Newsletter no.178, 1st August, 2021

The proofs have been read and . . .

The corrections have been sent back to the editor for FALSE FACE. In this story, we find Bea’s husband, Piers, working on a portrait of a fading film star. Karima claims Piers has conspired with young Molly – who is ghost-writing the diva’s memoirs – to steal from her. Bea discovers that Karima and Molly live in a fantasy world that bears little relation to reality. This book comes out in the UK on 30th September, the e-book on November 1st, and the USA publication date is at the start of December.

I’ve met two fantasists in my time. When I left home to find a better job and make new friends, I met not one but two charming men who convinced people – at least for a time – that they were other than they were. One claimed he’d gone to Eton while the other boasted of a University degree. Both were eventually exposed but the damage done to some of those around them was considerable.

The next short story . . .

for the Methodist Recorder has been accepted and will be out in August. It’s called ‘It Wasn’t My Fault.’ In order to get a job, a man lies, saying that he’s been vaccinated and has no Covid symptoms. He passes the virus on to his team at work, with tragic results. So how far is he responsible for what happened? Legally he’s in the clear, isn’t he? I’ll let you know when it’s due to be published.

The story that comes with this letter is ‘Jimson and the Knife.’ Bruce is asked to counsel a lad who’s spoiling for revenge after a fight, and won’t listen to anyone who tries to prevent him using a knife. Bruce doesn’t think he can get through to the lad, but . . . well, he does . . . in a way. You can access it here.


With the lifting of so many restrictions, the need for me to turn out two newsletters a month has become less pressing. I know that you enjoy them, but my workload doesn’t seem to be decreasing while the days turn into years and I could do with less work and more play. So I’m going to drop back in future to just one newsletter at the beginning every month. I hope you will understand.

As for Parsley . . .

You can access him here, surveying the neighbourhood amid the late summer yellow flowers. Are the daisies Heleniums? I’ve always called the others Tansy or Bachelor’s Buttons, but I can’t find those names in any of my flower books. Oh dear. Someone gave me some roots many years ago and I’ve never been too bothered about the exact names. Now, back to work on the next Ellie . . .

A blessing on those who lighten our load with an amusing story.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.178, July 15th, 2021

The copy editing is done and dusted . . .

And soon it will be on its way to the printer . . . who will then run off a copy, which will be returned to me for proof-reading. And that’s when I find one or two things I’ve missed. Yes, it always happens. There are run-ons which have suddenly appeared in what had once been a clean page and, one of my failings – the same word has been repeated within a paragraph. You would think that I should have picked the duplicates up earlier, and I agree but, sigh, it does seem to happen every time. As for the run-ons, I can’t explain why they occur. They are not in the copy-editing stage but when it comes to proofs. . . yes, there they are, bold as brass. I tell myself, Onwards and Upwards, and am heartened to hear that the book – False Face by name – will be published in September.

The next short story . . .

for the Methodist Recorder is coming on a treat. It’s a difficult subject about personal responsibility in Covid times and I’m still working on it as we speak. I’ll let you know when it’s due to be published.

The story that comes with this letter is ‘Can You Forgive?’ Can you forgive a wrong done to you? Perhaps it depends on how much you are hurt by it? An elderly friend of mine who was a man of strong faith was ambushed in a park and beaten up. It took him months to recover and he found it very hard to forgive. In my story, Bruce is in the same position. You can read how he dealt with it here.

A star is born . . .

Everyone seems to love Parsley, my white pottery lamb, so you can see what he got up to in a different part of my garden here. He seems to enjoy the mixture of colours. It’s a bit hard to see but at the top in the background there is an old yellow rose. I have no idea what it’s called, but it was here when we moved into this house over fifty years ago, together with one other old-fashioned pink rose. There wasn’t much else in the garden then, except for self-seeded trees, a mound of bricks and a bicycle which lacked a saddle. Nowadays I try to have something in colour all the year round and mostly, that works.

And finally, I’m back to work on the next Ellie . . .

Of which, more news later.

A blessing on those who take the time to listen to those in distress.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.177, July 1st, 2021

Yes, the copy editing finally arrived.

And yes, of course, it has to be tackled straight away. I had to put on one side a most interesting development in the next Ellie which I’ve been drafting, in order to concentrate on ‘delete this’ and ‘you spell jeopardise with a “z” and not with an “s”, and you should know that by now!’ Also, ‘you haven’t made it clear who is related to who in this next bit.’ All of which is quite true, and I ought to know better. Checking the copy editor’s comments and marking them up on my own file is work that has to be carefully done. I can usually only manage to clear one chapter at a time before I have to have a break . . . and come back later for another crack at it.

Meanwhile, the next Ellie awaits. I had envisaged a minor character as being an eternal student, a Ra-ra character, if you know what I mean. It turns out he’s much more interesting than that, suffering from conflicting loyalties. It would have been so much easier to write if he’d been two-dimensional, but I must admit I like him better now. I hope to get back to him pretty soon.

Introducing ‘Parsley’

Parsley is a white pottery lamb, who is excellent company in my small garden. In my teens we had a Pekinese who also liked to see what I was doing in the garden, but nowadays I have Parsley instead. He has an innocent look about him which makes it all the odder that he seems able to move from one part of the garden to another at will. I’ve had some requests for more of my garden photos. Please excuse if he intrudes. You can access the latest one here. The white rose that he’s posting in front of, is called ‘Jack’ according to someone I know who has an app of her phone which tells you what you’re looking at. And yes, I have to replenish the bird feeder above Parsley nearly every day. And yes, the sparrows tear up everything on the ground below . . .

The short story which comes with this . . .

. . . is not exactly timely, being about gifts at Christmas. I hasten to add that it’s set some Christmases ago before the pandemic, but it does highlight the problem for people living alone of how to spend that great Festival. It’s a little shorter than usual but does make the point of ‘What is a gift?’ at Christmas time. You can access it here.

The Methodist Recorder have asked for another story about Covid for summer reading, and I am thinking of doing it about how the world seems to be down-grading the ten commandments. Nothing bad you do is a sin if you can find a way to excuse it. Some matters may be subject to the law and if you’re caught, you might well have to toe the line, but many other things are no longer considered a sin. This is a difficult subject. How to make a story which is readable and yet also true to today’s thinking . . .?

A blessing on those who bake and give away a cake, a crumble or a flan to brighten up someone else’s day.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.176, June 15th, 2021

I can’t believe it . . . still no sign of the copy editing!

which means that I have been able to get on with the next Ellie Quicke book. Well, interrupted by some attempts at gardening, phoning friends, actually meeting some in the café at the top of the road, and so on. I’m quite pleased with what I’ve written of the next story so far, as everything has got nicely tangled up till Ellie doesn’t know whether she’s on her head or her heels and even the charity for which she works so hard, is threatened! And no, I hadn’t seen that development coming and yet it’s quite obvious, looking back, that this was ging to happen one day.

That’s the odd thing about writing stories. You look at what you’ve done one day and see that you’d actually been leading up to that particular plot point it for some time . . . and yet you hadn’t seen it coming. Sometimes you find you’ve written yourself into a cul-de-sac and there is no way out of it. And then, with some distress, you have to delete a couple of pages and go back to the original ‘stem’ of the story-line . . . and go on from there.

How does my garden grow?

A couple of my friends have been asking about my garden. Well, an artist friend of mine took a photo of part of my back garden, which you can see here, if you so wish. If you look carefully, you’ll spot the spout of a watering can, the bird bath which only a minute before had been vacated by some sparrows, and the tips of the tomato plants in the greenhouse. Of course, it’s not always as tidy as this! If you like the idea, maybe I’ll include another photo in the future.

The short story which comes with this . . .

. . . is called ‘Re-Cycling.’ And yes, I know it’s the wrong time of the year to talk about Palm crosses, but I was reminded only the other day that I had kept two, because I couldn’t bear to get rid of them. Well, our friend Leo had been popping them into the pencil jar that sits on his desk and now he’s been given an ultimatum to get rid of them. But . . . how? He shares his problem with Bruce and the crosses end up in all sorts of places. What do you do with yours? You can access the story here.

A blessing on all who find the courage to speak about God when an opening occurs in everyday life.

PS. I’ve just had an email saying the copy editing is on its way to me next week! So I’ve Been Warned!

Newsletter no.175, June 1st, 2021

Everything has gone very quiet, lately. . .

I haven’t heard from my editor, who was supposed to be sending me the copy editor’s queries for False Face, my last Bea Abbot story. These were supposed to arrive before the end of May . . .! So yes, the silence is unnerving. I think we can be sure that the queries will arrive – demanding IMMEDIATE attention – just as I am in the middle of writing an exciting development in the next book. Do I then stop work on Ellie? Do I pretend the queries have got lost in the post and set them aside until I have worked through whatever it is that I’m writing at the moment?

Meanwhile, life continues . . . or rather life in general seems to be improving as various sanctions are lifted. I have met for coffee with friends on several occasions. I’d forgotten how good it was to see people face to face, to drink really good coffee and perhaps be tempted by a slice of cake. Sometimes, I share a slice of cake with a friend which makes both of us feel we are observing our diets because we’re not eating a full piece. And, as we all know, there are no calories in broken biscuits.

The garden has blossomed with all the rain we’ve been having. The first roses are out! My miniature lilac is now taller than me, and a mass of flowers. But the grass grows and grows and grows and it’s too wet to mow it.

The short story which comes with this . . .

. . . is called ‘You Can Do It!’ Writers people-watch. We observe and remember. It may be months or years until the memory of how a certain person looked, acted or spoke can suddenly resurface in the mind and we use the recollection to cast a light on whatever it is we’re working on.

For example; I sat watching the activity in a children’s playground one day. There was one particular piece of equipment which only the older children attempted; a miniature climbing wall. Nearby sat a mother with a much younger child . . . aged five, perhaps? Maybe six? The child kept looking at the wall and then looking back to her mother for reassurance. The mother said, in matter-of-fact tones, ‘You can do it!’ She had assessed the situation, understood the level of difficulty involved and believed the child could do it. Yes, the child had a struggle to reach the top, but she did conquer the wall. I’ve always remembered that word of encouragement and imagined how her mother’s words would have helped that child to face the obstacles which life would throw at her. You can access the story here.

And the new book? Yes, it’s coming along all right. And I’m still assuming that the title is going to be Murder by Estate Agent.

A blessing on all who encourage others by saying, ‘You Can Do it!’

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.174, May 15th, 2021

The cover is agreed!

I can hardly believe it, but even before I’ve received any queries to the manuscript, the cover for False Face has been agreed. I don’t know whether you guessed correctly which image I’d go for, but in fact I had suggested a Venetian mask; a white face on a black background, with bright ribbons and false jewels or sequins on it. And that’s the one they’ve chosen. Yes, it is rather baleful, so I think it should do the job nicely.


I’ve just received a plaintive email from a reader who said she was still waiting for me to send her a copy of the latest Easter story – ‘Zooming In.’ She’d asked me to send her a copy as and when each new story is published and . . . I hadn’t done so. I’d got so taken up with sending one from the archives with each newsletter, that yes, I’d completely forgotten about those who’d asked me to send the new ones as they came out. I looked up my list and cringed. Sorry! Apologies! My only excuse is that my life is getting more and more complicated. I think what I’d better do in future is to make the next story published in the Methodist Recorder the ONLY one available to you in that newsletter, and not add one from the archives. Memo to self: simplify!

I’ve started the next book

Yes! I’ve started the new book. I want to call it Murder by Estate Agent because it’s largely about a battle between the old and new style of selling property. My editor is not entirely sure that this would be a good title, so at the moment the contract is just titled Ellie No 22. Can you really believe that this is the twenty-second time that I’ve written about Ellie? Much has changed since I started this series, but there is one constant . . . yes, Diana. She was last seen shedding her children and waltzing off into the blue with someone with a large expense account. So where and when will she turn up in this next story? Hmm.

The next short story is ‘Remember me!’

This is one from the archive. Tracking down the winner of draw for an expensive hamper at the Craft Fair, our friends are drawn into a difficult family situation. You can access the story here.

A blessing on all who remember, and who keep in contact with old friends, especially those who may have moved away.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.173, May 1st, 2021

Yes, please!

Or in other words, the publishers like the story I’ve just submitted. Hurray!

This is another Bea Abbot story and involves some really nasty characters who all get their comeuppance in one form or another. The manuscript will now be going to a copy editor who will find all sorts of things to query, and pass them back to me. I will then have a tantrum and retire to bed . . . and then I will tell myself that it won’t kill me to deal with the queries, and I’ll set about dealing with them and send the changes back to my editor . . . who will then reset the manuscript and pass it on to the printer, who will then produce a set of proofs . . . which will then be sent to me for final corrections, before finally it is printed! And then distributed.

While all this is going on, we will be having a polite argument about what is to go on the cover. Now this is a minefield, as you can imagine. The publisher knows what buyers – especially in America – expect to see on the cover of a crime novel. The answer, for them, is BLACK! Me, I like colour. Nowadays my name is printed bigger than the title of the book. That, my friends, is considered to be FAME!

Now, the title of this next book is ‘FALSE FACE.’ The suggestions for the cover so far are: a portrait of a faded film star, and a Venetian-style mask. Guess which one I had in mind? Spoiler alert: Piers has been commissioned to paint a Diva who thinks of herself as an orchid. I’ll let you know which idea is put into practice.

Anyway, says she gloomily, it will be months before the finished books are sent to the distributors and some will be sent by sea across the Pond and Down Under . . . when they can then be pre-ordered and, oh dear! Doesn’t it seem to take for ever? I remember the days in which I used to send a manuscript to a publisher and the book would be on sale within six weeks! (All right, those were children’s books so much smaller and I’m writing for grown-ups nowadays.)

Yes, Please!

In the same breath as the editor accepted False Face, she also said she’d like another Ellie, please. So, before I start worrying about the title, a contract was winging its way to me. Delivery: probably ten months. Yes, I know it’s a long time and I might well be able to write it more quickly, but my eyesight is not what it was, and I may need longer to produce the story. I have managed to reproduce a plan of Ellie’s house, thank goodness. I needed to do that before I could start on the story!

Back to basics: the short story accompanying this newsletter is called ‘Corin’s Gift’ and you can access it here.

A blessing on all who are kind enough to listen to the woes of the elderly and isolated who live in our midst.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.172, April 15th, 2021

Bring Ellie home!

This is the considered opinion of my readers. They like Ellie. They like Susan and Rafael and the babes as well, but they really really want Ellie to return. I’m listening to what they say and Ellie will return in the next book. I enjoyed writing about Susan and Rafael and the children while the big house was being remodelled and Ellie and Thomas were away, but I hear and I obey . . . which raises a couple of problems.

In the first place, when plans were drawn up for the Ellie’s big house to be turned into two three-bedroomed semis with room for expansion into the attic floor, I made umpteen sketches of how this was to be done. I tried this and I tried that, and eventually I worked it out who got which rooms and where the corridors finished and the bathrooms fitted in; also where to put in another staircase. Only, I seem to have lost the final plan. It’s no good looking in the waste-paper basket; that was cleared ages ago. There’s no help for it; I’m going to have to sketch it out all over again.

The second problem is how to bring Diana back into the story and under what circumstances. You may remember that, newly widowed, she’d shed her children and gone off with an expense account in a limo. Well, as we all know, her projects are fairy gold; they invariably turn to dust. So she’s going to zing back into Ellie’s life, isn’t she? I grind my teeth at the very thought of it and then shrug; for what is life without a problem or two to solve? Although Diana – sigh! – is a bigger and nastier problem than how to clear a blocked drainpipe.

In the last newsletter I asked if people wanted me to continue sending a short story from the archives at the same time as I advertise the availability of a newly-written one from the Methodist Recorder, and got a resounding Yes! You like the short stories both ancient and modern. Very well. So, if you haven’t seen it already, this Easter’s short story – called ‘Zooming In!’ – is now available for you to read. Send me an email request for it and I’ll let you have a copy.

The next ‘old’ short story from the archives is another about Corin, that tiresome Man from Mars who seems to live only to criticise Christians. It’s called ‘How Dare He!’ and explains pretty well why he’s like he is, poor soul. It is available here.

And no, I haven’t heard back from my editor yet as to whether she likes the Bea Abbot story I sent her last week. I think it’s all right, but – sigh – there are an awful lot of really nasty characters in it.

A blessing on all who take on something extra to help others – no matter how boring or inconvenient it may be for them to do so.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.171, April 1st, 2021

It was back to work with a vengeance this week with several deadlines to meet. I managed finally to finish the umpteenth draft of the next Bea Abbot story – called ‘False Face,’ and to send it off. Hurray! All those months of work! All those characters, some diverting, some amusing and some downright annoying! I can’t remember writing about so many tiresome people in one story before. I am happy to say that I have managed to give each one his or her comeuppance. Phew! And now I have to wait to hear what my editor thinks of the story.

Meanwhile, I struggled with a short story for the Easter edition of the Methodist Recorder. I’ve called it ‘Zooming In,’ as three of our four friends make use of that facility to take part in church services and meetings. Here they are in Lent, facing the problem of what they should do in what can be a difficult enough time of the year without the added anxieties of Covid. Will they get their second jab? Should they fast? And what exactly does fasting mean?

Each of them has a journey to make through Lent to Easter Sunday. Each one travels at his or her own pace. It wasn’t an easy story to write, and I don’t mention chocolate Easter eggs anywhere, but . . . well, if you’d like to read it after publication, drop me an email, and I’ll send you a copy, free.

I might not mention chocolate in my Easter story, but naturally it has been much on my mind of late. I had been given not only one chocolate Easter egg but two. One came early in Lent, and the other just this week. I behaved myself beautifully. I did not break small pieces off to test that they were the real thing. I did not open the outer wrappings and sniff the aroma. I did not even open the outer wrappings.

I put them where I could see them, but not within reach and I believe I will manage not to touch them until Easter morning. ((I can see you smile from here. You know, don’t you, that even if I refrain from touching my Easter eggs, I still allow myself the bar which the chocolate fairy drops into my letter box?)

Meanwhile, the short story from the archives which comes with this letter is called ‘Why Shouldn’t I?’ For once, the story is set in an appropriate time of the year as we go through Lent. It does concern a Good Friday walk through the streets . . . ah, how long ago it seems when we were all about to do that! Ah well. If you’d like to read it, then you can access it here.

And this raises the question; are two stories with one newsletter one too many? Should I not attach one from the archives if a new one is about to come out? I’m not sure. Perhaps, if you have a moment to spare, you might let me know what you think?

A Happy Easter to all. Keep safe and keep well.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.170, March 15th, 2021

Friends are wonderful! I have been touched by so many lovely emails following on from my last newsletter. Some sent me jokes, some sent me pictures from their garden. Some shared with me their own problems with teeth. Your emails contributed largely to my recovery! Thank you all so much.

Friends are indeed a source of joy. They keep in contact by phone during lock-down, they lend books and jigsaws, they help with the shopping and we mustn’t forget that they sometimes turn themselves into chocolate fairies!

Also they can help out when you lose a word. A little while ago an important word dropped out of my head and I could NOT get it back. I wanted to describe what happens to two nasty characters in my next book. They hadn’t actually transgressed the laws of the land, but had broken practically every moral code there is and hurt a lot of people. I wanted to say that justice had caught up with them, but it wasn’t legal justice. I tried comeuppance. I tried rough justice. Neither was quite right. I tried my thesaurus. I Googled. Finally I appealed to my friends and there it was. The word I needed was ‘poetic’ justice. Ah, the relief! I suppose either of the other suggestions might have been acceptable, but this was the right one. So, Hurray for friends!

I have three deadlines to meet by the end of this month, and now I’m almost back to normal after having that tooth out, I’m cracking on with them and hoping everything gets done in time. I’m having a struggle with the Easter short story for the Methodist Recorder, though. A little more thought needed. The title is ‘Zooming In’ and I’ll let you have details in the next newsletter.

Meanwhile, the short story from the archives which comes with this letter is called ‘You Owe Me!’ and it’s a follow-on from the one which accompanied the last newsletter. It’s about the family whom our friends caught thieving in the town centre . . . who were ‘only trying to earn a living’ . . . but at the expense of the shops from which they stole. Some people can convince themselves that theft is justifiable if you’re hungry, and that it’s perfectly all right to involve children in your thieving if they divert attention from what you’re doing. Well, you can argue it’s a crime that people go hungry in this day and age, but it’s definitely not right to involve children in wrong-doing, so . . . what happens next? You can access the story here.

I don’t suppose you need a reminder that Murder-in-Law came out at the end of March? This is the story in which Diana’s husband meets a grisly end . . . and she has lied about where she was at the time. Ellie is in the background in this book and it’s Susan, her good friend and excellent cook, and Susan’s husband Rafael who wrestle with the problem. Also out last month was Murder for Good both in paperback and in large print. Nothing comes out for months, and then two come along in the same week!

A blessing on all who do their best to keep in touch with old friends in these difficult times.

Veronica Heley