Thursday, March 19, 2015

THE BETRAYAL has gone to the Editor

Finally! I've got my next manuscript completed. I started way back in November, 2013, and it's the longest it's ever taken me to finish a book. Now I'm not making excuses, but 2014 was an "interesting" year for me, to say the least, and I've been dealing with some exceptional real-life challenges.

Adultery is once again the theme, but unlike The Deception, this leading lady is the wife who's been cheated on, and the other woman knows he's married. In some ways The Betrayal is like The Reunion. It's actually two novellas put together in one novel. The first half is the story is about Emily, the leading lady, struggling to rebuild her shattered life after discovering Jesse's infidelity. The second half focuses on her friendship with Kyle, the police detective who's out to prove her innocence when she's accused of a crime she didn't commit. And if a police detective name Kyle seems familiar to you, it's because he's the same Kyle Madden who appeared in The Reunion as the detective who warned Gillian about her ex-husband, Jason.

As a sneak preview, I'm posting an unedited sample from The Betrayal. Please note the final version will vary.

Enjoy.

MM



* * * 




 Emily St. Claire reached for another tissue to dab the sweat off her forehead. She then grabbed her water bottle, but the once cold liquid had turned lukewarm. She took a few swallows and glanced at the clock on the waiting room wall. It was only eleven-fifteen. The air conditioning had stopped working at nine forty-five. Ninety minutes of down time and the office was now sweltering. She heard Dr. Lerner’s voice coming from the hallway. He was busy performing a root canal and having to apologize to his patient for the added discomfort of the heat. The front door opened as she gulped down the last of her water. Andrea stepped inside. Her makeup was beaded and creased and wisps of her red hair had stuck to the sweat on the side of her face. She walked up to the window separating Emily’s desk from the waiting room.
“It feels even hotter in here than it does in our office.”
“Must be one of Murphy’s Laws,” replied Emily. “The air conditioning will always conk out on the hottest day of the summer.”
“Any word on when they’ll get it fixed?”
Emily shrugged her shoulders. “Your guess is as good as mine. I tried calling the property manager again about twenty minutes ago, but I’m still getting a busy signal. I’m sure by now they’re aware of the problem.”
“Yeah, I kept getting busy signals too, which means must be. Meantime Dr. Hapner had me reschedule all our afternoon patients. Turns out two of them are really sick, so they’re on their way right now. Then, once we’re done, we’re closing up shop and calling it a day.” Andrea chuckled. “I love the idea of having an afternoon off, but why does it have to be on a day when it’s over a hundred and ten degrees outside?”
Emily gave her another shrug. “I don’t know. Must be the price we pay for living in Phoenix. At least we don’t get snowed in during the winter.”
“Yeah, but a good old-fashioned ice storm would sure feel nice right about now. And I’ll bet you’re glad now that you got the new haircut.”
Emily ran her fingers through her short, blonde hair. It felt strange to no longer have her long locks. “It’s lower maintenance all right, but Jesse wasn’t too thrilled with it.”
“That figures. Have you told him yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“Well, keep me posted. I’m anxious to hear how he reacts. You can always let your hair grow back, you know, but at least for now you’ll be much cooler. Meantime, I have to get back to work. I just wanted to stick my head in the door to see how you’re doing. Hopefully, we’ll all be back to normal by tomorrow morning.”
“I’m sure we will be.”
“Are we still on for lunch Friday?”
“You bet. See you, Andrea.”
Andrea took her leave while Emily tried the property manager once again. This time her call went through. After punching a few buttons she got a live person on the line, who told her a repairman was on the way, but to not expect the air conditioning to be back online until much later in the day. She heard approaching footsteps as she hung up. Dr. Lerner had finished with his patient. His normally crisp white shirt was wrinkled and soaked with sweat.
“Any word on the air conditioning?”
“I’m afraid it won’t be back on until the end of the day. Meantime your eleven-thirty had already rescheduled for next Tuesday. Your next patient is due right after lunch.”
He frowned. “And if it’s this hot now, it’ll be unbearable by this afternoon. Go ahead and take care of Mrs. Baxter. After that I want you to call everyone who was supposed to come in this afternoon and have them reschedule. We’re taking the rest of the day off. Hopefully, we’ll all be back to normal by tomorrow morning.”
“I’m sure we will be. Thanks, doctor.”
He nodded and walked away. Fifteen minutes later Emily stepped out to the blazing midday sun. She smiled to herself as she walked across the parking lot. She decided she would stop at the grocery store on the way home so she could prepare a surprise dinner for Jesse. She hurried across the shimmering pavement and hopped into her car. The steering wheel burned her fingers as she fired up the engine and turned the air conditioning on high. After a few hot moments the air began to feel deliciously cool. A smile broke out across her face as she drove off. Tonight’s dinner would be the perfect opportunity for her to tell Jesse the time had come for him to keep his end of their bargain.
She soon pulled into the grocery store parking lot and hunted for a space. Once inside she grabbed a cart headed down the isles. Tonight she would prepare her famous chicken divan—one of Jesse’s favorites. She picked out her ingredients and tossed a bouquet of fresh flowers into her cart before she headed to the checkout lane. Ten minutes later she pulled into her driveway and frowned. Annette’s white Civic was parked in front of the house. Something unexpected must have come up. Emily sighed as she pressed the button to open the garage door. Once inside she grabbed the grocery bags and hurried out of the hot garage. The cool air felt heavenly as she stepped inside the house and headed straight to the kitchen.
“Hi guys. I’m home.”
No response. The house seemed unusually quiet. She set the bags on the counter and went down the hallway. Jesse had converted one of the downstairs bedrooms into his office. She tapped on the door and smiled as she slowly pushed it open.
“Hey guys. The air conditioning went out and I’m—”
Her smiled faded. The room was empty. The lights were out and Jesse’s computer was shutdown. She started getting a bad feeling but quickly brushed it off. Perhaps Jesse and Annette were out by the pool. She went to the living room and opened the sliding glass door.
“Jesse! Annette!”
No answer. The backyard seemed eerily quiet and no one was by the pool. She closed the door and headed toward the staircase. The upper floor contained the master suite and a rarely used guest bedroom. Jesse would be leaving for Houston on Friday to facilitate a seminar. Perhaps he and Annette had gone upstairs to decide what he should pack. She took a deep breath and started up the stairs, trying to ignore the gnawing feeling that something was terribly wrong. The knot in her stomach grew tighter as she turned on the landing and headed up the remaining flight. She could hear muffled voices as she approached the bedroom door. Jesse must have turned the TV on. She turned the knob and slowly opened it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Meet Denise Sanderson, the Evil Nurse in THE JOURNEY

Photo by Fotolia.com
If I had to list the most evil of the villains I've created so far, Denise Sanderson would certainly be at the top of the list, especially since she's the last person readers would expect to be evil.

Denise is a young, pretty nurse who, at first glance, appears to be genuinely compassionate and caring. And maybe she was, at least for a time, but Denise also has a darker side. It all goes back to when she was in nursing school. Back then she liked to frequent a bar called O'Malley's Grill, and she became friendly with one of the bartenders--Jeremy Palmer. She even fell in love with Jeremy, but he didn't feel the same about her so he turned down her advances. He soon moved on and forgot about her, but unfortunately for him, Denise neither forgave, nor forgot, his rejection.

Jeremy and Denise would meet again, but this time under entirely different circumstances. Denise, now a nurse, has been assigned to care for Cassie Palmer, Jeremy's new wife, who's been seriously injured in a car crash. She quickly befriends both Cassie and Jeremy, and while Jeremy can't quite place her, she seems familiar nonetheless, and he feels he can trust her. Unfortunately for him, Denise will use his trust to unleash her revenge, and Jeremy's life will never be the same.

Denise is a fictitious character, but she also represents a deep-seeded fear many of us may have. What if the people we trust to take care of us during our most vulnerable times really don't have our best interests in mind? Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?

MM

Sunday, January 4, 2015

In Search of St. Eligius Ranch

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.

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
Photo by Marina Martindale
time.

Happy New Year,

MM

* * * 


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."
"Thanks, Mom," said Jeremy.
"Anytime," she replied. "Some of the ones we get are simply neglected or have owners who,
Photo by Marina Martindale
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.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Photo Shoot Shoot

Photo by Marina Martindale
We are still hard at work for the new book trailer for The Deception. Today videographer Rob Resetar shot two more scenes--a love scene between Carrie, the leading lady, and Scott, one of the antagonists, and the photo shoot scene. The photo shoot happens early in the novel. It's the watershed event that shapes the rest of the story.

We still have a few more scenes to film. With any luck, the book trailer will be complete right after the first of the year. In the meantime please enjoy this except from The Deception about the photo shoot.

MM


* * * 


Carrie was awakened by the sound of her cell phone ringing. She rolled over and scooped it up from the floor.
"Hello." Her voice sounded groggy.
"So what the heck is going on with you?" asked the woman on the other end of the line.
"Louise?"
"Yes, Sweetness, it's Louise. Karl and I ran into Steve and Allison last night at Hernando's. Allison said Doug dumped you at the state fair, and that for the past few weeks you've been camping out in your photography studio, even though they've offered you their guest room. So what the hell happened?"
"I got dumped. Doug found himself some bimbo who he's decided he's in love with. I really didn't have a choice. I had to move out."
"What about the house?"
"It's deeded solely in Doug's name, but even if I were to make a claim on it, my mother's creditors would end up with the money."
"So why haven't you found an apartment?"
"I've been looking, Louise. The problem is they all want to collect some hefty deposits up front, along with the first month's rent. Unfortunately, because of Mama, I just don't have the cash to do it. Once I pay off my monthly expenses, the rest has to go to help pay her bills. Nursing homes aren't cheap, you know."
"I know that, but you need to find a decent place to live. Your studio isn't in the best part of town, and you're probably violating some city code by staying there. Not to mention the fact that Christmas is only three weeks away. I'll bet you don't even have a tree."
 "Actually, all things considered, I'm doing just fine." Carrie tried to sound upbeat. "Yes, I'm renting warehouse space in an industrial area, and no, I won't be putting up a Christmas tree this year, but you needn't worry. I'm okay, really. The tent city jail is nearby so there's plenty of police and sheriff's deputies around. My break room has a mini kitchen, and I'm sleeping on an air mattress in the back room where it's surprisingly quiet. And back when I signed my lease I had the landlord put in a shower for the models to use. So you see, I'm okay. I have all the amenities I need to live comfortably. It's not like I'm living in a cardboard box underneath a bridge."
"I understand," said Louise. "However, the reason I'm calling is because I think I may have a solution for you, that is, if you don't mind doing another modeling gig."
"I haven't done a modeling job in years. You know that. Besides, I've just turned thirty. In the world of print modeling, I'm ancient."
"It's not a print modeling job. I need an art model. I've just picked up a private commission. Some well-to-do couple in Berkeley just bought themselves a big house. Apparently, they're serious practitioners of tantric yoga, or some such thing, and they want a serious of black and white photos of a female nude, with some curves on her, to display in their new home. You'd be perfect for the job."
Carrie let out a sigh. She desperately needed the extra cash, but she wasn't sure if this would be the best way to get it.
"I've done some nude work, Louise, but I was always behind the camera, not in front of it. All the photos were done for advertisements. Even though the models were nude, you didn't see anyone's privates."
"I understand if you feel a little shy about doing this, Sweetness, but you'd be working with me. They want something erotic so yes, they'll want to see all the goods in the photos, but they won't know your name or anything else about you. You'll be completely anonymous and I promise you the photos will be tastefully done. It's fine art, not pornography."
"Who would see the photos?"
"They'd be for the client's personal, private use only. That's what's written in the contract. They can only be displayed in their home. The only people who would ever see them would be the couple themselves and whoever visits them. They're not allowed to publish them anywhere, not even on their personal blogs or websites."
Carrie let out a sigh as she thought it over.
"How much does it pay?"
"Enough to put you into a decent apartment in a good neighborhood. It should cover all the deposits plus your first month's rent."
"All right. So when and where do you want to do the shoot?"
"Next Saturday, at my home. Karl has an early-morning tee time and will be spending the entire day on the golf course. It'll be just you and me."
"What time?"
"It'll be a fairly long shoot, so let's have you here early, about eight o'clock in the morning. Bring a curling iron and some nice barrettes along with your makeup kit. We'll be doing some different hairstyles, so we'll have to spend some time working on your hair and makeup throughout the day. And do you by chance have a pair of strappy, opened-toed shoes? Preferably in black."
"Yes. They're black patent leather."
"They'd be perfect, so bring them along." The excitement was building in Louise's voice. "The shoes, barrettes, and some costume jewelry are the only things you'll be wearing. You'll also need bathrobe that you can slip on in between shoots."
Carrie still wasn't sure. Louise must have sensed it.
"Look, Carrie, you don't have to do this. I can call the agency and have them send another model. I just figured that right now you needed the money."
"I know, Louise, and you're right. If the city were to find out I'm living here, they'd probably fine the heck out of me before my landlord kicked me out on the street."
"Good. We'll have you living in a decent apartment before you know it. We might even be able to get you a Christmas tree too. But I need to let you know one other thing."
"What's that?"
"I have a show coming up at Hanson Sisters Fine Art in February. I'd like to include five prints from our shoot as a series of hand-signed limited editions. They'd be sold with the same restrictions as the ones going to the couple in Berkeley. You'd remain anonymous, and the photos cannot be published or displayed anywhere in public, except of course for the gallery, but that would be the only time."
Carrie let out a sigh. There had to be a better way for her to get into an apartment. She glanced at the calendar hanging on the wall. It was the first week of December, the time of year when business normally slowed down. This year would certainly be no exception and things wouldn't start to pick up again until late January. If she didn't act now, she'd be living in her studio until March or April, and the longer she stayed, the greater the chances of someone finding out and reporting her to the city. She let out another sigh, knowing she had no other choice.
"Okay, Louise, I'm your girl. I'll be there, Saturday morning, eight o'clock."
"Good. You really won't regret this, Carrie. You'll be proud of these photos, I guarantee it. I'll email a contract and release form for you to sign. Make some copies for yourself and bring them with you on Saturday."
Carrie couldn't shake the bad feeling she started getting after she ended the call. She thought it over and realized she was probably just nervous. She'd never been photographed in the nude before, and the idea of total strangers looking at her naked body made her feel uneasy. Then again, she'd be doing it for Louise, and she owed her success to Louise's hard work. She looked at the clock. It was time to get up. She had work to do and she'd be better off focusing her thoughts on the nice apartment she'd soon be living in.

The Inspiration for the Beginning of THE DECEPTION

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.

Photo by Marina Martindale
A few years ago I went to San Diego to attend a book festival, and the following morning my friends and I decided to spend the day at 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.

People often ask me where I get my inspiration. I have to say it comes from anywhere and everywhere, and oftentimes when I least expect it. 

MM

Monday, December 8, 2014

It's a Good Cop Bad Cop Story

Photo courtesy of 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.

That said, I do believe that the vast majority of police officers out the are indeed 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