Imagine (a post for #worldautismawarenessday)

Imagine if you were five years old at a birthday party where the noise and the colours and the feelings were all kaleidoscoping into a swirl that made you feel sick and you couldn’t understand why everyone kept looming their huge faces right into yours and saying “Isn’t this fun? Aren’t you having fun?”.

Imagine if your happy time was hours alone quietly playing with your toy horses, drawing pictures of them, reading books about them, soaking up information quite happily until you were an encyclopaedia of knowledge.

Imagine if you met a schoolfriend in the park when you were with your mum, but you couldn’t say hello because you felt physically sick at the idea of getting the words out, even though they walked past you and you could see them catch your eye and frown slightly, as if they couldn’t quite work out why you wouldn’t speak.

Imagine if you learned to read so early and so quickly that teachers wouldn’t believe you so you learned to fake-stumble over words in school reading sessions while devouring adult books at home.

Imagine if you were sitting in the classroom, and the teacher told you she didn’t want to hear a single word from anyone for half an hour, so you sat there, watching the clock, legs crossed, knowing that you mustn’t interrupt her – until it was too late and the classroom was full of horrified amusement because you were sitting there with a puddle under your chair.

Imagine if you were trying and trying to concentrate at school, but the sound of the clock ticking was as loud to you as the teacher’s voice and the scratching of the pens and the breathing of the person next to you, so you had to work so hard to focus that it made you feel dizzy and every day you went home with a migraine.

Imagine if standing in line for school lunches every day, and the jostling and the noise made you want to cry because it was just too much, and then you went inside and the food all tasted of hot metal and washing up liquid and it made you want to throw up.

Imagine if you didn’t know where to eat at university because you couldn’t work out how the cafeteria operated so you bought expensive sandwiches from the shop every day, running down your meagre student budget which you couldn’t manage anyway because paperwork and bills didn’t make sense.

Imagine if you could hardly ever organise yourself to get to lectures, and when you did get there, you found it almost impossible to concentrate on what the lecturer was saying so you shut down, exhausted, and fell asleep.

Imagine if you spun your way through twentysomething, blocking out the world with whatever you could because when you did the noise and chaos stopped for a while.

Imagine second guessing every social interaction, watching it through a lens, checking your behaviour is okay and your conversation makes sense and your body language is matching your words. And imagine never quite knowing if someone is joking or not so you have to ask, even though you know asking means you’re not playing the game properly.

Imagine walking out of job after job – even though you were promoted, even though they thought you were talented and had potential – because pretending to cope was so hard that you’d have nothing left and you’d lie on the bed crying all night at the prospect of having to go to work.

Imagine having your first child and realising oh, this is it. You can do this. And imagine reading everything you can on parenting and being so terrified that you’ll break a rule and somehow break your child that fifteen months later, broken yourself, you walk into the doctors’ surgery and say you can’t do it any more.

Imagine the love for this solemn, owl-eyed child, who doesn’t like to be held when she’s crying and hasn’t read the same parenting rulebook. Imagine watching her at music class, refusing to join in, realising she is hating every second, crying at the noise and the lights and the chaos. Imagine wishing desperately that she wasn’t like you – that she was child in the middle of the room, dancing happily, instead of sitting in the corner, sullenly clacking on the same blue castanet every Wednesday.

Imagine discovering that there’s a thing out there that describes your child’s behaviour perfectly, and imagine the nursery school notice her behaviour and say look, we think there’s a thing here. And imagine realising when you start reading (and when you start reading, just like always, you read everything) that this thing describes you, too. But then the health visitor shakes her head and says no, look, she doesn’t line up her toys and anyway, it affects boys, not girls.

Imagine years of teaching your child everything you’ve learned about how to be a person. About what’s expected, how to behave. Imagine dealing with the exhausted after-school meltdowns, and going in and fighting your corner and saying look, this child isn’t ever going to tick the people pleasing boxes, because she’s just like me.

Imagine, years later, a teacher finally listens. And you’re told that yes, your child has a thing, and then someone mentions gently – you do realise that you tick all the boxes for that thing, too?

Imagine having a job where you spend all day inside someone else’s head, using your powers of observation and your empathy – yes, empathy, the thing that you’re told you can’t have – to create stories which make people laugh and cry. Imagine being able to stand in front of huge groups of people at conferences and talk, and have people come up afterwards and say “thank you for making me feel like I could do it, too”.

Imagine if the payoff for doing those talks was reaching the end of the day so tired that the noises and the people and the chatter all blurred into one until you felt like you were inside a bell jar, mouthing hopelessly.

Imagine if, despite telling your daughter that she should be proud – fiercely proud – of who she is, of her sense of humour and her kindness and her passion and her loyalty and all the things that make her amazing, you were nervous of saying it out loud for yourself.

Imagine that.

I am a mother, I am a writer, I am a friend. I make people laugh. I am kind. I am compassionate. I am bright. I am creative. I am a lot of things.

I am autistic.

 

the state of grace - rachael lucas

I wrote the above when I first received my diagnosis of autism. Three years on, I’ve written the book I wished I’d had as a teenager – one where I might recognise myself. I wrote it for anyone who ever felt like the world didn’t quite make sense.

The State of Grace is published by Macmillan Children’s Books on the 6th of April.

Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

A sweetly funny look at first love, family and faking it told from the perspective of a heroine with Asperger’s and her own particular way of looking at the world. (Red Magazine Online)

This brilliant coming of age novel for young adults is set to become a classic. (AGA Magazine)

Buy here:

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Hive

Book Depository (with free world wide delivery)

 

Wildflower Bay is here!

If you enjoyed Sealed with a Kiss I think you’ll love this…

wildflower bay rachael lucas

This little island has some big secrets…

Isla’s got her dream job as head stylist at the most exclusive salon in Edinburgh. The fact that she’s been so single-minded in her career that she’s forgotten to have a life has completely passed her by – until disaster strikes.

Out of options, she heads to the remote island of Auchenmor to help out her aunt who is in desperate need of an extra pair of scissors at her salon.

A native to the island, Finn is thirty-five and reality has just hit him hard. His best friends are about to have a baby and everything is changing. When into his life walks Isla…

You can find it in ASDA, WHSmith, Waterstones, and all good bookshops.

You can also order it from Amazon or if you’re outside the UK order from Book Depository with FREE WORLDWIDE DELIVERY which is pretty blooming clever.

I’m off on holiday for a couple of weeks but I’ll be back afterwards with some very exciting new book news, and lots of photos from our trip. Happy reading!

five things you’ll discover on a writing retreat

five reasons you should go on a writing retreat

I know what you’re thinking. The idea of a writing retreat seems ludicrously self-indulgent. (Why would you need to escape when you’ve got a perfectly good study at home? I know this, because I thought it too.)

 

Then I started noticing that writing friends were sneaking off and posting little comments on Twitter saying how many gloriously un-interrupted words they were getting done, and I began to  wonder if I was missing a trick.

writing retreat pen and paper

The thing is, there’s the school run, and the trips to the post office, and the neighbours having their roof re-tiled, and – before you know it the day is over and all you’ve done is rearrange your desk.  So what exactly can a writing retreat do for you?

1. Discipline

The first writing retreat I took was a bit of a shock to the system. I arrived in a daze with a heap of post-it notes, a pack of brand new Sharpies, scissors and sellotape (I don’t know what I was planning to do either – origami, perhaps?)

I pootled around and went for a walk, and was shocked to discover that everyone else had written thousands of words by lunch. So I downloaded the Self Control app and remembered that the secret to a first draft is much like running a marathon.  One word in front of another until you hit The End.

It’s not always easy. It’s not often easy, in fact. One of the first lessons I learned about writing books was that the moments when your fingers are flying on the keyboard are the unusual ones. Some days getting the words out is so painful that you’re completely exhausted by the time you give up. But when you’re on a retreat – and you know you’re paying for the privilege – it focuses the mind and that discipline can really help you get going on a new book, or get you over the tricky middle bit. (You know, the bit you forgot to plan where all your characters start misbehaving. That’s not just me, is it?)

writing retreat

2. Competition (and camaraderie)

I wrote the first chunk of Wildflower Bay in a sprawling manor house in the Somerset Hills, cheered on by a group of writing friends (Cesca Major, Kat Black, Katy Colins, Holly Martin, Helen Redfern and Emily Kerr) without whom I’d probably still be stuck on chapter one. Bolstered by delicious cooking, and inspired by the daily word races we had, between us we wrote tens of thousands of words in just five days.

My love of writing retreats was cemented. I also laughed until I ached – which is definitely the advantage of a group retreat. But when the bell rang to signal the beginning of our hour long word race, the house fell into silence and we all typed like the wind, desperate to be the winner. Word races are a brilliant way to chase off the self-doubt and get your subconscious working. If you don’t know what to write, just leave it and move on to the next scene. The whole point of a first draft is to tell yourself the story, and you can’t work on it until those words are actually on the page…

You don’t need to be on a group retreat to do a word race, of course. You can do it when you’re alone – just set a timer and give yourself a daily target, or shout out on social media. You’ll find word racers willing to join in with you at any time of day or night – have a look at #wordrace on Twitter for inspiration.

3. Location

writing retreat rachael lucas

You’d think following a gorgeous five days in Somerset I’d have been at my desk feeling inspired and writing like a fiend, but one child off school sick followed another, and then there was school sports day, and then the cavity wall insulation (think: sound of a dentist drill but making the walls of the house vibrate) and the first draft deadline was looming.

So off I went, alone, to the Island of Bute for a few days. It’s inspiration for the fictional island of Auchenmor where both Sealed with a Kiss and Wildflower Bay are set so it was just what I needed. I didn’t just write in the time I was there – I took photographs and scribbled notes, listened to the people who would be living in the background of my story, soaked up the island atmosphere, and imagined how it would feel for Isla, the main character of Wildflower Bay, to be trapped there. She’s sent to help out her aunt for a couple of months and island life is not her thing at all. She loves the anonymity of the city, so I wandered around thinking about, putting myself in Isla’s shoes.

wildflower bay

4. Pacing

(Yourself, that is, not your prose.)

Writing daily without interruption gives you an idea of exactly how many words a day you can write before your brain gives up. I have writing friends who are pleased if they manage 1000 a day, and others who prefer to work in furious bursts and aren’t happy unless they get over 8000 done. Most of us lie somewhere in between, and having the time to focus on your writing and nothing else gives you a good baseline which – theoretically – you can then take back home with you.

I say theoretically because I’m still struggling to get into a consistent daily writing routine and I have a very bad binge writing habit…

writing retreats gladstones library

Luckily I live just an hour from Gladstone’s Library which means I can sneak off for day-long writing retreats. I get there at 9am, work until lunch, and write, surrounded by books, long into the evening before driving home in the dark. Often the driving time helps me sort out plot tangles for the next day, which is a plus.

5. Education (or inspiration – or writerly gossip)

Having decided I was definitely more productive when writing alone, I didn’t expect to get much done when I headed to Gladstone’s Library with fellow Prime Writers. But in between coffee and long chats over dinner, delicious chocolate and the occasional glass of red, I managed to write over 30,000 words in five days. (It’s amazing what a tight deadline can do for inspiration.)

Writing with friends, talking about the things we all have in common (we all have habits – my characters are always ‘laying a hand on an arm’ in a comforting manner, and it turns out we ALL pull faces our characters are making when we’re typing) is a real help. And an evening talking about books and writing with other people who are just as obsessed is the best fuel for a long writing day.

Good luck, and happy writing!

This little island has some big secrets…

My new book Wildflower Bay is released in three parts as an eBook serial, before being published by Pan Macmillan as a paperback on August 11th.

You can download Part One FREE here.

Sign up below for my occasional email notes and you’ll have the chance to win a super early signed copy of Wildflower Bay later this month. You’ll also be first to hear about courses I’m offering, and Write for Joy retreats which will be coming soon. I promise not to fill your inbox with rubbish or share your details, and you can escape any time.

Unsubscribe. I mean unsubscribe. Ahem.


five reasons you should go on a writing retreat

the art of doing nothing 

I’m actually not very good at doing nothing. When I finished writing Wildflower Bay I accidentally wrote the young adult novel I’ve been trying to write for ages  and so I’ve only just come up for air. 

You might remember I said in January that I was going to do gentle pottering. Well, I’m starting now. Honestly. 

  

And if that looks like research for another book, that because it – shh, no. It’s just reading. Tiny little bit of research, perhaps. But nice-book-smelling, lovely-dusty-old-pages research. With tea. 

  
And with photographs of gorgeously skeletal hydrangea flowers which I’ve picked from the garden. The new leaves are appearing, and I’m wondering what’ll happen if I plant the now-shooting bulbs which are still sitting in nets in the garage. Reports to follow. (To think this used to be a gardening blog. Ahem.)

  
I’ve discovered that Mabel’s favourite place is the beach so we’ve been spending loads of time there. The tide goes out so far here that you can walk and walk and still not see the sea – and you can collect coal, too, because it washes up with the tide. Someone told me it comes from old ships which were sunk out to sea, but I’ve also heard it comes from a seam out at sea. 

  
And while I miss the rolling countryside of our old village, after almost five years we’re definitely used to seaside life. It’s lovely at this time of year, when the sun shines but the beach is still deserted. 

  
And when you can see skies like this it definitely makes up for the lack of hills. Getting up early in the morning is worth it when you see the world before anyone else does. The only minor detail is that Mabel would happily go for about fifteen walks a day and still want more…

Wildflower Bay, my next book, will be available exclusively as a three part ebook before the paperback publication on the 11th of August. You can pre-order part one FREE right now by clicking this image!

rachael lucas wildflower bay part one

a walk by the sea

I used to blog about walks and stuff and then I stopped, because I got so caught up in writing and work and things.
But I’ve decided 2016 is the year of gentle pottering and peace, of exploring where we live and baking bread and sorting out the garden (oh the poor, neglected garden) and of finding a bit of balance. 

(And writing – but this year it’ll be a more relaxed sort of writing, because I’m saying it here and making it so. No more hurtling up to deadlines in a panic… I’m going to try and be a bit more mindful in my writing as well as my everyday life.)

Armed with my new iPhone 6, which is having to take the place of my much-lamented dead digital camera – I’m going to start blogging here a bit more, as I’ve been promising for ages. 

So hello. Happy new year. Here are some photos of our adventures by the sea with Mabel.

   
    
    
   

untold stories

So what does a writer do when everything around her is breaking apart, but the stories aren’t hers to tell?

This year I returned from a magazine writing assignment to South America to discover that my uncle’s cancer had returned, and this time it wasn’t going away. Mum’s brother Stewart didn’t have any children, so he treasured his role as surrogate dad to us – and we absolutely adored him.

He’d recently moved back to the North West to be near us all, so Mum managed her house move from Buckingham to Southport whilst nursing him, my aunt came over from Australia for three months, and we made our way through it. There’s a lot of waiting with cancer. Lots of laughter. And tears, lots of tears. But even at the very end, more laughter because that’s what keeps our family going.

And (whilst this is happening, and I’m writing my next book, and publicising Coming Up Roses) in the midst of this some more stuff happens. My sister discovers she has a degenerative illness and our little family is spun around again.

I’ve always processed my thoughts in words, but where usually I’d have rambled away on Twitter or on my Facebook page instead I stared into space a lot. I walked our new puppy and sat on benches watching the world go by. I completed my reiki training – I’m now a Master Teacher – and read nothing but non fiction. I treasured time with my family.

lavender

So what have I learned? That – taking a leaf from my sister, who remains resolutely anti-social (media, not people) – a quiet life is a good one. That Instagram is a lovely way to keep in touch but without the whirl and combat of twitter. That nothing happens if you don’t know how your book is doing in the charts.

That – and I know it’s a cliche, but I speak as someone who has lost two of my closest friends, my father, my uncle and my grandmother in the last nine years – this life is precious and to be treasured.

That human connection is important – that the laptop can stay closed for weeks on end and nothing happens.

That I have more space for writing and thinking if I let myself be in silence. And that the responsibility for finding that balance in a world where we’re expected to be on all the time lies with me.

So there we are. That’s where I’ve been and that’s what’s been happening. I’m making my way back now, but bit quieter than before – you’ll probably find me on instagram sharing photographs more than anything else. Hopefully I’ll see you there. x

Coming Up Roses – my new book is here!

Coming Up Roses has arrived…

buy now!
coming up roses by rachael lucas

Coming Up Roses is here! This week has been amazing – I got home from the school run (no glamorous launch parties here, just the usual early morning chaos) to find that #cominguproses was a trending topic on Twitter on release day. There has been lots of excitement all over the from Pan Macmillan Towers (where you can actually try out the first chapter of Coming Up Roses by visiting their site)

to authors like Rowan Coleman, Miranda Dickinson, and Jill Mansell (which is a pretty amazing sentence to write) all cheering on Coming Up Roses which was brilliant. The blogging community has also been its usual supportive self and I’ve had so many lovely reviews, all of which I’ll be linking to over the next few weeks.

There’s loads going on over the next week or two – I’ve got signings coming up at Broadhursts in Southport and a brilliant new books-and-coffee shop called Write Blend in Waterloo if you fancy coming along. You can also find me at Blogtacular on the 13th of June – there are just a handful of tickets left!

You can find reviews, interviews, and Q&A features on the brilliant blogs below as part of the Coming Up Roses promotional whirl – and you can download Coming Up Roses now whilst it’s available at the promotional price of just £1.89  – which is less than the cost of a cup of coffee!
coming up roses rachael lucas author southport

we’re on a break

Dear The Internet,

This can’t go on. It’s not you, it’s me. If you weren’t so beguiling, so 24-hours-a-day entertaining. I know, you don’t mean to be, but it’s just the way your pixels are arranged.

But the thing is, I’ve got books to write. Two of them. And every time I remove myself from one of your social media sites, I find myself becoming increasingly fond of another one. So no more Twitter means oh hello there, Facebook.

So I’m calling it quits for the next few weeks. I’ll be around on Instagram in a few weeks time because I’m on an exciting mission for a week (more about that later) but other than that I think we need some time apart. We’ve been together almost twenty years. You can see other people if you like. I certainly hope to. And I’m going to swim and run and think and read and hopefully write quite a lot.

I’ll see you soon.