Tag Archives for " AI for authors "

Holly Bell in witch hat on the left with play button and text: Spelling It Out - Your Character's Accent. Part 1 - The Power of TH. On the right the number 13000 in gold. Text - Cozy Mystery Sequel Update. Orange puzzle piece with text: New Puzzle

The Power of TH, Spelling It Out – New Video Series, and Puzzle

Dear Readers,

For You

And it’s all because of you. You see, I’m feeling rather smug. Why? I’ve just thought of a cozy mystery Christmas present for you. It came to me just now. I’ve got a month to make it, box is up, and put it under the virtual tree. I am rubbing my hands in glee. But I digress.

The Power of TH

Today, we begin the new video series, of reader insights, author tip. Spelling It Out gets down the nuts of bolts of conveying an international or regional accent, converting sound to print. The text has to help you, the reader, hear their voice in your head. The series starts with the easiest and most common difference between an English accent and a foreign accent, and I’ve even thrown in a regional nuance there, which I hadn’t spotlighted, but see if you spy it. Here’s a clue: it’s one of the London accents. But without more ado is Part 1: TH …

Click for video: Spelling It Out - Your Character's Accent Part 1 - TH


Did you notice it? It was ‘v’ for ‘th’? Here in the Metropolis and surrounding areas, you may hear ‘wiv’ for ‘with’ ‘ve’ for ‘the’. Well done, if you got it.

This Week’s Jigsaw

And so we come to this week’s puzzle. This is one of the core members of Sunken Madley, home to covert witch Amanda in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series. I say ‘one’, but technically, it’s two. You may notice that the page is rearranged in reverse order of puzzles so that the most recent is at the top and the oldest at the bottom. Also there’s a ‘Quick Start’ section at the top, in case you’re not sure how to proceed. It’s basically, click OK and drag and drop. And now, over to you ….

Click for cozy mystery jigsaw puzzle 9 for 26th November 2023


How Do I Know?

When I’m asking MJ, the Midjourney AI graphics bot (to create an evocation of a cozy mystery character from the Amanda Cadabra series) it always offers me sets of four possibilities. It doesn’t get it right the first time, and I’ll have to go through various tweaks of the ‘prompts’ I give it. So how do I know when it’s got it right? The answer to this is somewhat profound and deserves its own post. I can only say at this point, that it’s right to me. The question is are they the way you see the characters in your mind?

I’m looking forward to seeing what you think.

Magic quills writing on page with 13000 in gold above itSequel Update and The Author AI Carnival

This week, twice as many words arrived in my head as in previous weeks, and the total word count for the next Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery so far now stands at 13000. Naturally, I wished to celebrate this with you in a delightful visual.

Unfortunately, MJ has still to learn its letters and numbers. Understandably, it can manage 1s and 0s, but it lapses into bewilderment beyond that. So Microsoft Dall-E over on bing.com to the rescue. It can’t always count its 0s, but it did come up with this. Admittedly, it got a bit carried away with the whole quill thing, but its heart was in the right place. 

Coming Up

Next week, a new puzzle, a new video and more sequel news, as I work on your Christmas present …

Happy cosy days,



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 Pre-Christmas Present, The Complete Video Series, and This Week’s Puzzle

Dear Readers,

The Complete Video Series and …

First, here is the compiled, completed, concatenated 7-video series, Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction – all in a mere 12 minutes. A behind-the-scenes of creating an international character. Who’s done it, and how to help you, the readers, hear their voice. Now, once you’ve watched them all, whether week by week or all together here, there is something new for your entertainment. But, as I say … first:

Click to go to video Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Complete Series


A Pre-Christmas Present

And now … (drum roll) here is my post-Hallowe’en, pre-Yuletide offering: a new quiz. Ten questions: How Internationally Cozy are you? Are you a Local Hero? A Regional Ranger? A Continental Connoisseur or a World-Class Wonder? Find out here and proudly proclaim your results to your friends on Facebook or your other favoured place for sharing. I would very much appreciate it, as you know.

Click to go to quiz: How Internationally Cozy Are You?


Inspector Ghote - Naseeruddin ShahThe Missing Detective

He wasn’t included in the video The List (of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction sleuths) because his era was post-golden-age-of-cozy, but he is an investigator close to my heart. HRR Keating’s whodunits featuring Inspector Ghote have influenced my own writing, second only to Miss Christie’s. Ganesh Ghote is a detective with the Mumbai police. A film was made in 1964 of the The Perfect Murder

Keating was English and wrote in English; however, his books were set there. Interestingly, during the creation of most, if not all, of the novels, he had yet to visit India. Yet Keating’s books were so well received that on his first trip there, the Indian government paid for his airfare. Media company Endemol Shine India has acquired the TV rights to the series, so I look forward to the Inspector stepping back into the limelight. (I’ve written to the company for an update on progress. I’ll let you know!)

How Keating Did It

What is interesting for the purpose of the Fabulous Foreigners video series is that Keating uses syntax to convey the way that Inspector Ghote speaks. So, there’s another precedent for any author who would like to go that route with their international character.


In case you’re thinking that Georges Simenon’s Maigret deserves a mention, I agree. Like the Wallander series, the books we know are translations into English without accent indicators. Nevertheless, I tip my (witch’s) hat to that acclaimed Detective Chief Superintendent.

A jar of Marmite on a reflective surface.


In the event that you’re unfamiliar with this curiously British condiment, here is a picture. This is how Wikipedia describes it: Marmite is a British savoury food spread based on yeast extract, i. It is made from by-products of beer brewing. Produced by Brits but invented by German scientist Justus von Liebig in the late 19th century. It has an exciting history, but I digress.

The point about Marmite is that it is a great world divider. Between those who love it (including me) and those who hate it. We spread it on bread and add it to savoury dishes. The thing to do, if in doubt, is to use it sparingly, for example in soups, stews and the like.

And so it is with including accents in your book. As with Marmite, you can duck out entirely. Or start in the foreign language and then switch to English with the implication that the characters are still speaking the shared language. Or use the devices described in the videos.

The message is: don’t overdo it. Because it’s a Marmite thing. Some readers love it; others like it less. I’m in the former camp because I love learning something new from every book I read, including international and regional accents and dialects. I love it; it adds texture and richness, just like people with different backgrounds do in real life. That’s why I make the choice to put them in my novels. What’s your taste, and what will your choice be?

Going Where Angels Fear To Tread

In this modern age, when people are more conscious than ever before of being respectful of one another’s heritage, should we even be mentioning an accent in a story?

Speaking as a half-foreigner, the child of an immigrant, I’d be delighted to find one of my heritage language accents in a book. I have neighbours and friends from central, eastern and western Europe, the Caribbean, the Far East, and the Indian subcontinent. As I’d expect in London. And have never heard anyone I know express offence at a depiction of their way of speaking in a novel – as long as the author has made an attempt at accuracy rather than parody.

Should We Be Using The Word ‘Foreigner’ At All?

As most of my friends here in London are of foreign origin, I’ve been able to poll around, and not one of them (nor I) has any problem at all with the word. In fact, most of us think it’s funny that anyone would find it offensive. Some people feel it’s more PC to use the word ‘International’ or foreign national, and we’re fine with that too (some of us find it amusing). We’re also Brits, or tourists, or visitors, or residents. Apples and oranges, but at the end of the day (to quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding by Nia Vardalos), ‘we all fruit’. (It was a stage play before it was a film, so it still counts as literature.)

In conclusion, when it comes to foreign characters and accents, international and regional, here’s the take-home: so as long as you’re well-intentioned, come on in the water’s fine.

Which brings us to …

This Week’s Cozy Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle

Click to go to jigsaw puzzle 8, Sunday 19th November 2023


Author AI Weekly Circus

For the quiz, as it is celebrating characters internationally, I wanted a map of the world. I sought out MJ, the AI bot on Midjourney, to see what it could produce given the prompt: ‘A map of the world.’ It created four attempts that looked like they’d come out of the British Museum. One was entitled ‘Ted Worl.’ I can at least see what it was going for, (‘Keep practising, MJ’), but ‘Topr OneM.D?’ Fortunately my other bot friend Dall-E 3 was able to help me out, as you will have seen.

Later, I asked MJ for simply ‘Marmite’. This gave it nightmares. I asked Dall-E for its take on the matter and it was much better informed. Knew what a jar of marmite was and how to use it. If only it had understood ‘lid’. And so I abandoned the struggle and went instead to Depositphotos, where I have a package deal (every now and then they do an offer of 100 images for £30. Truly exceptional. I can let you know if you’d like) and downloaded the rather nice photograph above.

The New Video Series

That may wrap up the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series, but it is far from The End. A new series now begins, looking at the down-to-brass-tacks of the different ways you can use spelling so that the written word becomes a sound in the mind of the reader.

girl with glasses making magic and pointing to a golden book with the number 11000 on itSequel Update and What’s Next?

Book 9 of the Amanda Cadabra series is now at 11,000 words plus. It’s growing at its own pace, but the moment will come when the stream becomes a river, even a torrent. You’ll be the first to know.

Next week, I hope to bring you a new puzzle, more sequel news and part one of the new video series. I’m thinking of entitling it ‘Ze Leetle Grey Cells’ …

In the meantime, happy watching, happy quizzing, happy puzzling and, above all, happy reading,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Holly Bell on the left in a witch's hat. Text: 3 Ways to Write a Character's Accent - Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 7 and on the right the number 10,000 in gold coming out of a book and a carved milestone at the front. In the middle an orange jigsaw piece with text: New Puzzle

3 Ways to Write A Character’s Accent – Video Series Finale, and Sequel Milestone

Dear Readers,

A New Video Series

This week witnessed the birth of a new video series. How did this come about?

I had decided that this video would be the last in the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series, and one dramatic sweep cover all of the nitty gritty of converting a heard accent into a written one, whether in a cozy mystery or other genre. However, as I worked on the script, it was revealed to me that this was a bigger and more complex subject that I had at first glibly imagined and deserved its very own series. So, this week’s offering is a brief summary of the reader insights and author tips coming your way.

The Finale


Woman smiling, holding a script in a sunny room with a camera on a tripodI’m Beginning to See The Light

I recorded this and next week’s series, and the take-home was that artificial light is rather less forgiving than natural light, which I had been taking advantage of hitherto. At the moment, we have excellent craftsmen making improvements to the exterior of the building. Consequently, I can choose between the anvil chorus of hammering, drilling, sawing and communication or the rain, which stops play. Fat rain makes recording unfeasible, and soft rain or between showers works, except the light is dim, necessitating the assistance of light bulbs. No problem for the under-25s; however, I will readily admit to having exceeded that number of years.

However, the work will be completed at some point, the rain will stop (we are reliably assured by the Met (MeteorologicalOffice) again, at some point, the sun will come out, and filming will resume with more gratifying results. Meanwhile, I am investigating ring lights.

What It’s All Been In Aid Of

Nevertheless, I hope that you have enjoyed the series of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction and revelled in the revelations of the workings of the author’s mind when it comes to including international characters in their books. If it entertained you, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe. Little things mean a lot. Don’t worry if you missed all or some of the episodes. A handy catchup is coming your way.

With these insights, it is my hope to entertain and inform you but also to inspire you to consider creating your own stories. Everyone has one. If you’re human, you’re a storyteller. It’s what we do. We simply can’t help it. I’m planning a video about that, by the way.

This Week’s Puzzle and Last Week’s!

The character in this is secondary to the location. Can you take a guess at where this might be? Once you’ve got all of the pieces in place, click on the link below to take you to the character biographies page, which also expands on the where’s where as well as the who’s who.

Click to go to Puzzle 7, for 12th November 2023


Apologies for last week when the both the puzzle and two character biography for the person in the puzzle were missing. That has now been remedied and normal service resumed. ‘But how could this have happened?’ I hear you ask. I was, I must admit, distracted by the Guy Fawkes Night festivities. The least I can do is share a taste with you here:

Click to go to short fireworks display


Sequel Update – A Significant Landmark

Yes, the first 10,000 words of the new Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery are down on the page or up on the screen, depending on your point of view. Either way, a cause for celebration. As you can see, I wanted to offer you a beautiful image in honour of this event. Which brings me to this week’s …

Author AI Adventures

As you know, MJ, as I have named the Midjourney AI bot, has yet to master numbers. Dall-E 3 over on bing.com is a few grades ahead and has a better, though not perfect, grasp of the subject. But heigh ho, MJ will never learn if I don’t let it practice. Both bots give you four offerings, by the way.

So … ‘The number 10000 coming out of a book,’ I prompted it. MJ gave me three images with 10s on and one with two giant golden doors. All-righty. I went straight to Dall-E 3. Two of Dall-E’s attempts had 1000, and the other two had the correct number of zeros but rather close together. I did try adding a comma after the first two digits, but that sent it into meltdown, and it carved the number of a series of stone books, then went to lie down in a darkened room. I settled for the image here. As for the milestone … don’t get me started. However, I set to work with Adobe Fireworks and produced a result that I hope you like.

Oh and when I tried to get MJ to produce the image of the woman with the script in the sunny room, it once again amused by demonstrating its confusion over what a camera is, how legs work, how many fingers on the average human hand, and the powers of levitation to found in a script. But persistance prevailed as you see above.

Coming Up Next Week

The entire series of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction will be combined into a single video, and there will be a quiz so you can see what titbits you have gathered over the past weeks of videos. I hope to bring you a sequel update and, of course, a new puzzle.

Happy November,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Holly Bell with Youtube play button. Text above: List? Text below: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 6. On the left, cozy mystery elegant house lit up at night in the background, silhouettes in the foreground and 3 golden crowns below. Text: Cozy mystery monarchs of detection revealed. Orange puzzle piece: New Puzzle

New Video – Fabulous Foreigners: Monarchs of Sleuthery, and This Week’s Puzzle

Dear Readers,

Meet The Monarchs

This week, I give you the penultimate episode in the video series, Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction. After the Four Queens of Cozy, now come the Monarchs of Fabulous Foreigner Sleuthery. Who are they? How many are there?

I’ve done my research and looked at lists of top 10, 20, and 30 best sellers now and of all time, in general and mystery. Foreign detectives, whose first language is other than English in books written in English, are as scarce as hen’s teeth. In fact, among the fiction genres ‘bests’, foreign leading characters with an accent or dialect are surprisingly thin on the ground.

So this video homes in on the Golden Age of Cozy Mystery to find just …. Well, you’ll see. And here it is … The List:


Click for video: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 6 - The List


Class Act Classics to Follow

As an author, you can opt out all together and just say that so-and-so had a particular accent. However, suppose you want to add that little bit of extra texture to the reading experience. What other precedents are there for using accents and dialects? Here they come, and what pedigree!

Among the top US classics, John Steinbeck does it in The Grapes of Wrath. Harper Lee does it in To Kill a Mockingbird, so does Mark Twain, Herman Melville in Moby Dick, and Ralph Ellison in The Invisible Man. Among the Brits, our very own Charles Dickens and Emily Brontë are just two examples.

As you see, if you choose to go their route, you’re in the best of company. So you’re all geared up to do it, too. Next week, we round up the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series with a how-to of portraying accents and dialects in novels. And we shall be exploring the whole knotty subject of ‘foreign’ in our year of our century, and what this means for authors and readers.


This Week’s Puzzle!

This took quite a few goes, but finally, suddenly, I knew I had found my … but that would be telling.

Click to go the cozy mystery jigsaw puzzle for Sunday, 5th November 2023. Enjoy!


Once you’ve assembled the jigsaw and made your best guess as the the identity of the character depicted, you can check here in the new Character Biographies page.

4 toffe apples on a wooden platter with a firework going off in the backgroundBonfire Night

Otherwise known as Guy Fawkes Night, which gives us the distinction of being the only country in the world that celebrates an act of terrorism, or its failure, depending on your point of view. Today marks the 417th year since the gentleman named above led a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. So we light fires and let off fireworks to show where old Guy went wrong with his gunpowder, drink punch (yes, indeed, not tea, although that’s optional) and get rid of garden waste, all on the same jolly evening. As you read this, my friend and furniture restoration mentor Tony and I, will be enjoying the huge haul of fireworks he has assembled.

Food for Fireworks Night, and Thought ….

Our traditional (Tony’s, mine and the neighbours who usually gather for this delightful evening) post-display fare is chilli con carne, veering from the customary jacket potatoes and toffee apples. In 1605, alas, this Brits’ favourite Tex-Mex dish had not yet arrived on these shores, which, no doubt, added to Mr Fawkes’ dissatisfaction with the state of the nation.

Now, the new sequel takes place over November so the burning question (pun not intended) is, will there be fireworks? This thought has only just occurred to me. It would be rather fun to include it. What is your vote? Regardless of the outcome, this special event is referenced in Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan, so if you’re in the mood for some cozy mystery Autumn fare before the new release arrives, you can find it here.

Dispatches from the Author AI Front

Cozy Mystery. Woman in orange evening gown holding a small notebook with lit mansion in the background and vintage car/My Letter to you would not be complete without a report on this week’s Trial By Graphics. In the video, as you see, I wanted an image to evoke ‘cozy mystery.’ So I offered MJ, as I have christened the Midjourney AI bot, the following prompt: the golden age of cozy mystery fiction. Mysterious atmosphere but with a hint of fun. Slightly smiling woman …. Yes, I see, well, the spirit is right. An art deco feel, architecture and period glam lady. But an outdoor table with a lone teapot on it next to a burning sundial? Offering number 2. Beautiful evening dress but not usually worn with a trilby, MJ. And why is she holding a saucer with a teacup attached to its base? That’s not the usual way up. No, really, it isn’t. And as for offering number 3, I don’t think a woman in a day dress would be reading at night outdoors while her charming vintage car was on fire. Do you? The final and fourth: the outfit looks right, but not sure about her proportions.

Soldiering On

The first image seemed the most promising if I could replace the strange cup and saucer with, say … a glass of champagne and replace the hat with a stylish coiffure. Bear in mind that MJ, like your average 2-year-old, does not understand the words ‘no’ and ‘not’. I burrow back into the fray with added, positive, suggestions. Sigh. No, MJ, just one glass, held in one hand with just five fingers, and the stem attached to the base, and no, customarily in humans, there is only one forearm attached to an upper arm. I try again, specifying ‘one glass of champagne.’ Ah, if only the vaguely correct glass hadn’t been held upside down.

Clearly, I should drop the whole glass thing. What else could a woman in a cozy mystery be holding? Got it! A notebook. Here we go. Two rounds later and the closest attempt looks like a cross between a mini-jotter and a cosmetics compact. I have to do a Photoshop job on the hair but … we got there!

I did try Dall-E 3 with the same inspiration and it had the right idea, but was rather heavy on the alcohol, pipes, clocks and men in hats, one of whom appeared to be diligently filing his revolver. No doubt, it takes all sorts. You can only imagine what the pair of them did with ‘a plate with a jacket potatoes on it, another plate with toffee apples on it, and another plate with chilli con carne on it.’ Suffice to say that neither knows what a toffee apple is.

Sequel Update and Coming Up …

More plot for the new cozy mystery in the series, temporarily entitled ‘Book 9’ has come to me, thanks to one dark and stormy night when I was driving and …. Well, that’s a behind-the-scenes titbit that I shall share with you in the fullness of time. The word count is climbing towards a significant landmark.

Next week. The Fabulous Foreigners finale, a new puzzle and more sequel news.

Happy Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night or an Especially Cosy Week,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

On the left, a stack on books on a shelf. Text underneath: New Cozy Character Biographies. On the right, Holly Bell with Text over witch hat: 2 Ways to Express a Foreign Language. Below over a cream open book: Fabulous Foreigners in Fictions part 5. Above is a YouTube play button. In the middle of the image near the top is an orange jigsaw piece with white text: This Week's puzzle

Halloween Deal, A How-To, Jigsaw and New Fun Feature

Dear Readers,

Halloween Offer

Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth on e-reader on table with pumpkin cups of steaming coffee. Gold sticker: Save a Cozy 20%. Cosy fireplace in the background.The mystery genre time of year is upon us. And in honour of that, here is an opportunity to save 20%  on Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, the first book in the cozy paranormal mystery series. Only available until the end of All Soul’s Night (Thursday, 2nd November). The price is going up to $.4.99 and that is being delayed until Thursday for all time for any eager readers who’d like to save 20% now.

Of course, if you’re a  Kindle Unlimited subscriber then you can still download it, free of charge. Either way, if you enjoy the first book in the series, I’d love to hear from you, either through a review, a comment to me on Facebook or (my favourite) at hollybell@amandacadabra.com.

Author Tip, Reader Insight

This week’s video, part 5 of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction, offers three ways to convey the mean foreign language in dialogue, where you’re writing cozy mystery of some other genre. I hope that you find it entrancing and, if you’re an author, helpful.

Click to go to video: 3 Ways to Express a Foreign Language - Fabulous Foreigners Part 5


The New Feature

Stack of biographies on a wooden shelf with English village in the backgroundYes, the unveiling of the new feature takes place today. As promised, from this moment on, after you complete each puzzle, you will be able to click on a link which will take you to the cozy mystery character biography page. There, your guess as to the identity or location of the character or scene from the Amanda Cadabra books,you have just assembled will be confirmed (or otherwise).

You may have to scroll down, but each character or scene will be headed by the date the puzzle was published.


The New Puzzle

This week’s cozy mystery character jigsaw is another character dear to Amanda’s heart and the village of Sunken Madley in general. This individual takes the spotlight in Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth. When (possible spoiler alert) they fall under suspicion of murder. Have I said too much ..?

Click to go to the jigsaw puzzle for 29 October 2023

And the question is … who or what would you like next?  Let me know: hollybell@amandacadabra.com

Cute baby bot happy but confused image and below a toddler bot at a keyboard and writing in a book the number 1This Week’s AI Carnival

For the image below,  I asked the bewildered but well-meaning Midjourney AI bot (whom I’ve dubbed ‘MJ’) for the number 9000 rising out of a book. It produced its usual four valiant attempts. It got the book. Believe me that’s progress. Unfortunately, along with spelling, MJ is challenged when it comes to numbers. So, ‘Thank you for the book MJ and I can see you’ve realised that there will text of some description. However, a backwards ‘C’ is not a number here in the UK. I see you’ve got a couple of zeros in this one, and a 9 and even a 900. Good effort but …’ I went off to Dall-E 3.

Dall-E got the whole numbers concept in one, and we worked through some rather tacky attempts with the sparkles until we reached something that fitted the bill. Dall-E is not as artistic or atmospheric as dear MJ but it can read and spell. However both agree that plans for world domination are postponed indefinitely.

Drama in The Ivory Tower

On Thursday, as I heard the chimes at midnight, I checked the website as a sort of admin nightcap, because I do love this site, and the delight that it brings visitors. I was abruptly confronted by … (dramatic music) … a Fatal Error. As a mystery writer, it is, of course, appropriate for an error to be fatal. But what did this thing purport to be?

At once, I got on the chat with my splendid server techies whose support team sleepeth not. They quickly diagnosed the issue as being with, not with the bones of the website (WordPress), but the flesh, the appearance, the ‘theme’. It’s called Rise and is made by Thrive Themes. I submitted a ticket. Unlike my server techies, these guys definitely sleepeth, and it was dawn before I received The News. (Doomladen music).

Cute blonde writer asking what memo? cartoon styleWhat Memo?

‘Your theme is no longer supported. You need to build a new one with our snazzy new theme builder. It’s a pain but trust us, in the end you and your visitors will love it,’ they told me.

‘What!?’ I cried in consternation.

‘Didn’t you get the memo? Actually memos. We’ve be emailing you about it since June.’

‘Oh, those memos? So that’s what they were about. You really need to put the subject line of important stuff like this in caps. But look, I can’t do a new build by Sunday, and I have things I’ve promised to give my readers.’

‘No problem,’ they responded with aplomb. ‘Get your server guys to restore your site from a backup, and everything in your garden will once again be rosy while you build an even rosier site.’

So, I did, they did, and as you see, all is as you’d expect. However, yes, a new, improved version of the site is under construction. It will look very similar to this one, so you can find your way around just as you do now, but with some extras.

SequelThe number 9000 in white coming out of an open book with magic sparkles

More plot has bloomed in my head, more links, more motivations and conversations and humour. This is the best part of the cozy-mystery-writing ride! The word count is now over 9000.

Next week …

I should be able to give you news of a sequel landmark, and there will be a new puzzle and a new video. Part 6 will be, as promised at the end of the video, The List.

Happy Pre-Halloween Weekend,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

On the left, image of a young woman typing Text on book: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 4 On the right some of the curve of circle formed by sheets of paper with an image of the Cornish coast. Text: Sequel: Beginning to Cast The Magic Circle. And at the bottom, an orange puzzle piece with in white: New Puzzle

Beginning the Magic Circle, New Puzzle and Video: How to Get It Right

Dear Reader,

This week’s video in the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series, reveals to you the next important choices a writer must make along the road to a fabulous foreigner in their own book, cozy mystery or otherwise. Each of which choices will have consequences …

Click to go to video: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 4: How To Get It RIght?


Now, the peculiar lifetime road that led to presenting these videos.

A passport, globe and a vase of orchids on a paper mapAre We Foreigners?

In a word, yes, all of us are foreigners to someone. For example, in the Amanda Cadabra books, the residents of Romping-in-the-Heye, a neighbouring village, are foreigners to the denizens of Amanda’s home of Sunken Madley. Here’s another instance:  I wasn’t born in the overgrown village where I live. To a resident who was born here, I’m a foreigner. I live in one part of London; to someone who lives on the other side, I’m a foreigner. One of my parents came from outside the UK. I’m half-foreign. Another came from another part of the British Isles, foreign to London. You get the idea.

A Bit More Bio

So, as you see, my background has familiarised me with foreign accents, local, regional and international. Work and education have also taken me into the fascinating realm of languages other than English, as well as into an analysis of how English is pronounced and how to reproduce it. And, as you know, writing a series figuring Cornish characters and a hybrid magical language led me to learn that particular Celtic tongue.

If Only …?

You may also have read the enlivening consequences of creating a Swedish character, with a Swedish accent who speaks Swedish dialogue. (I was rescued by talented voice actor Simon Grunditz. More about that here.) Yes, indeed, I’ve been there, bought the fascinating t-shirt, (and took you with me. But if you missed it, here’s the link) and would happily revisit now that I have with the benefit of experience.

Consequently, I hope my journey will help other authors who are beginning theirs, so they can think it through rather than the perhaps more exploratory method of muddling through.

And if only someone had told me what I am, with pleasure, sharing with you now in this Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction video series, the road might have been a great deal smoother. However, would I have gone ahead and created a character whose linguistic background would have led me down an unexpected and complex track? Probably! But I’d have had hiking boots and supplies.

Just as importantly as providing a road map for fellow scribes, the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction video series is to offer you, the reader, some insights into the fun and games of the writing process, especially cozy mystery. I hope that you’re entertained so far.

A Small Celebration

Celebration cake with four candles, and a smiley face on the site and a glass of champagne on the left and the bottle on the rightAll of this reminds me of a highlight of this week, which was receiving a large, stiffened white envelope. Whatever could it be? I was pretty sure I hadn’t ordered anything from anywhere that would be packaged in this curious manner.

My name and address were handwritten. Hmm, I didn’t recognise the hand. I opened it, reached in and drew out a single page, protected by a clear plastic pocket. It was … my Grade 4 (final grade) Cornish Language certificate. And to think I’d have missed out on all the fun, the friends, the journey of learning if it hadn’t been for a Cornish-born girl in a quaint English village with her grumpy cat who appeared in my head five years ago.

A  New Video Series

This is my third week co-teaching a taster course for Cornish language beginners. And I’ve begun making a series of videos to support them. I’ll put the links here. They’re very short, I promise you.

This one gives you a 2-minute potted background to Cornish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp7Ar-P0Rw8

And this one gives you the first word for anyone curious about sampling the language. What you might call a gateway word: https://youtu.be/sZsj2HZtBgk

New Puzzle

This week’s jigsaw brings you another favourite villager from Amanda’s home, Sunken Madley. Someone at the heart of the heart of the village! Scroll down to find this week’s puzzle. Did you guess who last week’s was? I will also be adding a link after each puzzle to a brief bio of the character, in case you’re in doubt about who they are. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll see the new feature first. If not, and you’d like to join the insiders, you can do that here: https://amandacadabra.com/come-on-in/


Who or what would you like next?  Let me know: hollybell@amandacadabra.com

This Week’s AI Shenanigans

For this image of an intrepid explorer navigating a mountain path, I asked the Midjourney bot (MJ as I call it) for this. It did pretty well until I requested ‘and holding a book.’ And that’s where it all went pear-shaped. MJ presented me with a three-armed person. The hands did have the customary number of thumbs and fingers so top marks there. I changed the game, and added a new sentence: She is holding a map…. No. Map. Not book, not magazine, not clipboard. No …. All right, let’s be more specific: paper topographical map. Let’s see you get out of that one …. No, not an ancient Egyptian papyrus of The Thebes Times. One more go … well done! No wonder she looks so happy.

Next week, I’ll tell you about my adventures with a rival bot: Dall-E 3. All I’ll say at the moment is that so far it appears to have the spelling ability of at least a 6 year old. As opposed to Midjourney whose capability is that of a 2-year old. With apologies to anyone’s 2-year-old who can assemble all of the correct letters for the word: Grade. Oh plus Dall-E will have a go at anything. MJ freaks out at anything it can’t get its head round and gives an image of a 16-year-old girl with hair composed of baubles and an understandably pained expression on her face.

Cozy Mystery Sequel

Now at over 8000 words, I have printed it out. A modest sheaf of A4 pages, but it is the kernel, the embryo from which the stack will grow. The next stage? What I call the Magic Circle …

I began it on Friday morning. But as I started, new plot links began to come to me, and I now have more notes. And I have commenced casting …

The Magic Circle?

This is where I lay out parts of the story that I have so far. Pages and groups of notes are formed into chapters, and gaps are given a blank sheet with the chapter number and or what needs to go in it. The first few chapters are gathered. At the moment it’s more of an arc. I will reveal more and even show you the tools I use when the the circle is further on.

Next Week

The next video in the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series delves into the three ways to convey the meaning of a foreign language to you, the reader. There’ll be a new jigsaw and more behind-the-scenes of the creation of Amanda Cadabra Book 9.

Happy Cozy Days,




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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

On the left, two smiling girls from ancient Rome holding up a scroll with the word 'Foris', a Youtube play button and the text: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction part 3: What is Foreign? On the right a blonde woman looking up at flying books and stars. Text: Epiphany - Cozy Sequel. At the bottom is an orange jigsaw piece with the text: New Puzzle

New Sequel Epiphany, New Puzzle and Video: What Is Foreign?

The Moment of Truth. Waiting …

I never know when or where it’s going to happen. It’s not something I can plan. I can’t sit down at my desk and make it occur. I can only wait until …What? It’s that magical moment when the new cozy mystery plot arrives, the pivotal point that links together all of the scenes, conversations, anecdotes, character sketches, chapters here and there. Suddenly the connections, the whys and who’s, begin to emerge.

Trying to Encourage it

Well, as you know, I had 5,000 words of components scattered around my literary garage, but how to make a vehicle out of them? A mechanical magic carpet that will transport you to the puzzles, delights, adventures, and suspense of Amanda Cadabra’s world.

As The Moment of Revelation had yet to manifest itself, I intended to prompt it with the next stage, which involves printing out what I’ve got so far and inspecting it.


However, on Thursday morning on a damp day here in London, the most uninspiring of weather, yet out of the blue, the ideas began to emerge. By the end of two hours, I knew what and where.

As to who to murderer is, I haven’t yet decided. I have a number of suspects. The Guilty Party will emerge in due course. The precise details of those who it could be will likewise arise, but I can now see the players, the pieces on the chessboard.

I now have an additional 2,000 words of cozy mystery plot notes, and in the following days, the next stage begins. More of that next time.

New Video

That’s the big news, but also, here is the next video in the series Fabulous Foreigners – Do You Speak English? This traces the sometimes-rocky path of the writer (including me) from first decisions about the kind of English they will use, choices that will affect spelling, like UK or US English, regional accents and foreign accents. So today, we must decide: what do we mean by ‘foreigner’?

Click to to go video What is Foreign? Part 3 of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction


Missed the first two? Solved: you can catch up with Part 1 here: https://amandacadabra.com/ac1-trailer/decisions-decisions-fab-foreigners/

and Part 2 here: https://amandacadabra.com/ac1-trailer/fabulous-foreigners-in-fiction-which-uk-english/

This Week’s Puzzle

Meanwhile, here is this week’s cozy mystery character jigsaw puzzle. This is a depiction of one of the villagers closest to Amanda’s heart, one of three ever to be found in the legendary Corner Shop, heart of Sunken Madley and its Intelligence HQ. You can find hints and tips on using the puzzle underneath it.

Puzzle 3 15 October 2023


Frolics with The Bot (to bring you pretty pics)

Finally, this week’s shenanigans with the AI bot, trying to persuade it to create the image, for the video above, of Gordon French warning Amanda about ‘foreigners’, meaning those are ‘not Village’. I requested a picture of ‘a retired headmaster carrying a walking stick, talking to a pretty young girl dressed in a boiler suit, standing in a sunny English village.’ Each time, it supplies four different versions of its interpretation of the prompt.

Amanda and retired headmaster of Sunken Madley School, Gordon Fren ch

It didn’t seem to grasp the concept of ‘a walking stick’ and so had dodged that one. Consequently, after a little research, I tried, variously ‘walking cane’, ‘stick’, ‘cane’, and ‘holding’, ‘carrying’, and ‘using’. It offered me a short dowel, an abbreviated pointy branch and nothing at all. On one pass, it did manage to supply Mr French with a support in the form of a forked stick. I could undoubtedly Photoshop out one of the tines, but why, oh, why, had Bot given him a small spade? Who mentioned ‘spade’? Let’s try again ….  Hm, no walking stick. However, for some obscure reason, it had furnished Amanda with a spear. Or was it a javelin? And why was it apparently setting the scene in 1940?

Wardrobe Malfunctions

For Amanda’s costume, I asked for an orange dress, and the best I got was an orange skirt, but she still looked like something out of a vintage children’s book. I tried getting her into the green boilersuit that she works in. No joy. Coveralls? Overalls? Flightsuit? It was attiring her in a green skirt, green dress or green coat. I tried asking for green trousers and a shirt. It put them on Mr French.

A Different Approach

I decided to go from the top in easy steps with a fresh prompt. ‘A girl in a green flight suit’. Success! ‘Talking to a retired headmaster.’ Why is he in some sort of military uniform? Let’s just keep adding more instructions and see if it corrects itself. ‘In an English village’. Oh dear, we’re back in 1940. Quick! Retrench. ‘A modern young woman in a green flight suit talking to a retired headmaster carrying a walking stick, standing in an English village. It is sunny. It is the twenty-first century’. Aha, breakthrough! Finally, all of the components are there except the walking stick. Well, we’ll pretend it’s on the arm facing away from the camera and leave it at that.

Next Week

Coming up: a new cozy mystery puzzle, the next in the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series of videos, more antics with AI and news from the Sequel Front.

Happy Leaf-turning (or growing) Season,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

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

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

Dear Reader,

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

Decisions, Decisions

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


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


Parting The Curtains

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

Click to go to Puzzle 1

The Long Road

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

Some Helpful Tips

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

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

Please and Thank You

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

Sequel Update

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

My Cornish Adventure Begins, and Maybe Yours Too

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

Next Time

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

 Happy Beginning of Autumn (or Spring)



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

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

The 4 Queens of Cozy Mystery, and Conjuring Characters

Dear Reader,

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

Click link to go go 4 Queens of Cozy

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

Q&A & AI

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

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

Is It Evil?

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


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

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

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

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

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

World Domination?

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

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


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

Ruby in tiny treasure chestNext Time

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

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

Happy last week of astronomical summer,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print