Meet Mickey Lee Janson

a lead character in Aquamarine
© Can Stock Photo / piedmont_photo

Mickey Lee Janson, also known as Mike Jablonski, was originally intended to be minor character in my contemporary romance novel, Aquamarine. However, like Jeremy Palmer, from The Reunion and The Journey, Mickey, or Mike, as he prefers to be called, had other ideas. Characters sometimes have minds of their own, and there are times when their ideas are actually better than the author’s. This was one of those times.

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Mike was an amateur musician who was managing his father’s bar and grill during the day, and singing and playing his guitar at night. He had no intention of becoming famous until his friends suggested he audition for a television talent competition. Mike went to the audition, but only to get his friends off his back. Much to his surprise, he was accepted. From there he made it to the finals, being voted off on the second to last show. However, it was enough. A talent scout from Alicorn Records offered him a recording contract, and Mike Jablonski became Mickey Lee Janson. 

Mike meets glamour model Tonya Claiborne when Tonya is hired to appear with him on an album cover. However, something unexpected will happen during that shoot, and it will change Mike’s and Tonya’s lives forever.

Mike’s original role in the story was intended to be brief. He would try, and fail, to free Tonya from a toxic relationship. She would eventually end up with  a minor character from an earlier contemporary romance novel, The Betrayal. However, as the story progressed, I really liked the way Mike was turning out. He had it in him to be much more than he was. My editor agreed. She also nixed the idea of bringing back the character from The Betrayal. Thus Mike became one of the lead characters.

Mike is a purely fictitious character. He isn’t based on anyone I know, nor is he based on any famous real-life musician, living or dead. His origination rests solely with me, the author.

Marina Martindale

Aquamarine is available on Amazon, and coming soon to Barnes&Noble.com, and other online booksellers. 

It’s What I Wanted to Write

but at the time I couldn’t
© Can Stock Photo/ Kudryashka

Aquamarine is, in some ways, the contemporary romance novel I wanted to write a few years ago, when I wrote The Scandal. The Scandal is the story of Lauren McAllen, a soap opera star who wants to break into the movies while Calvin Michaelson, the main antagonist, would live up to his nickname, Casting Couch Cal. Such was the story I intended to write.

They say timing is everything. Unfortunately, at the time I was formulating the storyline for The Scandal, the real-life Harvey Weinstein scandal made the headlines. It was simply too close to the story I had in mind, and I strive  to create original stories. Therefore, I had to make some changes. Cal would go from sexual manipulator to a man falsely accused of a serious wrongdoing. In the end, it turned out to be a good story. However, it wasn’t the story I originally had in mind.

What a difference a few years can make

Things had changed by the time The Scandal was released. The notorious Mr. Weinstein had been convicted, and the rest of the world had moved on. I had also revisited an earlier contemporary romance novel, The Betrayal. One of the supporting characters, a teenager named Tonya Claiborne, really stood out. She was strong and compelling and certainly worthy of having her own story. This became the inspiration for Aquamarine.

Every story needs a good antagonist. At long last, I had the opportunity to create the bad guy I wanted to create with Cal Michaelson. This time my antagonist is narcissistic, cunning, and manipulative, but on the surface he’s charming, charismatic, and seductive. Hopefully, he will be one of my most memorable villains ever. 

I really, truly love what I do. I put a lot of thought into the characters I create, and all those scoundrels make my job so much fun. Especially when they get their comeuppance. 

Marina Martindale

 

The Scandal is available on  Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

 

 

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.

 

About Writing Love Scenes

© Can Stock Photo/
prometeus

Contrary to popular belief, there are men out there who read romance novels. I also once knew a male romance author. It’s an interesting genre, and the stories can range from squeaky clean sweet romance to jaw dropping erotica. 

I’ve had some interesting feedback from some of my male readers. They often tell me they really enjoyed reading the sex scenes. Okay, good to know, (she writes as she blushes.) I write sensual romance, which includes some sex scenes, but unlike erotica, the sex scenes aren’t the main focus of the story. Most of the action takes place outside of the bedroom.

How sex scenes work in sensual romance

Before I started writing contemporary romance, I took the time to research how to write effective love scenes. As with any fiction writing, there is a technique for creating a sensual, believable love scene. I used Anais Nin as a model. Her work is definitely sensual, but by no means overtly graphic. 

First, I build the sexual tension between the characters. Arousal begins slowly and oftentimes innocently. Hands accidentally brush. Someone squeezes a hand or touches a forearm during a conversation. Spontaneous horseplay turns into foreplay.

Before making love for the first time, the woman will usually be asked if she’s okay with what’s about to happen. I think it’s important to clearly establish that both characters are consenting adults. However, this may vary, depending on the story. In The Deception, Alex and Carrie have known one another since they were children. They’ve been in love for years, but both kept their feelings hidden. When the moment of truth finally arrives, no words were necessary. 

As I get into the scene, certain body parts may be referred to, but are never mentioned by name. I’m writing romance, not a medical textbook. My goal is to describe what the characters are feeling, both physically and emotionally. I use words such as, she felt a sweet sensation, or, he moaned with pleasure. My editor came up with a wonderful way to refer to an orgasm. She called it, reaching his (or her) release. I’ll also use the words such as climax, ecstasy, or the two  became one, to describe the euphoria the characters are experiencing.

These scenes are included to enhance the overall storyline, and I use them sparingly. Again, this is sensual romance, not erotica. Most novels will typically have two or three love scenes. The rest of the action takes place outside of the bedroom. The primary focus of the story is the relationship, and how the characters react to the obstacles standing in their way. 


Marina Martindale

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

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

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