Tag Archives for " cozy mystery "

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 analyse pk de la population sera effectuée.

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

New Cover Reveal – All Change – Why?

Dear Readers,

Today sees the unveiling of the new cover, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, first in the (to date) 6-book British humorous cozy paranormal mystery series. The question is,

Why the change?Hand holding book on left and light bulb on the right. Getting ideas for book cover

The series is about to enter a new era. But more that later. As the first book is most likely the first in the series that new readers will see, it needed something special. Rather than re-moulding the scene on the previous cover, I told the story of the book to our illustrator Daniel Becerril Ureña, and left it up to him to let his imagination form his own creative ideas.

Book cover idea sketch - Daniel Becerril UreñaDaniel’s Visions

Out of 6 sketches that Daniel supplied, this was the scene that we both thought was the strongest.

Daniel has conjured a combination of modern era, magical whimsy and the golden age of the cozy mystery: the 1930s. Research time runs into many hours, following my nose down narrow alleys to obscure websites and broad streets of mainstream sources like Wikipedia. To supply Daniel with reference images, I scoured pages of 1930s covers. The colour palette of the cover echoes that period, even Amanda’s dress neckline is out of a vintage illustration on an authentic dress patterns packet.

Period Drama

The setting is a room in a Tudor house, Sunken Madley Manor. The wardrobe door and the door are from period furniture, and the edge of the tapestry on the right of the cover is drawn from an example using Tudor pictorial and decorative traditions. The Holland cover (sheet for protecting furniture) over the wardrobe adds a ghostly feel.

The light coming between the partly open curtains, suggests we are peeking through them, getting a look at a secret scene, as privileged viewers.

The Emerging Final Version

As Daniel adds each new layer, new aspects and details become apparent that could benefit from tweaking. Daniel patiently applies these and sends back iteration after iteration until it is perfect. Finally, it goes to Tim, my mentor who acts as design consultant and to Kim, our editor.

Then, it’s ready for the partial reveal. Next, it is loaded on Amazon, ready to pass their quality control and be published. At the same time, the full cover reveal is announced here and on Facebook. Usually Twitter and Instagram get a look-in too.

Revelations

This is a process that can take from weeks to months. From seed to seedling, to sapling to mature tree. It’s organic and well as procedural and takes an artist with an intuitive understanding of the spirit of the series as well as technical expertise. It also takes a good personality fit. Working with Daniel is immensely enjoyable. There’s a high of excitement every time he sends a first sketch or a new iteration. I love seeing his ingenuity in creating scenes and details I would never have imagined. Being able to work so closely with ‘a creative’ is one of the great unexpected perks of being an independent author.

What Else is New?

The map of  Book 1, Sunken Madley in Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth has been updated with the smartened up versions of some of the most important buildings and locations in the village.

Tomorrow Book 1, in its smart new outfit, is being entered for an award. Later this week, I look forward to typing up more midnight notes (still coming) for the new sequel.

Back soon with more news.

Wishing you a happy conclusion to spring,

Holly

Behind the Scenes of the New Cozy Mystery

Dear Readers,

Three Treats To Come

3 muffins on a leaf shaped white plate with a small bunch of berries on the right hand sideToday we follow the trail to Denise Fleischer’s ingenious questions that prompted me to reveal … maybe not all … but, well, you’ll see. Denise, through her splendid book review site Gotta Write Network, is kindly hosting a blog tour spotlight of my latest book launched just last month on Kindle and in paperback. This includes an interview, a guest post and an excerpt from the new novel. I’ll let you know when the other two enter stage left.

Behind the Curtain

Golden curtain on left pulled aside to show crocuses in morning sunlightBack to the Q&Q. If you are curious about the creation of Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, the latest in the Amanda Cadabra series, read on …

Denise: In Book 6 of the British, humorous, cozy paranormal mystery series of Amanda Cadabra, you focus on the strange case of Lucy Penlowr. How are the readers introduced to the case?

Holly: The book begins with a dream that Amanda has while travelling to Cornwall with Detective Inspector Trelawney. She witnesses a fire in a grand house and a murder. Trelawney wonders if it has anything to do with the story of Lucy that they are going there to hear.

Denise: Who is Hogarth and why can’t he stop thinking about a case from 30 years ago where children allegedly began to go missing?

Holly: Retired Chief Inspector Michael Hogarth, of the Devon and Cornwall police, was and is Trelawney’s boss and best friend. He is also Amanda’s honorary uncle. The cold case has unexpectedly personal associations for Hogarth, and links to Amanda and Trelawney. At the end of the previous book, Lucy, from deep in the shadows, tells Amanda that it is time for Hogarth to tell ‘Lucy’s story.’ It may be that Amanda is the key to solving the case.

Denise: What is the history of Bodmin Moor? What’s located in this area?Tor on Bodmin Mor looking out over green wild landscape

Holly: Bodmin is a granite moor at the heart of Cornwall, the south-east peninsula of mainland Britain. It is at least 60 million years old, and humans have lived there for at least 10,000 years. Now few people dwell there.

Brown Willy is the highest point in Cornwall, and the moor is rich in Bronze Age monuments, stone circles and ancient burial structures. The landscape is of barren rocks set a lush green of grass, marram, moss and bog. It is perfectly safe during the day but after dark …. It is also known for the legendary Beast of Bodmin Moor, the haunted Jamaica Inn (made famous by Daphne du Maurier), the ghost of a Victorian murdered girl, and witchcraft!

Denise: Is there a reason Hogarth and Trelawney’s father, Kyt, are eager to tell Amanda about the case and about Growan House? 

read more …

Meanwhile

I hope that you enjoy the interview, and the book. Back soon with news of the next project. Meanwhile, here is the post-launch trailer which includes some beautiful footage of Bodmin Moor from professional cameraman Paddy Scott, and two talented amateur photographers.

Link image to video of trailer for Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr. Book leaning on Cornish granite. Text: Now on Amazon

Happy spring!

Holly


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

Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle

Bird against blue sky with brown paper wrapped parcel suspended from its beak by string

New Cozy Sequel Alert

Dear Readers,

Launch day of the new book is approaching!

Cream globe, framed question mark and white coffee cupWhere’s the book?

The sequel, Book 6 in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series is now with our editor, Kim, of Brockway Gatehouse Literary Services.

Daniel, our illustrator, is tweaks away from completing the cover. The book is with the Inner Circle of beta readers who check for any stray typographical and grammatical errors. Shortly, it will be going out to the VIP readers for an advance read-and-feedback before publication.

Image of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, Book 1 in the series, next to snowdrops. Text: Free with Book 6 launchFree Book 1

Once again, as has become customary for a new book launch, Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, will be free for download for about 48 hours, so any new readers who would like a taster can enjoy the first book without cost.

What’s the line-up?

What can you expect next? First, the title reveal: a bit different from the one shown at the end of Book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths. Then a partial cover reveal with which to tease and tantalise! The full cover reveal will soon follow, however. A highlight will be the trailer video, then launch day, and the free Book 1 offer. No doubt there will be other goodies along the way.

Grey cat leaning forward over wall with questioning look on its face: what?What’s it all about?

Never before have I written a book so quickly. December was an amazingly exciting month for that very reason (as well as Christmas!). So what is about?

Cover witch, Amanda Cadabra travels into Cornwall, driven by the tenacious Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney of the Devon and Cornwall Police. Much to the inspector’s discomfiture, they are, of course, accompanied by Amanda’s irascible and incorrigible feline familiar, Tempest.

At his home in the clifftop hamlet of Mornan Bay, she hears a story from her honorary Uncle Mike and Trelawney’s boss, mentor and best friend. This is a tale whose ending Amanda must supply, solving a cold case murder up on Bodmin Moor, facing her greatest test yet, on her most perilous journey into the past.

Home, Sweet Home?

For fans of Amanda’s quaint English village of Sunken Madley, never fear, for the book ends up there, with all the familiar favourites at The Corner Shop and The Grange. There Amanda gets a warning about her next puzzle.

orange rose with deeper orange edges to say thank youSpecial Thanks

Finally, to all the new readers who have joined the Holly Bell Facebook page in recent weeks, thank you so very much for adding your valued presence.

Right … next on the list: the trailer!

Back soon,

Happy January reading,

 

Holly


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

Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle

Girl reading in bed, grey book hides her face as she reads. In foreground is a pile of red books and on one spine is the word Love.

An 11-Year-Old Falls in Love – my early book affairs

Dear Readers,

The Big Change

It’s massive now. It wasn’t then. Oh dear, can it be cured, I hear you ask. I do hope not. What I am describing is the collection of books written for teenagers, middle grade and young adult.

Only in recent years have these sections of the library blossomed into a wealth of literature that offers entertainment, reassurance, understanding and insight to young people.

Camel eating greenery in the desertOases in the Desert?

From 11-14 were crucial formative reading years for me. But in the comparative desert of books for that age, how did I find the authors that would one day contribute to the creation of Amanda Cadabra and her cozy paranormal mystery world?

The answers lie a click away. Short story author and poet

    Nicole Pyles

has just generously treated me to a guest blog post space on her splendid book review website,

    The World of My Imagination

. If you love books, do check out her YouTube

    An Ode To Books

. It is simply one of the most beautiful and moving videos I have ever seen.

And now to revelations of my love affair and subsequent teenage dreams … Just click the image and …

Image link to Nicole Pyles website for guest post by Holly Bell on the books that inspired her from 11-14 years of age. Blue background with white text: The World of My Imagination

Back soon with news of the paperback version (it’s now available on Kindle) of

    Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths

, now very close to publication. Plus one more free day for Book 1.

Happy reading,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle

Cover Reveal - Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths by Holly Bell

Cover Reveal – Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths

Dear Readers,

First Glance

Coloured pencils with tips forming a heart shapeIt was love at first sight. Just over two weeks ago, our outstanding illustrator Daniel sent me four sketches from which to choose. I had a breathless moment when I laid eyes on the fourth one. I kept looking back at it. Knowing it might be the most challenging of all of the compositions, I was confident Daniel could make it work.

Balancing Act and Countdown

I’d given Daniel two or three possible cover scenes from the story. They would need to be arresting and attractive but with no spoilers. There also needed to be some continuity with the previous covers in the series.

Daniel was due to go on leave shortly. He sent me the various stages, and I asked for tweaks that he patiently made. Knowing how industrious he is, the last thing I wanted was for Daniel to have to work on my project during his vacation. With just 4 hours to go until his departure, the cover was done!

Cover of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths - girl in orange sleevless dress with wand, books in the background. Pile of books on floor in foreground with cat on top

This Weekend

Rocket launchingHere it is for your viewing pleasure. For me, it’s the best Daniel has produced for the Amanda Cadabra series. I was thrilled. My mentor’s reaction was — and please bear in mind that he works in graphics — ‘Wow, classy.’

We are only days away from the launch of the book, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths, so I’m working on the trailer video now. The book is due to become available this weekend on Amazon, first of all for Kindle.

As though things weren’t happening fast enough, Book 6 has started writing itself! If you would like to know what the title of that new book will be … you’ll find it at the end of Book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths.

Back on launch day with news of trailer movie magic and the paperback edition.

Happy reading,

Holly


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

Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle

Medical atters in cozy mysteryCuddly toy dog wearing toy stethoscope beside book with real stethoscope on it

Medical Matters in Cozy Mystery – Do they have a place?

Dear Readers,

What is something so grim as illness doing in a light, comfortable mystery? Let me tell you a story.

Back in the day, I went on a first date. It was with a Welshman, in a beautiful spot on the river Thames: Maidenhead. The restaurant was right by the water, blue from the sky from where the sun was shining. It was a golden day, and I was hopeful of passing an enjoyable lunchtime.

And then …

My date began to discourse. He gleefully related anecdote after anecdote of disease and resulting fatality.Cartoon of smiley grim reaper in countryside
‘There was this man, you see?’ the Welshman continued with relish. ‘It was in the papers. Twenty-five he was and fit as a fiddle, so he thought. An athlete. And then. One day. He dropped dead. Stone dead.’
‘Really?’ I asked curiously.
‘Tuberculosis! Didn’t know he had it. Well, doesn’t that just go to show? You never know.’
I repeatedly tried to turn to the conversation to happier themes, but with determination, he wrenched it back. Finally, realising what I was trying to do, he explained,
‘I like a bit of death.’

As you can imagine, I excused myself as soon as possible, and we did not have a second encounter. But what is the point of my sharing that with you?

It’s that the story is amusing. It has likely made you smile, even laugh. It has lifted your mood, even though it includes sickness and mortality. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that medical matters can have a place in light literature.

First edition cover of A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie. Text and yello and turquoise palm frondsseHealth Issues in the Great Cozies

Let’s look at one of the novels Daphne du Maurier, who has been listed as a cozy mystery author. In Rebecca, it is a health condition that is the key to unlocking the puzzle of ‘what happened that night?’ There are no disturbing medical details. They would be extraneous to the plot and the genre. We are simply informed of the illness.

In The Pale Horse, Agatha Christie uses disability to throw us off the scent. Miss Marple’s recovery from illness takes us to warmer climbs where she might convalesce in A Caribbean Mystery.

PotionsLittle botte of purple liquid marked poison, on wooden table in the sunshine

A popular device in whodunnits is the victim’s medication, being used as a vehicle for murder most foul: an overdose or substituted with a dangerous substance or with something harmless but depriving the patient of necessary medicine. What is crucial is the treatment, if you’ll excuse the pun, of the illness. That is, no graphic details, just as a cozy murder takes place usually off-camera.

Why Asthma for Amanda?

So we come to medical matters in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series. I have been asked why I gave our heroine debilitating asthma. Doesn’t that make her weak? Physically, yes, she is below par. However, that is the very reason why she needs the indispensable component of the genre, magic. She also relies on her familiar, who is, in a sense, her seeing-eye cat.

The origin of Amanda’s asthma provides a vital part of the overall story arc of the series. It also gives her a reason to be at the clinic constructed during Book 2, Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets. It creates balance with Inspector Trelawney. He surpasses her in fitness, but she has the greater, and vitally important, mystical abilities.

A Bit Special

When I researched the format, the formula for a cozy paranormal mystery, I knew that I wanted mine to be a bit different. Amanda’s physical limitations give her the opportunity to develop and demonstrate other kinds of strength. On the other hand, at the same time, it makes her grandparents and fellow villagers disarmingly protective regardless of however provoking their quirks might be!

A medical condition sees the dispatch of one of the less likeable characters. It also influences Granny and Grandpa’s decision as to which level of existence they choose and when.

So, I hope you’re satisfied with the place of medical matters in the cozy context. Even fatalities, the very heart of a whodunit. Perhaps, after all, you’ll say as regards your taste in literature,
‘I like a bit of death!’

Latest

Meanwhile, I am now 30,000 words into Amanda Cadabra Book 5, with 15 chapters complete and pretty much finalised.

Back next time with more musings for your entertainment.

Happy reading,

Holly


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

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