Five Years of Writing About Polly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Polly – cozy mystery

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


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

Polly – some thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s a dentist.

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


Thank you!

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

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

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


Publication Dates

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

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


Christmas cards

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


Creativity Friday

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

31 thoughts on “Five Years of Writing About Polly

  1. Jan Hoover

    I just searched my Amazon purchase history to find out how long I had been reading your stories. Apparently I only found you in July 2013. I know I read some through Kindle Unlimited for a while because I had to go back and buy them when I wanted to reread the whole series.

    Way to go, Diane! I’m so glad you’ve found writing Polly’s stories to be so fulfilling. I love them and wait eagerly for the next. I may have told you, I reread the whole series earlier this year and was amazed at how well you started and continued. No evidence I could see of a learning curve at all.

    Thank you!

    1. nammynools Post author

      Wow you got here early! That month was one of my first forays into advertising. I’m so glad you’ve been along for the ride! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Fran Neff

    You’ve come a long way baby! 5 years and 20 books, I am so proud of you my friend and can’t wait to see where the next 5 years will take us.
    Love you!

  3. Kathleen Hammerlind

    Wow! You certainly have accomplished a lot in five years. I’m having trouble finding the newest edition of vignettes.
    Can you offer any help? Isn’t it #19?

  4. Julia White

    To think I started reading your books after seeing a recommendation from your cousin Debbie (my niece) on Facebook. I too have gone back and re-read them. Now I look forward to the quarterly 25th of the month to indulge myself in each new book. Thank you!

  5. Barbara

    Congratulations on 5 years of doing what you love! Of course, we love going along with you on your journey. Your books about Polly and families reached me at just the right time. I was really getting bored with all the inane things being written lately. I’m just not into sex, drugs and rock and rolls. lol Looking forward to years more of you, Polly and all those greats words you give us!

    1. nammynools Post author

      There is definitely a great deal of inanity out there. The funny thing is – these aren’t necessarily the books I read. I mostly read sci fi and fantasy, but here I am writing about real life. I guess I live that, so why not. Thank you, thank you!

  6. Michele Hicks

    looks like I ordered All Roads Leave Home in November 2013, I can’t believe it has been 4 years.
    I love these books. They take me to a comfortable lovely place, no matter what is going on in my life. Can’t wait until Christmas for the next one. Thank you for letting Polly out into the world.

    1. nammynools Post author

      I’m so glad she escaped when she did! LOL. You got in on this early! I struggled so hard trying to figure out how to advertise in those days – but some of it worked.

  7. Bonnie Boyles

    You are absolutely amazing, my friend. Twenty books in five years with characters and places so real I want to make a road trip. I love my Bellingwood family and although you and I have never officially met, I love you. Keep up the good…no, great work and be blessed. Your readers certainly are.

  8. Tanna Lee

    I found your Bellingwood series in January, 2015 and I’ve read and re-read them multiple times. And I’ve started over again, in preparation for you next book. I have enjoyed Polly’s adventures and I’m excited and sad all at the same time to what happens last.

    Thank you for sharing Polly with us.

    1. nammynools Post author

      Thank you! So many things will keep happening … and happening. Poor Polly. I just mess with her.

  9. Betty moreland

    I love the way you started out with one idea and rewrite until we have Polly and Henry with pets and kids that are found, I honestly have been doing the same. I just donโ€™t know if I ever get to publish. Your stories have definitely shared a story of warm country life and small town togetherness that only someone who lived in one will ever understand. You are part of the town and they have a say in your life even if you quietly live your life.

  10. Salle Yawitz

    Only one month and 10 days until I get to see what terrible Polly gets into this time! So nice to read a book without all that sex and curse words… Just nice little murders, dead bodies… Without the gruesome details. I love each and every book and will keep following Polly until she’s and old woman. Bet some more kids, pets and dead bodies are coming her way.. And weddings of her kids!!

  11. Eileen Adickes

    I am so grateful to Marta for suggesting your books. I feel I am still sharing them with her.
    Love you much!

  12. Mary R

    I am so glad you took the path to self-publishing, otherwise, Polly and friends probably wouldn’t be in my life!

    I just finished re-reading Books 1-3. I wanted to remember how it all started. If I could, I would re-read 4-19 all before Christmas Day and Book 20, but a job, a husband, teenage twins, and family here for T-giving will make that all but impossible. โ˜บ๏ธ

  13. Phycilla J Gable

    I don’t remember when I ordered your first book but I have ordered everyone since as soon as they come out! I am forever hooked!! I have just gone back and reread the whole series because I couldn’t wait for the next one to come out! You are a wonderful writer and Polly is the most interesting character I think I have ever read about. And I read every day and have been reading for 71 years so I should know! LOL. Thank you. Keep writing. I’ll keep reading!

  14. Linda B

    May sound strange, but I feel lucky to have just discovered Bellingwood. I got to read the first 19 books in only three weeks! No waiting to find out what happens next…until now. Anticipating book 20 for Christmas.

    A new fan

    1. nammynools Post author

      I’m sorry that my website didn’t tell me you’d arrived. I’m so glad you’re here!

Comments are closed.