Light streams up through the darkness of the ancient church colouring the stained glass windows. I didn’t see it. I heard it. And I was sure I must have been mistaken.
Moments later, there it is was on the screen. I exchanged wide-eyed glances with my friend sitting on the same pew. Yes, she had heard it too: the name.
Son et Lumière
The fictional village of Sunken Madley, in which all of the Amanda Cadabra British humorous cozy paranormal mysteries are set, is based on a real place. Its name: Monken Hadley, a small community with a thousand-year-old history just north of London. This year they are celebrating 525 years since the rebuilding of the medieval church, most likely damaged in the Battle of Barnet. Every quarter of a century, this restoration is marked with a special event. Only a few days ago, in 2019, it was a retelling the story of the church and village in a spectacular Son et Lumière, sound and light.
The event started at 3.30pm, but by the time the startling revelation occurred, it was already night outside. The monks of the old priory, the opposing sides of the famous battle, the gentry and the philanthropists of long ago had passed and sounded before our eyes and ears. The tale had reached the period of the first world war. The narrator spoke of a memorial stone on the walls of the building where we sat, dedicated to one … and that was when my ears pricked up…
How It All Began
In the winter of 2018, my author pal TJ Brown convinced me that I could pen a cozy paranormal mystery. I had been adamant for years that I was strictly a non-fiction writer and fantasy was way beyond my ken. But Tim knew better. He encourage me to go off to research the genre, and presently we sat down together to begin the process of creation. First, we needed a name for the heroine. I knew it had to be something to do with magic. With a thesaurus list before us, we tried out different forenames and surnames, googled possible variations to see if they’d been used. The clock ticked away. We began growing tired and then … playing around with Abracadabra .. Tim came out with it: Amanda Cadabra! I repeated it in my head. Yes. We’d found her.
Suddenly, I heard the name, the name of her cat, I knew he was a collection of greys, he had livid yellow eyes and was permanently grumpy. It was the first name and the first thing that came to me. I had never seen it as a person’s name before, I knew it only as a weather system and the title of a Shakespeare play.
In the days that followed as I began to get a sense of Amanda and her familiar. I knew I had to find the right location for them. It had to be a village, and as I’d never lived in one, it had to be on the outskirts of a big city. I pulled up Google maps and began the search.
I’d have said that I knew the area pretty well, but I had no recollection of having seen the name of this particular village. Soon I was in the car and heading along the A1000, itself with a long history. Off the beaten track I went, by a pond, between trees and around the bend.
Behold. I knew: I had found my village, the village of Monken Hadley. Of course, I couldn’t call it that, so what about transposing the first letters … Hunken Madley? No … not quite right … another word ending in ‘unken’ … sunken … and it was born: Sunken Madley.
I tell you all of this, so you will understand why what I heard in the dim echoes of the church on that dark afternoon was so startling. I had no prior knowledge or use of that word as a pronoun or of that village.
So we’re in the dark of the church, sitting in a pew near the back looking up at the big screen, with the rest of the audience. We are hearing the saga of Monken Hadley and the officer whose efforts were instrumental in the achievement of the peace of 1918. Sadly he died just weeks before the end of the World War 1. His name? Charles Tempest-Hicks. The name of Amanda’s magical cat? Tempest.
Shivers ran down my spine, chills of excitement. Was the brave captain my muse? Had he been a cat lover? Was I being inspired? What would you say is the answer to the real-life mystery? Do share your thoughts with me.
Regardless, I am overjoyed that Tim motivated me to begin my cozy mystery journey, that he thought of Amanda Cadabra, that Tempest came to me. It is a source of continuing delight that Monken Hadley somehow drew me, that I have met so many kind people there, and that I travel back in time whenever I visit, Through writing this series, I have connected with all the dear readers who help and support and encourage me. I am thrilled to be on the journey of a lifetime, and that you join me in it. Thank you.
What it was all for
This year the sound and light show raised money for the restoration of a precious listed building, the 400-year-old church house, so that it can serve the community as was intended. And believe me, the entire community, from young to old all participated in creating the 525 experience. Seeing them waving happily at us in the closing credits brought a lump to my throat. Proceeds from tickets and donations also went to to the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice.
If you’re ever passing, do pop into the church of St Mary the Virgin, Monken Hadley. You can be assured a warm welcome and a moving and enchanting experience. It delighted at least one of our American cousins so much that it became the model for a church built in Chappacua, USA.
Next week: an offer and something new for December to help with your Christmas shopping. Want to get to know Tempest? Download your free short story here: Tempest’s First Day. Back soon!
PS If you want to start the series:
It is my great pleasure to open the curtain (just enough) on the cover art by my new illustrator Erik Patricio Lúa who has been working tirelessly, bringing his extraordinary talents to the table to create the image on the jacket.
And now … for the title:
The action continues 10 days after the events of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth finish. Covert witch and asthmatic furniture restorer Amanda, and her grumpy cat Tempest, are confronted by a suspicious death.
‘Being the person who finds the body never looks good.’ Amanda has no alibi. There’s only one witness, whom the police can’t see. Grandparents Senara and Perran tell her to use her resources. But what to do when they are exhausted? Time is running out. Amanda has asked too many questions. There’s no going back. The answer is in a place only she can go: The Cellar of Secrets.
Readers who enjoy the first book will be pleased to find that Detective Inspector Thomas Trelawney and former Chief Inspector Mike Hogarth return, together with the villagers, including Joan the postlady, Mrs Sharma at the post office, the ladies at The Grange, and Mr Hanley-Page, the demon driver, among others.
There is excitement in Sunken Madley over an event on the edge of the village that is drawing in a number of visitors and a new workforce. But not all are what they seem.
This book has its own stand-alone whodunnit, but you’ll relish it even more if you’ve already met the villagers and the Cornish detectives in Book 1, where the series’ underlying mystery begins.
Four more goodies:
- The release date can now be announced: Sunday, 16th December, in time for Christmas.
- The paperback will be following close on its heels.
- Look out for the new trailer release in the next couple of days.
- A full cover reveal will follow soon.
If you are enticed by Book 2 and have yet to read Book 1, then a day or so after the launch there will be a free promotional Kindle e-book day to allow fans of Book 2 to catch up and download Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, saving their cash for the new sequel and the paperback.
Looking forward to entertaining you in the world of Sunken Madley with Amanda Cadabra.
If Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth delighted you in any way, there is still time to post a review on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, any social networking site in fact, or Goodreads and Bookbub. I would be overjoyed.