Lucretia “Cree” Cabot spends her time saving everybody else to avoid facing her own haunted life. Between raising her younger brother and trying to open a women’s shelter, Cree has built an impenetrable wall around her heart. But when a tenant for Cliff Cottage appears at her door, he cracks her vigilantly controlled world, forcing her to look within to confront the emptiness inside.
Mike Sullivan, famous superhero artist, is searching for a peaceful summer break and a new perspective on life. A farm in sunny Santa Cruz seems like just the place. Looking to escape from his usual routine, he doesn’t count on falling for a woman who is as stubborn as the mule that lives in her barn. Yet beneath Cree’s prickly exterior, he finds a woman in pain—a woman with an immense capacity for love. Mike knows she is the only one for him, but will Cree find the courage to truly live and love before the best thing to walk into her life leaves her behind?
Sundown hovered in the sky and was reflected in the surf, a great smearing of lime and fuchsia and orange sun. Mike and Cree stood on the Boardwalk and leaned over the railing to view the beach and pier as they ate hot dogs and sipped Cokes.
Tourist families trickled from the dusk-ridden amusement park while teenagers and college kids filled it. Down on the beach, couples strolled at the edge of the surf. A man jogged with his dog. Behind them, the carousel bellowed its macabre tones and Cree shivered.
She hated the merry-go-round. To her, the ride promised an escape to magical and faraway places but as soon as you bought a ticket, you found that you had been duped, all hopes dashed in a never-ending circle of ups and downs, dreams frozen in the mouths of screaming horses.
So she turned her back on the beach and let the white and colored lights of the Boardwalk dazzle her until she could tune out the strains of the calliope. Mike, she snorted, no doubt loved the awful contraption. She looked at him and shook her head. He was staring at the monstrous thing with a half smile on his lips and a dreamy look in his eyes.
He was right about coming here, she thought, as she tossed her napkins in the basket. She inhaled the salt air and sweet smell of cotton candy and felt light and free.
Finding Character Motivation
“All poets are liars.” The first time I heard this phrase was from my mentor while I was student teaching. I struggled with teaching poetry because for me, poetry was personal.
Sometimes a poem resonates so deeply that it becomes yours. Who cares what the poet’s message is? Once a poem is out there, it has the potential to transform a reader’s world. The message can offer insight to a reader that may have nothing to do with the poet’s intent. I have journals of quotes, snippets of poems, song lyrics that speak to me.
“I sit like a night alive with witches.” This is a line from a book by Ben Hecht. I have no idea what it means. Nor do I care. But I know that mood, that feeling. I have sat like a night alive with witches. Mr. Hecht describes the mood better than I can.
“Comfortably Numb” was ruined for me when my husband told me it was about heroin addiction. I know nothing about Pink Floyd and thought the lyrics were about loss of childhood magic, the belief in something whole and real and otherworldly that somehow gets buried with time.
So when I had to teach Emily Dickenson and Robert Frost to twenty high school freshmen, I balked. Em and Rob did nothing for me and I was clueless. “Just remember, “ said Mentor Teacher, “all poets are liars and go with that.” So I did. Easy!
I made the lesson more fun for me by comparing the poems of Emily and Robert to those of Henry Rollins and Patti Smith and encouraged students to do the same with the lyrics of their musical heroes. In connecting the past with the present, using our handy little catch phrase “all poets are liars,” all poetry became more meaningful and universal, a common language that we all could share.
“All poets are liars” proved to be useful when I started writing fiction. I changed the phrase to “all characters are liars.”
In Kicking Sideways, Cree wants to be independent. She wants to be in control. She wants to serve humanity. But as her creator, I know what Cree needs. She needs to be a part of humanity. She needs to open her heart. She needs to love and be loved. Deep down inside, she knows this, but she lies to herself because she is scared.
Cree started like any other character. A character will start whispering in my head. A ghost, it haunts me until I start writing. Sooner or later, the unnamed character tells me what it wants. It always lies. Of course, she doesn’t know she’s lying. Like a toddler, she’s full of wants: “I want to rule the world. I want to be left alone. I want revenge. I want a cup of tea and a cake. I want…I want.” It is your job, as a writer, friend, therapist, parent, creator, to pay attention and instead give her what she needs.
As you get to know your scheming little liar, what she needs will become apparent to you, and what he needs is usually in direct opposition to what he wants.
If she wants tea and cake, don’t give it to her. Instead, give her what she really needs. This could be a diet, but indirectly, make it a bigger goal: true love, redemption, or a major life change.
In between desire and need, make her work. Perhaps on the way to the local tea shop, an escaped prisoner from Azkaban kidnaps her for a noble cause. (You may have guessed that I have a crush on Sirius Black.) He takes her to a remote mountain cabin where there is no tea and definitely no cake. Still, she keeps telling herself she wants cake.
While you write, keep repeating to yourself, “She is a liar. She is a liar.” You’ll want to punish her because she lies so darn much. Great fun for you.
Eventually, she gets what she needs and will no longer be living a lie. Maybe, if she’s lucky, she’ll get that cake, too. And Sirius Black.
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Dina Keratsis is an award-winning author of romance fiction in which all roads lead to illumination and magic is found in the mundane. A New England girl, she has a penchant for punk rock, Scottish tea rooms and a mad crush on Sirius Black. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two children.