Thursday, 31 May 2012

Stoke Newington Literary Festival

If you're in London this weekend it would be lovely to see you at the Literary Cabaret at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival on Sunday 3rd. We're on at 8pm in the Library Gallery just behind the town hall.

The Jubilee flotilla will have long since reached its destination at Tower Bridge and a street party will be in progress along Stoke Newington Church Street so come and join us for an entertaining evening of stories from Leo Benedictus, Rebecca Chance, Nat Segnit and Craig Taylor, and songs from Kate Arneil.

There are lots of brilliant events at the festival. Check out some of these:

Gala Opening, Josie Long & Robin Ince, 9pm, Town Hall, Friday 1st, £10

Things We Like, Miriam Elia & Bruno Vincent, 10pm, Library Gallery, Friday 1st, £5

 Literary Death Match, 8pm, Library Gallery, Saturday 2nd, £5

A London Obsession with Mark Mason & Craig Taylor, 1pm, Library Gallery, Sunday 3rd, £5

The New Libertines, 3pm, Baby Bathhouse, Sunday 3rd, £4

Aftertoon Tea with Jenny Colgan, 4pm, Homa, Sunday 3rd, £5

A Genteel Tipple, Sample specially-mixed Hendrick's cocktails, 4pm, Library Gallery

The Special Relationship, 6pm, Library Gallery, Sunday 3rd, £5

If you come to the Literary Cabaret on Sunday and you read this blog, please come and say hello. It will be great to see you there.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Never satisfied

There's a delightful blurb for my mystery novella, Three Sisters, over at a site called bestebookreaderlovers:

"It really is bonfire night time in London. Emily has been invited to a social gathering in the massive house at the end of her road by the new owners, whom she has never satisfied. Emily’s canine Jessie has not too long ago died so Emily is sensation a little raw and psychological. How could she know, as she still left her residence that night, that she was creating an appointment with loss of life?

A few Sisters is a novella, equivalent to close to 70 printed webpages. It is the 1st tale in a new comic mystery series by award-profitable novelist Helen S."

Curious about what it's supposed to say? You can find it at or

The picture on the cover of Three Sisters A few Sisters is of my canine, Jessie, who not too long ago died. In case you were wondering.

Monday, 28 May 2012


I like sitting at home alone, writing. I never get lonely. If I want to chat, I can always find someone on Twitter or Facebook who is willing to waste time with me. But although I find this solitary life very agreeable, it's great to collaborate with other people sometimes, too.

I'm involved in several brilliant projects and events with other writers this year:

The Literary Cabaret
I host these events which are an entertaining mix of readings from award-winning writers with songs from Kate Arneil. The next one is at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival on Sunday 3rd June and features readings from Leo Benedictus, Rebecca Chance, Nat Segnit and Craig Taylor interspersed with songs from Kate. We're the closing event - come and celebrate with us!

My book, Alison Wonderland, was published by AmazonEncore last year. I'm one of a group of authors published by Amazon Publishing's new imprints (including AmazonEncore and Thomas & Mercer) who met in New York last year and are now blogging on this site. The latest posts are from Richard Hine (How to Survive the Death of Print) Greg Smith (How did I Get Here?) and Craig Lancaster (In Praise of Architecture). Please subscribe for entertaining/informative posts and/or join our Facebook page here.

Off the Shelf at Blacks
David Nobbs (the scriptwriter and novelist who is the creator of Reggie Perrin) and I will be running a workshop on comic writing at Black's private members club in Soho on Monday 25th June. The event has been organised by the Writers Guild of Great Britain and Fiction Uncovered. The event runs from 11am-4pm for a maximum of 23 attendees who will have a chance to read some of their own work after lunch. Cost is £25,including lunch. There's a Facebook page here or details here.

26 Treasures of Childhood
I'm one of twenty-six writers who will each write a piece in response to an item in a new exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood that will open in October 2012. There's a blog here. You can read a post by Michael Rosen (bestselling author and former Children's Laureate) about his contribution here. I'll be posting about my piece some time in the next few weeks so I'll let you know when it's up.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Literary Cabaret: Stoke Newington Literary Festival

I'm hosting The Literary Cabaret at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival on Sunday 3rd June at 8pm at the Library Gallery just behind the town hall.

Here's the blurb:
A fabulously entertaining mix of words and music hosted by Helen Smith, author of bestselling cult novel, Alison Wonderland, and other books and plays. She’ll be joined by Kate Arneil, an actress and singer who has worked all over the world and in the West End; Leo Benedictus, award-winning journalist and author of debut novel The Afterparty published by Random House; Rebecca Chance, bestselling author of five racy bonkbusters including Killer Heels, due out in August, as well as two mystery series and romantic comedies under the name Lauren Henderson; Nat Segnit, writer and performer of two Radio Four series and author of debut novel Pub Walks in Underhill Country published by Penguin; and Craig Taylor, editor of Five Dials magazine and author of Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now and two other books.

The Literary Cabaret has been tipped in the The Londonist's preview of the festival, and the festival has been named as one of the top seven festivals of the summer in The Stylist magazine.

Tickets are £5 and are selling fast. You can book online or call the box office on 08444 771 000. Our Literary Cabaret at the Bloomsbury Festival sold out quickly and we expect this one to do the same, though some tickets will be held back for anyone wanting to turn up and buy on the night. Ours is the closing event and promises to be a lot of fun. Please come and join us.

Splash Into Summer

I'm giving away a copy of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and a party pack so you can create your own peculiar child with his or her special powers.

Edit: 1st June: Congratulations to the winner, Megan W. She has been notified by email.

Thanks to I Am A Reader Not A Writer and PageTurners for hosting the giveaway which is now closed.

I'm sorry if you didn't win but I'll have another giveaway next month so please check back here or follow my Facebook page for details.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Waterstones Kindle

According to The Bookseller and the BBC, Waterstones have signed a deal with Amazon to sell the Kindle and Kindle books (they currently only sell ebooks in epub format which is not compatible with the Kindle).

You can watch Waterstones MD James Daunt talking about the deal here:

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Husband wanted: urgent

On Wednesday I had one of those new gel manicures that are supposed to last for three weeks. I had never had one before. It wasn't until the last nail had been painted that it occurred to me to ask how I should get it off once it started to chip. The procedure is fairly complex, apparently. You put a piece of cotton wool soaked in nail varnish remover on each fingernail, then wrap each finger tightly with a double layer of tinfoil and wait for fifteen minutes. 'You might want to get your husband to help you,' explained the manicurist.

Unfortunately my opinions on marriage were formed during the 1970s, and consequently I never had any ambition to become the chattel of a man. But that was before gel manicures were invented.

So anyway I need a husband quite urgently, some time before 7th June. All applications considered, though preference will be given to anyone prepared to remonstrate forcefully if ever I try to drink white wine, and lock me in my office each day until I have written at least five thousand words.

I don't want us to live together, share our assets, promise to obey, have sex, have cuddles, get a pet or go on holiday. We can have dinner parties. A husband is an asset at dinner parties, especially the kind where white wine is served. I don't mind going on outings, so long as I don't have to drive. We can go to the Lake District. Though wouldn't that be counted as a holiday? Oh... don't! I think I'm falling in love already. I don't mind if we fall in love. We can express our tenderest feelings while you're wrapping my fingers in tinfoil, and then when you unwrap them again.

Is there anything you would want from this arrangement, if you're considering applying? Let me know and I'll try to be accommodating. But hurry, my love. Don't forget the deadline is 7th June.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Things to do before you're fifty

I just made a list of things to do before I'm fifty.

When I was thirty-five I made a list of things to do before I was forty: visit some of the exotic foreign countries I hadn't yet visited, visit the Lake District (why oh why have I never been there, I bet it's fantastic, isn't it?), participate in various tame adventures ('go up in hot air balloon'), and so on. I don't think I did any of them. I need to find the list and check. I know that one of the things was something uncomfortable-sounding and rude that I have never quite fancied. Maybe I'll transfer it to my list of things to do before I'm sixty-five.

The list of things to do before I'm fifty contains the titles of five books I want to write and nothing else. What else is there? I have an electric blanket and a Kindle, so there's no need to go away anywhere. I can just get into bed and turn the blanket up to the maximum setting and pretend I'm in Thailand.

I only recently bought my electric blanket and it's the best thing ever. Please trust me on this. If you don't have one, please get one. I urge you to do it. I realise that if you have known me a long time you've probably heard me say much the same about dogs, drugs, gardening, nude swimming, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, celery, sex, learning a foreign language, vodka, dancing, Brazilian men, sushi, Peter Carey, electronic cigarettes, Kindles, knitting and The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell.

If you have known me a long time then you're probably around the same age as me. Just get the electric blanket. We're too old to bother with most of the rest of it now, except the vegetables and Padgett Powell. DON'T GET A DOG.

Have you got a to-do list? What's on yours? I don't mean the everyday kind that says hoovering and shopping and other chores. I mean the other kind. Do tell me.

Alison Wonderland: Mad in the best sense

There's a lovely review of Alison Wonderland from Howard McEwen:

'The book is slightly mad. Its characters are mad. Mad like a quirky aunt. Or a hatter. Mad in the best sense.'

Howard read the book on his Kindle has also been posting updates and notes on lines he liked from the book. You can see his notes here:

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 in the UK and the US.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Alison Wonderland - Review

There's a great review of Alison Wonderland over at Reflections of a Bookworm:

'If you are a fan of the Christopher Moore style of writing then you will love this book. It’s crude and funny and with a touch of magic the author manages to bring to life a novel that is so ridiculous it’s hilarious.'

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 Alison Wonderland in the Kindle stores in the UK and the US.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Kindle Fire Giveaway 15-30 May

I have teamed up with 24 other blogs to give away a Kindle Fire (and an Amazon gift card worth $50 so you can buy some books to put on it). If you live in the US you can choose to have the Kindle Fire shipped direct to your address, or you can have an $250 Amazon gift card sent to your email address so you can buy it yourself. If you win and you live in a country where the Kindle Fire is not available then you'll receive an Amazon gift card worth $250 instead. (All funds are in US dollars.)

The giveaway runs from 15-30 May and is free to enter. It is open to anyone age 13 and over who can receive and use an Amazon gift card by email. The winner will be chosen using rafflecopter (a random, automated way of choosing winners in contests like this). Please use the form below to 'like' my facebook page. You can increase your chances of winning by clicking on all the links on the form. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Kathy at I Am a Reader Not A Writer for organising the giveaway. Please look here for the full list of participating blogs. The giveaway is sponsored by the participating blogs and is not associated with or sponsored by Facebook, Twitter or Amazon.

Monday, 14 May 2012


If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll probably have seen this video. It's a story about a friend of mine called Claire. If not, please follow this link to the New Wave Authors site.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Street of Dreams

I'm still waiting for a replacement for my broken computer. It's really difficult to get onto the internet and impossible to get onto Twitter or Facebook on the borrowed one I'm using. I have so much spare time that I have finished the book I was writing and started on another one.

Tonight it's the world premiere of Street of Dreams (the Coronation Street musical). It was written by Lauren's father. Our family and friends are converging on Manchester from London, Wales, Devon and Somerset. Lauren is driving her boyfriend and me up there as she 'needs the practice on the motorway'. So we'll have plenty to talk about when we get there, even if not to each other.

Damon has never written for the stage before. Street of Dreams is his first show and it's on at the 8,000 seat theatre in the Manchester Arena, which is the largest indoor arena in Europe. I have known him nearly thirty years and his whole life has been like that. We're all very proud of him.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Must I?

I have nearly finished the novel I'm currently working on. I don't much like the writing part of writing. I like editing, which involves reading what you have written with a fond smile and then deleting most of it. It's quite satisfying.

I just need to do another ten thousand words of this manuscript and then I can stop writing and start editing. A few days ago I woke up early and thought, Maybe I'll crack on and write all fifteen thousand words today, and then it'll be over. And then I looked at the internet for seven hours, wrote a thousand words and went to bed feeling ashamed. So the next day I woke up early, and the day after that, and the day after that, and I thought, Maybe I'll crack on and write fourteen thirteen twelve eleven ten thousand words today...

In the meantime a few things happened which I thought were unrelated to my writing process. But, when you sit at home all day by yourself, writing/not-writing/whatever, after a while you start to see that it's all about you. Everything. Is. About. You. And it's somehow connected to what you're writing.

The first thing that happened was my cellar flooded three times. That's three fucking times, in laymen's terms. It's not too awful - it's not sewage (or foul water, as they ephemistically call it, as if we were committed to using the language of Bazalgette's time, when the Victorian sewers and storm drains were first laid in this street) and Thames Water are on the case. I just need to let them get on with it, remember to get lots of chocolate biscuits in for when the men come round, and also make a list of the floating detritus (1 pr men's black trainers, 3 x bottles Peroni, 2 x bicycles, 1 x lawnmower, 1 x garden hammock, etc.) with approximate value and send it off to my insurance company, who will no doubt draw my attention to clause 6.1 of my policy, or whatever it is, and refuse to pay.

At first the flooding was all quite amusing, with cheery capable men tramping through the house with their hoses to pump the water out, affording the opportunity for quite a long, vulgar chat on Facebook with friends on Saturday night on the subject of hoses, sucking, pumping, etc. incorporating every saucy double entendre you can think of. However what seems quite amusing on a Saturday night can seem like a bit of a chore on a weekday, can't it?* And they had to come back on Thursday and they'll be back again on Tuesday.

So that was the FLOOD.

Instead of thinking, Is the universe trying to tell me something? Is this a warning or even a punishment of some kind? I pissed about on Facebook with my vulgar chat, and didn't finish my book.

Then last night the screen on my computer stopped working. It packed up without warning and now there is only a distorted blur. Fortunately I backed up all my work and I have a backup computer I can use for simple word processing, so as computer-related disasters go, it's not that terrible. In fact it's not terrible at all, nor is it a disaster. But I can't get on Twitter or Facebook. I can get on the internet, hence I'm writing this, though it's more difficult than it would be on my normal computer, so after tonight I'm going to abstain until my new one turns up.**

So that wasn't even pestilence or plague, that was the DESTRUCTION of the means to fritter away my time on Facebook and Twitter.

The universe is trying to tell me to finish my bloody book. So I will. In the meantime, if you're friends with me on Twitter or Facebook and I seem to be ignoring you, I'm not. You said something funny and I didn't reply? I didn't see it, is all.

I'm going to finish my book, go to Manchester for the World Premiere of Street of Dreams (the Coronation Street musical), return to take delivery of my new computer, and then I'll be back online. And I'll be editing, so I'll be in a verrry good mood. We should go for a drink or something. Except that I'm not drinking because I've got to finish this bloody book. And after I've finished this one, I've got to write another one.

* Yes, the whole FB conversation was like that, only cruder. Sorry.

** I'll still be checking my emails. I haven't completely foresworn contact with the outside world.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Angry Pig Breeder

My contribution to the New Wave Authors site is up today. Do come and have a look!

Strummer of Love

There are various events planned this year by Joe Strummer's family and friends to commemorate the ten year anniversary of his death with the Strummer of Love festival. Check out the Strummer of Love website here.

This Sunday, 6th May, if you're in London you can go along to the free Let's Go Global-a-Go Go workshops from midday.

Here are the details:
London based artist Kitty Finer is calling out to all corners of the globe as part of a world-wide fan-art venture- LETS GO GLOBAL-A-GO GO.

This summer, Strummerville will be hosting the Joe Strummer 10 year anniversary festival – Strummer Of Love and as part of Jazz Domino Holly’s Handmade Hangout tent, Finer will pay homage to Joe by curating a fan made shrine.

The shrine will be based on the vibrant, layered and ephemeral stalls found at Spanish fiestas, a tribute to Joe’s affection for Spain.

In the spirit of Joe Strummer Finer is urging fans to gather together and form collectives to create hand made offerings. Each and every contribution will be individually photographed and added to the on going and expanding installation.

In the words of Joe Strummer “Without people you’re nothing” so this project needs you! It is in the hands of the fans!

To find out more, like how to get involved, start a collective or simply contribute a hand made offering contact Kitty at
To put your name down for a workshop on Sunday, email

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Last Werewolf

I read The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan a few weeks ago and it's great.

Jacob is a werewolf and now the last of his species. Deeply distraught and lonely, he contemplates suicide – even knowing it will end a legend thousands of years old. In Jake, Glen Duncan offers a powerful new version of the werewolf legend for the 21st century – a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.

It's the Daily Deal for the Kindle in the UK today - only 99p.

New Wave Authors

I'll be contributing to this new blog from authors writing in a variety of genres.  Please take a look. Today's post is by Elisa Lorello, bestselling author of Faking It and Why I Love Singlehood (with Sarah Girell). Elisa's new book, Ordinary World, will be out in June 2012.

By the way, if you use Adblocker, you need to disable it for this site to see all the pictures.