Category Archives: Bellingwood

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

Illustration by Bec Schreiber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIG SALE on the first eight Bellingwood books

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

Illustration by Bec Schreiber

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

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

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

~~~

A couple of reminders.

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

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

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

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 21, #2

You Are My Sunshine

Illustration by Bec Schreiber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lydia reached over to unzip Beryl’s jacket.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s in the bag?”

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

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

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

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

“Find me!” Beryl called back.

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

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

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

“I’m stuck. I can’t get down.”

“You have to be kidding me.”

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

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

“I don’t know. Help me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not until you leave the kitchen.”

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We have another stop to make.”

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

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

“Why didn’t you call me?”

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

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

“Thank goodness,” Beryl replied.

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

“Just stay out of her cupboards.”

“Whatever.”

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

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

“No, why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is up with you?” Andy asked.

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

“What do you think?”

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

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

“Andy?” Beryl asked.

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

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

Lydia gulped. “Uhhh.”

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

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

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

Maybe It’s Not Me

Happy Valentine’s Day from me and the snugglebutts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

Business stuff

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

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

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

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

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!

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!

~~~

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.

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?

~~~

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!

Five Years of Writing About Polly

Things got a little chilly in here one evening. Blankets were everywhere! Grey wonders why I never leave them alone.

As I wrote the final chapter in Book 20 last night (yeah – I thought I’d just lead with that – voila! I’m right on target), I flashed back to November, 2012. I was eight months from finishing my Master’s Degree and had spent the previous four months trying to figure out what was. I had given myself some runway. The last thing I wanted to do was go to work for someone else, especially after twenty years of owning my own business.

There were options in front of me and I was considering all of them, but self-publishing was quite tantalizing. I read book after book about this wonderful new way to get your stories published without fighting with big publishers and facing rejection letters in the mail on a regular basis. I read and absorbed everything from why I should write and self-publish to the actual nitty gritty processes of doing the work.

That all began for me in June of 2012. While I was in the middle of writing more papers for my coursework than I’d ever written in my life, I hashed out a story line that grew more and more interesting to me.

Polly showed up in a very different story setting than we know now that June. She was twenty-one years old, her last name was Mason and she’d just moved out of her parents home to a new apartment about four hours from them. Her parents were both still alive and four sisters and brothers still lived at home.

On November 2nd, I recognized that time was running out and I had to either start doing something or give up my dream. A friend pressed me to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which happens during the month of November. I didn’t want to, knowing that so many other things would demand my writing time, but I had to begin somewhere.

I wrote my first chapter that night and Polly came alive for me. On November 28th, I wrote the last chapter of “All Roads Lead Home.” I was exhilarated. For the first time, I’d started and finished something that came from my heart.

Then I wrote the first Christmas short story. This was really happening.

In January of 2013, I hit the button to publish All Roads Lead Home and it was suddenly live on Amazon. I panicked. What had I done? I still can’t believe I took that leap, but thank goodness I did.

During these last five years, I’ve had ups and downs and worried myself sick over every single aspect of the publishing process. I’ve met incredible people and poured more of myself out on paper than i could have ever expected. The only thing I wish I would have done differently was to have started much earlier. I can’t believe the fun I’m having.

~~~

While I was looking back through Evernote (which holds all of my notes, thoughts, stories – everything), I came across these two little bits.

The first I sketched out on November 2, 2012 – just before I wrote Chapter 1:

Now, the mystery is cool stuff. Polly is my main character. She has left New York City to come back to rural life. Everyone thinks she’s nuts, but she’s just done with the craziness. She’s meeting great people and it’s not her fault there’s a damned dead body that washed up on her land from the river. But, it brings a lot of activity and she’s just that snoopy. Since she’s new, no one really knows her, but now when she goes into town, people recognize her and just start talking to her. It’s freaking her out because, living in NYC, she was always keeping to herself, never making eye contact. No one just talked to her. Now, she has to know people and talk to them and answer questions … and crap, the guy who died was a local veterinarian that everyone knew because he was always in their barns and taking care of the animals.

His wife is a terrible bitch. They have three kids and those kids are tied up in knots because the old hag has run them around all their lives. The two oldest boys have long since left home, but the youngest went to college at a local university and has come back to help his dad with the practice. The bitch has decided that she now hates Polly, simply because of the circumstances, so she is making up stories about Polly and spreading rumors.

Polly – cozy mystery

It will be a ‘cozy’ mystery. Polly opened a cute little shop in the small town, selling crafting and knitting materials as well as having a little bookstore / library and a wifi coffeeshop. Kind of a one stop place for the women. She only sells coffee and some baked goods, but it’s enough for people to come in and settle in to unwind. She sells a few books and some supplies every once in a while and she is doing some writing, too.

~~~

The second I wrote on November 3, 2012 – just after finishing Chapter 1. My mind was working through the entire story. You can see some of my original character development. And then? Then they took off and decided to tell the story by themselves. They didn’t need me any longer.

Polly – some thoughts

Quite some time ago, I had an idea about a story set here in Iowa. It was pretty undeveloped, until last night – or maybe Thursday night late when I started thinking about the story again. Yah. Because last night I emailed a little bit of what I had in my head to Rebecca and then it began exploding. I drove past the school house in Luther and realized that would make a great location for the story. I really need to think about the town’s name. I don’t want it to be Stratford, but I want it to be a lot like Stratford. I don’t want it to be Luther, because there really isn’t anything going on there. I do want it to be in this neck of the woods because I want to have access to all of the larger communities … ok, probably some of the smaller communities as well. I know these roads and I know the towns and I know what Iowa people are like. How can I possibly go wrong?

I’ve been in enough little town schools, I think I can pull off the redecorating. And yes, I believe that it will be a school rather than a re-claimed church. I just can’t make that happen in my head.

The school will be far out on the edge of town, almost in the country. Because of this, there will be a lot of land around it. Polly will buy up a bunch of the unusable land. She’s going to put a barn out there and probably have some livestock of some sort. Goats, maybe. A couple of sheep. Maybe not. Maybe horses. Alice can help me with that … and so can other friends that I have.

The first death of the series will actually happen in her unfinished house. I think she’s going to have to get a dog. It will either be a Great Dane or a German Shepherd mix. Maybe a lab / shepherd mix. That would be awesome. The dog will come home with her from the shelter and when they get there, it will be on a Saturday. She’ll walk in and find the body hanging in one of the downstairs rooms. Oh yeah … that’s going to go over really well in the town when she tries to promote it. It will be not only the murder house, but the murder room.

I’m going to have to think about what Polly will do with that room. She’s going to take advantage of it, that’s for sure. I think it might be the little cafe. Yeah. People are going to have to eat there.

Of course, there will be a kitten that shows up. No, I think the dog will bring it home some night in its mouth. Mewling little thing, all in a mess with fleas and stuff. A lot like TB. We’ll slowly but surely build up animals around Polly. She had lots of pets when she was growing up on the farm, but they were always outside pets.

She’s going to need a fence around the property and then a fence for a pasture for her animals. She might have to hire a farmhand type of guy. A young kid – maybe one of the kids of the girls. He’ll do the chores and take care of the outside of her school, mowing and moving the animals between the pastures, etc.

She’ll meet the veterinarian once – when she takes the kitten in to get all of its shots, etc. He’s the one who will be dead in her house.

I’ve barely touched on Sylvie. We’re going to save her story for another book. Her husband just took off one day and left her with two kids. That happened about eight years ago. Her kids are now twelve and fifteen. She’s only forty years old, but the stress makes her look older.

Speaking of … I think that I’m going to make Polly be 31 years old. I’m going to have to think about former boyfriends. Maybe there was an engagement that broke up and that’s why she left Boston. He’s going to probably show up at some point, trying to find her, especially now that she has money. Lydia will absolutely hate him. And, by the way, so will the dogs. He’ll move into her house just as things are getting crazy, telling her how much he loves her and wants her to come back to Boston … toss everything out that is here.

He’s a dentist.

That will be part of the plot, her questioning her decision to be in Iowa. Maybe she made it too quickly and it was a bad decision. She said she had enough money to recover from a mistake and maybe she will be able to find someone to buy the schoolhouse for less than she bought it for and invested in it, so that she can go back to Boston where she belongs.

~~~

Thank you!

You can see how things changed and transformed as the story spun itself out. That is the great joy of being creative for me – allowing what I think should happen to be molded and re-formed into a story that wants to be told.

Thank you for being part of this crazy life I lead. I’m thankful that you have given me so much along the way, making it easy to keep telling my stories.

Five years has passed more quickly than I ever expected and it’s only the beginning. I’m just getting started and so is Polly. Who knows where it’s heading next!

~~~

Publication Dates

Book 20 will publish on Christmas Day, December 25th. The Christmas short story will publish on January 1st, 2018.

Now I just need titles and cover art, but that comes together when I focus.

~~~

Christmas cards

I’m getting artwork together for my Nammynools Christmas card. Bec Schreiber has been at it again – showing off my cats in all their glory. After Thanksgiving, I will ask you to send me your mailing address if you’re interested in receiving one of these. Not yet, but soon! I can’t wait.

~~~

Creativity Friday

This Friday, November 17th is Creativity Friday! Watch for a post on the Facebook Bellingwood page. It will be a fun day of celebrating what we’re grateful for together. We’ll do one more in December

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 19, #3

Earl’s favorite place in the whole world is snuggled up to someone. Mostly TB, but the rest of us will do. TB is tolerant – generally only for the short term. He doesn’t really want anyone to know how much he likes being loved.

There are only a few more days until Book 19 – Boundless Dreams is released. I’m excited to have this one out and the find my way back to Bellingwood for Book 20.

My publication dates are always the 25th of March, June, September, and December.

To ensure you never miss any exciting news from Bellingwood, be sure you sign up for the monthly newsletter. It comes out on the 25th of every month and includes a vignette and other bits and pieces of information. Sign up here.

Make sure you check out this post on the Facebook Bellingwood page and comment there with a memory about one of the first teachers who impacted your life. I’ll be giving away copies of the Book 19 ebook. The giveaway ends tonight (Thursday) at 8 pm.

This little vignette is a few moments between Marie Sturtz, Noah, and Elijah. They’ve had a busy day and it’s time for bed.

Boys and Their Toys

   “Will you tell us a story?” Elijah asked Marie. He scooted across the bed, coming to rest practically on top of Noah.
  Marie Sturtz sat on the edge of the bed near the headboard, Noah nestled in her arms. She reached out and rubbed Elijah’s shoulder. “What story do you want to hear?”
  “Tell us about the storm again,” Elijah said.
  “You’ve heard that one before. Let’s see.” Marie looked up at the ceiling. “What would be a good story to tell two little boys who should be going to sleep.”
  “A long one,” Noah said, his eyes twinkling.
  “Did you have fun today?” she asked them. The boys were glad to do anything and today they’d helped her can tomatoes, make tomato sauce and put up frozen corn.
  Noah nodded. “I liked the corn the best.”
  “Yes you did,” Marie said with a laugh. He loved eating corn on the cob. Both boys had gotten their fill today and she still managed to put plenty of it in the freezer.
  “I like tomatoes,” Elijah said. He held up his index finger. “That pan was hot, though.”
  “That wasn’t a fun lesson to learn, was it?” she asked.
  Elijah shook his head, looked down and then brightened up. “At least it was only one finger, right? It could have been much worse.”
  Those were the exact words she’d use when he’d burned himself by reaching out to touch a jar after she pulled it out of the boiling water bath. He knew better. She’d told him to be careful, but hadn’t been surprise when he had to try it for himself. Marie nodded and brushed her finger along his cheek.
  He bounced up and away and ran over to the dresser where they’d made room for extra sets of clothes for him and Noah. Polly had dropped fresh clothes off for them earlier this evening with a couple of extra items so they could establish their own territory here.
  Elijah opened the drawer and took out a t-shirt. “Is this a good shirt to wear tomorrow when we go pick raspberries?”
  “It will be fine,” Marie said. “Why don’t you put it on the chair over there so it’s ready for you in the morning.”
  “Should I take out socks, too?”
  “Maybe just the shirt for now,” she said. “Come on back to bed. It’s time for you to wind down so you can sleep. You don’t want to stay awake all night.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she knew she’d made a mistake.
  “Yes I do,” Elijah countered. “I could, too. I’ve done it before.”
  Marie patted the pillow. “Come on back up here beside your brother.”
  When Elijah jumped back on the bed, he bounced a couple of times and then climbed across Noah to get close to Marie. Noah, ever-obliging, just moved to make room for his brother.
  Giving him a snuggle and a kiss, Marie pointed to the other side of Noah. “Climb back over to where you belong,” she said.
  Elijah gave her a quick look to see if she was serious, then clambered across his brother and scooted up close to Noah’s back. “Where’s Grandpa?” he asked, looking pointedly toward the bedroom door.
  “Right where we left him,” Marie replied.
  “Watching TV?”
  Marie nodded and grinned. “Yes.”
  “Do you think he misses us? Maybe we should keep him company.”
  She laughed out loud. It had been years since she’d had children this age. Too smart for their own good, yet still so innocent. She had never wanted to pressure Lonnie and Henry to have babies. They had their own lives to live. She wasn’t sure if Lonnie would ever settle down and have a family. If that’s what her daughter wanted, then Marie was thrilled to support her. When Henry met Polly, Marie knew right away that babies were either out of the question or would be a long time coming. Those two were so happy with their lives, how could she even begin to pressure them just because she loved having little ones around. Who would have thought that her life would be filled with children of all ages within just a couple of years of meeting Polly, though. Marie’s life was so full right now, she went to bed exhausted and satisfied every night.
  Bill had found Henry’s old red wagon a couple of weeks ago and this afternoon, when he brought it out for the boys to play with, it was like brand-new. Noah had been over the moon. The boys took turns pulling each other and Bill even pulled the two of them a couple of times around the parking lot in front of the shop.
  Then, Noah discovered that he could be helpful and after securing an old tarp from Bill to keep the wagon bed clean, he’d helped pick up branches and sticks around the yard, then helped Bill transfer some river rock from the back of the shop to spots around the house. Elijah ran alongside, asking a million questions of Bill. The boy never ran out of questions.
  Bill loved spending time with these two little boys. He’d been so busy trying to make a living when Henry and Lonnie were children that he’d missed out on some of these wonderful moments. She couldn’t wait to sit with him tonight and listen as he went on about their day. Every time the boys spent a night with them, Bill turned into a kid himself. He had just started talking about a dream he’d had ever since he was a young man – setting up a model railroad in the basement where they’d once had all of the cars and race tracks. When Henry was young, they couldn’t afford the time or the money to build out a railroad, so he’d done the plastic track and cars, winding racetrack all over the place. Once Henry was out of school, Bill hadn’t wanted to do it alone. Then when he had time and the money to work on it, he figured he was getting too old and no one would be around to enjoy it anyway.
  Now he was dreaming about it again and Marie was thrilled. They’d taken the boys down to the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad twice this summer. She was sure that if Bill had his way, he’d take them down every weekend. They were the perfect excuse for him to ride that train. Maybe she needed to ask more questions and find out which scale train he would like to start working with. That would make a fun Christmas gift for him.
  She looked at Elijah, who yawned as he leaned on his brother. “You two have had a busy day, haven’t you?”
  “It was a fun day,” Noah said. “I like coming over.”
  “Me too,” Elijah said, yawning again. “I miss Obiwan and Han. You should get a dog.”
  Marie chuckled. Bill had been talking about getting a puppy. She didn’t know if she could handle one more animal in her life, but if she was honest with herself, it sounded like a lot of fun. “Maybe someday,” she said quietly as Elijah’s eyes fluttered.
  He opened them wide and shook his head, refusing to accept that he was falling asleep. “You were going to tell us a story,” he said.
  “I was, wasn’t I?” Marie yawned. “What if I tell you a story tomorrow while we’re making raspberry jam? I’m awfully tired.”
  Elijah nodded in understanding.
  She looked down at Noah, who just watched her with a smile. “What are you thinking about, Noah?” she asked.
  “I love you,” he said so quietly she wasn’t sure she heard him.
  Marie leaned down and kissed his forehead. “I love you, Noah.” She stood up and bent over to kiss Elijah’s forehead. “And I love you, Elijah.”
  He reached up with both arms and wrapped them around her neck, then kissed her cheek. She couldn’t help the tears that sprang to her eyes as she held on to him in a tight hug.
  “Go to sleep, now,” she said, releasing him.
  Elijah dropped back down and scooted away from Noah, snuggling his face in his own pillow.
  Marie walked to the doorway, flipped the overhead light off, and stood watching the boys in the warm glow of the  nightlights on either side of the bed. She was thankful they were comfortable enough here to sleep on their own. Polly and Henry had been worried the first night the boys spent with Marie and Bill since it had taken them so long to feel safe again. Marie had stayed in their room that night until they fell asleep. She hadn’t slept well, waking with every sound, worrying that they would be frightened. The second time had been easier and each time they’d stayed, all of them grew more comfortable.
  A noise on the stairway caught Marie’s attention and she smiled at Bill who came to stand beside her. He put his arm around her waist as she put a finger up to her lip.
  He whispered in her ear. “The house is all closed up. Are you ready to be finished with the day?”
  Nodding, she took his hand and they walked into their bedroom. Once the door was closed, he grinned. “They wore me out today. How about you?”
  “I’m exhausted,” Marie agreed. “This is really early, but I’m ready to lie down and read for a while.”
  “That’s what I figured.”
  She sat down on the edge of the bed and removed her shoes, rubbing her feet as she did. “That feels good.” Smiling at him, she said, “I think you should consider building a model railroad. Those boys would love to do that with you.”
  “Really?” he asked, taken aback.
  “We could clear out the basement again. There’s no reason to keep all of that junk. Lonnie can take her boxes home. She’s never moving back. Henry has a huge house now and he can haul his own boxes around from now on.”
  “You don’t think I’m too old for this?”
  Marie waggled her eyes at him. “I don’t think you’re too old for anything.”
  “Honey, I’m awfully tired.”
  “I was just talking about model railroads,” she protested with a laugh. “But I think this might be the perfect time for you to start building them. I’ll bet you could get quite a bit of help from all your buddies.”
  Bill took a catalog off the bottom of a pile in the nightstand beside the bed. “I’ve been waiting to show this to you.” He opened it to the first page. “Look at everything that is available nowadays. They make it so easy for you to be creative. And I’ve been looking at videos on YouTube. There are guys out there who will teach me how to do it all.”
  “I’m not surprised,” Marie said, laughing out loud. “And if I’m honest, I can’t wait. This sounds like a lot of fun.”
  “You’ll help me?”
  “Absolutely. Which train gauge do you want to work with?”
  He sat beside her and the two lay back on the bed, turning on their sides to look through the catalog together. “I think HO. It’s the most common and I want to be able to easily find the things we need to work with.”
  Bill flipped a couple of pages and Marie stopped him, pointing at a river scene. “I want to build a campground.”
  “Honey, you can build anything you want. I will start clearing out that basement on Monday. Before you know it, we’ll have train track running all throughout the basement.”
  “Henry’s going to laugh at us.”
  “Let him.” Bill leaned over and kissed her. “I feel like a kid.”

Birthdays and Trivia and a Release Date, Oh My!

Here we are … two and a half weeks out from the release of Book 19 – Boundless Dreams. Sometimes It seems like that date is far, far away, and yet, it also feels like time is rushing forward so fast I can hardly catch my breath.

A few things will happen between now and September 25th and I don’t want you to miss out.

1. September 8th (Friday) is my birthday. Whee! Nope … not telling you how old I am. My life is filled with too much fun for me to concentrate on a number. Besides, most of the time, I’d probably be mistaken. I can never remember.

To celebrate my birthday, I think I want to give away a couple of mugs. To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is post a comment on Facebook (under this post) or here on the website as a response to this post. Tell me one place (one place only) on this earth that you dream of visiting. Just one place. Your biggest and wildest dream vacation place.

You have until Sunday evening (September 10) to respond. I’ll choose winners and reply to your comment as well as post names on the Facebook Bellingwood page.

2. September 15th (Friday) is our last Wine & Trivia Night of the year. I won’t host one prior to the December 25th release because the holiday season is so overwhelming. More information will come next week, but join us on the Facebook Bellingwood page between six o’clock and eleven o’clock central time for a lot of fun, trivia questions about Bellingwood and prizes!

3. September 18th – 20th. The Bellingwood Boxed Set: Books 1-3 will be FREE on Amazon. More notification will come regarding that, but if you have friends or family who should be part of this community, let them know!

4. September 20th (Wednesday). Keep an eye out on the Facebook Bellingwood page that day because it is Polly Giller’s birthday! I will post a fun question for you to respond to and then choose winners who will receive an eBook copy of Book 19 – Boundless Dreams.

5. September 25th (Monday) is release day! Make sure you’ve signed up for the email newsletter (you can do so here). At six o’clock in the morning, the newsletter will land in the email boxes of all the good little girls and boys (seriously, Diane – you should have saved that for the Christmas release).

I can hardly wait for you to get to this next chapter in Polly’s life. Things never slow down for that poor girl, but she loves her life and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Book 20 is already in process, so my next target is December 25th. Hopefully there will be one more surprise between now and then. (The teasing will never end.)

Thank you all for being part of this wonderful community!