When I began writing “An Accidental Life,” the first book that I would publish, my thoughts were focused on those accidental events (or moments) in life that seemingly direct or redirect our lives.
Falling into one path or another; making a misstep and finding oneself on a completely different journey; or just not making any choice at all and allowing things to happen on their own.
While I was writing this story, I was living in an A-frame house in the foothills where I had landed, almost accidentally. A serendipitous turn of events brought enough money into my hands to buy the house outright.
So naturally I wanted to incorporate some of these events into the story. One of my lead characters, therefore, found herself living in such a house. And the book cover, shown at the top of this post, also features the A-frame house.
Here is an excerpt:
From the front window of her A-frame cottage, Melody Vaughn glimpsed her son and a group of kids headed up the pebbled path. From previous experience, she knew that Jason and his friends would party in his first-floor bedroom and if she played her cards right, she wouldn’t have to see any of them. Jason had his own private entrance through the patio. She could hear his key in the sliding glass door now.
On Jason’s eighteenth birthday, she and her son had entered into an unspoken agreement that his life and his choices were now his own. She had only one cardinal rule: None of those were to be thrown in her face. Hence, the private room downstairs. Melody seldom entered that room, which she knew had everything a young man needed to maintain a freewheeling lifestyle.
He had his stereo, a CD player, and a mini-fridge, well stocked with food and beverage. He had several guitars, both acoustical and electric. A spa sat center-stage on the patio and Melody knew that the party often spilled over to the outdoors. She sometimes heard the splashing of revelers in the spa or the murmur of voices, punctuated by the occasional burst of laughter as one of his guests got carried away. To his credit, Jason tried to keep a handle on things. Probably because he knew that he had a good set-up; if he blew it, his chances for something similar elsewhere were slim to none. He liked to spend his money on things other than rent.
Melody climbed the stairs to her second-floor retreat, settling in for the night. Soon she could barely even hear the murmurs and within minutes, she had completely forgotten about Jason and his guests. She didn’t want to know too much and she worked hard at keeping mellow. She suspected that the people in this little foothill community between the two lakes, at the foot of Friant Dam, had their own theories about her life. A small town had a rumor mill and because she kept to herself, she could almost feel the undercurrent whenever she went to the post office or the local store or even the diner for an occasional take-out order.
To the curious onlookers, she was more than just a forty-year-old woman living alone with her son on a little winding road near the river. Her house, the last one on the road, was surrounded by almost an acre; a little guest cottage sat off to the side. She rented that house out to a quiet, somewhat eccentric man who provided gardening services in exchange for a portion of the rent. His name was Hugh Kincaid and she thought he probably had his own story. But she respected his privacy too.
Her “back-story” included her years in the Bay Area, dabbling in that “hippies” scene in Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love and for awhile afterwards. Her daughter Marigold had been born there. And lost there. Melody still felt the familiar wrench somewhere near her heart whenever her mind traveled backwards. It had all been such an innocent time, despite the media hype. Make Love, Not War. She had never been able to figure out why mainstream society took such offense at the beliefs held by the counterculture. She guessed it had something to do with people being afraid of anything or anyone they didn’t understand.
I would continue living in that house long after the book came out. For thirteen years altogether. Later on, the A-frame earned a makeover, seen here, and which you’ll see in the top right corner of this blog. You can catch a glimpse of it in the header, too.
I have moved on from this cottage in the foothills, back to the city where my heart really belongs. But a piece of my heart will always be in that little A-frame house that became a pivotal part of my first published book.
What pivotal moments in your life turn things in one direction or another? Nowadays I call those happenings defining moments, which, incidentally, is the title of one of my current WIPs.