Surprise Lily 1

Welcome to the Argh Novel Project, a multi-week exploration of fiction and the process by which . . . okay, it’s just us playing around but that’s good, too. We’re starting with the Surprise Lily first scene because that’s what most of the comments said, although I did some very light editing (took out some unnecessary words and omitted all the “smells bad” stuff because you people kept insisting on historical accuracy). There’s a page under Work In Progress in the blog menu above that I’ll try to keep updated so that all the stuff from this is one place, but that’s about as much organization as I’m capable of. New stuff goes up on Monday, we talk in the comments all week, on Friday I try to synthesize and you can comment on that, I write on Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday we start all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat. If this gets boring or it doesn’t work, we’ll do something else. No rules (some guidelines, no Should, no worries. Argh People, start your engines:

Lily looked at Dr. Ferris with what she hoped was patience but probably looked like contempt and tried to explain the situation again.

“In Ireland somewhere in the 800s, I think, I was walking along a cliff face near the Abbey when I saw the Viking ships. I was thirty-three and therefore a crone, but Vikings are surprisingly unpicky when it comes to rape and murder; it’s always closing time and mead-goggles for them. I picked up Pangur, Brother Sedulius’s cat, to run back to the Abbey, and saw this big blond guy coming at me on the path, pretty clearly a Viking come ashore early to scope the place out. This has turned out to be a pattern in my life. For some reason, I always get the early Viking. Anyway, I turned to run, and the path was rough, and he grabbed for me, and I tripped and fell over the cliff edge onto the rocks below, taking Pangur with me, although he doesn’t seem to be holding a grudge.” She thought of Pangur, waiting at home, expecting a treat in exchange for her betrayal of leaving him for three hours. Tuna maybe. “Anyway, we must have gone head first because we died pretty much instantly on the rocks, so aside from the fact that I was dead, it wasn’t too bad.” Lily looked at the therapist. “That was the first time.”

Dr. Ferris nodded, her plastic smile as firmly in place as every hair on her clearly dyed head. “And how often have you had this dream?”

Lily thought about throwing something at her. The woman had been annoying from the moment Lily had arrived—“Lily, I’m so glad you’re here”—and every instinct she had was telling her to go for the door, but she was on her fourth therapist and if she ditched another one, people might start thinking the problem was her.

“Lily?” Dr. Ferris said, heavily sympathetic.

Lily tried again. “It’s not a dream. It happened. And then I died and was reborn in the 900s and then I died and was reborn in 1000s and then–”

“Let’s go back to the first . . . memory,” Dr. Ferris said, nodding and smiling, obviously refraining from putting finger quotes around “memory” with great effort.

I wonder if there’s a Dr. Ferris bobble head doll. There was definitely a Dolores Umbridge bobble doll. She could paint the hair black and add a big smile like the clown in It and that would pretty much nail–

“Lily.” Dr. Ferris leaned forward, oozing sincerity in every pore. It smelled like flop sweat. “Do you think this might possibly be a buried fantasy, something you long for and can’t express?”

Lily looked at her with contempt. “Anybody who thinks Vikings are a fantasy hasn’t met a real one.” She stopped to think about the guy on the path. Her First Viking. Big. Blond. Caused her death. And her cat’s death. Well, Brother Sedulius’s cat, but after twelve reincarnations, pretty much her cat–


“Vikings are not a fantasy.”

Dr. Ferris blinked. “Actually, they are for many people.”

“Those are fantasy Vikings, not the real thing. I have it on good authority that their foreplay involved an ax. ‘Brace yourself, Bridget’ is not a joke.” Dr. Ferris looked confused and Lily gave up. “Look, this isn’t going to work as long as you think I’m crazy.”

“I don’t think you’re crazy–”

“You think I have difficulty telling the difference between fantasy and reality.”

Dr. Ferris smiled a healing smile. “Who amongst us doesn’t?”

“Me. I have enough reality for thirteen people, and I need help dealing with it. That will clearly not be coming from you.” Lily stood up. “I’m sorry Dr. Ferris, but just no.”

Wait.” Dr. Ferris stood up, showing real emotion for the first time.

“You’ve already decided that I’m delusional and your job is to help me see the truth. But I just told you the truth, so we’re never going to get anywhere. I need somebody who can think outside the therapy box, not somebody who will be the box.” Lily hoisted her bag onto her shoulder. “I wish you the best. Stop dying your hair, it makes you look older.”

“Ah,” Dr. Ferris said, smiling again. “Anger. That can be very productive. I really think–”

Lily narrowed her eyes. “I’ve been angry for thirty-three years and thirteen lifetimes, some of them tragically short. Hasn’t produced a thing except this line between my eyebrows. See it? Looks like it was made by a very small ax, doesn’t it? Vikings. Hate ‘em. Starting to hate you, and one day you will again tell me my past lives are all dreams, and I will pick up your stapler and thwap you with it. I’m saving us both a lot of time and trouble by ending this because this is not good for either of us. Or your stapler.”

Dr. Ferris stopped smiling. “Fine.” She took a deep angry breath. “You want outside the box? Come with me.”

She opened the door and went out into the white plastic maze that held the offices of Crispin Therapy (a division of Atlantic Health), and Lily followed her, curious more than anything.

Two turns later, Dr. Ferris stopped in front of another white door and knocked.

How does she tell all these white doors apart? Lily thought, and then the door opened, and Dr. Ferris said, “Nadia?” and Lily looked past her and saw a tall black woman with a streak of blue in her hair wearing a T-shirt that said, “Do I look like a fucking people person?”

“What now, Carolyn?” the woman said. “Did I park outside the lines again?”

“This is Lily,” Dr. Ferris said, her smile gone along with the lilt in her voice. “She needs a therapist who thinks . . .” She made finger quotes. “‘Outside the box.’”

Nadia looked at her with exaggerated patience. “I am—” She made finger quotes, too. “‘Not Working Today.’ Hence this t-shirt.” She looked past Ferris at Lily. “Nothing personal.”

“Completely understandable,” Lily said.

“Lily thinks she’s been reincarnated thirteen times,” Ferris said, contempt dripping from her voice.

“Twelve times,” Lily said. “Twelve reincarnations, thirteen lives.”

Nadia sighed. “Maybe she has been reincarnated twelve times.”

“So I brought her to you,” Ferris went on. “You are definitely outside the box. I don’t think you’d know a box if you saw one.”

“I know boxes, I just avoid them,” Nadia said, with an undercurrent that said, I’m going to slam this door in your face now.

Lily nodded. “That’s how I feel about Vikings. They’re always there, but you don’t have to make them part of your life.”

Nadia raised her eyebrows. “Lotta Vikings in your life?”

“Not always. I died in childbirth—my birth, not giving birth—four times, and then there was the Plague, and don’t ever let anybody tell you a ship is unsinkable, but Vikings show up often enough that they’re a definite theme in my lives. Show me a tall, drunk, blond guy who spends a lot of time flexing, and sooner or later, he’s gonna kill me, probably with an ax.”

Nadia blinked. “Hello, Lily. Come on in.”

“I like your t-shirt,” Lily said, and went in.


Okay, we can talk about anything you want, but some of the things I need to know before I write something this weekend are . . .

1. What’s the next scene? That is, what do you WANT to see next? (NO SHOULDS.) (We need T-shirts with that on it.)

2. We’re gonna need some more people in this world. I do not want a cast list here, that’ll just emerge naturally as we write, I just need who you want to see in the next scene. (Writing Wonk Note: This is the Expectation part of Want. Expectation is the fun part of reading. As in, “Oooh, oooh, I bet/hope/WANT this happens/to happen next.”)

3. Where do you want it to be? (Setting is another character, has a huge impact on scene.)

Just FYI: Everything is open here (except (1) good therapists do not have love affairs with their patients so Nadia stays a good therapist, and (2) the cat does not die except in those previous lives. Also, I have no idea if Lily really has had those previous lives. Everything I know is in the scene above.

Over to you all.

203 thoughts on “Surprise Lily 1

  1. I want to meet the cat! And see Lily’s home. So I’d like the next scene to be her coming home. She can tell Pangur about her meeting with Nadia.

  2. I want to meet the cat. I want to hear about one of the longer lives, maybe a proper scene with a Viking in it.

  3. I want to meet the Viking and I want him to look like Thor! Well, like Chris Hemsworth as Thor.

    Except maybe he’s a hippy Thor who grows organic veges and teaches yoga and makes macrame wall hangings.

    1. I want to meet the Viking, too! This is my third try at posting a comment — they seem to be getting eaten — but I want the Viking, with glasses, in a bookstore or library. And I’d really like him to eventually take Lily sailing, because I love sailing and I wish I was on a boat right now.

      1. I want to meet the Viking, too. I want him to be warrior-like in a modern day setting, maybe with cats. Like, herding cats. Or a vet who herds cats? Or a vet who keeps all the sick cats at his house? Something that ties Pangur in.

        As for setting: I would like a small city, but anywhere. Someplace where they could go to a nice restaurant, but they might run into people they know on the street. And maybe on a body of water, so they could go sailing. 🙂

        1. Small city is good. Water, maybe not so much because of all the drowning Lily’s done. At some point, we’re going to have to look at those deaths.

          Herding cats? There’s a man on a suicide mission.

  4. I want to see her first full conversation with Nadia. Possibly at Crispin Therapy – I’d like to see how Nadia reacts to her own workplace.

  5. I want to know who her viking is this time, and how she can keep herself from dying. Something about not having to do the same thing lifetime after lifetime – this time she gets to live her life her way

  6. Something that struck me as interesting is that Lily is now on her 13th life, and 13 is often – at least in the Western world – seen as an unlucky number (You know, never seat-row 13 in airplanes, never a floor 13 in a building a.s.o). However, for Lily perhaps lifetime 13 might be the best one yet. 🙂 The lifetime where a Viking doesn’t bring misfortune but…all the good times.

    I’m sorta split between wanting to see more of Lily and Nadia in the next scene or the Viking. Or Dr. Ferris treating the Viking and complaining about her previous patient because Dr. Ferris feels like a bad guy (Girl? Hag?) to me. She could probably mess things up in all sorts of annoying ways for Lily and mr. Viking.
    I hope she ends up in a very small, tight box somewhere along the way.

      1. 33 is a thing for me. It’s the Christ year (Christ died at 33) and things often happen to Christians in their 33rd year. Probably self-fulfilling prophecy for anybody who was forced to go to church for the first sixteen years of their lives, not to mention all the people who went voluntarily. It’s not essential and it can go, it’s just a default age for my heroines. No idea how many have been thirty-three; I know Shar and Nina weren’t.

      1. My comment above was actually intended to post right underneath Shass’ remark.

    1. I was thinking Dr. Ferris is less a bad guy than a tool. She seems so rigid in her viewpoint that she could be easily manipulated.

      1. I’m not sure what the hell Dr. Ferris is, except for a version of my last therapist. I may just have been venting some anger there. She’s definitely not the antagonist.

    2. The Viking comes in for a therapist because he has been reincarnated 13 times? Ends up down the hall with Nadia too?

  7. I was going to say I want to meet the Viking next, but then I read Andrea’s comment and now I must meet Pangur. Would a scene in Pangur’s POV be too much to ask?

      1. I know you could do dachshund point of view, but cat might be harder. And he was a monkish cat to begin with.

  8. Okay, another thought. Mr. Viking turns out to be Pangur’s new vet. We meet both at the same time.

    1. Of course, I don’t have a reason here that moves story along. Still need an antagonist, and a goal beyond just surviving for Lily – unless this is Nadia’s story.

  9. I want to know what the line “I’ve been angry for thirty-three years and thirteen lifetimes, some of them tragically short” means.

    Is she 33 years old now? The first time she dies she is 33 years old, and the only other times she mentions are times she died in childbirth “my own, not giving” so does she believe she can’t live past 33? Is that why she’s reached out to a therapist – to see if she can make it past 33 this time?

    I want to know if she’s tried therapy before. Or in the case of past lives, whatever would have passed for therapy at the time. And what was her goal in going to therapy in the first place? To break the cycle? Or does she not mind being reincarnated, she just wants to understand it more?

    What if she is 33 (or maybe 32 and soon to turn 33) and this is her 13th life and she believes this could her last chance to break the reincarnation cycle and live “normally?”

    None of this has to come in the immediate next scene, but you said we don’t have to think chronologically. 🙂

    Also – I’m on board with the Viking veterinarian!! And I agree that 13 lives has to have some deeper meaning to the plot. 🙂

  10. Erm, might be a prickly topic, but can at least one of Lily’s love interests (current or past life) be a woman?
    I mean, in what world is the early Viking not a woman? Do we really see a dude Viking meeting the sunrise after a night of hard drinking?

    As for what I’d like to see for a next scene, is something Lily really wrestling (physically or verbally) with an antagonist. Get a sense for what the conflict might look like for this story outside of just getting dismissed by people for her claims. For characters I’d like to see, we’d have Lily, the antagonist (who might or might not also be the love interest), an ally/friend/family character (who might or might not also be the love interest), and some sort of wildcard character who either keeps prodding things to escalate, or provides stakes, in the event that Lily and the antagonist keep escalating the situation themselves.

    1. Why wouldn’t a Viking meet the sunrise after a night of drinking? Those guys were tough.

      No problem with one of the Vikings being a woman. Not sure what it accomplishes aside from diversity. And yes, it has to have meaning besides political correctness. I’m fine with it, but I have a feeling it’s going to turn into a Mort.

      1. I think it might just be interesting to see how our perceptions of the romance and their romantic dynamic changes when Lily’s love interest is a woman, depending on which lifetime (and so which time period) they’re in. You’re right that in the present, it wouldn’t have to change much, but then why not do it? That it doesn’t have to have political meaning is part of the fun. Any of the other details regarding the potential love interest (gender, race, nationality, a cat lover vs. dog lover, a viking vs. a veterinarian) all have influence on the resulting dynamic just from personality and chemistry standpoints, even when excluding political implications. So I’m not angling for political meaning, I’m angling for narrative meaning.

        For example, does Lily herself change gender/race/sexuality between lifetimes? Each answer opens up different storyline possibilities.

        1. Yes, but you’re forgetting I don’t do flashbacks. So it would all have to be done in memory, and the memory would have to be evoked by something in the now of the story, and therefore be cogent in the now of the story.

          This is not something that’s a must for all writers, but I am firmly in the cohort that says Flashback Kills, in this case story momentum. I am not a leisurely storyteller, possibly because I’m not a poet. Nobody lingers over the beauty of my prose, which is why I must stay fluid and unpredictable.

          1. In that Lily is remembering her previous lifetimes, though, who she was and who she loved in the past will influence her preferences in the now, without requiring flashbacks. In turn, if we go with “the love interest is reincarnating along with Lily,” who they were and who they loved in the past will have influence on their personality and preferences in the now, regardless of if they remember their past lives, as well.

            These aren’t world-building things that have to explicitly make it into the text, but nonetheless shape what does make it into the text.

            And, anyways, some of this is, indeed, making it into the text already. How do things change if in the situation Lily is explaining to Dr. Ferris in this very scene, the viking that grabbed for her on the cliff was a big blonde woman?

          2. Right about subtext and subconscious.

            It changes things a lot if the Viking who kills her the first time is female, which of course is your point. How does it change things?

            And even more, what does that have to do with the story? That is, it introduces another color to the painting. If this is going to be part of the underpainting, then it’s going to have a major impact, it’s going to be in large part what the story is about, in the same way it’ll be what the story is about if it’s a guy who grabs her the first time. None of which means that it can’t be that. It just means it changes the story, in the same way it changes the story if the first grab isn’t from a Viking. Or the cat is a dog. Or her name isn’t Lily. We can change all of those, and very possibly will, but every change changes the story.

            Or to put it another way, after you write your first scene, you have eliminated 90% of your choices for the story. So the first scene was written with a male causing her death. If you change that to a female, the entire book shifts and now the 10% of our choices that remain are different, including the new assumption that she’ll end up with a female lover/killer/whatever because that’s the important thing that’s been foreshadowed. First scenes pretty much establish what the reader needs for closure. That’s why they get rewritten so much, trying to bring them into line with the place the story eventually goes.

            I’m fine with Lily being bi, although I’m not sure how that plays into the story because I don’t know what the story is yet. It will have an effect, though, unless it’s just in there to be trendy which would be annoying. So it has to be a major part of the story . . .


          3. Yeah, I’m not all “Lily MUST end up with a woman” or anything. Something like The Good Place, where Eleanor Shellstrop’s bisexuality is only expressed by how she is somewhat attracted the capable women in her life, despite ultimately ending with Chidi, would still be interesting.

            That’s why it’s hard for me to come up with further suggestions until I read a scene with more of the main conflict. Or on the other side, a scene with the biggest driver of comedy. Either of those things would clarify what sort of details are still up for grabs, which parts we can riff on with variations.

            Besides, it doesn’t necessarily have to be Lily loving ladies, either. Nadia’s description sounds like a few real life queer therapists I know, or there’s a potential comedy/character development thread contrasting Dr. Ferris’s straight-laced first impression to actually having a lady life partner that we don’t know about yet. This first scene seems to be setting up Lily and Nadia having that best-friendship chemistry, but another model would be Lily and Dr. Ferris growing to overcome their differences through the crucible of plot shenanigans.

          4. See, Lily and Nadia cannot be best friends because that screws with therapist/client relationship.

            This stuff we’re doing now is discovery. Remember when Nita had a brother. For like three years, Mort was in there. Everything changes.

            But you’re doing this right, asking about things that would be intriguing/fun/interesting for you as a reader. Plus you’re making me think, always a good thing.

          5. “See, Lily and Nadia cannot be best friends because that screws with therapist/client relationship.”

            That could be a plot arc, though, involving the relationships between the three women. At first, it appears that Lily and Nadia are more compatible, since Nadia is more willing to hear Lily out. However, their chemistry is more than professional, and they decide that they’re better off as friends. Meanwhile, Dr. Ferris is learning to become both a better friend (to Nadia) and a better therapist (to Lily).
            Unfortunately, that takes up a whole bunch of story real estate that isn’t romance. And assumes that Dr. Ferris won’t be a disposable character. Unless the Dr. Ferris-Nadia relationship is made the secondary pair dynamic (romantic or not) to the primary pair of Lily and her love interest? As others have said, there’s room for everyone and anyone to also be reincarnating around. Maybe in every life Lily tries to confide in someone about her lives, and that someone always dismisses her concerns as fantasy (which, hilariously, would sometimes puts that someone as the weird one, in past time periods when belief in reincarnation and magic would have been accepted).

      2. Apparently there were a lot of female Vikings but archaologists just assumed they were male and didn’t bother to look at the bones .

        Somehow this feels like Jenny territory. Angry women with axes…

        And later centuries having confused men about how could this person with an ax be female.

        I don’t think Lily is in that therapy room voluntarily. Maybe court order? Maybe her job made her go? Those don’t feel right .

        But you have to admire her directness. She knows they wont believe her and she tells them anyway.

  11. I want to meet Erik. What is his job? Give him something very unusual – he could be working as a fact-checker for a national news company. That would make him rather weary of Lily’s reincarnation story.

  12. Why is Nadia a therapist if she is not a people person? Why is Nadia in her office if she is not working today?

    I want a conversation between Nadia and Lily in which something huge is revealed — something like Nadia working with VIKING, a loose, secret group investigating the sudden phenomenon of people remembering past lives that involved Vikings (not necessarily killer Vikings). The group includes all sorts of scientists and paranormal specialists and such.

    1. She’s got paperwork like everybody else.

      I can see her not being a people person but still being fascinated by the clinical aspects. Or she’s just a snarky bitch and thinks the t-shirt is funny.

    2. You can be an introvert and still want to help people. Or you can have an umbrella of disgust for humanity at large… Sometimes it’s earned.

    3. I’m not a people person, but I’m a person person. One on one, I like people. More than that, not as much. So that could be the case for her as well.

  13. I would vote for a short bit of one of Mr. Viking’s earlier lives. Not anything that has to do with Lily, but just something that give me an idea who he is (was) from his view of the world. Why, you ask? No idea, just what came to mind if Nadia is not the next thing up.

    So fun, thank you for doing this.

  14. My instinct is that the next scene is from the POV of the early Viking. I love the idea of him being like Diann said, very non-flex-y. I feel like a session between Lily and Nadia at this point would be fun and interesting but borderline info dump. Our curiosity is already piqued with the first meeting.

    (Pumpkin the cat’s comment at this point is 6+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++9 because he plopped his rump down on the number keypad. Perhaps he also wants to hear from Pangur Ban.)

    I think from the comments we are invested in Lily being right not delusional. Is it possible that Erik the Viking Florist (I keep seeing a flower shop and not just because Lily is a flower) has been reincarnated too? If he has changed and mellowed over the lifetimes, whether he remembers them or not, maybe this time he might eventually save Lily’s life with an ax?

    I have no idea who the antagonist is but my vote is someone from this life rather than a reincarnated enemy. I don’t know if its someone who knows about the reincarnation or not, knowing seems to open up the playing field a little. Maybe someone who knows about Lily’s past history with the early Viking and wants to convince her to get rid of Erik before he gets rid of her? Or maybe Erik isn’t the early Viking at all, just some big blond patsy and the antagonist figures the best way to get Lily out of the way is to put her in jail/insane asylum for murdering some poor innocent florist that she is convinced killed her in a past life.

    1. I was thinking that maybe Eric the Viking is a minion as well, cannon fodder for an antagonist evil captain ( or Viking equivalent.) He could be dumb, or dutiful and loyal, in need of character growth.

      I guess I am rooting for Pangur to be a magician of some type, or a hero trapped in cat form hiding from the evil big bad. Of course magic and supernatural might not be where we want to go, taking a break from Nita. It’s just one of my favorite genres 🙂

        1. Interesting question: Is reincarnation magic? Because I don’t think so. It’s a belief system, certainly. Sort of like communion is magic?

  15. Is her current Viking the same Viking? Is he remembering past lives, too? No, probably not. He’d be a complete asshole, remembering being a rapist for lifetimes.

    I don’t want him to be a Jamaican field goal kicker playing for a Minnesota football team, either. That might be interesting, but…

    Better? He’s first seat saxophonist for the civic orchestra where she lives, and he wields a mighty axe. He’s killing her softly with his song? (Guitars are also called axes. It’s an alternative.)

  16. 1.) I really like that the finger quotes is a running three beat thing in the first scene…and think it would be fun to see it run through the story
    2.) I get a chuckle out of the thought that the “Viking’s” (see what I did with the quotes there?) name might be “Axel” so that in the end, a Viking Axe gets her again…but in a good way.
    3.) On a research level…I’m wondering more about Norse mythology … I know a little bit about the trickster Loki and Thor and their father Odin…but I’m wondering which Nordic god(dess?) might be involved in reincarnation..and if Lily is like repressing her own Goddess self or something (but not like in a 50 shades way! More like in an unrealized ancestory type of way)

    1. As I remember my Norse Mythology, they didn’t go for reincarnation. You died, you went to one of the afterlives like Valhalla, which always sounded like a never-ending frat party to me. Goddess of the Underworld was Hel, I think. Frigg the mother goddess, Freya, goddess of love? I will have to review.

      1. yes, some of those are ringing bells for me too. And I also realized…she’s Irish…so maybe it’s the Celtic mythology that is causing the reincarnation? At any rate…some good excuses to go look up fun Irish/Viking mythology stories for me…!

        1. Which reminds me…is she still in Ireland? Or did she emigrate in an unsinkable ship? Because “a division of Atlanta Health” sounds like the kind of healthcare system we would have here in the USA…which is where I placed her in my head…but that might not be so?

      2. Is reincarnation a curse to the Norse people because really you want to go on to the afterlife? I’m having a bit of a problem with the deaths not having a theme. If you die being born then you can’t have done anything in that life to trigger it. And a viking probably isn’t involved. But if it’s a curse from the first life then that covers everything. The goal is to break the curse and live long and then die permanently like a normal person.

        1. Oh, that’s interesting. “You’ll never get to Valhalla this way.”
          And yeah, those deaths have to have meaning. Fingers crossed that will become evident along the way.

  17. Long time listener, first time caller here. I’ve been lurking for a long time and now my enjoyment of the first scene from Surprise Lily is overwhelming my nervousness over commenting in front of elder Argh statesmen.

    My vote for story direction would be that Lily isn’t the only one stuck in this reincarnation loop. That Erik, and maybe one or two other characters we’ve yet to meet, are also living their 13th life and trying to figure out how to stop themselves from completing the same actions. Dying for Lilly, murdering for Erik, and so forth. I think it brings up a lot of interesting free will versus destiny ideas. Plus, they could form a team and work together and then you have a pseudo-heist story.

    So my suggestion for next scene would be an introduction of Erik, or someone else, sort of muttering to themselves throughout the day, “Step 1, no murdering” or whatever.

    1. The key is, do they know they’ve been reincarnated. I think I was thinking that Lily had just been hit on the head and it did something to the part of her brain that suppressed the memory. So if Erik (or Lief or whoever) is a repeater, he might not know it. That could be more fun.

      ETA: WELCOME OUT OF LURK. We have cookies. They’re virtual, but we have them.

      1. Now I’m think about how would you prove to someone that you knew them in a past life. If it’s a hit on the head for Lily, maybe it’s a moment of extreme deja vu for another character. Being in the same place, with the same person, as a significant event in a past life.

        Thanks for the welcome and the cookies. Because I’ll be honest — I have not used what some people would call “any kind of useful system” for my snack foods during this time. I have ten individually wrapped Reese’s cups and two Little Debbies left. I am on strict rationing. It’s depressing.

      2. Could Lily accidentally brain Erik the Viking and trigger his memories? I have a sudden vision of him regaining consciousness with Lily leaning over him, and freaking out because he’s seen this before.

      3. I love the idea of Erik not realising he’s been reincarnated, but having nightmares about murdering and raping people. Then we could have an arc of him coming to terms with his murderous past and breaking that pattern.

        Maybe he finally gets up his courage and goes to see a therapist about these nightmare and ends up seeing Ferris.

        And in spite of that, I’d love this to be a romcom. Jokes, I needs them.

      4. I like the idea of a blow to the head helping Lily remember her past lives, and I really like the idea of Erik suddenly remembering his partway through the story and freaking out. Although now that I’ve typed that, I’m remembering what happens to Nick in Act 3 of Nita. Hmm.

        I would prefer that he hadn’t been a rapist though. I know it’s historically accurate, but it depresses the hell out of me.

        1. Yeah, no rape. There’s no way to make rape funny, although Erik the Viking (movie) tried.

          And good point about Nick, except he forgets who he is now and starts rewinding his past lives. And he’d never forgotten them. So it’s not an exact analogue, but close.

  18. Oh, so many GREAT ideas. I definitely want the previous lives to be real. I’m intrigued by several suggestions for the next scene, but I’m leaning towards the next scene being a conversation and/or first session between Lily and Nadia. And really, 13th lifetime? We have to at least reference The Doctor, don’t we?

  19. Did the Viking already get named Erik? I married a Viking (such as they are in this day and age), and he comes with many Viking relatives. The most common names amongst them are Lars, Hans, Christian, and Peter. Just a thought, if this one is not yet named.

    So, what I would love to see in the next scene is whatever-his-name-is. Maybe near water, and the thing Lily hates most about Vikings–after their propensity to carry axes–is their love of being in/near the water. Especially since she went down with a ship in a past life.

    I’m still pondering what the point of his scene might be, though. It would be nice to see it mirror Lily’s first scene in some way.

    1. Yeah, Erik was just a throwback to Erik the Viking one of the weirder Python movies. Name is completely open.

      You married a Viking? You could be useful (g).

      Hmmm, water as a theme. She died on the rocks the first time and went down with the ship . . .

      I almost drowned once (asthma attack and an undertow) and since then I have not been in the ocean. Bob tried to get me to go in when we were in Hawaii on the theory get-back-on-the-horse theory and I couldn’t do it. That could be interesting.

        1. Nope. Never read fiction for research. Which is not a jab at Sandy Hill, who’s a sweetheart.

    2. I expect Christian and Peter weren’t Viking names before christianisation. And christians wouldn’t sack an abbey, one hopes.
      Was the abbey a monastery with monks (brother Sedulius seems to indicate that)? So was Lily a lay servant – did they have female lay servants? Or was she a nun from the convent next door?

      1. “And Christians wouldn’t sack an abbey, one hopes.” See Henry VIII. (I think it was 8. His dad was a bastard, too, though.)

        Lily as a nun cracks me up. I think that has to go in. Maybe she trips on her habit and that’s why she goes over the cliff.

        Brother Sebelius ended up in there because he wrote the original Pangur poem, supposedly.

        1. Yes, well, Henry VIII had his reasons. He was cross with the pope. And he did it in a modern bureaucratic way.

          1. So he could get rid of his wife and marry his mistress, who gave birth to one of the greatest rulers in history, and then had her beheaded because she didn’t give him a son. Henry the VIII could have been great. Instead he was an asshat.

      2. I was thinking of names for the current- day timeline, not previous lives :-). Not sure they wouldn’t sack an abbey, though. There’s a church in Denmark that’s famous for being the place where uprisers tracked down and killed the king, who had gone there for sanctuary. (Or something like that; might have some of the details fuzzy.)

          1. There is a town named Hell in Norway. Wikipedia says if currently has a grocery store, gas station, a fast food shop, and a retirement home

        1. If it helps, I worked with (still have contact with) a real present day Viking. His name is Bjorne, is a Norwegian naval officer, has a weekend house with sauna up in the mountains over a fjord north of Oslo.

          Tall broad-shouldered intense. Looks like he walked out of Central Casting for a Viking movie (except he’s not blond — but most of the Norwegians and Swedes I know are not).

          Oh, yeah, and he’s just finishing up his PhD in (military) history… 😁 A damned smart Viking.

          Have you seen the series Norsemen? It was filmed in Norwegian and in English (they literally shot everything twice, as the English is the original actors, not dubbing).

          It’s totally hilarious (yes, a Viking comedy) and one of the fiercest of the warriors is a tall gorgeous blonde woman who is highly revered by her male comrades.

          1. Well, I see that the damned autocorrect changed my friend’s name from Björn to Bjorne. 🤬

          2. And then I se that when I corrected autocorrect, I changed his name to Björn, when it’s, in fact, Bjørn!


  20. I was wondering if the Viking who kills her is the same one reincarnated over and over again too. Only in this life, he just wants to be “normal”.

    1. I’m thinking we don’t know for sure that he kills her. He was grabbing for her the first time but maybe he thought she was going over the edge.

      Maybe he went with her, trying to save her.

      And now they’re stuck in the cycle? He has to save her (shades of all those damn “Can he protect her?” romances that make me cringe). Sometimes he doesn’t have a chance–she dies as a newborn–and sometimes it’s beyond his control–the Plague–but the other times he was trying to help?

      Of course, the big question would be WHY? Why are they stuck in this loop?

      I didn’t know WTF was going on with Nita’s island for a long time. Maybe we just let that one emerge.

      1. Maybe it’s not “can he save her” but is he parked next to her in the Target lot and notices that she has brake fluid pooling under her car.

        1. I love those little things. Like Agnes’s air conditioner, or Zack bringing Lucy the stray dog.
          Also, competence porn.

      2. I like the idea that the Viking is always trying to save her, but her prejudice against Vikings makes her think the opposite. And maybe in this timeline she finally realizes it.

        1. There is a town named Hell in Norway. Wikipedia says if currently has a grocery store, gas station, a fast food shop, and a retirement home

      3. I definitely thought when I read this that he didn’t kill her.

        And in the loop, they could take turns trying to save each other.

  21. Hi everyone, another un-lurker here. Basically a ditto of what Remy said.

    I love the idea of the Viking florist. Maybe he is recuperating there after a traumatic job/injury/ptsd (fireman? Shipbuilder? Not many jobs nowadays require an axe) and is now helping a friend/ relative at the flower shop as part of his therapy but it is so not in his skill set so humor happens. And maybe the injury jarred something and now he is having flashbacks to previous lives.

    1. LOL, we know he has a poem. That’s where he came from, he’s my fave not-Anglo-Saxon (stand down, Jane) poem.
      I think this is Pangur’s thirteenth life, but that’s open. Everything’s open.

  22. I’m interested in her house, does she have things that remind her of key moments in previous lives or a board/collage of all the things she can remember, trying to keep track of it all. Also the cat turns up every lifetime, could be in so many different ways…

    1. Oh, that’s an idea. What suppressed memories does she have from previous lives that have affected what she chooses now?”Well, we already know she’s anti-Viking and anti-water (I think we know that). And she has Pangur.

      What the hell did she do in those past lives? I’m thinking a weaver in the beginning, but that’s just because that’s what I know how to do.

    2. Maybe she does something creative to unlock her subconscious? Would love another book about a painter…

    3. Way back when I was reading historical romances I read a book I think was titled The Velvet Promise by Jude Deveraux (maybe) and in that book her heroine wore a belt (girdle) from the time period. Over the course of books following, remnants of that belt would show up through the centuries. I could be wrong but what remained was a brooch. Would it be fair to steal an idea? It’s not going to be published, this is for fun.

  23. I’m so happy about Surprise Lily. I hope the reincarnations are real.

    What if the Viking is a treasure hunter? Like Rick O Connel from the Mummy? Lily and the Viking are vital to an ancient prophecy. A secret society keeps arranging their accidents/deaths. Even he suffers tragic, untimely deaths. That explains why they are trapped in a cycle. Unfinished business.

    Could it be set in a cold place with lots of baked goods?
    It could be a mix of comedy and suspense.

    Lily and the Viking staying alive could lead to unleashing an evil, trapped Norse God which gives them a common enemy.

    Love the idea of the cat’s pov. Is it a normal cat or a magic cat?

    1. Love the idea of baked goods. Not opening a bakery, though. That’s been done. Maybe the diner has baked goods? Of course, the diner has baked goods, every diner has pie.

      I am always in favor of Rick O’Connell.

      Aside from being reincarnated, I vote for Pangur being a normal cat. I think.

      I’m starting to think the key to figuring out the plot is figuring out the reincarnations, but we have plenty of time for that.

  24. I’m totally intrigued with Nadia at this moment. I love snarky, smart and I love the idea of finding deep connections with total strangers. I love making new friends, even at an advanced age, or maybe especially at an old age what with accumulated wisdom and all. But do therapists avoid that?

    So ok fine–I’m good with “just” a smart therapist. Nadia seems to be a curious, imaginative, discerning professional and I’ll bet she’s already started spinning a lot of plates on sticks when she invites Lily in. What are those plates about?

    But first I want to know more about Nadia please. In the very next chapter.

  25. Why is she having therapy? I want to know. Is she afraid to die again? Has she met a viking and hopes to avoid death this time? Did someone order her to have therapy? The police? Her boss? Why is she in that office?

    1. I think I had in the back of my mind that she’d almost been hit by an ax and something else had hit her in the head and that’s why she remembered her previous lives, and she was on leave until somebody could pronounce her sane. BUT I think that was just me and certainly not supported by any kind of research. I think finding out you’d died twelve times in the past would send anybody into therapy, but I’m on my twelfth therapist in real life, so I tend to think that way anyway.

      1. It’s frustrating to try to find the right therapist. The one I found retired.

        I’ve tried two since. One was a clear no go. The second was not bad, but also not good. He was nice, but meh.

        I’ve left messages for several that don’t return calls. It’s a strange thing.

      2. A Ren Fair accident? That would be a triggering event for memories, but think how daft you would sound saying you had remembered a past life in the middle of a historical reconstruction. Of course people would think you were crazy/highly suggestible.

        1. A Renn Faire would have axes. That’s the key. Unless there’s a infestation of lumberjacks, axes aren’t that common.

          1. If she’s not married/childless, it’d make it difficult for her to be a den mother or Girl Scout leader. Scouts have axes. Or just have them for firewood if they live in a place like yours. Do you have a fireplace or wood stove? Does a neighbor?

          2. Norman/Eric could have a crotchety/mean/contrary grandmother, who is an old battleaxe – or is that too meta?

          3. Much too meta.
            So you’re going with Norman the Norman? Very Dad joke, Gary, but I laughed anyway.

      3. Ax throwing places keep popping up around here. People go for fun and throw axes with friends. Could be she had an accident at a team building event for work at one of those places?

  26. Lily needs a best friend. Every woman needs a best friend. My Nancy is the best best friend in the known universe, and has been for 34 years. I can’t stay sane without her!

  27. I want to know why Lily decided she needed a therapist when she’s already gone through a full course of folks who haven’t believed her. Sounds like you’re already thinking about that, as well as how all those past lives play into the present.
    I can’t wait to meet the Viking, and I want Nadia to have her own romance. I love double couple romances.
    And I already love Lily. Thank you!

    1. Perhaps she is starting to think that she just dreamt it or is slightly mad and wants the therapist to tell her which? Though in the opening scene she does sound convinced she is right. Is there such a thing as an emergency therapist that you don’t really want to go see but have to as a box-ticking exercise to get something? (drugs, insurance, appease your mother)

  28. Maybe Erik the Viking is also remembering some of his past reincarnations, but he doesn’t believe it or thinks he’s crazy (maybe that’s why Nadia invites Lily in, b/c she already has this other patient…).

  29. Interesting question from AG: “For example, does Lily herself change gender/race/sexuality between lifetimes?”

    That might be something she could discover talking to Nadia.

    I want to see the coming-home talking-to-Pangur scene, like OMG another shitheaded therapist but then I met this other one …

    I also want to see Nadia talking to someone. Maybe her own pet? Would her pet be, like, a tarantula or something (snake, bearded dragon, ferret)?

    No strong feelings at this time regarding: are Vikings to be taken literally. The big blond guy is not my fave personally (and I can’t imagine it being Lily’s fave with all those rape memories) but if this is a M/F romance then we need a guy somewhere.

    Also, I want Lily and Nadia to both be clear that none of those past Viking encounters were love affairs. I want to see them finding out whether Lily even HAD (what we would consider) a love affair during one of these past lives. If she had a love affair, was that love interest the complete opposite of a Viking? A short, dark, snarky Celt, perhaps? Someone who was also lost to the Vikings or the plague or … ?

    I would love a series of scenes with Lily & Nadia, recounting each of the past lives and looking for the key.

  30. I am completely on board for the reincarnation being real. And then I thought it would be great if it was a Georgette Heyer type who dun it and Lily is being systematically drugged or gas lighted to make her believe it… And then I realized that that was the plot of Maybe This Time, but without the ghosts… 😛

  31. I’m interested in two things: how/when did Lily remember her 12 past lives? Did they come to her gradually? Did things trigger the first memory? Was she a 4-year-old recalling death in childbirth? Or did she come to it maybe all at once and have to sort out the sequence piece by piece?

    Second, I’m interested in why Nadia is a) in her office if she’s not seeing patients that day, plus b) willing to take Lily on after only a bit of interaction, and c) willing to invite Lily into her office, where presumably there’s a lot to go over in a first visit/conversation.

    I think what I’d like to see happen next would be for Nadia to have a bunch of Things To Do/Places to Go that day, and somehow just take Lily along with her to get used to her as a person without a therapy focus before starting the actual therapy visits. Some kind of unexpected side road instead of Lily lying on a couch or sitting in a chair telling stories.

    1. I actually had an idea for that, but it’s not in the first scene. Must have grown out of the first scene, but it’s not there so that’s still wide open. My idea was lame but did involve a falling ax.

      Nadia is cleaning her office. Or working on her paperwork. Or moving in some stuff. Or hiding there because things are chaotic at home. Or doing something that she doesn’t want anybody to know about, like writing a novel. Or meeting a lover. Or . . . the possibilities are endless.

      I think she takes Lily on because she has an interesting problem and she’s not sounding high maintenance about it. And probably at least a little bit to annoy Carolyn Ferris.

  32. I read a lot of fantasy and paranormal so my wants will probably tend more that way instead of romcom, here’s the fantasy romcom version, LOL I want the reincarnations to be real. I want Lily to be angry because of the unfinished business from the reincarnations, she wants them to stop, so has to figure out why she keeps repeating and also a reason why she wants them to stop, I’d like her to always die by her 33rd birthday or something. I want Pangur the cat to have more than cat level intelligence as he is stuck right along with her. I want him to help her but cat level help not people level help, I don’t want him to talk with anything but body language, he’s not magic. Cats are selfish but I can see him wanting to stop dying with her every time. Most cats see people as useful idiots and I’d love to see that from Pangur. I’d like the vet to be the Viking to tie the three of them together. I’d like the Viking to also be stuck in the cycle but foggy on Lily, instead he’s focused on her cat as the one he sees every time he reincarnates. I’m trying to figure out who gains from keeping the reincarnation cycle of Lily/Viking/Cat going. The villain, but why… In fantasy, the villain would gain extended life in one cycle from Lily’s constant cycle but that is going too far for RomCom I think. I’d like the next scene to be Nadia and Lily discussing her lives and what about it is making her angry and the next to be Lily telling Pangur about Nadia and the discussion.

    1. I’ve thought so much about this, LOL Such a wonderful idea to do this. I would love to see that in this cycle the Viking is focused on Lily’s cat as the reason for his reincarnations as sometimes Lily dies in childhood and so he just sees the cat each lifetime and not always Lily so he doesn’t recognize her. He always searches for the cat as he thinks the cat is the key to stopping his death at age 33 and this time he finds Lily who is not willing to give up her cat to him.

      1. I love the idea that he’s after the cat. Maybe that’s why he’s a vet? If he is a vet, of course.

  33. I’d prefer to steer away from rapes, that seems too heavy for a screwball comedy/romance? Maybe, as someone already suggested, just lots of accidental deaths at the hands of Erik the Viking, deaths that Lily initially thinks are intentional? I think that people are suggesting a good direction to go in: that Lily’s going to the therapist because she’s 33 and she never lives beyond 33 and she’s trying to figure out how to change her habits and life and avoid the same mistakes so she can survive 33. Maybe Nadia thinks outside of the box enough to recignize Lily’s under a curse and suggests Lily consult with Nadia’s sister, who happens to be a witch? Also, Erik doesn’t have to be aware he’s reincarnated initially, he could just figure it out when Lily’s descriptions of past lives mesh uncannily with his dreams of his past lives? This could be an opportunity to come up with some weirdly funny details that Lily couldn’t possibly know otherwise, details that prove the reincarnations to Erik. Also, I concur with the suggestions about one of the next scenes being Lily with Pangur. Maybe she could be hanging out with Pangur on the sofa watching the Hallmark Channel and making snarky remarks which could reveal all sorts of things about Lily and her past, etc.?

    Hmm, I don’t know if anything I’ve said makes sense. But I do know whatever you and the Aarghers come up with will be so fab! Can’t wait to see it! Thanks again for letting us play in your sandbox!

  34. Reincarnation is actually part of my personal (complicated and eclectic) spirituality/belief system–which doesn’t mean for a second that I can’t have fun with it in a light-hearted book. I’ve read about, researched, listened to lectures and interviews concerning reincarnation quite a lot. Just as a point of background information for us to know, there’s pretty much general agreement that while souls tend to lean more towards one gender than another, every soul has some experience with both genders. So, even if you choose to incarnate as a female 80% of the time, you’ll still have a number of experiences living as a male. I’m not saying we should incorporate that into the book–too complicated/serious for what we’re doing–but we can know that clueless, chauvinist male Vikings also have had, will have, or even are having (if you’re coming from the “time doesn’t really exist” perspective) lifetimes as females dealing with clueless, chauvinistic males. Assuming we’re taking Lily’s multiple lifetimes as real and occurring chronologically, a a Viking with a truly lousy personality in Lily’s first lifetime could and should have gained empathy and understanding, and generally improved all to heck by her current lifetime.

  35. I’d love to see Lily with her best friend. Maybe telling them she finally found a therapist who doesn’t think she’s delusional.

    Also somebody mentioned baked goods further up, so now might be the time to mention that I once dreamed of opening a pie shop and have an entire notebook of flavour combination ideas for dessert pies. I am willing to make pastry in the name of research. It’s a noble sacrifice.

    1. I see the Viking running away from an army, which is out of sight on the other side of the hill. He’s not running towards Lilly but away from the bad guys.

      Also, being chased or grabbed over centuries has made Lilly’s fight or flight response kick into overdrive–more fight than flight. She may have dropped something and a skinny blond college student picks it up and chases after her and she brains him. Or she is suspected of shoplifting and a security guard restrains her. She fights him, falls, and remembers her past. A judge orders her to therapy because she’s fought people in similar situations before.

      1. In fact, in each lifetime the Viking could be someone who gets mixed up in some Very Bad Situation, but he is a coward, the I-don’t-want-to-get-involved type of guy. He runs away from the Situation and into Lilly in each lifetime. And Lilly is the key to fighting the bad guys.

      2. Shades of Agnes. “It’s not like a frying pan is my weapon of choice.”

        The idea of Lily always running away is intriguing.

    2. I think pie is a no-brainer for a diner but here’s a confession: I hate pie. Pumpkin, I love, and I can deal with chocolate, but overall, I’d rather just eat those fillings. So I may need some help on the pie.

      I’m good with cake, though.

      1. How do you feel about Midnight Margarita? It’s a lime- black currant- tequila curd topped with a lime zest-orange blossom- coconut whipped cream. Sprinkled with flaky salt, of course.

        Or The Wicked Queen, which is apples in chai spiced apple cider caramel with a lattice top? Or Mignight In The Garden, which is blood plums stewed with star anise, cinnamon, or rosemary. Or…

        There are a lot. I have spent way too much of my life thinking about pie.

        1. Hey, maybe Lily’s best friend is the pie cook at the diner, and is also batshit insane about pie?

          1. I would like that except I hate pie, so I would have difficulty with that. Also there’s that Keri Russell movie.
            But I like the idea that either she or Lily has a food obsession. Not that I have food obsessions.

        2. Here’s the problem: I hate fruit.
          I have no idea why but I can’t stand the stuff.
          I use oranges and lemons in cooking–love them there–and if pressed I can eat an apple, but other than that, nope.
          So any fruit pie is a no go for me, even though I love looking at them because they’re so often beautiful.
          Pumpkin custard works for me, but I’d rather have it as custard than in a pie shell.
          I love quiche, but again, the crust is optional.
          So tempting me with pie is useless. I hate pie. Also apple turnovers and fruit-filled danish.
          Evidently in a past life I was murdered with pie. Can’t stand the stuff.

          1. To be fair, i’m obsessed with most food, so i’m not taking the pie personally. If you want a therapeutic baked good though, pastry is a winner. Croissants are mostly a pain in the arse to make but beating several blocks of cold butter with a rolling pin until they’re an obedient rectangle is a good way to work out some rage. And then there’s all the rolling and folding and cutting, which is very soothing because it’s very precise. Could the diner have chocolate croissants instead of pie?

          2. I think the diner has to have pie. I just don’t want to go into detail on it.

            Pastry I could work with. The problem is that I always end up making whatever it is. I must have made a hundred loaves of banana bread while I was writing Maybe This Time. And I’m not a banana fan (FRUIT! ACK!)

  36. Love all the ideas! This is fun.

    I’d like to see the next scene introduce the viking from his POV.

    I love the idea that the viking doesn’t remember the past lives. But how will he and Lily realize they are connected in their past lives? Even if Lily realizes it, how would she convince him it’s true? Do they always look the same in each life?

    What if the viking enjoys writing stores? When Lily tells him about her past lives, he can realize they are the stories he has written in his notebooks (just from a different POV). Or if he’s a painter, her descriptions of where she was killed (the cliff, etc.) are the scenes he has painted in his studio. Or something along those lines? He can think how would Lily have known about these things if it weren’t true?

    1. I’m thinking he’s got to be the reason she was almost hit in the head with an ax. Accident, of course, but there has to be some tie to Lily’s story.

  37. By the way, if you’re looking for jobs with axes, a new popular indoor recreation is axe throwing! check out Stumpys Hachet House franchise. There are a few of them in NJ.

    What do you think of the viking owning a hatchet throwing business? 🙂

    1. Or if the viking is going to be a veterinarian, maybe his family can own the hatchet business and he takes Lily there on a date? When she sees him with the axe in his hands, she can freak out realizing who he is. That is, if she’s brave enough to enter a hatchet house in the first place. Could be fun.

      1. Yeah, I think a hatchet house would be a no-go for her. But I love this.

        I’m not sure he’s a vet yet. Historian of some kind?

        1. Norman Heimdahl is a corporate raider for his grandma’s (the old battleaxe’s) food conglomerate. He comes armed with pie charts and granny’s favorite saying: “Pillage, plunder, then burn.” Hobbies include kayaking and skulling.

  38. I’d like to meet the Viking next and see him, in this lifetime, in a job that repairs damage from axes (literal or metaphorical). Maybe he’s the head contractor for repairing a building that’s been damaged by fire–and the building has History.

    Echoing above, I love the idea of the two stumbling through their incarnations, trying to save each other, and in this one they finally get it right.

    1. Yeah, I like that, too. I don’t think I want him to know he’s reincarnated yet. We’ve got enough to deal with doing Lily’s. But one of the turning points (you remember turning points) would be a good place for him to figure it out.

    2. The Viking is a fireman! Strong, fearless, ready to rush into danger to help strangers–sexy as all-get-out IMHO. And ax-wielding. Also as far from big bodies of water, ships, cliffs most likely as one can get so that would support his not remembering past reincarnations. But yes, he must have a cat–his link to Lily and Pangur.

  39. It would be kind of funny if Lily were a historian or museum curator dealing with the Vikings. Then she would really have motivation!

    Of course 10 min ago I thought she might be a butcher so my thoughts are just flighty.

    I dont think she likes flowers, or at least not old fashioned ones.

    Apparently I am not feeling sweet this morning

    1. I was thinking something like that for the love interest. A scholar like Brother Sebelius.
      Huh. Wonder if Lily had a thing for Brother Sebelius back in the day. She had his cat.

      1. Think Belle in one of the Beauty and the Beast versions, she’s an intelligent literate girl and she lives in a village with only 3 books all owned by the local priest, who actually lets her borrow them.

      2. Or maybe Brother Sebelius is the one trying to kill her in each lifetime, and the Viking is trying to save her. That could be what she has to figure out. In the first lifetime, maybe Seb made a deal with the Vikings that included Lily, and the Viking with the heart of gold was trying to warn her, not send her over the cliff.

  40. Just as you started to talk about Lily and Vikings in Ireland, this article appeared in our media.

    I thought Lily could be an historian. She has an axe because she teaches medieval history. Her bones from the 9th century are dug up and the axe that has been hanging in her office for years falls of the wall and hits her on the head. Or her bones could be discovered due to coastal erosion during a storm.

    Eric could be a scientist asked to do DNA tests on possible relatives of these remains? Eric does not know about his previous lives. The axe could be something from Lily and Eric’s past life, but Lily did not realise this when she bought it at auction.

    I’m going against the popular opinion that Lily dies at 33yrs in all her previous lives. Women married at a young age in previous centuries so she would have had husbands and children. Even if Eric had accidentally caused her deaths, he would have killed those children’s mother.

    I like the idea that Eric accidently kills her in previous lives whilst trying to save her. I’m definitely against rape. I think Lily died at a young age in all her previous lives and so she does not understand why she is still alive at age 33yrs in this lifetime. This is why she is seeking out a therapist who will believe that she has lived 12 times before, so she can understand why this lifetime has been different, and so she can avoid dying too LOL.

    1. I do not think Lily would collect axes. The Love Interest might. (Name the bastard, Jenny.)

      This ax thing is starting to foreground itself.

      1. Maybe a friend took her for a fun night out at one of those ax throwing places. Love Interest might be there with his buddies or he could work at the place part time or something.

        1. Sorry, missed the comments above where someone suggested this. Maybe Nadia sends her to one as exposure therapy.

    2. Nuns don’t have children, as a rule. Entering a convent was a good escape if you didn’t want any. And it wasn’t such a rare thing to do as it is now. Also, it was a good way to get rid of a glut of daughters, if you were a parent. Convents expected a dowry, of course, but maybe a more modest one?

      1. Or maybe she was just a poor girl who volunteered. They took those, too. They were the ones who probably did all the work.

      2. There were oblates — children who were given to the church by their familes to be raised as nuns. Yes, a dowry would be required.

        There was also a condition of expositio — a child who is left by the church door or in the market place or among the reeds or on the mountaintop. Sometimes women just couldn’t care for a child. It was actual practice to leave clothing or something with the child that would indicate the family she was from. While that introduced the possibility that the mother might come back one day when times were better (which happened), the family identification was mainly to avoid any possibility of incest.

        Finally, certain nunneries were schools for aristocratic and noble women. They lived and were educated there, but they never took the veil. Of course, mom would pay a lot for that.

  41. Sorry forgot to post this above.

    I think the next scene should be her first session with Nadia. We can explore some of those previous lives and discover some key facts about Lily and Eric. Lily could bump into Ferris as she is leaving Nadia’s office and have another funny confrontation.

    1. SHOULD??????
      Sorry, couldn’t resist.

      I agree, it should be her first session with Nadia, and that’s why it’s not going to be. Fluid and unpredictable. That’s us.

      1. Ha. Ha. Oops!

        Do not write should.
        Do not write should.
        Do not write should.
        Do not write should.

        1. We need a t-shirt with that on it, too.

          Now watch. Sometime in the next week, I’ll forget and write “should.”

  42. I’ve been thinking about the deaths….and the idea that souls choose which family to be born in and which time to be born…and curses and breaking them. So maybe the deaths at birth are Lily’s soul choosing families that she thinks will break her “curse” (which could simply be her birth/death cycle or the bigger whatever the antagonist has going or anything in between) but end up breaking some other curse of that family and hers keeps going.

    Probably not something we would want to get into too much detail in our story but it could add meaning to those deaths.

    Which leads to what is it about her current family that she choose them at this time?

      1. Oh, there’s another level of complexity.

        One thing: that would make their lives in service to her. That is, they showed up here because of her, not because of their own destinies. Generally speaking, not a good idea. Every character should think the story belongs to them. No intrinsic supporting players.

        EDIT: ACK I KNEW IT. There’s a should in that sentence. IGNORE ENTIRELY.

        1. I was thinking more of lives intertwined than in service of but you make a good point

    1. Does she even have a current family?

      Of course she has a family-you-make, but so far nobody’s mentioned any actual relations. Maybe she’s an orphan.

  43. Every time I check this blog post there are more terrific ideas. I think you’ll have material for a bunch of books.

    I like the fact that Lily summarizes her 12 reincarnations. I would like to hear her talk about specific ones or categorize several. Then, I would like a revelation about one that hasn’t been brought up — it was just sort of pushed aside unconsciously (actually, subconsciously) and it holds a key to the solution.

  44. Could the therapist be reincarnated too? I’m thinking she could be a really pissed off Valkyrie, who’s accumulated several lifetimes of frustration dealing with annoying Vikings who become very dark and introspective and insist on telling her all their problems. She wouldn’t know she’s reincarnated, she could just start life a few degrees more grumpy than everyone else.

  45. Another thing about Vikings — they were occasionally on your side fighting against a shared enemy (who might be your brother). Vikings are like vampires — they need someone to initially invite them in. That’s why in the King Arthur tales you have the bad guy who invites the pagans in to help him against the good guys.

    So our hero could have been running from his and Lily’s enemy when he accidentally pushed her off the cliff. The possibilities are endless — at least, they have been in real life.

  46. I actually want to see more Lily and Nadia together, but since them having a session is off the table, what if Lily and Nadia are interrupted before they can actually talk by … something that requires them to evacuate the building, like a bomb threat? And on the way out they see something suspicious and they investigate together, during which Nadia does something sort of odd/indicating that she has motivations that she’s not sharing with Lily… Or maybe that she knows (or thinks she knows) something about what’s going on and she tells Lily to do something that Lily doesn’t want to do… And then they end up arguing about whether suspicious occurrence is more likely to be caused by Vikings or by [something that hints at Nadia’s story, which I have no idea what it might be…]

    (I think this is aiming toward the villain not wanting Lily to have recovered her memories and/or not wanting her to see a therapist because that might cause her to recover her memories, which means there might be some kind of zinger in Lily’s memories (the way to defeat the villain?) which the villain is willing to do anything to keep hidden…)

    The tricky thing here is that if Nadia is going to be a main character (and I feel like at least one or the other of the therapists should be, because otherwise the first two non-Lily characters you see are unimportant characters and that doesn’t seem quite right to me) it feels to me like she ought to have a life outside of being Lily’s therapist that gives her a stake in whatever is going on… so what if she fits into the reincarnation thing in some non-obvious way, like she became a therapist because she can see souls and being a therapist was a good way to be able to do something with the information she has about people (and quite possibly she likes being practical for values of practical at a skew with normal, and/or she just likes giving other people good advice they might not get elsewhere), and that’s why she believes Lily right away (not necessarily because she can see something that validates the story in Lily’s, but because she’s predisposed to believe things along those lines…)

    In which case Nadia might turn out to also be threatened by the villain (whoever that turns out to be and whatever they turn out to be doing) and have a reason to team up with Lily?

    Would teaming up be not a good therapist territory, though? I suppose if so, Nadia drawing lines on how far she can team up with Lily could be an issue for Lily as she tries to navigate whatever is going on, making Nadia part obstacle, part help?

    Wow, that got a little elaborate. All just brainstorming though!

    …umm, one more idea? Instead of seeing souls, what if Nadia could astral project into the past? Which would be a way to make the past more immediate (if something important is hidden in the past, for example, this might be good)? At the expense of making things potentially quite complicated…

    1. The Nadia thing is interesting. She’s obviously going to be a major character but giving her a PoV may be too much.
      Obviously Lily has a PoV. The love interest probably has a PoV. The cat does NOT have a PoV.
      The secondary roles are where we make decisions.
      F’rinstance, Nita and Nick have PoVs, and so do Button and Max, and the four of those can cover just about any situation in The Devil in Nita Dodd.
      But we don’t know what the situation is in Surprise Lily yet. So we know for sure that Lily and the Lover-To-Be-Named-Later will have PoVs but that’s all, and I can wait on the LTBNL until I know Lily better. The other PoVs will depend on what parts of the story need those PoVs. Button’s was put in so somebody on the outside could see Nita apart from the insanity. Max so somebody on the wrong side could see things that nobody on the right side would see before he came over to right side.
      So it’s entirely possible that Nadia gets a PoV, but also entirely possible that she doesn’t.

      1. Ha ha, good point. What if it’s LTBNL who has the ability to see the past somehow (not necessarily under control)? Could be useful (or inspirational) for a scholar/historian and if there’s something in the past, Lily’s memories + LTBNL’s exploration in the past work together to find what they need?

        As for what, I’m thinking about the abbey, and about illuminated manuscripts, which is something the scholar/historian might really want to find, and which might contain information that’s important to Lily personally? I.e. what if Lily got stuck on something uncompleted in her first life, and a manuscript (maybe something more personal like the cat poem only about her?) can tell her something she doesn’t know and help her get over it (or solve it if it’s a problem, or whatever) and move on to love and happiness without the strings of the past constraining her?

  47. Thank you very much for doing this. I think we all need a fun project right now.

    Just tossing some thoughts out here.

    Depending upon how tight the reincarnation link is, maybe the reason she dies at birth is because he (or the villain) is no longer alive within the current timeline. I see no reason for the age ranges between the characters to remain static. The cat would not have to be there if Lily is not. However, I did like the suggestion where he sees and remembers the cat where/when she is not. When does the cat appear to her in each lifetime?

    If she dies at 33 in several lifetimes, how does she reach that age without being married or something? During several of the earlier lives she could/would (I did not use should) have been bartered into marriage or whatever as early as 12. I know an abby was mentioned and that works for some of this. Even into the 18 and early 1900s she would have been on the shelf or a spinster in her early to mid 20s.

    Just putting it out there. Or, I could just be nitpicking here too.

    FYI: There is an wonderful book by Maureen Child — This Time for Keeps. It is very funny. Multiple lifetimes, ignominious deaths for her (he runs her over with his warhorse, drowning in a pickle barrel on the Titanic, etc…). It has been several years since I read it. It involves angels or some such beings, due to some screw-up on their part she is removed too early and then returned to the American old west instead of her contemporary time, as she expected. Not that we want to use her ideas, just letting you know some of the discussions remind me of this book.

    1. Sounds like Heaven Can Wait.
      Don’t worry about nitpicking. We’re just playing around here. Pick all the nits you want.

      I’m trying to think of reasons the antagonist wouldn’t want her to live. Or why she’s reincarnating. I keep thinking I don’t want the supernatural in this (assuming reincarnation is natural, part of the cycle of life), which means the antagonist would have to be outside that cycle.

      No idea.

  48. I vote we meet the viking next. It is a way to bring more characters in to work/play with. Does he have viking friends or maybe viking enemies?

    We have a taste of Lily and Nadia. I don’t necessarily see Dr. Ferris as a baddy, just maybe a bad therapist. How much time do YOU want to spend with her?

    Maybe the villain comes in with Mr. Viking?

  49. Just a quick thought. It took me three cats and two (accidental) sets of kittens before I FINALLY realized that my cats in fact were talking to me, but they were using the language of place, whereby what they meant when they sat in a certain spot was “we played a game here, so why don’t you find that fun string with the knots in it again and squeak when I catch it like you did the last time?” or “I remember getting a great chicken scrap here — any chicken left?” etc. etc.

    (I just mention this because Jenny’s been used to the language of dogs for quite awhile now, and she might not remember this…)

  50. Could we have protagonists who have stuff and make a cogent argument against de-cluttering? I’m sick of the world telling us that having stuff is immoral.

    1. Lily will have some stuff; I’m not sure how much because I don’t know where she lives.
      If she lives in her grandma’s house, then there’ll be lots of stuff. (No idea why I thought of Grandma’s house.)
      If she lives in an apartment above or near the diner, probably less stuff.
      If she lives in her grandmother’s apartment above or near the diner . . .

  51. Reincarnations can get delightfully timey-wimey. A twist could be that some of these lives overlapped, rather than being strictly sequential, especially since Lily implies that multiple lives occurred within the viking era.

    On the other hand, Lily seems to lay out that the system is that she gets one life per century. The present (thirteenth) life would be the 1900s, so the first life was the 700s. So this Ireland life would be either the second or first life, depending on if we count the modern life as the 1900s or 2000s, and assuming that it is, indeed, one life per century. Later, Lily thinks that the guy on the path from the 800s was her first Viking (but not the last).

    Thing is, though, Lily seems to be taking a descriptive approach to the word viking, rather than prescriptive. She may mean “tall, drunk, blond guy who spends a lot of time flexing, and sooner or later, he’s gonna kill me, probably with an ax” to mean viking, rather than the actual ethnic heritage. This could open up a lot of possibilities, including that said viking isn’t the love interest. Lily could have fallen prey to an Asshole Filter:
    In which case, the love interest (who is the opposite of a tall drunk blond guy who flexes a lot) is there to help Lily break the cycle, instead of being a fellow reincarnee. This is where we get into what kind of themes we’re going for. If they’re reincarnating together, why haven’t they been able to get it together until now? Is the reincarnation something Lily has to ultimately reject (end the cycle, she will have no more lives after this), accept (change the setup for future lives so that she looks forward to effective immortality), or something in between?

    1. You’re right, she’s definitely taking a descriptive approach.

      I vote for a Viking for a love interest, just because it fits an arc. Also, funny. Well, funny to me.

      1. So, then, do you mean Viking in the descriptive or prescriptive way? Is the love story fundamentally about Lily coming to terms with her feelings about a flexing drunk blonde with an axe?

        There are a few angles to go with this. There’s the “this plus” model, wherein the viking is indeed a flexing drunk blonde with an axe, plus other things that Lily ultimately falls in love with. There’s the “oh, this after all” model, wherein Lily discovers that she is actually into the flexing and drinking and blonde and axes, but that can risk some Stockholm-y vibes, since at this stage, she associates those things with death and other bad things. And then there’s the twist model, which most of the comments here have leaned towards (that’s it’s all been misunderstandings), wherein one or more of drunk-blonde-flex-axe will be subverted. This, in turn, shapes the love interest’s character, as well.

        Which angle to play with depends on what other kinds of comedy the story will tend towards, and likely should parallel the way Lily’s therapy sessions go. So, what approach do you envision Nadia going with? Mining for more details, which is “this plus,” focusing on Lily’s feelings on the existing details, which would lean towards “this after all,” or challenging Lily’s recountings without dismissing them, which would lay the grounds for realizing the twists/misunderstandings?

        And which angle maximizes the titular surprise? Surprise for whom, Lily or the reader?

        1. In reverse order (of course):

          Surprise Lilies just spring up (SURPRISE!) and that’s how I got the reincarnation idea. It was not based in Deep Thought.

          I don’t envision Nadia going for anything. I envision her listening and trying to figure out. I don’t think therapists should have goals, I think clients should have goals, which they focus and examine in therapy. Most of the time, the real goal, the thing that drove them to therapy, is buried deep and is disguised as something else. No idea how that works with Lily. I don’t even KNOW Lily yet. I’m still not 100% convinced she’s reincarnated.

          I think, probably, based on the books I’ve written before, there are two and possibly three stories here that parallel and illuminate each other. There’s Lily’s arc, where she is at the beginning of the story and where she ends up because of the events of the story. No idea where that goes. Then there’s the romance arc, which is how two people meet, change each other, grow together, and commit at the end. All I’ve got there is that Lily hates Vikings and she see the LITBNL as a Viking. That’s subject to change. And then if there’s an external conflict, it’s an outside antagonist who thwarts Lily’s goal (I don’t know what Lily’s goal is) to achieve his or her goal (I don’t know what his or her goal is).

          Welcome to discovery drafting. I won’t know what I think till I see what I write.

          1. At the least, this seems to point to not doing a deep dive on Norse mythology. Even if the love interest is at least one of the Vikings in Lily’s memory, it’s not pointing to Lily or any of the other characters being a secret Valkyrie or anything.

            Although, a dragon for the climax is never something to be discarded lightly. 😛 Got to pay off that Chekhov’s Axe, after all!

  52. Is it too annoying if I just sorta sneak in the mention again how it might be punny/funny/give us another way in…if the love interest’s name is Axel ….and then it could be that a blonde/drunk Viking Axe(l) that is what disrupts her whole life flow? Blow to the heart instead or (or along with) the head?

    (yes it IS too annoying…but I still can’t help myself…let it go and kill your darlings, Katie…)

  53. COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED because we’re taking the conversation to the Lily Notes 1 post.

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