Newsletter no.152, June 15th 2020

I have solved the mystery of the chocolate fairy. By a process of elimination I finally decided it must be someone from a particular family who live nearby. Lovely people. Kind and helpful. I knocked on their door and asked Daughter no. 2, ‘Are you, by any chance, the chocolate fairy?’ She replied that she wasn’t, but she’d ask Daughter no.1. She did so, and came back giggling to say that it was their mother who’d been the chocolate fairy. So the mystery is solved, and next time I see their mother, I’ll be able to thank her for her kind thought.

I hear you ask why did they want to give me a present? Well, I have been passing my copy of The Times on to them every day for some years, but I didn’t expect anything in return. Why did they suddenly decide to give me some chocolate? Well, why not? Why did they stop? Well, why not? Anyway, the mystery is solved.

Now, what short story shall I include this time? The next one in the series about the three retired friends was called INSURANCE and yes, I think that’s all right. There are many such problems that can arise as you get older, so this story is still relevant. If you’d like to read it, just follow the link.

A hopeful sign for the future arrived in an email from a reader in Tasmania, who says that many of their libraries there are now re-opening on a Click and Collect basis. What happens is this; you reserve a book. You return those you have read into a box at the entrance and the librarian hands you your ordered books, already clicked out to you. And, there is hand sanitizer on the table. If only we could do that here!

I am getting on fairly well with the third draft of the next book. I’ve picked up a discrepancy here, and taken out some redundant material. As I put in extra words to explain this and that I watch the word count creeping up and up . . . and I hold my breath. My agreed word count means the publisher can sell the book at such and such a price. Any word count just under that is fine. Anything over and the increase in price makes the book uneconomical. I think I’ve got it right. But it will be a close run thing.

I received emails from two of my readers saying that they had put reviews of my last book on various media sites. That was really good of them, as such reviews do make a difference to sales. Every now and then I look at what I could do to increase sales and come to the conclusion that I really don’t have the time to do it . . . nor, to be truthful, do I have the media know-how. I was reassured the other day to hear my clever, practical daughter, who is in her early fifties, bemoaning the fact that she was being asked to download apps and make up new passwords and enter this and that. She said if she’d been younger it would have been easier. As for me, in my late eighties . . .? Er, no. So I’ll go on writing my stories and sending them to my publisher and hope for the best.

What am I reading now? I’ve moved on from Raymond Chandler to Erle Stanley Gardner (A.A.Fair). Do you remember his character Perry Mason? Most enjoyable.

A blessing on all who look out for other people.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.151, June 1st 2020

Do you believe in fairies? No? Not even the tooth fairy? Well, I have recently been visited by a chocolate fairy. On two consecutive Sunday mornings I found a bar of chocolate in the letter box of my front door. On the third Sunday . . . nothing! There was no card with it and no one had mentioned that they were going to give me a present. Yes, of course I asked around but so far no one has admitted to being the donor.

What did I do to deserve being showered with chocolate? Perhaps more important, why did the gifts stop coming? Not that I’m complaining, you understand. I love chocolate, especially good dark chocolate, which this was. I looked forward to allowing myself a couple of pieces after supper.

When it came to choosing a short story to include, I find the next one that appeared in this series was called SPRING CLEANING, which doesn’t seem quite appropriate at this time of the year. Yes, I know I ought to have done my spring cleaning earlier in the year but somehow I got sidetracked and forgot all about it. It’s too late to do it now, isn’t it? Anyway, this story is really about clearing out the tired old bits of one’s life, so I suppose it will be appropriate at any time of the year.

You can read ‘Spring Cleaning’ using this link:

The writing continues. The second draft is always difficult as I come across bits of plot which I’ve not explained properly. Characters change their names without giving me any notice that that they are going to do so, and I repeat bits without realising I’ve done so. The first draft is always well short of the word count. The second usually goes way over, and only when I’ve done the third and fourth do I feel I’ve knocked the plot into shape. I know a people a lot of people are going to hate this story because Ellie has taken a back seat and it’s young Susan, who used to be her lodger and who married the half Italian Rafael – the one with the slightly dodgy background – who takes centre stage. And even more importantly, some small children are involved.

Meanwhile, at long last I have a review of FALSE CONCLUSION which arrived in the libraries just before lockdown, and has consequently been read by very few people so far. Fortunately, Publishers Weekly liked this one, saying ‘Heley expertly melds menace with humour. Fans of darker cosies won’t be disappointed.’ I do hope the libraries will re-open soon.

I’ve been reduced to re-reading my husband’s collection of detective stories, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and the rest. My, how they could write! What character description! What a body count! I read somewhere that if another old-timer – Peter Cheyney, got stuck in a plot, he had the hero open a door – any door – and a corpse would fall out. Personally, I prefer to write about corpses who are off stage, if you get my meaning.

A blessing on all who pray for others.

Veronica Heley