Saturday, 31 December 2011

Lovely Things, 2011

This year has been a good one for me. My book, Alison Wonderland, was published for the first time in America and got to no. 1 in the Kindle chart. I'm really delighted with the way things have gone and I'm looking forward to a new paperback edition being published by Mariner books on 3rd January. That's the new cover on the left. Do you like it? It's available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and in independent bookstores.

The new edition is also available in the UK on Amazon.co.uk and The Book Depository and in independent bookshops like The Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace, and in Hong Kong from Paddyfield.

The AmazonEncore edition of Alison Wonderland is still available for the Kindle in the UK, the US and all Amazon online stores.

In May I went to New York to a party organised by Amazon Publishing for all their authors. In September I had a launch party in London for the book. Thanks to everyone who has bought a copy, and thanks to Amazon Publishing for taking a chance on the book and getting it to number one.

I have read and performed my work in London, Oxford and New York City this year. In June I won Literary Death Match with a reading from Alison Wonderland. In October I hosted the Literary Cabaret at the St Pancras Hotel in London. I was delighted to be part of the Stoke Newington Festival, the YARN Festival, the Oxford Literary Festival and the Bloomsbury Festival and to read at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Thanks to everyone who programmed me for one of their events, particularly Gemma Mitchell at YARN, Dan Holloway of Eight Cuts/The New Libertines, Paul Burston of Polari, Lucy Popescu of the Sugar Lounge Literary Events and Marco Rafala at Guerilla Lit.

Thanks to everyone who has read this blog, bought one of my books or come along to an event I have been involved in. Here's to a wonderful 2012 for all of us.

If you haven't had much luck lately, I promise you it will change. I keep saying I will write an update about the money I put under the mat in 2010 to bring good fortune into the house. It worked extremely well, and in fact I started to think that I could never move home for fear of having to dislodge the coin and disturb the magic. But recently I had a lot of work done on the house (thank you, Amazon Publishing, for your prompt and generous royalty cheque) and for six weeks the place was full of decorators, plumbers, plasterers, carpenters, electricians - and scaffolders. I had never seen scaffolders at work before but they are extraordinarily graceful and very strong and agile; it's like having Cirque de Soleil in your house for the price of three cups of sweet tea and some muffins. If you're thinking of trying something new next year and you're tired of the theatre and bored of ballet, you should definitely consider staying at home and having some scaffolding put up and taken down again.

Anyway, the workmen were very good and tidied up assiduously at the end of every day. But one day I noticed that the coin had disappeared, sucked up into a very powerful hoover, lost forever. I'm grateful to be delivered from dependence on it and, after all, the coin had served its purpose. But if my luck should falter, I'll be ready to try something new and will let you know how it goes. Of course, I could always try writing more. The presentation of a completed manuscript to an agent or publisher generally brings good things, I find. The trick is to finish it. And the way to do that is to keep away from the internet. So...

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Being Light - free in the US for Amazon Prime Members

Are you looking for free ebooks? If you're a member of Amazon Prime in the US, Being Light is free to borrow for your Kindle.

If you'd like to buy it, it's only $4.99 in the US at Amazon.com and £3.69 in the UK at Amazon.co.uk.

Roy Travers is swept away by a freak gust of wind while trying to install a bouncy castle in Brockwell Park, south London. Sheila, his wife, can’t understand why he hasn’t found his way back home. She begins to suspect that Roy has been abducted by aliens and enlists the help of Mrs Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation to find him. Sheila travels to Kent with Alison, a private detective. Together they build a missing persons advertisement out of pebbles on a beach, hoping it will be seen by the aliens who have taken Roy. But Roy was not taken by aliens. The truth is far stranger.

"Smith has a keen eye for material details, but her prose is lucid and uncluttered by heavy description. Imagine a satire on Cool Britannia made by the Coen Brothers… very funny." Times Literary Supplement

Monday, 26 December 2011

Cheap ebooks for your Kindle

If you want some hints about how to find cheap ebooks, here are some sites I use:

Daily Cheap Reads UK finds and posts about cheap, super-cheap and free ebooks in the UK kindle store:

Daily Cheap Reads US features bargain ebooks available in the US.

The Frugal Ereader has regular posts about free and cheap ebooks in the US, as well as news, features and giveaways.

Ereadernewstoday has news about free and cheap ebooks in the US, as well as Kindle accessories.

I use EreaderIQ to notify me about price drops of Kindle books I'd like to buy. It has both a US and a UK site.

The Kindle Daily Deal in the UK and the US feature a different book each day that has been discounted by up to 80%.


Each month there's a list of 100 recommended Kindle books at $3.99 or less in the US. There are regular seasonal promotions in the UK.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Alison Wonderland - review

There's a nice review for Alison Wonderland over at David Hebblethwaite's site:

"Helen Smith juxtaposes the bizarre and the mundane: however strange events become, the emotional issues that Alison deals with remain grounded in everyday reality; and some of the best-written passages deal with the more ordinary subjects.

Alison Wonderland might also be seen as an unusual take on the conspiracy story, in that the main conspiracies which the characters imagine to exist actually don’t; whilst the real secrets go unsuspected. Smith’s novel brought to mind the work of Sarah Salway and Aliya Whiteley in its sideways approach to everyday life – but it’s not quite like anything else I’ve ever read."
I love reviews that say my book is unlike anything else the reviewer has ever read. Thanks, David.

Alison Wonderland is available at Barnes & Noble, the Book Depository and at Amazon. If you have an ereader you can find it in the Kindle stores in the UK and the US and it's currently on offer in paperback in the UK for only £4.19 or $5 in the US.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

World Book Night - Have You Signed Up?

I have signed up to be a "giver" on World Book Night, 23rd April 2012. One million books will be distributed free in the UK by the givers, who will each have 24 copies of one of 25 titles (see left or here) to give away.

Go to the World Book Night site for more details or to sign up to be a "giver" in the UK. If you'd like to sign up for WBN in the United States, go here.

Amazon Gift Card - winner chosen

Thanks to everyone who signed up to win an Amazon gift card in the recent giveaway on my blog. The winner, "Library Lady" was chosen using random.org and has been contacted by email.

I'm sorry if you didn't win but I'll have some more giveaways to thank you for following my blog. Please check back or sign up to my Facebook page to keep up to date.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Order Alison Wonderland from Amazon UK by 18th December for free delivery in time for Christmas











Alison Wonderland is only £2.45 in paperback on Amazon.co.uk until Sunday 18th December. If you order a copy by Sunday 18th you'll get it in time for Christmas with free delivery, too.

Alison Wonderland is $5.00 in paperback on Amazon.com. Order by 15th December for free super saver shipping. More details about shipping and delivery here.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

FREE BOOK: The Miracle Inspector

The Miracle Inspector is free today, Saturday 10th December, for one day only in the Kindle store in the UK and the US.

A dystopian thriller set in the near future. England has been partitioned and London is an oppressive place where poetry has been forced underground, theatres and schools are shut, and women are not allowed to work outside the home. A young couple, Lucas and Angela, try to escape from London - with disastrous consequences.

"The Miracle Inspector is one of the few novels that everyone should read, it's a powerful novel that's masterfully written and subtly complex." SciFi and Fantasy Books

"Helen Smith's The Miracle Inspector represents British humor at its best." Kindle Books Reviewed

"...a beautifully written, and almost unbearably sad, depiction of a society's downfall." All-Consuming Books

"If Patricia Highsmith wrote dystopian fiction but had more of a sense of humor, it might be something like The Miracle Inspector... Smith deftly works in the dark urges and fears of Lucas, Angela and others in a way that only psychological mystery and espionage writers like Highsmith and Graham Greene do well." Steve Anderson, Amazon.com

"Helen Smith crafts a story like she's the British lovechild of Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick, only with a feminist slant." Journal of Always Reviews

Friday, 9 December 2011

Video: World Book Night Launch

There's a lovely short film of the launch of World Book Night in Trafalgar Square earlier this year. I'm on stage on the sofa in a white coat.

FREE BOOK: Showstoppers

Showstoppers (the second Emily Castles mystery) is free today (9th December) for one day only in the Kindle Store in the UK and the US.
When Emily helps out at Showstoppers Stage School’s end-of-term show, she’s soon mixed up in murder. But can she prevent a massacre happening live on stage?

REVIEWS for THREE SISTERS (The first Emily Castles story):
“It’s fast-paced, funny, and mysterious all at the same time.” Socrates’ Book Reviews

“The book was very enjoyable and I did not put the short story down at all. It grips you from the very beginning.” Babs Books Bistro

“Right from the first page, Helen Smith's story glows like a roman candle: bright, colourful and full of surprises.” Peter Salisbury, Amazon Vine Reviewer

“The characters are creative and multi-dimensional and I loved the unique personalities and talents of all the party guests.” Her Book Self

“If you are looking for something fast-paced and unusual, I highly recommend this one.” Eva’s Sanctuary

Showstoppers is approximately 17,800 words, equivalent to around 75 printed pages.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Gift Card Giveaway 9-13 December

I'm giving away one Amazon gift card worth $15 or £10

The winner will be chosen at random after midnight on 13th December. This giveaway is open internationally - you just have to be able to shop at Amazon.

The Gift Card Giveaway was hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer and Attack of the Book. It is now closed and the winner has been notified by email. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Showstoppers - review

There's a lovely review for Showstoppers over at Big Al's Books and Pals. Big Al is world-famous after one of his reviews was retweeted by Stephen Fry and Neil Gaiman, among others, and widely discussed on the internet. He was kind enough to review the first Emily Castles mystery, Three Sisters,when it was published earlier this year, and has followed it up with a review of the second:
"Having read several of Helen Smith’s books, it struck me how well the cozy mystery sub-genre plays to her strengths as a writer. Her prose is comfortable (dare I say cozy?) while still feeling more literary than a typical genre book. Her books are full of humor, but it is subtle."
You can buy Showstoppers in the Kindle Store in the UK and the US.
It's a standalone story but if you'd like to start with Three Sisters you can also buy that in the Kindle store in the US and the UK.

Alison Wonderland - Winner Chosen

Thanks to everyone who signed up for a copy of Alison Wonderland in the Book Lovers Holiday giveaway. A winner has been chosen by random.org and contacted by email. Congratulations to Elizabeth L in Cyprus.

If you didn't win but you'd like a copy of the book, you can still take advantage of an amazing deal at Amazon until 18th December. Alison Wonderland is currently on special offer at £2.45 in paperback on Amazon.co.uk and $5.00 in paperback on Amazon.com.

If you have a Kindle it's only £3.99 in the UK and $3.99 in the US.

Showstoppers: The Second Emily Castles Mystery

The second Emily Castles mystery story is now available in the Kindle Store in the UK and the US.
When Emily helps out at Showstoppers Stage School’s end-of-term show, she’s soon mixed up in murder. But can she prevent a massacre happening live on stage?
REVIEWS for THREE SISTERS (The first Emily Castles story):
“It’s fast-paced, funny, and mysterious all at the same time.” Socrates’ Book Reviews

“The book was very enjoyable and I did not put the short story down at all. It grips you from the very beginning.” Babs Books Bistro

“Right from the first page, Helen Smith's story glows like a roman candle: bright, colourful and full of surprises.” Peter Salisbury, Amazon Vine Reviewer

“The characters are creative and multi-dimensional and I loved the unique personalities and talents of all the party guests.” Her Book Self

“If you are looking for something fast-paced and unusual, I highly recommend this one.” Eva’s Sanctuary

Showstoppers is approximately 17,800 words, equivalent to around 75 printed pages.

Would you like a review copy? Please email me and I'll send you one.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Hum of History at The Limelight

Amanda Holiday's exhibition, The Hum of History is on at The Limelight Gallery until 3rd January.



One of the pictures on display is The Ark. I'm very proud to appear in it twice - I'm on board the ship in a purple top in the front row of the audience watching Little Red Riding Hood on the big screen, and also in the rowing boat near the volcano with my dog, Jessie, and a stolen microwave oven.

Monday, 5 December 2011

There is just one thing I need

Watch this, it's great:

Amazing deal on Alison Wonderland for Christmas

I have just noticed that Alison Wonderland is £2.45 in paperback on Amazon.co.uk and $5.00 in paperback on Amazon.com. It's an amazing deal and I'm not sure how long it will last. If you'd been thinking of buying the book, now's the time to get it.

If you have a Kindle it's only £3.99 in the UK and $3.99 in the US.

After her husband leaves her for another woman, twentysomething Londoner Alison Temple impulsively applies for a job at the very P.I. firm she hired to trap her philandering ex. She hopes it will be the change of scene she so desperately needs to move on with her shattered life. At the all-female Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation, she spends her days tracking lost objects and her nights shadowing unfaithful husbands. But no matter what the case, none of her clients can compare to the fascinating characters in her personal life. There’s her boss, the estimable and tidy Mrs. Fitzgerald; Taron, Alison’s eccentric best friend, who claims her mother is a witch; Jeff, her love-struck, poetry-writing neighbor; and—last but not least—her psychic postman. Her relationships with them all become entangled when she joins Taron for a road trip to the seaside and stumbles into a misadventure of epic proportions! Clever, quirky, and infused with just a hint of magic, this humorous literary novel introduces a memorable heroine struggling with the everyday complexities of modern life.

"Only occasionally does a piece of fiction leap out and demand immediate cult status. Alison Wonderland is one… Smith is at the very least a minor phenomenon." The Times

"Smith is gin-and-tonic funny." The Booklist

"A fantastical Thelma and Louise meets Agatha Christie adventure story. The dialogue is smart and the deadpan humour is perfectly judged." The List


Mr Benn, Peter Cook, Evermean, Meltdown

On Thursday I went to the launch of a new EP - EVM128 Groove Content - by Evermean Beats with performances from Waterson, Peigh, Lula, Afrikan Boy and Andi Oliver, hosted by Number Six and Meltdown Music Recordings.

The event was at Number Six in Brick Lane and it was full of young people. If you have not been to a fashionable party full of young people in London recently - and why should you, when you could stay indoors with the heating on and watch The Killing? - then you might have been as surprised as I was to see what the young men are wearing these days. Of course, we are used to seeing them in baggy, hanging down trousers and great big backwards hats. But the outfits they were wearing on Thursday night were rather more eccentric - as though, like Mr Benn, they had visited a magical fancy dress shop and then swapped the clothes they had been allowed to keep as souvenirs.

What sort of conversations must they have had (both audience members and performers) as they got ready to go out?
"I think I will wear my Nehru shirt, my Russian furry hat with the flaps and my dad's quilted, sleeveless nylon waistcoast, unless he needs it to go fishing. I won't bother shaving."

"In that case, I will wear my MC Hammer pantaloons and a straw kepi, and my hand-stitched suit jacket with the leg-o-mutton sleeves."

"I will wear my Mr. Smee costume of blue and white stripey jumper with matching knitted hat, and tweak the hat so it stands about a foot above the crown of my head. I haven't shaved for months. I want to look like a very, very handsome six month old baby with a bushy beard."

"Auntie! Have you got that blanket coat that you bought in Chelsea Girl in 1979 when blanket coats were briefly fashionable? I'm going to a gig tonight and all the other guys are really making an effort. I need something to wear that will confound them."
They looked gorgeous, of course, and I only mention what they were wearing because I was surprised and impressed they hadn't confined themselves to a uniform of T-shirts and jeans. But when you're young and talented you can wear what you want. The music was great, too. Check out http://evm128.bandcamp.com/ to hear the EP.

If you're wondering, I was wearing my stripey dress and the cardigan that I always wear. In the course of a long and amusing anecdote involving Peter Cook that someone told me later the same night at the Groucho Club, the cardigan was referenced as being the colour of a dying man's face; the person telling the story called it 'grey'. However I would describe the colour as 'grape'.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

King of the Gypsies by Bartley Gorman and Peter Walsh

King of the Gypsies by Bartley Gorman and Peter Walsh tells the story of Bartley Gorman's life as a bareknuckle boxing champion. The title of "King" is won by fighting the current champion and defeating challengers; it isn't inherited. Once proclaimed King of the Gypsies of a particular region or country, the champion is expected to fight anyone who challenges him, which means he will lead a brutal, violent life.

Bartley Gorman was the subject of a short film called King of the Gypsies made for Channel 4 by Shane Meadows in 1995 (see below). Bartley Gorman is an intelligent, thoughtful story-teller who shares his philosophy and outlook on life (state of mind is as important as strength and training if you want to win; honour, decency and pride are important; so is an appreciation of nature; charm and chat will help you to survive or even thrive anywhere; and so on), as well as giving some of the history of prize-fighting and bareknuckle contests in this country. The author is the subject and so you will learn very little about the life of gypsy or traveller women or children, though you will learn how to say "kill him, brother" in both Romany and Cant. The book is a fascinating insight into a world that most of us will never see. It's £2.99 for the Kindle. Recommended.

Mama Do The Hump

A friend of mine is in this video by Rizzle Kicks: Mama Do The Hump. I hope it cheers up your Sunday if you watch it. Yeah, yeah, I love that sound...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Regretsy Advent Calendar 2011


You may think you're too old for an Advent Calendar but you're not. Here's an online one from Regretsy.

The Three of Us

There's a lovely article in the Guardian today from my friend Charlie Condou. He writes a regular column about his family called The Three of Us.

Photo of Catherine, Charlie and Cameron by Graham Turner for the Guardian.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Book Lover's Holiday Giveaway: 2-6 December

I'm giving away a signed copy of Alison Wonderland. There is no geographical restriction on entry - I can send the book anywhere in the world.

The winner will be chosen at random after midnight on 6th December

After her husband leaves her for another woman, twentysomething Londoner Alison Temple impulsively applies for a job at the very P.I. firm she hired to trap her philandering ex. She hopes it will be the change of scene she so desperately needs to move on with her shattered life. At the all-female Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation, she spends her days tracking lost objects and her nights shadowing unfaithful husbands. But no matter what the case, none of her clients can compare to the fascinating characters in her personal life. There’s her boss, the estimable and tidy Mrs. Fitzgerald; Taron, Alison’s eccentric best friend, who claims her mother is a witch; Jeff, her love-struck, poetry-writing neighbor; and—last but not least—her psychic postman. Her relationships with them all become entangled when she joins Taron for a road trip to the seaside and stumbles into a misadventure of epic proportions! Clever, quirky, and infused with just a hint of magic, this humorous literary novel introduces a memorable heroine struggling with the everyday complexities of modern life.

"Only occasionally does a piece of fiction leap out and demand immediate cult status. Alison Wonderland is one… Smith is at the very least a minor phenomenon." The Times

"Smith is gin-and-tonic funny." The Booklist

"A fantastical Thelma and Louise meets Agatha Christie adventure story. The dialogue is smart and the deadpan humour is perfectly judged." The List


Alison Wonderland is available at Barnes & Noble, the Book Depository and at Amazon. If you have an ereader you can find it in the Kindle stores in the UK and the US and in paperback in the UK or the US.

The Book Lover's Holiday Giveaway is now closed. It was hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer and Kid Lit Frenzy. Thanks for taking part. I'm sorry if you didn't win. Please join my Facebook page to keep up to date with giveaways and news.