Writing and More Writing

When I get busy with a million other things, I find that it’s difficult to keep writing. For the last several weeks I’ve been editing like crazy. I worked with my brother on his book, Parley. Then, on Bellingwood Book 7 – Tomorrow’s Promises. Once that was delivered, I had a big marketing promotion coming up and wanted to ensure that the first three books were where I wanted them, so I spent hours and hours re-working those. Wow, have I learned a lot in the last couple of years.

Anyway …

072614 TB sleepyEvery night when I went to bed, I lay there thinking about the stories I was working on. There are several and they tend to float around as I flesh out the characters, the plots and the bits and pieces of stories that are the structure for what I will write when I finally sit down at the computer. Thank heavens I have Evernote on my phone because rather than get up and sit down at the computer again, I simply swipe it open, write out enough of my thoughts to satisfy my brain and then I can go back to sleep.

I do the same thing when I wake up in the morning. It’s not easy crawling out of bed when a small black and white cat is attached to the back of my legs, so I often just give up and drift in and out of sleep. I understand myself well enough to know that this is often a perfect time to allow my imagination to run wild. As I drift into sleep, my brain relaxes and amazing things happen for me. Since I’m not trying for deep sleep, I can usually come awake enough to get a few notes down before drifting off again.

Next part of the thought …

Over the last years, I’ve watched as highly organized authors set word count goals for their various projects and then, to keep themselves accountable, they have a gauge of some sort on their website that is regularly updated as they work. What a great idea, right?

Well, I don’t know that I can be that organized about it. I like numbers a lot and I spend a lot of time playing with them … page counts, word counts, chapter counts … on and on. But to be that disciplined. Nah.

But for today, I’ll let you in on some of what I’m working on. It’s really not a secret, though I do love to surprise you with fun things. And I hate to disappoint when I step away from a project. It’s much easier to just not say anything until I’m finished.

So …

Bellingwood Book 8. Goal: 90,000 words. Written: 10,139
Andrew’s Short Story. Goal: 12,000 words. Written: 1,211
TB’s Short Story. Goal: 12,000 words. Written: 2,218
Naomi’s Story: Goal: 17,000 words. Written: 4,126

Those numbers don’t look very strong yet, but it’s exciting for me to see them in one place. These are goals in front of me and the world is wide open. Anything is possible and I’m ready to go!

There are several other things happening in the background, but right now they’re kind of up in the air. If they require the amount of work (re-structuring, re-writing) that I think they will to make them worth my while, word count will mean nothing yet. All in good time. Right? And let me tell you, having a brother who is writing all the time is a wonderful motivator. We might not be in a race, but I certainly can’t let him win!

I haven’t spent enough time writing all of the short stories / novellas that I want to write. These little things offer me an opportunity to explore different genres and styles. At the same time, they will also allow me to reach new audiences. That’s fun for me.

So, here’s my deal. I will try to regularly let you know where I am in the writing process. It definitely won’t be every day, but it will keep me honest and keep me focused on the goals that I’ve set. And I’m ready to settle back in and focus on writing rather than the busyness of publishing and selling books.

Three Books – $3.98

3 Days ~ 3 BooksI love hanging out in Bellingwood! I’ve spent the last week going back over the first three books – just making sure that they are up to snuff. I’ve learned a lot in the last two years. It was time to apply that learning to the early books.

It was fun! I had a blast spending time with Polly as she made new friends and started her life in a little fictional town in the middle of Iowa. These first books build the core of the story. As I look back at those stories, I realize how much work I put into those structures. But as I was getting to know Polly and fleshing out the community, I fell in love with everything. Relationships are the focal point of these books, even though dead bodies tend to show up when Polly’s around,

There is nothing more fun for me than to share Bellingwood, so this weekend I’m doing a big promotion for Treasure Uncovered (Book 3). While I was at it, I realized I could make the series easily available to new readers. Book 1 – All Roads Lead Home is only 99 cents and Book 2 – A Big Life in a Small Town is only $2.99.

Tell friends, download the books, enjoy your time in Bellingwood.

Happy Birthday

090914 Max print of TBI spent yesterday by myself and had a wonderful day because I wasn’t alone. I didn’t get nearly as much work completed as I’d planned, but that was fine. I heard from old friends and new friends all day long and those words brought me an immense amount of joy. A few words – sometimes even just two, and in those few moments, I thought about the person who had written them and how they are part of the fabric of my life. It is an incredible gift to know so many terrific people.

I had to chuckle, though, as I thought back to one of the worst birthdays I’d ever thought I would have. What a crazy whiner I can be. It was my senior year in college. Something weird happens when your birthday occurs around the first of September. Classes have just started up and you are getting settled in, learning where all of the classrooms are, figuring out who everyone is on your floor, and re-establishing friendships that had gone latent over the summer. Everyone has too much to think about to really care whether or not you are celebrating a birthday.

The fact was, I felt really sorry for myself. My sister was a freshman that year and she barely knew where things were on campus. September 8 landed on a Monday and my family had already been to Cedar Rapids to drop us off. There was no way that with Dad’s busy schedule, they were coming back to town for this. Carol promised that she and I would eat supper together and I wasn’t to worry. But I was feeling pretty darned sorry for myself. I was going to have to wait for the next weekend to celebrate with gifts and cake. The day was going to stink, so I sat in my room and sulked a little bit.

My phone rang and it was Carol, just checking to make sure I was where I was supposed to be. She was coming over to get me. Yep, what else did I have to do? I was a most miserable, selfish, self-centered girl. My friends had all gone to supper without me and no one cared.

After a few minutes, there was a knock on my dorm room door and I pulled myself off the bed. My goodness, I was glum. By this point I’d worked myself into a complete dither … so close to tears it was ridiculous. Mom hadn’t called me. No one had wished me ‘Happy Birthday’ and poor Carol had no idea what she was going to have to deal with.

I opened the door and then the tears really did flow. Mom and Dad were standing there with Carol, their arms filled with my gifts and big grins on their faces. What a silly fool I was.

Honestly, I don’t remember anything else about that evening. I don’t remember where we ate or what the gifts were. All I remember is that they were there for me.

Carol, Emma and Max were at the cabin this last weekend. It was crazy. Completely crazy, but Saturday night we went out for a great dinner in Webster City and I got a lot of hugs and birthday wishes. Jim and Janet were in Boone on Saturday while Jim and I signed books in front of Susan (Bower) Schafer’s bookstore, The Book Shoppe, as the community celebrated Pufferbilly Days.

090914 Star Wars lunchbox - Carol giftNow when Monday arrived, I was by myself and this time there wasn’t any feeling sorry for myself, because my friends and family said hello and Happy Birthday. That’s all I could hope for – more than I could ask for. It was amazing. No matter what the nasty naysayers out there talk about, birthdays on Facebook are fantastic. Silly trolls and haters … who needs ‘em.

Thank you for taking a moment to say hello.

Max gave me a gorgeous print of the photograph he’d taken of TB earlier this summer. Carol gave me several things, but I love the Star Wars lunch box! Yes, my day was filled with Star Wars, a cat, even some M&Ms and a lot of love. A girl couldn’t ask for a better day.

Book 7 – Tomorrow’s Promises

Book 7You’d think that after publishing books and short stories for the last year and a half, I’d be used to it by now. Maybe it would become mundane and not quite so exciting.

That just isn’t my reality. I still get fluttery in my stomach when I hover over the “publish now” button and then want to do a happy dance and celebrate once I discover that everything has gone live. I hope this never changes.

Book 7 – Tomorrow’s Promises – kind of happened. I intended to write a short story and get it out within a month after finishing A Season of Change, but all of a sudden there was more story! My brother told me that was going to happen. I hate it when he’s right. I planned to write a sweet story about Henry and Polly’s honeymoon, then things happened and there was no way they could leave town. No honeymoon this time. It’s a good thing Henry is patient.

Be sure you read the “Thoughts and Thanks” page this time. I just want to put that out there.

The Kindle edition is live right now (Wednesday morning) and the paperback should be available later today. The Kindle edition has already climbed to #1 in Kindle > Mystery > Detective. How fun is that? I did a search and saw the #1 Best Seller button attached to it and nearly came unglued all over again.

#1 Best Seller - Blog

I’ve started writing Book 8 and have several other things I’m working on. It’s a fun life. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Thanks for playing along with me!

P.S. Here’s the link to Tomorrow’s Promises.

P.P.S. By the way, my brother’s third book is available for pre-order (Release date – Sept. 5). It’s amazing. If you like action, adventure, pirates, sci fi, or fun, you’ll love this story. Parley is a great book!

The Way it Used to Be

I’ve been catching myself lately as I lament days of yore. You know those days … when the grass was greener, the sun was brighter, and everything was better. It’s easy to do because we have a tendency to look at the past through the lens of experience and I have a long lens of experience. But at my age, I know that all of those experiences created who I am today and I’m not all that bad. So what has happened is that I’ve forgotten (or am ignoring) many of the negative memories in favor of the pleasant.

But, one thing I do remember are several conversations I had when I was younger. Yes … I have a good memory, even though I might exaggerate stories for effect.

Morning Sun Centennial 1970The first memory is from my grade school years. I was reading – for the second or third time – Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and was completely enamored with prairie life. My mother didn’t help the matter any. She was in the middle of writing a wonderful little story about three small children who lived during the mid 1850s on the land where our cabin sits. One night, though, I told mom that I wished I had lived during that time. The adventure, the simple lifestyle, the fascinating people all captured my imagination.

Never one to ignore a teaching moment, she stopped me and said. “You’d be dead.”

“What? Dead? From the Indians? Surely Dad would protect us.”

“No, you wouldn’t be alive.” She went on to explain that the heart trouble that had put me in the hospital in third grade would have killed me. If it weren’t for modern medicine, I would not have lived through that episode. I couldn’t argue with her. The doctors all told my parents that if I lived through that week, my heart would be so weakened, I would practically be an invalid. God worked out that miracle.

French Club dinnerThe second memory comes from several years later. I was in high school and listened to older generations complain about the music kids were listening to. For heaven’s sake, this was the 70s. It was the best music ever, right? But it offended their sensibilities and even though these people had gone through the rejection of Elvis Presley and the Beatles, they weren’t about to accept anything new. The conversation I had was with myself. I would never reject current pop culture because I was offended. I didn’t have to like it, but I was not going to be judgmental about it. Truth be told, there is much that I don’t like, but that’s my business – and I don’t have to splatter it over others who do enjoy it.

The third thing happened more than once, so it wasn’t a singular conversation. Every time we moved into a new church or … every time a new pastor came to a church I was part of, I listened as people complained that things weren’t being done the way they’d always been done, making it nearly impossible for a pastor to do his job. It was easier to suffer through the mistakes they’d made in the past than to make changes and become something new and wonderful. Because of their focus on the past, those congregations refused to look into the future with any anticipation or excitement. It was better to do things the way they’d always done them, because that was a known experience.

You know what? I’d be more comfortable with things staying the way they’d always been. I’d like to stay as anonymous to the world as I was in the 1970s, so no one could threaten me with identity theft or mess with my privacy on line. In 1996, Max began talking to me about getting cable internet service. Always online? Hell no. I fought him and fought him for a year, at least. I was perfectly fine with logging off AOL and severing my connection to the world. He finally wore me down and we made the switch. The world was changing. The future was upon us. I never looked back.

Graduation 2Now I could to do my banking online and find wonderful things in online shops. I’ve found old friends and long lost family. I got a Master’s Degree while writing novels and I began to meet amazing people throughout the process.

The world is different now. We can’t go back and change it. We can’t make the past be in the present. We CAN complain that it’s not like it was and we CAN whine about the fact that things aren’t perfect.

But, what we must realize is that they never were, even when we were young. We are where we are at right now and the choice is in front of us. Live in the moment, look to the future and be grateful for the past that has brought us to today. Don’t carry the baggage of that past into the present or the future. Let it be what it was … and let it stay in our memories.

I will still lament, complain and whine. I can hardly stop myself sometimes. But I will choose to move forward with anticipation and excitement because these are exciting times we live in. I am living a life that is so far beyond my childhood imagination. I don’t want to go back there. I want to be here.

Making the Lizard Brain Scream for Mercy

Seth Godin calls it the Lizard Brain. Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance.

Honestly, for me, it’s just plain fear.

Every single time I get close to finishing a book, I balk at the thought of it and can find a million reasons to avoid writing. The reasons are always good … from visiting family to cleaning; from managing accounts to handling advertising and marketing. I am afraid of finishing each book.

When it comes time to press the button that delivers the book for publication, I get sick to my stomach. Fear stops me from moving forward and does its best to hold me in place.

These last few weeks I’ve watched fear as an outsider. My sister is fostering a little girl and after spending several months getting comfortable in Carol’s house, all of a sudden lots of new things started pouring down on this child and she erupted. Carol would call me after her daughter had gone to bed, absolutely livid with fury because of the child’s behavior. We’d talk. She would calm down and prepare herself for the next day.

Carol had to listen to her daughter say horrible things to her about wanting to live just about anywhere else than with Carol. She had to discipline the girl for choosing terrible methods of disobedience. If a good day was experienced, the evening turned into a battle of wills.

Then … it was over.

What changed? Big experiences were in the past and normalcy had been regained. Things that we took for granted, Carol’s daughter didn’t know how to process. We took her to meet my brother’s family – a chaotic, wonderful mess filled with adults, noise, a new place, swimming, new foods, new animals … and I’m sure that little girl knew there were expectations. We wanted her to love them as much as Carol and I do. She didn’t know up front that it would be easy. She’d never experienced a great, big, loving family.

Two days later, Carol had to ask a friend to care for the girl for four days since Carol was going through an iodine radiation treatment and needed to pretty much be in quarantine. Even though the child knew the woman she was staying with, her recent experience with being moved from home to home after the rescue from her own abusive home, was still quite fresh. She couldn’t know that she wasn’t being passed off again to a new family. The first night away, she was able to call Carol and talk to her and I imagine that everything settled down in her little heart. It really was just temporary and had nothing to do with her – everything to do with Carol’s health.

For several days prior to that explosion of experience, Carol’s daughter faced inner turmoil that she couldn’t articulate. How could she hate going to our brother’s house? How could she be angry that Carol’s health required her to be out of the home?

That little amygdala in the back of her scalp told her, though, that she should be very afraid. Everything that could go wrong probably would and she needed to jump into self-protection mode, even if it meant alienating everyone around her.

That’s what Seth Godin calls the Lizard Brain. It scares the life out of us, telling us that the only way we will continue to be safe is to stay exactly where we are. Don’t make any changes, don’t let anyone make changes around us. Don’t stir the pot, don’t make waves. Stay safe – stay alive. It’s much easier to pay attention to that fear center within us than it is to shut it down and step away from our fears.

This little guy crawls into my arms each evening as I work. It helps.

This little guy crawls into my arms each evening as I work. It helps.

I can’t tell you how much self-discipline it is taking for me to write each day this week. Moreso than at any other point in the process. I’m so close to the end and I keep finding ways to draw this out, because being finished means making a commitment to the goal. It means moving forward to the next story … the next book … the next part of the process.

The weird thing about all of this? Discovering that the fear of not completing the project – not being able to continue this life as a writer – or not meeting my goals, actually supplants the Lizard Brain surrounding completion of the book.

When Roosevelt said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself in 1932, he was speaking to me all these years later. I may not win over my Lizard Brain today or even tomorrow, but I’m going to kick it around enough so that it runs away screaming.

Can you imagine the amazing things you could accomplish if that Lizard Brain was brought under control? It makes my head hurt to realize how many things I’ve missed in the past because of my fears. I wish I had understood then that I had more control over it than I realized.

Guilt, Anxiety … Let it Go

You know that whole thing about getting up and out of your head? Well, pardon me while I involve you in the process today. I’d apologize, but the truth is, if I’m writing this, I don’t feel guilty about it (please chuckle there, okay?). If I was going to feel guilty, I just wouldn’t do it.

I just typed a bit about guilt in a chapter I wrote and that’s one of those lessons I learned in the two weeks before Mom died. All of a sudden one evening, it occurred to me that for most of my life, guilt revolved around her. She is the one who caused me to feel guilty when I did something wrong … it was to her that I looked for moral guidance. And my goodness, she was really good at it. I’m sure it’s a mom-thing, but that woman was a master.

One evening my brother came home and was in trouble for something or other. He was maybe thirteen years old … much too old for her to spank. She was angry, but sent him up to his room. Then she took a deep breath and at the bottom of the stairs, said, “Watch this. It won’t take me five minutes and I’ll have him in tears.” She wasn’t wrong. I doubt it even took that long.

There was really no worse punishment in our lives than disappointing our parents. They were more than willing to point it out to us and rather than face that again, we straightened up.

Anyway, the night Mom told us she was going into the hospital and wouldn’t be coming home again, I realized that guilt needed to be over for me. It was time for me to grow up. I couldn’t rely on her any longer for that moral compass thing. I was responsible for my own behavior. If I was going to do something I’d feel guilty for, I needed to make a different decision. If I went ahead with it, then I needed to simply go for it because I was going in with my eyes wide open and a clear decision made.

Now, to be honest, I’ve screwed plenty of things up and had to face down serious guilt for those things … but the best way to deal with that is to face it, release the guilt, and move forward. I have more than enough fears, anxiety, stress (on and on and on) floating around in my head – I don’t need guilt taking up extra space.

For some reason, the last few days have been filled up with free-floating anxiety. I can’t identify it. Sure, I have plenty of people to worry about … friends have things going on, family members have things going on, even TB is growly for some reason. Is that what I do to myself, though? Do I take so much of their stuff on that it hovers just out of sight in my mind until the pressure builds inside?

Oh, probably. I’m a nut that way.

The first job I had out of college was at a church in Spencer – six hours away from home. Argh! Mom and I talked on the phone all the time. One night I called her and was a complete mess. I cried over everything. I hated my job, I missed my family, on and on. When we hung up, I felt much better and went to bed. I slept great, got up the next morning and the phone rang. It was Mom. She hadn’t slept at all. She had worried all night long for me and let me tell you, when I expressed confusion over her worry and told her how well I’d slept, she was ticked off! (yes, please laugh there)

Apparently, I’d transferred all of my worry to her. Once I’d said everything out loud, I was fine. But she took it all and had no way to release it. I’d gotten up and outside of my head, but she couldn’t see that. At least she waited until I was awake before calling me back, right?

Well, I’m my mother’s daughter. Do you worry out loud? Here, let me take that for you. Do you have some stress you’d like to lay out there? I’ve got it and I’ll keep a good eye on it. Are you randomly concerned about someone I don’t even know? Perfect. That fills in the blank spots in my worry calendar. Oh, and by the way, if you have an unsolved issue that we talked about five years ago, I’m still fretting over that too.

Pray ...Martin Luther’s quote “Pray, and let God worry” has been showing up in my life a lot lately. All of this free-floating stuff I can’t specifically identify (even the stuff I can) is just like that guilt I decided to release. It isn’t worth the precious moments of my days. Those are much better spent doing something worthwhile … oh … like praying.

Now, if I could get the flies to stop buzzing around me, the squirrels to quit messing with my car, the cat to not hurt himself, this book to write itself and the temperature to drop about ten degrees, life would be pert-near perfect. Let it go Diane. Just let it go.

(By the way, if you’re reading this – I’m not looking for a fix or counseling. I just took care of that with a few words. A little humor from your own life or some commiseration (look it up) would be perfectly appropriate, though.)

Come On In

I processed through the opening words of this post and my heart lurched around like a drunken soldier when I realized that I was about to type “30 years ago.” Whoa. Anyway …

Thirty years ago, Mom asked if I would open a business with her. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and this was to be a short term venture. Dad would then retire early, come into the established business and Carol and I would take off and do our thing. That wasn’t quite what I’d planned for my life, but okay. I put my plans on hold and we opened a quick printing business in Omaha.

There are a million stories from that experience, but this morning I was thinking about the early days of actually owning a shop with a front door and counters and … oh my gosh, customers! They just walked in off the street!

scan0009We weren’t prepared for this. A month of training with the franchise corporation in Minneapolis, scared us to death. At the same time, it gave us an over-inflated sense of confidence. We were a mess.

One thing we caught ourselves doing was greeting every person who walked in the door as a guest. I’m surprised we didn’t move comfortable chairs in, put a coffee pot on and bake cookies. Not for lack of desire, though.

Dad & Carol - 1988.

Dad & Carol – 1988.

I laughed one day as Mom and I both turned away from the front door after walking a customer out, then waiting while they got into their car and drove away. Especially when I recognized that wasn’t the first time it had happened. We held the door for everyone and said good-bye to them from the doorway, not from behind the counter.

Over the next twenty+ years, our regular customers became more than just that, they were friends. There was a pharmacy in our plaza that catered to the elderly in the neighborhood. These older men and women discovered they were safe in our shop and could get immediate assistance, a chair and a smile from us. When one man came in one day, completely confused and lost, we called his wife. He had the car so she couldn’t come get him. Carol took the poor, frightened man home to the safety of his own house. We cried when one of our favorite old men died. He only spent thirty-five cents every few days making copies here and there, but he’d make a copy of his favorite things and hand them across the counter to us. They were treasured gifts, the words on those pages meant the world to him. When he couldn’t stand, we brought a chair out so he could sit and work.

We soon discovered that we’d made friends in several non-English speaking communities. Neither Carol nor I spoke any other language, yet they came in regularly. Because even though we couldn’t understand everything they said, it was important for us to be able to communicate and they knew we tried. They helped us and beamed when we figured out what they needed.

Our UPS delivery driver, our salespeople, our mailman, our neighbors … they were part of our community, not just part of our business. Because that’s how we grew up.

None of the houses we lived in were ever extravagant. Most of the time they weren’t terribly clean, but if there was a knock at the door (either the front or the back), we quickly grabbed up stray litter and shoved it into drawers and closets while Mom pushed the dogs out of the way and greeted whomever was there with a smile and welcome. Dad often brought people home for meals. Our dinner table welcomed everyone from the Bishop of the Methodist Conference to homeless transients and it was expected that each person receive the same welcome and respect.

A few months ago, I reached out to an author whose books had inspired me to move forward with writing and publishing. I wanted to express to her that not only did I enjoy reading her stories, but she had given me courage to do this for myself. By that point I had published the first three books and felt confident that I would continue.

The response I received was disappointing. An assistant returned my email, telling me that the author was too busy and couldn’t respond, but that she certainly appreciated my taking time to write. I was pretty disgusted.

Stranger, Friends, FamilyBut that’s not who I am or who I will ever be. I’d love to think I would be so busy someday that I’ll need an assistant (or 500), but my life revolves around the people I encounter in person and online. That’s where I discover new friendships and relationships. No matter how you enter my life, when it’s time for you to leave, I will walk you to the front door and wave until you’ve turned the corner and can no longer see me.

My stories aren’t just about characters or mysteries. They’re about relationships and how we live together to make this short period of time we share on earth the best we can for everyone. If you’re reading this – you are part of my story and I’m so glad you’re here. We have a lot more to tell before we’re finished. I’d probably better get busy on that.

What ‘cha doing, Diane?

The sun is shining, the cicadas are singing, the river is slowly finding its way back into its banks, the cat is asleep beside me (it’s the middle of the day, where else would he be?), and it’s time for me to settle down and work.

Except I don’t want to. I have a tendency to have a million things on my plate and when that happens, I try to play with all of them. So I make lists. That isn’t helpful at all. It just reminds me of how much I have to do. I prioritize. But then I usually run into a situation where five other things need to happen before I can work on the next item on the list and … whoosh, I’m back to being stall-foundered.

Stall-foundered. It’s not a real word. It’s two words. But it was one of my mother’s invented words and I like it. I didn’t know it wasn’t a real word. It had been part of my vocabulary for decades (I’m THAT old). I used it one day when I was working with a friend and he looked at me like I was nuts. “What?” I demanded. “It’s not a real word, Diane. Look it up.”

Whaddya know. My mother did it to me again. She had this gloriously immense vocabulary. Mom could come up with a word for anything … until she couldn’t and then she just made one up. (My goodness, I can get sidetracked.)

I’m at the point in the latest story where there is about to be a turn in the action. It’s a pivotal chapter. Those mess with me. I know what I’ve already written (good for me, right?) and I know what the end of the story is going to be. I even know where the action is taking place in the next few chapters here in the middle. I know the characters and the general plot line. But, what I don’t know is what shape the pivot point will take. I realize that I need to just write through it, but that is a lot of hard work and I’m feeling a little rebellious right now. It’s my go-to response, you know.

Last night I got excited about selling signed copies of my books through my website. That created a bit of a panic-storm as I had to pull out lethargic brain cells and force them to work. I tormented my poor brother, hoping that he would bring his rather hefty programming skills to the table and just do it for me. No such luck. He was willing to listen to me whine and help from a distance, but I was going to figure it out on my own. I’m smart enough for that. He’s a stinker.

But I did it. Now you can order Kindle and Paperback versions from Amazon through my site or, with Paypal, you can order signed copies from me! Right here on this website! Click on a book cover from this page (The Bellingwood Books in Order) and you will be taken to another page with ordering links galore. If you order signed copies, a shopping cart will show up on the right side of the page and you can check out when you’re finished. How awesome is this?! (It’s awesome, trust me.)

Now, if you’ve ordered copies personally from me in the past and sent a check, that’s still a wonderful way to do it. There’s nothing I love more (honestly) than the sweet notes I receive in my mailbox. Sometimes they make me a little emotional and I feel like I’ve just been hugged. I just wanted to make this option available to everyone out there because I have the technology!

Kitty at highest point 2Next on the list for my website is finding a way to introduce the Bellingwood characters to everyone. I haven’t figured out exactly what I want that to look like. There’s a lot of information about the characters and quite a few connections between people. The list of characters, both major and minor is pretty extensive, so I can’t just toss them out there without a little bit of organization. Entering Bellingwood through the books is kind of like moving into a new community. There are a lot of people to meet and get to know. Some will always sit out at the periphery, others will become friends, while still others will only be acquaintances. I’m going to develop a way for you to see who they all are and figure out how they interact with Polly. It’s also going to be extraordinarily helpful to me as I progress through the series. First comes the organization part, though and I’m not there yet. But, it’s happening in my head, so it will happen on paper pretty soon.

Okay, it’s time to get to work. Or maybe I’ll play with the cat. Either way, it will be fun.

 

Potatoes … a Generous Gift.

Methodist ministers didn’t make a lot of money in the sixties and early seventies when I was a kid. Small town pastors were fortunate to have a home provided for them, because they were going to make barely enough to squeak by. My father was as thrifty as they come, which was a good thing since Mom was used to having anything she wanted. She learned to be frugal, thanks to his sisters and his mother, but it was never easy for her.

Turkey & DadAnother wonderful thing that happened for small town pastors and their young families was the generosity of the people. When things were tight, there was never a chance that we would go hungry. Someone was always sharing with us. Now, sometimes, those gifts were quite entertaining … like the time we received a live turkey (Dad’s trying to get mom to come closer in that picture) or the regular gifts of cow’s tongues. I still have no idea who was giving those tongues to my father, and maybe they thought it was a joke, but nothing went to waste in our house. Dad was always having fun with them. The funniest was the day we came home from something-or-other and two tongues were placed decoratively in a vase on the dining room table. Oh, Dad.

When we were very young, someone gave our family a gift of pig’s brains. I have to tell you, we never knew whether they were having fun with my Dad or not, but things didn’t go to waste … remember that? Mom brought out the best china and silver, lit candles at the table, turned out the lights and served dinner. When we asked what we were having, she told us it was Cerebral Delight. We were too young to know any better. This was also the first time I discovered the truth of the old adage – you can fry anything in oil and make it palatable. We didn’t complain.

I remember opening the doors more often than not and greeting someone who had food to give us. It certainly helped Mom stretch a dollar.

One day an older woman in our church in Sigourney called Dad and asked him to come to her home. She was a dear, dear woman and he would take any opportunity to spend time with her. When he arrived, she presented him with not one, but two – 100 pound bags of potatoes for our family. They weren’t for the church, they were for him to take home. He was astounded. It was a generous gift, but it was also going to take all of Mom’s creativity to make sure we used these potatoes wisely so they didn’t spoil.

I don’t know how long we ate potatoes after that. It seems like it was years. My mother served potatoes at every meal – and sometimes that was the meal. She created many different recipes with potatoes, but more often than not, we ate either mashed potatoes or baked potatoes with dinner. The old parsonage in Sigourney had a cellar … and in the back corner of the cellar, was a deep, dark room cut out of the dirt for storing foodstuffs. Those potatoes lasted forever back there.

Now, you might think that the three of us kids would get tired of eating potatoes at every meal. What I find interesting is that none of us ever did. Carol still makes the best mashed potatoes around and one of the reasons I was even reminiscing about this was that I actually have a Pinterest board simply for potato recipes. Mom would have loved to have access to all of these different recipes.

We grew up knowing true generosity. Something as simple as a potato brings back floods of memories as I realize just how deep that generosity flowed through the people we knew and who cared about us. This is why I tell stories of great people. These are the people I’ve known throughout my life.