Newsletter no. 187, May 2022

Covid seems to hit busy people. On the morning of our community choir concert, George rang to say he’d gone down with Covid and couldn’t work the microphones for us that afternoon. Consternation! Nobody touches the microphones in our church except him. What to do? A friend offered to see what he could do and he duly prodded and poked and measured out the wiring . . . but nothing worked. Oh dear. So the choir had to sing out, and the people who were reading a poem of short story had to PROJECT! I did the cat story from last month’s newsletter and got a lot of smiles in return.

Then Elsa in her nineties stood up, not without difficulty. She was given an arm by our music director to get to centre stage and faced the audience with one of her wonderful, mischievous smiles; and everyone smiled back. She launched into an old music hall song and we all – audience included – sang the choruses with gusto.             Everybody sang as loudly as they could! Everybody smiled. Forget the mikes; remember the fun! I am convinced that the more community events there are, the better for all of us.

I’ve been getting heavy breathing/groaning phone calls. At first I didn’t take them seriously. ‘Oh, you again! Get lost!’ But I did panic the night he rang at 2am. Sharing my problem with friends in the café I was given lots of good advice. ‘Use a whistle!’ ‘He’ll get bored if you don’t pick up,’ and ‘Ring the police.’ I did ring the police and they told me what to do if he rang again and I did it, and he stopped. I’m almost, but not quite, feeling sorry for the man.

You may remember that my publishers didn’t like the suggested title of the book I’d just delivered: MURDER BY ESTATE AGENT. Instead they took another suggestion and have renamed it MURDER FOR PROFIT. The cover has been designed and publication date set for lst November 2022. The copy edit is in the post and I shall now have to abandon everything else and set myself a target of correcting so many pages each day. Eeeek!             Copy editing is NOT one of my favourite pastimes.

The next short story is: Love in Lockdown

This is no young lover’s tale, but it does hark back to the Covid lockdown and what happened to our friends at that time. You can access it here. Incidentally, if ever you would like to browse through some of my early short stories, you can find them in e-book form under the title ‘Unsung Heroes.’                            

Parsley & Posy

. . . like this dwarf bearded iris (actual variety unknown) which I was given by a gardener in Sussex many years ago. In between the irises are some lilies of the valley which were here when we arrived fifty odd years ago. Like Parsley & Posy, the lilies of the valley wander at will and turn up where they feel like it. See them here.

A blessing on all those who find time to listen to other people’s troubles.  

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no. 186, April 2022

I was on my way to the shops to meet a friend for a cup of coffee, when a stranger pressed a white rose into my hand, saying, ‘It’s my birthday and I’m buying flowers to give away.’ (I thought: He’s not local! He speaks good English, but he’s from the Middle East somewhere! This is not the typical beggar’s approach, but . . .)

He said, ‘I’m 49 today.’ I respond, ‘I’m 88. May I buy you a cup of coffee?’ He insisted instead on buying me and my friend coffee and vastly over-paying with a tenner. I know that the owner of this particular café runs a tab for one or two locals who need a helping hand now and again, so I suggested that the change be held over for the next person who needs help.

Now, my first reaction was to give and not to receive, but a moment’s thought made me realise that at that particular point in time this man needed to give, and to have his gift accepted. I’m glad I accepted. I still don’t know why he went on his St Nicholas style spree. I don’t know if he could afford it or not. I don’t know why he chose this area to distribute his gifts. I checked with the flower shop owner later and found her packaging up dozens of single tulips which he paid for and collected while I was there. I do hope no one refused his generosity. I’ll probably never know his story but I think of his actions as candles lit in the darkness of these present days.

You will remember that I sent the mss of MURDER BY ESTATE AGENT of in good time, and Wham! Bam! I was told I’d have to think up a completely different title as the American market have a different name for estate agents. The silly thing is that I knew this, really. I mean, how daft can you get? I sent in some suggestions which might work and am now waiting for their verdict.

                                                   Simnel cake, anyone?

The eleven balls on a traditional Simnel Cake are meant to represent the eleven apostles (minus Judas, of course). I did some research because I couldn’t remember the names of more than seven . . . which led me to wonder about replacing the old with something new. In other words, should we now commemorate more recent saints instead of those whose names we no longer recall? This story will be out in the Easter edition of the Methodist Recorder.

In these dark days I feel my job is to write something to make you smile. So instead of the usual serious story, I’ve written The Adventures of Max. Access it here.

                                                         Parsley & Posy

. . . are nowadays spoilt for choice as the garden wakes up to the sun. And here they are to be found with the grape hyacinths (muscari) which are doing very well this year.

A blessing on all those who can accept a gift with grace.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no. 185, March 2022

The good news is that my brain fog is clearing, though not yet completely gone. I know this because I’m slower working out crossword clues than I used to be. But, onwards and upwards as they say.

I did actually manage to get MURDER BY ESTATE AGENT off in good time . . . upon which my agent said, ‘It really ought to be MURDER OF AN ESTATE AGENT,’ and not ‘BY ESTATE AGENT.’             Well, actually, the story could be presented both ways, so I’m leaving it up to my editor to decide. She also wanted a blurb – which after much thought and umpteen drafts, I managed to send her. She’ll probably re-write it, knowing her but I don’t mind that. Writing blurbs does not come easily to me.

A further bit of good news is that she managed to find a picture of exactly the sort of large red-brick London terraced house with loft conversion which I’d envisaged. The only problem is that it’s facing the wrong way round with the front door on the left instead of the right. However, I’m pretty sure that can be altered.

Meanwhile, I did happen to mention that I’ve got an idea for another book, and straight away my editor asked when I felt I could deliver it. Six month, nine months, a year? Give me a date!             I did the usual counting on my fingers and came up with November. I might make it October, but November would probably be safer. And no, I won’t give you any hint of what this one might be about but I must admit it’s occupying all my waking mind at the moment . . . which is awkward because the Methodist Recorder want another story for Easter . . .

. . . and all I can think of is Simnel Cake. I mean, how daft is that? Surely Simnel Cake is for Mothering Sunday, half way through Lent? I made one many years ago but it’s a tricky baking task because if you’re not careful, the layer of marzipan – which ought to be level centre, sinks to a bowl shape. That is NOT supposed to happen. I seem to remember hearing that two children called Sim and Nell made this cake for their mother when they visited her. One baked and the other boiled the mixture. Surely that can’t be right? I can see I will have to do some research, unless perhaps another and better story pops into my mind.

The short story from the archives this month is called STRUCTURE, and it’s about the coming of Covid and lockdown and how it affected our friends. You can access it here.

Parsley & Posy

are to be found frolicking among the early daffodils, the ones they call Tete-a-Tete. (I know I ought to be the French accents in, but I can’t remember how to do it!) There’s also an early celandine poking its head above the earth. See it here.

A blessing on all those who keep in touch with the housebound in bad weather.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.184, 1st February 2022

I’m fighting brain fog! I had my second knee replacement on January 6th, and this went well but . . . oh dear! . . . I had to have a general anaesthetic which means my usual sharp responses are rather like an elastic band which has sagged and ceased to be of any use.

I did have a chat on the phone with my editor and I confirmed that I will be able to deliver MURDER BY ESTATE AGENT on time in February. I had built an extra month into the contract so that the aforementioned brain fog wouldn’t upset the schedule. I need just one more read through to pick up this little bit here and alter that bit there and the book will be ready to deliver. So far, so good.

We moved on to talk about the cover, and discussed we might show an estate agent’s board outside an elderly London terraced house, and that was fine as I’d described such a one at the end of MURDER FOR GOOD. But then my editor asked me to send her a blurb for this new book and oh dear! My mind went into freefall, the elastic sagged . . . or whatever you like to call it.

Writing a blurb is a really difficult thing to do. You have about 70 to 80 words to sell the premise of the book without giving too much away. Usually you end with a question, such as . . . ‘Will our intrepid heroine fall victim to this dastardly villain’s plots?’ Which means you must have described the dastardly villain and his/her plots in the preceding matter. It’s no good saying, ‘This is the umpteenth outing for Bea/Ellie, and you can trust this book to deliver the goods as usual.’ Unfortunately, no. So I’ve got some work to do there.

The short story from the archives which accompanies this letter will be ‘I HAVE A DIFFICULT JOB FOR YOU.’ And that job is indeed difficult and, when accepted, puts our old friends in danger of losing their standing in the community. It was the Easter story in the Methodist Recorder a couple of years ago and still relevant. You can access it here.

Parsley’s companion

I had lots of suggestions as to the name we should give Parsley’s new friend, including, Bambi, Puso, Bernard, Ramkin, Sprout, Blessing, Lilley, Poe, and Forsythia.   But the one which seems to fit best is . . . (drum roll!) . . . Posy. With many thanks to Branda Williams for that suggestion.           Parsley and Posy seem to fit together. They have both approved the new name and can be seen enjoying the winter-flowering iris which I think is now called unguicularis and not, as previously, iris stylosa. See them here.

A blessing on all those who take ‘treats’ of food to those who can’t get to the shops easily at the moment. Chocolate, yum, yum. Peppermints, mhm. Bananas, chicken dishes, biscuits . . . you name it!

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.183, 1st January 2022

I wish you a Happy New Year

and may it be less stressful than 2021.

When you are surrounded by miserable faces and all you hear are tales of woe, then you can either shut the door on the outside door and reach for a cuppa, or – as Shakespeare said – by taking arms against a sea of troubles, you can end them. Well, OK. We can’t end Covid by wishing but we can embrace the spirit of the Blitz and stiffen the upper lip and get on with life as best we can. I may be the only one around here who can remember the blitz, but even as a child I can well remember the feeling of anxiety that pervaded those days. And now? Is it the same? In some ways, yes. But I do know that a bit of fun here and a spot of laughter there make all the difference – as they did then.

Let us consider Parsley

Parsley has adopted a smaller lamb, as you can see here. Now I bought this little lamb in Prague many years ago. He sat on a ledge in the bedroom and seemed perfectly content there, but now he’s arrived at Parsley’s side and apparently intends to stay there. I’ve tried moving him back where he used to be but he resisted like mad. All right: it’s companionship for Parsley. The only thing is, the little lamb never had a name before and now he needs one. Would anyone care to think one up for me? (No, not Thyme.) All suggestions gratefully received and there will be a naming session in due course.

Work continues . . .

Things may go awry in the world but work – thankfully – continues. There’s nothing like a good book to renew one’s spirit and I hope that the one I’m writing now will both amuse my readers. Another Ellie, MURDER BY ESTATE AGENT is going well, and I should be able to deliver it in about a month’s time. One of the characters who appears in this book has given me a lot of pleasure. He’s not a pretty boy; in fact you might call him ‘plain,’ but he’s kind and a good listener. When we were going out on dates way back in the dark ages, my friends and I used to judge the men by things we thought important and at the top of the leader board was ‘Is he kind?’ I suppose nowadays the criteria are quite different, but it served us well in the old days and, come to think of it, none of our group ended up in the divorce courts.

The short story with this newsletter is ‘Christmas Mislaid,’ in which Bruce and Sally set aside their own plans to help a relative in distress; with surprising consequences. Access it here.

A blessing on those who are kind to those around them.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.182, 1st December, 2021

Spoiler alert . . . a tale of woe!

I had a new left knee last year and was due to get the other replaced on November 4th. Only, my blood pressure, which is usually normal, went sky high. The operation was aborted and I was sent home to get stablished on pills. Was I CROSS! Returning to work upstairs on my computer, I yearned for a cup of tea . . . and found my stairlift had broken! There I was upstairs, with tea downstairs, and frozen food taken from the freezer defrosting . . . and the engineer couldn’t come till the next day!

I phoned a neighbour who had a key and she came round in a fluster . . . and the outer door key wouldn’t work! Picture me hanging out of the first-floor window, directing her to neighbour No.2 who also had a key . . . only she was having her hair dyed and so there was a further delay. Eventually kind neighbour No 1 and her husband got in and helped me down the stairs to have that much needed cup of tea. And the stairlift was restored to order next morning.

Whatever next! Well, a bulb blew in my bedside light and my specs crashed to the floor and twisted the side-piece off. Apart from that, you will be glad to hear that my temper and my blood pressure have returned to normal and I sent my lovely neighbour No 1 a bunch of flowers.

Back to my desk, and . . .

I got through to the end of the second draft of the next Ellie book, which I really rather like. Then I took a breather to tiddle around with the Christmas stories. When they’re finished I’ll get back to work on the third draft for Murder by Estate Agent.

Christmas short stories

The one about an eleven-year-old boy is called ‘Joe Finds His Voice.’ It was written for our Carol Concert, but you can access it here. The longer and more difficult one for the Methodist Recorder is for Sally and Bruce who are given unsuitable gifts, but also goes back in time to see the Nativity story from Joseph’s point of view. I haven’t done this split time thing before and must say it gave me a lot of grief. I think – I hope – it works. It will be published in the combined Christmas and New Year edition.

Parsley’s Pose

Parsley moved into my little conservatory (view him here) for the Christmas season, liking the proximity of my artificial tree which was bought for my very first Christmas on earth in 1933. No lights on it now, but many memories.     

A blessing on those who are kind to the lonely at Christmas time.      

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.181, 1st November, 2021

One down and three to go . . .

False Face was published at the end of September and I know that some of you lovely people were off to collect your copy straight away. The story? Bea’s husband, Piers, has nearly finished the portrait of a fading film star, Karina, when she claims that he’s conspired with young Molly, a ghost-writer, to steal some of her jewellery. Molly is a fantasist, but she denies theft and perhaps she’s telling the truth for once. The hardback came out in the UK on 30th Sept, the e-book on Nov 1st, and the USA hardback is at the start of December.

So that’s one down. The next Ellie is coming along all right, I think. I remember a woman who used to make people sigh at committee meetings by saying, ‘On a point of order, Mr Chairman.’ and carry on for ten minutes. Although some people termed her paranoid, she was more often right than wrong. So some of the characters here may appear to be on the wrong side, but they may actually be moving in the right direction.

I have not one but two Christmas stories to write. The shorter one is for our local choir’s concert in December. Now in high school, Joe still has to dance attendance on his frail – and difficult – elder brother. By chance, Joe finds his voice through singing carols, only to be told his brother needs him choir at practice time. Perhaps I’ll include it in the December 1st newsletter.

The other ‘short’ story is for the Methodist Recorder as usual, and will go out in their Christmas/ New Year issue. I’m thinking of calling it ‘All I Want for Christmas . . .’ It’s about inappropriate gifts and what to do with them. If it works out all right, that should go out with the January 1st issue.

The next short story is: ‘Lost Child!’

This is a tribute to all the volunteers who give up their time and take trouble to make neighbourhood events work . . . in this case it’s the summer Party in the Park. Bruce would rather watch tennis on TV, but he’s been landed with the job of working in the HQ tent and problems proliferate! You can access it here.

Parsley’s Pose

Parsley calls these ‘early grape hyacinths’ but they’re not spring bulbs. The foliage is like a variegated ribbon grass and it flowers in October/November. I can’t remember who gave me the original plants but I’ve divided and replanted until they line the front path. Latin name: I think it’s Liriope muscari, the variegated version. Access it here.     

All Souls: A blessing on those who mourn those who have gone ahead.    

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.180, 1st October, 2021

                    ‘False Face’ was published 30th September.

Hurray, and at last! The 15th Abbot Agency story is finally out there and ready to read. The story? Bea’s husband, Piers, has nearly finished the portrait of a fading film star, Karina, when she claims that he’s conspired with young Molly, a ghost-writer, to steal some jewellery. Molly is a fantasist, but she might be telling the truth for once. The hardback came out in the UK on 30th September, the e-book will be November 1st, and the USA hardback is at the start of December.

Meanwhile, there’s a large print hardback and a paperback out of FALSE CONCLUSION, a Bea Abbot story about a schoolgirl friend of Bernice’s, who may or may not have been the victim of a nasty plot to silence her. And if so, why?

               The following is for all fellow writers . . .

I’m sure you knew that Public Lending Right has been taken into the hands of the British Library. Be warned! If you haven’t registered anything since May this year, you now have to re-register with the British Library. I did not find this easy, and had to resort to the Customer Service phone line, where a nice man talked me through the procedure, which involved right clicking on something! I’ve only ever used a right click to check spelling and grammar mistakes before! I think – I hope – I managed it.

                                        The next Ellie Quicke . . .

is coming on a treat. I got through to the end of the first draft and stopped work in order to deal with that horrid pile of To Do pieces of paper which had been accumulating – and to register with the British Library (see above.) Now I really have to settle in my mind on one or two important details before I start working on the next draft. How old exactly are the students concerned? Has Diana really managed to get another ring on her finger? And what is Susan and Rafael’s new baby to be called?

                         The next short story is: ‘Chocolate Soup.’

An elderly man gives Sally some money to buy and give some flowers away but this well-meant action can be misinterpreted, as she soon discovers. You can access it here.

                                                               Parsley’s Pose

Today Parsley has taken shelter under a fuchsia which is both flowering and fruiting at the same time – although I don’t think the fruit would be as good to eat as my neighbour’s Bramley apples. The tiny cyclamens I grew from seed and now appear all over the back garden.           

A blessing on those who have the patience to listen to friends in trouble. 

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.179, 1st September, 2021

‘False Face’ the 15th Abbot Agency mystery

will be published at the end of September. The story? Bea’s husband, Piers, has been working on the portrait of a fading film star but when his work is done, she refuses to pay him. She claims that Piers had conspired with a girl who was ghost-writing the diva’s memoirs, to steal her jewellery. Young Molly declares her innocence, but she is a fantasist, so who can Bea believe? The hardback is published in the UK on 30th September, the e-book on November 1st, and the USA hardback publication date is at the start of December. Spoiler alert! Fantasist may believe their own stories but if other people do as well, then look out for trouble.

So, on to the next Ellie Quicke . . .

I was getting along nicely with this story – MURDER BY ESTATE AGENT – when I had to stop in order to copy-edit and then proof-read FALSE FACE. Faced with a story I’d written so many months before, at first I couldn’t remember who was who, or what I’d meant by saying this or that. Finally, the proofs were agreed and I was at long last able to return to Ellie . . . only to find I’d completely lost the plot there, too. What was the name of the person who morphed from helpful assistant to minor villain? I remembered that lovely Susan was pregnant again, but I couldn’t recall how far along she was or what season of the year we were in. I had to go back and read the story from the very beginning in order to pick up the different threads.

The next short story . . .

Came out in the Methodist Recorder on the 27th August, and is called ‘It Wasn’t My Fault.’ In order to get a job, a man lies, saying that he’s been vaccinated and has no Covid symptoms. He passes the virus on to his team at work, with tragic results. So how far is he responsible for what happened? Legally he’s in the clear, or is he?

The short story that comes with this letter is ‘Not everyone is happy at Christmas.’ Playing ‘Happy Families’ can put a strain on rebellious teenagers. Bruce and Sally try to pick up the pieces when a much-loved grandchild goes astray. You can access it here.

Parsley’s Pose

Today Parsley has found himself under the butterfly tree (click here to view the photo), surrounded by Honesty. All right! I do know the botanical names, but ‘butterfly tree’ is what my father always called the Buddleia. and I’m very fond of Lunaria because it is an all-the-year-round plant with brilliant flowers in the spring, and silver ‘pennies’ for autumn and winter.

A blessing on those who delight the passers-by with flowers in their front gardens.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.178, 1st August, 2021

The proofs have been read and . . .

The corrections have been sent back to the editor for FALSE FACE. In this story, we find Bea’s husband, Piers, working on a portrait of a fading film star. Karima claims Piers has conspired with young Molly – who is ghost-writing the diva’s memoirs – to steal from her. Bea discovers that Karima and Molly live in a fantasy world that bears little relation to reality. This book comes out in the UK on 30th September, the e-book on November 1st, and the USA publication date is at the start of December.

I’ve met two fantasists in my time. When I left home to find a better job and make new friends, I met not one but two charming men who convinced people – at least for a time – that they were other than they were. One claimed he’d gone to Eton while the other boasted of a University degree. Both were eventually exposed but the damage done to some of those around them was considerable.

The next short story . . .

for the Methodist Recorder has been accepted and will be out in August. It’s called ‘It Wasn’t My Fault.’ In order to get a job, a man lies, saying that he’s been vaccinated and has no Covid symptoms. He passes the virus on to his team at work, with tragic results. So how far is he responsible for what happened? Legally he’s in the clear, isn’t he? I’ll let you know when it’s due to be published.

The story that comes with this letter is ‘Jimson and the Knife.’ Bruce is asked to counsel a lad who’s spoiling for revenge after a fight, and won’t listen to anyone who tries to prevent him using a knife. Bruce doesn’t think he can get through to the lad, but . . . well, he does . . . in a way. You can access it here.


With the lifting of so many restrictions, the need for me to turn out two newsletters a month has become less pressing. I know that you enjoy them, but my workload doesn’t seem to be decreasing while the days turn into years and I could do with less work and more play. So I’m going to drop back in future to just one newsletter at the beginning every month. I hope you will understand.

As for Parsley . . .

You can access him here, surveying the neighbourhood amid the late summer yellow flowers. Are the daisies Heleniums? I’ve always called the others Tansy or Bachelor’s Buttons, but I can’t find those names in any of my flower books. Oh dear. Someone gave me some roots many years ago and I’ve never been too bothered about the exact names. Now, back to work on the next Ellie . . .

A blessing on those who lighten our load with an amusing story.

Veronica Heley