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Late Breaking News! My novella, Thistle Down, the intro to my Wildflowers of Scotland novels,
and the first scene of Wild Rose are now FREE http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/310079. Thistle Down is now available on Amazon.com for 99 cents. If you don’t do e-Books, you can order a paperback copy of Thistle Down for $4.50. (It’s thin – remember, it’s just a novella!) Download away! Download away!
Can tenderhearted Pastor Ian MacCraig keep a pair of prickly sisters from marrying the wrong men?
Emily Downey has found the perfect groom. If only she loved the man… Chelsea Downey is wild about her boyfriend. Trouble is, he’s two-timing her and everyone sees it but her.
Their thorny situation gets even stickier when the church ladies come up with a plan.
Can Pastor Ian MacCraig weed out the thistles and get to the heart of the matter in time to save the day?
And now, back to my regularly scheduled blog…
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.
The concept of broken things made whole again has always fascinated me. I think that’s why I’ve always loved mosaics. I’ve picked them up at garage sales for a little bit of nothing. I’ve splurged on them when buying a special memento from a vacation. I’ve inherited a few when relatives have died.
When I don’t find actual mosaics, I gravitate towards mosaic-like images.
Quilts made with scraps of fabrics, ribbons and lace…
Stone houses and log cabins, which upon inspection, are mosaics made with rocks or wood…
Stained glass windows made with shards of colorful glass…
Digital pictures, which I love to play with, that are nothing more than mosaics of microscopic pixels.
And even bite-sized morsels of foods, creatively blended into a hodgepodge of delicious flavors and colors.
Just like jigsaw puzzles, I like mosaics because they’re bits and pieces - nothing pretty by themselves - that when put together, become beautiful.
Even things that aren’t particularly pretty to start with look beautiful when made into a mosaic.
That’s why I’ve saved every scrap from everything I’ve ever sewn, and every single cup, saucer, plate and bowl we’ve ever broken at my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn. Someday, I’m going to sew hundreds of quilts.
I’m also going to make my own china mosaics. I’ve got the materials. I’ve been buying up flat-faced photo frames on clearance so I can cover them with mosaic wonderfulness. I have the tools. I even bought a nipper. Now I just need the time.
My sister, Becky, whom I can always count on to be honest with me, says that my collection of would be candidates for mosaic creations is just one more way that I feed my pack-rat tendencies.
I suppose it’s true to some extent. I’ve seen mosaics embedded with Scrabble letters, shells, sea glass, pebbles, stained glass, beads, jigsaw puzzle pieces, driftwood, and charms. I’ve seen dimensional mosaics that include half of a teacup, part of a special wine bottle, or some other precious object. Seeing the creative things other people think of not only inspires me, it gives me license to pick up pretty rocks, sea shells, and bits of this and that wherever we wander.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who saves broken things thinking someday, someone handy can fix whatever it is that’s broken, or that I’ll find a way to adapt what’s left of the original and re-use it in some creative way.
In the meantime, when someone breaks a piece of china at the Blue Belle Inn, I try not to hyperventilate. Then, as I look at the broken shards and the shattered pieces, I console myself with dreams of mosaic stepping stones for my garden, mosaic-fronted fireplaces and coffee tables covered in mosaic splendor.
Maybe it’s the thrifty Scandinavian in me, but I am always hopeful that somebody, somewhere can put Humpty Dumpty back together again, that somebody somewhere can mend the broken things in my life.
Making broken things beautiful is also the reason I write books – mosaics of words woven together in such a way that they’re pleasing to the ear and uplifting to the soul. Random snippets of life, experiences, and emotions that come together in a design that inspires beauty.
Just like mosaics are made from broken shards and sharp-edged pieces of cracked pots, the building blocks of a book are things that have happened to us, memories of people we’ve known, sights we’ve seen, and yes, heart-breaking happenings in our lives. As a writer, sometimes I think that every thought and experience I’ve ever had is filed away in the back of my brain, ready to resurface when the moment is right, waiting to be included in a book someday.
A very personal event in my past provided the inspiration for Wild Rose. It was a time in my life when a relationship that was very dear to me seemed irreparably broken because of a poor choice I’d made. What happened taught me a lot about forgiveness – what it’s like to be unworthy, to receive forgiveness from someone who loves you enough to overlook your flaws, and about forgiving yourself, which is sometimes the most difficult thing of all.
Thankfully, our God is not only a master designer, but a master healer. God doesn’t throw us away because we’re chipped or cracked or broken. He accepts us as we are, gathers us up in His arms, and turns us into something beautiful… a poem, a song, a verse, a rhyme, a lovely mosaic.
God can do what all the Kings horses and all the King’s men cannot. He can take your broken heart and make it whole again. He can turn sorrow into joy. He can take a crushed spirit and create in us a pure heart. He can take the shattered pieces of our lives and renew us. He can take a broken and contrite heart and restore the joy of our salvation. He can take a rag and make it riches. God can make a rainbow after the storm. God can and does put us back together again.
In the words of Isaiah, from chapter 61:
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me…
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
I’ve always thought that making mosaics out of my broken china is a bit like making lemonade out of lemons. In many ways, so is the healing, restorative power of writing and reading. Broken bits and pieces become a cherished memory; a broken heart reshaped into a beautiful poem. Mosaics of words and thought, knitting together the shattered pieces of our hearts, making us whole again, and in the process, making us even more lovely than we were in the beginning.
What better way to preserve the fragments of the past? What better way to celebrate the stories of our lives?
Blurb – Wild Rose:
When Ian MacCraig tries to capture the thief who is stealing artifacts from his kirk in Loch Awe, Scotland, the last thing he expects to find on his video is a woman engaging in a passionate romp under the flying buttresses.
Rose Wilson is mortified to learn that Digby, the online friend she met for what she thought was a harmless rendezvous, is a common criminal.
Now that Ian, the board of Wilson Enterprises, the constable, and half the town have had a glimpse of Rose in all her naked glory, it seems even her family looks at her differently. What remains to be seen is how far Ian will go to defend Rose’s honor and if the church ladies will forgive Rose now that they know who she really is… and if Rose can believe she’s worthy of someone as good and kind as Ian MacCraig.
Wild Rose and Pastor Ian MacCraig… a match made in heaven or one hell of a predicament?
For the past year, I’ve been living in a fantasy world. The scene is Loch Awe, Scotland, at a magical place called St. Conan’s Kirk.
It’s a very real place, one that really exists – and not just in my mind.
It’s made of stones and timbers, spires and cloisters, flying buttresses and secret abbeys with curved staircases carved in stone.
The water on the loch is glassy smooth, so still that clouds float in the water and the stray rhododendron petals gliding over the surface never sink.
Bad things happen in my fantasy world, just like they do in the real world, but something good always comes out of them, and not twenty years later, when you’ve forgotten all about the inciting incident and are too old to care, but in short order.
Because in my fantasy world, there are only happy endings. And they occur in a reasonable amount of time – less than 400 pages.
I should know – I’ve been living there for months. It’s a bit like slipping off on a vacation. You can sleep until noon if you want to, and you get to decide what it is you want to do every morning – which can be whatever in the world you want it to be. You can eat whatever it is that you want to, because you’re on vacation. There are no restrictive diets or rules or deadlines or obligations. Anything goes. Anything can happen, and usually does. Whatever yer fancy.
You see, in my fantasy world, I’m the Captain of the Starship Enterprise, and when I say, “Make it so,” it is.
So a day ago, when I wrote the last page of Wild Rose, the first in my Scottish Wildflower Trilogy, I felt like I was sinking into the bottomless abyss of Nothing. The story ended and now, I’ve got nothing to do (well, really I do, but nothing I want to).
I miss Rose already, and Ian MacCraig, and their dilemmas, and wondering what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to feel. I even have a hankering to see Digby again, and Torey MacDougal, and the church ladies. How I’m going to get on without them, I really don’t know.
It’s a magical place – a book, that is – and once you’ve been to a good one, you never want to leave. At least I don’t.
So I’ll tell you a secret… Wild Rose has a surprise ending, and it happens in Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland – another favorite place of mine.
I can’t tell you exactly how, because I’ve only just gone there, but the story will live on, and I’ll get to see Rose and Ian again. So will you, if you take the ferry and come to visit.
You see, there’s a bonny lass called Isabelle, and a gent who calls himself Michael St. Dawndalyn, and an evil, evil man named Damien who’s about to cause all kinds of trouble for them. And they’re going to need Rose and Ian’s help.
There’s also a castle, and an old Celtic cemetery, and a keep that’s in ruins, and so many secrets… deep, dark secrets that are bound to come to light…
And the story lives on.
(Watch for Wild Rose by Sherrie Hansen, coming in April 2013 from Second Wind Publishing, Blue Belle by Sherrie Hansen, coming in November 2013?, and Shy Violet by Sherrie Hansen, coming in… nobody knows…)
My husband and I were driving home from seeing the movie “Lincoln” last night when we drove over the rise that leads to our home and saw Zion Lutheran Church silhouetted behind the stand of pine trees – a sight that has become very familiar- and realized that it was almost exactly a year ago that we saw this beautiful view for the first time.
Since many of you were kind enough to listen to the tales of angst that proceeded our move and the grieving process that surrounded it, I thought I would offer a State of the Union address of sorts and catch you up on what’s been happening in my life since then. And although it’s a very “un-writerly” thing to do, I’m going to start with today’s news and go backwards.
I’m so excited to be nearly finished with a book called Wild Rose of Scotland. I set out to finish it for NaNoWriMo, and have almost met my goal. I love the way the characters and storyline have developed and think my readers will, too. It takes place at St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe, in Scotland. Ted is a pastor and Rose is a bit of a wild woman with a questionable past. The church ladies are aghast! There’s even a jilted ex-fiancé who Rose left standing at the altar in his kilt. And I think you’ll love them all. I have only 3712 words left to write to make my goal of 50,000 words written in the month of November.
It’s been a good month – getting up early every morning and writing has been a good discipline for me at a time in my life when I’ve moved from being a night owl to falling asleep at my desk before ten o’clock. If I can keep up this new habit throughout the winter, you can expect two new releases in short order – Wild Rose of Scotland,and then, Blue Belle of Scotland – with the possibility of a third Celtic tale called – Sweet William of Scotland or Shy Violet of Scotland or… who knows?
After vacillating between publishing books meant for mainstream romance readers and inspirational fiction readers, RWA and ACFW, Sherrie Hansen (Night and Day, and my Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily and Merry Go Round) and Sherrie Hansen Decker (Love Notes), steamy scenes or no steamy scenes, I’ve decided to go back to being Sherrie Hansen and let my books be what they will be.
I’ve always felt that my books are very character driven. They also have a “slice of life” quality that includes characters who are good and evil, meek and bossy, nice and nasty, Christian and non-Christians (sometimes, to confuse matters, it’s the Christians who are nasty and the non-Christians who are nice), and so on. There are committed Christians whose faith means everything to them, as well as lukewarm and occasionally rebellious Christians. There are people who don’t know what they want – or believe. They live their lives and interact in a very real, sometimes gritty, occasionally very painful world, where there are conflicts, temptations, joys and struggles.
As a writer, I believe my faith and values come into play when a character has to confront the conflicts life throws in their paths. How they deal with the conflicts and how they interact with the other people in their world depends on how deep their faith is and where they’re at in their spiritual walk. As a Christian writer, I feel strongly that there are always consequences to actions, and that sin or evil should not be glorified. But even the Bible does not sugarcoat the actions and failings of its central characters as the stories are told of how they lived out their lives in their contemporary cultures. I don’t feel it’s my job to censure or shield my readers, only to let God’s grace shine through in the way the conflicts in my books are resolved.
So I’m done trying to label my books as one thing or another. Part of the reason I love my publishers and working with a mid-sized, independent press is that they’re supportive of me and what I write even when it’s something unique or a little outside the conventional boxes. In Wild Rose of Scotland, you can expect some faith talk, some Bible verses, and some heated discussions on topics like grace and forgiveness – Ted is a pastor, after all. You can also expect some steam. I think you’ll find that it’s a very candid, real, and refreshing mix.
Some other changes in my life – we love our new home, our new church family, and the group of folks our church has chosen to affiliate with (the LCMC – Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ). When I think of all the wonders God has brought about in our lives in the last 12 months, I’m amazed. On a very personal note, I’ve lost 80 pounds since the day after Mother’s Day – I think, an awesome reflection of the new, positive outlook these changes have brought about.
That’s where I’m at today. I hope you’ll watch for Wild Rose come spring! In the meantime, if you haven’t read Love Notes, this is a wonderful time of year to start. Hope Anderson and Tommy Love’s story – Love Notes – starts just as fall in turning to winter and ends on Christmas Eve with a very special Christmas song, “Hope, Joy, Peace, Love”.
You can get your copy here.
One of the first things I saw on Facebook this morning was a photo of 6 or 7 women of every shape and size (including some who are quite large) lined up in a row, part of the “Real is Perfect” campaign presented by SKORCH and Lane Bryant. I pressed like. When I was growing up, if you didn’t look like the excessively thin model, Twiggy, or have a figure like Barbie, you weren’t considered to be pretty, say nothing about perfect. I’m glad that I (and evidently others) have learned that beauty comes in all different shapes, colors, and sizes.
Part of the reason I chose to accept the contract that Second Wind Publishing offered me for my novel, “Night and Day”, a few years ago is that it seemed like bigger publishers were looking for a more standardized idea of “beauty” in the books they published, and that an independent press was more likely to be open to unique stories that didn’t fit the current mold embraced by the masses.
I felt that my books were “different” in two major respects – one, that my stories were about what the publishing industry considers to be older characters (30′s and 40′s as opposed to 20′s), and two, that my books contained aspects of both faith and a conservative Christian world-view, and some fairly lusty, what I call steamy, scenes.
My characters are real. They’re not perfect people living in an evangelical Christian bubble. They are touched by evil. Their temptations are much more than superficial , and sometimes they give in to them. When they do, they feel pleasure. When they do things that are opposed to what they believe is right, and when they do things in the wrong order, or at the wrong time, they also feel pain. There are consequences to actions, whether having sex before marriage or eating or drinking too much, or simply having the wrong focus and priorities in life. Because my characters and situations are real, you see both. Diversity often brings dichotomies, and conflict, and I believe that makes for a good story.
Much to my delight, my books have been well-received, and garnered good reviews. Readers have been enthusiastic. My publishers were supportive. I was thrilled that I was able to write the books of my heart without feeling pressure to color totally inside the lines. And then I tried to write a book for the Christian fiction market. “Love Notes” has no steamy scenes. Hope’s faith has remained strong even in the face of losing her husband, and almost losing her home. Tommy Love grows more and more convicted of his selfish ambitions and turns back to God. There is a clear Christian message.
In a review of “Love Notes”, Sheila Deeth says “Sherrie Hansen Decker’s Love Notes is Christian romance where fiction is lifted up, not bogged down by faith. Genuine hope kindles slowly in human hearts. Beautiful music soars. Trials come, not because the characters are sinners but because they’re human and the world around us is wounded. The bad guys are drawn with space awaiting healing grace, and the scenery, towns and countryside are vivid with beauty and darkness side by side, hope hiding in the shadows.” And, “This story kept me glued to the page, never knowing how I wanted the tale to end, but always sure the author would end it well. After all, she’s very clearly listening to the author of our lives as she writes these lives—Christian fiction indeed, where honest humanity meets heavenly hope.”
In the Timberjay newspaper out of Tower, Minnesota, a recent reviewer said “Anderson is struggling to reopen the resort owned by her late husband, who died in a car accident. Tommy Love is a local boy who found national fame in the music business, who is now looking for a peaceful spot to call home. Their two paths collide when a local banker tries to foreclose on the resort in order to sell the property to his old friend, Tommy Love. The book is an inspirational Christian romance, with plenty of intrigue and adventure. It is also a novel that explores the complications and hurdles when two middle-aged adults, with very different histories, fall in love. The weather, as in any novel set in northeastern Minnesota, also plays a significant role in the story. In an interview with author Pat Bertram earlier this year, Decker said “I hope each reader will have their faith in miracles renewed. I’m a firm believer in second chances. I know from personal experience that God can take the most adverse scenario and make something beautiful out of it – in His time.”
When “Love Notes” was first published, I joked that if every one who had griped about the steamy scenes in my previous books bought a copy of “Love Notes”, it would be a best seller. But I’m not laughing any more, because certain Christians evidently feel that “Love Notes” is not Christian enough. First, an “influencer” from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), declined to recommend the book to her friends because it contained the word bi-ch (uttered by the bad guy). Now, a Christian bookseller has declined to sell the book in her bookstore even though it has a “great story line”, because the main characters sleep under a shared blanket to stay warm in an ice storm after the power goes out, and the bad guy hopes to have sex with his ex-wife, and other characters have “sex thoughts”. Even more insulting was her assessment that “God is mentioned, but neither main character really knows God and who He is.”
So, what to do? I will not be writing any more books for the Christian market. I am going to write real books with real characters who struggle with issues of faith within a real world context. If their struggles lead to passion, some “steam” will be included. If that’s not where the story goes, you can join the ranks of those who were disappointed when I told them “Love Notes” didn’t have any steamy scenes. And as for the Christians who are so confident that their particular brand of Christianity is so perfect, I would remind you that there was not one perfect disciple, who said one perfect set of words when he came to Christ and who lived a perfect life thereafter. There were 12 different disciples, each one unique, each of whom came to Christ from a different place, and in a different way. Each had different weaknesses and strengths, their own personal doubts and struggles, a different style of writing, and a unique ministry. Yet God used them all. There are also prostitutes and murderers and adulterers and and sex thoughts in the Bible. It’s a real book about real people living in a real world. And I think it’s the perfect book.
As for “Love Notes”, I’m sure it is far from perfect. But it is real and I hope you will read it and decided for yourself if you agree.
Sometimes a story is born of a place – an exotic locale tugs at your heart, captures your imagination, and you are off and running. I had that experience at St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe, in Argyle, Scotland a few years ago. The book I’m working on right now, Wild Rose of Scotland, practically plotted itself while I stood under the flying buttresses in the church yard and wandered through the lofty stone church.
The same thing happened to me in Florida a couple of winters ago. A trip to the Everglades followed by a brief excursion to the Pink Palace, a 1920′s era hotel on St. Pete’s Beach, and my mind started swimming with kidnapped heiresses and gangsters and missing ransom and a double cross and alligators and crocodiles and a canoe slipping through the swamp grasses and voila! A story was hatched.
At other times, a story comes void of a location. When I first started dreaming about Aileanna and Michael St. Dawndalyn in Blue Belle of Scotland, I had never been to Scotland. My characters were firmly etched in my mind, but they needed a home. I researched several different Scottish villages online and fell in love with Tobermory, Scotland, on the Isle of Mull. When I finally got to visit Tobermory, Blue Belle of Scotland was already written.
A strange sense of deja vu followed me around the island from the moment the ferry docked at Craignure and we drove our rental car out of the hull of the ship. Seeing places that I had researched and written about was thrilling – and a bit weird. There were odd circumstances come to life, things that I couldn’t possibly have known but nailed perfectly – a woman walking towards me on the street who looked exactly like my mental image of Aileanna. I loved it! In an odd sort of way, it felt like home.
Love Notes, my latest, released earlier this summer, was born of characters and stories of old lodges and honeymoon cabins and music and contentment, a jumble of experiences and tales told to me by my Aunt Pat and Uncle Frank when we were visiting them at their cabin on Bear Island Lake, in northern Minnesota.
Rainbow Lake Lodge, the fictional setting of Love Notes, is a figment of my imagination, a conglomerate of lodges I’ve visited in Yosemite National Park and on Prince Edward Island, Canada, with a good dose of Burntside Lodge, Ely, MN mixed in.
Tommy Love needed humble beginnings with a Mayberry RFD flavor, where everybody not only knows your name,but everything else about you – for 5 generations back. They needed to be Minnesota nice and a little quirky, too. Ely, bustling with tourists and newcomers panning for gold, was a little too big and upscale to be a good fit. That’s when I decided Embarrass, MN was a perfect match for my cast of characters. Love Notes was nearly finished by that time, so I went back and researched Embarrass, then changed the story until it fit.
This past week, I visited Embarrass for the first time in several decades. Again, I had a a sense of deja vu as I matched digital pictures to real locations. I had a few tense moments, too. It is about five miles from the “Welcome to Embarrass” sign and any semblance of the town. I was starting to feel – well, a little embarrassed, thinking I had written about a town that didn’t exist, when we finally found the town hall. From there, it was another 5 or so miles to the outskirts of the actual town, and another mile or two to the bank (credit union) and welcome center. The expression “Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it”, is very appropriate in the case of Embarrass.
When I started introducing myself as an author who had written a book set in Embarrass, I was thrilled to find I’d made precisely the right choice of locations. I’d soon had lovely chats with Diane, the city clerk, who bought my last copy of Love Notes, the friendly hostesses and resident poet at the Nelimark Homestead House, and Pat, the delightful hostess at Homespun Acres – an antique and gift shop in a barn – and Northern Comfort B&B.
In true Minnesota fashion, in mere minutes of meeting these folks, I knew where they were from, what year their grandparents had homesteaded their farms, and how they arrived in Embarrass, among other fascinating tidbits. Definite material for a sequel should I ever choose to write one. I left with warm memories, new friends, a bond and a few treasures from the antique shop. I didn’t confess that I am half Danish instead of Finnish, but I felt a tie to Embarrass regardless.
Storybook settings, whether born in the first moments of inspiration or researched in retrospect, are a crucial element in any story. If you ever have the chance to visit Embarrass, Minnesota, I would urge you to go and immerse yourself in the local color for a day or two – or maybe take in a Finnish sauna at the Northern Comfort B&B. If it isn’t likely you’ll get up that way anytime soon, I hope you’ll read Love Notes. Better yet, I hope that when you turn the last page, you’ll feel like you’ve been to Embarrass. I’m happy to say I have been.
In a few hours, I’ll be speaking at the Artworks Festival in Austin, MN, my hometown, also know as Spam Town USA (the kind in a can that’s good to eat).
Maybe it’s because Austin was the stage for most of my childhood dreams and wishes that I feel a little sentimental about the difference between how I hoped my life would turn out, and how it has. It was under the clear, blue skies of Austin that I dreamed of meeting my own tall, dark, mysterious Prince Charming, and living happily ever after in a house filled with babies and love, surrounded by a white picket fence and window boxes filled with pink geraniums. Given the era I grew up in, the happy young wife and mother I envisioned in my wishes probably looked like Gidget, Barbie, Cinderella, and Twiggy all rolled into one. My, how the world has changed in a few short decades. And my, how different my life has turned out to be than what I envisioned all those years ago.
Whether I was wishing upon a star or praying for the perfect man to come into my life and make my dreams come true, my life has been nothing like the way I imagined it would be. The things I’ve done, the places I’ve been, the things I’ve accomplished would have been incomprehensible to me back then. In some ways, I’ve far exceeded my hopes and dreams. I also have a handful of regrets, and a small part of me still mourns for the way things might have been.
One of the other Austin artists appearing at the festival is in a wheelchair. I’m told he was paralyzed in a football game in the late 80′s. He is exceptionally talented and has accomplished much in his life. I’m sure when he was growing up, he didn’t envision being injured. I wonder, would he have excelled at art in the way he has if that moment hadn’t redefined his life and shaped his perspective?
Things happen – often differently than we wish or hope - I believe God uses those things to take us from being rough pieces of coal to shining diamonds, to bring out the best in us.
The main character in my recently released, LOVE NOTES, is a woman named Hope Anderson whose youthful hopes and dreams died with her husband in an auto accident. Hope’s “Plan B” is to finish renovating and reopen Rainbow Lake Lodge, to see it bubbling with families, children, and laughter again – she believes, the perfect way to honor her late husband’s legacy. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, that dream is also about to die.
Sometimes it’s very hard to see the silver lining, to find the rainbow after the storm.
I did not live happily ever after. It took a few years for God to “work all things together for good” – I call it being blessed with “God’s Perfect Plan B”. I never did have children, but God gave me an extended family who loves me, brothers and sisters who are kind enough to share their children with me, nieces and nephews who love me and are a wonderful part of my life.
He gave me a Bed and Breakfast and a Tea House, music to lift my soul, friends and activities that I enjoy, a new chance at romance, and many books to write.
Romans 5:2-5says ” Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Our youthful hopes and dreams may have to be altered and adapted over the years, but one thing that never changes is God – our strength, our comfort, and our hope. Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. I like Romans 12:12, too. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Sherrie Hansen Decker lives in a 116 year old Victorian house in northern Iowa who, just like her, got a second chance when she rescued it from the bulldozers grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie has enjoyed learning about hope and love, and the difference a little faith makes while telling the story of Hope Anderson and Tommy Love in “Love Notes”. “Love Notes” is Sherrie’s fifth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing (her debut Christian Inspirational novel). Sherrie attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL and University of Maryland, European Division, in Augsburg, Germany. Her husband, Rev. Mark Decker, is a pastor and Sherrie’s real life hero. She enjoys playing the piano with their worship team, needlepointing, renovating and decorating historic houses, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephews.
You can learn more about Sherrie’s books at:
One of the most nerve-wracking things for an author to do is to wait until the first reviews of their new release start appearing. Not only is it gratifying when people affirm your work, but there’s a very real and wonderful kind of connection that occurs when you find that a book you’ve written alone, and characters that have, up until this time, existed only in your mind, have spoken to and touched other people. It’s not that I don’t have confidence in my own work and a strong belief in myself (yes, it does lurk somewhere deep inside me), but when that magical connection occurs… it’s a joyous thing. I don’t know how else to describe it, and for an author, that’s very telling!
I’ve listed below some of the ever so nice things people are saying about Love Notes. If you want to read the full reviews, check them out at Amazon or Goodreads. And next time you read a book you like, consider posting a review, however short or lengthy. Your kind words and the fact that you “get” the author’s characters or theme will mean the world to them.
Here we go:
“Sherrie Hansen Decker’s Love Notes is Christian romance where fiction is lifted up, not bogged down by faith… This story kept me glued to the page, never knowing how I wanted the tale to end, but always sure the author would end it well. After all, she’s very clearly listening to the author of our lives as she writes these lives—Christian fiction indeed, where honest humanity meets heavenly hope.” (from a review by Sheila Deeth)
“Sherrie Hansen will keep you turning the pages as you are drawn in for a marvelous journey of two people discovering first of all themselves – their weaknesses, but also their strengths – and, inevitably, each other.” (from a review by Gabriela Scholter)
Ever since I read the next review, I’ve been telling people that Love Notes is better than air conditioning!
“Sherrie describes the setting so well that I could see and feel the near frozen temperatures and the cold water of the Lake. I could see the fog coming off the water and feel the fear of the character as they struggle to start the boat that is stranded on the Lake. I could feel the coldness in the air so much that I went outside and read the next few chapters just to get warm again.” (from a review by Connie Cowger)
"I would subtitle Sherrie Hansen Decker's inspirational romance, *Love Notes*, 'When Dreams Collide.' The hero, a famous pop singer-songwriter, and the heroine, an owner of a failing MN resort are both burdened with the "dead" past. But neither see it that way--until forced to. A cast of interesting and very alive characters and plenty of intriguing plot twists make for a satisfying read." (from an endorsement by Lyn Cote, author of the Women of Ivy Manor series.)
You can purchase Love Notes, form your own opinion, and even write a review at Second Wind Publishing.
And if you’re awaiting the first review on your new book, a nod from your boss, or whatever, try a Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley. It will make you smile!
A couple of my friends were chatting on Facebook the other night. The first one asked for recommendations on what books to read this summer. At the end of one of her comments, she said, “Don’t bother to recommend romances, they’re a waste of time.” When I responded, another friend said they weren’t referring to the kind of romances I write, but the ones that have no plot, and are just an excuse to include one sex scene after another. (I’m paraphrasing as best I can remember… but bottom line, they were not being complimentary to the romance genre.)
Forgive me if I confess to being a bit offended. And forgive me again when I say, I know exactly what they mean.
I’m reading a romance novel right now that’s written by a best selling author and published by a major house. It has no plot to speak of. Basically, something bad happened, long before the book began, and the book is spent reliving the past and discussing its implications on the present and future – ad nauseum. I like the characters, but all they ever do is go to work, go on dates, and make love. They sit and think about things – a lot. They talk about things, but they have no real goals, no motivation. No one is trying to keep them from attaining their non-existent goals. They are surrounded by friends – loving, supportive allies who want them to resolve their problems and be happy. They rehash the same old things again and again. I must care enough about the characters to find out what happens to them, because I’m still reading, but I find myself skimming over entire scenes because I am bored. This is not a good thing.
It irritates me that authors who have the honor of being published by major houses write such drivel. It irritates me that readers, who are obviously buying their books by the thousands, don’t have higher expectations. It irritates me that their publishers don’t demand more from them. But most of all, it irritates me that I am being lumped into the same category as these writers, and writers who write the literary equivalent of porn flicks, just because I write romance.
To assume that my books have no worth simply because they end happily, and include a love story, is just plain insulting. Reviewer Sheila Deeth called my first book, Night and Day, a thinking woman’s romance. I love that phrase. I have much to learn as an author, and Night and Day is certainly not perfect, but it’s also not trite, mindless, or a waste of time. Here’s what Sheila said:
“Some romances, you know exactly which protagonists are going to get together. You know it will be perfect. You’re just waiting for the characters to work it out for themselves. But Sherrie Hansen’s Night and Day isn’t that kind of romance. These characters are all too real and too flawed for a perfect world. They’re stubborn. They cling to dreams and don’t want to compromise. Their relationships struggle to pass each all-too-human hurdle, and even as the story nears its close, it’s not clear which lives will stay entwined and which connections will quietly unravel. Is love just an idealized dream after all, or are dreams the stuff of love?
Sherrie Hansen creates sprawling farm and comfortable home, American countryside, Danish streets, wobbling bicycles, squabbling siblings, lovers’ arguments… Her scenery and her characters are all equally real, from Anders despising all things American, to Jensen delighting in all things historical, to practical Ed and misunderstood Tara, and parents who’ve moved away to Arizona. The love in these pages isn’t syrupy sweet, the characters aren’t cutouts chasing after dreams, the internet’s not perfect and neither is love, or homeland. But the mysteries of a hundred-year-old romance have messages for an all-too-modern internet relationship, and the lessons of lilacs cut to make them bloom are relevant to all.
I loved following these characters as their relationships grew. I loved wondering what choices Jensen would make, and whether she and Anders could ever turn fairy-tale into reality. I loved the side characters. I loved the conversations. I loved the world…
Sherrie Hansen’s created a thinking woman’s romance, as full of depth and feeling and love as any other, but seasoned with history, internet, real relationships, common sense and hope; a wonderful novel, highly recommended.”
And one more thing, while I’m on the subject of romance. You could do worse. My husband and I just finished listening to all three books in the Hunger Games trilogy. Despair, disillusionment, detachment, and depression – from beginning to end. I’m of the opinion that this world needs a few more happy endings. I believe the world needs a little more love. And if people find a little hope, joy, peace and love – a little romance – in the midst of all the negative things that pervade our world, is there anything so wrong with that? Take a chance on romance. Look for a novel by Lyn Cote, Pamela Morsi, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Julie Garwood, Jill Marie Landis, LaVyrle Spencer, or Debbie Macomber, to name a few. You’ll find plenty to hold your interest… action, adventure, worthy protagonists and antagonists, symbolism, meaning, depth.
I write novels that are commonly known as romance novels. Because romance novels have negative connotations for so many people, I chose to use the word love in the title of my blog, fearing if I used the word romance, most people wouldn’t even read the article. But don’t be mistaken. I’m proud to be a writer of love stories. I’m a thinking woman, and the romances I write are well worth a few hours of your time. Try one – you’ll be surprised at what you might learn.
If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I’ve had a whirlwind blog tour going on in honor of the June release of my first inspirational novel, LOVE NOTES. I’ve posted the links to each article below. If you haven’t already, please join me! (For your reading enjoyment, I worked very hard to make sure each article is different.)
Interview about how Maud Hart Lovelace (author of the Betsy Tacy books) and Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time) influenced my writing at Pat Bertram’s blog
A devotional about hope at Phyllis Wheeler’s blog
My ‘Second Chance at Love story at Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s blog
Sandra Robbins interviewed me about Tommy Love and Hope Anderson at the Borrowed Book blog
I blogged about Looking for Hope, Joy, Peace and Love in All the Wrong Places at Second Wind Publishing’s blog
I posted a video of me playing the melody for the song, Hope, Joy, Peace, Love (written by ‘Tommy Love’ for LOVE NOTES) on the piano at Gather.com.
Tommy Lubinski of Tommy Love and the Love Notes fame, the somewhat unlikely hero of my new book, LOVE NOTES, is a fading star whose heart has been trampled on so many times that it’s frozen solid. Although he’s enjoyed fortune and fame, he can’t find the words – or the heart – to write a new song. Probably because he has no hope, joy or peace. Or faith. Tommy thinks that building his dream house on the shores of Rainbow Lake so he can sit on his new deck and bask in one of the most beautiful views in all of northern Minnesota, his childhood home, will inspire him to create again.
What Tommy wants to write is punk – or hip hop, so that his new hit will appeal to a younger listener. That way, his legacy will live on in the hearts of a new generation. But once he meets Hope Anderson, the original old-fashioned girl, all he can seem to think about – or write – are love songs about Hope. As God was working in Tommy Love’s heart – and mine – while writing this book, a song came to me / him…
I was so deep into Tommy Love’s character when the song came to be, that it truly felt like Tommy Love wrote it. For the past few years, we’ve sung it during the Christmas season at the church where my husband was pastor. The first time Mark printed up the words to put in the church bulletin, he asked if I wanted it to say, “Written by Sherrie Hansen”, my maiden name, and the name under which I’d written 4 novels, or “Written by Sherrie Decker”, my married name, since that was how everyone at church knew me. Without thinking, I responded, “I didn’t write it. Tommy Love did.”
Mark smiled and said, “I wouldn’t tell that to too many people if I were you.” You authors will know what I mean. In my mind, the song truly was a love note written by Tommy Love, with a heart newly melted around the edges, to Hope. And to God.
That’s where the song Hope, Joy, Peace and Love came from. You can hear the music at Gather.com if you click here. Below, I’d like to share my thoughts – some of which came from getting to know Tommy Love – on each of the four words in the title.
Hope, Joy, Peace, Love –
Gentle blessings from above.
A rainbow bright, a starry night
To warm our hearts – the gift of light.
Hope, Joy, Peace, Love –
A star to follow from above.
Shining brightly in the night
To warm our hearts – the gift of light.
Hope, Joy, Peace, Love –
The Son of God from heaven above
came down to us on Christmas night
To warm our hearts – the gift of light.
Hope – I don’t know about you, but on many occasions, I’ve given up hope – hope of ever feeling good again, hope of ever being slender and healthy, hope of ever being happy, hope of finding someone to love, of being loved. I start out at least a little hopeful, but if things don’t come together fairly quickly, just the way I think they should – the way I HOPE they will, then I lose hope. Maybe depression is the opposite of hope, looking down instead of up. So how does a mid-aged woman who knows that things are probably just going to keep getting worse from here on out, have and hold on to hope? In Ephesians 3:20, the Bible says, “By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope” and in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written was given to us for our learning, that through patience and comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.
Joy – To me, joy is the most elusive of emotions. The older and wiser and more cynical I get, the harder it is to attain any semblance of it. Joy is not synonymous with happiness, or pleasure, or feeling good. It is so much more than that. I know, because on rare occasions, I have experienced it. Most recently, I’ve seen it in the eyes, heard it in the squeals of my little nieces and nephews, so quickly lost, so hard to capture. Joy is like a hummingbird, flitting around us at lightening speed, teasing us, taunting us, because we are just too slow and encumbered by burdens to get more than a glimpse. But God says of joy, “Those who sow in tears will reap a harvest of joy; for though they may weep while going forth to plant their seed, if they persevere, they will undoubtedly return rejoicing—bringing their sheaves with them. (Psalms 126:5-6). And in John 15:11, after telling his disciples that they need to keep his commandments and abide in his love, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Peace – Hard as I try to keep my life, my household and my business organized, there is so much chaos surrounding me that lately, it has become possible. I struggle with anxiety and come from a long line of “fretters and stewers”. Unfortunately, my wild imagination – the same one that makes me a good writer – adds fuel to the fire. The same “what if” exercise I use when I’m coming up with my stories has often kept me up at night, as I imagine the worst and worry about what will happen if I’m right. God’s peace is the only answer to the chaos of the world… another of those things that I can’t possibly control or conquer on my own. If you’re going to have lasting peace – peace that sticks with you through the bumpiest of rides, you need to find it at the feet of Jesus. Here’s what He says about peace in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Love – I do know that people love me – my husband, my parents, my brothers and sisters (well, most of them), my nieces and nephews, and friends – but we all know that human love is fallible. We’ve all had broken hearts, we’ve been betrayed, we’ve lost at love. What we really want – need – is unconditional love. And the older I get, the more disillusioned with the world I am, the more I realize that the only place we’re likely to find true love is in Jesus. John 3:16 talks about a love that is unparalleled: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Now that’s true love.
So it turns out that Tommy Love and I hadn’t only been looking for love in all the wrong places, we’d been looking for hope, joy and peace in the wrong places, too. The world is full of wonderful things, but nothing can and will satisfy our restless souls like God’s gifts to us. Hope, joy, peace, love, gentle blessings from above. So keep looking up – the rainbow bright, the starry night will guide you and remind you that it is He alone who can give us the treasures we seek -hope, joy, peace and love. If you don’t know Him, all you have to do is look in His Word – it’s a lamp unto your feet and a guide to unto your way.