Inspired Woman Magazine

Crossing It Off Her Bucket List

newcoverby Paulette Bullinger

The story of “the story” all begins in 2011 with a fundraiser for the American Red Cross. I was given the opportunity to attend the Red Cross Ruby Force fundraiser by a “drawing” at my place of employment, Odney. My generous employer, Pat Finken, purchased several tickets for the fundraiser which went into a “hat” to see who would have the opportunity to attend. I was one of the fortunate ticketholders!

That evening, women were given the chance to put their tickets into cleverly decorated “buckets” to win a chance to do something on their bucket list, in addition to enjoying a lovely evening of food, music and camaraderie, all in the setting of the beautiful Bank of North Dakota.

There were many great opportunities of buckets to choose from, but there was one I zeroed in on. I had a story I always thought would be the basis for a great local mystery, and had, twice, tried to give the story to other authors, but to no avail. So, I placed my ticket in a bucket titled “Express Yourself”, and I won! The bucket contained an unbelievable opportunity. I was given one year to work with Jamieson Ridenhour, a professor at the University of Mary and author of ‘Barking Mad’ (Typecast, 2011).

I set up the first meeting with Ridenhour and explained my idea. He liked the story and told me to just start writing and he would review what I came up with. Subsequent meetings involved coaching on techniques such as point of view and dialogue between characters. His review of the material and expert advice kept me encouraged and writing for the year.

The tale I had in mind involved a newspaper clipping from a relative I received when I was a teenager. It was from the 1912 Bismarck Daily Tribune telling of a young woman who crossed the river to a dance in a small town, but mysteriously dies there. She is just eighteen years old. The article goes on to say although there was no proof of foul play; it was suspicious that her beau did not show up at her funeral.

This was my starting point. I began thinking about all the possible suspects in such a crime. I love history, especially North Dakota history and wanted to give the reader an idea of the “way it was” in the Bismarck-Mandan and rural area from 1910-1912. I spent many hours at the North Dakota Historical Society archives reading old newspapers on microfilm. I gathered stories about local problems, such as bootlegging, prostitution, questionable politics, hardships, socializing, religion etc. to give me an idea of what my characters may have been exposed to or involved in.

I also studied newspaper ads from that time to see what kind of vehicles, clothing, medicines, farm equipment and such was in use to add descriptive narrative. I talked my husband Bob into drives along the river at sunset so I could take pictures to add descriptive detail.

I was also fortunate to have many boxes of antique pictures, an old autograph book and other old newspaper clippings that were left by family who had long ago passed away.

When I had a good amount of information gathered, I started to hand-write the story out. That got tiresome really fast. I turned to my laptop and with a folder full of articles, I just began writing. I researched common first names of the early 1900’s, for my characters, or sometimes the names would just be right in front of me. Walking downtown Bismarck one day, there was a shop named Lillian’s and across the street, a shop called Roses Forever. Lillian and Rose became my main character’s names! I also walked through old cemeteries reading headstones for dates and names.

Wandering through old cemeteries is how I decided on the title for the book. In one cemetery, there was a stone with those very words.

The story itself sprang from the newspaper clipping, but is totally fictitious. I did use many memories and hearsay tales from growing up in a small town (Huff) to enhance the story.

I am usually asked, ‘what was the most difficult part of the writing process’? I answer that I wanted to be cautious of not offending someone, but still be authentic in given situations. Spending time studying customs, beliefs and putting them into interesting dialogue was probably the most challenging. I also wanted to write a book that I would feel comfortable with my mother reading, so as much as the inference is there, I have no explicit detailed sexual content.

As I wrote I received encouragement from co-workers in my office. It seemed that both men and women enjoyed the beginnings of the manuscript.

When the 2012 Ruby Force fundraiser date drew near, the book had been totally planned and near completion. A co-worker, Jeanne Nelson, had recently designed the cover using one of the old photographs from my collection. At that point, I thought I would simply self-publish locally. To promote the fundraiser, I was asked to do radio talk shows, and a television story. From the television story came a call to my home one evening. The lovely lady explained her son-in-law was a publisher, and she thought he may be interested in my book.

I got in touch with Ryan Christiansen from Knuckledown Press in Fargo and he asked to read my manuscript. He liked the story, had some ideas for editing, and the next thing I knew I had a publishing contract.

We worked together on the manuscript for approximately eight months. His expertise in final editing greatly enhanced the final draft. He also recommended I invite other authors to read the manuscript for “blurbs” to use in the book. I contacted Vernon Keel, author of ‘The Murdered Family’ and Rodney Nelson, cowboy poet, most recently, ‘A Rancher’s Thoughts on Dogs, Cows & Politicians’ (2012). Both were kind enough to read the manuscript. They genuinely enjoyed the mystery and both wrote fine reviews. Ridenhour agreed to write the Foreward.
I started a public Facebook page called “Nothing Hidden” to begin to “tease” potential readers with the old photos and history that I had gathered. By the time the novel went live on Amazon, there was a nice sized group of eager readers ready to download ‘Nothing Hidden’.

I have dedicated the book to the American Red Cross volunteers; my plan is to donate a portion of the book’s profits back to the American Red Cross. My goal was never to become “rich and famous” from this, I just wanted to see if I could check it off my bucket list! I smile when someone tells me how much they enjoyed the book

On December 10, 2012, Knuckledown Press released the book on The book is available on a Kindle or e-reader with a free Kindle app download. A print version is planned for later release in 2013. An excerpt follows…

Paulette had no prior writing experience when she wrote Nothing Hidden. She has been on staff at Odney for 13 years. She and her husband have a horse/cattle trailer business on the Strip and she is the mom/stepmom to seven children and five grandchildren Paulette also puts many hours into taking care of her elderly mother.

Excerpt from ‘Nothing Hidden’ by Paulette Bullinger

Wedding Day, Spring 1912

Lillian stepped out of the courthouse through heavy brass doors. She paused a moment to enjoy the warmth of the sun on her face. Today was the beginning of a whole new life.
She clung to Rueben’s arm as they walked briskly toward the waiting black auto. The newlywed couple dodged rice thrown by their friends, and Lillian suspiciously believed that so many were in attendance only out of curiosity and for the celebration dinner to follow.
It was April 10, 1912, the Wednesday after Easter, and the date also marked the day when Lillian was supposed to be in another wedding as the Matron of Honor. Lillian was determined to make this the happiest day of her life.
However, the ceremony was far from what she had planned in her dreams. Non-existent was a lovely white wedding dress made of lace or her prayer book covered by a spray of flowers and carried in lace-gloved hands. She wore no gauzy white veil held in place by a hat with flower petals surrounding it. Gazing down at her simple black taffeta jacket and skirt, Lillian frowned at her choice of wedding dress. It was more suitable for a funeral. But remembering she was happy, she turned her eyes toward her new husband, Rueben, who politely nodded in the direction of their guests. His mouth showed no hint of a smile, and the plain black jacket and trousers he wore were not what she had envisioned for her groom. Lillian knew he had better options to wear than what he chose. She had arranged his closet herself! And she knew that Rueben owned a wonderful formal suit with tails, pin-striped trousers, and a top hat. This vexed her, and she wanted to scowl, because she noticed Rueben hadn’t even bothered with a vest.
Lillian would have preferred to have married in the church, but due to recent events, she couldn’t chance waiting for a formal affair, and because of church doctrine, Fr. Logan would never marry her to a known Protestant. When all the recent scandal becomes past history, and after Rueben finishes formal religious training, they will hold a grand church wedding that will outdo any the town of St. Giles has seen in the past. She imagines her parents and Rueben’s in the first pew, and her father proudly giving her away.
Shaken back to reality, Lillian agonizes about marrying without their parents’ blessings or presence. The afternoon’s pitiful civil ceremony was necessary to concrete her marriage and future plans. Lillian quelled thoughts of what should have been, and focused on the future. As soon as Rueben and the new Mrs. Rueben Muester would return home, they would begin to plan their family. Lillian wanted children, lots of them, and the grand, new home they’d started to build before all the trouble began was near completion. Lillian looked forward to spending their wedding night there, and she had plans for the new home, with flowers and trees and a wonderful garden.
With these thoughts, and before she would seat herself into the auto, the new Mrs. Muester turned toward Rueben for a brief kiss. He turned his head at the moment their lips would have met, and he brushed her cheek with his, whispering in her ear. Lillian prayed the flush that his words brought to her cheeks would appear to their guests as a bride’s timid reaction to her lover’s amorous words, instead of seething anger, which boiled inside her.

Add comment

Inspired Woman Weekly – Sign up today!


Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.