‘Kitty’s Story’ is published!

Kitty’s Story, Book 3 of The Voyagers trilogy, is finally published! What a labour of love it’s been. If I’d known it was going to take 12 years to write this trilogy I would never have started it. (I did write two or three books in between and ran a business part of that time!)

Book 1, Annie’s Story, and Book 2, Juliet’s Story, began life as one book called The Voyagers. I’d enjoyed writing Annie’s chapters from 1913 spanning to 1930, and weaving in Juliet, the granddaughter, in modern times. But as a saga with two protagonists the book became too long at 150,000 words and no editor or agent would touch it even though I’d got close to being traditionally published. ‘You’ve jammed two books together,’ they advised. ‘Split them into two separate but linked stories.’

By this time I was writing Kitty’s Story, thinking it would be the sequel. I couldn’t make such a radical change. It would be a mammoth task to separate the two. Almost in tears I rang my trusty critique writing partner, Alison Morton (Roma Nova series).

‘Take their advice,’ was her immediate reply. ‘Get the damned thing split and Kitty becomes the third of The Voyagers trilogy.’ She never minces her words.

But as soon as she said the magic word ‘trilogy’ it cheered me up and I began to tackle the big separation. It was more complicated than I’d thought, plus the fact I’d thought the two women’s stories were evenly balanced. Taking them apart I had Juliet at 100,000 words – the right length – but Annie was a novella at 50,000 words. Reading Annie separately I realised she was worthy of her own fuller story. It turned out to be 120,000 words but I was so glad I’d done it. And then I had to finish Kitty.

Writing Kitty’s Story turned out to be a cathartic exercise. Something very sad had happened in my own life decades before, and I never knew why the relationship (of course!) had gone so terribly wrong. I poured a lot of my deeply-buried emotion into the novel and as a writer had the power to create a happy ending. Being in Kitty’s head (I wrote it in the first person) somehow allowed me to lay my personal story to rest and I wonder if other writers have ever felt the same.

On a more positive note Kitty does something I’m sure I would have jumped at had I been a teenager in the Second World War – she is determined to sing to the troops like her idol, Vera Lynn. Joining ENSA in 1941 she travels to Cairo and fulfils her dream. Only things don’t turn out quite as she expects – in fact, just like real life!

Kitty’s Story is available through all good bookshops and from (amongst other retailers) from Available now from  Amazon UK  Amazon US  Kobo  iBooks  B&N Nook

Podcast star – The Joy of Less!

JoyOfLessThe Challenge – my true story in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s latest book: The Joy of Less, has been chosen to be featured in a podcast!

In a new venture, Chicken Soup for the Soul’s publisher, Amy Newmark, will discuss a different Chicken Soup for the Soul book each day and will highlight a story that appears in that book live in the States on Tuesday, 31st May. It’s terribly exciting; I believe I’m the only British contributor in the whole book!

Listen here to the discussion!

The Joy of Less contains 101 stories from people who have found that downsizing your home, buying less, de-cluttering, saying ‘No’, etc. has enriched their lives, giving them more time to devote to themselves and other people rather than materialistic things. It’s a quirky collection and absolutely fascinating. I was proud for my story to be chosen to be included in the book out of thousands of submissions, and on reading the other hundred, it’s inspired me to do my own de-cluttering and recycling in a more serious fashion.

Now going to finish weeding out my summer wardrobe!

‘The Joy of Less’ publication day!

JoyOfLessIf you know you must de-stress
Then please read ‘The Joy Of Less’
It’s full of articles galore
To stop you buying more and more
It’s the new way to find happiness.

When I saw an advertisement last year in Writing Magazine from an American publisher asking for submissions as possible inclusions for their latest anthology to be published in spring 2016, I decided to get busy. It had to be a true account in about 1500 words and I knew I had just the right story.

The words rolled off my fingertips on to my keyboard. My sister had set herself a challenge not to buy any new clothes, shoes, bags, hats, jewellery, etc. for a year. Everything had to be made, swapped, be given, bought in a charity shop or boot fair. I immediately said: ‘I’m going to do it too!’ She rolled her eyes. ‘No way you’ll manage that, Denise, with your love of shopping.’

Well, I’m always up for a challenge. In fact, I gave my piece the title: The Challenge.

Apparently there were thousands of submissions for this book, and mine was accepted! I must say I was thrilled to break into the American market. I won’t tell you anymore about my own story as I don’t want to spoil it.

This publication in the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series is their 200th book: The Joy of Less: 101 Stories about Having More by Simplifying Our Lives tells us on the cover:
“Everyone – from moms to multitaskers – can learn how to say ‘no’ to the things that don’t matter so they can say ‘yes’ to the things that do!”
– Brooke Burke-Charvet

I’ve read all the 101 personal stories and enjoyed every single one. Some are quite amazing in their twists and coincidences, and their description of the gratitude of other people with so much less who can find a use for things we don’t need anymore. It really makes you humble. I can’t wait to get de-cluttering and wardrobe sorting and finding the time to do more lovely things by saying ‘no’ to others’ demands. You are in control. You can change your present behaviour or situation, and The Joy of Less will show you how.

Happy days!

Joy of Less cover

 

 

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less: 101 Stories about Having More by Simplifying Our Lives is available in ebook and paperback formats from the usual retailers.

Easy links
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com

 

 

‘Juliet’ tells her ‘Story’ at the West Kent launch

OverviewJuliet’s Story, Book 2 of The Voyagers trilogy, has been well and truly launched!

I’ve got into the habit of having two launches each time one of my books is published. One takes place at my club in Mayfair, the University Women’s Club, and the other more locally in the Tunbridge Wells area. Previously, I’ve arranged it in Waterstones but sadly, they are holding fewer book events these days. It’s such a shame as I love to attend book launches as well as give them.

Between Juliet and AnnieI attended a rather grand book launch at Tonbridge School last year – the author was David Lough, being interviewed on his latest biography: No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money.

I was most impressed with the beautiful building, the smiling staff, the delicious canapés and the exceptional champagne. Churchill himself would definitely have approved! So I decided to hold my event there.

CheersIt was a perfect choice, and because it was a slightly different area, I had friends and acquaintances coming from Sevenoaks and Hildenborough as well as Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. Looking around at the 30 or so faces, half of them had never attended one of my launches. This is A Good Thing! At least eight folk bought Annie’s Story, Book 1 of the trilogy together with Juliet’s Story so they could catch up. I had put Annie’s banner up as well as Juliet’s, hoping this might happen.

Marcus Warren proved to be a great photographer who managed to flatter me in most photographs, except one where he made me look 90 (I’m sure I don’t know how he did this – it must have taken all his ingenuity and photographic skill) instead of the bright young woman I really am! DELETE!

Signing booksWe all had a jolly time and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening and my talk. I must say, I loved the evening. Always think that’s a good sign if the host does.

Roll on the next launch. Sadly, not until 2017 when Kitty’s Story, Book 3 of the trilogy will be out. Do hope to see you!

 

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Juliet’s Story is  available now from your local bookshop and from Amazon UK  Amazon US  Kobo

April Fool, book or $50 gift card winner?

APRIL-FOOLS-POSTER IToday and only until 4 April, you could win a signed paperback copy of Annie’s Story, the first book in The Voyagers trilogy. You can also  enter a grand draw for a $50 Amazon gift card. IndieBRAG, who award the prestigious B.R.A.G. Medallion to the top 10% of indie published fiction, are celebrating this special day of day of spring fun.

You have two chances to win. Firstly, to win a copy of my book, read the following journal extract from Annie’s Story and leave a comment saying whether you think it’s genuine or not. If you’re correct, you’ll go into the draw for my book. If not, then it’s April Fool! Good luck!

Secondly, a chance to win a $50.00 Amazon Gift Card! Be sure to visit the IndieBRAG April Fools event page to enter. The winner will be announced on 5 April on the indieBRAG website.
Please note:
–         You must be 18 years or older to participate in the prize & giveaway.
–         Giveaway is open internationally.
–         Winner has 48 hours to claim prize and giveaway or a new winner is chosen.

On to the giveaway draw for Annie’s Story – true or false?
—————
24th April 1921
How can Ferguson do this to me? If I’d had any suspicion about his wandering eye I never would have married him, let alone agreed to go all that way to Australia with him. He promised me we would better ourselves from a life in service. We still ended up in service although I admit I was happy at the beginning. But it was my great mistake when I invited Ruby my sister to visit us. She made eyes at Ferguson right away and he was too weak to refuse her. A grand betrayal, if ever there was one because she had his baby. She said she’d always loved him and it was her chance of happiness. As if that wasn’t cruel enough, now it’s Ethel my youngest sister who I always thought was so innocent, so loving, so loyal. But she’s turned out even worse. She says she’s also having his child and is sailing to America with him next month.
My heart which I thought had already broken is now smashed to pieces. Even my children are not bringing me any joy. I just sit and cry all day. There’s no one who I can talk to, only my journal.
I have only just been able to comfort Ruby because she knows how I feel now that it’s happened to her. Ferguson has left two sisters looking after his three children and plans to go off to America with the third sister. You, Ethel. He even had the cheek to say to me, ‘Third time lucky, Annie.’
Ethel, how could you do this to me?
————-

I’ll be back on 4 April to let you know who’s guessed correctly and who wins a FREE signed paperback of Annie’s Story! See you then!

Every writer needs a critique writing partner!

Alison and Denise

Alison and Denise in 2013

‘Critique writing partner’,  ‘writing buddy’ – call her what you will, but I believe every writer needs one. I say ‘her’ because I know of no male author who admits to having another writer read and edit his work before it goes off to the publisher, or is put out in cyberspace. (I suppose I’m now going to be inundated with male writers who have CWPs!)

Alison Morton, author of the highly-acclaimed Roma Nova series, and I are each other’s critics for our books – seven each at present (even though the last two of mine are not quite at publishing stage), not to mention short stories and articles. And when we get our red pens out we can be fierce. But that’s the point. It’s no good admiring each other’s work and not daring to make a negative remark. We always said we wouldn’t dissolve into tears when the manuscript comes back covered in red splodges together with a blunt report. We’re tough ex-businesswomen who can take it on the chin…aren’t we?

RedpengonemadMind you, that doesn’t always mean we don’t occasionally have a small silent weep when the other has pointed out aspects of our novel which requires us to do structural rewrites, especially when it’s something we know very well we shouldn’t have written! But we’re both conscious we need to do the old ‘sandwich’ trick. A few compliments to kick it off, pointing out the weak stuff in between, and a positive note to end on, with enough smiley faces to give us the encouragement we crave. It works a treat.

It’s not all ‘red pen’ with a CWP. Years ago I was dismayed when a couple of agents so nearly took me on with my first novel, The Voyagers, but decided against it. They made the point it was too long for a debut author, and anyway was two books jammed into one. I was already writing what I thought was the sequel and was practically in tears when I Skyped Alison. Without pause she said, ‘Split the two stories, then the one you’re writing now becomes book three, which is then a trilogy.’ As soon as she said the magic word ‘trilogy’ I was thrilled and began to tackle the job – more difficult than I’d imagined but immensely satisfying. Of course she ended up reading both ‘split’ books again as they’d gone through some major changes.

We’re there for each other when there have been rejections (until we decided to go the Indie route), and we cheer the other on when she’s had some great writing news. We’ve become real friends besides writing pals, which I think we both treasure.

Denise-and-Alison-Juliet_launch

Denise and Alison at the Juliet’s Story launch January 2016

How can a CWP work for you? First of all, it’s not that easy to find the right ‘fit’. Think about the difficulties of finding a life partner! It’s about on that level, believe me. Trust is the most important element after you’ve found a congenial and willing person who’s a damn good writer (even if they’re not yet published). They don’t have to write in the same genre. Alison and I don’t. She writes alternate history thrillers and I write gritty sagas. When we first swapped our manuscripts I said, ‘I would never read a military thriller, Alison.’ She promptly replied, ‘I’d never read a soppy romance.’ After we stopped laughing (in order to have another swig of wine) we agreed it might be better that we don’t write the same kinds of books. There’s no competitiveness and we can look at the other’s story with fresh eyes and hearts.

So don’t rush it. Choosing the right partner can take time, and you must be prepared to give as much as you take. Only then will it work. But Alison and I have both agreed our books are so much better for it.

Good luck!

And we’d love to hear any success stories.

‘Juliet’s Story’ launched!

Denise bannerOne of the great pleasures of writing a book and getting it published is that you have a perfect excuse for a party!

So for Juliet’s Story, Book 2 of The Voyagers trilogy, I decided to once again hold the launch in the University Women’s Club in Mayfair, where I’ve been a member for almost 30 years.

Although publication day is TODAY, I had the London launch Saturday afternoon, just two days ago, which happened to be my mother’s birthday. If only she could have been there – she would have been so proud! (You know how mothers are.)

Celebrating with friends

With Sue Stephenson, Liz Harris, publisher Helen Hart and Gail Alwyn

The Diamonds

With Tessa Shapcott, Terri Fleming, Sue Mackender – The Diamonds

 

 

But I was surrounded and supported by family and friends, and ten other writers, which was fabulous. We had a high tea: sandwiches, scones, carrot cake, tea, coffee and, of course, lots of fizz.

 

 

 

 

 

The audience

 

 

 

 

 

After everyone had made a beeline for the groaning tables and had a good chat with one another, I gave a talk, primarily on the research I undertook for the novel.

One of the more unusual things was being aboard a freighter for a few days. My heroine, Juliet, goes on a voyage to Australia by cargo ship so I felt I had to go through a similar experience in order to breathe in the atmosphere of what it’s really like. My ship was a German one bound for Hong Kong but after calling at Hamburg, I disembarked in Zeebrugge (Bruges). I didn’t want to spend over six weeks at sea as at the time I was running a business, and unlike Juliet had no one to take it over for such a long period.

Denise in full flowThe voyage was a real adventure and telling details, together with some of the incidents which happened to me, have crept into the novel – which is what research is all about.

I sold a ton of books at the launch which won’t go anywhere near to paying for the afternoon, but that’s not the point. It’s a wonderful way of getting your first readers who you hope will spread the word – and write a review!

 

Denise and Alison

With critique partner Alison Morton

 

 

 

But mainly all their laughter, congratulations and love give you a huge boost to set you on your way.

I feel a bit flat now so I need to get the show on the road for Book 3. Another launch looming, methinks.

  

signing

Signing!

UWC team

The cake and champagne team

 

 

 

 

Julietcover

 

 

 

 

 

Juliet’s Story is now out!
Available now from your local bookshop and from Amazon UK  Amazon US  Kobo

Who is Juliet in ‘Juliet’s Story’?

Juliet ReeceWhen I began writing Juliet’s Story, Book 2 of The Voyagers trilogy, I thought deeply about the kind of woman I wanted as my heroine: age, physical appearance, personality, talents, flaws, fears, family, job or career…everything that makes a person who he or she is.

So that people wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, I see you’ve modelled Juliet on yourself’ (I hate that), I made her taller than me, with very dark hair (I’m fair) and twenty years younger (I wish!). But I couldn’t resist giving her a similar career background. If I hit it right, Juliet’s career would define her in so many interesting ways which I could use as major plotting devices in the story.

My own background is in the property world. I started an estate agency in 1988 and expanded it and ran it for 17 years, then sold (unfortunately to two conmen), so I could write fiction. Instead, I found myself writing Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business before I could tackle a novel.

Denise Barnes Estate Agents

Having your own business is fraught with problems, long hours and staff issues, and Juliet’s is no exception. She sells other people’s businesses at Reece & Co. She’s been running it for nine years and has neglected herself in the meantime: she’s a bit overweight, smokes (she gives up early on in the novel), is a poor sleeper, a non-going gym member, doesn’t take proper holidays…she’s in a much worse state than I used to be, but you get my drift.

Juliet has worked hard in her business to prove to her parents she can be successful at something. Her sister and brother are more intellectual and have brilliant careers, while Juliet feels inadequate. She married Gerrard, ten years older and a stuffy lawyer, not because she truly loved him but because her parents approved. She finally takes charge, and when the story opens she is recently divorced, but exhausted by the demands of the business. She longs to go to Australia to follow in her grandparents’ footsteps (see Annie’s Story, Book 1 of The Voyagers trilogy). But there’s another powerful reason for wanting to be there. Though how can she leave her business, not to mention her ailing father?

Like Juliet, I might have been tempted to take off to Australia for a few months given the opportunity, but it would have been an equally terrifying decision to put my business in someone else’s hands, as well as leaving an agoraphobic mother. However, unlike Juliet, I have a sister living in the same village who would keep an eye on Mum, and so I was able to take proper holidays without too much worry.

When you throw problems and miseries at your hero and heroine to reflect or exceed those in real life, you are the master of their fate. But working out how your characters get out of their multiple difficulties can often solve some of your own problems. Is the brain even more perceptive than we realise?

Do other writers feel the same? I’d love to know.
Julietcover

 

Juliet’s Story will be published on 25 January 2016.
Pre-order now Amazon UK  Amazon US  Kobo

All in the name of research

melbourne

Melbourne

To me, research is rarely a chore. It’s the dead opposite in that I get completely carried away and enjoy it so much I go over the top. For example, I find it very difficult to skim a book I need for reference and find myself reading it cover to cover. Or with Google, I can’t stick to the one website but click all those enticing links. But I don’t think any research is ever wasted and I usually learn some interesting facts and snippets along the way that I can slip in to make the story really authentic. Warning: it doesn’t half eat into your writing time. So beware.

Not all research has to be through books and Google. For Juliet’s Story I wanted her to sail to Australia so, of course, I needed to visit the country. That line of research was definitely a chore! What a fantastic month I had making notes and taking lots of photographs and talking to helpful people along the way.

As with most folk I flew to Australia but I didn’t want my heroine to go the conventional route. Juliet was to go by freighter. Through the shipping company I met a lady who had sailed round the world (different journeys) on one. Coincidentally, she lived a couple of streets away from my aunt in Pimlico, and I spent a wonderful afternoon with her. When she asked if I would like to borrow her journals of the different voyages I couldn’t believe my luck. She was a superb writer with a sharp eye for detail and I encouraged her to write a book about her travels. I think people would love to read about her adventures. The daily entries gave me great insight into freight travel but I knew it wasn’t going to replace the real experience.

freighterHaving never been on one, or even close up and personal, I thought I’d take a few days away from my estate agency business and chose to sail on a German cargo ship called Ever Conquest, bound for Hong Kong, though I disembarked in Zeebrugge. Something strange happened the minute I stepped on board – I became ‘Juliet’ and spent six fascinating days at sea, though sadly as the only passenger, with no romance in sight! Against all their rules (they knew I was there for research for my novel so bent them) the Captain and Chief Engineer answered my constant stream of questions and even allowed me on the bridge which is normally sacrosanct.

It’s wonderful when you tell people you’re a writer – you often sneak into places normally out of bounds. So don’t be modest. Tell people you’re a writer. You’ll be amazed at the doors that will swing wide open for you – all in the name of research, of course!

Julietcover

 

Juliet’s Story will be published on 25 January 2016.
Pre-order now Amazon UK  Amazon US  Kobo

Writing is a lonely life…?

Denise UWC launchI completely disagree with the above (though I realise some writers might feel differently).

Writing when one is alone is not the same as being lonely. I’m so happy when writing completely on my own, but a close second is writing in the company of one or a few other writers. It’s a sedentary life sitting on your bottom day after day, but most writers interact with others. Where you write you’ll probably tap into Twitter and Facebook on most days, thus making connections and conversations.

My new diary is already filling up with writerly things which take me outside my writing cabin and into a world of real people instead of my ‘real characters’. Heading the list is the launch of Juliet’s Story, Book 1 of The Voyagers trilogy. It’s to be held at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair on 23 January 2016 (under a week to go!) and hopefully there will be writers, friends and relatives to celebrate with me. (If anyone would like to come, please get in touch with me by Friday by leaving  a comment below.)

In May I’m off to Portugal with three writing friends to stay in a private villa. We’ll have a week there working hard on our novels and catching up in the afternoons for readings and brain-stormings and critiques. Hopefully this won’t clash with the Romantic Novelists’ Association summer party!

In July it’s the RNA Conference which is always brilliant, and I come away exhausted but inspired, and often excited because an agent or editor has asked me to send them a full manuscript of my latest novel.

Then there’s the Historical Novel Society Conference in September in Oxford, which unusually is for writers and readers (Early Bird booking until 31 January!). A few days later I’m joining a small group of writer friends in Gladstone’s library in Chester for four days.

In November we don our sequins for the RNA winter party.

Denise_Alison RNA2015_sm

Denise and Alison

Throughout the year I go to a club in London where writers and media folk meet up every month; I formed The Diamonds writing group a couple of years ago where we take it in turns to meet in one another’s houses and stay the whole day – the host feeding and watering us; I have a regular Skype with my critique writing partner,
Alison Morton, who lives with her husband in France; I attend the London Book Fair…and so it goes.

So I can’t regard writing as a lonely life. But when I read through the above I think I’ll be glad to escape sometimes to my writing cabin for a top-up of loneliness!

 

Julietcover

 

Juliet’s Story will be published on 25 January 2016.
Pre-order now Amazon UK  Amazon US  Kobo