• You are here:
  • Home »
  • Author's Archive:

All posts by Holly Bell

The Real Life Arborist Behind ‘The Hanging Tree’

Dear Readers,

The Seed of An Idea

I knew from the very beginning that trees were going to be involved. After all, the book, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, was going to be set at The Elms, one of the principal grand houses in the village of Sunken Madley.

We’d had action at The Manor and The Grange. Now, with Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney establishing a base there, it was only a matter of time before dark and nefarious deeds would be committed at the establishment named after some trees. And, of course, only covert witch Amanda and her irascible familiar Tempest would be able to get at the truth of what happened. That much about the sequel, the seed, if you will, of the seventh in the Amanda Cadabra series was planted long before the ‘official’ writing of the book began. Little did I know that that seed would lead me to a rosebud.

Spade Work

But what did I know about trees? Possibly like you, I can spot the obvious ones and, thanks to training in furniture restoration (yes, I really did) for a year and a half, some interesting data about wood has come my way. Elms, though? One fact usually springs to mind, which is that they are prone to Dutch elm disease. However, there must be far more to them than that.

Duly, I scoured the Internet for information. As I learned about the various species, the notion grew of including a Cornish elm because Sunken Madley does have a strange connection with that magical dutchy in the southwest of mainland Britain. What I needed, then, was an arborist. And not just any cultivator of trees, one with a knowledge of Cornish elms. Where was I to find such an expert?

In my online digging, I came across a most helpful organisation called Cornwall Wildlife Trust and ERCCIS: The Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (which are just off the Cornish coast). I emailed and waited.

The Root of the Matter

Ten days later, I received a kindly reply from Mrs Fox, a knowledgeable lady who gave me a summary of the elm situation and mentioned two leads to further information, including the name of a ‘woodland consultant in St Ives’. Mrs Fox offered to forward my email to this gentleman, Gavin Nicol. I eagerly accepted.

Once we connected, Gavin generously gave me more than an hour of his time, filling me in with all sorts of details about Cornish elms, their history and their connection to the culture of Cornwall. It was a fascinating phone call, and I had pages of notes by the end of it.

During our conversation, I heard for the first time of the Davey elm, a remarkably beautiful species found in Cornwall. At that moment, I knew this would be central to the story. But I will leave it there lest I come perilously close to a spoiler, in case you have yet to read the book.


Instead, please allow me to introduce you to Gavin, who has kindly allowed me to interview him, as you can read below. Gavin is not just a naturalist but is also a filmmaker, musician and founder of Global Jamming. This organisation encourages and provides opportunities for young mu

sicians (here is Gavin pictured with his son) and, through

these events, supports social and environmental causes.

Gavin is also the producer and co-director of the short film ‘Rosebud’. This is a loving tribute to the epic 1937 voyage of the boat that sailed from Cornwall to the Houses of Parliament on a special mission to save the homes of fishermen and their families.

But enough introduction. Here is Gavin Nicol:

1. What is your connection to Cornwall?

I was born in St.Ives, Cornwall and have spent most of my life here, when not working as a forester in various parts of the world. I have a deep connection with the wilds of my home area and am actively involved in looking after them for the long-term benefit of all.

2. What is it that you do?

I am a teacher, musician and activist for social and environmental justice.
I run a musical collective platform with my son called Global Jamming – www.globaljamming,org

3. Why trees?

I have been under the spell of trees, woodlands and forests from an early age – along with the moors, tors, coast and sea.

4. What is the relationship between elms and Cornwall?

Elms have played a central role in the ecology, landscape and culture of Cornwall for thousands of years. In spite of waves of Dutch Elm Disease, there are still many fabulous elms in Cornwall if one keeps an eye out for them.

5. Can you tell us about the Davey elm, please?

It’s a particularly beautiful and quite unusual type of elm found in any concentration in a couple of areas. These trees form large rounded crowns of dense twigs and are a beautiful site to behold at any time of year. I have been propagating them from cutting for a few years and have some promising specimens growing at one of my conservation sites.

6. You’re also a filmmaker. How did you come to make Rosebud?

I wrote my song about the Rosebud after discovering that the famous Newlyn fishing boat was the very same one my dad had owned when I was a child. I contacted various other people connected with the Rosebud and made a film about its story, mostly set in Newlyn and linking the past with the present. It was an important legacy project for me – my dad was able to enjoy the song shortly before he passed away last year.

7. Your film includes Cornish. How do you think the language is relevant today?

The Cornish language embodies so much Cornish heritage and history that it is essential to keep it alive and growing.

8. Getting back to trees, how did you feel about being the inspiration for a character in Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree?

Surprised and quite pleased to hear it! Thanks for your interest in this important and fascinating subject.

9. Do you think trees have a special magic of their own or that just something people like to believe?

To me, all things have a special magic – not least trees and people. People’s beliefs are just an attempt to grasp at what’s beyond our understanding.

10. Where can we watch Rosebud?

It can be found on our website, along with various other films we have made – please see link. Hope you like it!

Thank you, Gavin, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I greatly appreciate your help.


You can follow Gavin on Facebook and Instagram

Sequel Progress and Exam Results

The new sequel, the eighth in the Amanda Cadabra series, has now reached 70,000 words, so the first draft is well over two-thirds complete. I am having a whale of a time filling in the blanks, moving bits around, researching the details, and being entertained by the characters in the process. To give you some idea of the rate of progress, generally, at least 1,000 words are being added daily.

Ah, and as you may have seen on the Holly Bell Facebook page: I received my Grade III Cornish language exam results. I am delighted to say … (pause for effect) I passed and just half a mark short of a distinction. Next month, on to the fourth and final grade. Summer classes are preparing me, but I must admit that my head is firmly in Bookland at the moment.

So now, back to weaving the new tale for your enjoyment this autumn (or spring in the southern hemisphere) with updates for you, to follow. If you are north of the equator, may I wish you joy of the closing days and weeks of summer and, as always,

Happy reading,



PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Your Cozy Favourites and a New Book 8 Milestone

Dear Readers,

Playing Favourites Results

Three weeks ago, I invited you to let me know about your favourites in the Amanda Cadabra series. Thank you first to everyone who took part, and I was surprised, I admit. I’ll tell you why but first, as you see, the top number went to Book 6, The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, with Book 4, The Rise of Sunken Madley, coming in second with the first in the series and ‘all’ tying for fourth place. What I had been expecting, following the numbers of ratings on Amazon.com, was the most votes for the first, with 6 second and number 2 third. Book 4 is the last horse there.

My Pick?

Of course, the first book is special. That was where it all began, and I have fond memories of the entire joyful process. The most recent book, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, is still close to me as it was so recently published. Yes, like many of you, Book 6, Amanda Cadabra and the Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, is dear to me for all sorts of reasons. But my favourite, the one where I cried writing a particular scene, is Book 4, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. Perhaps because there we see the love between Amanda and the villagers as in no other story.

A New Love

Currently, the tale occupying my mind and heart is the one I am now writing for you: Book 8, and yes, it does have a secret working title. Yesterday it passed 30,000 words, which is about a third of the total wordage. To give you some context, that usually comes in at between 90,000 and 95,000. And this is a pivotal point because a crucial stage has been reached. I have printed out all I have typed in, and with scissors and (my favourite rose-gold-coloured) paperclips, ‘cut and pasted’ the book together. I now understand the story and how it all fits together. There are some minor things to be added, and some of the text is still in note form.

How Does Your Novel Grow?

So how will it blossom from one third to a full novel? My initial answer … it just does. Let me be more helpful. As I start to put those literal cut-and-pastes (clips) into the document, I see what is missing, what needs to be fleshed out, the she-said-he-saids to be inserted, as well as a small pile of anecdotes to go in. There will also be the little inspirations that occur as I’m typing or in the shower or while driving, or mostly very early in the morning. And I see the word count grow and grow until, with a sort of exhalation, I know that the story has finished telling itself.
The best parallel perhaps is with the painter who stands back and sees the balance of filled and white spaces, the colours, and the expression of their inspiration and knows that, yes, this is done.

So What Next?

I’ll keep you updated as the word count grows, but the next milestone will be when the order of the pages is put into the Word document where the book is being compiled. After that, I begin at the beginning, and that’s when the flower opens, so to speak, as all of the extras listed above fill themselves in. While this is going on, Daniel, our illustrator, will be working on the front cover, and I’ll also be thinking about the trailer video. The first big news will be when the title of the book is announced.

Thank You

I wish to express my appreciation and affection for all of you who are with me on this wonderful journey, who support me with your likes, comments and shares on Facebook, by subscribing, by writing to me in person with encouragement, by coming here for the Letter to Readers, by blogging and reviewing, rating on Amazon, Goodreads and elsewhere, and to those kind friends with whom I speak in person, who ask how the writing is going and cheer me on.

Of course, it’s always nice to get the royalties but, for me, the emotional rewards of being a writer are so much greater than the financial one. This new book is its own story, it is my pleasure and delight to form it, mold it and polish it, but in the final event, it is for you.

Until next time,

Happy reading,




PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Playing Cozy Favourites – My Guilty Secret

Dear Readers,


They say you should love them all equally. Your children that is. Well, my books are progeny. I like to think of them as my kittens. But do I love them all equally? The awful truth, which I shall share with you now … is … no. But I shall come to that later.
More importantly, with absolute freedom and without risk of breaching taboo …

Do You?

This question occurred to me a few months ago, and I have been pondering it ever since. You see, gratifyingly, and thanks to you, dear readers, the ratings numbers on Amazon and Goodreads, where kind readers have been attributing 1-5 stars to one or more of the books, have been growing. Each of the first 6 books has over a hundred. However, even though most who pick up Book 1 do read the entire series, not all of the books have received quite the same number of ratings, and this made me curious. Could it be that some volumes in the series are more enjoyed than others? Do you, in fact, have favourites?

A Genuine First

And so I resolved to pluck up the courage to ask you. However, initially, I have had to work out how to add a poll to this page and now, here is my debut:

I hope that was fun. If you thought so, then we could do some more. Even better than that, though, is if you write to me and let me know about your favourite stories, settings, characters, lines or anything else you enjoyed and or would like more of in the coming volumes.

Fessing Up Time?

So which is my favourite? I promise to tell you next time after the vote. I’ll just say this: it’s probably not the one that you expect.

Cast List and Kind Words

I was delighted when Anne Pritchard. from Number 9 Reviews contacted me, offering to write about the first book in the series. Her kind words are now up here, if you’d like to see what Anne said about it. You can also follow Anne on her Facebook page.

Just as pleasurably, I discovered that Flora Gatehouse, who was my very first beta reader and who handed me onto my glorious editor Kim Brockway, has posted Holly’s Dream Cast – my chosen ideal dramatis personae for an Amanda Cadabra TV series or film, no less. If you’re curious (and even would like to assistant-casting direct with your own suggestions), do click and enjoy the fun with me.

Book 8?

With my Cornish exams now concluded (for this year anyway), I am almost caught up with the to-do list that has accumulated during the writing of Book 7 and Cornish revision. This means that Book 7 is about to hoist its sails. With a fair wind, who knows how soon it might arrive at your quay?

Happy July,



PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

3 Midsummer Cozy Landmarks

Dear Readers,

Welcome to all you new wonderful readers who have joined me on Facebook, in the blog and as subscribers in the last couple of weeks.

Three Landmark Events

First of all, today, we reached 400 followers on the Holly Bell Facebook page, so thank you to everyone who has made that possible.

Second. All of the first six books in the series have now accumulated 100 or more ratings on Amazon.com, so I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has rated and even reviewed any of the books.

Third. My Cornish language Grade 3 exams are over! And now the fun begins.


Yes, I say fun. After three years of learning grammar and vocabulary, as well as how to speak and converse, I have reached what I regard as the meat of the feast: the texts! The oldest extant plays in Kernewek (the Cornish word for well … Cornish) date from the 14th century. The Ordinalia is a cycle of mystery plays: the Bible story sort (rather than the cozy sort,) which were set in churches. These originated in the 5th century but hit the big time during the medieval age. By this point, they had moved out into the marketplace and were performed by companies of actors to enthusiastic crowds, especially on high days and holidays. The Ordinalia trilogy is comprised of The Creation of The World, where things go pear-shaped in the Garden of Eden, The Passion of Christ which leads without pause straight into The Resurrection, where it all ends happily.

It is one of the Ordinalia plays that I shall be studying: Passio Christi, which I read has a host of ‘colourful characters’. There are also more modern texts set in the 18th and 19th centuries. No doubt, in all of these, there will be inspiration for the Cornish elements in the Amanda Cadabra series to entertain and delight you.

The Best Part: The Magic of Connection

Even for its own sake, textual analysis is something that gives me particular pleasure. The Ordinalia could be regarded as the Cornish equivalent of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales are an absolute riot, so I anticipate humour in amongst the gravity.

There is something about words written hundreds of years ago connecting us with not just the author but the audience of that time that is thrilling: being moved by the same narrative, being surprised by the unexpected, laughing at the same jokes.

And this is not only in the case of works from our own language or culture, but this link can be felt across the centuries and miles, regardless of the language or country of origin. Just think of Arabian Nights, The Jungle Book (inspired by old Indian texts), and Mulan (from an ancient Chinese poem). We can even time-travel 4000 years back with the Gilgamesh Epic, the oldest story we have so far discovered.


However, back to the present, and where are we with the next Amanda Cadabra sequel? I can report that at The Counting, it was over 17,000 words in.

I shall be back with more news presently. Meanwhile …

Happy Summer to all in the northern hemisphere and to my dear readers under the southern stars, wishing you a cosy winter.



PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Cozy Jubilee – Lighting Up The Real Sunken Madley

Dear Readers,

The Cozy Connection

This weekend we here in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth of Nations are celebrating the 70th year of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Something of both a marathon and a record – the longest in our history. The occasion is called the Platinum Jubilee and it’s the first. The question is, is there any connection between the royal family and the Queen in particular in the Amanda Cadabra series. The answer is yes.

In the very first book, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, when Senara Cadabra is putting Inspector Trelawney in his place, during his questioning of her regarding the strange demise of her entire family:

‘Did you notice the vehicle?’
‘I did. It obscured the view of our Princess Margaret roses,’ said Mrs Cadabra indignantly.
‘And what did it —?’
‘Horse manure.’
‘I beg your pardon?’ asked Trelawney, startled.
‘Oh, I mean no disrespect to the dear Princess herself,’ Mrs Cadabra assured him. ‘No, indeed. Just that it’s the best thing for roses. But only after three years of composting. Not when fresh. I’m sure Her Royal Highness would echo my every word.’ Having successfully diverted the subject to horticulture, she placed one still delicate hand over the other, signifying that she considered the discussion of the transport to be closed.

But that, of course, is a reference to the late sister of the Queen, Princess Margaret. What about Elizabeth herself? Yes, again.

Amanda and The Queen

In Book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths, a new character is introduced. The centenarian Mr Frumbling, a retired piano tuner and restorer, comes to Amanda’s aid to get The Grange instrument into working order in time for the St Valentine’s Day ball. He endears himself to Amanda, particularly in this exchange:

‘Mr Frumbling, may I ask you something?’
‘Of course, duck.’
‘Is it true that you carry the telegram the Queen sent you on your 100th birthday around with you?’
‘Well, the palace doesn’t send out actual telegrams any more. Instead, you get a very special card. And yes, I have it right here,’ he said, putting a hand into his pocket. ‘Now, it’s not the original. I have that framed on my wall. This is a copy, but a good one.’
He took out a wallet from his inside breast pocket and opened it for Amanda.
‘There … see that? That’s the Princess Elizabeth’s signature.’
‘My word!’ exclaimed Amanda in admiration.
‘Of course, she’s queen now,’ Mr Frumbling added, ‘but it’s how I always think of her. I was eight years old when she was born. Not a princess then. That came later. Can you imagine me at eight, looking at me now? White hair and a lot of wrinkles!’
He gave her a roguish twinkle, and suddenly Amanda saw him. There he was before her: a boy with a lot of untidy thick brown hair, a missing tooth, grey shorts and lace-up boots. She grinned. ‘Yes! Yes, I can, Mr Frumbling. It’s my belief that you haven’t changed a bit.’

For Real?

So what is afoot at Monkey Hadley, the real Sunken Madley? Well, on Thursday night, I attended a gala at St Mary-the-Virgin, parish church of Monken Hadley. An operatic performance delighted us until dark when it was time … to light the beacon. The fire was lit first by the local borough deputy mayor, who, having been born in Sri Lanka, was also representing the Commonwealth. Soon it was hoisted by cable up to the tower (saving the long climb up there), and the beacon was kindled to cheers from below where I was photographing and  filming. Finally, we sang what we refer to affectionately as ‘The Queen’, a song wishing her well which is used for the National Anthem.

In celebration of this extraordinary day, beacons were lit all across the kingdom and the Commonwealth, from Tonga and Samoa in the South Pacific, to the final one in Belize, in Central America. Historically, the church has been part of the tradition of beacon-lighting. The tower overlooks the land below, dipping into the London basin. It is topped, admittedly, by Chipping Barnet church which is the highest point in London, reaching 427 feet above sea level (next stop at that elevation is the Urals), but there was no beacon up there, probably for safety reasons. However, St Mary-the-Virgin is a worthy representative.

Flaming History

The most famous beacon lighting story in our checkered history is the telegraphing of the warning of the approach of the Spanish Armada back in 1588. The tale goes that the approaching ships were spotted off the south coast of mainland Britain and the chain of fire was the quickest way of getting the news to London and elsewhere. Vice-admiral Sir Francis Drake, handily located in Plymouth, reputedly finished his game of bowls before he set off, raised sail and led the fleet to a climate induced victory as, typically, the weather was appalling, but both sides, no doubt did their best. The Brits tried a follow up counter-Armada the following year without the meteorological advantage. It did not go well.

The outcome to one side, and we’re good friends now anyway, the point is that at the time of the Armada, we lit lots of fires on high places across the land, and the idea is all rather thrilling. So we did it again. Only this time, I was there, and I can tell you that it set my spine a-tingle and my heart a-glow as the flame gathered strength and reached into the night sky, carrying the chain of light across this green and pleasant land.

What It Means Now

It’s a tradition for beacons to be lit at coronations and weddings, and other joyful events of that nature. What was once used as a warning system is now a symbol of togetherness. But this is a first. Yes, the first time that so many beacons, perhaps over 3,000, were lit across five continents, and not just in Commonwealth countries but even in the USA.

I have to admit that this makes me very emotional. Why is that then? Because the truth of the matter is that the British Empire did not by any means have the best track record, and Elizabeth saw out its last days, and although I am only half English, I am still somewhat conscious of this uncomfortable fact. Nevertheless, people throughout the world are large-heartedly setting aside this historical baggage in favour of remembering and appreciating the best of a lady who has been our ambassador and representative from long before I was born.

To You

Also, because I have yet to meet the vast majority of you, and somehow the beacons gave me a link to you, if only in my imagination. And that’s enough.

For example, it connected me with Cornwall, as the beacon was lit in Camborne, home to my dear Cornish language mentor, Kensa, and my treasured friend and study partner dwells nearby. When I stood below the tower of Monken Hadley Church, I was linked to many lovely people in Cornwall whom I met through the books. All I can say is, that I did my best not to fog up my camera lens!

Tea on the Lawn

Today, we’re expecting the rain to clear for the Jubilee garden party on the church hall lawn. There will be bunting, there will be vintage songs, there will be a tombola stand, there will be Pimms. For a couple of hours, like Amanda (although without the danger! Or the cat), I will step back in time to the very best of a by-gone age. I promise to do my best to bring you photographs. I include here a pic from the church fayre three years ago of the fabulous singer Angela Henckel who sang for us on that occasion, and at the jubilee, dazzled, delighted and brought us to our feet in a standing ovation.

I will have to find a reason to have Sunken Madley’s St Ursula- without-Barnet’s beacon lit in a future book. Hm …

Common What?

In case you’re wondering about this Commonwealth thing, it’s an international sort of club mostly made up of countries that used to be part of the British Empire. During the last century, it was decided country by country that it made no sense to be told what to do by people on the other side of the world and more sense to have independent government.

However, many people from the UK over the centuries made their home in these countries, and many from there came and settled here, so there were strong ties of culture and heritage. Furthermore, there were good things about being part of the empire, so they kept those and made an organisation where all countries are equal and together pursue peace, prosperity and democracy. This is generally regarded as A Good Thing. The sun never sets on the Commonwealth. Somewhere a beacon burns for those three principles.


And if you’re curious about where the word jubilee comes from, it’s the Hebrew word yōbhēl. This referred to a kind of trumpet blown on special occasions, especially every fiftieth year. This jubilee signified an economic reset. Slaves were freed, debts cancelled, and if you’d had to sell your land to make ends meet, you got it back. A cause for … jubilation. And today’s personal cause for that emotion: I’m now up to 12,000 words on the new book.

There is another reason why a gala concert was held at Monken Hadley church, but I’m going to save that for another day. That’s because it’s connected to one of the books which is going to get a makeover in the next few weeks.

That’s all for now. Wherever you are inside or outside the UK and the Commonwealth, may I wish you a happy, peaceful weekend with just the right amount of excitement. Thank you for all the times that you are with me in spirit.

May you find something to celebrate every day.



PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Dawn of The New Cozy

Dear Readers,

Just seven weeks from the launch of Book 7, and now the question is, what about tThank you to readershe next book? As I mentioned on Facebook: I’m on the case. But …

First things first

Thank you to everyone who has joined us on the Holly Bell Facebook page, who has begun reading here, who has subscribed and my favourite of all, who has written to tell me of your enjoyment of the books.

Cornish Focus

As soon as Book 7 had had its send off and the post-launch bits and pieces were attended to, there was an urgent matter that needed my attention. As you know, all of the books are set partly in Cornwall and Book 6 almost entirely. The magical language in the series, Wicc’yeth, is formed from a mixture of Old English and … Cornish. This language outstrips English in its antiquity and has been undergoing a significant revival and modernisation in recent years. All of the main characters in the books are Cornish too.

Consequently, soon after I began writing the first book, I started studying Kernowek – the Cornish language, and am now taking my Grade III exams (there are three). As you might expect, no sooner had the confetti and streamers from the release of Book 7 settled than daily cramming commenced. For hours a day, I was beavering away at revision, imagining that once the exams were out of the way, then Book 8 would begin in earnest.

A Life of Its Own

But I have much less say in these matters than you might imagine. You may have heard or read these words before:

‘The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there; I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
These words are, correctly or not, attributed to Michaelangelo at the unveiling of his celebrated statue of David. This monumental work was carved from a single block of marble, and now stands in pride of place in Accademia Gallery in Florence. Regardless of precisely what was intended by the remark or how it has been used or interpreted since, it resonates with me when it comes to the emergence of each new book.

Kitten Concept

Another way of looking at it is to think about a kitten. Everyone likes thinking about kittens, surely. From the point of conception, physical characteristics are determined, and to some extent, their genetics influence the trend of our personalities. But it is now set in stone whether the kitten will be ginger, tabby, white or … grey. Sleek, shaggy or … thick-furred. Blue, grey, green, brown or … citrine-eyed. I make reference here to Amanda’s grumpy familiar who, of course, arrived fully formed.

But I digress. It feels to me as though each book knows what it is going to be before I do. That may sound fanciful, but the experience of writing is more of the books forming themselves, like a pot on a wheel, under my hands guiding the clay, except they arrive in snippets or sections or ideas.

The moment of Creation and Early Stages

So when was the point of conception for Book 8? It was when I was writing Book 6. I knew where this new book was going to be set. And that’s all. During the writing of Book 7, I began to have vague ideas about the plot. Then came an epiphany. Daniel, our illustrator, sent me seven sketches for the cover of Book 7. One caught my eye, and I knew that it was going to be the cover for Book 8, or at least, that moment that he had so cleverly captured was going to be featured in the story. How? Well, that was a matter for the future.

A few weeks ago, while writing the Letter to my dear subscribers, suddenly the title came to me. I had various notions of parts of the book but no clear idea of how they would link together.

And then …

Pre-dawn, brain awake and popping with ideas, instead of turning to my Cornish books, for two hours, the plot for the new book formed itself in the cauldron of my imagination as I pattered it out on the keyboard, stopping to follow my lines of research. The day-star rose. By the time that sleepiness concluded my session, I had the bones of the plot laid down.

Since Tuesday at Dawn

From the following day until now, my brain has been in Cornish revision mode. My oral exam, at the time of writing, was looming large. There will be Cornish in the next book, as usual. The story may even take to that beautiful land in the Southwest of mainland Britain. The point is that all of the hours, months and even years of Cornish study feed into the writing process. It’s all part of the joyful ride that has brought new friends, new ideas, inspiration and new sources of pleasure my way.


If you’d like to know more about how and why I came to learn the language and the process, if you put Cornish into the search bar, then the articles should come up.

If your curiosity about learning the language has been piqued, you can visit gocornish.com or drop me a line, and I will be delighted to help you.

That’s all for now. Be assured that I have things in store for you that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ll be back soon.


Happy reading.



PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Link image for Thank You Video

A Thank You Present For You, and The New Sequel Launch Report

Dear Readers,Old sailing ship stern with Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree as the name

The new book in the series, number 7, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, was duly christened, released from its moorings and slid down the slipway into open water last Sunday. It now flies its cozy paranormal mystery flag high, thanks to everyone who has so kindly reviewed, bought or downloaded it so far.

How Did it Go?

It went well, especially considering that the occasion landed on Mother’s Day when most people who might have been online were busy with family. Why release it on that day, then? Because I had promised to bring out the book in March, and the 27th was the last one on the shelf.

Nevertheless, the new book has more sales than any of its predecessors on their launch days. The free offer of Book 6, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, had some 2,800 downloads which I’d say is respectable. Out of that number, hopefully, a goodly percentage will stay with the series and continue the voyage with us.

And Now, Your Gift

This is for you. My thank you for your support in all its wondrous forms. Your name may be mentioned here, but the point is that if you’re reading this, then you are definitely included. I hope that you like it. It comes from the heart.


Link image for Thank You Video

Next Time?

I will be back, possibly with a new collection of photos I have mentally entitled ‘Spring Comes To Sunken Madley’. A new project beckons. One that I have essayed in the past, but this time there is a better possibility of success than ever before. We shall see. I hope to bring you news in due course. In the meantime, if you’d like to keep in touch, you can find my email in the Contact section or find me mainly on Facebook. I’m always joyfully moved to hear from you..

Happy Spring (or Autumn depending),



PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

ereader on left with Book 7 with gold sticker: Free 27, 28th March. Book 7 in ereader and paperback on the right. Champagne glass behind. Text: Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree Today! From Amazon

Launch Day! Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree

Dear Reader,

It’s Here!

You can find the new sequel in the Amanda Cadabra cozy mystery series on Amazon from today. Yes, it’s a sequel (Book 7) but it’s also a standalone, so you can jump in with  Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree. The Kindle edition is at a 20% discount today.

A Double Launch

If you prefer your books touchy feely, as I do, for the first time (drumroll …) simultaneously with the ebook, the paperback edition is launching too today! You can find it here:



Plus, free today and tomorrow from Amazon, you can download the previous volume, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr. This story is set in Cornwall and is also a standalone.

It would be superb if you could also spread the word and share the coziness.

Movie Time

Now here is the launch video, for your entertainment.


Back next time with news of how it went today and a little thank you present for all your support.

Happy reading,


PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Green veil partially covering open book showing Chapter 1 of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree

Launch Date and Chapter 1 Revealed – Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree

Dear Reader,

Microphone and text: AnnouncingThe Launch Date is Confirmed

The official release of of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, will be on  Sunday, 27th March. With just 3 days to go, here is the penultimate revelation: Chapter 1, laid bare below.

What Does Chapter 1 Mean?

There is something special about having written the first chapter of a novel. It isn’t usually the first part of a new book that I write, you see. The opening scene or paragraphs may come to me early on in the process, but the rest of the chapter could take its time. However, when it is in place, the collection of notes – scenes, dialogue, even a complete chapter here and there ­– suddenly, in my mind, becomes ‘The Book’. There is the feeling of acceleration and the certainty that it will, at some point, go forth into the world of dear readers, fully formed.

As so, it is about to happen. What can you expect on Sunday?

Book 7 in Paperback and ebook, 20% discount voucher for new book, free book 6 and launch videoSunday’s Line-up

The brand new Book 7 Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, the standalone sequel, will be available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback.

The Kindle edition will be available, for a limited time, at a 20% discount.

Book 6, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, will be free to download for the day and Monday.

Oh, and of course, there will be a launch display video for your entertainment.

For You

Finally, I would like to thank you for your patience. Almost immediately after Book 6 was published, some of you loyal readers were asking for the next in the series. Now, I am delighted to say that the new book’s release into your hands is just hours away.

Until Sunday, I leave you with this. Just scroll down and you will be transported to the world of Sunken Madley with:



Scroll: Chapter 1, Amanda's Unusual Talent


It was difficult to make out what it was. The fog was being compounded by smoke from a nearby garden bonfire. Amanda ventured closer. Oh … just a sack of old leaves, wasn’t it? Probably from last autumn. Strange though. It wasn’t like Irene to be untidy.

Another few steps, No … She stood stock-still, the mist clinging to her skin. Amanda looked up at the branch above her … then down at the form beneath. The rope attached to it lay there like a pale dead snake. … Surely not … not this. … not here …


The day began promisingly. Amanda awoke naturally after a full night’s sleep to the song of the blackbird; there’d been some hazy dream or other. One of the downsides of being a back-sleeper was that she often surfaced to find a cat on her stomach. And not just any cat. Tempest, her familiar, was thick-furred in a collection of storm greys, citrine-eyed and constitutionally disgruntled.

Tempest, sensing his human was stirring, moved up to her chest and pushed his head out from under the quilt. Amanda smiled blearily, rubbing one blue eye, and stroked his head.

‘Good morning, Tempest.’

He stared at her meaningfully.

‘Yes, I know,’ she acknowledged tolerantly, ‘Breakfast. I must get up anyway. I have magic practice.’

Forty minutes later found Amanda, clad in green boiler suit and trainers, mouse-brown hair in a messy plait, kneeling on the floor of her furniture restoration workshop. But not yet engaged in restoration. She was instead screwing spare antique bow handles next to the four edges of an old flat-surfaced door. Observing Amanda, with a mixture of ennui and amusement, was Tempest.

‘There,’ she pronounced optimistically, ‘that should do it. First, a test run.’

Aerevel ynentel,’ she pronounced, and the door rose gently into the air until she halted its progress with ‘sessiblin’ and landed it with ‘sedaasig.’ This was Amanda’s particular gift, inherited through Perran, her grandfather, from the Cadabras. Since his elopement with Senara, née Cardiubarn, of the nefarious neighbouring witch-clan, he had been, ostensibly, estranged from his family. Yet, he had never regretted the union with his beloved Senara.

Of course, as far as the village was concerned, the couple were now, in what the ‘transitioned’ regarded as vulgar parlance: dead. They were, in fact, enjoying a somewhat different plane of existence, from which they made frequent visits either spontaneously or at Amanda’s request.

However, currently she and Tempest were the sole occupants of the workshop. It was here, where Perran had taught all, or at least, most of what he knew to Amanda, to whom he had bequeathed it together with the Vauxhall Astra. The vehicle was in British racing green, and along each side bore the legend in gold script: Cadabra Furniture Restoration and Repairs.

His granddaughter was presently regarding the door on the floor with satisfaction coupled with a degree of hesitation.

‘Good,’ she pronounced. ‘And now ….’

Amanda took a deep breath and stepped onto the door, sat down, and took hold of each of the two handles on the long sides. She focused and issued the command,

Aerevel ynentel.’ Amanda opened her eyes wide at the strange sensation of rising off the floor, inch by inch. Distracted, she lost her concentration, the surface tilted wildly, and she cried out instinctively,

‘Grandpa! Help me!’

Instantly a tall, silver-haired man appeared and, smiling, steadied her with a gesture and landed the door.

‘Oh, thank you,’ said Amanda with relief, putting a hand to her chest. Then, as a shocking thought occurred to her, she added, ‘Grandpa, did you put a spell on me?’ Casting magic on humans was absolutely vetoed. It had got her, and even the village of Sunken Madley, into far too much trouble in the past.

‘No, bian,’ Perran Cadabra assured Amanda, addressing her by his pet name for her, Cornish for ‘baby’, ‘just the board and the air around you.’ Calmed by his soft accent, hailing from the far south-west of the British Isles, and unfailingly kindly manner, she sighed,

‘Ah.’ Now, her tell was clear to see. In the presence of magic, the tiny brown islands in the sea of her blue eyes expanded into continents. Her close-work glasses helped to hide it, but anyone who knew what to look for could observe the singular effect.

‘All right?’ asked Grandpa. ‘Ready to try again? Just an inch or two off the ground this time.’

‘Yes … I don’t have all that long to practice, by the way.’

‘I know,’ replied Grandpa, nodding. ‘You’re meeting the inspector at a quarter past nine to give him the official Sunken Madley tour.’

‘That’s right. Ok, I’m ready. Back on the horse. Or, should I say … door?’


The somewhat wayward village of Sunken Madley, to which Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney of the Devon and Cornwall Police was now assigned, lay 13 miles to the north of the Houses of Parliament, and three miles south of the border of Hertfordshire. Its roots in the rural landscape, from which it had grown over a period of 800 years, were still in evidence to those who cared to look. It was embraced by ancient orchards and the sheltering Madley Wood. The village was a long way in every sense from the Cornish coastal town where Trelawney had been born and bred.

The inspector was a study in unobtrusiveness, in classic, well-cut grey suit and quiet, self-patterned matching tie. His short, light-brown hair was neither styled in a dated manner nor at the edge of current fashion. His features were pleasant, he was well-spoken, accentless, his manner mild and courteous. The sort of man, Amanda had often thought, one did not notice, until one really noticed.

Trelawney looked at his watch. He decided that he had sufficient time to make a diversion to The Corner Shop for a snack pack of almonds. There’d been a toaster crisis at his mother’s – which had been the school-holidays home of his youth after his parents’ divorce – and breakfast had turned into a rather vague affair.

His arrival at the nerve centre of the village coincided with the approach of Dennis Hanley-Page, a septuagenarian whose exuberant progress through life was entirely uninterrupted by the passing of the years.

Dennis was at that moment manifesting his eclectic musical taste. The final few bars of Rock the Casbah by The Clash echoed down the street, followed by the opening of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, as Dennis approached at 70 miles per hour. A red Triumph Spitfire, Dennis’s latest acquisition as proprietor of Vintage Vehicles, raced into view. The village had somehow managed to maintain a legacy speed limit from either the 1930’s or 70’s. Trelawney was simply grateful that he was not there to police the traffic, and entered The Corner Shop, while Dennis parked and secured his car.

Ding! The door heralded the inspector’s entrance.

‘Pen hates therapists,’ Joan the postlady was saying to Mrs Sharma, proprietor, and Sylvia, the hi-vis-vest-clad octogenarian lollipop lady. She was but recently arrived at the establishment from her labours of safely ushering the school children across the road. This duty she performed with the aid of her round stop sign on a long pole, hence her job title.

‘Hello, Inspector,’ they chorused in warm welcome. Joan brought him up to speed.

‘We’re talking about the new renter of the Sharma’s shop at the end of the High Street here. And I was about to say as no one could hate our new therapist. He’s a sweetie.’

‘Oh I know,’ enjoined Sylvia. ‘That would be like hating … Mother Theresa.’

‘Or Stephen Fry,’ returned Joan.

Ding! went the shop door.

‘Or Dolly Parton,’ chimed in Dennis, debonairly sweeping off his tweed cap. ‘Everyone likes Dolly Parton.’

‘We know you do,’ returned Sylvia with a grin, after they had greeted him.

‘Well,’ commented Joan, ‘my Jim says what with my hair and my curves, that I’m a tall, size 16 ringer for Dolly, bless ‘im.’

‘You’ve got a good man there, Joan,’ Sylvia remarked.

‘Oh, I have, I have. You know, when we was courting, and I mighta told you this story before …’

Trelawney was aware of the time and his appointment with his landlady-to-be and his new partner Miss Cadabra. However, he was even more conscious of his new status in the village, with its upgrade from ‘Honorary Village’ to ‘Village’. He had been warned that Sunken Madley was not like his Cornish home town of Parhayle, and they would have their own pace.

This was the last place he’d expected to end up and the last business he’d ever imagined he’d be embroiled in. Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney had regarded magic as a lot of mumbo jumbo and himself as a modern man, living in a modern world, solving modern, and also admittedly age-old, crimes, with the aid of modern techniques.

And then …

To be continued in Chapter 2

I hope that you enjoyed that. See you on Sunday.

Happy reading,


PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree book in the light of a projector

New Book Trailer – Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree

Dear Readers,

Here Goes The Fifth Veil

As I wrote to you last time, the process of bringing out a new novel is a dance, The Dance of the Seven Veils. With the news that the new book is in the offing, the title reveal, the partial and then the full cover reveals, the first four have wafted to the floor. And now, for the fifth, the trailer:


Click to go to trailer video for Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree by Holly Bell

On Location With The Trailer

I hope that you enjoyed the film. Some of it was shot especially for such an event, including the footage at the beginning, which was recorded in the picturesque village of Aldenham in Hertfordshire. On the Inspiration page, you can see some photographs from there. The video was shot from opposite the church, which dates from the 13th century and looks over the spacious village green. The final village scene was captured in another Hertfordshire village: Letchworth Common. For the rest of the trailer, I have several talented photographers to thank, who are credited at the end of the video.

If you are curious about my process for creating these trailers, you can read about it here: making movies

The Sixth Veil

Next time, a little peep inside the book: Chapter 1 of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, right here. And now I must be off, to prepare for The Seventh Veil, the launch video.

Happy Spring,



PS If you want to start the series now:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

1 2 3 11