28 Nov-2Dec #FREE #MG Christmas adventure

Published November 28, 2016 by helenlaycock

28th November-2nd December

#freebook #mgfiction #kidlit #childrensbooks #mgbooks



The Secret of Pooks Wood, a time-shift adventure for readers of 9-12, is currently FREE to download as a Kindle edition.

When twins Lily and Ollie are stranded at Great Hawkesden Manor over Christmas with their mother Stella, they have no idea what will happen when they find an old glass snow globe.

Inside it not only is there a miniature model of the manor house, but there is magic.

‘Ok, I know it’s a children’s book, but it’s so well written it appeals to all ages.’

‘Really captivating story that moved intriguingly from the present to various times in the past with Great Hawkesden Manor and a snow globe linking the times. Loved the character development and the ending! Highly recommend’

‘I shared reading this with my 13 yr old daughter. We both really liked it.
It was well written and the characters were well developed.’

‘This is one of those magical stories which shows wonder and enchantment in the faces of young children. I am far from being a child myself (although I did used to be one) yet I was quickly pulled into the very real feeling family Christmas story and, by chapter 2, I was totally hooked.’

‘Helen Laycock’s writing is rich with careful use of grammar and the feast of colourful text is fabulous for young brains to soak up. I can’t think that any 8+ child, girl or boy, could help but be gripped by this magical story and I would certainly recommend to my friends with young children.’

I hope you enjoy it! If you could leave a couple of lines as an Amazon review, then that would be absolutely lovely. Thank you.

Painting in words

Published November 21, 2016 by helenlaycock

For me, the strength of Coffin Road was Peter May’s adept use of beautiful language, which was the perfect vehicle to portray the wild landscape in which the story is set.

The plot was not only clever, and original, but what made an impact on me was the catalyst for the idea: the research that purports that the reason that bees are dying out is due to memory loss caused by the use of pesticides, and by further implication, the threat that this poses to the future survival of the human race. P. 194 spells it out in no uncertain terms.

Three–quarters of the way through, I began to doubt that the plot was balanced, the focus having shifted from Neal to Karen, but of course, it was interlinked beautifully geographically, physically and emotionally.

Coffin Road by [May, Peter]

Never judge a book by its cover…

Published November 18, 2016 by helenlaycock

‘It’s all about the writing,’ they say.

‘Never judge a book by its cover,’ they say.

But, in all honesty, have you ever picked up a book if the cover hasn’t grabbed you?

Just as I have redrafted the content of my books countless times, so the covers have undergone gradual transformations. At first, the designs were simple, hand-drawn affairs that I scanned and saved. Embarrassing in retrospect. *blushes* Then I discovered Picassa (no longer in existence. Boo hoo!) and they became a (little) bit more technical (but only a little bit).

However, I always felt that they were letting me down. *sighs* I could have paid to have them designed, but as I have twelve (thirteen?) books ‘out there’, it would have cost an arm and a leg – and I need my arms to type.

It’s taken years, but I am now more familiar with Publisher, and I also now realise that many online images are free to use if you know where to look. Free!! My favoured site is Pixabay. You just type in the subject you are looking for, and hey presto! Up come pages of images. I also like Cooltext, although I have tried to curb my enthusiasm for using fancy font which, apparently, is a give away that the designer is an amateur!

It has been, and is, a long, meticulous process as making a cover involves so much layering, experimentation, and moving about of features. Note to self: It also helps if you start by selecting the correct size page on Page SetUp… which I didn’t do to start with. Grrr! Once I had my backgrounds, I added specific images, titles and text boxes, and to make the covers look more professional, I went for a double-page spread. Who ever knew that a two-pager was available on Publisher? Well, I do now.

Anyway, at the moment my four new covers are in the system. In twenty-four hours I will approve them, and they will hopefully appear on Amazon in about another week or so. Until then, like a proud mum, I am going to show them off right here. And, by the way, the books are available on Amazon, but currently with their old covers (forgive me!). Oh, and for some reason, Amazon has listed completely the wrong prices! They range from £4.00 to £4.50.





Review of Far From True – Linwood Barclay

Published November 1, 2016 by helenlaycock

I write a lot of Amazon reviews for books I have read, but I’ve never thought about putting them here on my blog, so here goes with review #1:


Linwood Barclay is my favourite writer. However, I have decided that trilogies are not my favourite form of reading material, even if penned by the master himself.


When I finished the first in the Promise Falls trilogy, ‘Broken Promise’, I hadn’t realised that, in fact, it was the first of three interconnected tales, and so felt very disappointed that the ending was not neatly tied up in typical Barclay fashion.


By the time Far From True was out, I had forgotten many of the characters and plot lines – and there are a lot! I found it very difficult to keep track not only of who was who, but also the complex relationships between the characters which span both this book and its predecessor. The abrupt ending again left me feeling cheated at any lack of resolution.


It’s written brilliantly, of course, with an enormous and believable cast, and Barclay must have needed an immense spreadsheet in order to keep abreast of the interconnections, sub-plots and sub-sub-plots… ad infinitum. I can’t tell you who the main character is; every character has a story. The main plot is slightly more obvious – that a series of grisly events are connected by the number twenty-three (‘almost’ the title of the last in the trilogy).


I have to give it five stars because of the sheer feat achieved by Barclay in juggling so much information and character development with such expertise, and his flawless delivery of dialogue and narration from so many viewpoints, but I think that before embarking on novel Number Three I shall need to make some sort of web diagram so that I am better informed as to what is going on.

#Kids besotted with The Borrowers and smitten by Stuart Little? Then they’re sure to be charmed by Charlie…

Published October 29, 2016 by helenlaycock

The humorous adventures of tiny Charlie Chumpkins are available for #free download until tomorrow. This is a bumper volume of two-books-in-one and is suitable for boys and girls (7-12).

UK link: http://tinyurl.com/jdsgtnr
US link: http://tinyurl.com/zb49m2p


Here’s another little snippet where Sam buys Charlie his new home:

Just then, the silver garage door swung up and over the head of Mr.Parfitt. Inside, there were two trestle tables piled high with all sorts of toys. There were dolls, furry rabbits, a drum, and there, on the edge of the left-hand table, was the Dolls’ House. I suddenly heard footsteps behind me. More customers! It was Astrid and Jenny clutching their purses.
It was now or never. I sprinted down the driveway and into the garage, just as Mr. Parfitt was disappearing through the door at the back of the garage that led to the kitchen.
‘Uh, can I buy the dolls’ house, please,’ I panted, ‘…for my cousin’s birthday? She’s a girl,’ I added quickly. He stepped back into the garage, the kitchen door slowly closing behind him. I glanced at the price tag – two pounds.
‘I’ve got the right money,’ I smiled, trying very hard to look sweet for the second time that day.
Mr. Parfitt pulled back his sleeve and looked at his watch. It wasn’t quite half-past. I was glad Holly and Sarah hadn’t appeared yet.
‘Go on then, as it’s for a birthday present,’ Mr. Parfitt chuckled, ‘though you are a bit early. I’ll pass the money on to the girls. They’ll be sorry they’ve missed the first sale, though. They’re still upstairs doing their hair!’ He winked at me, man-to-man.
I delved into my pocket, pulled out my money and handed over two shiny coins.
‘Thanks!’ I shouted over my shoulder as I jogged away with my prize.
Astrid and Jenny had stopped to talk to Claire Taylor at the end of the drive. I’m sure they gave me a funny look as I passed them clutching the big white house with pink gingham curtains.
‘It’s for my cousin,’ I felt obliged to explain as I hurried away, awkwardly crossing my fingers. ‘She’s a girl!’

Day 3. Get your #FREE copy of Charlie while you can!

Published October 28, 2016 by helenlaycock


UK: http://tinyurl.com/jdsgtnr
US: http://tinyurl.com/zb49m2p

Can life really be that difficult when you’re the size of a thumb?
…Oh, yes!

Here’s another extract to whet your appetite:

Three hours later, the tent was up, sturdy and waterproof thanks to our earlier efforts.

‘Come on. Let’s have a cuppa,’ suggested Mum. ‘I think we deserve it. Don’t you?’ Her high-pitched laugh filled the canvas. We sat around the little camping table on some rather wobbly striped chairs. Suddenly, a voice called from outside.

‘Hello? Anybody there?’

I darted up from my seat and undid the zip which was to be our door for the next week.

Outside, stood a ginger-haired, freckled boy. I recognised him as the one from the tent next door.

‘Oh, hi!’ I said politely.

‘Coming out to play?’ he asked.

‘Can I, Mum?’

‘Course you can, Sam. Off you go and play with–‘

‘Richard,’ chipped in the boy.

‘Richard,’ nodded Mum.

I ducked through the tent flap, Charlie in my pocket, and followed Richard who began to race around in figure of eight movements.

‘Nee-ow,’ he droned, as he held his toy blue aeroplane aloft, making it swoop and dive in his hand. I chased after him.

Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks and turned to face me.

‘Never guess what.’ Richard seemed to be expecting a response, so I obliged with a forced tone of curiosity.


‘My dad’s got a model aeroplane. Wanna see it? It’s operated by remote control. I’m allowed to play with it whenever I want.’

‘OK. If you’re allowed.’

Richard jogged over to his tent, put his finger to his lips and gently pressed his ear to the blue canvas.

‘They’re out. C’mon.’

Looking over his shoulder, he pulled up the tent zip in a trice and pulled me inside. Their bedroom section had not been zipped shut. I could see a heap of dishevelled sleeping bags inside. In the space where we were standing were numerous holdalls, the volcanic contents spilling out, and an array of clothes was strewn, confetti-like, all over the groundsheet.

Richard rummaged around until he found his dad’s plane. It was in a battered cardboard box underneath a leather jacket.

‘Got it!’ he proclaimed triumphantly as he bounded back through the tent flap, apparently unaware that he still had my company.

Again, I followed him. He ran at full pelt over to the other side of the campsite to an area where there were very few tents or caravans. This was probably because the ground was quite uneven here. Richard scrambled up a small slope, lay flat on his stomach and laid the aeroplane on the ground in front of him. He still seemed oblivious of my presence as he fumbled about with the remote controls. Suddenly, it took off… and flew straight into a bush.

‘Go and get it then,’ he ordered.

As I obligingly ran towards it, I found myself stumbling over a small hump. Embarrassed, I stood up, brushed the grass off my bleeding knee and automatically felt in my pocket for my chum. My pocket flattened beneath my palm.


I crouched down and peered into the grass, separating the blades in order to look for him. I caught sight of him just a little way to the left of my foot and so placed a flat palm next to him so that he could climb up. He was on his back, rubbing his head as if to say, ‘Oh, no! Not again!’ As he was clambering on, I was suddenly aware of a presence behind me and warm breath on my neck. I remembered Richard. Oh no! My secret was out.

‘What the…?’ I heard him gasp over my shoulder.

I swung round to face him.

‘You must promise not to tell anyone, Richard.’ I looked at him earnestly, then stared him in the face to show that I meant it.

‘Wow!’ he exclaimed, and before I could react, his grubby little freckled hand had reached out and grabbed Charlie roughly.

I heard a muffled yell from my little friend as Richard raced back up the slope with Charlie in one hand and his aeroplane in the other.

DAY 2 of the FREE promotion of Charlie Chumpkins

Published October 27, 2016 by helenlaycock


#freebook #kidlit #childrensbooks #mgfiction

UK: http://tinyurl.com/jdsgtnr
US: http://tinyurl.com/zb49m2p

For little people (7 – 12) who love to read about little people:

Mr Charlie Chumpkins and The Further Mishaps of Charlie Chumpkins

is #free to download until Sunday 30th October.


Here is an extract from the chapter where tiny Charlie has fallen from the supermarket trolley into one of the freezers. Sam is desperate to find him, but is stopped in his tracks by an elderly customer…


I felt my upper arm being grabbed and looked down to see a wrinkled hand attached to a bony arm of an old lady muffled up in a winter coat and woolly hat.

‘Excuse me, son,’ she warbled. ‘My eyes are not so good now. Mind you, when I was a girl they were sharp as a kestrel’s.’ She paused for a moment to have a giggle, encouraging me to join in by slapping me in a friendly manner in the same place she had a moment ago gripped me. I was starting to become quite battered. ‘Do you need glasses?’ she enquired, peering into my face, her head tilted to one side.

‘Oh, no, no,’ I replied, desperate to get away. ‘Can I help you with something?’

‘Ah, what a well-mannered boy. Isn’t he a well-mannered boy?’ she enthused to a nearby shopper who nodded obligingly. ‘I said to my Wilfred – that’s my cat – I said to him the other day, you know, Wilfred, it’s not all true what they say about these teenagers. They’re not all hooligans, you know. Are you a teenager?’

‘No, not yet,’ I hurriedly replied. ‘Now what was it you wanted help with?’

‘What about a hooligan? You don’t look like one. You haven’t got any of these piercings that are all the rage, have you?’

‘No, nothing like that. So, what was it -?’

‘What about tattoos? Now they’re all right, though probably not for a youngster like you. My Albert – that’s my late husband, bless his soul – he had tattoos. Ever so manly, they were. He was in the Navy, you know…’

The old lady sank into a daydream. I picked up a bag of carrots and touched her arm gently. ‘Ahem, was it these you were needing help with?’

‘Carrots? Oh no. They’re fine. It was this mixed veg I was wondering about. Could you just check the ingredients for me and tell me if they contain sprouts. I can’t eat sprouts, you know.’

She leaned forward and in a hushed voice confided, ‘They give me wind.’


Getting excited about short stories in the UK & Ireland - in print, online & live!!

Herbie Cax

On walking the dogs and story-telling.

Three Drops from a Cauldron

poetry and fiction ~ myths, folklore, legends and fairytales

Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis

It's OK, you're allowed to be funny

Writing about Writing for Children

Her Dark Materials: notes from the world of children's books

Nothing Any Good

Source for indie authors to write, publish, and market their books

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog



Keeping you up to date with my writing and photographic projects


Always entertaining


Writing Stories on the Hearts of Children

Children's Book Chat

An insight into Children's Publishing from the next generation

Lou Treleaven

Children's author and playwright

Words under one roof

Writing, editing, novelling and enjoying life