Category Archives: Siren Stories

The Blue Unicorn Print Dress

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

 

My little girl has always been good at putting things back in shops.  She’ll find things she wants or likes and I tell her no so she puts them back on the shelf and we move on.  I’ve never had a lot of money as a parent, and I’ve always been cautious with money, so she’s never become accustomed to getting treats.

I’m proud of that quality in her.  I’m proud that she doesn’t mind that most of her clothes are second hand, that she doesn’t tantrum for toys in shops, that she doesn’t feel entitled.  It’s a good quality in her and it makes parenting her easier, because she throws plenty of challenges at me in other places.

Walking into town recently we passed a little boutiquey dress shop.  In the window was a simple blue tea dress with a small print of unicorns with rainbow hair.  Miss Rose adores anything rainbow.  She’s obsessed with rainbows.  Se wants everything to be rainbow colours.  Her next biggest obsession is My Little Ponies and unicorns.  She spotted this dress and fell in love.

J.J. Barnes, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Lilly Prospero, Mummy Blog, Parenting Blog, Writer, WRiting blog

Photo Credit Kaboom Pics

Obviously I told her no.  I’ve not shopped in a boutique in my life and I certainly can’t afford to right now.  Plus she doesn’t need a new dress.  Plus it was teenager sized not four year old sized.  With her usual good grace she accepted it and we continued.  She didn’t cry or tantrum, she didn’t fuss, but she didn’t forget.  She has talked about the blue unicorn print dress every day since.

I work really hard.  I put as many hours as I physically and mentally can into my work.  I write, I blog, I promote, I network.  I take hours out from my family so I can work and my daughters have to accept that quite often mummy is there but not there.  I’m with them but I’m working.  I carry a lot of guilt for that but I know it’s for them.  They’re my motivation.

If I succeed and I sell enough books and I am able to financially support us properly, I want them to have a home with their own bedrooms.  And I want to decorate Rose’s with rainbows.  I don’t want to worry about the bills coming out, I don’t want to cry if the lawn mower breaks.  I want to buy cheese off the counter not in Value plastic wrap.

I want to buy Rose the blue unicorn print dress.

Not because I want her to lose her humility.  I wouldn’t ever raise her to be spoiled and entitled, to feel she gets everything she wants the moment she wants it, because I don’t believe in that kind of parenting anyway.  But because she’s a good girl.  She’s a good girl and her mummy works hard and she never complains.  And sometimes it’s nice to get a treat.

Jonathan told me yesterday I’m the most determined person he’s ever met and I understand what he means.  I’ve been working towards this goal, writing and making a living from that writing, for my entire life.  I’ve been discouraged and disheartened, I’ve felt like a failure, I’ve been told to give up but I’ve never stopped.  Some say determined, others say pig headed.

Why do I do it?  Partly because I love it with all my heart.  It’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do and it’s all I’m really good at.  I want it intensely and I’m willing to work for it.

J.J. Barnes, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Lilly Prospero, Sirens Launch, Siren Stories

J.J. Barnes

But mostly now it’s because of my children.  Because they deserve it.  They deserve to be inspired by my achievements, to benefit from the stability and comfort that could come from the money I earn, and because dammit my little girl deserves that dress.

By the time she’s grown enough that it will fit I want to be earning enough that I can go into that boutique and buy it for her.  Wrap it up in tissue paper, put it in a rainbow bag, and give it to her for a gift.  To tell her thank you for being so good, thank you for not fussing or whinging about how much I work, thank you for believing in me.  Thank you for being my reason to live when I felt so low, thank you for being my strength when I was afraid, thank you for loving me with such intense purity.

Thank you, Miss Rose, thank you.  You deserve that blue unicorn print dress for all that you are, all that you do.  And I promise you mummy is working every day as hard as I can to learn and improve and achieve until finally I’ll be able to buy it for you.  To prove that it’s all been worth it.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

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Don’t Believe Me Just Watch

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Everyone comments on the similarities my daughters share with other blood relatives (and in some cases none blood relatives).  My youngest daughter looks just like her father, and smiles like her uncle Chris.  My oldest daughter looks a lot like my brother and has a generosity of spirit like my mum.  They have attributes like lots of people around them, but the one thing they both share with me is a pig headed, dogged, stubborn determination.  If they want to do something they will do it.

This morning Miss Rose wanted to write Grandma.  She has been practicing her writing, her pen grip, forming her letters, and because her Grandma was coming to visit she wanted to write it perfectly as a gift.  So we started.

The first effort her G went a little bit loopy.  The second she got the D the wrong way around.  A few had the A go a bit wiggly and sometimes it simply was too long for the page.  She wouldn’t stop.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More Blog, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit Greyer Baby

“Again” she’d say.

Time and time again she wrote it out.  Page after page of practice letters, errors, mistakes.  She wrote it and wrote it and wrote it until finally she had written grandma in her very best letters and she was thrilled.  She had done it and she had done it to the best of her ability and she had worked tirelessly until she achieved it.  Failing didn’t put her off.  Mistakes didn’t stop her.

At the same time, Baby Boo was forcing herself to climb a chair over and over again.  She wanted to stand and she was grabbing the chair, dragging herself to her feet, then letting go and tumbling backwards.  She landed on her bottom repeatedly; she landed heavily and cried, then she got back up.  She landed with a roll, flipped herself back over and headed straight for the chair.

Miss Rose walked and talked early because the dogged determination she shows with her writing is what she showed for her baby skills.  “You can’t understand me?  I’m going to make new noises until I learn which ones communicate.”  She wanted to walk because she knew she’d reach things and places more successfully if she wasn’t on her knees, so she did it time and time again until she got there.

I had this theory that because younger siblings get their older siblings to do everything for them that they don’t need to push themselves.  Certainly I’ve seen this a lot, they get there but don’t push because they don’t need to.  Baby Boo is bucking that trend hard.  Hold her hands and she walks, let her go and she’ll stand for as long as she can then falls then tries again.  She is nine months and she’s well on her way.

This pig headed stubbornness is what lead me to work so hard on Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit.   I wrote it, it was wrong.  I wrote it again, it was still wrong.  I knew what I wanted to do, I knew what I wanted to achieve, and when I didn’t manage it I just did it again.  I kept standing up every time I landed with a bump.  I kept writing it every time a letter went a bit too loopy.  Write, edit, write, edit, rewrite, re-edit.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Lilly Prospero

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit by J.J. Barne

That said, if it’s something I’m not interested in I don’t.  I wouldn’t have pushed and pushed myself to become a physicist or mathematician, I wouldn’t have worked so tirelessly to be a doctor or nurse or artist or dancer.  I will give up if it’s something I don’t believe in, something I don’t want.

Being a novelist is what I wanted.  Standing and walking is what Boo wants.  Writing is what Rose wants.  And tells us we can’t do it?  Sorry, but no.

Writing a book is a long shot.  Most people want to, few manage.  Those who do manage rarely manage to be read and their books sit on their laptops being ignored by the world.  Don’t bother working for that when it’s not going to achieve anything was the recommendation of many.  You won’t get there.  It won’t be you.

Don’t believe me?  Just watch.

Boo will be walking.  Rose will be writing.  I recognise that grit in their teeth, that look in their eyes.

My girls are stubborn like me, and it’s a trait that can make us hard to live with and impossible to argue with.  But dammit it makes us tireless in our pursuits.  We can’t be convinced not to do something we believe we can do.  We fail time and time again and we keep going.  All three of us have goals and that stubbornness is coming into it’s own.

We will achieve it.  We will get there.  We’ll be walking, writing and succeeding before you know it.

Don’t believe me?  Just watch.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

8 Things I Learned From My Book Party

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I attended my very first book release party on Tuesday.  Not just any book release party, the book release party for my own book.

As well as food and drink, laughter and fun, books being signed and photos being taken, there are things that I learned.

1. Getting glammed up is fun.

J.J. Barnes, Sirens Launch, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic RabbitI work from home as I write for a living.  I don’t go out much because I’m a tired mum.  When I do go out it’s usually for a curry.  Getting glamorous isn’t my natural state, at least not anymore.  When I was younger it was, but those days are long gone.

At 4PM, Miss Rose and I had appointments at the salon to get our hair done for the party so we could be at our most glamorous.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Sirens Launch, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit

Miss Rose had requested Rainbow Hair so we went armed with a box of hair chalks and my goodness she looked incredible.

For me I simply said “I’m not glamorous… but I want to be!”

My head is not used to be primped at and pulled around so it was an odd experience but one that resulted in some gorgeous hair full of golden butterflies that Lilly Prospero herself would be proud of.J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Sirens Launch, Rose and Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit

When I got home and did my make up, got the girls into their new dresses and me into mine, I actually felt pretty fabulous.  I admired myself.  I looked nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start making all this effort normally, leggings and slippers is something I am very comfortable with as a fashion choice, but every so often it’s fun to feel glamorous.

2. I am not a natural party animal.

In the build up to the party I was frantically busy.  Media had to be alerted, food had to be chosen, decorations organised.  There were meetings to meet at, interviews to conduct, invitations to send.  The build up I felt quite natural at, I felt quite confident.  Even on the day I felt alright, getting ready to leave was fun.  But then it was actually time to go.

Driving my children and Jonathan McKinney to The Swan Hotel in Stafford, where the event was being held, was one of the worst driving experiences of my life.  I was physically shaking.  I felt sick.  My eyes hurt, my head hurt.  My hairdo felt too tight, my dress felt too restrictive, I struggled to breathe.  I wanted to go home.

Most people headed to the most important party of their lives that they’ve been working so hard towards would feel like Jonathan McKinney felt; excited and happy.  Me?  No.  I felt like I was dying.

Jon was calming and gentle.  Focus on one thing at a time, he said.  All I had to do at that moment was drive us to The Swan.  It’s a drive I’d done loads of times, a drive I know really well.  That was all that I was doing.  Just focus on that.

3.  Our products are bloody brilliant!

It’s easy to get anxious about what it is you’re offering the world when it’s about to be presented on such a grand scale.  What if the books are rubbish?  What if the merchandise is crap?J.J. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master Enchantress

As we posed in front of our book covers, smiling as people snapped various pictures of us, I realised that actually these books are fantastic!  People there were fans, people who’d read one or both books, and loved them enough to come and celebrate them with us and tell newbies all about them.

It was an odd surge in confidence.  One I greatly needed.  I smiled and I actually felt quite confident for the first time that evening!J.J. Barnes. Jonathan McKinney, Sirens Launch, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master Enchantress

Our books looked good on the shelves around the room, the posters celebrating our books and quotes from inside looked brilliant.  The Siren Stories mugs put out as gifts for the guests looked beautiful and the whole room was looking ready to do it’s job.

4. Our family are so very proud.

My parents, his parents, my grandparents, and his brother all came.  Family showed up from miles away to support us.J.J. BArnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit  They were genuinely proud.

Jonathan McKinney and I both come from successful families.  Our brothers are all in careers where people are able to go “wow” and “ooh” when our parents talk about their accomplishments.  Until now we have been unpublished struggling writers, and none of that gives the required “ooh”.

It hasn’t stopped our families being proud, indeed my mum and dad have found reasons to brag about me my entire life, even when I’ve seen nothing there worth bragging about, they have always found something.  And I’m a major screw up so they’ve had to be damn determined at times.  But bless them, no matter what, they’ve always succeeded.

At this party I finally felt that their pride was justified.  That my mum’s smiling face as she posed for photos with me was deserved.  Sure, we’re not hugely successful yet and our debut novels are mostly unknown, but they’re there.  We’ve achieved something huge.  My mum can hold her head high now when people ask how I’m doing, and she can brag about more than my ability to eat an entire 15″ pizza alone in one sitting.

Our parents have published authors for children.  They can be proud of us.  And they are.

5. High heels are the invention of the devil.

I used to go out dancing in high heels until 4 in the morning.  I used to wear high heels to work in an office.  I used to wear high heels just for the fun of it because they’re so pretty.  I own a collection of high heels so beautiful and sky scraping that Carrie Bradshaw would be proud.

I wore some comparatively low high heels to the party.  Black, sparkly, gorgeous.  They went perfectly with my dress.

One blister, one agonising ingrowing toenail, and one twisted ankle later I furiously removed the stupid things and stuffed them under a chair.  Evil.

6. Working Mums are always on mum duty.

Miss Rose is usually asleep between 6 and 6.30 every night.  She gets tired and she asks for bed.  She thrives on routine and structure, her stories and sleep being an essential part of the day she looks forward to.  She never asks to stay up late.

Adrenaline carried her far.  We arrived at 6, the party started at 7.  As things were set up she and Z charged around excitedly, posed for family photos, and played with the toys they had brought.  As people arrived she was admired by strangers, cuddled by friends and family.  She had been looking forward to this party for weeks, telling everyone she knew about it, and thrilled to finally be there.

At half past 8 she crashed and she crashed hard.

Grandma was deployed to step into the breach and get her home for a Grandma sleepover.  But getting her out to the car involved her screaming hysterically, begging not leave me, and being carried out of the party so I could hold her in my lap and calm her down as she desperately sobbed and begged me to go with her.

Then there was Baby Boo.  Throughout the evening I was stopping to give her cuddles and the occasional breastfeed, but she was, for the most part, remarkably contented being handed between her nanny and her grandma and various family and friends.  She had photos, ate spring rolls, and generally loved every moment.

Then we went live on Facebook to announce the winner of a signed copy of Emily The Master Enchantress.

Then she started to scream.

If you check out the Siren Stories page and watch our video, you’ll hear Boo in the background, then witness me disappear as soon as Jonathan starts signing to book, and return moments later with a newly calmed Boo in my arms.

I spent most of the rest of the party sitting down, cradling her and feeding her.  She had reached her limits too but, unlike Miss Rose, couldn’t be whisked away by Grandma.

7. Despite my fear, the party was a success.

As I looked around the room and snapped photos for social media, I realised something.  Everyone was smiling.

JJ. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master EnchantressJonathan chatted to fans and friends with his trademark amiable smile, easy and engaging conversation, and generosity of spirit.  Everywhere I looked there were smiles and enthusiasm.

The food was good, and it was eaten enthusiastically.  The waiters carrying around drinks were friendly and charming, the drinks were delicious.

Everywhere I went people greeted me warmly, asked me to sign books and pose for photos.  Nobody looked bored or like they wished they hadn’t come.J.J. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Siren Stories, Rose and Mum And More, Lilly PRospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The MasterEnchantress

Proof reader Zoe was laughing her head off with her friends and taking selfies.  Illustrator Sarah had managed to get there despite recent knee surgery and was drinking and chatting with a huge smile on her face.  Friends were meeting for the first time and sharing thoughts on our books, bits that they liked most, parts that brought them to tears.

Despite my greatest fears, despite my head being full of fireworks of panic I was desperately trying to ignore, the party was a success.

8. I’m going to have to do it all again.

The releases of Lilly Prospero And The Mermaid’s Curse by me, and The Fundamental Miri Mnene by Jonathan McKinney will coincide again, and so forth will come another release party.

Will I be so nervous next time?

Probabably.

Let’s be honest, the likelihood is I’ll never get full used to this.  My natural habitat is that of a hermit, locked up quietly in a room with a laptop, some jazz music playing quietly in the background, and a steaming cup of coffee at my side.

But perhaps somewhere beneath the fear of impending vomit will be the memory of the success of this party.  The memory that fans, old and new, have wanted to gather to celebrate this occasion.  The knowledge that the positivity we received has not gone away.

Next time will be another fabulous dress, another spread of delicious food, and another party full of books to be signed.

But for now I’ll ride high on the experience of last time, and put the fact I’ve got to go through it all again out of my mind.  Because it was brilliant.  And it’s not every day you get to attend a party celebrating your first novel.

I’ll never get a first book party again, I’ll never write a first novel again.  So I’m glad this one happened with such a lovely evening to commemorate it.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

One Sleep ‘Til A Book Party

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Tomorrow is the most important party of my career… of my life?

Tomorrow evening at 7pm is the official Sirens Launch release party for my first novel, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, and I have to not screw up.  That means I have to speak to strangers, I have to not spill on my dress, I have to engage with media in a mature and capable manner.  I have to not fall asleep in a corner.

I have to, in short, be a grown up.

And I am terrified.

I’m really proud of my book and honestly I could talk about it for hours.  I love the characters with a passion.  Lilly and Saffron are two girls I have created and known for longer than my own children and I adore them.  I see them through danger, through heartache, through adventure and pain.  I have created an entire world for them to exist in.  I know where they’ve been and I know where they’re going.  Writing their lives is my life and I love it.  I could talk about it for hours… over coffee, wearing pyjamas, and with my best friends.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Lilly Prospero

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit by J.J. Barne

But this party is different.  This party is a chance to give my career a boost in the direction I so desperately want it to go!  To get attention on my work that introduces these characters I know and love to a wider audience, that brings my stories to people who will find them as captivating as they’re intended to be.

For the last few weeks we’ve been working towards this.  We’ve been having meetings, organising decorations, talking food and drinks, working out guest lists and inviting people.  We’ve made new contacts, and engaged with old ones.  Day in day out for weeks I’ve been using any spare time to work towards this party and now it is nearly here.

Will it go well?  Will it help me?  Will I sell more books?  Afterall, selling books is the whole point…  Sell more books, write more books.  That’s my long term goal and this party should help that happen.

If I don’t monumentally screw it up by being as completely hopeless as I feel I am inside.

Wish me luck.  Everything will be under the #SirensLaunch hashtag and at some point we should be going live on Facebook so have a look out for that!

Siren Stories, Sirens Launch, #sirenslaunch, J.J. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly PRospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master Enchantress, The Schildmaids Saga

#SirensLaunch

In theory, on Wednesday, I’ll be able to rest… at least a little bit.  I still have kids afterall…

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Ambition, Life Goals and Aiming High

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

When I first held a copy of the book I wrote in my hands I cried.  I ran my hands over the cover, I smelled inside the pages, I flicked through it to read random paragraphs, and I cried.  I looked at my name on the cover, the character’s name in the title, and I cried.

My entire life I dreamed this could happen.  To write and release a book was my ambition from the moment I could hold a pen.  As a little girl I’d draw comic books of The Bean People and stick them together with tape.  As a young teen I’d write short stories in a spiral bound notebook.  As an adult I’ve written novels on my computer, most of which went unfinished, many of which will never see the light of day… one of which I pinned my hopes and dreams to.  I have dreamed that one day I would get to hold a book with my name on and know that I had finally done it.

J.J. Barnes, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly Prospero

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit by J.J. Barnes

I am thirty one years old and this is the culmination of a life of dreaming and working and hoping and longing and, I am certain, worthy of the tears.  I have absolutely no shame about how much I sobbed.  And I have no embarrassment about how proud of myself I am.  So many people told me it would never happen.  So many people believed I was wasting my time.  So many times I doubted myself.  But even when I told myself I should stop I couldn’t.

There were a few times in my life when I tried to stop working for this.  I went for “real jobs” and tried to put my creativity and passion into other areas, worked towards new goals, and I’m glad I did because for one thing I had to earn money to live on, and for another I learned a lot both in life experiences and about myself.  But always. always… the dream to write was there and write I did.

The basic concept for Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit came to me way back in 2010.  I wanted to write a simple children’s picture book about animals that came to life when a little girl drew them.  I named her Lily (originally one L) because I love the name, and Prospero because of the magical reference to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a favourite by a master.  And it was done.

Much like Bernard and Manny in Black Books attempting to write a simple children’s tale, it started to spiral out of control.  The ideas in my head grew and grew suddenly it was too big.  It wasn’t a picture book, it wasn’t about a very little girl.  It couldn’t be.  There was too much.  I had to scrap the concept entirely and let my brain canon fire ideas out unrestrained by my initial concept and soon it grew into what it is now.  It became the first novel in a series.  It became filled with moral dilemmas, heartache, laughter and drama.  It became something I’m incredibly proud of.

From the early days of my original idea, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit was written and rewritten several times until it finally flowered as the book it is now.

So now what?

I’ve done it.  I’ve released a book that is being bought and read and is residing on bookcases alongside the writers I’ve grown up admiring.

So now?  More.

J.J. Barnes, The Lilly Prospero Series, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero, Rose And Mum And More Blog, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit Pexels

I want to work harder, write more.  This is just the beginning.  My ambitions are not limited to the one book and I am determined to do more.  I have so many stories in me I want to tell.  I want to work hard.  I want to inspire my daughters and show them that hard work is recognised, and that they can achieve their dreams if they put in the time and effort.  I want to show them that their mother is more than what people thought I’d be.  When I was a single, unemployed mother, living alone with no career and no relationship, people thought I was a waste and a disappointment.  That is not who I am.  I want my daughters to be proud of me.  I want my family to be proud of me.

I want to write.  I want to write and write and write.  I want my heroines to have so many more adventures of the sort  you could only dream of, and I want to guide them as they go.  I want to have my books made into films or TV shows and reach a whole new audience.  I want teenage girls to see Lilly Prospero and her friends having dangerous adventures that don’t depend on boys protecting them or focus on their relationships or appearances.  I want to inspire the next generation of writers.

I want to write.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

 

Working Mums… Kudos

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Today I experienced on a microscopic scale what “normal” working mums experience daily.

Usually my working life sees me sitting at home in my pyjamas working on my laptop whilst my oldest daughter crashes around the place and my baby daughter breastfeeds.  Now don’t get me wrong, it brings with it it’s own unique set of challenges.  Balancing working and child raising whilst trying to do both at the same time, in the same house, day in day out is uniquely complex and I’ve written before about struggling with it.  I never that my work or my family have had the attention they deserve.  However, I also don’t feel that I’m not getting enough time in the company of my children.  Other than the three hours a day Miss Rose is at nursery, we are pretty much glued to one another.

Today I had a meeting about my book, and that meant I was leaving my girls with their grandma.  Miss Rose adores her grandma and has had time with her on many occasions, but my baby girl has barely been parted from me sine she was born seven months ago, almost to the day.  The only times we’ve been separated have, indeed, been when I’ve been going in the shower or doing Miss Rose’s bedtime.

Bracing myself to leave my baby girl even in the most trusted hands of her grandmother was something that I had to process.  And this was just for a one off, I won’t be doing it regularly!

Then there was the challenge of actually getting ready.

Firstly, I’m a different body size and shape to last time I had to wear anything remotely smart.  I’m queen of leggings and stretchy waist bands, comfy t-shirts and hoodies.  I’m slouchy boots and fluffy socks.  Before Baby Boo was born I was a trim size 8, but having a second baby since then has left me larger with boobs and a bum that weren’t there before, but a wardrobe full of clothes designed for someone lacking in those areas.

Whilst Miss Rose bounced on my bed, pulled the sweaters out from my wardrobe, packed numerous soft toys into her backpack, and sang to me, I tried on so many different outfits trying to cobble together something that was both smart… and I could pull up past my thighs.  I got stuck in a rather fetching emerald green dress.  I nearly broke the zipper on a black swing skirt.  I has my breasts crushed into my rib cage by a nice shirt.  Looking longingly at my drawer that is entirely dedicated to the black stretchy leggings I usually dedicate my life to, I eventually squished myself into a skirt that was both a respectable length and I could get over my bottom, and found a smart sweater that I could breathe in that didn’t say GEEK across the front in huge letters.  Huzzah!

Then I had to attempt footwear.  I have no worn high heels in many months.  Indeed, well over a year.  Well over a year and a half.  I put some on.  Then I fell over.  Miss Rose thought it was hysterically, whilst I cursed about my painful ankle.  Then I reminded myself that I am a proud feminist.  That thinking I should be crippling myself in high heels was just my inner victim of the patriarchy and I am stronger than that.  I can rise above it.

I compromised on a pair of very low heeled Mary Janes, primarily because all my super comfy flats are not in the least bit smart, mostly scuffed, and often with sequins.  My feminist self begrudingly accepted that whilst I don’t agree in the least bit with wearing heels being essential for being professional, I was at least able to comfortably walk and did look smart.  As beautiful as the patent stilettos may be, they’re the work of the devil himself.

Whilst Baby Boo howled that she needed to be fed, Miss Rose crashed around in her underwear apparently oblivious to my shrieks of “ROSE PUT YOUR LEGGINGS ON!”, and I discovered a possible mascara allergy as I blinked my burning eyes frantically in the mirror, I eventually managed to get myself dressed, brushed, and enough make up on that my perpetual exhaustion was masked.

As I sat on the sofa giving Baby Boo a last breastfeed before her stay with grandma I realised just how challenging this must be day to day for “real” working mums.  I thought about my own mother who did this every single day from when I was six weeks old.  I thought about my step son’s mother who is doing this every day now.  I have the luxury of this being an occasional novelty for a short period of time, indeed I was back with her two hours after leaving her, and I still found it challenging on both an emotional and a practical level.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit Gris Guerra

Working mothers of the world I doth my cap to you.  What you do is not easy.  Whether you do it because you love your job and don’t want to give it up, or because you simply have no other choice financially, I know it isn’t easy.  I know that as a half stay at home half working mum I have this amalgamation of both worlds and I am incredibly fortunate.  I know that doing a job I love as much as I do makes me one of the most blessed women in the world.  I know that saying goodbye to my baby girl for the first time was incredibly difficult and I don’t have to do it again for… well.. ages!  I know that you have to do it constantly and, no matter why you’re going out to work, that is something you have to face in a way I do not.

Stay at home mothers are so often pitted against working mothers in a “who is mother superior?” way.  Is the mum at home dedicating her life to her children better?  Is the mum going to work providing for and inspiring her family better?

My limited experience tells me the competition is bullshit.  I was fried and anxious by a toe dipping into the world of the working mother.  I am fried and anxious by my regular half and half life.  Basically being a mum is frying and exhausting, let’s be honest.  But to working mums I say kudos.  I don’t normally taste your world and it sure is hard.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Attention

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

We all want attention.  I don’t write blog posts and books because I want to be ignored.  I don’t post photographs to Instagram because I don’t want them seen.  I don’t engage on Twitter because I want my opinion to be secret.  I want attention from my friends, my family, and the world at large.  I want attention.

As an adult this generally isn’t seen as a bad thing.  For my blogs and books it’s wanting recognition for my work.  For photos it’s just sharing my life with those who are in it.  I live a very isolated life in many ways.  I spend more time in my house than anyone else and I rarely socialise.  Social media interactions give me the attention I crave and nobody comes to any harm.

Children, however, do not have that outlet.  And children, especially Miss Rose, crave attention above all other things.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More Blog, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit Pezibear

I spend a lot of time alone with my daughters, and a lot of that time is spent working.  If I’m not doing housework I’m working on my computer.  I’m updating websites, I’m writing books, I’m posting blogs.  I’m publicizing, creating and editing.  I have more work to do than can be limited to the three hours she’s at nursery in the afternoons, and so a lot of time my attention has to be taken from her.

Of course, I could sacrifice my career and focus my attention on her far more, and honestly I sometimes feel like I should.  She will be small for such a very short amount of time and I have the rest of my life in which to work.  But now is the time.  I am on a moving train I have worked my entire life to climb on, my books are coming out now, my blog is being read now, this is the time.  If I walk away I will be sacrificing everything I’ve worked for and what message is that to send to her?  I’ll be unhappy because I’ll have lost my dream, she’ll be taught that a woman shouldn’t work.

Miss Rose craves attention and I have to remind myself that if she’s being good, she needs the attention otherwise she’ll start misbehaving to get it.

“Mummy can you play jigsaws with me?” she’ll ask as she sits quietly at my feet playing with puzzles and causing no chaos.

“I’m just updating this, darling, I can’t right now.”

“Mummy would you like a pizza?” she’ll ask me as she plays with her toy food, going shopping by herself and building picnics for her My Little Ponies.

“That’s lovely sweetheart, just set it down next to me and I’ll eat it in a minute.”

She’s being so good, so lovely, and I’m using that time to work without problems because she’s looking after herself.

But you know the moment she starts knocking things down, or having a strop, my attention is straight on her.  If she throws something, I’m there.  If she stamps her foot and shouts, I’m there.

If she hurts herself, I’m there.

“She’s just doing it for attention,” I’ll be told about various things.  “Ignore her.”

And in some instances I completely agreeing that ignoring is the best policy.  Trying to incite attention through negative behaviour I think should be ignored or it feeds the beast.  It teaches her that if she is bad, she gets the attention she craves, and that is a step onto a completely unhealthy spiral that I don’t want to push her down.

But that has to mean good behaviour is rewarded WITH attention or she’s just abandoned to loneliness whilst surrounded by family.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly Prospero, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Mummy Blog, Parenting Blog

Photo Credit Skitter Photos

She needs attention.  She deserves attention.  Attention isn’t a bad thing.  Getting attention from those who love you gives you feeling of satisfaction and peace, the knowledge that you’re valid and wanted and appreciated, that your presence brings happiness and you matter.  Attention means you’re important.  And there is nowhere in the world you should feel more important than in your own home with your own family.  And she really is important.

So now I have to make sure I find the balance.

I will not begrudge her attention.  If she’s singing and dancing for me I don’t care if it’s just for attention, she deserves that attention.  Why shouldn’t she have it?  If she offers me a pizza I will take it and I will fake eat it with enthusiasm.  I don’t care if I’m in the middle of something seriously important, it takes 30 seconds and it matters to her.  She doesn’t have important work stuff that matters, she has her games that matter.  And it probably matters on an equal level in her brain to my work does in my own.  I should respect that.

But I also need to ensure I give myself the time I need to work or I’ll never have the success I crave so desperately.  I’ll never achieve what I’ve worked so hard to achieve.

This is a balancing act that is filled with potential pain and frustration on all sides and I’m on a tightrope that I keep slipping on.  But does anybody ever really get this perfectly right?  Does anybody ever give their children the exact right amount of attention that they’re happy but not spoiled, and they feel important but learn to occupy themselves?  Does any working parent ever feel they have a work/family balance at exactly the right place where they’re successful and fulfilled in business but not at some expense to their family?

Is it even possible?

My daughters matter to me more than anything or anyone in the entire world, but my career comes a close second and I cannot pretend that it isn’t important.  I cannot pretend that my happiness is intrinsically intertwined with my career.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I love my daughters but I love myself too.

So onward I forge.  Attention should be given to my children, they need it and they deserve it.  But attention needs to go to myself and my work too, because I need and deserve that.

I just hope they know they’re loved.  I hope they know they matter.  I hope it’s worth it.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!