Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I know I'm who I am today because I knew you

I've been writing all of my life and always had dreams of being an author, but I never thought I'd be able to do it for a living. Then, in 2008, I came up with the idea for Eternal Starling. I knew Eternal Starling needed work. A lot of work. So I turned to the one person in my life who I knew wouldn't pull any punches, and would give me the honest truth. My best friend, Dr. Ashley Argyle.

I met Ashe when we were assigned dorm rooms across from each other freshman year at Westminster College. We hit it off immediately, and became fast friends, keeping in close contact throughout the years as her schooling took her from Salt Lake City to Alaska, and then on to Denver and London. During the time I wrote Eternal Starling, Ashley was in the process of getting her Ph.D in English Literature. I couldn't think of a better person to teach me how to be a better writer. I asked Ashley to edit Eternal Starling for me. She agreed, and I sent her the manuscript, biting my nails, while totally aware she was going to rip it apart. But I knew she'd rip it apart, and tell me how to fix it.

Ashe always refused to give me her opinion on a book until she was completely done with an edit. When she finished Eternal Starling she came back and said, "Would you like the truth, or something more pleasant?" I told her to give me the truth, because I wanted to improve. Plus, I knew she'd be able to tell me how to fix the problems she found. Like any job, writing takes work. You start off as a novice, and you work your way up. Ashley and I spent almost 9 hours going through her first content edit of Eternal Starling. That's right. Her FIRST. There were five content edits, plus additional copy edits and proofreads before it was picked up by a publisher. Ashe told me the good, the bad, and she told me how to make it better. She did that with every single one of my books. There's a reason she makes a long appearance in the acknowledgments of all the books I've written. She was such a huge part of my writing process.

I compare finding a good editor to finding a spouse. The relationship requires an exceptional amount of trust between both writer and editor. Finding an editor you're compatible with is almost impossible. But when it's right, it's right, and you fit together like a puzzle. A few years after that first Eternal Starling edit, Ashe told me she'd been worried editing Eternal Starling might hurt our friendship. It wasn't something I even considered. Because Ashe and I just worked. We got each other, not just as best friends, but as editor/writer, women, and human beings. I had two people in my life who truly knew me: my husband, and Ashley. She was one of my 2 constants. The person I knew I'd always be able to turn to.

Until November 18th.
When I lost her.
She was 34.

I've spent the last six weeks alternating between denial and devastation. Her death was extremely sudden, which makes it even harder for me to deal with. Grief is a strange thing, and I've since realized it's something you can't really understand until you experience the loss of someone you cared for more than almost anyone else in the world. Losing someone almost as close to you as a significant other is life changing. It hurts Every. Single. Day. Some moments hit harder than others, and in those moments, I feel like I'm being ripped apart.

It's hard enough to lose someone who meant so much to me, but she wasn't just my best friend. She was someone I heavily relied on to help me do my job. I usually work through my emotions by writing, but I haven't been able to do that this time. Ashe was such a huge part of my personal and professional life. There's not an aspect of who I am that she didn't touch. I think I've turned my laptop on less than ten times in the last six weeks. Every time I try to open a Word doc and write, I start to sob. The thought of trying to move on right now is just too hard. Writing is a strange job because an author's emotions (especially strong ones) can have such a big impact on their books. If I went back to work right now, it would be the most depressing thing you've ever read...a problem since my books, and my writing voice, both have a lot of humor. So, for now, I'm taking time to try and heal, and figure out how to move forward.

But...I promise you that I will move forward. Because Ashe would be furious if I didn't. She believed in me more than I believed in myself. My writing, and hopes for my career, were dreams Ashe and I shared together. I feel like the only way to honor her memory is to keep going, and succeed. She taught me (and every student and client she ever worked with) how to be a better writer. Her memory lives on in my previous work, and the books to come. I'm forever indebted to her love and belief in me. So, while I'm not sure how to move on, I know I will.

I hope you'll stick with me as I try to get used to this new normal. As soon as I have any other information for you about releases etc., I'll post it to my social media accounts. One note, as of January 1st, Facebook is changing their posting policies and you probably won't see many of my posts. If you get most of your information from my Facebook author page, it's likely you won't see as much anymore. The best way to follow me and my work is to sign up for my, people who sign up for my newsletter get special perks like sneak peeks. :)

But here's a link to all of my social media sites in case there are any you don't know about. I post different things on the various sites. And for everyone who's asked, I finally got Instagram. :)

And one last thing. 8 years ago Dan and I got to visit Ashley in London where she was teaching at City University. While we were there, we got to see Wicked with the original Broadway cast. When the play was over, Ashe and I both commented that the song "For Good" was exactly how we felt about each other. It couldn't be more true today.

For Ashley. 
A few of the lyrics from, "For Good". 

So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend.
I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.
I love you, and miss you with all of my heart.