Ungrateful – a chapter from Dear Jon

I am currently re-reading all of my books. It’s not a selfish pursuit; I’m digging for “the past” to include in some future stuff. Whatever the reason, though, I stumble upon some parts of my books that I’m – well – super proud of. This chapter is one of those. If you haven’t read the entire Choisie series, this has a minor spoiler, but it’s nothing that should discourage you from checking out this excerpt.

I adore the brotherly love in this one from Dear Jon. Jon is the narrator, having a conversation with his younger brother, Will. Jon’s 19… I think Will’s 15 at this point. Spoiler: Jon and Livvy are apart for the summer…

Will has some existential questions for his older brother…
Jon has some pragmatic advice for him.

“Does God exist?” Will asks me after my shower Wednesday night. I’m a little taken aback by his question. Isn’t he too young to ask questions like that? 

I was thirteen. I think that’s right. I’d discussed it with my father before he passed away. I guess it’s time to ask existential questions, since he hasn’t before. Not of me, anyway. I hate to think what the answers would be if he’d asked Mom, or his father.

“Why do you ask?”

“I read the part about the Babel fish, and it says God doesn’t exist.”

“First of all, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, Will, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is fiction.”

“I know,” he says. “I’m not stupid… but it got me wondering. I’ve wondered before, but I wasn’t sure it was okay to wonder that.”

“Of course it’s okay to wonder things; to question things. Even things about God.”

“Well? Is he real?”

I smile at him, trying to remember the things my dad told me. He was a smart man with good advice, even if I ultimately didn’t share in his beliefs.

“It’s not really cut and dry like that,” I start. “It’s kind of like if I asked you the meaning of life.” He looks at his hands pensively. “I’m not asking you that, by the way. But, let’s say I did ask you that, and I asked Mom that and I asked Max that. I’d probably get three different answers, wouldn’t I?”

“But that’s an open-ended question,” he tells me brightly. I smile, proud that he sees a difference, even if it takes me off-topic. “I asked you a yes or no question.”

“I can only give you an open-ended response, though. Ask me if I believe in a god.”

“Do you?”

“I do.”

He nods his head, contemplating my response. “Why?”

“Good question.”

I first tell him about the conversation I had with my father. He’d met my dad before, but really had very little to do with him. Will has told me before that he thought my dad was cold, detached and hard to read. He was. But when we really got to talking about things he was passionate about, I felt closer to him.

My dad was very scholarly and well-educated. He believed in hard facts, and couldn’t muster any faith in anything, really, but especially not in God. “Evolution doesn’t lie,” he’d told me, and when I was younger, I immediately saw where he was coming from.

“But the fact that you can see evolutionary details in our solar system and planet and species doesn’t mean that there isn’t a god,” I explain to my brother. “In my mind, they can co-exist, and they do.”

“So your dad didn’t believe in God?”

“Nope,” I tell him plainly. “From what I can tell, he never did.”

“Is your dad in Hell?” Will asks, careful with his words.

“He certainly doesn’t think so,” I respond, “since he didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell.”

“But then he is in Hell, because he didn’t believe, right?”

“If you believe that, then you must believe in God…”

“I just…” he begins, looking conflicted. “It’s what we’re taught.”

“I know.” I say I know, but I wonder where he was ‘taught’ this. Not in school. Not in our home. “Who’s teaching you this?”

“My dad.” I look away so he doesn’t see the look of disgust on my face. His dad, the convicted felon, the man who knocked up my mother not once, but twice, and left her to raise their children on her own while he philandered and stole things and set a horrible example… his dad is the person teaching him about faith and God and Heaven and Hell. 

I should have been talking to my brothers about this a long time ago. No wonder Will’s confused. I finally look up at him and force a pleasant expression.

“So your dad,” he starts again, “do you think he’s in Hell?”

“No. I don’t think so. I’m not sure I believe in Hell.”

“But the Bible says that if you don’t believe in God, you go to Hell.”

“I understand that’s what the Bible says. I understand that my response contradicts traditional Christian beliefs, or the beliefs of many religions. But faith in a god goes beyond religions, right?”

“You keep saying ‘a’ god. Do you believe in more than one?”

Another interesting question. “I… I don’t know. I believe in a higher power, Will. I call it a god because I don’t really know any other word for it. When it comes to faith, there aren’t a whole lot of options in the minds of most people. You believe in God, or you don’t. So I believe in a god, who may or may not be someone else’s God.”

My brother looks very confused.

“You’re a Polytheist?”

“Whoa, little brother,” I laugh. “Did your dad teach you that word?”

“No, I learned about it in a mythology book I found. So, you believe there are other gods?” Maybe I haven’t given Will enough credit. Maybe he’s applying himself more than I realize.

“I don’t believe that my way of thinking is the only way of thinking, so I’m tolerant of others who do worship other gods, be it one or many. For me, though, if I had to give myself a name, I’d say I was a Deist. I believe in one higher power that created the world. I hope that there’s some sort of happy afterlife, but I don’t really know. No one in this life really knows.”

“Unless you believe the Bible.”

“Right,” I say. “And it’s perfectly fine if you do. I think the most important thing to take away from this conversation is that it’s all about your own personal relationship with God. Or gods. Or not,” I suggest, trying to let him understand that he has choices, but that he has to form his own beliefs. “I’ll still love you, no matter what, as long as you live your life honorably and do your best to not hurt others.”

He smiles, looking unburdened. “Do you pray?”

“Yes, I pray.”

“Do you think your dad prayed, at the end?”

“No. I don’t think he had a change of heart at all in those final moments. But I prayed. I don’t believe that we were put on this planet to live solitary lives, and I firmly believe the actions of others play a part in peoples’ destinies, on this planet and beyond. I believe other people are put here to help us, and to guide us in our paths. Honestly, Will, I didn’t always believe in God. When I first had this conversation with my dad, I walked away thinking he was right. But then I really got to know another person in my life who showed me there was something more.”

“It was Livvy, right?”

“It was you, Will. It was the friendship you showed me when my dad was sick. I had some really bad days. I’m sure you remember them. But I’d come home from the hospital, and you’d be here with a mitt, a ball, and a smile. After five minutes of playing catch, my spirits were lifted. I don’t think I ever would have gotten through those months, or the months after he died, without your friendship. Someone put you on this planet to intervene in my life. It wasn’t random. You reminded me that I had something to live for. And I always wanted to make sure you felt the same way.”

“I’m glad you’re my brother,” he says.

“Me, too. Do you feel better about things?”

“I feel better about questioning things,” Will answers. 

“I never believed in blind faith,” I admit. “I don’t think that’s in our DNA. But be your own man. You don’t have to believe what I do, or what your father does. But it’s important to believe in something. It’s important to feel convictions about something. Don’t spend your life in a fog. I don’t think you’ll be satisfied.”

“I know what I believe right now,” he says.

“What?” I ask, anxious for his personal philosophy.

“I believe I need to know what happens next with Zaphod and Arthur.”

“Maybe you’ll end up worshipping the Almighty Bob,” I suggest in jest.

“Who’s that?”

“Book five,” I tell him. “Keep reading.”

After he leaves, I finally settle in with Livvy’s eleventh letter. Ungrateful, it says at the bottom. Once again, when I think I could just set the note aside without reading it, I’m intrigued enough by the footnote to keep going.

I love you, Jon.

I have never been made to feel so ungrateful as I did the day that you scolded me for the things I said to my father.

I’ve told her before, I can’t make her feel things. It’s in her power to feel however she wants, and if she felt ungrateful, that was her conscience stepping in and trying to talk some sense into her. Lord knows I couldn’t.

The reality check was worse than a slap in the face would have been. Physical abuse would have been preferable than listening to you reprimand me for the horrible things I said to him. But I know you’re above that, and I know, for me, getting over a face slap would have been much easier than facing what I’d done.

Getting over that day shouldn’t have been easy for me, and it wasn’t.

Because my father is a gracious and loving man, he easily forgave me. I was thankful for that, but it took weeks for me to forgive myself. There are still days that I look back and remember the look on his face. On those days, when I wish I could just forget those moments, I address them head on. I make myself suffer a bit, and then work on forgiveness once more. It’s a never-ending process. I’m not allowed to forget, but I can forgive.

The process gives me perspective, though, and it makes me appreciate everything my family has done every time it happens.

In kind, it makes me appreciate you, too. Thanks for being honest enough with me to tell me how you felt; to tell me the truth as you saw it, because I know you saw it more clearly than anyone did. You changed me that day, and every day since, I’ve strived to be someone my parents would be proud of. Maybe in the details of my actions, they would scrutinize me and even be disappointed, but in the larger picture, I think they’d be proud of the person I’m changing into every day.

If her parents are proud of her betrayal to me, then I’ve underestimated them all.

Every day we’re apart, every day you don’t speak to me, you lose a little bit of me. I’m afraid by the time you decide to let me back into your life, you won’t know me at all. It’s a silly fear, isn’t it?

Silly because you don’t think it’s true, or silly because you don’t think I’ll ever let you into my life again? If it’s the latter, it’s not silly at all, Liv.

I’ve never taken you for granted, Jon. I never will.

We aren’t finished.


Not wanting to dwell on her letter, I go back into my brother’s room.

“Hey, about our conversation?”

“Yeah?” he asks, putting the book down.

“It’s about your dad. I was thinking…”

“About what?”

“I know your dad hasn’t done a whole lot for you to make you proud to have him as a father.” Will shakes his head. “I don’t have high opinions of him, and I know I’ve voiced that to you more often than I should have.”

“It’s true, though.”

“Regardless. Harboring the negative energy toward him doesn’t help,” I explain. “It hinders you from believing he could change, and although we haven’t seen it yet, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.”

“It won’t.”

“Well, when did he start talking to you about God?”

“He’s talked about God for as long as I can remember. I think he only uses Him for forgiveness, you know? Like, he thinks he can get away with these things because he prays to God and confesses his sins. I know it says that in the Bible, but that’s one reason I don’t really believe in that. It seems false.”

My brother keeps surprising me with his insight. I’m so happy I get to spend this time with him and learn more about him.

“Yeah,” I admit softly. “But look at Mom. She’s been sober for a few months now. That’s change. That’s change that I never thought would come, either, but it has. And I have to support her and keep trying to encourage her to work for her sobriety. It’ll always be a struggle, but I think it’s important to accept that people can change, and to forgive them for what they’ve done in the past. It could still happen for your dad. It may not be something you can realistically hope for, but you know what? If you believe in prayer, it’s definitely something you can pray for. I always do.”

“Thanks, Jon,” he says.

“No problem,” I respond, giving him an encouraging grin as I start to leave the room.

“Can you forgive Livvy? Can she change?” he asks me, surprising me once again. I stop with my back to him, trying to formulate an answer for him.

“I don’t know, Will. I don’t know that I believe in her anymore.” When he doesn’t respond, I turn around to see if he heard me.

“I believe in her, Jon. I can pray for her.”

“Don’t waste your prayers on her,” I murmur quickly, spitefully.

“I think she made a mistake, that’s all,” he says.

“Have you been talking to her?” I ask, starting to get angry.

“No!” he says defensively. “But she loves you, Jon. I don’t know what I believe about a whole lot of things, but I do believe that.”

“Blind faith,” I mumble, dismissing his declaration.

“You don’t believe in blind faith,” he reminds me. “I’ve seen factual evidence. So have you. If you love her, you’ll forgive her.”

“Then by the process of deduction, I guess I don’t love her, because I won’t forgive a girl who won’t even apologize for what she did wrong.”

“If she’s not apologizing in all those letters, what’s she doing?”

“Manipulating me,” I tell him. “Which is probably all she’s ever done.”

“That’s not true,” Will says.

“You don’t know her,” I argue.

He frowns at me, and I think I’ve won the argument. I turn to leave once more. 

“If you think she doesn’t love you, Jon, then you don’t know her. And if you say you don’t love her, then I’m not sure I really know you.”

I glare at him hard, but he stares right back at me. “Go read your book.”

“Go read your letters,” he calls after me as I return to my room. “Harboring negative energy toward her doesn’t help!” he says loudly, provoking me to slam my door.

How dare he throw my own advice back at me! 

Dear Jon – ©2014 Lori L. Otto

Start the Choisie series today!

Lost and Found Excerpt | Triple Date

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen my post last night about how much I love Chapter 7 of Lost and Found. It’s a very full chapter with plenty of content to love (11,311 words?!)… why I didn’t break it up, I’ll never know. It was my first book, and it admittedly has its quirks.

Anyway, I’m not here to apologize for lengthy chapters. I am here to give you a big, juicy excerpt from this particular chapter.

To set the stage, Nate and Emi have been best friends for, like, 13 or 14 years at this point. There’s a little something between them, but they made a pact long ago – friends only.

Chris is Emi’s older brother and one of Nate’s closest friends. After meeting the woman he thinks he’s going to marry, Chris invites Nate, Emi and their dates (Sam and Colin, respectively) to dinner in order to meet the lovely Anna.

As the image below suggests, things don’t go very well.

For those of you who’ve read the story, maybe it’s been awhile and you’d like to reconnect. If you’re new here, though… welcome to Hollandtown. This is where it begins… Nate’s narrating.

“I’m nervous,” Sam whispers in my ear as we wait for the hostess to seat us in the Spanish restaurant I’d chosen.

“Why?” I ask her with a chuckle, wrapping my arm around her bare shoulder. “You look perfect. Everyone’s going to love you.”

“I hope.” I could tell that Sam was putting a lot of pressure on herself tonight. I think she feared that if my friends disapproved, it would be over between us. Even if their opinions weren’t favorable, I wasn’t ready to end what we had going yet.

“Just be yourself. And I bet everyone’s a little nervous anyway, so you’ll fit right in,” I assure her.

“Right this way, sir,” a host signals for us and leads us to the table already occupied by Emi, Chris, Colin and a very pretty Asian woman that I assume is Anna. I smile at Chris and nod my approval. He stands up to greet us, shaking my hand and pulling the chair next to his out for Samantha. As he talks to my girlfriend, I make my way over to his date.

“Anna, I presume?”

“Hi, you must be Nate,” she says with a smile that would ease anyone’s fears. “It’s so good to finally meet you.”

“You, as well.” 

Emi’s seated next to her, and she stands up to hug me. It’s not our normal hug, as her hands barely touch my arms. Colin’s too busy eating a chip to even shake my hand. I finally find my way back to the empty chair and take a seat next to Sam. She’s introducing herself to Anna and complimenting her on the shirt she’s wearing.

“You remember Emi,” I mention at the end of their conversation.

“Of course,” she says with a small wave across the table at my friend.

“And that’s her date, Colin.” I refuse to call him her boyfriend.

“Pleasure,” he says, stretching his hand over my plate to shake hers. 

“I’m Samantha,” she says to him. He nods once, returning to his appetizer. Pleasant guy. Real winner, Em. 

I try to make eye contact with her to see what she thinks about his greeting, but she and Anna are laughing quietly together. Colin taps Emi on the shoulder once and holds a chip in front of her face.

“Taste this, babe,” he says to her. I catch myself cringing a second too late. He feeds her the chip, and she looks a little uncomfortable, her eyes meeting mine, then Chris’s. I fake a smile at her, then turn my attention to her brother. 

“So, Colin,” he says, distracting him from feeding her any more food, at least for a few seconds. “Tell me what you do. Emi says you’re a writer?”

“Yeah, I write the sports column for the Journey News– LoHud– and I do some freelance now and then for Sports Illustrated.” One time he wrote an article for his hometown paper, and it was picked up by the well-known magazine. One time. I stave off my laughter and keep that fact to myself, not wanting anyone to know that I had done a little research on the guy.

“Any sport in particular?” I ask, joining the conversation.

“Football and baseball, mainly. I played both in college.”

“Really? Where?” 

“SUNY,” he says.

“And what was your major?” I continue.

“Communications,” he says.

“Great, when did you graduate?” I already know the answer.

“I didn’t,” he begins, not an ounce of regret in his voice. “I was drafted to a minor league football team, so I took that gig and ran.” He laughs, proud.

“Excellent,” I say. “So, what happened with that career?” My tone is admittedly condescending, and he sits up straight in his chair, puffing his chest out.

“He had a leg injury,” Emi speaks up as she puts her hand on Colin’s. She slants her eyes at me. “His experience at his college newspaper got him the job at LoHud.”

“Sounds like an awesome job. What city is that paper in?”

“Rockland… Putnam…” He knows I’m mocking him.

“Right, right. Lots of high school reporting, I guess.”

“I hear there’s a baseball team in Putnam with a female pitcher,” Sam joins in, sensing the tension and trying to diffuse it. “My cousin goes to that school.”

“Really?” Colin says, genuinely interested. “I’ll have to look into that. That’d make a pretty good story.”

Sam smiles brightly, proud. 

“I guess you know all about high school sports,” Emi pipes in, her attention directed at Sam. “Didn’t you just graduate last year?” Emi knows exactly when she graduated.

“No,” Sam says, then swallows, picking up on Emi’s tone. “I’m a junior at NYU.”

“What sorority are you in?”

“I’m not in any sorority,” Sam cocks her head slightly when she answers.

“Surprising,” Emi mutters under her breath. “I thought all prom queens were automatically drafted into some greek underworld or something.”

“You were the prom queen?” Chris’s date asks, hanging on to a fact that I wish I had never mentioned to Emi. Anna sounds genuinely interested, though. I like this woman already.

“Yeah, but that was a long time ago.” I can tell Sam’s embarrassed and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

“Three years,” Emi sighs. “So long ago…”

“I’m sorry,” I whisper to my date. 

“No, it’s fine,” she says.

“Do you really want to talk about prom night, Em? Because, boy, do we have a story to tell.” She glares at me from across the table. When I look at Chris, he’s looking at me with contempt. Emi didn’t go to her senior prom out of principle and she had regretted it ever since. That night, she had locked herself in her room and wouldn’t come out. Her mother and I sat at the door and tried to talk some sense into her, but it didn’t work. It took a phone call from Chris later that night to calm her down. She told me to never bring it up, and I never had until now.

“Why? What happened on your prom night?” Colin asks her.

“Nothing,” she mumbles. “And that’s the truth.”

Colin shifts his focus to me, waiting for me to add to her story.

“You heard the lady.” I smile at him mischievously, which is sure to create more questions in his mind. “Wild,” I mutter aside, but loud enough for him to hear.

“Anna,” Chris jumps in. “Why don’t you tell everyone what you do.”

“I’m an interior designer,” she says with a blush. 

“Nate has a great loft that could use a woman’s touch,” Sam says. “I’ve been trying to get him to redecorate. I have a lot of ideas. I’d love to talk to you about them!”

“Great!” Anna says. Emi’s attention is piqued, her eyes curious.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Sam,” I tell her. “Plus, everything there has a purpose. It’s all there to highlight the art.”

“Oh, right,” she says. “I didn’t mean–”

“It’s okay,” I cut her off, not wanting to hurt her feelings. Emi smugly smiles from across the table. “You know, maybe we can work on the guest bedroom together.”

“Really?” Sam asks as Emi chokes on her wine.

“Sure.” I lean down to kiss her gently. When we part, I glance to see Emi, looking away with purpose, revealing a mark just above her collarbone when her loose shirt slips off her shoulder. My first inclination is to point it out. “Did you scratch yourself or something? There’s a large red mark on your neck.” Asshole, marking his territory.

Instinctively, she immediately draws her hand over the hickey he had left on her delicate pale skin. She knew exactly where it is, and by the blush on her cheeks, I’m certain she knows exactly what it is, as well.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she lies. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go take a look.” 

Colin smiles smugly, glaring at me as he downs his third beer.

“Nate,” Chris scolds me as Colin stands up, presumably to follow Emi. “Colin, have a seat, I’ll handle this,” he says. Emi’s boyfriend doesn’t argue, sitting back down and having another chip. As Chris leaves the table, he whispers over my shoulder, requesting me to follow him.

“I’ll be right back, sweetie,” I tell Sam as I squeeze her hand.

As we walk toward the bathrooms, he has a hard time keeping his cool. “What are you, four? You two are acting like children. You’re embarrassing yourselves— and me— in front of a woman I really like. Not to mention the unfortunate dates you both brought along.”


“Fix this, Nate.” He goes into the men’s restroom, leaving me in the hallway alone. I wait for Emi to come out of the ladies room. As soon as she sees me, she attempts to push me, trying to move around me, but I block her from getting away. She glares at me angrily.

“This is turning out to be a great night, huh?” I ask her, trying to break the ice. It doesn’t work. She steps past me, but stays in the hallway, out of sight of the restaurant diners.

“What is your problem!?” 

“Me? What is your problem?”

You’re my problem,” she answers, crossing her arms across her chest. 

“Yeah? Well why are you being such a bitch to Sam?”

“Excuse me?” she asks. “Why am I being a what?”

“You heard me,” I say, lacking the guts to repeat what I had called her.

“Why, Nate,” she says innocently, “I’m just trying to get to know her better. I assume you’re doing the same by belittling Colin?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“He has a good job, Nate. A steady job. He earns his own money… he wasn’t born with a silver spoon up his ass like some people I know.”

“Wow, my money never bothers you when you get to take advantage of its perks. Are you a little jealous?”

“Shut up, Nate. No way in hell am I jealous.” I laugh at her answer.

“So I’m supposed to like him because he has good work ethic? Tell, me, Em, does he have good grammar, too? I know that’s a requirement for you. Does he pass your test of they’re, their and there?”

“I’m sure he does.”

“And I’m sure you’re overlooking the obvious. You’ve lowered your standards to the gutter for this winner. I’ve read his articles, Emi. They suck.”

“Right,” she answers.

“I have. Have you? Because if you have, you’d realize they have no sports editor at LoHud, and you would have discovered that he does not, in fact, know the difference between they’re, their and there.” 

“I don’t care,” she argues. “He knows a lot of other things.” I can tell by the tone of her voice what she’s insinuating.

“Yes, he’s left his proof on you,” I remind her. “Classy guy. Who needs money when he can give you your very own, personalized, front-facing tramp stamp? Look, it’s Emi’s red badge of fucking!” I say, pulling her shirt sleeve down to prove my point. When I look closer, I notice it’s not a hickey after all. It’s a fresh bruise. Upon further inspection, I discover another one closer to the nape of her neck.

“Stop,” she says, adjusting her shirt.

“What is that, Emi?” I ask, suddenly concerned.

“It’s a hickey, just like you thought.

“No, it’s not. What the fuck are those?” I pull the sleeve away once more and lightly press my fingers into both.

“Ow,” she hisses.

“Are you guys finished over here?” Chris says from behind me. Emi quickly averts her eyes and pulls the sleeve back up again.

“We’re fine,” she answers him.

“No, Chris, come–” She grips my forearm tightly.

“We’re handling things,” she smiles at her brother. “We just need another minute or two.” 

“Please do not make me regret bringing her to meet you. I really want this to work with her.” Before I have a chance to speak again, he turns on his heels and returns to the table.

I look back down at Emi, the shock still apparent on my face.

“Did Colin do this?” I brush her shoulder again to remind her of the marks. 

“Shut up, Nate, you’re completely out of line. You don’t know him at all.”

“I’m trying to understand him,” I pause, realizing my lie. “No, I’m not. I couldn’t care less about him, and my god, Emi, if he is hurting you–”

“He’s not,” she says with a look of disgust on her face. “What just because he’s got more muscles than you, you think he beats me?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“I dropped some books from that shelf in my room,” she spits at me. “He had nothing to do with this.”

“Then why did you lie and say it was a hickey?”

“It makes for a much better story, doesn’t it?”

“Right, of course. Then why didn’t you let me have Chris take a look?”

“Because I know his temper, and I know he would jump to conclusions. And I know Colin’s strength… my brother wouldn’t stand a chance against him.”

“Well, what if I decide to take matters into my own hands, then?”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I might.”

“I’d say go for it. You’d be completely in the wrong, and I don’t give a shit about what he does to you.” I know she’s just angry with me… I know she doesn’t mean it; even her eyes tell me so.


“Well, you’ve been a complete dick all night.”

“And you’ve been the model of civility yourself, Emi.”

“You’ve deserved it.”

“Why? What have I done, aside from trying to make you see the guy you’re dating for the asshole he really is?”

“That’s plenty.”

“What do you see in him?”

“You’re one to talk. The only thing your Barbie-doll mute has contributed to the conversation is some tidbit about high school.”

“You haven’t given her a chance to speak!”

“I can see she’ll just be one of those women who will sit pleasantly by your side, agreeing with everything you say, going along with everything you do, until she has her hooks in you. Then you’ll get to know the real Sam, and it’ll be too late to get out.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“I can just see her manipulative little mind at work, that’s all.”

“Whatever. If you just tried to get to know her, you’d see you’re completely misjudging her.”

“Well, we won’t need to worry about that. I don’t want to know her.”

“That’s very mature.”

“Doesn’t seem like you’re into maturity. If you were, you’d date a grown up.” She slants her eyes and smiles smugly.

“Alright, I’m done,” I tell her, trying to end the argument. “Your brother brought us here to get to know Anna. Let’s just try to put this aside for now–”

“Fine,” she says.

“Just after I ask Colin about those bruises.” I turn to walk toward the table. Either she truly doesn’t care about my safety, or she doesn’t believe that I will follow through on my threat. I don’t think he’ll attack me in the restaurant.

I sit down next to Sam as she immediately takes my hand in hers and squeezes it tightly. “So, Colin–”

“Anna, I’m sorry,” Emi cuts me off. “I must be having an allergic reaction to some of the food,” she explains to her brother’s date as she scratches her neck close to the spot I had pointed out to the entire table. 

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Anna says. “I hope you’re okay.”

“I’m sure it’s fine. Probably some herb or something,” she mumbles. “But listen, I’ll get your number from Chris. Maybe we can meet for drinks one night this week?”

“That’d be great,” Anna says. 

“Colin,” Emi taps her boyfriend on the shoulder as he chews on an appetizer. “Nate was nice enough to offer to drop me off on his way home,” she lies to him, “but I was hoping you could take me. I know it’s out of your way.”

“No, it’s fine, babe. Sure. We just ordered, though. Can we wait and have them box it up?”

“Colin, I think we need to go now,” she says, her voice urgent. She watches me out of the corner of her eye to make sure I don’t say any more. 

“I could bring your food by,” I offer her, glaring.

“No thank you. We’ll find something at home.”

“I was looking forward to the lobster,” Colin explains, still seated and completely unconcerned with Emi’s fake illness.

Emi bites her bottom lip to keep from saying more.

“You should take her now,” I tell him, just wanting him out of my eyesight for good. “Plus, maybe it’s not a food allergy. Maybe those splotches on her neck are contagious.”

“Nate,” she warns.

“Wouldn’t want them to spread, that’s all I’m saying.” I stare at Colin as I say this, hoping he understands that I know that they’re bruises.

He stands up abruptly and throws his napkin on his plate.

“Goodnight, Emi,” Sam calls after my friend. Emi turns around to acknowledge her. “I hope you get better soon. Let us know if you need anything.”

“Thanks,” Emi says, her smile forced.

Chris finally speaks up after they leave. “I’m sure she’ll be fine,” he says, addressing his girlfriend. “I’ve never known her to have any food allergies, though. I’ll check on her later.”

“So, Nate, tell me about your artwork,” Anna says, continuing our dinner as if nothing has happened. She takes a sip of her wine and smiles at me and Sam across the table. I can tell she’s going to be good for Chris.

Lost and Found ©2011 Lori L. Otto

Want to start at Chapter 1? Get LOST AND FOUND today!

Why I’m not finishing Steven’s series (right now)…

Answer: I’m not a machine.

When other characters have stories to tell in my head, I go with those. I’ve written eleven other books, plus a book of extras, since I released Number Seven in 2013. So I’m not as prolific as some other authors. (As a side note, eight of those books I’ve written since 2013 have over 100,000 words.) I have a full-time job, am completely self-reliant and have had some hardships in the past few years.

The characters who have inspired me since 2013 are Livvy, Jon, Max, Callen, Trey, Will, Shea and Coley. Steven has not. Renee has not. Kaydra has not. I’m not going to write an uninspired book or series.

Believe me, I see my sales. I know people aren’t as interested in the characters who interest me; it’s a hard pill to swallow. That being said, I’m doing something my soul needs to do for me to stay healthy and happy as a person.

Someday, maybe readers’ tastes and the voices in my head will align. Until then, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing… and I’m going to stop calling Number Seven a prequel. I understand it’s misleading when I have no ETA for a follow-up.

A part of me feels the need to apologize, but… I feel like I’ve still given so much of myself over the years that an apology isn’t really needed. Instead, I’ll thank you for reading and for your patience between any releases I do have.

Peace and love, always.

I’m Still Writing… and Rambling…

I haven’t quit the book world or anything… or the blog world. Well, I’ve taken a huge step back from the blog world, and I apologize. There are just too many social “touch points” these days, and I feel I’m spread too thin. Lately – and I mean in the past three months “lately” – I’ve decided to put my novel writing above everything else. I did participate in NaNoWriMo in 2018, and I did win with over 83,000 words for the month of November. It didn’t really make up for the rest of the year, when I wrote about 16,000 words I threw out, but I have to move forward and not look back.

I’m spending time with Max Scott right now. Most of you don’t know him well – Love Like We Do wasn’t a popular series of mine, but he’s the one talking to me, so he’s the one who gets my time and attention. It’s the life of a (this) writer, what can I say? Love Like We Do was a passion project of mine. All the books since have been, in fact, and all of them have been well received by my very-very-inner-circle, and that’s about it.

The fact that very few people read Love Will and In the Wake of Wanting put me into a tailspin at the end of 2016, if I’m honest. That, with everything else going on in the world at the time, I found myself in a bad place creative and emotionally. The book I’m working on now, Make Waves, was conceived in that time, but it was completely different. I started and stopped this story about four times, and I am so happy I never continued with earlier drafts. It is so much better now. There’s humor and love, and that wouldn’t have been present before.

I did write nearly 100k words in 2017, too, in another book. It’s a keeper… it’s about Livvy and Jon, mainly. 🙂 Once it’s finished, it will come out after my current one. That’s where it goes chronologically…

And then there’s one more planned in the Hollandtown universe. I suspect it will be the last one in the timeline.

That’s not to say I won’t go back and work on Steven’s series. I still love his stories, but I literally started them nearly 10 years ago… style-wise, I’ve changed. It’s intimidating to have to rewrite from scratch.

So… what I’m saying is that beyond the three books I have planned, my publishing future is up in the air. I know I’ll continue writing because it’s a part of my soul and it’s what brings me joy, but I don’t know if publishing is the right path. I don’t like the marketing. Signings are incredibly difficult for me. And keeping everyone constantly engaged with social media posts and emails and blogs and books and books and books… well, it’s never been sustainable with my job-job. It was my dream to make fiction writing my job-job, but I make more in two hours at my job-job than I do in a month with books nowadays. And believe me, I’m not boasting about my awesome job-job salary here. My book sales are that bad. (For all you new writers, this is what happens when you slack off in all the ways I mentioned above – there were a few months I tripled my monthly salary selling books, so… it’s a fickle business.)

Anyway. Progress is being made. There WILL be a new book this year. Possibly two. If you’re fans of the Emi and Choisie series, you will NOT want to miss the one after Make Waves. It has feels like you won’t believe.

You’ve all been warned, and hopefully your patience will be rewarded.

Now, let’s see what happens when I try to post this thing without a picture, because this is where my efforts run out today.

In Memory of Ben…

Benjamin Noah was born in New Braunfels, Texas, in the spring of 2002. Due to catastrophic flooding there in early July, he was relocated to the Dallas SPCA. After the sudden loss of my wire fox terrier, Ruby, my mom and I found ourselves in the SPCA in mid-July–just looking, of course, and only for a female dog, which we found. The cute, black terrier puppy was adopted, but the man at the shelter pointed out her brother, a little brown puppy who he was sure was part border terrier and would look like the dog in “There’s Something About Mary.” Well… I knew that dog. I loved that dog! I had to have this puppy. This male puppy.

And so Benny came home with me the next day after getting neutered. I named him Ben because I’d never met a Ben I didn’t like… but mainly after Ben Folds. And Noah, of course, because of the floods that sent him to North Texas.

He was a tiny pup with a long tail. He lived so long that I don’t have any puppy pictures at my fingertips… I guess there are prints in a box or on some dusty hard drive somewhere. He came around before Facebook… but, as most of you know, he had plenty of time to get famous there. I think he worked his way into many hearts on there and on Instagram.

For those of you who know me in real life, it may surprise you to know that Ben and I did go to PetSmart’s obedience school. I think we may have skipped the last day, but I know I can’t blame his anti-social behavior on that. He lived with a hermit… what can I say? He loved me like no one else ever could, and I did the same for him.

In his younger days, Ben loved to walk, sniff everything in sight, find any chicken bone that people had tossed out, and play with his Babies. (He never stopped *ahem* loving his Babies.) Before he got pancreatitis, he used to love treat-and-peanut butter-filled Kongs. He would sleep in my bed–under the covers, if it was too cold. He loved to cuddle right next to me and take up way more than half of the bed. I’ve probably bought him at least 10 dog beds in his lifetime… but he scoffed at those. Obviously they were made for other dogs. Lesser dogs.

In the mornings, he would walk up to me, lie down on my chest and roll around on my neck. And then he’d stare at me with the cutest, scruffy face. It was the best way to start any day.

When I would shower, he would always cry. For years. Like he thought I’d snuck away without him. I used to be able to soothe him by talking to him… in the past year, I’d poke my head or hand out and wait until he was close enough to find me, just so he’d know I hadn’t left him.

Aside from me, Ben loved two other people–my dad and my mom (aka his Nana). And that’s pretty much it. He learned to tolerate company as he matured, as long as they didn’t bother him. He was the alpha dog, and he knew it. I knew it. Everyone knew it.

He began losing his sight first a few years ago, and then his hearing went, too. He was still able to get around really well in our small apartment because it was familiar. Over a year ago, I noticed that dementia was beginning to set in… and he didn’t always recognize me or trust what I was doing when I was simply putting a leash on him or picking him up to carry him to bed. He’s always been a biter, but he was getting more and more aggressive as his mind continued to deteriorate.

And I realized it was time. When I realized the only thing he really looked forward to anymore was eating, my heart kind of hurt. And as I planned his last days, and thought of doing his favorite things with him, I realized he didn’t really have any anymore–and that’s when I began to think it was not only time, but maybe past his time. Perhaps I’d waited too long for him. Perhaps I was too selfish.

There were moments when he knew me, though. I think he knew me every day when I got home from work. Or I like to think he did. He wagged his tail. Walked right up to me. Let me pet him. And last night, I rubbed him behind his ears for a good 15 minutes, much to his delight. This morning, we cuddled on the couch while I cried. He licked the tears off my nose a few times. I know he wouldn’t behave so kindly to a stranger.

Maybe he still found pleasure in a few simple things. Maybe he still loved me.

Benjamin Noah lived to be 16 years and 1 month. He was the best friend and companion of my life, regardless of the number of scars he’s left on my skin. They’re just reminders that he lived. I’m grateful to have so many pictures and silly videos of him so I can always look back at that little face that brought a smile to my own every single morning. I loved him with all my heart and will miss him with all my soul.

Find peace, baby bear. Peace of mind… and enjoy sight and sounds again! No more darkness and silence. No more mind-playing-tricks-on-you. Knowing you’re not living like that anymore is the only way I can accept this is the right thing for you.

I love you, Benny. Always.


Benjamin Noah Otto 5/1/2 – 6/1/18

My NaNoWriMo 2017 (Winning) Schedule

So, for those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November, and the challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Well, we all know my novels don’t fit in 50,000 words, so I just aim to write part of a novel in 30 days.

Mathematically, that breaks down to 1,667 words-per-day. I normally try to stay on pace with this, at least, but being the overachiever that I am, I like to stay ahead of that.

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you may have noticed that I took some time off from writing. Now, I’ve been writing bits and pieces of things behind the scenes, but I haven’t been consistently working on anything specific, and I certainly haven’t been talking about anything publicly. (This blog is living proof–well, except for the novella that was released. And yes, I *will* get around to making a paperback for that someday.) The point is, I had gotten out of the habit of writing, and I was fearful committing myself to NaNoWriMo this year.

But I knew I had to. For the sake of the stories, the characters, and my own sanity, I knew I had to.

So, I devised my own schedule. November (on the calendar) worked out perfectly this year, considering weekends and my company’s (and many others) corporate holidays.

If I wrote 1,000 words every word day, and 3,000 words every day I didn’t have to work, I would end up writing 50,000 words. That would mean that it would look like I was behind the standard schedule for most of the time, and that would be something my overachiever brain would just have to accept… because I’d catch up on weekends, and maybe even get ahead.

Well, it worked! I did get ahead a few times, took one day off during the month, and finished on the 28th!

For those of us who work and can’t take time off, I think this is a very workable schedule to go with. Or, if you’re struggling getting back into writing, the 1,000 word-a-day schedule is quite realistic. Then you just have to push yourself on the weekends. Sometimes, I’d break up my Saturday and Sunday sessions by cooking or taking a nap. It really made a difference for me.

I think I like the pace, and now that I’m well into the story, I think I’m going to keep it up… maybe go for a 50,000-word December.

Happy writing!

Cover Reveal: (It Happened) One Friday

Daniela at DCP Designs is amazing. What can I say? I told her I wanted a text-y cover because I had looked for the perfect image for over a year, and what did she go and do? She found the perfect image AND produced the perfect text to go with it–and only by knowing the bare minimum about the book. Needless to say, I feel blessed to know this incredibly talented woman. So I won’t make y’all wait any longer… here is the cover for (It Happened) One Friday. Below it, you’ll find the description, too!


He did it. After everything they’d been through, Callen McNare crossed the line into a territory from which there was no coming back. Max Scott was always patient and loyal, but he’s not quick to forgive or forget.

And for Zaina Mishra, she finally got her wish. Trey Holland did it. They did it–after two and a half years of waiting. It was all that she wanted, but maybe not all she’d really hoped for in the end.

They were four friends from high school on a trip to paradise after graduation. They were two couples in love.

There was always a possibility that everything would change some day.

It happened one Friday.


Add it to your TBR shelf on Goodreads today!


  • Is it a standalone? No.
  • Where does it fall in the lineup of your books? Ideally, between Love Will and In the Wake of Wanting.
  • When’s it coming out? Soon. I’m editing it now.
  • Is it up for preorder? No. Will it be? I don’t think so, but if I change my mind, I’ll post about it here!
  • How much will it cost? 99¢.
  • Where can I buy it when it’s out? It will be Kindle-exclusive for at least the first 90 days.
  • How long is it? About 25,000 words.
  • Will there be ARCs? I don’t think so. Why not? Because it’s been so long since I’ve released anything and I’m just excited to get something out there.

Reflections on Naming Characters

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time now–years, actually. I do something rather self-indulgent when I write. I know many people (friends, acquaintances, readers) think I do it for them, but I get something out of it, too, that’s pretty special.

I name characters after people I know. When I first started writing, the first character I named after a friend was Teresa, who was Emi’s best friend. Well, Teresa was my best friend at the time, too, and I wanted to honor her with a permanent place in my books. Over the next few years of writing Emi Lost & Found, I named quite a few characters after people I knew. Melisa, Chris, Andrew, Brandon… those are just a handful of characters from that series that were named after either friends, peers or former coworkers.

I did the same with the Choisie series and carried it throughout Love Like We Do, Love Will and In the Wake of Wanting. In fact, the women in the Brothers Night scene in Love Like We Do (side a) were all my beta readers of that series – Daniella (Daniela Conde), Angila (Angela Meyer), Nicky (Nikki Haw), and Kristi (Christi Curtis). Do I model these characters after the people? No. That’s not what’s important. Just having their names jump off the page at me is what I love to see. After all, I’m writing fiction. 🙂

As I re-read my books–and if any of you know me, you know I do it often–it’s sort of like a time capsule for me. I get to see who was important in my life as I was writing each of these books. In 10 or 20 years when I read these again, I’m going to remember each of these people with such fondness, even if I’ve lost touch with them – and sadly, I have lost touch with many of them already.

I accept that people come into our lives for different reasons and that not everyone is here to stay forever… but having a little part of these important people in my books will keep the memories of them with me for as long as I can read.

Side note to Katie and Clarinda, my two besties… Katie, I named a character after you before I met you… Kaydra… and she was so much like you in spirit (and her nickname is Katie) that I couldn’t name another after you. Although I haven’t finished her book, she’s still a part of my universe. Clarinda, I just haven’t found the right character for you. You’re not a side character. You’re too special for that, but I think you knew that already.

All of my books are now exclusively on Kindle!

This means that if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read them ALL for free!

The Emi Lost & Found series? Free to read in KU, or buy the whole series for under $12.


The Choisie series? Free to read in KU, or buy the whole series for under $16.


All of the brothers’ books? Free to read in KU, or buy all five for under $17.


And don’t forget about Number Seven and Hollandtown Extras! They’re in the program, too!

Find them all on Amazon!