Category Archives: Books

How to get back in gear (If only I knew!)

IMG_3871I’ve been rewriting and editing my three (rather long) novels which make up my trilogy: The Voyagers, for many months now. I actually thoroughly enjoy this process, as it’s usually easier to correct something than to create something, but it does spoil you for not having to worry about new characters and plots, and writing fresh scenes.

Yesterday, I looked at a brief outline of a possible novel I jotted down several months ago. It gave me about a third of a story and I have no idea of how the sub plot would work, nor any idea of the ending. And I truly don’t remember the working title I gave it. When did that happen? Do other writers look at their work and wonder how the words got there?

I haven’t looked at this outline for months but when I read it I thought maybe – it was just possible – that it had legs. But here I am today, having done a massive clear out of my office (it needs one more session for me to get really exuberant) and any burst of creative story-telling energy has left me sitting here thinking, ‘Am I excited enough by this story to spend a year or so on it?’

The answer is, ‘I think I could be if I just started writing the damn thing.’ Well, I do have a first sentence, but the style is more rom-com than mystery saga, which is what I always seem to be drawn to. Shall I risk a change of genre and see whether it might develop into a rom-com after all? Or change that first, rather good, sentence?

Answers, please, on a postcard!

Being a poor judge of character could leave you in ruins!

Denise_questioningHow good are you at judging character? Most people think they’re pretty good. I thought I was. How wrong can you be? I’d gone on first impressions instead of looking behind the person, their body language, what they didn’t say. It’s important to make an accurate judgment in our daily lives as we interact with people by making new friends, employing new staff hoping they live up to their CVs working with our colleagues, and buying products and services. Weighing up people is crucial when you come to sell your business. If you choose the wrong buyer it can have a devastating effect on the rest of your life.

Den photo2_sm
You may be fantastic at running your business, having built up a successful enterprise that is in good shape, and are now ready to find the right buyer with the right offer. Before you go any further, STOP! You need to read my own nightmare journey when I came to put my chain of estate agents on to the market. Yes, I went through all the right channels such as putting my precious baby with a business agent, and using a well-respected firm of solicitors, but if you read my true story in Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business, you’ll see this is not enough, and that even the professionals can let you down big time. And this is before you have a prospective buyer sitting in front of you.

That’s where your antennae must be at their most alert. The prospective buyer can tell you anything from exaggerating their experience in the area you work in, misleading you by their financial standing, to relating a full pack of exquisite lies. I was duped by all of these. So was my original solicitor, and even the bank manager who financed them.

Seller Beware


You can read the whole miserable story (interspersed with plenty of humour) of how I was left in financial ruin, not to mention a reputation shot to pieces. There’s a practical checklist at the end of each chapter warning you what to do and what not to do in Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business.

I would also love to know if anyone reading this blog has been conned in a way that has actually affected their lives. Please share it with me. Somehow it helps to know I’m not alone!


Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business is currently on special offer £5.00 plus post and packing. Offer includes signed copy and special bookmark.
Amazon UK:
For all other countries, please leave a contact email in the comments and we will send you a tailored price quotation.

What others have said…
“…well written and eminently readable. I’d recommend it to any businessperson who is embarking on any significant action in which they have no prior experience.”

“It is not very often that EAT raves about a book – but this one really is a page-turning must-have for estate agents.”

“If you own your own business you should definitely read this book before even thinking of selling it.”


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 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…

Giving’s the word on World Book Night

WBNWBN copyI’m flattered and delighted to be told by World Book Night that I have been chosen as one of the givers on 23rdApril.

Last year I did this for the first time. It was exciting picking up the box of books from Tunbridge Wells library. The one I’d chosen was JoJo Moyes: Me Before You. I’d read it only because JoJo had given a talk at the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). It wouldn’t normally be a book I would’ve picked up, but her talk was so fascinating I decided to buy it. What an amazing story. I couldn’t help admiring the author for tackling such a difficult subject and producing a novel that is not at all depressing – in fact, quite the opposite. (Hope I’ve whetted your curiosity and you rush straight out to get it!)

Because I enjoyed reading something ‘different’ I wanted to pass this particular title on to other people. Me Before You is not a thick book so I felt it wouldn’t be too daunting for those who may not have read a book in a long time, or who never read, full stop. Wheeling my trolleyload of books through my village on World Book Night (it didn’t have to be night so I plumped for the afternoon), I met both strangers and people I knew.

One or two refused point-blank to accept a book but most people’s imaginations were caught as they’d not heard of World Book Night. Young, harassed-looking mothers gripping their toddlers’ hands and pushing prams with dangling shopping bags told me they never had time to read, but that the book looked interesting and they promised to make a special effort. The funniest encounter was two grinning builders who came down from their scaffolding and grabbed a copy each.

I offered one to my postman who shook his head in wonder as he popped the book under his arm and turned back down my drive. Two days later a relief postman knocked on my door.
‘I just want to thank you for the book,’ he said.
‘What book?’ I was puzzled.
‘The one you gave my colleague. He doesn’t read. He’s passed it on to me. I usually only read the newspaper but I’m really looking forward to reading a book for a change. This one looks intriguing.’

And that, I believe, is what World Book Night is all about.

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…

A case of pre-launch nerves

Photo0004I’m excited and nervous. It’s only a week to Publication Day, 9th April (I’ve put this in capitals on purpose) of my book Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business.

Yesterday, I went into Waterstones to take in a new colour poster about my talk on the 16th April. But I forgot the damned posters!  That was my whole point about going in. Grrrrr.

Anyway, I had a nice chat with one of the booksellers.
He said, ‘Good news.  The books are in already.  But we were a bit surprised as we can’t sell them yet.’
‘Well, it’s not officially published until 9th April,’ I told him.
‘We can usually start selling books a couple of weeks before publication date,’ he said, ‘but your publishers have put an embargo on Seller Beware until Thursday.’
‘What exactly does that mean?’
‘If anyone comes in to buy the book before Thursday we’re not allowed to sell it to them,’ he said, adding, ‘This happens occasionally, but only if a national paper is going to serialise it or the authors happen to be Dan Brown or JK Rowling.’
‘Well, isn’t it nice that those two are in such good company?’ I laughed.

That’s probably the only time my name will be linked to the likes of bestsellers Dan Brown and JK Rowling, but I couldn’t help giving a little hop and a skip when I got outside the shop.