Someone once told me that one great way to restart your brain is to take a shower. I’ve had it happen more than once. I’m working at the computer with whatever I’m working on open on the screen and I can’t think of a thing to write. No matter how hard I try, nothing comes. Then, I get in the shower, with no way to write anything down, and no sooner does the water start to rain down on me than the voices of my characters start to jabber inside my head and new plotlines magically form.

Wildflowers of Scotland Novels by Sherrie Hansen (2)

Over the years, I’ve learned that a vacation – especially one to a far off destination – can have the same effect, only in a much more profound way. Here’s what seems to happen when I take a trip, and how to enjoy a traveling adventure that refreshes both brain and body.

 

1. Let go of expectations. Anything can happen on a vacation. I like to plan our trips and enjoy researching places to eat and stay, as well as things to see and do, but I’ve also learned that it’s fairly impossible to predict what will happen on any given day, how long it will take to get from Point A to Point B, and what things we might encounter along the way. Once I let go of my stubborn insistence that things have to be a certain way, it’s amazing what can happen!

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  1. Forget about staying focused and enjoy the distractions. You may not be able to tell it from looking at my house (creative minds are rarely tidy as the old saying goes), but I’m a highly organized person, at least when it comes to my professional life. I make lists and cross things off when they’re done. I thrive under deadlines. I plan events with an intricate timeline based on what things I can do ahead down to the tasks that have to be done at the last minute. When I go on a trip, it’s a challenge and a pleasure to be able to relax and realize that nothing matters but having fun.

  1. Open your mind to new ideas, possibilities. It’s kind of sad, the way I go to the same restaurants and order the same exact foods and wear the same few shirts and skirts until they’re worn out from washing. I like being in my comfort zone, but when I’m forced out of my established ruts and have to try new things, I experience a wondrous feeling of freedom and discovery!

  1. Bloom and grow. I try NOT to grow any wider when I’m on vacation – it’s difficult when every corner grocery has caramel shortbread (Millionaire Bars), Battenberg Cakes, Meat and Fisherman’s Pies, pâté, amazing cheeses, and oddles of creamy Cadbury milk chocolate delights. But I love widening my perspectives, learning new things and stretching myself. It’s so easy to become stagnant. Letting a Chinook wind blow in and infiltrate my mind is like spring coming to the soul after a long hard winter.

  1. Meet new people. Stir the pot. I think the older we get, the harder it is to meet new people and make new friends. Most of us have lived in the same place for quite some time, and the people already have their established circles. Adult children and grandkids occupy people’s time after a certain age, and the sad truth is, I’m often so worn out after I do what I have to that I’m too tired to want to get out and socialize. When I do go out, I have to think long and hard about what we have to talk about because we’ve already spoken about everything under the sun at least a million times. But when I’m on vacation, every day is an opportunity to participate in new conversations about different topics, to hear what different people from other countries think and feel about things. It’s a great way to not only liven things up, but to gain a new perspective. I love listening and learning from the “chance” people I meet when we’re traveling.

  1. Strip away the mundane and set your sights on the extraordinary. Letting go of old things is almost a requirement for being able to embrace new things. If you’re clutching at what you have, you can’t open your hands and accept something new. If you’re always looking down, you’ll never catch sight of a rainbow. If you don’t walk away from your work or your possessions, your family, or whatever it is that tethers you to the ground, you will likely never fly, accomplish your dreams, or sail off to uncharted waters.

  1. Let your senses be reawakened. Open your eyes. I’ve written several articles urging people to look for the beauty in their own backyard. It’s a wonderful thing to do. But the fact is, after looking at the same garden or flowering tree or porch swing every day for a quarter of a century, it’s easy to get desensitized to even the most lovely scene. Traveling, seeing different sights and fresh images, and taking the time to walk about and relish the beauty in unfamiliar locations not only jumpstarts my creativity, it makes me notice things through fresh eyes.

If you haven’t taken a good long vacation lately, I highly recommend that you find a way to get away. For me, escaping the familiar and journeying to unknown realms is the best way to rejuvenate.

(As you read this, Sherrie and her husband, Mark, are on their way back to Scotland to enjoy a much-anticipated vacation. Watch for Sherrie’s next book, DAYBREAK, a sequel to NIGHT & DAY, coming from Indigo Sea Press in July. All photos are from our home and previous vacations to Scotland, Romania, Kentucky, and England.)

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If one thing can be said of my life, it’s that I can’t go through a single day on autopilot. Some days, I wake up in the parsonage next door to my husband’s church in Hudson, Iowa to the sounds of tractors and trucks driving by on our gravel road, the creak of old farmhouse floors, or the sound of the wind whistling across the fields. Other days, I awake 85 miles to the north in a cozy, but comfortable cottage next door to my B&B in the small town of Saint Ansgar.

Sometimes I get to sleep in, or maybe even spend the day lounging around in my nightgown, writing or painting. Other times, I wake up to the demanding b-b-b-b-ring of an alarm clock reminding me that there’s breakfast to serve, lunch to prepare, or a church service to rush off to.

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The one thing that’s consistent about daybreak at my house is that when I wake up each morning, the past is behind me and a fresh day awaits, brimming with new opportunities and unique experiences. No matter which of our homes I wake up in, what’s done is done, and daybreak is a chance to start out fresh. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to work in a career where every day is different and filled with new challenges. I’ve always appreciated the fact that my work offers me the joy of interacting with a variety of people, the chance to participate in a broad assortment of tasks, and the opportunity to experiment with creative menus that I can change as often as my heart desires.

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Since my first novel, NIGHT AND DAY, was released, I’ve been telling people it starts when it’s “midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark.” Since the sequel, coming out this summer, begins in Denmark, it seemed logical to call it DAYBREAK.

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Daybreak is about new beginnings. To begin fresh, you have to turn your back on the past and look forward. It’s a choice we make every day, in little ways, and every so often, with extraordinary, life-changing transitions. For Jensen, daybreak means leaving her comfort zone in Minnesota, moving across the ocean to a different country only to find out that Anders won’t be there to help her adjust. For Anders and his son, Bjorn, daybreak means suffering the indignity of losing a career and being forced to look for a new job. Both have to let go of their expectations and forge a new path.

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For the Christiansen family, it means moving on after an unexpected death changes the entire perimeter of their world. For Leif Unterschlag, it meant giving up the woman he loved, and starting over in Solvang, California, halfway across the world. If Leif hadn’t had the courage to walk away from his heartache and embrace a new love, Jensen never would have come to be. The choice to look toward the rising sun and move forward can have great repercussions!

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I won’t say more for fear of giving too much away, but I think if you’ve ever had to give up something familiar and beloved so that you have your hands free to grasp a new opportunity, you know what I mean about daybreak. Just like Jensen and Anders’ lilac bushes, sometimes our branches have to be pruned and cut back before we can grow. What does daybreak – or the dawn of a new day – mean to you?

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Anyone who has read “Night and Day”, my first novel, will enjoy reading the letter I just received from a (not THE) real life Leif Unterschlag, who lives in Copenhagen.
Dear Sherrie Hansen,
I recently tried to “google” my own name, Leif Unterschlag.  To my surprise, I found out that you have written a book “Night and Day” with a person called exactly that (pages 98 and especially 299).
As it is clearly fiction, I am of course extremely curious to know where you found my name and how you decided to use it.
You use a lot of Danish names in the book, but Unterschlag is – as you probably know – neither a typical nor a common name in Denmark (nor in the U.S.). And especially in combination with “Leif” it cannot be a pure coincidence. So please share with me your deliberations etc.
It would be a nice (and appropriate) gesture to send me (see postal address below) a printed copy – of course with a handwritten greeting from the author*:) glad.
Have a nice Easter holiday!
Yours sincerely,
Leif Unterschlag,
København, Denmark
(The letter has been slightly edited.)
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The REAL (to me) Leif Christian Unterschlag from “Night and Day” would have died sometime in the 1940s (off the top of my head – I don’t have a copy of “Night and Day” in front of me) in Solvang, California. His gravestone would have read Chris Christiansen, as he simplified his name when he immigrated to the United States like so many did. If you read the soon to be released sequel, Daybreak, you’ll get reacquainted with MY Leif’s son, Charles Christiansen, and be able to read some newly discovered letters that MY Leif wrote to Maren Jensen before he left Denmark. I also interjected snippets of Danish culture that I’m familiar with, like our family’s tradition of enjoying Danish aebleskivers.
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Although my selection of the name Leif Unterschlag was purely coincidental, there are some characters in “Night and Day” who bear a close resemblance to a real life counterpart. My great-great grandmother, Maren Jensen, who is buried in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota. was the inspiration for Night and Day, although the book is truly a work of my imagination. In the book, MY Maren was married to Frederik, and born an entire generation later. Because I skipped a generation, my grandmother, Victoria, became Maren’s daughter instead of her granddaughter.  It can be confusing to those who know my family, but I wanted to use family names for those characters with real family connections.
Night and Day - Maren Jensen Grave
I chose the name Leif for the owner of the bakery in Slangerup (a real Danish town, where some of our Danish cousins lived) where Maren worked, because it sounded Scandinavian but was familiar and pronounceable to American readers. And, I liked the name. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly where I found the name Unterschlag, but I know I was looking for a name that was used in Sweden or Germany, since MY Leif grew up in Sweden. I routinely Google things like Danish or Swedish surnames when looking for names for my characters and find lists that are very helpful. I was also specifically looking for a name that is hard to pronounce, so that someone immigrating to America might be inclined to revert to the Scandinavian tradition of taking their father’s name (in Leif’s case, Christian), as their last name and adding a sen (or son) on the end.
For those who have read “Night and Day”, you may remember that the only reason Maren suspected Charles Christiansen was Leif Unterschlag’s son was that he was a nearly exact image of his father when he was young.  Charles himself, and the rest of the family, didn’t make the connection for decades.
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When Daybreak opens, Jensen, her mother and father, are looking for any surviving Unterschlag relatives who may still be in Sweden or Denmark.  You’ll have to read Daybreak to learn more about MY Leif Unterschlag. Now that I know there are REAL Unterschlags living in Denmark, I feel a little funny about that. Will the REAL Leif Unterschlag please stand up?
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My Danish cousin, Helle, me, Helle’s daughter, Anna-Sofie, and Boyda, her mother, who wrote letters to my Grandma Victoria for decades.

Nowadays, I usually Google my character’s names and even book titles before I use them to make sure I’m not stepping on the toes of someone rich and famous. But then, there’s supposedly nothing new under the sun, so it is very likely impossible to find a name that hasn’t already belonged to someone at some point in history. I’ve even had readers tell me that they can’t believe how close one of my fictional stories is to what happened to them in their real life. I’m thinking of Merry Go Round and a reader who wrote me from Texas… it’s a little disconcerting! And, I had a woman approach me at a conference who told me I looked exactly like her daughter, and that every time she saw me across the room, she thought, what is my daughter doing here?
I guess it all goes to prove that truth is definitely stranger than fiction. Have you ever Googled your own name to see how many of you are out there, or if there are characters in a novel that have been inadvertently given your name?

There’s something very exciting about seeing familiar characters in new situations. I love it when I get to experience my favorites things from days past paired with a handful of brand new adventures to shine a light on things and places that are fresh and exciting. My upcoming release, Daybreak, a sequel to Night and Day, will give readers a chance to reminisce and reacquaint themselves with some of their favorite characters. At the same time, it has to be realized that this second glimpse at Jensen and Anders, Ed, and the Christiansen family begins at a time when everything has changed, some things for the better, and some for the worse. Familiar characters (something old), different situations (something new).

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That’s how I’m looking at our third trip to Scotland this coming May and June. We’ll be revisiting some of our most loved spots, interspersed with a few new adventures and never before seen destinations.  Familiar sights, new experiences. Hopefully, it will be the perfect mix!

We’ll be starting out at a new B&B in a new village, halfway between Edinburgh and St. Andrews, both of which we’ve already seen. We have a beautiful room lined up in Colinsburgh, Scotland, where we’ll be our first three nights in country.

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On our first trip to Scotland, I fell in love with Cambo Garden Estates in Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife. This will be Mark’s first time, and I can’t wait to show him around, hopefully this time, not in the rain – although the raindrops and overcast haze made for some lovely photos in 2007.

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Some newly discovered treasures we hope to see while we’re in the area include Kellie Castle, with its fairytale stone towers, and an Arts & Crafts garden with herbaceous borders and old rose gardens, and Culross, Scotland’s most complete example of a burgh of the 17th and 18th centuries. Envision white-harled houses with red-tiled roofs lining steep, cobbled streets running from market cross to the hilltop abbey. In the centre is an ochre-coloured palace with a beautifully reconstructed herb garden, complete with rare Scots Dumpy hens. We’re told it’s one of the most picturesque villages in Scotland.

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On next few nights will be spent in a cottage near Aberfeldy, Perthshire – one of our favorite places on earth. When we’re not enjoying our cozy abode, we hope to visit some new spots – Ailean Chraggan Hotel, where we’re told you can meet the locals, and the food is good. The Breadlabane Bakery is on my list, and a highly recommended Deli-ght, a great delicatessen with very good home cooked ready meals we can enjoy at our home away from home.

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Our trip to Aberfeldy will include a visit to a favorite art gallery belonging to Artist Audrey Slowrance

And – a return visit to nearby Blair Atholl Castle where we will once again see the Atholl Highlanders marching in review, and the famed highland games

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From there, we’re off to Inverness, or the countryside near Inverness, where we’ll spend two days at Ben View House Lentran Farm, which looks lovely inside and out.

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While we’re in the highlands, we plan to visit the living Highland Folk Museum. Visitors to this living history Museum can learn how our Scottish Highland ancestors lived, built their homes, tilled the soil and dressed. We can’t wait to see the restored buildings and witness Highland history coming to life.

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The Kilted Fudge Company is next on my list. I first tasted their handmade cream and butter fudge at the highland games in 2016. Located in Aviemore, Scotland, they feature mouth-watering Scottish favourites such as Irn Bru, Crannachan, Clootie Dumpling (my absolute fave), Millionaire’s Shortbread, Turkish Delight and Parma Violet.

On our last visit, we couldn’t quite squeeze in Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, the Scottish residence of the British Royal Family. After watching two seasons of Masterpiece Theater’s Victoria, we’re intrigued by the history of Balmoral Castle, which dates from the 15th century, but was considered too small when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert fell in love with the region and people during a visit to the Scottish Highlands. Prince Albert set about organising the design of the current castle and grounds when the Royal Family purchased the estate in 1852. Construction of the new castle started during the summer 0f 1853, on a site just 100 yards from the original building. The couple spent many weeks each year relaxing at their new home in Highlands, and after Albert’s death, Victoria spent up to 4 months each year at Balmoral.  If we have time, we’ll also explore Braemar Castle, a largely restored 17th century castle originally built in 1628.

From there, we head to Ullapool…

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Our host will be Fair Morn Bed & Breakfast, in a room with a view, at Morefield Brae.  This will be another first for us, as will the lovely Achmelvich Beach, and the award-winning Inverewe Garden, where we’re promised we can lose ourselves in the lush setting and enjoy a riot of colours and scents.

We’ll start out June with a three hour long CalMac Ferry Ride on hopefully calm seas!

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While on the Isles of Lewis and Harris, we’ll stay at Keepers House, Uig Beach, Tinsgarry, Isle of Lewis. Although it was tempting to head back to the Isle of Mull, where Blue Belle is set, or Isle of Arran, which we enjoyed so much in 2016, we decided to strike out and try something new…

The mysterious, and now famous standing stones seen in Outlander will no doubt be our first stop.  We’re also hoping to drive over the bridge from Harris to explore the small island of Scalpay and its red and white striped Eilean Glas lighthouse on the island’s eastern cliffs. We’re told Scalpay’s North Harbour Bistro is the place for a tasty meal and that we need to browse the beautiful Harris Tweed products at the Pink Sheep Studio. We want to see Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, an open-air museum with its restored blackhouses – long stone cottages with thatched roofs. Dun Carloway, the remnant of a stone broch (small tower) that’s roughly 2000 years old. on the very northern tip of the island, or the Butt of Lewis, Luskentyre Beach, and St. Clement’s Church in the tiny town of Rodel are also on the list.

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After another ferry ride to Uig, Isle of Skye, we hope to take in a sunset like this one.

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We’ll definitely revisit our favorite scenic overlook on Skye, and the much loved Eilean Donan Castle featured in my books Shy Violet and Sweet William. One spot that we previously missed is Caisteal Maol (Castle Bare) near Kyle of Lochalsh. We hope to include it on this trip… something old, something new…

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Staying in Lochcarron, setting of Golden Rod, will be a new experience, (Castle Cottage looks wonderful!) but we’ll also enjoy some of our favorite spots while we’re there.

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And then, it’s off to Fort William on our way south toward Glasgow.

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After one night at Loch View Estate, Fort William, we’re very excited to get to explore a new corner of western Scotland, where we get to stay in a B&B that looks absolutely delightful.

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Kilmartin Glen is located between Oban and Lochgilphead, surrounding the village of Kilmartin, on the west of Scotland. The area spans 5,000 years with a multitude of cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts and castles. Kilmartin Glen is considered to have one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland.

And then, it’s off to Paisley to repack our suitcases and catch an early morning flight back to the U.S.

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If we have time, I’d love to see House for an Art Lover in Glasgow. It’s situated in Bellahouston Park, about 10 minutes from the flat where we’ll be staying. It’s a wonderful Charles Rennie Mackintosh building with a fantastic restaurant and art collection.

Maybe now you have a sense of why I keep revisiting Scotland in my books, my travels, and my dreams. And although I took a detour back to Denmark and Minnesota in my new book, Daybreak, the concept is the same. Something old and familiar, something new and exciting, something borrowed (aren’t all stories?) and something blue… always Blue. It’s the stuff the best stories are made of.

BlueBelle 2016

(Sherrie is the owner of the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House in St. Ansgar, Iowa. She is a Wheaton College alumni, and attended University of Maryland, European Division, in Augsburg, Germany. Her husband is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, an LCMC Congregation in rural Hudson, Iowa. In Sherrie’s spare time (?) she likes to dabble in the creative arts, play piano, paint, decorate vintage homes, and travel.)

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(Disclaimer:  I use my own photos except for those of places I have never been, which I obviously couldn’t have taken – yet.)

This March, I’m going to be speaking to a group of bed and breakfast innkeepers on the subject of how and why we choose accommodations when we travel. Of particular interest to this group is:  When people are planning a trip, how do they start looking for a place to stay? Do they have a favorite booking platform or do they prefer booking direct? Do they even consider looking at B&Bs or do they automatically head for the big chain hotels? What are some things that attract or discourage them from staying at a  B&B? What catches their eyes, makes them stop and take a second look, and press reservations – or run as quickly as possible  to the local Motel 6?

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As an author of ten books, soon to be eleven, I often ask myself the same sort of questions. Why do people buy my books instead of the thousands of others on the book shelves or the millions of others available online?

Sometimes I think the hardest thing about being a writer is finding readers who are a good match with the books we’ve worked so hard to write.

This isn’t the Match Game, but I’m going to take a stab at helping you to determine if you and my books would make a good pair.

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  1. You might like my books if you’re from Minnesota, Iowa, or anywhere in the Midwest.

I was born and raised in Minnesota. I’ve lived just 9 miles south of the Minnesota border, in Iowa, for the past 26 years. If you have ties to either state and like stumbling upon familiar places in the books you read, you will probably like my books. Most of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels even have Midwestern characters scattered throughout – hopefully just enough to make you feel at home.

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  1. You might like my books if you enjoy being surprised when you’re reading.

My books are character-driven and as different from one another as each person is unique – anything but cookie cutter. Some have a mystery to solve, some are a tad bit suspenseful, others, completely relational in focus. A few have Christian fiction leanings, while others are on the steamy side. A number are set in Scotland, and soon to be two, in Denmark. Most are romances, but my new book, Daybreak, focuses on a married couple and what happens when happily-ever-after doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Golden Rod has a pair of 500 year old ghosts. Although I will admit to having kidnappings in two of my books, you’ll find that each of my novels follows its own unique template. I like to think they’re refreshingly unpredictable and far from formulaic.

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  1. You might like my books if you enjoy having characters from previous books reappear in future novels.

My books aren’t serials – each of them stands alone, but several are linked together in groupings for those who enjoy getting another glimpse of a favorite character or two. My Wildflower of Scotland novels (Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William, and Golden Rod) are interconnected through family and friends, as is the Maple Valley Trilogy (Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round) through the lives of three sisters, Rae, Michelle, and Tracy. Daybreak, to be released this summer, is a sequel to Night and Day, and has cameo appearances by characters from Love Notes and Sweet William.

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  1. You might like my books if you’re a follower of mine on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram.

I truly believe that the things we like, comment on, and post about on social media are a window into our general aura and a commentary of what’s important to us. If you like my perspective, the things I focus on and take photos of, the music I listen to, the foods I make at my B&B and teahouse, and the paintings I create in my spare time, you’ll most likely enjoy my books and the characters I write about, all of whom are at least some reflection of me, my style, and my passions.

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  1. You might like my books if you’re a small town girl at heart.

Whether my books are set in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Canada, California, Denmark, Scotland or France, they have small town or even rural settings. They’re populated by people who love wide open spaces, seeing the sun sink into the horizon at the end of the day, and appreciate the quirky personalities that are a part of small town living.

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  1. You might like my books if you enjoy knowing both sides of the story – from a somewhat experienced point of view.

My books are all written in two or more points of view. At least one is a woman’s, and the other, a man’s. Some say I’m more adept at writing the male point of view. And speaking of characters, mine are a bit more grown up than some, with most ranging from their late thirties to early fifties. They’re not superhuman or stupendously sexy or heroic. They’re rarely virgins or too young to know better. They’re nice, normal, slice of life, girl or boy-next-door kind of people – believable, relatable, and loveable despite their flaws and shortcomings.

 

If you’ve read any of my novels, you can probably think of a few more reasons you enjoy my books and choose them over the millions of other options available to you. A friend of mine once said he never wanted to be accused of being normal. I’ve tried to apply this concept to every part of my life, whether my B&B, teahouse, art or writing. I don’t know if I’ve inspired anyone new to give my books a try, but I’ve enjoyed giving you a glimpse into what makes me and my books unique. To those who are already readers, thank you for coming along for the ride! It means the world to me.

P.S. If you’ve enjoyed one or more of my books like I hope you have, please remember that authors need reviews to attract prospective readers!

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Have you ever wondered what happens after your favorite book comes to an end? We’ve all turned the last page of a novel, hoping and praying that there’s a epilogue, or as the musician in me likes to think of them, a postlude, so we can peek ahead and get a glimpse of what the future holds. I hate saying goodbye to characters I’ve come to love. Even better, is that moment when you talk to your librarian or do a search online and find out there’s a sequel! If you’re like me, we’re talking overnight express time!

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For more than a decade, I’ve heard from readers who have wanted to know what happened to Jensen and Anders after Night and Day came to an end. They’ll be thrilled to know that now, the story goes on. I just finished a rough draft of Daybreak in Denmark, a sequel to Night and Day. It should be ready for release by mid-summer.

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In the almost, but not quite as good category, are cameo appearances by the characters of the previous book in the next. I love linking story lines together in my Wildflowers of Scotland books, although, much as we love getting reacquainted with old friends in a new book, it’s not the same as a true sequel. When old characters are resurrected in a new character’s book, they can’t be allowed to steal the show or take over the plot. After introducing Lyndsie, Rose’s teenaged niece, in Wild Rose, and bringing her back as a spunky young woman in Shy Violet, it was amazing to write her story in Sweet William. I knew Lyndsie so well by the time William came into her life – her background, her hopes and dreams, her foibles, her family – that the scenes in her point of view practically wrote themselves.

I also find that emotions evoked by familiar, beloved characters are deeper, richer, and have a greater capacity to draw us into the story. When readers learn that the same lovely breasts that captivated Pastor Ian, and made Rose something of a scarlet woman, have been invaded by cancer, we truly get it. We weep with Rose and grieve with Ian and pledge to support them both to the bitter end, just like Lyndsie did.

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Or maybe you didn’t want to know that Rose and Ian adopt her young, immature nephew’s child, who then decides, some years later, that he wants his baby, now toddler, back… maybe you prefer that Rose and Ian stay forever young, their hopes and dreams for a fairy tale future bright and shiny and untarnished for all time.

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I had similar feelings once upon a long time ago when I first read the Little House on the Prairie books. If the series had ended with On the Banks of Plum Creek – if I had never opened By the Shores of Silver Lake, I could have continued to imagine Mary’s beautiful blue eyes seeing the world around her, for years to come. But had I not read on and dealt with the heartbreak of Mary’s blindness, I would have missed out on all the pleasure I gained in reading The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years.

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It’s no secret that rarely does anyone live happily ever after. When you turn the first page of a sequel, there are bound to be disappointments – romantic notions lost – along with the delight of seeing what old friends are up to. The important thing is, joy of joys, we get to turn the page and see what happens next! Does that mean the mystery is gone? If you’ve read Night and Day, there will be no wondering who Jensen is going to end up with when you begin reading Daybreak in Denmark. But her future, Anders’, Ed’s, her family’s – what happens next, beyond the pages of Night and Day – will still be a complete enigma.

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So read on! In a sequel, the complexities of first falling in love are replaced by trying to adjust to a new life and overwhelming changes – some good and some unwanted.  There may be disillusionment and disappointment. Things may or may not turn out the way you hope they will. Because, as Jensen soon finds out, the happily ever after endings that romance novels are famous for are, in reality, nothing but a fairy tale, and even if you have the most wonderful husband in the world, things don’t always turn out the way you hope, dream, plan, wish they will.

Intrigue, drama, conflict and black moments – they’re all there waiting for you in a sequel. But so does joy come in the morning, after even the blackest of nights. Even sequels can have happy endings.

Sunset 1-2015

One reviewer called Night and Day “the thinking woman’s romance.” I can’t tell you what they’ll say about Daybreak in Denmark, but I can promise you it was thoughtfully written from a perspective of deep, abiding love for Minnesota, my home state, Denmark, my ancestral home, and the Jensen, Christiansen, and Westerlund families, my fictional first loves.

Photo94

A few days ago, at a funeral, a woman I didn’t know said in passing, “Keep those books coming! I love every one!” I nodded and smiled, because I fully intend to do just that – and something tells me she’s really going to love Daybreak in Denmark.

The old joke goes that someone asked Mrs. Lincoln, “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” The twentieth century version would be, “Aside from that, Mrs. Kennedy, how did you enjoy your trip to Dallas?”

Today is the 360th day of the year. There are five days left in 2017. For me, much of the year passed in a fog because in 2017 my father was diagnosed with leukemia and eventually died. When something that life changing happens, everything else is inconsequential. But the year did have some bright points, and I’d like to think on a few of those things as well as what I am looking forward to in 2018.

az-purples

In January, Mark and I went to Arizona for a Spiritual Life Retreat. It was a good way to start out the year and helped ground me for what was to come. Seeing the beautiful red rocks and hiking in the desert was an eye-opening  experience for me. Having grown up amid Minnesota Northwood trees, lakes and streams, I’d rarely appreciated the beauty of the desert – until we discovered Sonoran Botanical Gardens. We even saw a rainbow. A promise was a good thing, because even then, we knew something was wrong with Dad.

Food - melting moments

The first week of February, I celebrated 25 years of being open for business at the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, and my 60th birthday. We served Tomato Basil, Fresh Broccoli, Wonderful Wild Rice, and Potato Ham soups, egg salad and Monte Cristo sandwiches, Copenhagen Cream with Raspberries and my fancy homemade cookies. I hired a DJ and made up an eclectic set-list of favorite songs from 1957 on. It was a wonderful night and would be my Dad’s last time to come to an event at the Blue Belle.

baldners-dad

March brought a flurry of bad diagnosis and a roller coaster ride of hope and frustrations and searches for answers.

Zion - Sunset 2015 2

In April, Dad took his last “big trip” when he came down to Mark’s church in Hudson to listen to the M&MS and Zion’s worship team sing Life is Like a Mountain Railway, his favorite song. We practiced it several times for him because it made him so happy.

Ireland - flowers

In late May, Mark and I said goodbye to Dad at the ICU at Mayo. Dad had pneumonia. I hated leaving him, but we had tickets to Wales, Ireland and England. We compensated for our absence by calling him every night from whatever country we were in. We stayed at B & B’s, enjoyed taking photos of amazing castles, gardens, and beaches, as well as sampling delicious pub grub, smoked haddock, millionaire bars (caramel shortbread), meat pies, Battenberg cakes, and Irish stew. Our adventures on the Wild Atlantic Way along the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland inspired a new book, Seaside Daisy.

Ireland - daisy sea

Dad rallied and was still alive when we came home in mid-June. It seems like the whole summer went by in a blur. Dad had chemo and almost 70 blood transfusions. We almost lost him twice, once when he went into anaphylaxis shock and once when his platelets dropped to 1.7. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren came from all over the country to hug and cheer him on. Through it all, he kept his sense of humor and faith. In the midst of all the busyness, my new release, Golden Rod, came out in July. I tried to promote it a little bit, but my mind was wrapped up in bigger things.

Dad - harvest

In August, it became apparent that more chemo was not an option. The process of acceptance that we were going to lose him began. Dad said it was sure too bad he had to miss his funeral because he knew the music would be great (lively bluegrass) and he’d get to see everyone he knew. When he first mentioned having a funeral rehearsal, we thought he was kidding.

Dad - pick-up

Sept 7, we kids hosted Everett Hansen Day at the Farm. Nearly 250 friends and family came for a potluck, greeted by a joyous, smiling Dad. During the next two months Dad was able to stay at home, and as was his goal, watch the harvest come in. My brothers and sister and I took turns spending the night in the double recliner next to him and enjoying many late night conversations.

Dad - creek

October was spent doubling back to the Blue Belle to serve over a hundred Seasoned Pork and Parmesan Stuffed Pumpkins to lunch guests by day, planning and writing murder mysteries by night, spending Wed, Thurs and Fri evenings with Dad, and worrying about him the rest of the week when we were down in Hudson.

Dad - casket

Dad died on November 7th. The actual funeral was everything Dad envisioned, with great bluegrass music. I started writing again on the 22nd, but switched to working on Daybreak in Denmark, a sequel to my first book, Night and Day, because the father character reminded me of Dad.

BBInn - heavy snow smaller

Gray December has been spent catching up on everything that didn’t get done this summer, trying to break out of the fog, and getting used to the “new normal” of not daily talking to Dad about what is going on in my life and hearing his jokes and advice. I’ve spent a lot of time crying. Comfort foods help for awhile and then make me feel worse. I am so thankful that I was able to spend so much time with Dad before he died, but the resulting closeness made it harder to adjust to him being gone.

bbinn-winter-2016

I think 2018 will bring more big changes in my life. I’m not sure what that means, but I sense it very strongly. I wonder where to go from here. Nothing is as much fun as it used to be, because I can’t tell Dad about it and hear his laughter or comments. Sometimes, I think I could just as well die too, but I have to finish Daybreak in Denmark first – as long as I’m half done already. We Hansens like to finish what we start, and like Dad, I find it very satisfying to watch the harvest come in.

Sunset 2014 Corn

I wish all of you happy endings in 2018. To those of you who have suffered losses in 2017, I pray you will find peace and joy in the New Year. Because it’s not the end, but a new beginning.

Daybreak in Denmark

I love this interview done by Pat Bertram when Sweet William was released.

Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

Hi, Sherrie. I’m thrilled you have a new book published. What is your book, Sweet William, about?

On the outside, Sweet William is about castles, kilts, and cows. It’s about sweet vs. savory – in the kitchen, and in the bedroom. It’s about family, friends and bull semen. On the inside, Sweet William is about doing the right thing, even when your heart is screaming at you to do the complete opposite. It’s about the good ones dying and the ones who irritate you no end still hanging on and refusing to go away. It’s about the unthinkable, the impossible, having a life you love and being asked to give it all up and move to an alternate universe on the other side of the globe because there is no other option.

It all begins when Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to…

View original post 1,126 more words

Fine. I’ll admit it. Starting with my poetry writing days in the 1970s, I’ve worked through “issues” with old boyfriends, bosses, co-workers, ex-spouses, family members, random acquaintances and people I once considered friends by writing – most recently, using my imagination to transform them into hopefully unrecognizable characters in my books who can then be tortured, punished, rewarded, inappropriately loved and even killed.

Writing therapy is a wonderful by-product of being an author. With apologies to my brother, the psychologist, I believe it’s saved me thousands of dollars in counseling fees.

Dad - creek

Seriously, though – this Thanksgiving, I have many reasons for which to be thankful. I also have cause to grieve, having just lost my beloved father to leukemia on November 7th. My month has been filled with final foot rubs, long remembered conversations, and last words. My time has been taken up, not writing or trying to make a daily word count, but sleeping beside my Dad in the double recliner, rubbing his arm in the night when he didn’t feel well, and talking about “things” when one or the other of us couldn’t sleep.

Dad - daybreak

Days were filled with driving Dad around to his favorite farms so he could watch my brother bring the harvest in – for the first time, without him.

Dad - harvest

After Dad made the transition to his new home in heaven (which I truly believe is trimmed out in cherry wood, with crown moldings and one-of-a-kind solid wood doors that have a few knots, because while most people consider them a flaw, Dad thought they were “beauty-ful”), my days were spent rounding up a bluegrass band to play “Life is Like a Mountain Railway” at his funeral, making 18 dozen eggs into Hansen family sanctioned egg salad, and proofing Dad’s obituary and memorial flyers.

Dad - grandkids

I wouldn’t have missed a single moment that transpired or a single word that passed between us.

Earlier this fall, I fully intended to do NaNoWriMo, a writing challenge that asks you to commit to writing 1667 words a day for the month of November for a total of 50,000, or in my case, half of a book.

About the time my brothers and sister and I held a “Funeral Rehearsal” party for Dad that was attended by almost 250 people (at his request – he kept saying it was too bad he had to miss his funeral because the bluegrass music was going to be good, and he would like to see all his friends), I designed a mockup of a book cover and wrote a synopsis for Seaside Daisy.

Seaside Daisy

I’ve accomplished my NaNoWriMo goal for the last two years with Sweet William and Golden Rod and assumed I would do the same this year. But Seaside Daisy had nothing to do with Dad, and he’s all I can think about. Dad had never been to Ireland, where it’s set. He’s never lived by the sea, and to be honest, he probably would have thought Daisy was a flake.

Daybreak in Denmark

On November 22, I made a new cover file and wrote a new synopsis for Daybreak in Denmark, a long-planned but still unwritten sequel to my first novel, Night and Day. It’s the right book for a time such as this. Dad was half Danish and traveled to the island of Als almost 20 years ago to search for his extended family, who we’ lost touch with after World War II. If Dad was still alive, I could ask him about the farming bits, and reminisce about the interesting things we did in Denmark.

Dad - porch swing

The father figure in both Night and Day and Daybreak in Denmark is a dear man, a retired farmer with a fun sense of humor. It will be my honor to incorporate snippets of my Dad’s jokes and quirky Minnesota ways into this book.

Dad - combines

As an added bonus, Jensen has a cantankerous stepchild to contend with in this book. Why this will be therapeutic for me is a whole other story, and one I shouldn’t go into here. But trust me, this character is going to be a well-drawn, expertly crafted antagonist.

If you’ve lost a loved one recently or need to work through another sort of emotional issue over the holidays, I highly recommend writing. Get it out. Put it into words, or at least try. Journal, blog, or write a letter to the person you’re having troubles with and then tear it up or throw it in the fire. Whatever. Writing about it helps.

Dad - funeral spray

I’m thankful I got to spend as much time with my Dad as I did. I’m grateful for the hugs, loving words, and other expressions of sympathy shown to me, my husband and my family since his death. I’m grateful to have been raised and loved by a man who taught me so much – by word and example. My dad wasn’t a writer, or even a good reader, but he was a great storyteller. He was also an expert at repurposing rejected “stuff”, and a talented creator of beauty-ful things. I miss him so much, but I treasure my memories and the gifts that he gave me, and for that, I am truly thankful.

Dad - casket

 

Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-six years ago, with the help of her dad, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in Northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now spend their time in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Golden Rod” is Sherrie’s 10th book to be published by Indigo Sea Press, a mid-sized, independent press out of Winston Salem, NC.
You can find more information about Sherrie Hansen here:

WEBSITE  http://BlueBelleBooks.com  or http://BlueBelleInn.com

BLOG  https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor 

Goodreads  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/author/sherriehansen

Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

I’m spending the night at my parent’s house in the country tonight, and the stars are shining brilliantly in the inky black sky. While it’s dark and clear in Minnesota, it was so foggy I could hardly see to drive when I left Iowa. In both places, all I had to do was open a window to feel fresh air.

Sunset 1

A few evenings ago, I was at a conference in downtown Minneapolis, on the 14th floor of a Hilton Hotel, hemmed in by skyscrapers on four sides, fighting off waves of panic as I rode the elevator higher and higher and higher off the ground.

City - flags

The views from our permanently sealed windows were beautiful in a manmade sort of way, but I missed seeing the sun sink into the horizon at night. The small patch of sky directly overhead told me little of what the weather was doing.

City - night

My brief visit to the big city reminded me of the tale of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse. In the version I remember, a very proper, slightly haughty town mouse goes to visit her cousin in the country. The country mouse welcomes the city mouse with delicious, old-fashioned food and warm, heartfelt hospitality, but the visiting cousin is not impressed. She then adjusts her fancy hat and invites the country mouse to visit her in the city for a taste of the fine life.

City - clouds

When their decadent, uptown feast is interrupted by a pair of big city fat cats, they have to scurry to safety. After this, the country mouse decides to return home, preferring the peace and quiet of the country to the opulence and excitement of the big city.

Sunset 2014 Grass

Once upon a time, I dated a big city boy. At first, he thought he might enjoy living in the county, but as time went by, he realized it was not the lifestyle for him. I wasn’t interested in residing among the steel and glass giants of the city, so that was the end of that.

Zion - bowed head

In the land of fictional relationships, a character may give up his or her chosen lifestyle to be with the one they love, but in real life, it’s hard to reconcile concrete differences that go to the core of what makes us unique. In my first book, Night and Day, it’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark when Jensen and Anders meet. Since they both love their respective countries, they struggle as to whether she should leave her home, or he, his, or if they should pick somewhere halfway in between and both be homesick.

Night and Day (1)

In Golden Rod, my new release, Katelyn comes to Scotland from Minnesota to sell a castle she inherited. She doesn’t like international travel and has no intention of staying for more than a week or two. Rod is bound to MacKenzie land that’s been in his family for centuries. Their differences go even deeper than the ocean between their two homes. Katelyn lives in Minneapolis and works for a big company. She is mortified at the thought of losing her job and salary and is loyal to a boss she has always trusted and respected. Rod spends his time at sea or working in the walled garden at his family’s castle.  He’s a fiercely independent entrepreneur who controls his own destiny. Sink or swim, it’s all on him.

GR Blog - Kilt Rock

I worked for a boss in a big city before I moved back to Iowa to open the Blue Belle Inn B&B. It was a hard adjustment to go from a consistent salary to a haphazard income that fluctuated seasonally and at the whim of my customers. Gradually, I learned to trust myself and adapt to the variety of lean and leaner times. I had learned in Colorado Springs, as Katelyn eventually does, that bosses and bankers can be unreliable, and sometimes, even cities can be boom or bust fickle. But then, so can relationships, weather, and a million other things in this world. People accuse the Midwest of being boring, but to me, it feels reliable, secure, and stable.

BlueBelle 2016

Perhaps the ultimate comfort comes from staying near the places we grew up. For me, that’s the flatlands of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa – black dirt, farmland, bean and corn fields, big skies and unfettered horizons in all four directions.

Blog - Sunset

My dad and I were watching reruns of the Andy Griffith show last night. There are several episodes with Country Mouse, City Mouse themes. When I was young, there was a time I couldn’t wait to escape to the big city. Now, I see what a hold the country has on me. Much as I occasionally enjoy being wined and dined and courted while visiting the big city, I will never live in one again. For me, country is comfortable, easy, and filled with delights.

az-purples

The closest I typically come to cities these days is to fly in and out of airports in the world’s major hubs before taking the shortest route out of the city and heading to the nearest village, mountainside, or ocean-side drive. In recent years, I’ve bypassed London, Bucharest, Edinburg, Paris, Copenhagen, Milan, Denver, Phoenix, L.A., and Munich for more remote, secluded locations. Country mouse to the core.

Sunset 1-2015

But some real life stories do have happy endings. When I met my husband, I told him if he married a Minnesota farmer’s daughter, he’d be stuck in the alternately freezing cold or hot, humid Midwest for good. My roots grow deep. He grew up visiting Disneyland and surfing in southern California, and went to law school in downtown Los Angeles. Did he realize I was serious? If he didn’t then, he does now. Thankfully, he appreciates my farm family and loves them like this own. So, sometimes, love can overcome differences like Country Mouse, City Mouse. And for that, I’m very happy.

Sherrie and Mark 2013

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Golden Rod – New Release!

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Night and Day

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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