I Wish There was a Genre Called “Relationship Fiction”

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This may sound arrogant or even hokey, but I get weary of hearing myself say, “I write romance novels,” whenever I’m asked about what I do. People either think I’m writing schmaltzy dime store novels, or they think I’m writing erotica. Neither is the case, as there is so much more to what I write.

I write stories about human relationships. Love isn’t limited to a man and a woman falling in love and living happily ever after. Love is about all kinds of human relationships; the love of a parent to a child, the love between siblings, even the platonic love between close friends. The romantic love between a man and woman is only a part of my story. The Journey includes a heartwarming subplot about the relationship between brothers Jeremy and Larry Palmer, as Larry puts his life on hold for a time to help his ailing brother through a life altering crisis. That’s true love. In The Deception, a father literally takes a bullet meant for his child. That’s also true love. In The Betrayal, leading lady Emily’s long estranged aunt finally reaches out and accepts her like another daughter. That too is love.

The reason why I write romance, instead of science fiction or mystery or horror, is because I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity and dynamics of human relationships; not only between lovers, but between family members as well. Of course those relationships can be part of the storyline in those other genres, but the romance genre is the only one where the primary focus is on human relationships. I’m just trying to expand the boundaries.

MM

 

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

 

Life Inside the Writing Tunnel

Fantastic Trees - Tunnel of Love with fairy light afar, magic background
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I’ve spent the past few months back inside the writing tunnel. The writing tunnel is that magical place where my stories are created. Okay, it’s actually a den I converted into an office, or even the occasional hotel room, but nevertheless, the writing tunnel is where I go to let my imagination take over and create my stories.

Readers tell me it’s hard to put my books down. And you all should see it from my end. I get up each morning and try to put in a little writing time before getting bogged down with all the “real job” stuff. Then, in the evenings, instead of watching television, I’m back into my manuscript, working out the next scene, or the next chapter, or creating a new character. It’s so much fun. I just wish I could figure out why I’m still paying for cable. Must be for those times when I’m not writing.

Sometimes people ask me how I do my job. Do I work out a detailed outline first and then follow it verbatim? Or do I just sit down and start writing? It’s a little bit of both actually. First I’ll write a treatment, or short plot summary. It’s not too specific and it’s only a few paragraphs in length. It’s my idea for the basic story concept, but not much else. I use it mainly to get the story started, and so I’ll have a rough idea of how it will end. Once I start writing the actual story I set the treatment aside and go where the characters take me. Then, when I’m finished with my story, I’ll go back and look at the original treatment. Without exception, it’s remarkably different from the finished novel, and sometimes the ending will be different as well. Someone once said life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. I think the same could be said for good story writing.

MM

Swearing About My Dialoge

FwordOne of the more interesting challenges I face as an author is writing believable dialog, especially when the conflict has intensified and the characters are feeling the pressure. Those are the times when an, “oh my goodness gracious me,” just won’t cut it. But then again, I don’t want to take it too far the other way and risk offending you, my readers, as I’m aware that some of you have certain limits as to what language is and isn’t appropriate.

When necessary, my characters will say an occasional, “damn,” or “hell,” and oftentimes that’s enough to make the point. Sometimes a character, usually a villain, may call a woman a, “bitch,” or even a, “whore,” but since he or she is the bad guy, the character is meant to be offensive. I want you to hate my villains. They’re not meant to be nice people.

There may also be occasions when a character may exclaim, “son of a bitch.” This might happen if they’re suddenly shocked or surprised by something. It can also happen when they’re referring to a male villain who’s done something outrageous. Again, my villains aren’t meant to be nice. They’re supposed to make other characters angry, and dialog is the most effective way for them to express their anger. It’s also the kind of language we hear in real life when someone is angry.

There are, however, places where I draw the line. First and foremost is using the Lord’s name as a curse word. While I may not overtly religious, I still believe in God, so to me, it’s disrespectful. That’s why you’ll never hear any of my characters, not even the villains, saying the, “G-damn,” word, or using the names, “Jesus,” or “Christ,” as curse words.

The other word I won’t use is the “f-bomb,” as some readers simply find it too offensive. This can be tricky, as there are some situations when even a, “what the hell,” may not be enough. That’s when I’ll have another character interrupt just in time. That way the word is implied, but not actually said.

I realize there are some folks out there who may even find the word, “damn,” offensive, but as an author, I know I can’t be all things to all readers. I’ll also be the first to admit that my novels aren’t for everyone. So if you’re looking for a good, sensual romance, with believable characters who speak the way that real people talk, but without being potty mouths, you’ve come to the right place.

MM

The Question I’m Most Often Asked

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The question I’m most often asked is…Are your books a series?

 

And the answer is…No.

Apparently a lot of authors like to write series books, and readers must like them, but the authors who I consider to be my mentors, such as Danielle Steele and Rosamunde Pilcher, do not series books. Their novels are all stand alone books, as are mine. One trick I have borrowed from Ms. Pilcher, however, is to take a minor character from one book and incorporate him or her into another novel, as she did when she took a minor character from The Shell Seekers, and used him to introduce a new cast of characters in September

 

The Reunion was my first novel, and when I wrote my second novel, The Deception, I decided to have a chapter take place at Hanson Sisters Fine Art, the gallery owned by Gillian, the leading lady in The Reunion. In an early draft of The Deception, Gillian’s sister and business partner, Cynthia Lindsey, made a cameo appearance. However, the scene was later cut and replaced Cynthia being discussed in a conversation between two Deception characters. Either way, it was a nice way to incorporate the two novels together.

 

The Journey comes the closest to being a sequel as it uses the same cast of characters as The Reunion, although it too is a stand alone book. Ian and Gillian, the leading characters from The Reunion appear in The Journey. However, their story has already been told, so this time around they are supporting characters only. The lead characters in The Journey are Ian’s son, Jeremy, and his wife, Cassie. There are also references made in The Journey to events that took place in The Reunion, but they’re only vaguely discussed, and I worded them in such a way that those readers who hadn’t read The Reunion would see it as a part of the backstory. In other words, you don’t have to have read The Reunion in order to read and enjoy The Journey. Also look for George McCormick, a featured character in The Deception, to make an appearance in The Journey.

 

Kyle Madden, the leading man in The Betrayal, was a minor character in The Reunion. In The Reunion, Kyle was the police detective who warned Gillian about her ex husband, Jason. This time around the roles are reversed, and it’s Gillian who has a minor role when, once again, a scene takes place at Hanson Sisters Fine Art.

 

I’m currently working on my fifth novel, The Stalker, and Jonathan Fields, a featured character from The Deception, has already made an appearance. So far no one’s been to Hanson Sisters Fine Art, but then again, I’ve only just started writing.

 

MM

 

This Time I’m Doing It Backwards

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I may not be a formula writer, but there are certain rules for basic plot structure fiction writers have to follow. A protagonist is trying to achieve a certain goal, but an antagonist gets in their way. This creates the conflict that drives the story. The conflict builds to a climax, followed by a conclusion. This is, for all intents and purposes, the tonal scale for a novel writer. And in romance, the expected conclusion is for the couple to end up married, or engaged, or to make some other commitment to one another.

My first three novels, The Reunion, The Deception, and The Journey, all ended with the leading characters getting married, or, in the case of The Journey, remarried, but with my upcoming novel, The Betrayal, I’ve deviated of course. In fact, I’ve kind of done it in reverse.

The Betrayal is the story of a married woman who discovers, in a rather bizarre way, that her husband is cheating on her. So, instead of a protagonist finding her true love and getting married, I’ve have a protagonist trying to get herself unmarried. Of course, she’ll still meet Mr. Right along the way, but this time the ending is different. Emily, the leading lady, is once again single, and while she and the leading man are most certainly in love with one another, neither are ready for a commitment, leaving the other characters, and the reader, speculating that they will probably marry–someday.

I took this path with this story because I think it’s more like real-life. Divorced people are often gunshy at the idea of remarriage. I also think readers like variety. I know I do as a writer, and having all my characters go up the aisle at the end of each novel gets redundant over time. It might make me a “formula” writer, and that’s something I don’t want to become.

Look for The Betrayal to be released later this summer.

MM

It’s a Good Cop Bad Cop Story

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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

I’m So Sorry To Be the Cause of Your Sleepless Nights

Reunion Loew CoverWebJust read a new review of The Reunion posted by a reader on Amazon. She mentioned being up until three o’clock in the morning reading the book because she simply couldn’t put it down. Funny thing is, she’s not the first one with this “problem.” I’ve had similar “complaints” posted by friends on Facebook.

Well, what can I say? I’m sorry to be the cause of your sleepless nights, (she writes tongue in cheek). And you should see it from my end. There was many a night while I was writing The Reunion, (and The Deception and The Journey), that I didn’t get to bed until well after midnight either because the ideas kept flowing. There were other times when I crawled into bed, so exhausted my that body ached, and then, just as I started to relax–BING! Out of nowhere came the next inspiration. I’ve learned, from experience, that if I go to sleep with the idea of writing it down the next morning the idea would be forgotten by the time I awoke. So I grumbled to myself as I got out of bed and went back on the computer, knowing full well that I might have to forgo a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, it wouldn’t take very long for me to get the idea down. Then I could finally go to sleep, and do the revising later.

So, what is it about my books that’s so compelling? From what you, the readers, tell me, it’s the plot twits and the characters. You’ve been telling me that my characters are very real and very believable. I honestly wish I could tell you my secret of how I create them, but I don’t know how I do it either. Some characters, like Ian and Samantha in The Reunion, are inspired by real people. I’ll use some of their real personalities as a starting point, then next thing I know the characters have taken on lives of their own and they have become unique individuals.  The same could be said for all the purely fictitious characters who weren’t inspired by anyone in particular. I guess something must be going on in my subconscious mind. Whatever it is, it seems to be working, and I’m pleased you all are happy with the results. Meantime, while I wait for The Journey to come back from the editor, I’m cooking up a new cast of characters for my next book, The Betrayal. Look for that one sometime in 2014.

So for now, sleep tight.

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

 

Killing Characters Off

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From time to time every novel writer has to deal with the (sometimes) unpleasant task of killing a character. It’s just one of those things that happens. Killing someone isn’t easy. (Well, at least some of the time,) but the only time I do it is when it’s necessary to enhance the plot.

This first time I killed someone off was when I wrote The Reunion. I must confess, it was a cathartic experience. Jason Matthews, Gillian’s ex husband, was one of the villains in the story. Interestingly enough, he was modeled after my real-life ex. Funny how these things happen. So poor Jason, (she writes tongue and cheek), meets an untimely end, and Gillian hears the story of his demise from a police detective. Did I mention that writing it was very cathartic? Afterwards I discussed it with several other lady authors. Many of them had also killed off their ex spouses–in the literary sense, of course. The lesson here, gentlemen, is if your wife or your girlfriend is an author, be nice to her. Your literary counterpart’s life may depend on it.

 I killed off another villain in The Deception. There were three villains in this story, two of whom were women. I killed one of the women, near the end of the story. Most of the plot had revolved around her conflict with Carrie, the leading lady. In the end, Carrie won battle, however this particular woman soon found a way to get even. Yes, I could have saved it for a possible sequel, but in this case the second conflict was directly related to the first, making a sequel redundant. So, rather than have the storyline repeat itself, I killed the character off, thus ending the conflict once and for all. Besides, she had it coming. I also thought about killing Scott, the deceptive male villain who inspired the title, but this character had children, and I didn’t want to orphan them. Scott would instead end up seriously injured. He too had it coming. However, unlike Jason in The Reunion, none of the villains in The Deception were inspired by anyone I know in real life.

In my soon-to-be released novel, The Journey, I killed a supporting character from The Reunion. This time around the character wasn’t a villain. She was a character I honestly liked and I tried to come up with a way for her to survive, but when I did the story just wasn’t as strong. Her death was an intricate part of the plot. It happens early in the novel, but she still manages to maintain a presence in the rest of the story when other characters reminisce about her, or when they describe the dreams they have about her. Like The Deception, The Journey also has three villains, one male, two female, but this time around I didn’t kill any of them. After all, I don’t want to become too predictable.

MM