My Favourite Italian Drinks

It’s less than 3 weeks until Summer’s Lease is released in Ebook and Paperback (shameless pimp – sorry!) and the reviews are starting to come in. One thing all of them have in common is that they love the Italian setting, and in particular the food and drink I describe in great detail.

Researching (and tasting) Italian culinary delights was one of my favourite parts of writing Summer’s Lease. We even spent our summer holiday on the banks of Lake Garda, and then in Venice last year — and it proved to be the best way to make sure that my research was accurate (or a really good excuse to eat and drink my way through Italy!)

Drinking wine on the hills overlooking Lake Garda (credit: author’s own)

So, as a result of this extensive research, I bring you my five favourite Italian tipples. Have I missed your favourite out? Let me know in the comments.

1. NEGRONI

Classed as an ‘aperitivo’, which basically means you get to drink it before you eat (yay!), a Negroni is fast becoming as popular in the UK as it is in Italy. A blend of one part campari, one part vermouth and one part gin, it’s served over a generous amount of ice in a glass tumbler, along with a slice of orange. In Summer’s Lease, the hero, Sam, makes Cesca a Negroni, and she’s suitably impressed. As would I be if anybody made me one (hint hint!)

2. APEROL SPRITZ

One of my favourite discoveries during my time in Venice, an Aperol Spritz is one of the most famous cocktails in Italy. To make the perfect Spritz, you need to combine 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol and a splash of soda. Like a negroni, it’s served on the rocks with a twist of orange. I spent a lot of time drinking this during my stay in Italy, and have wonderful memories of sitting in a paved piazza with my ice-cold drink in hand, whiling the afternoon away people-watching. If you haven’t tried one yet, I highly recommend it.

 

Aperol Spritz (credit: Deposit photos)

3. PROSECCO

Anybody who knows me (or has checked out my Instagram page – here: https://www.instagram.com/carrie.elks/) knows I love white wine, and in particular the fizzy variety! During the summer Prosecco is my fizz of choice. It’s crisp, delicious, and downright tasty. There’s really nothing bad to say about it, which is why it makes my top 5. Chin chin!

4. VALPOLICELLA

In Summer’s Lease, there’s a wine cave set in the side of the hill behind the secluded villa where Sam and Cesca stay. Inside is a treasure trove of Italian wine, and the one that stands out is the Valpolicella. Sam uses his knowledge of wine to impress Cesca, and at one funny part of the book he also uses it to show how well he knows her. Just don’t drink the 2002 vintage – it’s not the best!

5. LIMONCELLO

Another favourite of mine from my stay in Italy was the post-dinner lemon-flavoured liqueur, Limoncello. It’s thick and sweet, and the perfect way to round of an evening of pasta or risotto. It’s traditionally made from Sorrento Lemons, and should be drunk in small measures. Otherwise drunk will be the operative word!

So there you have it, a list of my top 5 Italian drinks, some of which you’ll find hiding in the pages of Summer’s Lease. The book releases on 13th July, and I highly recommend reading it in the garden (or at the beach) with one of these tipples in hand!

Overlooking Lake Garda (credit: Author’s Own)

Cheers!

 

 

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Cover Reveal – Cutlass by T.M. Franklin

I’m so excited to share the cover of T.M. Franklin’s upcoming pirate adventure, CUTLASS!

 

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Sarina Talbot is certain notorious pirate, One-Eyed Jack Tremayne, murdered her father and stole his prized cutlass. Out for revenge, she sneaks onto his ship disguised as a cabin boy, but Tremayne quickly catches on to her scheme. He claims she has the wrong man, and that, if they work together, he can help her gain the vengeance she seeks.

She doesn’t really trust him, and he doesn’t trust anyone. But they need each other to find the killer, and their uneasy alliance slowly turns to friendship, and then to more.

Add in an old journal full of cryptic clues leading to a hidden cache of Aztec gold, and Sarina and Tremayne have their hands full. Between sword fights, Crown ships, enemy pirates and a traitor on their own vessel, they’ll be lucky to escape with their lives, let alone the gold.

But perhaps, along the way, they’ll find a treasure even more valuable.

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Cutlass

 

 

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T.M. Franklin writes stories of adventure, romance, & a little magic. A former TV news producer, she decided making stuff up was more fun than reporting the facts. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days. MORE was well-received, being selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards, as well as winning the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards. She’s since written three additional novels and several best-selling short stories…and there’s always more on the way.

Connect with T.M. Franklin

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Bookbub | Amazon

 

 

“Reminiscent of the Mortal Instruments Series . . . Only Better.” – Penny Dreadful Reviews

 

“Riveting supernatural read that’s sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!” – Jolanda, Amazon Reviewer

A Sweet and Funny YA Romance

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Multi-Author Signing Events

This week I’ll be heading up to Newcastle (approximately a 6 hour drive away) to attend the Dedicated Ink Author Signing Event. Multi-author signings are a relatively new invention in the book world, created in part as a response to the fact that for independent authors it’s always been difficult to arrange events in bookshops, which makes it hard for authors to meet their readers face to face.

I first became aware of events like these in 2013, mostly taking place all over the USA. These events attract hundreds, and sometimes thousands of readers and bloggers, and can be an amazing way to find new fans and make connections. In the UK they’re a relatively new phenomenon. I attended my first as an author in April 2015, when I attended the BRITISH BOOK AFFAIR in London. As a relative newcomer (I think I still am really) I was awed by authors like Christina Lauren, Abbi Glines, Samantha Young and so many more who were kicking it at writing and selling amazing books.

Since then, I’ve attended another 3 signings in York, Leeds, Berlin and Southend-on-Sea, which makes Newcastle my sixth event of this kind. For those of you who’ve never been to a multi-author event like this, they tend to look a bit like this:

Multi-Author Events

Authors are there not only to sell books (and in fact this is often the lowest on their list). Instead they’re there to connect with readers, to give out a whole lot of free swag, and to make sure we all have a good time. The signings tend to last all day — long enough for readers to make their way around the big hall that usually holds anywhere between 50 to 100 authors — and then afterwards there’s usually an evening party where authors, bloggers and readers all mingle together. This is usually the best part  of the day for me — a time when we can finally relax and enjoy talking about everything to do with books.

Signing After Party

Preparing for an event often involves spending time in a Facebook group where we get to know the readers who will be attending, ordering swag (see below for a picture of some of mine), making sure I have enough books and also setting up pre-orders for those who like to pay before the day. And because Newcastle is so far away, it also involves making travel arrangements, booking hotels, and making sure the kids and the dog are looked after while I’m gone!

Some of the Swag I’ll be taking to Newcastle!

After Newcastle, I’ll be attending ChapterCon in August (which is not only a signing, but also an author conference) and then in 2018 I’ll be heading to Belfast, Leeds, York, Edinburgh and Brighton. I’ll also be heading over to RARE in London as a reader! Busy times.

So how about you? Have you been to a multi-author event before? If you haven’t would you consider going? And if you have, what event will you be attending next?

And if you want more information on where to find me, check out my News and Events page.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Summer's Lease by Carrie Elks

Summer’s Lease

by Carrie Elks

Giveaway ends July 13, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Lights, Camera . . . Love?

There’s something rather wonderful about a Hollywood romance, in both real life and as a story. Watching LaLaLand earlier this year brought that back to me. Although let’s not talk about that ending. Seriously, let’s not. I’m still in recovery.

So when I decided to write a new series based on four sisters, it seemed natural to have a hero who was a up-and-coming movie star — a huge contrast to the heroine who was a poor, wannabe playwright. And that’s how Sam Carlton appeared to me — almost fully formed before I even put pen to paper. A man who got his first big break at the age of 19, and has been part of the Hollywood machine ever since.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a romance book has ever been written about a movie star and a civilian (I wanted to say Muggle, but J.K. Rowling I’m not.) In fact, some of my all time favorite stories feature the clash of lifestyles between an ordinary girl and a famous star. There’s the hilarious The Unidentified Redhead by Alice Clayton, that features the gorgeous Jack Hamilton wooing a very normal, and notably clumsy, Grace Sheridan. Then there’s the hot Hollywood Dirt by Alessandre Torre – soon to become a movie itself, courtesy of PassionFlix. Love Unscripted by Tina Reber — my very favourite modern Hollywood romance — features a hero (movie star Ryan Christiansen) who literally crashes into Taryn Michael’s small town bar, leading to a chemistry that sizzles off the page.

It’s not just in books that Hollywood Romances can be found, but also (in a rather meta kind of way) in the movies too. I’ve already mentioned LaLaLand, (oh Ryan, why did you break my heart so?) but of course this is only the latest in a long line of movies about movie stars. One of my favourites — and a classic by any measure — is Singin’ in the Rain, featuring a rather gorgeous Gene Kelly singing and dancing his way as he falls in love with Debbie Reynolds. Then there’s Notting Hill, where movie star Julia Roberts has orange juice spilled over her white top by a bumbling yet adorable bookshop owner, Hugh Grant.

What do all these stories have in common? I think in the beginning there’s a mismatch between the hero and heroine, or in this case the movie star and the muggle *ahem* civilian. It seems as though the movie star is out of their reach, and that a relationship can never work. And yet as the story unfolds, the star becomes more down to earth, and often is searching for somebody who will treat them as normal. Fall in love with them for their personality, not for their handprint outside the Chinese theater. In that respect it’s not so different to a traditional fairytale like Cinderella, where a rich royal falls in love with a poor maid. It’s a modern, up to date (and occasionally gender-swapped) version of all those stories we read growing up.

I think that’s what makes a movie-star romance so magical. It has all the glamour of a fairytale, but with the added edge of a Hollywood setting. For those of us who grew up with our eyes glued to the silver screen, it offers a fantasy that can whisk us away from modern life, and for me, romances don’t get much better than that.

Summer’s Lease is the first book in Carrie’s new Shakespeare Sisters series, and will be released on July 13th. For more details click here.

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5 Reasons Why I’m Excited For Summer!

 

I’m British, which means I’m obsessed by the weather. It’s a national pastime that I’m more than willing to take part in — be  it complaining about the rain, or speculating about the possibility of snow. But when the sun comes out, I tend to go into overdrive. Sunny weather is my happy place. It means long days out on our deck, with an ice-cold cocktail in one hand and a summery book in the other. Summer is about vacations and the sea, the beach and a barbecue. More than anything, warm weather is about spending time with family and friends — and it doesn’t get much better than that!

So since the sun decided to take a peek out from behind the clouds this weekend (and as I write, my weather app is telling me that by the time this blog is posted the rain will be back — sorry!) I decided it was high time to write a summery blog. So read on to find out my FIVE favorite things about summer!

1. THE FOOD

I’m one of those crazy people who love salads. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not about being healthy or calorie counting. After all, my favorite kind of salad comes doused with dressing and  with a side of french fries. It has to start out with a base of green salad leaves, then a healthy sprinkling of onion and cucumber. On top of that I love me some croutons and maybe some cajun spiced chicken, as well as a creamy dressing — be it caesar, thousand island or just yummy french oil. It has to be hearty, tasty, and full of the taste of summer.  Delicious!

2. THE DRINKS

There are so many different drinks that really come into their own in the summer. If you like your refreshment with alcohol, then Pimms is definitely the queen of summer drinks. This quintessential British punch-style drink is based on gin and red vermouth, with a large douse of lemonade, all poured into a jug filled with mint, strawberries, cucumber and apples. And it tastes absolutely delicious.

But Pimms isn’t the only good drink to have on a hot summer’s day. There’s also Prosecco, margaritas, and of course  an ice-cold beer. All these things make me feel very happy indeed.

3. THE BOOKS

For me, summer isn’t complete without a lovely summery story in my hand. Preferably set on a beach, with a pretty girl and a gorgeous guy who try to deny the attraction between them. This year there are a whole load of summer books being released — from Holly Martin’s Summer at Buttercup Beach to Heidi Swain’s Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage and Sarah Morgan’s Holiday in the Hamptons. Oh, and did I mention I have a summer book coming out too? If you enjoy love stories set in Italy, with good food and a splash of wine (do you sense a theme here), along with a movie-star hero and a smart mouthed English writer, then check out Summer’s Lease. 

4. THE MOVIES

Summer movies are all about sun, sand and lots of love. The first one that springs to mind is the iconic Dirty Dancing. An uptown girl and a downtown boy meet at a Summer Vacation spot, and love grows on the dance floor. I won’t mention the remake (because really, no), but the original is well worth a re-watch. But if Baby and Johnny don’t do it for you, then check out Grease, Roman Holiday, One Day or Mama Mia, all of which feature scenes in the hot summer sun!

5. THE VACATIONS

Where better to enjoy summer food, drink, books and movies than on vacation? I love going on holiday with my family — it’s a chance to kick back, relax and spend quality time with those I love. Whether it be in Spain, Turkey or Italy (our most recent three vacations) the real draw of a holiday is being able to take ourselves away from real life and all the worries it brings, and start to relax, if only for a couple of weeks.

So those are the reasons I love summer. How about you? Are you a sun lover or more of a spring person? Let me know in the comments, or send me a tweet!

Love,

A Week in the Life of an Author

It’s been a busy old week. In my writing life I’ve been working on a new book (though sometimes it’s felt like wading through treacle — where’s my muse when I need it?) and also on the line edits for A Winter’s Tale – the second in my Shakespeare Sister series. I’ve also had a cover reveal for the US version of the first book in the Shakespeare Sisters, Summer’s Lease (and if you haven’t seen the covers yet – check them out!

In among that, I also decided it was high time I went back to the gym. Since I started writing full-time in March 2016, I’ve found my bottom had expanded as much as my word count has. And that’s a lot! So I put my tail between my (plump) legs and headed over to my local gym. So far I’ve managed 2 classes and 2 gym workouts. It’s not huge (unlike… yada yada yada), but it’s a start, right?

I even had to leave the house a few times this week for meetings and social occasions. Gasp, horror. Those of you who know me are probably aware of my hermit-like tendencies. So leaving the house (especially with full make up) can be a full-on production. So on Thursday I made the effort and hopped on a train to London to meet with my publishers, and then onward to the RNA Summer Party.

Meeting with my editor is always good fun. She was the acquiring editor for the Shakespeare Sisters series, and as such she knows the books inside out (and seems to really like them). We’ve worked closely on the revisions and line edits, and on Thursday I was introduced to the rest of the team responsible for launching Summer’s Lease on 13th July. It was lovely to meet them all and talk about publicity, marketing and other plans. There’s less than 2 months to go until release day now, and things are starting to feel real. I’m so excited about Sam and Cesca’s story — not to mention all the delicious Italian details in the book — and I’m really looking forward to seeing what other think of it. Fingers crossed!

After my meeting, and then a quick dash to the pub with an author friend, I arrived at the RNA summer party at the Royal Overseas League in London. A private club that’s just off Piccadilly, it’s always a pleasure to spend time in that amazing building. It was also such a pleasure to catch up with old author friends and new ones. I was so busy talking I forgot to take many pictures (damn it!), but here are the two I remembered to snap.

With Holly Martin, Emily Kerr and Annie Lyons

With Jan Ellis and Samantha Tonge

And after all that, I have a few more exciting events coming up next week. Goldsboro Books are holding their annual Romance in the Court evening on Thursday 25th May, plus I have a meet up with some other authors and bloggers on Saturday. All in all, it’s shaping up to be a busy few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed I survive it!

PS – If you haven’t checked out Summer’s Lease yet, it’s on pre-order here at Amazon UK, and on iBooks US. And if like me you’re a goodreads fan, you can add it to your TBR here!

Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway

Franklin D Roosevelt once famously said ‘The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.’ – but maybe he’d never been faced with climbing to the top of the O2. Okay, so I’m being a bit glib, but the fact is that sometimes I feel like a walking talking ball of anxiety. Especially when it comes to my bete noir – heights.

I can’t remember when I first started being afraid of tall buildings and mountains. Probably when I learned what happened if you fell off them. And that’s what my fear really is — it’s not a fear of heights, it’s a fear of falling to the depths. A fear of mortal injury!

A wise fear, you might say.

It’s not that dissimilar to some of the fears I face as a writer. What if people hate my book? What if they find out I’m a fraud? (One of my big ones — see this post on Imposter Syndrome for more details). What if I fail?

And sometimes even more scary, what if I succeed?

At the end of the day, the only failures we have are those when we don’t try. When we hang up our hats and hide away and decide not to challenge ourselves. So I try to ignore those inner voices that tell me to stop writing, the same way I try to ignore the inner voice that tells me I’m sure to die if I scale the dizzy heights of a skyscraper.

So I write and I publish, and I try to face my fears. That’s also why I decided to climb the O2 – that giant white tent-like structure in London, home to many a concert and exhibition. It looks like this:

As you can see, the sloping nature of the roof makes it hard to climb, which means you have to wear special equipment, including a harness, strong shoes, and a carabiner that ties you to the roof. You know, just in case you fall. So by the time I was fully dressed and ready to go, I was shaking. I was that afraid.

The route to the top is on a bouncy walkway, along with a hand rail that you have to cling to, otherwise the steepness is too much. All the way your carabiner is locked on to a wire, keeping you safe, but it’s hard work. And a bit like being an author, I found the best way to keep my anxiety under control was to keep my focus ahead of me, not look to the side, and keep breathing. That last tip is good for anything in life — breathing is important. Anyway, after around half an hour our group made it to the top, Want proof? Here’s a picture of me smiling, yes smiling. Because I did it. And the view from the top was amazing.

The route down was actually steeper than the route up (something to do with no platform going down), but I found that walking backward while clinging to the handrail helped. And when I finally made it to the bottom, I got a welcome rush of adrenaline, along with a sense of accomplishment. Because I did it – I felt the fear (oh boy did I feel the fear) and I did it anyway.

Would I do it again? I’m not sure, but I’m definitely glad I did it the first time. With every new thing I try, my fear of failing (or falling) becomes less. And I’m determined never to let my life be limited by fear again. Whether that be in my writing or anything else.