Category Archives: Getting published

‘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

‘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’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

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

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

Publication Day!

champagne1I may have mentioned this in a previous post but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. I began The Voyagers trilogy a whole decade ago. Mind you, in that time I wrote and had published two non-fiction books, ran a business, sold a business, bought it back three years later, sold it again last June, and drafted the whole Voyagers trilogy, each novel being around 125,000. So I haven’t been idle. But all those events in my life didn’t take me to the one thing I wanted more than anything – to see my novel in Waterstones’ window.

Until now. The first book in the trilogy called Annie’s Story, is out today! And it’s in Waterstones’ window in Tunbridge Wells! It’s enough to give the author (moi, Fenella Forster) the shivers.

Writing a novel rarely flows from the writer into a wonderfully cohesive storyline with well-developed and interesting characters who conflict with one another, and have enough bad stuff thrown at them that the reader wonders how they will cope, or get out of a scary situation, or pull a relationship together. The only obvious exception might be Barbara Cartland, and even she must have developed her indomitable confidence and storytelling from the first shaky beginning!

What I’m saying is, it hasn’t come easy. It all takes time. You can’t rush the process.

Many times I almost gave up. That’s where your critique writing partner, writing buddy, tutor – call her or him what you will – comes in with words of encouragement and sometimes even uses shock tactics to force you to get going again. I think this might have happened to me when I’d finished my first draft and had no idea if it was any good or not.

But at least 25 drafts later – yes, I know you’re thinking that sounds obsessive, but I’ve read that many well-known writers redraft up to as many as 50 times – I finally knew it was ready for the editor, then the copy-editor, and several proof-readings by me.

In between these stages, the cover designer was busy, and the thrilling result definitely spurred me on when I realised my dream was turning into the most wonderful reality.

Annie's Story coverI’ve commissioned a PR consultant to help readers become aware of Annie’s Story – discoverability, I believe it’s called, and I’ve had postcards, business cards and a banner printed, all with the image of the cover. I think these advertising props are crucial in spreading the word.

There is so much more at stake when writing fiction as opposed to non-fiction. You’re judged on your imagination rather than facts. That’s pretty personal. And I know it’s going to wound if I get a bad/or even just a mediocre review. I’m just hoping that Annie’s Story will touch readers’ hearts, and if they are kind enough to give me a good review you will see me dance with joy.

 

Annie’s Story by Fenella Forster is now available (ebook and paperback)
Order through any good book shop or online
Amazon UK      Amazon US

Cover revealed – Annie’s Story!

My heart was beating as fast as one of my romantic heroines as my fingers hovered over the keyboard to open Bron’s attachment. Bron is one of the production assistants at SilverWood Books, who will be publishing Annie’s Story in April 2015 (this month!).

Did the cover designer get it? Had she read the book so she understood the character of the heroine: her appearance, her expression, her innermost thoughts? A tall order, perhaps. Would the design give the flavour of the period so a reader would instantly know they were picking up a historical novel of the Edwardian era? Would she have found a ship similar to the Orsova, the one my own grandparents sailed on to Australia in the same year as Annie; 1913? Would I like the overall design? No, more importantly, would I love it?

Annie's Story cover

This was it. Only by pressing the damned key would I be able to answer such a string of questions. I pressed. And gasped as the cover slowly unfolded under my eyes. It was stunning. In every way. The girl, the most prominent of the design, was so beautiful and so ‘Annie-like’ I had to blink back tears of joy. She was dressed in the right period – a little too grand, perhaps, for a housemaid, but after all, it was her wedding outfit. And her head tilting downwards, her expression so serious, was the perfect stance for Annie who had no idea what she would be facing in an unknown country.

I looked at the cover closely. How clever the designer was to pick a ship which looked so similar to the Orsova, with its characteristic two funnels. There was some faint lettering on the prow. I peered nearer to the screen. The ship had the same number of letters as the Orsova. And what a coincidence: this one also started with an ‘O’. And then I realised this was no fake. The designer had sourced the real ship and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see a piece of my family history on the cover of my debut novel.

It was a sepia background and the wine-red lettering, Annie’s Story, was bold and sweeping, just like the sweeping saga I hoped the readers would love amongst the pages.
I wanted to kiss her for getting it so perfect.

Of course when the euphoria had died a fraction I found a few nit-picks to alter.
‘That’s fine,’ Bron assured me. ‘I’ll send it off to Canada with your comments. It won’t take long.’
‘She lives in Canada?’
‘Canada, yes, but ‘she’, no,’ Bron answered. ‘Your designer is a guy.’

My mouth dropped open. A male actually ‘got it’ in bucketloads. What I see as being a woman’s novel. Well, hush my mouth. But on second thoughts it’s always a pleasure to kiss a hunky chap. It must be the romantic writer in me!

Annie’s Story by Fenella Forster will be published 20 April 2015
Available for pre-order on Amazon (ebook and paperback) 

The (Paddy) Power of Networking

Ian Dale and Denise Barnes

Me with Ian Dale

An exciting invitation recently came through – well, I’d like to say the post, in a gilt-edged envelope – but of course that probably only happens if the Queen has invited one. Anyway, it popped into my Inbox, and was from my publisher, Iain Dale of Biteback Publishing. He founded the Paddy Power Political Book Awards last year (before I was published) and so being a Biteback author, though not political, I was invited to attend.

What a fantastic evening! The awards were held at the British Film Institute IMAX just below Waterloo Bridge. The taxi couldn’t take me right to the door, so I stumbled along in highish heels down the walkway under the bridge and over the pedestrian road and through the glazed doors of the cinema. I was warmly welcomed with a glass of (proper) champagne and directed up to a very large room where hundreds of people had already gathered.

Suzanne

Suzanne Sangster, Biteback PR

The noise level almost knocked me backwards. At first, I couldn’t make out anyone. People were standing practically shoulder to shoulder, and everyone seemed to know everyone. I walked round the room three times trying to spot my host, Iain, but although he usually stands out, being very tall, I couldn’t see him or any other Biteback members of staff.

I noticed a pretty blonde girl standing at the edge of the room with her drink and went up to her. We got chatting, and guess what? She was a writer from my favourite magazine, The Lady. She’s taken my card and is hopeful that my book Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business might tie in with an appropriate feature coming out soon.

440px-Widdebookclub_(cropped)MaryBeardI hobnobbed with Ann Widdecombe and Mary Beard which was very exciting, and then my editor introduced me to an agent who’s read the first three chapters of my novel and has asked for the full manuscript. She was absolutely charming. I’d love her to represent me. We had a really nice chat, though she’s not yet got round to reading the rest of my novel, what with the London Book Fair looming. She’s promised to do so as soon as she can, but at least I’ve met her in person – always a Very Good Thing.

Michael-DobbsThe awards, in several categories, were very exciting, and one of my favourite authors, Michael Dobbs, won the political fiction book of the year. We had a chat afterwards and I reminded him that he’d given a talk at my club, the University Women’s Club, and he’d signed his latest book at the time for me. He was very pleased when I told him I’ve had a book published since then. I gave him a bookmark which has the same blurb on the back as the actual book, and was thrilled when he read it, then put in his pocket. Another customer?

Two minutes later a gorgeous-looking woman came and chatted to me. She led me to the bar where delicious bowls of food were set out, and as we were tucking in I found out she is a journalist, presenter and interviewer. She was fascinated with my story when I sold my estate agency business to the wrong buyers. She kept introducing me to minor politicians (at least, I’d never heard of them) and telling them about me. I wanted to giggle as their eyes glazed over. Most politicians are not one scrap interested in business, but that didn’t deter her. She said I should be on Woman’s Hour and all sorts of business programmes, and she’s going to try to do something to get me some publicity, and suggested we keep in touch. I shall, don’t worry! When I got home and went on to her website I nearly fainted. She’s a real high flyer, and very much respected in the news world, both nationally and internationally.

champagne‘More champagne, madam?’ asked the waiter. ‘Oh, yes, please!’

Oh, I nearly forgot. I came away with a goody bag containing two of the shortlisted books, a tiny bottle of gin, and a pair of bright rainbow coloured shoelaces from Paddy Power himself!

All right, maybe nothing will come of any of all this, but it was certainly fun meeting such an interesting and diverse group of people, and you never know…

Book Launch at Waterstones – Tuesday 16th April 2013!

champagneIt’s been rather exciting since Tuesday when my book Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business was published by Biteback Publishing. I’ve had several editors of local newspapers and magazines ring me saying they wanted to interview me or print extracts from the book. That’s the easy bit – answering questions and deciding what extracts would be suitable for them.

The nerve-wracking bit is the book launch.  It’s to be held at my local branch of Waterstones on Tuesday, 16th April at 7pm. Tickets are apparently flying out of the door so I’ll be bringing gallons of pink champagne and red wine and soft drinks – yes, so far, so good. I’ve asked lots of family and friends, ex-colleagues in the estate agency business who I haven’t seen for decades, present staff of the new estate agency business, along with my co-director, and hopefully some members of the public off the street, so to speak.

It will be great to see so many friends again, and reminisce about the ‘good old days’. Still, so far, so good. But when 7.15 comes around, the Waterstones staff will announce it’s time to give my half-hour talk. That’s when my heart will start to pound, my stomach will start doing cartwheels, and my brain will start to pack up.

I read somewhere that many surveys have been carried out asking people how they feel about giving talks. Apparently, ‘death’ is at the top of the list! People would rather die than stand up and give a talk. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it is nerve-wracking – until you get started. Once I begin I’m fine, secretly enjoying the attention. And it’s brilliant when you make ‘em laugh with your incredible wit. But my fear is that my mind will go blank. Of course, that’s what everyone fears. That they’ll look stupid. Actually, it doesn’t bother me to look stupid – it happens too often for me to take much notice – but I really want to get across certain points, and I pride myself on not reading from the script. But I do rely on my handful of little cards with prompts, in case I veer off course or forget entirely what I’m on about.

So please think of me this coming Tuesday evening, and raise a glass to all authors who have finally got themselves ‘in print’, bringing upon themselves this stressful situation. Another glass of champagne, please.

PS I’ll let you know how it goes and maybe even post a few photographs.

Publication Day! Tuesday 9th April

Seller Beware_smWhen Iain Dale, the publisher of Biteback Publishing said, way back in October, that he wanted to publish my non-fiction manuscript Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business, April seemed a long way away. I knew I was very lucky that I’d found the perfect publisher so quickly, and that Iain had given me a publishing date only six months away, as usually it’s more like a year before it becomes a precious book.

The weeks and months from October to April slid by in what’s called ‘life’, sometimes dragging, sometimes flying. I’m looking after my estranged husband who has undergone major surgery and is now having chemotherapy. Having a man in my house where I’ve lived alone for the last 20 years is quite a shock, let alone in a new role of carer. However, it’s not been as bad as I’d feared, as he’s got a positive attitude and is quite a grateful patient most of the time. If he’s not acting grateful I don’t hesitate to remind him to become so!

But if I hadn’t had the book to look forward to being published, getting stuck into the final polish after Sam Carter, my lovely editor, advised me on a few minor points, and the excitement of looking at the book cover, ordering bookmarks, a banner, arranging book launches/talks in Tunbridge Wells and London, and a myriad other things to do, I would have gone cuckoo feeling trapped in my own house.

Sometimes I’ve managed to get away for a day, or an evening. I think it’s important for carers to try to get away on a regular basis. I always come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle my nursing role again.

Publication day was last Tuesday (9 April) and I decided to slip away to London and stay overnight at my club in Mayfair, the University Women’s Club, to celebrate, even if I had to down a couple of glasses of bubbly on my own. I just wanted to feel it was a special day. Luckily, I have a sister who lives close by and she said she would give my husband his supper and keep an eye on him.

At the Club the Events Manager, Lorraine Carroll, introduced me to a new member, an American woman called Monica, who was waiting for her friend, Jenny, also an American. They were both career women and married to Englishmen, so the UK was their home. What delightful companions they were. They insisted I join them for dinner. The Club excelled itself and the bubbly, followed by a good white wine, flowed as easily as the conversation. I really enjoyed it as they had made it feel so special. I ended up nviting them to my launch party at the Club on the 30th April, and they said they couldn’t wait to read the book.  We’ve all promised to keep in touch. Jenny mentioned a close friend, an American called Chris, who is a literary agent and works in New York. He could come in useful for my future novels…