We’re so pleased to welcome author L.A. Merrill to TNA today to celebrate the release of her new States of Love novella, Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch.
Character Profile: Jen Walsh
Sometimes my favorite character in a story—whether it’s one I’ve written or one I’m reading—isn’t the main character. I love secondary characters. They aren’t just there to move the plot along and highlight the MC’s struggles and flaws. The best “supporting actors” in a story have their own complex backstory and parallel storylines.
I’m sure I’m not alone in my second-fiddle fascination. All those tv spin-offs happen because some writer went “but I want to write more about that guy!”
One of my recent favorites is the character of Jen Walsh I created for Meanwhile. She started out as even more minor than she is—just a foil for David and a stickler for the rules of the ranch. I thought I’d share a bit of her backstory to get you psyched to read more—I would have loved to write more about her but I had to stay true to the trajectory of the story I was writing. Who knows—maybe you’ll be seeing Jen Walsh soon, in a book of her own!
Name: Jen Walsh
History: … ??? …
Very little is known about Jen Walsh’s past. Not even her closest friend, Michael Sharp, knows who she was or how she lived before coming to the Wilderness Ranch. (Michael’s always been a little afraid to ask.) He knows she is loyal and kind, intimidating and indomitable. She is an expert horsewoman and a decent shot with a rifle. She is also a woman who loves other women, and despite all the secrets in her life—or maybe because of—Jen has never hidden that part of herself.
Jen Walsh is not a woman to mess with, and the dangers slowly encroaching on Michael Sharp’s Wilderness Ranch might be about to meet their match.
“Am I getting this right?” Michelle asked. “There’s no Wi-Fi? How can we do the show with no Wi-Fi?”
“That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.” I turned to Sharp. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to leave, Mr. Sharp. Without Wi-Fi, we can’t film the show here.”
“Jen said you were shooting movie background footage, not a whole show.”
“Respectfully, Mr. Sharp, your manager seems to have been misinformed about a lot of things. Including the number of rooms I reserved.”
“It’s Michael,” he corrected. “Not Mr. Sharp. Please.”
“Okay, Michael, then. We’re filming a six-part livestream web series called Doone Valley. The first episode airs on Monday. If we can’t pick up a signal—and it’s not looking like we’ll be able to—I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to go somewhere else.” And God knows where that will be, I finished in my head.
Sharp—Michael—was still stuck at the beginning of my sentence. “You’re filming live?” he asked. “No edits? With this lot? Why?”
“Because masochism,” Ronni muttered.
I bumped my glasses up and pinched the bridge of my nose. “Money,” I said. “And art. But mostly money. Which I don’t have a lot of to spare, so if we can work out a refund, we can be out of your hair and gone by midnight.”
“No one,” said a new voice from the doorway, “is going anywhere.”
Standing in the open barn doors was a tall brunette woman with military bearing and enough power in her presence to silence the entire barn. The dog vaulted out from under the workbench to grovel at her feet. She advanced, dog in tow. She stopped in front of us, nodding to Ronni and Michelle. Her eyes briefly met Michael’s before settling on me. She unsnapped her riding gloves and pulled them off, finger by finger.
“You must be David Marks,” she said, her voice deep and clear. “I am Jen Walsh, the manager. Suppose you tell me what is at issue.”
“There’s no Wi-Fi. Ma’am.” The ma’am was involuntary. This woman couldn’t be addressed as anything but ma’am. A few more minutes and I’d be saluting.
She frowned. “It’s a wilderness ranch. Why would there by Wi-Fi?”
I suppressed a groan of frustration. “It said. On the website.”
“The website states we have Internet available, which is correct. There is a DSL hookup in Michael’s office that guests may use if necessary. But there is not wireless Internet, no.”
“Ah. That was my mistake, then.” This whole enterprise was my mistake. One huge, colossal mistake. “Regardless, we can’t film if we can’t pick up our own signal, so as I was saying to Michael, if we can get a refund, we’ll be on our way.”
Jen narrowed her gaze at Michael, then raised an eyebrow. I had a feeling an entire eye conversation was taking place over my right shoulder.
“Nonsense,” Jen said, returning to me. “I’m sure we can work something out. At any rate, your crew must stay overnight.”
“Actually,” Cameron put in, “we are actors. Not crew members.”
“There is no crew,” Ronni explained. “Just me and my son, Enzo.” Enzo waved.
“What about costumes?” Jen asked, momentarily distracted.
“That’s me,” Enzo said, raising a hand.
“You know what, I’m just going to leave my hand up.”
“Ooh, that one’s my mom.” Enzo lowered his arm to point.
“Only there is no editing,” Ronni said. “We’re filming live.”
Jen’s eyebrows shot up. “Live?”
“Apparently they’re masochists,” Michael said.
About the Book
David Marks is looking for the perfect place to film his new web series and recover from his latest failed relationship. When reclusive writer Michael Sharp opens his Montana ranch to paying guests, David knows he’s found the right place—but he doesn’t expect to find Mr. Right too.
Forty years ago, Michael Sharp’s father was murdered in front of him. No one believed a six-year-old boy’s testimony against the powerful Carver brothers. For years Michael has lived in self-imposed exile, the only living witness who can bring down the Carver criminal empire. But now the money is running out, and he’s forced to play host to a troupe of temperamental web actors and their energetically attractive director in order to stay alive.
The Carvers aren’t about to stand for rebellion. Michael has outlived his usefulness. Now Michael and David have to find a way to end this fight once and for all, finding justice for Michael’s father and meeting David’s funding deadline—all before one or both of them ends up dead.
About the Author
L.A. Merrill is a tiny blonde woman who loves a good story. She has worked as a tour guide and an assistant stage director, and spent one memorable summer as a camp counselor. After five years in vocal performance, production work, and arts education, she now writes full-time. Her work has appeared in Kansas City Voices magazine, on the YouTube series The Blank Scene, and online. Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch is L.A.’s fourth story with Dreamspinner Press, and her first published novella. (There’s an unpublished novella, about murderous husbands and Scottish ghosts, written when she was thirteen, that is sitting in a file at home. It will likely never see the light of day.)
An avid knitter, she has yet to follow a pattern and has made some interestingly shaped hats as a result. L.A. makes handknit and crocheted blankets and hats for local charities, as well as leading a LGBT+ writers group in her hometown. She lives with her family in the Midwest, where she can usually be found reading, writing, and making things up as she goes along. Follow her on Twitter for feminism and fangirling at @la_mer92.