Tag Archives: Author

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!

 

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!

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!

A Storyteller’s Heart

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 was a little girl I favoured my own company, much as I do now.  I would spend hours constructing elaborate stories in my head, also much as I do now.  Only then I would act these tales out with my My Little Ponies, Sylvanian Families or Barbies, and now as an adult I write them down and pretend I’m a grown up by selling them as books.

I could play with anything, and I would always tell stories.  My grandmother on my father’s side had a set of plastic farm animals and I would be left to play with them whilst she pottered about the house.  And play I would, for as long as I was left.  My grandmother on my mother’s side was less well equipped for the intrusion of children and when she wanted to have a nap I was simply left sitting in her living room.  Whilst I am sure many children would cause havoc, raid the biscuit barrel and turn out the cupboards, I played with her pin cushion.  She would sleep through the afternoon whilst I quietly acted out scenarios with the pins, distinguishing them by the different shapes and colours of the glass pin heads.

Stories have, for as long as I remember, been intrinsic to my identity.  They shaped my life.  I learned from the stories of others; decided my take on moral issues, learned about my sense of self identity, and worked through fears reading the words of others.  I wrote them as soon as I was capable, tale after tale, pestering my mother to read yet another scribbled down story and tell me what she thought.  I have a storyteller’s heart.

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

Photo Credit Pexels

When we watched our children as tiny ones, we assumed that my step son Z would be the storyteller in the family.  Whereas Miss Rose’s attention span is fairly small when it comes to films, Z will sit and watch a film in it’s entirety without moving.  If we put on Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Z would pull up his little Batman chair, sit himself down, and stare in captivated silence.  Miss Rose would amble about watching it half heartedly, then declare she was bored and seek alternative stimulation in the form of building blocks, colouring or cars.  Z’s natural inclination towards fiction made us believe that if one of them were going to love stories, it would be him.

However, as they’ve grown something has happened.  Miss Rose has started telling stories.

She tips out her box of My Little Ponies and begins.  For ages she’ll sit on the floor chattering away to herself, using different voices, and tell tales of adventure and drama between the characters she’s created.  When she gets the blocks out she builds houses and palaces, then begins acting out disagreements between who gets to live in which house.  In the bath, which she has a collection of dinosaurs and plastic animals in, she will be happily occupied for two hours or more telling excited tales of adventures on the high sea.  She is completely absorbed by creating stories, completely dedicated to what happens.

Whilst she won’t sit for an entire movie, she loves episodes of her favourite TV shows to be on in the background of her games.  She absorbs story telling styles, learns about the characters and how they relate to one another, and then recreates unique tales of her own from what she’s taken on.

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

Photo Credit Pezibear

Watching her last night, lying on her tummy and playing out stories with her My Little Ponies whilst Z sat quietly and watched a Batman cartoon, I realised how much like me as a child she was.  I never sat and watched a film without moving, I always had something on the go.  Sometimes it was drawing, sometimes it was crafting, but often it was story telling myself.  The films or TV shows were backgrounds to the tales I was telling myself, and now Miss Rose is doing the same thing.

I discounted her as having the storyteller’s heart because she is too busy to watch the stories of others.  But that was foolish.  The story’s of others interest her enough for inspiration and entertainment, but not enough to be the focus of her life.  Telling her own stories, though, that will captivate her attention entirely.

How they love stories in their own unique, but equally dedicated way, is truly fascinating.  Z can quote films to absolute perfection.  He learns the songs and will perform them word perfectly.  He likes any role play games with the toys to be completely accurate and true to the original.  It is, I am told in fact, very similar to how his father was as a child.  Miss Rose makes up her own versions of songs, uses stories as inspiration but not script, and goes off book whenever it suits her story.  Both love stories, but, as ever, in completely different ways.

Will either follow us into the family business?  Will we see new stories coming out in the Augmented Universe with Rose or Z in the author’s name space?  Will Emily the Master Enchantress or Lilly Prospero one day meet one of their creations?

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

Photo credit Pexels

One thing’s for sure, if either does ever want to learn about writing stories they’ve got parents behind them who will show them the ropes with love and enthusiasm… we just have to try not to be obnoxiously pushy in that stage mum kinda way…

I’ve got to learn to say, “Yes darling, of course you can go into the sciences.  That’s a fantastically stable option that should guarantee you a lifetime of job security.”

And not add on, “But your heart will yearn for a life you could have had.  You will forever feel hollow for not creating new worlds to run through and explore.  You will feel alone because you won’t have created the most fascinating friends you could ever hope to meet.  And you will feel lost because you have not followed your heart down a path so full of amazement that you are surrounded each day with adventure and joy.  Become a storyteller, my love, and learn to feel a happiness that you’ve never before known, and that you never possibly could if you don’t.  Become a storyteller because it’s who you are.  Become a storyteller because it’s in your heart.”

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!

Barnes Classics – Little Red Riding Hood

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

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

Once upon a time, in a land far away from here, a little girl named Rebecca lived with her mother in a cottage at the edge of a forest.  Rebecca loved her mother very much, but she had a special place in her heart for her grandmother, who lived in a house on the other side of the forest.

One day, Rebecca’s grandmother came to visit and brought with her the most beautiful scarlet red riding cloak that Rebecca had ever seen.

“Is this for me?” Rebecca asked, gently stroking the thick, soft fabric.

“It is,” said her grandmother.  “I made it for you.”

Bending down, Rebecca’s grandmother wrapped the cloak around Rebecca’s shoulders, fixed the heavy brass clasp at her neck, then pulled the hood up over her head.  It was the most beautiful and warm thing Rebecca had ever owned.

Rebecca loved the cloak so much she wore it every single day, and soon the people in her village gave her the nickname ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.

One day Rebecca asked her mother if she could bake some cookies to take to her grandmother to say thank you for the cloak.

“Now Rebecca,” said her mother seriously as they loaded the freshly baked cookies into a large wicker basket.  “If you’re going to walk through the forest all alone you have to make me two promises.”

“Yes?” asked Rebecca as she pulled on her cloak and fastened the brass clasp at her neck.

Photo credit Dark Souls 1

Photo credit Dark Souls 1

“You must promise me that you won’t stray off the path,” said her mother.  “And you will not speak to any strangers.”

“I promise,” said Rebecca, pulling up her hood and picking up the wicker basket.  “I won’t leave the path and I won’t speak to any strangers.”

As Rebecca set off into the forest, her mother stood in the doorway of their cottage and waved goodbye.

The forest was beautiful.  The sunlight made the leaves overhead glow and the light breeze made the flowers on the side of the path dance.  Noticing the pinks and blues of the dancing flowers gave Rebecca an idea.  Her grandmother loved flowers; a big bunch would be the perfect thing to complete her thank you gift.

Stepping off the path, Rebecca went in search of the prettiest flowers in the forest to make the perfect gift for her grandmother.

As she walked she gathered flowers as she went, and soon she started to hear a chop, chop, chop noise coming from deeper in the forest.  Being curious by nature, Rebecca went in search of where the sound was coming from and soon came across the village woodsman, chopping logs with a big, heavy axe.

“Hello there, Little Red Riding Hood,” he greeted her.  “And what are you doing alone in the forest?”

“I’m taking cookies to my grandmother,” explained Rebecca, holding the wicker basket up.  “And I wanted to take her a bunch of flowers as well.”

“Do you have far to go?” asked the woodsman, setting his axe down and leaning on it.

“No,” said Rebecca.  “She lives in the house at the end of the path.  I’ll be there soon.”

 

***

What Rebecca and the woodsman didn’t know was that the Big, Bad Wolf was listening to their conversation.

The Big, Bad Wolf was terrified of the woodsman and his big, heavy axe, so liked to keep an eye on him from the trees to make sure he couldn’t sneak up on him when he wasn’t expecting it.

The Big, Bad, Wolf was hungry and when he saw Little Red Riding Hood he licked his lips.

Photo credit Coco Parisienne

Photo credit Coco Parisienne

“The house at the end of the path, eh?” he said to himself thoughtfully.  The woodsman might make it impossible for him to safely hunt in the forest, but the little girl gave him an idea and he hurried away, a wicked grin on his face.

When he reached the house at the end of the path, with a wicked grin on his face, the Big, Bad Wolf knocked with a rat-a-tat-tat on the door with his paw.

“Is that you, Little Red Riding Hood?” came a voice, and a grey haired woman pulled the door open.

“No!” barked the wolf,  and before the she could push the door closed again, the Big, Bad Wolf barged his way in, opened his huge mouth, and swallowed the woman whole with a big gulp.

After burping as loudly as he could, the Big, Bad Wolf took in his surroundings, then headed for the bedroom with a wicked plan forming in his mind.

 

***

 

After she had gathered a beautiful bunch of flowers, Rebecca waved goodbye to the woodsman who had returned to chopping, and set off down the path towards her grandmother’s house.

When she reached the house she knocked on the door with a soft rat-a-tat-tat and waited.

When there was no answer she tried the door and found it unlocked, then pushing it open she called out, “Granny?  Are you home?”

“I’m in my bedroom, my dear,” came a voice from upstairs, but it sounded strange.

“Are you alright, Granny?” Rebecca called out anxiously.  “You don’t sound very well.”

“I have a bit of a sore throat so I’ve put myself to bed,” came the voice.  “Why don’t you come up and see me?  I’ve missed you terribly.”

Stepping into the house, Rebecca closed the door behind her.  She looked around and noticed one of her grandmother’s solid wooden chairs at the kitchen table had been tipped over.  Frowning, Rebecca carefully set it upright.

“Shall I bring up tea?” Rebecca called out, setting the basket of cookies and flowers down on the kitchen table as she noticed an empty mug and clean teaspoon next to the kettle.

“No, no,” came the voice from upstairs.  “Just come up here, Little Red Riding Hood.  I’m looking forward to… seeing you.”

Nervously, though she didn’t know why, Rebecca started to climb the stairs.  When she got to her grandmother’s bedroom she pushed the door open with a long, slow, creak.

The whole room was dark, the shutters on the window closed, and the curtains drawn.  In the bed she could see her grandmother lying with the duvet pulled up high and a nightcap pulled down low.

“Come closer,” came the hoarse voice.

Rebecca stepped closer, sniffing slightly as a funny smell crept to her nose.

“Closer,” said the voice.  “Closer.”

Rebecca stepped closer, and cautiously sat down in a chair beside the bed.

“Granny,” said Rebecca, squinting through the darkness, surprised by the huge, yellow eyes that were staring at her.  “What big eyes you have.”

“All the better to see you with, my dear.”

“And Granny,” said Rebecca, startled as she looked at her grandmother’s head.  “What big ears you have!”

“All the better to hear you with, my darling.”

As she leaned closer, peering through the darkness, Rebecca saw that the duvet had fallen slightly from her grandmother’s face.

“Granny,” she said, staring in horror as the hairs on her neck started to stand on end and her heart started to race.  “What big teeth you have…”

“All the better to EAT you with!” roared the Big, Bad Wolf, leaping up.

Rebecca screamed a loud, piercing scream and tried to run from the room, but the Big, Bad Wolf grabbed her, opened his mouth, and swallowed her whole.

 

***

 

As he was headed home for the day, the woodsman heard a terrified scream bursting from the house at the end of the path.

“Little Red Riding Hood!” he cried out, remembering that the little girl had been headed there.  “I’m coming!”

The woodsman burst through the unlocked door and noticed the basket of cookies and flowers sitting on the kitchen table.  His nose prickled; he recognised that smell.  The Big, Bad Wolf was here.

Racing up the stairs, his axe raised, the woodsman burst into the bedroom and saw the Big, Bad Wolf lying on the bed with a huge, full stomach.

Without hesitation, the woodsman swung his big, heavy axe and chopped off the wolf’s head before he could escape.

“Little Red Riding Hood!” he called out, are you in there?”

“Yes!” came the little girl’s voice as she climbed out of the wolf’s tummy.  “And so is my Granny!”

The woodsman set down his axe and helped the little girl and her grandmother climb out, then smiled as the two hugged one another tightly.

 

***

 

Downstairs, Rebecca’s granny turned on the kettle and set two more mugs out on the side.  “Tea?” she offered.

“Yes please, Granny,” said Rebecca,  “It’ll go perfectly with the cookies I made you.”

“Tea and cookies sounds wonderful,” said the woodsman.  “And may I just say, this new wolfskin rug really does finish this place off beautifully!”

 

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!