Meet Kyle Madden, Leading Man in THE BETRAYAL

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One of the things I enjoy doing as an author is crossing characters from one novel into another. After all, they’re just sitting there, doing nothing, so I may as well put them to work, right? One of these crossover characters is Kyle Madden, who we first meet in The Reunion. Kyle is the police detective who warns Gillian, the leading lady, about her ex-husband, Jason.

As I began formulating the plot line for The Betrayal, I decided to include a good cop/bad cop story, with my leading man being the good cop. The story would be set in Phoenix, and, rather than create a leading man from scratch, I decided to use Kyle. He’d only played a minor role in The Reunion, as a generic police detective, so he had plenty of potential. In The Betrayal, Kyle becomes a thirty-something divorced dad whose wife had left him, and their young son, a few years earlier. Kyle wants very much to be a good father, but his demanding career takes up too much of his time, and it has left him feeling burned out.

Kyle first meets Emily, the leading lady, at an art gallery opening, but they’re destined to meet again. This time, however, it’s official police business, and Kyle soon realizes that Emily is being framed for a crime she didn’t commit. As he fights to prove her innocence, he’ll discover that one of his fellow officers is behind the nefarious plot.

Kyle is a hero who was inspired by real heros, all of the dedicated real life police officers out there who put their lives on the line for the rest of us each and everyday.

MM

Meet Scott Andrews, the Deceiver in THE DECEPTION

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They’re out there. The lying, cheating, scumbags. The players. Married men who put themselves out as single men. And like the predators they are, they like to prey on unsuspecting single women, looking for lasting relationships.

Scott Andrews, the antagonist in The Deception, is one of those predators. A handsome and charming software engineer, Scott can, and does, pass himself off as a single man, presenting himself as the perfect catch for a single woman looking for Mr. Right. And unfortunately for the woman, she has no idea that Scott’s married.

Scott is introduced to Carrie, the leading lady, by a mutual friend. As usual, he presents himself as a single man, and he hasn’t just fooled Carrie. He’s also fooled their mutual friend, Allison. Not only does Allison believe that Scott is single, she also thinks he might be a good match for Carrie, who’s still recovering from an earlier breakup. Scott quickly takes advantage of an all too vulnerable Carrie, but it won’t take long for her to realize things just aren’t adding up. By then it will too late, and the consequences will leave her life shattered.

Scott is inspired by someone I once knew, and by stories other women have told me. He may be a fictional character, but there are, unfortunately, many real life Scotts out there. Stay safe, ladies.

MM

Meet Laura Palmer, the Likable Villain in THE REUNION

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Sometimes characters can be problematic simply because of who they are. Such was the case for Laura Palmer, Ian Palmer’s ex-wife in The Reunion.

We all know that in real life, ex-spouses can be a headache, so it would have been all too easy for me to make Laura into a stereotypical bitch. But then again, life isn’t always what we expect, and being eternal optimist I am, I’d like think there are ex-spouses out there who are like my late grandmother–good people trying to make the best out of awkward situations. Besides, I didn’t want to make Laura too common and too predictable.

Laura bursts onto the scene as soon as she learns about her ex-husband’s new romance. Of course she wants to check out Gillian, the leading lady. Her motive, however, isn’t a scheme to try to win Ian back. She’s found someone else. She doesn’t want Ian back. Her motive is her children, and because she’s a good mother she wants to meet with Gillian to draw up the ground rules regarding the kids. Naturally, she’ll bring up Ian during the conversation. Laura is nothing if not direct.

As the story unfolds readers will see Laura not as a witch, but as a woman mislead into a marriage by a man who now admits he married her for all the wrong reasons. She may have looked like Gillian, but she wasn’t Gillian, and for too many years he made her miserable because of it. Fortunately for Laura, she’s found happiness with her finance, Will, and she’s built a new life for herself, helping him run a horse ranch near Steamboat Springs. For a “villain” she’s turned out to be surprisingly likable.

MM

Meet Allison Santiago, Supporting Character from THE DECEPTION

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One of the readers reviewing The Deception commented about how we should all be so lucky to have friends like Steve and Allison, two of the supporting characters. Well, guess what? I really do have friends who are just like Steve and Allison, that’s why I’m paying homage to them in the book.

Allison Santiago has known Carrie Daniels, the leading lady, since high school, and their friendship has lasted into adulthood. That friendship, however, will be soon put to the test when Allison introduces Carrie to Scott, a man she’s also known for several years. Allison thinks he might be a good match for Carrie, who’s recently ended a long-term relationship. But unbeknownst to Allison, Scott has a secret, and it could be Carrie’s undoing.

Allison was inspired by several of my friends, but she resembles one woman in particular. The two of us have literally traveled the world together, and, much like her literary counterpart as she’s been a steadfastly loyal friend for over ten years now, and she’s someone I can always count on. Friends like her may be hard to find, but they really are out there.

MM

Meet Cassie Palmer Leading Lady in THE JOURNEY

Romantic young woman outdoors at a summer day.
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Cassie Palmer is a character best described as grace under pressure. Seemingly naive and shy on the outside, Cassie is an iron lady in disguise.

We first meet Cassie in The Reunion, when Gillian and Jeremy stop for breakfast at a truck stop diner in Idaho Springs, Colorado, where Gillian suddenly finds herself reunited with the diner owner, her long-long best friend, Samantha Walsh. As they get reacquainted Samantha unveils another surprise–her daughter, Cassie. Gillian is surprised, but Jeremy’s life will never be the same.

Cassie and Jeremy soon become friends, but I don’t want to spoil too much of the story for those who haven’t yet read The Reunion. Cassie returns in The Journey, and this time she’s the leading lady. As the story begins, she is critically injured in a car crash that leaves her fighting for her life. Later, as she begins the long road to recovery, her world will turn upside down once again, yet through it all, she remains gracefully resilient.

Cassie is a purely fictitious character not inspired by anyone I know in real life. She is, instead, an inspiration for those times when we feel overwhelmed by all life’s obstacles.

MM

Meet Hal Tyler, the “Un-Evil” Antagonist in THE JOURNEY

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I seem to have gotten into the habit of creating some really evil antagonists. So much so that they’re even scaring me and leaving me wondering, “Where on earth are these people coming from?” Then my good friend and fellow author, David Lee Summers, explained to me that the antagonist doesn’t always have to be an evil villain. He or she could simply be someone whose goals are contrary to the protagonist’s goals. So, after listening to David’s comments, I decided to give it a whirl and come up with an “un-evil” antagonist. Someone who stands in the way of the protagonist, but has no evil intentions.

Harrison Tyler, or Hal, as his friends call him, is a nurse practitioner with an orthopedic surgeon, and he’s one of three antagonists who appear in The Journey. We first meet Hal during a time when Jeremy, the leading man, is missing and presumed dead, while Cassie, his wife, is still recovering from a broken leg. The time has come for her cast to be removed, and as luck would have it, the technician is out that day, the job falls on Hal, who immediately falls for Cassie. Her brother-in-law, Larry, is also there. He can see that Hal is a decent guy, so he encourages her to go have coffee with him. A reluctant Cassie finally agrees, just to get Larry off her back.

Cassie sees Hal as a friend who’s come into her life at a time when she really needs one. To Hal, however, Cassie is a rare find. And while he hasn’t quite fallen in love with her, he knows he wants her, and he’s willing to wait patiently until she’s ready for him. And if it means having to be persistent, if not a little manipulative, so be it. His intention isn’t to cause any harm. He simply wants to make Cassie his–before it’s too late.

Hal is a purely fictitious character and not inspired by anyone I’ve ever met in real life. He’s a nice guy who’s found himself in the awkward position of wanting something he can never really have, but still trying to reach for it anyway.

MM

Meet Jeremy Palmer, Leading Man in THE JOURNEY

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It’s funny how things sometimes work out. Jeremy Palmer was originally intended to be a rouge character in The Reunion. He would make a brief appearance, do his dirty deed, and then disappear into the night. But sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. As I was writing The Reunion, I came to realize that Ian, the leading man, wouldn’t have had such an evil son. So Jeremy went from rogue villain to a rival, competing with his father for Gillian’s affections, and creating a storyline that many readers tell me was their favorite part of The Reunion. Jeremy blossomed. Okay, he jumped off the page. He became a sexy, vibrant character worthy of having his own novel, The Journey.

We first meet Jeremy in The Reunion as a twenty-one-year-old bartender. He has his father’s good looks, and his mother’s bold, sometimes too direct, personality. Jeremy isn’t one to mince words. He likes to get straight to the point, and his bluntness occasionally gets him into trouble.

The Journey begins approximately eighteen months after The Reunion has ended. Jeremy is now working as an engineer, and he’s happily married to Cassie. (You really didn’t think Ian would have allowed him to steal Gillian away, did you?) Jeremy’s world turns upside down the night Cassie is seriously injured in a car crash. He rushes to the hospital and stays by her side. While Cassie recovers they befriend Denise, one of Cassie’s nurses. Denise seems familiar, and while Jeremy can’t quite place her, she has never forgotten how he jilted her, years before. Denise wants a second chance with Jeremy, and she’s about to unleash an evil plan to win him back.
Jeremy is a purely fictitious character. He wasn’t inspired by anyone I knew in real life, although his character is very similar to the young Ian seen in the flashback chapters of The Reunion. The younger Ian was inspired by someone I knew, long ago. And just like his father, Ian, Jeremy will make his fair share of mistakes, no doubt making some readers saying, “Like father, like son.”
MM

It’s Okay. They’re Just Storybook Characters

BooksThe other day I read an article about the upcoming fall TV season, which mentioned that an actress on a top-rated show has decided not to return. It was followed by the usual comments. Some were sorry to see her leave, others thought the show would be better off without her. One comment was a bit odd. Among other things, the woman “prayed” for the characters.

Say what?

The highest compliment you can give any actor, or fiction writer, is to tell them their characters seem real. And the keyword here is, seem. They’re fictitious characters. They’re not actual living, breathing human beings, although they may seem very real in the pages or on the screen. And while prayers for the actors, or the writers, would certainly be appreciated, praying for a fictional character is a bit creepy. It sort of reminds me of Stephen King’s Misery.

Some of my characters; Ian Palmer, Samantha Walsh, Alex Montoya, and Jason and Gillian Matthews, were inspired by real people I’ve known. Meaning I drew on the personalities of real individuals to create the characters, but they’re all fictitious and most certainly not clones of their real-life counterparts. I go to a great deal of trouble to make my characters as three-dimensional as I possibly can, and yes, bad things happen to good people in my books. That’s because plot lines revolve around tension and conflict, followed by a happy ending. I love it when readers and reviewers say they cheered for my good guys, and wanted to smack my bad guys.

I’m glad you love my characters, and I’m always thinking up new ones. You can certainly say a prayer for the real-life people who inspired some of them, but please, not for the characters themselves. They’re not real. Sometimes I wish some of them were, but that’s a post for another day.

MM

But Would a Guy Really Say That?

tag graphicI was reading a forum thread discussing the differences between men and women, and how they’re more than just physical. A woman’s psyche is very different than a man’s. It got me thinking about a challenge I face as a romance writer–writing a male character’s dialog. I’m always having to stop and ask myself, would a guy really say that?

Back in the 90s I read, Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus, and while I can’t recall all the details from the book, I remember it talked extensively about how men are more analytical, and women are more emotional. This doesn’t mean one sex is superior to the other. It simply means that we think differently, so I’ve modeled my male characters accordingly. The female characters will talk openly about their relationships, while the men are more prone to retreat to their man caves. Jeremy, from The Reunion, and The Journey is particularly known to do this. The challenge for me is when I have to have a male character discuss his relationship. I am, after all, writing romance. The main focus of the story is interpersonal relationships, and do men really talk about things like this?

One way I’ve handled it by having a male character confide in a female character. In The Deception, Steve, a supporting character, talks to his fiancee about his concerns over Alex’s relationship with Carrie.

* * *

“Is something wrong, Steve?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“What is it?”

“Alex and Carrie. C’mon, you saw it. They’ve become much too emotionally attached to one another.”

“They go way back,” she reminded him.

“No, there’s more to it than that. He’s fallen for her. Hard. Really, really hard.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

“In itself, no. They’re two of my favorite people and under normal circumstances I’d be happy for both of them, but their situation isn’t normal. He’s representing her in a civil case and he’s losing his objectivity.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he replied, matter-of-factly. “A few days ago I walked into Alex’s office. He’d just happened to have gotten off the phone with our old buddy, Scott Andrews. Apparently Scott had made some crack about his prior involvement with Carrie and Alex went into a screaming rage. I’ve never known him to ever do anything like that before. It was like listening to a jealous lover. That’s what has me worried.”

“How so?”

“Alex has always been unflappable. That’s why he has such a good track record. He stays calm and collected, just like a lion stalking its prey, while he waits patiently for the other side to make a mistake, and then he goes for the kill. He’s always been able to do that because he never allows himself to become emotionally wrapped up. But now he’s crossed that line, and even though it appears to be an open and shut case, this time he could, very easily, be the one who makes a mistake. If that happens, he could lose, and this is the one case, Allie, the one case that he can’t afford to lose.”

“Damn,” she said. “You can’t let that happen, Steve. It could destroy both of them.”

“I know that, so I’m going to have to keep close watch on him and I’m going try to persuade him to bring Reggie on board.”

* * *

Steve, being a guy, of course has a solution to the problem. Later, after things have gone “too far,” he and Alex have a serious talk.

* * *

Steve looked up when he heard the sound of someone tapping at his door.

“Hey, Alex. What’s up?”

“I need to talk to you about something.”

“Of course. Come on in.”

Alex stepped inside, closed the door behind him, and pulled up a chair. He let out a sigh as he sat down.

“Are you all right, Alex? You look pretty serious.”

“I’m afraid your boy wonder has turned himself into boy blunder.”

Steve looked closer at Alex’s face. “You’ve slept with her, haven’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Well now, that explains the happy glow.”

“Oh very funny.” There was a hint of sarcasm in Alex’s voice.

“Well, buddy, I can’t say I’m surprised. I saw this coming the day we all drove up to Flagstaff for her mother’s funeral. So, you know what happens next, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do. I’ll have to recuse myself from her case.”

“It’s for the best for everyone involved, Alex. Even if you hadn’t taken it to that level, I’ve been concerned about your objectivity ever since the day you flipped out after speaking to Scott Andrews on the phone. That’s not like you. You never lose your cool. If something like that had happened in a courtroom—”

“It’ll never see the inside of a courtroom, Steve. Louise doesn’t have a case. She never did.”

“I know she doesn’t. Hopefully you’re right and it’ll never make it to court. However, our immediate concern is the here and now, which means we need to talk to Reggie.”

Before Alex could respond, Steve picked up his phone and dialed Reggie’s extension. As soon as she answered Steve asked her to come to his office. A minute later they heard a knock at the door. Steve opened it and she stepped inside, bringing a folder with her.

* * *

This time, since the conversation is between two men, I let them get to the point, as quickly as possible, and they then discuss a solution. Had this scene been between two female characters more time would have been spent discussing their feelings.

I don’t know if this is how men really talk to one another behind closed doors or not. But if what I’m told by male friends, and by the John Gray book, is true, then I’m probably close. So far I’ve not heard any complaints from male readers.

MM

 

Meet Billie Hughes, Supporting Character in THE DECEPTION

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If there were an unsung heroine in The Deception, it would have to be Billie Hughes. A former model turned FBI agent, Billie and Carrie, a former child model, quickly form a strong bond. Her specialty is white-collar crimes, and she’s one of the agents in charge of the investigation when Carrie’s identity is stolen. Billie is in her forties, and, while not mentioned in the final manuscript, she’s also the mother of a grown son.

Billie is a purely fictitious character, but she and her partner, Agent O’Dell, are inspired by, and loosely based, on a neighbor I had many years ago who was also an FBI agent. He was a hardworking professional who put his life on the line each and every day to help make the world a safer place for the rest of us.

MM