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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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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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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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 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!