International Kissing Day

International Kissing Day, Elaina Avalos, Elaina M. Avalos, pexels-edward-eyer

Apparently, today is “International Kissing Day.” Who comes up with these days, anyway? Kissing, I feel you should know, is a favorite activity of mine. But, I’m not doing any kissing on International Kissing Day which is a damn shame. I am working on a novel again, however (thank you, sweet baby Jesus). As I write a new love story, (the secondary plot) and think up ways to draw these two together, I’m personally feeling a little neglected in the romance department (haha). Because I write about love and relationships, I’m always looking for inspiration anywhere I can find it (since romance in my real life is non-existent).

Here are some favorite quotes about kissing & a couple favorite scenes from my favorite fictional movie characters:

“Kiss me, and you will see how important I am.” ― Sylvia Plath

“Now a soft kiss – Aye, by that kiss, I vow an endless bliss.” ― John Keats

“No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.” Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind (Rhett is terribly misunderstood & was far too good for Scarlett)

“When my date takes me home and kisses me good night, if I don’t hear the philharmonic in my head, I dump him.” — The Mirror Has Two Faces

“I didn’t want to kiss you goodbye — that was the trouble — I wanted to kiss you good night — and there’s a lot of difference.”
― Ernest Hemingway

“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”
― Ingrid Bergman

And my favorite: “I’m so glad they still work. I haven’t used them for kissing in such a long time, more like for wearing lipstick and whistling.” — Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give

If you’re a female that grew up in the 80s (and 90s too) and you don’t adore Anne & Gilbert, from Anne of Green Gables, I’m taking your chick card.
The friendship between Kathleen & Joe in You’ve Got Mail, is one of my all-time favorite romance/friendships in a movie.
Great, great line. Also, poor Rhett. He deserved better.

Have any favorite love stories from books or on screen, that you’d care to add to my list?

The Storm – A Short Story

storm, elaina m. avalos, i was born to love you, elaina avalos
Photo by Dasha Musohranova from Pexels

I was born to love you.

The day I was born, a violent storm ripped through town. It was the stuff legends were made of – or so I’ve been told for the last forty years. Walls of torrential rain fell, washing away hillsides, leaving homes teetering on cliffs, flooding streets, downing trees, and pelting everything in sight with hail. When you grow up in a desert, this is significant news. The newscasters from the city called it the storm of the century. Law enforcement had to pull people from their trapped vehicles. In the midst of it all, I came into the world screaming like a banshee on the side of the road – my parents unable to reach the hospital. Instead of a sterile hospital room, I made my appearance in the world, with unforgiving amounts of rain pouring down on my dad’s truck and the scent of the desert in a storm – unlike anything in all the world – reminding my mom we lived in an unforgiving desert, harsh and brutal. And then all at once exquisitely beautiful, as the colors take your breath away – as the sun rises and sets and when the night sky tells the story of the Creator’s sovereignty. Under those clear skies, not marred by a city skyline and lights, you can feel Him, right clear through to your bones. I decided long ago, the desert is the best place to find Him – brutal and harsh though it is.

My Mom and Grandma would tell you that’s when they knew. “It’s a sign,” they used to say, when the story of the storm and my birth would be retold. Most of the time, it was followed by, “She’s destined for great things.” I come from a long line of strong women. But they were all tied down by the past and the generations before them. Everyone one of them struggled to claw their way out – each barely scraping by and stepping one step further than the one before. Somehow, I became their opportunity. I would be the one. You will be the one, they all told me. These words have played like a song on repeat, in my head – for as long as I can remember. It defined me. My will is indestructible. I have survived what most could not.

I tried to set my world on fire – as they dreamed for me. I worked harder than everyone around me. But still, in all the years of sacrifice, hoping to live up to the expectation, there’s always a faint scent of disappointment because I’m not what they imagined. I have toiled unseen and unnoticed. There’s nothing great about me.

That is, on my own, there’s nothing great about me. I’m half of the puzzle. The rest of the pieces were missing until the day my world collided with his. I questioned everything until that day.

I was born to love you, I say to him every chance I get. I know this now.

I wasn’t the storm destined for greatness. He is destined to shake foundations and change the people and places he touches.

I was born in the storm, so I would know him when I saw him.

I knew him when I saw him.

Story continued . . . soon.

We Know Best What We’re Missing

I mentioned recently that I’ve started a new novel. This is certainly not a final product, since I’m only 10,000 words in, but here is the “blurb” I’m using to describe the novel now.

Ellison Whiting writes bestselling novels about families and relationships. She has made a name for herself – doing just that. Her novels become movies. Her fans become so invested in her books, she sometimes questions if they realize they’re fiction. Ellison Whiting’s problem is she writes novels about families and relationshipsbut she’s never known what it is to be in a family, or a healthy relationship, for that matter. Abandoned by her mother as a toddler, she is convinced of one thing and only one thing – based on the necklace with her few belongings – she was born by the sea. She’s spent a lifetime imagining her life before foster care. After another break-up, after a long string of break-ups, she decides it’s time. She leaves California behind, to uncover her history – along the coast of North Carolina – where she finds the family she’s always wondered about. But at what cost?

Here’s a brief excerpt.

“The secret to writing a great book is that there is no secret. Just a lot of hard work. I’ve written a fair number of bestsellers over the years. The kind that get you movie deals. They’re all still in development, by the way. I have a loyal fan base that would buy anything with my name on it, even if it’s awful. The truth is, everything I’ve written the last two years has been crap. I tried. I’ve tried. But when Carter left, something in me died. It’s not exactly like he was my muse. Honestly, he sucked at being in a relationship. It’s just that he’d been one of the few I’d trusted and that went right the hell out the window along with my will to write about love and family. I’d had a long string of relationships that never went anywhere. That’s the irony of course. I make my name, tons of cash, and I happened to garner critical success – writing about love and family – of all things. My books aren’t romances per se. They’re women’s fiction. I write about women and their relationships – motherhood included. It just so happens each book has a very strong romance element, even if the protagonist’s love interest is a secondary character. My most popular books, without a doubt, however – are love stories. The weirdness of writing a life I don’t know and have never experienced, is not lost on me. But I guess sometimes we know best, what we’re missing. That certainly seems to be the case with me.”

You can read the opening paragraph of Sea Glass Hearts, here.
You can see my Pinterest, inspiration board, here. And yes, of course I have a Spotify playlist, too.

Yellowstone & Weird Love Stories

Yellowstone, Beth Dutton, Rip Wheeler, Beth and Rip, elaina avalos

I’m new to the Paramount Network show, Yellowstone. I watched the first three seasons over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, thanks to Hulu. And now I’m obsessed. I can’t wait for season 4. The show reminds me, in a way, of a western Sons of Anarchy. It’s not as wild and violent as SOA – although still violent. I also think there’s something a little more redeeming in most of the lead characters at the Yellowstone ranch. Or perhaps the crimes committed are done for reasons that I’m more comfortable with (haha) than the gun and drug running on SOA. Anyway . . . I digress.

Unexpectedly, my favorite storyline in the series became the love story between Rip Wheeler & Beth Dutton. In the beginning, I was so caught up in what was going on with the family and ranch overall, that I missed some of the Beth and Rip stuff. I had to go back and re-watch parts of season 1 to settle into that. The relationship between John Dutton and Rip is also a favorite. The scene where John gives Rip the house, as an early inheritance, and calls him “son” in the letter, was awesome television – especially considering how long Rip had been on the ranch. But back to Rip & Beth. With Beth being the bad ass, wild woman she is, it’s not surprising her love story would become my favorite part of the show. There are some great scenes between them – so much so that YouTube has multiple video compilations of their scenes together.

While I have quite a few top moments, my favorite scene was a little scene that isn’t even popping up in most of the stuff I’ve searched for online. But it reminds me of those sweet moments in the beginning of a relationship when you’re becoming more comfortable with each other and you’re sort of settling into the fact that this thing is sticking around for a little bit. Maybe that nickname or pet name slips out and before you even realize it’s happening – your favorite person is now “Baby or Babe” or whatever.

The scene, on the steps of Rip’s cabin, is:

Beth: You are many things, Baby, but funny is not one of them. Sorry.
Rip: Mmm. Call me that again.
Beth: Call you what?
Rip: Baby. Say it again.
Beth: You like that, do you?
Rip: Mmm. Yeah, I do.
Beth: It’s OK, baby.
Rip: What should I call you?
Beth: Wife. [pause] I didn’t mean that.

If you’ve watched, you would know that there’s a lot to their story – so this isn’t exactly new love (hence the wife comment). But they’ve never truly been in a relationship up to this point. Though there are many scenes to love, as I mentioned, that one got me right in the feels. I also have a major nickname habit so maybe that’s why I loved that even more.

Since I can’t share a clip of that particular moment, I’ll share a couple others . . .

I loved this moment in the video below, too. There’s a reason why Rip is on the receiving end of Beth’s sweetest moments and most open and genuine feelings. It’s because she’s entirely safe with him and she knows it. He gets some real zingers too. But no one else in Beth’s life receives that same level of tenderness.

As a writer, my favorite books, movies, and television shows are always those with complex characters. And for me, that means there are times when your “relationship” with them is complicated. Maybe there are some serious greys in their character? Maybe you’re left trying to decide if you like them or not because they do jacked-up crap (like some of the stuff John Dutton does or asks his people to do)? Either way, the author clearly knows how to write characters that are equally flawed and lovable.

As I’ve been working on my novel, A Thousand Years, the first two people to read the first draft had some words to say about my protagonist’s love interest. I happen to think I write some pretty lovable male love interests. I love Gray Ford (love interest in A Thousand Years). But I didn’t write him (the first time), in a way that rounded out who he is. I had the image of the man and his type, what his struggles and quirks would be – but most of what I wrote was of the flawed side of him. Though I loved him and saw in my head the complete picture, it was hard to see what was lovable in him, in that first draft. Granted, I wasn’t writing a happy story in the first half of the book. I just forgot to show more of who he is (underneath all of his dumb decisions).

It’s in shows like Yellowstone that I’m reminded of how much I love writers for their ability to shine a light on the best and worst in us. Beth Dutton is larger than life. You’re definitely unlikely to meet someone quite like her, although I wish I could be Beth Dutton-ish with some people (haha). Her beauty is in what she has become because of her trauma and loss. Rip loves and takes care of Beth unconditionally, he’s extremely loyal, and he would do anything for his “family” – but the best and worst in him, also comes from trauma and loss. There’s beauty in the brokenness (I think). And Beth and Rip are broken individuals – who love each other fiercely and unconditionally.

Beth doesn’t hide one single thing about herself from Rip – including her heart and tender side. The fact that Rip loves her at her best and worst, knowing all of it, is a beautiful thing. I hope to always write that way. And maybe someday, my Rip Wheeler will show up?

“It’s only the things I love that die, Rip, never me. Come to think of it, I’m surprised you’re still standing.” – Beth Dutton

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/