I have exciting news!

In fact I have three pieces of exciting news. The first one is that I will be writing another two adult books for Pan Macmillan – the first is out next October and is the story of Ella, Matthew, and a little girl called Hope. It feels amazing to know that books six and seven will have a home, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

rachael lucas bookseller deal announcement

The second is that my next YA novel, My Box Shaped Heart, is now available for pre-order.

If you want to learn a bit about it, read on…

My Box Shaped Heart

Holly’s mum is a hoarder, and she is fed up with being picked on at school for being weird . . . and having the wrong clothes . . . and sticking out. All she wants is to be invisible. She loves swimming, because in the water everyone is the same.

Ed goes to the swimming pool to escape the horrible house he and his mum have been assigned by the women’s refuge. In his old life he had money; was on the swim team; knew who he was and what he wanted. In his old life his dad hit his mum.

Holly is swimming in one direction and Ed’s swimming in the other. As their worlds collide they find a window into each other’s lives – and learn how to meet in the middle.

 

I love the cover – designed again by Rachel Vale, it’s just perfect!

I’ve got one other bit of news – over the last few years I’ve had so many people saying to me that they’d like to take the leap and write a book, or create a blog, or just start doing something creative. I’ve learned quite a lot along the way about creativity, and courage, and why so many of us have a few chapters of a book in a drawer somewhere, or a dream of trying something new.

Later this year I’m going to be offering a six week e-course called Create Courage where I’ll be tying together my writing, my coaching work, and my training as a mindfulness and meditation teacher. If you’re interested in being one of the first to find out more, you can sign up here. I’d love to have you on board!

 

 

the story of a book cover

 

Rachel Vale, the brilliant artist behind the cover design for the State of Grace, has written a blog post for me (I like this delegation lark – I should have been off having a painting day in exchange, but in fact I’ve been gardening) about the thought processes that led to the gorgeous cover…

the state of grace - rachael lucas

The cover for The State of Grace was a really great project to work on. As with all cover designs I kicked things off by reading the book – I absolutely loved it! We follow Grace, a teenage girl with Asperger’s, and see how she deals with everything life throws at her. It’s written with great humour, which I wanted to reflect within the design as well as sympathetically referencing Asperger’s. The story also raised questions for me over what is ‘normal’? A lot of the emotions, anxieties and questions Grace deals with feel relevant to absolutely everyone with regards to whether we ‘fit-in’.

So book read and notes made (my keyword list included cat, Doctor Who, pattern, horse . . .), I generated some typography. I knew immediately what I wanted this part of the cover to look like. I can’t quite explain why – sometimes it will take a few attempts and I’ll be working on the typography and image together so that they evolve as one creation. But even without any imagery, I already knew that this had to be big, bold and simple, and to look hand-drawn, therefore giving it a human element.

Typography done, I hit Google and Pinterest for research and image-collection. I wanted to find out more about Asperger’s, and if there was anything visual I could generate that may nod to the syndrome, along with finding a voice for Grace.

Repetitive pattern of behaviour and interests came up quite a lot. So a sort of repeat pattern felt like something I could definitely work with. I generated numerous ideas that included various themes. Some were better than others (as is often the way), but what they all seemed to be lacking was Grace. I needed to revisit her and her journey.

Grace experiences emotions around many different relationships, with her mum, sister, best friend and love interest. A lot of these are conducted to some degree via texting – something we all do and can all relate to. I use emoticons nearly as much as I use actual words whilst texting these days, so a visual take on that felt like something that could appeal to all. For me this idea felt like it relied on simplicity however, so the almost 3D nature of emoticons on modern mobile phones felt too complex – it was the emotion element that I needed, not a fancy rendered graphic.

Using a more ‘old skool’ approach of keyboard characters (brackets and semicolons, etc.) contained in a circle to resemble more recent emoticons felt much more like the right route. A smiley face for the main pattern made me think of Grace immediately. Grace is happy – she’s just a little confused sometimes, so a confused emoticon felt like the perfect way to suggest not fitting in. The change between the two emoticons is subtle (a closed bracket vs a forward slash depicting the mouth), which is perfect, as changes in human emotions can also be so subtle and difficult to read. Obviously I didn’t want this to be so hard to read that it was missed altogether though, so I highlighted it in a different colour. The typography from a couple of months earlier sat perfectly atop my pattern – it’s always nice when these things come together.

Some of the best book covers for me are the ones that don’t try too hard. They rely on a simple and clean concept, and the more you add means the less you actually say. For me The State of Grace does just that. At a quick glance you get it – well, I hope you do! I’ve a copy on the shelf next to my desk, and every time I catch a glimpse of it it makes me smile. I hope it does the same for you. 🙂

the state of grace by rachael lucas

 

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)

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

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

Coming Up Roses – my next book!

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!)

but how does it FEEL? (the writer roller coaster)

I went on Facebook just now and saw this.

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 17.25.35

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

IMG00021-20140508-1337

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.