Sunday, 18 December 2016

Happy Christmas!

Wishing everyone a joyous Christmas and a peaceful and productive New Year.

I'm hoping Santa will be leaving lots of lovely books under the tree for me.



Friday, 11 November 2016

Author in Residence

I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to be Author in Residence at the utterly fantastic Litcham School.

What is an Author in Residence? I'm sure everyone at Litcham will be relieved to know that it doesn't mean I'll be turning up with my suitcases to move in (although if I could camp out in your brilliant library, that wouldn't be such a bad idea!).

But I will be coming to school several times this year to work with students in both primary and secondary phases, promoting reading for pleasure, creative writing, and all things bookish.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

School visit round up

As September comes round and the new term starts I've been looking back over last term's school visits . It was a such a busy time that I didn't have chance to blog about them then so here's a round-up of the highlights.

APRIL
Cambridge Home Educating Families Group

When is a school visit not a school visit?
When it's a visit to a group of students from Cambridge Home Educating Families.
Four visits in fact. I was delighted to be asked to give a course on all aspects of writing a mystery. We had great fun plotting crimes and creating detectives and villains and setting clues - there were so many great ideas, which produced some brilliant stories.


Here's a list of some of the titles - they all sound amazing, don't they? And how about the story we planned as a group. The Mystery of the Cursed Custard Creams. Who wouldn't want to read that book? Thank you to everyone who took part for joining in so enthusiastically and to Fathima Farouk who organised everything and made me feel so welcome. I really enjoyed meeting you all and sharing your writing ideas.


Monday, 5 September 2016

Reader Reviews

Can you spot an author lurking in the shadows?
My favourite reviews are always those from young readers.

I've been thrilled this week to receive three for The Serpent King.  Trinity, Gabrielle and Kezia have all been kind enough to get in touch to tell me that they've enjoyed reading Secrets of the Tombs and have sent in these superbly written reviews.

Thank you girls!

I'm sorry that the series has finished now, but I promise that I'm working very hard on writing of lots of other exciting adventures - I hope they'll be ready for you to read soon!

I hope they'll take me to some more magical places to research the settings for the books. Here's a photo of me sitting among the strangler figs on the steps of the ruins in Calakmul taking notes for The Serpent King last year. 


Thursday, 18 August 2016

And the winners are . . .

Thank you to everyone who sent in their ideas for where in the world you would send Cleo and Ryan if you were writing their next adventure. There were some great suggestions, from Oxwich Bay in Wales to Bhangarh Fort in India, and from Persia to Peru.

I wrote the names on pieces of paper, put them into a hat (I borrowed Mrs Loveday's cycling helmet, in fact) and pulled two out.

The two lucky winners of the signed sets of Secrets of the Tombs books are . . . fanfare please . . .
  • Benjamin G
  • (Macchu Pichu in Peru is somewhere I've always wanted to go. I'd love to send Cleo and Ryan there.)
  • Bill V  
  • (You are right, there are so many great sites in the Middle East that would make perfect settings. Petra in Jordan would be top of my list.
Congratulations! I'll be in touch by e-mail shortly to find out where to post your prizes.


Apologies to everyone who wasn't lucky this time, but thank you very much for entering. I'll be running more competitions and giveaways in the future so there will be lots more chances.


Friday, 8 July 2016

The Great Serpent King Giveaway

The Serpent King, the final installment of the Secrets of the Tombs series comes out next week.

AN ANCIENT SECRET.
A DEADLY TRAITOR.
HAS LUCK RUN OUT FOR RYAN AND CLEO?


Ryan Flint and Cleo McNeil are in Mexico searching for the burial site of an ancient Maya king.
While Cleo is determined to solve the mystery of Jaguar Paw's death, Ryan has another mission - even closer to his heart - the search for his father.
But there's an enemy in the camp. Someone who will at nothing to prevent them finding the mysterious object that will lead to the truth hidden in the heart of the jungle.
The stakes are much higher than they could have imagined.

To celebrate publication I have some sets of all three Secrets of the Tombs books to give away . . . to find out how to be in with a chance of winning a set, pop over to the Secrets of the Tombs website.


Monday, 4 July 2016

Patron of Reading Launch

A few months ago I became Patron of Reading for Kensington Community Primary School in Liverpool. I'm already patron for another great school (North Kidlington) but I'd visited Kensington several times over the years and had been so struck by the amazing energy and love of learning at the school that I was happy to take on a second one.

I had great fun working with the amazing team at Kensington to put together an exciting launch day. First, there was a writing competition for all the children in the school; they wrote about the character from a book they'd most like to spend a day with. The teachers selected a shortlist of entries from each class for me to pick out a winner and runner-up. I loved reading all the entries - even though it was almost impossible to pick winners - they were all so good. Here are just a few of the shortlisted entries from Y1 and Y2.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Festival Highlights

Linton is a small town near Cambridge. It's very pretty, has a great community spirit, and is the perfect size, with one of everything you need -  including one of the best children's book festivals around.

I've taken part in the festival for several years now and was thrilled to be asked to be Honorary Patron this year. I had such a time at the festival I could go on for pages, but have managed to boil it down to my Top Ten in-no-particular-order Highlights (OK, it was meant to be ten but there were so many that somehow it turned into fourteen !)

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Mystery and Mayhem Competition

To celebrate the book birthday of Mystery and Mayhem today - containing my Georgian mystery story, The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot - I present you with my. . .

 Patented Perplexing Pineapple Picture Competition

All you have to do is look at the five pictures below (click on read more) and figure out which pineappley object (or place) they show. Then just e-mail me your list of answers from 1 to 5.

The competition closes on 30th May and I will send a signed copy of Mystery and Mayhem (and a poster and some other pineappely goodies!) to the first correct answer I pick out of the hat.

E-mail address for answers: helen@castlekey.org.uk

Good luck!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

May: a month of Mystery and Mayhem


It's May Day! Time for dancing around maypoles, skipping through bluebells, sunshine and blossom and cute, cuddly lambs . . .

Unless you're a mystery author in the Crime Club, that is!

In which case, May is time for dastardly deeds . . . poison plots, kidnapped dogs, dark secrets and locked rooms.

May is Mystery and Mayhem month!

I was so thrilled to be asked to contribute to an anthology of short mystery stories last year. I was allowed to write any kind of mystery I liked - as long as it had a baffling crime and young detectives at its heart, of course! When I found out who else would be in the line-up I was even more delighted. Eleven incredible writers, all of whom had written books I loved.
Just look at the list on the front of the book - who wouldn't want to be in a book with these authors?

I decided to write a historical mystery. Secrets of the Tombs has a historical elemet of course, but the stories are set in the present day.  The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot is actually set in the past - in 1761, to be precise. The location is the grand Catchpole Hall, and we join the cast of characters at a banquet in honour of eldest daughter, Eliza's engagment to the rather dreadful (but oh so rich!) Percy Ponsonby.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Exciting New!  Secrets of the Tombs is included in this Top Ten list of Thrilling Locations in Children's Books, compiled by author, Sara Grant on The Guardian Children's Books website. 


I'm thrilled to be in such illustrious company on this list - including the The Secret Garden! 

Sara says . . . 

"This new series combines exciting locations such as Egypt’s Valley of the Kings and an archaeological site in China with unbelievable action and adventure, including ancient murder mysteries, deadly secrets, treasure, fire-breathing dragons, and terracotta warriors. I can’t wait to see where Moss will take us next."

Sara is a brilliant author whose new book, Chasing Danger will be a perfect read for anyone who enjoys fast-paced adventure and mystery.  


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Kensington Community Primary - I'm thrilled to be your new Patron of Reading


It was the toast that did it!
Mid-morning, halfway through my mystery-writing workshop with Y3  and suddenly the smell of hot buttered toast was wafting through the classroom. Foil-wrapped parcels of toast had appeared from the kitchens. We all tucked in, children, staff, visiting author . . . there's nothing more friendly and fortifying thing than munching on slices of toast together, especially for anyone who might have missed breakfast or had an early start. 

That's when I knew Kensington Community Primary was my kind of school!



Wednesday, 23 March 2016

A Marathon and a Half

In the world of children's writers and illustrators, March is like December for Santa Claus or July for
ice cream van drivers.

We are flavour of the month!

Reading The Mystery of the Cursed Ruby at Kensingston Community Primary School
March brings World Book Day and schools of every stripe want a real live author to be part of their bookish celebrations.

So we take to the road in a Mad March Marathon. There's much lugging of cases of books (I love books but why do they have to be so heavy?) eating of dodgy sandwiches on stuffy trains and arguing with bossy satnavs in our cars - but it's all worth it; meeting readers is one of the very best parts of the job.

Monday, 29 February 2016

World Book Day Costumes

Hooray, it's the week of World Book Day. For authors, that means one thing:  lot  and lots of school visits (I'll be at four schools this week - can't wait to see everyone at Great Chesterford, Southbank International, William Bellamy and North Kidlington Schools!)

Many schools have a dressing up day on Thursday. Have you decided which book character you will go as?  My boys are grown up now but I  can well remember the days of rustling up last-minute fictional characters out of sellotape, old string and the contents of the kitchen cupboards.

Emily and Jack - easy Workd Book Day costume ideas!

Friday, 19 February 2016

The Write Path on the Clopton Way


Clopton . . all part of the story
A few years ago a lovely lady called Bev Humphrey asked me to contribute a story starter to a scheme she runs called The Write Path. Bev was a school librarian for many years and  is now a literacy consultant. She set up The Write Path as a fun way to help schools inspire children to write stories and poems. Every October she asks lots of authors to send in a the beginning of a story or poem. These are posted on the website and children in the schools that take part can then continue the stories however they want, each adding a paragraph or two before handing over to the next author. It's especially exciting as schools all over the world get involved.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Patron of Reading

I'd heard of the Patron of Reading scheme before. Some writer friends had mentioned it and it sounded like a great idea so I had a look on their website to find out more.

A Patron of Reading (PoR), it said, is a school's special, designated children's author with whom the school forms a personal attachment  [ . . . ] to bring an exciting dimension to the school’s quest to create a buzz about books.

Where do I sign up? I thought. Buzzing about books is my all-time favourite thing. I read on.