Author Archives: Denise Barnes

Juliet’s Story – cover reveal!

Juliet's Story front coverThe cover is one of the most exciting parts of producing a book, especially when you first set eyes on it. When it pings through on an email attachment and you open it for the first time, all the year’s work (give or take a month or year or two) in writing and editing has culminated as a real book. So far, this has happened to me four times and every time it’s thrilling.

There’s usually some to-ing and fro-ing before the cover is perfect, and then the decision is – when do you do the cover reveal to your adoring fans?

You can do a ghostly one two or three months before publication. This is usually in black and white and a little fuzzy round the edges, but hopefully it whets the reader’s appetite. Then maybe a few weeks before publication day, when your readers can usually pre-order the book, you can do the proper cover reveal. This can be broadcast on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, and any other social media you’re signed up to.

I’m a little late with my cover reveal of Book 2 of The Voyagers trilogy: Juliet’s Story, but now it’s here, I think you’ll agree it’s gorgeous!

So what’s Juliet’s Story, set in 2005, all about?
Whatever the risk, businesswoman Juliet Reece grabs a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with both hands.

She’s been given the freedom and time to sail to Australia to trace her emigrant grandparents’ story back in 1913. But buried under the surface is a more compelling reason – a secret she has held close since she was a vulnerable sixteen- year-old, which only her grandmother, Annie, shared – and whose answer may lie in Australia.

When Juliet boards the Alexandria at Tilbury she doesn’t count on meeting the enigmatic Jack Delaney. But is it wise to fall for a man from the other side of the world who seems to be carrying dark secrets of his own?

To be published on 25 January 2016. Pre-order now Amazon UK  Amazon US  Kobo

How Long Did It Take To Write?

Denise with Annie's StoryWhen I give a talk I’m frequently asked this question – how long did your novel take to write?

I dread that question as I feel I must give an explanation to my answer that it took ten years when a look of amazement hovers over the audience that one book should take so long.

I began writing Annie’s Story in 2005 but it was called The Voyagers. I had a dual timeline, where Annie’s story (small ‘s’) began in 1913, with alternating chapters of Juliet’s story set in 2005. I enjoy reading dual timelines where one is in the present and then drops back to the past, either starring the same character but younger, or another member of the family.

However, the book became enormous. It grew to 150,000 words and no agent or publisher would touch me: a) I was unknown, and b) the book was way too long and therefore more expensive, and therefore a higher risk. It was all very frustrating, particularly as I had a great deal of excellent feedback from the professionals, one top agent so very nearly taking me on. In the end, two other agents advised me to split the two stories. I was devastated as I knew I’d be in for a lot more work and I was already busy with Kitty and her story, thinking it would be a sequel.

Now totally fed-up, I spoke, or rather sobbed it out to my critique writing partner, Alison Morton. She didn’t hesitate. She said, ‘Great advice. Split them. Kitty is Book 3 of The Voyagers trilogy.’ As soon as she said the magic word ‘trilogy’ I was excited. But I was right – there was a lot more work to make them into separate books. Juliet was pretty well there at 100,000 words (though it expanded to 120,000), but Annie was thin at 49,000 so I had to practically write another book on top of hers.

BWcoverDuring these 10 years I self-published a memoir of my time cooking in a sanatorium in Bavaria in 1972 (from Bad to Wurst), ran an 8-branch estate agency I’d set up in 1988, sold it in 2005 to the wrong buyers (a couple of conmen) and wrote another memoir (Seller Beware: How Not to Sell Your Business) which was traditionally published by Biteback Publishing.

Seller BewareNext, I bought the business back with an ex-employee, reluctantly worked in it for several years (I’d sold the business originally to be a full-time writer!) and sold my business partner my share in 2014, finished writing Kitty’s Story at another 120,000 words, and have just finished the first draft of a romantic comedy set in the seventies. Not to mention all the other stuff you have to do as an author and promoter of your work.

So you see I haven’t been idle in the last ten years. But ten years still seems an extraordinary long time when I have to answer that dreaded question.

 

 Annie’s Story is available as an ebook  from Amazon UK,  Amazon US,  iTunes/Apple  KoboB&N NookNookbook UK and as a paperback via any good bookshop,  Amazon UK,  Amazon US and Barnes & Noble

 ‘Juliet’s Story’, the next episode, will be published on 25 January 2016

 

 

 

Media interviews? Yes, please!

golden_mikeIf you’re ever invited to be interviewed by a journalist, TV or radio presenter, my advice is always to say “yes, please”. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said it’s better to be talked about than ignored. And it is rare that the interviewer is out to trip you up, though be prepared for the personal angle. They love to know why you wrote the book you did and what has happened as a consequence, rather than you rabbiting on about the story.

Lately, I’ve given two radio interviews. The first was for my non-fiction book: Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business. The presenter was the lovely Sian Murphy, and the programme is called Women in Business Radio Show. Sian’s aim is not for me to sell lots of books (darn it!) but to give businesswomen as much information as possible about every aspect of running a business. However, she kindly repeated the title of my book a couple of times. It was an hour’s live show which might sound nerve-wracking but was the greatest fun. These presenters know how to put you at your ease.

Denise on Women in Business radio showThe bonus for me was that she was very interested in my novel, Annie’s Story (published 2015) and the way it had saved my sanity whilst writing it, when I was going through the nightmare of having sold my precious business to a couple of charlatans. I explained the reason I sold the business was to write full-time, and my dream was to write the novel.

She has since asked me to write a blogpost about growing a business, and would I give another talk about self-publishing but using a professional service provider (I used SilverWood Books) as opposed to DIY. She says so many people in business are writing non-fiction, and if the book is published it gives them real credibility for their knowledge.

Of course I said yes, I’d be pleased to.

My second interview was on Talk Radio Europe by another charming presenter, Hannah Murray. The listeners are ex-pats over the whole of Europe. The conversation was conducted on the telephone in my writing cabin – subject: Annie’s Story. It lasted 25 minutes where she wanted to know the reason why I chose the period (1913), and loved the story of my grandparents emigrating to Australia that inspired me to write this trilogy. She also asked what research I’d done to ensure the accuracy, and I was able to tell her I’d gone to Australia where my heroine went, and had come across an authentic journal of a family who had made the same trip as my grandparents only months before on the same ship, the Orsova.

Talk RadioEuropeHannah wants to invite me back when Juliet’s Story, Book 2 of The Voyagers trilogy is out (25th January 2016).

So you see, interviews are a wonderful opportunity to bring your books to the public’s attention, and the audience can often be wider than you might normally reach through the ‘normal’ channels. Do give it a go and please let me know how you get on. I always love to hear.

Now where are all those TV presenters?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annie’s Story awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion!

Annie_BRAGIt was so exciting to receive an email from the States that my novel, Book 1 of The Voyagers trilogy: Annie’s Story, has been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion award, so I’m what’s known as an official ‘B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree’.

B.R.A.G. (yes, I know you’re going to ask me what the letters stand for) stands for ‘Book Readers’ Appreciation Group‘ and was set up in the US  to recognise new and talented indie authors who have written top quality books. It takes into account the plot, characters, writing style, dialogue, presentation, cover and so on. And it’s now a global standard.

Submissions are read by a team of professional editors who immediately ditch 50% of them. The other 50% goes out to at least ten readers. They in turn ditch 40% of that 50%, leaving approximately10%. And you’re still not home and dry. The readers have to answer the following question: Would you recommend this book to your best friend? All ten have to say Yes. And only then are you awarded that coveted title and the gold labels you can stick on to your books.

So you can imagine how thrilled I am to have that professional validation of my debut novel. And if you’re looking for high quality independently published books, there is no better place to look!

I shall definitely submit Book 2 of The Voyagers trilogy: Juliet’s Story, due to be published on 25th January 2016.

Why don’t you have a go yourself? If you do, I wish you the very best of luck.

How NOT To Sell Your Business – radio star!

Denise on Women in Business radio showLast month I was delighted to be asked to appear on the  Women in Business Radio Show at Channel Radio.

I loved every minute of it and here’s what Sian Murphy, the presenter, said:
Well this episode probably had almost everything in it. For one thing, if you get bowled over by the gorgeous sales agent for your business, and take your eye off the relevant ball, then you end up with the sort of crummy job that costs you thousands and thousands.

You’ll be pleased to know, I certainly was, that it is possible to come back from a total cock-up and end up back on top again.

It was great fun recording this episode and thanks so much to Denise for being a great sport and really sharing it all – and of course to Laura Burton Lawrence for keeping it all on track.

http://thewomeninbusinessradioshow.com/denise-barnes/

Characters that don’t exist – until you create them!

Denise UWC launchI haven’t asked permission to quote Lionel Shriver in the following comment, but as she was one of the contributors to the Mslexia diary (August 2015), I don’t think she’d mind. She says:
‘Cherish the excitement of creating something from nothing – bringing non-existent characters to life, making things happen with the tips of your fingers…’

I know this might sound silly but I felt a thrill of recognition when I read this. For it’s exactly how I feel. I immediately flicked through my first published novel and watched the characters spring into action. A turn of the pages and I saw how they coped or not, and the outcome of the decisions they made. They are so real to me that I can’t imagine they don’t truly exist. Perhaps they do actually live – now they’ve been born – but on a different plane. Fanciful I know, but it’s fun to think of them getting on with their lives beyond my creation.

I recently ran into a woman who’d come to my book launch in Tunbridge Wells earlier this year and had bought a copy of Annie’s Story, (the first of The Voyagers Trilogy). She said, ‘I’m not happy with you.’

Rather taken aback, but thinking she was joking, I smiled and asked her why.

‘You let (so-and-so) die in Annie’s Story and you had the power to let (him/her) live.’ She was quite indignant.

I was amazed she’d taken it so seriously. But she’d obviously become absorbed in the story (which is what every author dreams the reader will do) and was upset with an outcome that to me had to happen. But of course I could have changed my mind at the last and let the person recover.

We all accept that writers are omnipotent but what we might not fully take on board are the powerful emotions we stir up in the readers’ minds. If it’s a good story it might stay with them for a long time. They might even be influenced by it. Act on it. That doesn’t mean our stories have to have a perfect ending, as writing a novel normally reflects real life with its ups and downs, but we do have a kind of responsibility to our readers.

Thinking about this woman’s remark a few days later, I decided she’d actually paid me the best compliment. She’d believed in my characters as much as I believe in them. And as a writer you can’t ask for more.

Books ARE judged by their covers

Annie's Story coverIt’s the first thing you’re attracted to as a reader, especially if the author is unknown to you.
You should be able to tell at a glance what the genre is. Take historical fiction, which is what I love writing. Clues are in the font chosen, the style of dress and make-up; if there’s a woman on the cover, her age. If her features and hair look right for the period or if she’s too ‘fluffy’ or simply too young to be your heroine.

If she’s travelling on a ship, a train or a plane, and you want them on the cover (hopefully, not all at once) it’s important that they, too, convey the correct period of the story. When you look at a cover that attracts you, you should subconsciously absorb the atmosphere of the story and setting of the book, which might lead you to open up your purse.

With the first cover of my debut novel, Annie’s Story, Book 1 of The Voyagers Trilogy, beginning in 1913, the designer amazingly picked out a perfect ‘Annie’ for me. She is young and beautiful, but with downcast eyes, giving the impression she’s a little apprehensive of the long journey to Melbourne before her. And so she should be, the trouble she gets into! The ship I asked the designer to use was a photograph of the Orsova, the very one my own grandparents sailed on when they went to Australia in the same year. So all I had to do was ask him to tweak here and there, but basically I was thrilled at the first proof.

Book 2, Juliet’s Story, set in the present day, was a real problem. Juliet sails to Australia to follow in her grandparents’ footsteps, only she has a secret reason why she really wants to go. To be more adventurous she sails on a freighter. The brief to the same designer was for an attractive middle-aged woman who looked as though she could be a businesswoman, with long dark wavy hair, in holiday clothes.

The designer sent through a profile of a woman in her forties with the long dark wavy hair. And there it ended. Oh, this one was strong-looking, all right. Rather too severe. Her nose was too big and her chin was too square and she was bare of make-up. Yet I didn’t dislike her. On the contrary, I felt she could be my Juliet with some work. I so badly wanted to love the cover the way I did with Annie. The publishers and I went backwards and forwards several times but it was never quite right. And the container ship the designer used was one that apparently passengers wouldn’t be allowed to travel on.

I had a search on ‘Dreamtime’ and ‘Shutterstock’ at the dozens of pages of middle-aged women on holiday, until my eyes went funny. I found the same woman the designer had used, but with four different positions and expressions. I picked a three-quarter angle where she’s giving the hint of a Mona Lisa smile, and asked that make-up and nail polish should be added – oh, and a pearl earring. Then I picked another container ship that was nicer to look at, and voila…job done.

Heart in my mouth I ‘unveiled’ the final proof of the cover. Bingo! Juliet looked stunning. And the container ship looked quite romantic against the sunset colours the designer had chosen for the sea and sky.

Now, he’s got to pick a third young woman for Kitty’s Story. She’s only seventeen when it opens in 1941. Plus I need a military aeroplane and a troopship in the background, as Kitty is on her way to Cairo.

That shouldn’t be too difficult for the designer…should it?

eBook Sales – should we promote them?

Annie's Story coverI’ve put the Kindle version of Annie’s Story, Book 1 of The Voyagers Trilogy, on sale for a fortnight. (It finishes on Tuesday, 15th September.) It’s reduced from £3.95 to 99 pence. But is it the right thing to do?

When one thinks of how long it takes to write a book – and Annie’s Story is quite a chunky historical saga – it does seem to demean the toil and tears we writers go through to reach ‘The End’. But contrary to what non-writers imagine, it’s nowhere near the end. Next comes the re-write and re-write again, the polish and polish again, before it goes out to an editor who suggests more rewriting and then, of course, another final polish. I’ve done as many as 25 drafts before I’ve been satisfied to send it to the editor.

So to bring the price down of my precious book to less than £1 doesn’t really make sense.

But why do we write? We have a burning story we want to tell and most of us want to be published so we can have a wider readership. Only a small percentage of us will make a lot of money. Most writers have to work full or part time to supplement the often pathetic royalties. But the reward comes from the readers themselves. When you get a review where the reader has laughed or cried (preferably both!), when s/he’s loved your book and recommended it to friends, that makes it all worthwhile. It’s communication at its deepest level and is truly miraculous.

So if I reach more readers with my fortnight’s sale of Annie’s Story I’ll be thrilled.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Annies-Story-Voyagers-Fenella-Forster-ebook/dp/B00V8MZD1A

Mayfair launch of Annie’s Story

DSC09939The University Women’s Club in Mayfair is the perfect place for a book launch. I’ve been a member of the club for 25 years and it’s a real home from home for me, living in Tunbridge Wells. So for my London launch of my debut novel: Annie’s Story Book 1 of The Voyagers trilogy, it was my first choice.

I’d had a fun and very successful launch in Waterstones, Tunbridge Wells the month before, but wanted a second one for different groups of people who might find it difficult to get to my neck of the woods. It was a mixture of family, friends, special writing friends, members of Connexions (a course on philosophy I’ve been attending for the last seven years – I’m probably one of the wisest writers I know – just kidding), and, of course, some special UWCub members.

Trouble was, on the Wednesday morning of the launch I woke up not feeling terribly well. Thinking I was just a bit tired and would be all right I packed my overnight case and with my sister, Carole, took the train to London. We were staying the night at the club.

DSC09922Still not feeling particularly great, I had arranged for a few friends to have lunch at the club. The day was so warm and sunny we were able to eat in the courtyard garden which was delightful. I decided not to have any wine, and kept to a light goat’s cheese salad, as did three other women. That evening, getting dressed, I didn’t feel excited as I should, and was beginning to feel a little queasy and light-headed. I knew I’d have to put on an act for about 35 people, 4 of whom had arrived from various countries especially for the launch.

DSC09930Thankfully, it all went well. Everyone seemed happy and enjoying the bubbly and canapés (I didn’t touch either), and the talk was my best one, I felt. The adrenalin must have kicked in!

Luckily, Carole was sharing a room with me at the club as all through that night I was really ill. Terribly nauseous, burning chest pain, back pain, headache, and feeling extremely dizzy. I honestly thought I was dying. Neither of us had a wink of sleep, and around 6am I was so sick she decided to dial 999.

Maybe I wasn’t dying after all as I managed to appreciate three gorgeous-looking paramedics who rushed to the rescue. They confirmed I wasn’t having a heart attack, but after various tests decided I should go to hospital for more checks. I’ve never been in an ambulance before and always thought I would be terrified, but I just wanted to get to hospital as quickly as possible for someone to make me better.

After a bumpy ride we arrived at St Mary’s and had I felt well enough to appreciate it, my room was overlooking a canal with bright little boats bobbing about. We were in Little Venice. As it was, I was still being sick and feeling quite spaced out.

More tests with nurses and two doctors later I was diagnosed as having a severe case of gastritis from a virus, so at least it didn’t sound life-threatening!

I stayed on at the club for two more days, and was wonderfully looked after by the staff until Carole came to collect me on the Saturday and take me back to Tunbridge Wells.

This happened three weeks ago and I’m still feeling an echo of the effects. Doc says it will probably take eight weeks before I’m back to normal (well, normal for me!).

The good thing was that I received lots of emails and phone calls from people telling me how much they enjoyed the launch – and reading the novel! – and were shocked to hear that I’d been whisked away to hospital only hours later.

I’m seriously wondering if I should turn to acting instead of writing…

Answers, please, on a postcard.

 

 

 

At last – the Book Launch!

Denise1It was all going so well.

Waterstones had kindly allowed me to hold the launch of my debut novel as ‘Fenella Forster’: Annie’s Story, Book 1 of The Voyagers trilogy, in their Tunbridge Wells branch last week on the proviso that at least thirty people would turn up, having reserved £3 tickets beforehand.

Launch general

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lure was free wine and nibbles, and three quid off the book if anyone kindly bought a copy. Plus they would get me entertaining them with a scintillating talk and reading a short extract from the novel. What’s not to like?

Mayoral groupArms still twisted behind their backs, old and new friends and ex-business colleagues duly came through the bookshop door. Including the Mayor and Mayoress of Tunbridge Wells. I’d met the mayor once at the Tunbridge Wells Business Forum and just called him ‘Julian’, but was not quite sure how to address the couple when they were ‘on duty’. Luckily, my fantastic critique writing partner and friend, thriller novelist, Alison Morton, was staying with me a few days to coincide with my launch. She made me practice several times on how to greet them correctly and welcome them to the audience. I also had to announce that the Mayor was going to say a few words.

Loving itAfter saying hello and having a quick chat to all my adoring fans(!) and making sure Alison had put a drink in everyone’s hand (she was furniture mover and book and banner setter-upper, wine waiter, photographer, movie-maker, and clearer-upper – thanks, Alison 😉 ). I asked them to take a seat so the talk could begin.

I thanked everyone for coming, and got stuck straight into my talk.

Anyone spotted my omission? Yes, you have it. I completely ignored Mayor Julian and Mayoress Annie. I was ten minutes in when I smiled at the two of them sitting on the front row, and it immediately clicked. My hand flew to my forehead and I said: ‘Oh, no, I’ve forgotten to introduce the Mayor and Mayoress!’

Denise realises

Denise realises the awful truth!

‘I can’t believe it,’ Alison put in from the sidelines where she was pointing her camera. ‘I’ve spent the afternoon rehearsing her.’

Of course, everyone screamed with laughter. So did I, but I turned my face to the wall pretending to sob, then turned round and acted as though we were right at the beginning.
‘Welcome, everyone, and thank you so much for coming to share such an exciting celebration. Also, I’d like to welcome the Mayor and Mayoress of Tunbridge Wells.’ I looked directly at the couple.

‘Thank you so much for coming, Councillor Stanyer, and Mrs Stanyer. I believe you’d like to say a few words, Councillor Stanyer.’

Mayor speaking‘I would,’ he said, grinning as he rose from the chair. He proceeded to give a funny talk on how he and I had first met, and I’d slipped him a copy of my previous book, Seller Beware: How Not To Sell A Business, saying he’d be on pain of death if he told anyone I hadn’t charged him. He said how delighted he was to come to the launch of my first novel.

Everyone clapped. The Mayor and Mayoress queued at the end of the evening and bought two copies of Annie’s Story. And paid for them! All was well.

And on to the signing!

Signing3Signing1

Signing2

Happy author

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signing 7

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Annie's story

 

 

Annie’s Story is now available from
Amazon UK  Amazon US  Kobo  B&N Nook