I warn you now, this is a rambly one. You need tea, or gin, and possibly something else to read instead.
I was chatting to blogging friend Eva Keogan, aka Nixdminx yesterday about her plans for a 30 day life overhaul. It’s spring (nobody told the weather, but it is spring in theory) and it’s time for starting afresh. So I’m joining her with a mission to blog every day this month and try and make some changes.
I spent a long time making internet friends because I’m an introvert. I’ve got internet friends going back 15 years. (Hello, my name is Rachael Lucas, and I’m a geek.)
The thing about being an introvert is that I want to engage with people. But simultaneously, I want them to shut up and go away. I like to be able to put you lot down and go and have a bath and know you’ll still be there when I get back. I’m a writer so I have to write stuff down: it’s how I process things. This means I quite often write stuff, press publish on here then hide in the bedroom, terrified to look at the blog because I can’t believe I’ve been so open.
What I love about this world of blogging is the introverts who pour it all out here and then run off, feeling sick. They do it, and then readers say “You too? I thought I was the only one” and the sharing, the communal feeling of we-can-do-this is beautiful to behold.
I don’t do religion at all. But after years of evangelistic atheism I found myself absorbed in the gorgeous world of Momastery. It’d be easy to take the usual slightly mocking British approach to the God-stuff part of Glennon’s blog, but you’d be missing SO much. Thousands of women from all over the world, holding hands and being brave.
Momastery is a place to practice living bigger, bolder, and truer on this Earth. It’s a place to practice disagreeing with love and respect. It’s a place to remember what you already know: that Love Wins and that We Can Do Hard Things.
“Here’s my hunch: nobody’s secure, and nobody feels like she completely belongs. Those insecurities are just job hazards of being human. But some people dance anyway, and those people have more fun. On my deathbed, I’m not gong to wish I had danced like JLo; I’m just going to wish I had danced more.”
I’m resolving to be braver. To write more, celebrate success, be positive, support my friends. Do hard things. Starting here.
Sealed with a Kiss will be available in paperback later this month, which is lovely news for those of you who want an actual copy that you can hold in your hands. Hooray. I’ve been working with Michael from Evertype, a fab indie publisher from Ireland, and he emailed to say that it’s gone to press and I can now start spreading the word!
I set myself a goal when I decided oh sod it, I’m going to self-publish like my friend Melanie. I thought if 100 people actually downloaded a copy of Sealed with a Kiss I’d feel like I’d done okay, because I don’t actually have 100 friends, so that’d mean that some people had actually bought it because they wanted to, not because they felt they ought to be polite.
Downloads happened. Writer friends said ooh, I hope you’re screengrabbing this because these Amazon chart figures are good. I was completely clueless about what was going on and whether it was A Good Thing. Mainly I was worrying because I was BORING MY FRIENDS TO DEATH on Facebook and Twitter talking about the book (thank you all for being so tolerant).
Then I decided to give the free promotion tool a whirl on Amazon.
Ooh ooh, I’m in a chart, I thought. Yippee.
Top ten! I was by this point completely giddy with delight and my friends were alternating between saying well done and wanting to hit me on the head with something heavy. The trouble with self-publishing is that you have to try and let people know you’re out there. You’ve got to give the book a bit of a push before it gains momentum and starts doing something for itself.
And then there it was. My book was no1 in the Amazon Kindle free downloads chart. Over the course of the promotion Sealed with a Kiss was downloaded around 25,000 times. Lots of friends and family thought I was completely barking mad to give away my book – but my main aim wasn’t making a fortune* really, it was getting the story out into the wild.
*That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to make a fortune. Please send any spare millions my way, thank you.
So that was that. I imagined it’d just disappear off into the depths of Amazon. Occasionally, someone might buy a copy and that would be it. I have to confess that after a week of having to cheerily point out that look, my book’s available free right now, it was going to be rather wonderful to just ignore it and have a little rest.
SO, the next day the book went back onto the Amazon sales listing and off the free promotional chart. And then this happened:
Right now Sealed with a Kiss is no.7 overall in the Amazon Kindle Store and I am still too astounded to know what to say. But I wanted to save it here for posterity, because one day I’ll have stopped being amazed and then I can come back here and read this and realise it actually happened. Today alone over 1200 copies have been sold in the UK. It’s completely and utterly bonkers.
Thank you to everyone who cheered me on, tweeted links, told their friends, shared on Facebook, bought the book, left a review on Amazon or GoodReads and especially thank you to all my friends and family who have put up with me droning on and on and ON about this.
If you’d like to buy a copy (if you haven’t already) you can download a Kindle edition of Sealed with a Kiss here at the Amazon.com site (currently only 99c) or pop over here to buy it for 79p. Or you can wait and splash out a bit more on a shiny actual book, which will be available both here, and on Amazon.
If you’d like to put your name down for a signed copy leave me a comment here. Ooh, that’s a lovely thing to be able to say. Eeeeek.
Have you ever had no money?
Not “I’m a bit skint, it’ll be Tesco not Waitrose until payday” no money. Not “I can’t afford to buy those shoes, but sod it, I’ll just stick them on the credit card and sort it out next month” no money. I hadn’t. Even when I was a student I wasn’t properly skint. I lived in a bubble and I was completely clueless.
The kind of no money I’m talking about is ten pounds in my purse, nothing to eat, a letter from school asking for a ‘voluntary’ (yeah, right, if you’ve had them you know the deal) contribution to a school trip, we’re running out of washing up liquid and loo roll and there’s nothing coming in until next Thursday no money.
This started out as a lovely, slightly smug lifestyle blog, all look at my pretty garden and my beautiful cupcakes. It was created (here’s a confession) because I wanted to read the kind of blog I liked reading. It wasn’t really real.
Then – whoomph – everything changed. We got divorced. We sold the house (bought at the peak of the market, sold at the absolute bottom, by the time the bills were paid off there was bugger all left).
And then I experienced The System. Four children, trying to find a job that worked around holidays and sick days and – you know the deal.
You can’t get this money unless you can prove you don’t have that money. Oh, right, you have four children? You can have THIS money. But hang on, you say you sold a house? And you had THIS much left in equity? Sorry, no. You can’t have any money. We’re stopping it all now. Yes, straight away. Sorry you can’t pay your rent, that’s not our problem.
You don’t have any money? Not our problem. Oh hang on, we made a mistake. Here, have this money. It’ll be with you in two weeks.
You can’t survive two weeks without money? Can’t you ask your family for help? Fine, you can apply for a crisis loan.
Sorry, The System doesn’t recognise “I can’t ask my family for any more help, it’s humiliating and they have their own worries”.
Can you stop crying please, our operators aren’t trained to deal with people weeping on the phone. Sorry you don’t fit the criteria for a crisis loan. No, having absolutely nothing in your purse and having to go without food to make sure the children are okay doesn’t fit our criteria.
It sounds insane. Until it happened to me, I had no idea what it was really like. I remember tweeting this:
— Rachael Lucas (@karamina) March 14, 2012
It’s easy to walk away, pretend it isn’t happening. But it’s getting worse and if you haven’t read this piece in The Guardian about the cuts which will be implemented on Monday then I urge you to do so. And to remember that it could be you.
I was walking through town this afternoon with my six year old. We were heading out for a little treat of a hot chocolate – we don’t have loads of money now, and it’s always a balancing act, because being self-employed means sometimes going without and sometimes saying sod it, let’s have a bit of fun and worry about the bills later.
The sun was shining, it was a beautiful afternoon. A man was sitting in a doorway close by the coffee shop with his hat in front of him. I gave the little one some money and together we handed it over.
“Cheers for that, little mate”
Rory grinned back at him and we walked off.
“Mummy I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have money and some people have to be really poor. It’s not fair. Why can’t everyone share?”
The six year old gets it. It’s not difficult, is it?
If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have read about my latest hare brained scheme. Or midlife crisis, or whatever you want to call it (I just turned 40, I have a pass to do odd things for a year, don’t you think?).
On Saturday this week I’ll be putting on these and heading to a village hall in Liverpool where I’ll be hanging out with 30 other people who’ll be helmeted and armed with knee and elbow pads and wrist guards.
Yes, roller boots. I’m joining the Liverpool Roller Birds as a rookie derby girl, or Hatchling, as they’re known. I used to skate all the time as a child. There were a couple of years when we first moved back to Scotland from Australia where my friends and I spent all our time on skates and I had a reputation for being the one who always got up from every fall and carried on skating. I’m not quite sure that my aged bones will be quite so bouncy now but you only get one life, and being 40 is all about doing exciting things, isn’t it? I’ve also heard that derby is the best way of getting rid of your pent up fury (what other sport lets you thump people for fun whilst roller skating?) and I’m really looking forward to doing that part (heh heh heh).
If you’ve never seen roller derby in action, have a look here for what I’ll be up to, eventually. I think to start with there’ll be a lot more falling over, a lot less glamour and rather more scruffiness. There’s a fab blog post here from one of the newly fledged Roller Birds, Bobby Mean. (Best bit about fledging is you get to choose a Derby name…I’m already plotting mine.)
There’ll be the usual updates as ever on the Facebook page and I’ll be blogging my progress here, too.
Any ideas for a Derby name? I was quite taken with Nigella Lawless but someone got there first…
You’re going to need a cup of tea for this one. Or if you’re not in the mood for ramblings, look away now.
One of the things I’ve noticed so far in the great what-d’you-want-to-see-here blog survey (have you filled it in yet? Pop over here for a moment and have your say) is that people seem to want more personal posts.
~ What was your happiest event?
Being shown around by the owner who said ‘we want someone who’ll live here as a family and love it as their own and bring their children up here’ as I crossed my fingers and hoped they’d like us. Crying with happiness as I saw the attic bedroom with the view over the roofs to the sea. Crying with happiness again when she said she would happily take it off the market even though we couldn’t move in for a month. Sleeping in the dining room on a mattress before we moved the children in.
(Ross will be reading this and rolling his eyes. I saw a psychic who told me I’d live in a house just like this with views to the sea – I am resolute that if you imagine hard enough you can see the sea. Or at least the idea of it.)
~ What was the saddest thing to happen?
Cancer. It keeps trying to take people I love and I’ve had enough of it.
~ What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?
Now this – this is where I really want to write something, but tact and stuff means I can’t. Which is a bit naughty, I know. If you really want to know leave a comment and I’ll tell you. But I’m still cackling over it.
~ Who let you down?
I was surprised to find that some friends who I’d known for a long time couldn’t cope with my getting divorced. I’m not sure why – whether it was because they thought it might be catching, or because (as another newly-single friend commented) it was that they were worried I might steal their husbands. But it was a year of surprising new friendships and cementing old ones.
~ Who supported you?
So many people, both online and off. My best girlfriends* (I was going to name you all but it started and it was turning into a speech worthy of Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars, so you know who you are and where the bodies are buried, so we’ll leave it at that. Love you all x) and of course Ross, for whom I don’t have the words. But he knows. *and their husbands, in the case of lovely Phill
~ Tell us one thing you learned.
I learned that I don’t have to do everything perfectly and that perfectionism can be a curse.
Still working on that one but it’s a good lesson.
~ Tell us one thing that made you laugh.
The Oatmeal – particularly this piece (particularly apposite after one slightly negative comment on my survey sent me into a flat spin of must-give-up-blogging panic). I cried laughing reading this.
~ Tell us one thing that made you cry.
~ Tell us something your children did to make you feel proud.
Dealt with tremendous amounts of change, moving schools and making new friends and settling in to seaside life amazingly well. It’s easy for us as adults to say children are resilient, but I think that’s a cop out and not really true at all. I moved schools a lot as a child and I remember that new-school feeling so well. So dealing with that, and a new stepfamily, and their dad living in Canada – well, I’m incredibly proud of them.
Oh and one more thing – both Verity and Archie learned to make coffee. For those of you with small children who wake at 4 or 5am who think there’s no end to the early morning risings – hold on to that one. It’s bloody amazing.
~ Tell us one thing that made you proud of yourself.
I started the year with no money, no job, and surviving on benefits which was a massive shock to the system. I had no idea how difficult it was to get anything – the Daily Mail stereotype of the single mother raking in money is so far removed from reality. Every time I sorted one thing, another one was taken away. There were periods where I couldn’t afford to eat, and I was too proud to ask my family for help when they’d already helped more than enough.
I ended the year with a job, the blog coming back to life, the book edited and ready to be published this month and a plan. Lots of plans, in fact.
~ Tell us one challenge you overcame.
I think learning to cope with the children’s father living in Canada. We’ve reached a point where we all get on well, where they feel secure and confident in their relationship with him, and I feel like we’re all working together well.
~ Tell us three things you’d like to change about your life in 2013.
I’m going to be more organised with my time (about which more in a future post)
I’m going to get to the gym regularly and get back to a decent level of strength and fitness
I’m going to take time to look after myself – there’s a gorgeous spa round the corner and I intend to start using it. I turn 40 this month so it’s time to start having facials (or is it too late? eek).
And finally Jax at liveotherwise has asked me to tell you all about my Next Big Thing. Well, that’s not that hard: later this month my book Sealed with a Kiss is released into the wild. I’m currently reading through the edits of the edits of the edits. I dream about typos and stray apostrophes. And cover art.
If you’re still here you deserve a prize. Congratulations. Sure you lot still want more personal stuff on here?