Can a man and a woman just be platonic friends? It’s a discussion I’ve had with people over the years. Some say yes. Others say no.
My only siblings were two older brothers, so I grew up around boys. As an adult I’ve had many wonderful non-romantic friendships with men, some of which lasted for years. Even today I have male friends who are single and heterosexual, just like me, but we’ve never taken the friendship to the next level. I simply don’t feel the romantic attraction, even though I genuinely like them as people and enjoy their company. Of course I have had some friendships which, over time, grew to something more, but they were the rare exception.
I’m including a male/female platonic relationship in my next contemporary romance novel. Those of you who are familiar with my other contemporary romance novels have noticed that my female leads all have a close female friend and confidant. However, I like a little variety, so this time around my female lead’s close friend and confidant will be a heterosexaul man. She thinks of him as the brother she never had, and he thinks of her as his other sister. No, they won’t be taking their relationship to the next level, although I may do this scenario in a future contemporary romance novel. For the moment, however, I’m still trying to decide which man she’ll end up with, but it definitely won’t be her platonic male friend.
Writing contemporary romance novels is incredibly fun. I get to create interesting characters, put them in all kinds of precarious situations, and write action-packed scenes. I suppose it’s the adult version of playing make believe. And while those action-packed scenes are fun to write, they’re not my favorite ones to write. They’re my second favorite. My favorite scenes to write are the quiet, intimate moments when the character is in a time of personal reflection. It’s when I go inside the character’s head and make the emotional connection which, in turn, creates the magic moment when the character becomes more than just words on paper. He or she essentially becomes a living, breathing human being who seems so real that we can almost reach out and touch them.
The following excerpt is from my contemporary romance novel, The Reunion. Ian believes he has just lost Gillian, the love of his life, to his son, Jeremy. Ian takes a long walk to try to sort things out, and reflects on what has happened.
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Ian spent the next few hours walking, but he was in such a state of shock that he became completely unaware of his surroundings. By sundown he was sitting on a bench at an empty playground in a small neighborhood park. Gazing at the playground equipment in the twilight, he saw ghostly images of Jeremy as a small child, laughing and playing. How could that innocent little boy have grown into the man who betrayed him? Darkness was soon upon him, but he had no desire to leave. His mind was filled with images of Gillian and Jeremy, laughing and smiling, while they enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Las Vegas strip. Then he saw the two of them together in their bed. Jeremy was making love to her. Would she respond to Jeremy’s touch the way she’d responded to his?
“Oh, stop torturing yourself, Ian,” he said aloud. “It’s over and done with and you allowed it to happen. Now you can’t undo it.”
He couldn’t bring himself to leave. His mind was filled with the memory of a long-ago night in his college apartment. Gillian was on the leather sofa, wearing his old yellow bathrobe, and he was making love to her for the very first time. That was the moment he knew he had found his one true love, and twice he had foolishly pushed her away. Tonight, she was somewhere faraway, in her marriage bed, with Jeremy for her bridegroom. She had entered a place from where he could never get her back.
The breeze stirred and he heard the leaves rustling on the ground. The cool October night air seeped through his jacket. It was time for him to return home, to his own empty bed. Finally, he stood and walked out to the street. Nothing looked familiar. Walking to the nearest corner, he didn’t recognize the names of either street. He looked at his watch. It was after ten o’clock. No doubt Larry would be frantic. Reaching for his phone, he called Larry, who answered on the first ring.
I’m going back to Hollywood for my next contemporary romance novel. This time my lead character is a musician whose dream is to become a recording star.
The Harvey Weinstein story broke while I was in the early planning stages for my last contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, which also takes place in Hollywood. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the real-life scandal really threw a wrench into my plans. My original intention was for my lead antagonist, studio head Calvin Michaelson, to be a sexual manipulator, but with the Weinstein scandal came the #Me Too movement. I keep politics out of my novels, and the last thing I wanted was for my book to become politicized. So, after many, many revisions and rewrites, Cal ended up becoming a redeemable character, and I had to place many of his negative traits into another antagonist, tabloid journalist Randy Hall.
This time around things are different. Weinstein is now serving twenty-three years in the pen, as well he should be, and the #MeToo movement seems to have run its course. Now I can finally create the villain I wanted to create in The Scandal. His name is George Monroe. He’s a high-level executive with a record company, and he’s going to be like the devil incarnate. Seemingly charming, compassionate and caring on the outside, but underneath the mask is a manipulative control freak who micromanages the lives of those around him for his own narcissistic pleasure. The working title is, The Diversion, although it may be subject to change. What I can tell you for certain is this is going to be fun write.
One of my Facebook friends recently posted about Hollywood, saying, in part, All I’m asking is that you give me good characters, not tokens, and good stories, not lectures.
Such is the sorry state of the entertainment industry today. It’s no longer about entertaining. It’s about using entertainment to push a political agenda, and it’s not going over well with the general public. I think this is why TV ratings overall are down, and why there were fewer butts in seats at movie theaters long before Covid came along. I’ve never been much of a sports fan myself, but lately I’ve been reading plenty of news articles about how television ratings for professional sports have dropped dramatically now that the various sports leagues have made it about politics instead of playing the game. People seek out entertainment because they want to take a break from politics and just be entertained, and when you use entrainment to lecture people they’ll simply walk away.
My contemporary romance novels are written solely to entertain my readers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I wanted to lecture anyone I would write whatever nonfiction genre would be the most appropriate for the point I wanted to make. However, I made the choice to write contemporary romance. It’s my favorite genre, and like my readers, I simply want to be entertained.
Fiction revolves around conflict, and how the characters react to and resolve the conflict. That’s the essence of a plot line, regardless of the genre. I stick to the outcomes readers want and expect. Good overcomes evil. The antagonist suffers the consequences of his or her actions. However, I don’t lecture my readers. I’m a storyteller. My job is to entertain my readers with my stories. I’m neither a teacher or a preacher, nor do I want to be, and I leave the politics to the politicians.
A few people have asked me if I’ll be writing about Covid-19 in any of my future contemporary romance novels. My answer is no, absolutely not.
This isn’t to say pandemics can’t be good subject matter for a novel. For some genres, such as science fiction, mystery, or thrillers, an epidemic can make for an interesting story with plenty of conflict and drama. (I read The Stand, and loved it.) However, I write contemporary romance. My characters are hugging, kissing and making love, which would be rather awkward in the age of social distancing. Erotica writers on the other hand might have fun writing, shall we say, interesting, scenes about masks or Zoom sessions, but I write sensual romance, which means most of the action in my stories takes place outside of the bedroom.
In the meantime I spent much of my time during the lockdown going over my earlier books, and, as a result, you’ll be seeing a spin off novel from The Betrayal. One of the minor characters in The Betrayal was a teenager named Tonya Claiborne. She appears in the latter part of the story, and she’s a strong character with a lot of potential for a leading role. I wrote The Betrayal in 2015, so you’ll be meeting an adult Tonya in the new book, which will most likely be titled The Diversion. The young Tonya was self confident but likeable, so we’ll see what she does when life throws her curveball and she goes off course. I had planned on The Rival being my next book, but I’m bumping it back until after The Diversion. So, it looks like I’m going to be busy for awhile.
In the meantime, in case you haven’t read The Betrayal, I’ve posted a free preview below.
People sometimes ask me why I write contemporary romance as opposed to other genres, such as mystery or science fiction.
I write romance because we all have hopes and dreams and a desire to be happy. That happiness, however, often seems to elude us because of the choices we make, and how we relate to the people around us.
I create characters who are realistic and believable. My protagonists aren’t heroes. They make bad decisions and they’re left to deal with the fallout. Likewise some, but certainly not all, of my antagonists learn from their mistakes and they try to do better. Most, however, remain defiant until the bitter end. Either way, they too have to live with the consequences of their actions, and a few even pay the ultimate price for their sins.
The one thing you won’t find in my stories is gushy, gooey schmaltz. For those who like melodrama it’s out there, but that kind of storytelling isn’t my style. My inspiration comes from my own life experiences, and the stories others have told me. Readers feel the connection, and they in turn tell me how believable my stories are.
This is why I write romance. It’s the one genre where I can dig deeper into our relationships with the people around us and try to better understand the human experience.
I wrote The Reunion back in 2011, and while it’s gotten four and five star reviews on Amazon, I’ve grown as a writer since then, and I want the writing style to be more consistent with my later work. A copy edit is when you make minor changes, as eliminating filler words or rephrasing a sentence. The story content remains the same. It just reads a little smoother.
I finally finished yesterday morning, or so I thought, because as I took a break to do some household chores a new scene suddenly played through my mind.
A new scene and an updated version
Without spoiling the plot, I’ll simply say that one of the antagonists, who appears about halfway through the story, is thwarted. However, this villain also did something illegal, and I never held her accountable for her actions. She simply disappeared once her plan failed, and, looking back, I realized it was a mistake. Doing something against the law is simply wrong, and the character, albeit a minor one, should have been held accountable. The new scene is a conversation between Gillian, one of the lead characters, and Paul her assistant, as they discuss the legal actions they intend to take against this antagonist. The scene ends with the reader feeling that their efforts will be successful, and it adds closure to the episode. The story then returns to the main conflict.
The rest of the story remains as is. The Reunion has been and always will be my favorite novel, as the inspiration from the story comes from someone I once knew, years ago, who has been and always will be near and dear to my heart.
The new, update version of The Reunion will be available soon.
I like to go back and reread my earlier novels as believe it or not, I forget some of the details. While I’m there I might get ideas for a spin-off novel, or I may consider using a character in a future book. It’s also interesting, and occasionally nerve wracking, to see how much I’ve grown as a writer.
The Reunion was my first contemporary romance novel. Prior to that I’d written a cookbook and a series of children’s novelettes, (all under a different name), but The Reunion was my first real novel. It’s also the one nearest and dearest to my heart, as it’s based on someone I once knew. We went our separate ways years ago, and after I started writing books I began wondering what would happen if, by chance, he ever showed up at a book signing. I have no idea actually, but the scenario became the inspiration for The Reunion.
So, as I was wrapping up my latest novel, The Scandal, I grabbed an old copy of The Reunion and started reading, but instead of a happy trip down memory lane, all I saw were things I wanted to go back and edit. Apparently I really have improved as a writer. So much so that the work I was so proud of years ago now looks amateurish, at least to me. Cynthia, my editor, has become much more stringent as well. Granted, most people would never notice the wordiness here, or the choppy sentence there, but to me it’s like listening to sour notes. So, I’m going back and doing a tweak. I’m removing filler words, such as, “decided to,” along with bits of unnecessary narrative. You know, the stuff you won’t miss once it’s gone. The story, however, remains the same. Each and every chapter and scene is still there. They just read a little better.
By the way, I’ve written three spin-off novels from The Reunion. The Journey comes the closest to being a sequel. It’s about the same family, but with different lead characters and an unrelated storyline. The Betrayal and The Letter include minor characters from The Reunion, this time with bigger, more significant roles. Reunion leading lady Gillian also makes cameo appearances in both books.
A few years ago I came across a Facebook meme a musician friend had posted about the rules for dating a musician. It was an interesting read which made the point about a gig not being a date, and not to expect your significant other to give you their undivided attention as interacting with the public is part of their job.
Writers, like musicians, have unconventional jobs. We generally don’t work a normal 9 to 5 work week. Many of us have day jobs. We oftentimes have do our writing after hours, and sometimes we have deadlines. After all, our books won’t write themselves. And while we have a lot to offer, and while we very much appreciate your love and support, chances are we’re not going to be your typical boyfriend or girlfriend. Like musicians, we have our own set of dating rules, most of which will also apply if you have a family member who’s an author.
the rules for dating a writer
Writing is our passion. It is not a hobby.
Authors and writers are often introverts. Please don’t mistake our quietness for conceit or arrogance.
Writing is not a performance art. Please allow us the time and space to work on our craft.
Please don’t quiz us about our works in progress. If we want you to know what we’re working on we’ll be happy to tell you about it.
Never, ever look over our shoulders while we’re writing!
A missed deadline can be a career killer. If we tell you we’re on a deadline it doesn’t mean we’re trying to avoid you. It means we’re on a deadline.
Please don’t tell us about this great idea you have for a book unless you’re actually writing it.
If we want your feedback we’ll ask you for it. If we don’t, then please don’t tell us what you think we should be writing.
Please don’t ask us to make you into a character in one of our books.
A book signing is for meeting fans and promoting our books. It’s not a place for you to hang out.
Please don’t brag to your families, friends and coworkers about how you’re dating an author. We’re not trophies.
Please don’t ask us for free copies of our books for your friends and coworkers.
Never ask us how much money we made on our last book, or how many books we’ve sold, unless you want us to quiz you about how much money you job pays you.
We work in an extremely competitive business and we can’t all be as famous Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Never confuse talent with fame.
Writing my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, has been interesting, to say the least. Ask any author. They’ll tell you all books present their challenges, but we authors work through them. Some books, however, are more challenging than others. The Scandal has presented its fair share of issues, but also it’s been a fun book to write. I’ve honestly enjoyed the additional time. Truth be told, I don’t want this book to end.
Is it life imitating art, or is art imitating life?
The Scandal is set in Hollywood. The lead character is a soap opera star. However, as luck would have it, the Harvey Weinstein scandal started up while I was working on the treatment. Sometimes life imitates art, but did it have to go this far? I take pride in writing original stories. I also keep my books politically neutral.
Striving to keep my story separate from any real-life scandals was challenging indeed. My lead antagonist is a cad, but he’s not a predator. There is a difference between the two. My characters are also unique individuals. My antagonist is the kind of guy you’d like to slap across the face. He’s powerful. He’s complex. He’s seductive, but he’s not skin crawling creepy. He also has some redeeming qualities. Bottom line, I’m really pleased with the way he’s turned out, and I think my readers will like him too.
Look for The Scandal in early October. In the meantime, while you’re waiting, please enjoy a free sample of my contemporary romance novel, The Letter.