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.

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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!

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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.

All Roads Lead Home Audio Book – Enter to Win

I’ve spent time this weekend packing books.

There’s nothing like a pile of brown kraft paper, boxes, tote bags, books and other things to get three cats all excited. I keep saying that these three can add multiple levels of complexity to every simple task. It gets a little intense.

Tomorrow I will make my first run to the post office and then again on Tuesday and Wednesday. If there are any stragglers, they’ll leave here on Friday.

As much as I love getting books into people’s hands, I’ll admit this isn’t one of my favorite parts of the publishing schedule. Fortunately, I might get through this January shipment without snow and ice on the ground. Once these are gone, bring on the blizzard. Yeah, it’s not in the forecast, my hopes and dreams will probably amount to … not much.

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AUDIO BOOKS

The first book in the Bellingwood series has been published to audio. All Roads Lead Home is available through Audible and Amazon.

The process for Book 2 will begin soon, which is pretty exciting. I don’t have a timeline for when the series will catch up to itself; it depends on a great many things. But it has begun!

Audible is very generous with its authors and has given me codes for free audio copies to help spread the word. I want to give them away to you!

If you’d like to enter for a free audio copy of All Roads Lead Home, all you have to do is leave a comment. Either on this blog post … or (preferably) on this post on the Facebook Bellingwood page.

What should the comment be about?

Since the Winter Olympics are coming up in a couple of weeks – tell me about some of your favorite Olympic sports – either summer or winter. Memories that you have about the games … anything. I love watching the Olympics and have for years. Whether it’s figure skating, speed skating, the luge, diving, swimming … or, oh my gosh, I fell in love with rugby two years ago. Tell me what you love about the Olympics.

I have ten free audio books to give away right now, so there will be lots of winners. You have until Wednesday evening, January 31 to leave a comment.

Entrants release Facebook of any responsibility and this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

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NEWSLETTER

The January newsletter went out last Thursday. I hope everyone got their hands on it. I always have fun putting them together for you. If you don’t want to miss out on the latest vignette and other Bellingwood news, be sure you’ve signed up. I send these every month on the 25th. I don’t give away or sell your email addresses, you can unsubscribe at any time, and I never spam you with information.

Book 20 Vignettes are available on Amazon now. These are some of my favorites so far.

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Book 21

Twenty-five percent of the book has been written, so I’m on target – well, I’m actually running a little early. That’s good news, right?

Publication dates for the Bellingwood books are always March 25, June 25, September 25, and December 25th. It keeps me on my toes!

Memories from Long Ago

In the years I’ve been on social media (GEnie, Compuserve, AOL, MySpace, Facebook), I’ve met incredible new friends while rediscovering old friends and family relationships. I can look back over these years and honestly say that those connections have been amazing.

Some of the most surprising things have come from people I knew years ago and never expected to encounter again. High school classmates who moved far from home, college friends I only knew for a year or two (I transferred in and out a couple of times), and people from churches my father served over the decades.

One fun surprise arrived a couple of months ago when I had a message request on Facebook from a woman I didn’t remember at all. How could I? The story of our encounter happened when I was still much too young to create a strong memory. But the story we shared I knew very well … my mother loved telling it to me.

Mom loved animals and living in small-town Iowa in the early sixties gave her the perfect opportunity to have some fun. I have no idea how she talked Dad into it, but she got a goat and named it Rachel. She loved Rachel … a lot. Then I was born. For the first couple of years, things were just fine. Rachel didn’t pay much attention to me. When I started to walk though, things changed. Rachel recognized me as a competitor for Mom’s affection. Doing what goats do, she used her head to butt me around the yard. My little baby / toddler legs couldn’t hold up to that and I generally ended up on my diaper-clad bottom. Then Rachel discovered I screamed louder when she’d butt me down the back steps of the house. That got a lot of attention from the adults.

The day came when Mom was told she needed to make a choice. The goat … or her daughter. Mom would always stop at this point in the story and make sure I understood just what a difficult decision she was being asked to make. Then she’d draw it out and tell me that she finally realized that I couldn’t live without a mother, so she chose me and found a new home for Rachel.

That fun story has always been part of my life.

Last November, I received a message request from a woman asking if I was the daughter of Reverend Greenwood who lived in Bussey. She’d seen me show up on the page of another woman who lived there during the same time. I assured her that yes, that was me.

Her mother was the custodian of the church while Dad was there and this woman remembered her coming home from work one day with a female goat – a gift from the minister! It seemed that the goat liked to butt his young daughter down the tall concrete steps. The goat arrived with a small house Dad had built for it and spent a lot of time standing on top of it. Rachel ate everything – plastic from the neighbor’s windows, the cardboard lining their outhouse, everything, but the goat lived with them from then on. She shared a picture of Rachel as a much older goat.

A story from my childhood that had lived as one small bit of history was suddenly combined with a small bit of history from someone else and the story had new legs. Now I know where Rachel went and that she was loved and cared for by another family. Our paths crossed for just a moment in time and fifty-five years later we discovered how much fun it was to share that moment.

There are so many wonderful stories of connections made. I’m grateful every day to be able to communicate with friends, new and old. What fun!

Do you have a fun re-connection story?

~~~

Stuff …

1. The newsletter comes out on the 25th – Thursday. Make sure you’ve signed up. There are a couple of fun things I get to share with you this month! As always, there will also be a short vignette featuring someone from Bellingwood.

2. Don’t forget. The Shop Now button on the Facebook Bellingwood page will take you to the book list here on the website. That list is THE list for every book and short story in the series. Anything else has the potential to be … well … wrong. Trust no one. Except for that list.

3. Book 21 is well underway. Publication date is March 25.

Naming Characters, Slow (Limbo?) Paperbacks, Reviews

A midweek blog post wasn’t in the plans, but when something leaps into my head … well, there it is.

One difficult thing when writing is finding character names. Now, sometimes a person’s name is obvious. When I wrote Book 1, Lydia, Beryl, Sylvie, and Andy’s names flowed out of my fingers. That’s who they were. Polly and Henry couldn’t have been anyone else either.

But then more people showed up. It’s Bellingwood, you know. Rather than calling him ‘the guy down the street,’ he needed a real name. And not just a first name, but a last name, too. Sometimes characters are named after people I know and love, but often I stare at the screen trying to come up with something … anything.

Last names are the worst. I might be able to look at a person (in my head) and know what their first name is, but then what?

Would you believe a little phone book is the perfect answer? Errr, what? A collection of last names and I don’t have to work at this? Well, duh.

My sister handed me a fresh list of names (new phone book) at Christmas. I laughed and laughed. It’s becoming dog-eared because of the number of times I’ve thumbed through it while writing Book 21 – and I’m barely at 25% of the manuscript. Yeah, yeah, everybody needs a name. They may never show up again, but they still need a name.

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SIGNED PAPERBACKS IN LIMBO

(Alert: long story ahead.)

For those of you patiently waiting for paperbacks to arrive in your mailbox, well, here’s what it is. I think. Oh, who knows. I despise making excuses for not delivering on time.  I hate this, hate this, hate this.

However, I don’t yet have paperback copies of Book 20 in my house. None. Not a single one. I hoped to get shipping confirmation in the last couple of days, but nope. Not yet.

This has been the craziest publication I’ve experienced to date. Someone told me that after successfully publishing 19 books, it was probably time for the process to spin out of control. Joy.

From the first step of creation, publishing Book 20 to paperback has been a problem. Let me assure you, it’s a fluke. Nineteen+ books have happened with no issue. Maybe they held them all just to frustrate the baloney out of me now. You know, how’s her patience doing?

This company always gives me a date that books will arrive on my doorstep. It’s usually about a month after I place the order. That’s never phased me – they nearly always arrive within a week and a half. Easy. Right? Except that I can’t say much about it until February 1st. If I complain, they’ll tell me their policy and I’ll end up giving them a nod and a smile.

This, of course, followed a crazy-stinking week of even trying to get the book through the process. The company requires a minimum of 24 hours to approve each step. It usually takes 12 hours or less. For this book? Every single thing took the minimum 24 hours AND in the middle, they completely screwed up the process, causing me to lose two days while they looked into it.

My patience was tested. I didn’t scream. I didn’t throw a tantrum. I remained calm. Let me tell you, I treated myself to an adult beverage for good behavior. LOL.

So … as soon as I receive confirmation of shipment, I’ll make announcements, you’ll order books and we’ll get reading material in your hands. If you can’t wait any longer, you can order a paperback directly from Amazon. I’m certain you’ll receive it long before I get mine!

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REVIEWS

Thank you all for writing reviews on Amazon. Each time you write one, another Bellingwood book gets its wings. No, wait. That’s not right. But those positive reviews do help other readers see my books. I do appreciate it.

If you would like to write a review on Amazon, it would be greatly appreciated. And who knows, maybe those books do get wings.

Words … All Messed Up

For as much as I adore the English language, I can butcher it with the best of them. It usually happens that just as I’m in the middle of saying something really dumb, I hear it in my head and at that point, I can no longer back away from it.

I’ve told you before that my mother had a huge vocabulary, but one of her favorite things to do with that vocabulary was splice it up, put it back together, and come up with something new. Now, Shakespeare could get away with that … he was a famous playwright. Mom’s words just got her naive children in trouble.

Like the time I was standing in front of my highly-educated handbell choir, directing a rehearsal. The conversation moved to what authors we were reading (yeah, we took too many breaks, but they were just that good). I announced that I was reading a book by Fletcher Knebel. But I was halfway through his last name when some of the ladies started laughing and it hit me that I’d pronounced it kuh-nee-buhl, instead of using the silent ‘k.’ Because … yes, you guessed it … Mom. She did it as a lark. She also pronounced knife – kuh-nife. At least I could self-correct when it came to asking for the sharp utensil.

Or rhinoceros. If I don’t focus, I’m well into the second syllable before I realize I have to start over or stop right away. Mom pronounced it ri-no-sore’-ass. Pronounce it in your head the correct way … that second syllable is a short ‘o’, not long. If you shorten it to rhino, you use the long ‘o’ sound. Well, mom’s way uses the long ‘o’ sound and from there on out, you’re just in trouble. And let me tell you, if I’m talking about rhinos, most of them have a flaming red hind end.

My sister sees the world differently and this usually comes out in what she says. This is another girl who has a huge vocabulary, but she mixes it up without knowing why. Not her words, but her phrases and sentences. We teased her mercilessly because what she said was just that funny. One day my dad put the snowblower into the van to clear a large space at a local lake (pond) for the youth group to do some ice skating. Carol insisted he was blow-drying the lake. That’s what she saw in her head. Or the time she asked how much a 49 cent coke cost at McDonald’s. It took a few moments to figure out that she was asking which size was being sold for 49 cents (yeah, that was a long time ago – it was a medium coke).

Last night as I was writing, I insisted that a word was correct. However, spell check insisted I was wrong. I love having access to a dictionary online. Oh, was I wrong. No matter what I wanted, indignance is not a word – indignation was just not what I was looking for, but I needed to give it up. I re-wrote the sentence.

We all have our stories about language – from screwing up words because we speak too quickly, to those words we never really learned, to discovering surprising meanings to words we’d always used one way … on and on.

Anyway … do you have a favorite story about your personal language mess-ups?

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Business Stuff

Remember – publication dates for the books are always the 25th of  March, June, September, December. If you’re wondering when the next book is coming out – there ya go.

SHOP NOW button on the Facebook Bellingwood page. That button is a little bit of Diane-magic. It takes you directly to the list of books … in order … on my website. All of the Bellingwood books are listed right there. If you wonder whether you’ve missed out on something, there’s the list. If you’re looking to get the link to Amazon, there’s the list. It’s all right there. If you don’t understand why Amazon is giving you enough information, that’s cool, get it from me on this page.

PAPERBACKS for all the books are available on Amazon. If you can’t get to them through your Kindle … well, that’s because it’s a Kindle, not a computer.

The short stories are published in the paperback they are closest to. For instance, book 16 also contains #16.5 – stuff like that, there. The only thing not available in paperback are the vignettes. I don’t know that they ever will be. They’re awfully short and can be found on the website, in back issues of newsletters, and yes, on Kindle.

BOXED SETS. I’ve had several queries about when I’m going to build a third (fourth, fifth) boxed set for the series. That’s a good question. I know that twenty books is a lot to absorb if you’re just getting started, and yes, I will continue to build out boxed sets, but I don’t really have those set into a schedule. Will the third one hit in 2018? Probably. When? I can’t be sure. I’m sorry that I don’t have more precise information for you right now.

I’ll keep saying it over and over – thank you for being part of this crazy little world I spin. I’m so thankful that I have this chance to get to know you. What an incredible blessing you are to me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully express my gratitude for the time and care you give to me.

I Love Winter

I love winter. I love snow. I love cooler weather. I love blankets. I love snuggling fur-babies. I love wearing sweatshirts. I love bright blue skies. I love blizzards. Really … I love winter.

I’m not fond of ice and I’m not a fan of below zero temperatures. If I could have winter without those things, that would be pure heaven.

The last two weeks have been cold here and that cold is permeating much of the northern half of the US. Just, plain, brr. So I made a choice. I’m not going anywhere. I can look out my windows and see all of the beauty of winter. Then I can snuggle in with my fur-babies, my sweatshirts and my blankets (oh my gosh, I love blankets. Truly, this could be a serious addiction).

Today the temperature rose into the thirties. I practically exploded from the house. There were things to do out there and I didn’t need to wear a coat (one is always in my Jeep). All I needed was my sweatshirt (seriously, love those, too) and a pair of gloves to deal with the snow still on my Jeep.

Off I went to the post office, then down to Boone for some groceries. Are you using that grocery online ordering / pick-up thingie? Glory be, I don’t have to wander a stinking grocery store ever again. Some young kid can wander it for me. I will tip you to do that, thankyouverymuch.

The world felt alive today. People were smiling and happy to be outside. I can’t tell you the number of kids I saw building snowmen and snow forts. My favorite was the dad outside by himself building a snowman. I had an image of his three kids standing in the front door with their snowsuits on, trying to hurry before he finished. Maybe the guy just likes to build snowmen. Or maybe he escaped from their noise and chaos to the quiet of the front yard.

There are many of you who have very good reasons to hate winter. I get it. That’s your deal and your life.

I’m thankful for the seasons that I get to experience. I am grateful to finish with one and move to the other … about four times a year. Look how that works out! I don’t have to wait long – it never lasts forever, though trust me, by September I’m completely finished with summer. By the end of March I will be WAY over winter. But that’s the beauty of it. It will all change in its time. Not because I’m complaining or whining about it, but because it is time.

That’s the way of so many things. I get to love and enjoy and find joy in so much because I choose to allow the earth to spin without my complaints and negative opinions. There is much out there that I can find fault with, but my opinion won’t change a thing … well, except for my attitude.

So I choose to love winter. You don’t have to get on board with that. It’s okay. I still choose to love you, too.

There’s another snowstorm forecast to come through on Thursday. I can hardly wait. Fresh, white snow will drop all over my valley. Yeah. I’ll have to clear the Jeep again before I get out of here, but that’s okay. The absolute peace and beauty that a gorgeous snowfall brings will be worth it to me.

The pictures in this post were taken last year after a particularly beautiful snowfall. This is where I write. This is the beauty that surrounds me. Can you blame me for loving it?

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A few random things.

1. I had the worst time getting the paperback for Love’s Surprises published. The company that prints these completely lost their minds this week. It took several conversations with customer service and a great deal of patience, but they finally figured out that they had created a problem and I could do nothing about it except tell them to look a little deeper. It’s live on Amazon now.

I’ve placed my order. If you regularly order paperbacks from me, now’s the time to let me know you’re ready to do it again. They’ll be shipped out within the next two weeks or so.

I’m sorry it took so long – it was far out of my hands – my very frustrated hands.

2. On the Facebook Bellingwood page you will see a ‘Shop Now’ button near the top. That little button takes you directly to the list of Bellingwood books on my website.

That is the list that tells you what books come where in the canon.

Amazon doesn’t allow for creative numbering (i.e. 12.5, 16.5, 20.5). This forces me to put the vignettes and the short stories outside the canon. Don’t trust anything else but my website. It’s better that way.

3. On the Bellingwood book page of my website, I am also placing the ‘Notes and Characters’ PDF files for you to read or download. I’m up through Book 6. That should keep you occupied for, oh, about a day or two. Again, hit the ‘Shop Now’ button on the Facebook page to get to the list.

4. Really … check out my website. I get a lot of questions that I’m glad to answer, but if you dig around, you’ll probably find what you’re looking for. There is a map of Bellingwood, sketches of Sycamore House and its environs, and sketches of the Bell House.

I’ve had requests for a more sketches. One of these days, I’ll put one together of the Bell House and land around it – where the tunnel is, etc. I see it all in my mind, so I’ll get on that.

A sketch of the downtown shops is a little more iffy. I’m not sure when I’ll ever get that done. I’d love to tell you that I have every single shop and space figured out, but that would be a lie. I know I should – maybe one of these days. For now, your imagination will just have to do.

Today … Tomorrow

This week I’ve spent a great deal of time in my head. It’s not a bad place to be at all, especially when the time spent there is used for dreaming, planning, and setting goals for the next year.

Those things finally made it to paper and then into Evernote, which is when they became more than nebulous ideas and gossamer dreams. As I typed, each goal became a seed that tentatively opened, thrusting out a single, small root. I will return to this list several times a day for the next month or so to add details and structure. Several ideas may be set into a different list – a waiting list. Some will come forward from last year’s list. Now is the time to bring them to life.

Now, the weird-Diane thing that happened is that because I set these goals for 2018, for some reason, I’m holding them until tomorrow. There’s no reason I couldn’t start constructing their framework today, but today is still 2017. Right? Yeah – I never said I wasn’t that much of a nut. Today is a lame-duck day. I’m still stuck in 2017’s grasp, but tomorrow is the beginning of something new for me.

Tomorrow is going to be fun.

~~~

Because I love you, I’ve released Bellingwood 20.5 – The Most Wonderful Time to Amazon early and it is ready for you to read!

This story was so much fun to write. All of the Bellingwood Christmas stories are fun. This is when I get to let all of my feelings for Christmas pour out onto the page. I love the holidays. Even through the stress of planning and traveling, cooking, baking, and hanging with people we spend little time with throughout the year, the realization that our world is a different place because one small baby was born more than two thousand years ago overwhelms my senses. That brings joy – joy that is bigger than any stress I can manufacture.

Some of us will see nothing but negative numbers in the weather forecast for the next couple of days. Stay inside, make something warm to drink, grab an extra blanket, and surround yourself with whatever extra warm bodies you can find. Drink a toast to the new year and read.

Tomorrow is the beginning of something new. I choose to make it a wonderful year, filled with love, joy, grace, and peace. I can hardly wait!

Happy New Year!

Hot Cocoa Recipe!

When I was in high school, our youth group was one of the best social outlets for me in that small town. We met every week, of course, but that was where friendships were formed – relationships that are still strong today.

Several couples co-lead the group with Mom and Dad through the years. Belva and Mel Hollingsworth were the first to jump on board and they embraced us kids with so much love.

Belva also gave us this hot cocoa recipe – unbelievably simple, but it tastes so great that a five-quart bucket of this was always open whenever the group met. Christmas caroling? Hot cocoa. New Year’s Eve party? Hot cocoa. Three people just getting together to meet at the church? Hot cocoa.

I’m going to post her original recipe quantities. You can tell it was made to share. Fill jars for friends and family and make up a pretty recipe card to hang off the side. Polly’s big family will go through this in a single winter, don’t you think? It keeps really well in a sealed container.

Belva’s Hot Chocolate Mix

8 qt. box dry milk
6 oz. dry creamer
1 lb. box Nestles Quik
2 C. powdered sugar

To make one cup of hot cocoa, add 1/4 C. mix to 3/4 C. hot water. Stir and enjoy.