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Finding Cozy Treasure in Hoddesdon – New Photos

Dear Readers,

Hoddesdon?

Hoddesdon is a small but beautiful town in Hertfordshire, the county north of London. It is from here that the Amanda Cadabra series draws much of its rural spirit, as well as architectural inspiration.

And so, it was inevitable that it should be a field-trip destination for photographs (larger and more on the Inspiration page) for you of cottages, pubs and churches from, ideally, the 16th century when Sunken Madley, Amanda’s village, was up and running.

Before my visit a few weeks earlier, about which I wrote to you last time, to the village of Hertingfordbury, I had never heard of Hoddesdon. However, it had been revealed to me, while on hallowed ground, that there I should find the riches I sought.

Where and Water

To help you get your bearings, the map from the previous letter to you has had a new feature added: the river Lea. This is where I get my water, incidentally. Not that I visit each day in person.

The Lea flows down from the Chiltern Hills to the north, in the county of Bedfordshire, makes its way through Hertfordshire, west through the county of Essex, and finally into London to join the mighty Father Thames. More about the Lea another time. The point is that Hoddesdon is in the Lea Valley. (Please note that this map is an approximation of locations. Best not to base an expedition to deepest Hertfordshire on it.)

Having arrived at the south end of the little town, the first building outside which parked was one I was searching for: Rawdon House, first built in 1622 by the splendidly named Sir Marmaduke Rawdon. This fine edifice could easily have been the inspiration for The Grange, arguably the grandest house in Sunken Madley.

The Grange is home to the village’s oldest and most venerable resident, Miss Cynthia de Havillande , her bosom companion, Miss Gwendolen Armstrong-Witworth, and their friend, estate manager and self-styled ‘butler’ Moffat. Not only that, but it is also the residence of the unattainable Natasha, object of desire of Tempest, Amanda’s perennially grumpy feline familiar.

Rawdon House appears now to be occupied by offices, and I was kindly granted permission to photograph and film from the courtyard, as you can see. Incidentally, Sir Marmaduke also built a house for his son, called, coincidentally … wait for it … The Grange, which I hope to find one day in the future. It came to be used as a school.

But that was only the beginning of what Hoddesdon was to offer me.

Opposite and a little further north along the High Street (otherwise unromantically known as the A1170) was a jewel of a public house — tavern or inn of old. It was built in the 16th century, just the way we like them, or possibly earlier. This hostelry is very much the flavour of Sunken Madley’s The Sinner’s Rue that dates from the same time.

It was here, at The Golden Lion, that I lunched, regaled by a resident of the pub itself with fascinating tales, including one of a member of staff who was required to stay there one Saturday night for the sake of the security of the inn during the hours of darkness. Alone. Unable to bear the ghostliness of the atmosphere, she was unable to last the night and fled. Her room was now occupied by my kindly narrator, who declared that he had never detected the least hint of spookiness anywhere in the building.

Charming as the exterior of the building was, within it was even more so. The old beams of the original timber frame were everywhere to be seen. It was here I lunched, chatting to the splendid barkeep and the pub’s fascinating principal tenant. It could not have been a happier hour, in such beguiling surroundings with the best of company. This was the true Brit pub experience.

However, there was more to see and to capture on (digital) film for you, and so, at last, I re-emerged into the September sunshine and made my way north up the High Street. There I found more glorious sights. Here you can see how the juxtaposition of architectural styles as the village grew into a little town, and in the foreground, that testimony to the British Royal Mail: the red post box.

Next was The White Swan, another 16th-century inn and remarkable for having kept the same name for 400 years. Inside, the old beams and cosy inglenook fireplace are still in evidence, and there was the expected welcome at the bar.

My final port of call, having ended my soft-drink pub crawl, was the 15th-century church of St Augustine’s Church, Broxbourne, whose borough encompasses Hoddesdon. This church has the distinction of a mention in the Domesday book of 1086, but the one still standing was built 400 years later. A mere stripling by comparison. In common with many Hertfordshire churches, it was built with mainly flint-faced rubble walls with stone (Ashlar) dressing. Flint, because Hertfordshire has a lot of it. The tower’s eight bells are rung for weddings and to call the faithful on Sundays.

Again, this church echoes Sunken Madley’s own St-Ursula-without-Barnet, which is also a medieval church, though with a more modestly sized graveyard and probably fewer bells. (To be decided. Suggestions welcomed.)

What I was unprepared for was the beauty of St Augustine’s location. It stands by the New River, a tributary of the River Lea, sparkling in the sunlight, a-quack with ducks. I say ‘New River’; it was new in 1613 when it was thoughtfully created to supply the locals with drinking water. The schools were finishing for the day, and a group of eager children were clustered around the ice-cream van (one of which also gets a mention in the Amanda Cadabra series).

I stood on the little bridge over the water, knowing that, wherever I pointed my camera, I would capture something beautiful, whether it was the feathered friends below, the church tower above or the tree-lined path leading away through the park, which could easily be a village green.

And so, with the sun westering and the rush hour gathering, it was time to leave this idyllic setting and head for home. However, I had another field trip planned, for the very next day. But that is a story for the forthcoming letter to you, dear readers.

I hope you have enjoyed this romp through a small historic county town and that it has supplemented your vision of the village of Sunken Madley … just ‘three miles south of the Hertfordshire border and 13 miles north of the Houses of Parliament.

Back soon.

Happy imagining,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

White Horse Pub in Hertingfordbury with Hertfordshire crest and text: In Search of The Cozy Village

On The Trail of The Cozy English Village – Hertingfordbury

Dear Readers,

What is a Cozy English village? 

English villageSunken Madley is a fictional creation for the Amanda Cadabra series, based on the location of a real place. It has its own distinctive character and characters. Into the mix, go all the most endearing features of both real modern villages and some more traditional ones. 

I remember reading a quote about the ideal English village where it is eternally the summer of 1932, with cricket on the green with scones and homemade jam. ‘Stands the church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?’ as Rupert Brook’s eloquent, poetic tribute the English village asks.

In Search Of

You can have a taster of this in the Inspiration section of this website. However, this summer, it has been my goal to offer you much more, both in the letters to readers here and in the gallery of photos under the Inspiration tab. And so I set out on a new tour of Hertfordshire, the county just to the north of Greater London.

 What’s So Hot About Hertfordshire?

The village of Sunken Madley, as you may have read, lies just 3 miles south of the Hertfordshire border (and 13 miles north of the Houses of Parliament). It is still, in spirit, a somewhat rural community. To give you some insight into what the village looks like, it is my pleasure to travel through this particular county in search of, in particular, 16th century, cottages, pubs and churches.

And so, on a glorious summer’s day, my pilgrimage to Hertingfordbury, from who sign the above image is taken, began.

Hertingfordbury?Map of London and Hertfordshire showing location of Hertingfordbury

The village has that oh-so-desirable mark of topographical distinction: an entry in the Domesday Book of 1086. There the name is spelt Hertingfordberie, which means “Stronghold of the people of Hertford.’ So it existed before the Normans moved in and started transforming Britain from a Scandi-land to a more French one. 

 For The Curious

At this point in historical documentary research into what was where and who owned what, it does help a bit if you can fathom the depths of such phrases as ‘with sac and soc, toll and team, infangthief and outfangthief’. In case you’re intrigued by this detail, it meant that, if you had all of those, you could charge me, for example, for the privilege of crossing your land, and take me to court if I rustled your cattle or borrowed your garden rake for too long. 

Finding The Village

Getting back to Hertford, though. It is the county town, the capital, as it were. It has a number of notable agéd buildings and so is on the list for a visit. However, as it is a town rather than a village, other places have won priority. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to locate Hertiingfordbury, which is just to the West.

Finding The Thirteenth Century

I began at the church of St Mary’s. The highlight of the interior is the 13th-century set of three tall pointed windows in the east wall (that’s the one opposite the entrance). Or, if you’d like a more tech spec: ‘a triple lancet’, ‘each is lancet having moulded arches and shafted jambs with moulded capitals and bases’.

Little of the 13th or 15th-century church has survived the dreaded Victorian restoration processes. However, let’s not be too hard on the Victorians. The chances are that St Mary’s would, by now, be but a pile of flints and stoneware, oft-raided by local builders over the last two centuries, if eager Victorians hadn’t done the best with what they knew and had at the time. 

Witch Connection?

Now for St Mary’s greatest claim to fame. The churchyard contains the unmarked grave (to be located on a future visit) of one of the last women in England to be sentenced to death for witchcraft. Her sentence was pronounced in 1712, but she died in 1730. How can this be?

Saved by The Queen

Mrs Wenham was reprieved and then granted a royal pardon by the then monarch, Queen Anne — who is probably best known for the style of furniture created during her tenure of the throne. As some of the villagers had ganged up on the widowed Jane, it was suggested that she move to elsewhere in Hertfordshire. Wiki’s account of the trial is entertaining and showed the attitude of the better educated of the time towards accusations of sorcery.

 In any event, Jane lived on and, in our century, inspired two plays.

Two Gentlemen and a Bucket

Now we come to the most exciting aspect of my visit to the church. Whilst wandering amongst the headstones, as one does, I noticed two gentlemen in hi-viz vests near one of the graves. Intrigued, I approached and hailed them. That was when I noticed the bucket.

Soon we were chatting away and exchanging why we each were there. My two fellow visitors were from the CWGC, the Commonwealth war graves commission. Each volunteer visits 5 graveyards near their home and keeps any graves between 1914 and 1945 cleaned and weeded. If anyone knew old churches in the area, it was these two gentlemen.

Having explained my mission, they at once suggested that my next port of call be the borough of Broxbourne and the town of Hoddesdon in particular. There I should find the riches I sought. It being midday, we then made our separate ways, to, naturally, the village pub. 

The White Horse Inn

No, not the Bavarian hostelry of operetta fame but the 400-year-old tavern down the road from the church. Here, at a wooden table, in the sunshine, I feasted on a crisply fresh prawn cocktail and chatted with the amiable staff there. It was an idyllic country lunchtime. But there was more.

Historic Cottages

Opposite the inn were some cottages dating from 17th century, including one intriguingly named The Old Bakery. The deal with very old buildings is that they are more likely to be still standing if they have been in use.

If they have been, in particular, lived in, then it is only reasonable that the inhabitants will have wanted to maintain it to have a desirable level of comfort. This will mean a balance between harmonizing with the existing look of antiquity and modern technology and health and safety standards. 

Consequently, you may see, for example, ye double-glazéd 21st-century windows on a 16th-century cottage. However, the owners are maintaining the house for posterity, while honouring the legacy of the original builders, which was, after all, a cosy place for people to live.

And Then …

Photos taken, local food sampled, the church visited, and the next destination lined up, it was time to up stumps and make for home (and the writing desk, of course).

 Next stop then: Hoddesdon,

Happy reading,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Amanda Cadabra Book 2 free on Thursday 11th November and Amanda Cadabra Book 3 free to download on Sunday 14th November

Update: 2 Free Books for Remembrance/Veterans Day Weekend!

Dear Readers,

Two Free Books

Free: Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of SecretsThe planets are aligned; it is decreed. Yes, this Thursday,  11th November Remembrance Day, celebrated as Veterans Day in the United States, will still see the offer of  Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, free to download from Amazon for just one day.

However, on Remembrance Sunday, 14th November, it is Book 3, Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan, that will be available for free download from Amazon. Just that book and just for the day.

Why?

Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan on tablet on Edwardian background of photos and the word 'Free'It is in book 3 that Sunken Madley actually celebrates Remembrance Day. There is the moving role-call of those who lost their lives in the First World War, showing how it touched every family in the village.

Not only that, but Amanda and Detective Inspector Trelawney must travel back in time to 1918 and the night of a storm that shook Sunken Madley. Only there can they discover the truth of the murder in the present day.

With Book 2 centring on events in 1940 and Book 3 on 1918 following Armistice Day, this is the perfect weekend for new readers to join the series at zero cost.

This is a First

Yes, for the first time, both books will be made available for free download over the same long weekend, to add them to your cozy collection. If you’ve already read them and you know of existing or potential cozy fans among your friends, please do pass on the good news.

So, here are the new official dates: Thursday 11th November for Book 2,  Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, and Sunday 14th November for Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan. I do hope that this slight reshuffle is to everyone’s taste and that you enjoy these two books.

Back soon with news of progress on the trail of village inspiration and The Magic Fruit.

Happy Mid-November reading,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Thursday 11th and Suday 14th November free days for Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets by Holly Bell

Free Book for Remembrance Day & 100 Reviews

Dear Readers,

Free Book Day

First, then, the best news! This week, on Thursday, is Remembrance Day, celebrFree: Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secretsated as Veterans Day in the United States. In honour of the occasion,  Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, free to download from Amazon. For the second book in the series, events that took place during WWII are central, with spies, bombs, and the crucial Canadian connection. It also features a modern-day German hero and his crew, who become especially beloved by the villagers of Sunken Madley.

This offer is just for Thursday 11th November and Remembrance Sunday, 14th November. If you’ve read and enjoyed it, please do share the news with any of your friends who you think may have fun joining the series.

Over To You for the 100

Now the spotlight moves over to you with a special thank you for new a landmark in the series. I am delighted to announce that Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth has now achieved 100 reviews on Amazon.com. This is entirely due to you who so generously took the time to write and post your thoughts. However, this is by extension thanks to all of you who have posted or spoken a review anywhere at all, for sharing the pleasure that any of the books have given you, for being Amanda’s ambassadors, for spreading the cozy joy.

Link to thank you video to readers who have posted a review

 

Amanda Cadabra Book 7

Manuscript for AC7 the next sequel - next stage in the writing process‘So, where is the next book?‘ I hear you ask. Last time I showed you the magic circle, in which I had printed out of all the higgeldy-piggeldy first draft and arranged in a pleasingly artistic arc on the carpet. Here is a photo of the next stage completed. During the journey from the floor, all sorts of rearranging, adding and excluding has taken place. (I fully admit to having added the tea cup stain. I just didn’t feel I’d be giving you your money’s worth without it.)

All of this now had to be ordered in Word, and countless changes have occurred during that process, with the bulk of the writing added, bringing the total word count up to around 82,000. More news on the next (now completed) stage to follow.

To further encourage the writing process, I have with immense pleasure and relief, handed over the advertising on Amazon and Facebook to my wonderful promoters Books Go Social. This means I’ll have more time to actually create the books.

Time to be Transparent

One thing my field trips this year have shown: I need proper business cards. So together with the immensely patient and skilled designers at Plasma Design and my talented illustrator, Daniel Becerril Ureña, this is the result: in gold and black ink on a transparent background.

When I opened the parcel, I didn’t know what it was. The cards had arrived 2 weeks earlier than I expected. ‘Thrilled’ does not begin to cover it! The version on the left is a graphics file, and the one one on the right is a photograph of the same card showing the glint of gold. I’ve had rave reviews so far. I’d love to know what you think too, so please drop me a line or find me on Facebook or Twitter.

Coming Soon …

Next time I’ll be telling you about another research trip for the series and …  for the next two books.

Happy November reading,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

A 700th Anniversary Flower Fest and Book 7 News

Dear Readers,

Hay Rides

With the air clearing and restrictions lifting, it has been time to make hay while the suHerfordshire field with windmill in the backgroundn shines. After the dull summer days, the skies above the county of Hertfordshire have turned, sporadically, to blue and gold. Whenever the weather was apt for photoshoots of charming English villages redolent of Amanda Cadabra’s beloved Sunken Madley, with camera batteries charged and memory cards with plenty of space, I ventured forth.

It has been quite a journey and one that I shall share with you. However, this week I wanted to tell you of my most recent outing to a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a medieval church. It sits upon a hilltop of what was, long ago, the ancient county of Saxon Middlesex, once home to the Amanda’s village before it was subsumed by Hertfordshire.

A Discovery

This was founded well over a thousand years ago, before that most famous date in English history: 1066 marking the Norman Conquest. On the plus side, the Normans brought with them some novel notions on cooking, castles and cathedrals. They were also into building churches. Lots and lots of churches. Many of our existing ecclesiastical buildings owe their founding to this medieval period. Including … wait for it … the fictional St Ursula-without-Barnet of Sunken Madley fame (based on St Mary the Virgin, Monken Hadley), and, my latest discovery, St John the Baptist, parish church of Pinner.

A One-Off

It was quite by accident that I found that St John’s was about to celebrate the 700th year since its founding that very weekend. It was to be marked with a resplendent Flower Festival, the like of which had never been seen by that historic structure. Next time I will tell you more of the strange and wonderful chain of events that led me there.

The church and it’s long history reminded me so much of our dear (even if imaginary) St Ursula of Sunken Madley that it was even that I simply had to attend.

I was moved by the warmth of the welcome from the busy flower arrangers there, and amazed by the sheer beauty and creativity of the designs expressing thanks for nature, the arts and other aspects of life. Some of the ladies were from St John, others from neighbouring parishes; flower clubs and a local florist were taking part. They kindly allowed me to take photographs both during preparations and on the day. These images, Chartreuse has compiled into a video to commemorate this extraordinary and dazzling. Here it is for your delight:

Free Book

Meanwhile, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth have been elected to be this month’s Giveaway by the Feathered Quill website. This is the home of the Feathered Quill Book Awards (Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr had been submitted for the Adult Fiction Award for Mystery. I’ll hear more next year.) So if you know of someone who enjoys a free cozy mystery, then here is the link for a spin of the wheel for just the addition of your email address. (This is deleted at the end of the offer.)

The Interview

Earlier this month, I received news from journalist Katherine Russell that she had included an interview with me in an article about the experience of women in the publishing industry. I have to say that as an indie author, it has been a happy ride for me. However, Katherine certainly had some interesting questions, and, if you’d like to read the article, you can also hear from the four other authors who responded so thoughtfully.

Book 7’s Progress

This is all very well, I hear you say, but what about the next sequel in the Amanda Cadabra series? I have not been idle on that front, I promise you, and can supply supporting photographic evidence for your inspection, as you shall see.

Book 7 is probably the most intricate plot to date and came to me in odd excerpts, in no particular chronological order, and usually in the hours normally associated with rest. This meant a succession of scribbled notes, dialogue and narrative passages in my journal that had to be typed up. Until I found that reading my notes written bleary-eyed was more of a challenge than actually getting up and beavering away at the computer. After all seemed ready, each and every Word document had to be compiled into a single file. That file had to be printed out. All to the tune of … 50,000 words on almost 250 pages of A4 paper.

The Magic Semi-Circle

Manuscript for Amanda Cadabra Book 7Next came the task of applying myself with marker pen, scissors and paperclips, to arrange the pages, passages, and conversations. I set them out on the floor in a semi-circle around me, into something approaching the order in which they appear in the book. This is a process that takes many hours. And this is what it looks like:

Coming

I have now completed the next stage but news of that next time. More to come: photos and a strange and wonderful journey on the trail of Amanda’s favourite fruit and more Sunken Madley inspiration. Until then, dear readers,

Happy September,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Custom Google Map of Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series locations

On Tour – Amanda’s World Google Map

Dear Readers,

As promised last time, here is the launch of something new for Amanda’s world, that I think you may enjoy playing with as much I did in the making of it.

The Idea

Custom Google Maps for books? I was intrigued by the recommendation in a newsletter from my favourite promoters, Books Go Social. It was probably a lonContainer of map pins on a map of Europe with an orange pin in Londong and complicated procedure, I considered, but was too intrigued to let it drop entirely. Then, during the watches of the night, the impulse came. It was Time.

Following the excellent instructions by Jennifer S Alderson, I crafted away, adding pins, first to the obvious places, like Amanda’s village of Sunken Madley, ‘lay 13 miles to the north of the Houses of Parliament, and three miles south of the border of Hertfordshire., and Parhayle, home to Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney. Then, in a flurry of excitement, I set about adding others.

In the Real World?

But wait, how do you put fictional towns and villages on a real life Google Map? Well, if they’re based on real life places then you can. It so happens that Sunken Madley is inspired by Monken Hadley, and Parhayle by the fishing port of Looe in Cornwall. Chief Inspector Michael Hogarth lives in Mornan Bay, in a similar location to  Talland on the coast near Looe. However, Romping-in-the-Heye and Upper Muttring are simply in the vicinity of Sunken Madley rather than being pinpointable hamlets, so they had to take a backseat for this particular outing.

Left panel from Amanda's World custom GooglemPa showing 'Parhayle' text and image of Looe, Cornwall

Nevertheless, for the most part, other locations from Amanda’s world do, in fact, exist in ours.

What You Get

So having added the pins, the fun really began. You’ll see that as a result of joyful finding, editing and linking, each pin has a note about it. Most also have one or two photographs, and nearly all have an excerpt from the relevant book in the series as well as a note about its relevance to the Amanda Cadabra series. There’s even a very small hint from one pin, of the next book to come!

There is just one place that has not been pinpointed because I thought it would be too much of a potential spoiler. I won’t say which book this refers to, but I think if you’ve read it, you’ll know.

How To Play

So here it is, with 4o pins, unveiled for your entertainment. I do hope that you enjoy playing with it as much as I had creating it. You can set it to satellite view, daytime, nighttime, street view. Visit the locations, select streetview to walk around in the shoes of the characters.  Click on the pin, and a little window will come up for you to see the photo and read the excerpt. If there’s more than one photo, you should see an arrow or a number to click on, so you can view the next image.

If, by chance, you detect a place that’s missing and you deem worthy of its rightful dot, I’d be thrilled if you told me. Any suggestions for pins, images, or anything else would be enthusiastically received. It is still a work in progress and I hope to add more pins, photos and even video over time.

Ready to explore? You can either open a new full-page Google map by clicking: Full Size, use the map below or the one in the site map section here

.

Book 7, Free-to-read Book 6, and What Next?

So, I hear you ask, this is all very well, but where is the next book in the series? I have been deep in research, typing up notes and conjuring to new scenes.

Free to read from Netgalley: Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr by Holly Bell

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Une analyse pk de la population sera effectuée.

Une dose https://www.cialispascherfr24.com/tadalafil-sans-ordonnance-homme/ plus faible peut résoudre le problème.

Une étude prospective transversale a été menée.

If you, or your cozy mystery fan friends have yet to read book 6 in the series, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, this month by signing up to Netgalley, you can download it free of charge in return for a review. Although this is mainly a site for publishers, librarians, booksellers and bloggers, you can join as a consumer reviewer, as many enthusiastic readers do. From time to time books for the Amanda Cadabra series have appeared on Netgalley. Often authors and publishers post new work before publication there so it can be a treasure trove of to-be-discovered literary gems.

I have also, as is my wont whenever possible, gone in search of more picturesque villages to delight your eyes and inspire my imagination of dear Sunken Madley. I hope to bring you a taste of that next time.

Happy travels,

Holly

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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

 

stack of books in series, standard paperback and ereader blurred. In foreground large print version. Text: New Large Print in white

Big News – Large Print Comes to The Cozy Series

Dear Readers,

After a year of considering, researching, planning, collaborating and doing, I am delighted to bring you the first in the Amanda Cadabra series in large print. Reactions are likely to range from ‘At last!’ and ‘Great!’ to ‘Er … why?’

All Ages

Recent research has revealed the appeal of large print to be much wider than you might expect. It tempts reluctant readers,Red frames glasses on a wooden post in countryside merging into woman wearing glasses in a library especially school-age and college students. It suits those who wear glasses who, with a slight hike in font size, can read without them, as well as making reading more comfortable for those for whom lenses are a must.

According to allaboutvision.com, ‘About 75% of adults [in the USA] use some sort of vision correction’ whether glasses, contact lenses or both. Children of all ages may need glasses for varying lengths of time. Believe it or not, some people even elect to wear fake glasses as a fashion accessory or because they feel more intelligent in them. I did read it’s supposed to make you look 3 to 5 years younger too!

But I digress. Large print is where it’s at, and as the majority of my lovely readers do find glasses helpful, I have been planning to provide a more visually pleasurable experience.

Size Matters or What’s the Point?

First, something about the journey and how we arrived at the new edition. There is no definitive sheet with a how-to andposter using the words New York to show different fonts what-to for creating your own large print book. Different writers use different strategies. So I began with the basics: font (lettering style) and letter size. Of course, different letter styles are different sizes, as you can see from this poster, but let’s look at the standard fonts you see in books, newspapers and on the internet.

A standard edition book usually has a font 12 – 14 points. A point is a 72th of an inch so in real terms, just for comparison, here is a chart using the famous Times New Roman font.

From 10pt to 22pt Times New Roman

Large print is defined by the American Council for the Blind as 18 – 20 pt; the RNIB here in the UK has it at 16 – 18, with very large print as 20. Generally, the consensus among authors is anything over 16pt.

How to Choose?

In the interests of keeping the size of the book manageable, I decided to follow the lead set by Vellum. This is the top of the range app used for formatting. Punch in large print and you get: 16 point font and a what’s called the trim size of the book: 6.14 × 9.21 inches. The standard sized Amanda Cadabra paperback is 5.25 x 8. So the new large print edition is just over an inch taller, and less than an inch wider. It’s also only very slightly thicker. There are also plenty of standard print size books that are this size, so you probably already have a shelf where it will fit nicely.

In case you’re curious, the point system stems from the days of printing using blocks of metal. The point was the smallest unit of measurement that was — sort of — agreed upon. It was used to measure the size of the actual block on which the letter sat. The best explanation I have come across is here: https://www.quora.com/How-is-font-size-measured.

If you are an author and would like to know the full specs used for the large print edition of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, you can find them in a special post written just for you (and the interested reader too, of course).

The Journey

Road running through English countrysideAt first, I thought I could DIY it. Then I discovered that there’s more to large print than just bumping up the size of the font. I took the path as far as frustration allowed until I knew it was time to turn it over to a professional. The search began. It led me, happily, to the virtual door of Graphic Production Artist, Daria Lacy (on Upwork), over on the west coast of the USA. Although living 5000 miles apart, we hit it off instantly.

Daria reformatted the standard paperback to make it look more professional, then created the large print version. She patiently tutored me through any cleaning up I needed to do, and in the procedure for creating and using her new versions as templates for Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. Although involving a bit of a learning curve it was transforming into a joyful experience for me, and having Daria there as a safety net means I can confidently go on to create large print versions of the rest of the series bit by bit.

The Art of Large Print

Finally, there was the cover. Daniel, our wonderful illustrator, was already creating a new one for Book 1, but this was the first larger size cover he’d made. It took a few goes with fine-tuning and proof copies for checking, but at last, the spine lettering was dead centre and the title likewise. The large print version passed Amazon KDP paperback publishing quality control, and now, as I write this, I have the very first printed copy on my desk, all bright and shiny and ready for you, my esteemed readers.

Decisions, Decisions

So, you may be wondering, when are the next 5 books going to be available in large print? There was a choice of two paths:Back view of woman with a red door and a blue door in the background - which to choose? either to wait while the covers for Books 2 and 3 were being redesigned Daniel or to bring out large print versions with the existing covers. Soon Daniel will be going to work on the cover for the next book in the series, Amanda Cadabra 7. So the new Book 2 cover will have to wait for at least a month. And that would be just for Book 2.

In the end, it was some words from our editor Kim that crystalised things for me. It seemed logical that if readers who prefer large print enjoyed Book 1, they wouldn’t mind that much what the cover of the next large print book in the series would look like. Nevertheless, we still want to bring you the best and brightest jackets we can, so new coats for Books 2 and 3 are in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, here, for your entertainment, is the new version of the Book 1 trailer featuring the new covers and the new large print:

Grey gat on left and Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth on ereader, paperback and large print paperback on the right

So … When?

Yes, let’s cut to the chase. I’m now formatting between writing Book 7 and launching the first book in large print, so I can’t give you a date but will keep you in the loop here and on Facebook. The main thing is that as many readers as possible will have the opportunity to try the series on the for size with Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth.

Next time, I’ll be launching something new for Amanda’s world, that you might enjoy playing with. It was immense fun to create. I think you’ll like it.

Happy Midsummer!
Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Large Print Settings for Amanda Cadabra

Dear Fellow Authors and Interested Readers,

Having decided to created large print editions of the Amanda Cadabra series, I began my research. No once source yielded a complete how-to. In my hunt for an entire formula, I realised that I would have to create my own.

The Numbers

Everything that I eventually needed is included here below. I arrived at these through reading information kindly shared by various authors, and through consultation with my invaluable Graphic Production Artist Daria Lacy, who is an absolute gem. You can find Daria on Upwork if you need professional advice.

Following Vellum, (the top end app for formatting books) the trim size is 9.14 x 6.21 inches
Font: Adobe Garamond Pro 16pt

Leading (space between lines) 19.2pt

Margins

Top: 0.6 inches

This allows space for the running header (image) So if you don’t have one then this margin can be smaller

Bottom: 0.6 inches  Leaving space for page numbers

Right (outside) : 0.4 inches
Left (inside): 0.7 inches

Gutter: 0.1667 inch (the space allowed for binding the pages together)

All words are in large print including Opening Quotation, Table of Contents, map, glossary.

Just Be Aware

If you are publishing through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, then for 9.14 x 6.21 inches they only do black print on a white background for expanded distribution, rather than a cream one. (Expanded distribution means making the book available for retailers and libraries to buy. ) My standard print books are black print on cream paper for ease of reading. However, for the extra space over 9 x 6, I chose the 9.14 x 6.21 option for large print to reduce the number of pages.

How Much Extra?

Standard print 8 x 5.25 inches: Number of pages:292
Large print 9.14 x 6.21 inches: Number of pages:355

Extra 63 pages. 21.5% increase.

As you can see it’s not that much of an increase if you opt for a slightly larger trim size.

Do feel free to contact me if you’d like any extra information that I might be able to give you.

Wishing you all the best with your large print project,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

New Cover Reveal – All Change – Why?

Dear Readers,

Today sees the unveiling of the new cover, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, first in the (to date) 6-book British humorous cozy paranormal mystery series. The question is,

Why the change?Hand holding book on left and light bulb on the right. Getting ideas for book cover

The series is about to enter a new era. But more that later. As the first book is most likely the first in the series that new readers will see, it needed something special. Rather than re-moulding the scene on the previous cover, I told the story of the book to our illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña, and left it up to him to let his imagination form his own creative ideas.

Book cover idea sketch - Daniel Becerril UreñaDaniel’s Visions

Out of 6 sketches that Daniel supplied, this was the scene that we both thought was the strongest.

Daniel has conjured a combination of modern era, magical whimsy and the golden age of the cozy mystery: the 1930s. Research time runs into many hours, following my nose down narrow alleys to obscure websites and broad streets of mainstream sources like Wikipedia. To supply Daniel with reference images, I scoured pages of 1930s covers. The colour palette of the cover echoes that period, even Amanda’s dress neckline is out of a vintage illustration on an authentic dress patterns packet.

Period Drama

The setting is a room in a Tudor house, Sunken Madley Manor. The wardrobe door and the door are from period furniture, and the edge of the tapestry on the right of the cover is drawn from an example using Tudor pictorial and decorative traditions. The Holland cover (sheet for protecting furniture) over the wardrobe adds a ghostly feel.

The light coming between the partly open curtains, suggests we are peeking through them, getting a look at a secret scene, as privileged viewers.

The Emerging Final Version

As Daniel adds each new layer, new aspects and details become apparent that could benefit from tweaking. Daniel patiently applies these and sends back iteration after iteration until it is perfect. Finally, it goes to Tim, my mentor who acts as design consultant and to Kim, our editor.

Then, it’s ready for the partial reveal. Next, it is loaded on Amazon, ready to pass their quality control and be published. At the same time, the full cover reveal is announced here and on Facebook. Usually Twitter and Instagram get a look-in too.

Revelations

This is a process that can take from weeks to months. From seed to seedling, to sapling to mature tree. It’s organic and well as procedural and takes an artist with an intuitive understanding of the spirit of the series as well as technical expertise. It also takes a good personality fit. Working with Daniel is immensely enjoyable. There’s a high of excitement every time he sends a first sketch or a new iteration. I love seeing his ingenuity in creating scenes and details I would never have imagined. Being able to work so closely with ‘a creative’ is one of the great unexpected perks of being an independent author.

What Else is New?

The map of  Book 1, Sunken Madley in Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth has been updated with the smartened up versions of some of the most important buildings and locations in the village.

Tomorrow Book 1, in its smart new outfit, is being entered for an award. Later this week, I look forward to typing up more midnight notes (still coming) for the new sequel.

Back soon with more news.

Wishing you a happy conclusion to spring,

Holly

Porthleven in the background, with Amanda Cadabra book t and a cream tea in the foreground

The Real Cornish Café from Amanda’s Cozy Mystery World

Dear Readers,

The Twisting Current

Cornish pasties, Jamaica Inn, smugglers, and Cornish clotted cream teas. What do they all have in common? Yes, they’re all things for which Cornwall is internationally famous, and they appear in the Amanda Cadabra series. However, it is the last item in the list that is probably the most popular and today we learn its secrets.

Map showing location of Porthleven, Cornwall, SW EnglandMichael and Susan Plant are the creative geniuses behind the café that inspired our heroine’s favourite port of call in Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr: The Twisting Current, on the edge of mysterious Bodmin Moor. There Amanda finds her dream treat, astonishes Inspector Trelawney with her capacity for seconds, and can’t resist the opportunity to go back for more.

The Search

As readers will know, Amanda is dairy free on account of her asthma. Consequently, when writing the book, I set out on The Twisted Current Tea Room in Porthlevena hunt for a real life café that would serve a dairy-free, proper Cornish cream tea. Casting the net far and wide through Cornwall, I discovered a rare treasure: The Twisted Currant in Porthleven in the far south west, just half an hour from Land’s End, the most westerly point of mainland Cornwall and England. There they make and serve a luscious array of cakes and mouthwatering savouries with choices for dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan visitors.

Michael kindly granted me an opportunity to interview him about the story behind the café and its acclaimed cream teas.

Owners of the Twisted CurrentPlease could you tell me, what is your and Susan’s connection to Cornwall?

We are not natural Cornish. Susan came down from London with her parents and I was posted to RNAS Culdrose whilst in the Navy. We have both been in Cornwall since 1982. I think the secret to living in Cornwall is to accept the Cornish ways and to go with the flow. I now consider crossing the river Tamar near Plymouth as almost going abroad.

What inspired you to open the café? Do you both come from a restaurant background?

We started a cafe as Susan baked professionally and I wanted to start a small business. We thought that our personalities matched a tea room environment.

The Twisted Currant was furbished only last year, with golden yellow, cream fresh white and warmInside the Twisted Current Cafe. White shelves with nautical artwork, wooden tables, bright interior wood. It looks so appealing that I ad to ask: How did you decide how to present/decorate the café?

We wanted the tea room to be bright and fresh, but homely and a relaxed ambiance. One of our daughters designed the layout and I built the benches and counter.

Clearly Michael and Susan are a talented couple. For the benefit of international readers who may not be familiar with Amanda Cadabra’s favourite Cornish delicacy, I asked Michael,

Could you explain, please, for my international readers, what a cream tea is, what clotted cream is?

A cream tea consists of either fruit (sultanas) or plain scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam and a pot of tea. Scones are made with flour, butter and milk, made into a dough, rolled about an inch thick and cut with a round fluted cutter. They are baked until crisp on the outside.

There is some debate as to the order of the toppings, I gather.

In Cornwall the jam is applied to the scone and then the cream. In the neighbouring county of Devon the cream is applied first, then the jam. Local Cornish are passionate about the correct way to spread the jam and cream and gently chide anyone who gets it wrong.

Where did the inspiration come from to create a dairy-free cream tea?

For non dairy scones we serve coconut cream instead of cream and use oat milk in place of milk when making theNormal cream tea and a chocolate cream tea on the same platter scones. We do a lot of gluten free, nut free and vegan scones as well. Susan started making gluten free scones for one of our daughters friends who was celiac. We now try to have a dairy, gluten free or vegan version of everything on our menu so friends and family can all order something from our menu regardless of diet or lifestyle choices.

Susan is the inventor of all our cakes and scones. She invented the chocolate cream tea consisting of chocolate chip scones, chocolate spread and clotted cream. Reactions vary, with some customers stating they are to die for, and more traditional minded customers being scandalised with such decadancy.

What other Cornish specialties can we find at your café?

We try to do as much Cornish as possible and also serve saffron tea cakes and “Thunder and lightning” consisting of slices of white bread lathered with clotted cream and golden syrup.

Where do most of your non-local visitors to the café come from (in a normal year.)

Our customers range from locals to tourists from all over the UK and abroad. Many locals stay away during the busy tourist season but come out in winter when they know they can get a seat.

On Google Maps, I can see that Fore Street where the café is, is also named ‘Stret A-rag’. Do you useHarbour in sunlight on the water any Cornish words in the menu or around the café at all?

The Cornish language is not used in everyday speech any more but some vestiges survive. For instance, in the neighbouring village of Helston they have a dance every year around the town when “Hellys bys vycken” (Helston for ever) is shouted by the participants. The Cornish language is very similar to Breton in Brittany, France, where it is spoken more commonly.

Michael’s words made me feel especially happy to be part of the Cornish language revival, together with thousands around the UK and abroad who are now learning and speaking with one another on a regular basis. Hopefully one day it will again be used in everyday speech. Meanwhile, I asked Michael, the next question:

I read that Porthleven lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with breathtaking views from the Porthleven Cliffs and the mysterious Giant’s Rock. But what about Porthleven makes it special to both of you?

Porthleven is special to many locals and visitors alike because it is an unspoilt fishing village which despite the tourist  influx has a vibrant community spirit. They do things ‘dreckly’ (like the Spanish manana but slower) in Porthleven so stress levels are lower and life generally is more relaxed.

You’re right by the harbour with green hills and fields to the north. Looks like a Victorian building. Are you able to tell me anything about it?

The Twisted Currant shares a Victorian building with Star Gazey, a gift shop and holiday apartments above. It was originally a grocery store with owners accommodation above but has seen many different businesses over the years since.

Is this the first time The Twisted Currant has made an appearance in a novel?

As far as I know it is the first time the Twisted Currant has made an appearance in a novel.

I was excited to see the word ‘Rodda’s’ on two to the little dishes in two of the photos. It’s the only clotted cream I ever buy when I want a treat. I’m lucky enough to live near a supermarket that always has it and so I can feel that little connection will Cornwall.

We use Rodda’s clotted cream with our cream teas. It is a local business which is now world renowned and is always lip-smackingly good. Clotted cream is understood to have been invented many years ago when a farmers wife inadvertently left a pot of cream on the stove overnight. When she came down in the morning the cream had thickened and clotted cream has been made ever since.

Amanda’s Future Go-To

Michael kindly said that he was ‘happy for you to mention the Twisted Currant in any of your books in the future.’ You can be sure that Amanda will be making a return visit to the literary version of the cafe. Thanks to Susan’s creation of the chocolate cream tea, I can see The Twisted Currant becoming a place of pilgrimage for chocolate lovers, as well as gluten-free and dairy-free visitors to Cornwall.  Guest houses, hotels and holiday cottages have now re-opened, if you would like to book your stay in one of Britain’s most beautiful areas, and sample the delights of the Twisted Currant for yourself.

Thanks, More? and The Sequel

It remains only for me to thank Michael and Susan for their sharing their experiences and granting me the use here of some choice photos from their Facebook page. (A rich selection of mouth-watering delights. Deliciously browsable!)

I hope that you have enjoyed our behind-the-scenes visit to one of the special places that have inspired locations and experiences in the Amanda Cadabra books. Please do let me know if you would like some more articles like this one.

Meanwhile, Book 7 has begun its flow. The all-important first paragraphs are written, and more is coming into being every day. And every night, when the characters like to chat to each other! The stream is moving, the blossoms, shops and businesses are opening, and the days are lengthening towards mid-summer. It’s all to come.

Happy May!


Holly

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