Category Archives: Bellingwood

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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Bellingwood Vignette, Book 16, #2

I often get this look from TB when Earl tries to sleep with him. Why, Mom? Why?

I often get this look from TB when Earl tries to sleep with him. Why, Mom? Why?

These short vignettes focus on other characters we meet in Bellingwood. While I write them during the same time I’m writing a book, they won’t spoil any of the story. And much as I hate to say it, they won’t give you any hints, either (bad author).

Vignettes are published in each of the newsletters which arrive on the 25th of every month, but sometimes the characters insist that I tell a quick story about them.

Book 16 will be published on December 25th. The story is flying along. There’s always something going on in town.

Don’t forget – Friday is our second November Creativity Friday. It’s all about the holiday season! What are you coming up with?

And Sunday is a big Bookbub push. The Boxed Set: Books 1-3 will be free. It’s a great time to invite your friends to meet you in Bellingwood.

Oh … and cat pictures. Because we need more of those to make us smile. Right? Right.

You Gotta Have Friends

“Order up!”

But TB loves Grey and when she climbs in beside him, he relaxes and lets her be there.

But TB loves Grey and when she climbs in beside him, he relaxes and lets her be there.

Lucy Parker turned back from the cash register and waved at Joe in the kitchen, acknowledging his call.

She smiled as Dave & Nelly Munson left the diner; Nelly walking slowly enough for Dave to keep up with her. He would never use the walker he should, and insisted on accompanying his wife whenever he could.

They had to be in their early nineties. Lucy had been serving them for years. Every Monday, promptly at eleven thirty, they came into the diner. Every Monday, Nelly ordered a Cobb salad and Dave ordered a plain hamburger with cottage cheese. The two rarely spoke during their meal, but Lucy loved watching them together. Seemingly out of nowhere, Dave would extend his hand across the table so Nelly would hold it. They’d smile at each other for a few moments and then go back to their meal.

Earl is getting so long - the poor boy hardly fits on the table anymore.

Earl is getting so long – the poor boy hardly fits on the table anymore.

One day Lucy saw Nelly kick her husband underneath the table and say his name as if scolding him. They hadn’t been speaking out loud, but when Dave gave his wife a sheepish grin, Lucy knew she’d missed something.

Nelly stood on the curb outside while her husband made his way into the passenger seat. Once he was settled inside the car, she went around to the driver’s side.

They were off to the library next. The new librarian had made it easy for older folks to get their books. Those old steps up to the front door were difficult to navigate and the elevator in the back of the building always seemed to be on the fritz. But the new gal was gracious about bringing books outside. People talked about how well she knew her customers. She was always ready with a new recommendation. Lucy glanced across the street to the pharmacy. She should remember their names. Nate. Yes, that was it. Nate and Joss.

All the time. This is what happens when they're together. Such sweeties.

All the time. This is what happens when they’re together. Such sweeties.

She turned to the kitchen and pulled plates off the counter, stacking them on her forearm. When Lucy saw people face to face, she had no problem with their names, but once they were out of sight, names left her mind. Greg had always remembered names for her. She missed going out with him. And if she missed it, she could only imagine how he felt about being trapped in the house all the time. But her husband never complained. He was the most easy going man she’d ever met and made the choice every day to be happy no matter the circumstances. She loved him so much.

Lucy stopped in front of another table filled with regulars. “Here you are, Mary.” Lucy set the plate down in front of the woman and handed the rest of the dishes to each of the six women. Every month on the second Monday this group of retired teachers came in for lunch after spending the morning shopping together. They’d been so excited when Sweet Beans opened, allowing them to start their day earlier and with coffee. They believed in supporting all of the shops in town and hit as many as they could each month, shopping and having fun with each other.

After lunch, their next stop was the nursing home where they would play cards and games with the residents there all afternoon. They laughed about how someday that would be them and they hoped someone would do the same thing for them. Lucy thought these women were terrific and she hoped they were right, that someone would do the same thing for them and maybe even for her.

“Can I get you anything else?” Lucy asked.

Della Stimson tapped her plate. “A cup of ranch dressing for the fries? It’s my newest obsession.”

Lucy chuckled. “Okay. Anything else?”

“When you come back,” Mindy Recap said, “Bring another coke. I’ll have this finished in just a second. No need for another trip, right?”

Lucy nodded and walked away. She stopped and pulled a chair away from a table. A young woman and her daughter in a wheel chair were coming in the front door. “How’s this?” Lucy asked them.

The woman nodded and smiled. “Perfect. Thank you.”

“I’ll be right back with menus,” Lucy said. “Do you know what you’d like to drink?”

“I’ll have coffee,” the woman said. “Janna?”

“Can I have a pop, Mom?”

The woman nodded indulgently. “No caffeine, though.”

“Seven-up,” the girl said.

Lucy gave them a smile and headed for the counter. “Cup of ranch, Joe,” she said as she poured out the drinks and gathered up menus.

Her first stop was at the table with the girl and her mother. “Here you are. I’ll be back in a few moments.”

Earl had started to jump off the ironing board, but Grey trapped him. Evidently, his head needed a good cleaning.

Earl had started to jump off the ironing board, but Grey trapped him. Evidently, his head needed a good cleaning.

After dropping the ranch dressing and cola with the women, Lucy checked on the table next to them. Three young men had come in for lunch from their work site at the new apartments south of town. She’d already delivered their ticket and saw that three credit cards were resting on top of it. “Are you ready for me to take this?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” one of them said.

Lucy picked it up and silently cringed. She hated being called ma’am. It felt like she aged forty-five years in just a second and all of a sudden had turned into their teacher. She shook her head and ran the cards, then returned the ticket and cards to the table. “Thanks boys,” she said with a grin. If they were going to call her ma’am, they’d be boys. Oh, who was she kidding. They were young enough to have been her sons. Lucy remembered when most of the people that came into the diner were older than her.

A few of those moments in her life had alerted Lucy to the aging process. First it had been some of the pop singers. All of those years that they’d been older than her passed pretty quickly. Greg cringed when the major league pitchers were suddenly younger than he was. Then all of a sudden, the pastor of her church was younger. That one nearly killed her. All of her life, that person had been an older authority figure. Next thing they’d do to her would bring in some twenty-year old girl who would be fabulous in the pulpit and a whiz at managing the church. Hah. That would go over well with people in the church. But when that girl arrived in town, Lucy would do her best to support her. But it would certainly shake things up around here.

“Miss?”

Lucy looked down at the girl in the wheel chair. She’d gotten lost in her thoughts. Rats. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Can I get onion rings instead of french fries with the cheeseburger?”

Lucy nodded. “Of course you can.”

“How about we split fries and onion rings,” the girl’s mother said.

“I haven’t seen you two in here yet,” Lucy said. “First time in town?”

“We moved into Bellingwood this summer,” the woman said.

“Oh,” Lucy put her hand on the girl’s chair. “What grade are you in?”

“Eighth. I got out of school today. Mom and I had to go see a doctor.”

The woman sighed. “Always another doctor’s appointment.”

“Mom,” the girl said. “It’s okay.”

“I know, Janna.” She smiled up at Lucy. “She’s always happy. No matter what she has to go through.”

Lucy nodded. “I understand. My husband is the same. No matter what he has to deal with, he’s okay with it.”

Janna rolled her eyes. “You’re being dramatic, Mom.” She tapped her mother’s hand. “You’re the one who taught me, you know. Never give up, you can do anything you want, Janna. Try it again, Janna.” The girl laughed. “Mom and Dad always tell me that I can do anything. So a few doctor’s appointments are no big deal. Right?”

“Right,” Lucy said. “You said you’re in eighth grade? Do you know Rebecca Heater or Andrew Donovan or Kayla Armstrong?”

The girl nodded wildly. “Yes. They’re in my grade. Do you know them?”

“Pretty well. I know their moms better, though.” Lucy looked up at two more groups coming in the front door. “I should get your order in. I’m glad you’re in town. I hope you come in and see me more often.”

She slapped the order ticket on Joe’s counter. “Order in,” she said. “Extra rings on me, okay?”

Joe grinned at her. “Got it. Playing with your friends today?”

“Every day,” Lucy replied. “Making some new friends, too.”

“You always do.” He snapped the ticket into a clip. “You always do.”

Rambling … Oh Look, a Point!

Earl

Earl

Well, I hate to say it, but there is absolutely nothing going on up there in my mind.

That’s not true. There is a lot going on up there, but none of it is interesting enough or sane enough to come together in cohesive sentences that should be put out there in the world. I’ve never written stream of consciousness stuff and I don’t think now is a good time to begin.

Maybe I’m still riding the high of getting a book published, maybe I’m being rebellious. I do that, you know. I rebel against myself and my schedules. Seriously? What kind of a nut does that! Hahaha. (Apparently this kind of nut.)

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TB

I’ve set a monster writing schedule in front of myself for the next three months. If it all pans out, you guys will be very happy. However, if someone (your beloved author) doesn’t get her head up and out of the sand, none of it will happen.

In all truth, much of it has to do with the contentedness of cool days, cooler evenings, blankets (oh good heavens, I love blankets) and warm kitties. I’ve pulled out the snuggly blankies for their little perches around me and they are sacked out. I added more blankets to the bed and oddly enough, it’s changed where they sleep. It isn’t just about them being able to snuggle up close to each other again (as opposed to sprawling out trying to stay cool), but they landed in different places on the bed. Oh well … (yep, that’s as stream of consciousness as you’re gonna get).

Four years ago, I was looking out at the last months of my Master’s Degree and beginning to wonder what I wanted to do with myself when I grew up. There were possibilities ahead, but I didn’t have a good grasp of things. Earlier that summer, I wondered about finally building a writing career. I knew that if I was going to do something, I had one year to make it a reality. Otherwise, I was going to have to get a real job in the real world and that was the last thing I wanted.

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Grey

You know … I’d spend twenty-plus years as a business owner, then a few years working as the Communications Director in a church. That job was great, but I discovered that working for someone else was not my best thing. I’m a little opinionated and don’t have a lot of fears about speaking out when I believe my opinions should be heard. (For those of you that know me well – stop laughing. Right now). I couldn’t imagine taking another job where I’d have to bow down in obedience (apparently, I have a bad attitude about being an employee – ya think?).

My friend, Rebecca, had gone through Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) the year before, challenged me to do it with her and all I could think was, why not? If this was what I wanted to do with my life, I needed to get started.

I sat down at the computer one night and pulled from some ideas that I’d sketched out about a girl named Polly Mason, who found a body on a riverbank at the end of the property she owned. She’d left NYC to return to a rural life. The guy who died was a local veterinarian, but his wife was a shrew (okay, my notes said bitch). That Polly was going to open a little shop … selling crafts and books, coffee and baked goods.

The rambling notes from my first brain-storming session (with myself) are there in Evernote now. I took off from the Polly Mason story and came up with Lydia and Sylvie. Obiwan was there. Hah. The first body was going to be hanging in one of the downstairs rooms. And the kittens were going to come home in Obiwan’s mouth some night, all messy and terrified. The vet was still going to be the one who was killed … luckily Mark Ogden lived through that iteration.

It’s strange to look back four years and see how Bellingwood has grown from those initial thoughts. Once I started writing, there was no stopping. Hah. And y’all would never let me stop now, right? I’m glad of that. There is so much joy in what I do. Much of it is because I’m finally myself, but an awful lot of it is because, like Polly, I meet extraordinary people along the way.

Thanks for that.

The Countdown! (And Winners)

TB sticks pretty close - just to keep me company. Love this gorgeous boy.

TB sticks pretty close – just to keep me company. Love this gorgeous boy.

Just four more sleeps!

I’m in a bit of a holding pattern right now. I have one more person running through the book to make sure that all of my editing and thrashing about didn’t create more problems. You’d think that I would relax, but these are the moments when I madly try to get my life back together after going head down for a couple of weeks.

This is still my favorite life ever, but wow, do I let my world fly out of control.

The thing is? Other than living in Bellingwood during those days, I’m really boring. Polly leads a much more interesting life than I do. I’m excited by a trip to town for mail and groceries! But that only means that I expend time and energy on the stories and that’s what counts, right?

We have five winners of ebooks. Y’all were all over the place with which chapter the first dead body of the book shows up in. I haven’t counted tonight, but last night (which is 98% of the tally), it was:

Chapter 1: 34
Chapter 2: 50
Chapter 3: 40
Chapter 4: 26
Chapter 5: 16
Chapter 6: 8
Chapter 7: 3
Chapter 13: 1
Chapter 15: 1

Now you just have to wait to read the book to see if you were right or not. I’ll never tell! The latest I think I ever waited was Chapter 11. I don’t remember which book that was, but I do remember people being surprised. Okay, I was surprised!

Anyway, congratulations to:

Tanya Rumpel
Diane Sumner
Teri McMillan Key
Peg Adams
Mary Wire Passage

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Happy Birthday, Polly!

happy-birthday-pollyToday is Polly Giller’s birthday (September 20)!

There are a few dates that I’ve always known, and others that I’ve had to figure out. Okay, and still others that I haven’t discovered yet. Polly’s birthday has always been September 20th.

It kind of freaks me out that she continues to age, right along with the rest of us. I’m not sure what I will do when she hits 40. That will feel strange. Heck, it felt strange when I did. But Polly seems timeless at about age 32-33 and that’s just not real (please don’t go there).

So I guess we should celebrate. Ice cream sandwiches all around!

Happy Birthday, Polly!

A Little Business – Character Lists

All Roads Lead HomeWhen you build a community as big as Bellingwood, it is inevitable that newcomers (readers) get lost amidst all of the characters. Heck, even us old-timers (haha) forget who is who and who’s done what.

I have a friend who delivers an Excel file of the characters who arrive in a book, but I also keep a rather extensive list of characters and all that I know about them. I try to take notes as I write, but that doesn’t always work.

To be honest, neither of those databases are complete. There are many details about these characters that slide past me, no matter how many times I re-read what I’ve written. It’s scary.

Y’all keep asking for a character list and I keep not making it happen. There are several reasons.

First of all, there is absolutely NO good way to build this so that it is solid, usable and flexible. I’ve tried a searchable dictionary – type format. That didn’t work at all. I tried a wiki – that was just plain stupid. I tried a plain list, but oh my goodness, that became so bulky and unwieldy I wanted to scream. I’ve tried putting characters into Excel and well … for one book it kinda works, but after that, just hit me in the head. This isn’t an easy task. It’s complete insanity.

Secondly. This one is hard to explain and may sound like I’m avoiding the situation, but it’s also about spoilers. If you’ve read all of the books up to Book 14 (and I know, I know, you’re desperately waiting for September 25th), you know how each of these characters arrived in Polly’s life.

But what if you were just starting the series and discovered a complete character list and read about things that had yet to happen? How much fun was it for you to read the stories and uncover characters that have now become so familiar? The characters come with tears, laughter, joy and sadness. That’s what makes the story so real.

I’d hate to take away that fun for readers who come to this series along the way. New people find this series every day. That’s a real issue for me and a line that I hate to cross. Every once in a while, I let something slip because I’ve lived with these characters for four years now and it crushes me when I realize that I just took away someone’s initial fun.

One of these days, the perfect solution is going to present itself. Don’t think for a minute that I’m not processing on this problem regularly. Don’t think for a minute that I don’t process on a ton of things that you haven’t even imagined when it comes to the Bellingwood series. I understand that it can be frustrating to not remember details about your favorite characters or even why a character exists. You can always ask me questions and I’ll do my best to answer.

In 2013, I did create a quick character list and posted it on Facebook – these people are all pretty safe. Nothing is a spoiler here. If you need more information, let me know … we’ll get this figured out someday. I promise.

Polly Amelia Giller
Parents: Everett & Barbara (Mahoney) Giller – deceased
Relatives in Story City: Clyde & Ivy Giller
Caregivers / Farmhand: Sylvester & Mary Shore
Animals:
Obiwan – German Shepherd / Labrador (gift from Doug Randall & Billy Endicott)
Luke & Leia – cats (gift from Brad & Lee Giese)
Nan, Nat, Demi, Daisy – Percheron horses (black)

Henry Sturtz
Parents: William & Marie Sturtz (Arizona)
Sister: Lonnie, Graduate work – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Polly’s Bellingwood Girlfriends:

Aaron & Lydia Merritt (Aaron is County Sheriff)
Children:
Marilyn & Brian Erikson (Dayton, IA) – one set of twins, pregnant w/3rd child
Jill & Steve Redman (Kansas City) – one boy, pregnant with 2nd child
Daniel Merritt (Des Moines)
Sandy Merritt (Minneapolis)
James (Jim) Merritt (ISU, Ames)

Beryl Watson – Artist
First husband: Stewart Lanier (divorced)
Second husband: Scott Watson (deceased)
Cat: Miss Kitty
Students:  Deena, Meryl

Andy Saner – Retired Teacher
Children:
Bill Saner, Junior
John Saner
Melanie Saner (ISU, Ames)

Sylvie Donovan – Chef at Sycamore House, attending DMACC
Children:
Jason – age 12
Andrew – age 9

Polly’s Boston girlfriends:
Drea Renaldi – Professor at Boston College
Two brothers: Ray & Jon

Bunny Farnam

Sal Kahane

Henry’s Employees:
Jimmy Rio
Sam Terhune
Leroy Forster
Ben Bowen

Sycamore House Employees:
Jeff Lyndsay
Eliseo Aquila
Sylvie Donovan

Bellingwood Friends:
Mark Ogden – Veterinarian
Partner – Seth Jackson
Employees – Marnie Evans, Dena Harrison, Leanne Malloy

Doug Randall – Electrical Apprentice for Jerry Adams
Parents: Helen & Frank
Sister: Tracy

Billy Endicott – Electrical Apprentice for Jerry Adams
Parents: Marcus & June

Time for a Giveaway

Part 1

This has been a grumpy week for me. I’m seriously tired of people. That’s funny because I’m a hermit.

I also believe that I’m so ding-donged tired of heat and humidity I want to scream bloody murder. Drippy hot stuff makes this old lady-chick cranky.

One of the things I’ve learned over a lifetime of managing my emotions is that when I get like this, the best thing I can do for myself is do something for someone else.

Lucky you.

Part 2

A friend wondered if I could make a smaller version of my tote bag. Even before I knew how it would happen, I said yes. Then came the task of figuring it out.

That required test bags.

Lucky you.

IMG_6070Here’s the deal …

I can make as many tote bags as I’d ever need, so what should I do with these?

Give them away, of course.

There will be two winners and each of you will win a tote bag as well as a signed paperback copy of any of the fourteen books that have already been published – your choice.

Lucky you.

To enter …

Write a comment on either this post on the FB Bellingwood page or here on this blog post and tell me something wonderful about your best friend. Tell me about your spouse, your child, your sibling, your pet, your friend. Once you’ve told me, be sure to tell them, too.

Hopefully there will be so many comments, I won’t have time to respond to them (gotta finish writing a book this weekend!), but I can hardly wait to read them.

Maybe you aren’t having a grumpy week; maybe yours has been glorious, but sometimes we all need to think about someone else and why they are so terrific. Read through the stories that are posted and smile!

You have until Sunday, August 21 at noon to write your comment. I will enter all of your names into my handy-dandy random name chooser and come up with two winners, then announce them in a quick post here and on Facebook.

Thanks for being such a great community.

Bellingwood Vignette – Book 15, #2

This is Earl, the most laid-back kitty I've ever had. Look at those gorgeous stripes.

This is Earl, the most laid-back kitty I’ve ever had. Look at those gorgeous stripes.

These very short vignettes focus on a character other than Polly. While they are written at the same time I am working on a book and generally happen in the same time frame, they never offer spoilers to the story or anything more than a tiny peek at what might be happening in Polly’s life.

Vignettes are published in each of the newsletters which arrive on the 25th of every month, but sometimes the characters insist that I tell a quick story about them.

Book 15 is well on its way to completion and will be published on September 25th. Until then, I’ll sprinkle a few vignettes on you, just so you can stay in touch with Bellingwood.

No Good Deed

“We’re gone, punk,” Jason yelled up the steps. “Mom says don’t forget to mow and trim. I’ll be back at twelve-thirty. Don’t make me wait.”

Andrew rolled over and groaned. He hated lawn day. Mowing wasn’t that big of a deal, but he hated getting up in the morning. If he wanted to see Rebecca, though, he had to mow before Jason showed up.

Padme stretched out along Andrew’s length and he tucked his legs up under her butt, pulling her close. He threw an arm over her shoulder and tucked his face into her neck. Just a few more minutes.

He didn’t know what was up with these people in his house who scheduled things before eight o’clock. He was a night person and had to be quiet so that his mom and Jason could sleep. It only seemed fair that they should be quiet in the morning when he was sleeping. If he told Jason what to do at midnight, his brother would kill him.

“I’m telling you,” he mumbled to Padme. “It isn’t fair.”

He’d been up late last night working on a story. He wanted to show it to Rebecca when he saw her today. Andrew yawned and turned over onto his back. Padme didn’t leave much room, so he turned over onto his other side so their backs were up against each other. She wiggled until she was comfortable and in moments he heard her quiet snoring.

Next week was the sesquicentennial celebration in town. There were four dances happening at Sycamore House. Rebecca didn’t know it, but he’d been practicing in the living room every morning after Jason and his mom left for work. He found a bunch of dances on-line and after he moved the furniture out of the way, he had a lot of room. Girls. Bah. They just had no idea what boys did to make them happy.

Andrew turned over onto his stomach and smacked the pillow to make a hole for his head. Who was he kidding? He’d do anything to make Rebecca happy. He lifted his head and dropped it into the pillow. He was such a sap. His buddies thought he was crazy, spending so much time with her during the summer. But she was more fun than they were and interesting things always happened around Polly.

Padme turned over and licked Andrew’s face.

“I know, I know. I might as well get up and mow the lawn. I can’t stop thinking about stuff.” Andrew gave her a little push and she sat up beside him. He swung his legs out of bed on the other side and stood up, then looked around for clothes. Polly yelled at Rebecca all the time about her room. Andrew tried to keep his clean, but sometimes he wore his shorts more than one day and where else should he put them? Not the laundry basket and not back in the dresser. He picked them up off the floor and looked around for a not-too-dirty t-shirt. He wasn’t putting a clean shirt on to go outside and sweat.

“You can play in the back yard while I mow,” he said, then he grumbled. “I suppose I should clean your poop up before I mow. Someday I’m going to get a real job and then nobody will tell me that I’m the only one who has to do all of your work.”

Padme wagged her tail.

Andrew laughed. “Yeah. I know. You like to eat your poop, but that doesn’t help me. It’s gross and you just poop it out again.” He rubbed his hand across her head. “A real machine, you are.”

He grabbed up his phone from the dock on the kitchen counter before heading outside and sent Rebecca a good morning text. She’d be surprised to see it come in so early. He told her what he was doing and then unbuttoned his back pocket and dropped the phone in. Just in case she texted back.

Padme nipped at his feet while he cleaned up the back yard and when he was finished, he chased her around before throwing her favorite ball. She’d gotten better at playing fetch, finally figuring out that if she brought it to him, he’d throw it again.

Andrew tossed it one more time and then slipped out of the back gate to get the mower out of the garage. He checked the gas level. Jason was supposed to make sure that it was full and ready to go every time after Andrew used it. That was their deal. Eliseo had taught Jason how to do maintenance on the mowers at Sycamore House and Sylvie decided he could be responsible for the mower here, too. Andrew pushed it out of the garage and pulled the cord to start it. He always did the side and front yard first. The back yard was a pain with all of Padme’s toys.

Lately he’d been mowing Mrs. Cameron’s lawn next door, too. She never said anything and didn’t offer to give him any money, but the one time he saw her out there pushing a mower, he told his mom he’d just do it himself. She was old and he could tell that it hurt her knees when she mowed.He was just crossing back into his yard after finishing hers when he thought he heard someone yell. Andrew turned the mower off and stood stock still, waiting for the sound again.

“Help me!” a voice called.

It sounded like it came from behind Mrs. Cameron’s house, so he ran down the side of his fence to her back yard. He didn’t mow back here. Everything was a garden. Even though he mowed for her, the last thing he was doing was weed her gardens. She had flowers all around the neighbors’ fences and somebody, Sylvie thought it was her son, helped her build raised garden beds for vegetables.

“Mrs. Cameron?” he called.

“Andrew? I need you. Help me.”

He stopped at the edge of the sidewalk that ran alongside her house and looked around. “Where are you?”

“I’m inside. Please help me.”

Her voice grew more pitiful and scared the closer he got. That first holler must have taken it out of her.

Andrew leaped over a bushy plant and landed on the walk that led to her back door and ran up the steps. “Are you in here?”

“Come in,” she said.

He opened the door and found her lying on the floor of the back porch, garden utensils all around her and two empty pails on the floor behind her head. “What happened?” he asked.

“I fell and I can’t move anything.”

“You can’t move anything?” He knelt beside her.

“I can’t move my neck and my leg hurts when I try to move it.”

The leg was definitely broken. It was twisted in a really bad way. Andrew took his phone out of his back pocket, thankful that he’d thought to bring it with him. “I’m calling 9-1-1,” he said. “Don’t try to move anymore.”

“They’re going to send an ambulance, aren’t they?” she asked.

He nodded while waiting for the call to connect. Once they answered, he gave them the address and what he thought had happened, then answered their questions, wishing they’d just get off the phone and send someone. He knew better, but waiting with Mrs. Cameron wasn’t going to be easy and he wanted them to hurry.

Mrs. Camera looked up at him after he put his phone back. “Did you mow my yard already?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You’re a good boy. While we’re waiting, could you go out to my garden in the back and pick the red tomatoes that are there? That’s what I was going to do before I fell down. You might as well take them home. If they haul me away, I won’t be able to do anything with them.”

“How did you fall?” he asked.

She lifted her hand and pointed at the inside door. “I forgot there was a step there and my leg twisted when I went down.”

Andrew picked up the buckets. “I don’t want to leave you. I’ll pick the tomatoes when the EMTs get here.”

You might as well do it now,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“No, the operator told me to stay. Who built your gardens?”

“I paid a young man to do that. At least I don’t have to bend over all the time.”

Andrew took a deep breath. No thank you, no money, nothing but that he was a good boy for doing her lawn. However, she could pay someone to build a garden for her. He sat in a chair beside the back door. “Are your cats inside?” he asked.

Her eyes misted up. “Dino and Sammy. I hate to ask, but will you watch over them while I’m gone? I don’t have anybody else.”

“Of course I can,” he said. “Where’s the cat food?”

“It’s in a cupboard beside the stove. You have to sit with them while they eat so they don’t eat each others food. Dino gets the Prescription Diet regular and Sammy gets the diet food. He’s my little tubby boy. There’s a little cup in each bag. One in the morning and then half of one at night. Sometimes I like to put some canned food in at night for a treat. But you do what you want. The litter box is in the downstairs shower and the litter is in the cupboard under the sink. I changed it last weekend, so it should be okay unless I’m gone for a long time.” Tears started to run down her face.

“It’s okay, Mrs. Cameron. I’ll take care of them for as long as you need me to.”

The siren that had been sounding through town came to a stop in front of the house.

“I’m going to go out and make sure they know how to get back here,” Andrew said. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.” He ran out the back door and around the house, catching the EMTs before they went up onto Mrs. Cameron’s front porch. “She’s back here,” he said.

He stood outside while they went in and after a few minutes, they brought the gurney down the steps.

She called his name.

“Yes, Mrs. Cameron?”

“Don’t forget the tomatoes,” she said.

“I won’t. I promise.” He didn’t want to tell her that it had left his mind within seconds of her saying something the first time. “Is she okay?” he asked one of the EMTs.

“We’ll let them decide all of that at the hospital,” the young man said.

“Are you taking her to Boone?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Cameron said. “That’s where my doctor is. Boone. Tell your mother I’m there. Maybe she’ll want to come see me.”

Andrew nodded and watched as they left.  Cats and tomatoes. He was pretty sure his mom would find more ways to help Mrs. Cameron when the old lady got home. It sure would be nice if she’d say thank you. He shrugged. Sylvie would tell him to get over himself; that it wasn’t about him. He started the mower, finished the front lawn and went into the back yard. Padme jumped around enough that he finally put her inside so he could finish his work without worrying that she’d get hurt.

His mom was going to laugh if he brought home a lot of tomatoes. She’d been canning tomatoes all summer. Eliseo’s garden at Sycamore House was exploding and they couldn’t sell them or get rid of enough, fast enough. He parked the mower back in its spot, then went over to Mrs. Cameron’s. He picked up her tools and put them on the table, then gathered the buckets and went out to the garden. Sure enough, the tomato plants were bulging with big red tomatoes. They were going to eat spaghetti all winter long.

Andrew filled both buckets and looked around. She had peppers and cucumbers and even a few onions. Maybe Eliseo could tell him when they’d be ready to pick. His phone buzzed and he took it out, then smiled.

“What are you doing up so early?” Rebecca had asked.

Before he responded, he realized that he was glad he’d gotten up so early. If he hadn’t, who knew how long Mrs. Cameron might have been on the floor, worrying about who would ever find her.

“Helping a little old lady. I’ll tell you about later. 143,” he typed.

“143, too. See ya. Polly’s making breakfast.”

He and Rebecca thought they were the only ones who used those numbers, but then she did a search on-line and found that other people knew about them too. One for I, four for love, three for you. He hoped they’d always remember those numbers.