You Novel Writers are Evil

Kindle CoverThat’s a fellow author said to me the other day.  Of course, she didn’t mean it literally, (I hope), although she had a point. Some of the things we do to our characters is just plain mean. Then again, some of those characters have it coming.

I was telling her about Scott, one of the antagonists in The Deception. Let’s face it. Scott isn’t the nicest guy on the planet. He’s a married man who’s put himself out as a single guy, and his actions will hurt a lot of people, especially Carrie, my leading lady. Once she and her friends figure out that Scott’s stories aren’t adding up she ditches him, and I’d planned on writing him out of the story at that point. Then another author told me, no, I couldn’t just write him off so quickly. She explained that readers would expect him to be punished for what he did, and they’d be disappointed if he were able to simply walk away.

As I explained to my friend, I decided to take her advice. Later on in the book Scott is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and he’ll get his comeuppance in the form of a strip search. I told her that I went online and read testimonials by real people who’ve had the experience, and I based Scott’s story on those real-life accounts. That’s when she looked at me and said, “You novel writer’s are evil.” What can I say? She wrote a memoir, and I write fiction. Here’s the except. You be the judge.

MM

* * *

Scott let out a sigh. He was trapped in a nightmare he couldn’t wake up from. They arrived at the jail and once again he was taken into another small room for questioning. The door opened and a thirty-something blonde woman entered, taking her seat across the table from him.

“Finally, a friendly face.”

“Hello there, Scott. My name is Deputy U.S. Marshall Diane Hall, and I’ll be taking care of your booking. After we’re finished, Billie Hughes, with the Phoenix FBI office, wants to talk with you.”

She handed Scott over to two male deputies. Once again, he was taken away be photographed and fingerprinted. When they finished he was escorted into another room.

“Okay,” said one of the deputies. “I want you to slowly and carefully remove each item of your clothing, one at a time, and hand it over so we can inspect it.”

“Why?”

“It’s routine, sir. Take off the shirt, then your shorts, and your shoes and socks.”

Scott did as he was told. When he was done, he was standing in his underwear.

“Did you not hear me, buddy? Remove your drawers and hand them over.”

“What? Then I’ll be standing here naked.”

“That’s why we call it a strip search.”

Scott removed his underwear and handed it over. As he stood naked, one of the deputies looked inside his mouth, ears, and armpits before looking down to closely inspect his genitals.

“Don’t you dare touch me!” Scott felt both embarrassed and humiliated.

“I’m not going to touch you, however, you’re going to lift it up so I can have a look underneath.”

Scott had no choice but to comply. It was a horrible experience. Once the deputy was finally finished the other picked up a flashlight.

“All right, spread your legs, bend over and grab your ankles. You’ll remain in that position until I tell you that you can move.”

“What! Are you kidding me? Why are you doing this? I’ve been accused of a non-violent crime.”

“Sorry, it’s routine. You’re going into the general jail population. We have to search you for contraband.”

Scott bent over. For the first time in his life, he knew the feeling of being violated. It was the most humiliating experience of his life and the deputy seemed to be taking an unusually long time. When they finally finished, they led him to a shower. They watched him while he showered, and handed him an orange jail suit with a pair of open-toed rubber shoes when he was done. As soon as he was dressed, he was taken to an interview room, where Billie Hughes was waiting. As he took his seat, she opened her folder, removed a photo, and pushed it across the table toward him.

# # #

Meet Alex Montoya, Leading Man in THE DECEPTION

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Alex has to be one of the most likable, not to mention sexy, characters I’ve ever  created. He’s strong, yet quirky and vulnerable at the same time. The American-born son of a Spanish immigrant father, Alex is American in every way, while his father still clings to Old World customs and traditions.

Alex and Carrie, the leading lady, have a friendship dating back to the fourth grade. They remained friends through high school, but when they ended up going to colleges on opposite ends of the country they drifted apart. Ten years later Carrie deeply regrets letting Alex go. After her identity is stolen, and she’s accused of a serious wrongdoing as a result, a friend arranges for her to meet with a bright young attorney who can help her. Much to her surprise, that bright, young attorney is none other than her long-lost best friend, Alex.

I decided to have Alex be of Spanish descent in honor of a friend I had years ago, who was also of Spanish descent. She had great pride in her heritage, and she often spoke of it. I also had another close friend who was the first American born child of Italian immigrant parents. She too was proud of her heritage, but she sometimes found herself in conflict with her parents whenever they tried to impose their Old World expectations on her.

If I had to describe Alex in one word, it would be loyal. He’s the kind of man who’s willing to go the extra mile for the people he cares about, while not expecting anything in return. That’s what makes him a positive role model.

MM

Jason Matthews, the Deadly But Never Seen Villain in THE REUNION

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I typically have more than one villian in my novels, and Jason Matthews in The Reunion is another of my antagonists. Interestingly enough, he’s never actually seen, but his presence is most certainly felt, and he has a major impact on the story.

Gillian Matthews, the leading lady, has a history of getting involved with the wrong men. An artist by profession, Gillian tells Ian, the leading man, her story of visiting Tombstone, Arizona,  to do 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 quickly swept her off her feet. Gillian believed she’d finally found Mr. Right, and the two eloped a short time later.

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, and her worst nightmare comes to life once again when she learns that Jason has murdered his current wife. He’s now on the run and the authorities believe that he’s looking for her. What makes the character even more sinister is the fact that he’s lurking, but never actually seen, leaving Gillian, and Ian, wondering where and when he will finally strike.

MM

Meet Carrie Daniels, Leading Lady in THE DECEPTION

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I really tried to give Carrie Daniels, my Deception leading lady, a nice, girl-next-door quality, and, judging by the comments I’m receiving from reviewers, it looks like I’ve hit my mark.

A freelance photographer and former child model, Carrie’s entire world is about to come crumbling down. Three years earlier her mother suffered a debilitating stroke, and Carrie went from riches-to-rags once her mother’s insurance ran out. Her financial calamity, however, is only the beginning of her problems. Doug, her significant other for the past ten years, is about to dump her, and, once that happens, Carrie will be left homeless and vulnerable, making it all too easy for Louise, her former mentor, to seize the opportunity to exploit Carrie for her own selfish gains.

As the story unfolds, Carrie will experience both sides of infidelity. She will be shocked and devastated when Doug admits he’s been unfaithful to her. She’ll also be deceived by Scott, a married man who presents himself to her, and her best friend, as a man who’s single and available. Carrie leaves the relationship once she realizes things aren’t adding up, but by then it will be too late as Scott’s wife, Maggie, seeks revenge. Yet despite her troubles, Carrie remains resilient as she tries to make the best of what she can. She’s the kind of character you can root for–sweet on the outside, but strong on the inside.

Carrie is a mostly fictitious character, in that I did not model her after anyone in particular, although I may have put a little of myself into her. Photography has always been one of my life’s passions, and, in my younger days, I too dreamed of being a model.

MM

It’s Jarring, Life Shattering, and It Can Happen in an Instant

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I’m starting to get feedback on The Deception.  For the most part it’s been good, with some minor criticism here and there, but that’s to be expected. After all, none of us can please all readers all the time. However, one comment I’ve received is about the sudden end to one of the characters. I’m told it was jarring and over the top.

Warning! Spoiler Alert!

I decided to kill one of the characters off in a traffic accident, and no, I don’t warn you about it. That’s because it’s one of those things in life that really does happen, without warning, for the victims or their survivors, and afterwards life is never the same. It’s a reality I know all too well. About ten years ago I lost a young cousin to a car crash. It was completely unexpected. One minute he was a healthy twenty-year-old man, and the next minute he was gone forever.  My own life hasn’t been the same since 1992, when I was sideswiped by an armored car going sixty-five miles per hour in a twenty-five mile per hour zone. I came around a bend, saw him coming at me from the opposite direction, and hit the accelerator, hoping I could get out of his way in time. Didn’t quite happen. I’m still alive, obviously, but it left me with a permanent injury. Twenty years later I’m still flabbergasted about how my life was changed so suddenly.

That said, my decision to kill one of my characters in a car accident may indeed seem over the top for some of you. Others, however, disagree. Since the character who is killed is one of the “bad guys,” I’ve also been told that the scene made them fell vindicated, and they thought it was the character’s “bad karma” that got them there.

Like it or not, it’s one of those over-the-top things that really does happen to people, and it happens all too often. I guess the point I’m making is to never take life for granted. It can, without warning, come to a sudden end.

My thought for the day.

MM

I’m Beginning to Scare Myself

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I’ve had some wonderful feedback on some of the antagonists in my novels, like Ryan Knight in The Reunion, and I’m pleased to be creating people you love to hate. The other day I was describing an antagonist I’m developing for my new novel, The Journey. Her name, at least for now, is Denise Sanderson, and she’s going to be exceptionally nasty. As I was describing her to a fellow author I had to stop myself in mid sentence and say, “You know, I don’t know where these people are coming from, but it’s kind of scary when I stop and think about it.”

Ask any novelist and they’ll tell you that after awhile the characters will start to create themselves. They’ll tell you who they are. That said, they still spring from somewhere deep in our creative psyche, so where are all these bitches and bastards coming from? I’ve always considered myself a good person, and I’ve always tried to treat others the way I would want to be treated.

Some of my villains, like Jason and Ryan in The Reunion, were inspired by some of the not-so-nice people I’ve encountered in my own life. Writing about them has been very cathartic because it really has helped me release a lot of previously unresolved issues. But other antagonists, like Maggie in The Deception, and Denise, in The Journey, are totally fictitious. They have no real-life counterpart–at least no one who I can recall, so it’s made me wonder. Do I really have some deeply buried darker side?

Probably. Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us do have a dark side. These antagonists represent our fears. They represent the sense of outrage, frustration and injustice, that most, if not all of us have encountered at one time or another. These antagonists give us the opportunity to vicariously act out our own anger and frustration. Maybe that’s why we’re so delighted when we finally see them get their just desserts. It gives us a chance to purge our own demons, and that’s a good thing. That said, they still scare me.

MM

One of the Inspirations for THE DECEPTION

Kindle CoverIt always fascinates me where ideas for my stories can come from.  They can come from virtually anywhere. The genesis for The Deception actually occurred back in 2006, when I was blog surfing one night and I happened upon a psychic’s blog.  She worked on one of those on-line psychic websites, and her post was about the questions she was most often asked by her callers.  One of the questions was, “When will he leave his wife for me?”

Needless to say, her post had a lot of comments, and I seem to recall participating in the discussion as well.  It was quite a debate about adultery and morality, and many of the comments were to the effect of the other woman always knowing that he’s married, and she’s lying if she says she didn’t know.

Well, it’s not necessarily so.  I’ve met plenty of women who’ve gotten involved with married men, and not all of them knew he was married.  I also once knew a man who discovered the woman he was dating was married too.  None were proud of the experience. It’s the kind of thing that can leave a person doubting themselves and no longer able to trust others.

I wrote The Deception as a story of what can happen when a good, honest woman meets a man who has not only presented himself to her as single and available, he was introduced to her by her closest friend, who also believed he was single and available.  The story may be fiction, but it’s inspired by circumstances that, sadly, happen all too often in the real world.

The point I’m making with this story is that we must be careful about judging others when we don’t have all the facts.  Another is that this can, potentially, happen to anyone, from any walk of life, regardless of their personal morality, because people can and do lie.  Hence my title, The Deception.

Happy reading.

MM

Since When is Being Feminine a Bad Thing?

lips3My goodness gracious me.  I’ve just read a news article expressing all kinds of outrage over another news article, written by a Turkish journalist, lamenting his belief that “Womanhood is Dying,” at Olympics as he apparently expressed his dismay at just how masculine women athletes have apparently become.

Now granted, I didn’t read the original article, but the article I did read made it quite clear that the masses were ready to run the man out of town on a rail, if not lynch him from the highest tree. But what really bothers me isn’t what the Turkish journalist wrote, it’s all the angry backlash against him for writing it in the first place.  Apparently there’s something wrong with being feminine.

I admit I’ve never been in crisis about my gender and I’ve never wanted to be a man.  I like wearing dresses and high heels. I like wearing makeup and having my hair and nails done.  I like it when a man acts like a gentleman and opens the door for me.  So why is this wrong?  Is this the new taboo? Is this a sign of weakness?

Well, all I can say is the female characters in my books are all feminine, but none are weak.  In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to write them as good, feminine role models.  All have achieved professional success, but none are man-haters or ball-busters.  One of my female characters survives a near drowning. Another survives a gunshot wound–while she’s pregnant.  These are not weak women, however they are not wanna be men, nor do they act like men.  They love and respect the men in their lives, yet they do not allow their men to dominate them, nor do they lead their men around by their noses.  All I can say is that like me, they are not in crisis over their genders.

Women are resilient.  After all, we’re the ones who have the babies.  It’s too bad everyone else has their undies in a knot over one journalist expressing his opinion.  But as I said, what really bothers me is that deep down, there is now, apparently, something wrong with wanting to be feminine, and I resent a society that wants to force me to become a man.  I’m a woman. I’m damn proud of being a woman, and I will continue to create strong, feminine characters in my novels.

My thought for the day.

MM

Why My Books are Religiously Neutral

Religious SymbolsSomeone recently asked me a very interesting question.  She wanted to know if The Reunion was a Christian-oriented romance book. I told her no, it was not, and my reason is because I want readers of all faiths and backgrounds to read, and enjoy, The Reunion, along with my other books.

There are some authors out there who, regardless of their genre, write novels geared toward readers of their faith.  For example, at a book signing I did last year, I met Mormon author.  She informed me, quite matter-of-factly, that her romance books were LDS romance books. I looked at the covers, and sure ‘nuf, the words, “LDS Romance,” were included in the subtitles of her books. Since I’m not Mormon, she kind of looked down on me, as if I had two heads or something.

I’m pleased she found a faith that she believes strongly in, and if her religion enhances her life for the better then I’m all for it.  After all, this is America, and our country was founded on the concept of freedom of religion.  However, from a book marketing point of view, she was limiting the scope of her readership to other Mormons, so her books would only be read, or appreciated, by a small percentage of the population.

One of the things that makes America great is the diversity of faiths among its people, and  I want Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, New Agers, Wiccans, even agnostics and atheists, to be able to read and enjoy my books.  Yes, my characters are all believers, but none are churchgoers.  Again, I don’t want to endorse one religion over another.  Any references made to God in my books are very general, and are stated with phrases such as, “we’ll all say a prayer that he’ll be be found soon, safe and sound.”

I admit I am more spiritual than religious, meaning I believe in God, but I don’t follow the dogma of any particular church.  My mother was a non-practicing Northern Baptist, and my father was New Age, long before Shirley MacLaine came along and popularized it.  My parents weren’t churchgoers, so I didn’t attend Sunday school, and I’ll admit that as an adult, whenever I joined a church, regardless of the denomination, I never stayed very long because I got turned off by the inevitable back-biting and politicking going on amongst the various members.  My own beliefs are a blend of New Age and Christian, and I’ve never found a church were both schools of thought were welcome.  (The Unity faith came the closest, but I don’t agree with all of their teachings either.)

So there you have it.  While I have my own set of beliefs, I don’t use my books to proselytize or endorse any particular religion.  I’ll leave that to the theologians.

MM

Should Authors Be Held Accountable for the Violence in Their Books?

Ink SplatterMy heart goes out to the people of Aurora, Colorado.  I live in Tucson, Arizona.  Not too long ago a similar tragedy occurred here when our congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot at an event in front of a Safeway supermarket.  Six people died, many others were injured, and it had a profound impact on our community. Tragic events such as these are always followed by the inevitable debates as we struggle to make sense of it all, and sooner or later someone always makes the comment about too much violence in TV, movies, or video games, pointing the finger of blame at the entertainment industry.

Movies, television, and books are all mediums for storytelling. All story plot lines revolve around conflict, and how the characters react to, and eventually resolve, the conflict.  Now, whether we want to admit it or not, human beings have a great propensity for violence, so violence is often an integral part of the storyline. This is nothing new.  In fact, Shakespeare was pretty darn violent.  His works are full of murders and suicides. Some writers, like Edgar Allen Poe, describe violent scenes in graphic detail. There is an entire literary genre, called horror, that’s all about violence.

I myself am not into blood and gore, but there are still, nonetheless, some “violent” scenes in my books.  As I just mentioned, it’s part of the conflict and part of what makes the story interesting.  It’s also a catharsis for me, as a writer, to deal with some of the not-so-nice things that have happened to me in my own life, and I find it very therapeutic.  For example, there is a scene in The Reunion in which Gillian learns that her former husband has just murdered his current wife.  However I chose not to portray the scene in a graphic or gory way.  The incident is instead described in a dialog between Ian, Gillian and a police detective.  I leave it to the reader to imagine the blood and gore.  My upcoming novel, The Deception, includes a scene in which three characters are shot.  (Yes, writing that scene was my way of dealing with my own emotions from the Giffords tragedy.)  Still, I don’t get overly graphic or harsh with my descriptions.  My story isn’t about the violence.  It’s about how my characters deal with and overcome what has happened to them.

So, should authors be held accountable for the violence in their books?  Assuming that the author in question hasn’t written a book for the sole purpose of inciting readers to commit an act of violence, such as writing a “how to” book about the best way to kill other human beings, it would be difficult to prove that the author is responsible for any wrongdoing.  While I’m aware of studies out there allegedly proving a link between violent TV shows and movies, and violent behavior in real life, others will argue that the vast majority people do not act out what they’ve seen in the media or read about in a book.  Authors, at least here in the United States, are also protected by the First Amendment, so chances are that a court would rule that those violent scenes would be considered free speech.

Ultimately it is up to the author, and his or her publisher, to determine what, if any, level of violence is appropriate.  As I just mentioned, I don’t get into graphic descriptions of blood and gore in my books, but I’m not going to put up with anyone trying to censor me either.  I know this sounds like a tired old cliché, but if you don’t like a movie or TV show don’t watch it, and if you don’t like a violent scene in a book don’t read it.  Then there is the matter of parental responsibility.  It is up to you, the parent, to teach your child the difference between right and wrong, and to use some discretion in deciding which movies and televsion shows your child should watch, and which books your child should read.  My books, by the way, are written for adults. While they do not contain scenes of graphic violence they do include sexual content. They simply are not appropriate for younger readers.

Our readers want to see the bad guys pay for their wrongdoings.  My books certainly deliver on this, as do most books by other authors.  The bad guys may win a battle or two, but at the end of the day the good guys win the war.  That’s what good storytelling is all about.

MM