Category Archives: Juliet’s Story

‘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

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.

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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.

  

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Signing!

UWC team

The cake and champagne team

 

 

 

 

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

All in the name of research

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

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

Readers who swear they’re in your novel!

JulietcoverIt’s amazing how many times people ask me if I’ve put them in my novel. They look at me with real suspicion and even disbelief when I always answer: No!

Recently someone accused me of putting her in my latest novel to be published at the end of this month: Juliet’s Story, Book 2 of The Voyagers trilogy. She said, ‘You’ve based Juliet on me, haven’t you?’ Frankly, I was astounded. The woman in question is nothing at all like my heroine, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. They are in a different age group, and the opposite in height, weight, hair and eyes. Juliet runs her own business, and sails to Australia on a freighter – neither of which my friend would ever dream of doing.

smolking girlThen it hit me – they are both smokers! Except this person still continues to smoke and my heroine gives up quite near the beginning of the novel. But that’s such a small thing in common to assume I used her as a template for my heroine.

Someone else who I’ve known a very long time said that as a writer I ought to make up my characters and not base them on any real person. She said I should use my imagination! What on earth do writers do except use their imagination?

I tried to explain that as in the song from The Sound of Music, nothing comes from nothing. That we writers take bits and pieces from several people, consciously and sub-consciously, to make an original character. It might be something as subtle as a gesture. One of the passengers, Trevor, on Juliet’s freighter constantly rakes through his thinning curls; that was taken directly from one of my ex-employees, but this man’s personality was not like Trevor’s at all. Or I might come across someone with an unusual feature.

turquoise eyesA woman I know has stunning turquoise eyes – a colour I’ve never seen on anyone before – so guess what colour eyes my latest heroine has? Or I might ‘borrow’ someone’s hobby. I needed a ‘wind-down’ interest for Juliet, and so I have her making greetings cards. I wouldn’t have thought of this if a certain literary agent didn’t have the same hobby.

I guess the lesson learned is that non-writers have little concept of what it entails to write a novel. And thank goodness. There are enough authors in the market without millions more joining us!

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