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I’ve been thinking a lot about unconditional love lately. Little girls and boys dream of it, young women wish for it under the nearest star, and people who have had a failed relationship pray that they will be granted a second chance at finding it. It’s something we all want – to be accepted and adored for who we are and what we are – just the way we are, an inherent need / desire that never seems to go away no matter how old we get.
One of my favorite songs – a true oldie from the Disco era sung by Donna Summer – says it well.
Unconditional love is a theme that’s interwoven into almost every romance novel – whether the hero and heroine are kick-ass contemporary or an old-order Amish. Who doesn’t want to find that certain, one-in-a-million dream mate who’s a perfect fit for us?
We look for unconditional love in our non-romantic relationships, too. We want our teachers to “get us”. We hope our parents will accept our choices and admire our chosen path in life even if we don’t embrace 100% of their values or do things exactly they way they do. We crave compliments from our bosses and acceptance from our peers.
Unconditional love is the model of Christ’s love for us – Just As I Am, unworthy, guilty, with no defense – yet God’s love for us was so great that he sent His Son to die for us so that we could live and be loved, so that we could experience His abundant life.
I am blessed to have a husband who loves me even when I screw up or say things I shouldn’t. He may not like every single little thing about me, but he accepts and loves me nonetheless. He is supportive of who I am and helps me attain my dreams and goals. I have parents who are proud of me. I have friends and siblings who I can talk to and confide in, who are there for me when I’m in trouble.
I also have relationships that I’m not so secure in. As a boss / owner / manager of The Blue Belle Inn, a busy B&B and Tea House, I hope that my staff, employees, and customers all like me, and think that each of my edicts and decisions is wise, fair, and commendable. That doesn’t always happen. I’m currently meeting new people and making new friends at the church where my husband is the new pastor. Of course, I’d be thrilled if every single person who attends the church adores me and thinks I’m the perfect pastor’s wife. Realistically, that’s not likely to happen, because people (at work or church, in families, and otherwise) can be nit-picky, critical, and hypersensitive about certain things. Add that to the fact that I (and I’m assuming you) am far from perfect and voila… We all have our own quirks and idiosyncrasies, and yes, faults. The people who are around us are bound to discover them eventually.
I’ve been nervous for the last couple of weeks because some of the people I’ve recently met are just finding out that I’m an author, and others, that my books contain some steamy scenes. For the record, my next book, Love Notes, which will hopefully be released later this spring, is a Christian Inspirational romance (hopefully the same sizzle you love in my books, but no sex). But to be truthful, I haven’t had a great conversion experience, and I can’t promise I’ll never write another steamy romance. Because each of my characters is unique, and I believe as an author that it is my job to respect each and every one of them for who they are, and write their story to the best of my ability. Some of them think about sex all the time, some hardly ever; some are bold and go after what they want; some are shy and reticent. Some are laden with guilt and shame, some tied in knots because they’re grieving. There are no cookie cutter characters in my books. Hopefully each of them has a unique personality of their own, complete with their own foibles and brilliant streaks – just like me!
When I joined the American Fiction Christian Writers last year, I worried about being judged, about not being Christian enough, about being rejected because not all of my books are “Christian”. Conversely, I’ve often felt like I didn’t quite fit in over at the Romance Writer’s of America either. I’m a lot more conservative that many of them, and even when I’m writing straight contemporary romance, thoughts of God, family, home, and religion often creep into my work, something that is sometimes frowned upon.
Some authors take on a pen name and assume two separate identities when they write – one for one kind of story, whether is be erotica, mystery, suspense, or literary fiction, and another for romance, inspirational, or non-fiction. But I am stubborn. I want my friends and readers to give me their unconditional love. I am proud of all my stories, no matter what genre they fall into. You will find common themes of family, home and faith in each of my books. The ones with steamy scenes will be published under the name Sherrie Hansen (my maiden name). The ones with no sex will be published under the name Sherrie Hansen Decker, my married name.
No matter which of my books you choose to read, I hope that you will accept me for who I am – innkeeper / author / pastor’s wife / Everett Hansen’s daughter / Auntie Sherrie / sometimes sweet, sometimes silly, sometimes bossy, sometimes, shy, with a rare bit of a wild streak thrown in for good measure. I am uniquely me. I am not a cookie cutter anything. And to the friends and relatives and acquaintances who would like me to fit into their ideal mold, who think I should be a bit more or less of this or that, please remember that the characters in the Bible were all pretty unique as well — Moses, Ruth, Esther, Joshua, Elijah, Peter, Paul, John, David, Solomon — God used all kinds of unique people to accomplish His will – and still does. So please try to accept me for who I am even though you may like some things about me and not others.
Like everyone else, all I really want is your unconditional love. And, I really hope you like Love Notes! And Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.
Change, for me, is a daunting thing. And there are some big changes going on in my life right now.
My husband, who is a pastor, has accepted a call at a new church. We are moving to a new town, into a new house.
The people at Zion Lutheran in rural Hudson have been very welcoming and have been enthusiastically preparing the parsonage for our arrival. It’s impressive to me that although they don’t know us very well, they’ve opened their hearts to us, ready to take a chance in making us a part of their church family.
They’ve given the first floor a fresh coat of paint, in colors of our choosing, and they’re putting in a new shower in the first floor bathroom. There will soon be new linoleum in the entryway and main floor bathroom, and possibly, the kitchen.
There are beautiful oak floors in all the bedrooms on the second floor, and we were pretty sure there would be the same kind on the first floor, too. But the carpet was not that old, and in decent shape, and we were a little nervous about asking if we could rip up the carpet and get rid of it. We both love hardwood floors. But what if the floors were very scuffed, or patched, or painted? No one remembered quite what they had looked like before the house was carpeted. We decided not to push the issue, fearing what we would find. It went without saying that if we took the carpet up and found a mess, we couldn’t ask them to put down new carpet, or spend a lot of money refinishing the floors. But we kept thinking about those wood floors – we peeked under the carpet in a few corners. And finally, we got up the courage to ask to have the carpet removed.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” one of the carpenters asked several times. “Once the carpet is up, you can’t put it back down. “ We committed to buying area rugs at our expense, if needed, to cover up any irredeemable flaws. We were willing to take our chances, and so, thankfully, were they.
Life is full of little – and big – decisions, full of turning points, each with its own set of risks.
Unless we’re Nora Roberts and have a few million readers to spare, we ask readers to take a chance on us each time we try to sell them one of our books. In this economy, readers think twice before they spend money on an unknown author. So we come up with dazzling plots and edge-of-your seat suspense and romance that makes the coldest heart sigh with passion. We design enticing covers and write tantalizing back-cover blurbs, all designed to convince new readers to take a chance on us.
Writers go to conferences, finagle editor appointments, write compelling query letters and send stunning synopsis, with the express purpose of convincing the people in power to take a chance on our books — on us! Those looking for employment, like my husband has been for the past couple of months, interview and go to job fairs, network, and redo their resumes in hopes of the same.
In real life and in fiction, when boy meets girl, the first thing that has to happen if the romance is to progress is for one to convince the other to take a chance on them, to open up their heart to the possibility of a relationship.
Sometimes, we’re brave enough to take a chance and then, end up disappointed when our tentative advances are spurned. We rip up perfectly good carpeting in hopes of finding shiny, like-new, narrow board oak flooring, and instead, we find worn, patched-up pine full of gouges and mars. There are no guarantees in this life. Love ends tragically. Hearts are broken. Dreams are dashed. We’ve all been there, done that.
But if we never try – never venture out of the shadows and say, “Please take a chance on me,” we have no hope of a happy ending.
Three years ago, publisher Mike Simpson, of Second Wind Publishing, took a chance on me and published Night and Day. I hope that he is convinced that he made a good decision that day. In some respects, I was taking a chance, too, when I signed on with Second Wind. They were a fledgling company, just getting started.
Just the thought of having my books in print was pretty terrifying in and of itself. An artist takes a huge risk each and every time they reveal their work to an audience of people who may or may not like what they’ve written, painted or performed. Each and every time we open ourselves up to another person, either personally or professionally, we risk rejection, ridicule or criticism.
Thankfully, I can say that my experience with Second Wind has been wonderful. Being published has exceeded my wildest expectations. I’m sure there are people out there who don’t like my books, but I’m here to tell you that hearing wonderful things about and getting complimentary reviews on the books I’ve written is an absolute thrill. I took a chance and have been wonderfully blessed in return.
We got a call today saying the oak floors under the carpeting at the parsonage are in very good condition. There are two slightly worn spots, in areas that can be conveniently covered with a small area rug.
A new year is here. I’m not saying you should gamble away your life savings trying to hit the jackpot, but I would urge you to take a few chances. Don’t be afraid to try. Put yourself out there. Go for the gold and see what happens!
Have you ever had Blog Fog – that sinking feeling that you have nothing blog-worthy to say?
That moment when you’re looking for the inspiration of a starburst and all you get is fizzle?
When you’re looking for a burst of life and all you get is thistles?
I’ve definitely been there… that moment when you’re craving bright sunshine, and what you get is a sunset in Death Valley…
When you’re convinced you’ll find crystal clear waters and all you see is rusty old crud…
When you desperately need a lighthouse to guide your way and what you see in front of you is a long, low, dark tunnel…
When you need a gushing waterfall of inspiration and all that bubbles up is mud.
Blog Fog is unlike Writer’s Block in that the words flow quite freely. But when you have Blog Fog, your brain is so bogged down in minutia that you can’t think of anything significant to say. It doesn’t work just to write, because all that comes out is drivel. There’s no comforting knowledge that you’ll re-write it twenty times before it goes to press anyway, so it doesn’t matter. When you blog, it’s out there immediately. As soon as you post it – and you have to, because it’s your day to blog – everyone will know that you’re not really brilliant after all, that your brain is just a pile of mush.
It’s hard to be clever when you’re under a lot of stress – when things are so busy at work that you’re putting in 12 hour days and still not making a dent in your pile of papers to file and things to be done. It’s difficult to think of a topic when a new first line for your book is running through your head and there are bills to pay and people coming for lunch and rooms to be cleaned and new employees who need to be told what to do.
But you have to try. You don’t want to gain a reputation as a difficult blogger – someone who misses their day or doesn’t attract the numbers the site is accustomed to. And you can forget about getting Freshly Pressed or Creating a Buzz, or getting Re-Tweeted or even Liked – not unless the fog clears.
You check your spam digest – maybe something will trigger an idea. Febreze Air Freshener… I’ll Help You… I Quit My Job and I’ve Never Been Happier. Hard to do when you own your own business. Although, there have been times I’ve been tempted. But maybe someday, someone will invent a pill that floods your brain with hard facts and novel ideas. It’s certainly possible.
Did you know that if you Google “blog ideas” you will get a list of helpful articles like “Need Ideas for Your Blog?”, “101+ Ideas That Will Make Your Blog Sizzle!”, “12 Typical Blog Post Types to Kick Start Ideas”, “Blog Post Ideas That Generate Buzz”, “How to Create Viral Blog Posts”, and “Killer Blog Posts” will inundate your screen. Unfortunately, when you have Blog Fog, it’s going to take more than a bunch of stagnant, stodgy old lists to make the fog clear. What you need is a stiff breeze to blow the fog out to sea.
Maybe if I turned the ceiling fan on high…
My nephew is getting married tonight. In fact, I’m posting my blog from a hotel in Des Moines, awaiting the big event. My husband, who is a minister, is performing the ceremony. But not because Cole is his nephew. Kayla, the beautiful woman Cole is marrying, grew up in my husband’s church in Thompson, Iowa.
For the first and only time in my life (so far), I played matchmaker. And it worked!
One day, in the church basement after church, Kayla’s mother and I started chatting. She was lamenting that her daughter, who is such a sweetheart, couldn’t seem to meet a nice, goodhearted man. I’d thought for years that my nephew, Cole, and Kayla would be a good match, but had never found the right time to bring it up. Cole was in between relationships. It seemed the perfect time to put the wheels in motion, which we proceeded to do.
To be honest, I never really expected anything to come of it. Neither, I’m sure, did Cole, when I first mentioned sending him some digital photos of a girl from our church who I thought he might enjoy getting to know. What young 20-something thinks his fat, grey-haired old aunt is going to be the one to pick out his future bride?
But God had plans for Cole and Kayla (Cola, as we now affectionly call them). I, of course, was delighted when they fell in love, and later, announced their engagement. And I truly do believe they’re a match made in heaven.
As a writer of romance novels, I get to play matchmaker in my imagination all the time. Even as a child, I spent hours spinning romantic fantasies in my mind, all starring me, of course, and whatever handsome young man had captured my fancy at the time. None of them ever worked out, although the silver lining is that I got so practiced imagining these steamy, “what-if” scenarios that it led to a writing career.
I feel a great deal of satisfaction in my writing life when the love affair I’ve orchestrated comes to a good fruition. But I have to say, it is even more fulfilling to see a tiny seed that I planted grow and blossom into a real-life romance, now marriage. On this, their wedding day, I feel a deep, intense sense of satisfaction. I did good.
Early on in Cole and Kayla’s relationship, I invited Cole’s mother (my sister) to have lunch with me. When she arrived, she said, “Cole thinks you asked me to lunch so you could pump me for information. But he says not to tell you anything – he thinks you’ll put it in your next romance novel.”
I promised I wouldn’t, and my sister filled me in on what sketchy details she knew. It made me smile. And I’m still smiling today. And while I won’t crow about my excellent matchmaking skills in a book, I never said I wouldn’t blog about it. Besides this isn’t a fictional romance, it’s the real thing.
Just wanted to let you know that I’m in the spotlight at Amy De Trempe’s blog, Timeless Romance, today. If you make a comment sometime between now and Saturday night, you could win a copy of my new book, Stormy Weather.
(Just want to make sure everyone understands that to be entered in the contest for the free copy of Stormy Weather, you must leave a comment on Amy DeTrempe’s Timeless Romance blog.)
I love seeing your comments here, too, but also hope to see you there!
You can also buy both Night and Day and Stormy Weather as a paperback, an e-book, or in Kindle version at http://www.amazon.com, Second Wind Publishing, or by calling me at the Blue Belle Inn (641-713-3113).
Thanks to all of you who have purchased and read Night and Day – I appreciate your good comments, and hope you like Stormy Weather just as well!
I finally downloaded my photos from the past two months and found a great photo of the authors and writers that attended the Writers Retreat we hosted at the Blue Belle Inn in October. Best of all, I’m not in the photo! Looking at it brings back fond memories of a wonderful weekend in which I was privileged to meet fellow Second Wind authors Christine Husom, Norm Brown, and Amy DeTrempe.
We had a great time learning more about writing, and watching a murder mystery, Next of Kin, by Haley productions.
When Night and Day, my first book, was published, I felt absolutely naked. Thoughts and deeds I’d been taught to keep private were suddenly on paper, exposed for all the world to see. Since I publish under my real name, there was no screening process involved. Anyone and everyone who chose to, could read the words I’d penned, knowing full well that I’d written them, imagining as they went which of the scenarios I’d described were purely imagination… and which really happened.
How much of yourself do you put in your books? Do you live in fear that an old lover, an estranged friend, an ex-employer, or a quirky relative will read your book and see themselves in all their thinly disguised, renamed-to-protect-the-not-so-innocent, glory?
I was somewhere with my mother a couple of weeks ago and a family friend was asking about my book, and the family legend upon which the historical part of the book is based. I told them the story… my great-great grandma, Maren Jensen, was a very beautiful woman. She was married, living happily and prospering in Denmark with her husband and three children, when my great-great grandfather suddenly packed up everything and moved the entire family to America. Why? To get his wife away from another man who was in love with her.
We don’t know the rest of the story… may never, but we do know that whatever happened changed the entire course of my family’s history.
This true tidbit of history certainly got my imagination going, and while what happens in the book is simply one scenario of what might have happened, compliments of my wild imagination, this grain of truth, as told to us by our Danish cousins, was the seed from which my book grew.
Here’s the funny part… When I finished relaying what we know of Maren’s story, my mother said twice, very adamantly, that the part about Maren was the only part of the book that was true.
Well… she can believe that if she wishes… really, it is better that she does… but I know that there is more truth contained in the book than I will ever divulge. Of course, I didn’t say anything, not particularly wanting to draw attention to myself or embarrass my mother.
A few days later, a customer at the Blue Belle who had just purchased a book, after learning that the book includes a steamy internet romance, leaned in with a conspiratorial look on her face and said, “So, it this story about your life? Didn’t you meet your husband on the internet?”
Well… I can truthfully say that the original draft of the book was written some time before I met my husband, so he is off the hook, but… To my chagrin, I could feel myself blushing. I’m sure, by the time five or ten seconds had passed, I was ten shades of red.
Yes, I’ve personally lived out some of the scenes in Night and Day – in one form or another. Others never happened – never will. It’s fiction, right?
She pressed for an answer. So, parts of the book are true?
“I’ll never tell which ones,” I finally stammered.
People have wondered the same thing after reading the book.
A friend of mine, a multi-published, award winning author, recently read Night and Day. Because her thoughts were relayed in a personal note, and not a public review, I will not use her name. She said that she had trouble reading the sensual scenes between Anders and Jensen. In her words, “I actually had gotten so close to your characters that I couldn’t invade their privacy. Kind of like peeking in the window when you and Mark are together.”
When Susan Barton of Romance Readers at Heart, who does not know me personally, reviewed Night and Day, she said “I actually had to shake myself quite frequently and remind myself that Jensen and Anders are not real people because their emails, phone calls, chats and finally, in-person conversations, are entirely genuine… This is a romance of the whole self.”
I take it as a compliment that my characters seem so real. All I’ll say is, in some cases, it’s no accident.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting another Second Wind author, Christine Husom, who attended a Writer’s Retreat at the Blue Belle Inn. While visiting, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the background story of her first book, Murder in Winnebago County, loosely based on the somewhat mysterious death of her own father. I had read and known the premise of her book was riveting, I never dreamed parts of it were true.
I can’t speak for Chris, but for me, writing about real life incidents – whether heartbreaking, embarrassing, confusing or comical – can be very therapeutic… a catharsis of sorts…
My world is full of “characters”. How about yours? How much of your book is based on real life people and experiences? Is there a danger that people from your past may recognize themselves in your books?
At the beginning of each book published, there comes a disclaimer, “This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, locations and events are either a product of the author’s imagination, fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any event, locale or person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”
The truth – or a stretch?
I’ll never tell – will you?
A week or two ago, I wrote an article entitled Reading… A Waste of Time, or a Good Investment?
In the blog, I spoke to my Dad’s philosophy – working hard to get the work done you did something relaxing or fun like reading a book, and how it often clashed with my desire to read (or play the piano) every second of every day.
On Sunday, May 17, the Austin Daily Herald published a story about the release of my new book, Night and Day, where they quoted me discussing the same subject.
What didn’t get said in that article, follows… the rest of the story, if you will.
I’ll freely admit that I was not a good candidate for a farmer’s daughter. How my hard-working Dad and Mom ended up with a child like me, who was allergic to being outdoors, hated big trucks and farm equipment, and wanted to read all the time, is still a mystery to me. When I was about twelve, I became convinced I was adopted. I was just so different than the rest of my family. (This strikes me as extremely funny now that I am older, look like both my Mom and Dad, and am like them in countless ways.)
One thing I should have seen, even then, was that we shared a certain “stubborn” gene. Even as a child, it was impossible to get me to do anything I didn’t want to do. When my Dad tried to teach me how to drive a stick shift so I could drive tractor, the pick-up, or his truck, I would act dumb, grind the gears, and generally be a pain in the butt until he got irritated with me, gave up, and sent me back inside – where I went to my room and opened whatever book I was reading.
I did cook, help with the laundry, clean, and baby-sit my younger brothers and sisters so my mom could drive tractor – usually with a book in one hand. Later on, I learned bookkeeping and did the books for the farm business. But contrary to the article in the Austin Daily Herald, I very rarely did anything farming related. Like Jensen’s parents in my book, my Mom and Dad worked sun up to sun down. I did not. I read at least one book every night of my life through junior high.
It wasn’t until I was in high school that I gave up reading, in part, because I was busy with classes, and being yearbook editor, and yes, in part because at that age, my parents felt like I should be helping on the farm or around the house instead of reading all the time, like I always had. My reading was a bone of contention at times, yes, but what little I did around the farm didn’t prevent me from reading.
I’m sure, if any of my brothers and sisters read the article, they chuckled when it implied that I worked on the farm at all.
But that is beside the point. The important thing that I think needs to be mentioned is that, looking back, I am eternally thankful that I was raised to appreciate the value of hard work, and the importance of getting the work done first, before I played. Why? Because writing a book is very, very hard work.
If it weren’t for my parents instilling their work ethic in me, I’d
still be one of those creative persons who has always said, and probably will say to their dying day, “I should write a book someday.” Because of my parents, I did it. I worked and worked until it was finished, and then I worked some more, making it better and better, until it was ready to publish, and then I worked and worked to get it in front of editors and agents and publishers. When I got a rejection, I worked even harder to make the book even better, until I got an offer. And now, I’m working hard to promote and market it.
While the article touched on this, my parents weren’t given credit, and I really think they deserve it, for teaching me persistence and determination, and the value of hard work.
I know many an artist, musician, writer, craftsperson, who although talented beyond words, can’t earn a living doing what they love and are gifted at because they don’t have a clue how to finish what they start, or keep at it until the job is done, say nothing about marketing themselves, selling themselves, or running a business.
Looking back on my farm experience, I feel passionate about the fact that my upbringing empowered me to be the person I am today, both innkeeper and author… because like it or not, my Dad taught me the value of hard work… an essential ingredient in the journey to getting published.
I grew up reading romance novels with 20 year old heroines, virgins, whose mother and father were conveniently vacationing in Europe or dead. While I loved embarking on an adventure of first love (and first-time sex) with these all-alone-in-the-world, pure-as-the-driven-snow waifs, my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older.
I find a complex, mature heroine with a caring (okay – meddlesome) family, who has experienced love and been disappointed (okay – burned), who finds it in herself to take a chance on love again, to be more appealing. To me, when a person with baggage and a less than ideal background finds true love — finally — it makes for a truly rewarding reading experience.
How do you feel? If you are older than 40, do you like the reality turned fantasy of reading about what other women (and men) your age are going through, or do you prefer to relive simpler, less complicated times in your life, to dream about what it would be like to be young again, to start all over?
If you’re young, would you even pick up a book with an older heroine? Does a good love story, and wonderful characters, render age irrelevant?
If you’re a writer, and knew that books with a heroine of any age would sell as well as the next, would you rather write about someone your own age, or do you prefer to write young, first love, first career stories?
I’m curious to hear which you think is more appealing in a story line – age and experience, or youthful exuberance?
Some of my earliest memories are of bedtime stories being read to me, and I loved to read books from the time I learned how. When I was in grade school and junior high I had special library privileges – because I had to jump on the school bus as soon as school was out, I was dismissed from class 5 or 10 minutes early each day so I could go to the library and pick out a book, which I would then read that night and return the next morning. On Sundays, I would check out several books from the church library. I read at least one book a day.
When I was little, my parents thought it was nice that I liked to read so much. They were proud that I was such an avid reader. But I was raised on a farm where everyone was expected to pitch in and help, and as I got older, what was perceived as cute became an irritation, especially to my Dad, who thought I should be working instead of “wasting time” reading. I took to reading late at night, sometimes in my bed, with a flashlight, half hidden under the covers, so my parents wouldn’t see the light. There are photos of me sitting at a picnic table or in the back seat of the car when we were on family vacations, reading, when according to my Mom and Dad, I should have been doing things with my family – hiking, swimming – the things “normal” kids do. When I tried to read, my sisters and brothers teased me. My parents yelled at me. Reading became a sore spot.
I stubbornly ignored them and kept reading… and writing. A poetry class and then, a creative writing teacher, inspired and encouraged me to write, to express myself. I was a straight A student, fueled as much by what I learned from the books I read as what I was taught in class.
But somewhere about the time I was a junior in high school, I started to accept the message that was repeated over and over again – at worst, that reading was a waste of time, at best, that reading was something people only did when they were too old to work and had nothing better to do with their time. I stopped reading for pleasure. My school courses became more demanding and required more reading, and I was involved in several extracurricular activities – choir, yearbook editor, 4-H, youth group at church – that required my attention and took a lot of time.
This was even more true in college. What free time I did have was spent talking with friends in my dorm. I started working and dating. I wrote reams of poetry while I was at Wheaton, exulting in first loves and new experiences, questioning, learning, growing up. But I read only what I had to.
I married after two years at Wheaton and moved to Germany. I continued my studies and wrote avidly – this time in the form of term papers and hundreds of hand-written letters to my parents, in-laws, Grandmas, and friends. But I didn’t read. I earned money and I worked. I gave up the fight and listened to the inner voice in my head that said I was being lazy when I sat down to read a book… that I should be working… that I should be doing something worthwhile, productive… if nothing else, seeing the sights and experiencing Europe.
It didn’t help that books written in English weren’t that readily available in Germany. No e-books back in the 70′s! But more importantly, my life was in crisis. My marriage was a mess, and I made a series of bad choices in the years that followed… choices that I was ashamed of, felt guilty about, and couldn’t talk… or write… about. I lost hope, felt depressed, eventually got divorced. I neither read nor wrote during this period. How can a person read stories with a happy ending when you are so cynical that you don’t believe in them? Writing seemed pointless. It didn’t solve anything, help anything, change anything.
I acquired a sarcastic wit as I fought my way back to emotional health and rebuilt my tattered financial status. I worked countless hours opening a business and eventually found both happiness and success. But I never opened a book.
It’s ironic now to think back on that time period — the fact that each of the rooms at my Bed and Breakfast is named after a book attests to the fact that I still had a passion for reading. But the rooms are named after books I’d read as a child… “On the Banks of Plum Creek” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, “The Secret Garden”, Sherwood Forest from “Robin Hood”, “Sleeping Beauty”, NeverNeverland from “Peter Pan”, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madelaine L’Engle, “Heaven to Betsy”, one of the Betsy – Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace… the books I’d loved as a child were the only books I knew, because I had stopped reading by the time I became an adult.
Then, a friend invited me to join her at Prince Edward Island for a week and a half. Her aunt and uncle owned a vacation house on the water, and had rented the one next door for us to stay. I arrived at the sleepy little island one summer day, and felt immediately at home. Plainly rural, yet beautifully scenic, it lives up to its Indian name, Abegweit, or land cradled by the waves.
I’d never been on a seaside vacation. My family camped, changing locations every night, seeing new sights every day, traveling hundreds of miles over the course of a week’s vacation. I was bored silly, or more accurately, fit to be tied, after 3 days.
My friend’s Aunt Doris was a reader. She handed me a book and told me to relax. I started Sandra Brown’s “French Silk” later that afternoon, sitting in an old lawn chair, overlooking the water. I had read six books by the time I left for home. She let me take another to read on the airplane. I had finished it by the time I reached New Jersey, and bought another at the airport to take me to Minneapolis. I haven’t stopped since.
I read everything Sandra Brown had ever written. I discovered Susan Elizabth Phillips, Jill Marie Landis, Dorothy Garlock, LaVyrle Spencer, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Debbie Macomber, Janet Evanovich, Linda Lael Miller, Pamela Morsi, Julie Garwood, Jennifer Crusie and more, devouring their books one by one. Bookshelves once filled with baskets and knick-knacks were now crammed with books.
A year after I visited Prince Edward Island and started reading again, I was inspired to write my first novel. I spent hundreds of dollars to fly to Colorado, rent a car, and attend a writing workshop led by Madelaine L’Engle. My employees, parents, and brothers and sisters all seemed to think I was wasting my time. Would writing pay off? It didn’t seem likely that I would ever get paid for the hours and hours I was spending in front of the computer, typing away.
This time, I again refused to listen. I kept reading… and writing. In my first published book, “Night and Day”, recently released by Second Wind Publishing, Jensen Marie Christiansen finds pure magic on Prince Edward Island, the place where I rediscovered my love of reading. Is it any surprise I chose this very special island to be the setting of Jensen’s dream come true?
Although my family has learned to accept my passion for books and writing, the entrepreneurial side of me is still bothered on some level that I may never net more than one or two cents an hour for the time and energy I’ve spent writing my books. But I have learned to be proud of my voice. I have learned that dreams really do come true. I have learned that I must write… and read. With every book I read, I am far richer than I was before.