So Which One is My Favorite?

Cover illustration by Wesley Lowe.

I’m often asked how many books I’ve written. Danged if I know. After a while, you kind of lose track. However, of all my contemporary romance novels, The Reunion will always be my favorite.

The Reunion was my first full-fledged novel. Prior to that, I was writing children’s books, (as Gayle Martin), and The Luke and Jenny series did quite well. My very first book was a historic, WWII era ration cookbook titled, Anna’s Kitchen, which was later updated into Rosie’s Riveting Recipes. It’s still one of my biggest sellers. However, after Luke and Jenny, I wanted to write more contemporary stories for adult readers, and romance is my favorite genre.

Unlike my later novels, The Reunion is loosely based on events which have happened in my own life. I wrote it as a, “what if” story. As in, what if I had done this instead of that? Of course, I’ll never really know, but The Reunion gave me a chance to imagine one possibility. Leading man Ian is based on someone very special who I once knew. Gillian is me. Sort of. She’s an idea of what my life might have been, had I made different choices. 

Samantha Walsh, Gillian’s best friend, is based on a real-life neighbor I once had. I also met her while I was in college. Her apartment was a few doors down from mine. However, she worked at the parimutuel windows at the dog track instead of a truck stop diner, but some of the stories she told about her job were hilarious. She moved back to Chicago a few months after we met, so I have no idea whatever become of her, but she was certainly unforgettable, to say the least.

Gillian’s ex, Jason Matthews was, I’m sorry to say, based on my own ex-husband. He worked at an Old West Theme park called, Rawhide, which, at the time, was in Scottsdale, Arizona. Like Jason, he kind of swept me off my feet. Unfortunately, also like Jason, he turned out to be an abusive conman. Thankfully, I haven’t heard from him in many years, and so far as I know, he’s alive and well. Although I will admit that writing about Jason’s untimely end was kind of cathartic. Just saying.

I think of my first romance novel as my first child, in a way. Writing it was a life-changing event for me, because doing so was when I realized that writing novels truly is me life’s calling. It’s yet another reason why The Reunion will always be my favorite.

Marina Martindale

The Reunion is available at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and other online book sellers. 

 

 

 

Home Sweet Texas Home

The view from my writing desk. Photo by Marina Martindale

I did it. I’m finally here, in my new home in Denton, Texas. I’m all unpacked and settled. In my last blog post, So Moving Right Along, I talked about my decision to sell my New Mexico home and move to the Dallas Fort Worth area. 

It was a long, hectic spring, to say the least. Buying a home, and selling a home, are quite time consuming. Especially in this crazy real estate market. First, I had to win a bidding war to get my new home. Then, when I returned to Las Cruces, I got to experience the other side when I put my home on the market.

It was, in a word, crazy. We were open for showings for three days, and seemed like hundreds of people were going through my house. I had sixteen offers in the end, with the winning bid coming in at sixty-thousand over my asking price. I kind you not. Sixty grand. Then came the fun of finding the right mover, packing, loading and unloading, and then unpacking. Unpacking definitely takes the longest. 

I love my new home. lt has a much bigger kitchen than my last home. I love cooking. Finally, I have enough counter space and cupboard space. I also have an extra bedroom. It’s my new guest room. Visitors will no longer have to sleep in my office.  

It took a few weeks to finish unpacking, and I’m still moving stuff around. However, my office is up and running, and I have a lovely view out the window. It sure beats my old office, where I had a nice view of the wall. I’ve also finished my newest contemporary romance novel, Aquamarine. I’m very happy with how it turned out. And, interesting enough, it too takes place in Denton, Texas. 

Did life just imitate art? 

Marina Martindale

Aquamarine is available on Amazon

So Moving Right Along

Frisco, Texas at Night. Photo by Gayle Martin

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I certainly as if like the past two years have been like living in a real-life episode of The Twilight Zone.

Prior to the pandemic, I was living in Tucson, Arizona. I’d been there for twelve years and I was doing very well. It reminded me in many ways of my native town of Phoenix, before it became Los Angeles in the desert. I had a good circle of friends, a good social life, and I was absolutely thriving. Unfortunately, it all began changing in late 2019.

In November, 2019, a very controversial candidate was elected mayor of Tucson. Like many cities, Tucson had its share of problems. Unfortunately, this new mayor had her own radical agenda, none of which included improving the quality of life for Tucson citizens. It was time for me to sell my home and move someplace else.

I lived in Dallas many years ago. It was another happy time in my life, but circumstances were such that I had to return to Phoenix. So, I decided I would take a road trip to Texas. I planned on going all the way to Corpus Christi and back. However, we were getting into the holiday season, along with winter driving conditions. So, I decided I would take my road trip in  March, 2020.

Well, we all know what happened in March of 2020, don’t we? I still planned on moving, but instead of going to Texas, I moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico instead. I already had a few friends there. It was also within a day’s drive of Tucson and Phoenix, where the rest of my family lives. If there were an emergency, I could easily get to where I needed to be.

I arrived in New Mexico with every intention of making it my permanent home. However, I soon became disillusioned. My family used to visit relatives in New Mexico when I was a kid. At the time it was a very nice state. Beautiful scenery, friendly people, and it wasn’t as brutally hot as it was in Arizona. Unfortunately, times have changed. It’s no longer the New Mexico I once knew. Long after other states had fully reopened, New Mexico still had mask mandates and other restrictions. Many small, locally own businesses, the places that gave the community its character, ended up shuttering for good. As a result, I was unable to go out and do the things I enjoyed doing, and I was living in total isolation.

We humans are hard-wired to be social creatures. Isolation isn’t good for our mental health and emotional well being. Two years of forced isolation had affected other health issues I had before the pandemic, and not in a good way.  So, I could do one of two things. I could either keep living in isolation, and watch my health continue to deteriorate, or I could take matters into my own hands and get the hell out of New Mexico. I opted for the latter.

This past spring I finally took that road trip to the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex, looking for a new home. It was quite an experience. I got into bidding wars with other folks who, like me, are getting the hell out of “blue” states. I found a lovely home in Denton, north of Dallas, which I’ll be moving in a few weeks.

One of the high points of my visit was when my agent took me to Frisco, a town between Dallas and Denton, for her regular Tuesday night music bingo. It was the first time I’d felt anything close to normal in two years. I was sitting at a big table with unmasked people and I could actually see their faces. They were actually enjoying themselves and we all sang along with the music while we played the game. 

In the meantime, I’ve sold my home in Las Cruces, and I’ll be moving in a few weeks. I can’t wait to start this new chapter in my life.

Marina Martindale

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Table Conversations

Photo by Marina Martindale

It’s the time of year for gathering with friends and family, so I invited my good friend and fellow author, David Lee Summers, and his wife, over for dinner. David writes steampunk, science fiction, and horror, so naturally the conversation turned to fiction writing, and famous fictional characters. We got to talking about Star Wars.

I love Star Wars. I saw the first one on the big screen a few weeks after it premiered, and it was amazing. To me, it was sort of like a sci-fi version of Camelot, complete with knights, a princess, and an evil wizard. What made the story work was the characters. We talked about how well all the characters were thought out and developed. Then came the prequels. (Not bad. Not great, but not bad.) After that came Disney. Ugh! Suffice to say the rest of the conversation was about the importance of character arcs and consistency in storytelling.

So, what can I say? Some people get together and discuss sports, current events, or politics. Get storytellers together, and we’ll sit around and analyze famous, iconic characters, and talk about what makes them work. Our inspiration often comes from other storytellers.

Marina Martindale

White Roses and Aquamarines

© Can Stock Photo / vtupinamba

My latest contemporary romance novel is off to the editor. It’s the first book I’ve written since the pandemic started. The pandemic, particularly the lockdowns, took a terrible toll on creative people.

For most of 2020 I was simply unable to write, so I decided to go back and give my earlier novels a read, hoping it would motivate me. When I got to The Betrayal, I rediscovered a minor character with a lot of potential. Not only was she strong enough to become a lead character, she was also strong enough to motivate me to start writing again.

My story is Covid free. In fact, all my future contemporary romance novels will be Covid free. I did a little research on the topic. People do not want want to see Covid included in movies or television shows, so I highly doubt they want to read about it in novels. Very few novels were ever written about the Spanish Flu, and most were written a generation later, in the nineteen-thirties. They all ended up in the dustbin of history. I recently beta read a fellow author’s manuscript. His next novel is Covid free as well, so I think I may be onto something here.

I did, however, get a little stuck on the title. It was originally going to be called The Diversion. Then, as often happens, once I started writing, and the characters came to life, the story went in a different, and better, direction. The Diversion, however, no longer made sense as a title.  The lead characters are both musicians, and each has written a song. One song is called, Aquamarine. The other is The White Rose. While the songs may be fictitious, either title would make a dandy title for the book. If only I could decide which one to use.

So, when in doubt, let the readers decide. I took a poll in my newsletter. It resulted in a tie. Ugh! So, now it’s time to ask the Magic 8 ball, which in Internet land, is a random name picker.

And the winner is… Aquamarine. It will be available in early 2022.

Stay tuned.

Marina Martindale

P.S. If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, simply scroll down to the bottom of the post and you’ll find a sign up form. Each month I giveaway a free book.

The Betrayal is available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.

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