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A 700th Anniversary Flower Fest and Book 7 News

Dear Readers,

Hay Rides

With the air clearing and restrictions lifting, it has been time to make hay while the suHerfordshire field with windmill in the backgroundn shines. After the dull summer days, the skies above the county of Hertfordshire have turned, sporadically, to blue and gold. Whenever the weather was apt for photoshoots of charming English villages redolent of Amanda Cadabra’s beloved Sunken Madley, with camera batteries charged and memory cards with plenty of space, I ventured forth.

It has been quite a journey and one that I shall share with you. However, this week I wanted to tell you of my most recent outing to a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a medieval church. It sits upon a hilltop of what was, long ago, the ancient county of Saxon Middlesex, once home to the Amanda’s village before it was subsumed by Hertfordshire.

A Discovery

This was founded well over a thousand years ago, before that most famous date in English history: 1066 marking the Norman Conquest. On the plus side, the Normans brought with them some novel notions on cooking, castles and cathedrals. They were also into building churches. Lots and lots of churches. Many of our existing ecclesiastical buildings owe their founding to this medieval period. Including … wait for it … the fictional St Ursula-without-Barnet of Sunken Madley fame (based on St Mary the Virgin, Monken Hadley), and, my latest discovery, St John the Baptist, parish church of Pinner.

A One-Off

It was quite by accident that I found that St John’s was about to celebrate the 700th year since its founding that very weekend. It was to be marked with a resplendent Flower Festival, the like of which had never been seen by that historic structure. Next time I will tell you more of the strange and wonderful chain of events that led me there.

The church and it’s long history reminded me so much of our dear (even if imaginary) St Ursula of Sunken Madley that it was even that I simply had to attend.

I was moved by the warmth of the welcome from the busy flower arrangers there, and amazed by the sheer beauty and creativity of the designs expressing thanks for nature, the arts and other aspects of life. Some of the ladies were from St John, others from neighbouring parishes; flower clubs and a local florist were taking part. They kindly allowed me to take photographs both during preparations and on the day. These images, Chartreuse has compiled into a video to commemorate this extraordinary and dazzling. Here it is for your delight:

Free Book

Meanwhile, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth have been elected to be this month’s Giveaway by the Feathered Quill website. This is the home of the Feathered Quill Book Awards (Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr had been submitted for the Adult Fiction Award for Mystery. I’ll hear more next year.) So if you know of someone who enjoys a free cozy mystery, then here is the link for a spin of the wheel for just the addition of your email address. (This is deleted at the end of the offer.)

The Interview

Earlier this month, I received news from journalist Katherine Russell that she had included an interview with me in an article about the experience of women in the publishing industry. I have to say that as an indie author, it has been a happy ride for me. However, Katherine certainly had some interesting questions, and, if you’d like to read the article, you can also hear from the four other authors who responded so thoughtfully.

Book 7’s Progress

This is all very well, I hear you say, but what about the next sequel in the Amanda Cadabra series? I have not been idle on that front, I promise you, and can supply supporting photographic evidence for your inspection, as you shall see.

Book 7 is probably the most intricate plot to date and came to me in odd excerpts, in no particular chronological order, and usually in the hours normally associated with rest. This meant a succession of scribbled notes, dialogue and narrative passages in my journal that had to be typed up. Until I found that reading my notes written bleary-eyed was more of a challenge than actually getting up and beavering away at the computer. After all seemed ready, each and every Word document had to be compiled into a single file. That file had to be printed out. All to the tune of … 50,000 words on almost 250 pages of A4 paper.

The Magic Semi-Circle

Manuscript for Amanda Cadabra Book 7Next came the task of applying myself with marker pen, scissors and paperclips, to arrange the pages, passages, and conversations. I set them out on the floor in a semi-circle around me, into something approaching the order in which they appear in the book. This is a process that takes many hours. And this is what it looks like:

Coming

I have now completed the next stage but news of that next time. More to come: photos and a strange and wonderful journey on the trail of Amanda’s favourite fruit and more Sunken Madley inspiration. Until then, dear readers,

Happy September,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Custom Google Map of Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series locations

On Tour – Amanda’s World Google Map

Dear Readers,

As promised last time, here is the launch of something new for Amanda’s world, that I think you may enjoy playing with as much I did in the making of it.

The Idea

Custom Google Maps for books? I was intrigued by the recommendation in a newsletter from my favourite promoters, Books Go Social. It was probably a lonContainer of map pins on a map of Europe with an orange pin in Londong and complicated procedure, I considered, but was too intrigued to let it drop entirely. Then, during the watches of the night, the impulse came. It was Time.

Following the excellent instructions by Jennifer S Alderson, I crafted away, adding pins, first to the obvious places, like Amanda’s village of Sunken Madley, ‘lay 13 miles to the north of the Houses of Parliament, and three miles south of the border of Hertfordshire., and Parhayle, home to Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney. Then, in a flurry of excitement, I set about adding others.

In the Real World?

But wait, how do you put fictional towns and villages on a real life Google Map? Well, if they’re based on real life places then you can. It so happens that Sunken Madley is inspired by Monken Hadley, and Parhayle by the fishing port of Looe in Cornwall. Chief Inspector Michael Hogarth lives in Mornan Bay, in a similar location to  Talland on the coast near Looe. However, Romping-in-the-Heye and Upper Muttring are simply in the vicinity of Sunken Madley rather than being pinpointable hamlets, so they had to take a backseat for this particular outing.

Left panel from Amanda's World custom GooglemPa showing 'Parhayle' text and image of Looe, Cornwall

Nevertheless, for the most part, other locations from Amanda’s world do, in fact, exist in ours.

What You Get

So having added the pins, the fun really began. You’ll see that as a result of joyful finding, editing and linking, each pin has a note about it. Most also have one or two photographs, and nearly all have an excerpt from the relevant book in the series as well as a note about its relevance to the Amanda Cadabra series. There’s even a very small hint from one pin, of the next book to come!

There is just one place that has not been pinpointed because I thought it would be too much of a potential spoiler. I won’t say which book this refers to, but I think if you’ve read it, you’ll know.

How To Play

So here it is, with 4o pins, unveiled for your entertainment. I do hope that you enjoy playing with it as much as I had creating it. You can set it to satellite view, daytime, nighttime, street view. Visit the locations, select streetview to walk around in the shoes of the characters.  Click on the pin, and a little window will come up for you to see the photo and read the excerpt. If there’s more than one photo, you should see an arrow or a number to click on, so you can view the next image.

If, by chance, you detect a place that’s missing and you deem worthy of its rightful dot, I’d be thrilled if you told me. Any suggestions for pins, images, or anything else would be enthusiastically received. It is still a work in progress and I hope to add more pins, photos and even video over time.

Ready to explore? You can either open a new full-page Google map by clicking: Full Size, use the map below or the one in the site map section here

.

Book 7, Free-to-read Book 6, and What Next?

So, I hear you ask, this is all very well, but where is the next book in the series? I have been deep in research, typing up notes and conjuring to new scenes.

Free to read from Netgalley: Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr by Holly Bell

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Une dose https://www.cialispascherfr24.com/tadalafil-sans-ordonnance-homme/ plus faible peut résoudre le problème.

Une étude prospective transversale a été menée.

If you, or your cozy mystery fan friends have yet to read book 6 in the series, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, this month by signing up to Netgalley, you can download it free of charge in return for a review. Although this is mainly a site for publishers, librarians, booksellers and bloggers, you can join as a consumer reviewer, as many enthusiastic readers do. From time to time books for the Amanda Cadabra series have appeared on Netgalley. Often authors and publishers post new work before publication there so it can be a treasure trove of to-be-discovered literary gems.

I have also, as is my wont whenever possible, gone in search of more picturesque villages to delight your eyes and inspire my imagination of dear Sunken Madley. I hope to bring you a taste of that next time.

Happy travels,

Holly

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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

 

stack of books in series, standard paperback and ereader blurred. In foreground large print version. Text: New Large Print in white

Big News – Large Print Comes to The Cozy Series

Dear Readers,

After a year of considering, researching, planning, collaborating and doing, I am delighted to bring you the first in the Amanda Cadabra series in large print. Reactions are likely to range from ‘At last!’ and ‘Great!’ to ‘Er … why?’

All Ages

Recent research has revealed the appeal of large print to be much wider than you might expect. It tempts reluctant readers,Red frames glasses on a wooden post in countryside merging into woman wearing glasses in a library especially school-age and college students. It suits those who wear glasses who, with a slight hike in font size, can read without them, as well as making reading more comfortable for those for whom lenses are a must.

According to allaboutvision.com, ‘About 75% of adults [in the USA] use some sort of vision correction’ whether glasses, contact lenses or both. Children of all ages may need glasses for varying lengths of time. Believe it or not, some people even elect to wear fake glasses as a fashion accessory or because they feel more intelligent in them. I did read it’s supposed to make you look 3 to 5 years younger too!

But I digress. Large print is where it’s at, and as the majority of my lovely readers do find glasses helpful, I have been planning to provide a more visually pleasurable experience.

Size Matters or What’s the Point?

First, something about the journey and how we arrived at the new edition. There is no definitive sheet with a how-to andposter using the words New York to show different fonts what-to for creating your own large print book. Different writers use different strategies. So I began with the basics: font (lettering style) and letter size. Of course, different letter styles are different sizes, as you can see from this poster, but let’s look at the standard fonts you see in books, newspapers and on the internet.

A standard edition book usually has a font 12 – 14 points. A point is a 72th of an inch so in real terms, just for comparison, here is a chart using the famous Times New Roman font.

From 10pt to 22pt Times New Roman

Large print is defined by the American Council for the Blind as 18 – 20 pt; the RNIB here in the UK has it at 16 – 18, with very large print as 20. Generally, the consensus among authors is anything over 16pt.

How to Choose?

In the interests of keeping the size of the book manageable, I decided to follow the lead set by Vellum. This is the top of the range app used for formatting. Punch in large print and you get: 16 point font and a what’s called the trim size of the book: 6.14 × 9.21 inches. The standard sized Amanda Cadabra paperback is 5.25 x 8. So the new large print edition is just over an inch taller, and less than an inch wider. It’s also only very slightly thicker. There are also plenty of standard print size books that are this size, so you probably already have a shelf where it will fit nicely.

In case you’re curious, the point system stems from the days of printing using blocks of metal. The point was the smallest unit of measurement that was — sort of — agreed upon. It was used to measure the size of the actual block on which the letter sat. The best explanation I have come across is here: https://www.quora.com/How-is-font-size-measured.

If you are an author and would like to know the full specs used for the large print edition of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, you can find them in a special post written just for you (and the interested reader too, of course).

The Journey

Road running through English countrysideAt first, I thought I could DIY it. Then I discovered that there’s more to large print than just bumping up the size of the font. I took the path as far as frustration allowed until I knew it was time to turn it over to a professional. The search began. It led me, happily, to the virtual door of Graphic Production Artist, Daria Lacy (on Upwork), over on the west coast of the USA. Although living 5000 miles apart, we hit it off instantly.

Daria reformatted the standard paperback to make it look more professional, then created the large print version. She patiently tutored me through any cleaning up I needed to do, and in the procedure for creating and using her new versions as templates for Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. Although involving a bit of a learning curve it was transforming into a joyful experience for me, and having Daria there as a safety net means I can confidently go on to create large print versions of the rest of the series bit by bit.

The Art of Large Print

Finally, there was the cover. Daniel, our wonderful illustrator, was already creating a new one for Book 1, but this was the first larger size cover he’d made. It took a few goes with fine-tuning and proof copies for checking, but at last, the spine lettering was dead centre and the title likewise. The large print version passed Amazon KDP paperback publishing quality control, and now, as I write this, I have the very first printed copy on my desk, all bright and shiny and ready for you, my esteemed readers.

Decisions, Decisions

So, you may be wondering, when are the next 5 books going to be available in large print? There was a choice of two paths:Back view of woman with a red door and a blue door in the background - which to choose? either to wait while the covers for Books 2 and 3 were being redesigned Daniel or to bring out large print versions with the existing covers. Soon Daniel will be going to work on the cover for the next book in the series, Amanda Cadabra 7. So the new Book 2 cover will have to wait for at least a month. And that would be just for Book 2.

In the end, it was some words from our editor Kim that crystalised things for me. It seemed logical that if readers who prefer large print enjoyed Book 1, they wouldn’t mind that much what the cover of the next large print book in the series would look like. Nevertheless, we still want to bring you the best and brightest jackets we can, so new coats for Books 2 and 3 are in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, here, for your entertainment, is the new version of the Book 1 trailer featuring the new covers and the new large print:

Grey gat on left and Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth on ereader, paperback and large print paperback on the right

So … When?

Yes, let’s cut to the chase. I’m now formatting between writing Book 7 and launching the first book in large print, so I can’t give you a date but will keep you in the loop here and on Facebook. The main thing is that as many readers as possible will have the opportunity to try the series on the for size with Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth.

Next time, I’ll be launching something new for Amanda’s world, that you might enjoy playing with. It was immense fun to create. I think you’ll like it.

Happy Midsummer!
Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Large Print Settings for Amanda Cadabra

Dear Fellow Authors and Interested Readers,

Having decided to created large print editions of the Amanda Cadabra series, I began my research. No once source yielded a complete how-to. In my hunt for an entire formula, I realised that I would have to create my own.

The Numbers

Everything that I eventually needed is included here below. I arrived at these through reading information kindly shared by various authors, and through consultation with my invaluable Graphic Production Artist Daria Lacy, who is an absolute gem. You can find Daria on Upwork if you need professional advice.

Following Vellum, (the top end app for formatting books) the trim size is 9.14 x 6.21 inches
Font: Adobe Garamond Pro 16pt

Leading (space between lines) 19.2pt

Margins

Top: 0.6 inches

This allows space for the running header (image) So if you don’t have one then this margin can be smaller

Bottom: 0.6 inches  Leaving space for page numbers

Right (outside) : 0.4 inches
Left (inside): 0.7 inches

Gutter: 0.1667 inch (the space allowed for binding the pages together)

All words are in large print including Opening Quotation, Table of Contents, map, glossary.

Just Be Aware

If you are publishing through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, then for 9.14 x 6.21 inches they only do black print on a white background for expanded distribution, rather than a cream one. (Expanded distribution means making the book available for retailers and libraries to buy. ) My standard print books are black print on cream paper for ease of reading. However, for the extra space over 9 x 6, I chose the 9.14 x 6.21 option for large print to reduce the number of pages.

How Much Extra?

Standard print 8 x 5.25 inches: Number of pages:292
Large print 9.14 x 6.21 inches: Number of pages:355

Extra 63 pages. 21.5% increase.

As you can see it’s not that much of an increase if you opt for a slightly larger trim size.

Do feel free to contact me if you’d like any extra information that I might be able to give you.

Wishing you all the best with your large print project,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Porthleven in the background, with Amanda Cadabra book t and a cream tea in the foreground

The Real Cornish Café from Amanda’s Cozy Mystery World

Dear Readers,

The Twisting Current

Cornish pasties, Jamaica Inn, smugglers, and Cornish clotted cream teas. What do they all have in common? Yes, they’re all things for which Cornwall is internationally famous, and they appear in the Amanda Cadabra series. However, it is the last item in the list that is probably the most popular and today we learn its secrets.

Map showing location of Porthleven, Cornwall, SW EnglandMichael and Susan Plant are the creative geniuses behind the café that inspired our heroine’s favourite port of call in Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr: The Twisting Current, on the edge of mysterious Bodmin Moor. There Amanda finds her dream treat, astonishes Inspector Trelawney with her capacity for seconds, and can’t resist the opportunity to go back for more.

The Search

As readers will know, Amanda is dairy free on account of her asthma. Consequently, when writing the book, I set out on The Twisted Current Tea Room in Porthlevena hunt for a real life café that would serve a dairy-free, proper Cornish cream tea. Casting the net far and wide through Cornwall, I discovered a rare treasure: The Twisted Currant in Porthleven in the far south west, just half an hour from Land’s End, the most westerly point of mainland Cornwall and England. There they make and serve a luscious array of cakes and mouthwatering savouries with choices for dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan visitors.

Michael kindly granted me an opportunity to interview him about the story behind the café and its acclaimed cream teas.

Owners of the Twisted CurrentPlease could you tell me, what is your and Susan’s connection to Cornwall?

We are not natural Cornish. Susan came down from London with her parents and I was posted to RNAS Culdrose whilst in the Navy. We have both been in Cornwall since 1982. I think the secret to living in Cornwall is to accept the Cornish ways and to go with the flow. I now consider crossing the river Tamar near Plymouth as almost going abroad.

What inspired you to open the café? Do you both come from a restaurant background?

We started a cafe as Susan baked professionally and I wanted to start a small business. We thought that our personalities matched a tea room environment.

The Twisted Currant was furbished only last year, with golden yellow, cream fresh white and warmInside the Twisted Current Cafe. White shelves with nautical artwork, wooden tables, bright interior wood. It looks so appealing that I ad to ask: How did you decide how to present/decorate the café?

We wanted the tea room to be bright and fresh, but homely and a relaxed ambiance. One of our daughters designed the layout and I built the benches and counter.

Clearly Michael and Susan are a talented couple. For the benefit of international readers who may not be familiar with Amanda Cadabra’s favourite Cornish delicacy, I asked Michael,

Could you explain, please, for my international readers, what a cream tea is, what clotted cream is?

A cream tea consists of either fruit (sultanas) or plain scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam and a pot of tea. Scones are made with flour, butter and milk, made into a dough, rolled about an inch thick and cut with a round fluted cutter. They are baked until crisp on the outside.

There is some debate as to the order of the toppings, I gather.

In Cornwall the jam is applied to the scone and then the cream. In the neighbouring county of Devon the cream is applied first, then the jam. Local Cornish are passionate about the correct way to spread the jam and cream and gently chide anyone who gets it wrong.

Where did the inspiration come from to create a dairy-free cream tea?

For non dairy scones we serve coconut cream instead of cream and use oat milk in place of milk when making theNormal cream tea and a chocolate cream tea on the same platter scones. We do a lot of gluten free, nut free and vegan scones as well. Susan started making gluten free scones for one of our daughters friends who was celiac. We now try to have a dairy, gluten free or vegan version of everything on our menu so friends and family can all order something from our menu regardless of diet or lifestyle choices.

Susan is the inventor of all our cakes and scones. She invented the chocolate cream tea consisting of chocolate chip scones, chocolate spread and clotted cream. Reactions vary, with some customers stating they are to die for, and more traditional minded customers being scandalised with such decadancy.

What other Cornish specialties can we find at your café?

We try to do as much Cornish as possible and also serve saffron tea cakes and “Thunder and lightning” consisting of slices of white bread lathered with clotted cream and golden syrup.

Where do most of your non-local visitors to the café come from (in a normal year.)

Our customers range from locals to tourists from all over the UK and abroad. Many locals stay away during the busy tourist season but come out in winter when they know they can get a seat.

On Google Maps, I can see that Fore Street where the café is, is also named ‘Stret A-rag’. Do you useHarbour in sunlight on the water any Cornish words in the menu or around the café at all?

The Cornish language is not used in everyday speech any more but some vestiges survive. For instance, in the neighbouring village of Helston they have a dance every year around the town when “Hellys bys vycken” (Helston for ever) is shouted by the participants. The Cornish language is very similar to Breton in Brittany, France, where it is spoken more commonly.

Michael’s words made me feel especially happy to be part of the Cornish language revival, together with thousands around the UK and abroad who are now learning and speaking with one another on a regular basis. Hopefully one day it will again be used in everyday speech. Meanwhile, I asked Michael, the next question:

I read that Porthleven lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with breathtaking views from the Porthleven Cliffs and the mysterious Giant’s Rock. But what about Porthleven makes it special to both of you?

Porthleven is special to many locals and visitors alike because it is an unspoilt fishing village which despite the tourist  influx has a vibrant community spirit. They do things ‘dreckly’ (like the Spanish manana but slower) in Porthleven so stress levels are lower and life generally is more relaxed.

You’re right by the harbour with green hills and fields to the north. Looks like a Victorian building. Are you able to tell me anything about it?

The Twisted Currant shares a Victorian building with Star Gazey, a gift shop and holiday apartments above. It was originally a grocery store with owners accommodation above but has seen many different businesses over the years since.

Is this the first time The Twisted Currant has made an appearance in a novel?

As far as I know it is the first time the Twisted Currant has made an appearance in a novel.

I was excited to see the word ‘Rodda’s’ on two to the little dishes in two of the photos. It’s the only clotted cream I ever buy when I want a treat. I’m lucky enough to live near a supermarket that always has it and so I can feel that little connection will Cornwall.

We use Rodda’s clotted cream with our cream teas. It is a local business which is now world renowned and is always lip-smackingly good. Clotted cream is understood to have been invented many years ago when a farmers wife inadvertently left a pot of cream on the stove overnight. When she came down in the morning the cream had thickened and clotted cream has been made ever since.

Amanda’s Future Go-To

Michael kindly said that he was ‘happy for you to mention the Twisted Currant in any of your books in the future.’ You can be sure that Amanda will be making a return visit to the literary version of the cafe. Thanks to Susan’s creation of the chocolate cream tea, I can see The Twisted Currant becoming a place of pilgrimage for chocolate lovers, as well as gluten-free and dairy-free visitors to Cornwall.  Guest houses, hotels and holiday cottages have now re-opened, if you would like to book your stay in one of Britain’s most beautiful areas, and sample the delights of the Twisted Currant for yourself.

Thanks, More? and The Sequel

It remains only for me to thank Michael and Susan for their sharing their experiences and granting me the use here of some choice photos from their Facebook page. (A rich selection of mouth-watering delights. Deliciously browsable!)

I hope that you have enjoyed our behind-the-scenes visit to one of the special places that have inspired locations and experiences in the Amanda Cadabra books. Please do let me know if you would like some more articles like this one.

Meanwhile, Book 7 has begun its flow. The all-important first paragraphs are written, and more is coming into being every day. And every night, when the characters like to chat to each other! The stream is moving, the blossoms, shops and businesses are opening, and the days are lengthening towards mid-summer. It’s all to come.

Happy May!


Holly

Red rose. Text: Happy Valentine's Day with thanks to ... Link image to video

St Valentine’s Day Message

Dear Readers,

This is a just a brief letter as I hope a video paints at least a thousand words, and in just over one minute. Here it is. I made this for you:

Red rose. Text: Happy Valentine's Day with thanks to ... Link image to video

The paperback is just a tweak away. More news soon.

Remember that today is just as much about appreciating friends as it is romantic connections. Even if those friends are books.

Happy St Valentine’s Day to you,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle

Amanda Cadabra Book 1 in ereader on table with greenery in the backgroun. Text: Free on Amazon 24, 25th August. Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth by Holly Bell

Free First Book in Cozy Mystery Series

Dear Readers,

Free

Today is the first of the two free days for Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, Book 1 in the British humorous cozy paranormal mystery series. I know that for some of you I’m preaching to the choir! However, you may have fellow literary enthusiasts who would love to start a new series, and Sunken Madley may be their next imaginary home.

Here is a video you might like to send to them that says it all in 21 seconds.

 

Bird in blue sky with text in white: Free. Link image to video for free days for Amanda Cadabra Book 1

Why?

‘What is the reason for this party favour?’ you may ask if you’re new the series. Exactly that. It’s in celebration of the launch at the weekend of Book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths.

Is you would like a taster of the new book, you can read the opening chapter in International Review of Books special edition within the International Dublin Writers Festival magazine to be published online this week.

How?

If you’re curious about what makes a British cozy paranormal mystery writer tick, then you can gain some insight soon. Book blogger and paranormal author Denise Fleischer is kindly interviewing me on 1st September on Gotta Write Network.

Next stop: the trailer for Book 5 and the paperback.

Wishing you a happy week with many unexpected delights,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle

COVID-19 in a Cozy Mystery - Do You Want It? Cosy scene of coffee mug on book and next to it a white mask with a green tick above a red cross

COVID-19 in a Cozy Mystery – Do You Want It?

Dear Readers,

What Is Your Pleasure?

Having written to you last week about health matters in fiction, this time, we get down to the nitty-gritty. Do you want the coronovirus, COVID-19, in the next Amanda Cadabra book?

CluesClues: Magnifying glass over 3 fingerprints

‘Your readers will tell you what they want.’ Three years ago, with the first book Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth newly published, my mentor TJ Brown said this to me. And he’s been right. So without polling, I’ve had to make a decision about whether to include the current health-related situation in the book now being written.

Why There’s An Issue

The Amanda Cadabra books are plotted in real-time. That means the Book 5 takes place during the late winter and early spring of 2020, culminating in the Equinox Ball at The Grange. That date, 22nd March, heralded the onset of the C-19 lockdown in the UK. Should it go in, or not?

Let’s pick this apart.

Where Could Corona Be Welcome?Wooden welcome sign set in a hedge with flowers

First, does the virus have a place in fiction at all? Yes, dystopian fantasy, drama, crime, thriller and horror could all comfortably accommodate it. The once fictional pandemic is now a familiar situation.

What about cozy mystery, though? Surely a situation that results in stress and hardship would be anomalous in a cozy setting. Or would it? Just like poison, it could be used as a murder weapon. Admittedly, it would not necessarily be a very reliable one, but nevertheless, it is a possibility.

Furthermore, by its very nature, the conditions resulting from coronavirus have both separated people from those they usually associate with but brought them together with others. Throw this into the mix, and it could make things interesting without actually introducing a single incidence of the illness.

In Sunken Madley?English village church and house - 'Sunken Madley'

However, in the case of Amanda Cadabra, the village of Sunken Madley is its own microcosm. The modern political situation is never mentioned (with the exception of a passing reference to library closures in Book 5) nor is it a topic of discussion there. The villagers have what they consider to be more interesting, immediate and closer to hand matters to discuss. Like St Mary Mead, the home Agatha Christie assigned to her sleuth Miss Marple, Sunken Madley operates within its own sphere.

The appeal of Agatha Christie’s cozy whodunits, apart from their puzzles, is their escapism. That’s a vital part of the essence of the genre. Add in the paranormal element, and that takes us even further into that pleasurable zone.

From What You’ve Told Me

Readers and reviewers have expressed their pleasure in the world of Sunken Madley and their time spent there. And when this period of the pandemic is over, is it really going to be something cozy readers will want to revisit or forget?

There is also the matter of, in practice, to what extent would it rock the village? No one gets ill in Sunken Madley. The senior citizens are probably the most physically robust people in the hamlet. The dream team of Mrs Sharma of the Corner Shop and Mr Sharma of the pharmacy would ensure everyone was supplied with all that they needed.

The DecisionBrass vintage scales - decision

What about social distancing? And there’s the rub. The Corner Shop conferences are highlights and essential of every book. So are the seasonal dances.

Consequently, you can rest assured that the world of Amanda Cadabra will remain COVID 19-free. The only health issue is Amanda’s asthma and therein, as readers know, lies a tale ….

Latest

Meanwhile, Amanda Cadabra Book 5 is steadily gaining ground, now at 35% of the way through.

Until next week, wishing you well, and cosily at home with a good book.

Happy reading,

Holly


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

Available

on

Amazon, Apple Books,
Kobo, Barnes & Noble and others.

Cornish connect - to a coz mystery?flower and steaming cup on book fading into Cornish scenery

The Cornish Connection – To An English Cozy Mystery?

Dear Readers,

Finding CornwallFinding Cornwall. Coast, path leading to a remote house

How did Cornwall do it? How did worm its way into the heart of a series mainly set an English village to the north of London? Depending on where you live or are from, you may ask, as someone enquired of me, ‘Where is Cornwall?
It’s in the south-west of mainland Britain, the bit under Wales that spikes out into the Atlantic pointing off towards the distant shores of The New World.

What’s So Special?

Cornwall and the Cornish were regarded as a separate place and people until the fourteenth century, by those on both sides of the border. Cornwall has its own language, it’s own flag, customs and heritage. In 2014 the UK government granted the Cornish minority status and the Cornish tongue given funding to encourage its spread and development.

Dead and Gone?

Neither. The traditional opinion is that the last native speaker Dolly Pentreath breathed her last in 1777. However, there is a body of evidence that suggests it never entirely died out at all. Cornwall is a land of remote nooks and crannies, plus families migrated to other parts of the world but took their language with them.

Today there are bilingual speakers and a stream of new learners. The presence of support groups and organisations for students, Cornish books in libraries and schools, events (most famously the Gorsedh), poetry, literature, and songs are all testimony to a living breathing and thriving language.

Mysterious?Daphne du Maurier - author of Rebecca

Oh yes, tales of pixies, ghosts and giants, are coupled with romantic landscape from plummeting cliffs, crashing waves, soft sands, rolling hills and the bleak beauty of the moors. These have drawn artists and writers for hundreds of years. One, in particular, raised Cornwall in the public consciousness: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Jamaica Inn – haunted, one case a man by his past and the other by strange lights and sounds in the dead of night!

Mist and mystery, the quintessential ‘country’ accent, the ‘oo arr, Jim lad’ of the stereotypical pirate, the crafty smugglers, the lone lighthouse, the golden light of the remote inn welcoming the weary traveller are an irresistible cocktail. All of these make it the perfect association for not just a cozy mystery but a cosy paranormal one.
So how did it entwine itself with the fictional English village of Sunken Madley?

Back to the Roots

For this, we must return to the very inception of the series. Once I had the name Amanda Cadabra, her character and history formed before my very eyes. She was an orphan, her family had gone over a cliff when she was an infant. What cliffs were at my disposal? Cornwall immediately came to mind. Suitably dramatic coastline.
What were they doing there? They were Cornish. Therefore Amanda is Cornish and, therefore, so are her grandparents.

Next, we needed a police presence. He is investigating the cold case of the Cornish accident. Therefore he is Cornwall, and he is Cornish, like his boss, Chief Inspector Hogarth. A typical Cornish name for our hero? Thomas Trelawney, Detective Inspector.

Magical LanguageYoung wizard with a magic scroll - cartoon

As the plot began to form, I also realised I need the ingredient of a magical language. What alternatives were there? Latin as so skilfully used by JK Rowling in the Harry Potter Books, spells used in Disney films, the Elvish of Tolkein or just plain made-up. So it came to me that a melange would be a way of connecting Cornwall and England. I read that witches, wise women and men, from both sides of the border supported one another, especially during the decades of the infamous witch trials. What if that led to a mixture of Cornish and old English. Using online dictionaries, I cobbled together spells words and phrases. In doing so, I became curious about the structure of each tongue.

The Real Thing

On impulse I began to research. Discovering the Cornish revival, it seemed only respectful to honour it by learning how to speak and write it properly. The flame was of fascination burned higher. I found an online course with Kesva, the Cornish Language Board, and more resources at Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek, the Cornish Language Fellowship. The first email of enquiry was written, I was put in contact with a tutor, I found my way to Cornish language books and the book shops that sell them. At Christmas, I came upon Keur Heb Hanow, a singing quartet, and corresponded with one of them. I dug for Facebook groups and found a home with We Love Kernewek, Our Cornish Language. Everywhere I went, I found kind and helpful people.

Wish Fulfillment

And all the while, the dream of visiting grew stronger. That is soon to come true. Amanda Cadabra has thus brought me yet another whole new circle of friends, experience. When I come back from Cornwall, I’ll have new photos, videos and stories to share with you, dear readers.

Meanwhile, I have Amanda Cadabra Book 5 to continue writing and Cornish revision to do! Back soon …

Happy discovering,

Holly


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

Available

on

Amazon

The writers dilemma - writing or research - woman hands on map bluring into book

The Writer’s Dilemma – The Reader’s Reward

Dear Readers,

The Fiction Author’s QuandaryTwo cats nose to nose - the writers dilemma

This week we travel into the fascinating dilemma that faces every writer: research or writing. Which do I do first? How much? How much research is too much? Do I need to do any at all? If so, why? What are the options? What does it mean for the reader?

Thanks to the kind hosting of Denise Fleischer on gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com the answers to the great research versus writing question are revealed are in my guest post on her website. Here is a taster:

‘In the winter of 2017, I heard two words that were to change my life: cozy mystery. After years of protesting that I was strictly a non-fiction writer, within half an hour, I was persuaded that here was the fantasy-related genre for me.

Banner for https://gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/guest-blog-post-getting-it-down-or-looking-it-up-writing-versus-research/ I was given guidelines, but soon I was off finding lists and explanations of the ‘formula’ for a successful cozy, in my case, cozy paranormal mystery. Yes, it was easy for me, research comes naturally. Nevertheless, there is a difference between fact-checking for informational accuracy and world-building. The question new writers often ask is, do you research first, “look it up” or dive into the creative activity by “getting it down”?’

Read on …
susan hampson book from dusk till dawn link to blog post reviewing Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth

Surprise

Just two days after I heard from Denise, a second delight beamed into my week. Susan Hampson, reviewer at booksfromdusktilldawn.blog, wrote to say that she had not only reviewed Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth on her website, Goodreads and Amazon but had also posted on 12 other book blog sites! If you are thinking of starting the Amanda Cadabra series or would like to recommend it to a friend, you can read it here.

Exclusive to Inclusive

In the past week, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth has gone from being available only through Amazon to ‘going wide’. That means it is now also published through Barnes & Nobel, Apple Books, Kobo and several others.

Next week I plan to examine The Cornish Connection of the series and to share with you the unexpected places research for that has led me …

Happy reading,

Holly


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

Available

on

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and others

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