘Sessiblin,’ said Amanda. The spoons stopped stirring. ‘The ladies who live at The Grange. Miss Armstrong-Witworth — the one who worked as a field agent for the government many years ago, I told you? But I gather she always operated alone, so not an organiser, I’d say — well, she and Granny never seemed very close at all, so, out of the two of them, I’d plump for Miss de Havillande. Both she and Granny are strong-minded, outspoken, definitely organisers, and with Views on every subject. In fact, I’d often thought they could have been two peas in a pod!’
Amelia laughed. ‘I know what you mean.’
‘Although,’ remarked Amanda suddenly, then stopped to think.
‘Yes?’ encouraged her aunt.
‘Well, what if … Viola isn’t a woman, at all?’
‘I think I see where you’re going with this, but carry on.’
‘Well. Viola isn’t from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is she? She’s from Twelfth Night. She’s the sister, cast up on an enemy shore, who, believing her brother to be drowned, takes on the disguise of man and gets a job working for the local count. So what if Viola is a sort of code name, but for a man?’
‘Or a woman pretending to be a man?’ Amelia hazarded.
‘Possibly, but I don’t think you could live in Sunken Madley and carry off a disguise like that for the better part of a century.’
‘True. What men would be eligible for the role of Viola, then?’
‘Well … old Mr Jackson, but he retired to Eastbourne to live with his son, so I don’t think it can be him.’
‘Someone at Pipkin Acres Residential Home?’ suggested Amelia.
‘Possibly …. But … well … what about Moffat?’
‘The Grange ladies’ butler?’
‘He’s far more than the butler,’ Amanda pointed out. ‘He’s pretty much run the house and estate for them all these years, and no one knows how old he is.’
‘That gives you four candidates then: Mrs Uberhausfest, Cynthia de Havillande, Gwendolen Armstrong-Witworth and, er — does anyone know his first name? — Moffat.’
‘Yes. And, I gather, Viola will be the means of assembling the rest of the people who will help on the day that the Flamgoynes attack.’
‘What’s your next move then, Ammy?’
‘Well … what I need is a reason to visit Irma Uberhausfest. And soon.’
Fortunately, thanks to stilettos, a spanner and a piano, one was in the making.
I hope that you enjoyed Chapter 1.
Looking forward to bringing you news of the paperback launch, and a suggestion for Hallowe’en.
It’s Movie Day! You’ve seen the title, you’ve seen the cover … now here’s the film: the trailer for Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. The new sequel in the British cosy paranormal mystery launches on Sunday, and there will be only two more significant events in the run-up between now and then. But first, the trailer:
Next stop, the chapter 1 video.
Remember, you can join the series with Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, free from Amazon at the weekend. That’s this Saturday and Sunday, 28th and 29th September 2019.
The launch day clock is ticking …
Oll an gwella (best wishes)
Hot off the virtual press in its final incarnation comes the full cover of Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, fourth in the British cosy paranormal mystery series.
It’s all thanks to our new illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña who has been labouring tirelessly to get it to you today. Feedback so far has been 100 per cent positive. The cover is as the book will appear on Amazon shortly.
So what’s next? Tomorrow sees the release of the trailer! Where can you see it? Here, on YouTube (on my new channel), Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, if all goes according to plan. Please let me know what you think of it so that I can build them better and better for your future viewing pleasure.
Meanwhile, the manuscript for Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley is now complete, bright and shiny, thanks to the endeavours of my superb editor, Flora Gatehouse, and the valuable contributions and suggestions offered by the VIP advance readers. There are still spaces remaining in this limited numbers group if you’d like to join for Book 5. Alternatively, you can simply keep up to date by adding yourself on the keep-in-touch page.
At the end of the week, there will be the release of the audio-video of Chapter 1 of the new book. The text will be on here so you can read, or read along, but the feedback on the visuals that go with the reading has been enthusiastic so far!
Until tomorrow …
Oll an gwella, (Cornish for ‘all the best’. Yes, still learning, by candlelight late at night.)