Cassie Palmer is a character best described as grace under pressure. Seemingly naive and shy, Cassie is an iron lady in disguise.
We first meet Cassie in TheReunion, when Gillian and Jeremy stop for breakfast at a truck stop diner in Idaho Springs, Colorado. The diner owner is none other than Gillian’s long-long best friend, Samantha Walsh. As they get reacquainted, Samantha unveils another surprise; her daughter, Cassie. While Gillian is surprised, Jeremy’s life will never be the same.
Cassie and Jeremy soon become friends, but I don’t want to spoil too much of the story. She returns in The Journey, this time as the leading lady. As the story unfolds, her world will turn upside down. Yet through it all, she remains gracefully resilient.
Cassie is a purely fictitious character and not inspired by anyone I know in real life. She is, however, an inspiration for those times when we feel overwhelmed by all life’s obstacles.
I seem to have gotten into the habit of creating some really evil antagonists. So much so that they’re even scaring me and leaving me wondering where on earth are these people coming from? Then my good friend and fellow author, David Lee Summers, explained to me that the antagonist doesn’t always have to be an evil villain. He or she could simply be someone whose goals are contrary to the protagonist’s goals. So, after listening to David’s comments, I’ve come up with an antagonist who has no evil intentions.
Harrison Tyler, or Hal, as his friends call him, is a nurse practitioner and one of the antagonists who appear in The Journey. We first meet Hal during a time when leading man Jeremy is missing and presumed dead. Cassie, Jeremy’s wife, is still recovering from an auto accident. As luck would have it, she meets Hal at a medical appointment. He happens to be filling in for someone else that day, and immediately falls for Cassie. Her brother-in-law, Larry, is also there. Larry thinks Hal is a decent guy, so he encourages Cassie to go have coffee with him. A reluctant Cassie finally agrees, just to get Larry off her back.
Cassie sees Hal as a friend who’s come into her life at a time when she really needs one. To Hal, however, Cassie is a rare find. And while he hasn’t quite fallen in love with her, but he knows he wants her, and he’s willing to wait until she’s ready. If that means having to be persistent, if not a little bit manipulative, so be it. His intention isn’t to cause any harm. He simply wants to make Cassie his, before it’s too late.
Hal is a purely fictitious character and not inspired by anyone I’ve ever met in real life. He’s a nice guy in the awkward position of wanting something he can never really have, but still trying to reach for it anyway.
I’ve just read a new review of The Reunion on Amazon. The reviewer said she had been up until three o’clock in the morning because she couldn’t put the book down. Interestingly enough, she’s not the first one with this problem. I’ve had similar complaints on Facebook.
So, what can I say? I’m sorry to be the cause of your sleepless nights, (she writes tongue in cheek). And you should see it from my end. When I was writing The Reunion, I often didn’t get to bed until well after midnight either. The ideas kept flowing. This happened with my other novels as well.
What is it about my romance novels that’s so compelling? From what my readers tell me, it’s the plot twits and the characters. They tell me my characters are very real and very believable. I honestly wish I could tell you my secret of how I create them, but I don’t know how I do it either.
How I create my characters
Some characters, like Ian and Samantha in The Reunion, are loosely based on real people, and I used part of their personalities as a starting point. The next thing I knew, the characters had taken on lives of their own and they become unique individuals. The same could be said for all the purely fictitious characters who weren’t based on anyone in particular. I guess something must be going on in my subconscious mind. Whatever it is, it seems to be working. I’m pleased you all are happy with the results.
Meantime, while I wait for The Journey to come back from the editor, I’m cooking up a new cast of characters for my next book, The Betrayal. Look for it in 2014.
I read an article the other day about the upcoming fall TV season. It mentioned that an actress on a top-rated show has decided not to return. The usual comments followed. Some people were sorry to see her leave. Others thought the show would be better off without her. One comment, however, was a bit odd. Among other things, the commenter said she prayed for the characters.
The highest compliment you can give any actor, or fiction writer, is to tell them their characters seem real, but the keyword here is, seem. They’re fictitious characters. However real they may seem, they’re not actual living, breathing human beings. So while prayers for the actors, or the writers, would certainly be appreciated, praying for a fictional character is a bit creepy. It sort of reminds me of Stephen King’s Misery.
Some of my characters, such Ian Palmer, Alex Montoya, and Gillian Matthews, were based on real people I’ve known. I drew on the personalities of real individuals to create them, but they’re all fictitious and certainly not clones of their real-life counterparts. I do, however, go to a great deal of trouble to make my characters as three-dimensional as I possibly can.
My characters experience their fair share of challenges, because plot lines, whether it’s in my genre, contemporary romance, or in other genres, revolve around tension and conflict. I love it when reviewers say they cheered for my good guys, and wanted to smack my bad guys. But again, they’re not real people.
I’m glad you love my characters, and I’m always thinking up new ones. You can certainly say a prayer for the real-life people who inspired some of them, but please, not for the characters themselves. They’re not real. Sometimes I wish some of them were, but that’s a post for another day.
I was reading a forum thread discussing the differences between men and women. They’re more than just physical. A woman’s psyche is also very different than a man’s. It got me thinking about a challenge I face as a romance writer; writing a male character’s dialog. I’m always having to stop and ask myself, would a guy really say that?
Years ago I read, Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus. And while I can’t recall all of the details, I do remember it talked extensively about how men are more analytical, and women are more emotional. This doesn’t mean one sex is superior to the other. It simply means that we think differently. So, I’ve modeled my male characters accordingly. The female characters will talk openly about their relationships, while the men are more prone to retreat to their man caves. Jeremy, from The Reunion, and The Journey is particularly known to do this. The challenge for me is when I have to have a male character discuss his relationship. I am, after all, writing romance. The main focus of the story is interpersonal relationships. So do men really talk about things like this?
One way I’ve handled it by having a male character confide in a female character. In The Deception, Steve, a supporting character, talks to his fiancee about his concerns over Alex’s relationship with Carrie.
an excerpt from The Deception.
“Is something wrong, Steve?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“What is it?”
“Alex and Carrie. C’mon, you saw it. They’ve become much too emotionally attached to one another.”
This time, in a conversation is between two men, I let them get to the point, as quickly as possible. They then discuss a solution. Had this scene been between two female characters more time would have been spent discussing their feelings
another excerpt from The Deception
Steve looked up when he heard the sound of someone tapping at his door.“Hey, Alex. What’s up?”
I don’t know if this is how men really talk to one another behind closed doors or not. But if what I’m told by male friends, and by the John Gray book, is true, then I’m probably close. So far I’ve not heard any complaints from male readers.
From time to time nearly every novel writer has to kill off a character. However, I’ll only do it is when it’s absolutely necessary to enhance the plot.
The first time I killed someone off was in my debut contemporary romance novel, The Reunion. Gillian’s ex husband, Jason Matthews, was one of the villains in the story. He meets an untimely end, but it happens “off camera.” Gillian hears of his demise from a police detective. They say show, don’t tell, but sometimes telling can be more compelling.
I killed off another villain in The Deception. It happens near the end of the story. Most of the plot had revolved around this character’s conflict with leading lady Carrie, who’s finally won battle. However, this particular antagonist soon figured out a way to get even. I could have saved it for a possible sequel, however in this case the second conflict was directly related to the first, making a sequel redundant. Therefore, rather than have the story repeat itself, I killed the character off, thus ending the conflict once and for all.
In my soon-to-be released novel, The Journey, I killed a supporting character from The Reunion. This time the character was one I honestly liked. I tried to come up with a way for her to survive, but when I did the story simply wasn’t as strong. Her death was an intrical part of the plot. It happens early in the novel, but she still maintains a presence in the rest of the story.
I’ve heard the joke amongst my author friends that there are two kinds of people who know how to kill other people–psychopaths and novel writers. This first one definitely, although I’m not so sure about novel writers. Most of my characters die in accidents, and they’re usually their own undoing.
Kudos to Wes Lowe. Once again he’s created a beautiful cover illustration for my next novel, The Journey.
Wes and I go way back. He started doing my cover illustrations in 2007, when I was writing my Luke and Jenny novels, (under the name Gayle Martin.)
I found Wes by happenstance when I was working on the second book in the Luke and Jenny series. The illustrator who did the first book cover wasn’t available, so I was left scrambling. Granted, I have a degree in fine art, but it had been years since I’d picked up a paintbrush. However, I still knew what to look for, and I could speak the lingo. So, I began my search and soon found Wes. Not only was he available, I also liked the tone of his emails. He came across as warm and he had a positive attitude. The illustration he created for me didn’t just meet my expectations. It exceeded them. Wes turned out to be a much better artist than the gentleman who did my first cover. Thus began a beautiful friendship. Our next project would be creating a new cover illustration for the first book.
Wes also did the cover illustrations for The Reunion and The Deception. This latest illustration has an interesting twist. The other night I posted it on Facebook, and a number of people commented that the young lady looked a lot like me. Oddly enough, Wes and I have never met in person, although he’s probably seen my head shots on my websites. I thought that maybe he had used one of them as a model. However, it turns out that he didn’t. Must be one of those interesting coincidences. Or maybe it’s just the Universe reaffirming that I’ve found the right illustrator.
I’ve had some interesting feedback from some of the men who’ve been reading my romance novels. They tell me they’ve really enjoyed reading my sex scenes. Apparently, I have a talent I didn’t know I had. To quote George Takei, “Oh, my!”
Well, I must confess. I’ve actually done some research on how to write effective love scenes, and I’m happy to explain the techniques I use.
First, I take my time to build the sexual tension between my characters. The build up happens slowly. Arousal starts innocently, with hands accidentally brushing, or someone touching a forearm. The man may find the lady’s dress sexy. Sometimes horseplay turns into foreplay.
Certain body parts are never mentioned by name. I’m writing romance, not a medical textbook. My goal is to describe what the characters are feeling. I’ll refer to it with words such as, “she felt a sweet sensation.” We all know what happens during the act. My editor came up with a wonderful way to refer to it. “Reaching his (or her) release.” Oftentimes I’ll use the words such as climax, ecstasy or, the two briefly became one, when describing the euphoria the characters are experiencing.
In addition, I don’t use much dialogue during my love scenes. Two people who love each other, and are making love for the first time, probably won’t be in the mood for chatting. Likewise, too much dialogue would interrupt the flow of the story. I save the dialog for the pillow talk scene in the next chapter. One thing I will do, however, is to try to instill a sense of responsibility in my characters. Oftentimes the lady will be asked if she’s using birth control, or the man will stop to apply a condom. Most importantly, if the characters are making love for the first time, the man will ask the woman if she’s okay with what’s about to happen. My leading men are strong and masculine, but they also know to respect a woman’s boundaries.
And, finally, I only use these scenes to enhance the plot, and I use them sparingly. There are usually no more than two or three such scenes throughout my entire novel. My stories are about people and their relationships, and there’s a whole lot more to a romantic relationship than just sex.
Like many authors, I write a treatment before I start writing the actual novel. A treatment is a brief summary, a blueprint if you will, of who the characters are and what the story will be about. It helps solidify ideas and creates a starting point. However, once I begin writing, I put the treatment aside and let my characters loose. When the novel is complete, I’ll go back and look at the original treatment. To say the final story turned out differently would be an understatement. So, just for laughs, I’m posting what was in the original treatment for my debut romance novel, The Reunion.
Warning! Spoiler alert!
Many of the main points from the original treatment were included the final novel, such as leading man Ian showing up unexpectedly at Gillian’s opening at a Denver art gallery. It also included her subsequent return to Denver to hide out from her homicidal ex husband. However, a subplot about Ian selling his house and moving into a condo with his son, Larry, never materialized. Thank goodness. It was boring and did nothing to enhance the story. Likewise, many other scenes in the final novel were never included in the treatment. This includes a pivotal moment when Gillian nearly drowns.
The most notable change, however, had to do with the characters themselves. In the treatment, Ian’s ex wife, Laura, was shy and demure. A savvy businesswoman, she ended up being anything but shy and demure. Laura speaks her mind. That’s why Jeremy is so direct.
And speaking of Ian’s oldest son. In the original treatment, Jeremy was a villain. Aggressive, if not nefarious, Jeremy would only have a small role before being written out. Gillian befriends him and he then tries to force himself on her. She, of course, turns him down. Rejected, he soon enlists in the Marines and ends up being deployed to Afghanistan, leaving a furious Ian who blames it all on Gillian.
Nah, that definitely wouldn’t have worked. Ian would have never had such an evil son. Then Jeremy told me he wasn’t a bad guy either, although he is still drawn to Gillian. After rescuing her when she nearly drowns, he competes with his father for her affection. This created a whole new subplot which became the second half of the book. Many readers tell me it was their favorite part of the story.
The end of the story was fairly close to what was in the original treatment. Now I can’t tell you that because it would spoil it for the those who haven’t yet read the novel. Suffice to say that it all works out, and Gillian ends up with the right guy.
Funny how things sometimes work out. Jeremy Palmer was intended to be a rogue character in The Reunion. He would make a brief appearance, do his dirty deed, and disappear into the night. But things don’t always go as planned. I soon realized that leading man Ian would 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, is seriously injured in a car crash. He 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 very 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.”