Tag Archives for " unveiling "

On the left, a stack on books on a shelf. Text underneath: New Cozy Character Biographies. On the right, Holly Bell with Text over witch hat: 2 Ways to Express a Foreign Language. Below over a cream open book: Fabulous Foreigners in Fictions part 5. Above is a YouTube play button. In the middle of the image near the top is an orange jigsaw piece with white text: This Week's puzzle

Halloween Deal, A How-To, Jigsaw and New Fun Feature

Dear Readers,

Halloween Offer

Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth on e-reader on table with pumpkin cups of steaming coffee. Gold sticker: Save a Cozy 20%. Cosy fireplace in the background.The mystery genre time of year is upon us. And in honour of that, here is an opportunity to save 20%  on Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth, the first book in the cozy paranormal mystery series. Only available until the end of All Soul’s Night (Thursday, 2nd November). The price is going up to $.4.99 and that is being delayed until Thursday for all time for any eager readers who’d like to save 20% now.

Of course, if you’re a  Kindle Unlimited subscriber then you can still download it, free of charge. Either way, if you enjoy the first book in the series, I’d love to hear from you, either through a review, a comment to me on Facebook or (my favourite) at hollybell@amandacadabra.com.

Author Tip, Reader Insight

This week’s video, part 5 of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction, offers three ways to convey the mean foreign language in dialogue, where you’re writing cozy mystery of some other genre. I hope that you find it entrancing and, if you’re an author, helpful.

Click to go to video: 3 Ways to Express a Foreign Language - Fabulous Foreigners Part 5


The New Feature

Stack of biographies on a wooden shelf with English village in the backgroundYes, the unveiling of the new feature takes place today. As promised, from this moment on, after you complete each puzzle, you will be able to click on a link which will take you to the cozy mystery character biography page. There, your guess as to the identity or location of the character or scene from the Amanda Cadabra books,you have just assembled will be confirmed (or otherwise).

You may have to scroll down, but each character or scene will be headed by the date the puzzle was published.


The New Puzzle

This week’s cozy mystery character jigsaw is another character dear to Amanda’s heart and the village of Sunken Madley in general. This individual takes the spotlight in Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth. When (possible spoiler alert) they fall under suspicion of murder. Have I said too much ..?

Click to go to the jigsaw puzzle for 29 October 2023

And the question is … who or what would you like next?  Let me know: hollybell@amandacadabra.com

Cute baby bot happy but confused image and below a toddler bot at a keyboard and writing in a book the number 1This Week’s AI Carnival

For the image below,  I asked the bewildered but well-meaning Midjourney AI bot (whom I’ve dubbed ‘MJ’) for the number 9000 rising out of a book. It produced its usual four valiant attempts. It got the book. Believe me that’s progress. Unfortunately, along with spelling, MJ is challenged when it comes to numbers. So, ‘Thank you for the book MJ and I can see you’ve realised that there will text of some description. However, a backwards ‘C’ is not a number here in the UK. I see you’ve got a couple of zeros in this one, and a 9 and even a 900. Good effort but …’ I went off to Dall-E 3.

Dall-E got the whole numbers concept in one, and we worked through some rather tacky attempts with the sparkles until we reached something that fitted the bill. Dall-E is not as artistic or atmospheric as dear MJ but it can read and spell. However both agree that plans for world domination are postponed indefinitely.

Drama in The Ivory Tower

On Thursday, as I heard the chimes at midnight, I checked the website as a sort of admin nightcap, because I do love this site, and the delight that it brings visitors. I was abruptly confronted by … (dramatic music) … a Fatal Error. As a mystery writer, it is, of course, appropriate for an error to be fatal. But what did this thing purport to be?

At once, I got on the chat with my splendid server techies whose support team sleepeth not. They quickly diagnosed the issue as being with, not with the bones of the website (WordPress), but the flesh, the appearance, the ‘theme’. It’s called Rise and is made by Thrive Themes. I submitted a ticket. Unlike my server techies, these guys definitely sleepeth, and it was dawn before I received The News. (Doomladen music).

Cute blonde writer asking what memo? cartoon styleWhat Memo?

‘Your theme is no longer supported. You need to build a new one with our snazzy new theme builder. It’s a pain but trust us, in the end you and your visitors will love it,’ they told me.

‘What!?’ I cried in consternation.

‘Didn’t you get the memo? Actually memos. We’ve be emailing you about it since June.’

‘Oh, those memos? So that’s what they were about. You really need to put the subject line of important stuff like this in caps. But look, I can’t do a new build by Sunday, and I have things I’ve promised to give my readers.’

‘No problem,’ they responded with aplomb. ‘Get your server guys to restore your site from a backup, and everything in your garden will once again be rosy while you build an even rosier site.’

So, I did, they did, and as you see, all is as you’d expect. However, yes, a new, improved version of the site is under construction. It will look very similar to this one, so you can find your way around just as you do now, but with some extras.

SequelThe number 9000 in white coming out of an open book with magic sparkles

More plot has bloomed in my head, more links, more motivations and conversations and humour. This is the best part of the cozy-mystery-writing ride! The word count is now over 9000.

Next week …

I should be able to give you news of a sequel landmark, and there will be a new puzzle and a new video. Part 6 will be, as promised at the end of the video, The List.

Happy Pre-Halloween Weekend,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

On the left, image of a young woman typing Text on book: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 4 On the right some of the curve of circle formed by sheets of paper with an image of the Cornish coast. Text: Sequel: Beginning to Cast The Magic Circle. And at the bottom, an orange puzzle piece with in white: New Puzzle

Beginning the Magic Circle, New Puzzle and Video: How to Get It Right

Dear Reader,

This week’s video in the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series, reveals to you the next important choices a writer must make along the road to a fabulous foreigner in their own book, cozy mystery or otherwise. Each of which choices will have consequences …

Click to go to video: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 4: How To Get It RIght?


Now, the peculiar lifetime road that led to presenting these videos.

A passport, globe and a vase of orchids on a paper mapAre We Foreigners?

In a word, yes, all of us are foreigners to someone. For example, in the Amanda Cadabra books, the residents of Romping-in-the-Heye, a neighbouring village, are foreigners to the denizens of Amanda’s home of Sunken Madley. Here’s another instance:  I wasn’t born in the overgrown village where I live. To a resident who was born here, I’m a foreigner. I live in one part of London; to someone who lives on the other side, I’m a foreigner. One of my parents came from outside the UK. I’m half-foreign. Another came from another part of the British Isles, foreign to London. You get the idea.

A Bit More Bio

So, as you see, my background has familiarised me with foreign accents, local, regional and international. Work and education have also taken me into the fascinating realm of languages other than English, as well as into an analysis of how English is pronounced and how to reproduce it. And, as you know, writing a series figuring Cornish characters and a hybrid magical language led me to learn that particular Celtic tongue.

If Only …?

You may also have read the enlivening consequences of creating a Swedish character, with a Swedish accent who speaks Swedish dialogue. (I was rescued by talented voice actor Simon Grunditz. More about that here.) Yes, indeed, I’ve been there, bought the fascinating t-shirt, (and took you with me. But if you missed it, here’s the link) and would happily revisit now that I have with the benefit of experience.

Consequently, I hope my journey will help other authors who are beginning theirs, so they can think it through rather than the perhaps more exploratory method of muddling through.

And if only someone had told me what I am, with pleasure, sharing with you now in this Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction video series, the road might have been a great deal smoother. However, would I have gone ahead and created a character whose linguistic background would have led me down an unexpected and complex track? Probably! But I’d have had hiking boots and supplies.

Just as importantly as providing a road map for fellow scribes, the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction video series is to offer you, the reader, some insights into the fun and games of the writing process, especially cozy mystery. I hope that you’re entertained so far.

A Small Celebration

Celebration cake with four candles, and a smiley face on the site and a glass of champagne on the left and the bottle on the rightAll of this reminds me of a highlight of this week, which was receiving a large, stiffened white envelope. Whatever could it be? I was pretty sure I hadn’t ordered anything from anywhere that would be packaged in this curious manner.

My name and address were handwritten. Hmm, I didn’t recognise the hand. I opened it, reached in and drew out a single page, protected by a clear plastic pocket. It was … my Grade 4 (final grade) Cornish Language certificate. And to think I’d have missed out on all the fun, the friends, the journey of learning if it hadn’t been for a Cornish-born girl in a quaint English village with her grumpy cat who appeared in my head five years ago.

A  New Video Series

This is my third week co-teaching a taster course for Cornish language beginners. And I’ve begun making a series of videos to support them. I’ll put the links here. They’re very short, I promise you.

This one gives you a 2-minute potted background to Cornish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp7Ar-P0Rw8

And this one gives you the first word for anyone curious about sampling the language. What you might call a gateway word: https://youtu.be/sZsj2HZtBgk

New Puzzle

This week’s jigsaw brings you another favourite villager from Amanda’s home, Sunken Madley. Someone at the heart of the heart of the village! Scroll down to find this week’s puzzle. Did you guess who last week’s was? I will also be adding a link after each puzzle to a brief bio of the character, in case you’re in doubt about who they are. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll see the new feature first. If not, and you’d like to join the insiders, you can do that here: https://amandacadabra.com/come-on-in/


Who or what would you like next?  Let me know: hollybell@amandacadabra.com

This Week’s AI Shenanigans

For this image of an intrepid explorer navigating a mountain path, I asked the Midjourney bot (MJ as I call it) for this. It did pretty well until I requested ‘and holding a book.’ And that’s where it all went pear-shaped. MJ presented me with a three-armed person. The hands did have the customary number of thumbs and fingers so top marks there. I changed the game, and added a new sentence: She is holding a map…. No. Map. Not book, not magazine, not clipboard. No …. All right, let’s be more specific: paper topographical map. Let’s see you get out of that one …. No, not an ancient Egyptian papyrus of The Thebes Times. One more go … well done! No wonder she looks so happy.

Next week, I’ll tell you about my adventures with a rival bot: Dall-E 3. All I’ll say at the moment is that so far it appears to have the spelling ability of at least a 6 year old. As opposed to Midjourney whose capability is that of a 2-year old. With apologies to anyone’s 2-year-old who can assemble all of the correct letters for the word: Grade. Oh plus Dall-E will have a go at anything. MJ freaks out at anything it can’t get its head round and gives an image of a 16-year-old girl with hair composed of baubles and an understandably pained expression on her face.

Cozy Mystery Sequel

Now at over 8000 words, I have printed it out. A modest sheaf of A4 pages, but it is the kernel, the embryo from which the stack will grow. The next stage? What I call the Magic Circle …

I began it on Friday morning. But as I started, new plot links began to come to me, and I now have more notes. And I have commenced casting …

The Magic Circle?

This is where I lay out parts of the story that I have so far. Pages and groups of notes are formed into chapters, and gaps are given a blank sheet with the chapter number and or what needs to go in it. The first few chapters are gathered. At the moment it’s more of an arc. I will reveal more and even show you the tools I use when the the circle is further on.

Next Week

The next video in the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series delves into the three ways to convey the meaning of a foreign language to you, the reader. There’ll be a new jigsaw and more behind-the-scenes of the creation of Amanda Cadabra Book 9.

Happy Cozy Days,




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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

On the left, two smiling girls from ancient Rome holding up a scroll with the word 'Foris', a Youtube play button and the text: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction part 3: What is Foreign? On the right a blonde woman looking up at flying books and stars. Text: Epiphany - Cozy Sequel. At the bottom is an orange jigsaw piece with the text: New Puzzle

New Sequel Epiphany, New Puzzle and Video: What Is Foreign?

The Moment of Truth. Waiting …

I never know when or where it’s going to happen. It’s not something I can plan. I can’t sit down at my desk and make it occur. I can only wait until …What? It’s that magical moment when the new cozy mystery plot arrives, the pivotal point that links together all of the scenes, conversations, anecdotes, character sketches, chapters here and there. Suddenly the connections, the whys and who’s, begin to emerge.

Trying to Encourage it

Well, as you know, I had 5,000 words of components scattered around my literary garage, but how to make a vehicle out of them? A mechanical magic carpet that will transport you to the puzzles, delights, adventures, and suspense of Amanda Cadabra’s world.

As The Moment of Revelation had yet to manifest itself, I intended to prompt it with the next stage, which involves printing out what I’ve got so far and inspecting it.


However, on Thursday morning on a damp day here in London, the most uninspiring of weather, yet out of the blue, the ideas began to emerge. By the end of two hours, I knew what and where.

As to who to murderer is, I haven’t yet decided. I have a number of suspects. The Guilty Party will emerge in due course. The precise details of those who it could be will likewise arise, but I can now see the players, the pieces on the chessboard.

I now have an additional 2,000 words of cozy mystery plot notes, and in the following days, the next stage begins. More of that next time.

New Video

That’s the big news, but also, here is the next video in the series Fabulous Foreigners – Do You Speak English? This traces the sometimes-rocky path of the writer (including me) from first decisions about the kind of English they will use, choices that will affect spelling, like UK or US English, regional accents and foreign accents. So today, we must decide: what do we mean by ‘foreigner’?

Click to to go video What is Foreign? Part 3 of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction


Missed the first two? Solved: you can catch up with Part 1 here: https://amandacadabra.com/ac1-trailer/decisions-decisions-fab-foreigners/

and Part 2 here: https://amandacadabra.com/ac1-trailer/fabulous-foreigners-in-fiction-which-uk-english/

This Week’s Puzzle

Meanwhile, here is this week’s cozy mystery character jigsaw puzzle. This is a depiction of one of the villagers closest to Amanda’s heart, one of three ever to be found in the legendary Corner Shop, heart of Sunken Madley and its Intelligence HQ. You can find hints and tips on using the puzzle underneath it.

Puzzle 3 15 October 2023


Frolics with The Bot (to bring you pretty pics)

Finally, this week’s shenanigans with the AI bot, trying to persuade it to create the image, for the video above, of Gordon French warning Amanda about ‘foreigners’, meaning those are ‘not Village’. I requested a picture of ‘a retired headmaster carrying a walking stick, talking to a pretty young girl dressed in a boiler suit, standing in a sunny English village.’ Each time, it supplies four different versions of its interpretation of the prompt.

Amanda and retired headmaster of Sunken Madley School, Gordon Fren ch

It didn’t seem to grasp the concept of ‘a walking stick’ and so had dodged that one. Consequently, after a little research, I tried, variously ‘walking cane’, ‘stick’, ‘cane’, and ‘holding’, ‘carrying’, and ‘using’. It offered me a short dowel, an abbreviated pointy branch and nothing at all. On one pass, it did manage to supply Mr French with a support in the form of a forked stick. I could undoubtedly Photoshop out one of the tines, but why, oh, why, had Bot given him a small spade? Who mentioned ‘spade’? Let’s try again ….  Hm, no walking stick. However, for some obscure reason, it had furnished Amanda with a spear. Or was it a javelin? And why was it apparently setting the scene in 1940?

Wardrobe Malfunctions

For Amanda’s costume, I asked for an orange dress, and the best I got was an orange skirt, but she still looked like something out of a vintage children’s book. I tried getting her into the green boilersuit that she works in. No joy. Coveralls? Overalls? Flightsuit? It was attiring her in a green skirt, green dress or green coat. I tried asking for green trousers and a shirt. It put them on Mr French.

A Different Approach

I decided to go from the top in easy steps with a fresh prompt. ‘A girl in a green flight suit’. Success! ‘Talking to a retired headmaster.’ Why is he in some sort of military uniform? Let’s just keep adding more instructions and see if it corrects itself. ‘In an English village’. Oh dear, we’re back in 1940. Quick! Retrench. ‘A modern young woman in a green flight suit talking to a retired headmaster carrying a walking stick, standing in an English village. It is sunny. It is the twenty-first century’. Aha, breakthrough! Finally, all of the components are there except the walking stick. Well, we’ll pretend it’s on the arm facing away from the camera and leave it at that.

Next Week

Coming up: a new cozy mystery puzzle, the next in the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series of videos, more antics with AI and news from the Sequel Front.

Happy Leaf-turning (or growing) Season,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Red velvet curtains parted to show question mark and Text: The Great Unveiling and on the right of the image Holly Bell holding an open book: Text: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 1: Decisions, Decisions

Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 2 – Which UK English?

Dear Readers,

This week’s new video grapples with what happens next after an author has made the decision to use UK English. It may seem that writing it in will now be straightforward. But appearances can be deceptive …

Click to go to video Fabulous Foreigners Part 2 - Which UK English?



That was part 2 of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction. If you missed part 1: Decisions, Decisions, then you can catch up here:

Book 9 Latest

In the Amanda Cadabra sequel news update, I can announce that I’ve reached the milestone of 5,000 words! But more than that, I have completed Stage 2 of the writing process.

Something Missing?

‘Excuse me. What was Stage 1?’ I hear you ask. And quite rightly. Stage 1 is the blooming and recording, in notes or voice memos, of ideas, chapters, conversations, sketches of characters, anecdotes and plot notions in the author’s fertile imagination. For me, this begins during the writing of one or two books before.

For example, when writing book 6, Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, the first book set in Cornwall, I knew that book 9 would return there. More specific ideas for it started popping up during the writing of book 7, Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree. So that was my Stage 1 for Book 9.

Stage 2

This is when all of these notes are collated into one document, and this week, the last of those, plus some fresh material, went into the Word doc imaginatively entitled Book 9 – collating.

Other authors, of course, may have a different system, but this is the one that works for me, and I am sharing with you.

‘Now, what is Stage 3?’ you enquire. That I shall reveal next week.

New Puzzle

In the meantime, for your entertainment, here is the unveiling of the new jigsaw revealing another favourite character from the Amanda Cadabra series.

Click to go to this week's jigsaw puzzle 8 October 2023


Tips on using the puzzle can be found the latest jigsaw.

How Did You Do It, Holly?

How did I create these puzzle images, you may be wondering. I have been using a well-intentioned but somewhat challenged young AI bot on Midjourney. There are a few of these AI image creators from which to choose. However, I settled on Midjourney because its policy states that it uses only public domain images and ones for which they have paid. It is sensitive to intellectual property and urges users to use only licensed and public domain images when adding their own into the mix.

Images are created by a ‘prompt.’ You might call it a set of instructions. In practice, it is more of a negotiation. You need to keep modifying your prompt until one of the bot’s attempts matches what you’re after. Consequently, I had to go through a few iterations before the character in the first puzzle (spoiler alert) was sufficiently big, fat, fluffy, and malevolent of gaze.

This week’s effort didn’t have quite the costume the character would normally wear, but more ready for the seasonal ball at The Grange. Still, I do think it’s captured the person in other respects. Do please let me know what you think.

Thank You

Finally, on the puzzle note, thank you to everyone who kindly took the time to write to me with their feedback on the first jigsaw and ideas for future ones. I’d love to hear more. After all, these are expressly for you.

Amongst making the new video, this week’s puzzle and writing the new book, I embarked on my first adventure in co-teaching beginners’ Conronish language with my long-standing study buddy Linda. Our students come from far and wide, with only 2 or 3 living in Cornwall. Others in other parts of the UK or abroad.

Where It All Began

It took me back five years to when I began writing the Amanda books and created Wicc’Yeth, the magical language of her world. It is comprised of Cornish and Old English. And I felt back then that if I was going to use their language, then out of respect for the people and their heritage, the least I could do was learn some of it. And so it began, first with research online and finding Kesva, the official body for teaching Cornish. Grade 1 lesson 1 and then tutor and friend-to-be Kensa Broadhurst, who now teaches the language to students at Exeter University.

At first, I learned by email correspondence from London with Kensa in Cornwall. And then … lockdown changed the game for the Cornish language community. With classes in person becoming undesirable, they had to move for the first time to online. Suddenly, students from around the globe could learn together using Zoom and other applications. It was an exciting breakthrough, and the number of Cornish language participants shot up.

From Student …

Today, we are enjoying that positive legacy and for me, no longer as a student but as a teacher. Of course, my own Cornish journey continues with a project I shall share with you when I start it.

But I digress. Remembering my early days as a beginner, I could easily put myself in the students’ shoes, recalling the excitement and slight trepidation of embarking, in the presence of strangers, on learning a new language as an adult student and online with modern technology. But our group did very well, and seemed to emerge from the experience cheerful and with every sign of returning next week. Which is always encouraging to a teacher!

Next Week

The new video will explore the strange and complex question of what is meant by ‘foreign’ in part 3 of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction. And a new puzzle will reveal yet another favourite character in the Amanda Cadabra pantheon. Plus, Stage 3 of the Sequel Production.

Happy October,



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print

Red velvet curtains parted to show question mark and Text: The Great Unveiling and on the right of the image Holly Bell holding an open book: Text: Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 1: Decisions, Decisions

The Grand Unveiling, and Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction Part 1 – Decisions, Decisions

Dear Reader,

The time has come, as promised, to reveal the new feature on the website that offers you both entertainment and a window on not one but two readers’ favourite characters. Well, it’s almost come because first, I bring you this week’s author insights video.

Decisions, Decisions

This is the first in the series of ‘So You Speak English? – Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction, and will give you an insider’s view of the sometimes tricky choices authors have to make, in order to bring you the best possible reading experience. So here goes …


Click for video Decisions, Decision - Fabulous, Foreigners in Fiction Part 1: Decisions, Decisions


Parting The Curtains

And now … the time really is at hand to show you this …

Click to go to Puzzle 1

The Long Road

It has taken me two years of searching to find the perfect application to accomplish this on the website. After all, what is a cozy mystery but a puzzle? So what better addition to the website for you? But my endeavours were rewarded when I encountered Jigsaw Explorer. And so, many thanks go out to Bob Flora, its talented creator, for making it possible to bring you this today. Have a look at https://www.jigsawexplorer.com/ if you’d like to add this to your own website. But even more so if you love puzzles because Bob puts a new one up every day!

Some Helpful Tips

Click and drag to move the pieces. If you’d prefer more or fewer pieces, then click on the pile of 3 dashes under the word Puzzle and choose ‘Modify this puzzle.’ Click on the square of 9 dots, and you can select your number there. Click on the curved arrow, and it will rotate the pieces randomly, or if you leave this alone, they will be in the correct orientation. Click on the paint palette to change the background colour. 

A timer runs in the top right-hand corner, and you can pause this. There’s an icon at the top of the screen that looks like two mountains in snow. That will give the game away and show you the image. The icon next to it will show just the edge pieces.

Please and Thank You

Please let me know if you enjoy it and how you get on. What images would you like to see? I’d love to hear more of your reactions and suggestions for future puzzles. Thank you to everyone who has given me such delightful, appreciative and helpful feedback so far.

Sequel Update

The sequel now stands at 4000 words. All of the sound recordings are in place, and I think that brings all of the notes up to date. Onto the next stage. 

My Cornish Adventure Begins, and Maybe Yours Too

This week I begin co-teaching a Cornish language beginners class online, led by my dear friend Linda. It begins on Thursday as 6pm UK and 10am Pacific Time. Official ticket sales have now closed but if you contact me, it may just be possible for you to join, if you’d like a taste of the Cadabra’s native tongue. Details are here.

Next Time

Well, more on The Next Stage, a new video in the So You Speak English? – Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series plus a new puzzle. Who or what will it be?

 Happy Beginning of Autumn (or Spring)



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

Available on Amazon

Paperback, Kindle
and Large Print