Friday, 25 July 2014

Research -- it's a hard life...

Last weekend I had the absolute joy and privilege of attending my best friend's wedding, and acting as her maid of honour. Cue days and days of being immersed in the warm and fuzzies, as I watched two people looking like they were the happiest and luckiest souls on the planet promising to spend their whole lives together. Emotional doesn't even start to cover it.

And because the happy couple had made the extraordinarily brilliant decision of getting married on the beautiful Jurassic coast, I also managed to cram in a little research for #BeachBum! This is where I introduce Miss Krista Cartlidge, Head of Geography at Burlington Danes Academy, south-coast native and my other long-suffering BFF (yes, we're a BFF triumvirate). She is the fount of all knowledge geographical, and I am now officially fully versed in the creation of arches, stacks and stumps; coastal erosion; world-heritage status; and the watersports potential of several south-coast resorts. Thanks, Miss Cartlidge!

From the top of Durdle Door. Very tempted to perch my hero's house right here

So that he and my heroine can enjoy views as beautiful as this one...

And stroll along this beach hand in hand

And learn about stacks and stumps from Miss Krista Cartlidge!

And if you're interested to know what a geography teacher gets up to in their summer holidays, read on! This summer Krista will be taking on her most crazy challenge to date...

She is flying off to the Swiss Alps to trek the famously beautiful but difficult Haute Route. The trek normally takes 9 days, but she'll be doing it in just 7 so it is going to be tough! This is one of the stages of the STRIVE challenge which has been set up by the fantastic charity Big Change, who help young people across the UK to develop critical character traits such as resilience, leadership, confidence and team work. If you want to donate to this fab cause, head to

And now I'm off to plan my next gruelling research trip. Wine tasting in the south of France perhaps? A yacht around the Carribean? Would love any suggestions!


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

They're here!

Picture the scene: you return from a gruelling four-hour shift manning the desk at your local library, only to find the postwoman has left you a card. She tried to deliver a parcel while you were out. And your author copies of Frozen Heart, Melting Kiss are due any day. But you've a deadline tomorrow, and no time to head down to the village and back.

This was me, last Thursday....

So I wait Friday until morning, when the proofs I've been correcting are finished, and head to the post office, full of anticipation of paperback loveliness. I head up to the counter with grin on face and bounce in step, and deal with business first, getting my proofs in the post so they arrive on time. And then I hand over the red card, practically dancing now with anticipation. The lady in the post office digs round behind the counter, picking up and looking at different parcels in turn. It's not that one! I want to shout. It'll be a bigger box than that. But what's this? She's heading back to the partition, with a unfeasibly small parcel. It's got my husband's name on it. No parcel. No books. An electrical connector for a Golf GTI alternator. Sob.

So I trudge home (actually, I drove -- I'd bought the car with me, anticipating a great big heavy box) and get on with some chores, have a bit of lunch. The doorbell goes, and I open it to find a UPS guy with a great big box ...

They're HERE! They're BEAUTIFUL! They're ALL MINE!! OK, so this last part isn't true. They'll be winging their way shortly to reviewers, as giveaway prizes, and to some of the fabulous people who helped me get this book written. So maybe next time you get a card from the postie, Will and Maya will be waiting for you.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Let it rest

Those of you I've already regaled with my tales of home-made bread will know that I recently invested in a breadmaker. This is quite possibly the best thing I have ever bought (and I have been known to buy rather luscious shoes on occasion).

Simply put, a breadmaker works like this: flour and yeast goes in - bread comes out. Warm, smelling delicious and ready to eat. Now you might be wondering what all this has to do with writing and romance. Good point. I'm getting there, honest. Because here's the catch: as wondrous as the breadmaker undoubtedly is, the magic doesn't happen instantly. Flour to bread takes just about three hours, and if you try and rush the process, the goods just aren't up to scratch.

And this is much like writing a novel (see, told you I'd get there).

I've spent the past few months immersed in my #BeachBum world, trying to mould Rachel and Leo's story out of the myriad ideas, emotions and hunches I'd been scribbling in my notebook. And now that I've woven their lives together into a somewhat coherent narrative, they need a break. 

Like leaving the bread to prove, a stage which if skipped leads to a heavy, unpleasant loaf, I have to leave my characters to rest, to mature without me. And I have to give myself space, time and distance from them, to see their flaws and their strengths, and the many, many repeated words that undoubtedly litter their story. So while the story's out with my fab critique partner and beta readers, I'm not looking at it. It's the longest time that I've spent without these two characters in my life for months, and I have to admit to finding it a little strange. All the time, though, more ideas for them are occurring to me, and other stories, some which I've put on semi-permanent rest, are trying to inveigle their way into my mind, making me look ahead to a time when Rachel and Leo are truly done, and I'm ready to move on.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to that first read back, when I get to re-familiarise  myself with the #BeachBum world, and being able to see with fresh eyes exactly where I need to take their story. Accompanied by tea and a couple of slices of home-made toast, no doubt.


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Beta reader needed and 10% off Crimson Romance

Well, despite various family dramas, I'm pleased to report that #BeachBum is continuing apace. The (scarily rough) first draft is complete, and the (only very rough) second draft is only an epilogue away from being done too.

And that means I need some help! I'm looking for someone, or someones, to read my rough draft and let me know what you think of it -- characters you love, plot points you hate, dialogue that sounds a little ropey (I think it's fair to say the manuscript will have at least two out of the three...). So if you love Mills & Boon Cherish (Harlequin Romance, to those of you across the pond) and want the chance influence the story, then let me know!

I'd also love if any new mums or mums to be would like to beta read, and let me know their thoughts on the pregnancy aspects of the story, as there's only so much I can learn from the NHS website and Netmums!

As it's so sunny out there, we all need a little something to read in the garden or on the beach, so use the code FFSAVE on the new Crimson Romance website, and get an extra 10% off (on top of their 30% off and 6-for-5 offers!) So if you've not read Hiding from Hollywood yet, head to!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Wanna see something pretty?

I'm absolutely thrilled to reveal the astonishingly pretty North American cover for Frozen Heart, Melting Kiss. I'm blown away by how beautiful it is, and how the very talented folks at Harlequin and Mills & Boon have captured the emotion between Maya and Will. That thumb on the jaw ... *swoon*

Just three months now until this is hitting the bookshelves, and I couldn't be more excited! Want to know more about the book? Here you go!

Food to heal his soul... 
Shy and vulnerable Maya Hartney has one great
passion—cooking. She’s turned her greatest pleasure
into a thriving business, and nothing fulfills her more
than delighting her clients. Until she’s hired by taciturn
workaholic Will Thomas to cater a charity dinner.…
Only, where Will’s concerned, Maya can do no right! The
solution? Sign him up for one of her cookery courses and
force the man to fall for her food. A week, one-on-one,
cooking and tasting, proves to be a lot more intense and
emotional than either of them are expecting! And it
comes with a delicious new taste sensation…a kiss….

As always, would love to hear what you think!

Love, Ellie

Monday, 7 April 2014

Book titles, serious research, and getting hitched

So many exciting things to update you about! Since my last post, life has been pretty exciting around Darkins HQ.

First up, news on my first book with Mills and Boon. Avid readers of the blog might know it as 'Food Glorious Food', as 'Will and Maya', or, because I'm lazy and madly in love with my heroine -- usually, just good old 'Maya'. But the wonderful folks at Mills and Boon have put their heads together and come up with the beautiful, swoon-worthy title: Frozen Heart, Melting Kiss. Needless to say, I LOVE it. This will be hitting bookshelves (real and virtual) from September 2014, so watch this space for more details.

In other news, they have also just okayed my proposal for my second book, currently untitled, but known around these parts as 'Beach Bum'. I have some serious research to do now, scouring interior design mags for coastal cottage ideas (VITAL to the story), checking out beautiful seascapes, and with any luck a trip to the beach to smell the sea air, listen to the seagulls and taste the fish and chips. Life as a romance novelist -- it's torture all the way ...

And as if that wasn't enough excitement, I lived out my very own HEA last month and tied the knot with my long-suffering boyfriend. I now feel well qualified to rule that married life is pretty bloody wonderful, and intend to introduce as many characters as possible to the institution.

All in all, 2014's proving to be a pretty spectacular year, and we're only in April. Can hardly wait to see how the rest of it pans out!

Much love


P.S. Will you forgive the blatant self-promotion if I point out this fantastic 5* review of Hiding from Hollywood by Coffee Time Romance? You will? Well, thank you very much!

Friday, 7 February 2014

More amazing news

It seems like 2014 is the year for Incredibly Exciting Events, and I have one more item to add to the agenda ...

Yesterday I received a call from Mills & Boon offering me a contract for my next book .... and the one after that too!

I'd spent the last few days with half an eye on my inbox after sending through a revised manuscript to the editor at Mills & Boon, but I was actually feeling pretty relaxed about it. After going through several rounds of feedback and revisions I was really happy with  my story, knew that the editors were enthusiastic, and that I couldn't have worked harder on it. So when I received an email from my editor asking if I was free for a phone call, I was quietly confident.

I tried to stay calm, reminded myself of the questions I'd want to ask about contracts and deadlines and schedules -- if the news was good -- and waited for the phone to ring. But as soon as the words 'two-book deal' were mentioned all pretence at cool flew out the window! I pretty much gushed for the rest of the call -- but at least had the presence of mind to put a bottle of champagne in the fridge!

I'm (obviously!) absolutely overjoyed at this news, and can't wait to share Will and Maya's story with you all. Publication's scheduled for September 2014 and I'll keep you posted with everything that happens between now and then. In the meantime, I owe an enormous THANK YOU to Alexia Adams, my long-suffering critique partner, and Flo Nicoll, editor extraordinaire at Mills and Boon, both of whom saw the potential in Will and Maya's story, and helped me pull it into shape. And to my family and friends who read drafts and delivered tea, food, mince pies and wine when I was bashing away at the laptop -- THANK YOU!

Now I guess it's time to get back to my notebooks and keep scribbling!