First of all, before I tell you about new features, I would like to say thank you. That extends to everyone one supported the launch of the paperback edition of Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, together with the free days of Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets on Amazon. Even just by reading this blog, you help.
The sales were at a record level, and the downloads almost matched those of Book 1 a few weeks ago: 1,000! The highest sales have come from the latest book, so your throng is gathering force (encouraging me to get on with writing Book 5). To all new consumers of Sunken Madley mysteries, welcome, and I hope that you are enjoying the journey.
Before I go any further, I would like to offer an apology for the paperback release date being delayed for a day. The publication process took longer than it has in the past, however now I am forearmed for future releases.
Also as of the time of writing the paperback has yet to be linked to the other books so here is the direct line to it:
Meanwhile, as you may have noticed, I am writing to you more often. To let VIP Readers and subscribers know when I post a new letter to readers, I am setting up a system to send an email to let you know the title of the article and a link so you can catch up if you’d like.
I’m testing it this week to make it look as appealing and useful to you as possible. It will be offered next to VIPs and then if it passes muster with them, to you who have also kindly agreed to keep in touch. This the first time I’ve done something like this, so any feedback would be a boon.
If you’d like to be included just click: keep me in touch, and know that you can unsubscribe at any time.
A brand new feature that I’m rolling out to give readers and potential readers more avenues to communicate with me is now on the Holly Bell Facebook page. Our illustrious illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña is creating an image of her.
Her name is Ivy, she is my chat assistant, and she’s a little robot. She’s always there. However, you can click on a ‘talk to a human’ where you can message me personally. I’m teaching Ivy to work here on amandacadabra.com too, so if you’d like to try her out that would be splendid. Even better, if you could let me know you like like her, how she gets on with assisting you to get to know more about the world of Amanda Cadabra, and the creation process.
There is also a new page on here called The Books, a quicker way of you finding the features about them that you want to read, see or listen to.
Next week I’ll be back, I hope to be featuring an interview with a member of the team, my editor. Have you ever wondered what it takes to go from book worm to beta reader to editor? All will be revealed …
Just one more day. The excitement mounts! Tomorrow, paperback fans, you will, literally, be able to get your hands on the real-deal, hard copy of new new British, humorous cozy paranormal mystery sequel, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley
Meanwhile, here is the new paperback cover of Book 4, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, beautifully illustrated by our new talented artist, Daniel Becerril Ureña. In addition, he has given Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, a makeover, and here it is ahead of tomorrow’s first free day. Daniel has led a fascinating life to date traveling the world, enhancing his skills. An interview with him is coming up here presently. There will also be an interview with professional beta-reader Flora Gatehouse. If you’ve every wondered how to turn your hobby into something more, see how Flora made her journey.
If you’re new to the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series, you might like to watch the trailer for Book 1, to get a taste of it. The ‘Inspiration’page will tell you about the real Sunken Madley, the village where Amanda lives and most of the action takes place. If there is anything you would like to ask me, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.
Looking forward to being back with a launch report for you, and news of the next highlight.
The moment has come. With Tuesday’s release of the paperback of Amanda Cadabra and the Rise of Sunken Madley, Book 4 in the series and the free days for Book 2 almost upon us, here is a new video made for you in the past few days.
It takes days. First, you need a good quality microphone, and I use the Rode NT, which I can plug into my computer. Some people have more sophisticated setups, but this does the job. Next, you need headphones so you can hear yourself read and also pick up on any interference or background noise that you don’t want. Next, I make sure I have ‘the script’: sometimes a printout, sometimes an ebook version. It helps to sit comfortably and to position yourself the optimum distance from the mic, which is about 6 inches. I use a floor stand for this.
What about background noise?
Without studio conditions, sound echoes off any hard surface: walls, furniture, doors, technology. So I use a foam filter, the shape of half a large tube that sits behind the mic. Next, I plug in the mic and make sure that the program I use and the computer recognise that that is how the sound is going to come in. Also, I set the recording to playback through the laptop or desktop speakers, depending on which I’m using.
If the ‘one, two, three, four, testing, Mary had a little lamb’, and the silence in between is ‘clean’ and clear then, there is a followup step: turn off all appliances that create background noise. That’s the tech set up.
So I can just go ahead and read and record now, right? Not quite. The enemy of voiceovers is mouth clicks. Those are extra noises your tongue makes releasing contact with it’s surrounding walls, floor and roof, so to speak. You want just the right amount of moisture around. How do you achieve this? The night before I make sure I have plenty of water to drink and the next morning too. I have tea or water handy and take sips every few sentences.
What if any get through regardless? Most can be edited out, but it’s time-consuming. I usually make two or three recordings of the whole chapter so that I can cut and paste from whichever one is the ‘cleanest’.
How long does each chapter take to record?
On average, 15 minutes to read. It can take longer. If you stumble over words, misread the script, hear your mouth clicking away, or neighbour slams a door, a car revs outside, a plane makes a low flyover, a helicopter passes … you get the idea. Then you have to stop, wait if necessary and re-read the sentence or phrase.
That’s just the recording. Next comes the editing. It’s a long and painstaking process to get the very best version possible. Additionally, it might sound too nasal or tinny, and that is adjusted using the graphic equaliser that comes with the program I use. I listen through both headphones and the computer speakers to check the quality.
Now the recording of the chapter is settled. What next? I add the introductory music that plays at the end too. This time, in a first-ever, I added some sound effects to signify the scene changes.
While you listen?
All done now? Not yet. I think it enhances your, the reader’s, experience if you have some visuals. This means gathering stills and clips. The still photographs need to be edited so that they are video screen shape. As all of the Amanda Cadabra books involve a trip to the past, one or two may need to be turned into a black and white or sepia version. As they are prepared the video is assembled, the audio track is added, and the stills and clips are synchronised with the text. Credits are added at the end.
Now it’s ready. Time to prepare this letter to you and announce its release. Just click on the screen above to be transported to Sunken Madley, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. You’ll have 72 hours to download the book, free from Amazon from Tuesday to Thursday, 29th to 31st October. Both Book 2 and Book 4 will unite in a doubt cover reveal before then right here. Yes, Book 2 is getting a makeover!
Call a doctor or search for clues? Amanda Cadabra took the few vital seconds to make the decision.
But then, she had never been impulsive.
‘Mrs Cadabra, with the best will in the world from you and your husband, your granddaughter could not have had a normal childhood.’
In response, the lady seated with regal posture on the chintz sofa, inhaled, and raised an eyebrow, rendering her larger violet eye even more magnified than usual. Her piercing glare demanded an explanation. Detective Sergeant Thomas Trelawney of the Devon and Cornwall Police was not easily intimidated, as Vic ‘The Headbanger’ Hardy could have told anyone brave enough to have asked him.
However, on this, his first visit, to 26 Orchard Row, Sunken Madley, Trelawney needed to make some kind of connection with Senara, Perran, and their beloved granddaughter and adoptee Amanda. These three were, after all, the only witnesses to the day of the incident, 28 years ago, that he was here to continue investigating.
‘Here’ was a village that had grown up out of the rural landscape over a period of 800 years. It lay 13 miles to the north of the Houses of Parliament, and three miles south of the border of Hertfordshire. Herts, as the abbreviation is styled, was home to Jane Austen’s Emma and the seat of the burgeoning aircraft industry in the last century. Since those days, the county boundaries had been moved so that Sunken Madley was now, technically, on the outskirts of Greater London.
Nevertheless, Sunken Madley still was, in spirit, a country village, off the beaten track, hidden by the encircling trees. It was distinguished only by its orchard of Hormead Pearmain apples, and fine stained-glass windows, adorning the medieval church of St Ursula-without-Barnet. Of particular interest to students of the art, was the composition of the saint and the little bear with the bag of apples.
A gust of wind cast a pink handful of cherry blossom against the living room window as Trelawney’s hazel eyes returned Mrs Cadabra’s gaze politely but unwaveringly. He said mildly, ‘In other words, Amanda wouldn’t always have been able to play in the fields, run up and down the garden, maybe eat anything she wanted, like the other children here could.’
‘One couldn’t expect you to know this, Sergeant, not having any of your own,’ Mrs Cadabra pronounced with sympathetic condescension, ‘but,’ and she took a loose hairpin from her white victory roll, ‘children … adapt.’ She speared the accessory back into her coiffure to signal that the subject was closed.
Trelawney hadn’t finished. He thrived on puzzles, bringing order to chaos, and justice to the wronged. However, above these assets, his soon-to-be-retired boss, Chief Inspector Hogarth, trusted his seasoned judgment, especially of when to operate with a light touch.
He swivelled his tall, slim, grey-suited form towards Perran, who smiled kindly and said, with his gentle Cornish-flavoured voice, ‘I know what you mean, Sergeant. But Amanda was always a very special little one. Since she was a bian, a baby, she spent her fair share of nights in the local hospital when we didn’t know if she’d pull through. We did our best to help her, but in the end, she learned the hard way that her choices had consequences.’
‘Did that make Amanda fearful? Wary?’
‘Oh no, Sergeant, just careful, wise even, beyond her years. Though in others she’s young for her age. But, as Senara said, she got used to things, like carrying her inhaler, avoiding certain food, watching the pollen count. Amanda always says, ‘It isn’t terminal, after all, it’s just asthma.’
It was asthma that had brought Amanda Cadabra to this moment, this room … this body.
She felt for a pulse.
It had all happened a great deal sooner than anyone in the village could have expected. Even Dr Sharma, who was in the know, when she told Amanda about the new allergy clinic, had said that it was months away.
Amanda had dropped in, to collect a repeat prescription for her asthma inhaler, on her way to see about a furniture restoration job. An eager trainee from infancy, Amanda had taken over her grandfather’s business.
Asthma and furniture restoration were unlikely bedfellows, with the toxic chemicals, dust, and hard physical labour. This had niggled Trelawney from the first time he had read the case file three years ago.
Amanda’s secret levitation skills enabled her to cope covertly but ably. Trelawney, however, was a long way from even contemplating this possibility. And even if he had been able to, it would have been only with extreme scepticism and inexplicable discomfort.
Still, Amanda took sensible precautions and always had her inhaler handy. Dr Sharma was a respected and gifted physician, and between her own magic and the general practitioner’s medicine, the asthma was under reasonable control.
However, there was no denying that Amanda’s chest momentarily tightened when Neeta Sharma had told her where they were going to build an allergy research centre.
Where do you stand? Is horror more a of the Hallowe’en genre, or do you come down on the side of cozy paranormal mystery as the true seasonal read? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
With the kind permission of Books Go Social, here is an article they have just published in their Hallowe’en magazine. It’s choc full of new books ripe for the pumpkin weeks as well as short stories and extra treats.
Meanwhile, dear readers, here is my case on the crucial question of …
“The True Hallowe’en Genre
Go on .. guess …. Horror, right? Are you sure? Sure you don’t see the one standing behind it, lurking in the shadows, breathing quietly in the night ….
The rival contender is none other than the comparatively new kid on the block: the cozy paranormal mystery. If you haven’t yet investigated its delights, here is a brief summary:
There is a mystery, customarily murder. The sleuth is most likely an amateur female, usually a witch. There are ghosts. There is no explicit engagement of a romantic nature. The untimely death typically takes place off-stage. The language is inoffensive, and descriptions of fatalities and casualties are not graphic.
Here’s a rundown of horror from literary historian J. A. Cuddon: ‘A piece of fiction in prose of variable length … which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing.’ The cause of extreme unease is often, but not necessarily, supernatural in nature.
Hallowe’en Story Roots
So which of these is most faithful to where Hallowe’en comes from? Where is that? Closely allied to the Feast of Samhain (sah-oo-wn) that celebrated the turn of the season, it was a time to remember the dead. First, saints, then everyone. Presumably, not everyone had fond memories of those who had passed, or had reason to suspect that the deceased had less than fond memories of them! Consequently … the moment had come for some anti-phantom action. Time for a costume change and to see if you could out-ghost them with a scary makeover, and send them scurrying back to the Netherworld.
On the other hand, there was a useful aspect of the three-day spectre-fest. As the veil between the human and spirit worlds was thought to be thinnest at that point in the calendar, what better time to tune in for the inside track on where your future was headed? What you need, then, was a diviner. In short, a witch.
See where we’re going with this? There you have it: witches and ghosts. Furthermore, it would be reasonable to assume that those were the two focal points of the stories that were told on the three nights of the Hallowe’en celebration.
You might appreciate a word on the subject from M R James, a giant of the genre, of what makes a ghost story: ‘A pleasing terror’, no ‘explanation of the machinery’, set in ‘those of the writer’s (and reader’s) own day,’ with an absence of gratuitous physical intimacy or exsanguinations.
Surely cozy paranormal mystery is the closer fit with that list. So, if it really is the grassroots and culture of the Hallowe’en story, how did it get hijacked by horror?
The Horror Connection?
Here’s my theory. It’s all because of a film. A film called … yes, that one: Hallowe’en. Made in 1978, and in case you’re not au fait with the cult classic, here’s a brief summary.
On Hallowe’en night, a 6-year old takes a knife into overly close quarters with his sister, resulting in a fatality. Thought to have some mental health issues, he is delivered into the hands of a secure facility, where he becomes resident. Fast-forward 15 years. He is being transported to a court hearing. It is the same night of the year, please note. He escapes and goes off to stalk an intrepid teen (Jamie Lee Curtis), littering the plot with bodies along the way, and provoking much screaming.
It did well at the box office and has been the subject of analysis over the years. The result for our purposes is that, because of the title and the popularity of the movie, the season became linked with themes associated with horror.
Is Cozy for Horror Fans?
So, even if cozy paranormal is more Hallowe’eny, what if you are a fan of more hardcore speculative fiction, would you enjoy a walk on the perkier side? You’d be surprised how many horror and dark fantasy readers do enjoy a break with a taste of something lighter. You’ll find that cozy paranormals are not less, just different: surprise rather than shock, with puzzles, riddles and laughs out loud. Maybe even making the experience of your favourite genre that much more enjoyable by contrast.
Where to start? The top-selling authors currently, according to the latest K-lytics statistical report on the genre, are Annabel Chase, Amanda M Lee and Tegan Maher. You can check them out on Amazon.
So this year, why not get back to our Hallowe’en story past, dig up a cozy, something not too grave, let it spirit you away to a mystery in a charming village and entertaining characters witch you will love, without a ghost of a chance of a sleepless night afterwards.
I hope you enjoyed the article and, if you are an author or feel you have a book in you, I can highly recommend Books Go Social to ease your path in creating and promoting your book. Highly affordable and tremendously helpful, they have attracted a community of kind, caring and supportive members of the publishing community, writers of both prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, bloggers, reviewers, editors, and most importantly of all, readers. There is a special group just for them. You can check them out here: Facebook – authors, Facebook – readers, Twitter.
Recently had the privilege of being interviewed by reviewer, book blogger, and pro beta reader and editor, Flora. She suggested that I share with you what that felt like and some secrets of my writing process. First the interview:
Hi Holly and welcome to Flora’s Musings…
Flora: I have been completely captivated by the world that you’ve created for your Amanda Cadabra series and have lost myself to the village of Sunken Madley and it’s residents; I want to go there – despite the murderous happenings. Lol! What story have you lost yourself in, either recently or in the past, that has left a lasting impression on you even now?
Holly: It has to be Lord of the Rings.
When I was reading it, it felt more real than reality. It was all I wanted to think or talk about! More than any other book it taught me about world-building, especially a world with fantasy elements. It plugged into my love of history, and the richness of the context made the whole saga utterly believable. I revel in Tolkien’s use of language in creating characters and regions, and the emotional terrain is vast. It is glorious escapism, full of valuable life-lessons absorbed by osmosis and has been a how-to for me as a writer. It is one of my oldest friends.
Flora: I have to confess that I haven’t actually read any of Tolkien’s work (I’m ashamed to say the length puts me off) but I LOVED the films; they’ve become some of my favourites. As we’re on the subject of favourites, what are your top 5 favourite books? … read more
So what was that like?
This is the first time I have been interviewed, and I delighted in the chance to talk about the books I love. It made me feel a step closer to JK Rowling too! The contributions of, and connections with, book reviewers and bloggers are highly valued and immensely enjoyable aspects of being a self-published author.
I’m often asked about my ‘writing schedule’. I don’t have one. I go with the flow. When I’m creating the first draft, that’s where the enthusiasm lies, but it can divert into editing what I’ve written. Sometimes the stream is fast-moving, others slower. What it carries me towards varies too. At the moment it’s formatting the paperback of Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, Book 4 in the British humorous paranormal mystery series, and marketing. When I’m in full-flight, story-composition mode, marketing sits on the back burner. By the time the book is out in ebook and paperback forms, the sequel is in the first stages of coming to the boil, gently warming.
This is how I think of it: like a snow leopard pregnant with a kitten, which is for about 101 days. That’s about how long it takes to produce a book, from the first taps on the keyboard to the launch day. Once the process has begun, it has a life of its own. The leopard queen can’t take time off from it and come back later; this cub is coming, it’s being born, all the mother leopard can do is go with it.
Sometimes the growing new book can keep me awake as the characters wake up and start talking one another, or plot twists and ideas come to me. I might forget to eat or drink or keep wandering to the kitchen to feed what’s forming in my brain.
To me, although, I’ve yet to actually try it, the best analogy is surfing. You can have the board, but you need the wave, a creation of nature, a vital force. Once I’m on it, it will carry me up and onto the beach, to the golden sands of completion and the book that will be in your hands and mine, a real, tangible form, which brings me back to … my kitten. When I see the paperback for the first time, I can’t help but coo and say, awww isn’t it cute!
Yesterday a reader emailed me with a comment and link to his review. It was as though the room had suddenly filled with flowers! What a moment. When someone else likes your fluffy newborn and tells you in one way or another, it’s bliss.
I’ve tried writing in other places like cafe’s and parks, but east, west, at home is best, quietest, easiest to take tea-breaks in. Candles lit, wind sighing in the chimney, herbal infusion before me and a day, today, of formatting and other creative alternatives ahead. Including at least 15 minutes of learning Cornish for fun. That’s this author’s ‘schedule’. This author’s life. And it’s sweet.
Here’s a little video to extend my thanks to everyone who supported that weekend in one way or another, even just by visiting this site:
Here is the very first review. Click on the image to read it:
What’s next? The release of the paperback of Book 4 is expected this month, together with a special Hallowe’en offer on Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. This is especially for readers of Book 1 who would like to carry on with the series, and anyone looking for a Hallowe’en gift. More news of that to follow.
Book 2 will have a new cover by our resident illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña. I hope to bring you a special interview with him soon. Daniel has travelled the world to study and find inspiration for his remarkable art. I think any aspiring artist, art-lover or studier of book covers will find his experiences and observations as fascinating as I did.
Looking forward to being back with more news for you.
As promised to you, here is the video with visuals as well as my reading of Chapter 1 of the new Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. I hope that you enjoy it. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on it. The next is below if you’d like to read it as well.
Into the Globe
‘It will all be over very quickly. One way or another,’ said Aunt Amelia. She stared intently into the glass sphere on the round, lace-covered table.
‘Very quickly?’ asked Amanda Cadabra, pushing back her mouse-brown hair and glancing up from following the goldfish. Unlike her aunt, it was pretty much all the ball ever showed her.
‘An hour only, perhaps.’
‘And the villagers? Everyone will see it. If the magical world is supposed to be so secret and the entire Flamgoyne witch-clan descends upon Sunken Madley with fire, brimstone and hurricane, that is going to raise more than a few eyebrows on a whole lot of Normals, assuming that any survive.’
Amelia frowned into the globe ‘The village will empty.’
Amanda looked at her in wonderment. ‘How come?’
Her aunt shook her head, ‘That is not shown to me …. The glass is clouding … I’m sorry, Ammy, that’s all.’
‘I’ll have an hour to somehow repel them — without striking a single blow — but the village will empty?’
‘And I will have to defend it alone? — But no, you said I’d have help.’
‘That’s what it showed.’
‘So just me and my … helpers … whoever they will be.’ Amanda pondered, doubtfully.
‘Rrrrrr,’ interjected Tempest, in a marked manner.
‘Principal among whom will be Tempest, of course, ‘she added for the benefit of the thick, grey ball of grumpy cat, curled up in the most comfortable chair in the room.
Amanda’s familiar preened himself.
Not that I’m getting involved, he thought. This is a test for my human. But I’ll lend a paw if absolutely necessary. Dear me. The very idea is exhausting. How tiring this species is.
He shut his eyes and went to sleep.
Amanda Cadabra stared at the sky. The thunderous swirl of cloud was racing towards her village of Sunken Madley. She stood at its heart, before the green, opposite The Sinner’s Rue, on the old crossroads. She stood, feet planted apart, wand pointing at the ground, ready. Tempest sat by her side.
‘How?’ she wondered. ‘I’m just a furniture restorer. I have asthma and an annoying cat. I should be in my workshop, polishing Mrs Kemp’s aunt’s commode. How in the world did I come to this …?’
It was a recurring dream, but the situation was imminent, and the question was both real and pressing. The answer might have been said, and was by Granny, to be that Amanda had brought it on herself.
‘If only,’ Senara Cadabra had lamented, ‘you had not cast that spell. The very one your Aunt Amelia warned you not to perform, if you didn’t want to bring the Flamgoynes down upon the village.’
On the other hand, Grandpa, in his light Cornish accent, said that she had had no option.
‘When the crunch came, it was a choice between saving herself and the inspector, or sending up a beacon that Sunken Madley was the epicentre of powerful magical activity.’
Former Chief Inspector Hogarth of the Devon and Cornwall police saw it another way: an opportunity to solve a cold case that was over 30 years old.
Aunt Amelia, Amanda’s confidante and would-be divination tutor since she was nine years old, not only refrained from repeating I-told-you-so but was both sympathetic and constructive.
It was January, one of their regular Tuesday dinners together. Leaving the tea brewing in the kitchen, Amelia Reading, in deep red velvet splendour, sailed into her sitting room, her long dress wafting behind her, and seated herself.
‘Let’s see if the crystal will tell us more about the help that will come to you.’ Amanda, sitting opposite, could only see, reflected in the glass surface, Amelia’s bright brown eyes in a face framed by a chestnut bob. Apart from that, all she ever got was goldfish or a plastic Paris in a snowstorm. This had been the case for more than 20 years. Until now.
Suddenly, Amanda was electrified. ‘Wait!’ she cried excitedly.
‘Aunt Amelia. I see something!’
‘What, Ammy? What do you see?’
‘It’s … a big … banjo? …. No! Cello. It’s a big cello … it’s getting smaller … a violin? No. Oh.’ Her enthusiasm deadened. Amanda looked at Amelia questioningly. ‘A viola?’
Her aunt chuckled. ‘Ah, well that does happen in divination if you ask the same question twice or more. You get a joke or gibberish. At least this wasn’t the latter.’
‘The message is the same as the one I got from our conversation about having help to defend the village: find Viola. Except it’s not vee-oh- la, it’s Vie-oh-la.’
‘It shows you’re on the right track, and what a break-through for your divination, sweetie!’
Amanda was cheered.
‘You’re right, Aunt, on both counts. OK. So, what do we know about Viola? She was a friend of Granny’s. They met during the war. She was living here back then and told Granny, or “Juliet”, as you called her in your story, that she and Grandpa, “Romeo”, could have a peaceful life here. Yes? There wasn’t any more than that, was there?’
‘I’m afraid not.’
‘So, at least, the crystal ball confirms that this Viola is still alive. Unless … she’s not a ghost, is she?’
‘Was the cello — viola — clear or transparent?’
‘Perfectly clear,’ answered Amanda.
‘Alive then, I’d say.’
‘She must be old then …. I’ve thought of three people that she could be — Ah, the tea must be brewed by now. Shall I go and get it?’
‘Oh, use magic to bring it in. It’s perfectly all right here,’ Amelia assured her. ‘I’ve got this place as psychically secure as Fort Knox.’
Amanda pulled a certain Ikea pencil out of her orange woollen jacket pocket, flipped up the end and extracted a tiny slim wooden shaft topped with a citrine. She leaned across so that she could see into the kitchen, pointed the wand and said,
‘Aereval.’ The tea tray, bearing its load of Devon rose-patterned Wedgwood pot, cups, and bowls containing milk and sugar, two silver spoons and a plate of gingernut biscuits, rose from the worktop beside the kettle.
‘Cumdez,’ instructed Amanda. It glided through the air, along the passage to the sitting room and hovered.
‘Sedaasig.’ The tray lowered itself gently onto the table beside them. Amanda would not usually have bothered with a wand, but there was hot liquid involved, so extra control was needed. Hopeless though she was at divination, this was her special, and exceedingly rare, magical talent: a Cadabra family trait inherited from her grandfather. It enabled her, in spite of asthma that was all too easily agitated by physical exertion, to carry on the family business of furniture restoration, with all of its strenuous activity. Of course, any spell-working had to be conducted out of sight of Normals.
‘You were saying, dear,’ Amelia reminded her, adding sugar lumps to the teacups. ‘Three possibles.’
‘Yes,’ replied Amanda. ‘Mecsge,’ she added. The spoons began stirring. ‘There’s Mrs Uberhausfest, who distinctly told me that she and Granny had been friends for over 50 years — and you know how fond Granny is of her, invoking her whenever she talks of how, “we both did our bit in the War”.’ And with her line of work, if anyone could organise a Home Guard, she could!’
‘And the other two?’ enquired Amelia.
‘Sessiblin,’ said Amanda. The spoons stopped stirring. ‘The ladies who live at The Grange. Miss Armstrong-Witworth — the one who worked as a field agent for the government many years ago, I told you? But I gather she always operated alone, so not an organiser, I’d say — well, she and Granny never seemed very close at all, so, out of the two of them, I’d plump for Miss de Havillande. Both she and Granny are strong-minded, outspoken, definitely organisers, and with Views on every subject. In fact, I’d often thought they could have been two peas in a pod!’
Amelia laughed. ‘I know what you mean.’
‘Although,’ remarked Amanda suddenly, then stopped to think.
‘Yes?’ encouraged her aunt.
‘Well, what if … Viola isn’t a woman, at all?’
‘I think I see where you’re going with this, but carry on.’
‘Well. Viola isn’t from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is she? She’s from Twelfth Night. She’s the sister, cast up on an enemy shore, who, believing her brother to be drowned, takes on the disguise of man and gets a job working for the local count. So what if Viola is a sort of code name, but for a man?’
‘Or a woman pretending to be a man?’ Amelia hazarded.
‘Possibly, but I don’t think you could live in Sunken Madley and carry off a disguise like that for the better part of a century.’
‘True. What men would be eligible for the role of Viola, then?’
‘Well … old Mr Jackson, but he retired to Eastbourne to live with his son, so I don’t think it can be him.’
‘Someone at Pipkin Acres Residential Home?’ suggested Amelia.
‘Possibly …. But … well … what about Moffat?’
‘The Grange ladies’ butler?’
‘He’s far more than the butler,’ Amanda pointed out. ‘He’s pretty much run the house and estate for them all these years, and no one knows how old he is.’
‘That gives you four candidates then: Mrs Uberhausfest, Cynthia de Havillande, Gwendolen Armstrong-Witworth and, er — does anyone know his first name? — Moffat.’
‘Yes. And, I gather, Viola will be the means of assembling the rest of the people who will help on the day that the Flamgoynes attack.’
‘What’s your next move then, Ammy?’
‘Well … what I need is a reason to visit Irma Uberhausfest. And soon.’
Fortunately, thanks to stilettos, a spanner and a piano, one was in the making.
I hope that you enjoyed Chapter 1.
Looking forward to bringing you news of the paperback launch, and a suggestion for Hallowe’en.
It’s Movie Day! You’ve seen the title, you’ve seen the cover … now here’s the film: the trailer for Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. The new sequel in the British cosy paranormal mystery launches on Sunday, and there will be only two more significant events in the run-up between now and then. But first, the trailer:
It’s all thanks to our new illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña who has been labouring tirelessly to get it to you today. Feedback so far has been 100 per cent positive. The cover is as the book will appear on Amazon shortly.
So what’s next? Tomorrow sees the release of the trailer! Where can you see it? Here, on YouTube (on my new channel), Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, if all goes according to plan. Please let me know what you think of it so that I can build them better and better for your future viewing pleasure.
At the end of the week, there will be the release of the audio-video of Chapter 1 of the new book. The text will be on here so you can read, or read along, but the feedback on the visuals that go with the reading has been enthusiastic so far!
Until tomorrow …
Oll an gwella, (Cornish for ‘all the best’. Yes, still learning, by candlelight late at night.)
Less than a week to go! As soon as it becomes available for pre-order, I’ll let you know. At that weekend, Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth will be free on Amazon Kindle for 2 days. Do if you have any fellow cosy fans you think may enjoy a visit to Sunken Madley and Cornwall? Please do let them know that they can join the series with the mere click of a button on Saturday and Sunday. 28th and 29th of September.
Meanwhile, in breaks between polishing the manuscript for you, and preparing for the Big Event, I have been learning Cornish. After all, Amanda, Granny, Grandpa, Detective Inspector Trelawney, and former Chief Inspector Michael Hogarth all hail from there in one way or another. Parts of each story are set in that land. Wicc’yeth, the magical spell language is a mixture of Old English and Cornish. It seemed only right, not to mention fascinating, to delve into the genuine article.
I have a wonderful tutor from Kesva.org who is helping me begin Grade 1, plus I’m playing on Memrise, the language learning site. Anyone care to join the journey? I have already encountered many kind people along the way, more than happy to encourage newbies like me … and, if you choose, you too!
For now then, redyoryon ger (dear readers), it’s time to get back to shining up the book and spreading the news. Back soon …
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