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.

Why Finding Your Writing Process Is A Bit Like Learning to Drive!

There are so many choices to make when we sit down and write a romance novel. Should we plot it out or wing it? Do we write in first person or third? Is it going to be a novel or a novella, and what kind of word count should I be aiming for? And then there’s the craft, finding ways to make the connection between the hero and heroine deeper (in romance), and how to tear them apart again just for the reader’s enjoyment. Deciding on a sub-plot (if you have one) and how to weave that into the main romance.

Credit: Depositphotos

Of course these are only a few of the questions I ask myself (not always consciously, but they need to be addressed at some point), there are so many more. A bit like when I first started to drive, I’ve had a huge learning curve — first of all realising that, just as I wouldn’t get in a car and expect to be able to drive like Jensen Button, nor should I sit down and write a book and expect it to be brilliant in the first pass. (And yes, we all know some authors who can do this — whose first book was amazing and took off — but there are more of us whose first books proved to be huge learning curves).

So if I take the driving analogy further; at first, every move you make when you’re learning to drive is conscious. You sit in the driver’s seat and have to think ‘first I put my foot on the clutch, then I turn the key, then once the engine is started, I need to find the biting point’. And all this is before you’ve even driven anywhere. More importantly, you have an instructor, somebody to guide you until you’re competent enough to do this thing on your own. Sadly, I didn’t have somebody to sit by my side as I typed, pointing out all my mistakes and suggesting alternatives, but I did find people who could help me do this. Beta readers, editors, and reviewers all can help you learn what works and what doesn’t, and I find them invaluable, even if I’m more confident in my skills nowadays.

Credit: Depositphotos

But more than anything, I needed a method to approach my writing, even before it went before the eyes of the editors and the readers. I needed to find my writing process. I’ve managed to do this through a combination of reading craft books, watching webinars, and, most importantly, learning through my own mistakes. In the romance world we’re really lucky that other writers are so willing to share their experiences, and often for free, or not a huge cost. Most weeks I find myself reading craft books or watching a video — as an ex-HR professional, I take my continuous professional development seriously!

The important thing to remember is no two writers’ processes are the same. What works for me won’t work for somebody else. I hate pantsing (i.e. writing without a plan) — although I do less planning than I used to nowadays. So when you get advice, whether it be from books, webinars or fellow authors, remember to take what works for you but ignore the rest.

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As for me, my process has been gleaned from a combination of Blake Snyder’s ‘Save the Cat’ beat sheet, Gwen Hayes’ fabulous book, Romancing the Beat, Nina Harrington’s brilliant videos (plus her many writing books) and a whole lot of trial and error. More importantly, it’s changing every day, as my needs and experience changes. I don’t need as much ‘instruction’ as I did when I was a learner driver, but I’ve also learned that a ‘refresher’ course doesn’t go amiss. I don’t want to be caught speeding after all!

 

 

Why Beginnings are so Hard

It won’t come as a surprise to many of you that I’m a big procrastinator. If something CAN be put off, it WILL be put off. Whether that’s going to the gym (I’ve managed to put that off for 3 years – yay me!), cleaning the house (I’ve done that one more recently, you’ll be pleased to hear) or starting a new book, all of them have been delayed because I’ve found so many better things to do.

But really, they’re not better at all. They’re just ways of stopping me from doing what I either don’t want to do – hello gym and cleaning – or that I’m SCARED of doing – hello new book! Even after writing 12 books, including the ones that will never see the light of day, I still find it hard to write those first 10,000 words. Experience has told me that after those 10,000 words I start to fly – because by then I know my characters, I have an inkling of where they’re going to take me, and more importantly, I get hooked on writing. But knowing this, and doing something about it are two different things.

Before I can even start writing, a book – or rather the characters – have to percolate in my mind. From the youngest age I was a day dreamer, and I find myself day dreaming about my characters, getting to know them, working out what their flaws are, what their dreams are, and how they’re ever going to reconcile the two. This is the fun part of the planning, where I can let my imagination run wild, and take my characters up alleyways even they didn’t know existed. This process can take days, weeks, or sometimes even years. I have one book that’s been brewing in my brain for the past year and a half and it still hasn’t made its way out. I’m sure some of my writer friends can beat that hands down!

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So the imagination is working fine, it’s just getting myself to sit down and write those first 10,000 words that’s the problem. So how do I do it?

I force myself, that’s how. Sadly there’s no magic solution, and no lovely fairy to wave her wand and make the words suddenly appear on the screen. I have to type them, word by word, until I have a sentence, and then a paragraph, and then – wonderfully – a scene. If I make myself do that for three days, then I’m up and running.

If that sounds like hard work, I guess it is, but it’s worth it every time. Like a runner who has to push themselves through the pain to get a runner’s high, or even a mother who has to go through labour in order to get a beautiful baby, I know that putting the hard work in will make me happy in the long run.

Let’s hope I remember this next time I’m writing a book. But I probably won’t, I’ll be too busy procrastinating!

 

Monday News

Good morning! (or afternoon, depending on where you are right now!) It’s a beautiful day here in the South East of England — the sun is out, the sky is blue and the children are off school for their Easter Holidays. Which doesn’t mean much here in the Elks house, because they’re still in bed (teenagers). Still, it’s nice to have them home for a change!

Even more exciting, I actually managed to sit outside with a coffee and a book yesterday. Reading in the garden is my favourite thing to do — it really doesn’t get any better than that. We have lots of tree surrounding us, so listening to birdsong while holding my kindle is my happy place. I hope you managed to get some reading done too!

And speaking of books, I’ve got book news times two. Firstly, in case you missed it, I had the UK Cover Reveal for Summer’s Lease last week — the first book in my new Shakespeare Sisters series. Scroll on down for a look at the cover and the blurb — I LOVE IT!

The US/ Canada cover reveal and links will be coming very soon!

Pre-order links are up here: myBook.to/SummersLeaseUK

And you can add to your goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34728527-summer-s-lease

Wanna know what it’s about? Read on…

Meet the Shakespeare family: four sisters, four stories . . . four ways to find true love

Cesca Shakespeare has hit rock bottom. Six years after the play she wrote bombed at the box office, she’s unable to hold down a job, keep an apartment, and worst of all her family have no idea how far she’s fallen. So when her fairy Godfather offers her the use of his friend’s Italian villa for the summer, she grudgingly agrees to try writing a new play. That’s before she finds out the house belongs to her arch-nemesis, Sam Carlton.

When Hollywood heart-throb Sam Carlton sees his name splashed across a gossip rag, all he wants to do is hide. That’s how he finds himself traveling to Italy, deciding to spend the summer in his family’s empty villa on Lake Como. Except when he arrives it isn’t as empty as he’d hoped.

Over the course of the hot Italian summer, Cesca and Sam have to come to terms with their pasts. What begins as a tentative friendship quickly grows into an intense attraction – and then a scorching fling. But they can’t hide from reality forever . . . as their different worlds collide, Sam and Cesca face a choice: is this just a summer romance, or could their love weather even the coldest winds?

I also have a 99c sale for Broken Chords going on this week. If you haven’t picked it up already, it’s for sale on all venues. Alex and Lara’s story is one of my favourites — telling their story AFTER their happy-ever-after.

☆.•°*°•.☆99c Sale – This Week Only! ☆.•°*°•.☆

A dirty-talking, sexy rockstar meets a smart-mouthed London girl, and sparks fly. But when she falls pregnant with his baby, their lives begin to unravel. What happens when real life clashes with happily-ever-after…

Amazon ➜ http://mybook.to/BrokenChords

Nook ➜ http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940046258561

iBooks ➜ https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/broken-chords/id1094732599?ls=1&mt=11

Kobo ➜ https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/broken-chords-3

Google ➜ https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Carrie_Elks_Broken_Chords?id=ZWTDCwAAQBAJ&hl=en_GB

That’s all my news for now. I’m planning on spending the next couple of weeks getting to work on a  brand new series (yay) and hopefully spending a lot of time reading in the garden. I hope you have an amazing, book filled week!

Finding Your Tribe

discounts-sales

Ernest Hemingway once said that “Writing, at it’s best, is a lonely life.” and it’s as good a description as any of the lifestyle that many authors lead. The very essence of what we do requires us to sit at a table, or a desk, or with a laptop on our knees, and really concentrate on the words that we type onto the screen. The stories we write come from inside us — thoughts that sometimes are so deeply buried in our imagination that they take some coaxing to get out — and though we may talk about our stories, collaborate on them, share them with beta readers or friends, at the end of the day it’s still just us, our minds and a piece of paper.

However, if there’s one thing I’ve discovered about this writing life, it’s that there’s a community out there to suit everybody. Though the writing itself may require us to be alone, there’s so much more to an author’s life than this.

I first found my tribe when I was writing fan fiction. I posted my first few chapters, and somebody reviewed and suggested I friend them on Facebook (thanks Mere!). And through that one message, I found a community of literally hundreds of women who loved reading and writing the same kind of stories that I did. We became friends over the internet — on Facebook or twitter — and then as things grew, I met some of them face to face. Suddenly my quiet little writing world had exploded into glorious new friendships that still remain to this day.

When I became a published author, my friendship circles expanded again. First of all I met other indie authors — the most supportive and friendly bunch you could ever want to know. Then I met readers, cover designers, models, photographers, and all of us shared a true love of the writing world. We started organising signings — weekend long events where authors, readers, editors and models would all mingle together. We drink wine and dance and have a great time. (If you want to see where I’ll be signing in the next 2 years, check my news page out).

Then, after Fix You was published, I joined the Romance Novelists’ Association, and found a whole new tribe. The RNA has amazing Christmas and Summer parties that so many wonderful authors attend, and also has local chapters that meet regularly. I belong to my local (Chelmsford) chapter, and we meet monthly for lunch and a chat. It’s one of the highlights of my month.

So now if I go back to Hemingway’s quote, I can see how narrow it is in its scope. Of course the actual act of writing can be lonely, but the writer’s life can be anything but. Whether you’re an author, a photographer, or have any other kind of interest, there’s a tribe out there just waiting for you to join them. They may be on Facebook, they may be on twitter, they may be on a whole other site I don’t even know about. But look for them, find them, join in. There’s nothing more satisfying that finding a group of people who share your passion. I know, because I’ve found my tribe!

 

Carrie Pink