Wednesday, April 17, 2019

An Easter Chapter from "The Letter"

I try to include major holidays in my novels, and in my most recent book, The Letter, leading lady Stephanie spends a bittersweet Easter with her new boss and his husband, while Danny finally realizes the time has come for him to make some changes. Please enjoy this excerpt from The Letter. 


By the time Easter arrived the winter snow had melted away and the trees were starting to bloom. Stephanie pulled up in front of a large, single-story house with a huge cottonwood tree in the front yard. She shut down the engine and grabbed her bottle of wine. Walking up to the front door, she heard a dog barking inside. A bald man with a dark brown goatee opened the door and greeted her with a smile.
"You must be Stephanie."
"I am. And you must be Dwayne."
"That would be me." He gave her a nod and she followed him through the door. Once inside she handed him the wine while a yellow Labrador sniffed at her clothing.
"Bella! Behave." Dwayne gave the dog a strong look as she wagged her tail. Stephanie stroked her head.
"It's okay. I love dogs." She was still petting the dog's head when Paul entered the room and greeted her with a hug.
"Happy Easter, and thanks for coming to visit our humble abode."
She looked around the beautifully furnished room. Antiques were proudly displayed on the shelves, with several paintings hanging on the walls. "I would hardly call this place humble. In fact, it looks like a photo from a home decorating magazine."
"Now you're making me blush," said Paul.
"You should have seen it when we first bought the place," added Dwayne. "It was a real fixer upper."
"It was indeed," said Paul. "Every night we'd come home from work and change into our grubbies. We ripped up carpets and replaced drywall. Then we repainted every room and refinished all the cabinets. The place looked like a war zone for months."
"But we eventually got it done."
"Then came the fun part." Paul's face was glowing. "Dwayne went antique hunting with me, but picking out the flooring, the paint colors, and, of course, the artwork, was my department."
"You know, some of these paintings do look a little familiar," said Stephanie. "I recognize the styles of some of our artists."
"Very good." Paul gave her a nod of approval and showed her around the rest of the house while Dwayne took the dog outside. Afterwards they rendezvoused in the kitchen where the scent of the roasting lamb made their mouths water. Dwayne offered her a soft drink and they sat down at the small table in the breakfast nook.
"We'll be eating in the dining room," said Paul. "It is Easter after all, and we don't use it all that often. So, enough about us. How was your Easter morning?"
"Okay, I guess." She still missed Danny but thought it best not to bring him up. "I had a nice, quiet morning, and then I called my mother to wish her a Happy Easter."
"Dwayne and I have an Easter tradition. Every year we spend Easter morning helping with the Easter egg hunt at a shelter for homeless families."
"We believe that helping others in need is what the spirit of the holiday is all about," added Dwayne. "And we both love kids, so it's very gratifying to see all the happy smiles on their faces."
"Although we'll occasionally have to referee whenever two kids spot the same egg at the same time. So far, we've not had any knock down drag out fights, but that's because we keep a few extra eggs off to the side. That way whichever kid loses the argument still has something for his Easter basket."
"But it's also exhausting," said Dwayne. "We have to get an early start. Then, after the hunt is over, we stay and help serve breakfast, so we're usually beat by the time we get home. We'll chill for a couple of hours, and then it's time to put the lamb in the oven."
"Sounds to me like the two of you have a wonderful holiday tradition," said Stephanie. "Easter was nice, but kind of low key while I was growing up. I remember hunting for Easter eggs in the backyard when I was little, then, after my father passed away, Mom and I started going to church on Easter morning, but we somehow got out of the habit once I started high school." She talked about going to college in Boulder, and her decision to stay in Colorado after she graduated. Paul finally asked her the question she hoped would not be asked.
"So, I take it you never heard back from the fellow you were dating before you came to work at the gallery?"
She shook her head. "No. I made sure it would never happen. I blocked him from my phone and my email."
Dwayne perked up. "So, if you don't mind my asking, what did he do that was so terrible?"
"He cheated on me."
"You're sure about that? You know sometimes things aren't as they appear."
"I wish I were wrong, but, unfortunately, I'm not." She sighed. "I accidentally came across a stack of cards and letters from his old girlfriend. Turned out he was taking a time out from her to date other women, just to be sure she was the one. She even knew me by name."
"You know it's illegal to read other people's mail."
"Dwayne's a lawyer," said Paul.
"Really?" Stephanie perked up. "I used to work for Davidson, Franklin and Arias, although it's probably just Franklin and Arias by now. But to answer your question, the letters were in a folder which accidentally fell off a desk, and all of them were outside of their envelopes. As I went to pick them up I couldn't help but see them, and trust me when I say, I really wish I hadn't. Once I saw them I was horrified, so I ended it, right then and there, and I've not spoken to him since."
"That's understandable, but again, things aren't always as they appear..."

***

Danny spent Easter morning hiking and taking photos at Red Rocks State Park and had worked his way to the amphitheater as the sunrise service was nearing its end. He stopped to listen to the words of hope and new beginnings and he thought of Stephanie. A part of him would always love her, but he realized it was time to move on. Even if he never married, there was no reason for him to spend his life alone. What he needed was a woman who could be a good friend. 





Sunday, February 24, 2019

And Now for Some of My Other Characters

© Can Stock Photo / Callipso88
I get a lot of nice feedback about my characters and I love them too, but let's not forget my other characters. The nonhuman ones.

I love animals and I grew up around dogs and horses, so it stands to reason that some of my characters are dogs and horses. And while they may not be as cunning as their human counterparts, dogs and horses do what dogs and horses do, and sometimes it creates problems for the protagonists. In The Reunion, a black mustang named Miss Mollie puts Gillian in a real jam, while her dachshund, Duke, becomes the catalyst in a major life changing event. However, these animal characters can do good deeds as well, and some even end up being the unsung heroes in the story. Lurch, the lovable mutt in The Betrayalhelps save Emily's life, while Lucy, Shane's dog in The Stalker, becomes attached to Rachel, much to Shane's chagrin. My upcoming book, The Scandal, will also have a canine character. This time it's an English springer spaniel named Barney, who belongs to leading man Chuck.

Those of us who have pets will tell you they really are part of the family, and my two real-life dogs are no exception. Of course, they wish I'd spend less time writing and more time with them. In fact, if it were up to them, I'd dote on them twenty-four/seven. But lucky for them, they have a nice big cozy dog bed right next to my writing desk. Now, if only I could get them to give me feedback on my writing. Unfortunately, about the only words they really seem know are, "eat," "food," and "treats." 

MM






Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Are My Characters Based on Real People?

Photo by Gayle Martin
People are genuinely curious about what I do, and I often hear questions, such as are my books a series, and are my characters based on real people? Yes, a few of my characters have been inspired by real people I've known, such as lead protagonists Ian and Gillian in The Reunion. Others are villians, such as Martha in The Letter, and Craig in The Stalker.  

So what do I mean when I say a character is inspired by a real person? Does it mean the character is a clone of that person, perhaps with a different name? The answer is no, they are not. They are based on my memories of people I've known and I use those memories as a template to create a unique and fictitious individual. Ian, for example, was based on an old college boyfriend, and I incorporated some of his positive aspects into Ian, such as his desire to succeed. However, none of us are perfect, and my old boyfriend certainly had his faults too, but most of those characteristics were not part of Ian. Oddly enough, I've found some of his negative traits in antagonists in other stories, although I didn't realize it until after the book was published. Funny how our minds work.

Whether inspired by a real-life person or not, each character I create is fictitious, and each is a unique individual in his or her own right. And I must be doing a good job, because I've had some interesting feedback from my readers. Some truly hated my villians and were happy to see them get their comeuppance. Others shared their frustrations over protagonists making bad decisions. My all time favorite, however, came from a lady who told me she was reading one of my books in her apartment complex laundry room. One of the antagonists made her so mad she started cursing him out, then she looked up and saw other people in the laundry room giving her strange looks. Her story was the highest compliment a reader could ever give me.

MM

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

New Year New Kitchen

BEFORE
Photo by Marina Martindale
Sometimes life happens, and we writers get distracted. Such was the case with me in January. My house was built in 1965. I purchased it in 2008. Someone did a not so lovely kitchen remodel in the 90s, and it really looked dull and dated. And while I loved the idea of a new kitchen, I wasn't so gung ho on the idea of turning my home into a construction zone. So, I kept putting it off. And putting it off. But it had to be done, sooner or later. 

AFTER
Photo by Marina Martindale
So my kitchen went offline for most of January, with my appliances, dishes and cookware piled up in my dining room. And while I was able to do edits and revisions, I simply was unable to write. Funny how our minds work. When we're under a lot of stress our creativity just goes.

Thankfully, all things come to an end, including a kitchen remodel, and the end result was well worth it. As I loaded my dishes and cookware into the new cabinetry it felt like I was moving into a new home. So now that it's over I'm back at work on my latest novel, The Scandal, which I plan to release this summer. I'm also coming up with an idea for the novel after that. It's good to be back.

MM

P.S. I now have a newsletter, and each month my subscribers have an opportunity to win a free Kindle edition for one of my novels. To sign up simply scroll to the bottom of the page and fill out the form. Your information is kept private and will not be shared with third parties. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Remembering Rosamunde Pilcher

Photo by Marina Martindale
I was an avid reader long before I ever dreamed of becoming an author, and I'll always remember my mother giving me one of her books and telling me I had to read it. She said it was one of the best novels she had ever read. The book was The Shell Seekers, and the author was Rosamunde Pilcher.

As soon as I started reading I was instantly pulled into the story and I couldn't put it down. Such amazing, unforgettable characters. And even though it was a long book I was sorry when the story finally came to its end. Since that time I've read other Rosamunde Pilcher novels, and all were amazing. She truly was a gifted storyteller, and she has been and always will be an inspiration to me as an author. She will truly be missed.

MM


Thursday, January 10, 2019

New Year, New Newsletter

Happy 2019 everyone. Now that the holidays are officially over I wanted to let you know about some exciting things are happening here in "Marina Land." I'm working hard on my next novel, The Scandal, and it will be available later this year.  I'm also launching a newsletter, and I'll be giving away a free Kindle edition of one of my books in each issue. All you have to do to enter is sign up for the newsletter and then open it when it arrives in your inbox. And by the way, you'll also get a nice sample of my latest novel, The Letter, absolutely free when you sign up. The sign up form is at the bottom of the page. Your information is safe and secure and it will never be shared with a third party. You can also unsubscribe at any time.

MM



Thursday, December 20, 2018

My "Soap Opera" Storylines

© Can Stock Photo / 1Raymond
As I mentioned in my earlier post, Blame it on Too Many Soap Operas and My Misspent Youth, I was once a soap opera junkie, and even though I no longer watch the soaps, they still have a big influence on my writing. Fiction is all about conflict, and when it comes to writing romantic fiction soap operas are a great model to work from. Soap writers have relied on a handful of basic plotlines for decades because they consistently work and keep viewers watching. I in turn use my own variations of these plotlines and, interestingly enough, the comment I hear the most from readers is that they can't put the book down. So, here are the standard soap plotlines that I use.

1) The Romantic Triangle. I've done my fair share of romantic triangles in my books, and they work amazingly well. In The Betrayal, leading lady Emily's cousin, Annette, thinks she's much better suited for Emily's husband than Emily is. In The Letter, I have Danny's ex-girlfriend, Martha, who refuses to let him go. My personal favorite, however is the father-son triangle in The Reunion, when Jeremy sets his sites on Dad's old flame. 

2) Extramarital AffairsWhen it comes to creating romantic conflict, few things work as well as adultery. The Deception is the story of a woman who unknowingly becomes involved with a married man, while The Betrayal is the story of a wife who's been cheated on. Both women face unintended consequences and both books are reader favorites. Expect to see more adultery themed novels in the future. 

3) The Big Frame UpAlas poor Emily. The cheated on wife in The Betrayal is betrayed a second time when she's framed for a crime she didn't commit. This happens in real life, and I may use it again in a future novel.

4) Catastrophic Diseases or Injuries. This is one area where soap operas can and often do go over the top, and because I strive for accuracy I take the time to do my homework. Both Cassie, in The Journey, and Rachel in The Stalker, suffer traumatic injuries, and my research included consulting with friends who are former nurses and who were more than happy to help me write some of those scenes. 

5) Amnesia. Amnesia is actually a rare condition, although it's been a soap opera staple for decades. I've only used it once, and that was with Jeremy in The Journey. Again I took the time to research it carefully, and a former nurse beta read the manuscript. But because it is so rare, I'll never use it in another novel. 

6) Returning from the Dead.  Another extremely rare event in real life, but often used on soaps. Again I did it with Jeremy in The Journey. It made a great story and readers loved it, but it will never be done again.

7) Long Lost Family Members. The Deception includes a subplot in which a lead character is unexpectedly reunited with a long-lost family member, and readers tell me it was their favorite part of the story. Mine too.

And there you have it. Stories of star crossed lovers have worked since Romeo and Juliet, and as my high school drama teacher once said, soap operas are based on real-life experiences, somewhat exaggerated. And that's what makes them so entertaining.

MM