Unspeakably Eerie Reads for Halloween

Are you ready for Halloween? Once you've prepared a ghastly costume, decorated your lair, and cooked up finger food in the shape of... fingers, why not settle down with a book that'll scare you into next Tuesday?

I was delighted to see ALL THE LITTLE CHILDREN on a Woman's World list of mystery novels to get you in the Halloween spirit. Check out all their suggestions - if you dare!

11 Unspeakably Eerie Mystery Novels to Put You in the Halloween Spirit

These thrillers, mysteries, and horror novels will get you into the Halloween spirit. See the best mystery books to read as Oct. 31 gets near.

Book Launch: All the Little Children

It's a dream moment for every author - the book launch of their debut novel. Mine was hosted by the mighty Kinokuniya at their flagship store on Singapore's Orchard Road - the equivalent of Oxford Street or Fifth Avenue - so an exciting place to introduce my book to the world.

From my spot behind the podium, it felt a bit like a wedding as I spotted friends old and new in the crowd. I was particularly delighted to see so many fellow authors from the Singapore Writers Group, as this inspiring bunch have been staunch companions on the journey to publication.

Likewise, my "Brownies" - a critique group that emerged from a short Curtis Brown course at the Singapore Writers Festival in 2013 - were out in force. Another writer friend, the Bridport-prize winner Elaine Chiew, brilliantly compered the event.

Maybe I'm not very good at this book marketing business, but the event for me was more of a personal milestone than an opportunity to sell units - though I'm grateful to everyone who went home with a green and orange cover inside a linen tote! Several people bought a whole stack for Christmas presents, which I think is excellent planning.

People often ask what is the hardest part of writing a novel and I say "not stopping". There are so many logical reasons to stop, especially that first novel. It feels like you're running down a dark tunnel with no idea if there's a light at the end. It's an act of blind faith. I've been to so many book launches and readings and signings over the years, wondering how you get to be the one behind the table. Turns out that the hardest part is also the simplest - you don't stop writing.

A Love Letter to Switzerland

This is one of the most intimate pieces of writing I have ever shared: a love letter to Switzerland, the country that welcomed me for seven years, where my children and my novel were born. Thanks to my colleagues at The Woolf Quarterly over in Zurich for prompting me to write it: digging into the emotions that inspired a whole novel was a challenge, but cathartic!


to read my Love Letter to Switzerland on The Woolf.

On the Edge

On a perfectly normal family holiday to the south coast of England, I wandered to the edge of this cliff. It was the silence that drew me there - not until you get right to the lip of the land does the sound of the surf warn you of the danger ahead. After a few seconds - enough to film this video - my vertigo kicked in and I scurried back to the path. The sheep who sleep on the edge watched me retreat with disdain.

Later that day, I wrote a short story about a woman who stands on this spot, looking for her family, scared she may fall. Little does she know that she's already fallen.

The story, called The Lily Stains White, is available for free by clicking the orange banner at the top of this page. 

Cliff top near the Smugglers Inn, Weymouth UK

What to read... in Singapore

People very often ask for recommendations of books to read while in Singapore. Here are my top ten titles to prepare you for life in the Garden City.

And if I've left you wanting more, check out Singapore's vibrant poetry scene, especially my personal favourite, Cyril Wong.

Debut novel cover reveal: All the Little Children

It's been a long time coming. Back in 2013, while studying for an MA in Professional Writing, I wrote a short story. I wasn't planning to focus on fiction (non-fiction seemed like a better development of my previous career in journalism) but I caught the bug.

That story became my final MA project - that 20,000 words became a novel - and that manuscript caught the eye of an agent in Chicago who took it to Lake Union Publishing.

Seeing a book cover feels like a milestone, a point on the road where I should pause a while and catch my breath. The view is great - a cover that captures the story as though plucked from my mind.

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Radio Daze: how a career in broadcasting influences my fiction

“Let the listener invent their own dragon.” I can’t remember who uttered this line, but it has stayed in my mind since last century, when I took a BBC News Skills training course in London.

The nervy young broadcast journalists renamed it News Kills. Until a man in tweed came to our stuffy classroom to impart his code for living: “It’s only radio, but it’s what we do.”

I learned to create sound pictures that let the listener see “their own dragon”. Why state you’re on a beach when you can immerse the audience in surf and seagulls? Why say an interviewee is nervous when you can hear his shallowness of breath between carefully-chosen words? A broadcaster, like a novelist, is a magpie for the glimmering detail that sparks life into a story.

To read more of my guest post about how a career in broadcasting influences my fiction, visit Women Writers.

How a short course helped my publishing career

A strange thing occurred while I was taking the Professional Writing Academy’s Introduction to Writing Crime Fiction course. 

I was working on an exercise for the first class—we had to write about a detective—when a woman walked into my office and sat on the pull-out sofa bed. She was slight and reserved, but commanded my attention. She crossed her legs and bounced one child-sized foot on the parquet, allowing me time to jot down a backstory that followed her like perfume.

At the time, I was also writing a novel, a domestic thriller that didn’t feature a detective, but as I settled down each week to tackle another exercise for the course, this woman came back. She wanted in on my novel.

For the rest of my guest post about how a crime-writing course helped secure my publishing deal, visit The Professional Writing Academy.

Imperfect Tense

I’m not perfect. There, I’ve said it. The thing is, even as I write that, a tiny voice in the back of my brain mutters “well, you should work harder at it then”. Oh, the voices, the voices.


If I’m honest, I do feel, deep down in the boots of my psyche, in the bit I try to keep locked and sealed but which manages to break out in the pesty minutes before I fall asleep, that not being entirely perfect is some kind of affliction. It may even be catching. I feel pity for those troubled by Not-Entirely-Perfectism. If I were rich, I would start a fund to research cures or treatment or at least palliative care for the condition. Like Dr House walking through a waiting room, I diagnose its flawed symptoms all around me – this darn malady is everywhere, it’s like a plague.

Of course, the sane(ish) part of my mind can acknowledge that I am also a Not Entirely Perfect Person. I am a NEPP. There, I’ve said it again.

I’m not going to start to list the ways in which girls, then women, then mothers in our society are made to feel that being a NEPP is an unforgiveable character flaw, because it’s been done before and better. In fact, I will link to another blogger in a moment who admitted her own NEPPness (NEPPtitude?) last week and inspired my outpouring here. But first to my epiphany...

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about two things. First, that I’m not perfect (that bit isn’t an epiphany) BUT I can accept it (that bit is). Second, other people – close friends, complete strangers and everyone in between - who appear to judge me can all bugger off. En masse: a mass buggering off of unhelpful, judgemental, supercilious, schadenfreude-motivated people who make me feel all discombobulated in public.

My latest blog-crush, MammyWoo, put it perfectly when she said (talking specifically about body issues, but also perfectionism more generally):

“I would prefer the body of (not Jessica rabbit) Jennifer Anniston but hey, she doesn’t have kids, a poodle with the runs or a hectic schedule that involves more poop than scoop does she? (Scoop being cocktails and botox.) So why do I compare myself to these people who mostly are airbrushed?”

And that was my epiphany: people who appear to be perfect have just airbrushed their life.

Reading MammyWoo’s hilarious, harrowing and award-winning (oh yes) blog, led me, via The Mads Awards, to another inspirational site - Imagination Tree.

“Zillions of ideas for creative preschool play” it promises, and delivers so brilliantly that I was initially thrilled by all the new games and projects that we can enjoy... and then, only a couple of beats later, thrown into a state of dejection. How so?

Because I immediately started to worry about why it is that I don’t fill my kids’ days with resourceful, educational, stimulating games that engage their interest, develop new skills and cost nothing because I’ve found ingenious uses for a load of old junk that I’d otherwise throw away? Bah!

But then I read this, written by the Imagination Tree’s author Anna Ranson, who shall henceforth be known as “the blessed Anna”, (on my blog at least):

“We don't rise at dawn to play and craft and bake and sing. In fact we are pretty lazy in the morning altogether. We don't even do activities and crafts for a large percentage of the day, maybe an hour or so squeezed in between play groups, mums meet ups, outings to the park, watching Peppa Pig on repeat and of course the obligatory Sainsbury's shop. We have our fair sure of drawing on the walls, tantrums and pyjama days.”

Forgive me for gushing, but I read this and had a bit of a wobble. A lip wobble, in fact. “Peppa Pig on repeat”? I do that. “Pyjama days”? Check. “Drawing on the walls”? Check. “Tantrums”? If she means by the mum, then – check.

I read the blessed Anna’s incredibly perceptive passage about her non-perfect life with the kids (or is it actually perfect in its own unique way? Discuss...) and felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I actually feel lighter, less encumbered by the weight of my own expectation.

The straw that finally broke the camel’s back came from my neighbour, a child development expert, who was having a coffee and watching my three-year-old Curly Girlie drawing.

Curly Girlie: *whining, huffing, flinging self forward all over table* It’s wrong! I need another paper! Ooooooooo-eeeeeeerrrrrrrrr-HUH!

Neighbour: Wow! She’s giving herself a hard time - she’s really a perfectionist, huh?

And there you go. I thought I was going mad, but turns out it’s genetic. *

* The author would like to point out that this statement in no way implicates any blood relative as a NEPP. Also, no animals were harmed during the production of this blog.

Toddler conversation

Mummy?Yes, love? Can I take my sock off? OK. Mummy? Yes? Can I take my sock off? Yes, OK. Mummay? Yes. Can I take my sock off? Yes, if you want to, take your sock off. Mummaay? Yeees? Can I take my sock off? Darling! Yes! Take it off. Mummaaay? *sigh* Can I take my sock off? Yes. Mummaaay? Yes? Mummaaaay? YES? Mummaaaaay? ... Mummaaaaaay? Yes! Can I take my sock off? Look, it’s your sock, I really don’t care, take it off, leave it on, it’s your decision. Mummy? *deep breath* Yes, Darling? Can I take my sock off? Is this some form of psychological torture? Mummay? What? Can I take my sock off? Are you working for the CIA? Mummaay? With a profound sense of dread and trepidation - yes? I took my sock off. Excellent. Mummy? Yes, love? Can I take my other sock off?

Kaleidoscope Curly Girlie
Kaleidoscope Curly Girlie

A verse to Christmas?

‘Twas a few nights before Christmasand all through the house, Creatures were stirring – was it a mouse?

The clock showed 04.30 as I woke up, yawning, dragged from my slumber by a furious gnawing.

The stockings were slung half prepared on the floor, awaiting their filling with nuts, toys and more,

but a tiny gourmand had a fine dinnertime, feasting on peanuts, gold coins and clementine.

While I sat in bed finding mice all too scarey, the man of the house got up nude and hairy.

He dashed ‘cross the room and snatched up that sock and with mouse trapped inside turned to take stock:

“I have it, I have it!” he cried out of breath, “What should I do? Should I beat it to death?”

“Oh no!” I called out “That’s much too agrarian. You’ll wake up the kids, and besides I’m vegetarian!”

So we opened a window to the dark, snowy air and I thought with a pang “No food for mice out there!

“Show some compassion, Don’t be such a miser”. And I threw down some treats: a mouse appetiser.

So if you’re inclined to slay mice for their daring, please do remember: t’is the season for sharing.

When that mouse called out it made up for the fuss: “Good Night to All and to All, Merry Christmas!”