July’s FREE book – Salt

From July 27th – 31st, this seaside mystery for readers of 8 – 12 will be #free to download worldwide as a Kindle edition.

Everyone knows Salt gives you high blood-pressure, and this edge-of-your-seat adventure is no exception…

A holiday at Pirates’ Cove with Great Aunt Win is nothing like Toby expects it to be…

He is baffled by the mysterious beach fires and eerie singing he witnesses during the night. He is fascinated, too, by the weird and wonderful tales of the town: not only the legend of the pitiful Mary-Anne, said to row out nightly to the Blue Rock, but also of the peculiar ‘cursed’ gold plate locked in the guesthouse cabinet.

Stranger still, why has a dead man been spotted in the town?

With the help of intriguing local girl, Hattie, the secrets of Salt Guesthouse are unravelled… but not before the children find themselves in grave danger.

You can read a couple of extracts here on my children’s website.


‘Gripping read, highly recommended for middle grade’

‘Salt is one of those stories that pulls the reader into the action.’


‘I’m reluctant to give five stars to anything, but Salt really nails my number one criteria, keep me interested and engaged.’

‘Having recently read and reviewed another of Helen Laycock’s books, “Mandrake’s Plot,” I can once again assert that this is another gem amidst the many children’s books’


‘many twists and turns’

‘an enchanting read’

‘Vivid imagery and nicely flowing prose add to the strengths of the narrative’

‘Your heart will be beating as you go along with Toby and his new friend Hattie as they piece together clues and encounter dangerous obstacles.’

‘Helen Laycock has woven a whimsical tale’

‘so wonderfully well written that the characters truly came alive’

‘The characters are very believable and realistic”rich descriptions of places and people’

‘The narrative flows well and the focus on the main characters keeps the storyline easy to follow.’

‘Strange happenings after dark, secret tunnels, a new friendship with a mysterious girl, what else would any kid want from a summer vacation in a seaside village. How about getting the chance to solve a baffling mystery? The main character, Toby, gets it all, and so will the reader.’

‘What could be better than reclaiming a man from the dead, cursed booty and outwitting many a menacing foe?’

‘The plot is well thought out and as the adventure begins, the story unfolds, coming to a swift resolution by the end’

‘It is exciting and once again I am reminded of the work of Enid Blyton.’

‘Both girls and boys will be attracted to this high-adventure story’

‘Helen Laycock’s books are most definitely recommended’


‘most definitely recommended’

All I ask is that in return, you will consider leaving a review. Thank you.


Picking scabs

You know those people who just can’t leave things alone—constantly straightening the curtain, arranging the crudités with as much symmetry as four different vegetables will allow and repeatedly re-positioning the set of three china balls so that not only are they equidistant, but also in a line that points due south-east…

You don’t? Oh. It’s just me then.

Well, I do strive for perfection in the hope that one day I will be able to boot the Angel Gabriel out of his golden chair and wear his robes and wings with more panache than he ever dreamed possible. Maybe it’s a little on the OCD scale, but I like it that way.

Yes, I am getting to the point.

So, my point is… having written all my books and seeing them in all their glory on Amazon, you would think—would you not—that I could safely say Job Done. Oh no, not I (as Gloria Gaynor once sang).  Bit by bit, I am tearing them apart and re-publishing them.

A new line would be better there, I think.

I’ve found a better font!

I’ve got a better cover idea!

So, up to now, I have four books which are as perfect as I can achieve. It has not been without a struggle as I have previously mentioned. Having had an article published in the local press about my short stories collection, Peace and Disquiet,


I promptly poked my big nose into the publishing process for tweaking and new-cover-idea purposes, only to find the whole production system disrupted and my book no longer available. I’ve managed to put it right and here is the final…FINAL book, never to be fiddled with again:

And here are the finished books of Salt and The Secret of Pooks Wood (whose old cover wasn’t exciting enough) for children… uh, never to be fiddled with again.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Salt-Helen-Laycock/dp/1499276257/ref=la_B006PGFVL6_1_9_bnp_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399998854&sr=1-9   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Pooks-Wood-Helen-Laycock/dp/1499525591/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399998892&sr=1-1&keywords=the+secret+of+pooks+wood

*spits on hand, twirls three times and sings the rest of I Will Survive*

Salt – a taster…

Here is an extract from my children’s seaside mystery, ‘Salt’:



Outside the cellar door Hattie grabbed Toby’s arm. ‘Wait,’ she said. She began to rummage around in a broom cupboard and emerged with a sturdy black torch. Hattie flicked the switch.
‘Bingo. It works.’
Toby began to fumble with the door catch.
‘One more thing,’ said Hattie, opening Rufus’s cage. ‘Here, look.’ She took out of her pocket a tubular necklace and slipped it over Rufus’s neck.
‘It’s a glow-in-the-dark one,’ she explained. ‘I got it from a fairground.’
Toby was impressed. ‘Clever girl. You think of everything…Smartie pants!’
Hattie gave him a friendly slap on the back, and having put Rufus back into his cage, the pair made their way down the rickety staircase once again, shutting the cellar door behind them. As before, a small pool of dim light illuminated the steps and a patch of floor at the bottom of them. It was quite eerie down there. Rufus’s green necklace began to glow inside the cage. Hattie switched on the torch and a bright circle of light spread itself over a tall cupboard which had been covered with a cloth, giving it the appearance of an odd-shaped spectre. Next to it, on the floor was a coil of thick rope and then further away still was a packing case with paintings leaning against it and balanced on top of it. Behind that was the stone wall at the back of the cellar. Hattie allowed the beam to travel up it. The children could see some sort of pipe and could hear a steady dripping noise.
Hattie moved the torch to the left of the wall. Here, a tangle of electrical wires disappeared into the vertical blackness, and to the left again was the door they had come across previously. As the children edged closer they could see that its hinges were on the right and the ringed handle was on its left.
‘Shall we?’ ventured Toby, now a little nervous.
‘We most certainly shall,’ asserted Hattie and she reached out for the rusty black ring. It turned surprisingly easily, to the right with a slight scratching sound. The door opened inwards, scuffing on the flagstones as it did so.
Hattie shone the torch into the black chasm that now lay ahead of them. Perhaps she wasn’t feeling so confident after all. Nevertheless, she wasn’t going to show it.
‘Come on then,’ she whispered, leading Toby into the darkness. Their footsteps were deadened on the tunnel floor, for, indeed, it was a tunnel in which they now found themselves. Hattie, holding the torch in her right hand, used her left palm to feel the rough curved surface of the rocky wall. Toby, beside her, was holding Hattie’s arm with his left hand while Rufus swung from his right.
After a few minutes, during which the children said not a word, they came to a fork. There was a choice of three paths to take.
‘This is where our little friend can help us,’ whispered Hattie.
Toby put Rufus’s cage down and opened the door. He seemed reluctant to come out, and stood on his threshold warily. If there had been more light, the children would have noticed Rufus’s nose twitching as he took in the dank scent of the tunnel.
Then, gingerly, he stepped out, his necklace still glowing. Hattie softly bent down to talk to him and his nose hovered, mid-twitch.
‘Now, Rufus,’ she whispered, ‘we need you to show us the way back. So remember your route.’
Hattie straightened up and Rufus took off. He snaked his way through the tunnel that led off to the extreme right and the children padded along behind. Occasionally, Rufus stopped to sniff something interesting on the ground, but it seemed they were travelling a long way through this network of underground tunnels. They met fork after fork, and always Rufus went to the right, until the last fork when he headed for the centre. Again he stopped to sniff and the children stopped behind him. As Toby looked around he could have sworn that a faint glow was coming from around the bend in the tunnel. He quickly scooped up Rufus and popped him back into his cage. Rufus didn’t seem to mind at all. He started to clean himself.
Hattie was about to ask Toby why he had put Rufus away, when he put his hand over her mouth and brought his mouth close to her right ear.
‘Don’t say a word,’ Toby whispered in his softest voice. ‘I think there’s someone there.’
Leaving Rufus’s cage on the ground and switching off their own torch, Toby and Hattie slid along the right hand wall of the tunnel. It was cold, rough and damp and there was now sand beneath their feet. As they got closer to the source of light they began to hear voices.
A harsh, guttural woman’s voice seemed to be warning someone of something. As the children peered round the bend they could see a cavernous opening where stood a round table covered with a brown and red fringed cloth. On it was a candle and a crystal ball. With her back to them was a strangely dressed woman. She was wearing a black headscarf tightly bound around her head which seemed to catch the candlelight on its sequins. Around her shoulders was a black and purple fringed shawl and her right arm clinked with its mass of silver bangles. Sitting opposite her was an unshaven man with a hooped earring and a dark, possibly black, headscarf. He, too, was wearing a bangle, but on his left arm which was heavily tattooed. His striped top was rolled up around his thick, muscular arms.

Salt and Tinegar, anyone?

What a funny title!

I had an idea for a mystery set at the seaside. I knew that there would be a guest house by the sea called ‘Salt’ as it was run by… Mrs Salt and I also had the idea of an old man that lived in the attic rooms of Salt guest house who I named Mr Tinegar – like vinegar! At the time, my title was going to be ‘Salt and Tinegar’, but, luckily, I had the presence of mind to change it to just ‘Salt’. I thought that captured the sea perfectly and was much less of a mouthful.

As I wrote the story I pictured the setting clearly, a British seaside town, fictional, of course, called Pirates’ Cove. In my head, I could stand along the sea front with a row of tall, traditional guest houses lined side by side behind me. In the distance, to the left, I could see the grassy cliff tops and on the pavement near me a jolly ice-cream seller called Gilly who was to play a small role in the story. Turning right with the sea beside me on my left, I could walk into the little town with its bustling market square and to the right of that I could see the roads leading steeply uphill, passing the mysterious antiques shop, Cobwebs.

The story revolves around two children: Toby is on holiday with his Great Aunt Win and her pet rat, Rufus, and Hattie is a strange local girl who has a market stall selling boxes decorated with shells. We mustn’t forget Hattie’s dog, Scamp, either. When there is a break in at the guest house and a mysterious plate disappears which carries a curse, the children become involved. They stumble across a long-forgotten door at the back of Mrs Salt’s cellar which leads them through a series of sandy tunnels and to an unbelievable discovery.

As in any good mystery, there are secrets to be revealed, and of course, in attempting to do that, there will be danger for Toby and Hattie.