4 Free Book Days
Starting this very day, until Wednesday, 15th December, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth is free to download from Amazon. Even as we speak, an email is going out from Bookbub to 2,800,000 cozy mystery subscribers and, of course, to our own subscribers to broadcast these glad tidings. Here is a little 30-second video for your entertainment with (a shortened version of) some brand new winter-themed music from the overwhelmingly talented, videographer’s angel, Australian composer Aaron Kenny:
Where’s the Smoke?
Yes, I did say I’d report from the thick of the historical battlefield, and I shall, next week, but I just have so much to tell you that it needs to keep for another seven days. You see, in preparation for today’s huge event, for which I have been hoping and planning for three years, I have prepared some new goodies. In case you aren’t yet in the know, what is this Bookbub of which I speak?
The Big Deal
In their own words, ‘BookBub is a free service that helps you discover books you’ll love through unbeatable deals, handpicked recommendations, and updates from your favorite authors.’ They have a subscription list of millions. It can take, yes, years for your book to be accepted to be included in one email on one day. They take only 10-15% of submissions (which come from both independent authors and traditional publishers), and the standards, to put it mildly, are high. And, as I say, after three years of attempts, one midnight, I saw the acceptance email and was stunned with joy.
I would like to pay tribute, at this point, to all of the readers who posted a review of Amanda Cadabra and the Hidey-Hole Truth, helping it to achieve the milestone of 100 Amazon reviews. I have no doubt that this was a significant factor that prompted Bookbub’s decision to accept it for a highly-prized Bookbub Featured Deal.
Thanks to Daniel Becerril Ureña for his professional and creative cover, to Kim, our editor, Daria Lacy for her flawless formatting and to Laurence o’Bryan and Tanja Slijepčević of Books Go Social whose advice, experience and services have helped guide my marketing journey . I would also like to express sincere appreciation again to Kim, to best-selling author and friend Tim Brown, to Paula, Katherine, David, Katherine (yes, I’m lucky enough to know two fine ladies by that name) and all of the dear friends and readers who have always expressed such encouraging and heart-warming faith in me, the books and the prospect of increasing success.
So, the good news arrived. But that was only last month. Not much time to prepare. However ….
In honour of this auspicious occasion, our skilled, deft and inspired illustrator Daniel, whom I cannot thank sufficiently, has pulled out all the stops, crammed this extra project into his already busy schedule and, for Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, produced this thrilling cover. Feedback so far has been: ‘I love it!’ ‘Makes you want to read the story’, and ‘fab’. I hope that you like it too.
To provide more fun for you and the new visitors arriving from today, I have added a new feature to the website. So far, each quiz is just ten multiple-choice questions-long. They have been tested by David, a friend and particularly kind beta reader whose fascinating correspondence never fails to give me a lift. Here are the first three, in case you’d like to have a play now. If you want to re-do any of the quizzes, just refresh your page, and you’ll get back to the start. Any feedback would be greatly welcomed: ‘too easy,’ ‘too hard’, or ‘Goldilocks level’.
And There’s More …
Yes, if you check the Inspiration section, you’ll find more photographs garnered from my field trips in search of the cozy village. Additional ones are coming soon. And finally, at the time of writing this to you, I have taken advantage of a new feature on Amazon that allows me to tell you more about the series. It’s called A+ Content, and mine now includes a pretty chart about the main characters with customised avatars for each one by graphic artist Soodabeh Damavandi, plus a seasonal and historical background to each of the books. Do have a look, and again, it would be wonderful to hear what you think about it.
It has been a pleasure to share my good news with you. If you would like to be a part of the celebration, please consider sharing the video above or this letter to readers with even just one friend. Thank you.
Absolutely. Battle, smoke, books past and future. The works. Also, a report on the next four days. Until then,
Wishing you a happy winter week,
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print
Once Upon a Time …
A thousand years ago, a kingdom was formed. The name of this kingdom was derived from the West Saxons, to distinguish themselves from the Saxon kingdoms in other directions around them. Its name was Middlesex. It existed for a thousand until, in 1965, it was absorbed into London.
The place where I grew up was once in Middlesex, and also, for a time, was Amanda Cadabra’s village of Sunken Madley. And so it came about, that inspiration for this large hamlet was, by chance, brought to my attention there, one sunny weekend in September. It wasn’t even what I’d been looking for.
Which brings me to apples.
The Fruits of Sunken Madley
When our cozy village was forming in my imagination, I knew that it had rural connections. So, I went looking for what Hertfordshire, historically, has been famous for growing. Yes, you guessed it: apples. Sunken Madley suddenly became bordered by orchards, and you may recall that Amanda’s and her grandparents Senara and Perran’s house is number 26 Orchard Way. The orchard itself is next door and has some … rather unusual features that become apparent in Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets.
But, what would be the variety of apples that would be growing in and around the village? It would have to be an old variety with a name evoking warmth and antiquity. Reading about apples, I made a shortlist, and the winner was … Hormead Pearmain. Into the first book it went, whilst I blithely assumed that, somewhere, there would be such an orchard that I could photograph and film for your delight.
The Challenge is On
The truth turned out to be somewhat different but much more interesting. I set about looking up orchards and, with my first phone call, spoke to Alison Rubens, an outstandingly helpful lady who is the founder of the Chorleywood Community Orchard in Hertfordshire. Mrs Rubes explained that Hormead Pearmain was, in fact, now a rarity. However, she kindly gave m a list of orchards with vintage varieties that I could contact to see if any of them had ‘my’ apple.
I worked down the list. ‘No,’ ‘Sorry, no’ and ‘have you tried …?’ ensued until I came to the last name in the list. A gentleman in what was once called Pinnora in the one-time county of Middlesex. While attempting to contact him, I looked up Pinner, as it is now called. Of course, as a north Londoner, I had driven past and through it and never taken much notice of it. And then ….
The internet presented me with an idyllic, chocolate-box photograph of a high street, sloping up to an old church. The thoroughfare appeared to consist almost entirely of 16th-century shops and an utterly charming pub. I gasped. This was El Dorado. Quickly I planned a route.
Then I made contact with Gerry Edwards of Pinner’s Gerry Edwards Orchard Services. Gerry assured me that he had a young Hormead Pearmain tree on his land. However, he was at present away from Pinner working in Dorset. Nevertheless, Gerry promised, on his return, to take some photographs and send them to me. He explained that there is a reason why these old varieties are no longer grown. In simplified terms: they’re no good. That is, not compared with newer types that are hardier and yield more fruit. They are now grown for interest and for the sake of preservation.
With thanks, I set off on my journey to Pinner, called Pinnora in 1231. I was now filled with a new purpose: not apples but further inspiration for Sunken Madley and photographs for you, dear readers.
On the way, I received a call from one of the contacts on the list. This was none other than the noted horticulturalist and naturalist, Michael Clark, warden of the Tewin Orchard in Hertfordshire. More of Mr Clark next time. I was delighted to hear that, yes, he had two trees and one had fruit. I was welcome to come along and take photographs.
By then, however, I was on my way to Pinner but promised to call back and make an appointment. As I say, more of that to come.
A Strangely Named Tavern
Which brings us to where I landed that day. Pinner is just two miles south of the Hertfordshire border, to which I drew closer for lunch. I had planned a visit to a restored 17th-century hostelry at the edge of Harrow Wield, on the ancient ridgetop road of Old Redding. The front looks over to trees, not apple trees but the woods of the common. The view from the back of the pub is truly spectacular, down over the valley of the River Pinn.
This inn goes by the unusual name of The Case is Altered. It derives from the time when the owner of the, then, cottages changed their use to a public house. I spent a delightful lunch hour. Mine host could not have been friendlier or more attentive, and on the deck in the garden looking over the magnificent vista, I must have had the best seat in the house. This spot is an excellent echo of a small place immersed, as is Sunken Madley, in the countryside even though it is, technically, within the borders of Greater London.
The Queen’s Head
Nevertheless, my dream ‘village’ road beckoned, and so I set forth. And it was as wondrous as the photograph. A perfect chocolate-box high street lined with small shops, where Tudor rubs shoulders with Dickensian Victorian, stretches up to the ancient church at the top of the hill. The jewel in the crown was The 16th century Queen’s Head, bright in the sunshine, fronted by parasolled tables with happy snackers and sippers.
I was drawn as to the lodestone rock. ‘Welcome’ barely begins to describe my reception. Naturally, I asked for permission to take photographs of the establishment. It was granted, but the staff were interested in my reason for visiting. I explained, and soon I was chatting to the highly well-informed proprietor.
Meeting Mr White
Sean White, FRSA (Fellowship of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), is not only an award-winning publican but a sponsor of art, life and all that is fine. He cares deeply both for the welfare of his staff and for those who visit the Queen’s Head. Listening to Sean describe the history and present of the pub was a remarkable experience.
The Grade II listed building was originally residential, a Wealden hall house. These were built for the staff of a noble household. This one consisted of 4 bays, and in this case, one was the cottage next door. It also had a forge. Then it was repurposed into a coaching inn with stables and was originally called The Crown. A nice safe name that meant you were covered regardless of how the throne might change hands!
However, in 1766 the owner, Gideon Loot, took the plunge and named it the Upper Queen’s Head after Queen Anne. (He had another Queen’s Head at the bottom of the road).
One curiosity dates from the 1930s when the wealthy and somewhat eccentric Mr Dawson Billows was the proprietor. He briefly kept a bear in the stables and would take it for walks until, presumably, a more suitable home was found. If this photograph is anything to go by, the household did their best to care for Dawson’s animal guest.
Mr Billows made extensive refurbishments to, and had his name engraved on, the structure. You’d have to have a keen eye to find it, but Sean told me where to stand by the bar and look up. And above on a ceiling beam … there it was.
Past, Present and Future
Coming into the present and uniting with the past, Sean related that on New Year’s Day, when morris dancers make their rounds, they include at the Queen’s Head on their route, dancing inside and out. I must say, I am tempted to pay a visit on that particular day!
Sean kindly emailed me three documents detailing the history of the pub. And, in addition, he gave me a copy of the journal Proud of Pinner, which offers a wealth of information about the town, including historical anecdotes and photographs. Who knows what choice detail may find its way into the Amanda Cadabra series?
Two Hot Tips
One of Sean’s tip-offs was that most of the Tudor-looking buildings were just that: ‘looking’ rather than actually dating from that period, and built much later. Sean pointed out which ones were genuine, and you can see the best of them here or on the Inspiration page.
The second vital piece of information with which Sean’s kindly furnished me was that the church was preparing a flower festival in honour of its 700th anniversary. This I had to see, and you will know about if you’ve seen the letter to readers here and the video about that extraordinary event that I came back to experience.
The Last Leg
And so I made my progress up the high street towards my final stop: the church of St John the Baptist, where stunning floral preparations were in progress for the coming weekend’s celebrations.
If you’d like to see and read about that, you can find the letter and video here: 700 Years
There, for the moment, we leave Pinner. I have another reason to return in addition to the morris dancers. Sean informed that there is an excellent museum nearby that it would be well worth visiting.
Next stop: into smoke of a famous battle to find yet more inspirational treasures and research for the next two books in the Amanda Cadabra series.
Thank you for coming along on my journey with me. I hope you have enjoyed this expedition into the lost kingdom of Middlesex and the delights of Pinnora.
Four Free Book Days Coming
From next Sunday Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth will be available for free download from Amazon, from 12th to 15th December. I’ll remind you next week in case you’d like to check it out or pass on the good news to your friends.
PS If you’d love to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print
Two Free Books
The 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.
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,
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print
Free Book Day
First, then, the best news! This week, on Thursday, is Remembrance Day, celebrated 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.
Amanda Cadabra Book 7
‘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,
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print
How We’re Celebrating?
The next stage of the launch of Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr has arrived. To celebrate this joyful event of the paperback release, we are having a free book day.
This time new readers can join the series with Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, free to download from Amazon. Or, if you downloaded Book 1 in the free deal weekend a couple weeks ago, this is an opportunity to continue the Amanda Cadabra journey with Book 2 at zero cost. This offer is just for today and tomorrow, 20th and 21st February, so please do get it while it’s hot.
Here, for your entertainment, is a 15-second video to give the new book a send-off.
Surely this is the final stage in the new sequel release? I hear you ask. Well, actually, there’s more. I’ll come back to that in the next letter.
Meanwhile, this is for all you fellow paperback readers. I hope you enjoy the new sequel. If you’d like to let me know how you get on with it, I would love to hear from you. Always.
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle
What is something so grim as illness doing in a light, comfortable mystery? Let me tell you a story.
Back in the day, I went on a first date. It was with a Welshman, in a beautiful spot on the river Thames: Maidenhead. The restaurant was right by the water, blue from the sky from where the sun was shining. It was a golden day, and I was hopeful of passing an enjoyable lunchtime.
And then …
My date began to discourse. He gleefully related anecdote after anecdote of disease and resulting fatality.
‘There was this man, you see?’ the Welshman continued with relish. ‘It was in the papers. Twenty-five he was and fit as a fiddle, so he thought. An athlete. And then. One day. He dropped dead. Stone dead.’
‘Really?’ I asked curiously.
‘Tuberculosis! Didn’t know he had it. Well, doesn’t that just go to show? You never know.’
I repeatedly tried to turn to the conversation to happier themes, but with determination, he wrenched it back. Finally, realising what I was trying to do, he explained,
‘I like a bit of death.’
As you can imagine, I excused myself as soon as possible, and we did not have a second encounter. But what is the point of my sharing that with you?
It’s that the story is amusing. It has likely made you smile, even laugh. It has lifted your mood, even though it includes sickness and mortality. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that medical matters can have a place in light literature.
Health Issues in the Great Cozies
Let’s look at one of the novels Daphne du Maurier, who has been listed as a cozy mystery author. In Rebecca, it is a health condition that is the key to unlocking the puzzle of ‘what happened that night?’ There are no disturbing medical details. They would be extraneous to the plot and the genre. We are simply informed of the illness.
In The Pale Horse, Agatha Christie uses disability to throw us off the scent. Miss Marple’s recovery from illness takes us to warmer climbs where she might convalesce in A Caribbean Mystery.
A popular device in whodunnits is the victim’s medication, being used as a vehicle for murder most foul: an overdose or substituted with a dangerous substance or with something harmless but depriving the patient of necessary medicine. What is crucial is the treatment, if you’ll excuse the pun, of the illness. That is, no graphic details, just as a cozy murder takes place usually off-camera.
Why Asthma for Amanda?
So we come to medical matters in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series. I have been asked why I gave our heroine debilitating asthma. Doesn’t that make her weak? Physically, yes, she is below par. However, that is the very reason why she needs the indispensable component of the genre, magic. She also relies on her familiar, who is, in a sense, her seeing-eye cat.
The origin of Amanda’s asthma provides a vital part of the overall story arc of the series. It also gives her a reason to be at the clinic constructed during Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. It creates balance with Inspector Trelawney. He surpasses her in fitness, but she has the greater, and vitally important, mystical abilities.
A Bit Special
When I researched the format, the formula for a cozy paranormal mystery, I knew that I wanted mine to be a bit different. Amanda’s physical limitations give her the opportunity to develop and demonstrate other kinds of strength. On the other hand, at the same time, it makes her grandparents and fellow villagers disarmingly protective regardless of however provoking their quirks might be!
A medical condition sees the dispatch of one of the less likeable characters. It also influences Granny and Grandpa’s decision as to which level of existence they choose and when.
So, I hope you’re satisfied with the place of medical matters in the cozy context. Even fatalities, the very heart of a whodunit. Perhaps, after all, you’ll say as regards your taste in literature,
‘I like a bit of death!’
Meanwhile, I am now 30,000 words into Amanda Cadabra Book 5, with 15 chapters complete and pretty much finalised.
Back next time with more musings for your entertainment.
PS If you want to start the series:
Amazon, Apple Books,
Kobo and others.
I have just written the first thousand words of Amanda Cadabra Book 5. This is the right moment to answer the question, what does it feel like to do that? What is the creative process? Did I force myself to sit at a desk and commit to writing a certain number of words in an afternoon? Some great works of fiction have been created using such discipline. However, in my case, this is how it happened ….
Where to start?
It’s been a few weeks since I finished the fourth in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mysteries series. So after a plot map – a rough one then a tidier one, both in a big sketchbook – the first step was to reconnect with the last book, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. Next, I checked where we’d got to in the story arc, what our characters know, and what has been shared with you, dear readers.
I like to weave the strands of the self-contained story of each book in and out of one another, together with the over-arching plot that runs through the whole series. Consequently, I made notes on the plot sketch of what needs to interspersed.
Researching the Real World
Each book includes settings and details that are new to me. For example, for Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, I had to research spies, bombs and air-raids. For Book 3, Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan it was how they celebrated the end of the first world war that Christmas, structural damage, and 1930’s firearms.
For this sequel, I followed my nose in and out of research on Wikipedia and other internet sites. And then I knew. The first chapter suddenly was obvious to me. I had the document open with the first few lines. I pulled it up from under my browser windows, and my fingers began to type. The lines came quickly with no time for spelling or grammar checks. Out it flowed as though I were taking dictation from my own mind.
Soon I am between two worlds: this one and the world of Amanda Cadabra. As I type, I move more and more into that fantasy existence … My eyes are on the screen, my fingers tapping on the keyboard, but before my eyes is … the sitting room at 26 Orchard Row, in the English village of Sunken Madley. I am seated on the chintz sofa of the Cadabra’s house beside Granny – Senara Cadabra. Before me on the coffee table is a cup of tea in a white, delicately floral patterned, Wedgwood china cup. I see Amanda handing Inspector Trelawney a matching dish of shortcake. I can see the plate. I know the design, the gilded edges …. I know how the room smells, how each person smiles, the exact colour of their eyes, the timbre, intonation of each voice … It is as though I hear them speak rather than give them their lines. They give me theirs.
Three hours later, and I’m back. I’m hungry, thirsty, stiff, and the room is stuffy. How do I get back into my body and the real world? How else … with a cup of tea!
And that, for the most part, is how all of every book comes to me. In between, I have to do a great deal of checking and learning. Yet somehow I remain in the fantasy zone as I come and go between fiction and non-fiction. Any fact at all of which I am not certain must be verified. That is part of world-building, or perhaps it is simply what allows me to perceive that other world.
What does it mean?
Some theorise that when an author writes fiction in this way, they are seeing a reality that exists somewhere on some plane or other – an alternative reality, another universe. Others say that we are creating a reality that then somehow, somewhere comes into being.
In my case, all I can say is that it seems real to me when I am immersed in the creative experience. That is what enables me to make it real to you, so that you might have that door at the back of the wardrobe, the way through the looking-glass, the ticket for The Hogwarts Express, down the rabbit hole, the leap into the chalk drawing.
So when I finish a book and load it onto Amazon, what I am really saying is,’ Come with me … let me share with you … let me show you this other place of mystery, magic, people to know, love, relate to, suspect. This cozy place where, ultimately, good will triumph, and at the end of each book, for now at least, all is right with the world.’
Thank you to every one of you who have read or plan to read one or more of the books, even just looked at a cover, come to visit this site, peeped through the keyhole, or encouraged me to keep writing.
Why do I do it? Why do I write? Because I can’t help myself!
Don’t Force It
Can I make what I have described happen? No. I have wait for the wave. Sometimes you just have to sit on the beach and watch the sea, admire the sky, listen to the gulls, tend your surfboard. There is always the clam and mussel digging of marketing, the rockpool, net-and-jam-jar visits of research and, sometimes, it’s just a matter of lying back on the sand.
Yesterday, book reviewer Nicole Pyles kindly published her recent interview with me. If you’d enjoy a little more insight and inspiration to continue with or create some fiction of your own, you’ll find it here:
Next weekend, I’ll have news of the free Kindle days that will be just before Christmas Day to help with your eleventh-hour gifts. Until then,
PS If you want to start the series:
First of all, before I tell you about new features, I would like to say thank you. That extends to everyone one supported the launch of the paperback edition of Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, together with the free days of Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets on Amazon. Even just by reading this blog, you help.
The sales were at a record level, and the downloads almost matched those of Book 1 a few weeks ago: 1,000! The highest sales have come from the latest book, so your throng is gathering force (encouraging me to get on with writing Book 5). To all new consumers of Sunken Madley mysteries, welcome, and I hope that you are enjoying the journey.
Before I go any further, I would like to offer an apology for the paperback release date being delayed for a day. The publication process took longer than it has in the past, however now I am forearmed for future releases.
Also as of the time of writing the paperback has yet to be linked to the other books so here is the direct line to it:
Meanwhile, as you may have noticed, I am writing to you more often. To let VIP Readers and subscribers know when I post a new letter to readers, I am setting up a system to send an email to let you know the title of the article and a link so you can catch up if you’d like.
I’m testing it this week to make it look as appealing and useful to you as possible. It will be offered next to VIPs and then if it passes muster with them, to you who have also kindly agreed to keep in touch. This the first time I’ve done something like this, so any feedback would be a boon.
If you’d like to be included just click: keep me in touch, and know that you can unsubscribe at any time.
A brand new feature that I’m rolling out to give readers and potential readers more avenues to communicate with me is now on the Holly Bell Facebook page. Our illustrious illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña is creating an image of her.
Her name is Ivy, she is my chat assistant, and she’s a little robot. She’s always there. However, you can click on a ‘talk to a human’ where you can message me personally. I’m teaching Ivy to work here on amandacadabra.com too, so if you’d like to try her out that would be splendid. Even better, if you could let me know you like like her, how she gets on with assisting you to get to know more about the world of Amanda Cadabra, and the creation process.
There is also a new page on here called The Books, a quicker way of you finding the features about them that you want to read, see or listen to.
Next week I’ll be back, I hope to be featuring an interview with a member of the team, my editor. Have you ever wondered what it takes to go from book worm to beta reader to editor? All will be revealed …
Just one more day. The excitement mounts! Tomorrow, paperback fans, you will, literally, be able to get your hands on the real-deal, hard copy of new new British, humorous cozy paranormal mystery sequel, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley
Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets will be free to download from Amazon from tomorrow for three days (29 – 31 October). Here’s a video to entertain you and that you might like to share, if you have friends who enjoy cozies.
Meanwhile, here is the new paperback cover of Book 4, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, beautifully illustrated by our new talented artist, Daniel Becerril Ureña. In addition, he has given Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets, a makeover, and here it is ahead of tomorrow’s first free day. Daniel has led a fascinating life to date traveling the world, enhancing his skills. An interview with him is coming up here presently. There will also be an interview with professional beta-reader Flora Gatehouse. If you’ve every wondered how to turn your hobby into something more, see how Flora made her journey.
If you’re new to the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series, you might like to watch the trailer for Book 1, to get a taste of it. The ‘Inspiration’ page will tell you about the real Sunken Madley, the village where Amanda lives and most of the action takes place. If there is anything you would like to ask me, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.
Looking forward to being back with a launch report for you, and news of the next highlight.
The moment has come. With Tuesday’s release of the paperback of Amanda Cadabra and the Rise of Sunken Madley, Book 4 in the series and the free days for Book 2 almost upon us, here is a new video made for you in the past few days.
The new video is just out. It is a reading of the first chapter of Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and the Cellar of Secrets by me with some clips and images to entertain you while you listen. If you prefer to read along or just read, the text of the chapter is below.
In case, you’re wondering …
What goes into making a reading video like this?
It takes days. First, you need a good quality microphone, and I use the Rode NT, which I can plug into my computer. Some people have more sophisticated setups, but this does the job. Next, you need headphones so you can hear yourself read and also pick up on any interference or background noise that you don’t want. Next, I make sure I have ‘the script’: sometimes a printout, sometimes an ebook version. It helps to sit comfortably and to position yourself the optimum distance from the mic, which is about 6 inches. I use a floor stand for this.
What about background noise?
Without studio conditions, sound echoes off any hard surface: walls, furniture, doors, technology. So I use a foam filter, the shape of half a large tube that sits behind the mic. Next, I plug in the mic and make sure that the program I use and the computer recognise that that is how the sound is going to come in. Also, I set the recording to playback through the laptop or desktop speakers, depending on which I’m using.
If the ‘one, two, three, four, testing, Mary had a little lamb’, and the silence in between is ‘clean’ and clear then, there is a followup step: turn off all appliances that create background noise. That’s the tech set up.
So I can just go ahead and read and record now, right? Not quite. The enemy of voiceovers is mouth clicks. Those are extra noises your tongue makes releasing contact with it’s surrounding walls, floor and roof, so to speak. You want just the right amount of moisture around. How do you achieve this? The night before I make sure I have plenty of water to drink and the next morning too. I have tea or water handy and take sips every few sentences.
What if any get through regardless? Most can be edited out, but it’s time-consuming. I usually make two or three recordings of the whole chapter so that I can cut and paste from whichever one is the ‘cleanest’.
How long does each chapter take to record?
On average, 15 minutes to read. It can take longer. If you stumble over words, misread the script, hear your mouth clicking away, or neighbour slams a door, a car revs outside, a plane makes a low flyover, a helicopter passes … you get the idea. Then you have to stop, wait if necessary and re-read the sentence or phrase.
That’s just the recording. Next comes the editing. It’s a long and painstaking process to get the very best version possible. Additionally, it might sound too nasal or tinny, and that is adjusted using the graphic equaliser that comes with the program I use. I listen through both headphones and the computer speakers to check the quality.
Now the recording of the chapter is settled. What next? I add the introductory music that plays at the end too. This time, in a first-ever, I added some sound effects to signify the scene changes.
While you listen?
All done now? Not yet. I think it enhances your, the reader’s, experience if you have some visuals. This means gathering stills and clips. The still photographs need to be edited so that they are video screen shape. As all of the Amanda Cadabra books involve a trip to the past, one or two may need to be turned into a black and white or sepia version. As they are prepared the video is assembled, the audio track is added, and the stills and clips are synchronised with the text. Credits are added at the end.
Now it’s ready. Time to prepare this letter to you and announce its release. Just click on the screen above to be transported to Sunken Madley, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. You’ll have 72 hours to download the book, free from Amazon from Tuesday to Thursday, 29th to 31st October. Both Book 2 and Book 4 will unite in a doubt cover reveal before then right here. Yes, Book 2 is getting a makeover!
Happy reading and listening,
PS If you want to start the series:
Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets
Why Amanda Found the Body
Call a doctor or search for clues? Amanda Cadabra took the few vital seconds to make the decision.
But then, she had never been impulsive.
‘Mrs Cadabra, with the best will in the world from you and your husband, your granddaughter could not have had a normal childhood.’
In response, the lady seated with regal posture on the chintz sofa, inhaled, and raised an eyebrow, rendering her larger violet eye even more magnified than usual. Her piercing glare demanded an explanation. Detective Sergeant Thomas Trelawney of the Devon and Cornwall Police was not easily intimidated, as Vic ‘The Headbanger’ Hardy could have told anyone brave enough to have asked him.
However, on this, his first visit, to 26 Orchard Row, Sunken Madley, Trelawney needed to make some kind of connection with Senara, Perran, and their beloved granddaughter and adoptee Amanda. These three were, after all, the only witnesses to the day of the incident, 28 years ago, that he was here to continue investigating.
‘Here’ was a village that had grown up out of the rural landscape over a period of 800 years. It lay 13 miles to the north of the Houses of Parliament, and three miles south of the border of Hertfordshire. Herts, as the abbreviation is styled, was home to Jane Austen’s Emma and the seat of the burgeoning aircraft industry in the last century. Since those days, the county boundaries had been moved so that Sunken Madley was now, technically, on the outskirts of Greater London.
Nevertheless, Sunken Madley still was, in spirit, a country village, off the beaten track, hidden by the encircling trees. It was distinguished only by its orchard of Hormead Pearmain apples, and fine stained-glass windows, adorning the medieval church of St Ursula-without-Barnet. Of particular interest to students of the art, was the composition of the saint and the little bear with the bag of apples.
A gust of wind cast a pink handful of cherry blossom against the living room window as Trelawney’s hazel eyes returned Mrs Cadabra’s gaze politely but unwaveringly. He said mildly, ‘In other words, Amanda wouldn’t always have been able to play in the fields, run up and down the garden, maybe eat anything she wanted, like the other children here could.’
‘One couldn’t expect you to know this, Sergeant, not having any of your own,’ Mrs Cadabra pronounced with sympathetic condescension, ‘but,’ and she took a loose hairpin from her white victory roll, ‘children … adapt.’ She speared the accessory back into her coiffure to signal that the subject was closed.
Trelawney hadn’t finished. He thrived on puzzles, bringing order to chaos, and justice to the wronged. However, above these assets, his soon-to-be-retired boss, Chief Inspector Hogarth, trusted his seasoned judgment, especially of when to operate with a light touch.
He swivelled his tall, slim, grey-suited form towards Perran, who smiled kindly and said, with his gentle Cornish-flavoured voice, ‘I know what you mean, Sergeant. But Amanda was always a very special little one. Since she was a bian, a baby, she spent her fair share of nights in the local hospital when we didn’t know if she’d pull through. We did our best to help her, but in the end, she learned the hard way that her choices had consequences.’
‘Did that make Amanda fearful? Wary?’
‘Oh no, Sergeant, just careful, wise even, beyond her years. Though in others she’s young for her age. But, as Senara said, she got used to things, like carrying her inhaler, avoiding certain food, watching the pollen count. Amanda always says, ‘It isn’t terminal, after all, it’s just asthma.’
It was asthma that had brought Amanda Cadabra to this moment, this room … this body.
She felt for a pulse.
It had all happened a great deal sooner than anyone in the village could have expected. Even Dr Sharma, who was in the know, when she told Amanda about the new allergy clinic, had said that it was months away.
Amanda had dropped in, to collect a repeat prescription for her asthma inhaler, on her way to see about a furniture restoration job. An eager trainee from infancy, Amanda had taken over her grandfather’s business.
Asthma and furniture restoration were unlikely bedfellows, with the toxic chemicals, dust, and hard physical labour. This had niggled Trelawney from the first time he had read the case file three years ago.
Amanda’s secret levitation skills enabled her to cope covertly but ably. Trelawney, however, was a long way from even contemplating this possibility. And even if he had been able to, it would have been only with extreme scepticism and inexplicable discomfort.
Still, Amanda took sensible precautions and always had her inhaler handy. Dr Sharma was a respected and gifted physician, and between her own magic and the general practitioner’s medicine, the asthma was under reasonable control.
However, there was no denying that Amanda’s chest momentarily tightened when Neeta Sharma had told her where they were going to build an allergy research centre.