Little Bastard

When he was in his prime.

Part I – INTRO: This blog has been around since a certain date. I could look that up, but that would require looking it up. I think it goes back to ’09 or ’10 or some such. Point is, awhile. And in the semi-long history of this blog, I’ve established a tradition of memorializing the dead. Death, the recognition and acceptance of, is very important to me. And yet, my most significant loss has gone unrecognized here.

Partly this is due to pride. The story of Little Bastard, to my own ears, strikes a pathetic note. It seems shameful to me, even as a lover of animals, that one animal would mean so much. It is not something I find shameful in others, not in the least, but in myself it seems like evidence of my own human ineptitude.

Part II – THE CAT HIMSELF: In 1999, Evan and I took in a LA stray who came to be known as Mama Cat. She had six kittens, of whom Little Bastard was one. I will never forget the first time I saw his face. There was a pile of squirming kittens, from white to black and all along the gray scale in between, and up out of the pile of kittens emerged a face with dramatic markings. I gasped and said, “That one will find a home first!” (And in a way, he did.) Within the first twenty-four hours of his life he earned his name. Where all the other kittens looked for a nursing spot like normal animals, Little Bastard instantly developed a unique method. He’d go up to a litter mate, frantically claw their faces, and when they’d detach, he’d latch on. “That one’s a Little Bastard,” I said. It stuck.

Two weeks later, Mama Cat became ill. So ill we had to bottle feed the litter. A curious thing happened when I started bottle feeding the kittens. Little Bastard decided I belonged to him. You could say he bonded to me, decided I was his mother. But none of the other kittens bonded to me in this way. Mama Cat continued to mother them, even if she wasn’t feeding them, and Little Bastard, throughout his life, loved her like a true mama’s boy. Regardless of how this decision originated within him, Little Bastard has clearly decided that I was his, and he went on a campaign to make me see this truth.

Time passed and kittens found homes. After a lot of hustling, I worked the situation to where all the kittens would be placed. A nice couple came to get Little Bastard. I panicked and started lying my head off. I said he was a fearful kitten (this as he lay, belly to the sky, on my lap), about how he was difficult and unwilling to bond, etc. The wife seemed confused, but the husband realized what was going on. They took a different a kitten, a semi-claimed kitten, and I kept Little B. I’ve always regretted how I handled that. (As a happy postscript, however, the kitten they did take, and named Rufus, went on to have a wonderful life with them. The college student who had semi-claimed Rufus would have been unlikely to provide such a home.)

Little Bastard grew up to become a remarkable cat. He had dreams, dreams I would watch develop over time. I always knew what he was thinking, too. I could watch him size up a situation. “If I can just get to those stairs, then I can get out that window, and onto the roof.” Even though I’d be aware of his plots and tried to defend against them, he was patient and always knew when to strike. Over the years, he made of a lot of these dreams come true. The aforementioned roof dream, the dream of leaping from a balcony into a nearby tree – after an initial second-story failure – his own personal escape from Alcatraz moment in Big Bear. By the way – I never said he was a good cat, I said he was a remarkable cat. He was named Little Bastard, after all, and he earned that name over and over again. But I never begrudged him his ambitions. Indeed, I took great pride in them and viewed them as evidence of his superiority over all other cats. Life, he believed, was made for adventures.

I really can’t emphasize enough our ability to read each other’s minds. I never had to wonder what he was thinking or feeling. Once, after few symptoms, I concluded he had asthma. The vet didn’t believe me. I insisted on tests. She came back in and said, “So! It’s a good thing you brought your kitty-kitty in today! He does have asthma!” On a happier note, when we lived in Big Bear, I decided that what Little B really wanted was to go outside. I didn’t want him eaten by coyotes, so I bought him a little red harness and a leash. The very first time I put it on him, he knew what it meant, because he could read my mind just as I read his. That harness became his greatest source of joy. Years later, in South Carolina, I’d let him outside without it. Months would go by without him wearing it. But if he heard me pick it up, no matter where he was, he’d come running, meowing loudly the entire time. Little B, fittingly, was an exceedingly loud cat. We were such a perfect match.

When he was sick and thin - but still had his sparkle.

Bastard loved to run. A lot of cats do. But his favorite way to run was with me. I am sure my neighbors thought I was insane. Little B and I would go to the backyard and run around. Not in a way, I’m sure, that made sense to an observer, but it made sense to us. Basically, we’d both run to different points in the yard, then I’d call him, and he’d run to me. I would then praise him on how magnificently he’d run (Little Bastard loved praise) and the game would start all over again. Once, my sister Becky called during one of these outdoor running sessions and she asked what I was doing. I said, “Spending special time with Bastard.” And then I said, “Did I just say that out loud?” Because it was literally, not figuratively, but literally one of those moments where I had no intention of ever telling anyone that I mentally referred to backyard running with my cat as “spending special time with Bastard” but I’d gone and done it. Luckily, Becky had owned Rocky and understood.

When it came to humans other than myself, it’s safe to say Little B was unimpressed. He was a one woman cat. From some people he’d tolerate a certain amount of attention, but he made it clear this was an act of graciousness on his part. Back in 2003, while Evan and I were staying with his parents, Evan’s dad decided he was sick of Bastard’s aloof nature and petted him the way one would pet a lab puppy. Little B suffered through the mauling with dignity, shot my ex-father-in-law a devastating glare, then stalked away, his tail straight in the air and twitching. No cat has ever more powerfully said, “Go to hell,” than Little Bastard at that moment. So much so, Evan’s dad flipped him off as he walked away.

Part III – WHY HE MEANT SO MUCH: I went to a lot of different schools over the years, but I never moved. The first change was compulsory, because of a change in school district policy, but after that it became voluntary. I changed schools because I wanted to. I wanted to change schools because I was no longer wanted. I found it relatively easy to make friends, inordinately difficult to keep them. I could keep using sort of diplomatic language here, but let’s just cut to the chase – I was rejected a lot. Like, A LOT. Also, like, EMPHATICALLY. And by emphatically I mean with fists.

I took refuge with animals. I had horses, cats, and dogs. My experience with all three was marked by, for lack of a better term, the domestication process. My beloved Max, a magnificent and brilliantly intelligent cat, entered my life semi-wild. I went on a campaign to tame him and make him my own. My campaign worked. This was the paradigm of every relationship I ever had. Or at least, the emotional truth of my experience. I found a person or animal that struck me as bright and shiny, and I went on a campaign to make him or her my own. In the world of human relationships, I very often found short term success and long term failure.

That was what life looked like to me.

And that, right there, is the heart of the matter. In Little Bastard, I found another being who decided I was bright and shiny. Another being that wanted me and went on campaign to win me over. I was wanted. By a four week old, extraordinarily loud and obnoxious kitten, but that didn’t mean it didn’t count. It counted enormously. It counted overwhelmingly. Here’s the thing. It counts even more today. The ensuing years have not diminished the significance of my bond with Little B, but enlarged it.

I will not surprise anybody by saying human relationships are imperfect. But neither are human-animal relationships. Horses will refuse a jump they should have taken and you wind up with a broken back. Dogs, even very good dogs like Tom Foolery, sometimes don’t come when you call them.

I say this next bit tentatively, because I have so many wonderful friends and family who love me and who have done so  much for me, especially over the last year. I don’t call on people. There have been exceptions, but generally speaking, I only call on people when I feel I have something to offer in return. For someone who doesn’t do math, I have a complicated abacus in my head that is in perpetual motion. It is the math of social interaction and it is something I’ve learned the hard way over the course of my life.

Little Bastard came running every time I called him. Not because I had dinner or a treat or a harness waiting for him. The only thing I had on offer was myself. And that was enough.

In 2007, Little B became very sick. He probably ingested some sort of poison. Until he died in June of 2013, he remained in some state of not-so-great health. There was one exception. In the fall of 2012, I brought him with me to Vermont. For a beautiful stretch of time, Little B was the only cat. He gained weight and felt fantastic. We hung out, talked, ran around. We enjoyed our adventure together immensely. The first eight years of Little Bastard’s life were exceptional. During the next phase of his life, I failed him on multiple occasions. I haven’t really dealt with that yet. No doubt my brain is saving it for some amazing day in the future when everything’s going great and then it’ll be like, “HEY REMEMBER THAT TIME WHEN YOU FAILED YOUR CAT REPEATEDLY OVER A SEVERAL YEAR SPAN? LET’S THINK ABOUT THAT.” But I am thankful that in the midst of that time, toward the end, Little Bastard got to live life exactly the way he wanted to. He deserved that. And so much more.

In the end, I am thankful I got the time with him that I did. It was too short, especially the good years. But to quote Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Of Shibui, God and Grace

I think this picture is cool looking, so I am including it.

This year has been full of surprises. Except I don’t like that word. At least, not for these purposes. Surprise is great for a party you weren’t expecting. This is something else.

Mr. Ollis taught production for filmic writers. He was the sort of teacher who grew on you over time. Freshman year I didn’t much care for him, by the time I graduated I loved the man. He had a Japanese word he adored and used whenever applicable – shibui. If a student managed to throw a clever twist into their short film Mr. Ollis would light up, smile, and say, “Shibui.” Whether it took the story to a dark place or provided a happy ending, Mr. Ollis loved a twist.

Whenever people have asked me how I’m doing over the course of 2013, I’ve responded with Dickens’ line from The Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I don’t like Dickens, but that line works as a convenient shorthand. The truth is, however, 2013 hasn’t been the worst, even when it was really bad.

The worst times of my life have been the inordinately long stretches of nothing.

Nothing is harder to take than the nothing. By the nothing I mean, the feeling that things aren’t right, but that they aren’t going to change, either. The feeling of stasis. Entrapment. Sameness. And not good sameness, either, but problematic sameness. Unsatisfying job, unsatisfying marriage, unsatisfying life. In some ways, I was a champ at finding happiness despite the nothing. It’s easy for me to find joy in the little things. But in many other ways, I wasn’t a champ at all. The nothing ground me down.

It felt like I was swimming upstream. Life was an unending effort to swim upstream. To figure out how to work with other humans at a job (NOT MY STRONG SUIT), to figure out how to make my husband happy (SPOILER ALERT: DIDN’T SUCCEED), to figure out how to save every person and animal I came across (BAD IDEA), and most importantly, trying to figure out how to become perfect. I believed that if I could please God in everything I said and did and thought, then God would help me with my construction project. I was trying to build a perfect life and I knew exactly what the thing should look like, you guys. I believed if I just forced it hard enough it would all come together. SO MUCH FORCING. Also, worrying, plotting, and fretting, because when I wasn’t busy physically doing something I got brownie points for thinking about it. SO MUCH THINKING.  And I believe He did help me – by tearing the whole thing apart.

When T2 came out, I rented it as soon as I could and watched it 16 times over one long weekend. (Apparently, I didn’t have a lot going on in 1991.) One of my favorite lines (both because I found it humorously melodramatic and because it’s genuinely evocative) was, “The future, always so clear to me, has become like a black highway at night.” That line pops into my head a lot. Sometimes just because I’m on an unfamiliar black highway at night.

That’s what my life is like right now.

I have no clue whatsoever what the future is going to look like. I have a decent idea of January. February, sure, kinda. March? Roll the dice. I could be in LA, NY, here, there, everywhere. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, only I’m choosing a bunch of adventures concurrently. After a whole bunch of shibui twists and turns, my whole life has become one giant twist, one I can’t predict. And it’s so, so, so great. So great. It brings me much peace and happiness and contentment, to know that I don’t know.

Here’s the thing – five years ago I would never have guessed that this life would suit me so well. In a life ruled by anxiety, one of the comforts I had was familiarity, routine, sameness. The same sameness that hung around my neck like a dead weight felt like safety to me. The idea of being uprooted filled me with dread. Stephen-King-at-his-best level dread.

Here’s the other thing – after everything imploded, I stopped striving for perfection and just sorta checked out. I played comedy a lot and played hanging out with my friends and played travel around the country. After I’d pretty much given up hope that anything would come of my book, I decided to move to LA and spent September being very self-indulgently sad (hence September became known as Drunktember).  But all that playing and being selfish did do something very productive indeed – it shook loose the death grip I had on my life and gave God some room to breathe. On Drunktember 30th, I got a call from an agent. Shibui. Such is the nature of grace. Grace, the freely given and unmerited favor of God. Unmerited is the key word there. I didn’t do anything to deserve this.

After so much time swimming upstream because I thought my life depended on it, I found my real life once I relaxed, let go and allowed the current to take me. I have no idea where this river is going, but I’m more than okay with that. I was terrible captain. God does a way better job at it than I ever did.

This is already long, but I want to share a quick story. One of my favorite people in the whole wide world is Hilary Gebhard Ellis. I will never forget where I was (Gray Court, SC) when she called to tell me that she and Andrew were getting a divorce. It felt like my insides melted out of me. It struck me as so incredibly wrong, because in my humble opinion, they had one of the most magnificent love stories I’d ever heard. Which is why this Facebook status update remains my favorite Facebook status update of all time:

Happy birthday Andrew Ellis, my Halloween baby, ex husband, baby daddy and current boyfriend. Proof that the universe gets what the universe wants, despite our feeble attempts to do things otherwise.

An Awesome Talent Scout of Awesomeness

Some of the people I love.

So, I went a’hobo’ing across this great country of ours. Learned some things. Middle America – it’s not doing well, guys. Like, at all. On the plus side, I saw a vast flock of grackles descend upon a harvested corn field in Iowa on a dark gray afternoon. It was in October and it was the most Octobery thing I’ve ever seen. I could go on about the sights. I could also go on about how lovely it is to live without any sort of plan and let serendipity be your guide. I could go on about how nice it is to be alone in the middle of Utah without another soul for miles. Maybe at some point I’ll back track and talk about those things, but for right now I want to talk about the one thing I am really proud of.

My friends.

I’ve had a nice success recently (a book of mine sold) and along with a nice success comes nice compliments. For example, “You’re a really good writer!” I hear that and I think, “Well, I was born with a talent for visual arts that I never fully developed, but the pictures never stopped coming, so I wrote stories around those pictures instead. Language is H-A-R-D for me and it was a process of practice and practice and more practice until I found a way to communicate images by using words. Even so, practicing with words was still easier than practicing with paints, so I took that path of least resistance.” So, “You’re a really good writer!” is nice to hear, but it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Here’s what I am really good at.

I am really good at finding people.

Not in a Dog the Bounty Hunter way, but a “I see them when they’re standing in plain sight” sort of way. I am a talent scout for awesomeness, awesomeness I collect and keep, like so many shiny things in my nest.

I drove from South Carolina to Kentucky to Illinois to Wisconsin back to Illinois to Colorado to Nevada to Los Angeles. Then I stayed in LA for several weeks, before going to Arizona then finally returning to South Carolina. At every point in my journey I got to spend time with people who are not just nice or kinda fun, but hugely fascinating people. People who are big and bright and shiny and amazing. People who make me laugh, people who are willing to be honest with me, people who are smart and challenging and tough. People who are adventurous and willing to be ridiculous and strong enough to be vulnerable.

If I’ve done anything good in this life, it can be found in the friendships I’ve made with an assortment of extraordinary people.  (I’m friends with my family, too, btw. “Friendship” is a big umbrella.)

Here’s the thing about extraordinary people. They are not always easy. Sometimes they are. Sometimes extraordinary and laid back go together. More often they don’t. But I love people who keep their sharp edges, who retain their quirks and their oddness. People who have such a strong sense of self that they don’t let this world dull them. They keep their shape, despite all the hard times they go through, because Lord knows – we all suffer. We all go through hard times.

Not all of my friends think as highly of themselves as they should. Here’s the thing on that – I am right and they are wrong. I am a really, really good talent scout, you guys. When it comes to awesome people, I am always right. So, if you’re a friend of mine, know that you are awesome. Know that you are talented and amazing and capable of anything you set your mind to. Know that I believe in you and that I want you to live a life as big and as beautiful and as glorious as you are. We only get one time around on this little blue globe. So be brave. Be you.

Love you guys.

The Butterfly Effect & Ben LeRoy

It started, as everything always does, with Janet Reid.

Because I followed Janet on her blog and on the QueryShark and the assorted what-have-you, I became savvy to the existence of Barbara Poelle. Because of Barbara Poelle, I learned about K-9 attacks as birthday presents, talking to your clothes, and the Hey Dead Guy blog. Because of the Hey Dead Guy blog, I discovered Ben LeRoy.

I read Ben’s blog post, “Five Reasons I Hate Your Protagonist” and was hooked. You gotta love direct, honest and knowledgeable. At the time, I was working on my rough draft of RUTHLESS and knew my antagonist was a hollow shell. I requested a blog post on villains in the comment section. Ben reported back he was working on it.

The next week, Ben posted Five Things About Bad Guys that Make Me Want to Punch their Creators in the Face. I read the title and thought, CLEARLY, THIS IS THE GUY I NEED TO HELP ME. Just as I became bent on the idea of figuring out a way to get advice from Ben LeRoy, an opportunity presented itself with this post. If I donated $250 to a very good cause, namely, funding jaw surgery for the beloved Kate Ogden, I could get a 50 page critique of my manuscript.

Problem was, I didn’t have $250. What I did have were a bunch of Transformers in my attic. It may sound like a trivial thing, selling one’s toys on eBay. It wasn’t. I am a sentimentalist. It hurt. To a stupid degree, actually. But sometimes sacrifices need to be made. I wanted that critique, and it would be mine – oh yes, it would be mine. And so it was.

This guy.

Ben wrote about this story last week. I know I’ve linked the holy heck out of this blog post, but if you open any of the links, that’s the one you should go to. In that story, Ben graciously takes responsibility for the huge lapse in time between my donation and the actual critique. The truth is, that was a two-way street. Just as Ben’s life got busy, I entered the hardcore stretch of Marriage Destruction University. When I surfaced from my trials and tribulations, he was able to give the book a read. During this time, I continued to comment on the Dead Guy blog. At one point, after Ben had been talking about adventures, I was all, “If you ever want to do stand-up comedy, I can show you the ropes because I know all about that stuff, because I’m totally an expert.”

At the end of January 2013, we spoke on the phone and I got some UH-MAY-ZING notes out of the conversation that changed the shape of the novel. At the end of the talk, Ben was like, “Oh hey, so, the stand-up thing, I am going to be in the South April 8th and we should do that! Okay cool, see you then!” To that I said, “Uh-oh.” I’d kinda over exaggerated my stand-up experience, you guys. By a lot. I resolved to do every single open mic available to me prior to April 8th so that by the time Ben arrived, I wouldn’t look like an idiot.

In February, I went to my friend Cody’s birthday party. It was my first time hanging out with comics and it turned into a grand revelation. I HAD FOUND MY PEOPLE AND IT WAS AMAZING. Ben’s trip wound up taking him down state instead of upstate and he missed the open mic. But by that point comedy had become a self-perpetuating machine. Since then, I’ve performed in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Washington State, and soon enough I’ll start doing some shows in California. I’ve met a ton of awesome comics, even the sort of folks you see on the TV. I do love me some stand-up. The moral of the story? Go ahead and tell white lies, kids – maybe they’ll throw you into hot water and you’ll have to learn how to swim.

When not on stage, I was at home implementing Ben’s notes, as well as another idea sparked by his comments. Those were hard changes to make. It’s like Hemingway says. To paraphrase – Writing is easy. All you have to do is open up a vein and bleed. And bleed I did, my friends. Bleed I did.

Time passed. Here and again I exchanged a message with Ben. A couple of months ago, I decided to embark on a circuitous cross-country trip. I’d never been to Chicago before and then the trip wound up including Madison, WI. As it turned out, just a couple of days after Simon & Schuster bought RUTHLESS, I found myself meeting Ben for the first time. He almost high-fived my hand off when I told him the news. It was pretty cool.

Long story short, there are few individuals I’ve spent so little face-to-face time with who have had more of an impact on my life. From the notes on RUTHLESS that made all the difference to serendipitously inspiring my stand-up comedy, I owe a lot to Ben LeRoy. He’s one of the good ones, you guys.

RUTHLESS

Peter Exline would tell me not to bury the lede, so I won’t.

I sold a book, you guys.

It’s a big deal. Simon Pulse, an imprint at Simon & Schuster, bought it. You’re going to be able to buy it at Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore. You WILL buy it, right?  Right?!? Of course you will.

Selling your first book is a big deal for every writer. Here’s why it’s a big deal for me.

I always knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort. By 15, I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter. By 17, I knew I wanted to go to USC Film School. It’s the best in the country and the only one with an undergraduate screenwriting program. I didn’t meet the minimum GPA and SAT requirements, which made it all the sweeter when I made the cut.

USC Filmic Writers '99

There weren’t many of us. I think we started with 22 or 24. Either way, people started dropping like flies. The rate of attrition those first two years was pretty staggering and most of the quitters were women. By the time we graduated, there were only five women left. It was survival of the fittest, man. And you know what? I was totally okay with that.

Quick story. We had this awesome production-for-writers class with a teacher named Mr. Ollis. One week, a lazy classmate phoned it in yet again. My friend, Aaron Schimberg, raised his hand. “How long was that?” he asked. The classmate responded, “Three minutes and twenty-three seconds.” Aaron said, “It was three minutes and twenty-three seconds too long.” Ah, man, I’m laughing all over again. Rhino skin. It was required.

After graduation, I didn’t find success. I almost wrote “struggled” – but that’s the wrong word. I didn’t struggle. I was something too close to complacent and entitled. I wasn’t full-on complacent and entitled, but I was complacent and entitled adjacent. I wrote screenplays, but I didn’t know how to network, didn’t know how to get them in front of people. I found that part difficult, so I avoided it. As it turns out, you can’t sell anything if nobody is reading it. Eventually, I moved to South Carolina, to my husband’s hometown.

Many members of the class of ’99 went on to have incredible success. Josh Schwartz made the O.C., Chuck, Gossip Girl and a bunch of other shows. James Vanderbilt wrote The Amazing Spider-Man and a bunch of other big action movies. Ron Anderson wrote features for Disney and Gustin Nash wrote smart indies like Charlie Bartlett and Mikey Ireland produced cool horror films like Orphan and I got a job cutting trails through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

But it wasn’t just cutting trails. I worked for a crazy lady who owned pigs and I worked for a crazy lady who owned Arabian horses and I worked for my parents, who aren’t crazy, but unfortunately I’m not crazy about accounting – and that’s the family business. For awhile I worked in marketing, but then the economy fell out. My husband suggested I stay home and write. He’d gotten a job that paid the bills, so I got focus on what I do best. Which was, in many ways, amazing and wonderful. But it was also a strain, as the years stretched on.

Last November, almost a year ago now, I called my USC Film School sister Ana-Lisa Siemsen to tell her my husband had asked for a divorce. Ana didn’t get sad or mad. Because Ana knows who and what I am, she said in a dead-ruthless intonation, “Girlfriend could use a book-movie deal about now.”

She had cut straight to the heart of the matter.

By the time I talked to Ana, the idea that I would ever sell anything felt as remote as the South Pole. It had been a long, long fourteen years of wandering in the wilderness. It sounds dramatic, but the truth is, I no longer experienced hope. For me, hope became an intellectual choice, a decision that I acted upon. But it was not something that I experienced. I did not feel hopeful. Not about anything.

This is not to say I was miserable. I had a great time performing stand-up comedy, enjoyed my friends and family, went on long walks with my dogs. But I lived wholly in the present. I did not dream about the future.

I kept writing, because writers write. One friend, Debbie Vaughn, read my third novel early on and her enthusiasm kept me going. A second friend, Danielle Stinson, read it halfway through, and her enthusiasm kept me going. A third friend, Tom Emmons, read the final draft, and his enthusiasm gave me the impetus to query agents. Through it all, my mom remained perfectly confident that things would turnaround for me. During this time I learned the importance of having cheerleaders in your corner. They are invaluable.

Mandy Hubbard was one of a handful of agents I queried. In addition to her obvious attributes, we had similar childhoods – showing horses in the Enumclaw area, growing up with the specter of the Green River Killer, living with 300 days of rain a year. I felt like she’d get me.

She did get me.

A week after she offered representation, we went out on sub. Five days later, on a Friday, Simon Pulse offered. The following Monday, we officially went with Annette Pollert at Simon & Schuster. In case anybody missed the obvious, Mandy Hubbard is made out of magic. MAGIC, I TELL YOU.

Last January, I went to LA for a visit. A bunch of us from the class of ’99 got together at the Burbank Hooters. Why? Because the Burbank Hooters is inherently funny and we are nothing if not a bunch of comedians. We talked for hours. I hadn’t seen them in ten years. It felt like no time had passed. Two months ago, at the height of my hopelessness, I decided to go back to LA. I stuck with my plan, which meant the day after Mandy and I decided to go with Simon & Schuster, I got on the road and headed west. Right now I am in a coffee shop in Burbank. Nash is about to come over so we can write together. While I’m waiting on notes from my editor on RUTHLESS, I’m revising another novel.

In the end, I am glad I wandered for as long as I did in the wilderness, both literally and figuratively. I learned how to work hard and I learned to love working. I’d always been a survivor, but I learned that in order to thrive I needed to get over myself. Life is too short to hold onto security blankets. Most importantly for the purposes of this post, had I not lived through all that I did, I would never have met Ruth Carver. I can’t wait for all of you to meet her, too.