Tag Archives: Am Writing

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!

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!

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!

 

Rose’s Blod

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 work is almost all done at a computer.  I write my blog and my books, work on marketing and promotion, from my laptop at home whilst I am raising my children.  I work between activities with my children and jobs around the house, starting whenever I get up, usually around 5.   Because of this Miss Rose is used to seeing me sitting at the computer.

“What are you writing?” she’ll ask me.

When she turns on her Kindle and sees my books on the bookshelf she gets thrilled, often opening them and looking at the words and telling me I wrote it.  When I tell her I’m writing a blog she asks what it’s about, always grinning ear to ear if I say it’s one about her.

She started “writing” in her My Little Pony notebook.  Scribbled swirls and spikes with different coloured pens she declares are chapters of her book or articles in her “blod”.  I love it.  She’s emulating me, which is adorable, but mostly because this is where it starts.  This is where the love of storytelling and words begins and she’s discovering it now.

Today she told me she wants to write a real blog.  She wanted a blog on the computer like my blog.  She wanted to write “Rose’s Blod”.

Whilst she was at nursery I set it up.  She loves rainbows more than anything so I made her a logo with rainbow coloured roses.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose's Blod,, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Rose’s Blod

I named it Rose’s Blod for her because that’s what she wanted to call it.  Her little speech impediment is so much part of how she speaks that it made sense that if she’s going to be speaking through the computer then that should be shown.  Plus it’s bloody adorable.  I set it up through my own website and made an “About” page to explain what would be going on.

Then I waited until she got home and I showed her.  She was ecstatic.

The first post I typed and she dictated.  She told a story about butterflies.  We added photos and then posted it.  Her very first blog post.  A story she shared with the world.

Almost immediately a friend posted a comment, complimenting her words.

That was it.  She was bitten by the bug.

I am so happy for her.  Writing, both fiction and non fiction, gives me so much happiness and a purpose in life like no other.  If she gets that, feels that, finds that, then she has found joy.  A writer’s life is special.  Miss Rose is special.

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!