When I’m Doing Something Else

© Can Stock Photo/ songbird839

Writing novels is an interesting profession, to say the least. I’m often asked how I come up with my ideas. Typically, it happens when I’m busy doing something else.

So here I am, busy doing something else

Let’s say I’m busy baking cookies. My mind wanders as I’m mixing the dough. I may be reminiscing about something from my past. Or maybe I’m recalling an interesting story a friend once told me. Whatever it is, my mind is relaxed. Then, all of a sudden, aha! The light comes on and I’m thinking, “Dang, this could be a really good idea for a book.”

Next stop–the back burner

So an idea just came to me out of the blue. Now I have to figure out if it’s a good idea, or a bad idea. I’ll spend days, maybe longer, mulling it around. I’ll play out a few scenes in my head and come up with some ideas for characters. In other words, I’m playing a grown up version of Let’s Pretend. Then, once I have something I think will work, I start putting pen to paper.

Writing the treatment

I wrote detailed treatments for my first few contemporary romance novels, such as The Reunion. It’s a common practice in the writing profession. A treatment is a summary of the story we plan to write. I used mine to describe how I would begin, and end my story and summarize my idea for the middle. Typically, my treatments were about a page and a half long. Once it was finished I set it aside and didn’t look at it again. I knew my beginning and my ending. It was time for me to start working on the story itself.

My adventures with my imaginary friends

Every fiction writer I know experiences this phenomenon. Our characters turn into real people. Or at least they do to us. Each has his or her own unique personality. That is, unless you write science fiction of fantasy. Then your characters may become real aliens or dragons in your head. However, I write contemporary romance. My characters are mostly human with the exception of a few dogs or horses, and the dogs and horses also have distinct personalities. 

It’s an interesting symbiotic relationship. Not only are the characters living, breathing people, at least to me, they also come and talk to me. Not verbally. I don’t hear voices in my head. Instead, they define themselves as I get deeper into the story. A good example would be Jeremy Palmer, a supporting character in The Reunion. Jeremy was intended to be a rogue character who would do his dirty deed and disappear from the story. However, he was also a lead character’s son, and as Ian came to life I realized he could never have such an evil offspring. So Jeremy went from rouge villain to a rival who competes with his father to win Gillian’s affections. 

Once the story is complete

Once my story was complete I’d go back and reread my treatment. I was always surprised at how much the final story differed from the original treatment. It was like night and day, and it always came out better than originally planned. 

Nowadays I do things a little differently. I may write down my beginning and ending, with a sentence or two describing what may or may not happen in the middle. In others words, I’m doing less preplanning and more flying by the seat of my pants writing. (Many authors do the latter.) Even so, I’ll still have scenes in mind that never come to fruition. They may have played out nicely in my head, but they just didn’t work on paper. Other times a character never appears because another character came out better than expected and took over the role. It happens all the time. My writing process is fluid. If something different works better than expected I’ll go with it.

I really love my job. I get to go on adventures with my imaginary friends, and once my story is published, you get to come along too.

Marina Martindale

PS. And speaking of baking cookies, here’s a yummy cookie recipe.

 

A Sample from The Journey

The Journey is a contemporary romance novel about people who aren’t as they appear to be, and the consequences could be deadly.

Newlyweds Jeremy and Cassie Palmer’s lives turn upside down when Cassie is seriously injured in a car crash. Jeremy rushes to his wife’s side, and as she recovers they befriend Denise, one of Cassie’s nurses. Denise seems familiar to Jeremy, although he can’t place her. Denise, however, has never forgiven Jeremy for jilting her years before. As she gains his trust she plans her revenge, and their lives will never be the same.

Marina Martindale

A sample read from The Journey by Marina Martindale

The moonlight reflected off the snow-covered mountains, creating a dreamy, picturesque landscape, which could easily hide a deadly hazard. Samantha Walsh stayed on high alert as she drove down the highway.

“Is everything okay, Mom? You seem a little tense.”

Samantha glanced at the young woman sitting in the passenger seat. “I’m fine, Cassie. I’m just a little tired, that’s all. As soon we get to the next exit, I’d like to pull over and have you drive, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Sure, Mom.” Cassie sounded concerned. “You haven’t been yourself today. Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine. I’m just tired, that’s all.” She tilted her head toward the backseat. “So now that your little sister-in-law has finally given us a break and gone to sleep, I have some things I’d like to discuss with you.”

“Such as?”

“I’ve decided to sell the diner.”

“You’re kidding?”

“Max and his wife have made a very generous offer,” said Samantha. “I’d like to accept, but I wanted to discuss it with you first.”

“I understand. So, what would you do if you sold the place? You’re way too young for retirement, and somehow I can’t see you sitting on your front porch in your rocking chair.”

Samantha chuckled. “I can’t see myself there either, but now that you’re happily married and on your own, I’d like to finally start pursuing my own dreams. Once was the time when I was going to be a nurse, you know.”

“I know, Mom. You’ve told me the story many times. You were going to college, back in Arizona, but then you ran out of money, so you got a job as a waitress at a truck-stop diner.”

“Back then I was quite the dish, and they tipped me really well.”

“And you’re still a dish. None of my friends believe me when I tell them you’re my mother. They all say, ‘But Cassie, she’s so pretty. She looks so young, and she’s so thin. She doesn’t have any wrinkles or any gray hair.'”

“That’s very kind of them to say, but even if I don’t look it, I’m starting to feel it.” Samantha winced and let out a small groan.

“Are you all right, Mom?”

“I’m fine. It’s just a little indigestion, that’s all.”

“You’re sure that’s all?” Cassie tried to mask the concern in her voice. “So, what do you have in mind?”

“I want to go back to Arizona, at least for part of the year. I’ll keep the house in Idaho Springs and stay here during the summers; but I’d like to spend the rest of the year down there and take some classes at the university. I could still become a nurse, you know. I only had a couple semesters left when I ran out of money, and I was ready to go back when I met your father.”

“I know, but then you got engaged, and then you got pregnant with me, and then he passed away.”

“And then I had you to raise. But you know, Cassie, I’ve never once regretted a day I’ve had with you. You’re what kept me going all these years, and I love you with all my heart.” Samantha winced and groaned again.

“And I love you too. You’re the best mom anyone could have asked for, but right now I’m a little worried about you. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

***

The Journey is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

Sample Read from The Scandal

 

© Can Stock Photo / PerseoMedusa

The Scandal is the story of soap opera star Lauren McAllen. For the past ten years Lauren has been playing Hayley Lancaster on The Seas of Destiny. Hayley is the woman fans love to hate, and the role made Lauren famous. Now she’s ready to take her career to the next level and try to break into films or prime time television. 

Luck appears to be on Lauren’s side. She’s soon cast in a supporting role in a major motion picture. However, before the camera starts rolling, studio head Calvin Michaelson is accused of a serious wrongdoing, and an unwitting Lauren finds herself in the middle of a scandal which rocks Hollywood.

a sample read from The Scandal

Lauren McAllen wrapped her hands around the steering wheel and held on tight. Raindrops splattered the windshield while the wipers furiously knocked them away.

“You may think you’re getting him back, Ashely,” she said through clenched teeth, “but trust me, it’ll never happen because he’s all mine now.” A defiant smiled broke out across her face, but it instantly turned into a look of sheer panic and terror as she frantically yanked the steering wheel back and forth. Unable to regain control of the car, she threw her arms across her face and braced herself for impact.

“Cut!” shouted a man’s voice. “And that’s a wrap.”

As Lauren relaxed, she turned her head and smiled. “So, we got it?”

“Perfectly,” he said, “but if you wouldn’t mind waiting here, the director would like to speak with you for a moment.”

Lauren patiently waited for the rain machine to shut down. A moment later a production assistant walked up to the car and extended his hand. A serious look came over her face as she took his hand and allowed him to pull her out. Before walking away, she turned and looked back at the prop car, placed in front of a green screen.

“And so it ends for Hayley Ann Lancaster Wright Sweeney Mason, as her car crashes off the bridge and plunges deep into the bay, but at least she went out with a bang.”

“Not necessarily.” The director had returned to set. His deep-set brown eyes matched the color of his wavy hair, but they turned sad as he presented her with a bouquet of pink roses. “Her car will be fished out of the water, but she won’t be in it, because we’re all hoping you’ll be back someday.”

Lauren’s face lit up as she accepted the bouquet. “It all remains to be seen. I’ve been doing this gig for ten years. It’s time for me to move on.” She stopped to take in the sweet scent. “Chuck, really, you shouldn’t have. These are beautiful. Thank you for thinking of me.”

He gave her a warm embrace. “You’ve been an absolute joy to work with. I’ll be the first to admit you’re overdue for a long hiatus, but we’re still going to miss you. If your future plans don’t work out, you know you’ll always have a home here.” He kissed her on the cheek and gave her a final squeeze.

The Scandal is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

 

 

 

Can Men and Women Be Friends?

© Can Stock Photo/boggy

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, The Diversion. Those of you who are familiar with my other contemporary romance novels may 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.  

Marina Martindale

It’s Entertainment Not Lectures

© Can Stock Photo / 4774344sean

One of my Facebook friends recently posted something about Hollywood. She said, All I’m asking is that you give me good characters, not tokens, and good stories, not lectures.

Such is the sorry state of today’s entertainment industry. 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 television ratings are down, and why, prior to Covid, there were fewer butts in seats at movie theaters. People watch scripted TV shows, and go to the movies, because they want to be entertained. However, when you use entertainment to lecture people, they’ll walk away.

In my earlier post, No Politics Here, I talked about why I keep politics out of my contemporary romance novels. I write solely to entertain my readers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I wanted to lecture people I would write nonfiction. However, I made the choice to write contemporary romance. It’s my favorite genre, and, like my readers, I simply want to be entertained. I stick to the outcomes readers want and expect. Good overcomes evil. The antagonist suffers the consequences of his or her actions. I’m a storyteller. My job is to entertain readers. Period. I’m neither a teacher or a preacher, nor do I want to be, and I leave the politics to the politicians.

Marina Martindale

My latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, is now available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

What’s Wrong with Me?

I haven’t killed anyone

 

© Can Stock Photo / AnnieAnnie

The Letter, differs from my other contemporary romance novels. I didn’t kill any of the characters. Not one. It was a first for me. Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a sociopathic serial killer. At least not in the real world. However, as a novel writer, I have to create conflict and drama to keep the stories interesting, and when it comes to creating drama, death is as good as it gets.

Most of the time, the dearly departed is a notorious villain with whom karma has finally caught up with. Big time. They had it coming. And then some. The one exception was The Journey, where I killed off a supporting character who I truly liked. So much so that I tried writing alternate scenes in which she survived. Unfortunately, they just didn’t work as well. Killing her off really heightened the drama and made the story more intense. That said, having to write her out made me feel genuinely sad, and I guess that was the point.

There was an antagonist in The Letter I thought of killing off. Her name is Martha. Like many of my female villains, she’s a real schemer, although she isn’t as evil as the others. Her motivation is loneliness, not jealousy. She also had a young child, and I simply couldn’t bring myself to create an orphan. So, this time around, instead of an untimely and perhaps painful death, she’ll have a terrifying near death experience. Surely you didn’t think I’d let a villain get away scot-free, did you?

Marina Martindale

The Letter is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

 

 

 

Presenting The Letter

Like my previous contemporary romance novels, The Letter has plenty of plot twists as the characters deal with unexpected challenges. The Letter is a story of things not being as they appear, which causes misunderstandings and people jumping to the wrong conclusion. Danny, the leading man, is more fallibe than some of his predecessors. He’s haunted by issues from his past that he can’t seem to exorcise, while Stephanie, the female lead, is a woman with backbone who calls it as she sees it. However, she sometimes does so without considering the long-term consequences.

The Letter is loosely based on a real-life event which happened to a good friend. She accidently stumbled on a letter to her then fiance from an old girlfriend, desperate to get him back. She was, of course, concerned when she first found it, but it nothing much came of it. They got married and life went on.  

Look for characters from some of my other contemporary romance novels to make an appearance. Jesse St. Claire from The Betrayal, will make a cameo, while Paul, a supporting character from The Reunion, will have a more significant role.

The Letter is available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

Marina Martindale

Entering The Clean Up Phase

Cleaning products.
© Can Stock Photo / JanPietruszka

I’ve been busy putting the final touches on the first draft for my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Letter, and I’m now entering what I call, the cleanup phase.

Something about traditionally published romance novels has always bothered me. The author would reach the big climax scene, and then, once it was over, shazam! Everything magically falls back into place right then and there. It’s almost as if nothing bad ever happened. Then, one or two pages later, everyone rides off into the sunset and lives happily ever after. The end.

Wouldn’t it be great if real life was as simple?

The problem with traditional publishers

Traditional book publishers rely on formulas, and their authors must adhere to said set formula. In contemporary romance, it can mean that the characters have to meet by page ten. The first kiss happens on page twenty-two. The villain must appear by page thirty-nine, and it concludes with the aforementioned happy ending where everything falls neatly back into place.

The problem with formulas is the books become too predictable. I loved reading Danielle Steele back when I was in college. I could relate to her characters. Her stories were believable and entertaining. Over time, however, I started noticing a pattern, and I eventually stopped reading her books. They had become too predictable, and I got bored reading them. It was as if they plugged in a different set of names for the characters, placed them in a different location, pushed a button, and viola! Here’s the next book. And the one after that. And the one after that.  

Why I choose to remain fiercely independent

In the real world the only things that are predictable are death and taxes. Everything else is about how we react to whatever we’ve been dealt. It’s all about the choices we make, good or bad. As a writer, it means the possibilities are endless.

I’ve always strived to make my stories as realistic and believable as possible. In real life, when things hit the proverbial fan, it leaves a lot of fallout behind. So, after the big climax, I include a cleanup phase, which is something I might not be able to do with a traditional publisher because it might not fit the formula. However, my job isn’t to follow a strict formula. My job is to tell an entertaining story that is also a believable story.

Why the cleanup phase is important

The cleanup phase gives my characters a chance to regroup and deal with the aftermath of the events that happened during the climax. It can be as short as an epilogue, or as long as several chapters. If a character is injured, readers will see his or her recovery. If a villain gets caught, the readers find out how long their prison sentence is. If a character leaves town, he or she has a chance to say goodbye. The leading characters will work out whatever unresolved conflicts they may have and be reunited for good. In other words, I take the time to tie up the loose ends before I end my story. I don’t write sequels. Therefore, each ending has to be as complete, and as satisfying as possible for the reader.

The end.

Marina Martindale

Themes and Plotlines

An image of a pen with a light bulb on top writing in a book.
© Can Stock Photo / khunaspix

At long last, I’m finally in the home stretch for my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Letter. Its theme would be don’t judge things by their appearance.

Some of you may be wondering, what’s a theme?

A theme is separate from the plot line. A theme is the underlying part of a story, such as the moral, or perhaps a comment about society or human behavior. I’ve posted the themes from my earlier contemporary romance novels below, but don’t worry. If you’ve not read all of them I won’t spoil the story.

Forgiveness — The ReunionIan was the one true love of Gillian’s life, but he suddenly ended their relationship for no apparent reason. If she can forgive him, she stands a good chance of having a future with him. This theme carries over into a subplot concerning Ian and a member of his immediate family.

Adultery and Its Consequences —The Deception and The Betrayal. Adultery is a great theme for the romance genre. It’s an opportunity to explore the repercussions for everyone involved, as it often affects more than the two primary parties. In The DeceptionCarrie, a single woman, meets Scott, a married man who has presented himself to her as a single man. In The Betrayal, faithful wife Emily unwittingly catches her husband, Jesse, in the act with another woman. Both women’s lives are turned upside down.

Revenge — The Journey and The Stalker. Life isn’t always fair and things don’t always go our way. However, it doesn’t mean someone has intentionally thwarted us. Sometimes bad things happen. Unfortunately, there are people out there who subscribe to the notion of don’t get mad, get even, and their quest for vengeance inevitably harms others who are innocent. In The JourneyDenise seeks revenge on Jeremy for having turned down her romantic overture years before, while Craig, in The Stalker, relentlessly hounds Rachel for getting a promotion he felt she didn’t deserve.

Those are my themes, at least so far. We’ll have to wait and what my next theme will be. Until then, happy reading.


Marina Martindale

Writing Relationship Fiction

Photo of an open book with stars coming out of it.
© Can Stock Photo/kudryashka

This may sound arrogant, or perhaps hokey, but I sometimes get weary of hearing myself say, “I write contemporary romance novels,” whenever I’m asked about what I do. People think I’m writing cheap, schmaltzy novels. Or they think I’m writing erotica. Neither is the case, as there is so much more to what I write.

I write stories about human relationships. Love isn’t limited to a man and a woman falling in love and living happily ever after. Love is about all kinds of human relationships. The love of a parent to a child. The love between siblings. Even the platonic love between close friends. The romance between and man and a woman is only a part of my stories.

For example

One of my contemporary romance novels, The Journey includes a heartwarming subplot about the relationship between brothers Jeremy and Larry Palmer, as Larry puts his own life on hold to help his ailing brother through a life altering crisis. That’s true love. 

In The Deception, another contemporary romance novel, a father literally takes a bullet meant for his child. That too is true love. 

The Betrayal, another contemporary romance novel, includes a story of a long estranged aunt who finally lets go of the rivalry she carried for her deceased sister and reaches out to her niece, accepting her like another daughter. That too is love.

The reason why I write contemporary romance, as opposed to science fiction or mystery or horror, is because I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity and dynamics of human relationships. Not only between lovers, but between close friends and family members as well. Of course those relationships can be part of the storyline in those other genres. However, the romance genre is the only one where the primary focus is on human relationships.


Marina Martindale