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.

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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 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

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.

I’ve been on a couple of Mark Warner holidays before so it was a real treat to head back to Rhodes this September but this time with my reviewing hat on, and not a child in sight. If you’re looking for the technical details, the first place to go is the Mark Warner website

Below you can also check out the reviews from my fellow blogging girls who shared a gorgeous few days away – between us, you can get a pretty good picture of Mark Warner Levante and what you can expect from a Mark Warner holiday.

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As mum/stepmum to six children from 8-14, I’ve gathered a pretty good idea of what parents are looking for on a holiday, and there’s no getting away from the fact that Mark Warner have the family holiday experience covered.
You can fly from Manchester (with Jet2) or from Heathrow (with BA) and the flights are chartered, so from the start you’re straight into MW Mode which really does help, because when you’re juggling small, cross children after a flight it’s lovely to arrive and be swept by a cheery face onto the right coach (complete with seatbelts – that’s one of the things I look for) and driven to the resort.

Levante isn’t far from the airport and before you know it you’ve arrived at the hotel where you don’t even need to worry about your bags – you just hop off the bus, grab a drink (they’re waiting for you, which is always a plus) and they’re whisked off to your room. Sue, the resort manager, and her staff are there to welcome you and they will do ANYTHING they can to make sure you have a good time. If you’ve forgotten insect repellent, or you need a particular food or drink – she’ll get it for you. My previous two experiences on Mark Warner holidays were exactly the same – their ethos is based on making sure you have the best holiday you can and they really do everything to make it happen.

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We woke to the most beautiful sunrise over one of the five pools. I’d decided this trip was going to be as much about taking time to embrace the gorgeous atmosphere and scenery of Rhodes as it was about taking part in the activities – and there are loads of them – in Levante. I got up every morning at dawn and sat on the beach watching the sun rise before meeting the others for breakfast.

Breakfast was a huge buffet which catered for everyone – from a full English, to made-to-order waffles and pancakes (gluten free available, too) and a wide range of fresh fruit, pastries and continental breakfast. Coffee or tea and freshly squeezed orange juice are brought to your table, and there are high-chairs galore so no worrying about there not being enough to go round.

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The first morning I decided to give windsurfing a whirl.

You can kayak, paddle-board, windsurf and sail – all for free, with experienced staff happy to teach you how to handle your chosen vessel… well, theoretically. I was the worst windsurfer in the history of the world – after what felt like forever (with Lisa almost weeping with laughter) I almost managed to get my sail upright for a second before falling in for the 89th time.

In the end I lay on the board and had a lovely relaxing float – but I gave myself serious brownie points for trying. It also meant I felt completely justified in eating vast amounts at lunchtime. (My reputation as World Champion Feta Cheese Eater is now cemented.)

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You can also head off to sea for a turn on the inflatable sofa thingy (I’m sure it has a proper name) but I decided against that because I like my lunch to stay inside me once I’ve eaten it. Plus now I’m in my forties I’m allowed to send the young things off to have fun (whilst I read my book under a sun umbrella). Needless to say, this was the before photo. The after one was a bit more bedraggled…

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I stayed in a deluxe family suite which had a huge bathroom with a bath and separate shower (the rooms and bathrooms are very much five star standard and gorgeous). There was a separate sitting room with two sofas which could be turned into beds, complete with a television, perfect if you had children who wanted to get up at ridiculous o’clock and watch cartoons.
The bed was super king size, incredibly comfortable, and there were dressing gowns, slippers, all toiletries, and a little fridge. There’s also a safe, loads of storage space, another television, and the huge balcony you can see below – complete with a high, safe barrier (another thing on my holiday-with-children checklist).

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What you really notice at Levante is the space – the rooms are huge. The balconies are huge. There’s loads of paths all around the resort so you can wear out your toddlers before bedtime (assuming you’re not taking advantage of the famous Mark Warner evening childcare) and in the mornings I quite often met families pottering down to the beach with early-rising little ones before they headed up to breakfast.

If you need toys, flotation devices, baby equipment – the childcare staff are happy to lend you anything you need. You can read all about the childcare details here – but what I’ll say here is this: when I first went on a Mark Warner holiday it was as a very cautious young mother to a nearly-four year old and a toddler, and I’d never left them at all, but they had an amazing time, and when I got home I had friends stopping to tell me that I looked more rested than they’d seen me look in years. It’s bliss.

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You can borrow a mountain bike (free!) and take a trip round the island – on or off road. Or if you’re a tennis fan, there’s a purpose-built tennis centre boasting six Astroturf courts and you can either sign up for lessons with qualified coaches, or have a quick knockabout and then get down to the more serious business of… Pimm’s.

 

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There’s some beautiful countryside surrounding the resort and the grounds have both the ruins from a house from the Hellenic period and a Roman kiln which are mesmerising. I kept stopping to stand beside them and daydream about the people who’d lived there so long ago – one of the magical things about visiting Rhodes is the history which surrounds you.

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I had an amazing time – a perfect mix of relaxation (and making pebble cairns, which was a lovely way to spend time on the beach, in between mojitos, delicious meals, and trips to the spa) and activity, which is a pretty good advert for a holiday.
It’s a testament to how seriously Mark Warner take holidays that I managed to feel completely rested after our five day break.

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For more reviews and some other perspectives on our blogger trip to Mark Warner Levante resort in Rhodes, pop over to have a look at my fellow bloggers:

Kate
Rebecca
Emily
Victoria
Lisa
Alison
Carissa
Monika
Kara
Julie

Huge thanks to Emilia, Polly and Tim from Mark Warner, who made our trip a brilliant experience. Can’t wait to return to Levante…soon!

Don’t forget you can buy my first novel, Sealed with a Kiss onAmazon and you can order the sequel, full of Christmassy sparkle, Highland ponies, an out of control PR, and a wedding disaster in the making here: Sealed with a Christmas Kiss – only 59p for Kindle this week!.

Are you coming to Blogfest?
I’ll be there, talking on a round table about Blogging and Self-Esteem.
I’ll also be on a panel at St Albans Literary Festival on November 7th with Rowan Coleman, Liz Fraser, and Angela Clarke – which comes with champagne and cake which is always a plus in my book.

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Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? For that I blame the fact that I ended up slightly drowning in rewrites of my next book, which is out on the 21st of May. Turns out I’m not very good at just fixing this and that. I ended up pulling at the written equivalent of a loose thread and unravelling the whole jumper into a woolly mess and having to rewrite the WHOLE thing.

I could lie and say it was easy… but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done (and I’ve run a marathon, and had a 9lb+ baby at home with no pain relief, so I know lots about doing hard things, I think). I cried a lot. I threatened to give up writing. I contemplated breaking limbs or paying back my publishing advance. (Okay, I might be a bit of a drama queen…)

And then it all came together. I really love the story it became, thanks to my lovely agent Amanda and my equally lovely editor Caroline, both of whom could see the story that was lurking underneath, waiting to get out.

And so here we are: in May 2014, Coming Up Roses will be released to the world. Here’s the cover – isn’t it gorgeous?

Coming Up Roses Low Res

What’s it about? Well, here’s the official blurb:

 

Would-be gardening expert Daisy can’t believe her luck when her parents announce they’re off on a midlife crisis gap year, leaving her in charge of their gorgeous garden, much in need of her expert TLC. And coming just after a break up, some peace and quiet in the countryside is just what she needs. Only, village life turns out to be anything but – with nosey neighbours and greedy developers instantly stirring up trouble.

What Daisy really needs is a good friend, or two. So when she comes across Elaine and Jo, she’s relieved to have multiple shoulders to cry on. But her new friends are dealing with dramas of their own – a marriage in crisis, a family secret and managing the local gossips.

As Daisy wrestles the garden into something like beautiful order, can she get a grip on her new feelings for handsome Irish rogue George and stop her parents selling up to a developer?

 

You can already pre-order it here (or you can wait and buy a copy in the shops!)

So, having been invited by Club Med to experience #morehappiness at their gorgeous Agadir resort in Morocco, with the children safe back at home, we settled down for a week of relaxation.
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The accommodation was pretty, the rooms simply decorated in a Moroccan style and whilst they weren’t huge, you don’t spend a lot of time inside when there is so much to do both in the resort and in the local area.
There are gorgeous areas within the bar, and seating all around which had huge, velvety cushions and ornate Moroccan style decor (and Wifi, and of course unlimited coffee, which is a big selling point).
The staff at the bars and restaurants were really lovely – and all of them could speak English far better than my hopeless attempts at French.
There’s no problem with finding a sun lounger – I was surprised, being an early riser, to get up and not see the usual towel-wars going on. The atmosphere is very laid back – fresh towels are supplied from 8.30 until 6pm and there was no trouble finding a sun lounger or an umbrella either at the pool or down on the beach, where there’s a private section for Club Med guests.

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There are two restaurants on site – one, the buffet, and the other a Moroccan themed restaurant where you could reserve a table. The food was AMAZING. I’ve been to several all inclusive resorts and never had such a wide variety of dishes. The themed evenings were so gorgeous. The whole restaurant was decked out with flowers one night, and we were all handed a rose as we arrived.  
The next night the restaurant and bar were swathed in rugs and huge wall hangings for a Moroccan evening, with fragrant tagines which are making my mouth water just thinking about them.  Each night there was something different – one night the theme was simply “white” and it was surprising to see how many of the guests embraced this (I was in a turquoise dress, and stood out at the bar rather…)

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The flowers in the gardens are incredible. The gardeners work so hard to keep the place spotless – as a gardener, I know how much work it takes to keep my little town garden tidy and the grounds of Club Med Agadir are huge and immaculate. There’s loads of room for children to play outside, or just to lie under the shade of a tree and read if you want some peace.
The pool area is peaceful in the morning but lunchtime brings super-loud music which definitely appealed to the younger guests – I tended to escape to the beach, or to the gardens in the afternoon as the very enthusiastic DJ was a bit much for me. I suspect I might be showing my age, mind you.

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There are a handful of tame cats who live in the resort and these two kittens were SO gorgeous that I could have sneaked them into my bag and taken them home…

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In the Medina-style courtyard each evening you could sit and enjoy a cocktail (they’re deceptively strong) before heading over to the bar for… another cocktail. The bar staff have a long list of cocktails they can provide, but I saw them making up all sorts of others on request.

I’ve never been on an all inclusive holiday where I have literally not spent any money – but with coffee on tap, breakfast followed by morning snacks, followed by a huge lunch, afternoon snacks, and then dinner in the evening there wasn’t much to spend money on in the resort.

If you still have room for something to eat in between times, there’s always the lovely GOs (Gentil Organisateurs – the staff who work tirelessly to make sure you have a brilliant time) who appear round the pool and down by the beach with trays of freshly cut fruit. 

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I loved the atmosphere of Club Med Agadir. It was magical.

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Watching the sun set each evening over the harbour of Agadir was a nightly routine, and made the holiday really special. In the evening the weather cools off a bit so you can walk along the promenade and into the harbour itself where there are designer shops, a huge variety of restaurants, a souk (fab souvenirs and household decorations – we got some amazing plates as well as herbs and spices) and then there’s the harbour itself, which is beautiful.

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Club Med Agadir is a fantastic place.  I haven’t even mentioned the amazing kids club – with six children between us we’ve got a good eye for that sort of thing and whilst we were enjoying some time away from the children, I couldn’t resist popping round for a look to see how the clubs were run. There are clubs for tiny toddlers (where they had activities from art and crafts up to a visit from farmyard animals) right up to teenagers, and they seem to have the balance just right – I watched as the teenagers started the week looking reluctant to join in, and within a couple of hours they’d all bonded and were hanging out at night at their own table, having abandoned their parents at dinner time.

If you want to play golf or tennis, try archery, do yoga, power walking or aquarobics, they’re all available. I watched all of the above, did lots of swimming, enjoyed the glorious peace and quiet of a week without children, and read a huge heap of books. There’s something for everyone at Club Med Agadir and they’re doing a brilliant job of spreading #morehappiness!

Club Med provided us with a week’s accommodation in their Agadir resort for the purpose of this review.

We decided to celebrate our new National Trust membership with a trip out to Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire, which isn’t far from us.

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It’s a gorgeous place to go if you’re looking for a day out in the North West – there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a lover of history (the most amazing 16th century Old Hall complete with woodwork) or gardening (there’s 14 acres of garden which is beautifully maintained – I could have wandered around there all day) or cake. In typical National Trust fashion there is the most AMAZING cafe. The cakes are so good that a woman there told me they quite often pop over just for a treat (I’ve wondered before if National Trust membership is worth it as much for the cakes as for the culture…)

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The 18th century cobbled courtyard has stables, an old piggery and a water pump (as well as the cafe, a shop and some plants for sale from the garden, too)
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The Tudor patterned Hall was built in 1530 – you can’t take photos inside, so you’ll have to imagine how gorgeous it is (or visit) but it’s all intricately carved wood, complete with angels carved into the hammer beams. There’s a seven foot wide movable screen made of oak which weighs three tons. Back in 1580, William Shakespeare was reputed to have stayed there for six months.
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The gardens are gorgeous. There’s a lovely nature trail for children, and in the woods there’s space for den building and heaps of wood and branches – we’ll definitely be back with the children soon.
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If you’re thinking of a trip to Rufford Old Hall the opening times and directions are here. I went on a whim after a weekend which was busy and full of London and chaos and noise and people and it was just what I needed. More on that weekend in another post – suffice to say every time I speak at a conference I end up escaping to the green quiet of a garden, somewhere, very soon afterwards. It soothes my soul.

Grab yourself a personalised, signed edition of my current novel, Sealed with a Kiss

“Wonderful escapism – Katie Fforde”

Over 500 Amazon reviews!

pop over here and sign up before they run out!

I went on Facebook just now and saw this.

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And I started to write.

What’s on my mind Facebook

Is that I’ve been up since 5am. I’ve had a million and one tweets of congratulation from blogging friends and famous writers and people I’ve met along the way.

I’ve featured in newspapers and online interviews and in blog posts.

At lunchtime Amazon had already sold out of their stocks of the paperback of Sealed with a Kiss and they’ve ordered in more.

I’ve jumped 176,200 places in their paperback chart since yesterday and that’s amazing.

I had a long thinking sort of shower and the characters for my NEXT book, the one that isn’t even due until next year, were talking in my head because they’re desperate to get out.

I went to the bookshop and they looked at me blankly and didn’t have any copies ordered.

I felt a bit deflated and we went for coffee and to do the school run (because all that stuff still goes on)

Then I saw this photo my mum had sent – from Waterstones in Milton Keynes

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And that’s MY BOOK on a bookshelf. And I felt amazing.

And then I read a text from my mum which told me she was proud of me, and that my dad would be too. And I cried, in the school car park, in the rain.

And then lovely Waterstones at the Trafford Centre told us on Twitter that they’ve got copies and they’d love me to sign some and I felt like A Real Writer for a moment.

And people keep asking how does it feel. And the answer is it feels amazing and terrifying and scary and wonderful and exhausting.

And tomorrow I’ll get up and go and sign some books, and then I’ll get on with writing my book.

And that, Facebook, is what’s on my mind. A bit much for a status update, really, but it’s been a bit of a day.

You can order Sealed with a Kiss here and have it delivered to your local indie bookshop.
You can buy Sealed with a Kiss here for Kindle or in paperback
You can click and collect Sealed with a Kiss at Waterstones here
I don’t mind how you do it really – but I hope you like it.