The Big Baddie

This blog post was first published in MM Good Book Reviews

People who know me personally would be very surprised if they knew that I love to write evil characters. I’m not sure why that is, but I think it’s because of how satisfying it is to beat them at the end of the book. Maybe I’m unconsciously taking my revenge on bad people that I either know personally or heard of. After all that’s how a writer fights—with words.

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In Lavender Fields I wrote an evil angel who puts the two MCs through hell before getting defeated by the forces of good. In Infinite Blue I went with a more mortal version of antagonist. Even though not a supernatural being, this character wins the trophy for being the Most Wicked.

When I was a kid I loved watching scary movies, especially those with a paranormal or sci-fi background, but refused to watch movies where the big baddie was someone close to the MC—that scared the crap out of me and meant many sleepless nights. Because of this I have written Shahin’s mother as the antagonist—and not only because she doesn’t approve of his relationship with Cai. Her behavior from the beginning of the book is despicable for a mother. It starts with her refusal to accept Shahin the way he is and develops into something truly malevolent (don’t want to give any spoilers so you have to read the book to find out).

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Is there anything viler than someone who’s supposed to love and take care of you but instead chooses to hurt you? It brings a sense of betrayal along with whatever wicked thing they did. If you were ever betrayed by someone you cared about, you know how it hurts in more ways than one. It hits you right in the heart, burns you from the inside out, and often makes you blame or even hate yourself. That’s why I picked someone close to Shahin to be the big baddie in Infinite Blue.

Who are your favorite types of antagonists and why?

 

 

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For the Love of Food

***Originally posted on Stories that Make You Smile blog***

Cai is a foodie who cooks to relax. Lyra, his slovenly sister, loves her brother and his delicious dishes. And Shahin, the man Cai loves, is a dedicated fan of raw meat, though he makes a valiant effort to cook something edible for his boyfriend.

Food plays an essential role in Infinite Blue. I’m not sure how it ended up being such a large part of the plot since that’s never happened before (coffee always, food not so much), but it did. In this book, food is the glue that holds the scenes and the characters together. The first (official) time Cai meets Shahin is at a restaurant where he unwisely orders mussels and spends the rest of the evening worried about making a mess out of himself.

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There are quite a few family gatherings around the dinner table for Shahin, events that generally don’t end well, and Shahin is formally introduced to Lyra at a dinner meticulously prepared by a very nervous Cai.

There are also romantic moments where food is merely the backdrop for some sweet and sensual encounters between Cai and wild man, Shahin.

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I’m from Portugal where food has a very important role in society. Much of our social interaction takes place around the table. In the U.S. people eat, pay the bill, and leave. In my country, restaurants are accustomed to having the same people around the table for a long time. Meals there last for hours. Even now, certain foods or dishes always bring back memories of my friends and family—delicious snapshots of my childhood. Maybe that’s why I added so many food references in Infinite Blue. These two guys are lonely people—for different reasons. I wanted to give them something that would evoke happy memories. In the end, life is made of those small moments, and I didn’t want Cai and Shahin to miss out on a single one of them.

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Infinite Blue- New Release

Infinite Blue

by NatalinaReis

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BLURB

When a shifter and a human are bound by fate, neither man knows if their connection will be enough to save not only their growing love, but their lives.

Shahin Halcón has been taught that if and when he meets his soul mate, he’ll know immediately. Always the rebel, he doesn’t believe it until the day he crosses paths with Cai, a full-human.

Plagued by unsuccessful relationships and heartache, Cai Banes’s life is quiet and unexciting. When he meets young and wild Shahin, his life is turned upside down, and he’s not sure he likes it.

But neither can deny the powerful pull that draws them together.

Old secrets and ancient myths about cross-species relationships plague their romance and threaten to put their happiness and life at risk. Will their love for each other be strong enough to survive?

Excerpt

Cai handed Shahin his helmet and stared up at the sky as if looking for something. “What are you looking for?” Shahin followed his gaze, but saw nothing more than the darkness of the evening.

“Nothing. It’s just—” Cai lowered his gaze to him and smiled. “Dumb really, but I’ve been followed by a hawk for a while now.” Shahin squirmed in his seat. “I know, stupid, right?”

“No, not at all.” It was so tempting to tell him. He bit his tongue. “Hawks are smart animals. Did you know they mate for life?” He had never really believed it until he met Cai. Now he was convinced the stories the elders had told the fledglings all their lives were actually true.

Cai shook his head. “I can’t say I know much about hawks,” he confessed. “They are magnificent, powerful birds, but I never heard of one following a human around. It’s bizarre.”

“Does it bother you?” He had to know.

“No, it’s just a little unsettling. Do you think it would attack me?” Shahin shook his head vigorously. “I mean, they are birds of prey after all.”

Shahin shook his head again. “No, it would never attack you. Ever.” He may have been a tad too emphatic. Cai looked at him, an eyebrow raised. “I mean, I never heard of a hawk attacking a human.”

The other man scratched his head, smoothing the few hairs that stuck up. “I hope you’re right.” He raised his eyes to Shahin’s. “I had fun. Thank you for inviting me, Sha.”

The casual use of the nickname made him melt. In one fluid movement, Shahin swung his leg over the cycle and crossed the few feet between them. He held on to Cai’s peacoat lapels, pulled him toward him, and covered the other man’s lips with his. The heat they produced ran quickly through him, like a tidal wave of desire, making him shiver and tremble. Cai pried Shahin’s lips open and caressed him with his tongue. Surprised and incensed by the unexpected heated reaction from serious, timid Cai, he pulled him closer, crashing his hard chest against the other man’s. Cai’s taste held a promise. Shahin had no clue what his mouth was promising, but he allowed himself to relax against him, enjoying every second of their tongues’ sensual dance.

When they pulled apart, their ragged breaths mingling, Shahin was not sure of anything anymore. He was normally the one in control but his companion had taken over, stunning him by bringing up feelings he was having trouble processing.

“Come over for dinner tomorrow.” Cai’s whisper surprised Shahin, who still held on to the coat’s lapel as if to a lifeline. “I’ll cook.”

Shahin gulped and nodded, unable to utter a word. Cai smiled and brushed his hand across Shahin’s face before turning around and walking into his house. Still stunned, Shahin didn’t move for a while, standing on the curb and staring into the empty space where Cai had been just a few moments before. Shahin had always enjoyed his freedom, the long string of lovers with no attachments, no responsibilities, but now he was thinking long-term, forever. It was a very scary idea.

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Reviews

“A brilliantly fast paced book, that kept me hooked with the intensity of the love that these two characters have for one another.

This brilliant book has reminded me of just how much I love fantasy romance novels and I absolutely cannot WAIT to read more from you!!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars from me…..addictive, sexy and intense. Pure perfection”  (head_in_a_book_18)

“As a reader, reviewer, and, blogger, it is safe to say that when a certain type of indescribable book presents itself, said reader should probably throw-in the proverbial white-flag.  *Throws in flag*  So, speaking for this particular reader, as a book-hangover of all book-hangovers has currently made-itself-known, it is clear to say that..Infinite Blue is one of those rare types-of-books and has landed on my list of Top Books Read for 2018.  I am so glad to have read it..:)”      (Laura~Passion flower)

BIO

Natalina wrote her first romance at the age of 13 in collaboration with her best friend, Susana. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes. She’s the author of nine romance novels that reflect the amazing diversity of humankind and the universal power of love.

After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she’s taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.

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Location, Location, Location

I tend to locate my stories in imaginary places. In fact, it had never occurred to me to set one of my romances in a real place until I started hearing about all the small-town romances that were becoming so popular. The first time I used a setting that really existed was in my first M/M paranormal, Lavender Fields, which I set in Wiscasset, Maine—a town I vacationed in a few times. With Infinite Blue, I was determined to have it take place in a more local setting. That’s how my characters ended up in Old Town Manassas, just a few miles from where I live and a place I visit often.

Old TownManassas, VA

I was surprised how much fun it was to use real places or those inspired by the real ones. Restaurants, coffeeshops, even the train station are all very real.

A friend’s sister’s place of work became the model and the location for Cai’s graphic studio. I had visited the studio once so I had a good feel for the layout. It’s a small place over a well-known restaurant by the old-fashion train station.

The coffeeshop they both frequent is also a real hub of artistic activity in Manassas. So is the ice cream shop they mention, Jitterbug. Even the hospital was inspired by a real one, not in Manassas but close by.

The most fun I had was “researching” the Mexican Taqueria they all meet one evening. I knew about the place but had never eaten there. I had to check their menu online and I was glad to find out that I had described the place and the food accurately. When I finally ate there, I ordered the same thing my characters did in the book and had the delicious (and not Mexican) zepolle for the first time ever.

One of the most romantic scenes is set in the parking lot of the station which means that now every time I go there (and that’s where I normally park my car) I have visions of Cai and Shahin involved in a kiss.

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Writing a Strong Broken Character

A couple months ago I finished writing a romantic comedy that is close to my heart for a few different reasons. If you have read any of my books you know they are not just about romance and happy endings (even though they definitely have both) but they normally touch on something a bit heavier, sometimes darker.

This one is no exception. I wanted to write a character who is being emotionally blackmailed. This was an important subject for me because it’s something I experienced personally. I had always considered myself a strong woman. Not the most assertive one, but emotionally strong. Until the day I discovered I had been manipulated by someone I considered my best friend at the time. Worse even this had been going on for years. I lived in a state of confusion and hurt without a clue of who or what was making me so miserable.

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Emotional blackmailers use traits of your personality (good qualities more often than not) against you. In my case, she used the fact I would do just about anything to help and/or defend a friend and turned it into a weapon against me. She also used the fact I choose to believe the best about people to make herself believable in my eyes. She was the victim, the one that needed help, everyone was out to get her. And I ate it up even when my conscience and common sense told me there was something wrong with her stories and/or her attitude.

When I began writing this story I wanted my main male character (who in romance are kind of expected to be alpha males) to be a victim of emotional blackmail. As I wrote the story I had the suspicion I was making him look weak, which was not at all my intention. Strength has nothing to do with this. The most put together, emotionally stable person can be the victim of one of these predators. Because make no mistake, these are predators as ruthless as any other.

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I submitted the manuscript thinking that I would get it back with the comment, “he comes across as weak”. I was right. That’s exactly what happened. So now I’m faced with the challenge of portraying someone who has been “broken” by his girlfriend but still seems strong and capable–which he really is. Not an easy task but I have all confidence I’m on the right track. I agonized over it when I was writing it the first time, I’m agonizing over it now as I revise it. I want to be true and fair to my MMC and not make him look like the weakling he is not.

I’m hoping I can make my guy just as strong and awesome as he is broken and confused. Have you ever have to write a character like that? What did you do to balance his state of mind with his personal strengths?