Tag Archives: Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit

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!

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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!

 

Not Enough Hours!

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.

You know that old expression, “there aren’t enough hours in the day”?  It’s true.  There aren’t.

Last night I had a bit of a mini meltdown.  I confessed that I feel like I’m doing a horrible job at all the things I’m trying to do, and I know I’m not alone.  I know so many of us feel that way because there’s an expression that sums it up so well.

So what am I struggling with?  I have three jobs, effectively, and I feel like each warrants full time attention and none get it, and all three suffer for it.

My first job is mother to Miss Rose, and she is a little human who wants A LOT of attention.  She deserves my focus, my dedicated time.  She deserves to do painting, and crafting, and cooking.  She deserves to go for walks, to play imagination games, to climb.

My second is as a writer.  My book Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit is now available to buy on Amazon and I honestly have never been so excited in my life.  But I need to promote it, I need to build the website that goes with it, I need to work on the sequel.  I need to organise publicity opportunities and engage with my audience.  Writing it a notoriously difficult career to succeed in and it requires hard work and dedication.  It requires full time input.

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

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit

My third is my home.  My house that could be so beautiful if I was able to dedicate the hours required to keep it so.  To fix things that break, to clean things as intensely as they deserve cleaning.  To tidy and vacuum and organise.  The house where my child lives, my step child lives, and The Boy and I live.  It’s our safety zone, our nest.  And it needs maintenance.

I cannot put the hours each deserve into each.  I just can’t.  Now is my chance to get my book successful before the baby comes and I’m even more tied up and exhausted.  Now is the time to invest in Miss Rose because she’s struggling with the changes in her life and needs me to give her focus to help keep her settled.  And my home NEEDS to be maintained or we’ll have no clothes, no dishes to eat off, and grime building up.  If the house is a state then the children will suffer and my writing will suffer because I cannot focus in a mess.

So what do I do?

I don’t know!  I am struggling constantly with this internal conflict of giving three very worthy and deserving things the focus they require.

Miss Rose seems like the obvious priority.  I could let the book slide and neglect my career opportunity to give her what she needs from me and keep the house in shape whilst she’s at nursery.  I could, but then am I not in some way failing her?  If I give this up, let her see me fade because I’m not allowing myself to flourish as the person I have so longed to be, am I not teaching her not to bother following her dreams?  Am I teaching her that working hard and dedicating your life to something is irrelevant once you have children?  Am I telling her that I am a nothing, and that my only purpose is her, which means she’ll be carrying so much guilt when she eventually wants to fly the nest because I’ll be left with nothing?

So what do I do?

Currently I give each a half assed commitment.  This morning I washed the dishes at 6 then made her breakfast at 630.  Then did some laundry, sorted out the recycling, and spent some time with The Boy (who I’ve not even mentioned the neglect he suffers!!) then made Miss Rose some snacks after he’d gone to work.  Then we spent some time playing with her rocket before I sorted laundry ready to go upstairs to put away later, and put more washing on at 745.  Then at 8 I started tidying up and cleaning.  At 830 we vacuumed, and I involved Miss Rose as she loves vacuuming, so she got some fun cleaning with mummy time.  It’s now 9.  Miss Rose is watching TV and playing with her Legos whilst I write my blog and work a bit on my laptop.

The day will continue much like this until I take her to nursery school when I’ll have three hours in which I can focus on getting the website completed ready to promote the book, before picking her up from nursery and dealing with the tiredness and clingyness before getting dinner ready for when The Boy and Z get home and the dinner and bedtime routine start, before we get the kids to sleep and I crash on the sofa no doubt to have another mini meltdown in The Boy’s arms before we watch a bit of TV and I crash into bed, ready to start the night shift.

I cannot give up my opportunity for my dream career.  I cannot give up giving my baby girl the time and attention she needs.  And I cannot afford yet to hire anyone to keep my house organised!

So what do I do?  Half ass everything, occasionally cry in the arms of The Boy, and do it all again tomorrow.  Because each and every job is worth it.  Each and every job deserves everything I’ve got to give it.  Each and every job is a big part of who I am and what makes me me.

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!