Category Archives for Blog

Red velvet curtains parted to show question mark and Text: The Great Unveiling and on the right of the image Holly Bell holding an open book: Text: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 1: Decisions, Decisions

The Grand Unveiling, and Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 1 – Decisions, Decisions

Dear Reader,

The time has come, as promised, to reveal the new feature on the website that offers you both entertainment and a window on not one but two readers’ favourite characters. Well, it’s almost come because first, I bring you this week’s author insights video.

Decisions, Decisions

This is the first in the series of ‘So You Speak English? – Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction, and will give you an insider’s view of the sometimes tricky choices authors have to make, in order to bring you the best possible reading experience. So here goes …

Click for video Decisions, Decision - Fabulous, Foreigners in Fiction Part 1

Parting The Curtains

And now … the time really is at hand to show you this …

Click to go to Puzzle 1

The Long Road

It has taken me two years of searching to find the perfect application to accomplish this on the website. After all, what is a cozy mystery but a puzzle? So what better addition to the website for you? But my endeavours were rewarded when I encountered Jigsaw Explorer. And so, many thanks go out to Bob Flora, its talented creator, for making it possible to bring you this today. Have a look at if you’d like to add this to your own website. But even more so if you love puzzles because Bob puts a new one up every day!

Some Helpful Tips

Click and drag to move the pieces. If you’d prefer more or fewer pieces, then click on the pile of 3 dashes under the word Puzzle and choose ‘Modify this puzzle.’ Click on the square of 9 dots, and you can select your number there. Click on the curved arrow, and it will rotate the pieces randomly, or if you leave this alone, they will be in the correct orientation. Click on the paint palette to change the background colour. 

A timer runs in the top right-hand corner, and you can pause this. There’s an icon at the top of the screen that looks like two mountains in snow. That will give the game away and show you the image. The icon next to it will show just the edge pieces.

Please and Thank You

Please let me know if you enjoy it and how you get on. What images would you like to see? I’d love to hear more of your reactions and suggestions for future puzzles. Thank you to everyone who has given me such delightful, appreciative and helpful feedback so far.

Sequel Update

The sequel now stands at 4000 words. All of the sound recordings are in place, and I think that brings all of the notes up to date. Onto the next stage. 

My Cornish Adventure Begins, and Maybe Yours Too

This week I begin co-teaching a Cornish language beginners class online, led by my dear friend Linda. It begins on Thursday as 6pm UK and 10am Pacific Time. Official ticket sales have now closed but if you contact me, it may just be possible for you to join, if you’d like a taste of the Cadabra’s native tongue. Details are here.

Next Time

Well, more on The Next Stage, a new video in the So You Speak English? – Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series plus a new puzzle. Who or what will it be?

 Happy Beginning of Autumn (or 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

Holly Bell on left with text: Author Reveal How To #5 Steps and on the right vintage womans hands writing the top page of a pile of papers with a vintage typewriter in the background. Text: Picking Up Writing the New Cozy Sequel

Picking Up the Sequel, and 5 Steps To Getting In Front of the Camera

Dear Readers

Today, as promised, I bring you a video to help any of you who, like me, have wrestled with the notion of showing your face on camera. The fruits of my experience in Unboxing Holly over these past weeks have been condensed into just 5 steps and a mere 2 minutes and 7 seconds.

Click for video #5 step reveal how-to


Even that short video had its share of bloopers. Like when I got as far as stage one of the wrapping only to discover that the Sellotape dispenser, for which I was hopefully reaching, was, in fact, my tape measure. They’re the same colour and approximate shape and live adjacent to one another in my desk drawer. I had … ahem … I mean, naturally, my assistant had mistaken one for the other in her haste to advance the project. Yes. That was it. (Note to self: get assistant one day.) So, a Take Two there.  

Some of the voiceover I had to rerecord, and it wasn’t sufficiently clear. Now, you’d think this would be easy. I sat at my desk and spoke the words into my hone. On listening, I could hear that the quality was very different to in the library, where the video was recorded. I returned thence for retake 2. This time, there was a shushing sound in the background. Ah. Distant traffic. I closed the windows. Take 3. Good enough.

Happy 20's vintage woman with pile or notes and typewriter The Best Bit

Fun as these shoots can be, the highlight of my week has been returning to the new sequel, Book 9, as yet untitled. It now has three thousand words to its lack-of name. Only a little is new material generated in the last few days. The task at the moment is gathering and compiling all of the notes, drafts, jottings and sound recordings that I have made over the past several months, some even made during the writing of the most recent release, Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs.

A Special Notebook?

Do I have one where I make all of my notes for books? More special ones. I have the police notebook – oh yes – just like our own DI Thomas Trelawney, and, of course, the someone else who gets one in due course. (You’ll know who if you’ve read The Nightstairs.) That’s portable, so I can write while I’m away from my desk. As in, outdoors.

Police notebook in the pocket of a trenchcoatI also have my journal and a desk ‘day book’. My journal is refillable, so notes for a new sequel could be in a previous one, and I make sure that I put AC and the number of the book at the top of the page where I’ve inscribed my ideas or even actual finished text.

Sound recordings I make on my phone again when my beloved desk and I are parted. I often get inspiration when I’m driving, so I pull over, park and record. So far, most of the written notes are copied up. 

To Come: Next Sequel Step and An Unveiling

Once compiled, the ideas, excerpts and sketches have to be put in order of how they will appear in the book. More of that next time.

This week, the new enthralling, and possibly addictive, feature of the website is being unveiled to my precious subscribers. Next week, I shall be bringing it to you. Meanwhile, I shall be further developing it for your pleasure. If you’d rather not wait, you can sign up here, and get the juicy news up front.


Happy Autumn (or Spring) Equinox weekend,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Holly with book, video play button, open book with text: The 4 QUeens of Cozy Mystery. On the right of the image a magic book. Text: Learning to Conjure Cozy Characters

The 4 Queens of Cozy Mystery, and Conjuring Characters

Dear Reader,

If I were to ask you if you could name any of the four queens of cozy mystery, I could pretty much guarantee that you’d come up with one. And who that one would be? What makes a cozy mystery a queen? It’s all to do with the Golden Age of detective fiction, as you will now see:

Click link to go go 4 Queens of Cozy

How did you get on? Did you guess the most important one? As it happens, all four have influenced my writing, some more than others, and it’s likely that I’ll be returning to talk about them in more detail.

Q&A & AI

Meanwhile, Kim, my esteemed editor, recently offered me the opportunity to talk to her readers about my eventful experience creating my first audiobook for you. I’ll let you know when that goes live.

Now, I have been playing with an AI bot. A what? A bot is a computer program that carries out automated, repetitive, pre-defined tasks. Bots typically attempt to imitate human behaviour. I say, ‘attempt’. In this bot’s case, you give it a description, and, like us, it draws on its experience of things it has absorbed to create a new image. The bot I am using draws on pretty much the same image banks as the ones I use.

Is It Evil?

It all depends on how you use it. A knife can prepare food, cause harm or save a life. I have a close friend whose job is teaching an AI bot anatomy so that one day it will be able to perform or assist with operations, perhaps in a remote location or disaster area when a human doctor is unable to be present, for example. With regard to art, designers and artists are already using this tool to rough out ideas, create backgrounds and brainstorm. For people like me, who want to bring you some interesting and pleasing images to go with my letters to you or for trailers or other videos, it is ideal. That’s because it saves us hours, yes, hours, trawling through public domain and stock images. Time we can spend writing new books for you, for instance!


I’ve been engaging with one AI bot (committed to preserving the intellectual property of artists) to bring you some visual evocations of the characters and settings of the novels. This has been proving great fun, as the bot has yet to learn some simple concepts, like humans have two hands, not three or four, and exactly five fingers, not eight.

I wanted to use my new little friend to send Kim, for her Q and A with me, an image of someone recording an audiobook with equipment similar to mine, reading aloud from a paperback. Simple, yes? Simple? No. 

Blonde witch in classroom pointing to a book. Speech bubble: This is a bookPlaying Patience

Unwittingly, I had embarked on a hilarious romp through the possibility of interpretation offered by my instructions. A ‘happy woman recording a voiceover’ brought forth images from the 1940s. ‘Smiling woman reading’ ushered in several iterations of ladies with closed eyes. ‘Slightly smiling’ got them open a little. The bot rendered ‘book’ as ‘script’. I offered ‘paperback book’ and was soon to wish I’d never mentioned ‘paper’. It responded with sheet music, a clipboard with A4 sheets on the back, sheaves of documents, even one held by a convenient third hand. 

Finally, it surprised me by producing an image of a lady with sufficiently open eyes, using current equipment correctly aligned (nothing floating in mid-air), reading from a book stand, facing away from the viewer that we can surmise it holds the novel. It’s not perfect, but I think you’ll enjoy it when you see it. Meanwhile, it’s all part of the learning curve to bring you some tantalising visuals of what Amanda and company might look like.

World Domination?

Having played with an image-generating AI bot for two or three weeks, I’m inclined to agree with various experts writing in the New Scientist. The chances of Artificial Intelligence taking over the world are precisely zero.

As I mentioned, I’ve been working on using the bot in order to conjure images of the Amanda Cadabra characters. I’m making progress and shall regale you with the shenanigans of those adventures in due course.


Speaking of Cornish, the beginners language course I’m support teaching has a new start date of Thursday, 5th October. There’s still time, if you’d like a taste of the Cadabra’s native tongue. Details here.

Ruby in tiny treasure chestNext Time

The matter of a decision regarding the new sequel. One of which I think you will be in favour.

Meanwhile, I have gleefully just come across something for which I have been searching for the last two years. Something to bring you an extra morsel of entertainment. I’m trying it out, so far with astonishing results, and intend to present it to you next time. Honestly, I can hardly wait!

Happy last week of astronomical summer,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Orange gloved hand over old road sign: Text: Real Life Cozy Village Green above 2 girls smiling and holding diplomas. Text: 2 vital lessons in Selfie Filming

Real Life Cozy Village Green – On Location Selfie First

Dear Readers,

They were, and they weren’t ideal conditions. The sky was blue, the sunshine was glorious; it showed the idyllic scene at its almost best (as you shall see). I was, however, slightly impeded by four factors. But first, as ever, for your edification and entertainment, this week’s  magic lantern show of a real life cozy village green:

Click to go to video: On Location at A Real Cozy Village Green

Rubbish, Weather and Wildlife

The four impedences? First, it was bin day, and the less-than aesthetically pleasing receptacles were forming an honour guard along the kerbs and pavements.

Second, a light breeze rapidly blowing out my partly natural and partly contrived curls. Third was the nettle that turned out not to be a nettle. A wasp had taken refuge from the heat under the shadow of the folds of my skirt. Unimpressed by my thoughtless manoeuvers, it had registered its protest in the form of a calling card that I was, at the time, convinced to be the sting of defensive vegetation. The discomfort was a distraction. Nevertheless, demonstrating my willingness to suffer for my art and your pleasure, I soldiered on. Well, I filmographered on.

Packed storage selves An Unplanned Break

Fourth? The first of my rookie errors. I ran out of phone storage and had to return to the mothership to unload the footage acquired so far, delete, refill my water bottle and strike back out to the green. By which time, it was midday, with temperatures soaring into the high 20’s (80s). Not perhaps the best time with the sun overhead, but I was on Operation Get-it-in-the-can.

I completed my mission to the best of my ability and made for my desk and editing software.

Two Lessons for Apprentice Self-Filmers

The first take-home from this expedition, for this opening attempt at cameraman-less shooting out away from my home-based library ‘set’, was extra memory storage for the phone was going to be essential. Video is voracious.

The second lesson became apparent when I listened to as well as watched the fruits of my labour. Even in the absence of planes flying overhead, cars passing, people chatting as they wandered past, dogs barking or garden power tools being wielded (please see Author Reveal Blooper Reel). Even a light breeze will muffle a voice at any distance from the phone, which was mounted on a tripod.

You might also include: choose a day that isn’t bin day, check that the sun will be shining on your subject, and be aware of local wildlife (of the insect variety or otherwise). Which furnishes us with a total of 5 tips.


For inadequate audio? Ultimately, a wireless lapel mic. Immediate fix? Record the voiceover. I am not in most of the video, so dialling down the background sounds and adding the narrative was simple. For the most part.

The challenge came with the opening location-establishing sentence where I am speaking to the camera, and you can see my lips moving. I had to type out what I’d said, practice lip-synching, and then, with headphones on, repeat the words into the phone voice recording app. Would you have guessed?

You will be pleased to know that both the storage and the mic arrived yesterday and sit ready for testing.

Victorian female explorer with cameraNext?

Where will the next on-location shoot take us? Possibly back to the real Sunken Madley (Monken Hadley) home of Amanda Cadabra, possibly somewhere else I have in mind. Or the library where I have something of keen interest to cozy readers to share with you.

Meanwhile, I am making my fascinated way through a rare antique tome penned well over a century ago devoted to the very Monken Hadley of which I speak. We shall see what treasures emerge for your entertainment and my creative furnace.


Of course, all of this movie magic is fun and entertaining, but what of the next sequel in the Amanda Cadabra series? Plans are afoot, while I continue to develop these video snippets, to allow me time in my beloved ivory tower with quill and parchment. So expect news thereof in due course.

In any event, back next time with another mini-movie for you, to illuminate the world-building of a cozy paranormal mystery series.

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

Cozy Maps – Yes or No?

Dear Readers,

Location, location, location

It’s not just about where you live but, for an author, where they set their book. This week, the plan was to film the picturesque village green that inspired the one in Amanda Cadabra’s village. The forecast was for sunshine. And then …

On the morning appointed for filming, the sky darkened the heavens opened, and upended bucket upon bucket upon the grateful earth and ungrateful author.

What To Do?

What could I create for you? Well, as the theme for the past three weeks has been location, beginning with Monken Hadley, the inspiration of Sunken Madley then Pinner High Street which evokes the one in the series’ village, I have tackled the subject of maps in cozy mysteries in this 1-minute 8-second video for your edification and entertainment. Here it is:

Click to go to video: Cozy Maps - Yes or No?


Do you have a book that you remember for its map? For me, besides the first one I mention in the video,  it would be the ones in the Narnia books, and the The Lord of the Rings. I’d love to know what your choice would be.

Meanwhile, you can find our very own cozy maps right here.

So What About The Village Green?

The weather next week, I am informed by the BBC, is going to be glorious. So, before you start to wonder if this place actually exists, I have every expectation of bringing you the third in the trilogy introducing key locations in the Amanda Cadabra books. And let’s see what else I might be able to capture on camera.

Red roses around lens of camera on grey satin in white vignetteLoving the Lens?

Well, I might not be that far but I am gradually gaining confidence in front of the camera. Your encouragement and support are a great help and indeed comfort, even on the familiar surroundings of Facebook. TikTok is still a terrain I’m getting to know, and I think I might have a bit of backlog to post on Instagram. So, if you do see the videos around on the social platform of your choice, please like follow or share. It helps more than you know.

It’s also reassuring  to be filming on a familiar ‘set’, which is some library shelves of mine and the backdrop to many a book-related TikTok video. If you look closely you may spot a volume or two that are familiar to you. If so, do let me know. If you’re thinking of self-filming, this is likely something you have in your home: convenient and cost-effective.

Meanwhile, in case you do feel the urge or the need to join me on the Other Side of the camera but would like some easy steps to do that painlessly, I am working on a video to help. It’s in the pipeline. Slightly delayed when I discovered that the something special I was going to use is for the wrong side of my body. What? Well … you’ll see!

Amanda Cadabra 9?

On the sequel front, a new chapter delivered itself to me at midnight one night, with tidbits of inspiration for interesting details scattered here and there during the last few days.

Finally, a note about online beginner Cornish classes. The start date is now 5th October. So there’s time to join me if you’re intrigued.

Next week …. the long-awaited Cozy Village Green and how it changed the Amanda Cadabra map.

Until then,

Happy September,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Stone pile in the centre of grass circles with sunset in the background on left have of image with text: Cozy Celtic and your Connection. On the right an image of Holly Bell in witch's hat on a beach in front of a sandcastle. Text: Who are the Celtic nations?

Who Are The Celtic Nations, Cozy Celtic, and Your Connection

Dear Readers,

Coastal Diversion

View of southend along the beach Southend on Sea by Martin Brown, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Martin Brown

A beach theme seems appropriate for this last weekend in August. This means only a slight postponement of our visit to the village green that inspired the one in Amanda Cadabra’s Sunken Madley, which is simply called: ‘the green’.

So here we are in glorious Southend-on Sea on the southeast coast of Britain to fly the flags of the Celtic Nations.

Why Are You Doing This, Holly?

What’s this got to do with the cozy mystery series? Well, all of the main characters hail from a Celtic nation, speak, to some degree or other, that particular Celtic language, and the series partly takes place in that very land.

Can You Guess …?

If you’re familiar with Amanda Cadabra, you’ll already know the one I’m talking about. But the others? In less than 2 minutes, you’ll have the answer:

Click to go to video: Who are the Celtic nations

Cozy Celtic

So, yes, Amanda’s and my favourite is Cornwall, but are any of the others represented in the series? Three out of the remaining five are (which prompts me to somehow work the last two into the plot of the next book). How and where? I feel a cozy quiz coming on. But I’ll postpone it until the entire set has a home in one book or another.

However, I shall leave you with this clue. Two of the Celtic nations are represented by individuals and one by location. And a second hint: you need only to have read as far as book six, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, to know the answer. Another clue next week, in case you’d like some help.

Three Cornish pasties. One cut in two to show meat and potato filling

Photo by Scott Eckersley

Your Celtic Connection?

The Celts were a loose group of tribes with common linguistic or cultural links who inhabited or spread from the Black Sea to the Atlantic; in other words, right across Europe. If you have any ancestors from this vast area, the chances are that you have Celtic roots of some kind. Even if you hail from somewhere far from Europe, since there were a lot of them, and they got about, a DNA test may well surprise you.

On the other hand, your connection may be a cultural interest in their art, languages, costume or simply food. Welsh rarebit, Scottish haggis, Cornish pasties, Irish stew. If you like any of those, or you feel a connection to the Cadabras, you’re in the Celtic zone.

Happy Talk

On that note, a reminder that the Cornish online sessions I’ll be co-teaching from 7th September are still up on Eventbrite. You’re still just in time to join. Here’s the link for more details.

Amanda Cadabra Book 9. Yesterday, seeing a strangely coloured sky, some more of the new sequel came to me. The plot continues to form …

Next Time

I hope to be taking you at last to an idyllic village green and a cozy mystery landmark.

Until then,

Happy August,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

On Location In a Real Village Street and Thank You. Left side, woman's hand touching a flower fading into right side with cozy author Holly Bell sitting on a wooden table in front of a 400-year-old English pub

A Landmark, On Location – The Sinner’s Rue, and A New Phase

Dear Readers,

Last week, we filmed and edited the second On Location instalment. This time, to bring you a genuine and not-so-genuine English village that might be the High Street Amanda’s home of Sunken Madley.

Click to link to video - On Location

You may like to know that there was more material for the blooper reel!

A New Phase

This completed our cinematographer’s time with me and Amanda Cadabra, and so, whilst building my confidence on camera, I begin a new phase of the journey: filming myself. There is a wealth of advice, largely conflicting, on how to do this. Do I film with my iPhone? Do I film with my DSLR camera? Do I film in landscape or portrait mode? What gimbal is best to stabilize my particular phone? Where to turn?

Questions, Questions

And then, one morning this week, a miracle occurred. The conundrum was this. The best gimbal for my phone, apparently, is the DJI Osmo6. According to Apple, this is suitable for my model of mobile. To check, I wrote to DJI, who helpfully said the opposite: my iPhone is too light. I continued to dig. Someone had discovered that with the case, it would work fine. I went back to DJI. They advised me to go to an actual store where I could try it out.


I found the closest one but wanted to see what could be ascertained over the phone. This is where I struck gold. The person with whom I spoke was highly knowledgeable, asked all about my project and gave me well-informed expert advice. Not only that, but the gentleman offered to have a look at my next video to provide me with tips on how to improve and bring to you, my dear readers, the very best that I can.

Please …

And so … next Sunday, I shall bring to you my first effort. Your feedback would be invaluable. I’ll be posting it here first of course, but later, on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, where you can comment or, and this is my favourite, you can email me at

… And Thank you

This week in a landmark event. followers on the Holly Bell Facebook page passed 800. Here is a little video for all the long-standing and new readers who have joined the page. I am cultivating TikTok and Instagram, but my Facebook page is still home, and this will also be appearing there. So if, you like it, please share.

Click for link to Thank You Video


Although the offer three free Cornish language lessons with my co-teacher Linda and me has ended, you can still join the 6-week introductory course through Eventbrite at just £5 a session. The course is online so wherever you are, we’d be delighted to have you with us. More details here.

Next Week

The fruits of my self-filming efforts on the inspiration for Amanda’s village green and a significant addition to the map of Sunken Madley in Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan. There might even be something extra. Until then …

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

Holly Bell, foot with daisy between the toes and Cornish coast with Godrevy lighthouse in the distance. Text: On Location - Introducing Sunken Madley, Last Day of Cornish Language Offer and the mystery of the toe - solved

On Location – Introducing Sunken Madley

Dear Readers

Movie Time

As you know, we filmed our first ‘On Location with Holly’, an endeavour which was not without its share of hilarity. Yes, I definitely generated some footage for another Blooper Reel.

Nevertheless, Mike the Cinematographer and I got it all in the can and it has been edited so that I can present it to you shortly, in fact, at the end of the next paragraph.

Now, there is a good deal of learning on the job here so if you notice a certain small grey cloud intended to mask the registration plate of my car bobbing around like a flag on 4th July, please bear with me and enjoy the entertainment. That skill will doubtless improve with practice!

Click to play On Location - Sunken Madley video


There is in fact an entire book written about Monken Hadley, inspiration for Amanda’s village of Sunken Madley, so you can expect many happy returns to explore its juicy details. I have an anecdote that is a personal favourite that remain a mystery to this day. I look forward to sharing that with you.

Meanwhile, another puzzle …

The Mystery of The Toe

Childs feet with daisy between little and fourth toeFirst to recap:

It was like this. About a week after the shoot on the village green, which inspired the one in Amanda’s village, I noticed something I’d never seen before. The second toe of my right foot was bruised underneath. I had no recollection of having kicked anything or dropped any object, light or heavy onto it. It was not painful, and I could move it freely. Nothing that a Google search suggested fitted.

Over the next couple of days, the bruising spread to the sides, but still no explanation offered itself. Whatever could have caused this strange phenomenon? The answer lies, of course, in the videos.


The solution was to be found in a piece of jewellery, one I hadn’t worn for some time. I was inspired to don this trinket by the photograph on the sales page of my fetching fake, be-mooned and starred toenails of black and silver. It was fine while I was stationery, but when touring the village green in search of optimum settings for filming I was sharply reminded of why I rarely wore it.

Indeed, the culprit, the perpetrator of the incident to my toe was … a fiendish toering! I had begun to guess and had my suspicions confirmed when a thin bridge of bruise began to show, joining the interesting blue on either side of the hapless digit.

So there it is, solved and the take home for me was, toering: wear only when stationery.

Cornish coast, blue sea and Godrevy lighthouse in background. Text: Last Day and then ...The Last Day of The Special Offer

Yes, this is the final day of the offer for the Cornish language online beginner classes I’ll be teaching from next month. That is, the first 3 classes free. Details are here. After today it will go up on Eventbrite at £5 per session for the 6-week introductory course, so you’ll still have the opportunity to join at very low cost.


I look forward to bring you the next video, and possibly a new Q&A by editor Kim Brockway, this time with me about my eventful adventures bringing to you the audiobook of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth.



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

The Witch-Hat Milliner Q&A, Complete Reveal Video, and Cornish Sessions With Holly

Dear Readers,

Two Treats

Photo of Jo Morris of JoMoSewsA brace of delights has been prepared for you this week. As promised a few weeks ago, I can now share with you a Q&A with the person who helped to make the entire Holly The Human reveal possible. It was designer and seamstress, Jo Morris of JoMoSews who created my metaphorical comfort blanket, my emotional raft: The Hat, which you see me wearing in all of the videos. (You can skip to the interview here.) I knew if I had the right hat, it would carry me through the journey from cartoon obscurity to life in front of the lens, to talk to you directly.

There is also a Cornish special offer You can skip ahead to that too here.

Unboxing Holly: The Full Reveal From Start to Finish

‘Two. You said “Two treats”‘, I hear you utter. Indeed. I can now also bring you the compilation of the reveal videos, from the unboxing of the Hat to Holly and the books on the village green, after a mysterious disappearance and a literary hunting trip.

Holly coming out of a cardboard box on a desk in a vintage study: Click to play full reveal compilationTony’s Garden

With regard to the ‘Book Hunt – Up The Garden Path’, I should, in all fairness, include a photographLong garden from patio. Path curving up lawn to low walled area with young trees and low building beyond of my friend Tony’s garden, when he has not, as a concession to me, left it in a somewhat wild state. This was so there would be long grass, piles of leaves, and mounds of moss in which he and Mike could stash the goods. (Tony: ‘Can I cut the grass now?’ Me: ‘Erm, could you leave it just a few more days, please?’)

The setting of this rummage through the undergrowth for the books is of considerable significance for the entire Amanda Cadabra series. Consequently, we shall be returning there, in due course, to as close as fiction can come to what we like to consider the Real World.

The Mystery of The Toe

You may have been wondering about this, and you’ll see why I couldn’t present the conundrum and the solution before now. 

Foot in sunlight It was like this. About a week after the shoot on the village green, which inspired the one in Amanda’s village, I noticed something I’d never seen before. The second toe of my right foot was bruised underneath. I had no recollection of having kicked anything or dropped any object, light or heavy, onto it. It was not painful, and I could move it freely. Nothing that a Google search suggested fitted.

 A Development

 Over the next couple of days, the bruising spread to the sides, but still, no explanation offered itself. Whatever could have caused this strange phenomenon? The answer lies, of course, in the videos. In case you’d like to solve it yourself, I’ll wait to tell you until next week. I’d love to say, ‘Answers on a postcard.’ If you’re a subscriber to the Inside Track Newsletter, you’ll see an address at the bottom if you’d like to treat us both to some old-world charm. But an email or a comment on Facebook or one of the other platforms would be equally welcome.

 Spotlight on Jo

 So here, without more ado, I give you … Jo Morris:

Jo, how old were you when you started sewing? 

I’d have been around 12 or 13. We were lucky enough to have needlework classes in school.

Do you remember the very first handcrafted thing you made? 

The first thing I remember sewing was a baby doll outfit at school. You know those floaty, strappy tops with matching puffy knickers? I hated making it; I couldn’t understand why we needed to make one of those at 13 years old! It never got worn, and my sewing teacher told me not to bother sewing; I wasn’t any good at it!

I’m glad you didn’t listen, Jo!

Who have been your sewing inspirations? 

All those years ago, it would have been my mum. She could turn her hand to anything, from dressmaking to decorating, dancing to cooking. She really could do it all. Now I love to watch The Great British Sewing Bee, and I’m inspired by both Esme and Patrick. Esme’s creativity and flare, all those years ago, she dared to be different, using fabrics in unimaginable ways at that time, whilst Patrick’s love of wools and tweeds are at one with my own but also his support for small charitable projects and upcycling fabrics is inspirational.

Great recommendation. As far as I know, readers in the US can watch The Great British Sewing Bee on Apple TV but I found some other suggestions of ways to watch here.

Sewing or knitting? If you could only do one for the next 6 months, which would you pick?

Well, this is an easy one; it would have to be sewing! Sewing in any form is my absolute love, so long as it isn’t repetitive. I get bored very easily as my mind is a constant whirlpool of ideas…. new ways of piecing things together, new ideas for coats and waistcoats. So many projects yet to be made.

And we can get notifications from Etsy when they appear in your shop, which I love browsing.

Years ago, sewing and knitting were things women did to save money. How have you seen that change?

 I think that over the years, society has become much more of a throw-away culture. Cheap labour from abroad saw prices plummet, so perhaps the hours spent making and mending became more valuable, especially with more women working full-time. However, this is changing with the slow fashion movement, which is encouraging society to buy to last and mend or upcycle clothing and other textile items.

Oh yes, that’s very on trend now.

Nowadays, it seems it’s cheaper to buy ready-made. Is this still always the case? 

At first glance, it would seem cheaper to buy ready-made garments; however, this isn’t true of more expensive items when cost of materials and labour are taken into account.

Are sewing and knitting undergoing a revival? 

Oh absolutely! This has to be a huge positive to come out of COVID, where people were staying at home and had time on their hands. Also, shows such as The Great British Sewing Bee, along with celebrities like the British diver, Tom Daley, openly showing their love of knitting, crochet or sewing, has encouraged people of all genders to take up crochet and sewing.

Yes, he even knitted a pouch for his Olympic gold medal! I like his Instagram page and this interview with Tom about how he got started and life as a diver-crocheter.

 In Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Treethere’s an important character, a Cornishman who knits. Cornwall is one of the places in the British Isles with a tradition of men knitting. Do more men sew and knit these days than, say, a generation or two ago, or is it still predominantly women? 

It definitely feels like more men are knitting and sewing now; however, men have always been there in the background, and in fact, many of history’s top designers and tailors have been men, whilst women tended to be seamstresses which were never as highly regarded. However, today, society is far more accepting of men sewing and knitting, so perhaps they no longer have to hide away their talents and hobbies.

Let’s encourage them!

Is it expensive for someone to do as a hobby? 

Honestly, yes! Mainly because once you find a love for fabric or yarns, you have a need to collect more and more. Ideas will flow, so you’ll need more fabrics and yarns to bring your ideas to life. However, it doesn’t always need to be costly. You might upcycle garments, breathing new life into old, which can keep costs down or use cheaper fabrics. Ultimately though, you could make a garment for less than the cost of a couple of pints that can be worn for years to come, so if you’re careful, it doesn’t need to expensive.

 Where do you go for advice if you hit a snag with a project? 

If I run into trouble with a project, I almost always reach out to friends online, but if they aren’t able to help me, I’ll search on Pinterest or YouTube. These are fabulous for technical information, and often the problems are solved in a variety of ways so I can choose which method suits me best.

Where is the best place to start if you want to start learning from scratch how to knit or sew? Is there a guru out there on YouTube with a channel you’d recommend, for example? 

I would initially suggest learning from a family member, helping them to make a simple project or just copying what they do. I’ve shared my love of sewing with my children, girls and boys. Learning from someone who is present is a great way to use their experiences of what has and hasn’t worked for them, and being able to discuss these experiences can help understand why things are done in s certain way, although often the ‘best’ way is whatever way works for you not one specific way of doing it. 

If you don’t have someone close to be able to learn from, then I find Pinterest and YouTube invaluable sources of information and tutorials, although I couldn’t recommend anyone specific as I tend to find someone I like the sound of or someone that I feel I can learn from, and I guess this is the most important aspect here. Just find someone that you can work with and learn from, wherever that source maybe.

How did you turn a hobby into a thriving business? 

After trying to find clothing and hats without seams for my children and grandchildren, searches came up with barely anything, and what was there was made from fabrics that simply didn’t fit my ethos, so I began to make my own. I didn’t want dress-up clothes that were made out of manmade fibres or would only get worn for a few months and be too small; I wanted them to be as well made as day-to-day clothing and last for 1.5-2 years. Friends and family liked what they saw and asked me to make items for them, and so began the journey of JoMoSews.

 And long may it flourish.

You have been helping me tremendously to come out in front of the camera. I adore the witch’s hat you made for me and wear it in all of my videos. What has your own experience been with coming out in front of the camera? Why did you decide to do it? What difference has it made? 

I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to come out in front of the camera, other than a couple of posts on social media. These have been uncomfortable and awkward, to say the least, so I’m looking to learn how to be more confident with this. I do have some ideas of how to do this now and am waiting to be able to do some photo shoots in the next few weeks. Watch this space!

Exciting! You can do it, Jo.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers? 

The harder you work at something, be that a trying out a new skill, setting up a business or coming out in front of the camera, the better you will feel when you achieve it.

Thank you, Jo for sharing your journey and hints and tips with us today.

Jo’s new website will be up shortly and I’ll be linking to it here. Jo does ship to the US and elsewhere so no one is deprived. Meanwhile, you can find Jo on Etsy here:
And follow her on Instagram here:

Cornish Special Offer

Cornish coast with town in the background and pink flowers in the foreground.Text: Cornish with HollyFrom 7th September, together with my friend Linda, I will be teaching beginner Cornish language on Zoom. An exciting new adventure in which I hope you’ll join me, space permitting! The first three weekly sessions are free. But this offer expires on Sunday 13th September. The classes will be in the evening in Europe and the morning on the West Coast of the US on Thursdays. They will be small classes and at the time of writing there are 14 places left. If you’re curious, there are more details here:

Next Week

Now I know I said you’d get the first on location video this week. However, as Mike The Cinematographer has been on holiday, I brought you Jo instead. But next week, I promise! The first On Location With Holly Video. Where it all began …

Until then, Happy August,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Holly Bell with clapperboard with text.

Behind the Scene: Author Reveal Blooper Reel

Dear Readers

This week we shot the footage for the very first On Location With Holly video. Mike the Cameraman, it has turned out, has been mistitled. He researches and sorts out the equipment for video and sound, writes the shooting script and captures it all. Hand holding camera, cameo of sound book and another of hand writing a scriptAccording to my research, he is, more correctly, Mike the Cinematographer. Anyone here in the film industry, please correct me if I haven’t got that quite right, but for now, we’ll go with that.

In any event, thanks to Mike and a long day’s work, we got it in the can 2 minutes before, in true British fashion, it began to rain. You will be seeing the fruits of our labour, edited by Chartreuse at Heypressto, in two weeks.

Why Two Weeks?

Because, dear friends, this week, we wish to present for your entertainment and edification: The Blooper Reel, a compilation of behind-the-scene outtakes from the author reveal series of videos I made with Mike Collins’ help, to ease myself out from behind my cartoon and connect with you as an actual live human person. Yes, in the process of filming, all sorts of things can go amiss, as we are discovering, especially with someone like me who is totally unaccustomed to speaking to the camera.

This is not only for your amusement but also your encouragement, in case you are thinking of embarking on the creation of one or more videos to do your own reveal about yourself, your business or what you love to do. Sometimes, a mishap can create something even better than you planned, but even the worst-case scenario can be funny. And isn’t that the point of life? To have fun? Isn’t it the best way to learn or create a memorable moment that makes us giggle or smile when we recall it?

So here it is, the outtakes from the six episodes of the reveal series:

Link image to play Blooper reel.

A Little Extra

With all of this, what I hope you’ll take away from it is that it’s hugely enjoyable making videos of and about yourself and what you love to do, and that you’ll get there in the end.

However, just in case this has not entirely convinced you to face the lens yourself, we’ll be making a short, easy, how-to 3-step process you can follow based on my recent experience. Mike has gone on a well-deserved holiday, so we’ll be shooting that when he comes back, as well as the second On Location With Holly video.

Red velvet covered seats in cinema - VIPPrivate View

I have also put together a special edition video that is first being shared as a private view with our precious subscribers to my inside-track letters. They are also receiving an early bird invitation to something I’m beginning in the autumn. If you’d like to join the mailing list and find out about these two features, you can do that here.

Both of these offers are planned for being opened up shortly on the blog here and on the Holly Bell Facebook page in due course, if you prefer to wait.

A single red roseThank You

This letter to you would not be complete without my sincere thanks to all of you who have loved, liked, shared, and commented with kind words for my new avatar as Holly, The Human. I have to say I did tear up with emotion at a couple of your supportive comments. It is all far more than I ever expected. And I suppose that’s another message I’d like you potential video stars to receive: put yourself out there, and people will love it.

What about …?

Yes, indeed, the new sequel is never far from my thoughts and during Mike’s absence, I shall be engaged in some essential research. I’m not sure where exactly it will lead … but we shall see

Next week

Coming up are the answers to ‘Where Was the first sight of the Hat Video shot?’ and ‘The Mystery of The Toe’. Plus two more things that, for now, I’ll keep under … The Hat.

Happy watching, reading, enjoying the sun (or the snow, 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

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