Monthly Archives: February 2018

Excitement in Diane-ville. Book 21 and a SALE!

Illustration by Bec Schreiber

This is about to be a huge week for me, so I’m taking a deep breath and sucking down extra caffeine (coffee, Diet Dew, Dew Kickstart … whatever it takes) and maybe a few extra M&Ms (plain, otherwise, it’s way more than a few).

Book 21. I have two chapters left to write. Polly ended up in a snowbank last night. Well, that’s not true – it was more like a cold, wet, slushy parking lot – you know the kind I mean. While that might not seem like a terrible thing, the person who did it was a very bad person and now she has to … okay, that’s enough information. Trust me, she’s about to kick butt. I’ll write that tonight. The weird thing is that when I write these exciting chapters, I find myself breathing fast as my fingers race across the keys. That probably means I’ll be in bed early.

The book should be finished tomorrow night, but that’s only the beginning. Since this is the first draft, I have a ton of cleanup to do. That will teach me to not pay enough attention to what my characters are telling me in the beginning of a book. By the time I’ve finished writing, they’ve clarified exactly what they meant and are insistent that I make sure it’s fixed. That will happen all day on Tuesday. Tuesday night, I’ll start through the manuscript again, looking for more things that need to change, extraneous words that need to be eliminated, and other issues (what character changed the pronunciation of that word to iss-yous in my head? drives me nuts) that jump out at me.

By Thursday, I will have printed the manuscript so I can read it in a different format. Everything is new again! My red pen is a tyrant. Not a page is exempt. It’s a glorious thing. Friday and Saturday will be cleanup days so I can get this to my amazing crew of editors and readers. (And thank you for offering, but I have all that I can manage right now.)

Now, if that were all that happened this week, it would be no big deal. However, there’s so much more.

Cover / Title. Max’s photography is consistently amazing, so yesterday I found the image that will be used for Book 21’s cover. Between now and next Sunday I need to find the title and build the cover. All quite do-able. It just takes silence and time to process. I have that. Yay.

Newsletter. It takes three or four days to put together a newsletter, so I’ll build the shell on Wednesday and add pieces the rest of the week so that on Sunday morning (the 25th – always the 25th of the month), it will arrive in your email inbox. Oh yeah. I’ll write a vignette for that, too. I’m not sure if I can top the last vignette with Beryl, Lydia, and Andy, but I’ll give it a shot.

Now for the big news. I’ve saved the wildest part of this week for last.

BIG SALE on the first eight Bellingwood books

On Friday, February 23:
The Bellingwood Boxed Set #1 (Books 1-3) will be $1.99 (regular price – $6.99)
The Bellingwood Boxed Set #2 (Books 4-6) will be $3.99 (regular price – $6.99)
Book 7 – Tomorrow’s Promises will be $2.99 (regular price $3.99)
Book 8 – Through the Storm will be FREE! (regular price $3.99)

Illustration by Bec Schreiber

That means that for five days – February 23 – 27 – your friends and family (and you, too) will be able to get the first eight books in the series (Kindle only) for NINE DOLLARS! Quite a savings from the regular price of $22.

These prices begin Friday, Feb. 23 and end Tuesday, Feb. 27.

On Friday morning (the 23rd), I will post a graphic and a link so you can share it – something I appreciate more than I can say.

~~~

A couple of reminders.

The audio book version of All Roads Lead Home is available now (click the title to go to Amazon). More audio books in the series will be coming.

Book List. If you have a question regarding what book comes next or what you might be missing, the only definitive list is to be found on my website – HERE. You can click that word and you can always get there by clicking the “Shop Now” button on the Bellingwood Facebook page.

Newsletter. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter that comes out on the 25th of each month. I promise not to spam you or do anything strange with your email address. Once a month – that’s what you get from me.

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 21, #2

You Are My Sunshine

Illustration by Bec Schreiber

Lydia looked up from the desk where she was working when she heard the doorbell ring. “Who is bothering me this morning?” she muttered, sliding her feet back into her slippers. She ran up the steps from the basement and groaned at the top. “Slow down, old lady. No need for your knees to hurt any more than they already do.”

When she got to the front door, she pulled it open and laughed at the sight of Beryl standing outside the storm door with a single red rose in her teeth and carrying a small bag from Sweet Beans.

“Come in,” Lydia said as she opened the door. “What are you doing up and about so early?”

“I’m spreading joy and sunshine. Happy Galentine’s Day!” Beryl held out the rose. “I love you.”

“Well, I love you, too. I can assume, but what is Galentine’s Day? It really just sounds like you have a cold.”

Beryl laughed. “It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? But I think it’s also fabulous. Tell me this isn’t one of your church lady days.”

“No,” Lydia said with a rumbling chuckle. “It’s not a church lady day. Why?”

“Because part of Galentine’s Day is having brunch with your best gals. I want to take you out.”

Lydia glanced toward the stairs leading to the basement. Everything else could wait. “Sure. Where are we going.”

“There aren’t many options in Bellingwood. How about the diner?”

Lydia reached over to unzip Beryl’s jacket.

“What are you doing, woman?” Beryl batted her hand away. “This isn’t about being sexy, it’s just us girls telling each other how much we love each other. Can’t you do that and keep your hands off me at the same time?”

“I just wanted to see what you were wearing. How fancy are you?”

“My lordie, chick-a-doo, you could have asked. I thought you were making a move.”

Lydia dropped her head and laughed. “Not likely, you dope. Are you all dressed up?” She gestured at herself. “Is this okay?”

“No, you aren’t okay. Put something nicer on than a sweatshirt and flappy pants. What are you even thinking? You’d never be seen in public wearing clothes like that.”

Lydia frowned. “We’re just going to the diner, right?”

“Yes, and people will see you. March your little legs up those steps and change into a nice outfit. Move it, young lady. Move it.”

“What’s in the bag?”

Beryl opened it so Lydia could peek inside and see a decorated heart cookie. “Does that satisfy your curiosity? Go, go, go.”

Lydia put on her best pouty face and stomped up the stairs to her bedroom. Since today wasn’t a church lady day, she’d been looking forward to spending time in her comfortable clothes, messing about in her own home. It would figure that Beryl had something different to say about that. And that, from the woman who was always complaining that she didn’t get enough time to work in her artist’s shed without interruptions.

She pulled a pair of blue jeans out and then opened a drawer to search for a sweater. She’d wear red tomorrow for Valentine’s Day, but today it would be … pink. That would hush the crazy woman downstairs. Lydia quickly changed, knowing that to leave Beryl alone for long could be disastrous.

When Lydia got to the bottom of the steps, she looked around for her friend. “Beryl? Where are you?”

“Find me!” Beryl called back.

Lydia walked into the kitchen and found Beryl standing on a stepstool, reaching into the cupboard over the refrigerator. “What in the world are you doing up there?”

“Isn’t this where you keep your vases? I was going to put the rose in water.”

‘No, that’s not where I keep them.” Lydia walked into the dining room and opened the hutch, pulled out tall crystal vase, and went back into the kitchen. “Now what are you doing?”

“I’m stuck. I can’t get down.”

“You have to be kidding me.”

“Not kidding you. Something’s caught up here. What am I going to do?”

Lydia walked around Beryl and looked up. “I see where you’re caught, but what is it?”

“I don’t know. Help me.”

“Can you lift your arm up and over it?”

Beryl scowled. “Do you really think I haven’t tried that? It won’t release me.”

“Please release me, let me go,” Lydia sang.

“I’m going to kick your butt when I get out of this mess. What nasty traps have you set for people up here?”

“Take off your jacket. Once you’re free from it, you can unhook the thing.”

“I’m not taking off my jacket,” Beryl said. “Who’s to say what you’ll do to me when you see my glorious form?”

“I know what you’re snagged on. It’s literally a hook. Aaron installed it to hang a banner that Trinity made for me at Christmas. You’ve got yourself all twisted up in it now. You have to take your jacket off.”

“Not until you leave the kitchen.”

“What?”

Beryl repeated herself. “Not until you leave. Go. Away.” She spat out the last two words.

“Okay. I’m leaving.” Lydia headed for the dining room and said, “I’m gone. Now do your thing.” She listened to the sound of scuffling and a few curse words. Then she heard something hard hit the step stool. “What was that?”

“I kicked the stupid stool – getting me in trouble and all that. You should teach those things better manners. You can come back in now.”

“What is up with you and that jacket today? I’ve seen your entire wardrobe. Granted, most of it is pretty wild, but still.”

“Who’s driving? You or me? We have one more stop to make.”

“Maybe I should drive. We’d hate for you to get lost.”

Beryl grabbed Lydia and pulled her to the front door, stopping in front of the coat closet. “I’m driving. You won’t die. I promise.”

Lydia took her coat out, put it on, and followed Beryl to her car. “What’s this?” she asked when she opened the passenger door.

“We have another stop to make.”

“Andy?” Lydia picked up the rose and Sweet Beans bag and sat down, holding them on her lap.

Beryl got in and drove around the circle to the street. “She doesn’t have to be at the library until one o’clock. I called her and told her to be ready early today, that I had plans for her.”

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“Because I wanted to surprise at least one of you and I knew that you’d be kind to me. You’re kind to everyone.”

Lydia patted Beryl’s arm. “It’s because I love you.”

“Thank goodness,” Beryl replied.

They drove to Andy’s house and Beryl parked in the driveway, then took the bag and rose from Lydia. “You stay here. This won’t take as long as it did at your house.”

“Just stay out of her cupboards.”

“Whatever.”

True to her word, within minutes, the two women were in the car.

“Did you get her to unzip her jacket?” Lydia asked Andy.

“No, why?”

“She won’t let me see what she’s wearing under there.”

Andy reached forward from the back seat and tried to pull Beryl’s jacket off her shoulder.

“Leave me alone, you crazy woman,” Beryl said. “You two are bound and determined to get me naked.” She headed for the highway. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” she sang. Then she poked Lydia. “See, I can sing songs too.”

“You make me happy when skies are grey.” Lydia returned.

Andy chimed in and the three of them continued. “You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

They giggled as Beryl turned north and headed for the downtown area. It was still early enough that the lunch crowd had yet to arrive at the diner, so she parked right in front.

“Come on, chickies. Let’s get our feedbag on.”

Lydia got out of the front seat and closed the door. “That is just gross. We’re not horses or cows.”

“We’re sunshine,” Andy said, jumping up onto the sidewalk and hooking her arm in Lydia’s. “She said so.”

They went inside and Lucy waved at them from the register. “Pick your table,” she said brightly. “I’ll be right there.”

Beryl pranced to a table right in the center of the room. “How’s this?”

“It’s fine,” Lydia said. “Though I’m a little worried about you.”

“You sit there.” Beryl pointed to the chair on her left. “Andy, you have to sit here.” She pointed at the chair on her right.

“What is up with you?” Andy asked.

Beryl slowly unzipped her jacket and held it closed. She loosened the cuffs at her wrists, then pulled it off in one swift move to reveal a hot pink sweatshirt. Rhinestone arrows pointed to her left and to her right. Above the left arrow, it read, “She loves me.” Under the right arrow were the words, “So does she.” When Beryl turned so they could see the back, in bright purple letters were their three names stacked on top of each other. “Lydia + Beryl + Andy = Galentine’s Day 2018.”

“What do you think?”

“You’re all sparkly,” Lucy said, coming up to the table. “That’s fantastic. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

Lydia sat there, her mouth open. “I can’t imagine you ever will again.”

“Andy?” Beryl asked.

Andy blinked a couple of times, then pointed at Beryl’s chair. “Sit down. Everyone’s looking.”

“That’s what it’s all about. Are you ashamed to be my best Galentine?” Beryl brought her oversized bag up from the floor and took out two more pink sweatshirts. “Will you wear them?”

Lydia gulped. “Uhhh.”

With a laugh, Beryl shook one open. Embroidered over the chest was a very pretty heart with words inside that read “Galentine’s Day 2018.”

Andy hitched in a breath. “I’ll wear that. You had me a little nervous. I didn’t want to disappoint you because I would never wear that.” She pointed at Beryl’s shirt.

Beryl laughed. “I know you two very well and I adore you. Sometimes I need to get you out of your comfortable houses and mess with your minds a little. Lucy, what shall we have to celebrate Galentine’s Day?”

Maybe It’s Not Me

Happy Valentine’s Day from me and the snugglebutts!

Once I turned thirty-five, I began telling people … out loud … about the crazy things I did so that as I grew older, my friends and family wouldn’t simply assume I was senile. I hoped that at least they might pause before making that assumption.

Losing words when I’m in the middle of a conversation is something I’ve done my entire life. It’s embarrassing. I have an immense vocabulary, but good heavens, when I need those associations to happen, words escape me. That’s why I like writing my stories. I have plenty of time to reconsider phrases, words, entire sentences if need be.

My sister is the queen of not having the right words. She sees images in her mind and can describe something perfectly – then it’s up to the listener to choose the right word for what she’s picturing. Hah  – and she’s a fifth grade teacher. But her kids know and love her little eccentricities. She admits them all and brings her students in on the joke. They help her now when she can’t find the right word. I love that.

Several months ago, it was time to purchase a new keyboard. I use the heck out of mine and it was giving up the ghost. I went looking for something a little more fun than what I had and found the perfect keyboard. It even has back-lighting in blue, red, or green, so I can type in the dark.

Now, I type by touch, not by sight, but when making corrections, I like being able to see my keys all lit up. I turn the lights in the house way down low (off) and type away by the soft glow of the two monitors at my desk. I didn’t think another thing of it – hooked up the keyboard and off I went. Words flowed, sentences were structured, stories were written.

Except for one problem. I was making more ridiculous mistakes than I’d ever made before. I thought maybe I just needed to get used to the keyboard. With time, it would get easier.

For the last month or so (since I’m no longer thirty-five years old) I began worrying that there was something terribly wrong with me. My mind and my fingers were no longer working in tandem. This typing thing was harder than it should be. For every ten words or so, I was backing up to correct ridiculous typos. I quietly worried.

Yesterday the cocky side of my brain kicked in and said, “Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute, here, girlie. This ain’t your fault.” Apparently, the cocky side has a tough-guy linguistic flair.

I went back to Amazon and read the actual reviews of the keyboard I’d purchased. Holy cow, they were awful. People were having many of the same problems I had. Missing letters in words, keys not reacting and responding as they should, typos everywhere on the page, backspacing more times than was appropriate.

Relief. These typos weren’t only my fault. There wasn’t some broken link between my brain and my fingers. I could fix this with one press of a button and a two-day delivery from Amazon. Now, I have three more chapters to get written before Wednesday’s joyous unboxing, but at least I know that a balm for my fears will soon arrive.

We arrive at a certain age (you pick whichever yours is going to be – everyone’s is different) and begin to worry that every little thing is going to grow into a big thing and that will be the final thing that nails our coffin closed. I keep trying to push those ludicrous fears aside – I have enough to deal with. This one needed to go away.

My fingers are more arthritic than they were when I was 35 (or even 50, for that matter), but they still fly like the wind across the keyboard. I do NOT need a stupid piece of technology to scare me like that. As soon as I can, this thing will find its best home … in a box headed for a thrift store. I have way too many stories to tell yet. Don’t tell me that I could dictate my stories. Remember the first part of this post? Words escape me when I need them the most if I’m being verbal. So … I will be typing for as long as I can find my way around any reasonable keyboard.

~~~

Business stuff

1. I hit the two-thirds mark of Book 21 last night. There is a lot going on in this story. Poor Polly is going to need a nap when I’m done with her. Remember – publication date is March 25th! I’m pushing forward.

2. Book List. If you have questions about any of the books in the Bellingwood series, the one place to trust is my website. You can get to the list here. You can always get there by pressing the ‘Shop Now’ button on the Facebook Bellingwood page.

3. Audiobook. Book 1 – All Roads Lead Home is now on audio. Click here to get yours now.

4. There needs to be a Valentine Vignette this week. Check back by Wednesday night. It will be written either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Of Grape Juice and Kitty Litter. Or Random Stories.

They are promising 3-5″ of snow tomorrow in central Iowa. Don’t bail on me now, you crazy weather patterns. Bring it! Yeah, yeah, yeah … I know that you’re tired of winter and all that. Don’t hate me. I haven’t had a good blow-out blizzard in several years and it’s time.

(I’m including a series of photos I shot as a rather intense bath time was visited on Earl by Grey. He was tolerant for a while. I finally stopped them when he started whining and she wasn’t giving up.)

This weekend has been the weekend of random thoughts. Everything from my love for grape juice to laughing at the way my cats use their litter boxes. Seriously, they use one box for #1 and then hop over to the other one for #2. It’s the craziest thing.

While we’re on the topic of my cats and their litter boxes, apparently, this has become a social event in our lives. I clean the stuff out of them every night. All it takes is for me to walk over to that area and Earl is on my heels. He waits while I empty the first one and then climbs right in, scratches around, squats and pees. Are you kidding me, cat? Once he wanders off, TB comes over and he uses it. By this time, Grey needs to find out what’s going on and she’s sniffing around, waiting for TB to finish. Now yes, they use the things all day long, but why in the world is it necessary for them to be part of my cleanup process? Social little beasts. I guess they follow me to the bathroom, they just think it’s what we do around here.

I love grape juice, though I’ll never be able to separate it from communion. You know – us good Methodists – it’s what we drink up there at the altar. The taste of grape juice and little bits of bread together at the same time is as familiar as … well … water. I grew up with it.

So … at one point in my life, I was hired by a Lutheran church as their choir director. Things were moving along ever so wonderfully with the choir. We practiced and prepared our song for Sunday. I knew communion was coming and talked to the pastor about me partaking – he had no problem with it. A steward brought the tray to the altar and presented it to me as I knelt there. I took the little cup, drank, and all of a sudden, it required every single bit of my concentration to not react. Wine hadn’t even occurred to me. And it was horrid, bad-tasting wine, too. In MY ENTIRE LIFE, I’d never had wine on a Sunday morning. Remember: Methodist minister’s daughter. To top it off, my dad was the biggest teetotaler I’ve ever known. I have some of his sermons from early days and they were filled with fire and brimstone preaching on the evils of alcohol. Even some of the letters he wrote his father – another Methodist pastor – were filled with discussions they were having regarding how to preach against that awful sin.

So, that leads me to a couple of funny stories.

One evening, we were invited to dinner at the home of a church member. Nice evening, nice dinner … and then the woman brought out a lovely crystal bowl filled with fruit. She presented it to Mom. The fruit was part of the meal, but the crystal bowl was a gift she was sending to our home. Mom took a sniff and asked the question. Uh, yep … rum-soaked fruit. Heavily rum-soaked. She carefully doled some out to each of us kids and I thought she was going to lose it when she passed it to Dad, who not only was a teetotaler, but gracious beyond all measure. That had to be one of the most fun evenings I’d ever spent – watching him balance those two things. He made it through without falling apart, but the rest of us were completely entertained.

Then there was the evening we came home from being out somewhere, I don’t remember where. We must have been pretty young, because all three of us kids fit in the back seat of our VW bug. Dad had been given a gift – a beer bread mix, along with a can of beer so he could mix it up. Whoever the gift-give was had just discovered this wonderful recipe, and knowing that Dad didn’t drink, thoughtfully included the beer. Poor Dad waited until we were finally home, but he blustered about it the entire drive. He parked the VW and as we climbed out of that back seat, he snapped that can of beer open and poured it out in the gravel. Guess we weren’t having beer bread.

Mom was never one to let Dad get away with much. I remember when she discovered sparkling grape juice. Now what was he going to do about that? Well, he wasn’t too happy. It was bad enough that people might see her with those bottles in her cart and think she was bringing alcohol home. She laughed at him.

I’m telling ya – random stuff. My life was filled with crazy stories. Mom and Dad told them to us over and over. I think about oral tradition. Native Americans were story tellers. They didn’t write things down, they told their stories over and over so no one would forget. The Old Testament was delivered through oral tradition for centuries. People practiced and practiced telling and re-telling stories so they’d be without mistakes.

Some of our family’s stories have transformed and grown and gotten more entertaining as the years have passed. We’ve lost true details, I’m sure, but the heart of the stories remain in place.

We loved hearing stories of our births and the memories Mom and Dad had of us as we grew up. We loved hearing stories of their childhood and youth – the moments that stood out for them as they got married and started their lives together. We still love telling and hearing stories of each other’s lives – the crazy things that we do and that happen to us.

I have to tell you stories about my cats, because those little fur-balls don’t really understand when I tell them why I think they’re so cute. They just want to snuggle in my arms or pester me to keep their litter boxes clean and their food and water full.

What are some of your favorite family stories? Talk to each other as you share them!

~~~

Bits of Bellingwood Business

1. I’m nearly halfway through the manuscript for Book 21. Yep – not telling you anything else about it. Publication date is March 25. That just doesn’t seem so far away.

2. Remember – there is a map of Bellingwood, sketches of Sycamore House and its environs, as well as sketches of the Bell House here on the website (click on the links there). I know, I know … I should be working on more of these. There are so many things I should be putting out here for you. This girl is NEVER bored, let me tell you.

3. There’s been a great deal of noise about Facebook changing their algorithm again – eliminating things from our feeds. It’s frustrating as I try t figure out how best to interact with you. My website is the very best place for you to find information. The only limitation is that it isn’t good at personal interaction – FB is better for that.

The monthly newsletter (comes out on the 25th of each month) is the best way to make sure you don’t miss the big important things, but these weekly blog posts are another way to keep up.

Before I declared this to be a ‘thing,’ I wanted to make sure I could keep up. It looks like it will happen. I just have to keep it top of mind. Every Sunday evening / night, I’ll write a blog post. At the end will be a bit of business. You can subscribe to this and I will always post it on Facebook.

Thank you all for hanging out with me! I love you.