Newsletter no 68 August 2013

How do you act when you receive some good news? Do you jump and down and clap your hands? Well, probably not if you’re my age and bits of you don’t work as well as they used to do. Personally, I hum. Yes, that’s right. It sounds harmless, doesn’t it? But the hum usually develops into a full-on sing. Often it’s a hymn tune, one which lends itself to being joyful and letting the world know about it.

After one whole month in suspense, waiting for me editor to vouchsafe as to the future of my next Bea Abbot story, FALSE DIAMOND, she emailed me to say she’d been poorly, but that she had really enjoyed it. She picked out various bits to commend – hurray! – and then said the mss was going straight through to copy editing without need for re-writes. Yes!!! So picture me going from a mild ‘hum’ to an all-out belter. It was all right: our next door neighbours were away and we’re end of terrace, so I wasn’t upsetting anyone by bursting into song.

Mind you, a broad smile on your face can spread a little joy around. Sometimes when I’m walking along and thinking up a bit of plot, I’m smiling to myself and then am surprised when someone walking towards me also smiles and says ‘hello’. Am I spreading sunshine? Well, perhaps. I hope so.

Meanwhile, I’ve been having a terrible struggle with the first few chapters of the next book. All right, it’s a complex plot and I ought to have spent more time thinking through what happened before I actually started to write it. The first chapter was clear to me . . . a character from the past appears to claim Vera’s son. Easy peasy. Not a nice man. But then, how much information can I pile about Vera’s tragic past onto the first few pages without confusing the reader? Or getting myself into a tangle? In the old days I used to reckon on spending four times as long getting the first few pages right, as I do on subsequent chapters, partly because I’m writing two series and have to give a generous amount of back story straight away for the benefit of newcomers to these stories, and to remind others of what has gone on before. It’s not easy to do this without turning the reader off, but it’s not impossible. This time there was a lot of Vera’s history to go in . . . and perhaps, just perhaps, her version might not tally with those of others who knew her long ago? Mm. More thought needed.

I thought it was too early to have got any reviews for MURDER WITH MERCY, the l4th Ellie Quicke, but lo and behold, more cause for rejoicing, because Publishers Weekly have come up with a nice one, which ends . . . ‘this rewarding cozy’. Hurray! This book came out in the UK at the end of May and is available in Canada, America, Australia, as we speak.

In this story, Ellie is asked to investigate whether or not some deaths in the community are exactly what they seem, while her pregnant, difficult daughter Diana is struggling to cope at work, and her husband is still in a wheelchair. What’s more, sabotage at the big house nearby is being blamed on young Mikey, who is certainly up to something. Can Ellie track down whoever it is who is killing for mercy, keep Mikey out of the clutches of Social Services, and steer her difficult daughter Diana into calmer waters?

You remember my clothes moth hunt? A correspondent offers the information that her husband deals with all flying insects by way of the hoover. Mm. Any advance on hair spray and hoovers?

Veronica Heley