Newsletter no 206, December 2023

I received my first Christmas present . . .

early in November. I tried to hide my horror. Christmas? Now? The leaves were not all down off the trees, we’d hardly had any proper frosts, and there were a lot of shopping days to go before the Day. Explanation? My friend was about to depart for warmer climes for six weeks, and had got herself all organized for Christmas early.

I personally was not nearly ready for the event. . . although, come to think of it, I was on that very day in the early stages of writing a Christmas story, so I suppose I ought not to have been surprised at receiving a gift, especially as it was something to eat and not gold, frankincense or myrrh. I’d been thinking of candles and stars, not food. The story is called ‘Christmas means . . .’ It’s about Christmas meaning different things to different people at different times in their lives, and will appear in the Christmas issue of the Methodist Recorder.

The story from the archives is: ‘What is a Gift?’ Trouble arises over the parish Christmas lunch when it’s cancelled by He Who Must Be Obeyed. Read it here.

It’s a strange time of the year in the garden. Here in the South East, winter jasmine, and the irises are coming into flower while artificial trees mimic reality. A neighbour has told me the trick of getting the Hellebores to flower, so I live in hope that they will do so this year.

Work has rather taken over my life. I thought I could get ‘False Witness’ off in time, and I did actually manage to do thast – in spite of having one of the filthiest colds that I can remember. (No, it wasn’t Covid; I checked.) So now I’m waiting to hear from my editor that all is well and she likes it, etc., etc. Meantime, I’m tiddling around with another idea. So many interesting points occurred to me during the writing of ‘False Witness’ that I’m now wondering about a third story set in the same place.

The Owlets are getting excited over Christmas. Awol had overdone it as usual, and is jumping up and down, trying to climb the tree. I hope he remembers how to fly down to earth. See them here.

Joffe are very happy with the way the early Ellie Quicke books are selling. ‘Murder by Committee’ came out on November 12th. Next comes ‘Murder by Bicycle on Sunday, December 3rd, and ‘Murder of Identity’ on Sunday, December 17th. The Abbot Agency book are still selling well, and ‘False Money’ was available out throughout November in their Free Book Friday Scheme.

A blessing on those who look forward instead of back.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 205, November 2023

Countdown to winter . . .

Has your garden been put to sleep for the winter? I do try to have something in flower all year round, but I have cut down the herbaceous plants and trimmed the roses. Bulbs have been planted, weeds extracted, and dried seed-heads collected for a vase indoors. The place looks tidy. For the time being, anyway. I’m hoping that this year I’ll get some hellebores to flower. My neighbour has so many she doesn’t know what to do with them, but mine have always failed miserably. Perhaps this year it will be different.

Work has rather taken over my life. I thought I could get ‘False Witness’ written, edited, fiddled around with, and ready to send off before the end of the month, but his time it’s been a real problem. Yes, I have made the plot a little more complicated than usual, and yes, there’s quite a lot of characters to contend with, but oh dear, it has meant working right up to the wire.

The storyline is a follow-on from ‘False Name’ which came out in July. I liked those characters a lot and my brain kept going on, taking them into different situations and seeing how they reacted. ‘False Name’ was about a young man who’d been adopted as a nameless toddler and made his own way in life till he found himself targeted by people who wanted him dead . . . and he hadn’t the slightest idea why. Bea Abbot helped him unmask the would-be murderers, and when the dust cleared, Julian found himself the heir to an almost bankrupt estate.

Next came ‘False Witness’ which is the story I’m delivering today. Julian took up the challenge of trying to rescue the fortunes of the run-down Stately Home and its commercial off-shoots, only to find himself the target of more hate, and accused of murdering a local woman. Now that storyline might have concluded there and then, but the characters won’t leave my head. So many interesting points occurred to me during the writing of ‘False Witness’ that I’m now wondering about a third story set in the same place. When I submit one book, I usually have another storyline ready to offer, so I’m now wondering what my editor will think . . . well, we’ll have to see.

It was half term last week and the Owlets didn’t go to school. But Awol has decided he’s going to have his half term this week instead, and is running away as fast as he can, with the others chasing him. Perhaps Hope can calm the family down. See them here.

The next short story from the archives is: ‘You can do it!’ See it here.

Joffe Books have been bringing out the Ellie Quicke stories at the rate of knots. On October 7th they brought out ‘Murder of Innocence,’ and on the l8th it was ‘Murder in the Garden.’ Then on November 12th, they’re bringing out ‘Murder by Committee.’

A blessing on those who can smile even on grey, rainy days.    

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 204, October 2023

 Autumn beauties – and woes

As the years go by, so many things change; sometimes for the better. Sometimes not. One thing I’ve noticed is that we are continuing to wear summer clothes long after the children have returned to school. We used to switch to warmer wear in dark colours at the end of the first week in September, didn’t we? The weather has now changed, and I am now packing up all my light summer gear and replace it with long-sleeved shirts and blouses . . . and then decide which I can bear to wear again and which should go to the charity shop.

The next story – False Witness – is coming along a treat although, yes, I fear I am going to be editing the Ms right up to the last minute. I had great fun trying to encode a password which the hero needs to release stolen money from a foreign bank. Somewhere I’d read a particular method of doing it . . but where?

I tried writing out numbers 0 to 9 across the top of the page and under that I wrote out all the letters of the alphabet from l to 26, starting back to no l when I reach the letter K. Then I took the key word and translated it into numbers. I think – I hope – it works. I’m sure many of you will have a better way of doing it, but . . . well, it was a fun thing to do for a story.

So, the garden in autumn. I cut the last of the sweet peas and cleared the pots in which they’d grown, but I left the runner beans as they’d produced a final flowering. The tiny cyclamens, only a few inches high, have seeded themselves everywhere and I haven’t the heart to turf them out. The fuchsias are still flowering as are the cosmos and those yellow daisy-like flowers that I’ve never known the name of, which were given me by a friend when we first moved here, nearly sixty years ago.

Mother Owlet has been lecturing her brood about the beauties of nature. Naughty Awol isn’t taking any notice, of course. Hope continues to hope. See them here.

The next short story from the archives is: Excuse Me! Two of our old friends struggle with a man who doesn’t seem to know right from wrong. Or does he? See it here.

Joffe Books brought out the first two Ellie Quicke mysteries on Kindle as follows: Murder at the Altar — 16 September, Murder by Poison Pen – 23 September and Murder of Innocence — Sat, 30 September. (Please note the title of No 2 was originally Murder by Suicide, but the new title fits the series better)

Now the next lot are going to come out on Kindle as follows: October 7th, Murder by Accident, and l8th, Murder in the Garden.

A blessing on those who can manage to tell you their problems in less than five minutes.  

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 203, September 2023

Back to work

Did you have a good holiday? I did take a week off work. The problem with that is that I went early and everyone else was going away as I returned home. And, a favourite café is closed for one whole month!

I’m deep in the next story – False Witness – which is causing me some problems. The contract stipulated 5000 words less than usual. I said, airily, ‘Oh, that’s all right. I can do that.’ Only to realise it would mean cutting a big chunk out of the plot to do so. I told myself I was a professional and should be able to do something as simple as cutting out a chapter and joining both ends. In the end, my editor very kindly said I could have the usual length (which is 85,000) so for the time being, I’m keeping to the storyline I’d originally planned and hoping I don’t overrun on the final draft.

Do you have a problem with pockets? Or the absence thereof. I prefer wearing a skirt to trousers but this means there is nowhere to store a handkerchief or tissue, your house key, or a credit card or a comb or . . . you can add to the list, can’t you? Ever since I had my knees done, I’ve taken to using a stout cloth bag that goes cross-wise over my body. It works well, I can carry a certain amount of shopping but is not exactly the height of fashion. Also, it was a gift from someone who likes to advertise the virtues of a camping holiday, which is not precisely me at this age. How do other people manage?

The garden is doing fine, thanks to alternate days of rain and sun. The runner beans and tomatoes have done well, and some fuchsia plants have been a real delight, as have the cosmos. Mama Owlet has been praying for naughty Awol, and prompt on cue, Hope arrived. Let’s hope he can exert a good influence on the sinner. See them all here, with some of the cosmos from the garden.

The next short story from the archives is: Why Bother? When two of our old friends meet a man who makes a mockery of their faith. See it here.

My daughter Frances successfully walked from Leeds to London, to raise awareness of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). She raised over £5000 for the charity, met her MP at Westminster and got some media coverage. She then went on to walk from West to East on the Bannatyne trail, met Cherylee Houston (of Coronation St), got more radio interviews, had one writeup in the Church Times, and another in the Yorkshire Post. Next week it’s the Daily Mirror. What a mission! It’s taken its toll of her and of her husband, who’s been looking after her so well despite braking his arm when she was on the first walk! If you would like to know more, click on the link here.

Advance notice – Joffe Books is bringing out Kindle versions of the first three of the Ellie Quicke mysteries in September:

Book 1: Murder at the Altar — Saturday, 16 September
Book 2: Murder by Suicide — Saturday, 23 September
Book 3: Murder of Innocence — Saturday, 30 September

A blessing on those who take the time to listen when we suffer a meltdown.    

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 202, August, 2023 – holiday issue

My 90th birthday celebrations are over – yes, they are great and thank you for all your good wishes! – and suddenly it’s August, which sounds verry much like autumn and holidays to me. I’m going to take a few days off from my desk, knowing that I shall get withdrawal symptoms.

It’s a good thing – I tell myself – to stop work for a bit now and then. After all, I can still mull over the final couple of chapters in my head. Maybe I’ll even get an idea for another story.             I let my thoughts drift here and there . . . and something irrelevant comes shooting up from nowhere, and Bingo! An idea begins to form.

I understand that ‘False Name,’ the recently published Bea Abbot book, is providing some enjoyment for holiday reading. This is the one in which Bea stumbles across a rough sleeper who is actually nothing of the kind and who has no idea why he’s been beaten up and left for dead. Disentangling the mystery draws Bea into danger. Too.

I’m now deep in the follow-up to this story, ‘False Witness,’ which won’t be published till next summer. It’s been interesting to take Bea away from the city and throw her into a countryside where jobs are limited and family feuds can still divide public opinion. Yes, yes. I do know that can happen in a town, too. But these family feuds do help the story along nicely.

We’ve been hearing a lot about heat waves in Southern Europe, but here in the UK we’ve been having rain, interspersed with showers, accompanied by thunder, interrupted by strong winds and then – just to whet our appetites – a few hours of sunshine before the next lot of clouds come between us and the sun.

However, my garden has, on the whole, enjoyed the rain, and I must admit I’ve never had sweet peas like it. Every couple of days I pick a small bunch and put them on the mantelpiece. As you will have noticed from today’s picture, a vase of these flowers were placed rather too near Awol and I did wonder if he’d try to upset it. What a problem he is! See the latest portrait of the Owlets here.

As for the rest; the next short story for the Methodist Recorder will be out this weekend. ‘Rachel has a Garden’ is about an older lady who chats to passersby and gives away flowers, until she upsets a neighbour with nasty results. For your short story this month I’m including another tale about Max, the undersized black cat who makes up for lack of inches by luck and perseverance. You can read ‘Hide and Seek’ here.

Advance notice: Joffe Books is bringing out the first of the Ellie Quicke mysteries, starting on September 30th. As they say in the adverts; Watch This Space.

A blessing on those who can make us see the funny side of things in life.  

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 201, July 2023 – 90th birthday issue

Yes, it’s true! I was 90 years old this week. I didn’t want presents but I did want a party with friends from all the different circles in my life. And that happened. Oh, it surely did! Now you know that I love hearing from you all now and then, but on this occasion please don’t be upset if I don’t reply. I’m gong to need a while to get over this event.

This last couple of weeks I’ve been getting up early to do the watering. I have sweet peas, pansies, Busy Lizzies, nasturtiums, lilies, sunflowers, runner beans, tomatoes, etc., in pots and they all need watering. On the plus side, the roses have been wonderful this year.

I have three writing projects on the go at the moment. The first is the next Bea Abbot book, which is coming on a treat. Bea is out of her comfort zone here, visiting friends in the countryside. She’s only made aware of how much she doesn’t understand about life outside London, when someone observes that Bea doesn’t know anything about horses.

Then there’s a short story about what gardens can mean to older people. That’s for the Methodist Recorder and will be out at the end of July. And the last thing I’m working on is a very short story about Maximilian the Magnificent who is an undersized black cat finding life hard in a word populated by larger cats, even larger rats, vets-who’s-aim-in-life-is-to-torture-felines-with-needles.

Next: Joffe Books finished bringing out most of the e-books of the Abbot Agency series with A FALSE FACE on 27th May. They have acquired the rights for the first eight of the Ellie Quicke mysteries and I’m told will be starting to bring them out in the autumn. I’ll let you know as soon as I have dates.

Now, what about the Owlets. Well, Awol is in disgrace, of course. But manages to wheedle his way back into the next picture with some flowers picked from my garden this morning. See him here.

The short story I’ve attached from the archives is called ‘Remember Me!’ It’s all about regrets for past mistakes and, hopefully, looking to the future. You can access it here.

My daughter Frances successfully completed her long walk from Leeds to London in aid of Ehlers-Danloss Syndrome, despite wading through a field of nettles, her husband falling off his bike and fracturing his elbow, the tills at the supermarket all going down just as they’d had finally managed to locate something to eat, and . . . well, there was a long list of mishaps which will make good stories later but which at the time almost made her give up. Which she didn’t. Now she’s back at work and looking for opportunities to do more for EDS in the future. Pathway to Parliament in aid of EDS UK | Leeds | Facebook

A blessing on those who can make the time to be with people who need someone beside them at difficult times in their lives.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter No 200, June 2023

The plants which died over winter in the garden have been removed, and the foliage from the spring bulbs has been tidied up, hurray! This year I’m growing some sunflowers. I’ve some eight inch high seedlings and have hopes they will one day grow to be taller than me. Unfortunately, it’s a constant battle here with slugs, snails, blackfly, greenfly and something new to me that’s attacking the roses. Ouch!

I am slowly getting on with the next Abbot Agency book, titled FALSE WITNESS. I got myself in a tangle in the plot, and had to go and do some gardening to recover my equilibrium. The problem is that, for the purposes of the plot, the hero has to spend a night in hospital, which set me wondering what sort of accident he might have had to cause that. Eventually, I decided on something that worked. Oh, the relief!

I tell myself that as long as Bea is in charge of the story, we will see things through her eyes and she can sort it out for us. She’s brought us through sixteen titles so far, hasn’t she? And without anyone throwing the book across the room and declaring they haven’t a clue as to who’s doing what to whom, and whose name I’ve got confused with two others in the same chapter. I once tried to read a book in which the names of the first four people concerned all began with the same initial. I made it to the third chapter and then put the book gently to rest in the recycling bin.

Joffe Books are continuing to bring out the Abbot Agency e-books. A FALSE CONCLUSION came out on May 14th while A FALSE FACE was due on 27th May. Now what’s next? I think it will be some Ellie Quickes in the autumn. Watch this space.

I have to tell you a shocking thing; naughty Awol, the blue owlet, knocked his brother Owen off the mantelpiece, and he ended up on the floor in pieces. I have glued him back together again and repainted his stripes, but he’s feeling very sorry for himself. See him here showing his bruises to the rest of the family, while Awol chuckles to himself.

The short story I’ve plucked from the archives is called SUMMER HOLIDAY, and is about the choices our three old friends about where to go and why . . . and how that turns out. Read it here.

Did you manage to keep up with my daughter Fran on her walk for the EDS (Ehlers Danloss Syndrome) charity from Leeds to London? Disaster struck on day 4 when her husband had a fall from his bike and fractured his elbow. They spent most of that day in A&E. Fran had a difficult decision to make but decided to carry on because it’s so important to so many people. Friends are helping out as and when. What a business! If I’ve counted correctly, today she’s got as far as Wellingborough and is aiming for Harrold. She’s over half way! You can catch up with her through Facebook.

Pathway to Parliament in aid of EDS UK | Leeds | Facebook &

A blessing on those who will listen to us when we hit a bump in the road.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter No 199, May 2023

The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la . . . are accompanied by weeds, patches of moss, and the dead twigs of plants that died in the winter. However, some plants have pleasantly surprised me by rejuvenating themselves. Seeds are beginning to germinate, lifeless-looking bushes are showing a haze of green and the birds are busy chasing the squirrels away from their nests.

Work continues. The short story ‘New Lives for Old’ was duly published in the Methodist Recorder at Easter and they have asked for another for July .I did manage to finish off the story about the tiny little black cat Max for the choir concert. Maximilian the Magnificent, Menace to Mice, goes on a wander, gets stranded up a tree but earns a new title. You can read it here.

I’ve been told that the hardback of the next Bea Abbot – False Name – will be out at the beginning of July, and they’re giving me another contract for No. 17 in the series. As you may have guessed, I’m really a cat person, but there’s a beautiful Alsatian in this book (and on the cover) who has quite won my heart.

I’m happy to say that the Abbot Agency e-books are still being published at regular intervals. A FALSE PRIDE came out on l7th April and A FALSE ACCOUNT is scheduled for 1st May. Then comes A FALSE CONCLUSION on May 14th while A FALSE FACE is scheduled for May 28th. And yes, there is still a black cat on the covers.

It seems that The Owlets – Mama plus children A,B,C and D – have gained a place in your affections. Here they pose with flowers from the garden. Thanks to Brenda W, Donna C and my daughter Fran, they now have names. Introducing: Mama Luna Owlet and son Owen, with his sisters Olivia and Ophelia. Unfortunately Owlet A is a very naughty boy and always trying to hide. They call him Awol. (Owl + A)

Starting on the 21st May, my daughter Fran will be walking the 200+ miles from Leeds to the Houses of Parliament to raise awareness of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and funds to support it. She’ll be inside the Chamber on the 7th June, as her M.P. attempts to raise the difficulties faced by EDS sufferers at Prime Minister’s questions.

She is hoping that a good number of the EDS community will join her for the final (short) day’s walk to Parliament Square. The symbol used by EDS Uk is the Zebra – hence her striking outfit. The collective term for Zebras is a “Dazzle”, and she’s hoping for a final Zebra stampede to really create a spark.

Her Facebook page is:

Pathway to Parliament in aid of EDS UK | Leeds | Facebook

A blessing on those who can make us laugh even after listening to the news.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter No 198, April 2023

I don’t ‘do’ April Fool’s day. Do any of you? I quite enjoy trying to work out which item of the news in the papers might be a ‘con,’ and I suppose some people enjoy tricking others but it can get out of hand and cause people to be really upset. Instead, I celebrate the start of the fortnight before Easter because our wonderful local baker starts making his Hot Cross buns at that point . . . and not a day earlier! What joy it is to have local independent shops serving good quality food. What’s more, everyone working for them seems delighted to see you when you enter, and gives you a smile. And you smile back. Remember: smiling keeps you healthy. (I don’t know where I read that but it’s something to do with the muscles doing this or that . . .)

So, where was I? Well, the garden is beginning to show signs of waking up. The grape hyacinths in the border in front are beginning to look their best – quite a river of blue, and the winter-flowering clematis is a great mound of white petals. I must confess, though, that I haven’t sown any seeds as yet. I really must get down to it.

Work continues. I want to write about the problems of old age for the next short story which is going to be in the Easter issue of the Methodist Recorder. Living longer can throw problems your way. I want my stories to be upbeat because there is also a great deal to celebrate in our later years, but to ignore the downside of old age is also not good. I think I managed a reasonable balance.

I also managed to finish off the next story about the tiny little black cat Max for the next choir concert. Max gets stranded u a tree . . . oh dear! I’ll let you read the story soon.

I’ve been writing and re-writing the first three chapters of the next Bea Abbot but finally – hopefully – it’s now taking shape, the characters are beginning to tell me who they are and what they look like, and my heroine bought a new pair of boots and strode into another delicate situation as to the manor born. Yes, that’s a pun as the next story is mostly set in a country estate.

More good news: Joffe books advised me that the e-books of the Abbot Agency series are doing well. A FALSE WALL came out on March 25th and A FALSE FIRE is expected on April 4th. A FALSE PRIDE comes next, on 16th April and A FALSE ACCOUNT on 1st May. Look out for the black cat on the covers.

PARSLEY and POSY have gone off on a trip round the world, but another family have moved in to take their place. The Owlets are an indoors lot, admiring the vase of Japonica which is just coming into flower. There’s Mama Owl and her quadruplets, numbers One to Four. They don’t have any other names at present. Maybe they don’t need them. What do you think? You can access their picture here.

The story from the archives this time is about Ellie Quicke visiting a writing group, and you can find it here. It’s called DEATH IN PRINT. Enjoy!

A blessing on those who can absorb bad news and still manage to help others.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.197, March 2023

So, Covid came. And went. And yes, I’m still getting tired. I look at the neglected winter garden and think how much it would be improved if I could only get out there and do a bit of tidying up. The other day I decided to stop thinking about it, and actually do a little chopping back and pulling out of dead plants. I set myself a twenty minutes deadline and of course I went over that because neighbours kept passing by and saying they wished I had my energy, and had I heard about so-and-so, or called on the new neighbours yet. There were consultations about a bush which had caught the frost and had I seen the camellia which was covered with blossom in the nest road, and altogether a good time was had by one and all. It was a splendid break from work and I wasn’t too tired at the end of it.

So many plants that usually live through the winter here, have died. It’s received wisdom that any bedding plants put into the garden before Easter will need replacing at Whitsun but perhaps, if I put them new plants in the greenhouse to harden off a bit, they might survive? Shall I chance growing sweet peas this year?

The e-books coming out on Amazon are apparently selling well. FALSE IMPRESSION came out on February 25, and in March we have FALSE WALL on the 25th. Because of the low price, it seems that new readers are beginning to look out for these stories, and that can only be good news. And yes, the black cat continues to feature on the covers.

Meanwhile, first the copy editing and then the proofs of the next Bea Abbot story – FALSE NAME – have arrived on my doorstep. There had been this delay and that, and my editor wanted them back in record time. Unfortunately this particular copy editor was new to my way of expressing myself and held strong views about the necessity of writing good grammar even for people who ‘speak it like it is’ with double negatives and lashings of ‘likes’. So we had a few disagreements, but finally the text has been agreed and will shortly be passed for production. The hardback is scheduled for publication in July this year.

So far, so good. Now I have to write another tale for the Methodist Recorder, and another story about Maximilian the Magnificent, the tiny black cat who is lucky to get out of his adventures with a whole skin.  

PARSLEY and POSY are fed up with this cold weather and are threatening to emigrate. Perhaps I shall get them to stay if I promise they can pose indoors with flowers cut from my garden. I’d welcome your advice on this. You can see them here, posting with the forsythia which has flowered early this year. (And yes, I cheated by buying the daffodils)

Delving into the archives I came across an early story about a time of change for my three old friends who featured in so many short stories for the Recorder over the years. It’s called SPRING CLEANING, and you can access it here.

A blessing on those who ask others how they’re doing and then actually listen to their tales of woe.

Veronica Heley