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3 Midsummer Cozy Landmarks

Dear Readers,

Welcome to all you new wonderful readers who have joined me on Facebook, in the blog and as subscribers in the last couple of weeks.

Three Landmark Events

First of all, today, we reached 400 followers on the Holly Bell Facebook page, so thank you to everyone who has made that possible.

Second. All of the first six books in the series have now accumulated 100 or more ratings on Amazon.com, so I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has rated and even reviewed any of the books.

Third. My Cornish language Grade 3 exams are over! And now the fun begins.

Mystery?

Yes, I say fun. After three years of learning grammar and vocabulary, as well as how to speak and converse, I have reached what I regard as the meat of the feast: the texts! The oldest extant plays in Kernewek (the Cornish word for well … Cornish) date from the 14th century. The Ordinalia is a cycle of mystery plays: the Bible story sort (rather than the cozy sort,) which were set in churches. These originated in the 5th century but hit the big time during the medieval age. By this point, they had moved out into the marketplace and were performed by companies of actors to enthusiastic crowds, especially on high days and holidays. The Ordinalia trilogy is comprised of The Creation of The World, where things go pear-shaped in the Garden of Eden, The Passion of Christ which leads without pause straight into The Resurrection, where it all ends happily.

It is one of the Ordinalia plays that I shall be studying: Passio Christi, which I read has a host of ‘colourful characters’. There are also more modern texts set in the 18th and 19th centuries. No doubt, in all of these, there will be inspiration for the Cornish elements in the Amanda Cadabra series to entertain and delight you.

The Best Part: The Magic of Connection

Even for its own sake, textual analysis is something that gives me particular pleasure. The Ordinalia could be regarded as the Cornish equivalent of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales are an absolute riot, so I anticipate humour in amongst the gravity.

There is something about words written hundreds of years ago connecting us with not just the author but the audience of that time that is thrilling: being moved by the same narrative, being surprised by the unexpected, laughing at the same jokes.

And this is not only in the case of works from our own language or culture, but this link can be felt across the centuries and miles, regardless of the language or country of origin. Just think of Arabian Nights, The Jungle Book (inspired by old Indian texts), and Mulan (from an ancient Chinese poem). We can even time-travel 4000 years back with the Gilgamesh Epic, the oldest story we have so far discovered.

Sequel?

However, back to the present, and where are we with the next Amanda Cadabra sequel? I can report that at The Counting, it was over 17,000 words in.

I shall be back with more news presently. Meanwhile …

Happy Summer to all in the northern hemisphere and to my dear readers under the southern stars, wishing you a cosy winter.

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

Cozy Jubilee – Lighting Up The Real Sunken Madley

Dear Readers,

The Cozy Connection

This weekend we here in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth of Nations are celebrating the 70th year of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Something of both a marathon and a record – the longest in our history. The occasion is called the Platinum Jubilee and it’s the first. The question is, is there any connection between the royal family and the Queen in particular in the Amanda Cadabra series. The answer is yes.

In the very first book, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, when Senara Cadabra is putting Inspector Trelawney in his place, during his questioning of her regarding the strange demise of her entire family:

‘Did you notice the vehicle?’
‘I did. It obscured the view of our Princess Margaret roses,’ said Mrs Cadabra indignantly.
‘And what did it —?’
‘Horse manure.’
‘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.

But that, of course, is a reference to the late sister of the Queen, Princess Margaret. What about Elizabeth herself? Yes, again.

Amanda and The Queen

In Book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths, a new character is introduced. The centenarian Mr Frumbling, a retired piano tuner and restorer, comes to Amanda’s aid to get The Grange instrument into working order in time for the St Valentine’s Day ball. He endears himself to Amanda, particularly in this exchange:

‘Mr Frumbling, may I ask you something?’
‘Of course, duck.’
‘Is it true that you carry the telegram the Queen sent you on your 100th birthday around with you?’
‘Well, the palace doesn’t send out actual telegrams any more. Instead, you get a very special card. And yes, I have it right here,’ he said, putting a hand into his pocket. ‘Now, it’s not the original. I have that framed on my wall. This is a copy, but a good one.’
He took out a wallet from his inside breast pocket and opened it for Amanda.
‘There … see that? That’s the Princess Elizabeth’s signature.’
‘My word!’ exclaimed Amanda in admiration.
‘Of course, she’s queen now,’ Mr Frumbling added, ‘but it’s how I always think of her. I was eight years old when she was born. Not a princess then. That came later. Can you imagine me at eight, looking at me now? White hair and a lot of wrinkles!’
He gave her a roguish twinkle, and suddenly Amanda saw him. There he was before her: a boy with a lot of untidy thick brown hair, a missing tooth, grey shorts and lace-up boots. She grinned. ‘Yes! Yes, I can, Mr Frumbling. It’s my belief that you haven’t changed a bit.’

For Real?

So what is afoot at Monkey Hadley, the real Sunken Madley? Well, on Thursday night, I attended a gala at St Mary-the-Virgin, parish church of Monken Hadley. An operatic performance delighted us until dark when it was time … to light the beacon. The fire was lit first by the local borough deputy mayor, who, having been born in Sri Lanka, was also representing the Commonwealth. Soon it was hoisted by cable up to the tower (saving the long climb up there), and the beacon was kindled to cheers from below where I was photographing and  filming. Finally, we sang what we refer to affectionately as ‘The Queen’, a song wishing her well which is used for the National Anthem.

In celebration of this extraordinary day, beacons were lit all across the kingdom and the Commonwealth, from Tonga and Samoa in the South Pacific, to the final one in Belize, in Central America. Historically, the church has been part of the tradition of beacon-lighting. The tower overlooks the land below, dipping into the London basin. It is topped, admittedly, by Chipping Barnet church which is the highest point in London, reaching 427 feet above sea level (next stop at that elevation is the Urals), but there was no beacon up there, probably for safety reasons. However, St Mary-the-Virgin is a worthy representative.

Flaming History

The most famous beacon lighting story in our checkered history is the telegraphing of the warning of the approach of the Spanish Armada back in 1588. The tale goes that the approaching ships were spotted off the south coast of mainland Britain and the chain of fire was the quickest way of getting the news to London and elsewhere. Vice-admiral Sir Francis Drake, handily located in Plymouth, reputedly finished his game of bowls before he set off, raised sail and led the fleet to a climate induced victory as, typically, the weather was appalling, but both sides, no doubt did their best. The Brits tried a follow up counter-Armada the following year without the meteorological advantage. It did not go well.

The outcome to one side, and we’re good friends now anyway, the point is that at the time of the Armada, we lit lots of fires on high places across the land, and the idea is all rather thrilling. So we did it again. Only this time, I was there, and I can tell you that it set my spine a-tingle and my heart a-glow as the flame gathered strength and reached into the night sky, carrying the chain of light across this green and pleasant land.

What It Means Now

It’s a tradition for beacons to be lit at coronations and weddings, and other joyful events of that nature. What was once used as a warning system is now a symbol of togetherness. But this is a first. Yes, the first time that so many beacons, perhaps over 3,000, were lit across five continents, and not just in Commonwealth countries but even in the USA.

I have to admit that this makes me very emotional. Why is that then? Because the truth of the matter is that the British Empire did not by any means have the best track record, and Elizabeth saw out its last days, and although I am only half English, I am still somewhat conscious of this uncomfortable fact. Nevertheless, people throughout the world are large-heartedly setting aside this historical baggage in favour of remembering and appreciating the best of a lady who has been our ambassador and representative from long before I was born.

To You

Also, because I have yet to meet the vast majority of you, and somehow the beacons gave me a link to you, if only in my imagination. And that’s enough.

For example, it connected me with Cornwall, as the beacon was lit in Camborne, home to my dear Cornish language mentor, Kensa, and my treasured friend and study partner dwells nearby. When I stood below the tower of Monken Hadley Church, I was linked to many lovely people in Cornwall whom I met through the books. All I can say is, that I did my best not to fog up my camera lens!

Tea on the Lawn

Today, we’re expecting the rain to clear for the Jubilee garden party on the church hall lawn. There will be bunting, there will be vintage songs, there will be a tombola stand, there will be Pimms. For a couple of hours, like Amanda (although without the danger! Or the cat), I will step back in time to the very best of a by-gone age. I promise to do my best to bring you photographs. I include here a pic from the church fayre three years ago of the fabulous singer Angela Henckel who sang for us on that occasion, and at the jubilee, dazzled, delighted and brought us to our feet in a standing ovation.

I will have to find a reason to have Sunken Madley’s St Ursula- without-Barnet’s beacon lit in a future book. Hm …

Common What?

In case you’re wondering about this Commonwealth thing, it’s an international sort of club mostly made up of countries that used to be part of the British Empire. During the last century, it was decided country by country that it made no sense to be told what to do by people on the other side of the world and more sense to have independent government.

However, many people from the UK over the centuries made their home in these countries, and many from there came and settled here, so there were strong ties of culture and heritage. Furthermore, there were good things about being part of the empire, so they kept those and made an organisation where all countries are equal and together pursue peace, prosperity and democracy. This is generally regarded as A Good Thing. The sun never sets on the Commonwealth. Somewhere a beacon burns for those three principles.

Jubilee?

And if you’re curious about where the word jubilee comes from, it’s the Hebrew word yōbhēl. This referred to a kind of trumpet blown on special occasions, especially every fiftieth year. This jubilee signified an economic reset. Slaves were freed, debts cancelled, and if you’d had to sell your land to make ends meet, you got it back. A cause for … jubilation. And today’s personal cause for that emotion: I’m now up to 12,000 words on the new book.

There is another reason why a gala concert was held at Monken Hadley church, but I’m going to save that for another day. That’s because it’s connected to one of the books which is going to get a makeover in the next few weeks.

That’s all for now. Wherever you are inside or outside the UK and the Commonwealth, may I wish you a happy, peaceful weekend with just the right amount of excitement. Thank you for all the times that you are with me in spirit.

May you find something to celebrate every day.

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

Dawn of The New Cozy

Dear Readers,

Just seven weeks from the launch of Book 7, and now the question is, what about tThank you to readershe 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.

Cornish Focus

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.

Kitten Concept

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.

Curious?

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.

Meanwhile,

Happy reading.

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

Link image for Thank You Video

A Thank You Present For You, and The New Sequel Launch Report

Dear Readers,Old sailing ship stern with Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree as the name

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.

 

Link image for Thank You Video

Next Time?

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),

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

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