Newsletter no.130 October 2018

I was getting on nicely with the next Ellie story when the copy editing for FALSE ACCOUNT arrived. Late. One copy was put in the post to me but didn’t materialise till we were all flapping around in a panic because of its non-arrival, only to reach me at the same time as a second copy which had hurriedly been run off by the publisher for me. That put us behind schedule a good few days. I was warned that I had been allocated a copy editor new to me, who was very ‘thorough.’ Normally it takes me a week to deal with the typos, misunderstandings and queries that arise when a second and third person looks at my stories. This time it took . . . a fortnight. Um. Yes. This copy editor thought she could improve on my style which may be faulty, but it is the way I write. So a great number of her suggested changes were, in my opinion, unnecessary and had to be marked as such. I don’t think I’ve ever written ‘stet’ so many times in my life before. To be fair, she had picked up a number of things which needed more explanation.

My biggest problem in writing this book is how to write about an acid attack. (It’s all right! Nobody gets hurt!) No, my problem was how much to reveal about the product containing the nastiest of acids, which is readily available. You will probably have noticed that I never give too much detail about how to commit a crime, even though I have had to bone up on it myself beforehand. In this case, I consulted a man whose company does contract cleaning, my own wonderful cleaner, and the internet. Now that sounds all right, doesn’t it? But, as soon as I started to research acid attacks on my computer, the sites closed down on me. I think that’s reassuring. If annoying from a writer’s point of view.

I have had yet another nice review in for MURDER BY SUGGESTION. This is from Booklist, and it says: ‘It’s another madcap murder mystery . . . a British cozy on speed, Heley’s latest is frenetic, action-packed, and clever – all that, and the redoubtable supersleuth Ellie Quicke cavorting in high style.’ Isn’t that nice?

Finally the Methodist Recorder arranged for my next short story to be published on September 14th. It’s called ‘It’s not my problem!’ Bruce, who’s still suffering from the effects of a mugging by a group of youths, is asked to counsel a local lad who’s bent on revenging himself for a similar encounter. When Jimson turns up, he’s hooked into his music and apparently not listening to anything Bruce says. And then he produces a wicked-looking knife . . . and who is going to listen to who? If you’d like a copy and can’t get it in the ordinary way, let me know, and I’ll email it to you for free.

And now back to work on MURDER FOR GOOD, which is the twentieth Ellie Quicke. It’s going quite well, but Oh my goodness! What a number of deaths we do have here!

A blessing; may the autumn television schedules bring you some good light entertainment to balance the stresses of life today.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.129 September 2018

First of all I want to thank everyone who wrote to me saying that Ellie shouldn’t retire yet. My editor and my agent agree, and I am carrying on writing the next book as planned. I am a trifle disconcerted to find how many deaths I have planned to include in this story, and frankly shocked to find what Diana is up to this time. But it’s pleasant to feel that I can relax and take longer to write this story. Doing one every six months is really hard work. All my friends are retired by now and every now and then one will ask me to join her for a day out and I have to make my apologies because I am on a deadline. I still feel anxious if I take time off, but I’m sure I shall soon adjust to having more time at my disposal.

Now, to other matters. The re-burial of half a pigeon was successful, and the fox failed to dig it up again. Every now and then I go round the garden and look at the high fence on one side, and the trellis on the other, and wonder how on earth the fox manages to get into my garden at all. But he does! Occasionally I look out of the window in broad daylight, and there he is, bold as brass! Urban foxes have nothing to fear from us law-abiding citizens.

An oddity: When I visited Yorkshire recently, I was invited to partake of some Wensleydale cheese. It is a mild, hard cheese. I tried it with some fruit cake, because I’d heard the combination was rather good . . . and found it to be scrumptious! Now my website manager says that his favourite is Marmite and honey on bread. I’m not a Marmite fan, and don’t think I’ll try that. Whatever next, I ask myself?

There have been hiccups with my computer – oh dear – I lost another week’s work, but hopefully all is back on track again. And meanwhile I’ve had a nice review in from Publishers Weekly for MURDER BY SUGGESTION, which came out at the end of June, saying that ‘Once again, Heley successfully melds a cozy sensibility with dark doings.’ So let’s hope everyone else likes it, too.

Any day now I should be getting the copy editing of the last Bea Abbot book which I submitted to Severn House. This means I shall have to stop work on Ellie to deal with that. I’m happy enough with the storyline, and hope it won’t take me too long to iron out the queries and correct the errors in the manuscript, so that I can get back to Ellie again.

I’m not sure when the second short story about forgiveness is coming out. I’ll flag it up as soon as I hear. I believe the Methodist Recorder is moving offices . . . enough said!

A blessing; may your days be filled with blessings . . . pass them to others, and they will be returned to you sevenfold.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.128 August 2018

The milk delivery is fine for the moment, hurray! But, I drew back the curtains a couple of days ago, to see a mess of feathers in the middle of the lawn, and half a dead pigeon neatly laid out to one side. Yes, half! I thought this must be the work of a fox and that he’d return sharpish to collect his prey. But no; it was still there the following day. My wonderful cleaner told me to go indoors and she’d deal with it. She dug a deep hole in a flower border, wrapped the body in newspaper, and interred it. Job done. I was so grateful. The next morning I drew back the curtain . . . and saw a tooth-marked but still intact newspaper parcel on the lawn, and a gaping hole in the border. Yes. This time I had to see to the burial myself. When I’d finished, I dragged a heavy bucket to cover the spot as a gravestone. This morning all was as it should be. Now all we need is some rain to hasten decomposition.

And oh yes, do we need some rain! We’ve had one evening of showers, and a slight shower one afternoon and that’s that. I’ve had to leave the annuals to die, and concentrated on watering the runner beans in pots . . . and now I have another battle I have to report. Blackfly! But I must admit that what runner beans have managed to set, have been delicious.

PS. Today at long last it is raining. This is bad timing, I have a Garden Shed party to go to!

Back to work. I sent in the manuscript of the next Bea story, and my editor likes it, hurray! Even before I start on the line editing, she wanted to know what I envisaged for the cover. I said that a model railway engine being looked at by a cat would be good. She has her own ideas, of course, so now I have to wait to see what turns up. I’ve also had the proof sent through to me of the cover for the audiobook of Murder for Nothing. They have a different style from that of Severn House, but it’s always thoughtful and I like their idea for this cover.

Meanwhile, I’m still struggling along with the second short story about forgiveness. The hint of an idea I had at first does seem to be working out, and I am in the process of fiddling around with this and that . . . and waiting to hear when I have to send it in.

And now, incredibly, I am on to the twentieth Ellie Quicke story! I can hardly believe it. The first story was published in 2001, and I’ve been writing at least one a year ever since. Ellie started out as a new widow of fifty, and a lot has happened to her since then, including remarriage and the birth of two more grandchildren. Should I call it a day with her, or should I keep on keeping on? The idea for the current story seems to be working out all right, and it’s a subject matter which keeps cropping up in the newspapers, but shouldn’t Ellie retire from solving murders at some point? She would never have described herself as a hunter, although that in fact is what she is. But there’s still her greedy daughter, Diana, to deal with . . . and shouldn’t Ellie and Thomas downsize from that white elephant of a house? I’d welcome some feedback on this.

A blessing; may you always think of life as a cup that is half full … and not half empty.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.127 July 2018

Hush! Don’t tell anyone, but I think I’ve solved the milk delivery problem. Stephen came back from holiday, the empties were removed and a fresh bottle of milk was hidden in my waste food container each time! Hurray! And then . . . the other morning I picked up the bottle of milk, which slid through my hands and fell on the floor. You know how difficult it is sometimes to ease the cap off the bottle? This time it came away with ease and allowed milk to spread all over the porch floor. Aaargh! And I’d put the washing machine on, and it was beeping at me . . . breakfast was a little late that day.

On a happier note . . . I have been away, returning to my favourite holiday spot, Bruges, once again. Now I know it’s ridiculous to expect time to stand still, but I must confess to feeling upset when I discovered that my favourite family-run restaurant had been sold to a neighbouring business A combination of problems has caused the sale; the family has been running the place for thirty-five years and the mother wants to retire, while neither of her two sons wishes to take the place on. Their reasons are understandable; health is one factor and high taxes another. And the long hours . . . but oh dear, I shall miss them. Apart from this, I had a high old time, bought some more clothes, and some chocolate (of course) and visited a fabulous exhibition on the beginnings of printed books. Now that was really something!

Now I’m back, and have run through the next Bea Abbot book, weeding out unnecessary words, re-writing awkward sentences, and inventing a name for yet another cat, who makes an appearance in the final chapters of the story. And speaking of cats, my publishers have asked me to think up six or seven words which describe my stories. This is for the internet, so that anyone wanting to read a story which contains one or more of these elements, can find me. Well, it’s not easy to get it down to six or seven words. No. See me wrinkling my brow and trying out lists of words . . . and then crossing them all out. My final list was; Older woman, crime, family, community, humour . . . and cats. What do you think? Have I got it more or less right? Have I missed out something important?

Now, some good news. The next Ellie, which I think is the nineteenth in the series, will be published as this newsletter goes out. It’s called MURDER BY SUGGESTION and starts when some neglected wives see a poster about a Murder Weekend and amuse themselves suggesting ways to kill their husbands . . . until one of them dies in precisely the way suggested by Ellie’s daughter Diana. The men all throw their wives out and they land up in Ellie’s hall in considerable distress! It will take three months to get the books physically to America, and on that date the ebook will be out, too.

Also, the paperback of MURDER IN STYLE is now out. That’s the one in which a fashion boutique plays a large part in the lives of two sisters – one of whom is found dead in suspicious circumstances.

Finally, may the roses of summer remind you by their beauty and fragrance, of the breadth and depth of God’s love for us.
Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.126 June 2018

I think we’ve cracked the problem of the stolen milk! A friend who lives across the road from me has never had her milk stolen. Neither have any other of my neighbours. My friends point out that because I live on a corner site opposite gates into our local park, my milk can be seen by a lot of people. I have tried suggesting that it’s hidden in the foliage nearby, but there’s not enough greenery to hide it successfully. So, one of my neighbours said, ‘Why don’t you hide it in your waste food container?

This is a box with a lid which is given to every householder, which is emptied by the council once a week. Now I don’t have much food waste, as almost everything I don’t eat is either given to the birds, or composted. I do put out chicken bones now and then, but that’s about it. So my food box is not in regular use. So far, so good. I’ve put the box out three times this week and so far . . . touch wood . . . the next morning I have found a fresh bottle of milk ready for me to use at breakfast time.

Yesterday I found no milk had been left! Again! I phoned the dairy and remonstrated in what I believe to be a restrained manner. Today I found a fresh bottle on the doorstep with a note saying, ‘Sorry, Stephen’s on holiday!’ Yes. Well. And today, there’s a bottle of milk put down beside the box, but the empties have not been taken. My rescue plan is flawed!

So, how am I getting on with the next book, which is a Bea Abbot story? I did finally struggle through to the end of the first draft and am now working through it, second time round. I rather like this story, which is about the sense of entitlement which a great deal of money – not necessarily inherited – can give people. Some even think that having money makes them invulnerable. This means they can treat other people as inferior beings, which doesn’t go down well with Bea Abbot or her ex-husband Piers, who is being very helpful to her at the moment. Well, his washing machine has broken down so he’s popping in and out rather a lot. That’s his excuse, anyway. Oh, and Bea’s difficult teenage ward wants to help, too. This is probably not a good idea, but she’s a headstrong lass . . .

The audiobook contract is through for the last two published stories, but it will be some months before they’re out and about. Meanwhile both the audiobook and the ebook of FALSE PRIDE are now out, as is the large print version of MURDER WITH MERCY.

The Methodist Recorder liked the story I wrote for Easter about forgiveness. I found it very difficult to write. How can you tackle such a subject in just one short story. But now The Recorder is suggesting I do a follow-up for publication sometime in the autumn. So I’m doing some research into the programmes for reconciliation between victims and the people who’ve hurt them. It’s quite a project.

Finally, may the sight of the roses of summer bring a moment of delight into your lives, whenever and wherever you see them.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.125 May 2018

The saga of the milk bottles continues, with a twist! You know that I write crime stories. Well, here is a crime which I can solve up to a point. On Saturday I noticed a plastic bag had been tossed onto my front lawn from the path. The packet had clearly contained chips. Someone had eaten their fill, abandoned the remainder in my garden . . . and the bottle of milk which had been delivered in the early hours of the morning, was nowhere to be seen! I think it only reasonable to assume that whoever left the food, stole my milk. You agree with me, don’t you? Problem: If I ring the police and say, “I have to report a crime!” The first thing they will want to know is, do I have videotape evidence? Did I see a crime committed? Do I know who is the scumbag who is prepared to rob a poor old woman of her daily pinta?

Some good news: I went to the London Book Fair, armed with chocolate as usual, and was told that my editor at Severn House wants me to go on writing as before. She wanted to know if the next one (Bea Abbot: False Account) will be delivered on time. This was no idle question as I had lost some eight chapters due to computer problems and not having backed up properly. However, I have now caught up again – not without considerable stress, I must say – and all is back on track. As usual, I was asked if I have any suggestions for the cover and this time I referred to the storyline and said, “What about a model train layout? Or, of course, cats!” Cats are supposed to be a good thing on book covers. I suppose we might actually have both? We could have a nice-looking cat looking down on a miniature train puffing along? There’s several months to go before the publisher decides what goes on the cover, but I bet we get cats. I hasten to say that I really really like cats. But at the moment I’m enchanted by the idea of the model train set.

I also saw the lovely audiobook people at the Fair who said they’d just put in an offer for the last two published books, Ellie’s Murder for Nothing, and Bea’s False Pride. So we chatted about this and that, and anything else I might have available. We ate some chocolate, and then I went home and had a well-earned rest.

The short story for the Methodist Recorder at Easter was about forgiveness. It was a difficult subject to write about but what I said seems to have echoed what a number of my readers have been thinking. I’ve been urged to write a follow-up. If that happens, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, if you haven’t been able to get a hard copy of ‘Can You Forgive?’ and would like to read it, just let me know and I’ll send you one by email, free.

Finally; may the late-blooming flowers of spring bring you renewed hope for the future.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.124 April 2018

The saga of the milk bottles continues. First we had the same problem as before – that the empties were taken but no delivery made. We have to assume that someone pinched them, oh dear! And then, the milkman says I didn’t leave a cheque for him last month. But I did. What’s going on? I mean, surely whoever took my milk wouldn’t want my cheque as well, would he? Perhaps the milkman has mislaid it? Letters and notes fly backward and forwards … let’s hope he doesn’t cut me off completely. I really don’t want to have to carry milk back from the shops. And don’t tell me I can load it into my car because … now don’t laugh, because this is serious! … I don’t drive!!!

The next Bea Abbot is still coming along nicely, but just as I got to a really tense bit in which Bea feels so threatened that she very nearly gives up the case she’s working on, I have had to interrupt my work on it to do some PR for the American website of Trish Perry, who likes to feature my work every now and then, and the copy editing of the next Ellie Quicke. This copy editing is work which requires intense concentration. If I have two spaces instead of one between words, a neat little red line appears on the manuscript. Then, I have a blind spot about hyphenating some ordinary words, and I have never yet been able to remember for long that the ‘s’ in words like ‘realise’ should be rendered with a ‘z’ as in ‘realize’. I’ve only been working for Severn House for sixteen years, so why is it that I cannot remember this? I will have to put a Post It note on my computer screen featuring a large ‘Z’ in future. Maybe that will work.

And then, of course, there was the short story for the Methodist Recorder. You may remember I wanted to make this a story about forgiveness, and I had a real struggle to get the balance right. My first effort was short on the problems facing people who have been wronged, so I re-wrote it to get that right. Then I realized – oh dear! – that I’d got the action in the wrong place, so I had to do some switching round to get it right. Finally, I think I have the balance right … action leads to discussion, but not too much of it. Along the way I have talked to a lot of people about their understanding of forgiveness and our minister gave me an answer which I hadn’t heard before. She said that if someone keeps doing something wrong, over and over again, you say you still love them but that there will be consequences to their wrong-doing. I really like that.

The re-written story, 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 a few days later.

STOP PRESS; a problem with my computer! The file for the next Bea Abbot has corrupted itself and I hadn’t backed up since February! Fortunately I have all my notes for the chapters I’ve lost, and I have time enough to rewrite, but … Oh dear!!! My computer guru couldn’t find out why it happened and is going to fit an automatic back-up, but what a business!

Finally; may the message of Easter renew joy and hope in our lives.

Veronica Heley

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.