Spin-offs Not Sequels

© Can Stock Photo / pichetw

A question fiction writers are often asked is will they write a sequel. Some authors do write sequels or perhaps they’ll write an entire series of books, as I did with a series of novelettes I wrote in the 2000s as Gayle Martin. The Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers was about two modern day youngers taking a summer road trip with their mother. Along the way they stopped at historical sites where they traveled back in time to learn the real history of the American west. While each book in series was about a different historical figure, there was an overall plotline that carried over each book; the road trip the two kids were taking with their mother.

When I switched genres and started writing contemporary romance novels I made the decision to not write sequels. Sequels can be problematic as they tend to be redundant and are often not as good as the original. My books would be stand alone novels and each story would end with complete closure. However, there were times when I created a supporting character who was interesting enough to warrant having his or her own story, as was the case with Jeremy in The Reunion. He soon his own book, The Journey, but The Journey wasn’t a sequel to The Reunion. It was a spin-off.

Simply put, a spin-off is when characters from one story are put into a different story. The late producer Norman Lear created a television show in the 1970s called, All in the Family. It was a huge hit, and those of you born in the eighties and beyond have no doubt heard of it or have seen it. All in the Family soon had a spin-off called, Maude, which in my opinion, was a whole lot funnier. Maude was Edith Bunker’s outspoken cousin who was first introduced in an episode of All in the Family. Interestingly enough, Lear later produced a spin-off from Maude called, Good Times, which was about Maude’s housekeeper, Florida Evans. All three shows were hits and ran for several seasons.

Hey, if it was good enough for Norman Lear, then it’s good enough for Marina Martindale. Along with The Journey, I’ve written two other spin-off novels; The Betrayal, another Reunion spin-off, and my newest novel, which I’ve just started, called, The Diversion, which is a spin-off from The Betrayal. It’s lead character, Tonya Claiborne, was a strong supporting character with a lot of potential. Look for The Diversion in 2021.

Marina Martindale

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In Search of St. Eligius Ranch

© 2020 by Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

I first visited Steamboat Springs in the 1990s. Famous for its ski resort, ranching is still a vital part of the area. So, when I wrote my first contemporary romance novel, The Reunion, I decided to locate the fictitious St. Eligius Ranch about twenty miles from Steamboat Springs. St. Eligius Ranch is a former cattle ranch turned horse sanctuary. It’s also the home of Laura Palmer, ex-wife of leading man Ian Palmer. A number of key scenes in The Reunion take place at St. Eligius Ranch, including the story’s final climax. Later on, when I wrote The Journey, I also set a number of scenes at St. Eligius Ranch.

I revisited Steamboat Springs in the summer of 2014, this time to research the area for future novels. I also brought my camera with me, and, as luck would have it, I found something that kinda sorta matches the description of St. Eligius Ranch. Of course I kept a respectful distance and took the photo from the side of road, but you can clearly see a two-story house, as described in the book, along with what appears to be a fifth-wheel trailer parked nearby, as was also described in The Reunion. Maybe life really does imitate art.

By the way, photography, like writing, is one of my life’s passions, and I do art photography under the name Gayle Martin. If you would like to see more of my work please visit my website at gaylemartinphotography.com/.

In the meantime, please enjoy this scene from The Reunion, as Gillian, the leading lady, visits St. Eligius for the first time.


Marina Martindale

* * *


Laura took Gillian to one of the small corrals outside the barn and pointed out a black mare with a white blaze down her face and three white socks.

“We call her Miss Mollie,” said Laura. “She’s got a lot of stamina, but she’ll respect her rider, as long as you know what you’re doing, and it sounds like you do.”

Jeremy came up behind them. “Miss Mollie? Good choice.”

Laura pointed to a large bay gelding in the next corral. “We call him Pretty Boy. He’s Jeremy’s favorite.”

Before long the horses were saddled, and they mounted up. Will stayed behind, saying he had work to do. Laura rode a young buckskin gelding she called Fred.

“He’s Miss Mollie’s son,” she said. “He was a young foal at her side when we adopted them two years ago. I think he’ll turn out to be a fine horse, but he still has some rough edges to work out.”

Laura led them away from the barn and onto a narrow trail leading through a lush meadow. Gillian couldn’t get over the sheer beauty of it. The aspen and cottonwood trees were turning gold.

“When I first came here, I was an ex-housewife who didn’t know one end of a horse from the other,” said Laura. “I was originally hired as a bookkeeper for Will’s veterinary practice. Next thing I knew, I was writing grants, planning fund-raisers, and doing everything else I could think of to keep money flowing in the door for the foundation to help care for these animals. Back then I was living in the cottage, that’s what we call the fifth-wheel trailer, and I soon became friends with Will. He taught me, and both of my boys, how to ride. He also taught me how to help take care of the horses. Along the way I’ve been kicked, bitten, and occasionally stepped on, but I’ve learned to cope with it. Horses are easy. Two sons aren’t.”

“Thanks, Mom,” said Jeremy.

“Anytime,” she said with a knowing grin. “Some of the ones we get are simply neglected or have owners who, for whatever reason, are no longer able to care for them. Those are the easy cases, and we can usually get them to new owners right away. Others arrive abandoned, injured or starving. They need some TLC, and we’re often pretty successful with them as well. We also get the occasional hard-luck cases. They’re the ones who have suffered some serious abuse, and it never ceases to amaze me just how cruel some human beings can be. They usually need complete rehabilitation, but we’re not always successful. There’ve also been a few that we’ve had to put down as soon as they arrived. Those are the ones that really break your heart.” 

They continued across the meadow and began working their way toward the ridge as Laura went on with her story. “This ranch used to be called The Flying M, and it’s been in Will’s family for over a century. When Will’s father inherited it from his great-uncle, it was still a working cattle ranch. Will’s dad was also a veterinarian. He started up the veterinary clinic, and he started taking in injured and abandoned horses. By the time Will finished veterinary school, they decided to stop raising cattle and add a horse sanctuary to the clinic. They sold about half the acreage, and the name, to the big dude ranch resort next door. Will renamed the place St. Eligius. He’s the patron saint of horses and those who work with them. That pretty much sums it up. The foundation survives mostly on grant money and donor support. We also do a number of fundraisers throughout the year. One is coming up soon. It’s the haunted hayride we do every year with the Flying M. It’s the last Saturday in October and we always have a lot of fun while we’re at it. We have volunteers of all ages who come and participate, and the boys always come to help out as well.”

To read other samples from The Reunion, please click on the link below.

Preview on Amazon

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A New Scene for THE REUNION

A book cover featuring an illustration of a lady in a yellow dress.
Cover illustration by Wes Lowe.

Now that I’ve completed The Scandal, I’ve been doing a copy edit for my debut novel, The Reunion.

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.

Marina Martindale

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Revamping The Reunion

A book cover featuring an illustration of a lady in a yellow dress.
Cover illustration by Wes Lowe.

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.

Marina Martindale

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Meet Josh Ramsey

the Mystery Man in “The Letter”

A handsome young man with blond hair.
© Can Stock Photo / curaphotography

Sometimes I’ll have one idea in mind for a character, but as I get into the story, the character has other ideas. Such was the case with Jeremy Palmer in The Reunion, and it happened again with Josh Ramsey in my more recent contemporary romance novel, The Letter.


Young and ambitious, Josh is a financial planner by day, an artist by night. His goal is to retire young and devote himself full-time to his art. Like Jeremy, Josh was meant to an antagonist, but as the character came to life he turned out to be quite charming. I soon realized he had the potential to go much farther than originally planned. That’s when I really started liking him. So I created an aura of mystery about him. Whose side is he really on? Is he friend or foe? He’s actually a little of both, and his true intentions are revealed in an ending far different than what I had originally planned. This is what makes writing fun. Those characters, and storylines, that don’t come out as planned. They come out much, much better.


Now, just so you know, Josh is a purely fictitious character and not inspired by anyone I’ve known in real life.


Marina Martindale

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The Journey Book Trailer

Whew! It’s finally done, and I’m pleased with the final results.

I’ve become more hands on with my book trailer videos, and I’m loving it. Makes sense, as my background is in fine art. I’ve also studied photography. It too is one of my life’s passions. Granted, it’s taken me a little while to make the jump from 35mm to digital, but one of the great things about a DSLR camera is you can also shoot video. And there you have it.


I did most of the filming and nearly all of the editing. My good friend, Rob Resetar, of Rob Resetar Video, shot the kidnapping scene and did the musical score and final audio mix. Wish I could take credit for the drone footage, but it too was shot by another friend.


Enjoy the book trailer, and if you haven’t read it yet, you’ll like, The Journey, especially if you’ve read The Reunion. While not exactly a sequel, both books use the same cast of characters, and The Journey begins about eighteen months after the end of The Reunion.


Marina Martindale

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I’m Causing Sleepless Nights?

Sorry about that

The Reunion book cover.

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.

So for now, sleep tight.


Marina Martindale

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The Original REUNION Plotline

The Reunion front cover featuring an illustration of two lovers.

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.

Marina Martindale

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A Halloween Excerpt from “The Reunion”

Front cover from The Reunion featuring two lovers.

In honor of Halloween, I’m sharing a Halloween excerpt from the pages of The Reunion. Leading lady Gillian has been invited to participate in a haunted hayride. While she’s there, she’ll confide in a stranger. Or so he seems. Please enjoy this sample from The Reunion and have a safe, and happy, Halloween.


MM

a Halloween excerpt from The Reunion

Gillian was warming herself at the heater when she heard someone walking up behind her. She turned around to discover she’d been joined by someone in a Grim Reaper costume. Whoever it was seemed to be staring at her.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said. Gillian noticed he had a raspy voice. “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. The name’s Gillian, by the way.” She extended her hand.

“John. Pleased to meet you.”

They shook hands. John explained that he was one of the locals, and he 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, calling for help, 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?”

“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 were talking she caught a whiff of something familiar. It was the cologne that Ian always wore. The scent was a distraction. She had reminded herself that it was a popular brand and other men used it too. John 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 came 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. Gillian turned back and noticed John 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. She decided to follow 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. I saw his face. He had a look of shock, guilt and sorrow. 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 that you must never, ever take for granted. You may think you came back for your friend, but that’s not the reason why 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.”

“Thank you, John. I appreciate your insight, but as far as my true love goes, I’m sorry to say that some things just aren’t meant to be. Nice thought, though.”

“Never say never.”

The hay wagons returned several more times, but for the remainder of the evening, John said very little. Gillian was relieved when she finally heard the sound of Jeremy’s approaching horse.

“That was the last one,” he said as he rode into her section of the maze. “Are you ready to go, my dear?” Jeremy extended his hand and helped Gillian get back up behind him. She wrapped her arms tightly around his waist.

“Good night, John. It was nice meeting you.”

John waved goodbye as the horse cantered away. He listened to the sound of the fading hoof beats. Once they were gone, he reached up, pulled down his hood and removed his mask. He heard his cell phone going off in his pocket.

“Is she still there?” asked the woman on the other end of the call.

“Jeremy just picked her up. Thanks, Laura. I owe you one.”

He disconnected his phone and looked down the maze. Gillian and Jeremy were probably already halfway back to St. Eligius.

“My God, Gilly-girl, what have I done to you?”

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Meet Jason Matthews, the Deadly villain in The Reunion

A man in his black cowboy hat tips it with his fingers to say hello.
Photo by Fotolia

Jason Matthews is one of the antagonists you meet in The Reunion. He’s never actually seen, but his presence is most certainly felt, and he has a major impact on the story.

Gillian, the female lead, has a history of getting involved with the wrong men. An artist by profession, she tells leading man Ian her story of visiting Tombstone, Arizona, to do some research after being commissioned to do a series of paintings about the Old West. While in Tombstone, she happened to meet Jason, a bartender and street performer. Handsome and charming, Gillian asked Jason to model for the paintings. He not only accepted her offer, he swept her off her feet, and Gillian believed she’d finally found her true love. The two eloped a short time later.

Unfortunately, Gillian’s happiness with Jason would be short lived. Instead of being the man of her dreams, Jason became her worst nightmare. She eventually divorced him, and because they had no children, she believes he’s in the past. Nightmares, however, sometimes have a way of recurring. Gillian’s worst nightmare will suddenly come back to life when she learns that Jason has murdered his current wife. He’s now on the run, and the authorities believe he’s looking for her. What makes the character even more sinister is the fact that he’s lurking, but never actually seen, leaving both Gillian,and Ian to wonder where and when he will finally strike.

Marina Martindale

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