• You are here:
  • Home »
  • Amanda Cadabra Book 8

Tag Archives for " Amanda Cadabra Book 8 "

Box of chocolates with card saying Thank you to ... Title: This One's For You

Thank you Video – This One’s For You

Dear Readers,

All About You

Now for my chance to thank all of you. If you are reading this, then this video is for you. Some are mentioned by name, others are implied, everyone is included in one way or another. I hope that you like it:

Click to see Thank You video

Usually, I give everyone virtual flowers, but this time it’s … well, you’ll see (or have seen). If you didn’t get the ones you like, just let me know for future reference. And if you didn’t get as many as others, then you can safely assume that yours are the more luxurious.

What Next?

Well, Book 9 has already begun. While I wait for it to percolate, I am turning my attention to the long and winding road of the audiobook project. My computer is undergoing an upgrade, and that may solve the recording issues I have had in the past. A kind reader has also offered to help me. If I am successful, then I shall relate the entire saga to you (although not in Old Icelandic).

I also have a couple of little field trips to make to bring you some photos I believe you will enjoy. There is a story attached to that too. With Yuletide approaching, I am, accordingly, thinking about a treat for that occasion. So plenty on the go. Meanwhile …

Happy viewing,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Launch Day Video for Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs

Dear Readers,

Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs is, at this moment, officially live on Amazon as book ebook and paperback.
I thought it only fair, to show you the Launch Day video, in case you’re not on Facebook. I hope you enjoy it.

Click to watch video for launch of Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs by Holly Bell

Back next Sunday with something that is all about you.

Happy viewing and 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

First Chapter of the New Sequel – Holly Reads ‘A Grand Opening.’

Dear Readers,

It is time to revive the tradition of first-chapter readings with that of Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs. The last one was way back in the autumn of good ol’ 2019 for Book 4, Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. (If you need the transcript, please see below the video once you’ve clicked on the image below to get to it.) And here it is …

Click on image to play Chapter 1 of Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs by Holly Bell

Why’s That?

And thus you rightly enquire. Well, it’s partly been due to technical issues, and I like to produce the very best sound quality I can for you. However, I found a compromise this time which I hope you will find satisfactory. The second reason is to do with time and energy Vintage grammaphone player. Need on vinylresources at this stage of the launch process. Producing 10 minutes of narrative with visuals takes about 12 hours. What?

How Come?

I doubt that the most seasoned voice actor could read aloud for 10 minutes without needing retakes, and that is a status to which I am yet an aspirant with the rest of the journey still to make. Then there are the sound tests. When the script has been read (by me), next comes the editing, cutting, splicing, and even re-recording. The words fixed, then the music fore and aft needs to be blended in.


So much for the soundtrack. Now we come to the visuals. Images need to be sourced and edited. Next, they need to be lined up and matched with the words of the chapter. Finally, the credits have to be added.

Now, in many cases, the images will be in the public domain, which means they do not require attribution. In other words, I don’t have to credit them at all. However, I know from personal experience how much expense, time and effort goes into producing a beautiful image. These photographers generously share the fruits of their efforts and artistic skill. I feel the least I can do is say thank you. It feels good to say thank you, doesn’t it?

Treat for Launch Day: 99c or 85p or …?

To celebrate the launch, the previous sequel, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree will be priced at just 99c (85p or 1.32 CAD or 1.50 AUD and so on) for the weekend. So that is my little gift to you. And if you know anyone who’d like a taste of the series for a modest outlay please do pass on the news.


So this is the last stop before Launch Day, on Sunday 13th November, that grand station where the train is festooned with autumn flowers and the necessary vegetables. (With ideas for the next book already in the pipeline, it is but a temporary halt.) Time to prepare the video and a pretty Facebook post about the 99 offer  for the Day. Back soon …

Happy Pumpkin (or Pineapple) Time,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Trailer Reveal – Lights, Camera, Action!

Dear Readers,

It is with excitement, exhilaration and exuberance that I bring you a visual taste of the new

Amanda Cadabra sequel

. Every trailer is a journey, and I would like to share the essence of this one with you before I hand round the popcorn, part the red velvet curtains, and strike up the Might Wurlitzer (movie theatre organ). Or you can skip ahead and press play. It’s all good. Here it is, just in case:

The How

I wrote in the spring with the launch of the previous sequel about the process of creating a trailer video, but for the benefit of new readers, I’ll briefly recap. It takes upwards of 20 hours to create a 1-minute video. And fair enough, that probably does include a small percentage applied to the making of tea, which is essential both for the creative juices and sustaining the video-maker through those long hours, script-writing, clip, still and audio selection, editing them, composing them, adding the captions, splicing together the soundtrack, adjust visual and audio to synchronise, testing and adjusting.

‘Why Does it Take You So Long?’

I hear you ask, and rightly so. One of the main reasons is budgetry. When the Amanda Cadabra series is munificently minting it, I shall have the leeway to have an account with the biggest and best stock photo, video and audio libraries. Within minutes I will have downloaded all I require. And one day, I shall. However, if I’d had that straight off the bat, how I would have missed out. And here is how …

Small Budget Pays Dividends of An Unexpected Kind

When you start out as a fiction writer, nothing prepares you for the richness of the emotional journey. From where do these riches come? From you, dear readers. Not just the moving encouragement and appreciation that sends me over the moon. But how many times, just at a point where I have been flagging ever-so-slightly in the end process of producing a book, has a comment, message or email from one of you, some of whom I am privileged to call friends, arrived and lifted me lightly over the hump. But there’s more.

In order to create the best possible film experience for you, I try to compose the video from as many clips, rather than just stills, as possible. And from where do these come? Well, some come from free stock libraries, bless them, but what I want may not be there, and so I go to that great public forum for entertainment and enlightenment: YouTube. I say ‘public’ because anyone can watch them. However, each video is intellectual property, which means it belongs to someone, whether a private amateur or seasoned professional. So if you want to download and use a video, you need permission. Not just because it’s the law and the honourable thing but because this is where the true gold is to be found.

Saying Please

Let’s take a real example from this trailer. My favourite footage of the English countryside is aerial, taken by a camera on a drone. Filming this way is expensive, is hedged with legalities and requires a high level of skill, adjusting to weather conditions, especially wind speed, knowing how fast to travel, when to pan, or bank. The footage then needs to be edited. So when I find my desirable clips, I need to contact the copyright holder, and this is usually an individual. I can do this in the YouTube comments, but they may not see my message. Consequently, I hunt for email and dispatch my request for permission to use a few seconds of their work, and explain who I am and what it would be for.

At this point, please allow me to stress, the photographer is under no obligation to open my email, read it or reply. All you can do is write and … wait. Well, as you have seen, or will see, there are three video clips here taken by drone and one handheld. Out of four, how many would respond?

The Results

The answer is: within hours, all four got back to me, freely offering permission for me to use their creations for the new trailer, even wishing me well with the project, and taking an interest in seeing the finished product. Their generosity warmed my heart. Four delightful exchanges that I would have missed if I’d simply been able to enter the vault of a stock video account and press the download button. So although they are listed in the trailer credits, I would like to pay tribute to Andy of Drone UK, Yorkshire Drone Tours, David of DavideoVisits and Your Time To Relax. Each of them has a channel on YouTube, so if you enjoyed the few seconds of their work, please hop on over, sample the delights of their collections, and if they give you pleasure, press ‘like’ or ‘subscribe’. Little things mean a lot.

Music, Maestro?

Ah, yes, the soundtrack. The theme tune for our heroine’s village of Sunken Madley is by that talented Australian and outstandingly generous composer Aaron Kenny. His work is of such splendour that every piece he writes makes the world a more beautiful place. Aaron has provided a wide range of short pieces and has placed them in the public domain for anyone to use. His English Country Garden is the sound of Sunken Madley. 

I have included other pieces by Aaron in the soundtracks for my trailers and other videos, but for something fresh for the dramatic parts of the video, I looked further afield and found the right fit with a piece by Jason Shaw of audionautix.com. Jason allows anyone to use his music, requesting only that they credit his site, which is a very small ask for creations that require such musical gifts and digital expertise.

Saying Thank You

Most of the images I use come with a license of some description, so you don’t have to attribute them, but it feels good to give the photographer a little time in the spotlight. In the process of doing so, you discover new gems they have taken and new websites that offer free or modestly priced photos and videos. These amateurs and professionals come from all over the world and have access to sights that it would be expensive to visit but to in-the-moment photo opportunities that no money can buy. Every one is a sweetshop!

As for the final result, it is not just to give you a taste of the book but a way of providing a little treat which is a thank you, both to you readers who have been with me from earlier on the journey and those who have just joined our merry band. So I very much hope that you enjoy it. If you see it on YouTube or one of the other social sites you like, please do share it with any friends who might enjoy it too. Spread the love, because everything I create for you is made with it.

Next Stop?

In the workshop: the video with a voiceover of me reading Chapter One of Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs with, what I hope you will find to be, pleasing visual accompaniment. And after that? (Dramatic music, please) Launch Day!

Back soon, dear readers.

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

Calendar blocks with question marks on them

Launch Date Announced – The New Amanda Cadabra – Book 8

Dear Readers,

I promised you I’d tell you as soon as I knew myself. So here it is: just 7 days from now:

Launch date: Sunday, 13th November

What is the Surprise?

99c for Book 7 Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree for the weekend of the launchI hear you ask. Quite right. To help any readers who would like to catch up with the series so far, Book 7, the previous one, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, will be 99c for the whole of the launch weekend. So if you know anyone who’d like a taste of mystery and magic for very little outlay, please pass on the news.

Six Impossible Things Before Launch?

You may be wondering why this exciting announcement is coming so close to the launch day. The reason is that a total of six essential ingredients had to be in place first. I’m sure you can guess the first two: the manuscript for the Kindle/e-book edition and the cover for that. Relatively simple? Well, the former involved our venerated editor Kim and the VIP beta readers. Once they had busied away, and I had incorporated their admirable recommendations into the script, then it was ready to go? Almost. I’ll come back to that, if I may.

For the Kindle cover, Daniel had to work his magic, and I had to supply spend many hours finding costume, furniture and architectural image references to help him realise our vision. So ebook cover and script done?

They could have been, but I wanted to give you more on the day than just the ebook.


For me, nothing beats the reading experience of actual pages that I can turn with my fingers. So, once the ebook manuscript was completed, off it had to be shipped to Daria, our formatter. Daniel went to work on the paperback cover, which means adding the spine and back. Neither of these is a quick job. They require several proofs from the professionals and detailed feedback from me each time. Furthermore, in the course of her formatting, it was possible that Daria would turn up one or two tweaks that needed to be applied to the ebook, and so it proved.

The Other Two

As I was planning to do a special price for Book 7, I wanted it to look as beautiful as possible. Because of time constraints, we had yet to be able to implement a couple of final tweaks, so Daniel fine-tuned the cover of the ebook and then the paperback editions. As soon as he’d finished, it was time to fix The Date.  Six impossible thing in the bag. I didn’t want to wait a day more than necessary, and a Sunday launch is something of a tradition for the series, so … 13th it is. And if you’re curious, here are all the ways in which that number is auspicious!

If you’re well ahead of the game and looking for presents for the Winter Solstice and associated music, lights and pretty trees, then the paperback of the new sequel might fit the bill for a friend who loves a cozy mystery. Having said that, I’ll have another suggestion for you nearer the time.

The Lineup?

On Tuesday, there will be the launch of the trailer for Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs, on Thursday, the Chapter 1 read-aloud video by me, leading up to the book release on Sunday, with a short video for your entertainment, and the 99c offer for Book 7 for the entire weekend.

Thank you for sharing the excitement with me. And if you’d like to help, please share this article or any of the pre-launch posts on the Holly Bell Facebook page. I hope you know how much I appreciate your support in all its wondrous forms.

See you on Tuesday.

Happy Sunday,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs by Holly Bell in monastery covered by gold cloth except for top right hand corner

Full Cover Reveal – The New Amanda Cadabra – Book 8

Dear Readers,

The moment has come, ladies and gentlemen, to drop the veil, to part the curtains, to open the box and reveal in all its, what I hope you will think is, glory. Here is the full cover of the new Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery sequel! (Ta-daa)


Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs by Holly Bell in monastery surrounded by candle-like glow


The Artist

Now, I can introduce you, if you don’t already know about, the artist Daniel, and give you a little peep behind the scenes at how he is able to create such visual wonders. First, Daniel is Daniel Becerril Ureña, Bachelor of (Digital) Arts (BA) and Animation, about to complete a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Oriental Painting. Daniel’s quest for knowledge, perfection and artistic development has spanned the globe, taking him from his home in Mexico across to Europe and over to Seoul in South Korea. Here are a couple of clips of Daniel at work.

If you’d like to see more (for interest or, indeed, to watch and learn), you can find Daniel’s work here:

Cover Story

This cover, in a sense, began earlier this year when I saw … First, allow me, please, to provide some context. This is how we work. I send Daniel a detailed synopsis of the story. (Once I know what it is!) Then after a little percolation, Daniel sends me 6-8 sketches. And the better he gets, the harder it is to choose just one. They are dazzlingly beautiful, and I feel profoundly moved looking at them. Somehow he brings the characters to life on the page, and, I think you’ll agree, Daniel has Tempest down to T!

For the last book, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, there was one sketch that I immediately wanted for this new sequel. In fact, it inspired a scene at the climax of the book. That was a first. A sort of creative reverse-engineering event.

So, when it came to the cover of this book, I mentioned this to Daniel, who adapted that particular image for this tale and included that in the 6 sketches. And much as I still love it, there was another that I thought you would like even more. All I can say is, see if you can guess what the scene was when you read the new book. Oo, and please let me know, in the comments, on Facebook or email me (my favourite).

Feedback so far on this cover:

‘I like it!’ ‘Loved it!’ ‘Love it.’ ‘It looks fantastic! Daniel has done a great job.’

I hope that you enjoy seeing it just as much.

What Next?

Coming up: on Sunday the launch date will be announced. After that: the trailer. This will be a video about 1 minute long to further whet your appetite. I am also planning to read aloud and record the first chapter. As I say, that’s the plan. We shall see. But thrilling times are afoot.

After that, there’ll be the launch day video and Letter to Readers to prepare. I promise to announce the date as soon as I know what it is. All I can say at this point is ‘soon.’

As I write this, I live in hourly expectation of the arrival of the edited manuscript from Kim. This is, in a way, a breathing space, in that I am away from the text, to write to you and to create some accompanying images for your pleasure. Off now to conjure the aforementioned visual delights. Back soon.

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

Partial Cover Reveal – The New Amanda Cadabra – Book 8

Dear Readers,

Feeling Peeky?

Time to peep inside the wrapping. Here is a glimpse at the cover of the new Amanda Cadabra sequel, which, as you now know, is entitled Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs. If you missed the last Letter, where the identity of the aforementioned flights of steps was expounded, you can catch it here.

I would like to mention the brains, talent and drawing implements behind this image: our cover illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña hailing from Mexico and completing his Master’s degree in South Korea. All I can say is, wait till you see the whole thing!


Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we have had a little Drama. So, my projects for the day were to write, find, edit and create images for the Letter to Readers for the Title Review. This process takes hours because only the best words and pictures for you will do. A great deal of tea is involved, you may be sure. I also needed to dispatch virtual heralds to the remaining VIP beta readers who may not have seen the memo. An enthusiastic response was received and the parchment scrolls delivered wherein was writ the Tale of Amanda Cadabra and Ye Olde Nightsteiren.

Drama at Castle Amandacadabra.comHeroism and a Happy Ending

Now, in the midst of this, I discovered the presence of adversaries at the castle walls (a page on the website was redirecting to another site). I alerted the captain of the guard (tech support for the server), who at once mustered his forces. Meanwhile, a noble burgess (esteemed reader), Mistress Pat Sciarini, in the neighbouring town (Facebook page) espied an infiltrator and sent word (all pages redirecting). At once, I informed the captain, and within the hour, all enemy forces were routed and eliminated. The castle defences were reinforced, and pennants flown joyfully from the walls once more.

What a heroic tale! What it highlights is how valuable it is when you, dear readers, if you spot a scurrilous incursion, let me know. If any other pages here go somewhere that doesn’t look right, please send up a flare, light the beacon, or dispatch the homing pigeon. That way, I can instigate dispatches to have all restored forthwith.

By the way, if you are one of my precious subscribers, be assured that your details are held in the allied stronghold of Fort Mailchimp, whose walls are unbreachable.

By the end of the day, the Letter to Readers for the title reveal bloomed here, the VIPs had the manuscript, and peace reigned once more in Castle AmandaCadabra.com.

Coming Up

The previous day there was also a Drama, but that led, and will lead to, treasure, which I intend to excavate any day now.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ve enjoyed your first peek at the cover of Amanda Cadabra and the Nightstairs. Next, (you guessed it) the full cover reveal. (Dramatic orchestral music).

Back soon.

Happy viewing,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Title reveal of the new Amanda Cadabra cozy mystery sequel

Title Reveal – The New Amanda Cadabra – Book 8

Dear Readers,

It’s Official

The launch engine officially starts up here. Without further ado, I am delighted to present to you …

Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs

The What?

‘What are these nightstairs of which you speak?’ I hear you utter. They are a feature unique, as far as I can tell, to medieval monasteries. The dorter, the dormitory, of the ‘choir monks’ – as opposed to the lay monks, who did not receive holy orders – was on an upper floor adjacent to the church.

Now, there were services or ‘hours’ held at various times around the clock, including during the watches of the night. The stairs allowed the monks or, presumably, nuns to come down the stairs from their sleeping quarters directly into the church and return by the same means.

This most likely gives you a Clue as to the theme of the sequel, and the structure in Amanda Cadabra’s village of Sunken Madley that takes centre stage.

Who is Doing What With the Sequel?

A thorough going-over of the manuscript is now being conducted by the editor, Kim. Not only that, the manuscript has gone out to the VIP Readers, who have been weeding out the typos and omissions that have made it under the wire.

Feet-up time for the author? Not yet. The first step was to prepare this post for you, dear readers, with the image to announce the title of the new book. Next, I prepare images for the partial cover reveal and accompanying Letter.

Hand as though drawing the cover of Amanda Cadabra and The NightstairsAnd The Visuals?

Meanwhile, our illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña has performed the last tweaks to the ebook cover. When he sent me the initial six sketches to choose from, they each took my breath away. It was a tough choice, but after some gazing, staring, and comparing the covers of the other books, one emerged as the winner. A sneak peek is coming your way next. Now he is working his magic on the paperback cover.

So much for the static images. The most challenging, complicated, and in many ways, fun step is the creation of the trailer. I’ve made a start on that too.

In wings, our admirable formatter awaits. This lady transforms the manuscript for the ebook into a guise suitable for the paperback. Ideally, I would like to launch both the ebook and paperback on the same day. We shall see.

A chance encounterA Chance Encounter

Yesterday, I quit the comfort of the scriptorium in my ivory tower for an adventure. During the aforementioned, I enjoyed a chance meeting. As a result of this, I hope to have some delightful new photos to share with you of Sinner’s-Rue-type pub that may be as much as 500 years old. When I add them, I shall share with you the strange and somewhat exciting tale of how I came to find this gem, and, hopefully, a juicy story or two about its history. For now …

Happy anticipating of the joys of autumn (or spring),


PS Thanks to https://create3dmodel.com/en/catalogue/church-frame/ for kind permission to use their web image of the frame around the title.

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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Sequel Goes To Editor – What This Means For You

Dear Readers,


As you may have read on the Holly Bell Facebook page, the manuscript for, Book 8, the new sequel in the Amanda Cadabra series has now gone to our glorious professional editor Kim Brockway. So what next for you, precious readers? Well, it all depends.

The Twain

If you are in the VIP beta readers group, and I’ll tell you how you can become a member in a moment, then you will be receiving a personal email from me regarding the book. If you are an equally esteemed non-member, then this is what you can expect over the coming weeks.

The Line-up

First, there will be the Title Reveal (momentous orchestral music). Then there will follow a partial cover reveal. Hot on its heels comes the full cover reveal. But that’s not all. The trailer video will be placed here for your delectation, the first chapter, and there may even be (can’t promise) a YouTube with pretty pictures and me reading the aforementioned chapter. There will also be the release date and then … the Launch Day post and video. The paperback may come out at the same time as the ebook or a bit later. I’ll let you know, when I know.


‘So what’s this VIP group all about then?’ I hear you ask. Well, it is a group of readers who beta-read the manuscript once it’s gone off to the editor. Just to be clear, it is not an Advance Readers Copy. No, because it isn’t ready for publication. The VIPs help with the polishing stage. They are, in a sense, volunteer sub-editors who read the book in order to give me feedback. That’s the important bit: giving feedback.

Quantity and Quality

How much feedback do you have to give? It can be one line, a sentence like (and this is my personal favourite) ‘Loved it!’ (‘Brilliant’ and equivalents are also joyfully welcomed, but be honest, please), or it can be a paragraph of comments. Many of the VIPs contribute a list of typos, spelling and grammar issues that have cunningly slipped under the radar of my five editing passes; some do all of the above (much love here for you-know-who-you-are).

If you are considering a VIP role, there is one other factor to consider. I will need the feedback as soon as possible. It will be about 10-14 days, most likely, before I need to put in the final amendments, but I’ll let you know nearer the time. And there’s that word again: ‘time’, as in ‘sensitive’.

The Hows

The manuscript will be delivered to you in various formats: .mobi, .epub, Word document, and .PDF. You can give the feedback in the body of an email, as a text or Word doc, as a screenshot, a photo, or … or …. well, please feel free to suggest it, if you need to send it by some other means.

If you’re keen to enter the VIP Lounge (not that much lounging involved, alas), then you can either sign up here or drop me a line. You know how much I love that. Better still, both would be splendid.

My To-Do List

First, before I can ship to the VIPs, I need to create the front and back matter. What’s that? Those are the extra pages before and after the story. For example, the copyright notice (easy bit: I don’t even have to change the date, as the last book came out this spring), the maps and plans, dedication and the table of contents. That lot goes at the front, and at the back, I get the chance to say my thankyous to everyone who has contributed, as well as to you, dear readers. There are also the Questions for Bookclubs and the British English to American English glossary. Among other things. All of this, as you can imagine, takes a few days, so you have time to decide, in case you would like to join the VIPs.

That’s all for now. As you can see, I have my fun cut out for me, but I wanted to give you the latest news first, so that you’re in the loop. Above all, I am confident that you will have a brand new cozy mystery to cuddle up with in the cooler autumn (or spring, depending) months. Back soon.

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

The Real Life Arborist Behind ‘The Hanging Tree’

Dear Readers,

The Seed of An Idea

I knew from the very beginning that trees were going to be involved. After all, the book, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, was going to be set at The Elms, one of the principal grand houses in the village of Sunken Madley.

We’d had action at The Manor and The Grange. Now, with Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney establishing a base there, it was only a matter of time before dark and nefarious deeds would be committed at the establishment named after some trees. And, of course, only covert witch Amanda and her irascible familiar Tempest would be able to get at the truth of what happened. That much about the sequel, the seed, if you will, of the seventh in the Amanda Cadabra series was planted long before the ‘official’ writing of the book began. Little did I know that that seed would lead me to a rosebud.

Spade Work

But what did I know about trees? Possibly like you, I can spot the obvious ones and, thanks to training in furniture restoration (yes, I really did) for a year and a half, some interesting data about wood has come my way. Elms, though? One fact usually springs to mind, which is that they are prone to Dutch elm disease. However, there must be far more to them than that.

Duly, I scoured the Internet for information. As I learned about the various species, the notion grew of including a Cornish elm because Sunken Madley does have a strange connection with that magical dutchy in the southwest of mainland Britain. What I needed, then, was an arborist. And not just any cultivator of trees, one with a knowledge of Cornish elms. Where was I to find such an expert?

In my online digging, I came across a most helpful organisation called Cornwall Wildlife Trust and ERCCIS: The Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (which are just off the Cornish coast). I emailed and waited.

The Root of the Matter

Ten days later, I received a kindly reply from Mrs Fox, a knowledgeable lady who gave me a summary of the elm situation and mentioned two leads to further information, including the name of a ‘woodland consultant in St Ives’. Mrs Fox offered to forward my email to this gentleman, Gavin Nicol. I eagerly accepted.

Once we connected, Gavin generously gave me more than an hour of his time, filling me in with all sorts of details about Cornish elms, their history and their connection to the culture of Cornwall. It was a fascinating phone call, and I had pages of notes by the end of it.

During our conversation, I heard for the first time of the Davey elm, a remarkably beautiful species found in Cornwall. At that moment, I knew this would be central to the story. But I will leave it there lest I come perilously close to a spoiler, in case you have yet to read the book.


Instead, please allow me to introduce you to Gavin, who has kindly allowed me to interview him, as you can read below. Gavin is not just a naturalist but is also a filmmaker, musician and founder of Global Jamming. This organisation encourages and provides opportunities for young mu

sicians (here is Gavin pictured with his son) and, through

these events, supports social and environmental causes.

Gavin is also the producer and co-director of the short film ‘Rosebud’. This is a loving tribute to the epic 1937 voyage of the boat that sailed from Cornwall to the Houses of Parliament on a special mission to save the homes of fishermen and their families.

But enough introduction. Here is Gavin Nicol:

1. What is your connection to Cornwall?

I was born in St.Ives, Cornwall and have spent most of my life here, when not working as a forester in various parts of the world. I have a deep connection with the wilds of my home area and am actively involved in looking after them for the long-term benefit of all.

2. What is it that you do?

I am a teacher, musician and activist for social and environmental justice.
I run a musical collective platform with my son called Global Jamming – www.globaljamming,org

3. Why trees?

I have been under the spell of trees, woodlands and forests from an early age – along with the moors, tors, coast and sea.

4. What is the relationship between elms and Cornwall?

Elms have played a central role in the ecology, landscape and culture of Cornwall for thousands of years. In spite of waves of Dutch Elm Disease, there are still many fabulous elms in Cornwall if one keeps an eye out for them.

5. Can you tell us about the Davey elm, please?

It’s a particularly beautiful and quite unusual type of elm found in any concentration in a couple of areas. These trees form large rounded crowns of dense twigs and are a beautiful site to behold at any time of year. I have been propagating them from cutting for a few years and have some promising specimens growing at one of my conservation sites.

6. You’re also a filmmaker. How did you come to make Rosebud?

I wrote my song about the Rosebud after discovering that the famous Newlyn fishing boat was the very same one my dad had owned when I was a child. I contacted various other people connected with the Rosebud and made a film about its story, mostly set in Newlyn and linking the past with the present. It was an important legacy project for me – my dad was able to enjoy the song shortly before he passed away last year.

7. Your film includes Cornish. How do you think the language is relevant today?

The Cornish language embodies so much Cornish heritage and history that it is essential to keep it alive and growing.

8. Getting back to trees, how did you feel about being the inspiration for a character in Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree?

Surprised and quite pleased to hear it! Thanks for your interest in this important and fascinating subject.

9. Do you think trees have a special magic of their own or that just something people like to believe?

To me, all things have a special magic – not least trees and people. People’s beliefs are just an attempt to grasp at what’s beyond our understanding.

10. Where can we watch Rosebud?

It can be found on our website, along with various other films we have made – please see link. Hope you like it!

Thank you, Gavin, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I greatly appreciate your help.


You can follow Gavin on Facebook and Instagram

Sequel Progress and Exam Results

The new sequel, the eighth in the Amanda Cadabra series, has now reached 70,000 words, so the first draft is well over two-thirds complete. I am having a whale of a time filling in the blanks, moving bits around, researching the details, and being entertained by the characters in the process. To give you some idea of the rate of progress, generally, at least 1,000 words are being added daily.

Ah, and as you may have seen on the Holly Bell Facebook page: I received my Grade III Cornish language exam results. I am delighted to say … (pause for effect) I passed and just half a mark short of a distinction. Next month, on to the fourth and final grade. Summer classes are preparing me, but I must admit that my head is firmly in Bookland at the moment.

So now, back to weaving the new tale for your enjoyment this autumn (or spring in the southern hemisphere) with updates for you, to follow. If you are north of the equator, may I wish you joy of the closing days and weeks of summer and, as always,

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