Newsletter no.134 February 2019

Brrr! It is really cold here in London, UK. A friend has just returned from South Africa with an amazing tan, saying it was 80 degrees there all the time. Ah well. The garden will recover in due course, and I must admit I take great pleasure in having geraniums flower indoors all year round, while the blue iris (unguicularis) continues to delight in its bed against the wall outside.

The Christmas short story was hardly out before the Recorder gave me a date for an Easter story, required by the end of March. Fine, but what is it to be about? Usually, as I polish off one story, another plot is edging its way into my mind. This time, not so . . . except something about chocolate and daffodils keeps popping up. Could that be the beginnings of a plot? Or, should I write a ‘follow on’ story from something I’ve done before? Is there anything special about this Easter that sets me thinking?

I’m often asked what I do when I need another plot, either for a short story or for a full length book. I have two methods of dealing with the situation. The first is that I lie on my bed with a rug over my knees, and spend some time thinking of nothing at all . . . and then send up an arrow prayer or two . . . and perhaps doze off for a bit, and then, a possible idea creeps into the back of my mind. It might not work out. But if it does, I get up and do some housework or gardening, and see if the seed develops into something which might eventually become a workable plot.

The other method involves a visit to Bruges, when I sit on a particular bench which has a magnificent view, with a notebook on my knee . . . and think of nothing much except how lucky I am to be there, what a beautiful day it is . . . and pray a little. Then I jot down some random ideas. Perhaps something I’ve read in the newspapers comes to mind, or an anecdote I’ve heard. It might be something I’ve read in the papers, or a story told me by a friend. I add possible names of characters who might fit the storyline. (Names are important. Sometimes I start off naming a character Betty or Brenda, only to discover that she’s really called Bryony)

Because I write two series with the background of my main characters already set in my mind, I then consider how the storyline might affect them, and in what way. Next, should there be a subplot, or not? Recently I had to reconsider how to categorise my books, and came up with ‘Mature woman solves family crises and murders.’ Do you think that’s about right? Should I add, ‘with a light touch?’

The most recent Bea Abbot story, FALSE ACCOUNT, came out at the end of the year. My son-in-law’s comment was that he was glad I’d allowed the third of the cats in the book to live. I’d named that particular cat Pippin after his own mischievous black kitten, so you can see why he was so concerned. I dread to think how he’d have reacted if the Pippin in the book had died!

May you always have someone you can talk to, face to face, by telephone or email. But don’t wait for them to contact you first!

Veronica Heley