Newsletter no 211, May 2024

I have a problem. . .

If you’re bad at maths, then you can skip this paragraph. Oh, all right; I’ll try to make it simple.

I write a newsletter giving news and views once a month. For some years I have been including a short story from the archives. These stories were commissioned by the Methodist Recorder three or four times a year, and once a term by our local choir for their concert. Now you can do the maths! I am using up the short stories faster than I am sending out newsletters. Get it? So I am coming to the end of stories I can re-use for you. Yes, there are still one or two out there. Today’s offering is an early Ellie Quicke, called DEATH BY CHOCOLATE. See it here.

So, what do I do next?

Well, I could include the first chapter of whatever book of mine that Joffe are currently re-issuing on Amazon. That sounds like a good idea, but – and here my brain goes whirling off into outer space – they are sometimes bringing out two books a month. Which means that I shall soon have another problem – too many books for a monthly newsletter, which is the opposite problem to the one I started off with.

So in April it was MURDER BY MISTAKE on the 3rd, and MURDER MY NEIGHBOUR on the 21st. Very nicely done, too. See the latest fliers here. On Free Friday 26th, they also brought out a freebie for the first Ellie, MURDER AT THE ALTAR. Are you confused? Yes, so am I.

Anyway, back to the book currently being written; FALSE GOLD. I am enjoying and agonising over this story in equal proportions. Do I have too much plot in this story? Are there too many characters? Am I making clear who does what to whom and when did that happen?

Oh, but I do like the ‘hero’ whom Bea stumbled on as a rough sleeper, but who was subsequently revealed to be the heir to a failing Stately home, and is now growing into his new position. To add to the general mayhem, his baby son Pip is learning to walk and to talk . . . and needs watching twenty-four seven.

Still available: the story of how some Christian writers got started in their career. You can find it in MY FIRST NOVEL . . . details to be found here.

As for the Owlets, the sun came out and went back in again. It rained. And then it cleared up, sort of. And then the cold wind blew. So they’re still indoors and getting stir crazy. See them here. In the garden I’ve got Spanish bluebells coming up where they’re not wanted, vying with roses coming out far earlier than usual. It’s a crazy spring.

A blessing on all who help the fumble-fingered and digitally challenged to survive in the present day.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 210, April 2024

Change is in the air.

So much is happening so quickly, that I’m always trying to catch up. I suppose it’s better to have too much to do, rather than too little, but at times I find myself wondering if I should take a week off. Or wo days off. Or perhaps even an afternoon? Yes, I know it’s a ridiculous situation. I’m ninety and nine months old and still working. True, I’m no longer writing two books a year, but am down to one. (And a bit)

But nothing much else has changed. Take copy-editing and proof-reading, for example. It’s easy enough to spot a mis-typed word. Most of the relevant rules have been part of my memory banks for years . . . such as, using a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’ for words like realise (realize).           But every now and then the publishing world seems to undergo a volcanic upheaval and insist that, for instance, semi-colons are to be treated in a new way. And my brain refuses to re-educate itself. And don’t get me started on where quotes end up in relation to speech marks!

So, yes. I have done the copy-editing and proof reading of the next Bea Abbot book, called FALSE WITNESS, and it will be published early in July . . .

. . . which means I can get back to work on the next story , FALSE GOLD. Or can I? For here comes a reminder that another short story is due for the Methodist Recorder this Easter. It’s called ‘Don’t be afraid!’ which phrase is one of the most comforting and often repeated in the Bible. Also another short story is needed for the choir concert. That will be about Max, the tiny cat whose missus has an accident, placing them both at the mercy of . . . Well, you can read it here.

Are there any other impediments to my getting on with FALSE GOLD? Yes, Joffe books are bringing out another two Ellie Quicke stories in April, and are sending me the designs for the covers for approval. The dates are as follows: back in March, it was MURDER IN HOUSE on March 21st. In April there will be MURDER BY MISTAKE on the 3rd, and MURDER MY NEIGHBOUR on the 21st.

So, please, miss? May I have an afternoon off? Well, I know that if I do, while I am happily having a chat over a coffee with a friend, my brain will shoot off to work on the next problem in the plot of FALSE GOLD. So, is the dead body found in the amusement park really that of Pete, who was on the security payroll? And what’s happened to his dog? And, does a boy of nine months say more than five words and walk unaided?

If you’re interested in reading how some Christian writers got started in their career, you could have a look at MY FIRST NOVEL . . . details to be found here.

As for the Owlets, the sun came out and they ventured a tiny step outdoors. I’m not at all sure they like! But AWOL is aching to go AWOL. See them here.

A blessing on those who do a bit of shopping for those who can’t get out easily.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 209, March 2024

It was an interesting experience to look back over the years in which I’d been writing. I remember how uncertain I felt for some years, if I declared myself to be an author.

                                              Life gets complicated . . . .

When I was first accepted for publication, writers got just one hardback book for library use. Over the years publishers added a paperback, a large print, and e-book and also an audiobook to their lists. Some of my historical romances were brought out under the pseudonym of Victoria Thorne but the suspense stories continued under my own name. Eventually almost all of these titles were sold on to a different publisher who brought them out with new covers . . . and then they got a second or third life in Print on Demand and e-books. Then the first of these publishers were bought out by yet another publisher . . . and this is why the Abbot Agency and Ellie Quicke books are now being bought out by Joffe for Amazon . . . Yes, it’s complicated! But you don’t have to remember who did what to whom and in what order. And I’ve forgotten!

. . . which reminds me to tell you that MURDER IN THE HOUSE| is being brought out by Joffe on March 21st. I haven’t seen the cover yet but I’m told they are going to be bringing out the rest of that series as we go through the year. (Caution: I titled this book MURDER IN HOUSE, but it may be coming out now with a ‘THE’ in the title.)

The children’s books I wrote had good storylines but are now pretty well out of date; so much has changed over the last 50 years in the way children are brought up; they now have phones and much more pocket money; they dress differently and have different expectations. Some of my readers plan to look up some of these the early stories. I am most interested to hear what they will make of them nowadays.

Nowadays it’s a case of deciding whether I write another Bea Abbot or an Ellie Quicke. Actually, it’s not as easy as that, because I seem to be getting more ideas for Bea than for Ellie. It continually amazes me that ideas do seem to pop up when I need them. It’s doubly amazing that in my 90th year I am writing what will be my ninetieth book.

As for the short stories I’ve written over the year, they were written for three or four occasions every year. Now I’m recycling them every month in the newsletters, so I’m actually going to run out soon . . . or perhaps restart them from the beginning all over again? Anyway, this month’s story is about Simnel cake. WHO ARE THE APOSTLES? Find it here.

I’m told that the book some of us Christian writers put together has been published and has been selling well. Called MY FIRST NOVEL, details can be found here.

The Owlets are considering a dive into the Great Outside – the garden. I tell them they’ll get lost in the undergrowth but AWOL at least thinks that will be fun. See them here.

A blessing on those who smile and say Hello if they pass someone they don’t know in the street.      

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 208, February 2024


. . . I managed at last to write a story good enough for publication. I’d spent the previous two years turning out story after story, hardly stopping to correct typos. Yes, I worked on a board in my daughter’s bedroom, on a manual typewriter! Eventually I slowed down enough to do some editing. I cut my current Ms in half and SUE FOR MERCY was accepted by Robert Hale, published in October l974.

I wrote six suspense/romances for Hale, learning my trade all the time. Then some historicals which were a lot of fun, and taught me to do the research before I started the story. My favourite? MY LORD, THE HERMIT for Transworld. Some of these early books are still available in audio.

Then there was a change of direction. For fourteen years I wrote children’s stories for Christian publishers. They’d say, we want a story for a 10 to 12 year old boy, or for a 6 to 8 year old girl. Up would come an idea, and I’d switch on my electric typewriter. SPARROW, for Scripture Union and THE BOY WHO WOULDN’T for Lion, went into several editions. Then came the narratives for pop-up books for Frances Lincoln, and some resource books for the Bible Reading Fellowship. All now out of print.

Another door opened when Harper/Collins Religious wanted some adult crime stories with a Christian background, which is how Ellie Quicke came into being. That part of Harper/Collins was sold to Zondervan, for whom I wrote a quartet of romances starting with EDEN HALL. Ellie moved to Severn House, for whom I am still writing today. Ellie’s MURDER AT THE ALTAR was the first of the series, soon to be joined by Bea Abbot in FALSE CHARITY – and an introduction to computers.

There are now 22 Ellies and l6 Beas available and I’m told the 17th Bea will be out this July. Meanwhile, No 9 in the Ellie Quicke series, MURDER IN THE PARK, came out on January 20th for Amazon, and I’m pleased to announce that Nos 10 to 22 have been contracted for as well. Hurray! See their advert here.

I’ve written all sorts of short stories along the way, first for the Methodist Recorder and then as attachments to my monthly newsletters. One of the early ones, INSURANCE, is to be found here.

Recently, a group of us Christian writers collaborated in producing a paperback about how we came to write our first book, and what happened to it. This was published on January lst under the title of MY FIRST NOVEL and if you’re interested you can find details here.

The Owlets are divided about taking Awol back into the fold. See them here.

A blessing on those who stay at home when they’re going down with a cold and don’t go out to spread it about.    

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 207, January 2024

There’s nothing new about this New Year –

or is there? Well, I suppose that the way we conduct our lives is changing, little by little as technology takes over. Innovations which are helpful to youngsters are impenetrably difficult for us oldies. Threats to remove our telephone landlines make me want to retreat into a hobbit burrow, shut and lock the front door and check the amount of food I’ve got in store . . . only to remember that if electricity fails, then I wouldn’t be able to access it anyway. Perhaps I should dig up the garden and replant with cabbages. Except, I’m not that fond of cabbage. Oh yes, and my Christmas rose didn’t flower. Again. I think I’ll chuck it out and get something that will enjoy living in my garden.

Enough of doom and gloom. Look! the spring bulbs are pushing through the earth, the winter jasmine is in full flower, and today I noticed a perfect pink rose in bloom, which reminds me that the days are going to get longer and the cold winds abate.

So, looking forward instead of back, the choir re-starts this week, and so does our wonderful Tea Club for the over 65s. Both concerns have members in their nineties and you should hear us all when we get going . . . especially with a good tea in view. And reminisce! Don’t we just! It’s really interesting to hear why this one’s family went to Australia when she was only three, and that one from her teens onwards used to entertain with Music Hall classics.

Work has continued, around the social stuff. I am trying to work out how the plot goes for the next Bea Abbot story, which is called FALSE GOLD. I know how it starts, and I know what happens to various people who crash in and out of the picture. I know how the work at Marston Hall continues inside and out, and what sex Julian and Polly’s next child is to be. Now I have to put all the material together to present it in readable form to Severn House, and that’s not easy to do.

Joffe are getting on nicely with the Ellie Quicke books. Contracts are whizzing backwards and forwards and probably getting stuck in letter boxes as most people seem to have closed down for a whole month! But in spite of that, the stories continue to be brought out at regular intervals. And they’re not even half way through yet!

My Christmas story duly went out in the Methodist Recorder and will no doubt crop up here some time, but meanwhile I’m giving you the latest tale (tail) from Maximilian the Magnificent, the undersized but lucky cat’s latest. ‘Bringing up Baby’ can be found here.

The Owlets are very quiet at the moment. Awol has been visiting his Mum, and Hope believes he’s turned over a new leaf. Perhaps he has. Perhaps . . . See them here.

A blessing on those who find time to listen to people in distress. It happens, even at holiday time.              

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 206, December 2023

I received my first Christmas present . . .

early in November. I tried to hide my horror. Christmas? Now? The leaves were not all down off the trees, we’d hardly had any proper frosts, and there were a lot of shopping days to go before the Day. Explanation? My friend was about to depart for warmer climes for six weeks, and had got herself all organized for Christmas early.

I personally was not nearly ready for the event. . . although, come to think of it, I was on that very day in the early stages of writing a Christmas story, so I suppose I ought not to have been surprised at receiving a gift, especially as it was something to eat and not gold, frankincense or myrrh. I’d been thinking of candles and stars, not food. The story is called ‘Christmas means . . .’ It’s about Christmas meaning different things to different people at different times in their lives, and will appear in the Christmas issue of the Methodist Recorder.

The story from the archives is: ‘What is a Gift?’ Trouble arises over the parish Christmas lunch when it’s cancelled by He Who Must Be Obeyed. Read it here.

It’s a strange time of the year in the garden. Here in the South East, winter jasmine, and the irises are coming into flower while artificial trees mimic reality. A neighbour has told me the trick of getting the Hellebores to flower, so I live in hope that they will do so this year.

Work has rather taken over my life. I thought I could get ‘False Witness’ off in time, and I did actually manage to do thast – in spite of having one of the filthiest colds that I can remember. (No, it wasn’t Covid; I checked.) So now I’m waiting to hear from my editor that all is well and she likes it, etc., etc. Meantime, I’m tiddling around with another idea. So many interesting points occurred to me during the writing of ‘False Witness’ that I’m now wondering about a third story set in the same place.

The Owlets are getting excited over Christmas. Awol had overdone it as usual, and is jumping up and down, trying to climb the tree. I hope he remembers how to fly down to earth. See them here.

Joffe are very happy with the way the early Ellie Quicke books are selling. ‘Murder by Committee’ came out on November 12th. Next comes ‘Murder by Bicycle on Sunday, December 3rd, and ‘Murder of Identity’ on Sunday, December 17th. The Abbot Agency book are still selling well, and ‘False Money’ was available out throughout November in their Free Book Friday Scheme.

A blessing on those who look forward instead of back.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 205, November 2023

Countdown to winter . . .

Has your garden been put to sleep for the winter? I do try to have something in flower all year round, but I have cut down the herbaceous plants and trimmed the roses. Bulbs have been planted, weeds extracted, and dried seed-heads collected for a vase indoors. The place looks tidy. For the time being, anyway. I’m hoping that this year I’ll get some hellebores to flower. My neighbour has so many she doesn’t know what to do with them, but mine have always failed miserably. Perhaps this year it will be different.

Work has rather taken over my life. I thought I could get ‘False Witness’ written, edited, fiddled around with, and ready to send off before the end of the month, but his time it’s been a real problem. Yes, I have made the plot a little more complicated than usual, and yes, there’s quite a lot of characters to contend with, but oh dear, it has meant working right up to the wire.

The storyline is a follow-on from ‘False Name’ which came out in July. I liked those characters a lot and my brain kept going on, taking them into different situations and seeing how they reacted. ‘False Name’ was about a young man who’d been adopted as a nameless toddler and made his own way in life till he found himself targeted by people who wanted him dead . . . and he hadn’t the slightest idea why. Bea Abbot helped him unmask the would-be murderers, and when the dust cleared, Julian found himself the heir to an almost bankrupt estate.

Next came ‘False Witness’ which is the story I’m delivering today. Julian took up the challenge of trying to rescue the fortunes of the run-down Stately Home and its commercial off-shoots, only to find himself the target of more hate, and accused of murdering a local woman. Now that storyline might have concluded there and then, but the characters won’t leave my head. So many interesting points occurred to me during the writing of ‘False Witness’ that I’m now wondering about a third story set in the same place. When I submit one book, I usually have another storyline ready to offer, so I’m now wondering what my editor will think . . . well, we’ll have to see.

It was half term last week and the Owlets didn’t go to school. But Awol has decided he’s going to have his half term this week instead, and is running away as fast as he can, with the others chasing him. Perhaps Hope can calm the family down. See them here.

The next short story from the archives is: ‘You can do it!’ See it here.

Joffe Books have been bringing out the Ellie Quicke stories at the rate of knots. On October 7th they brought out ‘Murder of Innocence,’ and on the l8th it was ‘Murder in the Garden.’ Then on November 12th, they’re bringing out ‘Murder by Committee.’

A blessing on those who can smile even on grey, rainy days.    

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 204, October 2023

 Autumn beauties – and woes

As the years go by, so many things change; sometimes for the better. Sometimes not. One thing I’ve noticed is that we are continuing to wear summer clothes long after the children have returned to school. We used to switch to warmer wear in dark colours at the end of the first week in September, didn’t we? The weather has now changed, and I am now packing up all my light summer gear and replace it with long-sleeved shirts and blouses . . . and then decide which I can bear to wear again and which should go to the charity shop.

The next story – False Witness – is coming along a treat although, yes, I fear I am going to be editing the Ms right up to the last minute. I had great fun trying to encode a password which the hero needs to release stolen money from a foreign bank. Somewhere I’d read a particular method of doing it . . but where?

I tried writing out numbers 0 to 9 across the top of the page and under that I wrote out all the letters of the alphabet from l to 26, starting back to no l when I reach the letter K. Then I took the key word and translated it into numbers. I think – I hope – it works. I’m sure many of you will have a better way of doing it, but . . . well, it was a fun thing to do for a story.

So, the garden in autumn. I cut the last of the sweet peas and cleared the pots in which they’d grown, but I left the runner beans as they’d produced a final flowering. The tiny cyclamens, only a few inches high, have seeded themselves everywhere and I haven’t the heart to turf them out. The fuchsias are still flowering as are the cosmos and those yellow daisy-like flowers that I’ve never known the name of, which were given me by a friend when we first moved here, nearly sixty years ago.

Mother Owlet has been lecturing her brood about the beauties of nature. Naughty Awol isn’t taking any notice, of course. Hope continues to hope. See them here.

The next short story from the archives is: Excuse Me! Two of our old friends struggle with a man who doesn’t seem to know right from wrong. Or does he? See it here.

Joffe Books brought out the first two Ellie Quicke mysteries on Kindle as follows: Murder at the Altar — 16 September, Murder by Poison Pen – 23 September and Murder of Innocence — Sat, 30 September. (Please note the title of No 2 was originally Murder by Suicide, but the new title fits the series better)

Now the next lot are going to come out on Kindle as follows: October 7th, Murder by Accident, and l8th, Murder in the Garden.

A blessing on those who can manage to tell you their problems in less than five minutes.  

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 203, September 2023

Back to work

Did you have a good holiday? I did take a week off work. The problem with that is that I went early and everyone else was going away as I returned home. And, a favourite café is closed for one whole month!

I’m deep in the next story – False Witness – which is causing me some problems. The contract stipulated 5000 words less than usual. I said, airily, ‘Oh, that’s all right. I can do that.’ Only to realise it would mean cutting a big chunk out of the plot to do so. I told myself I was a professional and should be able to do something as simple as cutting out a chapter and joining both ends. In the end, my editor very kindly said I could have the usual length (which is 85,000) so for the time being, I’m keeping to the storyline I’d originally planned and hoping I don’t overrun on the final draft.

Do you have a problem with pockets? Or the absence thereof. I prefer wearing a skirt to trousers but this means there is nowhere to store a handkerchief or tissue, your house key, or a credit card or a comb or . . . you can add to the list, can’t you? Ever since I had my knees done, I’ve taken to using a stout cloth bag that goes cross-wise over my body. It works well, I can carry a certain amount of shopping but is not exactly the height of fashion. Also, it was a gift from someone who likes to advertise the virtues of a camping holiday, which is not precisely me at this age. How do other people manage?

The garden is doing fine, thanks to alternate days of rain and sun. The runner beans and tomatoes have done well, and some fuchsia plants have been a real delight, as have the cosmos. Mama Owlet has been praying for naughty Awol, and prompt on cue, Hope arrived. Let’s hope he can exert a good influence on the sinner. See them all here, with some of the cosmos from the garden.

The next short story from the archives is: Why Bother? When two of our old friends meet a man who makes a mockery of their faith. See it here.

My daughter Frances successfully walked from Leeds to London, to raise awareness of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). She raised over £5000 for the charity, met her MP at Westminster and got some media coverage. She then went on to walk from West to East on the Bannatyne trail, met Cherylee Houston (of Coronation St), got more radio interviews, had one writeup in the Church Times, and another in the Yorkshire Post. Next week it’s the Daily Mirror. What a mission! It’s taken its toll of her and of her husband, who’s been looking after her so well despite braking his arm when she was on the first walk! If you would like to know more, click on the link here.

Advance notice – Joffe Books is bringing out Kindle versions of the first three of the Ellie Quicke mysteries in September:

Book 1: Murder at the Altar — Saturday, 16 September
Book 2: Murder by Suicide — Saturday, 23 September
Book 3: Murder of Innocence — Saturday, 30 September

A blessing on those who take the time to listen when we suffer a meltdown.    

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no 202, August, 2023 – holiday issue

My 90th birthday celebrations are over – yes, they are great and thank you for all your good wishes! – and suddenly it’s August, which sounds verry much like autumn and holidays to me. I’m going to take a few days off from my desk, knowing that I shall get withdrawal symptoms.

It’s a good thing – I tell myself – to stop work for a bit now and then. After all, I can still mull over the final couple of chapters in my head. Maybe I’ll even get an idea for another story.             I let my thoughts drift here and there . . . and something irrelevant comes shooting up from nowhere, and Bingo! An idea begins to form.

I understand that ‘False Name,’ the recently published Bea Abbot book, is providing some enjoyment for holiday reading. This is the one in which Bea stumbles across a rough sleeper who is actually nothing of the kind and who has no idea why he’s been beaten up and left for dead. Disentangling the mystery draws Bea into danger. Too.

I’m now deep in the follow-up to this story, ‘False Witness,’ which won’t be published till next summer. It’s been interesting to take Bea away from the city and throw her into a countryside where jobs are limited and family feuds can still divide public opinion. Yes, yes. I do know that can happen in a town, too. But these family feuds do help the story along nicely.

We’ve been hearing a lot about heat waves in Southern Europe, but here in the UK we’ve been having rain, interspersed with showers, accompanied by thunder, interrupted by strong winds and then – just to whet our appetites – a few hours of sunshine before the next lot of clouds come between us and the sun.

However, my garden has, on the whole, enjoyed the rain, and I must admit I’ve never had sweet peas like it. Every couple of days I pick a small bunch and put them on the mantelpiece. As you will have noticed from today’s picture, a vase of these flowers were placed rather too near Awol and I did wonder if he’d try to upset it. What a problem he is! See the latest portrait of the Owlets here.

As for the rest; the next short story for the Methodist Recorder will be out this weekend. ‘Rachel has a Garden’ is about an older lady who chats to passersby and gives away flowers, until she upsets a neighbour with nasty results. For your short story this month I’m including another tale about Max, the undersized black cat who makes up for lack of inches by luck and perseverance. You can read ‘Hide and Seek’ here.

Advance notice: Joffe Books is bringing out the first of the Ellie Quicke mysteries, starting on September 30th. As they say in the adverts; Watch This Space.

A blessing on those who can make us see the funny side of things in life.  

Veronica Heley