National Novel Writing Month

Live Oak, spanish moss, elaina m. avalos, chasing hope, lacey mays
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…

mendocino county, mendocino, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, mario mesaglio, a thousand years, wild things elaina avalos, wild things
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…

I Wrote a Novel

elaina m avalos, chasing hope, beaufort nc

I wrote a novel. In June of 2017, my novel Chasing Hope was published. As I approach the four-year anniversary, I thought I would share a bit about the book. You can find it here in Kindle and print format. There is a preview available on Amazon. You can also sign up for my newsletter to read the first chapter for free! You can do that, by clicking here or here. You can also view what some of my readers have written about the book, here.

Here is the book blurb, from the back of the book:

Dr. Ava Cooper has it all. Scratch that – she had it all. The day she buried her daughter was the beginning of the end. With one fell swoop her ex-husband took what was left of the life they created together. All that is left is a demanding boxer, her worldly possessions, and the SUV she bought as a first year resident. With nothing left of the old life, Ava heads south to help out and old friend. In the small and quirky coastal town of Beaufort, North Carolina – a tiny hamlet situated on the Southern Outer Banks – Ava quickly learns that her plan to quietly fade into the background to find some semblance of normalcy is not on her new neighbor’s and staff’s agenda for her. As she settles into southern small-town living, she meets a family and a baby in the foster care system that threaten to break through her grief-stricken and heart. Will Ava be able to let hope in long enough to get back the life she desperately longs for?

This book holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons – mainly because it’s the first complete novel I’ve written. It’s also one that took me way too long to write. The process was daunting, to be honest. I let so many things distract me and get in the way (like my day job). Rather than be single-minded in my focus on accomplishing my dreams and using the gifts God has given me, I focused far too much on the job that paid the bills. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. However, I didn’t put enough emphasis on my dreams or writing what I believe I’m meant to write. I let work take over my life. I mean, take over.

I worried too much about what people would think. I shied away from writing content on my blog (I had a different blog that had a larger audience and community at one time). Overall, I just let my writing wither away under the weight of what other people would think. That’s just dumb. In years past, I was part of multiple writer communities online. Many of the people I have known in these circles over the years have gotten literary agents, publishing deals, and are cranking out books with traditional publishing houses.

It’s not arrogant to say I think that I could be in their shoes too. The only difference is, I didn’t work for it. Phew, what a sucky realization that was when I first woke up to it. It was all my fault and all of my own choosing. But one day I came to terms with this and decided I wouldn’t let my life go unlived. I wouldn’t let the books go unwritten. And I certainly wouldn’t ignore the dreams I’ve long held in my heart.

Today isn’t Monday Motivation – but we’ll call it Tuesday Truths. The only thing standing in the way of you accomplishing your dreams and goals? It’s you. It’s me. We can make all the excuses we want. But at the end of the day, we are own worst enemy when it comes to going after what we want. I just refuse to live that way anymore. So whatever it is . . . go get it, friends.

You can check out a few excerpts here, here, here, and here. To read a bit about Beaufort, North Carolina – the Southern Outer Banks town where the book is set, here are a few posts about my Beaufort adventures (I lived there for a bit, too!):
https://elaina-avalos.com/2017/08/17/beaufort-by-the-sea/
https://elaina-avalos.com/2016/04/28/beaufort-wine-food-weekend-wine-bread-and-cheese-seminar/
https://elaina-avalos.com/2017/09/03/more-from-beaufort-north-carolina/

Sea Glass Hearts

elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, sea glass, sea glass hearts

~ One ~

“She reminded me of the sea; the way she came dancing towards you, wild and beautiful, and just when she was almost
close enough to touch she’d rush away again.”

―Glenda Millard

I am made of salt and sand and the deep jade green of the Atlantic. The salt air courses through my veins. This place, these waves, the sea glass, and shells with rounded edges, beaten constantly in the surf, are the pieces and places of my very soul. The heady scent of the ocean air tells me I’m finally home, though I’m not at all conscious of having lived near this shore. In the setting sun of a July evening, the billowing thunderheads in the distance play with the sun. Shadows and light dance on the surface of the ocean at once bringing out the sparkle, and then moments later shrouding the light in darkness. “So this is it?” I ask no one. Home. The word and all of its implications fill me with competing emotions. I look back toward the car, parked a hundred yards away, in the parking lot of the town’s traffic circle. It’s the center of this beach town, on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.

I turn back to the ocean and breathe deeply, taking it all in. Just up the road is the house I bought, sight unseen, sitting first row, pointed towards the sea. I have spent a lifetime, nearly forty years, dreaming of what it would be like to find the place where I began, to return to my beginnings. To the place where I had been knit together in my mother’s womb. When I was a child, before I had been adopted and floated between countless foster and group homes, I made day trips to the beaches of Southern California. In the course sand of those crowded beaches, I convinced myself that I might as well have been a mermaid for all I really knew. One thing I knew for sure, in the deepest part of my being? I belonged to the sea. Somehow, as I would stand there, as a kid, wearing my church charity last year’s style bathing suit, I knew that the sea called me, and would continue to call me . . . home.

Written by Elaina M. Avalos

**This is from my new work in progress – waiting for me once I’m finished with A Thousand Years. I’m currently doing a little work on it this week, while I take a mini-vacay from A Thousand Years.**

Sea Glass Hearts

elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, sea glass, sea glass hearts

~ One ~

“She reminded me of the sea; the way she came dancing towards you, wild and beautiful, and just when she was almost
close enough to touch she’d rush away again.”

―Glenda Millard

I am made of salt and sand and the deep jade green of the Atlantic. The salt air courses through my veins. This place, these waves, the sea glass, and shells with rounded edges, beaten constantly in the surf, are the pieces and places of my very soul. The heady scent of the ocean air tells me I’m finally home, though I’m not at all conscious of having lived near this shore. In the setting sun of a July evening, the billowing thunderheads in the distance play with the sun. Shadows and light dance on the surface of the ocean at once bringing out the sparkle, and then moments later shrouding the light in darkness. “So this is it?” I ask no one. Home. The word and all of its implications fill me with competing emotions. I look back toward the car, parked a hundred yards away, in the parking lot of the town’s traffic circle. It’s the center of this beach town, on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.

I turn back to the ocean and breathe deeply, taking it all in. Just up the road is the house I bought, sight unseen, sitting first row, pointed towards the sea. I have spent a lifetime, nearly forty years, dreaming of what it would be like to find the place where I began, to return to my beginnings. To the place where I had been knit together in my mother’s womb. When I was a child, before I had been adopted and floated between countless foster and group homes, I made day trips to the beaches of Southern California. In the course sand of those crowded beaches, I convinced myself that I might as well have been a mermaid for all I really knew. One thing I knew for sure, in the deepest part of my being? I belonged to the sea. Somehow, as I would stand there, as a kid, wearing my church charity last year’s style bathing suit, I knew that the sea called me, and would continue to call me . . . home.

Written by Elaina M. Avalos

**This is from my new work in progress – waiting for me once I’m finished with A Thousand Years. I’m currently doing a little work on it this week, while I take a mini-vacay from A Thousand Years.**