Tag Archives for " Amanda Cadabra "

Open book on desk by candleight with cameo milestone. Text: Burning The Midnight Oil, Audiobook Progress, and thanks t you for a new milestone

AudioBook Progress by Night, and 500 Readers to Thank

Dear Readers,

Cutting To The Chase

‘What of the audiobook of Book 1 and the next sequel,’ I hear you ask. ‘Do get to the point.’ Indeed. During the last month of radio silence, I assure you I have not been idle. Before I amaze you with just how far the recording of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth has progressed, I shall supply you with some helpful context.


The Rhythm of Reading


The context is pre-editing. Yes, I do have a splendid sound engineer in the US; however, before the recording wings its way to his inbox, I need to edit out the reading mistakes. For example:


‘” Once upon a type” ‘… ah … let me read that again …’ “Once upon a dime” ‘… once more:’ “Once upon a time …”’


You get the idea. So I just have to delete the wrong versions and splice the two good ends together (digitally). Simple, yes? Actually, it is rather more complicated.


When we read aloud, and you may have done this with stories to children, we allow strategic pauses. This is most noticeable between paragraphs, scene breaks or chapters. But also for effect. Here’s an example:


 The Dramatic Pause


‘“On her sixteenth birthday, the princess shall prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die!” uttered the sorceress.’


Here we would naturally pause before reading:


 ‘A horrified hush fell upon the court.’


Make that pause too long, and the impact dissipates; too short, and the drama of the moment is lost.


So when splicing the two ends together on either side of the deleted section, there is some fine-tuning to be done. This involves listening and adjusting, listening and adjusting. And it takes time. So, as far as pre-editing is concerned, I am now up to chapter 8 out of 47 chapters. 


Percent symbol formed by clouds in blue skyRevealing the Numbers


That said, chapter 1 is left until the end, when, hopefully, I shall be significantly improved in my reading through sheer practice, and one other chapter, which I shall confide shortly. So that is 6 out of 47, which is (unearths ancient calculator) 12.76%.


However, the most important thing is to get the reading in the can, as it were. And now, hopefully, to impress you … 75%!


What I Didn’t Plan For


The rogue chapter, so to speak, is (looks for book) Chapter 13: Dr Bergstrom’s Invention and The Power of Petite. Spoiler alert for those of you yet to read this. This is where Amanda receives her wand from a Swedish magical scientist. It introduces that new character and includes some actual Swedish. Here’s the catch. When I wrote it, I had no idea that one day I would have to read it. Aloud. For an audiobook.


“It’s Got To Be …”


I’m not sure about ‘perfect’, but good enough so that Swedish speakers or readers who have contact with Swedish or Swedes find it credible and do not raise their hands in horror at the desecration of their language. I have listened to some instructive YouTubes on performing the Swedish accent, but this isn’t the same as personal tuition.


Fortunately, I have a Danish friend who is sufficiently well acquainted with the Swedish accent to be able to coach me. From this week, he will have time to go through the chapter to prepare for my reading. I hope that all of you with a Swedish connection who listen to the book will be happy with the result.


Before The Dawn


In the title of this Letter To Readers, you will have noticed the word ‘Night’. Yes, indeed, I have been burning the midnight oil in the worthy cause of bringing The Sound of Amanda Cadabra to my esteemed listeners-to-be. To be more precise, between 4 am and 6 am when possible.


This is when there is, usually, silence, which is, as we know, golden. And you don’t appreciate just how golden until it is a scarce commodity. It does take a certain amount of enthusiasm to leave a warm bed and rise to the English pre-dawn winter temperatures, hydrate, set up and … perform. Nevertheless, my desire to bring you the finished product and the promising progress inspires me.


However, as I am editing, I hear the occasional need for a retake of a word which may not be clear. Just a few, to be glued into place. Also, my kind Danish Swedish coach has agreed to listen to the completed recording to ensure everything is in order before it is dispatched across The Pond.




I do have a time-frame in mind but not set in stone. I hope to complete the recording in the next two weeks. Then it’s over to the editing desk. My aspiration is (aspiration, please note) to complete that by the end of February. Once it is with the excellent sound engineer, it is a question of how long it will be  before it is ready to submit to ACX, who mediate audiobooks for Amazon. (I am getting excited just writing about that stage!) and how much time they will need to process it. I gather that they take about 2 weeks. There is one more component: the cover art. That will be in the purview of our talented illustrator Daniel, who will adapt the book cover. I intend to send the request to him this week.

In summary, I am hoping for publication this season. I shall keep you posted. I tend to do interim alerts on my Holly Bell Author page on Facebook.


500 Followers500 Thank Yous


Which brings me neatly to my abundant cause for appreciation. During the flurry of the launch of Book 8, Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs, and the, er, excitement of my computer upgrade, a significant landmark was reached. The number of followers on the Holly Bell Author Facebook page reached and passed 500.


This was an intensely emotional moment. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to every one of you, whether reader, reader-to-be or supporter, who has joined my page. Please know that you are not a number to me; you are a valued person, most likely with many other calls on your schedule, many interests, and books to read, and your time spent with me on my page is treasured. So, thank dear Readers. I have made a special post there to say this, and just in case you have yet to see it, my thanks are expressed here, to make doubly sure that you know that your contribution to the Amanda Cadabra journey is noted and appreciated.




Yes, indeed, it is still in progress. Every now and again, I get a trickle of inspiration, an idea, a seed. It is forming, gestating. Working title? So far: Book 9. And it’s set mainly in Cornwall. It has at least one murder. I know where that takes place. Whodunit? I have a fair idea about that too. I have also envisaged a grand scene with involves considerable suspense. But I must not get too carried away. I have an audiobook to finish first!


That’s all for the moment. I shall be back with more audio progress and the fruits of a field trip I intend to make as soon as I have a radiantly sunny, ice-free day. Meanwhile …


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

25% discount 11-14 December Book 1 Paperback

Breaking the Sound Barrier and A Christmas Discount Today

Dear Readers,

Aiming High

As I confided a few weeks ago, I was reembarking on a project to bring the books to you in an extra dimension. It began three years ago, when I wheeled out the old horn and wax cylinder in response to a request from readers: sound. In other words, audiobooks.

That was the Vision, which expanded with each additional sequel. So what happened?

Here’s a bit of audiobook background so that you’re in the know. To have an audiobook published through Amazon, whereon the series dwells in ebook and paperback formats, you must go through a company called ACX. Think: receptionist to doctor, PA to boss, or priest to deity. The quality standards are as high as you can get.

The Sound Barrier – An Audio Mystery

ACX wants you to succeed in your recordings and pull out all the stops to help you get it right. (Here’s a link if you’d like to explore the idea for yourself: ACX.) I recorded a sample from Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth in the early days and sent it in. It snagged on the vital ‘noise floor’. In short, there was a hiss and gurgle running like a backing track. The question was, what was causing it?

I went to the company that made my microphone, and they kindly replaced it for me. No change. Hiss, gurgle. They gave me a refund, and I upgraded. Same issue. The company, Rode, could not have been more helpful. There were things they suggested to try.

Testing, Testing – On The Trail

I acquired an isolation shield, which is a sponge semi-amphitheatre wall, about a foot high that on a stand that sits behind the mic. The issue persisted. Rode replaced the mic. No change. I recorded when the neighbours were out, with all appliances switched off. No change. Rode suggested I try recording in the car on a quiet street to test if the problem was environmental. This was a step forward. It made no difference but nevertheless, environmental issues could be ruled out.

That brings us to 2022 and the time of Book 7, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree. As launch neared, I pondered having another crack at solving the mystery of the snake-and-water backing singers. I did an emotional test run. I imagined working on the audio project. Joy factor: 2 out of 10. I imagined writing the next book. Joy factor: 10 out of 10. I wrote Book 8.

Narrowing It Down

During the penning of the aforementioned oeuvre, I did, however, give some thought to the mystery. It seemed that there could be only one culprit: the computer on which I was recording. Actually, I have two machines and was getting the issue on both. Therefore the test would be to hire a different, and upgraded, computer for a week and do some test recordings.

Meanwhile, Book 8 progressed, Amanda Cadabra and The Nightstairs. Some four weeks ago, launch day arrived.

And then …

A day or two later, it became clear that my iMac was in urgent need of a long-awaited upgrade. A certain vital app would no longer run, and the desktop was heating up enough to double as a hot plate that would have turned out a respectably cooked egg and bacon. I spoke to Apple, who put me in touch with an approved repairer not far away. I paused only to create the post-launch thank you post and video, booked an appointment and heaved my mighty desktop thence.

With 5-star service, the computer was soon upgraded with a shiny new hard drive. I can no longer imagine making breakfast on it, as it is currently, and joyfully, running cool to warm. And so … I could now do the all-important audio test. With the upgraded hardware and audio app …. Would there be an improvement?

The Test

Before dawn, when all was silent, I rose and stealthily prepared my mic, computer, and environment and, as a test, read the first chapter of Book 7 (which I have yet to mould into the fit-to-be-heard video for you, but it’s in the pipeline.)

Breathless with anticipation, I played it back. It was the cleanest sound I’d produced in three years! There was just a soft intermittant hiss. I edited out the reading mistakes from the first three minutes and sent off the sample to a skilled sound engineer, whom I shall call Mike, in the US. I waited …


In the watches of the following night, on account of the time difference, I heard back from Mike. He had done a thorough job on the sample, removing any breaths, mouth noise, background noise, and adjusted the pacing a little to produce a perfect recording. Mike attached a spreadsheet showing it would pass ACX standards. He was also reassuring about my setup, saying that the intermittent hiss was just the USB mic effect and he could take care of it. It was too late to call friends with the news, and I had to content myself with a little dance and celebratory cocoa.

So Far?

And so … I have now begun recording Book 1. Progress so far? About 10% of the way through. It’s a slow business. For every hour of recording there can be up to three hours of editing. I need plenty of breaks, and timing is of the essence: when the neighbours are out or asleep, and when there is no street noise. If possible, I would like to finish by the end of next month. We shall see. One day I shall dwell in a five (at least) detached establishment of my own Grand Designing somewhere in the north of London. Meanwhile, I have charming neighbours with whom to share borders. They make only normal sounds emanating from everyday life, but even those need to be absent for a sufficiently clean recording.

The audioboook project has moved from beached to into the stream. How fast flowing, we shall see. I shall be posting my progress on the Holly Bell Facebook page and landmarks here.

25% off Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth by Holly Bell Sunday to Wednesday 11-14th December 2022A Christmas Present

Meanwhile …

For those of you in search of a last-minute present for a loved one with a fondness for a cozy mystery, the paperback edition Book 1 in the cozy mystery series, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, is discounted by 25% from today until Wednesday. (Most of the rest of the price goes towards the printing cost.) This is my Winter Festival gift to you. Hope it helps out. There is another project in the wings relating to the first in the series about which I shall bring you more news in the new year.

Book 9, having delivered itself of the first chapter and a good part of the plot, has gone for reviving nap. This is fortunate as it allows me to concentrate on the audio recording.

Thank you for sharing the audiobook journey with me. With luck and a following wind, we are now possibly weeks away from the fulfilment of the sound and the first manifestation of the Vision.

Back soon with Yuletide wishes and Sound news,

Until then …

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

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

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