Welcome to September

This month of September is going to be fun! There is so much going on, I’m numbering the events. Don’t lose track!

1. First and foremost, Book 11 (still need a title and cover) will be published on September 25. At this point, that phrase needs a followup – “come hell or high water” for many reasons. But it will be published on time. I’m in love with the new characters that have been introduced and can’t wait for you to meet them.

Bellingwood Wine & Trivia Night (1)2. Secondly, September 18 (one week prior to publication), we are having another Wine & Trivia Night on the Facebook Bellingwood page. Lots of prizes, a little wine in Diane (and anyone else who wants to join me), and some insane conversation. It’s hard to keep up with y’all, but I give it my best shot. Join us from 6 – 11 pm CDT.

I encourage you to join us on the Facebook Bellingwood page. That’s where all of the fun happens. I can hardly express how much I love you all. From contests, to ridiculous statements and rotten / mean teasers while I’m writing, it’s about me finding ways to get to know you better. And while we’re at it, if you get to know each other – you have no idea how wonderful that is for me. If I could connect all of my friends that are in the world to each other, I’d be a happy, happy girl.

Anyway … moving on.

3. Labor Day Weekend. I will give away four (4!!!) bean bag frogs. You have to be on the FB page to join in (and live in the US – shipping costs out of the country are ridiculous. I hate that reality and wish it were different).

Books in the WildHere’s the contest:
Take pictures of any Bellingwood book cover – either on your Kindle or using a paperback.

Take four different pictures and make sure the cover is in each of them: 1) when you’re eating out or cooking / grilling / whatever you come up with that has to do with food; 2) with your transportation (car, bike, trike, motorcycle, running shoes, skates, horse … whatever; 3) with your best friend – whether it be human or animal; and 4) some place fun – at the beach, your back yard, your pillow, top of a mountain – any place.

Just remember, a Bellingwood book cover needs to be in the picture.

For each of the four pictures you post, you’ll get an entry into the contest. How cool is that? (Just so we’re clear here, you will only get one entry for a food picture, one entry for a transpo pic, etc., Four different pictures of the cover with food won’t count. Make sense?)

20150329_185613Don’t start posting the pictures yet. I will announce the fun on Friday evening, September 4th on Facebook. You post your pictures as comments in that announcement before Monday evening, September 7th. I will choose winners on Tuesday, September 8th.

4. Happy Birthday to Diane! My birthday is September 8th and I’m going to do another froggie giveaway. Early Tuesday morning, I will put a post up on the Facebook Bellingwood page and all you have to do is have fun. If you comment on that post with a fun birthday meme or picture or something silly, I will choose two MORE winners for birthday frogs.

Is it Real or is it Memorex?

You never know with me. I tell fictional stories as easily as I relate my own. It comes from years of making something funny out of the crazy things that happen in my life. No sense getting all morose about stuff after it’s all over. That’s when it becomes a tale to be told.

Because you needed a picture of the boy with his cute pink tongue.

Because you needed a picture of the boy with his cute pink tongue.

Yesterday morning at 5:30, I woke up … violently. I’d only been asleep for a couple of hours. My best writing time happens after eleven o’clock at night. Anyway, I was startled awake not only by the cat bolting off my stomach (how in the world did he sneak up there when I wasn’t looking?), but by a horrible noise coming from my air conditioning unit. It scared TB pretty badly … a cross between a freight train and a low flying airplane.

I went to the bathroom, hoped it would settle down, but knew I’d be calling my A/C guy when *real* morning arrived. I tried to go back to sleep. TB settled in beside me and the A/C kicked on again, making the same terrible noise. Enough of this. I turned it off, made sure my dehumidifier was empty and working, turned fans on and went to bed. Later that morning, I called and left a message, telling my A/C guy about the problem and I asked him to call and schedule a time.

Before leaving for Boone to do laundry, I flipped the light on in the room with the A/C unit, smacked the thing a couple of times to tell it that I was annoyed and made sure it was turned off at the thermostat. I was gone for about an hour and a half, came back to a UPS delivery and the cat under the covers. Nothing had been disturbed and I hadn’t heard from my tech. No worries. I’d be fine.

It warmed up last night, but I emptied the dehumidifier a couple more times, rearranged fans and made myself as comfortable as possible. I was too hot to think, so I didn’t do any writing, but stayed up late anyway (it’s what I do), sewing a couple of projects for Carol. Fell asleep again about 3, woke up over and over through the night, finally got up at 9.

I worried about the techs showing up on me this morning, so I hurried into the shower and ran out to run some errands. I came back and knew that it was going to get warmer and warmer. When I hadn’t heard from them by 3:00, I was done. I called and left another message. I was very nice and told him I just needed an idea of when they might be here. If it wasn’t going to be until Monday – that was fine (I’m really good at martyr behavior).

A half hour later, TB was outside and I figured that I might just turn the loud and noisy A/C on for a while to get some relief. He wasn’t around to freak out over the sound.

And it was quiet. Perfectly, wonderfully, quiet. Say what?

I called my tech and this time he answered.

I said, “So either you were here yesterday and fixed my air conditioning or letting it sit for 36 hours fixed the problem.”

“We were there yesterday.”

“You were!?”

“Yeah, sorry we missed you.”

(Inside I’m whimpering because I was pretty miserable last night and it had been unnecessary. I also could have slept much later this morning … sigh.)

“Can you tell me what the problem was?” I asked.

“You had a mouse in the blower system.”

“Dead mouse?”

“Oh yeah. Really dead mouse. That was what made it vibrate.”

“Okay, well, then. Thank you. Send me the bill.”

They’ve been in and out of this place whether I’m here or not for the last six years. I never worry about that and always tell them to just come on in if I’m gone. They are such good guys. Just straightforward, nice, responsible, hardworking guys. I really like them. And they take great care of me.

So rather than complain and whine about anything, I chalk this up to another awesome story of life in the rural Midwest.

You know what? When I got home yesterday from the trip to Boone, the light that I’d switched on was turned off. I assumed that I had automatically flipped it off … like I always do (Dad trained me well in the energy crisis of the late 1970’s). But no, that was the only real hint that they’d been here. Nothing was disturbed, they’d cleaned up after themselves (and the dead mouse – ack!).

The air conditioning is on, the fans are now blowing cold air on me (this is going to have to end pretty soon, my toes are starting to feel like it’s the middle of January), and I can’t stop laughing about this. If it weren’t for real life, there wouldn’t be any fun stories.

I’m A Creative … You Are Too.

I don’t mind the warm summer days, but I do despise warm and humid summer nights. I always know that once the temps rise for good, I’m in a holding pattern until fall before I sleep well through the night again. Even with air conditioning.

When I was in junior high and high school (okay, it was this way all through my school years), we didn’t have central air conditioning. Mom and Dad had a window unit in their bedroom and we had one on the main floor of the parsonage, but for the most part, I was … hot at night. We put a big box fan in my window and every summer I moved my bed so I could plaster myself up against it. Now, here’s the funny thing. I wouldn’t have that great memory if we’d had air conditioning, so how can I complain?

I try not to complain too much about weather anyway. It won’t change things. I’d rather live in the Midwest than anywhere else and if I’m patient, it will change.

This summer has been a good one. My oldest nephew had a brand new baby – Alistair. His sister got married to a wonderful young man and his brother will be getting married in two weeks. I’ve published a book, made new friends from the Bellingwood community, edited for my brother’s next book (and short story – check him out at Fickle Dragon), been able to continue writing. What more could a girl ask for? Not much. My cat is aging and as he does, he gets more and more affectionate and less and less bratty. It makes the days a lot of fun.

TB Cleaning pawFor that matter, the nights are entertaining with TB, too. If he hears any noise, he bolts off the bed to chase it down. He wakes up at dawn – no matter that I went to sleep an hour earlier because I’d been writing all night. When he wakes up that early, he insists that I be alert enough to play with him. It’s not about being fed – he has food in his dish (I’m not that dumb). No, it’s about me paying attention to him. If I don’t, he’ll run from the depths of the house to the bed and land on it with all his weight. Who knew that cats could choose how much weight per square inch they use. He CAN jump on the bed without disturbing me, but not at 5:30 in the morning. If I still try to sleep, he’ll jump on his cat tree in front of the window and scratch at the glass until I tell him to stop. And if he really needs attention, he’ll jump on top of me and bug me until I sit up. That’s all it takes. I need to acknowledge that he’s around and tell him that I love him. Silly feline.

25 treat bags for my sister's classroom - first day of school stuff!

25 treat bags for my sister’s classroom – first day of school stuff!

Last February, Amazon announced a Daily Deal – a Singer sewing machine for an amazing price. I knew it needed to happen. Oh, I had my mother’s 1950’s cast-iron Singer. But it needs work and is in Omaha … and well, it just wasn’t going to happen. So I bought it. That has been the best thing I’ve done in years. I’ve always been a sewer (seamstress would imply a level of skill I won’t claim yet). I remember learning on an old treadle machine. Mom figured that was safe enough for me so I wouldn’t hurt myself. She sewed everything for us kids from toys to clothing. She covered and recovered our furniture, made curtains and drapes. There was nothing she wouldn’t attempt.

Tray for classroom pencils ... for my sister.

Tray for classroom pencils … for my sister.

Before I was married, Carol and I lived together and at some point I refurbished Mom’s machine and re-found my love of sewing. There were years and years of fun things being created between the two of us. Then, I got married, got busy with the business and church activities and there was no time. The sewing machine kept getting put further and further back in the craft room, and then I even ran out of time to do any type of crafts.

Wine bottle gift bag & matching ... uhhh ... gift bag. I'm an addict!

Wine bottle gift bag & matching … uhhh … gift bag. I’m an addict!

What was I thinking? I had put away nearly all of my creative outlets. Since I purchased this machine in February, there have been very few days when I haven’t used it. When I was in the middle of editing and publishing Book 10 – The River Rolls On, I didn’t have time. Every day I would look at my machine and realize that I was missing the tactile sensation of creating something with my hands.

I think we all need that. The other night I was thinking about creation and the fact that God is all about creation. He didn’t stop … he rested. And he created us with minds that search and hearts that explore. We were made to be creative and innovative and imaginative. We were given talents … not just one … but many. There is no limit to the things we can imagine and create.

I find myself desperately desiring more time in the day so I don’t have to stop working on a project, or writing a chapter. I stay up until all hours of the night because I’m not ready to be finished with this day’s work. My mind and body wear out long before my desire to create does.

What types of things do you do that fulfills your drive to be creative? What do you wish you could be doing (why aren’t you?)? It’s amazing that so many of us don’t believe we are creative because it seems as if the things we do are so mundane. We’ve done them our entire lives. But I’ve learned that there is also no limit to the different talents people have. What one person believes is mundane, another sees as magic.

Now, I probably need to hunker down and get some other things done, but this ding-donged sewing machine keeps calling me back … like a siren singing its beautiful song to the sailors on the ocean. I’m lost to its music. Maybe one of these days I’ll finally confess my latest addition to the sewing addiction. Yikes.

FREE Book and Catching Up

Book 1-3 Box Set a 100 dpiFirst up, the Bellingwood Boxed Set: Books 1-3 for Kindle is FREE until Sunday, July 5. Polly moves into Bellingwood and the roller coaster begins. It’s hard to believe that so much has happened to her since those early days when she was just getting to know her new home, but ten books later, these people are part of our family.

They certainly are part of mine. I dream and think about them when I’m not writing them. They’re good people to know.

These last two weeks have been crazy-insane for me. It all started on that fateful Friday night when I drank too much wine and played with everybody on the Bellingwood Facebook page. From that moment on, I didn’t stop moving. Final edits for Book 10, publication craziness and then a fun trip to Omaha to see my nephew’s brand new baby (born on the day I actually published Book 10). I got to spend time with that new little boy while I was waiting for my niece’s wedding to begin. So much family fun in one day!

On Sunday, I spent time with friends and then drove myself back to the cabin and collapsed. I gave myself two days off and did nothing but sew and watch Star Trek: Voyager. It was glorious. While I was in Omaha, I made my way (with great trepidation) into my old craft room to see what I had in the way of sewing stuff. I pretty much quit crafting and sewing a couple of years into my marriage (mid 1990s). So many other things were going on, I just didn’t have time. Well, lookie there! I brought three large totes filled with fabric, pillow forms, and notions back with me and had a great time digging through them and finding treasures. What fun!

Sleepy kittyMy poor cat was awfully glad to see me. I’d left him here alone while I was playing with friends and family and I’m pretty sure he didn’t sleep. He loves to play outside, but after a quick run to make sure everything was where it belonged, he came back in and settled down beside me for the next three days. Today was the first day he’s acted like my normal TB.

As of July 1, I’m back on the 1000 words / day regimen. No matter how tired I am or what I’ve got going on, I will write (at the very least) one thousand words. Even if I have no idea what is supposed to happen in a chapter, I will write. Because it always comes. The characters rarely stop talking.

Book 11 is underway. I’ve introduced a ton of new characters and at least two will become part of the fabric of Bellingwood. Polly has found the dead body and she’s opening Sycamore House to someone who needs a place to come back to life. As I wrote last night, I discovered she is starting to think about the next adventure in restoration. (Seriously girl, you have to take a breath!) It’s a good thing she found Henry. He’s the only man I know with the patience to put up with her shenanigans.

Here we are at a holiday weekend. It’s a beautiful day in Iowa, the cat is outside enjoying the sunshine, I have no pressing issues, my mind is filled with ideas and I’ve had at least one jolt of caffeine.

TB just came in and nudged my leg to tell me that he’s still around and thinking about me. It’s time to hug him.

I hope you all have safe and happy Independence Day celebrations.

Party On, Dude

Mom, let's not party that hard again for awhile. Okay?

Mom, let’s not party that hard again for awhile. Okay?

Last night’s festivities on the Bellingwood Facebook page were a riot! I had a great time hanging out with you all. You’re hilarious. There were crazy questions to be answered and among the correct answers were hilarious responses. Thank you, thank you for playing.

I have prizes piled up ready to be awarded. So I need to hear from everyone with a shipping address (or email address for the Kindle Ebooks) as soon as possible. Mugs come from CafePress and it takes them a few days to get things moving, so be patient. Signed paperbacks will be slower than you’d like. After I upload content, it takes a week and a half at lease for them to ship to me. I will turn around and ship them back out in a couple of days … so … more patience.

Frogs will be shipped out on Monday, the Star Wars apron will be shipped a week from Monday (I’m heading to Omaha next weekend to spend time with Fran and pick it up!), and the Kindle ebook will show up in your email as soon as they are live on Amazon.

Okay … enough noise from me. I will find the winner’s comment on each post and let you know that you’ve got a prize coming, but here we go!

Questions / Answers / Prize / Winner

1. In Book 1, what was the name of the drink Beryl ordered to trip up the new bartender at Davey’s. Do you remember the ingredients?
Red Headed Slut – Jagermeister, peach schnapps, cranberry juice
Prize: Signed paperback copy of Book 10
Winner: Nola Sokol Knowles

2. In Book 1, what did Sylvie find in the crates of items they discovered in the basement of Sycamore House that she’d lost in high school? Do you remember what she found in it?
Jacket. Plastic case with a boy band picture on the front – lip gloss tubes inside
Prize: Sweet Bean mug
Winner: Denise Chamberlain

3. In Book 1, what do we discover Lydia uses to bribe Aaron to talk?
Her fried chicken
Prize: Blue frog
Winner: Lori Decker Alderson

4. In Book 2, what was Elise Marberry’s real first name?
Linda
Prize: Ebook
Winner: Carla Marie Montfort

5. In Book 2, what was the main entree Polly cooked for her ‘date’ with Mark Ogden?
Chicken Marsala
Prize: Sycamore House Mug
Winner: Brad Hickson

6. In Book 3, why did Polly’s third custodian leave the job?
Moved to Florida to live on a commune – farm
Prize: Green frog
Winner: Susan Vaughn

7. In Book 3, what common Midwestern bird did Sal and Polly see on the road coming back from Boone? Sal had never seen one before.
Pheasant
Prize: Signed paperback
Winner: Deseray MacDonald

8. In Book 3, Polly and Henry talked about childhood dreams. Henry didn’t want to be a cowboy when he was a child, he wanted to be a what?
Astronaut
Prize: Sycamore House Mug
Winner: Joanne Magee

9. In Book 4, Polly uncovers a stuffed animal she’d had as a child. What is the animal and what is its name?
Grey elephant named Tigger
Prize: Kindle Ebook
Winner: Marie Harness

10. In Book 4, what instrument does Jeff Lyndsay play at the concert during Bellingwood Days?
Clarinet
Prize: Pink Frog
Winner: Pat Case

11. In Book 5, where was Henry at the beginning of the story when everything was falling apart around Polly?
In Ann Arbor, MI with his sister
Prize: Sweet Bean Mug
Winner: Julie Cavanaugh

12. Before things fell apart in Book 6, what was the pet name Henry regularly used for Polly?
Pretty Polly
Prize: Max Print
Jacque Berry Webb

13. In Book 5, how did Thomas Zeller’s old girlfriend choose her last name whenever she changed her identity?
Names of things that had to do with sewing
Prize: Fran apron
Winner: RaeEllen Kurzendoerfer

14. In Book 6, J. J. Roberts, one of the owners of the winery tells Polly that Lucy, the waitress at Joe’s Diner was his … what when he was little?
Babysitter
Prize: Red fancy frog
Winner: Ann Otwell

15. In Book 6, Polly had to wake Andrew up when he was staying at her apartment. He refused to get up. What did she do to him to make him miserable enough to come awake?
Dropped water droplets on his forehead.
Prize: Kindle Ebook
Winner: Anne Moore Jesseph

16. In Book 7, what did Drea Renaldi’s mother send to Bellingwood with her daughter as a gift for Polly?
White lace table runner
Prize: Signed Paperback book
Winner: Melanie Curtis

17. In Book 7, what was the name of Uncle Loren’s dog?
Duchess
Prize: Max print
Winner: Dee Schwark

18. In Book 6 & 7, we discover Polly’s favorite breakfast meal at the diner. What is it called?
Garbage plate.
Prize: Kindle eBook
Winner: Jo Thompson

19. In Book 8, when Polly and Henry arrived at Mrs. Willard’s to look at the Woodies (old cars), Nate came outside eating a what?
Cinnamon roll that melted in his mouth
Prize: Signed Paperback copy
Winner: Doris Nash

20. Of the four Percheron horses, who is the alpha and really … Eliseo’s horse?
Nan
Prize: Red / Green Frog
Winner: Lynn Dion

21. In Book 9, what was the first movie Andrew introduced to Kayla?
Star Wars
Prize: Kindle eBook
Winner: Jill Henderson

Big Day on Friday!

Okay first … I have something on my mind that’s been rolling around for the last couple of hours and I just need to spill it. I had a Beryl moment today and didn’t capitalize on it at all. I’m either ashamed or proud of myself.

The most beautiful young man I’ve ever seen waited on me in a drive-thru (I was in Ames running errands). He had gorgeous wavy / curly long brown hair, extraordinary eyes, dark skin and just a little bristle on his chin. I admit it. I completely objectified him while I sat in my Jeep. I couldn’t quit smiling. He was so beautiful! Now, if I’d been Beryl, I might have said something rather than sit there with a silly smile on my face, but I didn’t want to embarrass either of us. But seriously folks … I have no idea why he’s in Ames, Iowa and not on one of the coasts making millions of dollars as a model or actor. Maybe it was just so I could have a moment today.

You know, nothing bad here. Kind of like my appreciation for music that fills my soul or a photograph that blows my mind … that beauty. I wasn’t panting or being stupid, just really appreciating God’s talent. Whew.

Okay … moving on.

Friday, June 19 is going to be huge on the Facebook Bellingwood page and I hope you are all planning to participate. One of the best parts of writing these books has been the opportunity to get to know so many fun people. I can’t even express how amazing that is. You may not know how important and extraordinary you are in the big scheme of life, but you really are. To people who know you on a daily basis and … to me. I only get to see little bits and pieces of you, but when you share them, it means the world to me.

Creativity Friday

Creativity FridaysFirst up will be Creativity Friday.

I’ll get the post up early tomorrow. Gather your photographs to share.

That post will be live (and pinned to the top of the Facebook page so you can find it once all of the questions for Wine & Trivia Night start posting) until Saturday late afternoon.

I can’t wait to see this week’s photographs. I’m always astounded at how you see the world.

Bellingwood WINE & TRIVIA NIGHT!

Bellingwood Wine & Trivia Night (1)Then … (trumpet fanfare) at 6 pm CDT I will post the first trivia question for our first Wine & Trivia Night. We’re going to do it right there on the page.

1. I will post a picture of the prize along with the question. Comment with your response and start a conversation with the girl who is about to put three bottles of wine in the fridge to cool (I’d better make a good dinner and have lots of bread available, eh?).

2. Now, Facebook isn’t friendly to this type of thing. They will not put all of these posts into your timeline feed. You will have to check in on a regular basis.

3. Here’s the deal. Unless I’m too drunk to know what I’m doing, I will post a new question every 15 minutes until 11 pm CDT. And I won’t start expiring questions until 9 pm CDT. You’ll have plenty of time to get in there and respond.

4. Winners will be chosen at random from those who give the right (or close) answer. Seriously … do I care if you look it up or even (gasp) use someone else’s answer? Not at all. I just want to play with you and give stuff away.

Book 10 – The River Rolls On

Book 10 test 1For those of you who might not know yet – release date is June 25. What else happens on the 25th of the month? The email newsletter. Make sure you’ve signed up for it because it will pop into your email in box at 6 am to remind you that it is finally here!

There will be a short vignette in the email, too! Sign up today.

I know there was a lot of information in this post and that always scares me because as much as y’all love to read, you’re terrible at assimilating information sometimes.

Short list of info:

1. Creativity Friday
2. Wine & Trivia Night – Friday, June 19, 6-11 pm CDT
3. Book 10 release – June 25

The Beginning of the End

This has been a weird week. One of those ‘lull’ weeks while you wait for things to come together. Max was here at the cabin for a couple of days. He’s heading out to Ohio to spend time with his family. This was a first stop. He took some pictures around the area and there might be a couple more book covers there. I can’t write or create when people are in my space. They wear me out. Apparently, my brain needs a lot of quiet in order to be creative.

Busy-work creativity is easy. I sewed. That felt good, too.

CockpitBefore Max got here, I completely re-arranged my work space. I feel like I’m in a cockpit now. It’s awesome. I think I have everything where I need it. I’ve spent the last few days tweaking things, adjusting and making changes. It feels good.

While I was waiting for the next part of this journey to kick off, my beta readers finished sending in their manuscripts. I will start digging through all of those edits this weekend. Working through this process isn’t easy. I giggle nervously at the stupid mistakes they’ve caught, stress out over continuity problems they see, struggle to deal with rewrites they recommend and manage through areas they don’t like. Putting your soul out there on paper and then asking people to find errors is enough to turn a person inside out. I probably need to buy extra chocolate to get through this. It’s painful! But in the end, it makes a better product and so I dig in.

So … lull-week. It’s over.

In the next two weeks, it feels as if a million things have to happen. On Saturday, the 27th, I drive to Omaha and then to Lincoln for my niece’s wedding. That day feels like the end of a storm that is about to happen.

I thought it was going to be crazy, but this morning I opened my email and discovered the manuscript for my brother’s next book. He’s been in the middle of a month of chaos and sees no sign of it ending either, but he managed to finish writing and has gone through his first round of personal editing and re-writes. I will go through this and edit from a very high level. Then, he’ll go through it again and back to me before sending to his beta readers. But yep. His first edit is on my desk.

Frogs for Trivia Night

Frogs for Trivia Night

Next Friday, I am kicking off Bellingwood’s first Wine / Trivia Night (on the Facebook page). I’ve gotten most of the prizes in place and need to find twenty-five (or more) trivia questions from the first nine books. It’s going to be a blast and I can hardly wait, but I have nine books to read this week.

Once I am through the beta readers’ edits, I dig into the manuscript and find many more inconsistencies and errors. No matter who reads this manuscript, errors, typos and problems still exist. I have eleven readers at this point and none of them find exactly the same things. It always surprises me and always makes me grateful to have such a wonderful group of people. But, the final is on me. I will go through my book quite a few more times before it actually hits publication. And I’m relentless. I have no critic that is harder on my work than me.

On the 25th of June, the next email newsletter comes out. The big release announcement will be there, as will another vignette. I need to get that written. Those newsletters take a lot of time to create. It always surprises me. I’ve been writing and creating newsletter most of my life. It shouldn’t take that long, but it does.

While all of this work is going on, I find that my mind often runs away to Bellingwood. I’m eight chapters into Book 11 and Polly has found a body (surprised?). School is about to start for the kids, the coffee shop is ready to open, they are hiring like crazy (lots of new characters) and that has Sylvie, Jeff, Polly and Sal working to get everyone trained and in place.

My brother also talked to me about a side project he is working toward, which means writing a story that is far from Bellingwood. I can hardly wait and my imagination is spinning like crazy.

TB likes the new digs

TB likes the new digs

So … two weeks. The countdown begins tonight. Because this afternoon I need to get out and do laundry so that I don’t have to think about it for a while.

And just in case you feel an urge to worry about me or feel sorry for me … don’t. This is when I’m happiest – when I have a million things to do and a short time to do them. I am completely in my element. I might whine and complain a bit – just pat me on the head and give me a little encouragement. Then tell me to get back to work.

June 25 will be here before you know it! Polly and the gang can hardly wait to tell you the next part of their story. It’s a doozy!

Creativity Friday – #3

20150522_141035How many of you are starting to feel the release that summer brings? Vacations are being planned, kids are excited to be out of school, the weather makes it easier to be anywhere but inside the house. Everything changes!

So what have you been working on lately? Gardens? Kids crafts? Graduation, wedding, baby gifts? There are so many things that you do to show off your creativity. I’ll bet there are things you do that you don’t even realize others would envy. Do you bake glorious goodies or create fantastic meals?

You know … my mom was a great cook, but when she made a meal she wasn’t sure we’d like, out came the china, the candles and the sterling silver. She could set a beautiful table. It took a while for us to realize what she was doing.

There are so many different creative talents that I envy. I can’t make a garden come alive to save my own life … no matter how hard I try. I love colorful gardens and I love wonderful vegetable gardens. We moved into Sigourney and followed a woman who had an immense garden in the back yard. And she planted it before she moved!! That first summer was … well … hell. The three of us kids had to be outside every day weeding her immense garden, because Mom wasn’t going to let it die. We had glorious vegetables that year and then … we were done. Mom had fought so hard with us to keep us going and she didn’t want to do the work either – the next year, nothing. Fortunately, the church decided that a beautiful new addition needed to be built in that space and all of our guilt went away.

IloveyouThis week’s prize book by Rebecca B is one of my favorites! “I Love You More” describes creative ways to express love. It’s so much fun. Kids love to have you read to them – and reading about how you love them more than moustaches on goats or puppies with wrinkles would be fantastic!

This week my sketch is sitting on top of a pile of new fabric that just came in. From Daleks to Cornhuskers, Hawkeyes to teachers, I have plans for it all. I can hardly wait to dig in. My goodness, but I love to sew. I don’t know that my sketching is getting any better, but that really wasn’t the purpose for this. I really want to just make sure that all of my brain cells are firing on a regular basis, so I’ll stretch ’em out with things that make me uncomfortable!

Time to share your creativity! Comment on this post over on the FB Bellingwood page with a picture of what you’re working on – from the kitchen to the craft room to the great outdoors. Whatever it is that shows off your creativity. And … if you posted in the last couple of weeks and didn’t win – try, try again! There’s no reason not to!

Numbers or Friends – It’s Both

Left-Brain-vs.-Right-Brain1-480x343The Bellingwood Facebook page crossed another milestone the other day and so, of course, because I like round numbers, we’re celebrating a little. You know, I can easily get all caught up in numbers. Metrics make the left side of my brain purr. And trust me, I have numerical goals spinning around in my brain all the time. I got all of that from my dad. No matter what he had going on, Dad had a way to measure it. He taught me that there was no such thing as too much information.

But as fun as it is to see numbers increase … and as programmed as I am (we are) to set goals and try to achieve them, one thing I worry about is that goals like that don’t have any reality attached to them. I’m always terrified that my focus on being successful at what I’m doing will subvert the original fun and joy that I found in simply writing stories.

Now, here is me being completely honest with you. In July of 2012, I looked out one year and realized that when my Master’s Degree was complete, I was going to have to be prepared for the next step. There were a few things I did not want to do. I didn’t want to enter the corporate world, I didn’t want to run a business where I had to deal with employees and customers (again) and I didn’t want to go back to work in an institutional church. I considered looking for online teaching positions … anything so I could have freedom and independence.

Then one night, I thought about the huge number of stories I had on hard drives and in notebooks. I did a little research and realized that self-publishing was a much more realistic possibility than ever before. I was still working intensely to finish the Master’s Degree and creative writing wasn’t something I had the energy for with the papers I had to complete each week. However, if I wanted to maintain my independence and freedom, I couldn’t simply hope for the best, I had to actively get busy.

I fought with myself, cried a lot, panicked some more and knew I had to do something so that my dreams were financially feasible. That November, while the rest of the world focused on Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), even though I thought it was ridiculous and that I could never pull off a full-blown novel, much less one that would interest anyone other than my sister and a few friends, I wrote … and I wrote and wrote and wrote. By the end of the month, I’d written well over 110,000 words and for the first time in my life, I’d actually completed something that looked like a book. It was rough, but I’d done it. I started through the editing process, found a cover photo that would work, came up with a title and thrust myself into the learning process of self-publishing. I was still writing papers each week for the Master’s Degree, but that month I was right in the middle of a wonderful course on leadership and everything was focused on the possibilities a person had in their life. The learning was right up my alley, the papers made sense, and I managed to pull it all off.

All Roads Lead Home was published in January and I was writing Book 2. My time frame was tightening up. The degree would be finished at the end of May and I needed income to show up. I was running out of time. A Big Life in a Small Town was published in April and I started writing Book 3. By now I was in the middle of some of the worst classes I’d ever taken. Terrible professors who didn’t know how to work with students in an online environment … I had to fight with the powers-that-be to get out of a second class with one woman and this was some of the toughest stuff I’d had to learn. But, I kept writing papers and kept writing stories.

June arrived. My classes were finished and it was do or die time. Could I do it? Book 3 – Treasure Uncovered was released. Marketing became easier once I had a few titles in the hopper. I was still uncomfortable about giving my books away, but with two others out, I felt that I could make Book 1 free every once in a while and hope that people would give it a shot. Having more readers was more important than the dollars I would lose when I made it free.

That summer, I cried a lot. I was still fearful of failure. Would my books hold people’s interest long enough for them to continue to read the series? By this point, I had re-edited Book 1 a couple of times. I learned so much about writing, editing and publishing (I’m still learning). There were days I was certain my head would explode. I needed this to work. Desperately needed this to work.

Those who tell authors how to do what they’re doing (and there are plenty who believe their opinions are golden) insist that if it’s about the money, the author has lost sight of themselves. That’s not true. For me to continue to do what I love, I need to make a living. The money is always part of it. My books need to sell. Numbers need to increase – whether it’s Facebook page likes, Twitter followers, reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, or email newsletter signups. That’s a reality I can’t get around, so I’ll own it.

But it truly is only a small part of my reality. When I see the numbers increase (especially on Facebook), that means something completely different to the part of me that isn’t ruled by the left side of my brain.

It means that the community of people who are drawn together because they enjoy the crazy characters in Bellingwood is growing.

I constantly hear that you appreciate how I communicate regularly with people here. I understand that’s different than many other authors, but it’s hard for me to even use that term (author) to describe myself. Oh, I know that I am … I ‘author’ books. But that’s not who I am … it’s what I do. As wonderful as it is to have an income so that I can maintain freedom and independence and continue to write, it is just as amazing to encounter so many interesting people. And you are!

You come from places I’ve never seen. You work in (have worked in) jobs that I didn’t even realize existed. You have backgrounds that are interesting, your names are often unique and your interests are fascinating. It’s fun to make connections – to find that we sometimes know the same places or have experienced the same things. How can I not communicate with you?

I will continue to celebrate the milestone moments … not just because it’s about success, but because it means that I have a chance to get to know more delightful people. When I consider how many of you I would have missed had I not pushed myself to sit down and write that first book, it’s almost painful.

C.S. Lewis spoke about friendship after one of the Inklings (his writing cohorts / friends. The group included some amazing authors, including J. R. R. Tolkien) had died. He recognized that the death didn’t mean he would have more time with his other friends. The loss of that friend meant that each of them was missing a part of themselves – the part that Charles brought out of them.

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out,” Lewis wrote. “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 reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth … each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others.”

Christian History Magazine-Issue 88: C.S. Lewis: Pointing People to Reality. 2005. Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today.

That’s how I feel about this community. You each bring out a part of me … of each other … that wouldn’t have existed without you. While my left brain purrs about metrics, I prefer to push it aside and let the rest of me be thankful that each of you has chosen to be part of Bellingwood. Thanks for being here!

Creativity Friday #2

IMG_2835It’s another Friday and time for you to share your talent!

Reply in the comments on the Bellingwood Facebook page with a picture of something that you have been working on … no matter the media. Gardening, painting, crochet, knitting, sewing, beadwork, illustration, quilting, needlework, floral work, pottery, glass work … really, there’s no limit to what you can share here.

I look forward to seeing what you are doing … and if you posted something last week, go for it again!

Tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, I will randomly choose one person who will win a signed copy of Rebecca B’s children’s book “Little Dorothy Isn’t.” I love this story about a little girl who can only see what she doesn’t have rather than what she does have.

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I’m having fun sketching … I’m having even more fun sewing, though. My addiction to fabric has returned in full force. I keep telling myself that the only way to stay ahead of the piles that could accrue.

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Share your creativity!