Lily 1: Notes

. So I’ve read through the comments on Lily’s Monday post, and there’s a lot in there to chew on. Plus, of course, the Girls in the Basement have been putting in some work. Here are my notes on your comments and the Girls’ nogging.

The Wants are expectations, basically ,the things you wanted to see next based on that very short first scene. The thing about expectations is that they have to be filled, they’re what makes a story fun even if it’s a tragedy (this is a comedy), but they have to be filled in a way that surprises. They include:

• The cat.

Pangur has to be in here. I have no idea what his personality is like, although I’m imagining he’s annoyed. Kind of like this:

Lily will talk to her cat, of course, who does’t talk to their cat? He does not answer unless she’s saying something interesting. Like “treat.”

• The Viking.

There seems to be a consensus that the Love Interest To Be Named Later must be a Viking. I’m cautiously good with that. Not as good with Erik as a name, mostly because Tim Robbins as Erik the Viking was not hero material. There’s also a consensus that the Love Interest To Be Named Later didn’t kill her in the previous lives (definitely no rape), but I think we should leave her deaths open, at least to include accidentally offing her.

Now the question is, is he reincarnated with her each time? Because that’s going to be difficult to pull off. I kind of like the idea that sometimes he’s four years old in her adult life and sometimes he’s eighty in her young life, but at this point, the whole reincarnation thing is a pain in the ass, so I’m just going to ignore that and sees what happens in the story.

What’s he do for a living? I was working along the lines of historian of some kind, but I like the idea that some people floated that he’s a painter. I liked it even better when somebody else talked about manuscript illuminations. Maybe he illuminated manuscripts back in the day and now he does book illustrations and he had a guy posed as a Viking who looked out the window and dropped an ax on Lily and that’s how she got her memory back.

Maybe not.

Maybe he’s not even a Viking. Maybe he’s Brother Sebelius, the guy who owned Pangur, the monk who illustrated manuscripts. That would be a bait-and-switch which is usually a very bad idea.

Not that PoV yet. I want to stay in Lily’s PoV for awhile. We can do Viking PoV later when we know Lily better, I think. Of course I say that, and then Week 3 I will feel the need to do Viking PoV after all.

Since Lily didn’t mention that she already had a Viking in this life, I think it’s time for the Cute Meet, without the “Cute.” Snarky Meet. Ax Meet. Oh-Hell-Not-You Meet.

As for what he looks like, I think Chris Hemsworth is the current default Viking (although Idris Elba appeals, too), but I need a Hemsworth-like avatar that isn’t quite so in-Lily’s-face-Viking. A non-hunky Viking descendant. Which probably knocks Hemsworth out completely since he’s sort of Ur-hunky although he does appear to have a strong streak of goof in him, so that could be redeeming. Also, he’s the only Viking I know of.

Well, and this one:

Yeah, this might be better:

Although somebody did mention Rick O’Connell. Not a Viking but possibly we could kind of mush them together, I do that a lot with place-holders:

Maybe something will occur.

As to gender in the reincarnations, I have no idea what the reincarnations are. There may not be twelve; that was heavily influenced by Dr. Who. Another bridge to be crossed later. I don’t even know why she’s being reincarnated. The Girls just wanted reincarnations.

Oh, and we need a name. Possible Viking names: Bjorn (bear), Erik (absolute ruler), or Harald (lord and ruler). My next-door neighbor has two sons named Bjorn and Sten, so I know those are still used, but I’m drawn to Harald so I could call him Harry. That seems like a Crusie hero name. Actually, it is a Crusie hero name, Harry is in Monday Street. I do not see a hero called Norm, but that may just be a Cheers leftover.

• Nadia

I’m of two minds about Nadia. I kind of want to do thirteen sessions with her, each one discussing one of the lives, but that would mean the book would take place over 13 weeks, and that could be too long. Or I could start each section of the book with an exchange between Lily and Nadia, a piece of a session, sort of like the way the imaginary therapist was salted through Agnes.

Nadia needs to be in there, but I think she’s more along the idea of a Greek chorus. But not as an all-wise/all knowing mentor. Nadia’s good, but she’s a real person, not a symbol. Yeah, Nadia’s going to need some thought. She can’t be a love interest or a best friend because she’s a good therapist, and a good therapist would not cross that line.

• Reincarnation is real. I think magic is out–watch, there will be magic in spite of that–but reincarnation is real and Lily really is on her thirteenth? life. Maybe not thirteenth. Why the hell is she reincarnated? Is everybody? I mean, is that the way death works in this story world? Or it is just some people? In Nita, people get a choice in Hell; some of them just say, “Nope, I’m done, where’s the bus to the Elysian Fields?” Or is reincarnation part of an antagonist plot? Then we’re back in magic. I don’t want a magic antagonist.

But due to popular demand, reincarnation is real, I think.

Beyond expectation and Wants, we also need basic fiction Needs, the building blocks of traditional story: protagonist, antagonist, conflict, setting, theme, etc. Okay, not theme yet, we need a first draft to figure that one out, but . . .

• Setting: The Girls in the Basement) feel strongly that Lily should work in a diner. I have no idea why. I’m hungry, so that may have something to do with it, but that diner keeps turning up in the background. Not that I’ve given this a lot of thought, but evidently the Girls have.

Setting includes community, so Lily needs a best friend who is not Nadia. I’m assuming she works at the diner. Maybe she owns the diner. Maybe the diner is something quirky like . . . I dunno.

Ignore me. It’s Sticky Time.

I think there’s another waitress in the diner, too (of course there are other waitresses, but I mean a recurring character) because I dreamt about her last night. Her name began with a C and she’s a vegan who lectures people about caffeine while she pours coffee. I have no idea why, ask the Girls, they sent the dream. Actually, I think I know why the vegan bit; there a picture of a grocery shelf on the net the other day with the entire aisle of shelves empty except for the vegan section which was still completely stocked. I have nothing against vegans, but that was funny.

Other settings: the Love Interest’s workplace, their apartments/homes, Nadia’s office, the street–I get an urban setting for this, but not a super big city–but I think in general, they’ll show up when they show up. College town probably. Have to explain that ax, although the ax-throwing places fascinate me, but again, that would probably do well in a college town. Plus they’re gonna have to research the past. Yeah, college town. Too bad I’m not in Columbus any more, that would be perfect. I loved Columbus. Such a great town.

Where was I?

Right, setting. East coast probably. I personally find New Jersey as a location hysterically funny, but then I live here.

• Antagonist

Later for that. I don’t even know what Lily wants yet, how do I know who’s blocking her?

• Conflict

See “Antagonist” above.

• Protagonist

That’s our Lily. Early thirties. Probably a redhead with that Irish ancestry. Has a cat named Pangur. Short temper, although that’s a cliche for a redhead. I like Gina’s “I’m not a people person, but I’m a person person. One on one, I like people. More than that, not as much.” Not rude, just preoccupied with her own problems at the moment.

She works in a diner. The thing about a diner is that there will be other people there, too, so Lily will have to talk to people. Otherwise, she’s stuck in her apartment, sittin’ and thinkin’. Sittin’ and thinkin’ is stinkin’ writing. We need people for her to bounce off of. Diner regulars. So. Much. Potential.

College town (name?). Did she teach at the university, and then there was the whatever that gave her the memories of her reincarnations? Does she have them all sharply or are they slowly coming back to her? She could be a returning grad student. I did my first masters in my thirties, second in my forties. In what? Waitressing in a diner is a good grad school job. Like bartending. Mollie tended bar through her undergrad years. I waitressed all through high school.

Her close relationships are her cat and her best friend who owns the diner. Owns? Why is her best friend running a diner in a college town?

Okay, we’re getting too deep into the woods on this. Let’s stick to what we know from the first scene, which was pure Girls in the Basement:
• The protagonist is named Lily and she’s female and angry. (Welcome to Crusie world.)
• Her problem is that people think she’s crazy. I think. But it’s also that she’s upset/angry/tormented by those memories.
• She has a cat that [she thinks?] is reincarnated with her.
• She blames a Viking for her first death and many of the ones that followed.
• She’s read Harry Potter or at least seen the movies. Nah, she’s read them, too.
• She has an aversion to axes. And Vikings.
• She appears to have finally found a good therapist.

That’s all that’s there in that first scene. A rewrite is going to have to foreshadow the antagonist, but since we don’t have a clue who that is, later for that.

I have no idea why I started with therapists. It would seem to indicate that Lily’s big central problem is dealing with the past, letting go and moving on, which would mean that the antagonist is trying to make her dwell on the past, but that makes no sense because there’s nothing to be gained by that. An evil therapist could be looking for the mummy’s treasure and trying to dig up clues from her past lives, but Nadia isn’t evil and that’s a stretch for a plot and I don’t want supernatural in here. I think we’ll let the evil therapist go. But that’s still an interesting idea in general: if Lily needs to let go of the past, who gains if she’s forced to remember? I have no idea.

Also, why is she so damn angry?

I need to see Lily in her everyday life, I think, see what turns up there. So the first scene is in the diner.

Placeholders for Lily right now are Sarah Rafferty and Dani Kind.

Generally, I’m not fond of thin protagonists, but I think Lily probably burns calories while she’s asleep. Sort of like Lorelei in Gilmore Girls; she’s always whirring inside.

3. The Girls in the Basement

This is the stuff that’s just THERE. Because.

I have no idea why Surprise Lily struck me as a good title.

I know the reincarnations came out of the “Surprise” part of that, but it could just have easily have been a multiple personality thing, or an erratic heroine thing, or somebody who pops out of cakes at parties.

Then somehow Pangur Ban attached itself, not a complete surprise since I’ve always loved that poem, but why that far back?

Why more than one reincarnation (see Dead Again as a one-incarnation story)? I know why twelve, that was Dr. Who.

Why a therapist?

Why a diner?

I think the Vikings came out of “Pangur Ban” as a time marker, but why Vikings and not monks, which is much more “Pangur Ban?”

Why are the diner uniforms that I see pink? Lily with her red hair would probably look awful in pink, but that would really depend on the pink. If it’s magenta, you’d want to put your eyes out. If it’s a nice rosy pink, she’d probably look great. But still, pink?

How do I know that Pangur is a tortoiseshell?

I have learned not to fight the Girls on this stuff. Later it will all become clear. They Know All.


The next scene is in the diner with Lily and her best-friend-to-be-named-later, talking about the therapy, and then the love-interest-to-be-named-later shows up. No idea what happens; assuming snappy patter and a burger.

Feel free to continue brainstorming in the comments. I’ll be back with whatever on Monday.

NOTE: This blog post has not been edited. Apologies for rambling, mistakes, whatever.

103 thoughts on “Lily 1: Notes

  1. Maybe Pangur had powers or maybe there’s a tortoiseshell conspiracy? Torties are strange and unique cats.

    1. It’s interesting that I had imagined Pangur as a muted tortie. They do disapproving so well.

  2. Maybe Lily is just sick and tired of dying at 33 for 13 times and wants to flatten out that bump in the road to live a full life. She could be trying to put the breaks on and look the time period she picked.

  3. I used to write, was published a couple times, then had a Significant Life Event and my mojo left the building, never to return.
    But I never put all the thought into it that you do. Its absolutely fascinating to read your thought process on all the things that make a good story. I have nothing to contribute to Lily, just want to read along as you write it. But I like Chris Pratt – cute, macho, and quite goofy.

  4. I like the idea of she’s remembered, and part of remembering are lives tragically cut short? And she’s not ready for that yet, because she hasn’t done her Big Thing yet, made her difference in the world. She doesn’t know what that is yet, but damnit she cant die without it.

    And reading that made me think of Surprise, Lily. So an axe falling out of a window while the previous holder yells “Surprise!”, then loses his grip.

    I love Love Interest accidentally killing her.

    I see a boyfriend that she hasn’t broken up with since eh, effort? And now she re-examines and dumps him.

    Maybe her best friend said to see a therapist since they are good at drawing out your past and helping you remember?

    And maybe antagonist, LI and Lilly all get reincarnated and they have to break the cycle to stop the same things happening? But I do like the 80 yrs old/kid thing, so that might not work.

    Hm. Sorry if these are repeats. Fell behind on chapter one. T.T

    1. I took a nap and when I woke up, I had these insights:

      Lily has an ex-boyfriend named Sebastian.

      I should name the hero Bjorn so I can do Bjorn Again jokes. I’m not going to, but I think the hero’s best friend may be Bjorn. Maybe twins, both names Bjorn–Bjorn Erik and Bjorn Rolf–because their dad wanted the Bjorn Again joke. But then the dad would have to be part of the story. The Bjorns hate him, of course. Okay, probably not.

      There was something else that was brilliant that came to me as I slept–The Girls best communication time–and now I can’t remember. It’ll come to me. Again.

      1. YES!! Bjorn again jokes!!! I love it. And it helps me let go of the name Axel – As long as there are name puns, I’m happy.

      2. Not relevant but this just reminded me of a role-playing scenario my DH was involved in where he started out with a barbarian hero called Hell Yes. When Hell Yes got killed off, DH created Hell No, who was eventually followed by Hell Whynot. They became the Hell Brothers.

        Please don’t make the hero Bjorn. What about Leif?

  5. College town is a good place for the SCA – Society for Creative Anachronism – lots of opportunities for axes there. (I like them so hopefully they aren’t the bad guys!)

    1. I immediately thought of that, too, Nancy H. Not sure if I’d want a hero that was part of that society though – I’m sure they’re lovely people, but have always struck me as a little bit too intense. 🙂 But I’ve only met a couple, so maybe they’ve skewed my view.

      1. Some of them are .very.intense! But like all groups of people, there are varying degrees of intensity.

      2. Oh no. A lot of them are very intense (I know, I was one). But the SCA college contingent could make things interesting by being a source of information and also a source of potential complications.

    2. Actually, I a thought.

      Lily is walking on campus and strolls by a group of people dressed in medieval garb. She thinks nothing of it until someone shouts “heads up”. She looks up and gets conked on the head by a rattan battle axe. That immediately gives her flashbacks. Then she looks closely at the person trying to see if she is okay – it’s a guy who’s persona is a Viking. (maybe he’s got some kind of ancestry.)

      Anyway – one way to get axe, Viking, meeting, and sudden rush of memories in one fell swoop.

      1. And the guy who accidentally did it is the Love Interest, who was roped into playing by his bestie haha

    3. I thought of the SCA too. Lots of axes and opportunities for weirdness. I have some friends who are involved and they are always fabulous cool people.

    4. There’s a third Hemsworth brother, Luke, who is currently in HBO’s Westworld. He could maybe be the placeholder instead of Chris?

  6. I still have vivid memories of my brother making his own armor as a teen when he was in SCA.

    And of walking into a basement in a game shop, at my parents’ command, to tell him we were there to pick him up. A dozen young teen boys sitting around playing Dungeons and Dragons. When I came down the stairs and called his name, they all looked up, froze, and one of them squeaked, “It’s… it’s a GIRL!!!” It was very disconcerting.

    1. Any chance your brother responded with “Nah, that’s not a girl. It’s just my sister.”

  7. The thing that popped into my mind while reading your question about who would benefit from Lily dwelling on the past is that it could be someone who doesn’t want her dwelling/acting on the present?

    I mean, I really want the past to matter, but if it matters to Lily does that mean it needs to matter to the antagonist?

    1. Could Lily possibly have taken something important to the grave in at least one of her previous lives? Something that the antagonist wants/needs? Possibly even some of Lily’s past lives could have ended too soon because the antagonist was after her for information about that thing/piece of knowledge?

      1. Maybe the antagonist is Brother Sebelious. He drew the key to something in a manuscript all those centuries ago and Lily saw it. It was complicated, and he’s forgotten a key part. Ever since, in every life he’s been incarnated in, he’s tried to find that manuscript but can’t. And now he’s cottoned onto who Lily is, so he wants to quiz her in the hope that she remembers the answer. Which she does.

        Now that I’ve written that up, I think it’s got holes. He doesn’t need to actually oppose Lily, just talk to her. And I can’t think how that would get in the way of Lily’s goal. Unless it was the key to something that would destroy Lily? Hmmmm. The key to Irish men taking over the world and having all the power forever?

        1. I like a clue being in the illumination he did. We’ll just put a pin in that for later.

  8. I took Norwegian in college. Odd was a name used in the workbook,the teacher said every Odd she knew was. Would be a good friend name. Also Sveinar, Lars and anyone in ABBA. My grandpa was Ole. if you Could get the building’s parents to be Old and Lena…. Could Nadia be really good at counseling but kind of hates it. And hates people. She would be really interested in rats, maybe have them as pets and want to design elaborate mazes. The hero could also accidentally kill Lilly while trying to save her. The end could have her save herself. Also vegan friend could be Camile or Elsa. What about Trolls.

  9. I live in a college town and we have an ax throwing place.

    Having Lily work in a diner is good because you’re excellent at writing food porn. We will all be hungry as we read this. And pink is very traditional waitress color of uniforms. I tend to picture Alice in Mel’s diner, if you remember the tv show.

    As for a diner in a college town, it needs to be 24 hours. This is for the kids who at 2 am need a sugar hit as they are finishing up their papers/projects can come in and get food and I’m especially liking a milkshake as a specialty of the diner. Probably because in my undergrad years I went to a BigBoy 2 blocks from my dorm at 2 am with friends and had great milkshakes and burgers. Perhaps Lily works nights so fewer people she has to interact with and let’s her attend classes during the day.

      1. And those kind of hours are when you get the ‘interesting’ clientele and conversations.

    1. Oh, oh! Can the diner play Postmodern Jukebox at night? Satisfies the college kids need for pop music while appealing to the owner’s love of jazz and the blues.

  10. Still gotta shill for the appeal of lady Vikings!
    Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta in Wonder Woman was not a Viking, but the aesthetics were similar, especially when she had her big fur cloak on. There is, of course, the TV show Vikings, featuring Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha. The 100 wasn’t Vikings, but their Ice Nation was basically a take on them, including Brenda Strong as Nia Azgeda, the Ice Queen. And then we have our Marvel badass ladies, with Tessa Thompson’s delightful Valkyrie, Rene Russo as Frigga, and Jaimie Alexander as Sif.

    Meanwhile, my want at this point, with the prevalence of the diner setting, is that Love Interest could shortly join the diner crew as a staff cook! Not only does this enable frequent interactions, and food aspects of previous lives, but that puts the LV around knives and fire, which would put Lily’s hackles up about remembered previous deaths, mitigated by the love language of the LV making food for Lily!

    Or, Nancy H and Diane have mentioned SCA. Maybe the LV only plays a Viking in their SCA, and they’re diner regulars after their weekend sessions.

    One thing, though, is that therapy ain’t cheap, and likely not very possible for any diner salary, much less a waitress, unless it’s a famous diner that gets tourist money. Being part of diner management leaves even less time to attend normal therapy hours.

    And then we get to what made Lily decide that she needed therapy, how long her search for a therapist that takes her seriously is going on, and why she’s stuck with that search for so long. Is it implied that her life will be dysfunctional if she doesn’t get therapy? Is it dysfunctional now, since she hasn’t been able to find a good therapist before now? What sort of support systems does she have at the moment, that she’s been able to make it to 33 on a diner salary without crashing and burning, despite seeming to need therapy? Are those support systems still there, or is she on the verge of losing them, hence the need for therapy to help her build more independence?

    Is Lily currently single? Does she have a dating history? If so, is it a disaster, or just amicable break-ups from not working out?

  11. I couldn’t help going to ‘divorced.’ It answers thirtysomething back-to-school, enough money for therapy, and rage all rolled into one.

    1. One solution to cheap therapy (that is not very likely) is, uh, not being set in the US. Being in a country that does not have a borked up healthcare system.
      (Someone actually noted that there’s a fanfiction trope that deals pretty heavily in the healthcare system, and fanfiction by US authors using that trope therefore involves a lot more danger than fanfiction by authors from other nations!)

      If Lily is studying or traveling overseas, then she could be doing part-time work at the local American-style diner, be in a place where past memories are relevant, and have access to cheap healthcare! (Because a diner certainly isn’t offering insurance benefits to a waitress.) And the Love Interest could actually have Viking heritage!

      1. If she’s associated with university, they’ll have therapists there. Which I know because I used Bowling Green’s. I wonder if colleges still do that. Well, this one will.

        1. Yes, colleges still have counselors on staff–well, when they are in session, which we aren’t now. In fact, I read some time ago that they are finding a greater need for therapists, b/c kids coming out of high school have more need for it. I forget why. Helicopter/snowplow parents? Generalized anxiety about life?

          I’m not getting why you can’t use Columbus or any other Ohio location (a great past life would be Oberlin College in mid or late 1800s, all that diversity with African Americans and women students. There used to be a great diner in downtown Dayton around 5th street, near the Neon Movies (which does still exist). It was bullet-shaped, all silver, with turquoise outside lights. Dayton would be a great setting–University of Dayton, which is Roman Catholic (Marianists) and Sinclair College, with Wright State nearby; cool urban cemetery (Woodland); Wright Brothers and all the inventors. And Yellow Springs for the off-kilter plots and restaurants, though none are diners and none open all night. I’m living in Springfield now, but have enough knowledge of Columbus to enjoy coming across a place I know in your novels. Not that it’s a reason to use Ohio, but I don’t see why no longer living here prohibits you from using it as a location.

          1. Oh, it doesn’t prohibit it. It just makes it harder to walk the terrain, as Bob would say. It’s been awhile since I’ve been there and I’ll get things wrong. Probably easier to make up a college town.

  12. Nothing helpful, just opinions/reactions.

    I do like that reincarnation is real, but no magic elements. Nothing against magic, but it’s a different book. I do think everyone reincarnates, but for the purposes of the book, I like it better if most people are oblivious (unless they get hit over the head with it enough to notice). I like it better if LITBN is not aware of any reincarnating he is doing, and that they can be out of synch in some lives.

    I bet Pangur knows all about it – he just doesn’t care because – cat.

    1. Pangur totally knows. And it took him 5 adult lives to train her properly on treats.

  13. Here’s what is snapping up in my head-

    Lily is 32, birthday in 2 months. She is walking around, and *somehow* gets conked on the head, and passes out. When she comes to, she starts having flashbacks (yes, I know) to her previous lives. She’s all “What the hell?!?” The friend at the diner is worried and finally tells her to go the the student health center for counseling, where she goes through every therapist on staff. She FINALLY meets Nadia.

    Seriously just typed as I thought. And that will be my creativity for the day.

  14. Jumping in here, so forgive me if this was said on an earlier post. If you’re looking for a way to make him viking esque, but also not too obvious, my mom’s side of the family (Swedish, Norwegian, etc.) look exactly how you expect vikings to look, just 7 inches shorter. Like they were once mighty warriors, but then the rest of the world slowly got taller over the centuries, and they just…didn’t.

    If you’re looking for a way to make him an illustrator, maybe he was a viking who made maps? (IDK if that’s historically accurate). Or maybe he was a viking who defected when they were raiding a monastery (def not historically accurate, but fun. Also then opens up the opportunity to give him a re-incarnated monk BFF).

    And now I’m trying to figure out the equivalent of a modern day monastery. Academia? Library? Commune? Writer’s retreat? Or just a literal monastery, which do still exist, and often host silent retreats for people looking to escape the world. In case we wanted a bunch of flustered monks running around in the background during the climax while they fight the big bad. Is there a big bad? Or is this a straight-up romcom that just happens to have death by ax as a feature?

    1. Oh, that’s interesting, academia as the new monastery. There are some excellent parallels there.

      1. If the setting is academia then maybe the therapy is cheaper because students need to practice? Maybe Nadia is sitting in on the original session to learn.

        A person who would be interested in Lily’s memories is a historian. Nadia could suggest bringing in someone from the campus who is a specialist in this era to work out if Lily is historically accurate or not – and when he realises she is, he wants more information…

        Lily doesn’t want to talk, which makes the historian appear like a minor antagonist at the start who stalks her for info, but perhaps the answer is in her past so really she has to talk and remember more to fix something.

        1. …and she thinks he helps her remember because he knows historical detail but actually it’s because she’s met him before.

      2. Also could be a progression–one of Lily’s past experiences was somehow in/with a monastery or convent, which would explain Pangur’s name and why she is the best at making from-scratch bread and soup at the diner.

  15. “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten”

    I may have misquoted, but that is what I think Lily is thinking, all these lives and if she doesn’t figure out why. she’ll be on number 14 and still clueless.

    Also she may have tried other things in other lives, met scam artists posing as mediums and hypnotists, wise women, different generations mean different fashions, past life, spiritualists, hunted up a voodoo priest etc, tried to get a curse taken off her

  16. Maybe she doesn’t want therapy but is required to find and attend anger management therapy as part of a plea deal? Maybe the incident that resulted in the plea deal is part of our story?

    1. I like this.

      Or she could begin therapy because she has an aversion linked to her past lives that is preventing her from moving forward.

      I vote for her seeing a counselor for treatment for some karmic behavior and then getting her memories back all at once with the ax incident. (Because I’m not sure that remembering past lives would be the impetus to see a therapist. Instead I’d probably talk it over with a friend and go online and try to research the time periods or maybe see a hypnotherapist?)

      I think I’ll really enjoy the vegan waitress.

      1. I have a friend who can’t stand odd numbers. For example, she can’t stand seeing 7 slices of pizza left in a box. Maybe Lilly has an aversion to the number 3, since she dies at 33. Though I don’t know why that would send her to therapy …

    2. Maybe she knocked out an SCA member who was waving an axe a little too close for comfort and has to see a therapist as part of the legal settlement?

  17. What if the best friend has a traditional name like Katharine, but doesn’t think it suits her lifestyle…
    So she names her self chamomile or some herb like that that she thinks might be better…
    I like the idea of if Lily doesn’t find out why she remembers these she will keep repeating the cycle…
    Or someone doesn’t want for Lily to remember what happened in one of the past lives…
    Also someone suggested that therapy would be too expensive for a waitress, but they have therapy sessions on a sliding scale…
    Or the Christian type of therapist who is disillusioned with her own life just a thought…
    And I understand you want the therapist to be a good therapist but you could have her struggle with wanting to be Friends with Lily or say you’re the only client that I’ve been tempted to be friends with…

  18. My sister and I have a running joke about wanting to have a massage from a strong (we say Swede, but a Norseman would work) named Sven. He’s big, strong and blonde. As soon as you mentioned Viking, I thought of Sven!

  19. I’d like to propose the name Nils for the love interest in memory of my brother’s best friend. He was tall, blond and Danish (exchange student), an army brat who moved every 2 years while growing up.That could tie in with memories of roving and raiding in previous lives .
    When Nils died a few years ago, he was teaching English at a technical high school and being a surrogate parent to lots of his students. Which could also explain how he got intro Lily’s diner. After hours of grading half-assed assignments, who doesn’t need a cup of coffee an a piece of pie?

    1. I could totally envision the scene after grading papers you go for your cup of coffee and for your piece of pie but then the best friend says why do you wanna eat that you could have something vegan which is a lot healthier…

  20. Bork! That’s the name the Swedish Chef calls out at the end of his songs. Bork! Bork! Bork!

    1. “The Chef is referred to by name in one episode, in which Danny Kaye plays his uncle. Kaye reels off a very long name but adds, “But we call him Tom” – much to the Chef’s amusement.”

      1. is a mighty (heh-heh) short list of names. Bjørn is on it, with this: “The name is often written simply as ‘Bjorn’ in English even though ø and o are different letters, and therefore different sounds, in Norwegian. Speak to a Norwegian to get the true sound, but to get you started it’s closer to ‘bjurn’ than ‘bjorn’.”

        I’d be tempted to name him Heimdallr and call him Himey. In one of those “How did they manage that” moments, the god Heimdallr has nine mothers. Not stepmothers, not mothers-in-law. Nine mothers. The delivery room had to be very crowded, yes?

  21. Exactly the scene I wanted, Lily and her best friend talking through the “am I crazy” part! Excellent.

    I think suddenly remembering past lives if you’d previously been a rational empiricist would be enough to send anyone to therapy. If she’s a grad student it could be sourced through the college and therefore affordable.

    Just on therapy for a moment, I know a lot of people want Nadia to become Lily’s friend or at least be tempted to, but please don’t. My mother is a psychologist, and the development of any kind of personal relationship is the point where therapy immediately stops. Betraying her professional ethics would be a terrible thing to do to a great character.

    I like reincarnation without magic. I especially like the idea on LI also reincarnating but not necessarily in synch. I don’t think the antagonist necessarily needs to make Lily remember, that could just be an unintended side effect of trying to kill her with an axe. But then why would someone want her dead? And if the axe was accidental, why would her suddenly remembering past lives be a problem for someone else? Unless an evil professor wants the illuminated manuscript she was helping Sebelius with and figures out she can help him find it, but then we’re back to The Mummy.

    This is why I’m not the one writing this book.

    1. Well, I don’t know the answers to any of those questions either and I am the one writing the (not really a) book.

      And I agree, Nadia stays a good, professional therapist and they do not become friends. It’s the psychotherapy version of the student/professor affair that makes my skin crawl. Terrible violation of power dynamics and trust.

      1. Exactly! This is a person in whom you are placing a huge amount of trust to provide you with objective medical treatment. There’s a duty of care that includes the clinician removing themselves from the situation if they can no longer provide objective care. Not doing so is a massive violation of your trust. It’s just squicky.

        1. I guess the difficult part, though, is that keeping the Lily/Nadia relationship strictly professional restricts Nadia’s relevance to the rest of the narrative. Why does Nadia get such a distinct introduction and characterization, if all of that personality isn’t going to be relevant to the story? Why is a therapist getting all of this prose real estate if their scenes together are ultimately only about Lily’s journey?
          Is it really satisfying in a romance to have a supporting character also go through some amount of the main plot and maybe a subplot, yet to end with them having only a professional relationship with the protagonist? Are there other fictional examples that I’m missing here?

          1. That’s an interesting thought. The redhead whom Shane meets at the beginning of Agnes and the Hitman turns out to be the bad guy/girl. Sophie and her baby sister meet Stephen and his wife who turns out to be the bad woman. Strange Bedfellows begins with Tess, Nick, and the Dancer who will be one of the members of the parallel couple.

            Well, Nadia might melt away like Mort or she might develop into a key player. I’m not convinced that she has to lose her professional distance to become a meaningful player.

          2. First, this is a discovery draft. That first scene may be cut completely.

            But in a finished draft, you’re absolutely right. Anybody who foregrounds as much as Nadia does in the first scene would be important. That’s why I’m thinking that Lily’s journey in this is equal to the romance. Women’s fiction.

            Also I really want to call her Lilly. No idea why. Nothing to do with Eli.

  22. If Pangur is a male cat, I think most if not all tortoiseshell cats are female. I know, I’m a party pooper.

    I didn’t used to believe in reincarnation (I had an open mind, but not convinced). Then I had a hypnotherapy session in which a past life just popped up, when we were working on something else. I remember coming out of it and asking my hypnotherapist, “Was that what I think it was?” And she said, “Well, if it makes you feel better, you can think of it as metaphorical, but in my experience, yes it was.”

    So maybe Lily started out with hypnotherapy for something else, and then stumbled across the trigger for remembering her previous lives.

    Also you or someone mentioned the love interest being a love interest across all the lives. Not usually the way it works, from what I’ve seen. There is usually a connection with the really important people that shows up in some (although not all) lives, but in one you may be husband and wife, in the next, mother and child. And that first life I remembered? I was a man. So that doesn’t stay consistent either.

    1. I think you’re right about the tortoise shell (or marmalade) cats normally being female. I have had a lot of cats in my life and the tortoise shell ones were always female – and cranky 🙂 .

      1. I thought it was calicos that were always male and torties were just, you know, anything.

    2. I thought that was calicos, but you’re right, it’s forties, too. However it does happen, so Pangur stays male.

  23. Re. a potential antagonist. Could there be somebody out there who benefits if Lily is declared insane or unfit to conduct her own affairs? Could she be the beneficiary of a trust that’s activated on her 35th birthday, however, management of the inheritance remains or reverts to a third party if she is declared incompetent. I know a couple who are tying up any potential inheritance for their offspring until said offspring are 35, and they’ve got arrangements in place to tie it up longer, depending on the offspring’s behavior.
    That gives Lily a strong motive to seek out therapy, regardless of the cost. Her goal is bigger than wanting to know what’s going on. She wants to secure her future. It also gives your antagonist a strong, non-magical motive to make life difficult for her.
    Just thoughts. The opening of my current novella is giving me fits. It gives me a lot of incentive to think about anything else. LOL

    1. Huh. 35? That’s helicopter parenting although chances are probably good they’ll still be there when the kids are 35 so they wouldn’t be inheriting anyway.

  24. It’s also tricky if someone wants to check regressed memories against historical facts. As someone whose hobby is genealogy, I know far too much history to be a good subject for past-life regression. The minute new evidence appears, the memories look fishy. And in any case, regressers (is that a word) tend, as a class, to remember the life where they were Eleanor of Aquitaine and not the other 99,999 lives when they were hard-scrabble peasants.

    For instance, the “our ancestors drank mostly beer and consequently were always somewhat drunk” truism is being seriously questioned by an Egyptologist who thinks the archaeological evidence looks more as if they drank the stuff before fermentation really took off (and it tasted terrible when her grad students replicated the probable method).

  25. If you’re looking for an actual setting, besides just a generic college town, what about Bethlehem, PA? It’s bigger than a town, but there are two universities, and it’s got a lot of atmosphere!

    1. You can make vegan pie. Although I , myself dot with butter, you could use pareve margarine and vegetable shortening in the crust.
      And if we are discussing college towns, let’s not forget Northfield, MN, home of both Carleton and St Olaf colleges.

      1. You can make a lot of vegan baked goods. And they can be really good if you know what you are doing. My son is a vegan baker. Sticky Fingers if you are in DC.

        1. My spouse is gluten and dairy free. It’s just easier to look for the gluten free and vegan labels. And major props to your son.

    2. I’ve never been there. While that’s irrelevant in the vast scheme of fiction, for this story, I need something I don’t have to research. I think the town is going to be fictional with a fictional college. Either that or Columbus. I lived in Columbus for a couple of years and did grad school at OSU, but that was a LONG time ago. Better to make up a town and just drawn on the college towns I’ve know. Actually, Antioch would be a better town to draw on. That’s an odd little place, in the best way. Plus they have an amazing Nature Preserve there.

      I loved teaching at Antioch. Most vivid memory: Pulling into the college and see students playing frisbee on the lawn in the rain, naked. I looked at the guys jumping for catches and thought, “Ouch.”

      1. I thought of YS–“The little town that time forgot,” as one of the bumper stickers has it. Walked today at John Bryan, which is connected to Glen Helen, the nature preserve. The nice thing about those places is that nothing much changes there, and the trees are so old. Could be an interesting past life, with THE yellow springs back when it was a health place, back during the days of water cures. (We’re not supposed to drink the water now, though some do.) People have probably been taking axes to the trees for centuries, though now it’s mostly to ones that come down in a storm and block the roads/trails.

        1. Oh, you live near there? I used to live in Alpha (a town that has one road about twenty houses) right down the highway. I loved Yellow Springs.

  26. And if we are discussing college towns, let’s not forget Northfield, MN, home of both Carleton and St Olaf colleges.

  27. How about Knut for a name? The name is derived from the Old Norse Knútr meaning “knot”. He could tie her up in knots (figuratively) or vice versa. Knut and his best mate Bjorn.

  28. Or Ulf? Deriving from Wolf? Which makes me think of Little Red Riding Hood and the woodcutter with his axe. I think I’ve gone off on a weird tangent here.

    1. I don’t think Ulf is going to make it as a name, but the Red Riding Hood story has always appealed and Lily is a redhead. So, hmmmm . . .

  29. How about Christian Kane for the Viking? I am comfort binging Leverage episodes right now – Love me some Eliot 🙂 Also he has a new TV show that starts on Monday called Almost Paradise. Already lined up to record. Any more participation in this is going to be me, being impressed by all ideas that are popping up. Being stoic and pragmatic has helped me the last few years but it is not the right mentality for imagination. I am loving reading all this!

    1. Oh, Eliot. I’m using him as a placeholder in another ongoing book–remember Paradise Park and Monday Street–because he’s just such a great character. Big Eliot fan here. Also Christian Kane. (Remember him on Angel? “Evil hand.”)

  30. Maybe the Viking is a paleontologist or archeologist and there used to be a stash of relics/bones in the town somewhere and he needs to look at them to confirm a theory. Only the relics/bones while still on the inventory or the museum/college aren’t actually there. Possibly they are found in Lily’s house or one of her friend’s houses (or the diner stockroom).

  31. Ooh, Lily could be an adjunct prof at the school. Then there’s also her classes, other profs, etc, but she also has to work at the diner because adjuncts are treated like CRAP. This could be part of why she’s angry, but also gives a bunch of potential for all the people and conflict and another place maybe the antagonist could be!

    1. Having been an adjunct, I concur. Although in my experience, grad students don’t get much better treatment.

  32. I don’t really get why Lily is going to a therapist in the first place either. The place where the first yukky therapist seemed to be working was all corporate — the phony polished affect, the phony greeting, the phony hair — all of that reminded me of corporate places I’ve worked in.

    On the other hand, if Lily is in graduate school, I’ve been there too and my antagonist was always my department head, whose job was to advance his own career, to advance the reputation of his department, to get published a lot, to schmooze people at conferences, and generally to perceive his graduate students as necessary evils to endure rather than nurture/help/or train.

    I can’t imagine that Lily expects to find someone to help her with her reincarnation experiences, but I can imagine that the department head sent her to a counselor type to make her stop talking about these things as if they were factual. Is that enough antagonism to build on?

    But then I can’t tell what Nadia sees in Lily either. It would have to be either “here’s an interesting problem” or “I think I could help her with this particular thing she’s wrestling with” or some recognition element in what Lily says in that conversation in her office. I’d like to know more about that.

    Could the LITBN look a little less like a buff Hemsworth and a little more like a gentle academic type like Giles in Buffy? Could be more of a Danish Viking — a little more cheese crispbread and sailing into the wind, and a little less of the axe-posing thing?

    1. See, here’s the thing about Discovery Drafts: I don’t know any of those things, either. I have to write to find out. And then I have to rewrite to organize the mass of stuff I’ve found out. If you think this is disorganized, Bob agrees with you. He almost lost his mind trying to write with me because he starts with a detailed outline and knows everything. The best approach is a combination of both.

      BUT . . . you’re making a lot of assumptions there based on your experiences. My department head in grad school was great, really worked to help me. I had my probably profs and students, but the heads I worked with were always great. The place where my therapist works has those white doors and halls, but it’s not corporate and she’s great. The place where my former therapist worked was in the same kind of office complex.

      It’s a problem because of course all readers do this; I only write half the book, and the readers collaborate by making the movie in their heads as they read. Honestly, all those white doors will probably go because I don’t think they add anything. But if you’ve been following along with Nita, you know a lot of this will go or change. Right now we’re just noodling around.

      And tomorrow I have to get to some serious noodling because I only have about eight lines of the next scene and they’re bad. Argh.

    1. You know, I’m trying to write this now, and I just do not have a grasp on this Viking. Usually, the love interest pretty much shows up shortly after I have a grip on who the protagonist is, so it may just be that I don’t have Lily yet. Plus I keep wanting to change her name to Lilly or Lil and that’s weird.

      Discovery draft. Just let it go, Jenny.

      1. Chris Hemsworth has a specific forwardness to him. If we’re looking for a more reserved buff blonde, how about Charlie Hunnam from Pacific Rim? People have compared his character there to a golden retriever before, and the way he was absolutely supportive of his partner Mako seems to fit what we want for Lily. There’s also The Hunger Games’ Peeta, the baker.
        Not a blonde, but you have Discworld’s Carrot as a large, friendly, and subtle hero.

        1. Big fan of Carrot.
          My big Carrot moment was the end of Men at Arms. That “hope he’s a bad man” bit.

  33. When I was in grad school I participated in some psych experiments (they actually paid a couple of bucks). I could see one of them sparking a memory that had been hidden.

    I suggest that any historian is a specialist in a completely non-Viking field. There are like 2 million ways to go wrong, and you definitely don’t want to (1) research or (2) explain every little thing to your readers. On the other hand, an artist who is fascinated in manuscripts or an SCA member who is totally dedicated to her specific chosen forebear is going to be fun. I think creators like those come from a different angle than total fact people.

    1. I like the idea of a big guy studying illuminated manuscripts. A modern Sebelius maybe.

      I just like the idea of illuminated manuscripts, actually.

      1. In the times of Lilly’s Viking raids, there were manuscripts that were made expressly for nunneries and royal women. The pronouns are all feminine. It’s possible women could have done some of the work, particularly the writing.

        Later in the middle ages, women worked in the manuscript-making business.

        Actually, women have always been huge readers of books.

  34. As far as female Vikings go, Lily could have been one herself in a past life. She could have been a female warrior. And living among them might not have made her any less averse to the male ones, especially if one of them challenged her authority and it led to her death. Or if she *thought* he caused her death.

    Also, I keep picturing this book as being in a patterned structure as she explores a few of the critical past lives, and starts to figure out what has repeated and gone awry each time, and learns a lesson from each one that moves her forward in the present-day timeline.

    1. I think there’s a patterned aspect to it, especially with Nadia. But it’s going to be linear just because of the complexity of all those different timelines. Even if all she’s doing is remembering, I need that simple structure.

      I am not happy about twelve timelines, though. I bet that’s gonna change.

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