Category Archives: Books

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!

The Sound of Silence

Silence.

Wow. No fans blowing, the furnace isn’t running, cats are sleeping, no vehicles moving outside. Pure silence. Well … the clicking of my fingers across the keyboard, but otherwise …

When my life was filled with meetings and customers, busyness and activity, I didn’t think I would ever hear the sound of silence again. (Are you humming the tune?) Now I wonder how I ever lived without it. Silence restores me.

Music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. There is nothing more fun for me that watching a movie or binge-ing on a television series, but when I turn it all off, my blood pressure responds. My shoulders fall, my body relaxes, my mind re-boots.

Silence is no longer a luxury, but a necessity and I will continue to notice and appreciate it for the gift that it is.

~~~

It’s hard to believe that in just a little more than two weeks, Book 17 – Marks in a Lifetime will be in your hands. Sometimes my life is so surreal. I work, work, work, work and then it happens. Another book is published.

Weird.

Even though Book 18’s first chapter hasn’t been written, notes and ideas are filling up pages in my notebook. The story is becoming clearer and pretty soon, the only thing left to do will be to get the words out of my mind. That’s the fun part.

If you don’t know the drill by now, I publish every quarter. March 25, June 25, September 25, and December 25. I can’t write any faster than that … so sorry! LOL. I appreciate your encouragement (that’s what we’ll call it, right?), though.

And for those of you who are new to this, I do not do pre-orders. Amazon’s rules around that make it impossible for me to run such a tight publishing schedule. You won’t find the book on Amazon until it is published.

~~~

For the last couple of weeks, Book 17 has been in the hands of my editors, leaving my brain extra time to process and come up with new ideas and new thoughts. It’s been awesome. But it’s also been overwhelming.

Once I land on a great idea, it isn’t enough to put it on a list and forget about it. I dig right in and find ways to make it real.

My brother (he’s also an author – you should check out his books) and I have been talking about so many different things lately. He’s just freakin’ useless. His standard comment to me is “Go! Do it.”

How can you not love that tummy? My Earl is so adorable.

Then when I get all uppity about there being too much on my plate, he reminds me to take it one step at a time. Smart-Alec. Sigh.

This week, I’ve been breaking things down. Instead of leaping into the deep end, I’m going to start at the four-foot level. Deep enough to satisfy my creativity, but not so much that I’m drowning. (I’m short, six feet of water might kill me.)

You see, I’m highly organized and manage my time really well. I build procrastination into my schedule so that when I can take no more, there is still time to breathe.

What overwhelms me is when my creativity explodes. I discover so many more things that I want to accomplish. Things that would never have occurred to me last year. But even in the midst of that insane pace, I find myself energized and excited. There is nothing better than knowing you can do what you dream about doing.

An evangelist that I knew and loved used to describe imagination as a ‘nation of images.’ The first time I heard him use that phrase, my mind leaped at it. That’s exactly how I feel when this frenzy of creativity, anticipation and expectation take over. There are millions of possibilities and they are all available for the taking.

I used to lament the fact that I wasn’t one of those people who chose one field of study, one talent, one ability, one thing to focus on so as to become an expert. That was never my personality. I wondered if I would ever discover a way to make use of the fact that I was quite good at a lot of things, but not an expert at anything.

My perspective has changed. The fact that I am not an expert at one single thing means that there are no limits to what I can do and explore. This doesn’t mean that I won’t always focus on getting better at the things that mean the most to me, but rather than feel as if I’m not something, now I understand that what I am is absolutely perfect for me.

Ahhh … enough babbling. It’s silent in here again and I think I’ll bask in that for a time.

Brain Dump

When my schedule isn’t on a do-or-die deadline, I actually have extra synapses available to write blog posts. As much as I love that, the last couple of days have been a bit unfocused. Today’s the day to recapture my brain (I had an image of a wrangler with a lasso and a rather naughty bronco racing around the pen, neighing in hysterical laughter – welcome to my brain).

1) You should read through the gratitude comments showing up on the FB Bellingwood page. Oh friends, you are amazing. You’ve made me emotional – I smile and get teary-eyed. We really do have so much to be thankful for, don’t we? I prefer placing my focus on those amazing things that happen in our lives. But you fill my heart. If you want more information on the journals, check them out here.

2) Have you ever said (or heard) “Stop whining”? We are automatically programmed to react to that pitch of the voice … right now. When it is nothing more than just a whine, it’s annoying. My cats all have that pitch down perfectly. That’s how Grey (my sweet little girl) landed in my life. She was quite persistent in her whining and crying that day. I couldn’t ignore her. Now, she uses that whine whenever she wants something.

Last night, she woke up from a nap across the room and started right in. She wanted my attention. Right now! So, I talked to her until she crossed the room. Grey didn’t want to jump up on the desk, so my job was to decide which side of the chair she was approaching and drop my hand until I felt her there and rub her head until she had enough. Earl does the same thing. If I don’t see him, he whines until I drop my hand to give him some love.

It’s all pretty wonderful, but no matter what I’m doing, if one of them whines (meows) at me, I react immediately. No wonder Mom was always telling us to stop whining. She had things to do other than meet our every need.

3) Did you notice the new “Shop Now” button on the FB page? It takes people directly to the book list on this website where people can order from Amazon. Invite your friends to join us and let them know how easy it is to find the books now.

4) While you’re there on the FB Bellingwood page, be sure to check out the Find Our Fans giveaway. It is going on until March 19th. What a fun opportunity. You are exposed to new authors AND get a chance to win things. Score!

5) Mark your calendars for fun in March. Wine & Trivia Night on March 17th – from 6-11 pm Central Time. I’m building up a wonderful stash of giveaways and we always have such fun.

6) The cover and title for Book 17 – Marks in a Lifetime were revealed in last Saturday’s email newsletter. It is incredible to me that I have such a wonderful resource for images from Max. Who gets that lucky? Apparently, I do. The release date is March 25 and we are on target.

That’s enough random information for today. There are so many things around this place that need to be dealt with. Sewing to finish, dishes to wash, rugs to vacuum, stories to write, designs to work on. My To-Do list is ridiculous! No matter how many things I strike off it, the crazy thing fills right back up. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Boredom will never be part of my life.

That was another thing Mom never wanted to hear from us – “I’m bored.” She had lists. It was easier to just find a book and curl up in a chair somewhere. Nobody bothered us if we were reading.

Now I’m babbling. That list? It won’t go away, and chattering at you won’t get things finished.

I love you!

Something Fun – Journals!

Earl is helping me.

In Saturday morning’s email newsletter, I introduced you to a new product I’ve created – Journals. This is one of the most exciting things I’ve done in a long time (outside of writing Polly’s stories).

You see, I absolutely believe in the power of the written word. It anchors moments in time, reveals stories that might go untold, allows exploration of thoughts and ideas. If all we ever do is think or speak – those words are ephemeral. Heh, now sometimes, that’s probably a good idea.

To begin this new venture, I’ve created three different journals. The first is titled Capture Your Memories. Yeah. That’s a bit of a spinoff from Bellingwood Books 15 and 16. I can steal from myself – right? There is plenty of room for you to jot down a few notes each day. My tendency is to do a quick re-cap every evening, just so I don’t lose track of the day’s activities. I’ve also included empty pages for you to write out bigger memories or even scrapbook some of the things you’ve done.

Cat butt! (Still curious Earl)

The second journal – Books are Life – is a new venture for me. Rather than consuming a book and setting it aside, I’m going to actually write down thoughts about what I read. It might not happen for every book I go through, but I intend to fill one journal this year. That’s fifty-five books that I will have read, at the very least. Not only will I have read them, but I will also have a synopsis and more information at hand about them. My impressions, my memories.

The third journal – Find Joy – is probably my favorite. I don’t know if even I have enough words to describe the incredible power of a grateful life. In this journal, you are asked to write out five things each day that you are thankful for. On the facing page, you will find two questions that can be used to trigger memories or bigger thoughts about gratitude.

All of these journals come filled with inspirational quotations and beautiful pictures that Max has shot through the years. If you’re paying attention, you’ll discover that the cover of each journal is made up of photographs that are printed within.

These are the same dimensions as a standard paperback – 6×9 – and about 1/2″ thick with 150 pages of terrific paper for you to fill up with thoughts, doodles, sketches, scraps of life and more words.

~~~

GIVEAWAY!

Now that you’ve read this far, let’s do a giveaway. I’ve brought copies of these journals in and while I look forward to selling them down the road, we can start with a giveaway. The best place to respond to this is in a comment on the FB Bellingwood page post of this blog (not an independent post on the page). If you aren’t on FB, you can leave a comment here.

Tell me in words or a picture what you are thankful for today. You have until Tuesday (2/28) at midnight to do so.

On Wednesday, March 1 (you know me, it will be the afternoon), I will choose five winners to receive their choice of two journals. If you want two of the same so you can give one away, perfect. If you want two separate journals for yourself, that’s awesome.

~~~

These journals are for sale on Amazon – start from this page for links to Amazon. Due to postage costs, I can’t save you much money by sending them out from here, but I will sell signed journals for $9.50 each, including shipping.  If you’d like to order a journal from me, send a message on FB or use the contact form on the website. You can also simply put a check and a note in the mail (as to what you’re ordering) to Diane Muir, PO Box 441, Stratford, IA 50249.

Send lawyers, gu … nah, I’ve got this.

First off … don’t any of you feel sorry for me or try to pat me on the head and tell me how to fix things. I’m fine. Seriously – take this with the grain of salt that I’m typing it. Laugh a little, tell me how bad you’ve got it. All of that is fine, but no advice or sympathy. I’m a big girl.

You know, the truth is – any post that I put out in public is generally for humor’s sake or just general information. If things are falling apart in my life, the only people who will know are my family and closest friends. It’s not really for public consumption. Each of you have your own things to deal with and no matter how much you care for me, the last thing you need is someone else to worry about. So … there’s that.

Wow, already with the ranting, Diane. Get on with it.

So … I just got back from a trip to the bathroom. The bathroom, the shower, and just as I fall asleep. What do they have in common? My best thinking happens then. (TMI? Hah. Sorry ’bout that.)

Anyway, as I walked over there, thinking about my next two weeks, THIS is the song that came into my mind. Why? Oh heck, who knows.

I thought about just posting it on FB with the comment that instead, send M&Ms, food, and coffee. But then I realized that some of you would do just that and it’s not necessary. (Insert riotous laughter here.)

Amazon Subscribe and Save has M&Ms now. Every month, a stash hits my front door. And as for food, I’ve signed up with Home Chef and the best food ever arrives each Wednesday. Max gave me fabulous coffee for Christmas, so I’m set.

You could send cards of encouragement and I wouldn’t hate that, but then there’s the whole getting to the post office. Which means I have to leave the house. My workaholic brain fights me for time. I tell it that I need fresh air and to see people – even if it’s my postmistress and the chickadees at the grocery store. Oh … and all of the farmers who give me the farmer wave on the road between here and town. No matter what I say, my brain reminds me that I need to stay busy, there’s no time and too much to do.

Where did this last month and a half go? There’s a deadline looming.

Believe it or not, I need to have Book 17 written by the end of next weekend – July 18 / 19 (I’m totally leaving this error in here, because it’s hilarious – July? Good heavens, I’m out of control!) It’s totally do-able, I just need to focus. Then I use a week to edit the biggest errors before sending it off to my team of proofreaders and editors (thank you, I have plenty right now). Now, crazy Diane set up her schedule so that I also have a newsletter to produce during the week that I’m editing. And a cover + title to create for the book (for the newsletter), too. And at least one, but maybe two vignettes. All of that has to happen by the 24th of February.

This month, I’ve also got a really fun new product for you. I’m still in the midst of design and creation, but it will be announced in the February 25th newsletter. I can’t wait for you to see what I’ve come up with. You’re going to love it! Stinking love it! Seriously – like love it! Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but some of you are going to love it! (Insert more laughter here, please.)

Sound like I’m whining yet? Please know that I’m not. It’s the best life a girl could ask for, but I’m still curious as to how I’ve arrived at February 11th and still feel as if I should be in the middle of January.

TB is usually the one tucked in front of me while I write. He’s so cute when he’s asleep.

The next two weeks are going to be insane in Diane’s world. I’ve pretty much decided, though, that’s par for the course. I must like it that way since it happens so regularly. How can I complain when I get to live my dream and I have such wonderful friends like you in my life … and then these three cats. As I’m typing, TB is sleeping on a blanket on top of the printer/scanner beside me, Grey is sound asleep to the left of me and Earl is curled up in front of me. My arms are wrapped around him as I type on the keyboard. He’s a little ball of warm fluff.

No lawyers, guns or money and no M&Ms, food or coffee. I’ve all I need and so much more.

… unless you can send me back in time about a month. That would be cool. Who wants to work on that for me?

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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