The Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 14)

Last Friday was the final day of the craziest summer of my life. From beginning to end, the weeks were wild and wonderful.

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook

Irises at Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni, Japan

Irises at Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni, Japan

My daughter Mandy gave birth to our first grandchild, Charlie, in Iwakuni, Japan on May 23, and my younger daughter, Melanie, and I left to visit them on June 2. Melanie and I are both teachers, and the last day of school was May 30. As soon as we were free, we hit the ground running.

After we returned home (June 18), I began teaching summer piano lessons. On July 6, I published my fifth book, Sincerely Yours, the second book in the Yours by Design series. Indie authors know how busy the weeks are just before and after publishing.

Sincerely Yours  Robin Helm

Sincerely Yours
Robin Helm

On July 9, while Melanie was in Bangladesh, I received a text followed by a call from her boyfriend.

He was planning to propose and wanted to surprise her. He had asked her to pick out a ring months before, so she had searched the internet until she found the one she wanted and sent him a picture. He needed for me to tell him her ring size. I am proud to say that I was able to keep the secret.

When they called us soon after she accepted, she was squealing and he was laughing.

Oh, yes.  She was surprised!

Oh, yes.
She was surprised!

Dylan and Melanie after she said, "Yes!"

Dylan and Melanie
after she said, “Yes!”

During the week of July 20 – 25, I worked in The Way, a church-sponsored ministry to our commmunity, and on July 26 I drove 35 miles each way to the wedding of one of my former students. I was the only one there, much to my surprise, but being the anal person I am, I had the invitation with me. When I checked it, I saw that I was a week early. Ah, the joys of being 60. Melanie went to the wedding with me the following week, and the ceremony was lovely, even if the wedding party had to run from the rain at the very end. After that wedding, Melanie and I rode around to look at reception venues for hers.

The week after they became engaged, Melanie and Dylan set a date for the wedding (June 27) and we went into full-steam-ahead planning mode. Yes, you can plan a wedding in two weeks. Knowing that we would both start back to school meetings by August 7 (and that she wouldn’t function well with all the question marks hanging over her head), we quickly booked the church, the reception venue (The Ivy Place),

The Ivy Place

The Ivy Place

the wedding director, the florist, the DJ, the caterer, the wedding cake, the photographer, the musicians, and the ministers. She called all her bridesmaids and flower girls, we bought the silk flowers for the one church decoration she wanted, and we started looking for a wedding dress. Three dress shopping trips and several upset stomachs later, she found her perfect dress on August 16 at David’s Bridal in Columbia. This past Sunday afternoon, she designed and ordered her invitations, save-the-dates, and thank you notes online. She had already set up her wedding on, so she was able to check all that off and stay within her budget.

My trusty cell phone was with me through all that, so all of my books traveled with me. I popped to the kindle app whenever I was waiting for her and read my headaches away. I even took Laura’s Mercy’s Embrace, Book Three, The Lady Must Decide to church one Sunday. When the flute part rests for 20 measures, I can sneak in a little reading.

Mercy's Embrace Book Three The Lady Must Decide by Laura Hile

Mercy’s Embrace
Book Three
The Lady Must Decide
by Laura Hile

While all that was going on, I had new floors installed in most of my house. I love the floors, but Chloe and Toby don’t. They slip and slide around, and the noise their paws makes prevents them from sneaking up on me.

Nana, I do NOT like these new floors.

Nana, I do NOT like these new floors.

I had Open House at school Sunday afternoon, and we started back yesterday. Now do you understand why I haven’t finished writing Forever Yours and I’ve been slack about blogging lately?

I’m presently setting up the Music Academy lesson schedule and looking forward to getting back into my routine. My days at school have changed to Mondays and Fridays, so my blogging and writing days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Football season starts next week. Let the games begin! I’ll be cheering for my future son-in-law and his team, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.20140606_121814 Charlie is ready. She’ll be wearing her infant sized Gamecock jersey signed by her favorite football player and future uncle. Bows and ruffles are courtesy of Mrs. Susie Nichols. A girl must have her lace.

Go, Gamecocks!

Go, Dylan!

If you’re looking for us Thursday night, August 28, Gayle and I will be at Williams Brice Stadium, cheering for the team. Yes, we’ll be tired as we teach on Friday, but these times will soon be gone. I want to enjoy it while I can.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 13)

Unpacking canned goods at Hope of Lancaster.

Unpacking canned goods at Hope of Lancaster.

It is the best of weeks; it is the busiest of weeks. For one week each year, my church participates in something called The Way. I believe this is the eleventh or twelfth year of this layman-led week of service to our community. When my younger daughter was in the eighth grade, our youth made a mission trip to Charleston to help elderly residents of a neighborhood there with lawn mowing, landscaping, and home repairs. 2014-07-21 19.32.43They came back saying it was wonderful to go to other places and minister, but we should do that in our own community as well. From that vison, one of our men was motivated to start this ministry.
Weeding at the Pregnancy Care Center

Weeding at the Pregnancy Care Center

There are twenty-four different tracks on which people can choose to participate. I lead the media track (still photography), and my team goes to the other twenty-three tracks to shoot pictures and video. We show our work during dinner and at the worship service following track time each night.IMG_0507

Repairing the flooring in the house of a handicapped man

Repairing the flooring in the house of a handicapped man

So far this week, I (or members of my team) have been to the Pregnancy Care construction site, the preschool care, VBS, crafts, worship, culinary, evangelism, PetCare, Hope of Lancaster, Handyman (four locations), Boys Home, creative, International (three locations), Caroline Court, Council on Aging, Jackie’s Place, The Closet, Livi’s Library, Washing Clean, grasscutting, and the hospital. Nearly all of these are service tracks; our members go into the community and build handicapped ramps, repair floors, fix water pipes, play with children, provide school supplies and clothing, organize food distribution centers, wash cars, use their creativity with face painting or manicures, and generally show people that we love them.

DSCF2530“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:35-40

Laura Hile's  So Lively a Chase, Mercy's Embrace, Book 2, entertains a hedgehog. Writers keep strange company.

Laura Hile’s
So Lively a Chase, Mercy’s Embrace, Book 2, entertains a hedgehog. Writers keep strange company.

We end these weeks realizing that we have received more blessings than we have given. It really is true that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Of course, I needed a little reading material during down time. Guess what I found?

Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 12)

July is Stay-Home-And-Write month for me, and camping is Camp NaNoWriMo. So the only traveling I’m doing these days is running errands. At 91 degrees and sunny, we webfoots are wilting in the heat today. Yes, we are that pathetic.

So let's go to Peet's Coffee, conveniently located in Fred Meyer.

We’re off to Peet’s Coffee, conveniently located in Fred Meyer. Note that I took this when the light was red.

Everybody knows Freddy's. So in we go.

Everybody knows Freddy’s. So in we go.

Hanging out at a trendy coffee house is part of the writerly vibe, right? Except I live in a suburb of Portland, some distance from trendy NW 23rd and its hipster haunts. What can I say? One does what one can.

Fred Meyer is a Pacific Northwest institution, home of one-stop shopping. It’s still the best place to buy reasonably-priced organic produce and health food products. And clothes. And gardening supplies. And home decor items. And home electronics. And school supplies. And…everything.

And here is Peet’s Coffee, tucked in behind the produce department. Fred Meyer also has a supervised childcare area. That’s right, drop the tots and shop! A quiet cuppa alone, even for ten minutes, brings joy to a busy mom.

Come in and have a seat! the sign says. Wonderful idea!

“Come in and have a seat!” the sign says. Wonderful idea!

Peet’s lacks the Starbucks vibe, but it serves up good coffee. Hey, next time I’ll take you on a tour of all the Starbucks locations within a one-mile radius of my house. There are, like, at least five.

Sincerely Yours by our own Robin Helm

Sincerely Yours by Robin Helm

My Kindle Fire has all the books I need, including Robin Helm’s newest release. It’s like a library in my purse!

I do love Robin’s beautiful cover, even if it’s hard to see in this shot. Time slides sideways in this Pride and Prejudice variation, which explains the face on the clock.

I also like Fred Meyer because two of my three sons work here. One in management, the other in Home Electronics while pursuing graduate school.

While sitting here, I remembered I needed apples and avacados.

Handy location, right? While sitting here, I remembered that we needed apples and avocados.

Hey, thanks for coming along this afternoon! Next time, we’ll do the Starbucks tour! Or Voodoo Doughnuts. Or (thank you, Susan Kaye!) the Greyhound bus depot.

Goin’ to the chapel and we’re go-nna get ma-r-r-ied …

Design-Apparel-Costume-French-Theater-maleSMCelebrate with us her at Jane Started It! the 230th wedding anniversary of Sir Walter Elliot of Somerset and Elizabeth Stevenson of South Park in Gloucester!

Without this dubious marriage of beauty and brains, the world would not have been given, what in my opinion, is Jane Austen’s finest novel, Persuasion. (All you P&P fans can argue with me later.)

No Elizabeth, “Icy” Elliot. No Mary, “Pass-me-a-hanky,” Musgrove, and no Second Chances Annie, who but for the grace of God escapes spinsterhood by the skin of her teeth.

The image to the left is Sir Walter on his wedding day. What a great excuse for new clothes, a party, and maybe a trip to the shore. Can you imagine the honeymoon? No, I WON’T either.

Later, when you relax at the end of busy summer day, remember to thank Jane for her great characters, and the fact that she uses enough dates in her work that give me something to blog about.

Have a happy!



I Had to Laugh … If Only it Could Happen

At my house, we are going through a serious Top Gear crush. It has taken over from The Big Bang Theory as my husband’s nightly laugh fest.

There are lots of reasons that I may go into at a later date, but I have to tell you a story. My daughter was watching Season 14 the other day when she said, “You know, Richard Hammond (one of the hosts of Top Gear) is the child you would get if Davy Jones and David Tennant had a baby.

By golly, without getting into the weird SF possibilities of it all, SHE’S RIGHT:



Sincerely Yours Launch and Giveaway

This morning I woke up to the ultimate book traveling experience – publishing and sending a book out internationally.

Sincerely Yours Yours by Design, Book 2

Sincerely Yours
Yours by Design, Book 2

My newest release, Sincerely Yours, Yours by Design, Book 2, is now available in Kindle on Amazon and in e-pub (Nook version) and in lrf for Sony readers on Smashwords. The print copy should be available on Amazon some time today, though I know from experience that it will take a couple of days for Amazon to link the print and Kindle versions.

My sincerest thanks are extended to my editing team: Gayle Mills, M. K. Baxley, Wendi Sotis, and Stephanie Hamm from the Beyond Austen community. Terri Davis served as a cold reader. The above and beyond the call of duty awards go to Gayle Mills for doing the final read through and edits and Wendi Sotis, who formatted my files for Kindle and Smashwords. I worked all day Saturday, between church services yesterday and into the night so that it would be up and active today. Wendi was right there with me yesterday, furiously e-mailing files back and forth. This morning, I had e-mails from Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords alerting me that my files had been approved and the book is available.

In honor of this auspicious occasion, I am giving away an autographed print copy of Sincerely Yours to a U.S. winner and an e-book to an international winner. You may enter as often as you wish.

Each time you tweet this post; mention it on Facebook or any other social media; comment here or in any other social media; put the book on Pinterest or Instagram; “like” it anywhere; or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, or Goodreads, it counts as an entry. Just let me know that you’ve done that in comments here or PM me. I also need to know if you’re in the U.S. or you’re an international entrant. If you’re from the U.S. and you’d rather have an e-copy, that’s fine. Just let me know. I rarely buy print copies any more myself.

The giveaway will end on Monday, August 4th.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!