Everyone who writes fiction understands how our characters seem to come to life as we’re writing. We start out with an idea of who we want them be, but before long, they’re telling us who they really are. It’s what makes novel writing fun. For me, it usually happens with antagonists. Some, like Craig in The Stalker, come out much darker than planned. Others, like Cal in The Scandal, love their bad boy image. Deep down, however, they have good hearts.
Now just so you know, they don’t communicate verbally. There are no voices in my head. I think the best way to describe it would be to say they take control of my fingers as I type. Especially when I’m writing dialog. The conversation just flows out of my keyboard as I watch their personalities come through. It feels almost as if I’m channeling a real person from a different dimension. Of course, that’s not literally happening. I’m tapping into the part of my psyche where imagination lies, and what fascinates me the most is how the characters evolve into people who are entirely different than what my conscience mind had envisioned.
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.
They say there are certain things you should never ask an author or creative writer. One of them is, “Can I be a character in your book?”
For a time, however, this was a running joke between me and one of my friends. First, he dropped me an oh so subtle hint in my birthday card. Then, whenever we’d run into one another, he’d tease me and say, “Hey, can I be a character in your book?” I’d tease him back and reply, “Sure. How do you want to die?”
Oh, if you only knew
Here’s the real butt of of the joke. Some of my friends actually are in my contemporary romance novels, as they are inspiration for some of my characters. Ian, in The Reunion, is loosely based on an old college boyfriend. Lauren in The Scandal was inspired by a family member, and the idea for Craig in The Stalker came from someone harassing a friend on Facebook.
That said, my characters are all unique individuals. Each has their own distinct personality, including their own quirks. My protagonists aren’t perfect. They make their fair share of mistakes. Some of my antagonists are downright chilling. Others are good people who’ve made bad choices. But regardless of whether the character is inspired by a real person, or someone I created from scratch, all are believable, three-dimensional people who readers can connect to.
So, did I ever put my friend in one of my books?
Well, sort of. There is a supporting character in my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Diversion, who is somewhat similar to my real-life friend. Both are professional musicians, and both are serious about making careers in the music business.
I’m going back to Hollywood for my next contemporary romance novel. This time my lead character is a musician whose dream is to become a recording star.
The Harvey Weinstein story broke while I was in the early planning stages for my last contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, which also takes place in Hollywood. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the real-life scandal really threw a wrench into my plans. My original intention was for my lead antagonist, studio head Calvin Michaelson, to be a sexual manipulator, but with the Weinstein scandal came the #Me Too movement. I keep politics out of my novels, and the last thing I wanted was for my book to become politicized. So, after many, many revisions and rewrites, Cal ended up becoming a redeemable character, and I had to place many of his negative traits into another antagonist, tabloid journalist Randy Hall.
This time around things are different. Weinstein is now serving twenty-three years in the pen, as well he should be, and the #MeToo movement seems to have run its course. Now I can finally create the villain I wanted to create in The Scandal. His name is George Monroe. He’s a high-level executive with a record company, and he’s going to be like the devil incarnate. Charming, compassionate and caring on the outside, but underneath the mask is a manipulative control freak who micromanages the lives of those around him for his own narcissistic pleasure. The working title is, The Diversion, although it may be subject to change. What I can tell you for certain is this is going to be fun write.
All stories have their antagonists, and in my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, Randy Hall is perhaps one of my most villainous characters to date. He’s the ex-husband of lead character Lauren McAllen, and his goal is to destroy her at all costs.
Randy and Lauren had a dream marriage until Randy developed an addiction disorder, leaving Lauren no alternative but to file for divorce once the marriage became toxic. Randy, however, doesn’t think he has a problem. He sees Lauren’s departure as abandonment, and, in Lauren’s words, “no one dumps Randy Hall and gets away with it.” As the story unfolds Lauren is unwittingly caught up in a major Hollywood scandal, which Randy skillfully uses as a weapon to wreak havoc on her life and her career.
Many of us have experienced relationships which started out well, only to unravel because, unknown to us at the time, the person we became involved with had an addiction disorder. Unfortunately, people with addictions don’t come with warning labels, and addicts are oftentimes masters at hiding their addictions until it becomes too late. Once the addiction becomes known some partners will end the relationship as quickly as possible, while others may go into their own form of denial, believing they can change the addict. It’s a great romantic fairytale, but one I will never write about, because the reality is that the only person who can change the addict is the addict him or herself. In the real world the so-called helpful partner becomes the enabler who reinforces the addiction, and the relationship typically doesn’t end well.
Randy is a composite character whose inspiration comes from a few men I’ve known in the past who, sadly, turned out to have addictive disorders. Thankfully, none were as toxic as Randy, and none of the relationships lasted long.
I know I haven’t been around much lately, but I have a really good excuse. I’ve been busy moving. I recently sold my home in Tucson, Arizona, (as The Beatles once sing about someone leaving their home in Tucson, Arizona), and I’m now living in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
I’m a native Arizonan and have lived in Arizona for much of my life. I was born and raised in Phoenix, which is why many of my stories are set in Phoenix. I moved to Tucson twelve years ago. Tucson was much like Phoenix was when I was growing up, although Tucson had more of an arts community. Unfortunately, in recent years Tucson has been changing, and not for the better. By the end of 2019 I knew the time was quickly coming for me to look for a new place to live. So, long story short, I came to Las Cruces because I have friends here; a fellow novel writer named David Lee Summers and his family. I’ve known David and his family for nearly a decade, and it’s better to relocate to where you know someone.
They say art imitates life, but it this case it was the other way around. In my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, my lead character, Lauren, moves to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I describe her new home as being out in the country, with a mini kitchen in her backyard, and she’d found the home online. So here I am, a year or so later, and my real estate agent in Las Cruces sends me a link to a home that, while in town, backs up to a big arroyo, (a dry wash), with a large open space, making it appear as if it were out in the country. It also has a mini kitchen in the backyard. So, what else can I say, other than like Lauren, I really love my new home.
I’m almost finished unpacking, and once I’m settled I’ll start working on my next book. More later.
Director Charles McKenna, a lead character in my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, has been drawn to Lauren McAllen for some time. Lauren, however, is unaware of it. For the past few years they’ve been working closely together a top rated soap opera. Lauren has recently left the show, hoping to break into feature films, while Chuck wants out of Hollywood for good.
The son of a set nurse and a director of B-rated horror films, Chuck grew up in the entertainment industry. He too thought he wanted a career in movies and television. However, after years of grueling hours directing a soap opera, he’s burned out and no longer sure of what he wants. His plan is to relocate to Colorado once his contract is up. As much as he wants Lauren, having such different goals means any romance between them would be short lived, so he decides to keep it as just friends. Fate, however, has other plans for both Chuck and Lauren. Each experiences their own unforeseen tragedies which turn both of their lives upside down and will forever redefine their relationship.
Chuck is a fictitious character who represents the type of man most women would like to have as a friend as well as a life partner.
Sometimes life imitates art. The Harvey Weinstein scandal broke shortly after I had decided to write a contemporary romance novel about Hollywood. This created an unexpected challenge as I strive to create unique, original characters. Therefore, I would have to make a point of not having a character with too close of a resemblance to Mr. Weinstein. Enter Calvin Michaelson, a Hollywood mogul and the catalyst for The Scandal.
I’d originally envisioned Cal as a predator, but because of the Weinstein scandal I decided to make him similar to Roman Polanski. Unfortunately, it came out way too creepy for my taste. I wrote a couple of revisions, but Cal remained too creepy. Novel writing, like other endeavours, doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes what sounds good in a treatment, or the story summary, simply doesn’t work once pen is put to paper, as was certainly the case here. The character would have to be completely reinvented. So, after much thought, Cal went from a creepy predator to a Hugh Hefner like playboy. He’s a womanizer who makes no apologies for who he is. Unfortunately, like many of his real-life counterparts, Cal will become his own undoing and he soon finds himself in the middle of scandal that rocks Hollywood. Later on, Cal will become an unlikely hero, and readers will discover a hidden side to this complex character.
Calvin Michaelson is a purely fictional character. His inspiration comes from powerful men who thought they were too big to fall and thus became their own undoing.
Lauren McAllen, one of the lead characters in my contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, has achieved fame in a town where few become successful. For the past ten years she’s played an iconic vamp on a top-rated soap opera, making her a household name and the woman fans love to hate. Now she’s ready to move on and become a star on the big screen.
Once again, luck appears to be on Lauren’s side. Hollywood mogul Calvin Michaelson has seen her work, and he soon offers her a supporting role in a feature film. For Lauren, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and dream come true. However, it may come at a price. While Cal has made other women famous, he has a reputation for expecting certain favors in return. Unfortunately for Lauren, Cal is accused of a serious wrongdoing before the camera starts rolling, and she will soon find herself caught up in a major scandal which rocks Hollywood.
Lauren is a fictitious character. Her inspiration came from a cousin who once played on a soap opera many years ago. However, Lauren is a unique individual and her life is very different from from my cousin’s.
Now that I’ve completed my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, I’ve been doing a copy edit for my debut contemporary romance novel, The Reunion.
I wrote The Reunion back in 2011, and it’s gotten four and five star reviews on Amazon. However, 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, such 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 did something illegal, and I never held her accountable for her actions. She simply disappeared once her plan failed. Looking back, I realized not addressing this 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 contemporary romance 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.