Newsletter no.123 March 2018

Some of you will remember that the bottles of milk which are delivered in the dead of night to my front door, had a tendency to go missing. (And yes, in this part of London we still get our milk delivered in glass bottles.) Anyway, for some months now we haven’t had any problems at all . . . until a couple of weeks ago a neighbor complained that her empty bottles had been taken, but no fresh milk delivered. Lulled into a sense of safety by months of uninterrupted deliveries, we all thought it was the fault of the new man who had taken over our round. Alas, no! The other night it happened again! And this time, to me! Oh dear, oh dear. Telephone messages went all over the place, and now the milkman is hiding his deliveries among the grape hyacinth leaves by the door. What a nuisance this all is!

On a brighter note, I’m coming along nicely with the next Bea Abbot. I’m just over half way through the first draft of the story, and enjoying it. Well, I’m enjoying it so far, anyway. There are no particular problems, as far as I can see, with regard to legal issues and Piers – Bea’s first husband, who caused her so much anguish with his tom-catting years ago – is being helpful. I rather like Piers. He has his limitations but then, don’t we all?

Talking of limitations, I was asked to write a short story of 3400 words for the Methodist Recorder’s Easter issue and, learning of an old friend’s having been beaten up by some lads in his local park, I felt I should write about forgiveness. This has not been easy. Whole books written about it. There are so many ways in which I could have tackled the subject, for instance, taking the side of a woman who’d been raped, or about a victim of war, or of domestic violence. What if the victim knew the assailant? Can we understand why someone is driven to harm someone else? What is the Biblical slant?
It seemed to me that I had to pick my way through a minefield of problems in this one. In fact, I was so worried about it that I sent the first draft in early, so that the editor could reject it if she didn’t think it suitable, and this would give me enough time to re-write it. She’s passed the story as acceptable, so CAN YOU FORGIVE? will be out at Easter. The usual arrangement applies; if you’d like to have it and can’t get hold of a hard copy yourselves, I’ll send you a copy free by email AFTER Easter.

Some good news; the first of the reviews is through for FALSE PRIDE, the Bea Abbot story which came out at the end of last year. It’s from Booklist, and concludes ‘There are enough bizarre twists and sparkly characters to make for an endearing, entertaining read’. Hurray! This is the story about a collection of family jewels going missing, along with an international art expert . . . and it’s not only his housekeeper who’s looking for him. Publishers Weekly has also given it a good review, saying: ‘Those fond of darker English cozies will find much to savor.’ This story was fun to write, and I hope everyone will find it fun to read, as well.

More good news: I really like the cover that has been chosen for the next Ellie Quicke – which shows a shockingly expensive handbag. Well, yes. It’s all about money again!

Finally; may the first blossoms of spring bring renewed hope for the future.

Veronica Heley.

Newsletter no.122 February 2018

I am so cross with myself! When I have an idea for a story and I don’t know exactly how a particular plot point should work, I get on the phone or the internet or ask a friend about it. At different times I have asked for help from a pharmacist, a builder, a policeman, the Fire Brigade and friends and acquaintance who have the expertise in their field which I lack. When I started thinking about the plot for MURDER BY SUGGESTION I tapped into one of these and thought I understood what happened to a Will when the parties concerned had gone through a divorce. But no: I got it wrong.

When I turned in the manuscript my agent smartly pointed out my mistake. And then, when I’d got over the horror of what I’d done, I had to work out how to alter that bit of plot to make sure the right person inherited under Bunny’s will. (He was called ‘Bunny’ because his nose whiffled when he ate.) My agent and my editor both think I’ve got that bit of plot right now and I am so relieved . . . but still annoyed with myself for not having understood exactly what would happen in real life to this particular set of circumstances.

Now I’ve dealt with all the little queries that arise when a manuscript is submitted, the story has been accepted for publication at the end of June, and the designer is thinking about the cover. I’ve made some suggestions and we’ll have to see what he comes up with. We want to indicate that this plot is all about money, so perhaps a matched set of luggage might do it, or a stonkingly expensive handbag? Or, because the storyline does feature it, a box with lots of different compartments for a number of pills?

I think it’s fair to say that most crime stories are about money, although I do write about other things as well. Sometimes it’s about control. I must admit I do deal with some very dark subjects from time to time. Now I’m moving smartly on to work on another Bea Abbot book and find that there’s an awful lot of food preparation going on. A chef has bobbed up as a main character. He is youngish and majors in fish dishes. Are my culinary gifts going to be called into question? Where do I look for answers? I think I’ll keep the cooking simple.

The last Bea Abbot story to be published came out at the end of 2017, and it’s called FALSE PRIDE. I haven’t got any reviews in yet, but I’m hoping people will like the story, because I certainly do. The Christmas story for the Methodist Recorder was well received. It was called ‘What is a gift?’ If you haven’t been able to get hold of a copy and would like to read it, just email me and I’ll send you a copy, free, by email. And now I have to think up something for the Easter edition . . .

Finally; may the first signs of spring help you to look forward with hope to the future.

Veronica Heley.

Newsletter no.121 January 2018

A friend who writes good and accessible poetry – by name of Paul Scott – has a poem titled Christmas is Going . . . and then what? He says we face the New Year with the fear that it’s going to be more of the same. It’s a common complaint at this time of year, and I’m not referring to colds, flu and all the other ills that seem to arrive in January. What does the future hold? For me, it’s the hope that I will have more stories to write while keeping up with friends and family. I’m conscious that bits of me don’t work as well as they used to do, but while the ideas are still coming for more stories I’m content.

On the plus side, I have to tell you that the hardback of the new Bea Abbot – titled FALSE PRIDE – is now published in the UK, though it will take another three months to get to the USA and Australia. In this story, Bea’s weekend is interrupted by a client bearing a briefcase of jewels entrusted to her by Lucas Rycroft, her art expert employer, who has disappeared. Other members of the dysfunctional Rycroft family are also after the jewels . . . and then a body is discovered at Lucas’s home and events begin to spin out of control.

I shall be sending off the mss of the next Ellie Quicke story – titled MURDER BY SUGGESTON – to my editor tomorrow, and await her verdict with some anxiety. It’s going to take her some time to get back to me, and in the interval I feel like one of those participants in a game show, or in Strictly Come Dancing, where the presenter says, ‘And the winner is . . .’ And you count out the seconds, one, two . . . fifteen sixteen . . .’ And eventually out pops the name. I sympathise with the strained expressions on the contestants’ faces as they await judgment, as I also wait for someone to pronounce on my work.

Meanwhile, I have to sit and think – or lie down and think – about the next story. This is the time of year when I have to stop ‘being’ Ellie Quicke and start ‘being’ Bea Abbot. I am no longer a housewife who is not sure where she put her handbag, but a business woman who regularly goes to the beauty parlour. Ellie wears blue and white. Bea wears green and black. Ellie’s shoes – which she’s probably put on that morning to do some gardening in – are worn and comfortable. Bea likes expensive boots. Of course there are similarities. Both are hospitable and both are hunters – though probably Ellie would deny that. And no, I’m not really either of them, but I slip into and out of their characters when I write their stories.

My Christmas story for the Methodist Recorder is called ‘What is a gift?’ It’s not about money, but what a gift can cost our friends in terms of time and trouble. If you can’t get hold of the Christmas issue of the Recorder and would like to read it, just email me and I’ll send you a copy, free, by email.

And finally; may the New Year bring you good health, a decent balance of work and play, and a quiet mind to face whatever may come into your lives.

Veronica Heley.

Newsletter no.120 December 2017

Have you ever found yourself faced with a ‘freeze’ on the computer screen which will not respond to the usual blandishments? Twice this last month I have triggered something called ‘track changes’. I have no idea how I did it. (Please, don’t tell me!) Track changes are used by editors to mark things they wish to query or alter. I do get manuscripts sent back to me by a copy editor which is marked up in such fashion, but I have never tried to do it myself. Suddenly I found myself unable to alter anything in my draft. I hammered on different keys to no avail.

At last I resorted to the well-known business of pressing everything in sight and seeing if it might or might not relate to what has happened. And yes, that worked. Sort of. And then, would you believe it, a few days later it happened again? The second time round I did remember that it was something to do with ‘track changes’. So far, so good. But then I had to work out all over again how to cancel it. And yes, finally, after some teeth-grinding, I got back to where I had been when I was so rudely interrupted.

In other words, I have got through the third draft of the next Ellie Quicke, and am about to start on the fourth and last run through, before delivering the story at the end of the year. This tale is called MURDER BY SUGGESTION. I am told that the hardback will be out in the UK in July ’18, and in the USA, etc., in October. As soon as I despatch this one, I shall be thinking about the next, which will be another Bea Abbot.

It’s all deadlines at the moment. I worked hard on my story for the Christmas issue of the Methodist Recorder. I got it down to the right size, I polished here and there, and finally felt it was ready for submission. Fortunately I took the precaution of having it vetted by a good friend before I sent it off . . . and she spotted a wonderful howler! I had written that my heroes had put all the dirty dishes in the washing machine (instead of the dishwasher)! Yes! I must have read that bit over and over and over – and still not spotted it. However, she did, and I altered it. Thank you, my friend.

The story is called ‘What is a gift?’ It’s not really about money, but what a gift can cost in terms of time and trouble. If you can’t get hold of the Christmas issue of the Recorder and would like to read it, just email me AFTER it’s been published, and I’ll send you a copy by email.

And finally; Try to ease away the stresses and strains of preparing for a commercial Christmas. May you bear in mind, instead, the blessings that came with the birth of Jesus.

Veronica Heley.

Newsletter no.119 November 2017

What’s your favourite way of dealing with unsolicited phone calls? Sometimes I pretend to be very ancient and keep saying, ‘Who did you say you are?’ I get them to repeat it several times, and even to spell it . . . and then they ring off. I’m thinking of replying in future with, ‘Can you wait till I find my hearing aids?’

More good news! I have signed a contract for the next Ellie Quicke, which is to be delivered at the end of the year and will be published mid-summer. I had called it ‘MURDER BY JOKE’ but the Powers That Be decided that this was too frivolous and wanted something else. So now it’s titled ‘MURDER BY SUGGESTION.’ It’s going to be a bit of a rush to deliver by the end of the year but with a bit of luck, it will be all right.

I find it hard to believe, but the next Bea Abbot story – FALSE PRIDE – which comes out at the end of the year, is going to be my eightieth to be published in the traditional way! I’ve just finished the copy editing and proof reading and have seen a pull of the projected cover, so my part in the production is done and dusted.

I have a little book in which I write down the editions of each book as they come out, but can’t be absolutely sure that I record everything that happens. For example, the first out is a hardback book, to be followed fairly quickly by an e-book. Then, perhaps a year later, there is a paperback and fairly often, a large print version. And somewhere in there an audiobook barrels its way through. So yes, that’s five versions of one story. I am told that you can also download most of these tales through something called Audible onto your phone or i-pad, but I’m not clued up enough to do that.

Recently, I’ve been informed that a trade paperback of FALSE DIAMOND will be out at the end of October and that the ebook of MURDER FOR NOTHING will appear on November lst (today!). False Diamond – pb 978 12 84751 798 2 and Murder for Nothing ebook 978 1 78010 903 9. Also, my webmaster has embedded codes into my website which allow you to listen to an extract from recent books at will. How clever is that!

Next on my To Do list is a Christmas story for the Methodist Recorder, which I will have to deliver some time in November. I thought of calling it ‘What is a gift?’ Do we really think of what the recipient would like when we buy a gift for someone, or do we arrange to get something we want ourselves? Do we spend too much to prove that we care about someone? How much should it cost? Do we remember how the business of gifts started? I suppose there are many answers to these questions. But what will the four friends in my story decide to do?

And finally, a blessing; In the dark days of winter, may your bright smile warm the hearts of people wherever you go.

Veronica Heley.

Newsletter no.118 October 2017

The news broke last month that Severn House, my publisher for many years, had been sold to Canongate, who publish good fiction. My editor told me that things should go on much as before, which was all very well but I worried that the new bosses wouldn’t like what I write, and that they wouldn’t want me to continue with Bea and Ellie. However, they did send me the copy edit for the next Bea Abbot – FALSE PRIDE – which is due out at the end of the year, and I got on with that . . . Until finally I got a phone call from my agent to say that Canongate are offering me another contract! Hurray! So now I’m happily working away on another Ellie, for delivery probably at the end of the year.

More good news: I’ve had another excellent review from Publishers Weekly, which calls ‘Murder for Nothing’ an enjoyable read. It ends up : ‘Heley’s strength is in creating unpleasant people that the reader loves to hate.’

I find this an acute judgment, but I would argue with the word ‘creating’. I don’t really ‘create’. Once I have the main story-line worked out, I let my mind wander where it will on the subject of the various characters and the parts they are going to play in the storyline. Once the dim outline of a suitable person pops into my head. I spend time thinking about him or her until he/she stops being a cardboard cut-out, and crystallises into something more solid. In the best instances, the character becomes three-dimensional and recognisable as someone you might have met. But let’s be clear about this; once the characters are fully formed, I can’t push them around and tell them what to do. They tell me what they are going to do, and that’s it.

I suppose the character my readers most love to hate is Ellie’s dreadful daughter, Diana, who never gives up on her campaign to get rich. Her rudeness is appalling, and she can’t seem to learn that Ellie can only be pushed so far. Yes, she is a monster, but she does have her good points: she is brave and loyal to her almost equally appalling husband, and she is devoted to her little son. Every now and then I meet someone or hear of someone who is equally self-centred and I allow myself a private grin of recognition.

Meanwhile the short story, titled RECYCLING has just been published by the Methodist Recorder. This story has Leo finding it difficult to pass on his old palm crosses to new owners. If anyone would like to read ‘Recycling’ but can’t get hold of a hard copy, let me know, and I will send it to you free by email. And now I have to start thinking about a story for the Christmas issue.

And finally, a blessing; May the wonderful colours of the trees in autumn fill you with wonder at the beauty of creation.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.117 September 2017

I stole away up north for six days in August and talk about temperatures dropping when you leave London! Five or six degrees, I kid you not! Yorkshire is beautiful, and I love Yorkshire cheeses, so there were compensations . . . not to mention attending the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta season in Harrogate. So I return refreshed to find another cheque from my agent for some royalties, and the suggestion for the cover of FALSE PRIDE, which should come out at the end of the year.

 Yes. Another cover. You know I sometimes struggle with the ideas my publishers have for covers. I thought that the cover for MURDER FOR NOTHING worked very well as so much of the plot dealt with what happened to various cell phones – and we had cell phones on the cover. Fine. Now for FALSE PRIDE I had made various suggestions which apparently wouldn’t work for various reasons and my publishers have picked on one which shows lots of jewellery in a briefcase. Actually, it’s a good cover, but I’d described the jewellery to be all diamonds and it isn’t. Sigh. But no, it’s not worth fighting about.

 Meanwhile I have delivered another short story, titled RECYCLING to the Methodist Recorder and they are putting it into an issue shortly. Memo to self; must find out when it comes out. Now I have to start thinking about one for the Christmas issue. Maybe something about how much a gift should cost? Hmm. Further thought required.

 I had a big struggle getting back to the next Ellie after my holiday. Sometimes I try to do a little bit of work when I’m away but this time either my wonderful computer guru or I got the date of my departure wrong, and I went away with only a tiny notebook for company. (I’m talking a paper notebook, not an electronic piece of wizardry). And I didn’t do any thinking about the next bit of plot at all. Now I’m back and facing the computer screen I see where I went wrong. Usually I have to stop work at the end of the day while the ideas are still working away in my head, so that the next morning I can slot straight back into the flow. But this time I finished off a scene and thought I’d start again with one of three missing people coming through the door and I couldn’t work out which one! Ridiculous, isn’t it? Finally, I worked out which person should enter next and that started me off again.

 This reminds me of the way Peter Cheyney used to work. Do you remember his ‘hard-boiled’ detective books? He used to say that if the plot flagged, he’d have someone open a door and discover a corpse. Actually, that’s a thought – I have a number of people I intend to kill off in this next book. Hm. Who’s next?  

 Thanks to those people who have sent me ideas about how to commit murder. Three of them were particularly good. I have started a file to keep this information in, and am sure I’ll be using them as and when required. And no, I am not going to tell you what people have suggested!

 And finally, a blessing; May you always feel strong enough to greet friends with a smile.

 Veronica Heley.                                                     

Newsletter no.116 August 2017

London has been swelteringly hot for days at a time – and then remarkably cool. When it was so hot I couldn’t work unless I put the fan on, but that sent all my papers flying about the room. By the time I’d anchored them down I had to wash my sticky hands and then the phone rang and . . . In other words, I didn’t get much work done while the hot spells lasted. Everything in the garden needed water, and as for the pots! Every year I tell myself not to plant up so many pots, and every year I give in and do exactly that. But I must admit the flowers and the runner beans are worth the trouble.

Back to work, and I can report that the hardback of MURDER FOR NOTHING is now out and hopefully amusing lots of people. Someone said to me that surely no one can be as self-centred as Angelica, the girl in this book. But I’m afraid she is alive and well and getting her own way about everything, all over the world. She certainly causes maximum bother to Ellie, who took her in when she said she had nowhere to go – and cried most beautifully to underline her case. Ah well; Ellie soon learned.

Covers I have known. As you know, I don’t always see eye to eye with my publishers about covers. They look to the sales department for advice as they know what sells, whereas I think in terms of what the people who read my books would like. How it works is this: I suggest something for the cover, and they consider if it’s eye-catching or not. In the cover for MURDER FOR NOTHING, we are in agreement; a number of cell phones, with the top one being all pink and pretty.

We are all so reliant on phones nowadays that I have to take this into account when writing my stories. In real life a call on a cell phone can get you out of trouble pretty quickly, so sometimes I have to work out why a character can’t use his or her phone. This happens a lot in FALSE PRIDE, which will be out at the end of the year.

Now I’m researching pills for my next book and writing a short story at the same time. It’s amazing how many ways I can find out to kill someone if you can work out the right questions to ask the expert. I think I’ve done quite a few different ways by now. If anyone has a bright idea for a novel way in which to bump someone off, would you like to let me know? I promise not to put it into practice, but only to write about it . . . and then only if it fits the next storyline.

Mark tells me my new website is up and running. I hope I’ve got everything on it, but as the total is now 80 books with traditional publishers, I’m not entirely sure that the odd title or reissue hasn’t slipped through the net. Have a look sometime. It might amuse you. And don’t forget the paperback is now out of Ellie’s MURDER FOR MERCY and, new! the audiobook of MURDER IN STYLE.

And finally, a blessing; May you reflect the warmth of summer and of God’s love in your smile when you meet other people.

Veronica Heley.

P.S. Harlequin, the big American publisher is taking two of the Bea Abbot stories for its book club. Hurray!

Newsletter no.115 July 2017

News . . . I managed to get the next book off to my editor, and then paced up and down waiting to hear if she liked it or not. I thought the story was all right, but by the time I’d been living with it for six months or so, I really didn’t know what day of the week it was. Two days before I sent it off, I was sure that I’d not ironed out a particular bit of plot. And could I find that bit in the mss? No, I could not. Then, I found it, and put it right. Hooray! And then I sent it off . . . only to realise that I’d changed something else at the last minute which was not right, and which was going to be picked on and chucked back at me . . . ah me! Who’d be a writer?

 But at last the waiting was over. The editor liked it and said some very nice things about it, hurray. All things being equal, it will be published at the end of this year. This story is titled FALSE PRIDE and includes one of the nastiest weapons this century had come up with – a taser. I like to do the research on anything I don’t understand, so I googled ‘taser’ and came up against a screen which forbade me to go any further under pain of being interviewed by MI5 or whoever. So I desisted. I knew enough about the horrid things by that time to write about them, anyway.

 Mark, who created and looks after my website, has given me a new website. Some things still need tweaking. For instance, I have been getting published since 1974 (yes, really!) and the very first crime books that I wrote were not on the site. They are, I must confess, somewhat ‘harder’ than the stories that I write nowadays, but nevertheless have been brought out recently in large print and e-book by AudioGo. Also missing were the beautiful pop up books by Francesca Crespi at Frances Lincoln for which I provided the text. So, some of this has now been rectified, some not. No doubt Mark will sort it out. (I’m just so grateful that I can ask him to do this sort of thing for me. If I even have to change the batteries in the remote control, I’m liable to get them in the wrong way!)

 Some paperback copies of the 14th Ellie Quicke, Murder with Mercy, arrived on my doorstep the other day. I’m so glad the publisher continues to bring out paperbacks. I rather like this story, which has a lot of duplicity in it, and young Mikey getting into trouble – again.

 If anyone missed the last short story I wrote for The Methodist Recorder and can’t get a copy, I’d be happy to email one to you. It’s called ‘You can do it!’ and is about how Sally learns to stand up for herself . . . a bit.

 And finally, a blessing; may we pause even in our busiest days, to look around us and thank God for His many blessings.

 Veronica Heley.

Newsletter no.114 June 2017

Yes! I am back on my wonderful old computer! There are still one or two glitches to iron out, but I can merrily go on with the next book without too much of a hassle. My little old net book has gone in for a service – which it needed.

The proof reading for Murder for Nothing went off all right, and I’m told the book will be published on July 10th. Why July 10th? I’m not sure. Anyway, that’s the date for Britain – 3 months later for overseas.

Meanwhile I have to get back to work on the next Bea Abbot. My first draft ended up a bit short on the word count. That always seems to happen with my first draft. Then, when I come to work on it, I find that I haven’t explained this, and could well spend a little more time on that. So the second draft often ends up over the word count. I get it down to the right number on the third run through, and after that I check for the inevitable typos and silly mistakes that inevitably end up on the page when you keep altering the text. I’m hoping not to have to ask for another week’s grace. With luck, it will be all right.

Most days after lunch I retire to bed for half an hour’s snooze. What is it about the postman and the telephone that they choose that very half hour in which to require my attention? One day I was roused three times in half an hour to deal with someone who wanted to change the time of an appointment, by one postman delivering a book, and then – would you believe – a second postman ditto? I had to forgive the posties, though, as they were bringing me my audio book copies of False Wall, and the large print version of Murder in Style. Both now available through the usual channels. We did have a spot of bother about the cat on the cover of the audio book for False Wall. The original version had a ginger cat on it – but that’s Midge, who belongs to Ellie (or vice versa? Do cats belong to their owners, or do the owners belong to their cats?) So the designer had hastily to change a ginger tom for a black fluffy.

The next short story for The Methodist Recorder will be out on June 2nd in time for Pentecost. It’s always struck me as an interesting thought that the first disciples had to leave the safety of their locked room for the dangers of the marketplace, before they could spread the news about Jesus. If they had stayed inside, it’s arguable that Christianity would never exist today. Anyway, this next story is about how Sally learns she can leave her comfort zone to help someone who’s fallen down in the street – and the repercussions of that. Title: ‘You can do it!’ If you’d like to receive a copy of this story, email me, and I’ll send it to you, free.

And finally, a blessing; may we find opportunities to be kind to others, as we thank God for the blessings of this glorious summer.

Veronica Heley.