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.
Wild Rose… Love Notes… Night and Day… Stormy Weather… Water Lily… Merry Go Round
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?
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 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.
I woke up this morning filled with sweet memories of a Merry Christmas spent with my family, prepared to do a “Twas the day after Christmas” blog, but then I looked outside.
Here in North Iowa and Southern Minnesota, we’ve had a lot of snow and below zero temperatures already this winter. The forecast HIGH for Tuesday is -2 below zero. Don’t even get me going on wind chills – they were – 25 and -30 a few days ago and forecast to dip as low or even lower next week.
Can you blame me for wanting to take a little trip to summertime?
I’m deep into Shy Violet, the third of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, and almost ready to do edits on Blue Belle, the second, and relishing summertime on the Isles of Skye and Mull. When I can’t remember the sights and smells of summer, I look at my photos and dream of warm days and starry, summertime nights and write on. It’s fun to escape to a landscape filled with wildflowers and green grass. Some people take a vacation to the south of France or Florida or the California coast. I get lost in a book set in the summertime.
My favorite wildflowers are those that I find growing in front of a picturesque sight like a castle or an old kirk, a lake or ocean, a stunning mountain, or even those that grow in the front yard of my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn. If I were a wildflower, that’s where I would plant myself. Life is short and I like to get outside and enjoy the views as often as I can.
Wildflowers take root wherever they can find a toehold. They’re tenacious and determined and slightly stubborn, just like me.
Wildflowers grow in a wild tangle of disarray. Although I try to make myself tidy up my house on a regular basis so it looks like a photo shoot from Beautiful Home magazine (in case my mother should drop by), it more often looks like a tornado just touched down. The truth is, I’m just not into regimented gardens planted in straight rows a specific number of inches apart. I’m more of a wildflower and always have been.
The heroines of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Wild Rose (Rose), Blue Belle (Isabelle), and Shy Violet (Violet) – are all prone to living their lives in unconventional ways. They don’t like to be fenced in. They know how to make the best of a bad situation – to bloom where they’re planted despite that fact that the weather and soil and growing conditions are less than ideal. They get trampled on and they bounce back. They’re true glories of nature.
Thanks for taking a brief trip to summertime with me. I hope you’ve enjoyed the green scenery, warm breezes, and raindrops on roses.
If you refuse to get in the mood, you can go read Love Notes – it starts as autumn is changing to winter and ends on Christmas Eve. It takes place in Embarrass, MN, the coldest place in America. If you’re in the mood for a good winter read, this is it. Google Embarrass, MN on Tuesday and see how warm it is up north! I’ll be cozied up, dreaming of roses and bluebells and violets, waiting for summer to return. Merry Christmas!
“Be thankful for the bad things in life. For they open your eyes to the good things you weren’t paying attention to before.” I saw this quote on Facebook a few days ago. The photo it was attached to was of Kermit the Frog leaning against a pillar. I don’t know if this is a quote from Kermit or if whomever posted it just thought it was a good match.
It did make me think. At our community Thanksgiving service last Sunday, my husband spoke about a song called, Forgive Us, Lord, For Shallow Thankfulness, which came from a Missouri Synod Lutheran hymnal. It resonated with me because, probably like many of us, I tend to get excited about things like getting fiber optic internet access, my latest hat or earrings, a big night at work where everything goes smoothly and I actually make money instead of losing it, getting to play the piano with my musical friends, and things like having a whole day to myself when I can hang out in my nightgown and write all day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but…
I take the really good, important things in my life for granted. Shelter, enough food to fill my stomach, a family that loves me, a husband who is a dear, friends who care about me, my nice, blue PT cruiser and my nicely decorated homes and … how quickly I forget to enjoy and give thanks for these very precious things.
And when bad things happen or things don’t go the way I’d hoped they would, like most of us, I tend to grumble instead of giving thanks.
If I go one step further and look at the really big picture – I am embarrassed that I don’t feel more gratitude for the most important things – the fact that God loves me and gave His son to die for me, and that He is always by my side, through good times and bad. The fact that I am loved by the Lord Creator, Risen Savior of all is certainly something to be thankful for, yet, so very often, I live my life as though the stone, unrolled, still lay across the door.
When bad things happen, we’re often jolted into realizing what’s really important, and feeling appreciation for what really matters. My husband tells the story of a study about a man who won the lottery and a man who endured a horrible car accident and many months / years of healing and rehabilitation. The study looked at who was happier after ten years, and surprisingly, it was the man who survived the horrific car accident.
I wish you nothing but happiness on this Thanksgiving Day, but the next time your day, week or month is frustrating instead of ideal, and your microwave dies and your glasses break and your blog disappears and won’t post, I hope that we are (I am) able to humbly give thanks with a grateful heart and remember I Thessalonians 5:18 – in ALL circumstances, give thanks.
I have a confession to make. I’ve never been to Dorney. I’ve been as close as Eilean Donan Castle, but I was in a hurry to get to Fort William, and I never thought to go up into the village. Now, I’m writing a book called Shy Violet, the main characters are living in Dorney, and I’m left wishing I had walked a bit further and scoped out the town with my own two eyes.
That’s the way it is with doors. We choose to walk through them, or we skip on by, oblivious to what might be inside.
I’ve always been fascinated by doors, so when we started exploring Scotland, it came as no surprise that all kinds of unique and intriguing doors caught my eye.
Sometimes, when we get to a door, we’re hesitant to open it. Because doors can lead to places you’d rather not go.
Sometimes, when you see a door, you’re consumed with curiosity about what’s on the other side, and you can’t be happy until you know.
Doors can be a bit daunting – after all, one can never be quite sure what you’ll find when you open them.
Doors can be portals to a make-believe world.
The sights you see through an open door can make your imagination soar.
Doors can lead you deeper and deeper into a mystery that will take you who knows where.
Doors can lead to an alternate reality – perhaps one from which you will never escape.
Doors can open up to adventures you’ve never even dreamed of.
Doors – and the places they lead to – can inspire overtures and epic poems and all kinds of artistry.
Doors can be common, comforting, familiar and welcoming.
Doors can be austere and foreboding.
Doors can be pretentious affairs.
Doors can be plain and functional.
When a door opens, light floods into the dark corners of you mind and enlightens every last nook and cranny.
When you unlock a door, you never know what secrets you’ll uncover.
When a door shuts behind you, sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever go home.
Sometimes doors are a nice fit. Not too big, not to small.
Although it’s always wise to mind your head.
Sometimes doors dwarf you, and you wonder, who were these doors made for, giants?
But we all know that when a door is closed, you can get left standing outside in the cold.
Next time you go in or out a door, I hope it leads to somewhere you want to be – maybe even Scotland – and that someone you love is waiting on the other side.
Earlier this month, my husband and I drove to Michigan and back on old highways, backroads, and even a few gravel roads for all but a few miles when we skirted Chicago on I-90. We even took a ferry across Lake Michigan in our quest for the roads less traveled. (Don’t even mention our GPS – she’s very frustrated with us for disregarding her advice.) The many unique images that were our reward included seeing an Amish farmer steering a homemade digger behind a team of 6 horses while his bonnet clad wife and little girls and suspendered little boys watched from behind the barn… the sun setting behind the cemetery of a little country church in Wisconsin… and marshy stretches of Lakes Michigan, Erie and Huron, and more – all things we never would have glimpsed on the Interstate.
Likewise, there are certain things a tourist expects to see while traveling in Scotland – bagpipers, Loch Ness,
old castles and older abbeys,
and if you’re lucky, heather blooming in the highlands and men in kilts.
But if you’re brave-hearted enough to rent an auto and drive down Scotland’s narrow little byways (we call them golf cart paths or bicycle trails) on the left side of the road (assuming they’re wide enough to accommodate two cars), you’re going to discover all kinds of hidden gems that the average visitor won’t see.
Last week, I posted a blog at Blue Belle Books – http://www.SherrieHansen.wordpress.com – about Things I Learned While Traveling in Scotland. It was very well-received. Here are a few more glimpses of why I love Scotland and why I started my Wildflowers of Scotland novels.
1. If you’re not sure where you’re supposed to go next, walk to the top of the nearest hill and have a good look around. Most likely, you’ll see something that will point you in the right direction.
2. If the top of the hill is in a cloud, walk down to the valley and follow the river. You’ll know what to do.
3. If you’re feeling downtrodden, bow your head and let the sun shine down on you for awhile. Things will get better.
4. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative when painting your house. A little color can really brighten your day.
5. You never know what you’re going to find in your path. That’s life. Deal with it. It’s probably nothing to worry about.
6. Learn what you can from those who have gone before us and try not to make the same mistakes.
7. Take a close look and make sure you’re not missing something that could be key.
8. If you’re in unfamiliar waters, look for a bright light to guide you.
9. Grow a thick hide and you’ll be able to withstand the strongest storms.
10. Never be too proud to call a friend and ask for help.
11. If you’re lost, look for clues. They’re everywhere.
12. If you have a problem, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Creative solutions are the best!
Reading one of my books may be a little like traveling along the road less traveled, too. Your expectations might not be met exactly, but there are going to all kinds of little surprises and insights that you’ll likely discover along the way that you never would have stumbled upon if you hadn’t dared to venture from the mainstream to give one a try.
In the meantime, keep looking up!