Bellingwood Vignette, Book 17, #3

It doesn’t matter how annoyed TB gets with Earl lying on him – Earl never gives up. It occurs to me that’s what true love is all about. Never giving up.

These short vignettes focus on characters other than Polly. While I write them during the same time I’m writing a book, they won’t spoil any of the story and rarely will they give you any hints as to what is happening.

Vignettes are published in the newsletters which arrive on the 25th of every month, but sometimes the characters insist that I tell a quick story about them.

Book 17 – Marks in a Lifetime will be published on March 25th. It’s almost here!

Don’t forget, you’re invited to the Wine & Trivia event on Friday, March 17th from 6-11 pm (CDT). Prizes galore and just plain fun as I ask and you answer crazy trivia questions about Bellingwood.

Let’s Go Out

“Mom?” Sylvie heard the back door crash open and her oldest son’s yell. She wasn’t going to move.

“Mom!” he yelled again. “Mom. Where are you?”

Sylvie walked into the doorway between the living room and kitchen and planted her hands firmly on her hips. “What?” she snapped.

“Can I go with Mel to Ames? She wants to go to a movie.”

“For that you needed to yell? You couldn’t come find me?”

He dropped his backpack on the kitchen table. “Sorry. I didn’t know where you were.”

“The house isn’t that big. Good heavens, what is it with you two boys. It’s like your legs quit working.”

“Can I go?”

She nodded. “Who else is going?”

He glanced sideways. “Just us.”

Sylvie raised her eyebrows. “Just you two? Really?”

“No big deal.”

“Have you finished your work for Eliseo?” She looked at the clock on the stove. “You’re home early.”

“It’s Friday night. We’ll do the rest of it tomorrow. He said I could go. So can I? I have to text Mel to tell her whether or not it’s okay to pick me up.”

“Sure. Have fun. What time will you be home?”

“I don’t know. Maybe ten thirty? Eleven? Is that okay?”

“If you’re going to be home after ten thirty, I want you to call me. Don’t text me. Call me.”

He nodded furiously while entering the text to Mel. “She’s going to be here in twenty minutes. I need to take a shower. Thanks.” Jason grabbed his backpack and dashed past her to head upstairs.

Sylvie gave herself a quiet smile. Both boys were going to be busy tonight. She took her phone out and quickly sent a text. “You let Jason off early so he could go out with Mel. Andrew’s at Polly’s house. What should we do tonight?”

“Dinner?” Eliseo texted back. “A movie? Horseback riding?”

That made her laugh. For as much as her son and her boyfriend loved horses, she hadn’t ridden those Percherons yet and was in no hurry to start. Boyfriend. It still sounded weird. She was much too old to have a boyfriend.

“Horseback riding sounds fun,” she sent.

“Really?”

“No, you nut. Not really. But maybe someday I’ll let you get me up on one of those horses.”

“How about I take you out to dinner. What time is Jason leaving?”

“Mel will be here in twenty minutes. Then I’m free.”

“I need to run home and take a shower and change clothes. But I’m leaving now.”

“Perfect. See you then.”

Sylvie smiled. That would give her enough time to wash the filth of the day off and find something nice to wear, too. She went upstairs and stopped for a minute outside Jason’s bedroom door. He was actually singing to himself as he got ready. She liked Mel, even though Jason insisted they were just friends. They were pretty good friends if spending an evening with her caused him to sing. One of these evenings when she had time with him, she was going to have to press for more information. He wouldn’t be happy about telling her what was going on in his personal life, but he’d do it anyway. At least after she pushed and embarrassed him. She knew better than anyone that her sons wanted desperately to tell her their stories, but sometimes didn’t know how to start. Jason especially was trying so hard to be independent.

She tapped at his door. “Jason?”

“Just a second, Mom.”

“It’s okay. I just wanted to tell you to have a good time tonight. I’m going to take a shower and get ready myself, so I won’t be downstairs when you leave.”

His door flew open. “Cool. Thanks.”

It nearly killed Sylvie to see him growing up like this. She wasn’t ready for it. His mop of thick dark hair had been out of control for as long as she could remember. When he was just a little boy, she loved stroking his head and feeling that thick hair run through her fingers. He stood in front of her with no shirt on and water from the shower dripping from that head of hair. He’d gotten so strong since he started working with Eliseo. His shoulders and upper arms rippled with muscles and his hands were strong and powerful. Those same hands that had once been so tiny when she reached to hold them as they crossed the street.

“Mom?”

Sylvie nodded. “Have fun tonight.” She bolted for her bedroom, shut the door and leaned on it as tears threatened. She couldn’t do this every time something new and wonderful happened for him. She knew he had to grow up and away from her, but no matter how true that was, she wasn’t ready. Andrew was going into high school next year. She wasn’t ready for that, either.

She went into her bathroom, stripped down and turned on the shower. Sylvie didn’t know what to think about the next few years. Jason was taking his ACTs this spring and in another year or so, he’d head off to college. Maybe. Eliseo had talked to her about Jason working at the stables full-time once he and Mark Ogden had them in place. As long as Jason was happy, she didn’t care too much what he did. College hadn’t been that important to Sylvie. She’d gone to nursing school until Jason was born and then her life grew so out of control, she’d never considered a degree. Going to culinary school as an adult had worked out beautifully. She’d found something that she was passionate about and could be successful. If Jason wanted more education when he got older, he could certainly do that.

Checking the water temperature, Sylvie climbed into the shower and let it wash away the day. Her mornings started early and some days she felt as if she didn’t stop moving until she dropped into bed, usually by eight or nine o’clock. With Rachel taking over more and more of Sycamore House’s catering, the pressure on Sylvie was beginning to ease. They needed to hire one more full-time person over there to help Rachel. That way, Sylvie would only have to help with the largest events. Since she’d hired Marta at the bakery, much of the pressure had been taken off there, too. The woman was a treasure. Eager to learn and willing to work hard, Marta made the running the bakery much more fun.

They’d had several new contracts come in and Sylvie was considering another part time employee. But that was the problem with a growing business. It was hard to balance that moment when you desperately needed another employee against the fact that you could barely afford them. They weren’t there yet.

“I’m leaving, Mom,” Jason yelled into her bedroom. “See ya later.”

Sylvie realized she’d spent too much time musing and rinsed the rest of the shampoo out of her hair. She needed to hurry. She did a quick towel-dry of her hair and walked over to stare at the clothes in her closet. It was too cold to wear a skirt and besides, Eliseo rarely took her anywhere that nice pants wouldn’t be appropriate. She took down a pair of blue woolen slacks and a loose powder blue sweater. Her mother’s pearls would be pretty with that. She put the pants on, zipped them up and went back into the bathroom to finish drying her hair. Not too much makeup. She’d never been one of those women who couldn’t leave the house without her face on. Her mother had been.

Eliseo didn’t help. He complimented her whether she was wearing makeup or not. When she’d asked him one evening after spending extra time in front of the mirror, he told her that she was always beautiful. Sylvie went back to what she was comfortable with.

Padme pushed Sylvie’s bedroom door open and jumped up on the bed, landing on the sweater.

“Get off, you mutt,” Sylvie said, pushing the dog back. “I never had hairy clothes until I met you and now every time I look down, I’m brushing bits of you off me all the time.” She shook out the sweater and pulled it over her head. “What are you doing up here anyway? Lonely?”

A yip and once around Sylvie’s bed didn’t give her much of an answer.

Sylvie picked up her phone to make sure that Eliseo hadn’t sent her a text that he was here. No, but there was a text that had come in from Jason.

“Took Padme out before I left. Thanks for everything. I hope you and Eliseo have a nice evening.”

She was so lucky. Her boys were turning into nice, responsible young men. Sylvie bent over and picked up her black flats and headed downstairs. Just as she hit the living room, she saw headlights as Eliseo turned into her driveway. She slipped her feet into her shoes, picked her coat up from the chair where she’d dropped it and headed for the back door.

He stood there with his arm upraised to knock when she waved at him through the window. Eliseo came in, his eyes twinkling. “You look beautiful, Sylvie Donovan.”

She looked him up and down. He was dressed in a black western style shirt and new blue jeans. “You look pretty nice yourself, sir. Where are we going?”

Eliseo walked across the kitchen floor, wrapped one arm around her and pulled her close, then tipped her back and kissed her lips. When he broke the kiss, she sighed.

“I missed you today,” he said.

“I guess so. I missed you too.”

He helped her put her coat on and walked to the back door with her. “Do you want to stay in town or go for a drive?”

“I don’t really care. A drive would be wonderful, though.”

At her back door, he stopped once more and kissed her. “It’s good to see you.”

Confusion … And a Tangent

Pretty boy is napping. I’m sure he’s simply preparing for another night of chasing the kittens around the house while I write.

I was working and writing away last night, as I am wont to do, when I looked at the time. What in the world? It was 4:15. How had that happened?

Oh yeah. It hadn’t. Well, not really. My computer jumped ahead when I wasn’t paying attention.

For the rest of the day, every time I looked at a clock, momentary confusion grabbed hold of my mind and relaxed when I reminded it that I was actually in control and aware of the time change. It will take nearly a week for me to stop translating what time my body thinks it is to what time it actually is.

Now … this isn’t the point of the post, though it’s what sent my mind off and wandering. Oddly enough, my thoughts wandered over into the ugly yellowish-brown land of complainers.

There have been a great many posts complaining about the continuation of Daylight Savings Time. Complaints, fury, annoyance, on and on. Because posts on FB and Twitter about this are so danged effective (cough, cough, ahem).

This is one of my pet peeves that I do my best to avoid, though admittedly sometimes I fail. I can not bear complaints about things that we can’t change or won’t work to change. It’s a negative and useless method of communication.

Leaders of any organization will tell you that listening to complaints is one of their biggest time-sucks. Not only does it waste incredible amounts of time, but they have to overcome the drain – the strain of that negative conversation in order to move on and do something good. It’s huge and destructive to the health of organizations and people do not understand that.

I remember speaking to a pastor friend about some things that were driving me nuts – things that needed to be changed so the church could grow, get healthy, become more connected to the community. The one thing I promised was that I would never complain about something I wasn’t willing to dig in and help fix. Unless I had a healthy response to my own concerns, they were nothing more than whiny complaints. We’d already heard too much whining and complaining from people on the outside of the issues, who only showed up at moments of crisis, but never participated in anything else. Not something I want to emulate.

Caveat: speaking with customer service about a problem, contacting your congressperson with what you believe, actively participating in movements for change (or against change as the case may be for you) … those are not examples of unproductive complaining.

Back to Daylight Savings Times. Would I prefer that we just live in the time frame we are given? Yeah. Probably. Am I willing to start a movement? Not so much. So … while I might whine about the confusion that my poor addled brain has to suffer through twice a year, complaining about how that elusive *someone* should change this is a ridiculous waste of words, effort and time. As it is for nearly anything we choose to complain about, by the way.

My words (numerous as they may be) are more important to me than to be used in a negative manner. I want the words you read from me to lift you up … to lift me up.

And I want to read words from you that …
– fill my heart with joy
– challenge me to be better
– tell me who you are
– tell me your dreams
– ask about my dreams
– share your life
– explore struggles we overcome
– bring light to the world
– make us laugh
– make us cry
– lift our spirits
– bring goodness to the world
– set the bar higher
– restore faith in humanity’s goodness

The next time we’re ready to complain about something in a public forum … what if we were to step back and ask how effective our communication will be. I’m guessing we could come up with something much better to say.

…and that’s my rant for the month.

The Sound of Silence

Silence.

Wow. No fans blowing, the furnace isn’t running, cats are sleeping, no vehicles moving outside. Pure silence. Well … the clicking of my fingers across the keyboard, but otherwise …

When my life was filled with meetings and customers, busyness and activity, I didn’t think I would ever hear the sound of silence again. (Are you humming the tune?) Now I wonder how I ever lived without it. Silence restores me.

Music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. There is nothing more fun for me that watching a movie or binge-ing on a television series, but when I turn it all off, my blood pressure responds. My shoulders fall, my body relaxes, my mind re-boots.

Silence is no longer a luxury, but a necessity and I will continue to notice and appreciate it for the gift that it is.

~~~

It’s hard to believe that in just a little more than two weeks, Book 17 – Marks in a Lifetime will be in your hands. Sometimes my life is so surreal. I work, work, work, work and then it happens. Another book is published.

Weird.

Even though Book 18’s first chapter hasn’t been written, notes and ideas are filling up pages in my notebook. The story is becoming clearer and pretty soon, the only thing left to do will be to get the words out of my mind. That’s the fun part.

If you don’t know the drill by now, I publish every quarter. March 25, June 25, September 25, and December 25. I can’t write any faster than that … so sorry! LOL. I appreciate your encouragement (that’s what we’ll call it, right?), though.

And for those of you who are new to this, I do not do pre-orders. Amazon’s rules around that make it impossible for me to run such a tight publishing schedule. You won’t find the book on Amazon until it is published.

~~~

For the last couple of weeks, Book 17 has been in the hands of my editors, leaving my brain extra time to process and come up with new ideas and new thoughts. It’s been awesome. But it’s also been overwhelming.

Once I land on a great idea, it isn’t enough to put it on a list and forget about it. I dig right in and find ways to make it real.

My brother (he’s also an author – you should check out his books) and I have been talking about so many different things lately. He’s just freakin’ useless. His standard comment to me is “Go! Do it.”

How can you not love that tummy? My Earl is so adorable.

Then when I get all uppity about there being too much on my plate, he reminds me to take it one step at a time. Smart-Alec. Sigh.

This week, I’ve been breaking things down. Instead of leaping into the deep end, I’m going to start at the four-foot level. Deep enough to satisfy my creativity, but not so much that I’m drowning. (I’m short, six feet of water might kill me.)

You see, I’m highly organized and manage my time really well. I build procrastination into my schedule so that when I can take no more, there is still time to breathe.

What overwhelms me is when my creativity explodes. I discover so many more things that I want to accomplish. Things that would never have occurred to me last year. But even in the midst of that insane pace, I find myself energized and excited. There is nothing better than knowing you can do what you dream about doing.

An evangelist that I knew and loved used to describe imagination as a ‘nation of images.’ The first time I heard him use that phrase, my mind leaped at it. That’s exactly how I feel when this frenzy of creativity, anticipation and expectation take over. There are millions of possibilities and they are all available for the taking.

I used to lament the fact that I wasn’t one of those people who chose one field of study, one talent, one ability, one thing to focus on so as to become an expert. That was never my personality. I wondered if I would ever discover a way to make use of the fact that I was quite good at a lot of things, but not an expert at anything.

My perspective has changed. The fact that I am not an expert at one single thing means that there are no limits to what I can do and explore. This doesn’t mean that I won’t always focus on getting better at the things that mean the most to me, but rather than feel as if I’m not something, now I understand that what I am is absolutely perfect for me.

Ahhh … enough babbling. It’s silent in here again and I think I’ll bask in that for a time.

Brain Dump

When my schedule isn’t on a do-or-die deadline, I actually have extra synapses available to write blog posts. As much as I love that, the last couple of days have been a bit unfocused. Today’s the day to recapture my brain (I had an image of a wrangler with a lasso and a rather naughty bronco racing around the pen, neighing in hysterical laughter – welcome to my brain).

1) You should read through the gratitude comments showing up on the FB Bellingwood page. Oh friends, you are amazing. You’ve made me emotional – I smile and get teary-eyed. We really do have so much to be thankful for, don’t we? I prefer placing my focus on those amazing things that happen in our lives. But you fill my heart. If you want more information on the journals, check them out here.

2) Have you ever said (or heard) “Stop whining”? We are automatically programmed to react to that pitch of the voice … right now. When it is nothing more than just a whine, it’s annoying. My cats all have that pitch down perfectly. That’s how Grey (my sweet little girl) landed in my life. She was quite persistent in her whining and crying that day. I couldn’t ignore her. Now, she uses that whine whenever she wants something.

Last night, she woke up from a nap across the room and started right in. She wanted my attention. Right now! So, I talked to her until she crossed the room. Grey didn’t want to jump up on the desk, so my job was to decide which side of the chair she was approaching and drop my hand until I felt her there and rub her head until she had enough. Earl does the same thing. If I don’t see him, he whines until I drop my hand to give him some love.

It’s all pretty wonderful, but no matter what I’m doing, if one of them whines (meows) at me, I react immediately. No wonder Mom was always telling us to stop whining. She had things to do other than meet our every need.

3) Did you notice the new “Shop Now” button on the FB page? It takes people directly to the book list on this website where people can order from Amazon. Invite your friends to join us and let them know how easy it is to find the books now.

4) While you’re there on the FB Bellingwood page, be sure to check out the Find Our Fans giveaway. It is going on until March 19th. What a fun opportunity. You are exposed to new authors AND get a chance to win things. Score!

5) Mark your calendars for fun in March. Wine & Trivia Night on March 17th – from 6-11 pm Central Time. I’m building up a wonderful stash of giveaways and we always have such fun.

6) The cover and title for Book 17 – Marks in a Lifetime were revealed in last Saturday’s email newsletter. It is incredible to me that I have such a wonderful resource for images from Max. Who gets that lucky? Apparently, I do. The release date is March 25 and we are on target.

That’s enough random information for today. There are so many things around this place that need to be dealt with. Sewing to finish, dishes to wash, rugs to vacuum, stories to write, designs to work on. My To-Do list is ridiculous! No matter how many things I strike off it, the crazy thing fills right back up. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Boredom will never be part of my life.

That was another thing Mom never wanted to hear from us – “I’m bored.” She had lists. It was easier to just find a book and curl up in a chair somewhere. Nobody bothered us if we were reading.

Now I’m babbling. That list? It won’t go away, and chattering at you won’t get things finished.

I love you!

Something Fun – Journals!

Earl is helping me.

In Saturday morning’s email newsletter, I introduced you to a new product I’ve created – Journals. This is one of the most exciting things I’ve done in a long time (outside of writing Polly’s stories).

You see, I absolutely believe in the power of the written word. It anchors moments in time, reveals stories that might go untold, allows exploration of thoughts and ideas. If all we ever do is think or speak – those words are ephemeral. Heh, now sometimes, that’s probably a good idea.

To begin this new venture, I’ve created three different journals. The first is titled Capture Your Memories. Yeah. That’s a bit of a spinoff from Bellingwood Books 15 and 16. I can steal from myself – right? There is plenty of room for you to jot down a few notes each day. My tendency is to do a quick re-cap every evening, just so I don’t lose track of the day’s activities. I’ve also included empty pages for you to write out bigger memories or even scrapbook some of the things you’ve done.

Cat butt! (Still curious Earl)

The second journal – Books are Life – is a new venture for me. Rather than consuming a book and setting it aside, I’m going to actually write down thoughts about what I read. It might not happen for every book I go through, but I intend to fill one journal this year. That’s fifty-five books that I will have read, at the very least. Not only will I have read them, but I will also have a synopsis and more information at hand about them. My impressions, my memories.

The third journal – Find Joy – is probably my favorite. I don’t know if even I have enough words to describe the incredible power of a grateful life. In this journal, you are asked to write out five things each day that you are thankful for. On the facing page, you will find two questions that can be used to trigger memories or bigger thoughts about gratitude.

All of these journals come filled with inspirational quotations and beautiful pictures that Max has shot through the years. If you’re paying attention, you’ll discover that the cover of each journal is made up of photographs that are printed within.

These are the same dimensions as a standard paperback – 6×9 – and about 1/2″ thick with 150 pages of terrific paper for you to fill up with thoughts, doodles, sketches, scraps of life and more words.

~~~

GIVEAWAY!

Now that you’ve read this far, let’s do a giveaway. I’ve brought copies of these journals in and while I look forward to selling them down the road, we can start with a giveaway. The best place to respond to this is in a comment on the FB Bellingwood page post of this blog (not an independent post on the page). If you aren’t on FB, you can leave a comment here.

Tell me in words or a picture what you are thankful for today. You have until Tuesday (2/28) at midnight to do so.

On Wednesday, March 1 (you know me, it will be the afternoon), I will choose five winners to receive their choice of two journals. If you want two of the same so you can give one away, perfect. If you want two separate journals for yourself, that’s awesome.

~~~

These journals are for sale on Amazon – start from this page for links to Amazon. Due to postage costs, I can’t save you much money by sending them out from here, but I will sell signed journals for $9.50 each, including shipping.  If you’d like to order a journal from me, send a message on FB or use the contact form on the website. You can also simply put a check and a note in the mail (as to what you’re ordering) to Diane Muir, PO Box 441, Stratford, IA 50249.

Send lawyers, gu … nah, I’ve got this.

First off … don’t any of you feel sorry for me or try to pat me on the head and tell me how to fix things. I’m fine. Seriously – take this with the grain of salt that I’m typing it. Laugh a little, tell me how bad you’ve got it. All of that is fine, but no advice or sympathy. I’m a big girl.

You know, the truth is – any post that I put out in public is generally for humor’s sake or just general information. If things are falling apart in my life, the only people who will know are my family and closest friends. It’s not really for public consumption. Each of you have your own things to deal with and no matter how much you care for me, the last thing you need is someone else to worry about. So … there’s that.

Wow, already with the ranting, Diane. Get on with it.

So … I just got back from a trip to the bathroom. The bathroom, the shower, and just as I fall asleep. What do they have in common? My best thinking happens then. (TMI? Hah. Sorry ’bout that.)

Anyway, as I walked over there, thinking about my next two weeks, THIS is the song that came into my mind. Why? Oh heck, who knows.

I thought about just posting it on FB with the comment that instead, send M&Ms, food, and coffee. But then I realized that some of you would do just that and it’s not necessary. (Insert riotous laughter here.)

Amazon Subscribe and Save has M&Ms now. Every month, a stash hits my front door. And as for food, I’ve signed up with Home Chef and the best food ever arrives each Wednesday. Max gave me fabulous coffee for Christmas, so I’m set.

You could send cards of encouragement and I wouldn’t hate that, but then there’s the whole getting to the post office. Which means I have to leave the house. My workaholic brain fights me for time. I tell it that I need fresh air and to see people – even if it’s my postmistress and the chickadees at the grocery store. Oh … and all of the farmers who give me the farmer wave on the road between here and town. No matter what I say, my brain reminds me that I need to stay busy, there’s no time and too much to do.

Where did this last month and a half go? There’s a deadline looming.

Believe it or not, I need to have Book 17 written by the end of next weekend – July 18 / 19 (I’m totally leaving this error in here, because it’s hilarious – July? Good heavens, I’m out of control!) It’s totally do-able, I just need to focus. Then I use a week to edit the biggest errors before sending it off to my team of proofreaders and editors (thank you, I have plenty right now). Now, crazy Diane set up her schedule so that I also have a newsletter to produce during the week that I’m editing. And a cover + title to create for the book (for the newsletter), too. And at least one, but maybe two vignettes. All of that has to happen by the 24th of February.

This month, I’ve also got a really fun new product for you. I’m still in the midst of design and creation, but it will be announced in the February 25th newsletter. I can’t wait for you to see what I’ve come up with. You’re going to love it! Stinking love it! Seriously – like love it! Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but some of you are going to love it! (Insert more laughter here, please.)

Sound like I’m whining yet? Please know that I’m not. It’s the best life a girl could ask for, but I’m still curious as to how I’ve arrived at February 11th and still feel as if I should be in the middle of January.

TB is usually the one tucked in front of me while I write. He’s so cute when he’s asleep.

The next two weeks are going to be insane in Diane’s world. I’ve pretty much decided, though, that’s par for the course. I must like it that way since it happens so regularly. How can I complain when I get to live my dream and I have such wonderful friends like you in my life … and then these three cats. As I’m typing, TB is sleeping on a blanket on top of the printer/scanner beside me, Grey is sound asleep to the left of me and Earl is curled up in front of me. My arms are wrapped around him as I type on the keyboard. He’s a little ball of warm fluff.

No lawyers, guns or money and no M&Ms, food or coffee. I’ve all I need and so much more.

… unless you can send me back in time about a month. That would be cool. Who wants to work on that for me?

Congratulations Winners & Thank You!

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you did for me this weekend. It means the world to me that you are part of this community and that you are so positive and encouraging. You are why Bellingwood continues. Okay, let’s be honest, Polly really never shuts up, but without you, I would just let her jabber away without getting everything down.

Winners for all of my giveaways are chosen by using a random number generator. It’s the only way to be fair about this. Though I wish I could give all of you something. You truly have no idea how much you mean to me. I see your names pop up with either a *like* or a comment and I smile. We don’t know a lot about each other, but I keep learning more and more about each of you and those things rush through my mind when I see your names.

Anyway – winners:

Carla Strating – Max’s notecards in an embroidered Bellingwood envelope
Mary Breedlove – choice of one of the mugs
Lisa Davis – Bellingwood charm
Pamela Coldiron-Curtis – $10 Amazon gift card (email)
Wendy Carey – choice of one of the mugs

Thank you again. I read through your comments as they came in and my heart filled up. You are kind and generous with me. Thank you.

Bellingwood Boxed Set: Books 4-6

The second boxed set of Bellingwood books was released on Wednesday for the Amazon Kindle and includes books 4-6, plus the short story, Room at the Inn. I had the best time going back through those stories; remembering the fun I had as Polly’s life unfolded in my mind. It hit me as I was working through them again that these three books (and the short) are pivotal times for her. Gone was the newness of moving to Bellingwood. Big decisions for her life are made and wonderful people find their way into her heart.

With this release, though, I need your help. Positive reviews on Amazon push books up in rankings and also allow the author to market the books to other readers.

You have to know that this stuff is so far outside of my box. It’s never easy asking people to do things for me. But it’s even more difficult to ask you to do something like this. Marketing myself goes against everything I ever learned from my parents. I’m not saying they were right – it’s just the way things are.

Sometimes you just have to let the cat be in the picture.

Since the world is what it is and I couldn’t self-publish without self-marketing, I just do it. Without marketing, I would never have met you and I’m incredibly grateful for that opportunity.

Most of the time, reviews are organic. You read the books and some of you leave reviews and I’m thrilled. With this release, most everyone has already read these books, written their reviews and moved on, so I am asking for your help.

Here’s the deal: I need positive reviews on the Bellingwood Boxed Set: Books 4-6.

Let’s have a giveaway and make those happen.

How this works:

  1. Click on the book cover above (or HERE) and go to Amazon. Write a review.
  2. Return to the Facebook Bellingwood page (preferable) and leave a comment under this post. All you have to do is write “Done” or something like that. If you truly aren’t on Facebook, you can leave a comment here, but I will warn you, that many people don’t return here to see my response.
  3. I will add a giveaway for every 25 comments.
  4. We’ll start with a set of Max’s flower notecards in an embroidered Bellingwood envelope. Then, a Sycamore House mug at 50 comments. At 75, one of Julie’s pewter Bellingwood charms is added to the mix. At 100 comments, I’ll add a $10 Amazon gift certificate. For every 25 after that, I will repeat these prizes. If we get ridiculous, I will add other crazy things.
  5. Write the review and leave a comment before Sunday (January 29, 2017) at midnight central time. (I appreciate reviews any time … you’re wonderful.)
  6. I will randomly choose winners on Monday, then alert you as a reply to your comment and in a separate post as well.
  7. Winners will send me your email address or mailing address as the case may be – in a private message.
  8. International readers – I appreciate your reviews. Though I can’t send you a physical reward, if your name is chosen, you will receive a $10 (USD) Amazon gift card.

The winner has a choice of mugs.

Yay! Gift Cards!

This is just the coolest thing. I love this charm.

The Stuff of Memories

This is a small portion of things I’m managing. The cats want desperately to play with it all!

Over the last two days, I’ve been absorbed in memories. I received two boxes of … stuff … from the son of my Dad’s second wife. Dad died in 2007 (Mom died in 1987) and we were inundated with all of the things he’d saved over the years when that happened. To be honest, most of our lives have been spent dealing with memories and stuff. My family is not so great at throwing things away.

Check that. My brother is fantastic at it and my sister is better than me. I still have a lot of learning to do.

I opened the first (small) box and took pictures of the items in there, sent those to Carol and Jamie and asked if they wanted anything. I was met with resounding … silence. Carp (yep, spelled that the way I wanted to). I begged … more silence. More carp. The thing is, they both know how horrible I am with throwing out memories. Rotten siblings.

Then I dug into the much bigger box. Oh. My. Goodness. I would have been fine never knowing this stuff existed. It hadn’t for decades as far as I was concerned. And now, here it is again. I took more pictures and sent them off – met with a great deal of silence. I tried a little bit of shame. That got me nowhere. The thing is, we all have too much stuff in our lives, don’t we?

Now … as ridiculous as it might sound, one big pile of stuff was cards and pictures from my Dad’s retirement in 1995. As I looked through the cards, I was flooded with memories of people from all of the churches he served in Iowa. Names that I hadn’t thought of in years and years, but had been important to our family during the time we spent with them. It’s twenty-one years later and I know that many of them have passed away since then. But wow, did my parents touch their lives. That is so wonderful for me to know.

I’ll scan photographs and some of the cards with hand-written memories. There are several things in there from most all of the churches Dad served. It’s strange to realize that so many years have passed since his retirement, making it that many more years since we’d been in some of those communities.

As I read through the names on the cards and thought about all of the amazing people that we’ve known because of Dad’s ministry, it hit me again that this is why I write the Bellingwood stories (wow, I’m getting all emotional here).

I love these people, these memories, these stories. My life is so incredibly full and wonderful because of the amazing people I’ve been able to know. Bad memories have slipped away and what I will always remember are the ways our lives were touched and the incredible love that was offered to us no matter where we lived.

The stories rattling through my mind today are numerous. As much as we don’t really need anymore *stuff* in our lives, just reading the names of people who participated in our lives is more than enough. I never want to forget those, though I have before and I will again. But this is why I write and tell stories of good and wonderful people.

These are the good and wonderful people that I have known throughout a lifetime.

Jamie and Carol, are you sure you don’t want this stuff? (sigh)

All I Want for Christmas – Short Story

December 31 is such a strange day of the year. It signifies so much for many of us … an opportunity to look forward and make transformational decisions in the new year, an opportunity to look back over the last 365 days of the year and consider all that happened.

Yet, truthfully, it’s just another twenty-four hour span not unlike any other twenty-four hour period.

I always land on this day with a sense of dread and excited anticipation. It’s a roiling bubble of insanity inside me, let me tell you. Because I know what can happen in a year’s time, my little amygdala (that fear center of the brain) shoots off all sorts of warnings to me regarding things I should worry about and be afraid of.

However, the normal part of me – the part that loves this life I have been given – is excited at the possibilities and potential for the year. And that’s where I tend to focus. Possibilities … potential … hope … joy … excitement. I can hardly wait for what’s to come. And the best part, I can hardly wait for things that I don’t even know are possible! Life is filled with excitement and it is so much fun to find new surprises around corners.

I wish for all of you a joyous and exciting 2017. No matter what comes at us, we are stronger together, we are loved and treasured. We are created beings filled with hope. I take great joy in all of that. And I am thankful for the many friends that I’ve made. You all fill my life with so much goodness. Thank you.

The Christmas short story is here! (Link to Amazon)

A day early.

This story is so much fun and filled with a few surprises of its own. The only thing I ask is that you do not make comments about the content of this story. I know you’re going to want to and you have to refrain. Don’t spoil it for anyone else (I will delete any comment on Facebook or here on the website that contains any HINT of a spoiler). So many things happen here and you are going to love them!

Now that all of my publishing duties are managed, I’m taking the night off. There’s a bottle of pinot grigio in my refrigerator and a batch of Fred Astaire / Esther Williams / Ginger Rogers / Gene Kelly / whoever on and on … movies waiting for me to watch them. It’s going to be a great way to ring in 2017!

While the link on this page takes you to the Kindle version, this story will be published at the end of the paperback – which should go live by Monday, January 2.

Happy New Year!

(P.S. I added a sketch of the Bell House – click HERE to see it)

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