Mine to Tell – From NaNoWriMo to Amazon #1

It’s 11:59 p.m., October 31st, and the voice of a nameless, faceless character begins to make sounds…nothing discernable, just emotion. Hope, ache, excitement, and loss evolve until at midnight, the dawn of November first, the character takes form and pours onto the page.

It’s NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The thirty days of November that give birth to thousands of characters as writers around the world commit to writing a 50,000 word novel by 11:59 p.m., November thirtieth.

Thus came the story of two women, two generation apart, and their fractured relationships. The first found herself torn from the man she loved and forcibly married to another. The second, her great-granddaughter, suffered a different sort of distance from the man she loved…hers on the inside, where it mattered.

At midnight on November 1st these two women emerged—

“Mama,” I said the day of my twenty-first birthday, “would you please tell me about my great-grandma? I’m plenty old enough now, don’t you think?”

Annabelle Crouse opened their tale. She’d always sensed whatever shame her family had boarded up inside her great-grandmother’s empty house needed out. There had to be two sides to the story her great-grandfather told when he moved his wife there. Had anyone asked her great-grandmother where she’d gone and why, those two weeks she’d disappeared? Those boards and the accusation of infidelity had kept every Crouse woman boarded up ever since.

To write fifty thousand words in thirty days calls for nearly 1700 per day. That granted Annabelle room to talk, but no one wanted to listen. Her 1700 words had to be shared with a mother aghast Annabelle would suggest those two weeks might have meant nothing. Her bruiser of a brother, Paul Junior, snatched his share of the 1700 by reminding Annabelle she was from poor stock and suggested she settle down and be a good wife. Her fiancé, Trevor, had little to say until her driving need to peel those boards off her great-grandmother’s house delayed their wedding. He took his chunk of her 1700 and flung them back at her.

However, Annabelle was right. There was another side to the story. Once in her great-grandmother’s house, the isolation in her own heart began to beat in rhythm with the one’s who’d been sequestered there. Shutting the door on ridiculing voices, Annabelle shared her allotted words with only two—a neighbor man who came alongside her in her search, and her great-grandmother whose story began to unfold—

“The first time I saw him, or at least the first time I recall him, we were but children. He was Henrietta’s older brother, a playmate, one who was kind and patient with us but who still kept to his governing role as the elder and wiser. This time when I saw him he was more.” 

Around 15,000 words Annabelle’s great-grandmother appeared, along with the man she loved. And he wasn’t her husband.

Insults and accusations came at Annabelle and the neighbor man the same way they’d come at her great-grandmother. This NaNoWriMo novel became a blend of her great-grandmother’s broken heart after being taken from her love and forced to marry another, and Annabelle’s as her need to understand the only woman who would understand her, sent her fiancé in search of another.

By 25,000 words Annabelle tries to redefine life without Trevor, and her great-grandmother tries to define herself in a marriage without love. By 35,000 words betrayal was all anyone said. It was what Trevor accused Annabelle of, what her great-grandfather accused his wife of, what Annabelle’s family accused her of, and what Annabelle felt when her only rock, her neighbor man, became interested in her best friend.

At 50,000 words and near the end of November, Annabelle still needed answers. If she lost her family and fiancé, and her great-grandmother lost her one love, she had to know whether there could be a happy ending. It took another 30,000 words and bittersweet heartache. Then Annabelle saw the ruin of unforgiveness, and the value of letting go.


Annabelle Crouse is determined to reopen her great-grandmother’s boarded up house—and her shunned life. Many years earlier, after an unexplained absence, Julianne was relegated to a separate home by a rigidly unforgiving husband, and the Crouse women have suffered the disgrace of her assumed guilt ever since.

Despite her family’s strong disapproval, Annabelle is driven to pursue her mission through cobwebs and dust, finding the clues and the coded story left behind by her great-grandmother—Why did she go? And why did she return? Annabelle has to know.

Only one person, a man she grew up with but never noticed, stands with Annabelle as she discovers the parallels between her story and her great-grandmother’s—two women, generations apart, experiencing what love truly is.


“Mine to tell,” Kyle said suddenly. It was a jolt. I was yanked from my mental tumble into a pit of unredemption. Alex looked up too, a quizzical expression on his face. “Julianne left a story behind,” Kyle continued. “Some of it speculation and rumors by people who don’t know, and the rest of it by her own hand. It was a love story. One that was countered with suffering.”

We were all quiet. I looked at him, my heart melting as I heard his masculine voice speak of love and suffering. I wanted to lean across the table and hug him, but I was too afraid.

Alex leaned back in his chair. “What my father went through didn’t feel like love when we were little.”

“But maybe it was,” Kyle persisted, his tone smooth and even. “Does love always turn out the way we want it to?” Then he looked at me. “Julianne Crouse was a fine woman. We haven’t finished her story, but she suffered, and she was fine indeed.”

Tears came to my eyes. “Thank you,” I squeaked. Kyle stood and walked around the table to me. He helped me stand as he thanked them for their time. He retrieved Julianne’s picture, took my hand, and together we went to the door, Alex and his wife following us.

“I hope you’re right,” Alex said, running his hand through his thin, brittle hair as we stepped outside. “My father had some things to come to terms with, but he was a good man. A better man later in life, when he told us he was sorry. I never knew for what.”

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Author Bio:

Colleen L Donnelly writes to unravel moral dilemmas of the heart. A US Midwesterner, she enjoys simple living while seeking out the complicated to bring to a story. A scientist by profession, she has enjoyed escaping to the less black and white of fictional literature, an avid reader and now a devoted writer.

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  1. Thank you, Amber, for letting my oldie-but-goodie air on your site today!

    1. You’re welcome. I’m glad to share it!

  2. Sounds like a wonderful story. Best wishes on the book!

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