Newsletter no.155, August 1st, 2020

Writers need time to ponder their plots. I usually reckon to be on holiday in Bruges and away from my desk and emails and stuff when I start thinking about the next book. I make my way along the canal to where a certain bench is placed in a small patch of greenery overlooking one of the splendid panoramas for which Bruges is famous. And there I give myself time to sit and think and maybe jot down some suggestions for names, or for a twist in a plot.

Well, there’s no Bruges this summer, but I have been busily tidying up the manuscript for the next book, which I delivered in the usual way. Then, before my editor had had a chance to read it, she asked if I had an idea for another book, what would be its title, and when could I deliver it! Well, er . . . not sure. Yes, I did have the very vaguest of ideas, but I hadn’t really done any serious thinking about it. So I sat down to play patience (with real cards) and to look out at the garden. And watch the birds.

I have a bird bath which I fill up with water twice a day. The crows and the magpies arrive, drink and without making a song and dance about it, fly off to resume their hunt for food. The pigeons allow themselves some digestive time after drinking. They linger on the rim and ponder what to do next. The blackbirds have no idea of social distancing. One, two, anything up to six will arrive together. They drink and then they get down into the water and flap their wings madly till the bird bath resembles a fountain. The sparrows tend to keep away while the blackbirds are having their shower and then daintily help themselves to a sip here and a sip there. However, there is one sparrow who has observed the antics of the blackbirds and likes to try them for himself. He goes ker-flop! Into the water. Then, tentatively at first, tries to set up a fountain of his own. He succeeds, to the muted admiration of the others, who are not nearly so daring. He’s the king of the castle, don’t you think?

Anyway, I sat and watched the birds and thought, and disentangled some sort of plot . . . so, as of this minute another contract is now being prepared for my signature. And that will be another Bea Abbot. I’ll tell you more about it later.

Now, what is the next short story for me to attach to this latter? Um. Well, the next one in the series is called HARVEST HOME. My stories begin with something I’ve seen or heard about and this is no exception. Is it really up to me to deal with a member of the awkward squad? Can I avoid noticing that someone is in trouble? So this story is in memory of Fred, who loved a good singsong. Access it here.

Libraries. More emails in, saying how libraries are gradually opening up and extending hours everywhere even, it seems, except in our London Borough. I continue to put books I have read and loved out for people to take away, and now have some gaps on my shelves which I am beginning to fill up again as I pay another visit to our local bookshop. I used to be able to get some books from one of our local charity shops but they’ve not opened yet, so what I’d do without the bookshop, I do not know.

A blessing on all who keep an eye open for others who may be in trouble.

Veronica Heley