Newsletter no 201, July 2023 – 90th birthday issue

Yes, it’s true! I was 90 years old this week. I didn’t want presents but I did want a party with friends from all the different circles in my life. And that happened. Oh, it surely did! Now you know that I love hearing from you all now and then, but on this occasion please don’t be upset if I don’t reply. I’m gong to need a while to get over this event.

This last couple of weeks I’ve been getting up early to do the watering. I have sweet peas, pansies, Busy Lizzies, nasturtiums, lilies, sunflowers, runner beans, tomatoes, etc., in pots and they all need watering. On the plus side, the roses have been wonderful this year.

I have three writing projects on the go at the moment. The first is the next Bea Abbot book, which is coming on a treat. Bea is out of her comfort zone here, visiting friends in the countryside. She’s only made aware of how much she doesn’t understand about life outside London, when someone observes that Bea doesn’t know anything about horses.

Then there’s a short story about what gardens can mean to older people. That’s for the Methodist Recorder and will be out at the end of July. And the last thing I’m working on is a very short story about Maximilian the Magnificent who is an undersized black cat finding life hard in a word populated by larger cats, even larger rats, vets-who’s-aim-in-life-is-to-torture-felines-with-needles.

Next: Joffe Books finished bringing out most of the e-books of the Abbot Agency series with A FALSE FACE on 27th May. They have acquired the rights for the first eight of the Ellie Quicke mysteries and I’m told will be starting to bring them out in the autumn. I’ll let you know as soon as I have dates.

Now, what about the Owlets. Well, Awol is in disgrace, of course. But manages to wheedle his way back into the next picture with some flowers picked from my garden this morning. See him here.

The short story I’ve attached from the archives is called ‘Remember Me!’ It’s all about regrets for past mistakes and, hopefully, looking to the future. You can access it here.

My daughter Frances successfully completed her long walk from Leeds to London in aid of Ehlers-Danloss Syndrome, despite wading through a field of nettles, her husband falling off his bike and fracturing his elbow, the tills at the supermarket all going down just as they’d had finally managed to locate something to eat, and . . . well, there was a long list of mishaps which will make good stories later but which at the time almost made her give up. Which she didn’t. Now she’s back at work and looking for opportunities to do more for EDS in the future. Pathway to Parliament in aid of EDS UK | Leeds | Facebook

A blessing on those who can make the time to be with people who need someone beside them at difficult times in their lives.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter No 200, June 2023

The plants which died over winter in the garden have been removed, and the foliage from the spring bulbs has been tidied up, hurray! This year I’m growing some sunflowers. I’ve some eight inch high seedlings and have hopes they will one day grow to be taller than me. Unfortunately, it’s a constant battle here with slugs, snails, blackfly, greenfly and something new to me that’s attacking the roses. Ouch!

I am slowly getting on with the next Abbot Agency book, titled FALSE WITNESS. I got myself in a tangle in the plot, and had to go and do some gardening to recover my equilibrium. The problem is that, for the purposes of the plot, the hero has to spend a night in hospital, which set me wondering what sort of accident he might have had to cause that. Eventually, I decided on something that worked. Oh, the relief!

I tell myself that as long as Bea is in charge of the story, we will see things through her eyes and she can sort it out for us. She’s brought us through sixteen titles so far, hasn’t she? And without anyone throwing the book across the room and declaring they haven’t a clue as to who’s doing what to whom, and whose name I’ve got confused with two others in the same chapter. I once tried to read a book in which the names of the first four people concerned all began with the same initial. I made it to the third chapter and then put the book gently to rest in the recycling bin.

Joffe Books are continuing to bring out the Abbot Agency e-books. A FALSE CONCLUSION came out on May 14th while A FALSE FACE was due on 27th May. Now what’s next? I think it will be some Ellie Quickes in the autumn. Watch this space.

I have to tell you a shocking thing; naughty Awol, the blue owlet, knocked his brother Owen off the mantelpiece, and he ended up on the floor in pieces. I have glued him back together again and repainted his stripes, but he’s feeling very sorry for himself. See him here showing his bruises to the rest of the family, while Awol chuckles to himself.

The short story I’ve plucked from the archives is called SUMMER HOLIDAY, and is about the choices our three old friends about where to go and why . . . and how that turns out. Read it here.

Did you manage to keep up with my daughter Fran on her walk for the EDS (Ehlers Danloss Syndrome) charity from Leeds to London? Disaster struck on day 4 when her husband had a fall from his bike and fractured his elbow. They spent most of that day in A&E. Fran had a difficult decision to make but decided to carry on because it’s so important to so many people. Friends are helping out as and when. What a business! If I’ve counted correctly, today she’s got as far as Wellingborough and is aiming for Harrold. She’s over half way! You can catch up with her through Facebook.

Pathway to Parliament in aid of EDS UK | Leeds | Facebook &

A blessing on those who will listen to us when we hit a bump in the road.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter No 199, May 2023

The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la . . . are accompanied by weeds, patches of moss, and the dead twigs of plants that died in the winter. However, some plants have pleasantly surprised me by rejuvenating themselves. Seeds are beginning to germinate, lifeless-looking bushes are showing a haze of green and the birds are busy chasing the squirrels away from their nests.

Work continues. The short story ‘New Lives for Old’ was duly published in the Methodist Recorder at Easter and they have asked for another for July .I did manage to finish off the story about the tiny little black cat Max for the choir concert. Maximilian the Magnificent, Menace to Mice, goes on a wander, gets stranded up a tree but earns a new title. You can read it here.

I’ve been told that the hardback of the next Bea Abbot – False Name – will be out at the beginning of July, and they’re giving me another contract for No. 17 in the series. As you may have guessed, I’m really a cat person, but there’s a beautiful Alsatian in this book (and on the cover) who has quite won my heart.

I’m happy to say that the Abbot Agency e-books are still being published at regular intervals. A FALSE PRIDE came out on l7th April and A FALSE ACCOUNT is scheduled for 1st May. Then comes A FALSE CONCLUSION on May 14th while A FALSE FACE is scheduled for May 28th. And yes, there is still a black cat on the covers.

It seems that The Owlets – Mama plus children A,B,C and D – have gained a place in your affections. Here they pose with flowers from the garden. Thanks to Brenda W, Donna C and my daughter Fran, they now have names. Introducing: Mama Luna Owlet and son Owen, with his sisters Olivia and Ophelia. Unfortunately Owlet A is a very naughty boy and always trying to hide. They call him Awol. (Owl + A)

Starting on the 21st May, my daughter Fran will be walking the 200+ miles from Leeds to the Houses of Parliament to raise awareness of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and funds to support it. She’ll be inside the Chamber on the 7th June, as her M.P. attempts to raise the difficulties faced by EDS sufferers at Prime Minister’s questions.

She is hoping that a good number of the EDS community will join her for the final (short) day’s walk to Parliament Square. The symbol used by EDS Uk is the Zebra – hence her striking outfit. The collective term for Zebras is a “Dazzle”, and she’s hoping for a final Zebra stampede to really create a spark.

Her Facebook page is:

Pathway to Parliament in aid of EDS UK | Leeds | Facebook

A blessing on those who can make us laugh even after listening to the news.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter No 198, April 2023

I don’t ‘do’ April Fool’s day. Do any of you? I quite enjoy trying to work out which item of the news in the papers might be a ‘con,’ and I suppose some people enjoy tricking others but it can get out of hand and cause people to be really upset. Instead, I celebrate the start of the fortnight before Easter because our wonderful local baker starts making his Hot Cross buns at that point . . . and not a day earlier! What joy it is to have local independent shops serving good quality food. What’s more, everyone working for them seems delighted to see you when you enter, and gives you a smile. And you smile back. Remember: smiling keeps you healthy. (I don’t know where I read that but it’s something to do with the muscles doing this or that . . .)

So, where was I? Well, the garden is beginning to show signs of waking up. The grape hyacinths in the border in front are beginning to look their best – quite a river of blue, and the winter-flowering clematis is a great mound of white petals. I must confess, though, that I haven’t sown any seeds as yet. I really must get down to it.

Work continues. I want to write about the problems of old age for the next short story which is going to be in the Easter issue of the Methodist Recorder. Living longer can throw problems your way. I want my stories to be upbeat because there is also a great deal to celebrate in our later years, but to ignore the downside of old age is also not good. I think I managed a reasonable balance.

I also managed to finish off the next story about the tiny little black cat Max for the next choir concert. Max gets stranded u a tree . . . oh dear! I’ll let you read the story soon.

I’ve been writing and re-writing the first three chapters of the next Bea Abbot but finally – hopefully – it’s now taking shape, the characters are beginning to tell me who they are and what they look like, and my heroine bought a new pair of boots and strode into another delicate situation as to the manor born. Yes, that’s a pun as the next story is mostly set in a country estate.

More good news: Joffe books advised me that the e-books of the Abbot Agency series are doing well. A FALSE WALL came out on March 25th and A FALSE FIRE is expected on April 4th. A FALSE PRIDE comes next, on 16th April and A FALSE ACCOUNT on 1st May. Look out for the black cat on the covers.

PARSLEY and POSY have gone off on a trip round the world, but another family have moved in to take their place. The Owlets are an indoors lot, admiring the vase of Japonica which is just coming into flower. There’s Mama Owl and her quadruplets, numbers One to Four. They don’t have any other names at present. Maybe they don’t need them. What do you think? You can access their picture here.

The story from the archives this time is about Ellie Quicke visiting a writing group, and you can find it here. It’s called DEATH IN PRINT. Enjoy!

A blessing on those who can absorb bad news and still manage to help others.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.197, March 2023

So, Covid came. And went. And yes, I’m still getting tired. I look at the neglected winter garden and think how much it would be improved if I could only get out there and do a bit of tidying up. The other day I decided to stop thinking about it, and actually do a little chopping back and pulling out of dead plants. I set myself a twenty minutes deadline and of course I went over that because neighbours kept passing by and saying they wished I had my energy, and had I heard about so-and-so, or called on the new neighbours yet. There were consultations about a bush which had caught the frost and had I seen the camellia which was covered with blossom in the nest road, and altogether a good time was had by one and all. It was a splendid break from work and I wasn’t too tired at the end of it.

So many plants that usually live through the winter here, have died. It’s received wisdom that any bedding plants put into the garden before Easter will need replacing at Whitsun but perhaps, if I put them new plants in the greenhouse to harden off a bit, they might survive? Shall I chance growing sweet peas this year?

The e-books coming out on Amazon are apparently selling well. FALSE IMPRESSION came out on February 25, and in March we have FALSE WALL on the 25th. Because of the low price, it seems that new readers are beginning to look out for these stories, and that can only be good news. And yes, the black cat continues to feature on the covers.

Meanwhile, first the copy editing and then the proofs of the next Bea Abbot story – FALSE NAME – have arrived on my doorstep. There had been this delay and that, and my editor wanted them back in record time. Unfortunately this particular copy editor was new to my way of expressing myself and held strong views about the necessity of writing good grammar even for people who ‘speak it like it is’ with double negatives and lashings of ‘likes’. So we had a few disagreements, but finally the text has been agreed and will shortly be passed for production. The hardback is scheduled for publication in July this year.

So far, so good. Now I have to write another tale for the Methodist Recorder, and another story about Maximilian the Magnificent, the tiny black cat who is lucky to get out of his adventures with a whole skin.  

PARSLEY and POSY are fed up with this cold weather and are threatening to emigrate. Perhaps I shall get them to stay if I promise they can pose indoors with flowers cut from my garden. I’d welcome your advice on this. You can see them here, posting with the forsythia which has flowered early this year. (And yes, I cheated by buying the daffodils)

Delving into the archives I came across an early story about a time of change for my three old friends who featured in so many short stories for the Recorder over the years. It’s called SPRING CLEANING, and you can access it here.

A blessing on those who ask others how they’re doing and then actually listen to their tales of woe.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.196, February 2023

I’ve been thinking about angels. Yes, well . . . I got Covid, didn’t I? My first dose of it. I’ve had all the boosters and been out and about and in touch with all sorts and I hadn’t got as much as a sniffle until . . . Yes, well. Unmistakeable. Cooking? Forget it. Work? Well, I did try, but had to stop. Puzzler problems? Brain not responding. Telephone calls? Cough, cough, blow nose, cough, cough. Lie down. Keep warm. Drink plenty.

So, enter the angels. Now, I’ve read about Angels in the bible. They came in all shapes and sizes. They are NOT human. Some are frankly scary. Imagine meeting the Archangel Michael in a strop! Just consider what it takes to defeat evil: the power of thunder and lightning comes to mind. He’s wonderful and also terrifying.

Some of the lesser angels in the Bible bring good news. Some bring warnings. And in this day and age I fancy some are humans whom God has used to help matters along. I don’t suppose any of my neighbours think of themselves as angels. Each has their own busy life to lead, fitting me in somewhere between looking after grandchildren and cooking for their families. One even understood my craving for a bunch of yellow flowers, daffs or tulips, I didn’t care which, but I wanted them NOW! And they duly appeared in my porch! All I can say is; Thank you. And mean it. And hope to repay their kindness some-day, when it will be my turn to play angel.

The next lot of e-books from Joffe are now in the pipeline. February has A FALSE ALARM on the lst, A FALSE DIAMOND on the 12th, and A FALSE IMPRESSION on the 25th. They have continued using the black cat who appears on all these covers, hurray! I gather the e-books are all doing well but the ones with an animal on are doing better than the others.  

You may remember me talking about the lyrics of a song I wrote a while back. One of my kind friends says he knows someone who might be interested in setting it to music. I wonder if it will work? Who knows? Watch this space.

Meanwhile, the next Bea Abbot story called False Name is going through copy editing and will be returned to me soon for this and that. I have a rough of the projected cover for this one already, and think it’s very good. You will be amused to hear that the dog Bruno, who plays a major part in the story, is featured stage front. We’ll have to wait and see if this makes a difference to sales!

PARSLEY and POSY have spent the last month taking shelter in my little conservatory at the back of the house, and say it’s still too cold to pose outside. So here they are with my amaryllis bulbs which are now in full flower. See them here.

I think it’s too early to feature an Easter story so have delved deep into the archives to find you an early Ellie Quicke short story, called Death by Lily. You can read it here.

A blessing on those who shop for those who can’t get out and about.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no.195, January 2023

January comes in with a splash and a crash and I don’t suppose many of us look back on the last year with pleasure. So much changed in that time. The Christmas story for the Methodist Recorder this year was very different, being about the problems that many of us encounter as we get older. This tale does remind us that we are not alone in find life difficult nowadays and that sometimes we can act as today’s ‘angels’ to others in the same position. It’s titled ‘Louise’s Christmas.’

Presents can mean different things to different people . . . not to mention cats. My stories about the tiny back cat whose missus miscalls him Maximilian the Magnificent, seem to amuse people who came to our choir concert, so here is what he got up to in ‘A tree for Christmas.’ You can access it here.

So much of the news recently has made me want to go home, slam the front door shut, draw the curtains and reach for comfort food. However, I’m told the e-books from Joffe of the Abbot Agency series are doing well, and their choice of covers recently has made me applaud, instead of reach for indigestion tablets. FALSE MONEY came out on 11th December, FALSE REPORT will follow on January 10th, on FALSE ALARM on February lst.

Now in False Report I wrote the lyrics of a song about a girl who was trafficked into this country with promises of love, and ends up walking the streets. Re-reading the words recently it occurred to me that it could be set to music . . . but what do I know of such things? I’ve asked a musician I know to look at it. Perhaps something will come of it, perhaps not.

Murder for Profit, the latest in the Ellie Quicke series, is now out and about and doing well, too. This story covers the fatal fall of a student from one of Ellie’s housing charity’s houses, which triggers an attack on the estate agency’s reputation. It’s also about sibling rivalry.

Meanwhile, my editor has read the next Bea Abbot story called False Name which I’ve spent the last nine months writing, and accepted it straight away. However, she questioned my statement that two brown-eyed parents cannot produce as blue-eyed child. Isn’t it odd how you grow up with these misconceptions? I could have sworn it wasn’t possible, but apparently there are decent odds are for it. Anyway, that manuscript is now going to the copy editor and I’m starting work on another Bea Abbot which will be a follow-up to False Name.

PARSLEY and POSY have decided it’s too cold to pose outside, so can be found in my tiny lean-to conservatory, admiring the poinsettia. See them here.

A blessing on those who help us to face the New Year with courage.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no. 194, December 2022

The garden has sunk into its winter rest. The winter jasmine and the viburnum tinis are out, as are the first of the iris unguicularis. Hurray! We draw the curtains earlier and earlier or – in the case of some of my neighbours – leave them open so that people can admire the Christmas trees set up in their front rooms.

The Christmas story which comes with this letter was first published in the Methodist Recorder last year and it is a dual-purpose one; first there’s Joseph’s take on the birth of Jesus and then a story of today with Sally and Bruce having a problem with family presents. It’s called GIFTS WITH A MESSAGE and you can access it here.

My Christmas story for the Recorder this year is a little different. It is not about people who have recently or are almost retired. In my ninetieth year I am only too aware of the problems of old age. In general we are living longer but with imperfect health, technology is getting too much for us and family members no long live round the corner. I want to write stories about this special time in our lives and I’m hoping that you will approve. This next story is tentatively called Louise’s Christmas, though the editor may change that to something she likes better.

Some good news: the first e-books from Joffe in the Abbot Agency series are selling well. I am still feeling tense about the choice of covers. FALSE STEP and A FALSE PRETENCE (originally ‘False Pretences’) came out in November and are just fine. There’s even a black cat on the cover for A FALSE PRETENCE. FALSE MONEY is out on 11th December, FALSE REPORT on 21st December and we’re being very polite in our discussions about covers for these. Rereading these books has been quite a treat for me, and I hope they please you, too.

I understand that the new Ellie Quicke – that’s Murder for Profit– is doing well, too. Hardback and e-book came out together last month. This story concerns the fatal fall of a student from one of Ellie’s housing charity’s houses, which impacts on the estate agency’s reputation. It’s also about sibling rivalry becoming very nasty indeed.

I’ve just off the manuscript of the next Bea Abbot story called False Name which has been a real treat to write. In fact, there is so much more to say about some of the characters in this book that I want to continue writing about them. But that’s for next year. Hasn’t this past year gone quickly?

We bought our Nativity set years ago on a visit to Prague. I put it out every year and move the pieces around as the shepherds are replaced by the wise men and so on. Parsley and Posy are too big to appear next to these little figures, so have taken themselves off for a holiday. Visit the Nativity Set picture here.

A blessing on those who can cope with the parties and presents for the season without forgetting what Christmas is really all about.

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no. 193, November 2022

First came the autumn colour in trees and plants, which was wonderful to see. Then came the Fall, and that meant lots of clearing up to do. It wasn’t so much the leaves that drifted down onto the garden as the sycamore seeds that came down with them. They are a pain because I can’t sweep them up with a broom as I do with the leaves. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in my garden. I tell myself that eventually they’ll cease to be a problem and I am enjoying the winter-flowering pansies and chrysanthemums.

A hitch in the proceedings occurred recently when my mouse malfunctioned. The computer froze. I couldn’t get anything to shift. I couldn’t access or send emails. I couldn’t get on with the story. After a weekend of telling myself it wasn’t the end of the world although that’s what it felt like, my wonderful computer guru brought me a new mouse and normal service was resumed. Later, someone told me how to over-ride the mouse on my keyboard, but I haven’t tried it and am hoping never to have to go through that again.

Good news: readers are now finding the e-books of the first titles in the Abbott Agency series. The first, A FALSE CHARITY, came out on 24th October, then there was A FALSE PICTURE on the 31st. A FALSE STEP is due out on 8th November and A FALSE PRETENCE on the 27th. Please note the original titles didn’t have an ‘A’ in front of them, but these ebooks do. I’m not terribly happy about the first cover which features a dog. I am a cat person. But there it is; the publishers say that dogs sell books. It’s not worth getting into a state about it. (The 3rd title does feature a cat.)

Meanwhile the hardback copy of a new Ellie Quicke came out on November lst together with an e-book. MURDER FOR PROFIT has a house which looks very much like mine on the cover. It’s all to do with Ellie’s trust fund and which estate agency or realtor should be looking after the rentals, etc. A student fell from the top window of one of Ellie’s latest projects and someone is stirring up trouble about it, big time. I rather like the characters in this story, and I hope you will, too.

There’s been a couple of good reviews of MURDER FOR PROFIT already. This from Booklist: ‘A twisty plot, an intrepid heroine, and an unexpectedly satisfying ending make this a good choice for cosy fans.’

Parsley & Posy have been posing with some of the tiny autumn cyclamens which pop up all over my garden at this time of the year. See them here.

                             The next short story is: ‘Harvest’

This is another oldie featuring Ellie Quicke, written originally for a magazine. It’s about the feuds which can break out in a church over who decorates which window or pulpit. You can access the story here.

A blessing on those who know how to help when computers break down.        

Veronica Heley

Newsletter no. 192, October 2022

The good news: The garden revived once we had some rain. Some plants did die, but others are deciding to have a second go at life and some plants are coming into bloom early. And, my second crop of runner beans are now cropping heavily! It’s a bit mad, really.

Some more good news: the paperback of FALSE FACE came out at the end of September, and I’ve had a couple f really good reviews for MURDER FOR PROFIT, which comes out in hardback on November lst.

. . . which leads on to my next bit of good news, which is that a firm called Joffe Books have bought the e-book rights for thirteen (yes, 13) of the Bea Abbot books and are going to bring them out as e-books one a week from mid-October! How about that! You will be amused to hear that I couldn’t remember much about the early books in this series, so had to find copies and re-read them. Do the plots stand up to the passage of time? Yes, I think they do, although after fifteen years technology has moved on somewhat.

The plot for the first book, FALSE CHARITY, was given me by my husband. He’d come across a couple in court running a fake charity event and then scarpering without paying the venue or the charity concerned. In my story Bea has just been widowed and can hardly think straight as problems mount around her and the agency her husband had run for so many years. And yes, Piers turns up to help . . . on his own terms, mind. So that’s the first book, published in 2007.

The second is FALSE PICTURE in which Bea is struggling to restart the agency, she has two lodgers who are causing problems, an old friend is less than open about a relative who’s gone missing with a valuable painting by Millais, and an experienced thief is planning another murder. Oh yes, and the tax man is on Bea’s tail . . .

Meanwhile. . . Parsley & Posy have been having fun posting in front of the Japanese anemones which threatened to die on me earlier but are now coming into bloom. Whenever I see these flowers, I remember my mother saying, ‘Don’t look at them! They’re the first sign of autumn!’ True, but this year I’m actually glad to see them. I know there’s a variety which has pink flowers but strangely enough, the ones in this road are all white. See them here.

                      The next short story is: ‘Death at the B & B!’

Yes, this is a real oldie, an early short story featuring Ellie Quicke. The problem is that I’m using up short stories too fast. I am asked for them three or four times a year, but I’m sending one out with the newsletter every month. I can’t do the maths, but I’m sure you can see the problem. So here’s one I wrote earlier, and I hope you enjoy it. You can access the story here.

A blessing on those who mourn. Let us remember Queen Elizabeth II and all whose lives she touched.      

Veronica Heley