A Thank You Gift from a Rotten Brother

I received a package today from my brother. He wanted to thank me for the work I had done helping him get his first book ready for publication. Now, there are a couple of things you should know about my brother. First, he is an awesome gift giver. However, (say the word ‘comma’ out loud there, please … here, I’ll do it again): However, he’s also a brat. When I wrote the post about his birthday and his first book, I had to stop myself from telling all of the stories about the rotten things he did to me (us, whoever) when he was a kid. I didn’t want y’all to think that he was basically rotten. I should have told you more stories.

When we were growing up, Christmas, birthdays, Easter … whenever there was an opportunity for gift-giving … were also opportunities for entertainment for our parents. They loved the entire experience and made it fun. We didn’t have a lot of money, so even small gifts were a big deal and we had as much fun anticipating the gifts as we did receiving them and playing with them.

Dad loved to hide our gifts and then send us on missions to find them. We played a lot of hot / cold in those days. The big gifts – like a bicycle – were hidden quite well and we traipsed all over looking for those things. One year, he and mom tied string to a bicycle (I can’t remember which one of us it was for), wound it up and down the steps, through the rooms, and set the end in front of the recipient. The entire family paraded through the house looking for that gift.  We always had fun.

That’s one part of this story. The second part of this story comes from the book my brother just wrote. I’m going to quote a little passage for you here:

Nick gave it the first shot. “After Tabby tossed me out of the door, I realized that I could open the bottles with the cutter by just hitting them through the control room wall. Once I hit it, the foam exploded into the room and trapped the three of them. You’ll never believe it, but one of them was a deputy. It took an entire day to cut them out of the foam, but they all lived through it. (Rookie Privateer, page 51)

Station Foam. They had to cut people out of foam that had exploded into a room. If you were reading the book, you might just pass by that little bit of information. I’m glad the people lived through it, but it wasn’t terribly important in my world.

…Until today.

13I received a big box from my brother. He told me it was coming and that it was his way of thanking me for the work I’d done. He also told me I would probably want to open it from the bottom and then he got a little worried that I might not think it was quite as funny as he did. He also told me to have the camera ready. I had no idea what to expect.

I obediently turned the box upside down and attempted to pull the flaps back. Umm, what in the heck? Grrr. I turned it back over and attempted to deal with the top flaps. Same thing. I sat down at the computer and messaged him (excuse the bad language):

12I need to begin with … WTF?
I haven’t even gotten into the damned thing yet 

Then it hit me … oh, it hit me and I couldn’t stop laughing. I wrote:
OMG!!! Hilarious!!!
Station foam?

His response? BINGO! He thought that the object lesson was a really great one for me. I totally understand how that stuff works now. Uh huh.

9I wrote back:
Truly … this is the funniest thing I have ever experienced! You are a genius.

His next response made me worry:
lol, say that again in an hour when you are staring at a foam cube

I spent the better part of a half hour hacking away at the box and the foam. Then I knew that I needed to be a little more deliberate about this. It was going to take a knife and a whole lot of patience. I didn’t want to cut anything open and ruin it, but I wanted to do this as efficiently as possible, so I began sawing small slices down the foam (once I got the cardboard ripped away.

I see the M&Ms

I see the M&Ms

The M&Ms make this work worth it!

The M&Ms make this work worth it!

M&Ms, a brown bottle and something fuzzy. Gotta keep going.

M&Ms, a brown bottle and something fuzzy. Gotta keep going.

Excavating

Excavating

Oh good heavens, ANOTHER bag of M&Ms

Oh good heavens, ANOTHER bag of M&Ms

Still excavating

Still excavating

Look at those bottles. I'm going to have fun with them.

Look at those bottles. I’m going to have fun with them.

Some of the foam didn’t harden immediately, so it’s still holding on to the two bottles of Irish Cream Whiskey he sent and one of the immense packages of m&ms, but I extracted one bag of candy, a terrific card and an absolutely adorable Longfellow Dragon. As soon as the stuff dries, I’ll begin peeling it off the rest of the gift. I don’t need to be drinking tonight anyway, I have a book to finish and I’m getting so close! It occurs to me that I made a huge mistake in not giving Polly any siblings. They really do mess around in your life and do rotten things to you.

This is an adorable Fickle Dragon for me to hug and a really nice thank you note.

This is an adorable Fickle Dragon for me to hug and a really nice thank you note.

I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. I really am a perfect foil for my brother’s pranks. It’s been an awesome afternoon of excavation and laughter. Everyone needs a brat in their lives.

Check out his Facebook page. It’s all about the Fickle Dragon.

My Brother’s Book. A Birthday Gift to Himself.

1964 Jamie standingFifty years ago, I was probably still in denial. We had a perfectly good thing going. I had finally gotten used to the fact that I had a little sister and she was almost tolerable. Then, surprise, surprise, Mom and Dad told us there would be another baby coming into our lives. They’d only intended to have two children and a couple of cute little girls was just fine. One day, the dentist asked Mom if she was pregnant. In shock, she laughed and said that there was no way for that to be possible, but he knew better than she did. Come to find out, another baby was about to join the young Greenwood family. This would take some getting used to by everyone. Dad had always told Mom she was emotionally capable of raising 2.6 children and he wasn’t sure where that extra .4 was going to come from. Something would have to give. I’m not saying whether it was either Carol or Jim; you’d have to ask them.

Carol and Jamie - late 1964

Carol and Jamie – late 1964

You might notice in some of these pictures that Jim had a black eye. I know he wants to blame that on me, but I insist that he got himself into trouble all by himself. Of all of us, he was the one who broke an arm and the one who nearly electrocuted himself when washing the carpeting during a thunderstorm. He spent an entire childhood testing the limits of everything he encountered, including the limits of his sister’s tolerance. The church in Sigourney built a new parsonage while we were there and as we moved from the old house to the new one, Mom discovered many little piles of burned … whatever … in our basement. I think we were very fortunate that he didn’t burn the place down. He tore things apart, much to Mom’s chagrin, but what she didn’t realize was that he wanted to see how they went back together. He learned how to explore, despite her fears.

1964 Diane & Jamie walking with black eyeYou won’t see it in these pictures, because we were a little older the day I decided that he would make a great horse for me to ride around the house. He was a strong little bugger. I pulled him up short one time, but not fast enough to avoid a corner made of bricks that jutted out into our dining room. Look closely at his forehead still today, there were a few stitches taken there that night. I don’t know that he ever really forgave me for that. As well he shouldn’t. While most people would be proud of a healthy scar on their face, poor Jim’s was right between his eyes. Okay, okay. I guess we’re lucky that I didn’t blind the poor boy. The best part, though? Carol and I got to spend the evening with some friends down the street who had a color television, while Mom and Dad made a quick run to the emergency room.

Three kids late 1964The three of us had a pretty happy childhood. Jim tormented and tortured us, We did our best to exclude him from all the girly things we came up with. Mom told us all to play nicely and Dad waited for the day we would finally grow up and stop acting like children.

We moved from community to community when the Methodist Church told Dad to move and the thing was, the three of us were always a unit in the world, no matter how we treated each other at home.  We grew up, did different things with our lives, added family members, lost our parents (okay, they died, they aren’t lost at sea or anything), explored dreams, hopes and goals; met fears, disappointments and disasters.

Rookie_Privateer_Cover_for_KindleThe day before his birthday (you know, that one that shall not be mentioned), Jim has fulfilled another dream; one that has been there for a long time. His first book – Rookie Privateer – is alive and in the world for everyone to read. It’s been a great journey for him and I’ve been thrilled to be part of it and watch it take root and grow.

It’s the tale of a young man seeking to live beyond his immediate life and the twists and turns he takes to get to something bigger. Liam Hoffen faces down pirates and his own father’s expectations. He confronts his fears and decides to address their challenges rather than allow them to control his fate. He makes choices about who to trust and is surprised by the actions of those who should have been trustworthy.

It’s an adventure in space, the dream of a young man who sees the stars every day and wants nothing more than to fly among them. He will do what it takes to keep that dream alive.

You can find my brother’s book on Amazon in both paperback and for the Kindle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it now. I’ve laughed and gasped, rolled my eyes at his droll humor and gotten to know Liam and his buddy, Nick James, as they meet their new life head on.

Happy Birthday, Jim. After 50 years, I can say that I’m glad you showed up on that cold April day.

Connecting

This morning I had an email conversation with my friend, Rebecca, about social media interactions and how for many of us, the importance lies in the connections that are made rather than simply marketing a product. 

Last week, I realized just how many people I was getting to know on my Facebook Bellingwood page. The interactions aren’t as intimate as those I have with close friends, but as a minister’s daughter who regularly interacted with hundreds of people at once, it feels like the same types of relationships are growing. I get to know them well enough to enjoy being around them. We aren’t together every day or even every week, but they have become part of my life and thus are important to me. Names and pictures, words and methods of communication are familiar and friendships are being built … with people I never would have had the opportunity to meet before this medium was available.

I’ve always been a connector. There are hundreds of people that I’ve encountered throughout my life and social media has given me the opportunity to reconnect with them. It brings me great joy to introduce people to each other and watch their friendship blossom … to watch them find commonalities with each other. I love to see people encounter a program or ministry, a service project or even a book or television show that I’ve exposed them to and become fascinated with the same things that intrigued me.

Immediately after I had the conversation with Rebecca, a college classmate posted an introduction to connect me with another writer friend of his. I was flabbergasted that at that exact moment, he thought to extend the invitation for two friends of his to connect. I grabbed it. Of course I want to meet someone new! Of course I want to be exposed to her thoughts and views on the world! His timing could not have been more perfect.

I see social networking as a wondrous frontier for us to explore with the same exuberance and excitement as early pioneers trekking across the wild west. There are great and grand adventures ahead and I like the idea of taking my friends with me for the ride.

However, I find that too many people only look for the pitfalls and dangers and circle the wagons rather than explore new territory.

What does it take to ‘like’ a new page on Facebook and learn about someone else’s journey? What does it take to ‘like’ a post and encourage someone along their own adventure? Yet we lurk behind corners, afraid to put ourselves out there unless we know people intimately … or worse yet, we ignore things because we are too focused on our own misadventures.

Social media has the potential to explode our world into something bigger than it is, to expose us to what others are thinking, even when we might disagree. We can learn and grow because of the great people that our friends know, the causes they support, the products they endorse, the artists they encourage and the passions they hold dear.

I would encourage you to make the most of social networks. Build and strengthen the connections to people you don’t see as part of your everyday life and to new people you encounter. Don’t run away, don’t fade away. When you are gone, you take part of the whole with you. When you interact, you make the entire thing better than it was.

C.S. Lewis once wrote about the loss of his friend, author Charles Williams.

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest

TB is connecting with his need for a nap.

TB is connecting with his need for a nap.

This is how I feel about the people I interact with in any area of my life, whether in person – in large and small groups, or online through social networking. Each of you adds to the whole of my experience … and yours. When you are missing, you take more than just yourself away from it, you take away so much more.

The world is bigger than our little circles of acquaintances and friends, and yet it grows smaller every day. There is great potential for each of us. Grab it. Connect. Share. Explore. And along the way, smile. You are becoming something better than you were yesterday.

Book Giveaway Contest

BookshelfDo you see that shelf of books right there? It offends me.

Not because those are my books, but because they didn’t all fit on the shelf. I just received an order of books because my supply was getting a little too low for comfort. When they arrived, I was so excited to put them where they belong and then … my heart sank. This was unacceptable.

I’ll bet you didn’t know I had that level of … umm … OCD (that’s a better word than the one most would use to describe my behavior). Well, I do. Books either fit on the shelf, or I buy new bookshelves. Stacking just makes things messy.

There is no room for more bookshelves here and since I have to look at this all the time, I decided that the best way to deal with it would be to give a complete set of books (all five that have been published so far) away to one person. That way these extraneous books can fill their shelf, rather than sit here taunting me.

I will choose one person from the entrants and ship signed copies of this set to you. First caveat? I’m so sorry, but I will only ship within the US.

Everyone should enter, even if you’ve read them all on your Kindle, or have already purchased the paperbacks. These would be a fun gift for someone who should visit Bellingwood, or maybe you would just love to have some more books for your own bookshelf.

How can you enter? Well, this is going to be posted to Facebook and that’s where the whole contest will happen. I’ll pin the post to the top of the Facebook page and all you have to do is “LIKE” that post. I’d love for you to have already liked the Facebook page, but I won’t get picky about that. Actually, you might want to like the page so you’ll know if your name is chosen! Just go there, like the post, and your name will be entered to win. Go ahead, share it on your own Facebook walls … get your friends to play along.

If you are one of those crazy (and wonderful) people who is reading this and doesn’t have a Facebook account, reply to this post and I’ll make sure you are entered, because I love all my readers!

There’s a deadline. Midnight (Central time) Thursday, April 3. I will announce the winner on Friday and wait with bated breath for them to email me with their mailing information.

I really do love you guys.

Resilience

I drove into town today and was reminded at the resilience of creation. Today is the first day of spring, a date that some of us (me included) thought might never arrive.

Cat in SnowRather than snow in the fields, I see black dirt again, waiting for planting season to begin. Farmers are hauling their big equipment out of the barns and getting it ready, friends are buying seeds for gardens and dreaming of flowers and vegetables to come. My cat wakes me up and begs to be outside, staying for longer than fifteen minutes before returning to the warmth of the heating pad beneath my feet.

And while I haven’t forgotten that there were -11 degree temperatures which held me hostage this last winter, those days are simply a memory. They no longer threaten my movement and become less and less important the closer I get to summer.

I am so fortunate to live in the Midwest where every season is experienced in totality. The beauty of that is each time a new season rolls around, we are fully prepared for the old one to leave and the new one to arrive. We are resilient that way … our joy is found in the change and transformation that comes with the cycles ahead of us.

Friends (and me too) have mentioned that they didn’t want to complain about the horrible temperatures of winter because they despise the awful heat of summer, but it occurs to me that is all part of enjoying our seasons. We are always ready for the next one to arrive and welcome it with open arms. Even spring and fall, which are my favorite seasons, give way to the glory of summertime and the beauty of winter, making a year in the Midwest a wonderful experience.

TB on Front stoopI am so excited to see farmers get back into the fields and watch as the world turns green once more. I have complained about the miserably cold temperatures and whined that winter seems to have lasted forever, but in truth, it is just a short period of time and that is all behind me.

As creation around me springs to life again, I find myself breathing more deeply, taking in the beauty of a sunshiny day and being thankful that I get to experience winter as well as spring.

A World of Creativity

An old friend often described imagination as a nation of images. Whenever he used that phrase, my mind would explode with possibilities. I can read fragments of sentences and a story line flutters at the edge of my imagination. I see photographs or paintings and there is an entire life that exists in the picture, one begging to be told. I read novels and my mind can barely stay quiet as I wait for the author to unfold what has happened in his or her thoughts. I observe as people use things that seem so mundane to create beauty. Our imagination is limitless.

I was fortunate to be raised in a family where creativity was encouraged and imaginations were allowed to run free. My father was a story teller. His stories generally came from reality, but he could spin a yarn better than anyone I’ve ever known. My mother was an artist, a sculptor, a poet, an author, a designer … she could barely contain her creativity long enough to finish things. She always wanted to try something new. It drove Dad crazy, but I look back on the things that she gave me and I can’t imagine her being any other way.

The wonderful thing is that because of that freedom to create and explore, the three of us kids were given an incredible gift. We are all musicians, though each of us has approached our talent differently. We have all explored different mediums as we create beauty in the world. Carol makes gorgeous jewelry and helps children find their own creativity every day. Jim has worked with wood and stained glass; he writes computer programs and has raised three more creative children.

And now, he is coming closer and closer to his own dream of writing a novel and getting it published. I’m in the middle of initial edits right now and it’s exciting to see where his mind goes. We’re very different writers, but the funny thing is to see the similarities in how we approach our stories. Apparently we grew up in the same household.

He has his science-fiction book, Rookie Privateer, in the hands of beta readers right now and isn’t letting the grass grow under his feet. He’s already working on a short story that is part of the world he’s building.

Check out his Facebook page – Fickle Dragon, as well as his website … again: Fickle Dragon. We’re still a couple of months away from publication, but he’s sharing the process as he goes from writer to published author.

Carol doesn’t believe she’s much of a writer. One of these days we will finally convince her that isn’t the truth. The girl has an amazing command of the English language and when she puts her mind to getting words on paper, it’s pretty awesome. I think a Greenwood publishing force could be a lot of fun. Now I just have to get everyone on board. There’s a younger generation out there, too, who have a lot of stories to tell.

Brandon Sanderson signature Brandon Sanderson signing my bookSidenote: Last week I discovered that Brandon Sanderson would be in Omaha and I asked Max if he would take some time to go to the book signing for me. I’m a huge fan of this guy’s epic fantasies and I truly didn’t care which book Max got for me. I just wanted the signature and maybe a photograph of the event. Max did all of that. He stood in line for over an hour and then told Sanderson that I was an author … and got an amazing inscription for me. I totally fan-girl freaked out on this. A lot of the authors that I would pull a fan-girl freak out on are dead now (Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey). There are a few who have come up through the ranks and this guy is one of them. I’m so excited, it’s almost more than I can stand.  Thanks, Max.

Creativity and imagination are gifts that have been given to each of us in extraordinary measure. Do not believe for a moment you aren’t filled with them. It might take some time for you to discover where you can make them reality, but let them run free. The world needs just what you have to offer!

All Roads Lead Home – Free

All Roads Lead HomeWhile I’m madly writing away on Book 6 (I can hardly even believe we are that far into the series!), I figure it is always a good idea to keep telling the world about the Bellingwood Series.

You know, writing is one of those things that I’ve always done throughout my life, but never to the point of publishing. I have scores of stories that I’ve started, all waiting for me to bring them fully to life, but when Polly showed up in my mind, I knew she was real and she brought a lot of friends along for the ride.

The little town of Bellingwood exists in its entirety in my mind, too. At least once a week, I drive past the corner where I planted the town in some poor farmer’s fields. It’s the Bellingwood corner to me. When the morning mist hangs over the horizon, I swear I can see the buildings rising up to greet the day. Did you ever see the musical Brigadoon? Kind of like that. I know just where Sycamore House lies and how far it is from there to the downtown. I see the facades on the fronts of the downtown shops and the library, with fifteen steps going up to the front door from street level. I see Joe’s Diner, with its red checkered curtains hanging from the midpoint of the windows and the name painted in white with red outlines on the glass. The bell on the doorway rings every time someone walks in and Lucy smiles as she carries ice-filled glasses of water to the tables. “Order up!” is heard and she carries plates of tenderloins and burgers around while people move out of her way as they talk to their friends over cups of coffee and glasses of coke.

There is nothing more fun for me than to listen in my mind as the townspeople tell me what is happening in their community and find a way to transmit it, so Bellingwood continues to live on, even amidst the seemingly constant tragedies that show up around Polly Giller. For a couple of weeks every few months, she gets embroiled in something or other and those are the stories I have to tell. The rest of the time, her life is as normal as anyone else’s. She lives, laughs, loves and plays with all of her animals and her friends.

Book 1 – All Roads Lead Home will be free until Saturday, March 15th. I hope you have fun with us in Bellingwood! Click on the book link in this paragraph or on the picture of the book at the beginning of this post to get your copy!

Communication Chasm – Bridged

I know, I know … I should be writing words in my book today. I feel guilty … trust me!

As I’ve gotten older, the time change’s disruption to my schedule is less tolerable and I desperately needed a nap yesterday. I lay down and while waiting for the cat to tuck in behind my legs (instant sleeping potion, I’m telling ya), I turned on my Kindle. I’m reading Kevin J. Anderson’s “Clockwork Angels.”

TB snuggled in, my mind started getting fuzzy, my eyes were missing words and I tucked the Kindle and my glasses under the pillow beside me. As I drifted off to sleep, I realized that I had communicated with the author via email back in the late nineties, before fandom exploded all over the internet.

Then, my mind tracked to another author who had communicated several times with me in the same time period – Bob Mayer, of the Area 51 series. I had reached out to both of these men, after doing a little research to find an email address for them, to tell them how much I appreciated their writing and enjoyed their books. Their responses meant a lot to me, even though I’m sure that since they’ve had so much input from fans over the years, I was nothing more than a blip in the cosmos to them.

Copyright 2008, Maxim M. Muir

Grand Canyon. Copyright 2008, Maxim M. Muir

Before I completely drifted off, I began thinking about how much the world has changed and what a short period of time it took to make that change. That was only 15 or 16 years ago. The communication chasm that separated an author from their readers has been bridged and it is amazing.

It was amazing enough that in 1998-99, I was able to communicate at all with an author in a short period of time. I’d written letters years before to authors, but had never received a response. All of a sudden, I could send a quick email while the thoughts were fresh in my mind and communicate with someone whose work I appreciated. Then, within hours or maybe a day, I had a response. That encouraged me to read their next book and try to discover other things they had written. I thought it couldn’t get any better.

But it has.

Last night I posted a quick (and vague … sorry) bit on the Bellingwood Facebook page regarding a plot twist that would be happening in today’s work. The people who read my books get to enjoy part of the writing process with me and I get to talk about what I’m doing while it’s happening. For me, that lessens the solitude of the writing process. But, even greater, I can speak with people I’ve never met before, but have connected to because of my books. That is one of the best parts of how this bridge has changed the world.

This morning when I woke up, there were messages and comments from these new friends (and many old friends) who wondered what I might be up to with the plot. How fun is that? The communication chasm is completely bridged. There is no longer any separation between an author and readers. This is changing everything.

The relationships I am uncovering with new friends on the Polly Giller Facebook page is one of the best parts of writing these books. I believe that any author or musician, artist or designer, or any other creative person would agree – the opportunity to connect with people is as important as creating.

Funny story … random … a little along these lines. It’s been over twenty years ago … I went to a science fiction convention in Omaha with a friend. We had a blast. George Takei was the featured speaker and the place was packed. All day long, we had seen signs reading, “George Takei. Sulu. Live and In Person!”  We waited and waited, wandering through the various booths. There were very few costumed guests in those days, but some were trying their hand at it and they were always entertaining.

We heard the announcement that people should make their way to the room where “George Takei. Sulu. Live and In Person” would speak, so we did. We couldn’t get in. There wasn’t enough space. We’d had a great day and though we were disappointed, it didn’t really change the fact that we’d had so much fun up to that point, so we decided it was time to go.

I didn’t think much more about it until now. Because the internet has bridged this communication chasm, I follow George Takei on Facebook and get to see him “Live and In Person” every day. I don’t have to be disappointed because the room is full … there is no limit now to the number of people he can speak to at any given moment. What a fun transformation this has been.

It just occurred to me (I’m a little slow sometimes) that I hadn’t followed Bob Mayer or Kevin J. Anderson on Facebook yet and though I love their books, it might be even more fun to follow their progress from book to book. I just fixed that.

And now … it’s time for Polly to discover a body and call the Sheriff … it’s what she does.

Q & A

Rather than be upset about a review of Book 5 that called into question decisions I make regarding plot lines and characterizations, I’m going to treat this as an opportunity to answer some questions that the reviewer had about my book. And, I’m going to clear up a few things along the way for any of you who were wondering, but were too polite to ask.

One question that arose was about a ‘major’ (honestly, not so major) plotline that wasn’t wrapped up by the end of the book. There was a reason for that. The story around that plotline is only beginning and it might not wrap up for several books. It was a choice, not an oversight. 

There was a concern that enough angst hadn’t been applied to the death of the author character and that the story was all about Polly’s response and life. Well, yes – because my books are written from Polly’s perspective.

In the first  book, I had a friend ask why I hadn’t described the gun the Sheriff carried or the pickup truck that Henry drove … in detail. The short answer is that Polly doesn’t have that information in her head. She doesn’t know a Glock from a Beretta and until the boys schooled her, she didn’t pay enough attention to pickup trucks to know a Ford from a Chevy. Writing from a single perspective isn’t an easy thing to do because you can’t explore what someone else is thinking unless Polly asks. Because she has a million things going on around her all the time, she doesn’t always ask each person what is going on up in their head. For the most part, I leave it to my readers to interpret those things on their own. I sketch the picture and readers fill in color and depth as they understand it. We won’t all see things the same way, but that’s the best part about reading a book, isn’t it?

Another matter that is often raised is that the mysteries aren’t deep enough or that the romance isn’t romantic enough or … (etc., etc.). Again, these are choices I make and at some level, choosing to like those choices or not is up to the reader. We all like to read different types of things and when books don’t necessarily appeal to us, it shouldn’t be a criticism of either the reader or the author, but just a fact of life.

However, I do want to address it.  The mysteries in my books are not necessarily the central arc of the stories. They are there because they happen and what fun is it without something to move you along in the story? But the main point of my stories is about the relationships and interactions of people in a small town when things happen around them. They have fun together, they laugh, they enjoy each other and sometimes they escape reality when they come together.

The romance between Polly and Henry will receive criticism because I have chosen not to portray them sleeping together and being sexually active. I think that bringing two people together to have sex is a lazy way of developing a relationship – honestly … in both a novel and in real life. It establishes the relationship quickly and without watching them grow together first. Why hurry?

I’m saddened that just because they are in their thirties, it is expected that Henry and Polly should be sexually active after having known each other for just over a year. Polly came out of a terrible relationship and Henry is a good guy, She has only begun to understand how much she loves him and is completely unsure as to whether or not she is ready to give up her independence. These are big issues that any young woman should deal with before she jumps into bed with a man, no matter her age. Because once it happens, you can’t go back. I’m certain that some of us wish we’d had the courage to make better choices about this when we were young and it’s okay that Polly is making them. There are many young women who make that same choice every day and I’m proud of them.

There is nothing I love more than to find people connecting with my characters and the community in Bellingwood, but I often feel as if I should set out reminders that it is fiction and stories take their own path, much like real life does. Stories don’t fit everyone’s idea of what life should look like or act like, but these stories fit my idea of what Bellingwood is and what these people do. It is fiction, it is not real. These are stories, not life.

Fiction is defined as: written stories about people and events that are not real : literature that tells stories which are imagined by the writer : something that is not true (from Merriam-Webster). So, if a plot line or a character seems unimaginable to you, that’s perfectly fine with me … because this is fiction. At the core of it all, this is only a story.

TB SleepyThanks for the questions and please feel free to ask them any time. If you pose them to me via email or message on Facebook, I’ll answer them – and if they seem to be things that I think everyone would like to know, I’ll answer them here!

I love my readers … you all are the best ever.

Oh … and because it’s cold and windy and winter, here’s a sleepy kitty cat picture to make everything better.

Bellingwood Book Covers

All Roads Lead Home imageI’m quite fortunate to be married to an excellent photographer. When I wrote my first book, I hadn’t even considered what to do about the cover. Panic consumed me until I spent time searching through Max’s photography site. Surely I would be able to find inspiration there.

And I did. Twenty years of practical graphic design work from owning a quick printing shop and a friend whose artistic talent is extraordinary, gave me the courage to put a few ideas together and then hone those down to the cover for All Roads Lead Home.

My insistence on patterns (I might have one or two OCD tendencies – not enough to worry me, but patterns and I have a close relationship), gave me the foundation for the rest of the Bellingwood series. The beauty of this is that I can use more and more of Max’s glorious photography as I stay within the overall scheme we created for the covers.

I finally asked him to create a gallery on his zenfolio site for the original prints that were used as the basis for the book covers. You will see that in some cases, I found the cover in the midst of a larger image, while other photographs were shot specifically for the size of the cover. Whichever way we found the image, they seem to be perfect.

Take a look at the Bellingwood Covers gallery and then take some time to look through the rest of his photography. He finds beauty in the most interesting things and is able to capture it and then render it for others to enjoy.