Just seven weeks from the launch of Book 7, and now the question is, what about the next book? As I mentioned on Facebook: I’m on the case. But …
First things first
Thank you to everyone who has joined us on the Holly Bell Facebook page, who has begun reading here, who has subscribed and my favourite of all, who has written to tell me of your enjoyment of the books.
As soon as Book 7 had had its send off and the post-launch bits and pieces were attended to, there was an urgent matter that needed my attention. As you know, all of the books are set partly in Cornwall and Book 6 almost entirely. The magical language in the series, Wicc’yeth, is formed from a mixture of Old English and … Cornish. This language outstrips English in its antiquity and has been undergoing a significant revival and modernisation in recent years. All of the main characters in the books are Cornish too.
Consequently, soon after I began writing the first book, I started studying Kernowek – the Cornish language, and am now taking my Grade III exams (there are three). As you might expect, no sooner had the confetti and streamers from the release of Book 7 settled than daily cramming commenced. For hours a day, I was beavering away at revision, imagining that once the exams were out of the way, then Book 8 would begin in earnest.
A Life of Its Own
But I have much less say in these matters than you might imagine. You may have heard or read these words before:
‘The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there; I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
These words are, correctly or not, attributed to Michaelangelo at the unveiling of his celebrated statue of David. This monumental work was carved from a single block of marble, and now stands in pride of place in Accademia Gallery in Florence. Regardless of precisely what was intended by the remark or how it has been used or interpreted since, it resonates with me when it comes to the emergence of each new book.
Another way of looking at it is to think about a kitten. Everyone likes thinking about kittens, surely. From the point of conception, physical characteristics are determined, and to some extent, their genetics influence the trend of our personalities. But it is now set in stone whether the kitten will be ginger, tabby, white or … grey. Sleek, shaggy or … thick-furred. Blue, grey, green, brown or … citrine-eyed. I make reference here to Amanda’s grumpy familiar who, of course, arrived fully formed.
But I digress. It feels to me as though each book knows what it is going to be before I do. That may sound fanciful, but the experience of writing is more of the books forming themselves, like a pot on a wheel, under my hands guiding the clay, except they arrive in snippets or sections or ideas.
The moment of Creation and Early Stages
So when was the point of conception for Book 8? It was when I was writing Book 6. I knew where this new book was going to be set. And that’s all. During the writing of Book 7, I began to have vague ideas about the plot. Then came an epiphany. Daniel, our illustrator, sent me seven sketches for the cover of Book 7. One caught my eye, and I knew that it was going to be the cover for Book 8, or at least, that moment that he had so cleverly captured was going to be featured in the story. How? Well, that was a matter for the future.
A few weeks ago, while writing the Letter to my dear subscribers, suddenly the title came to me. I had various notions of parts of the book but no clear idea of how they would link together.
And then …
Pre-dawn, brain awake and popping with ideas, instead of turning to my Cornish books, for two hours, the plot for the new book formed itself in the cauldron of my imagination as I pattered it out on the keyboard, stopping to follow my lines of research. The day-star rose. By the time that sleepiness concluded my session, I had the bones of the plot laid down.
Since Tuesday at Dawn
From the following day until now, my brain has been in Cornish revision mode. My oral exam, at the time of writing, was looming large. There will be Cornish in the next book, as usual. The story may even take to that beautiful land in the Southwest of mainland Britain. The point is that all of the hours, months and even years of Cornish study feed into the writing process. It’s all part of the joyful ride that has brought new friends, new ideas, inspiration and new sources of pleasure my way.
If you’d like to know more about how and why I came to learn the language and the process, if you put Cornish into the search bar, then the articles should come up.
If your curiosity about learning the language has been piqued, you can visit gocornish.com or drop me a line, and I will be delighted to help you.
That’s all for now. Be assured that I have things in store for you that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ll be back soon.
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print
The Launch Date is Confirmed
The official release of of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, will be on Sunday, 27th March. With just 3 days to go, here is the penultimate revelation: Chapter 1, laid bare below.
What Does Chapter 1 Mean?
There is something special about having written the first chapter of a novel. It isn’t usually the first part of a new book that I write, you see. The opening scene or paragraphs may come to me early on in the process, but the rest of the chapter could take its time. However, when it is in place, the collection of notes – scenes, dialogue, even a complete chapter here and there – suddenly, in my mind, becomes ‘The Book’. There is the feeling of acceleration and the certainty that it will, at some point, go forth into the world of dear readers, fully formed.
As so, it is about to happen. What can you expect on Sunday?
The brand new Book 7 Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, the standalone sequel, will be available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback.
The Kindle edition will be available, for a limited time, at a 20% discount.
Book 6, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, will be free to download for the day and Monday.
Oh, and of course, there will be a launch display video for your entertainment.
Finally, I would like to thank you for your patience. Almost immediately after Book 6 was published, some of you loyal readers were asking for the next in the series. Now, I am delighted to say that the new book’s release into your hands is just hours away.
Until Sunday, I leave you with this. Just scroll down and you will be transported to the world of Sunken Madley with:
It was difficult to make out what it was. The fog was being compounded by smoke from a nearby garden bonfire. Amanda ventured closer. Oh … just a sack of old leaves, wasn’t it? Probably from last autumn. Strange though. It wasn’t like Irene to be untidy.
Another few steps, No … She stood stock-still, the mist clinging to her skin. Amanda looked up at the branch above her … then down at the form beneath. The rope attached to it lay there like a pale dead snake. … Surely not … not this. … not here …
The day began promisingly. Amanda awoke naturally after a full night’s sleep to the song of the blackbird; there’d been some hazy dream or other. One of the downsides of being a back-sleeper was that she often surfaced to find a cat on her stomach. And not just any cat. Tempest, her familiar, was thick-furred in a collection of storm greys, citrine-eyed and constitutionally disgruntled.
Tempest, sensing his human was stirring, moved up to her chest and pushed his head out from under the quilt. Amanda smiled blearily, rubbing one blue eye, and stroked his head.
‘Good morning, Tempest.’
He stared at her meaningfully.
‘Yes, I know,’ she acknowledged tolerantly, ‘Breakfast. I must get up anyway. I have magic practice.’
Forty minutes later found Amanda, clad in green boiler suit and trainers, mouse-brown hair in a messy plait, kneeling on the floor of her furniture restoration workshop. But not yet engaged in restoration. She was instead screwing spare antique bow handles next to the four edges of an old flat-surfaced door. Observing Amanda, with a mixture of ennui and amusement, was Tempest.
‘There,’ she pronounced optimistically, ‘that should do it. First, a test run.’
‘Aerevel ynentel,’ she pronounced, and the door rose gently into the air until she halted its progress with ‘sessiblin’ and landed it with ‘sedaasig.’ This was Amanda’s particular gift, inherited through Perran, her grandfather, from the Cadabras. Since his elopement with Senara, née Cardiubarn, of the nefarious neighbouring witch-clan, he had been, ostensibly, estranged from his family. Yet, he had never regretted the union with his beloved Senara.
Of course, as far as the village was concerned, the couple were now, in what the ‘transitioned’ regarded as vulgar parlance: dead. They were, in fact, enjoying a somewhat different plane of existence, from which they made frequent visits either spontaneously or at Amanda’s request.
However, currently she and Tempest were the sole occupants of the workshop. It was here, where Perran had taught all, or at least, most of what he knew to Amanda, to whom he had bequeathed it together with the Vauxhall Astra. The vehicle was in British racing green, and along each side bore the legend in gold script: Cadabra Furniture Restoration and Repairs.
His granddaughter was presently regarding the door on the floor with satisfaction coupled with a degree of hesitation.
‘Good,’ she pronounced. ‘And now ….’
Amanda took a deep breath and stepped onto the door, sat down, and took hold of each of the two handles on the long sides. She focused and issued the command,
‘Aerevel ynentel.’ Amanda opened her eyes wide at the strange sensation of rising off the floor, inch by inch. Distracted, she lost her concentration, the surface tilted wildly, and she cried out instinctively,
‘Grandpa! Help me!’
Instantly a tall, silver-haired man appeared and, smiling, steadied her with a gesture and landed the door.
‘Oh, thank you,’ said Amanda with relief, putting a hand to her chest. Then, as a shocking thought occurred to her, she added, ‘Grandpa, did you put a spell on me?’ Casting magic on humans was absolutely vetoed. It had got her, and even the village of Sunken Madley, into far too much trouble in the past.
‘No, bian,’ Perran Cadabra assured Amanda, addressing her by his pet name for her, Cornish for ‘baby’, ‘just the board and the air around you.’ Calmed by his soft accent, hailing from the far south-west of the British Isles, and unfailingly kindly manner, she sighed,
‘Ah.’ Now, her tell was clear to see. In the presence of magic, the tiny brown islands in the sea of her blue eyes expanded into continents. Her close-work glasses helped to hide it, but anyone who knew what to look for could observe the singular effect.
‘All right?’ asked Grandpa. ‘Ready to try again? Just an inch or two off the ground this time.’
‘Yes … I don’t have all that long to practice, by the way.’
‘I know,’ replied Grandpa, nodding. ‘You’re meeting the inspector at a quarter past nine to give him the official Sunken Madley tour.’
‘That’s right. Ok, I’m ready. Back on the horse. Or, should I say … door?’
The somewhat wayward village of Sunken Madley, to which Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney of the Devon and Cornwall Police was now assigned, lay 13 miles to the north of the Houses of Parliament, and three miles south of the border of Hertfordshire. Its roots in the rural landscape, from which it had grown over a period of 800 years, were still in evidence to those who cared to look. It was embraced by ancient orchards and the sheltering Madley Wood. The village was a long way in every sense from the Cornish coastal town where Trelawney had been born and bred.
The inspector was a study in unobtrusiveness, in classic, well-cut grey suit and quiet, self-patterned matching tie. His short, light-brown hair was neither styled in a dated manner nor at the edge of current fashion. His features were pleasant, he was well-spoken, accentless, his manner mild and courteous. The sort of man, Amanda had often thought, one did not notice, until one really noticed.
Trelawney looked at his watch. He decided that he had sufficient time to make a diversion to The Corner Shop for a snack pack of almonds. There’d been a toaster crisis at his mother’s – which had been the school-holidays home of his youth after his parents’ divorce – and breakfast had turned into a rather vague affair.
His arrival at the nerve centre of the village coincided with the approach of Dennis Hanley-Page, a septuagenarian whose exuberant progress through life was entirely uninterrupted by the passing of the years.
Dennis was at that moment manifesting his eclectic musical taste. The final few bars of Rock the Casbah by The Clash echoed down the street, followed by the opening of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, as Dennis approached at 70 miles per hour. A red Triumph Spitfire, Dennis’s latest acquisition as proprietor of Vintage Vehicles, raced into view. The village had somehow managed to maintain a legacy speed limit from either the 1930’s or 70’s. Trelawney was simply grateful that he was not there to police the traffic, and entered The Corner Shop, while Dennis parked and secured his car.
Ding! The door heralded the inspector’s entrance.
‘Pen hates therapists,’ Joan the postlady was saying to Mrs Sharma, proprietor, and Sylvia, the hi-vis-vest-clad octogenarian lollipop lady. She was but recently arrived at the establishment from her labours of safely ushering the school children across the road. This duty she performed with the aid of her round stop sign on a long pole, hence her job title.
‘Hello, Inspector,’ they chorused in warm welcome. Joan brought him up to speed.
‘We’re talking about the new renter of the Sharma’s shop at the end of the High Street here. And I was about to say as no one could hate our new therapist. He’s a sweetie.’
‘Oh I know,’ enjoined Sylvia. ‘That would be like hating … Mother Theresa.’
‘Or Stephen Fry,’ returned Joan.
Ding! went the shop door.
‘Or Dolly Parton,’ chimed in Dennis, debonairly sweeping off his tweed cap. ‘Everyone likes Dolly Parton.’
‘We know you do,’ returned Sylvia with a grin, after they had greeted him.
‘Well,’ commented Joan, ‘my Jim says what with my hair and my curves, that I’m a tall, size 16 ringer for Dolly, bless ‘im.’
‘You’ve got a good man there, Joan,’ Sylvia remarked.
‘Oh, I have, I have. You know, when we was courting, and I mighta told you this story before …’
Trelawney was aware of the time and his appointment with his landlady-to-be and his new partner Miss Cadabra. However, he was even more conscious of his new status in the village, with its upgrade from ‘Honorary Village’ to ‘Village’. He had been warned that Sunken Madley was not like his Cornish home town of Parhayle, and they would have their own pace.
This was the last place he’d expected to end up and the last business he’d ever imagined he’d be embroiled in. Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney had regarded magic as a lot of mumbo jumbo and himself as a modern man, living in a modern world, solving modern, and also admittedly age-old, crimes, with the aid of modern techniques.
And then …
To be continued in Chapter 2
I hope that you enjoyed that. See you on Sunday.
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print