I’m going to be signing copies of Thistle Down, Wild Rose, and – hot off the press – Blue Belle, on May 4th at La Vida Loca Winery in Indianola, IA. Please join me and the other Iowa authors listed below for a taste of wine and some delectable stories, too. May 4th in Indianola, Iowa. Please stop by and say hello if you’re in the area!
I know many authors who keep their characters’ bedroom doors tightly closed, some because it’s dictated by their publishers, or because they’re writing Christian fiction or want their books to be appropriate for all ages. Some writers simply don’t feel comfortable going there for a multitude of personal reasons. Others abstain because it – or in this case, a lack of it – fits the story. Perhaps their characters just aren’t in a place where they’re thinking about or engaging in sex. Other authors are known for their erotic sex scenes – or as one friend from a writer’s group I belong to recently said, writing books that are “a never-ending sexual romp”.
Likewise, some readers have strong preferences when it comes to closing the bedroom door or keeping it open. While I sincerely respect those who don’t want to fill their heads with gratuitous sex or violence, I get irritated with people who assume that just because a novel is labeled romance, it’s a bodice ripper or akin to Fifty Shades of Grey. In other cases, the only reason people even read books is for the sex. That’s fine with me, too. We all have different passions and personalities. We read for different reasons – to relax, to be inspired, to better ourselves, to be entertained or to re-infuse our lives with hope – all perfectly valid.
Just like people are different, so are characters. Some of the characters I’ve written desperately want to have sex, but can’t or won’t for whatever reason. Others think about it all the time, but never have the opportunity. Some leap in with both feet, others shy away. Some are too busy with more important things, others just don’t get what the big deal is. Some do, and then wish they hadn’t. Others pay grim consequences for a few moments of pleasure that were probably far more disappointing than satisfying.
So, if I had to put a label or heat index on my books, it would have to be “all over the place”. Some of my books, like Night and Day or Water Lily, have sweet, tender love scenes, definitely on the mild side by today’s standards. Love Notes, which was originally targeted to a Christian fiction market, has no sex scenes, but does contain a few thoughts of sex. I’m told Stormy Weather is my steamiest novel to date. Wild Rose has adult themes, but only one very mild, “feel-good” sex scene between a newly married couple.
So here it is – be warned – Blue Belle, which is soon to be released, has one sex scene. One advance reader called it the hottest sex scene ever. I can’t tell you exactly why it’s there, or why your heart will break when you find out what happens the next morning, without giving too much away, except to say that Blue Belle is about trust and betrayal, and being naked and vulnerable, and how scary that is, because we all have to tear down the walls we build around our hearts if we want to find love, but it’s so hard to know who’s telling the truth and who’s lying, and when it’s safe to let down your guard and bare your soul – maybe even your body. Or not.
As always, there may be those who judge me because I’m a Christian and a pastor’s wife, and “how could I?” And yes, a few of my ancestors would probably roll over in their graves if they ever read such a thing. And in spite of all that, or because of it, I wholly endorse the scene for reasons I think you will understand when you read the book. I’m proud of every page of this book and can’t wait for you all to read Blue Belle. (My husband has also read it, and he’s proud of me, too.)
So, there it is. Beware — or, order your advance copy now. I think you’ll love Blue Belle. If you choose not to read it, you’ll miss what’s very probably my best book yet. I’m still fond of the the reviewer who called my books, “the thinking woman’s romance”. Because, in addition to the occasional, still mild, comparatively speaking, sex scenes that sometimes crop up in my novels, books by Sherrie Hansen are knit together with intelligent characters in adverse circumstances struggling with real-life issues. They’re lovingly shaped with conflict and joy and heartache, compassion and suspense, intimate moments and lots of trouble – but always, a happy ending. And occasionally, sex happens. And when it does, because it has a huge impact on the lives of the characters, and because it forever changes who they are and how they view the world and themselves, I wouldn’t dream of not taking you along on the journey.
Sherrie Hansen has written 6 books and 1 novella, soon to be 7, all published by Second Wind Publishing. You can purchase Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, Merry Go Round, Love Notes, Thistle Down (FREE at Smashwords or 99 cents elsewhere – how can you go wrong?), Wild Rose, and very soon, Blue Belle, as paperback or e-book formats at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, selected independently owned stores, The Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, or directly from Second Wind.
My husband and I visited 4 Great Lakes last summer – Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie. I just made a photo book of the best of our photographs. You’re welcome to have a look if you like.
I suppose I shouldn’t be waxing on about Scotland on a day that belongs to the Irish, but it is what it is. I’ve lucky enough to have visited Scotland. Ireland is on my bucket list, and when it happens, I’ll write about it. I hope it’s soon!
Blue Belle was the first novel I set in Scotland, although in the release date queue, it follows Thistle Down (a novella) and Wild Rose. An editor first planted the seed in my mind to write a book set in Scotland. I was at a conference sponsored by the Romance Writer’s of America pitching books set in southern Minnesota and Iowa, and the editor I met with told me that people flock to buy books set in Scotland. By that time in my life, I’d visited England twice and fallen in love with all things British Isles, so it didn’t take much nudging to point me in that direction.
I started to research Scotland online and stumbled onto the Isle of Mull, and the village of Tobermory because they’re known for their weddings. And, they have a rainbow-colored waterfront whose buildings are reflected in the water. And, they have a chocolate factory, and castles galore, mountains, white sandy beaches. And, there is a centuries old legend about a Spanish galleon, filled with gold, that sunk in the bay back in 1588 that was never recovered (although several attempts have been made.) In my mind, that covered all the necessary ingredients for a great story.
The rough draft of Blue Belle was nearly finished by 2007, when I got to visit Tobermory and the Isle of Mull in person. By that time, I felt like I knew the Island intimately, since I’d been “living” there in my mind for months. It was more than a dream come true, and I had a strong sense of deja vu as I wandered around the harbor and saw Duart, Torosay and Glengorm castles for the first time.
It was on that same trip that my husband and I stumbled across St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe. This old church was another case of love at first sight. My mind started reeling the second I rounded the hedge of rosy rhododendrons and saw the stone spires and awesome views. It’s definitely not the biggest or most grand cathedral in Scotland – more of a country church, really. But the crumbling steps and flying buttresses and angelic stained glass windows, and the copper, rabbit-shaped drain spout drew me in immediately, captured my imagination and inspired Wild Rose and Thistle Down.
Shy Violet? I got the most beautiful photo of a totally gorgeous bagpipe player standing in front of the Eilean Donan castle, playing a haunting melody. I decided then and there that it was going to be on the cover of one of my novels.
The Wildflowers of Scotland concept? I bought a deck of cards at a gift shop titled the Wildflowers of Scotland. Among the cards were Wild Rose, Bluebell, Shy Violet, and Sweet William.
I have no idea if there will ever be a book called Sweet William, but last summer, I started seeing the flowers everywhere after not noticing that variety of flowers in any garden I’m aware of for decades. That must mean something. The wheels are turning.
Whether you love Scotland already or will one day, whether you’ve already visited Scotland in person or just imagined it in your mind’s eye, I hope you’ll come along for the journey. Thistle Down and Wild Rose are available from Second Wind Publishing or your favorite online bookstore now. Blue Belle should be out this May. Shy Violet is half done, so you shouldn’t have to wait long. Although there are recurring characters throughout the novels, the plot lines and stories are unrelated – each one a new adventure.
How hard is it for you to trust someone you’ve just met? And should you? Can new friendship and new loves happen without trust? Blue Belle, coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.
Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that my husband and I recently lost the tree in front of the parsonage where we live in Hudson, Iowa.
So what is it about losing this tree that traumatized me? In the strictest sense, this tree wasn’t even mine, since our church owns our house and our yard. I’ve only lived here for two years. It’s not as though I grew up with this tree. I have no idea who planted it and I didn’t even know it existed until recently.
But we had a special bond, this tree and I. I started admiring its beauty and photographing it even before I knew its days were numbered.
Once its great arms began to sag and its trunk wasn’t able to endure the stress of blizzards and winds and storms, I tried my best to memorialize it.
Our Church council president has already promised to plant a new tree come spring.
The wind is howling again tonight, and I am secretly glad that there are no more creaking and cracking, rubbing and splintering noises outside my window.
The men who took the tree said it wouldn’t have stood much longer. I was afraid it was going to fall on the house. It is good that it is gone.
It’s branches will provide warmth for several families next winter. It’s wood will not go to waste. Small comfort, but something.
Our house looks lonely and bare without the tree, and sunsets are just not the same. But I know it was the right thing to do.
Sometimes things just can’t be fixed. And that is the real problem with me and this tree.
I like things to be perfect, for every thing and every one to have a happy ending.
There has come a time in my life, where I am starting to realize that there are more sad endings than happy. There are a whole list of things that I can’t do as well as I used to, and will never be able to again. I’m getting old. I’m on a downhill slide. I haven’t cracked yet, but I may – probably will – one day soon.
Silly old tree – yet its loss affected me. Replaceable. Botanical. Just a tree.
It stood its ground, gave leafy green shade. It witnessed more than a century of sunsets and salvation.
Now, its time is done. It’s time to step aside and let another tree do its job.
Now lest you think I’m totally depressed, there is one thing that I think I keep getting better and better at, and that is writing. It’s fun, as I age, to have a skill – a passion – that’s still growing. The things that I’ve seen as I’ve stood, watching half a century of sunsets, are a network of branches that keep spreading wider and wider. And the more I know, and experience – the greater my understanding, the better. So that’s the end of my tree. But not of me.
Isabelle doesn’t want to be found. Michael doesn’t want to be found out. But when Damon starts searching for the centuries-old gold he thinks is buried in the bay, everyone is in danger. A reporter from Virginia and a psychologist from Wisconsin – both in Tobermory, Scotland, both with secrets – hers, shocking, his kept to protect the people he loves. When Isabelle stumbles upon the biggest story of her life, and Michael discovers the truth, will the painful memories that are dredged up destroy their chance for love, or will they strike gold? Blue Belle by Sherrie Hansen. Coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.
The Isle of Mull, Scotland, is the setting of my next book, Blue Belle (the second of my Wildflowers of Scotland trilogy). Blue Belle will soon be off to my publisher, and shortly after that, ready to read. I just wrote a scene that includes Duart Castle. I hope this helps set the mood! If you haven’t read Thistle Down or Wild Rose yet, now is the perfect time!
Here’s the Back Cover Blurb: Isabelle doesn’t want to be found. Michael doesn’t want to be found out. But when Damon starts searching for the centuries-old gold he thinks is buried in the bay, everyone is in danger. A reporter from Virginia and a psychologist from Wisconsin – both in Tobermory, Scotland, both with secrets – hers, shocking, his kept to protect the people he loves. When Isabelle stumbles upon the biggest story of her life, and Michael discovers the truth, will the painful memories that are dredged up destroy their chance for love, or will they strike gold?
Lately, everyone’s been asking when my next book is coming out. Blue Belle, the second of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, should be ready in 60 – 90 days. All it needs is a serious going over and a new ending and it should be ready to send off to my publisher. In the meantime, I took advantage of NaNoWriMo to get 40,000 words into Shy Violet, the third in the series, so there should only be a short wait between the two books.
Some of you know that my primary distraction from writing is a bed and breakfast called the Blue Belle Inn B&B. For the past few months, my two passions have come together in a unique way. In August, I decided to write a series of what I like to call fractured fairy tale style murder mysteries highlighting the storybook themes of each of our guest rooms at the B&B is named after.
I started out with our “On the Banks of Plum Creek” room and wrote (with apologies to Laura Ingalls Wilder), “Little Oops On The Prairie”. It begins when Nellie Olafson’s somewhat eccentric, mean-spirited cousin, Nutty Olafson, is found face down at the supper table. My tagline read: Something smells fishy on the banks of Plum Creek – is there a wolf in sheep’s clothing lurking in the Big Woods or a little killer loose on the Prairie? Suspects Nellie Olafson, Visiting Professor Jerald Jill of Iowa, Quick Draw McNutt, local football hero Big Brawny, and the much loved but tragically flat-footed Insoles family are all in for a Long Winter in the pokey unless the true murderer can be uncovered. I also planned a theme dinner which included Ma’s Bean Soup with Bacon, Chicken Pie with Baking Powder Biscuit Crust, New England Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots, and Roast Pork with Milk Gravy and Mashed Potatoes.
We’ve been doing murder mysteries at the Blue Belle Inn for over 20 years now, at the rate of 4 to 9 times a year. Although I have several sources for purchasing the “whodunit” mystery games that become the basis for our dinner theater productions, it’s become increasingly harder to find fresh material that’s well-written. The actors would often complain about how flimsy the plots were, or that there just wasn’t enough material to work with. Often times, I would spend hours fleshing out the plays I bought online with an opening dialog, opening and closing statements, and so on, while the actors frequently had to unscramble plot elements that just didn’t make sense.
When I first started writing books, they were pure romance. I thought I’d never write novels that contained murder and mayhem, but in my last two books (Love Notes and Wild Rose) and the ones I’m presently working on (Blue Belle and Shy Violet), there are bad guys who are truly twisted, evil and bent on hurting people, a kidnapping, gunshots, and even a murder. As I worked on the motivation and chaotic situations caused by the suspense element in my novels, it occurred to me that I could just as well try my hand at a murder mystery. (Not to worry, there are still plenty of sweet, romantic moments in my novels, too.)
I also thought, if I wrote my own mysteries, that it would be fun to incorporate some local color. Some of our local spoofs include the World Famous Miracle Whip Clinic in Rochester, MN, where miracle cures abound, and our locally manufactured breakfast cereals with a pirate named Captain Crunch. Because murder mysteries are tongue in cheek, humorous and very irreverent, you can really toss in whomever and whatever you feel like. It’s also great fun writing parts that specifically match our actor’s best (and worst?) features. If we can’t laugh at ourselves once in awhile, what fun are we?
In September, we performed our second original mystery, “Footloose in Never Ever Land”. The intro read: Who will be next to walk the plank in Never Ever Land? One thing is sure – it won’t be poor Woody Stuck, an old hippie who was stuck in the 60′s, because he was found belly up in the Lagoon a few hours ago. Now the clock is ticking and we hope you’ll help Peter Pun and the Lost Boyz find out who is guilty – is it Captain Crunch, the pirate with the biggest chompers ever, Rev. Hal Fyre and his crony, The Church Lady, free-spirit Windy, Fancy Free Willow Tree, Crocodile Rock, who has a scaly skin condition, or Stinker Belle, the church secretary? The theme meal included Gems of the Sea Puffs Mornay with Shrimp & Crab on Scallop Shells, “But Spinach is Good for You, Peter” Chicken with Spinach Artichoke Dip & Italian Cheeses, and The Church Lady’s Sunday Roast Beef with Mashed Potatoes.
In October, we did “Shenanigans in Sherwood Forest with Robin Love & His Band of Unmarried Men”. The write-up says: Relationships are complicated in UnTie the Knotingham, a small but wealthy kingdom where the divorce rate is extremely high. Thus, it came as no surprise when Richie Rich, a philandering playboy, was found dead on his wedding day. The question is, who killed him? Wife #7 – the former Maid Mary Ann, Ginger Root, wealthy nobleman Henry the Eighth, Friar Luck, Viking warrior Little Johnson, or Robin Love – a poor, mild-mannered attorney who has devoted his life to championing the underdog in divorce cases far and wide? It’s up to you to unravel the mystery before anyone else loses their head and does something crazy, like getting married. SHERWOOD FOREST CUISINE featured Cottage Pie with a Thatched Roof, and Fruits of the Forest Chicken with Mushrooms, Apples, Berries and a Splash of Brandy.
That left “Anne of Green Gables”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “The Secret Garden”, Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”, and “Heaven to Betsy”, from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Victorian era Betsy Tacy books, for future mystery dinner themes. At the rate of one every 3 – 4 weeks, by the time we finished one mystery, my brain has already been working on the next, envisioning characters who tesseract, wear pompadour hair styles and floppy hats and climb big hills with the Crowd, or hob knob with princes and princesses and wicked witches and maybe a giant bunny rabbit or two.
In November, for our Anne of Green Gables Fans, we premiered a mash up Lucy Montgomery’s Anne books and Gone with the Wind. “Anne Green and Dianna Dingleberry’s Most Excellent Adventure”. The lead-in read: When cold-hearted Rachel Bag O’ Wynde, the neighbor from down the lane, is found dead, every one thinks she choked on an artichoke heart. But one person knows how she really died, and it was no accident. Help Anne Green and Dianna Dingleberry find out who is guilty. Is it sour old Marilla Lemon, Matthew Chokecherry, obsessed with being best Gilbert Plum, Southern belle Scarlett Pimpernel, the pasty faced schoolteacher Ashley Grey, or Rhett, the Butler? Dudley Do-Right of the Canadian Mounted Police even made a guest appearance.The custom menu included PEI Potato Soup, Ingleside Inn’s Fried Steak with Cheesy Onion Gravy and Red Potatoes, and Anne and Dianna’s Most Resplendent Raspberry Cordial Chicken served with Cavendish Creamed Potatoes and Peas. The featured dessert was Bread Pudding with Caramel Whiskey Sauce – sans the mouse.
In December, we tackled Sleeping Beauty with “Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?” My teaser read: When game show host Alec Quebec is found dead, everyone on the latest episode of “To Twist the Truth!” is a suspect. Who is guilty? Is it one of the esteemed panel of judges – Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, wicked stepmother Eveele O’Gress, or Glimmer, the Good Fairy? Or is it one of the contestants – dashing Prince Charming, Hermie, the Outcast Elf wannabe dentist, or Dopey the Dwarf, who was last seen clutching a ruby red slipper and looking for Cinderella? Or is it Kermit, a spirited frog that keeps hopping around the stage? The made-to-fit menu included Bavarian Hunter Schnitzel on Homemade Spaetzle Noodles, Cinderella’s Pumpkin with Pork and Parmesan Filling, and Snow White’s Special Apple Pie.
Our January premier was “Who? Whatsit? Which Wicked Witch is Dead?” a mash up that featured childhood favorites “A Wrinkle in Time” and the “Wizard of Oz”. My teaser read: When a Wrinkle in Time causes Camazotz and the Emerald City to collide, the witch is accidentally squished. Or was it Mrs. Which? And was it really an accident? Follow the yellow brick road with Meg Dorothea Ditz, Charles Wallace Wiz, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, the creepy computer guy nobody likes – Jay I.T. Bug, Glinda the Good, scary mafia man Scarface Crow from Central Intelligence, and nice guy Calvin Tim Mann, who wears his heart on his sleeve, to find out which one really did it. I had fun with this meun – Emerald City Soup with Green Broccoli & Garlic Herb Toasts, Over the Rainbow Fruit Wand, Starry, Starry Night Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Aunt Beast’s Best Ever Vegetable Cheese Puff, Out of this World Salmon with Seafood Stuffing, and Mrs. Murry’s Bunsen Burner Beef Stew with Biscuits on Top.
On February 7 and 8, we’re looking forward to presenting another original murder mystery entitled “Betsy and Tacy Go Downton” – a mash up of my favorite books, the Betsy Tacy books by Minnesota author Maud Hart Lovelace, and the popular British TV series, Downton Abbey. Here’s what guests have to look forward to: When Betsy Ray’s British cousin, Matthew Crawley, fakes his death in a car accident and comes to Deep Valley, MN because he needs a break from Downton Abbey, a round of parties is planned to introduce him to the Crowd. When Lord Grantham and the Dowager Countess cross the pond to put an end to his lark, the unthinkable happens and Matthew is murdered. (Yes, this time, he’s really dead.) Did someone tamper with his dance card, hot wire his motor car, or spike his punch? Or could he simply not tolerate the caterwauling during the Cat Duet? Betsy, Tacy, Tib, Bad Boy Tony, Busty Bonnie the Minister’s Daughter (who we’ve never quite trusted), Joe Schmo, and Thomas, the Valet are all suspects. The menu includes “Onion Sandwich” Soup a la Mr. Ray, Betsy’s Heart of My Heart Chicken with Garlic Rosemary Cream Sauce and Artichoke Hearts, Tib’s Beef Rouladen with Bacon & Onion Gravy on Homemade Spaetzle Noodles, Tacy’s Irish Meat Pie with Pork and Potatoes, and Lady Violet’s Elegant Roast Beef with Chardonnay Cream Sauce, Gorgonzola Cheese and Red Potatoes – and of course, a bite of the Crowd’s Famous Fudge for dessert.
A tale based on the book “The Secret Garden” is next, in March or April, and will probably feature a mad Farmer MaGregor and that rascal, Peter Cottontail. After that – who knows? It’s been an absolute thrill to see the creative costumes the actors have come up with for each of my mysteries and watch the way they’ve brought my characters and words to life. My only regret is that I’m usually working in the kitchen and don’t get to see much of the performances. Our actors are some of the best and so creative! John Deyo’s portrayal of a hopping, green frog / Prince Charming and Lisa Deyo’s rendition of Sleeping Beauty were amazing and very memorable. Mel Schroeder has done everything from A to Z including a one-legged pirate. My favorite of Deb Stickney’s roles to date is The Church Lady but she also does a great German accent. My husband, Mark Decker, makes foaming at the mouth and dying look so realistic that it’s scary. Neil and Terri Hernan, Mark and Ken Borchardt, Phyllis Ruehlow, Brenda and Michael Esdohr, Julia Crail, Tiffany Adams, and so many more who have filled in for us on occasion are some of the most versatile, slightly crazy, very silly actors ever.
I’m thrilled to say that our new, original mysteries have been getting rave reviews from our customers, including my mother, who said, “Are all those crazy things really in your head?”, to which I replied, “They kinda are.”
If you live in northern Iowa or southern Minnesota and haven’t been to one f the Blue Belle’s mystery dinners yet, it’s high time! Like I always say, at what other event does the guilty perpetrator of a dastardly deed get a round of applause? And as always, if you guess correctly or solve the mystery, you could get your dinner free.
One of these days, I’ll get around to finishing Blue Belle and Shy Violet, but in the meantime, if you’ve wondered what I’m up to – this is it! I hope you’ll also watch for another instance when my innkeeping and writing worlds are scheduled to collide… Second Wind Publishing will be hosting a Pitch the Publisher event at the Blue Belle Inn B&B sometime this summer or fall. Stay tuned for further details!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.