Surprise Cover Reveal – Summer’s Lease

Sometimes you have to make some tough decisions. Changing the US and Canadian cover for Summer’s Lease was one of those for me. You see, I loved the old cover. The designer and I worked really hard at getting the concept right, choosing the right model and background to really get the essence of the story. And yet, from the feedback I was getting, it just wasn’t working.

I’m a Brit, and we have particular tastes in covers. You only have to take a look at the top books in the UK romance charts to see that. We like covers with girls on, with bright colors and happy fonts. Especially when it comes to a summer book.

But then if you look at the US romance charts, the cover preferences are completely different. They’re dominated by two concepts — either the manchest (pic of man with a naked torso from the waist up) or by couples. There aren’t a whole lot of pictures of women on their own in there. Yes, there are a few, but these prove to be the exception rather than the rule. Usually, a  woman on her own signals Women’s Fic — and that wasn’t the vibe I was looking for here.

So with a heavy heart (and a lighter wallet) we’ve gone back to the drawing board and created a whole new cover for Summer’s Lease, and I have to say I LOVE it. I love the colours, I love the couple, and I love the way it feels so summery, and yet really screams romance, too. Because Summer’s Lease is definitely a romance, between a sexy movie star and a girl who’s just looking for an escape.

MY BRAND NEW US COVER!

If you still prefer female-centric covers, don’t panic – my UK cover remains the same, with a pretty girl staring out across Lake Como, toward a glorious vista of Varenna, Italy. So really, I have the best of both worlds.

HERE’S THE UK COVER!

It’s now only 4 days until release day, and I really CAN’T WAIT! I’ll be having lots of giveaways and celebrations over on Facebook and Twitter, not to mention with my newsletter subscribers, so make sure to join me there!

And don’t forget that you can still pre-order Summer’s Lease for only 99p / 99c at these places:

AMAZON UK

iBOOKS US & CANADA

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From Italy with Love… more on Summer’s Lease

Like many good things, my latest book, Summer’s Lease, started off with a ghost of an idea. What if a girl who’d lost everything came face to face with the man who’d ruined her career. And what if he’d had more success than he’d ever dreamed of? From that little kernel a story started to grow. As the heroine – Cesca – is a playwright, I wanted the setting to be secluded, almost like a theatre in itself. That’s where the idea of an isolated villa came from. It had to be behind gates, with no connection to the outside world, and yet beautiful enough for the seclusion to feel luxurious.

And on top of that, there had to be a reason for the heroine to be thrown together with the hero — Hollywood superstar Sam Carlton. And what better reason than the fact they both thought they’d be the only person at the villa? So when Sam, the man who caused Cesca’s fall from grace, turns up at his family’s villa on Lake Como, all hell breaks loose. And thus begins the story of Summer’s Lease.

When it came to researching the location, I felt truly blessed. I also managed to do it a little back-to-front. I started off with my good friend, Google, spending hours on trip advisor and travel blogs, soaking up the hot atmosphere of Lake Como, and becoming hugely jealous of all those rich people and celebrities who spend their summer there. I also spent a lot of time researching the food – finding out about the local produce, some of the best restaurants, as well as the luscious wine that’s produced in the region.

When I finished the first draft, I realized I’d not only fallen in love with the hero and heroine, but also with a whole country. So I turned to my long-suffering (but lovely) husband and said, “can we go on holiday to Italy this year?”

Thankfully, he said yes.

In the end, we agreed that Lake Garda was more suitable for our family of four than Lake Como. So last summer we hauled ourselves and our bags to our local airport and flew out to Milan, where we picked up a hire car and drove across to the lakes. And in a weird way I felt a bit like a girl going to meet a boy she’d met online. I was nervous that it wouldn’t be as beautiful as the pictures and descriptions had made it out to be. That somehow I’d been cat-fished by a country.

But of course it was MORE than I ever thought possible. The lake was as sparkling and blue as I’d hoped it be, the scenery as breathtaking, and the food as mouthwatering as I try to describe in the book. And when our two weeks were over, I got back onto that aeroplane knowing that I’d be back very soon.

And since a picture paints a thousand words, I’ll leave you with some photographs of our time at Lake Garda, and maybe you’ll fall a little in love with it, too.

        

Summer’s Lease will be released on July 13th, in eBook and Paperback. For more information please click here.

 

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My Writing Year – a Six Monthly Review

Credit: Depositphotos

As a dyed-in-the-wool planner (and an ex-HR practitioner) I’ve always set myself targets, in fact it’s often the only way I get things done. If I don’t have a daily things-to-do list written down, then I feel lost. Or rather, I feel entitled to make myself a cup of coffee, sit back and get lost in my latest read. Either way, I need to have goals in order to motivate myself,

That’s why back in January I wrote a post about my writing goals for 2017. To give myself some accountability, and to have something to measure myself against at the end of the year. And a bit like reading an old diary, it’s fun to look back and see what I was thinking a few months ago.

In HR, we always used to preach that objectives are only useful if they’re regularly reviewed. And though I no longer have a ‘boss’ to sit me down for a bi-annual appraisal, that doesn’t stop me from rating myself. So let’s see how I’ve done so far this year.

Target 1 – Edit & publish Summer’s Lease, the first in my new series.

Result – Done and dusted. Well almost. The book is fully edited and will be released on July 13th this year. It’s already getting some lovely reviews on Goodreads, and is available right now to pre-order for 99p / 99c.

Goal achieved. YAY!

Target 2 – Revise & submit A Winter’s Tale – the second in my new series.

Result – achieved. In fact, I think I overachieved this one. Not only has it been submitted, but it’s been through revisions, line edits & copy edits and is just awaiting a proofread. It will be released in November, and I can’t wait for people to read this one!

Target 3 – Write the first draft of Book 3 in the Shakespeare Sisters series

Result – target achieved. I spent most of the first 3 months of the year writing this book (tentatively titled Absent in the Spring), and since then have set it aside. One of my targets for the next couple of months is to revise and submit it to my publishers. I’m slowly learning to love the revision process (or certainly the outcome) but it’s still damn hard work. Wish me luck!

Target 4 – Write book 2 of my super-secret project

Done! Wish I could tell you more, but my lips are currently sealed. As soon as I can share, I promise I will 🙂

Target 5 – Attend author events to publicise new books

Result – partially achieved. I talked in this post about an author signing I attended in Newcastle, which was amazing. I also got to network with some fabulous authors at the RNA Summer Party, and at Goldsboro Books’ Romance in the Court. In August I’ll be attending Chaptercon, a multi-author/reader/blogger event in London, and I’ll be going to my first RNA Summer conference, too.

In 2018 I’ll be attending a number of author events, and I’m really excited about them!

So What Haven’t I achieved?

As it’s only half way through the year, there are a lot more targets that I need to achieve by the end of December 2017. These include:

  • Write book 3 of my super secret project
  • Plan release events for A Winter’s Tale
  • Complete revisions & publisher edits for book 3 of the Shakespeare Sisters series
  • Make plans for 2018

But my biggest goal, and one I haven’t spoken about much yet, is that I need to really working on marketing these books. I’ve started to work with the fabulous Social Butterfly PR, who will be helping to coordinate the release of both Summer’s Lease and A Winter’s Tale, along with helping me plan sales, special events and other things to make my readers happy.

By the end of 2017 I’ll have 6 books published, with at least another 2 to come in 2018, and it’s time to make sure they get as much attention as my new projects do. Balancing writing the next book with marketing my backlist is always a hard job, but one I’m determined to work on in the latter part of 2017. Want to know how I get on? Check back in December for my review of 2017!

So that’s it for my half-yearly review. After that I think we all deserve a drink down the pub. I’ll buy the first round, see you there!

Love,

 

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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!

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!