Lost Kindle Content? Not Really …

A large percentage of you (us … whoever) own Kindles of one sort or another. Over the years, I’ve helped readers with some technical issues as they’ve come up, and it hit me today that you might not be making use of the powerful database that is your personal Kindle library.

Every Kindle book you’ve ever purchased from Amazon is yours forever and resides in the cloud on the Amazon servers. Even if you can’t find the content on the Kindle you hold in your hand, you still have access to it – you just have to find it and download it again.

If you’ve been on the fence about upgrading your device and choose not to because you think you’ll lose everything – have no fear. Amazon has your back.

A couple of months ago, my Kindle was inundated with books that I was no longer interested in reading. Buried deep in the bowels of my Kindle list, behind all of those duds, were books that I had completely forgotten I owned. I wiped my Kindle clean – erased everything from it and started out just like it was a brand-spanking new device. Ahhh … perfection.

How did I get to the books I wanted to read? There are several different ways … read on, MacDuff.

Of course, there is a search function on the Kindle – just be sure you are searching the cloud – not your local device (unless you know for certain the book is already downloaded). Using that, you can download a book / any book you’ve ever purchased. You won’t be charged for it again.

Or … you can do the work from your computer. I grabbed a couple of screenshots along the way.

And no, you can’t go to the book page on Amazon and download from there – silly of them, I know.

1. You must go to your Account page and then find “My Content and Devices.”

Here is where you will find every electronic device attached to your Amazon account.

But more importantly for this situation, you will also find all of the content you’ve purchased (even if it was free).

 

2. Here’s what that page will look like when you arrive (only with your content – not mine):

Do a quick search (over there on the right side of the page) for the book you want to send to your Kindle again. The book will present itself to you (how cool is this?)

Then, click on those three little dots (ellipsis) beside your book.

3. A popup – much like this one will happen, giving you many options.

If you want to deliver it to your Kindle or any of the other devices on your account, you can do it right there.

Et voila – finis!

~~~

A couple of notes about books delivered to your Kindle.

  1. If you delete a book and re-download it, I’m almost positive that if the author has sent up freshly edited content, you will receive the newest edition. I haven’t verified it, but seriously, why would Amazon maintain multiple edited copies of a book?
  2. In the past, many of you have informed me that there is something dreadfully wrong with the book on your Kindle – missing pages, chapters half gone, etc., etc. No, that’s not actually something that I did – the file was corrupted somewhere between your Kindle and Amazon. Simply delete the file from your Kindle and re-download it. All will be well.

~~~

And now … back to Book 19. Many, many words to write before I sleep.

Late Night Crazy Brain

It’s that time again.

I’m two weeks out from the next newsletter. When that hit me today, I’m pretty sure all of the air inside me left in one fell swoop. Whoosh.

Over these next two weeks, I will finish Book 19 and get through the first round of re-writes and edits. I will come up with a cover and a title and write at least one vignette. I will do my best to stay connected online. (There will be much fun in the newsletter, make sure you’ve signed up! Click here to get ‘er done – then come back and finish reading.)

I will also snuggle three cats as much as possible and try to sleep whenever they allow. They’re not terribly agreeable with my morning sleep time. No, it’s not because they want food or water or clean litter. I make sure to have that all in place before I drop into bed at whatever weird hour I finally land there. No … it’s attention they want.

TB is a brat. There are two things that he knows drive me crazy when I’m attempting sleep – scratching on the window beside me and meowing at me. I can’t sleep through those noises and he knows it. The horrible, rotten cat that I adore will sit on the ledge of the cat tree, scratch at the window and meow, then stop and look at me to see if I’m paying attention. If I don’t respond appropriately, he does it again. And then again. And then again. Until I’m about to crawl out of my skin.

You see, I try to avoid responding to it because the last thing I want is for him to believe that his bad behavior will get the response he’s looking for, but good heavens, I can’t help myself. I just want to sleep. He also picks at Earl, knowing that will elicit a reaction.

Then, both Earl and Grey, knowing that I’m fully awake, land on top of me looking for attention and affection.

I know, I know … it’s a terrible life, but guys, I need sleep! Yep … I’m a whiner. My creativity is gone when I’m exhausted. Fortunately, a nap always helps. Even if it’s a twenty minute chair nap with a cat on the desk in front of me and my face buried in their haunches. At least they’re good for that. (I do adore my kitties – don’t believe my sarcastic comments for a minute.)

So what I need from y’all are kitty and puppy pictures, Star Wars memes, funny stories, heartwarming tales and reminders that there is a real world beyond my imagination. I’d ask you to send M&Ms, but I’m afraid you would and I’m just kidding. (No I’m not / yes I am / no I’m not / of course I am). Okay, I have the M&Ms covered. It’s okay. Well, they’re not M&Ms, but close enough. Are you confused yet? Maybe coffee instead (good heavens, will the crazy Diane shut up so we can finish this post? You have plenty of coffee in the house).

There, I dealt with the crazy person who lives up there in my brain. Do you realize that sometimes she talks to me in a weird French accent? It’s like Pepe le Pew has taken over my internal dialogue (not a monologue, there are too many words for that). It’s really kind of strange. And then there are the times when instead, it’s a cowboy drawl. Not just Texas or North Carolina or even Oklahoma. Really bad – movie-bad – cowboy drawl. It’s been known to show up as a Scottish accent, or even Cockney. Which is ridiculous because I can’t mimic an accent out loud to save my life. I’m awful at that.

And … there you have the insanity that happens to me when my really awesome nap ended at 8:45 pm and I’ve written four thousand words and my brain is still wired.

Tomorrow morning is going to be here soon and three cats will vie for my attention. The funny thing is – when I finally crawl out of bed, they’re satisfied and go off to hide for their own naps. It’s just not fair.

Okay, I have to give you a link to a hilarious video on 9 Weird Habits of Writers. I won’t put it on my Facebook page because she’s pretty raucous and there’s some blue language, but this is nearly spot on. I sent it to my sister last week and she laughed and laughed. Just about the time I thought I was unique, this video explains my life exactly (well, except for the taking my laptop with me everywhere – I don’t do that). But be forewarned – if you are offended by this young woman’s language – I warned you. From here on out, it’s your responsibility. (Link HERE – and it’s about an 8 minute video.)

Good night!

A Teacher and Her Kids – Thank Yous from the heart

Seriously – May this card be with you? These kids are awesome!

My sister, Carol, teaches fifth grade. Her kids are never easy – a mix of cultures, education levels, a range of disabilities and behavioral issues, few parents are involved – education these days is a mess. We hear it all the time, but I don’t know that any of us can fully understand what we ask teachers to do if we aren’t in the classroom. And the thing of it is? Few of us have the courage to walk into a classroom and offer to help.

I’m so proud of Carol and the huge amount of herself she pours into those kids. They struggle, she encourages. They fight her off, she keeps loving them. They pout, sulk, scream, rant, rave – she stays steadfast. They steal from her and lie to her and Carol returns every day to remind them that they get to choose between living a life of integrity and one of shame.

The kids know that when she sits them down for another “Ms. Greenwood lecture,” that she is teaching them how to live in the big world out there. They might moan and groan, but even when she isn’t teaching them ‘reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic,’ they’re receiving important lessons from her.

I can’t be in the classroom with her, but I get to be the ‘fun’ part of her kids’ year. I sew up little pouches at the beginning of the year, then Carol and I fill them with pencils and things that the kids can use and have fun with. For Pi Day (March 14), I delivered a case of moon pies to Carol. On Star Wars Day (May 4 – May the 4th be with you), I delivered Star Wars bookmarks. If something special comes to the school that requires funds for the kids to purchase something, Carol and I make those funds available.

This year, we read about a kindness board that used post-it notes. I sent a huge stack of colorful post-its. The kids write kind things on those notes and hang them on the board. They get to see kindness every day.

One thing Carol does on a regular basis is ask her kids to write thank you cards. See … bigger learning than just the basics.

She handed a stack of them to me yesterday. I can tell that she talks about me in the classroom. They know I’m an author. They know I love cats and Star Wars. Those awesome kids integrated what they knew of me and what Carol reminded them I’d given to the classroom over the year into each note.

Yeah. I cried.

Now, while you all are going to try to tell me how great it is that I do this for her classroom, that’s not the point of this story.

You all know teachers. Don’t ask them what they need help with. Nobody ever responds to that.

Offer to do the crazy things – like moon pies and bookmarks, opening day gifts to help the kids get started with a bang. Buy a package of fun-colored paper for the teacher to use. Heck, buy the teacher a gross of pencils and an electric pencil sharpener. Give the teacher an Amazon gift card to buy extra supplies for kids who don’t have everything they need. Sew, knit or crochet gift bags or silly stuffed animals. Buy supplies for a creative bulletin board. There are so many things you can do.

But I promise that though teachers desperately need so much help and so many things, they’ve learned to do a great job with those kids – without those things. You have to find creative ways to offer to help them.

I need to get sewing on this year’s first-day bags. These little thank you notes spur me into wanting to do more and more for Carol’s classroom. As long as she is teaching, I get to be part of these kids’ life and I love it.

Support your teacher friends. If you don’t have a close friend who teaches, make one. Be creative. They need you. Kids need you. We’re all in this together.

Eleven Annoying Lists

Here’s a rant. Just so you know.

I am tired of the number of posts, clickbait links, blog posts, etc., that focus on all the things we are doing wrong. (Caveat: these aren’t real lists, I’m exaggerating.)

– Fifteen things you’re doing wrong in your marriage.
– Five reasons your cat hates you.
– Three things you don’t know about the color pink.
– How you are pooping incorrectly.
– Ten reasons you will never be successful.
– Eight ways you’re hurting your children.
– Thirteen books you haven’t read.
– Nineteen things you’re doing wrong.
– Forty words you’re mis-pronouncing.
– Seven things wrong with NCIS.
– Twenty-two items you’ve been using wrong.

Three cats who don’t fit in the space they’re inhabiting.

We had parents who spent our childhood correcting us. Our teachers corrected us. Even our spouses and children correct us still. We are absolutely wired to pay attention when we are told that we are wrong.

The problem is – in many cases, our response should be ‘so what? I’m doing it my way.’

But we’re terribly afraid that we won’t be like everyone else, so we’d better get on the ball and discover what we don’t know.

These stupid lists make us feel inadequate.

Which, by the way, is the reason that most advertising succeeds in this day and age. Advertising reaches to the very basest of our fears – that we are missing something extraordinary if we don’t purchase the perfect floatie for our pool or the newest fad hair color or fill our homes with junk … on and on.

I’m the worst when it comes to being susceptible to good advertising. I don’t even like Coca-Cola (I know, shame on me), but if I see an ad showing a coke being poured over ice, I salivate. Every single time. Billboards with that image just about do me in.

Anyway … back to those lists of things we’re doing wrong. I get all ragey-furious when I see those in my Facebook feed. I’m so tired of people thinking that the only way to get my attention is to tell me I don’t know what I’m doing.

Now here’s the deal. As long as we continue to click on those links, those lists will continue to be made and propagated in your feeds.

There is so much negative information that comes at us every day. We’ve become inured to it and have learned to live with it, but in truth, we don’t have to live with it. We can choose to set it aside. Hide those lists when they show up. Push the negative away.

I discovered a couple of months ago, as I hid so much garbage from my Facebook feed, that it soon began filling up with things I loved. Pictures of kittens and dogs, stories of kindness and goodness, encouraging words and funny jokes. The other creeps in, but I no longer find myself growling at the screen.

We get to make the choice – either be concerned every day about what we’re doing wrong – or find joy in the life we’re living right now.

I choose joy.

Which makes the title of this blog post ridiculous, but it got your attention. I should be ashamed. LOL.

~~~

Thank you to those of you who have written reviews for Book 18 – Just Around the Bend and the Prequel – Finding the Road Home.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to do so, I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you share your thoughts on Bellingwood with the world. It’s hard for me to ask, but then … look … here I am asking. These are so important to have as I move forward to let others know about Bellingwood.

Right now, I’m most interested in building the reviews up for the Prequel. If you’ve read it and would tell others how much you enjoy reading the Bellingwood series, I would be grateful. Click on the book titles to get to the Amazon page for the books. Thank you!

Mid-Month Catch-Up

Where in the world is Polly?

In the June newsletter, I announced a contest – Where in the World is Polly? I’m not ready for you to do anything yet, but you should be taking pictures this month of a Bellingwood cover in the world.

Pull a cover up on your e-reader or use a paperback. It can be any of the Bellingwood books. Hold it up at the beach or a concert, your back yard, a garden, in your favorite chair, from a mountain top, at a restaurant, with your best buddies. All I want is to see Bellingwood in your world.

Be sure it’s the COVER of a Bellingwood book, not content or text.

Hold on to that picture, because in the July newsletter, I will set everything in motion for the contest.

~~~

Reviews.

Oh, how I hate asking you to write reviews for me, but they help so much, both in increasing the rank so others are made aware of Bellingwood and when I attempt to do advertising outside of Amazon. Everybody wants to know how many reviews you have.

Anyway, I need you and I’m not very good at asking for help. You don’t have to write a lot of words, but you certainly can.

If you’ve written a review that you want me to see, please copy it and post it as a reply or send it directly to me in an email. I’m very careful of reading reviews on Amazon because the bad ones literally spiral me down into a blithering puddle and I spend the next two days questioning why I even bother to write. Now I get myself out of that faster than when I first started writing, but it is still painful to read such terrible things about my heart’s passion. No matter how I try to avoid reading the bad reviews (because I know they’re not good for me), it’s like watching a train wreck – I can’t look away.

I appreciate you so much and that you take the time to read my books and hang out with me, means the world!

Here’s the link to Book 18 – Just Around the Bend. If you’ve read the Prequel, I’m desperate for reviews on that as well, so click on this link to write a quick one.

Thank you!

~~~

Newsletter and Facebook

If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, you want to do that today. I’ve got a LIST of things to tell you in the next one. Click here to stay in touch with what’s going on.

Newsletters go out once a month on the twenty-fifth. Every quarter, I announce the new book, but there is so much more – contests, a fifteen-hundred-word vignette, cover reveals, more short story announcements (oh, I have a new one coming in July – you’re gonna love it), and other fun things.

If you haven’t joined the Facebook Bellingwood page, you should. It truly is becoming a bit of Bellingwood online. Wonderful people from all over the world hang out and it is so much fun watching you all start to interact with each other. You’re amazing! If I have fewer words than a blog post – that’s where I put them. I also have a terrible tendency to tease the story while I’m writing the next book.

~~~

Earl adores TB, who barely tolerates all of the attention Earl wants to shower him with. So when I see TB allowing Earl to rest his big ole head on the belly, I smile.

Finally …

Book 19 is being written. My crazy brain is telling me about stories that aren’t even supposed to be in this book, too! I’m building up a list of characters who are planning to show up in Bellingwood in the next few books. Do you have any idea how worn out my brain is from pushing them back until it’s the right time? Imagine having all of these people talking to you whenever you slow down enough to listen.

By the way, if you DO have that many people talking to you, you might want to consider writing stories. Evidently, there are characters desperate to have their tales told to the world and you’re the only person who can do it. No … I’m not kidding.

That’s enough for today. I love you all and am so grateful for you being part of what I’m doing here.

Which One Are You?

Mom, won’t you PLEASE pay attention to me?

I regularly get questions about which of the characters has my personality or characteristics. It finally hit me that I gave each of the five women who comprise my main characters – Polly, Lydia, Beryl, Andy, and Sylvie something of myself. Now while I’ve given them each little pieces of me, they’ve filled out their own personalities. I think these women are familiar because they are so like all of us. You aren’t just a bunch of Lydias or Beryls, but you all recognize something of yourselves in each of them.

Sylvie got some of my fears and regrets – as well as the tenacity to push through them. The other night I was binge-watching NCIS and Ducky said “If you are in hell, keep going.” That made so much sense to me. We all do that. It’s why we’re still here, though I can’t describe much of my life as hell.

But Sylvie represents the part of me that was certain I had my life-plan in place at the age of twenty-one. I had a degree in music education and intended to teach or move right on to get my Master’s degree in Christian Education and Music. I’d spend my life working on staff in churches. Sylvie had a life-plan. She was going to be a nurse. Children and an abusive husband changed her plan.

I didn’t have those, but life changed my plan and I spent the next twenty years running a quick printing shop. Like Sylvie, it was surprising when things changed and I realized that something better was in front of me. I’d spent fifty years volunteering and working in churches – in multitudes of positions both musical and non-musical – too numerous to list here. Things change. Sylvie changed and moved forward. So did I. That’s where the two of our personalities converge.

Andy Saner-Specek. Andy is the part of me that is the introvert (it grows greater as I age, that’s for sure). She is content to be in supportive roles. She is highly organized and makes sure that the people around her are safe and have tools they need in order to live out their dreams. She has plenty to say, but doesn’t need to speak up all the time. Sometimes it’s awesome to just sit back and enjoy the chaos around you.

Beryl Watson. I think all of us would like to think we are Beryl. She’s wacky and wildly creative. On the outside, it looks as if she doesn’t care what others think of her. Beryl is a side of me people will rarely see. If I could have gotten away with wearing the wild clothing she wears, I would have, but it was never appropriate for the jobs I held or the life I lived. I tend to be outspoken at times, but usually get myself in trouble, so I’m more circumspect. But trust me, those words are in my head and it’s all I can do to keep them quiet. The thing with Beryl is that she cares very much what people think of her, so she is quite calculating in how she presents herself to the world. If they’re going to talk about her, she’s going to be in charge of what they say. She’ll own it – before anyone gets a chance to comment. Those who have rejected Beryl in the past hurt her badly and she will never let that happen again if she can help it.

I’m that person. I’m hyper-aware of people’s responses to me and to others. Sometimes I read more into a response than is actually there, but if there is going to be any discussion about me, I want to be the one who has created the conversation.

Lydia Merritt. The part of Lydia that I gave her is her awareness of others. I’m not as hospitable as Lydia is, nor will I drop in on people to take care of them, but I do my best to pay attention to those I encounter – whether online or in person. If there’s a need I can meet without them asking for help, I will do everything I can. Lydia makes me want to be better at that behavior. There are so many other aspects of Lydia that I wish I could apply to myself. Her unfettered generosity is something that I love about her and will always strive to emulate. Oh … and she drives my Jeep.

Polly Giller. I’ve written before that in many ways, Polly is representative of my mother. The one aspect of myself I gave to Polly is her tenacity and willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done. This was a value instilled into us by Dad from a very early age. No matter what, tasks will be completed. If you start something, you stick to it until you are finished. You don’t quit. When you’re ready to be done with something, you make a plan to walk away from it … you don’t just drop out.

Now the things that drive you crazy about Polly are also from my personality. When she whines because it gets to be too much or she gets too nosy or she wants to tell people what to do – well, that’s me. You’ll often notice that she deals with a lot of these things in her head. It’s better that way and while she might seem annoying, it’s her way (my way) of working out the nastiness inside before letting it loose on the world. Who cares if she’s whiny inside her head? She has to work through it.

Also, the story she told about not wearing underwear to school one day in Kindergarten was mine. I was that rebellious little girl who thought she knew better than Mom. I got two blocks from home and ran back crying because I realized how wrong it was. There are a lot of Polly’s embarrassing stories that come from my background.

~~~

Before I close, I need to tell you what happened to me today. I just love people.

I had errands to run and figured I’d head for Ames to do a couple of them and maybe pick something fun up for lunch. Living in the country doesn’t offer many opportunities for fast-food. My Jeep has been absolutely filthy and I hadn’t had time to wash it yet, so I ran through a car wash in Boone and headed east to Ames.

When I brought my car up to speed, it started to shake. Damn it. I pulled up the tire pressure numbers and they were just fine, so I didn’t have a flat. I tried to talk myself into believing that the roads were just that bad. But when I crossed the bridge and took the entrance ramp onto Highway-30, I knew it was me, so I pulled over and called my garage. I love these guys. I trust them completely.

His first thought was that maybe with the heat, one of the tires had a bubble or maybe a belt on the tire had slipped. I was now about 40 miles from the garage in Webster City (Gerber Auto, if you want to know) and I asked if he thought I could make it. Sure, he said, just don’t go very fast. I also knew that if I didn’t make it, they’d come get me. Like I said, I love these guys.

I made it there with no problem. When I got to the counter, Josh smiled at me and told me they’d take care of me – not to worry. Then … the owner came out and took my keys. He wanted to drive it to see what the problem was. For some crazy reason, I told them that I’d just come out of a car wash before it started. The next question was – you drive a lot on gravel, don’t you? Of course I do.

The owner took the car out, then brought it back and drove into a bay. They knocked out about two pounds of mud that had gotten caught up in behind brake calipers. He drove it again and returned to tell me it was driving smooooooth now. When I tried to pay, Josh glared at me and said, “You’re welcome.”

Of course! Thank you!

I went back out to my Jeep, drove away and just wept. THIS is Iowa-nice. For a girl who knows nothing about cars, I am grateful for a garage who treats me with respect and the guys who take every opportunity to teach me something new so I don’t have to rely on them. I know how to wash the undercarriage of my Jeep now. But they also told me it would happen again and they’d take care of me the next time.

If you ever wonder why I write stories of good people in Bellingwood, it’s because they are so real in the every day parts of my life.

And … I stopped at Dairy Queen for a pork tenderloin. Oh yeah – that’s another thing Polly got from me.

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 18, #4

Rare is the time one of the cats isn’t sleeping in my arms while I work. Earl is the most patient. I move around and snuggle on him and he just goes with the flow.

It always seems as if the moment I have a million things to accomplish, my brain insists that I write one more new story. Crazy brain. Sometimes it’s easier to just acquiesce.

My mind is consumed with Bellingwood characters. Right now, while I’m editing and formatting Book 18 – Just Around the Bend, I have more short stories in process and evidently, multiple vignettes chasing me. As much as I love Polly, the other characters in town sometimes want to be sure you know them just as well.

Just a couple of bits of information you need to know:

Book 18, Just Around the Bend will be published on Sunday, June 25th. My publication dates are always the 25th of March, June, September, and December. Anything that is published in between those dates is just icing on the cake.

If you want to ensure you never miss out on any exciting news from Bellingwood, be sure you sign up for the monthly newsletter. It also comes out on the 25th – but every month. There is always a vignette and you never know what else I’m going to come up with for you. Sign up here.

Pre-publication Trivia Party – Friday, June 16 from 6-11 pm (CDT). Facebook Bellingwood page. There are prizes and fun conversations happening throughout the evening. I do these to have fun chatting with you, but the questions will help trigger memories about characters and events you might have forgotten.

Okay – this vignette is a sweet moment with Dr. Mark Ogden, Bellingwood’s gorgeous veterinarian. There was a post on the Facebook Bellingwood page about possible vignette ideas. I’ll dig back through and contact you if Mark was your suggestion. If you did and I miss that – let me know.

While You Sleep

Mark kissed Alexander’s cheek before putting him in the playpen, then bent over to kiss his wife.

Sal was not a morning person and it looked like Alexander was going to be more like his father – up at the crack of dawn, ready to greet the day.

Now that the boy was older, Mark enjoyed spending these early morning hours with him. Sal was thrilled when Mark started taking this shift. He made sure Alexander was fed and clean, played with him in the living room and now that the weather was warmer, took him outside while the dogs played and ran in the back yard.

The two dachshunds had already climbed back up on the bed with Sal and were doing their best impressions of slugs, burrowing into the blanket beside their mother.

He knew Sal was mostly awake, though she’d pulled the blanket up to her shoulders and buried her face in the pillow. Alexander would give her another twenty minutes or so before his playing became too noisy even for her.

Mark stood in the doorway of their bedroom, something he did nearly every morning. His wife was even more beautiful when she slept and their son was pure perfection. He was such a lucky man.

The first time he met Sal, he knew that he wanted to know her better – whatever it took. She’d been such a surprise. From Polly’s description, he expected to meet a wealthy, spoiled princess who had little time for the slow, laid-back lifestyle he loved here in Iowa. That had been far from her reality.

Now, Sal knew what she liked and was intent on getting it. She was focused and driven, but she was also generous and kind. The woman was an absolute live-wire. He assumed that at least forty percent of her blood consisted of one hundred percent caffeine. When she was awake, she moved ninety miles an hour in every direction, but once she wound down, she became easygoing and snuggly, even. She also deliberately slowed her actions whenever Alexander was in her arms and sometimes Mark caught her gazing at her son with a face that radiated love and adoration.

It was all of these moments that still surprised him. These were some of the many reasons he loved this woman. Sometimes he couldn’t believe she had chosen to give up her cosmopolitan life in Boston for him. They’d gone back and forth about how to make a relationship work across country. She hadn’t been prepared to leave her job and he couldn’t imagine giving up his practice. Mark didn’t want to ask her to give up the life she loved and had begun researching veterinary positions in Massachusetts, but he could barely stomach the thought of living in a big city again.

Then out of the blue, Sal told him she was done fighting it – she wanted to come to Bellingwood. He chuckled to himself. If Polly hadn’t been living here, he wasn’t sure Sal would have been so ready for the move. But then, if Polly wasn’t here, he’d never have met this amazing woman. His deepest darkest fear was that she would wake up someday and realize that her life with him wasn’t enough.

When she invested in the coffee shop downtown, his heart settled some. That seemed to be the thing she missed the most. He knew the hustle and bustle of activity stirred her to life, even if Sal insisted that she was becoming accustomed to the slower pace of Bellingwood.

Mark’s family had been hesitant about him marrying Sal. He gave his head a quick shake. That wasn’t it. They were worried that she wouldn’t make the transition to rural Iowa life well. A smile crossed his face. Bellingwood really wasn’t all that rural. It could be if that’s what you wanted, but there wasn’t a single community in this state that didn’t have access to theaters, museums and excellent restaurants and shopping. It might require a short drive, but even when he’d lived in the Twin Cities, things that were important required you to leave your neighborhood and drive. You just traveled on city streets rather than peaceful country roads for forty-five minutes.

They’d talked about finding an acreage in the country so he could have horses and maybe even a few goats. Looking at Sal sleeping so peacefully he thought she’d make a great country mother. No, he couldn’t even think that with a straight face. When he first brought it up, the look of terror and shock on her face was priceless. He’d backed far away from that conversation as soon as he understood what she would lose. No one else knew, though, that she had returned to the conversation the next night, apologizing for letting her fears stop her from trying something new. If he really wanted to move out of town, she’d support him. He loved her too much to ask that of her again. Maybe someday she would seriously consider a move to the country, but that would surprise him.

The first time Sal’s mother came to Bellingwood, she was aghast at how simply they lived. Where was the nanny to take care of Alexander or the housekeeper to help Sal around the house? Mark joked about hiring a cook because of Sal’s less-than-stellar kitchen skills and received a swift kick under the table. If Mark hadn’t met Sal’s father, he would have had to assume she was adopted. That old biddy was a shrew. She’d criticized everything about their life, couching her nastiness in polite conversation, as if the entire world didn’t understand exactly what she was saying. The only person she was kidding was herself.

Now that he thought about it, Iowa was probably an escape for Sal from an interminable lifetime of torture with that woman in charge of the rack. Sal didn’t say much about her life in Boston any longer. When they’d first gotten to know each other, she told him more than he cared to know about the woman who raised his wife. How she’d grown into such a self-confident young woman, he didn’t know.

Sal had told him that a lot changed the day she met Polly. After years of living to please her mother, she discovered that she could be her own best self without any regrets. He wondered if she’d ever told Polly how much her life changed because they lived together throughout college and continued their friendship through the years. It had nearly killed Sal when Polly moved back to Iowa. The one person she trusted to show her what normal looked like was gone and Sal had done her best to stay out of her mother’s clutches, but it hadn’t been easy.

He smiled again, wanting to lie back down beside her and gather that strong confident woman into his arms. She had so many broken bits and pieces within her, but Sal was determined to find her way. She wanted to love freely and exuberantly, without fear of rejection. Polly showed her every day what that looked like and sometimes Sal would talk about her friend for hours in the evenings. The funny thing was, Mark watched the two of those girls when they were together and saw how envious Polly was of her tall, brilliant, gorgeous friend. If only Polly knew. Both girls would be surprised at how they perceived each other.

“What are you doing over there?” Sal mumbled, lifting herself up on the bed. She turned over and dropped her hand into the playpen beside her to stroke Alexander’s hair.

“Just watching you sleep.”

“That’s creepy. Aren’t you going to be late to remove an abscess or castrate some poor pig?” She blinked her eyes, trying to come awake. “My friends at home think you play with cute puppies and kitties all day long. I hate to tell them what you actually do.”

“I run into cute puppies and kitties out on the farms,” he said.

She worked to untangle herself from the sheets and the two dachshunds, who refused to move away from her. “I keep telling these dogs they’re going to be the death of me. So really, why are you still here?”

“I wasn’t joking. Just watching you sleep. Do you know how much I love you?”

Sal peered at him and pushed her long black hair back, tucking it behind her ears. “It’s a good thing. Otherwise what we’ve been doing around here would be quite scandalous.” She sat up on the edge of the bed and stretched her arms, yawning. “I’m feeling awfully sexy right now. Wanna get you some of this?”

Mark walked over, slid between the bed and playpen and sat beside her. He pulled her into his arms, crushing her against him. “I’d take you any time. You are every dream of mine come true. I love you, Sal.”

“I love you, too.” Sal pushed back from him and blinked again, then rubbed her eyes. “What brought all of this on?”

“Just watching you sleep. You make me happy.”

Reaching down to pick Alexander up, Sal leaned toward him. “I’m not a normal wife.”

“I wouldn’t want anything different. You’re perfect for me.”

“I think we’re pretty perfect together.” She bounced Alexander in her arms. “We make pretty babies, that’s for sure.”

“Didn’t mean to wake you up,” Mark said. “I’ll go to work.”

Sal lifted her face so he could kiss her. He held her for just a few more momeents and then got up and headed back for the door.

“How often do you do that?” Sal asked.

“What?”

“Watch me sleep?”

“Every once in a while.”

She shook her head. “You go to work and be good today. We’ll talk about this later.”

“I can’t wait.”

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 18, #3

I’m going through a terrific course on self-publishing and they asked for a picture of my work space. Of course, what’s a work space without a cat in it? This is Grey, who is a little offended that I backed away to take the photo. Poor spoiled kitty.

I love writing these short vignettes. Even though they aren’t long drawn-out stories about the characters that surround Polly and her family, they are wonderful glimpses into the moments of people who are just living their lives in Bellingwood.

Vignettes are published in the newsletters which arrive in your email inbox on the 25th of every month, but I spend way too much time in Bellingwood to not write a few more while we wait for the next book to be published.

Speaking of the next book – Book 18, Just Around the Bend – will be published on June 25th. 

Our pre-publication Trivia party will be on Friday, June 16th from 6-11 pm (CDT) on the Facebook Bellingwood page. There are always great prizes and you’ll have fun while remembering silly bits and pieces about the early books. Don’t miss it.

This vignette is just a quick look at Eliseo’s sister, Elva, and her four children as the kids get ready for school. I had fun reading your ideas on the FB page about who should get a vignette. Some ideas, though awesome, will have to wait for a book. Just because you haven’t learned all about the characters that you want to know doesn’t mean that it won’t show up. Hah. And even though I’m publishing the 18th book in this series, it feels like we’ve only just begun getting to know these people. There is so much more to come, so be patient. It will all come out, I promise.

However, if you expressed an interest in Elva and her little family as a comment to the FB post, I’ll be in contact with you. And there is more to come! Thank you all for participating!

Back to Normal

“Polly’s going to take you up to the ball fields after school today,” Elva said. She put a bowl of cereal in front of her oldest son, Sammy. “Show me your numbers.”

He held the meter out so she could read it.

“Good job,” Elva said. She bent over and kissed his forehead. “I’m proud of you.”

Sammy worked hard to stay ahead of his diabetes. It wasn’t easy – he wanted to do what every other boy in his class did, but of all her children, he was the one who took responsibility for himself. On the other hand, Ana hated managing her asthma. It infuriated her when she had to slow down because she had trouble breathing. But they managed.

Her three oldest played soccer after school. She and Polly traded moving them around. Noah played soccer with Sammy, and Elijah played baseball. Luckily the practices and games were all held in the same location.

Little Matty wasn’t interested in either soccer or baseball. He couldn’t get enough of the horses at his Uncle Eliseo’s barn. When the kids discovered that there were going to be horse barns going up out here, Matty was the most excited. Gabby and Ana thought it would be fun – especially if they could bring their friends out. Sammy thought it was cool, but Matty wanted a horse all his own. He was a boy after Elva’s passion.

She did her best not to spend much time with the big Percherons at Sycamore House. She didn’t want to fall in love with them. They weren’t hers. Besides, Eliseo had them so well trained, they didn’t need anything she had to offer.

At this point, Elva wasn’t even sure that she remembered what it took to spend time with problem horses. Those days on her father’s farm were in the past. Far in the past. So much had happened in her life between the day she left home and today.

“Can I have some more cereal for my milk?” Gabby asked, interrupting Elva’s train of thought.

“We aren’t starting that this morning.”

“Then I’ll have to do this.” Gabby brought the bowl up to her lips, daring her mother to scold her.

“Do it,” Ana whispered. She patted the table. “Do it. Do it.”

The boys picked up the chant. “Do it. Do it.”

Elva crossed her arms and looked down at Gabby. Her daughter lifted her eyebrows to look up, lowered them and put the bowl back down on the table.

“Chicken,” Ana said.

Elva put a firm hand on Ana’s shoulder. “You shouldn’t encourage bad behavior in anyone, especially when I’m standing right here. You know what that means, don’t you?”

Ana slumped in her seat. “Fine.” She picked up the dirty dishes from the table and scuffed her feet across the floor as she carried them to the dishwasher. “Hey. You didn’t put these away. There are still clean dishes in here.”

“Hmm,” Elva said. “Guess that’s what happens when you are in trouble.”

Sammy giggled until Elva put her hand on his shoulder. “Since you and your brother were part of the problem, you can help your sister clean out the dishwasher. Now go.”

“Aw. Come on. We didn’t start it,” Sammy whined.

Elva just stood there, saying nothing. The kids were pretty good most of the time. She didn’t have any complaints. She’d raised them by herself – their father had rarely been at home, much less taken time to interact with them. At least now, with Eliseo in the house, there was another adult around who bothered to pay attention to them. They loved their uncle. She couldn’t believe how easily they’d accepted him, scars and all. None of them were afraid to touch him or give him a quick kiss on his cheek.

The boys picked up their bowls and walked across the room to help their sister. Then, Gabby giggled. She opened her mouth to say something, took one look at her mother and closed her mouth just as quickly.

“Good girl,” Elva said. “But since you tried to get away with something you know I don’t like right in front of me, I think you should help, too. Go on.”

The kids all had plenty of chores to do around the house, both inside and out. Elva was glad to take on responsibility for the kitchen. She was teaching all four how to cook. None of her kids would go out into the world without knowing their way around spices and flavors. With Sammy’s diabetes, they’d all learned more about healthy eating. The younger three paid more attention to what was safe for him than he did some days.

While they ran around the kitchen putting things away, Elva rinsed out a dishrag and cleaned the counter and then the kitchen table. She couldn’t wait to get them off to school today. As nervous as she was about training horses again, she couldn’t wait. Every day she didn’t have to wait tables at the Alehouse downtown, she cleared more brush off the land where they were planning to build the barns.

Eliseo and his friend, Ralph Bedford, had brought two of the Percherons out to pull trees down. Then she and Eliseo had spent several days with chainsaws cutting them into pieces. He’d brought the bobcat out from Sycamore House and taught her how to use it. The logs that could be cut into firewood went in one section of the property and the rest she dumped out back. Things had been so wet lately they hadn’t burned the pile, but Eliseo promised the kids it would happen soon.

Every day that Elva traversed the land with that bobcat or walked through it picking up stray branches and sticks, she felt herself relax. Sometimes it felt like a calm before the storm because of the excitement building inside her. At night she slept better than she had in years. Her kids were happy and she was preparing to do something that she never dreamed she’d be able to do.

“Get your backpacks,” she said. “Gabby, put your shoes on, please. I’ll meet you at the back door in …” Elva pointed at the clock above the kitchen cabinets. “…eight minutes. The last one there sits on the hump in the back seat.”

They had worked out a plan for who got to ride shotgun to school. Each kid had their own day of the week and on Fridays, the one with the most checkmarks beside their chores list got the honor. There was a lot of catch-up cleaning and work on Thursday nights before bedtime which was just fine with Elva. She worked the evening shift on Fridays and Saturdays and appreciated having all of the work done so Eliseo didn’t have to manage the kids.

“Can I go see the horses after school?” Matty was at the kitchen door, backpack hanging down beside him. It was his standard question every morning.

“That’s up to Polly,” Elva said. If his sisters and brother didn’t have ball practice, they all walked down to the barn. Those were his favorite afternoons. “You really are my boy, aren’t you.”

Matty gave her a confused look. “Of course I am. Who else would be my mommy?”

“No one. No one at all. It’s just that you love those horses so much, just like your mother.”

“I like Tom and Huck, too. They’re short like me.”

She chuckled. “We might have to get a donkey or two out here when the barns are built.”

“But I want a horse.”

“Oh you’ll have a horse, sweet boy. I promise. You might have to share it with your sisters until we can afford more than one, but you will have your own.”

“Will you have one, too?”

She nodded as she thought back to the horses she’d loved. She never fell in love with the easily tamed, passive horses. Her favorites were always the ones who fought and fought for control. It was almost as if they wanted to make sure that she earned their trust – they weren’t giving it up easily. But once they’d broken through together, those horses were hers.

A tear fell from one eye as she wondered what had happened to those animals after her parents died. Elva had taken off as soon as she could, tired of being under her parents control. She wanted to make her own life, to live the way she wanted to live.

She was as bad as some of those rebellious horses, but no one had ever spent time trying to gain her trust. She married her husband, Larry, because she’d gotten pregnant. He was a nice enough man, but he was too much like those easily tamed horses that she never respected. When he had an affair and let her and the kids go, it hurt, but not as much as some might think. The only thing she had to come to grips with was that she’d given up her whole self to that fake life she’d lived with him.

It was Eliseo … her brother … who had finally given her the time she needed to trust again. They fought a lot in those first few weeks she’d been in Bellingwood, but he never pushed her harder than she could handle. People in town thought he was a quiet, nice person. They didn’t know the steel that was inside that man. She was so proud of him and now she wanted to make him proud of her. She’d work hard for that.

Today was Matty’s day to be in the front seat, so she sent him on out to the car. Elva put her hand on the back door handle when she heard the other three come running through the house. First Ana, then Sammy and then Gabriela.

“Matty’s already in the car,” Elva said, pushing the door open. “Go on.”

“Do I have to?” Gabby asked, whining.

“You had eight minutes to get here. After an entire year of this, I don’t know why you’re whining now.”

“Because I hate that bump.”

“You’ll live.” Elva pulled the main door shut behind her and let the screen door close on its own. “You all have everything you need?”

Day Off!

Book 18 – Just Around the Bend flittered across the digital universe to editors / proofreaders last night.

Ahhhhh …

For the first time in two weeks, I slept more than a few short hours last night – like nine and a half hours. I felt like a normal human being today. It didn’t help that a headline I whipped past in the last few days informed me that sleep deprivation causes the brain to eat itself. Great. People, we need to get more sleep on a regular basis.

I know that I’m about half as creative when I don’t get enough sleep, so I cheat and take a nap before I start writing at night, but that doesn’t give me enough energy to do other things during the day.

My sewing machine was put back to work today – that felt awesome. I have a few projects that I want to finish this weekend before I go back to work at my computer. So many things. So much excitement to come.

I turned my iron on and Grey jumped up to see what I was working on. As the iron heated up, she started doing her blinky-eyed thing. You know, that blink that tells you how much cats hate what you’ve got going on?

I’ll bet you think this is cute. No. This is Earl baring his throat to TB, who is mad at him and more than ready to sink his teeth into it. Silly boys. At least TB doesn’t attempt to break skin. He just wants Earl to stop pestering him.

Grey doesn’t like the lotion I put on after a shower. She doesn’t like the cleaning wipes I use beside the stove. She doesn’t like onions or garlic. And she doesn’t like the heat from my iron. Oh yeah. She also doesn’t much care for the Godiva Chocolate Liqueur that I’m enjoying on my first night off in months. Blinky-eye, blinky-eye.

It’s pretty cute.

I’m relaxed, no longer sleep-deprived, the weather outside is gorgeous, I have a few minutes to do something other than focus on Bellingwood … this weekend is nearly perfect.

Before I have time to miss my friends there, I’ll be back at it.  Notes for Book 19 are already being gathered.

Boxed Set 2~~~  FREE BOOK

The second boxed set is free until May 31. (Click here) If you’ve been waiting to move forward with the community, now’s the time.

If you have friends you’d like to invite to join you, they can get the first boxed set (Click here) for $6.99 and the next for free. That’s a lot of reading.

~~~  BOOK 18 – JUNE 25

Release day for Book 18 is June 25th. Not too much longer.

~~~  WINE PARTY – JUNE 16

Wine & Trivia night is Friday, June 16th. You don’t want to miss it. So much fun and lots of prizes. Be sure you’re part of the fun on the Bellingwood Facebook page.

I Love Language … and Words

Yeah, yeah, yeah …

I’m supposed to be working, but a new book just showed up on my front door step and I can barely contain myself.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love words? Oh my goodness, but they make me happy. (okay, whoops, I was totally gone there for about thirty seconds while my mind wandered off to chase down some of my favorite words. Anyway …)

David Crystal’s book, “Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar” is sitting in front of me and I’m typing this before I’ve even finished the preface … because, well … words!

I have to share this with you because it made my heart skip a beat.

grammar
from Old French gramaire,
which was an adaptation of Latin grammatica
which in turn came from Greek grammatiki
meaning ‘pertaining to letters or literature’
which later narrowed to mean just the language of texts
which in the Middle Ages meant chiefly Latin
and so took on the meaning of ‘special learning, knowledge’
and then ‘secret knowledge’ as in magic and astrology
which is how it was first used in Scotland in the 18th century
when the word was pronounced with an l instead of an r
and the meaning developed of ‘enchantment, spell’
and later became the word we know today, meaning
‘charm, attractiveness, physical allure’
spelled
glamour (British English)
glamor (American English)

(Crystal, 2017)

Process on that little passage, then re-read the title and subtitle.

Think about how that single word transformed throughout the centuries and what a gift it is. These are the things that thrill my mind and send me wandering off the normal path of life so I can explore deep and creative thoughts.

My goodness, I love words.