Category Archives: Books

Random Holiday Craziness

This last month has been absolutely wild. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but whoa!

It always feels strange to hit the other side of a holiday. There is so much anticipation and preparation, then it happens and we move on to the next thing. Thanksgiving was just yesterday, right?

But yes, I’m madly thinking about Christmas now. I have to tell you, it’s a good thing I began planning for it last January. I’m still going to be pushing it in my attempt to get everything accomplished. And again … wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not only because I’m celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth, but Book 16’s publication date happens on December 25th. Can you hardly believe it’s nearly here? Whee!

Don’t forget, a short story will be available on January 1st. Hmm, I should probably figure out what I’m going to title that story. I already have the cover image though, so that’s a good thing.


Postcard glimpse

A little fun for you. I would love to send you a Christmas postcard, but will never presume to keep your address. If you’d like to receive a postcard from me (and the kitty-kiddos), all you have to do is send an email to nammynools (@) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form on the website (that drops it right into my email).

Tell me what your physical mailing address is and I will send you a postcard. Easy as that. And yes, I will send these postcards internationally as long as my little post office has postage (heh, you think I’m kidding).

If you regularly order a paperback copy from me, you will automatically receive a postcard.


This last week, I’ve been head-down while editing my brother’s next book. Jamie McFarlane writes in several genres. The next book (Blockade Runner) is part of his Sci Fi / Space Adventure series – Privateer Tales and will be published right after the new year. Jamie writes amazing action scenes. No matter how many times I read them, I get into the middle of some of those scenes and find that I’m breathing too quickly and am really agitated. It’s fabulous.

He also writes a paranormal series – Witchy World and is just starting the third book in that series. Check out his website at for more information.


I’m going to miss our pre-publication Wine & Trivia night this month. Sadly, there’s no way I could manage one of those in December. They’re crazy enough in the months without a major holiday. However, I plan to do a few giveaways on the Facebook page as December 25 approaches. Stay tuned!


I keep the place pretty cool. Earl and Grey stick close to each other for warmth … well, and love, too.

Keep an eye out this weekend. I’ve been editing so many things these last few weeks, that  actual writing has taken a back seat. My Bellingwood-ians aren’t terribly fond of that behavior and have let me know there needs to be another vignette.

Now if you are still catching up to Book 16, there might some spoilers in the vignettes, but mainly just characters that you’ve not yet met … or relationships that developed and flourished along the way. Otherwise, I try to never give away any large plot points.

Vignettes are written from the point of view of characters other than Polly, allowing us to get to know some of the people that she interacts with in Bellingwood. I began writing these at Book 9 and within a month of a book’s publication, the vignettes are collected and published on Amazon as well. You don’t have to miss a thing.

Email newsletters go out to subscribers on the twenty-fifth (25th) of every month. Along with major book announcements, etc., there is always a short vignette. Make sure you’ve signed up for the newsletter so you don’t miss a thing.


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?




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.


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.”

So close … and yet so far

clock-06-00_33234_lgWe’re nearly there. Just thirteen hours until the newsletter hits your email inboxes. I will post the link here (and on Facebook) later in the morning … you know, after I finally pull myself out of bed.

My only concern right now is the immense line of thunderstorms that is headed my way. When I see those, I know there is every probability that I will lose power. No power = no internet. No internet = no book upload. Do I have you worried?

I’m evil. I’ll make sure that things are ready to post long before the weather attacks me. The most wonderful thing about this weather attack is that it will bring my long-awaited fall weather. Tomorrow might actually be cold!

Okay – back to work with me.

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

Send me a message with your email address and as soon as I have a link, I will email a copy of the book to you!

Wine & Trivia Winners

I just love this picture of Grey sniffing the flowers. So I'm sharing.

I just love this picture of Grey sniffing the flowers. So I’m sharing.

The two weeks before publication are just plain weird. Seriously. Nothing is normal. I’m focused on editing and anything that takes me away from that feels out of place.

Except for the Wine & Trivia night fun on the FB Bellingwood page. How wonderful was that? I hope everyone gets a chance to participate sometime. The next one won’t happen until March 17, 2017 in preparation for the March 25th publication date, but last night was a blast!

A lot of you showed up to play, both during the event and at strange and odd hours (for me, I was asleep) after the event. Thank you all for hanging out.

There are winners! Thirteen of you were chosen by my handy-dandy random name picker. I’ve heard back from most of the winners, so YAY!

Congratulations to everyone.

Tote / Signed paperback copy of Book 15
Diana Long
Jacque Webb
Janet Ferguson

Ebook copy of Book 15
Julie Cavanaugh
Becky Hill-Cunningham
Paula Holmes Allaire
Corrine Starkey

Bonnie LumleyEllen Dail Johnson

Lia Federico
Catherine Hall

$10 Amazon Gift cards
Barb Sanders
Nicole Beardmore

Frogs, Gift cards and mugs will be shipped this week. Ebooks will be delivered as soon as I have a link and Totes / paperbacks will be shipped as soon as the books arrive in my hot little hands.

You are all so supportive of this wild and crazy thing that I get to do and I appreciate you more than I will ever be able to tell you … but I can give things away as often as possible and that is so much fun for me!

Now … back to editing. Gotta keep tuning these words up.

Book 15 – Capture the Moments – will be published on September 25th. If you’ve signed up for the newsletter, you’ll receive the link at 6 am for download. Then you can all start bugging me for the next book, which, by the way, will be published December 25th. YAY!

Thank you, thank you!

Red Pens and Cute Cats

img_6203It was a dark and stormy night …

Wrong tense. It IS a dark and stormy night. It’s awesome! I love the sound of rain on the roof; the rush of wind as it whips the trees around in the meadow and the rumbles of thunder in the sky. The storm has washed much of the humidity and heat out of the atmosphere and I’m a very happy girl. There will be sleep for me tonight.

But before that, I’m busy! One of the steps in the process is to red-pen a printed copy of the manuscript. It reads differently on paper than it does on the screen. Isn’t that crazy? I find all sorts of changes to make.

The cats aren’t terribly fond of my hunkering in to work phases. I don’t pay enough attention to them, as evidenced by Grey helping me in the picture. Whenever one of the cats gets close enough for snuggling, I stop and take time with them. How could I not? Look at that face. She’s serious about getting my attention and I’m glad to give it to her.

There isn’t much else going on tonight. Between now and 6 pm tomorrow night (are you coming to the Wine & Trivia party on Facebook? Be there or be square), I will have mapped out the trivia questions for the party, hopefully finished more sewing and gotten a good chunk of editing finished. We’re in non-stop crazy mode for the next couple of weeks. It’s my favorite!

Okay, I’d love to hang out and tell you all sorts of stories tonight, but there’s one that needs my attention, so I’m going back to it. Do you realize how close we’re getting? I can hardly wait!

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.

Marketing? Stop Complaining, Diane.

BellingwoodBoxedSet1-3Marketing is a pain in my butt. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I spend money to give my books away for free and then I spend hours filling out forms on various websites that ask me more questions than I’m comfortable answering sometimes. I won’t be surprised to find a question about the color of my underwear one of these days. None of the marketing sites ask exactly the same questions, so it’s always a tossup as to which answer I need to create.

As I sat here complaining to myself (well, and the cats, too), I realized that I want my books to just do the work for me. And then I laughed because you know what? I’m a lousy manager.

What in the world, Diane? Non-sequitur much?

Not really. See, when people work for me, I just want to assign the work and then have them to it without anymore input from me – unless a crisis comes up. But that’s just not reality. People are people. And I’m a horrible, horrible manager. It makes me cry to have to manage people.

Consequently, I no longer do that. And I don’t cry over that anymore. (I cry over everything else, though – sheesh – what waterworks these eyes are).

Notice their tails? I did that. Because I love messing with them while they sleep.

Notice their tails? I did that. Because I love messing with them while they sleep.

This is one of the things about self-publishing. There isn’t some little lackey out there in media / publishing land who creates promotions and spends hours finding new and creative ways to convince the world they should buy your books. Nope. It’s all about dimly lit rooms with computer monitors and cats surrounding you. (Wait – that’s probably just me – not every other author who self-publishes likes kittens and dimly lit rooms.)

Okay – enough complaining. The awesome, amazing, wonderful side of marketing my own books? When it’s all over and the forms filled out, the money gone from my account and the dates are scheduled, I know that I’m about to meet really fabulous people who are introduced to my Bellingwood books and fall in love with the stories.

Little by little, person by person, my books really do begin doing the work for me. You share with your friends and family, they share and the network grows. That network means that I get to meet and find out about some of the coolest people in the world. I am continually blown away by how fun that is.

Moving out of Sigourney - 1980

Moving out of Sigourney – 1980

When I was growing up, we moved a lot. Methodist ministers didn’t stay in one place much longer than 5-6 years. I loved it. Absolutely loved it. As much as I adored the friends I had already made, I knew that this was an opportunity to meet so many more great people. This had a lot to do with my parent’s attitudes about change. They taught us to greet it with anticipation and expectation. Mom, especially, prepared us to have fun with all of the new people we would encounter. (The funny thing – both she and Dad were hermits, too!)

So, just like the hated days of packing up the house (we had a lot of stuff) to move, I got through this day of scheduling marketing – knowing that on the other side, something great is going to come.

You always have to look for the fun – right?

Oh … wanna know the dates? Tell your friends!

I’ve scheduled the Bellingwood Boxed Set to be free on February 19-20 and then again on March 3-5. Don’t worry. You’ll see those dates again as we get closer, but if you’ve been waiting to share the series – the time is here!

New Year – Reading Challenge!

There is something refreshing and exciting about entering a new year. We all know in our heart of hearts that the minutes which separate December 31 from January 1 hold nothing of significance, but it’s still magical. For these first few days, we set aside all of the mistakes we made over the last year and anticipate the spectacular possibilities of the new year.

To some extent, we feel this at the start of every day, week, and month, but in January it’s bigger – holds greater impact.

Resolutions aren’t part of my New Year’s plans, but I set goals and allow myself to dream big dreams. As the dreams drop into place, I formulate plans to bring them to fruition. It’s become a favorite holiday of the year as my imagination soars into the future.

My friend, Alice, posted a link to a reading challenge for 2016 that caught my attention. I re-worked it and came up with this. Do you want to join me? It should be fun!

2016 Reading Challenge

Reading Journal
The other thing that I want to begin is keeping a better record of the books I read throughout the year. I write in my journal at the end of every day – just a few thoughts and a quick synopsis of the day’s events. The journal I use is amazing and though I don’t use it as intended, it has tons of room for me to be creative. There is a perfect space to write a few quick notes about the books I’m reading.

If you’d like to start a reading journal, be creative. If you’re like me, you have pretty little notebooks that have been given to you over the years and you hate the idea of using them for grocery lists. Pull them out and put them to good use. For that matter, you can use your grandson’s abandoned spiral notebook. It doesn’t matter – you just need paper.

Do not over-think the journal. Don’t make it such a big deal that it becomes overwhelming  before February arrives. You will find plenty of methods for these journals on the Internet. Don’t let them intimidate you. There’s no way I can stop and write in a journal while I’m reading a book. We’re lucky if I take the time to highlight a sentence or quote that I love.

Simply date your entry, the book and author, when you started it, when you finish it and any thoughts you have. This is a great place to write out quotes and passages, but don’t worry about that. If you miss a book or five, that’s no problem. Just come back and start again.

Whatever works for you – do that and maybe you’ve been keeping a reading journal for years now – yeah, you!

But maybe 2016 is the year for you to attempt something different … something new. This is my challenge to myself. If you’d like to join me, I’m starting on Monday (because that’s when I turn the page in my calendar – yes, you can laugh at me).