Thursday, 5 December 2013

On plot holes ...

Things are a little quieter this week in Darkins HQ now that Hiding from Hollywood is off being subjected to eBook production magic, which has left space in my brain to think about other projects on the go.

I have various manuscripts in different levels of completeness, but just recently I've been starting on a brand new project, as in 'Page 1', 'Chapter 1', 'hundreds of blank pages ahead of you' new. It's been a while since I've been here, and although I found it a little intimidating, I was actually really enjoying getting to know these new characters, rummaging around in their heads and their lives until I worked out who they were and what they were up to. It doesn't have a name yet, but between us, let's just call it ... Beach Bum.

Well, I was telling my very good friend about Beach Bum when she -- quite rightly, and very accurately -- pointed out the whopping great big plot hole right there in Chapter 1.

So now I have a decision to make: go back and rewrite, or 'just keep swimming'. If I get caught up in the first few pages, I might never make it till THE END. If I get to THE END and the hole is going to require major structural work to fix, rather than the subtle tweaks I'm hoping will solve it, I'm not going to be best pleased!

And that's what's going to be occupying my brain between now and 13 Jan (P-Day for Hollywood!) -- if you see me muttering to myself over the next few weeks, don't be overly concerned. I'm just constructing scaffolding.


Monday, 25 November 2013

Hiding from Hollywood cover reveal!

Happy Monday everyone! It's a happy Monday indeed here at Darkins HQ as I can now officially reveal the cover for Hiding from Hollywood! Are you ready? Here it comes ...

A big thank you to the team at Crimson for the fabulous artwork. The book will be hitting the virtual shelves in January, so save a spot on your Kindle (other eReaders are available). In the meantime, join me in gazing lovingly at the cover. Ah, Monday. Now my favourite day of the week.


Friday, 22 November 2013

More reviews!

If you're looking for something to read this weekend, in those short few hours when you're not watching something Doctor Who related (you will be watching, yes?), here's my review of two more of Mills & Boon's Modern Tempted line.

Whose Bed Is It Anyway?

Natalie Anderson

“You’re wearing my T-shirt.” Returning home after a daring rescue mission, all James Wolfe can think of is sleep. So he’s furious to find a beautiful stranger curled up in his king-size bed! Normally no woman ever gets between his sheets without prior invitation – who does she think she is? Disgraced celebrity Caitlin Moore has been offered a place to stay and she won’t give it up – not with the paparazzi outside, baying for her blood! Reluctantly she agrees to share the apartment with James – but, with enough electricity to short-circuit the whole of Manhattan, keeping to their own sides of the bed might prove impossible…
This book had a lot about it to love. A hot guy, a cute set up, forced proximity (probably my absolute favourite trope), great writing. But somehow it never quite clicked for me. Like the gorgeous guy you know who’s funny and nice and gets on with your mates. But you just don’t fancy him.

But in the same way that guy will totally be someone else’s HEA, I’m sure plenty of you out there will disagree with me on this one.

Last Groom Standing

Kimberly Lang

Marnie Price’s guide to surviving the bridesmaid blues… 1. Get a new man 2. Find a new job 3. When in doubt, drink wine! Having watched her three closest friends all find love, Southern belle Marnie Price feels as if she’s the only single girl left. Luckily she’s found a solution – one sizzling night with Dylan Brookes. This man wears a wedding tux better than anyone, but all Marnie wants to do is get beneath it! Dylan is all about making the sensible choice, and a fling with his ex’s friend Marnie is about as far from sensible as he can get! Marnie might prove to him that taking risks is worth it, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to give up his bachelor status quite yet, does it…? 

This is the last of the stories in the Wedding Quartet continuity – and the hero is Dylan. Remember Dylan? The guy Reese ditched at the altar way back in The Unexpected Wedding Guest? Remember I that I thought he was a great character and wanted to know more about him? Actually, I’m not sure that I actually said that out loud, here on the blog, but I definitely thought it.

Kimberley Lang has set herself quite a challenge here, because she’s taken on two characters who aren’t out to wow us with their emotional outbursts. Marnie is – quite frankly – a bit of a cold fish. But through humour (and not a little alcohol) we start to warm to the pair. Until we’re in hysterics, waiting to see if their night together is going to be exposed with a hysterically ridiculous (in a good way) three-way phone call.

In the end the fact that Marnie and Dylan are on the chilly side to begin with only makes it hotter when they let their passionate sides loose.

And then, of course, there’s an appearance from Cassie Barclay …

All in all a very nice read.

Disclosure: I was sent free review copies of these titles by Mills & Boon

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Modern Tempted Review #3

Hello folks! The past few months have been an exciting whirl of revisions, cover art suggestions, author photos, marketing ideas, the list goes on. But now that I have a second to breathe I wanted to share my thoughts on some more releases from the new Mills & Boon Modern Tempted line. So, without further ado ...

Backstage with Her Ex

Louisa George

Her ex…the VIP! Hiding out in the gents’ toilets backstage is not the way Sasha imagined bumping into her significant ex. Especially when that ex is notoriously damaged, famously wild rock god Nate Munro! She has a massive favour to ask him, but one glimpse of his sinfully dark eyes and all she can think about is that he’s seen her naked! Nate’s used to women doing anything to get his attention, but he never pictured bubbly schoolteacher Sasha as the groupie type – she’s far too sweet! But when the paparazzi get a hint of their reunion, it’s scandal all the way. Now the question on everyone’s lips is this: In this showdown between the girl next door and rock-and-roll royalty, who’s going to come out on top?

This story had lots going for it from the start. First up, it's a reunion story, and I love a reunion. – falling in love is a rush, but making that into a real, solid relationship is the real test and – if you can do it – the real reward. So we were off to a good start :) Add in a couple of fantastically drawn characters and I was hooked. Nate’s a full-on bad boy, no half measures, with women coming out of his ears (ahem). Sasha, on the other hand, is uptight, nervous, terrified of letting go -- cue lots of emotional conflict!

I loved the hot chemistry between the two, seeing the softer side of Nate, and wondering right to the end how they’d manage to transform their passionate affair into a real relationship.

Top marks all round, and an author I'll definitely look for again.

Maid of Dishonour

Heidi Rice

When she’s very, very bad… Gina Carrington knows exactly how to have fun! But when she slept with her friend’s brother, the off-limits Carter, she quickly discovered she’d overstepped the mark. …life is so much more fun! Years later Gina sees Carter again, and can’t help but wonder what the harm would be in one more night… He’s available, gorgeous, and behind that laid-back Southern charm there’s a wild side even she can’t tame! But Gina has secrets which she can’t hide for ever – will their chemistry be strong enough to keep Carter by her side when they come to light?
As I predicted in my last set of reviews, Gina's story is one to look out for. She’s feisty (even for a M&B heroine, and that bar’s set pretty high) with a bad girl history to put to rest. Let me nail my colours to the mast here – I don’t like cheaters. It’s just not okay with me, and I knew from Gina’s appearance earlier in the Wedding Quartet that that was how her and Carter’s story starts. So I knew Heidi Rice would have a tough job winning me over. 

Reader, she did it. It wasn’t easy, and if it wasn’t for the fabulously vulnerable side she managed to bring out in Gina, it couldn’t have worked. Not that Gina was the one in the wrong with the cheating of course. But even Carter – who was someone else's erring fiancé when they met – ends up with your heart. It's not just the time since their 'mistake' that made me forgive them, but everything they'd done in the intervening years to try to atone.

So all that, and with a southern American setting – with all the stifling heat and humidity that implies – makes for a steamy read. 

And of course I couldn't not mention the guest appearance from my new favourite romance character ever – Cassie Barclay. All round, a superb read.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Some very exciting news...

I'm so excited to be able to share some amazing news...

My first novel, Hiding From Hollywood, will be published by Crimson Romance next year! After years of scribbling away I'm so excited that my story will be out there in the world for people to enjoy.

And I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who's read drafts, provided feedback, brainstormed with me, made cups of tea (and glasses of wine!) and talked about my characters' problems as if they're real people. I really couldn't have written a word (never mind a book!) without such lovely, generous people encouraging me.

I can't wait to start the next step of the process, even though I'm a bit nervous of being on the other side of the editor's red pen, and will keep you all posted with everything that happens between now and publication.

At this time of year, I couldn't post without mentioning NaNoWriMo. I've written before (here and here) about how much I love this November writing frenzy, and have taken part every year since 2009 (Hiding From Hollywood started life as 2011's effort). But with my rewrites and edits for Hollywood due imminently, and other stories on the go, 50000 words is just not realistic this year (or at least not without dropping one of the other balls I'm juggling). But as I can't resist a November challenge, I've decided that I'm going to try and get myself halfway into a new story -- 25k -- by the end of the month. Check back here to see how I get on!

Is anyone planning to take on NaNo for the first time this year? Or if the full 50k just won't fit into your life right now, why not set yourself another November challenge? Write a short story, try a particular poem structure, write a detailed synopsis for your next story, set yourself a daily word target. To me, NaNo isn't just about getting the words on the page, it's about making space in my life for my writing, a month when leaving the ironing in favour of an extra 500 words isn't just allowed, it's positively encouraged. So whatever, and however much, you're writing this November, Good luck, and may your laundry mountain grow ever higher.

Ellie x

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Modern Tempted review #2

As promised, here are my review of the other two Modern Tempted titles, the first two books of the Wedding Season quartet.

Unexpected Wedding Guest
Aimee Carson

 ‘Surprised to see me?’

Getting caught in her wedding dress by her drop-dead-gorgeous ex-husband is Reese Michael’s worst nightmare. Especially when her perfect-on-paper fiancé then cancels their wedding! Reese has spent years trying to forget how her marriage to Mason Hicks crashed and burned – yes, their chemistry was incredible, but a girl can’t live on lust alone! And what’s a jilted bride supposed to do when the one man she could never forget is back in her life, as irresistible as ever? Mason might be her own personal brand of Kryptonite, but surely life is meant to be lived a little dangerously…?

From the outset the mood of this story felt darker and more dangerous and Mason oozes trouble from the off. He has serious challenges to face – physical and emotional – following service in Afghanistan, and hopes to resolve some of his issues by coming face to face with his ex-wife.

It took a while to warm to Reese – she’s all confrontation in her first couple of scenes – and to be honest I felt rather sorry for her (soon to be ex-) fiancé. But I read on, and I’m glad that I did.

I love a reunion story and characters who know all too well the challenges of trying to maintain a relationship past the honeymoon phase. So by the time they'd found their HEA, I'd forgiven them both their past transgressions (and, thankfully, they'd forgiven one another) and had overcome my initial trepidation. If you like dark and brooding, there’s a lot to love here.

This is the first of four linked stories, the second is ...

Girl Least Likely to Marry
Amy Adams

Talk nerdy to me
Samuel Tucker is absolutely the last person scientist Cassie Barclay would ever date. Yes, he’s gorgeous, but he’s also far too cocky for his own good and thinks that pi is a tasty afternoon treat. So when he asks her to dance at her friend Reese’s nonwedding she’s wondering why on earth she says yes! Tuck is used to people assuming he’s all brawn and no brain, and amuses himself by winding Cassie up. But when he finally takes her to bed, suddenly it’s Tuck who can show Cassie a thing or two! Can he convince her that love and sex have nothing to do with logic and everything to do with chemistry?

This story was my absolute favourite of the four, and I can pinpoint the reason in two words: Cassiopeia Barclay.

After being swamped with hormones and sensual tension from the last few stories, it felt like a refreshing change of pace to see the world through Cassie’s eyes for a few pages. She’s a scientist, rational, and not swept away by a sculpted bicep or a pretty smile. Not interested in men at all – until she comes within sniffing-distance of Samuel Tucker’s pheromones, that is.

She’s totally unconventional, and it was fascinating to spend a few hours in a brain so different from my own, and certainly very different from your stereotypical heroine. I really enjoyed the reverse-Cinderella – she meets the hero when she’s looking her makeover-best, but he doesn't fall in love with her until she’s back in her leggings and baggy tee. And her ideas of romance mostly remain unchanged too, even after she's fallen in love – the final scene when she tries to explain her feelings to Tuck is adorably hopeless.

This is the second of the Wedding Season quartet, and I can’t wait to read the other two stories (I suspect Gina’s, in particular, is going to be a hoot).

That was my take on Modern Tempted, but what do you think of this new line? And did you take the plunge and pitch to the editors?

Friday, 9 August 2013

Mills & Boon Modern Tempted - Review

Disclosure: I was sent free review copies of these titles by Mills & Boon

Mills & Boon have launched a new series of books on their website this month (or rather they have relaunched the RIVA series) and I was very excited to be asked to review the first four titles in the line. 

Modern Tempted (known as KISS in the States) is right up my my street: sassy, sharp writing with heaps of flirtation and sexual chemistry, so read on to find out what I thought of the first two titles. 

If You Can’t Stand the Heat …
Joss Wood        

Resisting temptation has never been so impossible…

Living on the edge used to make wild-card war reporter Jack Chapman feel alive. These days he needs some time out before he burns out. So what better distraction than delectable pastry chef Ellie Evans? She’s oh-so-tempting…and sleeping right next door! Perfect for a short-term fling! Ellie knows it would be beyond stupid to fall for a guy with ice in his veins who’s always on the move. But daredevil Jack is even more irresistible than her death-by-chocolate cake – and saying no has never been Ellie’s strong point!
This was a great introduction to the series, packed full of flirtation, sass and steamy sexual tension. I was hooked by the end of the first chapter, not least because of the appearance of that under-represented species: the red-headed hero (full disclosure, I am myself a ginger).

Jack, the‘reluctantly, cynically charming’ hero, is utterly endearing, even though at times he doesn't really deserve it. But he does redeem himself in the end – especially because, much as I loved him being all masterful and taking control when Ellie needs his help, he’s more adorable still when he stands back and make her fix things herself.

Ellie was a bit of a challenge for me at first. She desperately needs to stand up for herself, and at times I wanted to physically shake some self-confidence into her. But standing back, as Jack does, and seeing her learn it for herself is infinitely more rewarding.

The glimpses into Ellie’s bakery add more colour and sparkle to the story, and the descriptions of the South African coast made me as keen as Jack to up sticks and see it for myself. The chemistry between the hero and heroine sizzled from their first meeting and the ‘heat’ from the title is evident in everything these characters say and do.

All in all, a great introduction to the series, and had me reaching straight for the next in the pile…

 The Right Mr Wrong
Natalie Anderson

‘Will you marry me?’
Isn’t that the question every girl dreams of hearing? Victoria certainly used to think so. And safe, steady Oliver seemed perfect husband material. But that was until she met Liam, his rebellious, scorchingly hot best friend. Suddenly Victoria’s feeling things – crazy lust-fuelled things! – she’s never felt before. But for the wrong guy…Then Oliver goes down on one knee and it’s decision time – head or hormones? But, whether she says yes or no, Victoria’s about to discover the truth about guys like Liam – once you go bad you never go back!
‘Hot sex? Yes, Please’ – It would be very difficult to pick a favourite line from this story – it’s packed with brilliant dialogue, hot descriptions, and insightful emotion, but if I was forced to, it would be this one.

The author packs in so much meaning to every word, that by the time the hero has spoken just one  – ‘Victoria?’ – we know that they’re meant to be together. So much emotion crammed into that one word, and that’s only in the prologue, for heaven’s sake – before the book proper even gets started!

I loved watching Victoria pushing Liam as much as he pushes her – there’s something so very powerful about him trying to cling to his control, and Victoria driving him closer and closer to what he really wants. The scene with the wet shirt – you’ll know it when you get there! – was a masterclass.

The Sliding Doors-style“what-if” reset half way through the book took me completely by surprise, and I was a few pages in before I really understood what was going on, that Vivi really was Victoria (was I being unusually slow?). I did find the jump from the warm glow of a HEA back to early-days sniping a little jarring, and although exploring how just one question can change our lives was definitely very intriguing, I think I could have been just have happy with one story or the other. That said, a second helping of HEA-glow is hard to turn down. 

Up next for review are the first two linked titles of the Wedding Quartet, so watch this space.

Mills & Boon are also actively looking for new authors for the line! They're currently running a pitch contest (details here: so maybe #FoodGloriousFood will be winging its way to them soon?!


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Lovelife of Pi

Until last week, I hadn't written a poem since school. It's not that I've felt a mortal terror of poetry, more of a complete inability to know where to start. I enjoy reading poetry, I'm always overwhelmingly impressed when a member of my writing group brings a poem to share, but the thought of putting pen to paper and coming up with something that looks and sounds like a poem .... It just seemed completely impossible. 

But then, last month, one of the members of aforementioned writing group set us a challenge (a challenge that she herself had been set by a colleague at the school where she teaches).

Write a poem of forty words.

Easy! I hear you cry. Well, hold your horses. That's not even the half of it ... The number of letters in each word must correspond to the first forty digits of pi. Remember pi? The circumference of a circle = 2πr and all that? Pi starts 3.141... So your poem starts with a three-letter word, and then a one-letter word, and then a four-letter word. And so on and so forth until the fortieth digit.

Rather than striking fear into my heart, as this might with any sane person, I actually quite liked the sound of it. This was my somewhere to start. A structure that I could work with to try and expell my poetic demons.

So many hours, a glass of wine, and lots of letter-counting later, here's what I came up with:
I look, a glance, desperate.
He stands still, face drawn
Immobile, heartsick, broken.

Ridiculed are we.
The taunting fates denied us -
Denied love.

But now marriage.
And my husband loitering close by: deceived, trusting.
A dreadful mistake.
I'm the first to admit it's not a work of artistic genius, and that it doesn't make as much sense as I'd like. But I love it. I'm finally off the starting blocks, and next time I'm wondering where to start with poetry, perhaps I'll look back at this and remember it wasn't as scary as I'd thought.

Fancy having a go yourself? The first forty digits of pi are: 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197
Please share your efforts below!


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Foodie update, and lots of other things

Hello friends!

I have spent the past few weeks and months with my head well and truly buried in my WIP. But now it's away with my wonderful critique partner, I finally have a little time to blog, remind my family what I look like, tidy the house, catch up on the laundry ... Oh the glamour.

So Food Glorious Food - it still doesn't have a proper title - is finished, sort of. It's already been through a couple of drafts, and, thanks to the brilliant feedback of my local writers' group, is hopefully in pretty okay shape. Though I'm sure that my CP is finding lots of stuff for me to work on as I speak!

In other news, remember my Old Friends? Well, just like when the whole story got started, they're hanging around in my head again a lot, refusing to leave me alone. A second draft of their story is definitely on the cards, and soon, but some of their friends seem to be hassling me as well, wanting a book of their own. I'm not sure I'm ready to embark on another historical adventure just yet - especially when I'm still researching and making plans for the first - but like with lots of my writing, I'm not entirely sure I'm the one calling the shots here.

So that's where my writing life is at the moment - a bit all over the place. One manuscript out for review, another awaiting a second draft and more research and a couple of ideas that seem determined to drag my attention away. Oh, and then there's the small matter of writing a POEM (but perhaps I should save that for another time).

I'd really love to hear how everyone else balances different projects at different stages. How do you decide what to work on next? Should I chase down that new idea or stick with research and revisions for the one I've already written?


Monday, 15 April 2013

Hearing voices

I have Good News - my characters are talking to me again! I stuck out the awkward party, I made small talk, I listened and eventually  they started letting me into their conversation.

The excellent advice I had - to get my characters to explain themselves to a new character - was a turning point. I wrote pages and pages cringe-worthy info-dump dialogue, which will NEVER be seen by another human EVER, but which helped me to really understand them again. I began to feel their conflicts, rather than  just know them.

That's not to say that there aren't some ongoing issues. My characters are still making me work really hard for their cooperation. They will only speak to me if I'm writing longhand, away from my desk, for example. And they like to talk when they feel like it, not when I do. I remind myself I mustn't indulge them in this last point - it isn't the best way to get a novel finished, after all, and the more I talk to them, it seems, they more they'll talk to me.

So for anyone out there being given the silent treatment by their characters - please don't give up. They are still in there somewhere: keep writing, and they'll come back to you.

Ellie x

Friday, 1 March 2013

Late to the party

Have you ever arrived late to a party and known straight away it's going to be a very long night. Everyone's a few glasses ahead of you, there's a new in joke, (whenever anyone tries to explain it they end up saying 'you just had to be there') and the food's looking a bit manky. You're convinced you stick out like a sore thumb, and you think you'd be better off leaving.

Well, this is what my characters have done to me. Last time I was here I was all excited to get back to work on Food Glorious Food. I'd been looking forward to it for ages, and I was prepared to dive right in. Unfortunately, my characters were less happy to be woken from a six-month nap. Turns out they were pretty happy being ignored, and they don't want to let me back in.

This doesn't feel fair. I created these people. I'd spent an age doing prep work: building the characters in my mind, creating character profiles, writing the first few chapters, writing more character profile. I thought that I'd be able to sit, read through my notes, remember everything about who they are, and start writing.

But when I sit down and write, the words don't want to come. When my critique group helpfully point out the plot hole in chapter one, I can't come up with a way to fix it. I just don't understand these people any more.

So, I've done what I would have to do at that party. I started talking, well writing. It doesn't matter that my conversation is stilted, or that the person I'm talking to doesn't make much sense. I figure I'll write my way through this conversation, and the next and the next, and as long as I am putting pen to paper, and doing my best to figure my characters out (and perhaps with the help of a small glass of red) I'll find my way back into the party spirit.

Has this happened to anyone else - any advice gratefully received!

Ellie x

Monday, 21 January 2013

Food Glorious Food

With Hollywood finished, and Old Friends resting I'm very excited to be revisiting a much-loved project I started last year - I've been waiting ages for the right time to give it the love and attention that it deserves.

My heroine was inspired by the warm glow on the faces of cookery show contestants - the pure, unadulterated pleasure of seeing someone love something you've created. I wanted to explore how this love of food, and love of pleasing people might fit into a relationship, and my heroine blossomed onto the page. I knew exactly the man who would challenge and push and irritate her, and the sparks started to fly as soon as I got them into a room together!

So for the coming weeks, or months, or however long it takes to do their story justice, I'm going to be exploring the relationship between food and love. Because as Virginia Woolf said: 'One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.'

Ellie x