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 new book in the series, number 7, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, was duly christened, released from its moorings and slid down the slipway into open water last Sunday. It now flies its cozy paranormal mystery flag high, thanks to everyone who has so kindly reviewed, bought or downloaded it so far.
How Did it Go?
It went well, especially considering that the occasion landed on Mother’s Day when most people who might have been online were busy with family. Why release it on that day, then? Because I had promised to bring out the book in March, and the 27th was the last one on the shelf.
Nevertheless, the new book has more sales than any of its predecessors on their launch days. The free offer of Book 6, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, had some 2,800 downloads which I’d say is respectable. Out of that number, hopefully, a goodly percentage will stay with the series and continue the voyage with us.
And Now, Your Gift
This is for you. My thank you for your support in all its wondrous forms. Your name may be mentioned here, but the point is that if you’re reading this, then you are definitely included. I hope that you like it. It comes from the heart.
I will be back, possibly with a new collection of photos I have mentally entitled ‘Spring Comes To Sunken Madley’. A new project beckons. One that I have essayed in the past, but this time there is a better possibility of success than ever before. We shall see. I hope to bring you news in due course. In the meantime, if you’d like to keep in touch, you can find my email in the Contact section or find me mainly on Facebook. I’m always joyfully moved to hear from you..
Happy Spring (or Autumn depending),
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print
You can find the new sequel in the Amanda Cadabra cozy mystery series on Amazon from today. Yes, it’s a sequel (Book 7) but it’s also a standalone, so you can jump in with Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree. The Kindle edition is at a 20% discount today.
A Double Launch
If you prefer your books touchy feely, as I do, for the first time (drumroll …) simultaneously with the ebook, the paperback edition is launching too today! You can find it here:
Plus, free today and tomorrow from Amazon, you can download the previous volume, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr. This story is set in Cornwall and is also a standalone.
It would be superb if you could also spread the word and share the coziness.
Now here is the launch video, for your entertainment.
Back next time with news of how it went today and a little thank you present for all your support.
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
Here Goes The Fifth Veil
As I wrote to you last time, the process of bringing out a new novel is a dance, The Dance of the Seven Veils. With the news that the new book is in the offing, the title reveal, the partial and then the full cover reveals, the first four have wafted to the floor. And now, for the fifth, the trailer:
On Location With The Trailer
I hope that you enjoyed the film. Some of it was shot especially for such an event, including the footage at the beginning, which was recorded in the picturesque village of Aldenham in Hertfordshire. On the Inspiration page, you can see some photographs from there. The video was shot from opposite the church, which dates from the 13th century and looks over the spacious village green. The final village scene was captured in another Hertfordshire village: Letchworth Common. For the rest of the trailer, I have several talented photographers to thank, who are credited at the end of the video.
If you are curious about my process for creating these trailers, you can read about it here: making movies
The Sixth Veil
Next time, a little peep inside the book: Chapter 1 of Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, right here. And now I must be off, to prepare for The Seventh Veil, the launch video.
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print
First of all, before we get to ‘The Making of’ here is the trailer:
The Thwarted Plan
You may recall that last year I was planning a field trip to Cornwall. There was going to be a Cornish language weekend. Whilst on location, I was to film and take photographs for the trailer and launch about to happen.
And then …. Yes, the world situation altered, and the project was put on the back burner. As things to turned out, it brought about something special that I would not have otherwise have had the pleasure of experiencing.
First, the Cornish language weekend happened online. It was tremendously enjoyable, and all from the comfort of my own nicely padded office chair and beloved desk.
Second, well, you’ll see. Well, if you want to make a book trailer about Cornwall from London, what do you do? You look for high-quality footage and stills shot by other people. I have three go-to websites for stock footage, but nothing there fitted the bill. There are paid stock photo sites with more choice, but not being quite as the Hollywood budget stage, I went to YouTube for ideas.
There I found exactly what I was seeking: El Dorado. Paddy Scott is a photographer, cameraman and filmmaker. His work is outstanding and in his film of Bodmin Moor, his love and appreciation for it’s beauty, from stark to lush, from harsh to tender shines through. Paddy had captured two magnificent pans of the landscape that would be perfect for the book trailer.
Anyone who has tried to record outdoors on the moors will now that filming smoothly is an art. Fortunately for me, it had been perfected by Paddy. I wrote, asking for permission to used a clip or two, and waited.
Road Movie and VistaVision
Next, to show Amanda’s progress from her endearing English village of Sunken Madley to Cornwall, I needed some driving-along-a-road footage. And not just any road: a Cornish road. Not just any Cornish road either. It had to be around Bodmin Moor. No easy task. However, once again, I found a photographer, Harry Mateman, who had made a delightful video of highlights of the Moor, including driving along the desired byways. I crafted a missive requesting his leave to use some of it, and waited.
Finally, I wanted some other sweeping vistas across the wild spaces of the Moor. Again I sought for buried treasure in the vaults of YouTube. There I found the very film created by Olly Parry-Jones.
I wrote and asked if I might use some choice sections and bided my time.
Who Would Say Yes?
Now, image permissions (whether stills or video) are a must, especially for a commercial venture such as a book trailer. Still, even for something informal, it is not only a legal necessity but a courtesy. Whether amateur or professional, the photographer has spent time and energy developing their skill, has outlaid the cost of equipment and transport, and above all brought their unique eye to bear upon the subject. That’s why we say please and thank you … if they say yes.
Over the years, I have had exceptional experiences with fellow photographers, but they don’t always respond. It might be that they don’t visit the internet site or platform on which you contact them to pick up messages, or they might not see the email you send. It might go into spam, or they might just be busy and/or have more important things to do. If I got two out of three replies, I would be fortunate indeed.
So… how many responded? All three! Within 24 hours, all had said ‘yes’ and two took an interest in the project.
I look forward to sending each of them a paperback as soon as they become available.
Sunny Side Up
Yes, here was the bright and shining silver lining to the postponed trip. I had a heart-warming experience I would have missed. And so I bring you the book trailer for Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, courtesy of these three kind gentlemen, and a list of others (in the credits at the end of the film) who make their work freely available for projects like this one. The genuine Cornish music, An Culyek Hos, in the soundtrack comes to us care of Nacnud, who posted his very own melodious performance on YouTube.
Launch Dates and Standalone Sequels
I hope you enjoy the movie. The book will launch as a Kindle edition this Saturday, 6th February. In celebration, Book 1 of the series, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, will be available for free download from Amazon for just three days: Saturday to Monday, 6 – 8 February.
Just a note about the sequels, although there is an overarching storyline, each book has a standalone mystery, so you can pick and choose where to sample. Of course, it’s most fun if you start at the first one and ride through the series in order. If you’re new to the world of Amanda Cadabra know someone who’d enjoy a visit, please do take advantage of the free 72 hours over the long weekend.
Next time: launch report and … what next for Amanda, Tempest, her irascible feline and invaluable police contact, Inspector Trelawney?
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
Paperback and Kindle
Here is a new treat, a free first chapter for you, a labour of love, the product of days at the mic and in the editing chamber. Chapter 1 of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, the beginning of the series of British humorous cozy paranormal mysteries is a click away.
This was the only book in the series for which I had yet to create a first chapter video for you. That is now remedied. If you are curious about the steps involved in bringing this to your screen, small or large, you can find them here. Then you’ll have some insight into why it is called a labour of love!
If you prefer to read along or just read, you will find the the chapter at the end of this post
Whether you are new to series, or if you are already a fan of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, I hope you will sample and enjoy the video. It is the first of a first, Book 1 in, currently, a series of 4, that I began publishing at the end of last year. Producing so many so quickly has surprised no one more than me! They simply flow out when they’re ready, is all I can say.
What of Book 5, the next sequel? I have written the opening paragraph this week, and I expect to continue next week to have it ready for you in the new year. Meanwhile, Book 3, Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan, the ‘Christmas book’ is going to get a makeover and a special promotion.
Next time, I’ll be back with an early seasonal gift: a short story that subscribers will have posted through their personal inbox. It is, in a sense, a prequel, was completed only yesterday, and will be available for the eyes of downloaders only! You will need an email for me to send it to you, and you will also have the option to join the subscribers who get special notification of updates on the world of Amanda Cadabra and the writer’s life (‘Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s …’)
Until then, Happy reading and listening,
PS If you want to start the series:
Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth
The Day of the Incident
‘Fresh blood,’ observed Mrs Cadabra.
Detective Sergeant Thomas Trelawney looked at her doubtfully. She registered that he was in his late thirties, tall, light-haired, grey-suited and attractive in a manner appropriate to a policeman.
‘Do come in.’
He stepped over the threshold and into the clean, bright hall. She closed the door behind him.
Trelawney’s boss, Chief Inspector Hogarth, was on the verge of retirement and had sent his junior to acquaint himself with a case that had remained open for 28 years.
Mrs Cadabra led the way into the living room, gestured to the sergeant to sit down, then decisively pulled a photo album from one of the stacked bookshelves flanking the brick fireplace. She laid it open on his knees and pointed to a portrait of a power-dressed couple holding a baby.
‘1987. Our darling Amanda, held by my obnoxious daughter,’ she uttered in clipped tones. ’That’s her husband. I need only say that they were well matched. And if that assessment gives me a motive for murder, Sergeant, then you’re welcome to investigate it,’ she declared challengingly.
Trelawney suppressed a grin. Hogarth had told him what to expect in the redoubtable old lady sitting beside him on the chintz sofa. He had not exaggerated. Senara Cadabra was every inch the imperious aristocrat to which Hogarth had compared her. She lifted a hand to tuck in a hairgrip, pinning her white victory roll even more tightly into place. One of her piercing violet eyes was slightly larger than the other. This, coupled with her upright posture and cut-glass English accent, created an unnerving effect.
Mrs Cadabra glanced down at the photograph. Mercifully, there was no sign of Amanda’s gifts at that time, she commented to herself. Not then.
‘Lamentably,’ she continued, ‘Amanda’s parents had no time for her — or interest in her — and she was mostly cared for by my husband and myself. However, if you were to assume that little Amanda was traumatised by the sudden change in her situation following the “incident”, you’d be wrong,’ she stated, keen to stay one step ahead of any conclusions that the sergeant might be drawing.
While the detective jotted in his ubiquitous police notebook, he took a surreptitious look at his surroundings. The Cadabra’s circumstances were noticeably comfortable. Their house lay a mere thirteen miles from The Houses of Parliament to the south and just three miles from the Hertfordshire border to the north. The village of Sunken Madley was populated not only by locals, some with lineage reaching back the 1500s when the manor and church were built, but also by a selection of reclusive celebrities. Seeking privacy, and with a taste for gracious living, the VIPs had acquired several of the grander residences. By contrast, the Cadabra’s house was a modest three-bedroom cottage at the end of Orchard Row, just where the village gave way to a field of apple trees, now flowering with faintly blushing, bridal blossom. Number 26 had a spacious garden accommodating a small neat lawn, well-kept vegetable beds and, most importantly, a sizeable furniture restorer’s workshop.
Trelawney brought his gaze back to the photograph of the infant Amanda and her parents. Mrs Cadabra flicked towards the front of the album, each page taking them further back in time. Gesturing dismissively, she indicated her three other unsmiling children, Amanda’s aunts and uncles, and their smirking, blank-eyed or scowling offspring. Mrs Cadabra turned a few more pages back to her own generation, remarking on her siblings and their brood with equal distaste.
‘As for my own children, I could never bear any of them once they became teenagers.’ She barked out a laugh. ‘I bore them once; I feel that was quite enough.’ Trelawney allowed himself a smile for the first time. It did not go unnoticed by Mrs Cadabra, who awarded it eight of ten for charm.
‘Thank you for your frankness, Mrs Cadabra. And now, could you please tell me what you remember of the events leading up to the incident?’
Mrs Cadabra repositioned herself, straightening her back more than ever. ‘My husband and I had each received a note and —’
‘Was there anything that stood out about it?’ interjected Trelawney. ‘Was it typed or written? The kind of paper, the envelope —? ’
‘It was handwritten in purple-black ink and —‘
‘Did you recognise the —?’ he began.
‘— the writing?’ she forestalled Trelawney, ‘No, I did not.’
‘Interesting that you should ask. It was quite peculiar, thick but oddly transparent.’
‘What did it say?’ he asked, making notes.
‘It said that transport would arrive on 9th September at 9 o’clock in the morning. We would be taken to a location, and there, apparently, we would learn something to our advantage. It went on to say,’ said Mrs Cadabra, leaning towards him for emphasis, ‘and I remember this precisely: “It is essential, however, that all members of your family be present.”’
‘Curious,’ commented Trelawney.
‘Exactly. And it was signed “A well-wisher”. Hm! Well-wisher indeed!’ said Mrs Cadabra indignantly, twitching the cushion behind her more firmly into place.
‘I see,’ said Trelawney, ‘And what did you and Mr Cadabra make of all this?’
‘Why, that it was fishy, of course!’ she exclaimed, stating the obvious.
‘But you decided to go?’
‘Yes,’ said Mrs Cadabra, ‘but reluctantly. And not to serve our own interests, of course. Hardly. No, it was so that if we should we derive some benefit from the exercise, we could have left it to Amanda. That is the only reason that it would have been worth enduring the company of our odious family for any length of a journey.’
‘Did anyone in the family encourage you to go?’ Trelawney enquired.
‘Oh yes.’ Mrs Cadabra’s face registered her distaste. ‘We received quite a flurry of unwelcome messages from them, but we’d already made up our minds to attend. They were all desperately keen, needless to say. A more mercenary bunch you’d be hard pushed to find.’ She snapped the album shut and put it down on the inlaid coffee table.
Trelawney sat back. ‘So what happened on the day of the incident?’ he asked.
‘Poor little Amanda had been awake all night with a frightful cough. She was only three, and she’d never been a very strong child. And since she’d developed asthma, we’d had to be especially careful. Well, by that morning, Amanda’s condition had worsened, and she was clearly not fit for the journey,’ recalled Senara Cadabra with an emphatic shake of her head. ‘And considering our unease about the whole affair, we decided that neither we, nor our Amanda, should have any part of it. So when the transport arrived, we didn’t get on board. It sat there and waited for fifteen minutes and then finally left.’ She folded her hands. ‘And that was that.’
‘You didn’t go out to tell the driver that you weren’t going?’ pressed Trelawney.
‘No,’ replied Mrs Cadabra. ‘We simply didn’t want anything to do with it.’
‘Did you notice the vehicle?’
‘I did. It obscured the view of our Princess Margaret roses,’ said Mrs Cadabra indignantly.
‘And what did it —?’
‘I beg your pardon?’ asked Trelawney, startled.
‘Oh, I mean no disrespect to the dear Princess herself,’ Mrs Cadabra assured him. ‘No, indeed. Just that it’s the best thing for roses. But only after three years of composting. Not when fresh. I’m sure Her Royal Highness would echo my every word.’ Having successfully diverted the subject to horticulture, she placed one still delicate hand over the other, signifying that she considered the discussion of the transport to be closed.
Trelawney, however, returned to the matter at hand. ‘But the vehicle, what was it like? Can you recall?’
‘It was a grey minibus of some description,‘ replied the lady.
‘Good condition?’ continued Trelawney.
‘Yes, I think so,’ she answered, with a careless shrug of her shoulders. ‘I am not a motor car engineer, but it certainly didn’t seem to be in an advanced state of disrepair, if that’s what you’re asking.’
‘You didn’t notice anything special about it?’ Mrs Cadabra shook her head. ‘The registration?’ Trelawney looked at her hopefully.
‘No idea. I heard it start up. By the time I went to look out of the window, it had gone.’
‘And these notes that you received. What became of them?’
‘They disappeared,’ she declared.
‘Vanished. Without a trace.’
‘Really?’ Trelawney remarked. He wrote in his book. ‘Mr Cadabra’s note as well?’
The back door to the kitchen closed audibly followed by a hollow clatter as discarded work boots hit the mat. There came the sound of a tap running.
‘You can ask him yourself,’ Mrs Cadabra said.
A tall, grey-haired man, in dark work trousers and jumper over shirt and tie, opened the living room door, and entered the room. He was of that generation of craftsmen who took so great a pride in their occupation and appearance that they wore a shirt and tie even to work. The persistent briskness of the British climate had prompted him to cover up with a sweater. He smiled a kind welcome at the case officer.
‘Ah, very generous of you to come all this way, Mr Trelawney, is it?’ Mr Cadabra held out a clean but French-polish-stained hand.
‘Detective Sergeant Trelawney, sir,’ said the policeman, accepting the handshake.
‘Please call me Perran. Although my wife likes strangers to call me Mr Cadabra.’ He gave her an affectionate twinkle, which she returned. ‘Has Senara been making you feel at home?’ The trace of a West Country burr in the man’s gentle voice appealed to the Cornwall-born-and-bred Trelawney.
‘Pleasure to meet you. Perran? A good Cornish name, if I may say so. Yes, Mrs Cadabra has been most helpfully relating the events of the day when …’ Trelawney paused, tactfully avoiding an explicit reference to the sensitive details of the incident.
‘Yes … a tragic business,’ said Mr Cadabra, helpfully filling the gap. ‘I will say, it’s good of the police to keep taking an interest after all these years. We’ve given up any hope of a resolution. But at any rate, is there anything I can tell you that my good lady hasn’t already shared with you?’
‘If you have time,’ said Trelawney politely.
‘Of course.’ Mr Cadabra carefully sat down on the edge of a Queen Anne armchair, aware that he was in his work clothes.
‘Your wife told me about a note. I understand that you received one of your own,’ Trelawney prompted.
‘Yes, that’s right.’
‘And there were some distinctive things about it?’
‘Oh, yes, purplish ink and odd paper,’ replied Mr Cadabra confirming what his wife had said.
‘Do you still have it?’ enquired Trelawney, checking Senara’s statement.
‘No. No, it disappeared,’ Mr Cadabra said in a regretful voice. ‘I could have sworn I’d put it in my overalls pocket, but when I went to look for it, it was gone. I remember I turned out all of my pockets, thinking it might have got lost amongst the bits and pieces. But no.’
‘Thank you.’ Trelawney left a brief silence while his pencil scribbled away.
‘Now, could you both tell me what happened later that day?’ he asked, looking from one to the other.
After a brief exchange of glances between the couple, it was Mrs Cadabra who answered, ‘About six hours after the car left, the telephone rang. We were in here. Perran was having his afternoon tea-break with me. I remember it as clearly as if it happened yesterday. It rang, and he put his hand on my arm and said the oddest thing.’ She looked at her husband. Perran nodded supportively. Trelawney’s pencil hovered about his open notebook, waiting.
Finally, Mrs Cadabra spoke.
‘“Senara,” he said, “Whatever you do, don’t answer that.”’
Read more …
It’s Movie Day! You’ve seen the title, you’ve seen the cover … now here’s the film: the trailer for Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley. The new sequel in the British cosy paranormal mystery launches on Sunday, and there will be only two more significant events in the run-up between now and then. But first, the trailer:
Next stop, the chapter 1 video.
Remember, you can join the series with Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, free from Amazon at the weekend. That’s this Saturday and Sunday, 28th and 29th September 2019.
The launch day clock is ticking …
Oll an gwella (best wishes)
With only three days to go until the launch of Book 3 Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan, here is the long-awaited book trailer. It is also viewable on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and my author pages at Amazon, so if you are a fan of one of those and think your friends might enjoy it, please do share. It’s only about a minute long.
The book is now up on Amazon for pre-order at the special discount price of $2.99 until Sunday when it will be $4.99. Remember that Book 1, Amanda Cadabra and the Hidey-Hole Truth will be free on Sunday, so please take full advantage of the affordable opportunity to get on board the series if the Amanda Cadabra adventure is one you have yet to enjoy.
Tomorrow will see the release of a new venture for Heypressto, who publishes the books, and me. It is a YouTube video, which is an audio recording of me reading chapter 1 of the new book! It has some visuals too, in case you like to watch and listen. The text of the chapter will be here on the website also for those who prefer to read, or read and be read to simultaneously.
Saturday will see the launch of the competition, but more about that tomorrow.
Thanks to everyone who has already bought Amanda Cadabra and the Hidey-Hole Truth and Amanda Cadabra and the Cellar of Secrets. The feedback that I had so far indicates that Book 3 is the best so far. I hope you agree.