Meet Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree


Dear Reader,
Just a short note to say: today’s The Day. Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree officially emerges into the light of dawn in ebook and paperback. And here are the links, if you’d like to see either edition up close and personal in your local Amazon store:
Plus, this is the first of two free download days for Book 6, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr.
Please click the link below if you’d like to watch the launch video.
 I’ll be back next weekend with a how-it-went and a special gesture of appreciation.
 Thank you for joining me on the journey.
 Happy reading,

Excerpt from the blog:

3 Midsummer Cozy Landmarks

Dear Readers, Welcome to all you new wonderful readers who have joined me on Facebook, in the blog and as subscribers in the last couple of weeks. Three Landmark Events First of all, today, we reached 400 followers on the Holly Bell Facebook page, so thank you to everyone who has made that possible. Second. […]

You Inspired Me, and The Promised Thank You Present

Dear Reader,
The Dance of the Seven Veils for Book 7, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree is now complete. Thank you for being there for every step of the performance. I hope that you relished it as much I did choreographing it.
However, a new dance has already begun. When I told you Book 8 was already in the making, the first veil was dropped. What lies beneath the remaining six coverings? There will be news in due course.
Meanwhile, after a few days to relax and catch up, the next project will be embarked upon. It is one at which I have made attempts before, but this time … If it comes off, its journey will have begun in the heart of creating our new sequel. I won’t say anything more right now, but if there is a hint of success, then you will be the first to know.
As for the next book, well, the novels have an energy and mind of their own, and there’s no saying just how soon it may continue to form itself. So far? I have the outlines of the plot and at least one chapter down. Oh my goodness! The title of the book has just, this instant, come to me. Yes, suddenly I know what it is. There. You have already inspired me. That must be something of a first: a moment of creation while writing to you.
As a final flourish to the dance, it remains only for me to thank you, my precious and loyal subscribers, along with others whose support and contribution have been essential to the making of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree. Click on the image, and you will be transported to my tribute to you. I hope that you enjoy it.

Until next time …
Happy reading,

Click to see Thank You video

Until next time ...

Happy reading,


Early News - Book 8

Dear Reader,

I always promise you, my precious subscribers, something special that is either not yet shared with the public or is not intended to be.

Moments ago, two new scenes for Book came to me. Where? In the bathroom, while brushing my teeth, and in the subsequent toilette, just in case you'd like some very behind-the-scenes detail. If you mean, 'Where do the new scenes take place?' I can say this: The Corner Shop and The Elms.

Surprising as this event is, it is just the latest in a series of inspirations I have had about the new Amanda Cadabra sequel. If you'd like to read about the progress up until this morning and why I've been quiet these last few weeks (testing times — in a good way!), please, do click on the link below.

Coming up, I hope to have an interview with a real-life person who inspired a character in the last novel: Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree.

Happy reading,


Just Between Us ...

Dear Reader,
This week an unexpected and exciting email arrived after I’d given up any expectation of receiving it.
As I may have mentioned, the Rector of Monken Hadley parish church suggested that I approach the local library and offer a set of the Amanda Cadabra cozy mysteries for lending from the local author’s section (local-girl-makes-good).

Now, getting one’s books in a library is no mean feat, I can tell you. The person with ultimate power over such momentous decisions is the member of staff in charge of acquisitions. Reaching this revered individual is on a par with getting a private audience with the Dalai Lama.
So I set my sights a little lower and looked for the head of the borough libraries. After two hours, a single line in an obscure website revealed the treasured email address. I duly wrote and waited. Presently, I received a charming reply in which I was assured that my email had been passed to the person in charge of stock.

I waited.
And waited.

The weeks went by and turned into months. Ah well, I had given it my best shot.
And then. Late one night, in a final check of my inbox, I saw it. An email from the lady with the Power of Acceptance in which she expressed interest in the books and asked that I drop them into the local library.
Well, I had been working on a prototype box to create a box set. Kindle Direct Publishing no doubt has such things in the pipeline, but, meanwhile, I had investigated how to make my own for the current seven books. The prototype was a bit of a tight fit, so I constructed a second version, loaded it with the novels, and took it to the library with a note. The security guard (it was a self-service day) showed me where to leave it.

And now … we wait. If the story has the hoped-for ending then I shall tell it to outside world and maybe even explain how I made the box in case anyone would like to make their own. Until then, it's just between us.

Meanwhile, in the Letter to Readers, the votes are in on readers’ favourite novels in the series, and I do tell which is mine. Book 8 now has 31,000 words, and I explain what this means, as well as pay tribute to the part that you play in my life as a writer.
That’s all my news for now. I hope to have the next enthralling instalment for you soon.
 Happy reading,

Playing Favourites - Yours and Mine?

How Choosy Are We?

Dear Reader,
The morning UK sun is shedding golden light onto my desk as I write to you. The sky is clear, the air is uncharacteristically warm, and all is well with the world of cozy story-weaving, as I hope that it is in yours.
Today I bring you something new, and a confession. You’ll find both in the link below, but I’ll tell you more first. I’ve noticed in threads of posts about book series that I’ve enjoyed, that readers are often united in a least-favourite, but favourites are far more dotted about. So, I’m wondering about yours. Favourite, that is, not least favourite. Is there one (or two) that you like best and even re-read? (Click the link, and you’ll find a way to share this with me, anonymously, that will take only seconds. Promise.)
As I’m asking, it seems only fair that I should reveal whether I do too and which one it is. But I digress. In this week’s Letter to Readers, you can also find out about my fantasy casting of Book 1 for film and TV, and a new review of the same book.
By the end of this week, I hope to have my hands in the clay of Book 8. I feel excited just typing those words! Yesterday I heard back from my editor, Kim Brockway, that she will be free to edit it at the beginning of the autumn. I shall say no more for now.
I hope that the summer months bring you days in the garden or park, a safe tan, vitamin D, hammocks, cups of refreshing brew (or cocktails) and above all,

Happy reading,

PS For readers in the southern hemisphere, wishing you warmth, fluffy blankets, roaring fires, hot chocolate, and coziness.

3 Cozy Landmarks for Midsummer

Cozy Landmarks and Secret Words

Dear Reader,

This week has been brought three highlights, and you have likely contributed to two of them.

Friendly followers of the Holly Bell page on Facebook topped 400 for the first time. Ratings and reviews of the first 6 volumes of the Amanda Cadabra series hit or passed 100. So I would like to thank each of you who have clicked the follow button and or have rated or reviewed any of the books. These are the first two landmarks.

What about the third number? Well, as I make public on Facebook and the blog, the new sequel, Book 8, now has over 17,000 words to its credit. I also journed to WInchester on Thursday in search of Normal and medieval architectural inspiration. Its relevance I promise to reveal in due course.

But as to the secret words of which I speak, this is For Your Eyes Only. There is a thread that runs through all of the novels and it is this that I have continued to write this week right through to .... Book 12! I shall say no more (she said dramatically), but please feel free to speculate.

In the Letter to Readers this week, I describe the third landmark and my induction-to-be into another sort of mystery. If you are curious, do click the link below and journey to the birth of European theatre.

Finally, if you received an email with the correct link to a new blog post but with a duplicate title of a previous email, please accept my apologies. Normal service should now be resumed.

Happy midsummer,


Jubilee in The Real Sunken Madley and Sequel Update

The Road to the Cozy Jubilee Flame

First, thank you to all of you who have joined us since the last Letter to Readers. I will be sending you a personal welcome.

Meanwhile, this is to let you know that you know about my adventures this weekend in the location that inspired our cozy village of Sunken Madley.

Many of us here and in the Commonwealth of Nations (if you’re not sure what that is, then the link below will take you to my rather free explanation) have been celebrating the Queen’s platinum jubilee. That is to say, the record 70 years on the throne.
We were given a long weekend off, with two additional bank holidays on 1st and 2nd of June, with 2nd being The Big Day. All sorts of events have and had been arranged in the area of North London, and the question was, which one to choose.
As there was a gala concert and beacon lighting advertised at the Monken Hadley church, which inspired Sunken Madley’s St Ursula-without-Barnet, that did seem the obvious choice. Trouble was I’d already expressed enthusiasm over a friend’s small garden party, where there'd like be a bonfire. Things, however, were about to change.
My friend called to say that word about the party had got out, and it was likely to turn into a very big affair indeed. There was both an upside and a downside to this. The downside was that I would find the press somewhat overwhelming, but the up was that I was unlikely to be missed among the heaving throng.
I turned once more to the event at Monken Hadley. I’d left it too late, and there were only seats far to the side or where I’d be locked in against a wall. Hm. Never mind, there was to be a fair of sorts on Hampstead Heath for which the stall of my posh candle-making friends had been selected. There would be music, food, and beacon would be lit. It all sounded good. My destination was set.
But then. The morning of the day dawned. And with it my uncharacteristic apathy for the trip to the Heath. It also occurred to me that one day I might want to light the beacon at the top of Sunken Madley church for some currently unfathomable reason, and stock footage and photos would be useful to have. I wondered if I could turn up for the beacon lighting without a ticket for the concert. I emailed the organiser.

Meanwhile, I idly surfed the event, and found myself on the seat-choosing page. All of the places were darkened, having been booked. But two bright-green-coded, prime location seats leapt out at me. On the centre aisle, three rows back. Perfect! Hands a-tremble with excitement, I hastily clicked the aisle seat … booked! Someone must have cancelled. It was clearly meant to be.
What to wear? It’s been some time since I’ve been to anything as grand as a ‘gala’. I got a long black, what Senara would undoubtedly refer to as a ‘gown’ out of mothballs, dug out some tasteful bling and put my hair up.
I arrived to find that since my last ‘gala’ attendance, the dress code had widened towards the smart casual. Fortunately, the rector’s lovely wife had chosen a similar route to mine and agreed that it was impossible to be overdressed. Nevertheless, I took my hair down.

The concert was a selection of Her Majesty’s favourites, both as princess and queen: from Christopher Robin to Ivor Novelo classics such as We’ll Gather Lilacs, then via My Fair Lady and Oklahoma to fun hits from Mozart's operas, and more. It was an auditory treat as most were performed by stunningly voiced soprano Angela Henckel. But it was beacon lighting that was the most moving. You can read more about that through the link below.

In other news, yesterday morning, I reached 15,000 words of the new book.

I leave you with a Jubilee gift. The event gave me a rare opportunity to capture a view of the village from the churchyard at night. This is an unpublished photo, and something that I hope will warm your hearts, especially those of my treasured readers in the southern hemisphere, where the temperatures are dropping even as ours are rising.
Happy beginning of June.



Cozy Jubilee – Lighting Up The Real Sunken Madley

Dear Readers, The Cozy Connection This weekend we here in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth of Nations are celebrating the 70th year of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Something of both a marathon and a record – the longest in our history. The occasion is called the Platinum Jubilee and it’s the first. The question […]

Trailer Reveal and Launch Date

Movie Time and The Launch Day Countdown

Dear Reader,

The date is set, the die is cast, the runes are favourable, and the planets aligned for the auspicious timing. The launch day for Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree will be next Sunday, 27th March.
Almost everything is in place. The launch video was completed yesterday, and the final version of the paperback manuscript was loaded onto Amazon. Just three events need to be put in place. First, this letter to you completed today’s event, which heralds the release of the book trailer for the new sequel. You can click the link below or go straight to here:
Second, on Thursday, the first chapter of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree will be made available, and I’ll write to you about that. That will signify the dropping of the sixth in the Dance of the Seven Veils in the revelation of a new novel.

Third, the Big Day itself has some arrangements yet to be made for it, so everything happens on time: the doves are released, the band strikes up, and the sky-writing appears. Metaphorically speaking.

The seven-day countdown to launch has begun. Meanwhile, here is my gift to you for being with me on the ride, a taste of the photograph collection that I like to call ‘Spring Comes To Sunken Madley.’

 I hope you enjoy the movie.
 Happy watching,

Chapter One of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree

Dear Reader,
With only three days to go until the launch of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, the penultimate veil falls, and a glimpse is to be caught of what lies beneath. Please scroll down to read the first chapter.
What can you expect on Sunday? First of all, the Kindle edition of the new book will be available at a 20% discount for a limited time only. Second, its prequel, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, Book 6 in the series, will be free for just 48 hours. If you’ve already consumed that one and you know of a friend who would enjoy sampling a new cozy paranormal mystery series at zero cost, please do pass on the good news.
There will be fireworks, lights, champagne. That’s the launch video, which will be appearing on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.
It would be wonderful if that could be shared with the readers who would welcome the birth of a freshly minted cozy. You know your friends and family best and for whom the series, in general, might be a good fit. Most of all, if you do come across the video and you enjoy it, then a thumbs up would be greatly appreciated. Of course, wafting goodwill vibes in the general direction of the event is also powerful magic!
See you on Sunday.
Happy Midweek,

Chapter 1

Amanda's Unusual Talent

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

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



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

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

‘Good morning, Tempest.’

He stared at her meaningfully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Good,’ she pronounced. ‘And now ….’

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

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

‘Grandpa! Help me!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Ding! The door heralded the inspector’s entrance.

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

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

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

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

‘Or Stephen Fry,’ returned Joan.

Ding! went the shop door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then …

To be continued in Chapter 2.

New Sequel Partial Cover Reveal and 3 Launch Treats Announced

Show and Tell

Dear Readers,

Before we get on to this week’s exciting developments, a reminder of the new sequel title reveal earlier, in case you missed it:

Gift-wrapped book on wooden table with cup of coffee on the left with a white hat and daffodils in the bottom left hand corner. Leaf shaped cutout in the gift wrap showing Amanda's face looking towards the ground with surprise

Today the curtain lifts demurely for a partial cover reveal: a flash of a well-turned ankle, if you will. Also announced are three treats for the launch of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree.
Meanwhile, where are we on the runway? Yesterday, I loaded the Kindle edition of the manuscript and cover onto Amazon. So why aren’t we go for launch? The reason is that there is a plan afoot to release the sequel in both ebook and paperback versions on the same day.

Illustrator Daniel is close to completing the cover for the latter. Tomorrow, I will begin formatting the manuscript for print. Once completed, both cover and script are submitted to Kindle Direct Publishing. If they pass muster, a proof copy is ordered, delivered, inspected and possibly adjustments may be required (then rinse and repeat). When all is polished to a brilliant shine, the launch date will be announced. One thing I can be sure of: it will be this March. Between us, I am currently pencilling in Sunday, 21st.
That dual release plan is the first treat for launch day. If you are curious about the other two, click the link below.
Between now and Sunday week, there will be more reveals and cries of ‘Extra! Extra!’ will echo along our literary corridors. I’ll keep you posted.
 Happy first week of meteorological spring (or Autumn),


Title Reveal – New Cozy Mystery Sequel

Dear Readers, The Unveiling Here it is at last. The day has come. This is where it begins: the run-up to the launch. And the title of Book 7 in the Amanda Cadabra Cozy Paranormal Mystery Series is … What next? Today I got the new pass of the cover illustration from Daniel. It’s a […]

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Chapter 01

It was a blissfully sunny August Sunday, and, as the villagers expected, Amanda Cadabra and her irascible feline companion were making their way towards their favourite picnic spot. Jonathan, the dazzlingly handsome but incurably shy assistant librarian, had raised a hand in greeting as they’d passed.

Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs

Chapter 01

It was a blissfully sunny August Sunday, and, as the villagers expected, Amanda Cadabra and her irascible feline companion were making their way towards their favourite picnic spot. Jonathan, the dazzlingly handsome but incurably shy assistant librarian, had raised a hand in greeting as they’d passed.

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Four strangers, one missing dog and a body. But Sunken Madley is just a quaint, peaceful English village. What does the 1000-year-old ruined priory have to do with it? The answer, as it so often does, lies in the past.