The Inspiration for THE STALKER

Stalker Front CoverI get ideas for my novels from my own life events, or from other people’s stories. The inspiration for The Stalker came from a little bit of both.

It started when an online feud erupted on my Facebook newsfeed. Two artists, who’d once worked together, had a falling out. They’d blocked each other on Facebook, but that didn’t stop the feud. One would post something about the other. Someone else would take a screenshot and send it to the other, and then the mudfest would begin. About the time it settled down the other one would start in, and the cycle would repeat itself. The rest of us got a ringside seat, whether we wanted it or not.

Of course the writer in me saw this as a good premise for novel. I especially liked the idea of the lead character being harassed by someone she’d once worked with, instead of a former lover. (The former lover will be the premise for my next novel, The Letter.)

In The Stalker, Craig, the antagonist, stalks and harasses Rachel, the leading lady. The two are former coworkers. Rachel had once considered Craig a mentor, but he turned on her when she got a promotion he felt she didn’t deserve. Like my other novels, The Stalker twists and turns as the story progresses, taking you, the reader, on yet another roller coaster ride.

The following excerpt is a sneak preview from The Stalker.

Enjoy,

MM

***

Rachel waited until Shane was gone before turning her attention back to the deputy. His nametag identified him as Joseph Gonzalez.

“And so another wonderful evening gets ruined, thanks to Craig Walker.” She let out a disappointed sigh. “I first met Shane, the man who just left, back in high school, but I never really talked to him until tonight, and I could tell something wonderful was about to happen. Then you showed up.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m just doing my job.”

Her tone softened. “I know you are, and I’m sorry for being rude. This really isn’t your fault. You got duped by Craig Walker, just like I did.”

He motioned for her to take a seat in the corner of the lounge. As she settled into her chair, he took a small notepad from his pocket and sat down across from her.

“Okay, Ms. Bennett, can you please tell how you know Mr. Walker?”

“Craig Walker is an ex co-worker who I first met in Reno, Nevada, where we both worked for a magazine.”

“Were you ever romantically involved with him?”

“No.” Her head shook as she spoke. “Mr. Walker and I have never been romantically involved. It was strictly a business relationship.” She went on to describe their talks in the break room, and how he had turned on her after she was promoted to the new art director.

“So,” said Gonzalez, “you said he was reprimanded after this incident. Did the harassment stop after that?”

“He never actually spoke to me after that, but he still gave me the evil eye whenever he saw me. And he always made a point of contradicting me at staff meetings, even when everyone else agreed with me. I probably could have said the sky was blue, and he would have said no, it was green. And then things started getting really scary.”

“What do you mean by scary?”

“I started getting some really nasty emails in my personal account. They came from different senders, but they all had pretty much the same verbiage. I was a hack who didn’t know how to do my job, and the only reason I got my job was because I’d slept with the boss. Changing my password and blocking the senders didn’t seem to help. So, I finally went back to my supervisor, but I was told that unless I could prove Craig was the sender they couldn’t do anything about it. They suggested I open a new email account.”

“Did you?”

“Yes. And after that I made a point of not checking my personal email from my work computer. Later on, I found out someone was using the contact form on the magazine website to complain about me, but management simply ignored it. They knew what was going on; they just didn’t want to get involved. It was about the same time we learned the magazine would be going out of business.”

The deputy went over his notes. “You mentioned something about this not being the first time you had an evening ruined by Mr. Walker. Could you please explain what you meant by that?”

“Back in Reno, it seemed like every time I went out with friends, Craig would be there. If we went to a bar or restaurant, he’d be at another table. If we went to a movie or show, he’d be seated in the auditorium; always giving me a cold, hard stare. It was as if he knew my every move, even though I’d made a point of keeping my private life private. I never discussed any of my plans with co-workers. Then there was Eric.”

“Who was Eric?”

“Eric Hawthorne was someone I was seeing while I was in Reno. It wasn’t anything overly serious, but we enjoyed each other’s company. So one night while we were out having dinner, Craig was brazen enough to approach Eric in the men’s room. He told him what a lying, two-faced bitch I was, and that I was sleeping with the boss, and why was he wasting his time with someone like me when there were so many other women out there who were better? The confrontation apparently didn’t last long, maybe a minute or so at best, but it really made Eric mad, not to mention how embarrassing it was for me.” She sighed. “Eric sent me an email a few days later. He said he was sorry about the problems I was having with Craig, but he wanted to end the relationship. He wished me luck and hoped there’d be no hard feelings. After that, I never heard from him again.” She paused to gather her thoughts. “Once again, I went to my supervisor. She said she was sorry, but since it happened after hours and away from the office, they weren’t going to get involved.”

“I see.” Gonzalez scribbled down more notes. “Is there anything else?”

“Other than the fact that he harassed me via the company email account at my next job, and through social media, I can’t think of a thing.”

“How did he do that?”

“I was working for an advertising agency which, for a time, had the company email directory posted on its website. They eventually took it down, but by then it was too late. Craig had my email address. The harassment started once again, so I had to set up a new email account. He’d also set up social media accounts under different names and send me friendship requests, as well as friendship requests to some of my other online friends. Then, after I’d unknowingly accept the request, he’d post some pretty inflammatory rants about me. I’d report it, but they never seem to do much about it. They just tell you to block them if you find them offensive, as if I hadn’t done that already. I even tried going to the police, but they just don’t seem to take these things too seriously either.”

“Well, Ms. Bennett, I’m sorry you’re going through this. Unfortunately, what you’ve told me would be considered a civil matter, so unless he were to actually harm you, or damage your property, there really isn’t much we can do either, other than take a report. You may want to consider going to court and filing an injunction against harassment.”

She rolled her eyes. “I know. I’ve heard it all before, but I’m afraid taking him to court is much easier said than done. All l can tell you is I’m really losing faith in the system.”

 

THE STALKER is Back from the Editor

Hands at KeyboardMy latest novel has just returned from the editor, and she tells me she loved it. She says it’s one of my best stories to date, and she should know. She’s been my editor since my very first novel, The Reunion.

The Stalker was inspired by a real-life Facebook feud unfolding on my newsfeed. Of course, a Facebook feud would make for a dull narrative in a novel as the characters would be typing back and forth on a computer or tablet. Boring! To make the story work I would have to have my characters out in the real world, so the villain does a whole lot more than harass her on Facebook. He does drivebys past her house. He pops up when she’s out in public. His goal is to completely destroy her career and ruin her life, and he won’t allow anyone or anything to get in his way. In other words, he’s one of my most devious villains to date, and he makes The Stalker a real page turner.

The Stalker is now with the proofreader, and I’m hoping to release it in November. Stay turned.

MM

 

Arizona Wine Country

Grapevine
Photo by Marina Martindale

Now when most people think of Arizona, they probably think of cactus and desert, and they’d be right. We certainly have plenty of cactus and desert, but there is so much more to this great state. It’s actually quite diverse. We have forests and grasslands, and rivers and lakes. There are places where it snows, sometimes quite heavily, during the winter. We even have the Grand Canyon. About the only thing we don’t have here is the ocean. So, as a writer, this gives me a lot of possibilities.

Arizona is always changing, and over the past few decades a brand new industry has emerged here–wine making. One of the areas where wines are made is Santa Cruz county, in the southernmost part of state. This area is only about an hour’s drive from where I live, and it’s also one of the most beautiful parts of the state. This is why I’ve set part of The Betrayal in Arizona wine country.

Vineyards
Photo by Marina Martindale

My most recent trip down there was to shoot some video footage for The Betrayal book trailer, and I picked a perfect day to visit. (Have I mentioned that photography, like writing, is one of my life’s passions?) This time of year when the grass, which is normally yellow, turns green from the summer monsoon rains, and the grapes are ripe and ready for harvest. It’s the prettiest time of year, in one of the most scenic parts of the state, and it certainly made for a most memorable day.

MM

In Search of St. Eligius Ranch

Steamboat Sprigs 1
Photo by Marina Martindale

New Year’s has a way of making people feel nostalgic and I guess I’m no exception. The high point of my 2014 was a road trip I took to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in July with Geneva, my good friend and beta reader.

I passed through Steamboat Springs for the first time back in the 90s, while traveling with my (now ex) husband, and I was struck by how beautiful it was. Famous for its ski resort, ranching is still a part of the area around Steamboat Springs, so when I wrote The Reunion, I decided to set the fictitious St. Eligius Ranch about twenty miles away from the town. It’s a former cattle ranch turned horse sanctuary, and it’s the home of Laura Palmer, ex-wife of leading man Ian Palmer. A number of key scenes in the novel take place at St. Eligius Ranch, including the story’s final climax. Later on, when I wrote The Journey, I also set a number of scenes at St. Eligius Ranch.

Steamboat Sprngs 2
Photo by Marina Martindale

Photography, like writing, is one of my life’s passions, so while I was there I photographed scenery that closely matched some of the descriptions of St. Eligius Ranch. It was a wonderful trip. One I’ll remember fondly for many years to come, and it’s a place I hope to revisit someday. In the meantime, please enjoy this scene from The Reunion, as Gillian, the leading lady, visits St. Eligius for the first time.

Happy New Year

MM

***

Stesamboat Springs 3
Photo by Marina Martindale

Before long the horses were saddled and they mounted up. Will stayed behind, explaining he had work to do. Laura rode a young buckskin gelding she called Fred.

“He’s Miss Mollie’s son,” she explained. “He was a young foal at her side when we adopted them two years ago. I think he’ll turn out to be a fine horse, but he still has some rough edges to work out.”

Laura led them away from the barn and onto a narrow trail leading through a lush meadow. Gillian couldn’t get over the sheer beauty of it. The aspen trees were turning gold.

“When I first came here, I was an ex-housewife who didn’t know one end of a horse from the other,” explained Laura. “I was originally hired as a bookkeeper for Will’s veterinary practice. The next thing I knew I was writing grants, planning fund-raisers, and doing everything else I could think of to keep money flowing in the door for the foundation to help care for these animals. Back then, I was living in the cottage, that’s what we call the fifth-wheel trailer, and I soon became friends with Will. He taught me, and both of my boys, how to ride. He also taught me how to help take care of the horses. Along the way I’ve been kicked, bitten, and occasionally stepped on, but I’ve learned to cope with it. Horses are easy. Two sons aren’t.”

Steamboat Springs 4
Photo by Marina Martindale

“Thanks, Mom,” said Jeremy.

“Anytime,” she replied. “Some of the ones we get are simply neglected or have owners who, 

for whatever reason, are no longer able to care for them. Those are the easy cases, and we can usually get them to new owners right away. Others arrive abandoned, injured or starving. They need some TLC, and we’re often pretty successful with them as well. But we also get the occasional hard-luck cases. Those are the ones that have suffered some serious abuse, and it never ceases to amaze me just how cruel some human beings can be. They usually need complete rehabilitation, but we’re not always successful. There’ve also been a few that we’ve had to put down as soon as they arrived. Those are the ones that really break your heart.” 

They continued across the meadow and began working their way toward the ridge. Laura went on with her story.

“This ranch used to be called The Flying M, and it’s been in Will’s family for over a century. When Will’s father inherited it from his great-uncle, it was still a working cattle ranch. Will’s dad was also a veterinarian. He started up the veterinary clinic, and he started taking in injured and abandoned horses. By the time Will finished veterinary school, they decided to stop raising cattle and add a horse sanctuary to the clinic. They sold about half the acreage, and the name, to that big dude ranch resort next door. Will renamed the place St. Eligius, since he’s the patron saint of horses and those who work with them. That pretty much sums it up. The foundation survives mostly on grant money and donor support. We also do a number of fundraisers throughout the year. One is coming up soon, and that’s the haunted hayride that we do every year with the Flying M. It’s the last Saturday in October and we always have a lot of fun while we’re at it. We have volunteers of all ages who come and participate, and the boys always come to help out as well.”

“Isn’t it snowing up here by then?” asked Gillian.

“A little bit, sometimes, but the snow doesn’t really start accumulating until around Thanksgiving. Our big event, however, is our gala and auction in Denver, in February.”

Fred decided to start acting up. Miss Mollie got agitated as well, but Gillian pulled the rein tight and got her under control.

“You okay, Mom?”

“Yeah. He’s just being the equine adolescent that he is. I’m going to run him back in to let him get it out of his system. I’ve got some work to do as well. You two take your time.”

Laura turned Fred around and he took off in a dead gallop. Gillian and Jeremy watched as she raced across the meadow.

“You know, she’s really not so bad,” said Gillian

“Well, I would certainly hope not.”

“Our first meeting didn’t go so well.” Gillian turned Miss Mollie toward the ridge. “She meant well, but she showed up, unexpectedly, at the gallery one day and really threw me for a loop. Maybe having Ian out of the picture makes a difference.”

“You and I didn’t get off to the best start either, if you recall.”

“Yeah, but you were just looking out for your dad. You wanted to make sure I wasn’t some manipulating tramp.”

They rode for another couple of hours, stopping occasionally for Gillian to snap a few photos. By the time they were ready to head back, she decided that not only would she be happy to donate a painting, she would create one exclusively for their auction. Jeremy was pleased. He couldn’t wait to give his mother, and Will, the news. They rode back down the hillside and into the meadow.

“Sometimes, on the way back in, we like to run the horses through the meadow,” explained Jeremy, “but I think maybe we’ll skip it this time. I don’t know if you’re up to it or not.”

Gillian turned to face Jeremy. “You’re right.”

She spurred Miss Mollie forward and the mare took off like a rocket. Just like her son, Fred, Miss Mollie was a good runner.

“Well, how ’bout that?” A big smile broke across Jeremy’s face. “You’re going to need that head start, Missy.”

He spurred Pretty Boy forward and raced after her. His mount was a bigger, faster horse, and he soon caught up to her. They were in a virtual tie by the time they reached the barn.

“Okay, Miss Smarty-Pants, I stand corrected,” shouted Jeremy as they slowed their mounts down.

The Inspiration for the Opening in THE DECEPTION

State Fair Midway
Photo by Marina Martindale

The other day I was chatting with a friend who’s reading The Deception. One of the things she talked about was wanting to deck the boyfriend who dumps the leading lady in the first chapter.  I told her this chapter was inspired by a real-life event.

A few years ago I went to San Diego for a book festival. The following morning my friends and I went to Sea World. As we walked around the park we happened to pass by a well-dressed young lady sitting on a bench, sobbing her eyes out. A young man, most likely her boyfriend, stood next to her, with a very serious look on his face. As we hurried past I thought to myself, “I’ll bet that son of a bitch brought her here to dump her, probably thinking she wouldn’t cause a scene.” I’ll never know for sure, as I didn’t see them again, but that picture has always stayed in my mind. And you know what happens when something stays in a novel writer’s mind, don’t you? It comes out in a story. In this instance, it became the inspiration for the opening scene of The Deception, but with a different location. Instead of Sea World, the lady is dumped at The Arizona State Fair. The leading lady’s boyfriend thinks that by dumping her in public she won’t cause a scene, but he thinks wrong. Very wrong. There’s never a good time or place to dump anyone, and doing so in public only adds more humiliation to the person being dumped.

Inspiration can from anywhere and everywhere, oftentimes when I least expect it.

MM

 

It’s a Good Cop Bad Cop Story

handcuffs
Photo by CanStockPhoto.com

There is more to The Betrayal than just one betrayal. The Betrayal is also a good cop bad cop story, and for some that has already created a bit of a controversy. When I first started working on the manuscript I posted something on Facebook about the villain being a corrupt police detective, while the hero is a good cop who eventually catches the bad cop. Within a few hours of posting someone started losing their lunch, posting a scathing comment to the effect of how dare I write a story about a bad cop.

My response was that the story is fiction, and what part of the hero being the good cop did he not get? Then it was on to the unfreind button.

I honestly do believe that the vast majority of police officers out there are good people, thus my leading man, along with a few supporting characters, are all good cops. Unfortunately, however, there are a lot of bad ones out there too. They can, and do, destroy innocent lives as well as tarnish the reputations of all the good cops out there. Yes, The Betrayal is a work of fiction, but good or bad, its inspiration comes from real life.

MM

Okay, So Maybe it was Watching Detective Shows Too

TV SetFunny the things that inspire us as writers. Back in December, 2012, I posted about how many years of watching soap operas has influenced my writing. (Blame It On Too Many Soap Operas and My Misspent Youth.) Yes, growing up in the golden age of television had an effect on me, but it wasn’t just watching the soaps. I watched a lot of detective shows too. I was even reminiscing about it the other day with a friend.

As a teen and young adult, I loved watching Columbo and the original Hawaii Five-O. Both shows were very well written, and even though both used formula writing, the scrips were still good enough to keep me coming back week after week. And, unlike detective shows of today, there were no overtly graphic images. No bodies laid out on the autopsy table. No gory, mutilated or half burned corpses appearing on camera. Good writing doesn’t need that kind of visual imagery. Facial expressions or comments made by other characters will tell us what we need to know, and our imaginations can do the rest–probably better than the guy who designed that fake corpse.

What made Columbo great was the bumbling title character, brilliantly portrayed by the late Peter Falk, along with all the bad guys who thought they could outsmart him. What made the show fun was the way Lt. Columbo solved the crime by seizing on some obscure, overlooked detail that even surprised the audience. And along with spectacular scenery, Hawaii Five-O also had well thought out plot lines. While the characters may have been as well developed as Lt. Columbo, there was one unforgettable nemeses named Wo Fat. Kudos to the script writers of both.

Crime stories make for great drama as they create the ultimate conflict. That’s why I’ve always included crime subplots in my novels. Whether it’s Gillian’s murderous ex-husband on a rampage in The Reunion, Scott’s jilted wife’s twisted scheming in The Deception, or the revenge seeking Denise wreaking havoc in The Journey, these crime subplots create the tension, and the drama, that keeps you turning the pages. Look for more in my next novel, The Betrayal. Until then, happy reading. (And by the way, you can rent old episodes of Columbo and Hawaii Five-O from Netflix.)

MM

The Inspiration Behind THE REUNION

Reunion Loew CoverWebSometimes readers may think plots, storylines and themes of a novel are one in the same, but they are not. The theme is the idea behind the story. It’s the point the author wants to make. For me, the theme is the inspiration that compels me to write the story. The plot is simply how the idea is expressed.  The theme, or the idea behind The Reunion, is second chances. They say opportunity knocks but once, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, it may come again.

I’ve known people who’ve been lucky in life. They met the man, or woman, of their dreams at a young age. Things worked out. They got married, had a few kids, and, with hard work and determination, they lived happily ever after. Then there’s the rest of us. Either Prince Charming took a detour, or he turned out to be an impostor, or he got cold feet. Whatever the reason, we never got to have the “happily ever after” that we were promised.

Before writing The Reunion, I had a conversation with a man who told me about reconnecting with his long-lost high school sweetheart on Facebook. They hadn’t seen or heard from one another in years, but he found her, so he decided to take a chance. He contacted her. It turned out she was divorced, just like he was, so they reconnected. So far as I know, things worked out this time around, and it showed me that second chances really can happen. Sometimes people really do get a happy ending later in life. That conversation was part of my inspiration for The Reunion.

In The Reunion, Ian, Gillian’s Prince Charming gets scared and he gets cold feet. This happens when the two characters are young. After Ian ends it he moves to another another state. He soon realizes his mistake, but believing it’s too late, he marries the wrong woman for the wrong reasons. Gillian becomes a successful artist, but true love eludes her as well. Years later, fate intervenes. They meet again, and have a second chance.


The Reunion is a story of hope. The point I am making with my story is that true love not only never dies, it deserves a second chance.

MM

Stuck in a Literary Sexual Rut

Photo by Fotolia.com

Oh the problems one encounters when writing sensual romance novels.  As explained in my earlier blog post, Sweet, Sensual or Erotic Romance? Why I Write Sensual, there is a distinct difference between sensual romance and erotica. In sensual romance the sex scenes are written to help enhance the plot as the characters consummate their relationship. The emphasis is on what the people are feeling, while in erotica the emphasis is the sex act itself. The characters’ feelings and emotions are of lesser importance. Most of the storyline in erotic literature focuses around having sex, where a sensual romance may only include a few sex scenes.

That said, as I’m working on my third novel, The Journey, I found myself in a bit of a rut when writing my sex scenes. Let’s face it. There are only two kinds of equipment out there, and that equipment only works certain ways. I was starting to worry that my sex scenes might be becoming redundant.

I decided to do a little research, so the other day I downloaded a copy of an anthology by Anais Nin called, Little Birds. Ms. Nin is perhaps the “literary madam,” of erotic literature. I thought I might learn something new about writing erotic scenes from her. What I found, at least in my opinion, were stories that were a little cold. The characters were one-dimensional and lacked passion. Afterwards I looked at my own writing, and I think there’s something to be said for writing about what the characters are feeling, emotionally as well as physically. As for the redundancy–I suppose it is what it is. Even Ms. Nin’s stories were a bit redundant, yet decades later readers still enjoy them. I guess there are some things in life that people probably aren’t going to get tired of. Like having sex. And eating chocolate cake..

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