Thursday, 29 March 2012

Behind the Scenes at the V&A Museum of Childhood

Yesterday I visited the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. I will be collaborating with them (with other writers) on an exhibition that will take place there in the autumn. More details soon. In the meantime, here are a few photos I took while poking about in the back rooms at the museum. Or, if you prefer a literary allusion, behind the scenes at the museum.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Woolff Gallery

My friend Russell West has an exhibition of his paintings at the Woolff Gallery in London from tomorrow until 12th May.

I first met Russell and his wife Sachi in Hong Kong and subsequently became good friends with them when they moved to London. We have been on some wonderful adventures together - I have visited Nepal and Venice with Sachi, and Granada, Albania, Margate, Somerset and the Isle of Wight with both of them. The last time Sachi was here with their two-year-old daughter Mio, about a month ago, it was snowing and they built a snowman in my garden. So apparently Mio (who is pretty good at talking in both Japanese and English) has said how much she is looking forward to visiting tomorrow and playing in the snow...

Russell has been here for a few days, preparing for the exhibition. On Monday night we went for dinner in Bloomsbury and he was accosted by a man who claimed to have been injured and to need £5 for a taxi to get to hospital. On closer inspection, Russell suspected that the long gash the man showed him on his arm was a clever fake. I'll write it up for SBI, together with the story of how my pen lid spontaneously began to produce chocolate in a lecture I recently attended by a well-known sceptic on the subject of fakery and phonies. For now, I'm trying to finish a book I'm writing - a murder mystery in my Emily Castles series. It means I'm neglecting most other things, including my blog, my other blog, my house and my garden. If anyone knows how to get hold of the winter olympics people, please let me know. I need about two inches of snow and a snow man in south London before tomorrow lunch time.

If you're near Charlotte Street, do check out the exhibition at the Woolff Gallery. Russell is very talented and his work is unusual and interesting, and beautiful to look at. You can download the exhibition catalogue here.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Fantastical and Fun

There's a wonderful review for Alison Wonderland over at Novel Opinion:

"Helen Smith’s writing style is enchanting in its vibrant colors, neurotic characters and flamboyant plot-lines. It’s like listening to that wonderful friend, the one who travels all over the world; wears bohemian mixed with designer clothing; has friends with yachts and still can’t wait to regale you with her stories, talking non-stop into the night with bottles of wine piling up on your coffee table... This is a smart story. Fantastical and fun. A decadent read that I loved and strongly recommend to contemporary, urban fantasy, mystery and the curious! Just kick off your shoes, lay back and open your mind, then open the book…"

Alison Wonderland is available online from Amazon in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, America and the UK and in Hong Kong from Paddyfield. It's currently on offer in paperback in the UK for only £4.19.

It's also available from The Book Depository and in independent bookshops like The Bookseller Crow, The Big Green Bookshop, Herne Hill Books and Clapham Books.

If you have an ereader you can find it in the Kindle stores in the UK and the US.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Amazon Gift Card - winner chosen

Thanks to everyone who signed up to win an Amazon gift card in the giveaway. Congratulations to Krysta B who was chosen using and has been contacted by email.

I'm sorry if you didn't win but I'll be having more giveaways for followers of this blog - please check back or sign up to my Facebook page for details.

Monday, 19 March 2012

99 Reasons Why - One Possible Ending

I met Caroline Smailes at the Firestation Book Swap last week. She was looking forward to today's publication of her new book, 99 Reasons Why (available as an ebook from the Kindle store and iTunes). She has written eleven possible endings for the book, one of which is "given away" below, another of which will be handwritten by Caroline and auctioned for charity. The other nine possible endings come with the ebook and can be chosen by the reader by navigating from reason number 88. There's an interview with Caroline here, explaining more about it.

Here's one of eleven possible endings for 99 Reasons Why, below:

99: the reason why I was only worth ninety-nine quid

It’s been six days since the little girl in the pink coat went missing and me Uncle Phil’s in me bedroom.

We’ve been watching the little girl in the pink coat’s mam on the news. She was appealing to the public for witnesses.

‘Didn’t realise she had a mam,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Everyone’s got a mam, pet,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘She sold her story to The Sun,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Got a few quid,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘She wanted nowt to do with that bairn before all this,’ me Uncle Phil says, looking at me telly.

‘Do you know where she is?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Belle?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘She’s safe,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘Your mam’s keeping an eye on her.’

‘Can I be her mam?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘No, pet, you’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Can you make Andy Douglas come back, Uncle Phil?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

Me Uncle Phil shakes his head.

‘I love him,’ I tell me Uncle Phil.

‘Andy Douglas is your brother, pet. You didn’t seriously think Princess Di was your mam, did you?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘You’re a cradle snatcher just like your mam,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Your mam miscarried when she found out I’d been banging Betty Douglas. Betty was expecting you,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

‘When you was born, your mam went mad and I ended up buying you from Betty Douglas for ninety-nine quid,’ me Uncle Phil says.

‘Ninety-nine quid?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘I paid a hundred but got a quid change for some chips for your mam and dad’s tea,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You bought me?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

I’m a little bit sick in me mouth.

‘It was the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘I got Betty Douglas pregnant straight away with Andy.’

‘I’m pregnant,’ I says to me Uncle Phil. ‘I’m pregnant with me brother’s baby,’ I says, and then I throws up on me purple carpet.

‘You’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘What am I going to do?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘You’re going to have the baby,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘Have me brother’s baby?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Then I’m giving it to Betty Douglas to bring up,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You what?’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘I can’t—’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s either that or I’ll make you disappear,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

I’m thinking, they’re all a bunch of nutters.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop, 17-22 March

I'm giving away an Amazon Gift Card worth $10 as a thank you to followers. For a chance to win, you have to be following my blog using Google Friend Connect. This giveaway is open to international followers. If you win and you don't shop at, I can send you a gift card from another Amazon store or a book from The Book Depository.

This giveaway hop is now closed. It was hosted by I am a Reader Not a Writer, Books Complete Me & Author Cindy Thomas.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Firestation Book Swap

Last night I went to Windsor for a marvellous event called the Firestation Book Swap, hosted by Scott Pack and Marie Phillips. Caroline Smailes and I were their guest authors for the night. We sat on a sofa and answered a range of short written questions submitted by the audience. The questions ranged from the absurd to the profound, and were very entertaining to answer.

The audience are invited to bring a book to swap, and either pay £5 on the door or bring along a homemade cake. Since plenty of people opt to bring a cake, there's plenty to go round. Last's night's offerings (only some of which are pictured here) included macaroons, fairy cakes, Mars Bar krispies, tomato soup cake, a spicy fruit loaf, and a cake decorated with a picture of Caroline's forthcoming book, 99 Reasons Why. I think I tasted almost all of them, and they were delicious.

The Firestation Book Swap is held in Windsor, which I had never visited before, even though it's a short journey from Paddington by train. I was astonished to see that the castle was right there by the train station - for some reason I had thought it would be hidden away in the countryside. I'm currently doing some research for a swashbuckling Restoration adventure series that I plan to write, so I was delighted to be able to take a picture of the Nell Gwynn Chinese restaurant for inspiration, as well as the castle itself, where Charles II spent some of his time.

I took along a book to swap called The Zoom Zoom by Penny Goring, which I love. Penny is an artist and the book is a collection of stories and poems that are full of beautiful, disturbing imagery. A lot of them are funny, too. I first read the book on the Kindle and subsequently drunk-gifted quite a lot of Kindle copies to strangers. I would never have read the book if I hadn't met Penny at a New Libertines reading in Oxford last year. Her book is published by a small press (Eight Cuts), and I wanted to bring something to the Firestation book swap that people in the audience might not otherwise have come across on the shelves in their local book shop (though it is available to order if you like the sound of it). Also, I really love it and I wanted one more person to have the chance to read it. Here's a link to a poem from the book called Temporary Passport.

I swapped The Zoom Zoom for The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark. I love Muriel Spark and I gave away The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for World Book Night last year, but I hadn't read The Driver's Seat so I'm looking forward to it. Yet another good reason to make the trip to Windsor.

Thanks to everyone who came along last night and made it so much fun. Thanks to Scott and Marie for hosting it, and to Scott's daughter Martha for looking after Caroline and me, and submitting a very sensible question. Thanks to Carol from Waterstones in Windsor for arranging the sale of our books. Thanks to everyone who bought a book. Thanks for the cake.

If you're looking for a link to SBI, the online detective agency I recently set up with my daughter to investigate paranormal activity, it's here. You can find out why, when asked in one of the written questions which painting I would choose if I could take any work of art from a public gallery to put on my wall at home, I chose Daughter of Herodias by Sebastiano del Piombre from the National Gallery (or, as I called it last night, a picture of my daughter Lauren's friend Katie Pitts).

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Reviews of the Ephemeral

There's a fantastic review by James Webster at Sabotage of Poetry in the Parlour, an event that was held last week at Blackwell's bookshop as part of the Oxford International Women's Festival. There was performance poetry from Lucy Ayrton, Dan Holloway, Verity Heir, Paul Askew & Tina Sederholm, and music from Mrs Price’s Parlour. I read an excerpt from my book, The Miracle Inspector.

James Webster wrote a detailed review of each of the performances. Of mine, he writes: "The way she wove tiny differences between modern society and her dystopia was very effective in crafting a world that’s terrifying by increments... And the ending where she pitched harsh violence against a disconnected internal thought process was chillingly good."

You can read the whole review by James Webster over at Sabotage. It's a wonderful site that specialises in 'reviews of the ephemeral'.

Sabotage is available as a free iPhone app or you can subscribe via your Kindle here.

You can buy The Miracle Inspector at and

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Firestation Book Swap

I'll be appearing at Firestation Book Swap in Windsor on Thursday 15th March with Caroline Smailes, author of four novels and the forthcoming 99 Reasons Why.

Firestation Book Swap is hosted by Marie Phillips, author of Gods Behaving Badly, and publisher Scott Pack.

Audience members are asked to bring an unwanted book along with them which they will have an opportunity to swap for another, as well as asking questions of Caroline and me (we won't be reading from our books - the Book Swap has a chattier/slightly more anarchic format than most literary events). And there’s tea and cake.

The Londonist talks to Scott about why the Book Swap is brilliant here and the event on 15th is listed in the Book Grocer here.

The Book Swap starts at 7.45 pm and entry is £5 - or free if you bring a homemade cake.

Portal: Winner Chosen

Thanks to everyone who signed up to win a copy of Portal by Imogen Rose.

The winner has been chosen and contacted. Congratulations to Alicia M E.

Portal is available to buy for the Kindle, Nook or other ereader, and in print at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other bookshops.

You may also be interested in Imogen Rose's other series: The Bonfire Chronicles. For more information about Imogen Rose please take a look at her website and Facebook page.

I'm sorry if you didn't win this time. Please check back here for more giveaways, or join my Facebook page.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

International Women's Day

It's International Women's Day today. The Oxford International Women's Festival is taking place in the city, 1st - 13th March. (I read at Blackwell's in Oxford last night as part of the festival.)

TIME magazine celebrated the event by asking some famous Oxford residents, including Helena Kennedy, Susan Greenfield and festival coordinator Anna Hobson, for their tips about how to spend a perfect day in Oxford. It's great to see Anna's recommendations, as well as international recognition of all the effort she puts into organising the festival, now in its 23rd year.

Over at Freedom From Torture's site, there's a post about International Women's Day and the work the organisation does with women and children who are survivors of torture. you can hear from the Write to Life group where I run workshops and volunteer as a mentor. There are poems on the site from four women writers in the group: Stephanie, Amina, Nadine and Jade.

Staff at Random House chose Freedom From Torture as their chosen charity last year and raised £24,500 which was handed over at the publisher's offices at the beginning of March. If you'd like to get involved as a fundraiser or volunteer, take a look at Freedom From Torture's site here.

You can watch a video of Stephanie talking about Write to Life and reading her poem A Map below:

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Lunar Love Giveaway, 8-13 March

I'm giving away one signed copy of Portal, the first book in The Portal Chronicles series by Imogen Rose.

Come Find Me Two Years Ago...
Six words that propelled ice hockey playing tomboy, Arizona, into an alternate dimension. She suddenly found herself in the past. In one moment she went from being an ice hockey playing teenager in New Jersey to a glamorous cheerleader in California. She found herself transported from a happy life with her dad, Dillard, to a new, strange one living with her mother whom she hates.

Apparently it's a life she's always lived in. Everyone knows her as Arizona Darley, but she isn't. She is Arizona Stevens. As she struggles to find answers she is certain of one thing- that her mother, Olivia, a brilliant physicist, is somehow responsible.

PORTAL is the story of the repercussions of Olivia Darley's attempt at creating a perfect world for herself and her children. Arizona's quest for answers threatens to undermine the seemingly perfect world that her mother has so carefully constructed.

"Twilight meets The Time-Travelers Wife" - Stephen Windwalker, Kindle Nation

"Portal...when love's just the beginning of the story" - KindleObsessed

This giveaway is now closed. The Lunar Love Giveaway Hop was co-hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer and Bookworm Lisa.

For more information about Imogen Rose please check out her website and Facebook page.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Fucking Bonkers

 Alison WonderlandI've had a fantastic review for Alison Wonderland from HarperCollins publisher Scott Pack over on his Me and My Big Mouth blog:
"This book is fucking bonkers. I liked it a lot... As with most peculiar novels, you do have to suspend your disbelief a bit and be prepared for a somewhat convoluted plot, but I found myself enjoying this so much that I would forgive it anything."
Scott is a prolific reviewer as well as a former buyer for Waterstones, an author, and now the publisher for The Friday Project imprint at HarperCollins; he published one of my favourite books from last year, The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman. I have read a few books after seeing them recommended on Scott's blog, so I'm thrilled that he liked my book.
Alison Wonderland is available online from Amazon in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, America and the UK and in Hong Kong from Paddyfield.

It's also available from The Book Depository and in independent bookshops like The Bookseller Crow, The Big Green Bookshop, Herne Hill Books and Clapham Books.

If you have an ereader you can find it in the Kindle stores on Amazon.

Still not sure? Here's a video of me reading an excerpt from the book:

Monday, 5 March 2012

A Strange Light in the Sky

There were reports in the papers this weekend that people had called 999 (the emergency number in Britain) when they saw a meteor in the sky.

Who should you call if you spot any suspected paranormal activity? Why, SBI, of course. We haven't seen much of it ourselves in recent weeks, though we've been giving some thought to how to measure units of forgetfulness.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Lovely Literary Events - Oxford

On Wednesday 7th March I'll be reading at the Oxford International Women's Festival at Blackwell's Bookshop.

The event is organised by Anna Hobson. There will be readings from Lucy Ayrton, Dan Holloway, Verity Heir, Paul Askew & Tina Sederholm. Music from Mrs Price’s Parlour.

The event starts at 7.00 pm and costs £3.

Tumbled - Last Days of Magic

A quote from my book, Being Light, is on this site. Cool... I've never been tumbled before.