Meet Jeremy Palmer

lead character in “The Journey”

A young, smiling dark haired man.
© Can Stock Photo / photography33

Funny how things sometimes work out. Jeremy Palmer was intended to be a rogue character in my earlier contemporary romance novel, The Reunion. He would make a brief appearance, do his dirty deed, and disappear into the night. However, things don’t always go as planned, as I soon realized that Ian could never have such an evil son. Thus Jeremy went from rogue villain to rival, competing with his father for Gillian’s affections. It created a storyline that many readers tell me was their favorite part of the book. Jeremy blossomed. Okay, he jumped off the page. He became a sexy, vibrant character worthy of having his own novel, The Journey.


The Journey begins approximately eighteen months after The Reunion has ended. A happily married engineer, Jeremy’s world suddenly turns upside down. His wife, Cassie, has been seriously injured in a car crash. Jeremy rushes to the hospital and stays by her side. As Cassie slowly recovers the two befriend Denise, one of Cassie’s nurses. Denise seems familiar, but Jeremy can’t quite place her. Denise, however, has never forgotten how he jilted her, years before. She wants a second chance, and she’s about to unleash an evil plan to win him back.

Jeremy is a purely fictitious character, although his character is similar to the young Ian seen in the flashback chapters of The Reunion. The inspiration for the younger Ian comes from someone I knew, long ago, and, just like his father, Jeremy will make his fair share of mistakes, no doubt leaving some readers saying, “Like father, like son.”

Marina Martindale

Meet Maggie Andrews

The Queen of Mean in The Deception

A woman with short blonde hair.
© Can Stock Photo / yekophotostudio

Sometimes the villains I create in my contemporary romance novels are downright disturbing. Maggie Andrews certainly fits the description. She’s the woman readers love to hate in The Deception.

Maggie is the last person you would ever expect to be so mean. She’s a stay-at-home mom who’s married to Scott, a software engineer. They have two typical all-American kids and live in a nice home in the suburbs. She and Scott also share a passion for art collecting. Maggie believes she’s living the good life. Unfortunately for her, Scott has been leading a double life, and her perfect world is about to be shattered.

Every morning Maggie likes to grab a second cup of coffee and catch up on her email. That is, until one fateful morning when she borrows Scott’s laptop. She’ll accidentally discover something she never wanted to know, and her heart will break. However, whatever sympathy readers may feel for her will be short lived. A darker side of Maggie will quickly emerge as she hatches a twisted plan for revenge which, in the end, will have potentially deadly consequences.

Maggie is purely fictitious character. While not inspired by any specific individual, many of us have undoubtedly encountered people like her. Maggie is a spiteful woman who’s incapable of forgiveness, even after those who have wronged her have apologized. She’s also the personification of the concept that two wrongs never make a right. This is why readers love to hate her.

Marina Martindale

The Deception is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com

Stuck in a Literary Sexual Rut

An open book with two pages folded together in the shape of a heart.
Photo by Fotolia.

 

Oh the problems one encounters when writing contemporary romance. As I explained in my earlier blog post, Sweet, Sensual or Erotic Romancethere is a distinct difference between sensual romance and erotica. In sensual romance, the “romance” scenes are written to enhance the plot as the characters consummate their relationship. The emphasis is on what they’re feeling.

That said, as I’m working on my third novel, The Journey, I found myself in a bit of a rut when writing those scenes. Let’s face it. There are only two kinds of equipment out there, and that equipment only works in certain ways. I was starting to worry that my writing might be become too redundant.
So, I decided to do a little research and downloaded a copy of an anthology called Little Birds, by Anais Nin.

Ms. Nin is perhaps the literary madam of erotic literature. I thought I might learn something new about writing from her. What I found, at least in my opinion, were stories that were a little cold. The characters were one-dimensional and lacked passion. Afterwards, I looked at my own writing. I think there’s something to be said for writing about what the characters are feeling, emotionally as well as physically. As for the redundancy; I suppose it is what it is. Even Ms. Nin’s stories were a bit redundant. Yet decades later, readers still enjoy them. I guess there are some things in life that people will never get tired of. Like chocolate cake.


Marina Martindale

I Don’t Do Formula Writing

No symbol of a circle with a diagonal line going through it. I received the nicest compliment from a woman who told me how much she enjoyed reading my contemporary romance novel,  The Deception. She even compared me to Nora Roberts, which was very kind. She went on to tell me that unlike Nora Roberts, I don’t use formula writing.

She also talked about how every Nora Roberts novel follows the same pattern, and how her books are very predictable.  What she liked about The Deception was that fact that it wasn’t predictable at all. The plot twists kept her attention and kept her turning the pages.

Her kind words meant a lot. They certainly made me feel validated. I work hard to create realistic, three-dimensional characters, as well as write life-like story lines. As I write, I tune into my character’s minds. I try to see what they’re seeing and to feel what they’re feeling. I’m concerned about the conflicts they’re facing, and how they’re going to resolve them. Therefore, I simply cannot be preoccupied about having to have the leading lady met the leading man by page ten, or about having my climax occur twenty pages before the novel ends. That kind of rigidness would destroy my creativity and stifle me a storyteller.

Real life isn’t a formula. Life is unpredictable, and so are my contemporary romance novels. I’m pleased to know that my readers like my unpredictability. 

Marina Martindale

Meet Louise

the two-faced antagonist in The Deception
© Can Stock Photo / Koldunov

We’ve all known people who are sweet as pie to your face, only to plunge a dagger into your back when you least expect it. They say with friends like that who needs an enemy. Unfortunately, they don’t come with warning labels, and they can fool the best of us.

Meet Louise Dickenson, one of the antagonists in my contemporary romance novel, The Deception. Louise is more than happy to be your friend, provided you have something of benefit to her. This makes her a great antagonist as she’s the kind of woman we love to hate.

Louise is a semi-retired commercial photographer. Years before, she worked with Carrie, who was then a child model. The two forged a friendship which would last for decades. Louise later inspired Carrie to become a commercial photographer herself, mentoring her and helping her become successful.

Louise, now an art photographer, has picked up a private commission for a series of a female nudes. She also has a show coming up at a local art gallery, and plans on including the nude photos. First, however, she needs a model. Knowing that Carrie is currently down on her luck, she offers her old friend a well paying modeling gig. Carrie hesitates, but Louise skillfully calms her fears by convincing her that she’s really trying to help her. The experience, however, will leave Carrie feeling manipulated and exploited, and as the story unfolds, she’ll discover that Louise was never her friend.

Louise is a fictitious character, loosely based on a family member who was also a master manipulator.

Marina Martindale

 

The Deception is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

Blame It On Too Many Soap Operas

 
and my misspent youth
© Can Stock Photo / ginosphotos

People often ask me what motivated me to become an author. Or why I write contemporary romance. I blame it on my misspent youth. I was a soap opera junkie for many years. It began when I was in the sixth grade and it continued into adulthood. I suppose I could blame it on my mother too. Instead of telling me to go do something more productive, she got me started on her soaps.

I used to schedule my college classes around my soaps. Mind you, this was in The Dark Ages, before we had the Internet, so having my first VCR was a truly liberating experience. I could now have a life. I was able to tape my soaps and watch them at my convenience. I taped my favorite soap everyday for many years.

What makes soap operas so compelling?

So, what was it about soap operas that was so compelling?  According to my high school drama teacher, soap operas were real life, exaggerated. Soap operas relied on classic plot lines, such as extra-marital affairs, illegitimate children, and long-lost family members. Viewers could make a connection because they were believable stories.

The other thing that made the soaps so compelling were the characters. I never watched the now defunct All My Children, but I certainly knew who Erica Kane was. Dr. Marlena Evans on Days of our Lives was my personal favorite. Two great actresses, Susan Lucci and Deidre Hall, played those memorable roles. They transformed these fictitious characters into believable, three-dimensional people.

I too strive to create believable, three-dimensional characters in my contemporary romance novels, such as Ian Palmer and Gillian Matthews, in The Reunion, and Carrie Daniels and Alex Montoya, in The Deception. I also work hard to create believable stories. My plotlines twist and turn, just like a soap opera. My characters get involved with the wrong people. Long-lost lovers are reunited, and people are betrayed by the ones they trust the most. In other words, they’re real life, somewhat exaggerated.

Marina Martindale

A Halloween Hayride

From the Contemporary Romance Novel The Reunion

© Can Stock Photo / Givaga

Fall is in the air, which means Halloween is coming. I’ve always loved Halloween. It was the one night of the year when I could play dress up. Interestingly enough, I preferred trick or treating as my favorite fictional character, so my mother and I would rummage through our closets to put my costume together.

Below is a Halloween chapter from my contemporary romance novel, The Reunion. It’s inspired by a real-life event, when my significant other volunteered us to work at a haunted house. In this sample read, Gillian, has volunteered to work at a haunted hayride, and while she’s there she’ll confide in a mysterious stranger. Or so he seems.

Martina Martindale

a Halloween excerpt from The Reunion

Gillian was warming herself at the heater when she heard footsteps coming up behind her. Someone in a Grim Reaper costume had joined her, and whoever it was seemed to be staring at her. Finally, he spoke up. Gillian noticed he had a raspy voice.

“I’m sorry. I was told I’d be working with a blonde lady.”

“Well, I was a blonde until a few weeks ago. Now I’m a redhead.” She extended her hand. “The name’s Gillian, by the way.”

“John. Pleased to meet you.”

As they shook hands John told her he was one of the locals. He also seemed to be curious about her. The sound of clopping hooves, nervous laughter and chatter told them the first wagon was approaching. Gillian pulled up her hood. At John’s cue she ran up to the wagon while he chased after her. Their brief performance brought startled screams from the passengers. The wagon rolled on and they returned to the heater.

“So why would a blonde lady want to become a redhead?” he asked.

“It’s a long story. Let’s just say I’m celebrating a new lease on life. The old me was the blonde, the new me is a redhead.”

As they talked, she caught a whiff of something familiar. The cologne Ian always wore. The scent was a distraction, and she had to reminded herself that it was a popular brand and other men wore it too. John soon became quiet. A short time later another hay wagon came by and they repeated their scary performance in the dark maze. After the wagon left, Jeremy stopped by to check on her.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“So far, so good. Wait a minute, Jer. It looks like you’ve got a little smudge. Let me fix it for you.”

He leaned down as she removed one of her gloves and gave him a quick touch up. “There, that’s better.”

“Thanks.” Jeremy wrapped the reins around the saddle horn and reached down with both hands to pull her hood up. “You need to keep this on so you can stay warm. I don’t want you catching cold.”

“Got it. Thanks, Jer.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll come back a little later to check on you again.”

Jeremy rode away, and Gillian when turned back she noticed John was watching her intently. It was starting to make her feel uncomfortable.

“I take it he’s your significant other,” he finally said.

“Actually, he’s my best friend. Probably the best friend I’ve ever had.”

“How so?”

Despite her growing discomfort with his questions, something deep inside told her John was trustworthy, so she followed her instincts.

“It’s a long, complicated story. I’ll just sum it up by saying I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now if it wasn’t for him. That man literally saved my life not too long ago. I don’t remember it, but I’m told I fell into some water and nearly drowned. He’s the one who rescued me.”

“I see.”

“You know, it’s kind of ironic. Here I am talking to you, dressed up as The Grim Reaper, when I’ve met the real thing.”

“Was it scary?”

“To tell you the truth, it really wasn’t, and it’s the only part of the entire incident that I can remember clearly. I was heading toward a light and I wasn’t planning on coming back.”

“Why not?”

Gillian sighed. “I’d just lost the love of my life. I had no reason to remain here and I wanted to cross over. Then I thought I heard my friend, Jeremy, calling me. The next thing I knew I was back at my backyard pool, only I wasn’t in the water. Somehow, I was suspended over it. Jeremy was in the pool and he was holding a body in his arms, which I knew had to be mine. Then I saw his face. He had a look of shock and sorrow, and he was shouting at me to stay with him. I knew, right then and there, that if I didn’t come back it would destroy his life, so I had no choice. I had to come back, even though I didn’t want to. I watched him lay my body out on the deck, and then I felt something like a tug. The next thing I knew, he was rushing me to the hospital. That’s why I’m still here.”

She started smelling the cologne again and she looked at him more closely. The costume he wore didn’t reveal much about him. He was wearing a full mask, with a robe and hood, and he appeared to be bundled up underneath it. A strange thought crossed her mind, but it couldn’t be. Larry said his father was spending the day in Fort Collins with friends. John remained silent for several minutes. Finally, he found his voice.

“Well…Gillian, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Gillian, your life is a precious gift. It’s something you must never, ever take for granted. You may think you came back for your friend, but it’s not the reason you’re still here. You’re here because your life is far from over, and you’re meant to be here. I’m sure your family and friends, and your true love, are elated that you’re still with them. And who knows, maybe your true love will return to you someday.”

The Reunion is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

 

 

You Novel Writers are Evil

 
© Can Stock Photo/ Deagreez

That’s what a fellow author once said to me. Of course, she didn’t mean literally, although she had a point. She writes nonfiction, and her comment had to do with some of the things we novel writers do to our characters. She’s right. Some of the things we to our characters is just plain mean. Then again, some of those characters have it coming.

I was telling her about Scott, an antagonist in my contemporary romance novel,  The Deception. Let’s face it. Scott isn’t the nicest guy on the planet. He’s a married man who puts himself out as a single guy, and his actions have hurt a lot of people, especially Carrie. Once Carrie and her friends realize Scott’s stories aren’t adding up she ditches him. I had originally planned on writing him out of the story at that point. However, readers would expect him to be held accountable for what he did, and they would be disappointed if he were able to simply walk away. 

Scott is later arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and he gets his comeuppance in the form of a humiliating strip search. I strive for accuracy when I write because I want my contemporary romance novels to be as realistic and believable as possible. This means I do a lot of research, so I told the nonfiction author that I went online and read testimonials by real people who’ve had this experience. I then based Scott’s story on those real-life accounts. That’s when she looked at me and said, “You novel writer’s are evil.”

Well, what can I say? She wrote a memoir. I write fiction.

Marina Martindale

 

The Deception is available on Amazon, and BarnesandNoble.com. To read a free sample please click here.

Meet Alex Montoya

a lead character in The Deception
A young man with curly blond hair.
© by Fotolia

Alex Montoya, a lead character in my contemporary romance novel, The Deception, is likable and sexy. He’s strong yet quirky and vulnerable at the same time. The American-born son of a Spanish immigrant father, Alex is American in every way. His father, however, still clings to Old World customs and traditions. This creates plenty of friction between the two of them.


Alex and Carrie have a friendship which goes all the way back to the fourth grade. They remained friends through high school, but drifted apart when they attended colleges on opposite ends of the country. Ten years later Carrie deeply regrets letting Alex go. After her identity is stolen, and she’s accused of a serious wrongdoing as a result, a friend arranges for her to meet with a bright young attorney who can help her. Much to her surprise, that bright, young attorney is none other than her long-lost best friend, Alex.


I created Alex in part as homage to a friend who was the first American born child of Italian immigrant parents. While proud of her heritage, she too sometimes found herself in conflict with her parents whenever they tried to impose their Old World expectations on her. His other inspiration comes from a real-life cousin who’s an attorney and dedicated family man. In fact, the book is dedicated to him. 


If I had to describe Alex in one word, it would be loyal. He’s the kind of man who’s willing to go the extra mile for the people he cares about, while not expecting anything in return. That’s what makes him such a likeable character, as well as a positive role model.


Marina Martindale

It’s Jarring and Unexpected

and it can happen in an instant
photo by Fotolia
 

I’m getting some reader feedback on my latest contemporary novel, The Deception. For the most part it’s been good. There is, of course, some minor criticism here and there, which is to be expected. After all, no author can please all readers all the time. One comment, however, was about the sudden end to one of the characters. The reader believed it was too jarring and too over the top.

Warning! Spoiler Alert!

As storytellers, our characters will sometimes surprise us. This time it happened near the end of the story. I had resolved the main conflict and was tying up the loose ends. As I was working on the dialog I suddenly realized there was an opening for my lead antagonist to reintroduce the conflict. I had two options. Write a sequel, or deal with the antagonist once and for all.

In this case, a sequel would have been redundant. It would have essentially been the same story. The only difference would be the antagonist having a different cohort, and a borning, predictable sequel would hurt the integrity of the original story. 

My other option was to kill off the antagonist, thus ending the conflict once and for all. I chose the later. The character is killed in a traffic accident before she has the opportunity to cause more harm, and there is no warning this is coming.

I strive to keep my contemporary romance novels as realistic and believable as possible. Sadly, we live in a world where tragic events occur everyday, all without warning. For the victims and their survivors, life is never the same. It’s also a reality I know all too well. I lost a young cousin to a car crash, and it was completely unexpected. One minute he was a healthy twenty-year-old man with his whole life ahead of him. The next minute he was gone forever. 

While my decision to kill a character in a car accident may have seemed over the top for one reader, other readers disagreed. Because character in question was an antagonist, they felt vindicated. Her sudden end was also the direct result of her own actions.

Tragedy happens all too often, so perhaps the bigger lesson here is to never take life for granted. It really can come to a sudden end, without warning.

Marina Martindale

The Deception is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.