Pondering Life’s Meaning

This article was originally posted in February, 2019 on another blog. 

© 2021 by Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

The other day I learned an old family friend had passed away. She and her husband were close friends with my parents, and she was the last one standing. To protect her identity, I’m calling her Jane.

My parents, along with Jane and her husband, were quite the foursome. Friendships like theirs are rare. Jane and her husband were frequent guests in our home while I was growing up. To me, they were sort of like extended family.

I rarely saw Jane once I became an adult, but she and my mother were the epitome of best friends for the remainder of my mother’s life. So when I heard she had finally passed away, I immediately looked up her obituary. It included a photo, taken decades ago. Jane wasn’t overly pretty, but she was nonetheless an attractive woman, and surprisingly photogenic. 

Her obituary began the usual way. When and where she was born, her parents, grandparents, siblings, and her marriage. There was also a mention of her being a cub scout den mother. From there her story took an odd twist. Instead of saying she was a full time mom and homemaker, which she was, it listed all of the country clubs she and her husband had belonged to. It ended by stating she had spent her entire adult life playing bridge every day at the country club. 

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for stay-at-home moms. I also believe we should make time to do the things we enjoy doing. It helps bring meaning and balance in our lives. However, I also think there’s a whole lot more to life than playing cards every day at the country club. Jane may have led a charmed life, but I can’t help but wonder if she was truly happy.

In my humble opinion, life isn’t about focusing entirely on oneself. It’s what we do for others that gives our lives purpose and meaning. For me, it’s writing romance novels for people to enjoy while taking break from their troubles. My biggest joy is visualizing people reading and enjoying my books as I write them. This is what gives my life purpose. For someone else it may be providing for their family, or serving their community.

We all have a purpose in life, regardless of our occupation or social status, and that purpose is serving others and doing what we can to help make someone else’s life a little better. How we go about doing this is entirely up to us, and in the end, I think most of us want to be remembered for doing something meaningful. I know I certainly do. 

Marina Martindale

Remembering Bobby

Photo by Gayle Marin

This past fall has been brutal. I lost a very dear friend, and one of my favorite people on the planet.

Bobby was a jazz musician in Tucson, who I first met in 2012.  He was part of a band which had a regular Sunday night gig at venue called Monterey Court.  Cynthia, my editor, was a tenant at Monterey Court at the time, so I was a regular there myself. Every Sunday night she and I hung out and listened to live jazz. It was a happy time.

As I got to know Bobby, and the other musicians he performed with, I began to realize there was something special about him. He was a good soul, and people like him are rare. I soon found out he enjoyed reading, so I gave him a copy of one of my Luke and Jenny books. (Which I wrote as Gayle Martin.) He loved it, so now we were more than friends. We were mutual fans.

I soon became a regular at his other gigs. I also got to know his family, and we even did a little traveling together. Bobby introduced me to some of his other friends, many of whom became some of my closest friends too.

Bobby may not have been into romance novels, but he was nonetheless very supportive of me as an author. He was always the first person to open my newsletters, and he always read my Facebook posts. In fact, he used to joke about stalking me on Facebook.

Unfortunately, Bobby was a smoker, and from what I understand, nicotine is a very difficult addiction to break. He was diagnosed with cancer after I moved to New Mexico, and he passed away in late August. I went back to Tucson to attend his funeral, and I couldn’t get over how many other people attended as well. He was well loved by many, and he will most certainly be missed by all who knew him. 

Marina Martindale

 

 

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.

 

New Home New Kitchen

Kitchen before

It’s been almost a year since I moved to New Mexico, and I love it more than ever. However, I knew the kitchen would need an upgrade. The house was built in 2006. It still had the original stove and microwave. Then, somewhere along the line, someone had covered the countertops with floor tile.

Tile on the kitchen countertops is a big no-no. The grout is porous, and who wants salmonella on the dinner menu? It needed to taken care of, the sooner the better.

Remodeling comes with a certain amount of drama, and we certainly hit some big bumps along the way. The contractor was more like a used car salesman. He could talk the talk, but… I’ll have to write him into a future contemporary romance novel; as a con man. I finally had to bring in the people who did some minor upgrades for me last year. 

Finally, it’s done!

Kitchen after

Now that everything is complete I’m loving it. I have new appliances, and for the first time ever, I have granite countertops. Yippee! So now it’s time to enjoy a glass of wine. Then I’ll get back to the business of writing contemporary romance.

Marina Martindale

 

My New Mexico Home

Photo by Marina Martindale

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.

Marina Martindale