Goodies aplenty have been in the making here at Heypressto.
First, I was going to do a paperback cover reveal of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths. However, instead, I have something even better. The book, number 5 in the cozy paranormal mystery series, is now available in both formats: the one you can download and read electronically and the one you can hold in your hand. If, like me, you are one who prefers the printed page, you can find it here on Amazon where it was published just hours ago. (Click if you’d like to see the little video.)
The Artist Against The Odds
This is an excellent opportunity to pay tribute to the sterling work and creativity of our cover illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña. While thousands of miles away from home, pursuing further studies in his chosen artistic field abroad, during a pandemic and, in the midst of moving cities, Daniel pulled it out of the hat. He produced what is, in my opinion, the best cover yet of the Amanda Cadabra series.
If you’d like to see more of Daniel’s work, you can find some of his portfolio here: The art of Daniel. He is an artist well worth watching as he goes from strength to strength.
We are having one last day of the season when Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, will be free to download from Amazon. That will be on Saturday, 12th September when the Festival will be in full swing. And here is a little video for your entertainment.
Why don’t you do more free days for people who want to start the series, you may ask. Excellent question. It is because Amazon allows just 5 free days per Kindle book for every 90-day period. That’s how long each contract with them for exclusive retail rights lasts. Or as it is called KDP select. There are many benefits from being a part of this for both cozy mystery readers and authors. I like to save up the free days for special occasions, like this one.
In the Pipeline …
Book 6 is coming to me thick and fast and so there just one more fun project which will finish up all of the treats for Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths: a YouTube of me reading chapter 1 for your pleasure.
It’s massive now. It wasn’t then. Oh dear, can it be cured, I hear you ask. I do hope not. What I am describing is the collection of books written for teenagers, middle grade and young adult.
Only in recent years have these sections of the library blossomed into a wealth of literature that offers entertainment, reassurance, understanding and insight to young people.
Oases in the Desert?
From 11-14 were crucial formative reading years for me. But in the comparative desert of books for that age, how did I find the authors that would one day contribute to the creation of Amanda Cadabra and her cozy paranormal mystery world?
The answers lie a click away. Short story author and poet
has just generously treated me to a guest blog post space on her splendid book review website,
The World of My Imagination
. If you love books, do check out her YouTube
An Ode To Books
. It is simply one of the most beautiful and moving videos I have ever seen.
And now to revelations of my love affair and subsequent teenage dreams … Just click the image and …
Back soon with news of the paperback version (it’s now available on Kindle) of
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths
, now very close to publication. Plus one more free day for Book 1.
Today is the first of the two free days for Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, Book 1 in the British humorous cozy paranormal mystery series. I know that for some of you I’m preaching to the choir! However, you may have fellow literary enthusiasts who would love to start a new series, and Sunken Madley may be their next imaginary home.
Here is a video you might like to send to them that says it all in 21 seconds.
‘What is the reason for this party favour?’ you may ask if you’re new the series. Exactly that. It’s in celebration of the launch at the weekend of Book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths.
Is you would like a taster of the new book, you can read the opening chapter in International Review of Books special edition within the International Dublin Writers Festival magazine to be published online this week.
If you’re curious about what makes a British cozy paranormal mystery writer tick, then you can gain some insight soon. Book blogger and paranormal author Denise Fleischer is kindly interviewing me on 1st September on Gotta Write Network.
Next stop: the trailer for Book 5 and the paperback.
Wishing you a happy week with many unexpected delights,
To celebrate the launch, there will now be at least 2 free days for Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth. So if you’re thinking of joining the Sunken Madley ride, you can do so without outlaying a single coin on Monday 24th and Tuesday 25th August. If you know of a fellow reader who’d enjoy mystery, magic and suspense in an English village, please do pass on the good news.
With each book, I get better with controlling the launch. Launches seem to have a mind of their own and are all too ready to grab the momentum and run wild with it. This time, it was all going according to plan, with no pressure. And then … an opportunity presented itself that was too good to miss.
Books Go Social, who handles most of the marketing for the Amanda Cadabra books, invited me to submit an excerpt from Book 5 in a special magazine. This is no other than the International Review of Books special edition within the International Dublin Writers Festival magazine. This is scheduled for publication at the end of this month, (free to read online or download) now only days away.
The starting pistol had been fired and the fun began in earnest. Book 5 would have to launch at least a few days before the magazine comes out. I was still putting in the amendments in from my last readthrough, but now it was pedal to the metal. The team valiantly came on board, scheduling editing and cover illustration. At the same time, star beta readers kindly agreed to read the manuscript and get back with comments quickly.
The Kindle version is now live, a little earlier than planned, thanks to this happy circumstance and everyone who pitched in. Next it’s time to get on with formatting for the paperback, while our cover artist Daniel conjures the back cover and spine for the book jacket.
(The launch process for the next book will be calm and composed. That’s the plan.)
Back soon with more news, possibly an additional free day for Book 1, and more juicy goodness.
It was love at first sight. Just over two weeks ago, our outstanding illustrator Daniel sent me four sketches from which to choose. I had a breathless moment when I laid eyes on the fourth one. I kept looking back at it. Knowing it might be the most challenging of all of the compositions, I was confident Daniel could make it work.
Balancing Act and Countdown
I’d given Daniel two or three possible cover scenes from the story. They would need to be arresting and attractive but with no spoilers. There also needed to be some continuity with the previous covers in the series.
Daniel was due to go on leave shortly. He sent me the various stages, and I asked for tweaks that he patiently made. Knowing how industrious he is, the last thing I wanted was for Daniel to have to work on my project during his vacation. With just 4 hours to go until his departure, the cover was done!
Here it is for your viewing pleasure. For me, it’s the best Daniel has produced for the Amanda Cadabra series. I was thrilled. My mentor’s reaction was — and please bear in mind that he works in graphics — ‘Wow, classy.’
We are only days away from the launch of the book, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths, so I’m working on the trailer video now. The book is due to become available this weekend on Amazon, first of all for Kindle.
As though things weren’t happening fast enough, Book 6 has started writing itself! If you would like to know what the title of that new book will be … you’ll find it at the end of Book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths.
Back on launch day with news of trailer movie magic and the paperback edition.
After a long and winding road this year, I was reunited with my first love and what readers want most from me: writing books. Hence the recent dearth of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking. With everything else on the back burner, Amanda Cadabra Book 5 burst into life and is almost ready to emerge into the light of day. Beginning with — drum roll, please — the title:
And it is …
What if you’re new to the series?
This is the fifth in the British humorous cozy paranormal mystery series. Do you need to have read the first four books? No. It has its very own murder mystery, as does each of the novels. However, you’ll enjoy the story even more if you’ve read the preceding volumes. Why? Because there is an overarching story arc that comes to its conclusion in Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths. However, the new tale is also the jumping-off point for a new thread that will flow through books to come, so it’s also an excellent place to join the joy-ride.
There are a couple of spoilers in order to do a catch-up for new readers, and as a reminder. That’s just in case it’s been a while since you read book 4, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. By the way, in case you’re thinking of diving into the series, all of the books, 1- 4 are available in paperback as well as on Kindle.
What’s the series about?
Amanda Cadabra is an asthmatic furniture restorer and covert witch from the age of six. Her abode is the quaint English village of Sunken Madley, full of endearing eccentrics. Brought up by her loving magical grandparents, Amanda knows she must keep her unusual gifts a secret. Among them is a strange connection with her familiar, the irascible feline, Tempest. The other, ghastly members of her family met their end at the bottom of a Cornish cliff after a van accident. Or did they? The how and why are the cold case investigated by the personable but intractable Detective Inspector Trelawney throughout the series to date.
Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, will be free to download from Amazon for a couple of days after Book 5 launches. So you or your friends can try it on for size, and see if Amanda and Sunken Madley draw you in.
Book Launch Line-up
What then can you expect in terms of the book arriving on your screen or doormat? There will shortly be a cover reveal (our illustrator Daniel has been busily conjuring it), a trailer video and, at the end of the month, the first chapter will be free for you to read in a special edition of the International Dublin Writers Festival magazine. This coming weekend look out for the launch of Kindle version of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths. The paperback will follow as soon as my fingers can format it.
Where we’re at
Right now, the manuscript has come back from our star of an editor, Flora, and most of the sensational beta readers of the VIP Readers Group. The feedback so far has been everything any author could wish for.
Back soon with more news and hopefully, the unveiling of the new cover.
Having written to you last week about health matters in fiction, this time, we get down to the nitty-gritty. Do you want the coronovirus, COVID-19, in the next Amanda Cadabra book?
‘Your readers will tell you what they want.’ Three years ago, with the first book Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth newly published, my mentor TJ Brown said this to me. And he’s been right. So without polling, I’ve had to make a decision about whether to include the current health-related situation in the book now being written.
Why There’s An Issue
The Amanda Cadabra books are plotted in real-time. That means the Book 5 takes place during the late winter and early spring of 2020, culminating in the Equinox Ball at The Grange. That date, 22nd March, heralded the onset of the C-19 lockdown in the UK. Should it go in, or not?
Let’s pick this apart.
Where Could Corona Be Welcome?
First, does the virus have a place in fiction at all? Yes, dystopian fantasy, drama, crime, thriller and horror could all comfortably accommodate it. The once fictional pandemic is now a familiar situation.
What about cozy mystery, though? Surely a situation that results in stress and hardship would be anomalous in a cozy setting. Or would it? Just like poison, it could be used as a murder weapon. Admittedly, it would not necessarily be a very reliable one, but nevertheless, it is a possibility.
Furthermore, by its very nature, the conditions resulting from coronavirus have both separated people from those they usually associate with but brought them together with others. Throw this into the mix, and it could make things interesting without actually introducing a single incidence of the illness.
In Sunken Madley?
However, in the case of Amanda Cadabra, the village of Sunken Madley is its own microcosm. The modern political situation is never mentioned (with the exception of a passing reference to library closures in Book 5) nor is it a topic of discussion there. The villagers have what they consider to be more interesting, immediate and closer to hand matters to discuss. Like St Mary Mead, the home Agatha Christie assigned to her sleuth Miss Marple, Sunken Madley operates within its own sphere.
The appeal of Agatha Christie’s cozy whodunits, apart from their puzzles, is their escapism. That’s a vital part of the essence of the genre. Add in the paranormal element, and that takes us even further into that pleasurable zone.
From What You’ve Told Me
Readers and reviewers have expressed their pleasure in the world of Sunken Madley and their time spent there. And when this period of the pandemic is over, is it really going to be something cozy readers will want to revisit or forget?
There is also the matter of, in practice, to what extent would it rock the village? No one gets ill in Sunken Madley. The senior citizens are probably the most physically robust people in the hamlet. The dream team of Mrs Sharma of the Corner Shop and Mr Sharma of the pharmacy would ensure everyone was supplied with all that they needed.
What about social distancing? And there’s the rub. The Corner Shop conferences are highlights and essential of every book. So are the seasonal dances.
Consequently, you can rest assured that the world of Amanda Cadabra will remain COVID 19-free. The only health issue is Amanda’s asthma and therein, as readers know, lies a tale ….
Meanwhile, Amanda Cadabra Book 5 is steadily gaining ground, now at 35% of the way through.
Until next week, wishing you well, and cosily at home with a good book.
What is something so grim as illness doing in a light, comfortable mystery? Let me tell you a story.
Back in the day, I went on a first date. It was with a Welshman, in a beautiful spot on the river Thames: Maidenhead. The restaurant was right by the water, blue from the sky from where the sun was shining. It was a golden day, and I was hopeful of passing an enjoyable lunchtime.
And then …
My date began to discourse. He gleefully related anecdote after anecdote of disease and resulting fatality. ‘There was this man, you see?’ the Welshman continued with relish. ‘It was in the papers. Twenty-five he was and fit as a fiddle, so he thought. An athlete. And then. One day. He dropped dead. Stone dead.’ ‘Really?’ I asked curiously. ‘Tuberculosis! Didn’t know he had it. Well, doesn’t that just go to show? You never know.’ I repeatedly tried to turn to the conversation to happier themes, but with determination, he wrenched it back. Finally, realising what I was trying to do, he explained, ‘I like a bit of death.’
As you can imagine, I excused myself as soon as possible, and we did not have a second encounter. But what is the point of my sharing that with you?
It’s that the story is amusing. It has likely made you smile, even laugh. It has lifted your mood, even though it includes sickness and mortality. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that medical matters can have a place in light literature.
Health Issues in the Great Cozies
Let’s look at one of the novels Daphne du Maurier, who has been listed as a cozy mystery author. In Rebecca, it is a health condition that is the key to unlocking the puzzle of ‘what happened that night?’ There are no disturbing medical details. They would be extraneous to the plot and the genre. We are simply informed of the illness.
In The Pale Horse, Agatha Christie uses disability to throw us off the scent. Miss Marple’s recovery from illness takes us to warmer climbs where she might convalesce in A Caribbean Mystery.
A popular device in whodunnits is the victim’s medication, being used as a vehicle for murder most foul: an overdose or substituted with a dangerous substance or with something harmless but depriving the patient of necessary medicine. What is crucial is the treatment, if you’ll excuse the pun, of the illness. That is, no graphic details, just as a cozy murder takes place usually off-camera.
Why Asthma for Amanda?
So we come to medical matters in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series. I have been asked why I gave our heroine debilitating asthma. Doesn’t that make her weak? Physically, yes, she is below par. However, that is the very reason why she needs the indispensable component of the genre, magic. She also relies on her familiar, who is, in a sense, her seeing-eye cat.
The origin of Amanda’s asthma provides a vital part of the overall story arc of the series. It also gives her a reason to be at the clinic constructed during Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. It creates balance with Inspector Trelawney. He surpasses her in fitness, but she has the greater, and vitally important, mystical abilities.
A Bit Special
When I researched the format, the formula for a cozy paranormal mystery, I knew that I wanted mine to be a bit different. Amanda’s physical limitations give her the opportunity to develop and demonstrate other kinds of strength. On the other hand, at the same time, it makes her grandparents and fellow villagers disarmingly protective regardless of however provoking their quirks might be!
A medical condition sees the dispatch of one of the less likeable characters. It also influences Granny and Grandpa’s decision as to which level of existence they choose and when.
So, I hope you’re satisfied with the place of medical matters in the cozy context. Even fatalities, the very heart of a whodunit. Perhaps, after all, you’ll say as regards your taste in literature, ‘I like a bit of death!’
Meanwhile, I am now 30,000 words into Amanda Cadabra Book 5, with 15 chapters complete and pretty much finalised.
Back next time with more musings for your entertainment.
How did Cornwall do it? How did worm its way into the heart of a series mainly set an English village to the north of London? Depending on where you live or are from, you may ask, as someone enquired of me, ‘Where is Cornwall? It’s in the south-west of mainland Britain, the bit under Wales that spikes out into the Atlantic pointing off towards the distant shores of The New World.
What’s So Special?
Cornwall and the Cornish were regarded as a separate place and people until the fourteenth century, by those on both sides of the border. Cornwall has its own language, it’s own flag, customs and heritage. In 2014 the UK government granted the Cornish minority status and the Cornish tongue given funding to encourage its spread and development.
Dead and Gone?
Neither. The traditional opinion is that the last native speaker Dolly Pentreath breathed her last in 1777. However, there is a body of evidence that suggests it never entirely died out at all. Cornwall is a land of remote nooks and crannies, plus families migrated to other parts of the world but took their language with them.
Today there are bilingual speakers and a stream of new learners. The presence of support groups and organisations for students, Cornish books in libraries and schools, events (most famously the Gorsedh), poetry, literature, and songs are all testimony to a living breathing and thriving language.
Oh yes, tales of pixies, ghosts and giants, are coupled with romantic landscape from plummeting cliffs, crashing waves, soft sands, rolling hills and the bleak beauty of the moors. These have drawn artists and writers for hundreds of years. One, in particular, raised Cornwall in the public consciousness: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebeccaand Jamaica Inn– haunted, one case a man by his past and the other by strange lights and sounds in the dead of night!
Mist and mystery, the quintessential ‘country’ accent, the ‘oo arr, Jim lad’ of the stereotypical pirate, the crafty smugglers, the lone lighthouse, the golden light of the remote inn welcoming the weary traveller are an irresistible cocktail. All of these make it the perfect association for not just a cozy mystery but a cosy paranormal one. So how did it entwine itself with the fictional English village of Sunken Madley?
Back to the Roots
For this, we must return to the very inception of the series. Once I had the name Amanda Cadabra, her character and history formed before my very eyes. She was an orphan, her family had gone over a cliff when she was an infant. What cliffs were at my disposal? Cornwall immediately came to mind. Suitably dramatic coastline. What were they doing there? They were Cornish. Therefore Amanda is Cornish and, therefore, so are her grandparents.
Next, we needed a police presence. He is investigating the cold case of the Cornish accident. Therefore he is Cornwall, and he is Cornish, like his boss, Chief Inspector Hogarth. A typical Cornish name for our hero? Thomas Trelawney, Detective Inspector.
As the plot began to form, I also realised I need the ingredient of a magical language. What alternatives were there? Latin as so skilfully used by JK Rowling in the Harry Potter Books, spells used in Disney films, the Elvish of Tolkein or just plain made-up. So it came to me that a melange would be a way of connecting Cornwall and England. I read that witches, wise women and men, from both sides of the border supported one another, especially during the decades of the infamous witch trials. What if that led to a mixture of Cornish and old English. Using online dictionaries, I cobbled together spells words and phrases. In doing so, I became curious about the structure of each tongue.
The Real Thing
On impulse I began to research. Discovering the Cornish revival, it seemed only respectful to honour it by learning how to speak and write it properly. The flame was of fascination burned higher. I found an online course with Kesva, the Cornish Language Board, and more resources at Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek, the Cornish Language Fellowship. The first email of enquiry was written, I was put in contact with a tutor, I found my way to Cornish language books and the book shops that sell them. At Christmas, I came upon Keur Heb Hanow, a singing quartet, and corresponded with one of them. I dug for Facebook groups and found a home with We Love Kernewek, Our Cornish Language. Everywhere I went, I found kind and helpful people.
And all the while, the dream of visiting grew stronger. That is soon to come true. Amanda Cadabra has thus brought me yet another whole new circle of friends, experience. When I come back from Cornwall, I’ll have new photos, videos and stories to share with you, dear readers.
Meanwhile, I have >Amanda Cadabra Book 5 to continue writing and Cornish revision to do! Back soon …
This week we travel into the fascinating dilemma that faces every writer: research or writing. Which do I do first? How much? How much research is too much? Do I need to do any at all? If so, why? What are the options? What does it mean for the reader?
Thanks to the kind hosting of Denise Fleischer on gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com the answers to the great research versus writing question are revealed are in my guest post on her website. Here is a taster:
‘In the winter of 2017, I heard two words that were to change my life: cozy mystery. After years of protesting that I was strictly a non-fiction writer, within half an hour, I was persuaded that here was the fantasy-related genre for me.
I was given guidelines, but soon I was off finding lists and explanations of the ‘formula’ for a successful cozy, in my case, cozy paranormal mystery. Yes, it was easy for me, research comes naturally. Nevertheless, there is a difference between fact-checking for informational accuracy and world-building. The question new writers often ask is, do you research first, “look it up” or dive into the creative activity by “getting it down”?’
Just two days after I heard from Denise, a second delight beamed into my week. Susan Hampson, reviewer at booksfromdusktilldawn.blog, wrote to say that she had not only reviewed Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth on her website, Goodreads and Amazon but had also posted on 12 other book blog sites! If you are thinking of starting the Amanda Cadabra series or would like to recommend it to a friend, you can read it here.
Exclusive to Inclusive
In the past week, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth has gone from being available only through Amazon to ‘going wide’. That means it is now also published through Barnes & Nobel, Apple Books, Kobo and several others.
Next week I plan to examine The Cornish Connection of the series and to share with you the unexpected places research for that has led me …
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