Category Archives: Bellingwood

Mid-Month Catch-Up

Where in the world is Polly?

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

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

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

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

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Reviews.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you!

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Newsletter and Facebook

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

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

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

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

Finally …

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

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

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

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 18, #4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While You Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just watching you sleep.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

“Watch me sleep?”

“Every once in a while.”

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

“I can’t wait.”

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 18, #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Normal

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

He held the meter out so she could read it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We aren’t starting that this morning.”

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

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

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

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

“Chicken,” Ana said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I want a horse.”

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

“Will you have one, too?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do I have to?” Gabby asked, whining.

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

“Because I hate that bump.”

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

Crazy Days

I like to think that Earl loves me best, but the truth is – he’ll do anything for TB’s attention. How cute are they?

I love my life. I love it so much. I’m a lucky girl.

But wow, this crazy schedule that I’ve set for myself wears me completely out a few weeks every quarter. I’m in the middle of a big push to finish Book 18, get the title and cover worked out and the book off to initial proofreaders and editors. All of that, plus a vignette and the newsletter by May 25th. Yep … Hauling some serious tushie around here.

Because there have been several other projects that dropped into the mix since January 1st, the only way for me to achieve all of my goals (and seriously, I keep adding to the list), I’ve really had to step up my word count for each day. Last year, I liked to kick into gear within a week after publishing a book, giving me plenty of leeway for the next book. If I only wrote fifteen hundred to two thousand words in a day, that was still fine, though I usually pushed to about three thousand words at the end of the writing cycle.

Lately I’ve been regularly writing around four thousand words per day to get this book out on time. The Abiding Grace story took time to write and a *secret* project (yeah, I hate that too, but you’ll know within a couple of months, I promise) took up writing time.

Then it hit me. Book 18 needed to move through my fingers right now! This is the best part about Bellingwood. I truly live there in my head. Yeah, yeah, yeah … it’s not that weird.

Okay, maybe it is. All I had to do was tell the characters that we were on location again and they stepped up. Strangers drop in, everyone starts telling me their secrets, their dreams and hopes, children dig out their best behavior. It’s pretty cool.

Tomorrow night (Thursday), I’ll hit the three-quarter mark of my targeted word count goal. The stories are starting to come together and find their end. It’s fun to see things slow down. This is going to be a strange summer in Polly’s life. Lots of changes are ahead for her family. But first we need to get her through some endings. Nothing tragic – it’s all very exciting. But you know how moms can be.

I plan to finish the very rough first draft Sunday night then spend an intense number of hours re-writing, fixing, adjust, destroying, reconstructing and putting the manuscript into good order. When Memorial Day weekend gets here, there might have to be a few glasses of wine that find their way to my lips.

I’m so glad that you are part of this life with me. Thanks for hanging out.

Bellingwood Boxed Set 1 – FREE

April 25 – 29

The Kindle Version of the Boxed set containing the first three books in the Bellingwood series is free right now.

“Delightful … charming … captivating … addictive.”

Meet Polly Giller, a young woman who comes home to Iowa after living in Boston, to renovate and restore an old school building and start a new life.

She meets extraordinary people in Bellingwood. While it seems impossible to many that these wonderful folks actually exist, that’s only because they haven’t spent enough time in small communities found throughout the world, but especially in this author’s favorite state – Iowa.

Iowa-nice is a real thing and it permeates the pages of these stories as Polly discovers mysteries and an exciting life with new friends that soon become family.

“These books are my favorite books this year.”

“Heartwarming and charming.”

“Best series I’ve read in a long time.”

“I feel like I’m one of the family.”

Download the first boxed set today and join thousands of readers who have fallen in love with this small Iowa town and its characters. These heartwarming stories will captivate you, making you wish you could move to Bellingwood and be part of the excitement.

Click on the cover image or HERE to get your Kindle copy today!

Bellingwood Boxed Set: Books 4-6

The second boxed set of Bellingwood books was released on Wednesday for the Amazon Kindle and includes books 4-6, plus the short story, Room at the Inn. I had the best time going back through those stories; remembering the fun I had as Polly’s life unfolded in my mind. It hit me as I was working through them again that these three books (and the short) are pivotal times for her. Gone was the newness of moving to Bellingwood. Big decisions for her life are made and wonderful people find their way into her heart.

With this release, though, I need your help. Positive reviews on Amazon push books up in rankings and also allow the author to market the books to other readers.

You have to know that this stuff is so far outside of my box. It’s never easy asking people to do things for me. But it’s even more difficult to ask you to do something like this. Marketing myself goes against everything I ever learned from my parents. I’m not saying they were right – it’s just the way things are.

Sometimes you just have to let the cat be in the picture.

Since the world is what it is and I couldn’t self-publish without self-marketing, I just do it. Without marketing, I would never have met you and I’m incredibly grateful for that opportunity.

Most of the time, reviews are organic. You read the books and some of you leave reviews and I’m thrilled. With this release, most everyone has already read these books, written their reviews and moved on, so I am asking for your help.

Here’s the deal: I need positive reviews on the Bellingwood Boxed Set: Books 4-6.

Let’s have a giveaway and make those happen.

How this works:

  1. Click on the book cover above (or HERE) and go to Amazon. Write a review.
  2. Return to the Facebook Bellingwood page (preferable) and leave a comment under this post. All you have to do is write “Done” or something like that. If you truly aren’t on Facebook, you can leave a comment here, but I will warn you, that many people don’t return here to see my response.
  3. I will add a giveaway for every 25 comments.
  4. We’ll start with a set of Max’s flower notecards in an embroidered Bellingwood envelope. Then, a Sycamore House mug at 50 comments. At 75, one of Julie’s pewter Bellingwood charms is added to the mix. At 100 comments, I’ll add a $10 Amazon gift certificate. For every 25 after that, I will repeat these prizes. If we get ridiculous, I will add other crazy things.
  5. Write the review and leave a comment before Sunday (January 29, 2017) at midnight central time. (I appreciate reviews any time … you’re wonderful.)
  6. I will randomly choose winners on Monday, then alert you as a reply to your comment and in a separate post as well.
  7. Winners will send me your email address or mailing address as the case may be – in a private message.
  8. International readers – I appreciate your reviews. Though I can’t send you a physical reward, if your name is chosen, you will receive a $10 (USD) Amazon gift card.

The winner has a choice of mugs.

Yay! Gift Cards!

This is just the coolest thing. I love this charm.

All I Want for Christmas – Short Story

December 31 is such a strange day of the year. It signifies so much for many of us … an opportunity to look forward and make transformational decisions in the new year, an opportunity to look back over the last 365 days of the year and consider all that happened.

Yet, truthfully, it’s just another twenty-four hour span not unlike any other twenty-four hour period.

I always land on this day with a sense of dread and excited anticipation. It’s a roiling bubble of insanity inside me, let me tell you. Because I know what can happen in a year’s time, my little amygdala (that fear center of the brain) shoots off all sorts of warnings to me regarding things I should worry about and be afraid of.

However, the normal part of me – the part that loves this life I have been given – is excited at the possibilities and potential for the year. And that’s where I tend to focus. Possibilities … potential … hope … joy … excitement. I can hardly wait for what’s to come. And the best part, I can hardly wait for things that I don’t even know are possible! Life is filled with excitement and it is so much fun to find new surprises around corners.

I wish for all of you a joyous and exciting 2017. No matter what comes at us, we are stronger together, we are loved and treasured. We are created beings filled with hope. I take great joy in all of that. And I am thankful for the many friends that I’ve made. You all fill my life with so much goodness. Thank you.

The Christmas short story is here! (Link to Amazon)

A day early.

This story is so much fun and filled with a few surprises of its own. The only thing I ask is that you do not make comments about the content of this story. I know you’re going to want to and you have to refrain. Don’t spoil it for anyone else (I will delete any comment on Facebook or here on the website that contains any HINT of a spoiler). So many things happen here and you are going to love them!

Now that all of my publishing duties are managed, I’m taking the night off. There’s a bottle of pinot grigio in my refrigerator and a batch of Fred Astaire / Esther Williams / Ginger Rogers / Gene Kelly / whoever on and on … movies waiting for me to watch them. It’s going to be a great way to ring in 2017!

While the link on this page takes you to the Kindle version, this story will be published at the end of the paperback – which should go live by Monday, January 2.

Happy New Year!

(P.S. I added a sketch of the Bell House – click HERE to see it)

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Happy Napping Day

Or traveling day or more Christmas or more family or whatever you have going on today.

I decided to drop a newsletter and publish a new book and then go pretty much incommunicado as I traveled for the holiday. I HATE doing things on my phone, so all I could manage while still enjoying the drive, family, gifts, my sister’s pupperdogs, all of that, was maybe looking to see if something happened that was so important I needed to respond. Otherwise, I did nothing online. And that was okay.

Book 16 – Memories for Tomorrow is out! You can get the Kindle edition on Amazon right now at THIS LINK!

The paperback won’t be available until after I get the Christmas short story published and assembled into the manuscript. That’s next week.

Yes, if you thought that once you finished reading Book 16 you had to wait three more months to return to Bellingwood, you were wrong. A twenty thousand word short story that you will LOVE is coming your way January 1st. I’ll announce it on my blog and on the Facebook Bellingwood page.

In other exciting news, I will spend time this week helping my brother finish publishing his next book in his very popular sci fi Privateer Tales series – Blockade Runner. If you haven’t read these stories yet, or his Witchy World series, you need to check them out. Here’s a link to his website where you can get more information.

I had a wonderful Christmas. While I worried a little about traveling in weird weather, the roads were good and the wind was at my back yesterday. Temperatures were reasonable, which meant I didn’t have ice and snow – only rain. Even then, the rain wasn’t too bad … until Max was trying to get things into the Jeep to head to Carol’s house. All of a sudden – out of nowhere – a gully washer hit us and he was soaked to the bone. I drove in it for a short time and wondered how in the world we were going to get all of the bags of things into her house. But by the time we were there, the rain had passed.

Carol always invites a neighbor whose wife spends Christmas with their daughter in Chicago, to dinner on Christmas. He’s a character. A little odd, maybe a little dementia, a bit of a bigot and highly opinionated. At some point, you just sit back and shake your head. Okay, that’s what I did. Max finally had enough and escaped to the living room while Carol tried to figure out how to send the man home so we could open gifts. I just kept talking to him and laughing on the inside. Carol’s so danged gracious and somehow managed to let him know it was time to go home and he believed it was his idea. Man, she’s good.

And she’s an amazing gift giver. I just have to show you two things she gave me. I have a favorite artist. She’s a friend and does beautiful whimsical work. Her pottery is everywhere I am. I love it. You should check out her Etsy page. All of that creativity and she’s an amazing young woman, too! Anyway, Carol asked her to personalize a couple of pieces for me. I might have cried when I saw them.

The cats are sniffing every item I’ve brought back with me. Grey is making sure these are Nammynools approved.

I love the holidays, but when they are over and things begin to head back to normal, I relax again. I’m ready to work now. But first, more cat snuggling. I missed them while I was gone.

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 16, #4

Grey: Get off me. I know it’s cold in here, but you’re too heavy! Earl: Oh come on. Please?

The vignettes that I write are short little snippets that happen in Bellingwood to people other than Polly Giller. It’s fun to write from a perspective other than Polly and to take a little peek into our favorite character’s lives.

Today’s vignette is just, plain fun. While I’ve written it in the middle of the process of publishing Book 16, this conversation could have happened any time between these women, so you won’t spoil a thing by reading it.

In fact, I want everyone to participate in this story. There’s a question I have for you once you read the story. Your response will enter you in a giveaway for one of four signed paperbacks of Book 16 – Memories for Tomorrow.

My preference is that you respond on the Bellingwood Facebook page, but if you can’t, go ahead and post a comment here.

Okay – here you go. Read through to the end for the question.

The Body Electric

She wasn’t expecting anyone this morning, so when Andy’s doorbell rang, she dragged herself away from the book she’d been lost in and dashed through the house to the front door.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, not even bothering to wonder why her best friend was leaning against the storm door, her hands and feet splayed out to the door frame. There was no telling what that woman might do next.

“I’m bored.” Beryl said. She stepped back so Andy could open the door and gestured down at herself. “I have my ‘I’m bored’ clothes on. You have to entertain me before I completely lose my mind.” She knelt on Andy’s threshold. “Help me, Andy-kenobi. You’re my only hope.”

Her ‘I’m bored’ clothes consisted of tight yoga pants in wild galactic colors and a flimsy, flowy, knee-length tunic with crazy flowers all over. She had a hot pink floppy hat on and matching flip flops.

“Your wardrobe might make me lose my mind,” Andy retorted. “Get in here before anyone sees you.” She reached down to help Beryl stand back up.

Beryl spun around in Andy’s foyer. “You don’t like?”

“I like. You’re just a little too electric. Why are you bored? Just last night you said that you had enough work to keep you busy until after Christmas.”

“That was last night. Today I’m bored.”

“Come on in,” Andy said. “I was quietly reading on the back deck. Apparently, I’m finished with that today.”

“Oh joy,” Beryl said. “I’m bored and you’re boring. How are you supposed to help me now?”

“I’ll make coffee and feed you coffee cake. Will that help?”

Beryl flounced along behind Andy, flopping her feet loudly on the floor. “If that’s all you’ve got, I guess I’ll have to suffer. We should go somewhere fun. Do something exciting. Go out and be someone other than ourselves. Please?”

Andy took two matching mugs from the cupboard. “I have to be at the library at one. There’s no time to go anywhere.”

“That gives us three hours. We could be hula dancers or boatswains in three hours.”

“Boatswains ?” Andy asked. “Where are you going to find a ship that needs two old ladies to do that job?”

“I don’t know,” Beryl retorted petulantly. “It was just an idea. Better than your idea.” She pointed at the coffee pot. “Coffee and cake? How boring are you?”

The doorbell rang again and Andy looked at Beryl. “Now what?”

Beryl pulled her shoulders up to her ears. “How would I know?” She gave Andy an ornery grin.

“What did you do?”

“Nothing much. Got more of that coffee cake?”

Andy pushed past her friend and went to the front door.

When she came back into the dining room, Lydia followed, carrying a bag and cup carrier from Sweet Beans.

“I have your favorites,” Lydia said. “And some croissants. They just came out when I got there.”

Beryl looked back and forth from the coffee cake on the counter to Lydia’s bag. “Can I have both?”

Lydia looked Beryl up and down. “What are you dressed for?”

“Apparently that’s her ‘I’m bored’ look,” Andy said. “You two head out to the deck and I’ll bring plates and napkins. So much for a quiet morning of reading.”

“Are you really complaining again about that?” Beryl asked. “Why wouldn’t you rather spend time with your friends?”

“We were just together last night. Now go, make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right out.”

Beryl opened the sliding glass door to the deck. “I think she’s mad at me,” she announced to Lydia, loud enough so Andy could hear. She promptly closed the door to eliminate the possibility of a response.

“She’s not mad,” Lydia said. “She’s never mad. We just disrupted her morning and she needs some time to assimilate it .” Lydia waved her hand at Beryl. “And look at you. Who could be mad at that? You’re a party.”

“I am, aren’t I?” Beryl replied. She floofed out her tunic. “I didn’t think I’d ever find an opportunity to wear this. Picked it up from a street vendor in New York a few years ago. Who’d have thought I’d ever find a good time to wear it in Bellingwood, but here I am, wearing it like a rockstar.”

“From one of the eighties hair bands, right?” Lydia asked, laughing at her friend.

“I’m not wearing a hair band, I’m wearing a hat.” Beryl winked at Lydia. She waggled her hand. “Are you planning to share that coffee or do I need to sit on your lap and beg for it?”

Lydia let out an “oomph” when Beryl dropped into her lap, but promptly wrapped her arm around the woman and kissed Beryl’s cheek. “I love you too, you nut.”

They both looked up when Andy coughed in the doorway.

“What are you two doing? What will the neighbors say?”

Beryl pointed at the cemetery behind Andy’s house. “That we’re having more fun than they are. Do you want to join me here? I can make room.” She scooted around until she was perched on one of Lydia’s legs. “You can have the other leg.”

“You’re my friend and I love you,” Andy muttered as she set plates down on the table. She sat down opposite the two women and opened the bag of croissants, then looked at them. “Is that how you’re spending the morning?”

Beryl craned her neck to look at Lydia. “I’m good. You?”

“Get up. You may be the skinniest thing I’ve ever seen, but your hiney is boney.”

“Fine then.” Beryl moved to the chair between Andy and Lydia and put her hand out. “I’d best start drinking down some of that coffee, then.”

“Because?” Lydia asked.

“Because my friends are old fuddy duddies and … well, I just need coffee.”

“I’m not a fuddy …” Andy started. Then she looked at Lydia. “I really am, aren’t I.”

Lydia chuckled. “Compared to this one, we’re the queens of fuddy duddy.” She handed Beryl a cup of coffee and then put her hand on Beryl’s arm. “Why are you so bored, dear? After what you said last night, I didn’t think we’d be seeing you for weeks.”

“I went out to my studio last night and stood in the middle of the room trying to figure out which project to work on. I was so overwhelmed, I walked out, went inside and went to bed. That usually helps. I use the time before I fall asleep and before I get out of bed to let my mind loose. Something always shows up and nothing arrived,” Beryl said. “I need help.”

“It will come,” Lydia said. “You do this all the time. All you really need is to relax.”

“That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” Andy asked. “I’m sorry I gave you trouble about showing up.”

“Ahhh, no,” Beryl snapped. “No getting all sweet and sentimental on me.”

Andy pushed a plate in front of Beryl. “Then what in the hell do you want from us?”

“That,” Beryl said, pointing at Andy. “Sass and trouble. I’m feeling so owly, I just want to do something crazy.” She sat forward. “I want a tattoo.”

“You want a what?” Andy asked.

“You heard me. I want to get a tattoo. My mother told me that I couldn’t have one, that only bad girls had tattoos. I want to be a bad girl.”

“That isn’t the way it is these days,” Lydia said. “Both of my younger girls have tattoos. In fact, Sandy has a few. She loves ’em.”

Andy nodded. “Mel has a frog on her ankle. But that’s the last thing I want.”

“It’s what I want to do,” Beryl said.

“Put someone else’s artwork on your body?” Lydia asked.

Beryl cackled. “I’m certainly not putting one of my paintings on this canvas.” She slowly swept her hand down her torso. “It might be skinny, but it would hurt like hell to put something I painted on here. No, I want something fun. Maybe on my boob.” She cackled again. “Oh, how I love the idea of making some poor young man tattoo my old lady boob. I’m doing it.”

“I’d like to,” Lydia said very quietly.

“You?” Andy asked, her eyes huge.

“Yeah. My mother wouldn’t let me do it either, but I’ve always kind of secretly thought it would be fun. That’s why when Jill asked me if she could do it when she was in college, I just said yes. She’d done her research and found a reputable tattoo parlor. It was her money and something she really wanted. How could I say no?”

“You’ll do this with me?” Beryl asked. “Really?”

“Sure.”

The two women looked at Andy.

“No way,” she said, putting up her hands. “No freakin’ way.” She pointed at Lydia. “What will Aaron say?”

Lydia waggled her eyebrows and grinned. “Maybe I’ll put it somewhere that he won’t see until he’s thinking of other things.”

“No, no, no, no, no,” Beryl said, laughing as she put her hands over her ears. “Please don’t do that to me when I’m eating. I’m going to choke.”

“There,” Lydia said. “Are you more relaxed?”

Beryl nodded. “Much more. I think I know what my next piece is going to look like. Thank you.”

~~~

Question: What tattoos do you think Beryl and Lydia should get? If you find a picture, post it in the comment, otherwise, just tell me the description. They won’t get matching tattoos, I can guarantee that. But you know them as well as anyone, what do you think?

Write a comment under this blog’s post on the FB Bellingwood page. I won’t respond to random posts on the page itself. Look for this blogpost. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can respond here with a comment.

This ends Sunday evening (12/18) around 7 pm when I will choose four winners from the comments. The choice of winners will be random, not which tattoos are my favorites and you won’t know about the tattoos until Book 17 (March 25th). I’m mean. I know, but I’m not re-writing Book 16 at this point.

If you are a winner, I will assume that you want a copy of Book 16 when it is published. If you’d rather have a different book, just let me know.

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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Bellingwood Boxed Set – FREE for Three Days

bellingwood-box-set-2-200-dpiThe Bellingwood Boxed Set (Books 1-3) is FREE for Kindle until Tuesday, November 15th.

What a great opportunity to introduce your friends to Bellingwood, an amazing community in the middle of the United States where it’s easy to discover the best in people. One woman arrives in town and because she believes in their goodness, friends find it easy to be themselves around her. That’s the goodness that spreads throughout the community, even when the craziest things start to happen.

The first three books are available in one volume, along with a Christmas short story. Murder and mystery, but most important, terrific characters make up these stories.

All Roads Leads Home: Polly Giller returns to small-town Iowa from Boston ready to start a new life. She is renovating an old school building and while getting to know new friends, two sets of bones fall out of the ceiling. Don’t miss this heartwarming first story in a series that makes you want to move to Bellingwood and get to know Polly and her friends. Before you know it, you’ll be part of the community.

Polly’s First Christmas in Bellingwood: This first short story in the series occurs a few months after the end of “All Roads Lead Home.” While preparing for Sycamore House’s first big Christmas party, an old friend shows up needing help when he gets in trouble with the sheriff.

A Big Life in a Small Town: Bellingwood’s first barn-raising is coming up and to celebrate, Sycamore House is planning a hoe-down. The idea of a dance makes Polly nervous, but the gorgeous veterinarian is ready to step in and teach her a few moves, much to the chagrin of Henry Sturtz. A close friend of Lydia Merritt left a cryptic message as she died, asking her family to take care of … what? The ‘what’ brings new excitement to Polly’s life.

Treasure Uncovered: Sycamore House is having difficulty finding a good custodian and when the latest man doesn’t show up for work, Polly checks on him, only to find that he has been killed. The Sheriff is beginning to worry every time her number shows up on his phone. Does it mean another dead body? Thefts happening around the community are connected to Polly and her friends, but who would do this?

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