LOST & the Love/Hate Relationships with Your Favorite Characters

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Photo by Piccinng from Pexels

I don’t live near the sea anymore. I thought I would miss it – but the mountains of North Carolina have taken up residence in my heart. I was raised beside the wild Pacific, on a ranch and vineyard, one of only a few along that shoreline, nestled into the mountains and hills of the Big Sur coastline. The coastal landscape along the winding Highway 1 is at once stunning and agonizingly lonely. It’s melancholy – like me. Giant Redwoods tower above you on one side and then within a few steps, cacti and wild California brush co-mingle with an intoxicating scent that you get to enjoy when it rains – or when the landscape is warmed on summer days.

It was there, on those lonely hills, that my life became both deeply painful and shockingly beautiful.
When I left California, nearly seven years ago now, I did so with little more than a weekend trip to the mountains of North Carolina to decide it was what was next for us. I knew very little about the place that would be come home to Jackson and I.

***

I put aside my novel, A Thousand Years, for a while. But I may have found a good way ahead for a novel that was floundering. It’s still a lot of work and a major rewrite. So much so that I’m contemplating making part of the wall in my dining room (that’s really just an office and a place for the dog to sleep her life away), into a plot wall. I have no idea how I’ll make this work, but in my head, it’s something like this . . .

🙂

But I’m thinking character’s names, important dates, scenes, etc. and then plugging in and moving around as need be. In part, this novel is two distinct stories – and that’s where it got weird and confusing. I wanted to get the thing written. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t fit the entirety of this story into one novel. It just didn’t want to work with me. What I’m saying is . . . it had a mind of its own.

If I’m honest, this “novel” should probably be written as a script. Except I have no clue what I’m doing in that regard. I have never attempted, nor do I know where to start, when it comes to writing a script. Two of my favorite writers, directors, and show runners – are the two men above (Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof). What they did with LOST – in terms of the characters, is and always will be inspiring to me. While I loved the storyline, that faithful viewers followed throughout its 6 seasons, it is actually the characters themselves that I grew to love more than the plot.

I didn’t care about all of the explanations about the weird things that happened on the island as much as I cared about the character’s journeys. They were weird, complicated, beautiful, and sometimes, really bad people. It was hard, at many points, to determine whether you hated or loved a character. Or maybe hated is too strong a word. Either way – they were complicated. A character like Sayid Jarrah, for instance, was terribly hard to figure out. He was a torturer – literally. Yet, he was deeply burdened by his past life – regretting all of it. He also found it much easier to slip back into his old ways when the need would arise. But I digress. The point was, I loved Sayid. But it wasn’t always easy to love him. Sawyer is another example. He was deeply, deeply flawed. He pushed everyone away and seemed, at times, to happily convince others to hate him. Yet, we learned throughout the show, what started him on this path. And that made all of the difference in the world in how you viewed him.

I love writers and directors who can tell stories like that – stories that make you love the characters in spite of their flaws, that is. All along, A Thousand Years, was a novel about family. The problem is, I started too far along into the story. Birdie Langston’s story didn’t start where I started writing the novel. It went way back. Way, way back. That became apparent quite quickly. Birdie (the protagonist) was trying to get through to me the whole time. I listen well. Except when it comes to writing. Sometimes I get something in my head and don’t see around the original vision, even when a bigger story is taking shape.

I’m now rambling on – but while I’m on my tangent – let’s talk about LOST again and how characters take on a life of their own. Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof could certainly clear this up for me, but there are times I wonder if two of the LOST characters were intended to become who & what they became (when the show runners began working together). Those two characters are Desmond & Penny. They played pivotal roles, in the development of LOST overall, in my opinion. But I’m not 100% convinced it was always meant to be that way. Or perhaps I should say, I’m not certain they started out this way. And yet, in spite of that, the two are among my favorites. They also happen to be the stars of my favorite moment of all six seasons of LOST. It’s hands down my favorite. There’s no way to explain what brought these two to this moment, so I won’t even try. But it is, without fail, the moment that always, always gives me chills. I have seen it dozens and dozens of times and it still gives me chills at exactly the same moments, literally every time. Penny is Desmond’s “constant.” And man, this was an incredible TV moment. It’s romantic, beautiful, and a bit of encouragement – for all of us hoping that rescue was somewhere on the horizon.

If I’m wrong, and Penny & Desmond were in the plan from day one – to always have this moment (that would usher in a whole new direction for the show) – it only drives home for me how important it is for the writer to take a backseat. A story that wants to be told should be indulged. Even if it takes you to Scotland, England, and a freighter in the middle of the ocean – way out of the action on the island.

And so, I’m back. But the clock is being reset and the story is starting somewhere else – in another day and time. It starts with the family that raised Birdie and the soil they love, the hard work that made them, and the determination – that created the woman that Birdie would eventually become.

Book Discount

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I wrote a novel. It’s called Chasing Hope. You can read a few reader comments about the book, here. You can find it on Amazon, here. Do you love a good book discount? I mean, if you’ve see my overwhelming number of books, you’d know that I do. When movers move me, they make comments on the number of book boxes I have. I can’t help myself. I absolutely refuse to give most of them away.

The price of Chasing Hope is now discounted (Kindle & paperback)! You can download the Kindle book for $2.99! And the paperback is at the lowest offer I’m allowed to give – at $6.54!

You can see ratings/reviews on Goodreads, here.

Here’s the first paragraph & a description of Chasing Hope:
In a stroke of sheer genius, or maybe it’s a sign of a quickly approaching mental breakdown, I left D.C. seven and a half hours ago and headed toward the coast of North Carolina, with the pain of a secret dream’s loss, taking up the most space in my truck. Besides my personal effects and the furniture I brought into my marriage, I left everything else to my ex-husband and his Legislative Assistant.

Dr. Ava Cooper has it all. Scratch that – she had it all. Leaving behind the wreckage of her old life, she moves to the coast of North Carolina, without any fight left in her. As she settles into small-town life, she meets a baby in the foster care system that could change everything. Will Ava be able to let hope in long enough to get back the life she so desperately longs for?

A NaNoWriMo Update

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November 1st was the kick-off of National Novel Writing Month! Here’s a NaNoWriMo update. I dropped off the writing/editing last week for a few days. But I picked back up tonight and edited and/or wrote, 5,515 words. I decided at the last minute to re-write and edit, A Thousand Years.

I’ve written some new content, switched up where the novel starts – and therefore where my protagonist met her love, Graham Ford. I feel much better about where the whole thing is going. With the slow down earlier this week, I’ve only got about 6,000 words written/edited in the last seven days. But if I sustain my daily word count goal for the remainder of the month, I should finish a couple days early (pats self on back).

There’s still some stuff I’m unsure about, but I’m hoping that with the switch-up I’ve started working on, that will work itself out too. Are your participating? Hoes’ the writing (or editing), going?

National Novel Writing Month

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Photo by Ashley Knedler

November is National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). I’ve been a NaNoWriMo participant since 2009. But until last year, I never actually finished a project. In 2020, at one of the wildest times for me professionally, I wrote a 51,640 word novel. The words poured out of me. The novel, A Thousand Years, has been varying states of editing for 11 months. I start in on re-write and it doesn’t feel quite right and I start over. It has been weird. I love the story. But it has changed dramatically from what I started writing in 2020.

As I gear up for NaNoWriMo 2021, I have a decision to make (real quick like). Do I focus in on a final draft of A Thousand Years, or do I write Sea Glass Hearts (which I’ve started)? I also have another book – still untitled, about a character named Lacey James that desperately needs to be written. I have until Monday to decide. I thought tonight I’d play around a little with all three and see if my muse catches fire. He’s finicky. So . . . eh, we’ll see what happens.

You can read some of Lacey’s story, here & here.

Sea Glass Hearts excerpts are here.

A Thousand Years, is here.



I have loved him for a thousand years…

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Mendocino, California – Photo by: Mario Mesaglio

An excerpt from a novel in progress, A Thousand Years.

I have loved him for a thousand years and it seems as if I will love him for a thousand more. We are destined to remain apart. But it seems as though I was made out of a part of his soul and he mine. Our love burned bright and kept us warm. And then my world went up and flames. But loving him remains.

It is untamed. Wild and unplanned. I wake these days, deep in thought, recalling the mornings in the Redwoods – the air cold and damp. There was nothing around us, but the untouched forest. Standing there, facing the west, where the Pacific rests between the hills – the brush all around us, wild and untamed. So perfectly beautiful and lonely. This is what it’s like to love him. On a day I least expected him, there he was. We are perfect partners. We think alike. But not. In that place in between, where we differ, he shined.

There are more questions than answers. In the beauty of this wild thing, I long for him. What is and will not be follows me around like a coastal fog. Through the haze I see him. I don’t hold it against him – you can’t tame wild things. I live here in this tension, with what will not be, settling into the cold, wild – alone.

~~~

There’s a small roadside – hole in the wall – diner on the far end of the town I call home. It’s called the Hot’n Tot. Yes, really. It’s the kind of place that has stayed open for eons. It’s not fancy in the least. Some of the old booths are a little worse for the wear. But it doesn’t matter to locals, because we’ve been climbing into the booths our entire lives. The food isn’t fussy and the cook doesn’t take kindly to diners who want something different than what’s on the menu. It’s a “you get what you get,” kind of place. There’s an old, but entirely charming, mid-century diner sign that welcomes tourists, on their way to San Francisco, wine country, or along their winding path, up or down Highway One. They see the quaint sign and the full parking lot and they know they’ve stumbled on a rare gem – in a state known for its pretentious ways. Of course, most of those people don’t know the real California. The California that’s the real deal, is nothing at all like you think. Up and down the San Joaquin Valley and in small, one-horse towns and down country roads – that’s where the real Californians live. The Hot’n Tot is a real slice of Americana.

     Years ago, I asked Manny – the owner, if I could work here on my summer breaks. And though I’ve long since graduated, I still work a shift or two when they’re really busy. My Grandma finds this unbecoming. That’s what you get when your mother’s parents are wealthy, old-world Mexicans. I’m not sure why working at the diner is unbecoming, but mucking stalls with Granddad on the ranch, isn’t. But whatever, I don’t make the rules. My Mexican Grandma does. But when I’m at the diner, it reminds me of the best parts of my childhood. My grandparents and my parents are wealthier than should be allowed. I never knew what it was like to go without. But my Granddad worked hard at ensuring me and my sister didn’t take our privileges for granted – in spite of the snobby ways of my mother, father, and Grandma. Granddad used to take me and my sister to the diner in his old beater ranch truck, on our school breaks or during the summer. My mom has never been known to like kids. The second school wrapped up, she shipped us up the coast or across the country.

     Those days on the ranch were the best days of our lives. My sister and I learned every inch of the land. We were taught about the plants and the vines my Granddad raised with care, for wineries all over northern and central California. We played in the dirt, mucked stalls, and followed my Granddad’s every step, when he was moving cattle from one valley to another. It was idyllic in many ways. When we were at the tail end of primary school, my dad moved overseas for a tour. He was a Marine. Mom refused – RE-FUSED – to move us to Japan. We packed up our lives and moved home to California, from North Carolina. It was then that I grew to appreciate the Hot’n Tot and the back corners of rural, real California.

     Now that the cold wet of our central coast winter has given way to the warmth of the sun and a wild breeze blowing off of the Pacific, the diner fills with our neighbors and the first tourists of the season. I always work the first full weekend of the start of the tourist season. Grandma still hates that I do. But the clank of the pots and pans from behind the swinging doors, that lead to the kitchen, and Paul’s gravelly voice announcing service, is as comforting to me as the scent of my granddad’s tobacco pipe. I cannot help myself. At the end of our day, after one of the busiest starts to the season, in my recent memory, the servers and line cooks take a seat at the bar stools in front of the lunch counter. Manny and Paul cook for us – usually a weird mix of Mexican and American food. It’s the only day they cook for the staff like this. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

     I settle in next to Mary, a server that has been working for Manny since I was a girl. As we stuff our faces, quiet falls on the diner. Even Manny and Paul are quiet now – and they’re rarely quiet. The door to the diner opens suddenly, the bells jangling as the door swings open. None of us stop and look up – not a one of us. We are all consumed by the food. As she has in years past, Manny’s wife, Lola, has brought us homemade tortillas – flour and corn. And as I’ve grown up doing, we sop up our food with the flour tortillas and scoop the shredded beef up into the corn tortillas. I dip my corn tortilla into some beans and shove an unladylike bite in my mouth. The guest clears his throat. “Excuse me?” he asks.

     He’s broken the spell. “Oh gawd. Not another one,” Mary says under her breath. We all turn to see who has interrupted the spell…