A few days ago, I left behind the cold and snow of the Midwest for the surf and sand of the California coast. We even followed the Ventura Highway. We’re here to visit my husband’s mother, but I can’t deny I’m grateful she lives in a climate that’s filled with flowers and colorful scenery, even in January.

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I always feel a surge of inspiration when I visit new places, and today is no exception. I love the adventure of seeing new things and enjoying the beauty in someone else’s backyard. But I also miss the people and things I love back home.

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I take my nieces and nephew on a mini-adventure every Wednesday afternoon – a joy I missed this week because I was on my way to the airport. Maybe that’s why I dreamed about them last night. In my dream, I remembered being their current ages – 9, 11, and 13 – and realized that I have the same interests and passions that I had way back then even though almost half a century has flown by.

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I started cooking for 4-H, and then, because I preferred fixing dinner for my family and whatever farm crew was helping out to driving tractor, and then, because I loved hearing compliments from friends and family about how delicious and cute my food tasted and looked. It seems I had an artistic eye that manifested itself in culinary delights. Entertaining friends, catering special events, and cooking at my B&B and tea house for the last 25 years isn’t all that far a stretch.

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I started piano and trombone when I was in grade school and junior high, as they were called back then. My love of music hasn’t diminished in all this time either. The trombone didn’t last, and my taste in artists (John Denver, Bread, Gordon Lightfoot) may have evolved in different directions, but I still play piano with a contemporary worship team and even write an occasional melody. And I love rocking out with drummer and keyboard friends.

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My bright lavender bedroom with sculpted, bronze carpet and lime green love beads may not have had the refined look of any of my current decorating projects, but I was clearly interested in color and design, even as a young teenager. And truthfully, my tastes  – and my passion for wild color combinations and quirky furnishings – haven’t changed all that much over the years.

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My favorite books when I was the age Victoria and Gloria are now were the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace (a series set in the Victorian era that follows Betsy and her Crowd of friends from childhood to marriage, much like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.) Betsy was a writer, so that’s what I wanted to be, too. I loved to read, write poems, plays and stories, and spent hours dreaming about characters for the books I would write one day. Voila!

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I also dreamed of finding my very own, perfect for me, “Joe” (Betsy’s beau) and one day, having my own little Bettina. While that didn’t work out the way I hoped, I’ve certainly seen the Great World and accomplished abundantly more than I ever dreamed possible.

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I’ve thankful that I had people in my life who encouraged me to dream, live large, and think outside the box. When my dream life didn’t materialize quite the way I expected, I’m glad for friends who helped me pick up the pieces and start over. I’m grateful that my family loved and accepted me no matter what crazy things I was up to at any given time.

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If you have children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews who are a part of your life, please cheer them on when they try out new things, and discover their own passions. You never know what might become of it. Little acorns grow up to be mighty oak trees.

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The excitement and bright lights of the holiday season have come and gone, and for me, the temptation to hunker down, eat a lot of fattening food, and hibernate for the rest of the winter is strong. If I’m not careful, dreary winter days, void of sunshine, can lull me into a lazy, lackadaisical mode that can last half the year. So I’m here today to challenge you – and me, too. There’s a rhythm to writing, and it’s time to get in sync!

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Because I live in the upper Midwest, my New Year starts out much like the Wizard of Oz – in black and white. Long nights, winter snow, fog, and ice, and shades of gray, overcast skies dominate our landscape. But the flipside is, the slow, boring days of January are a great time to start a new book or finish editing your old one. Like Dorothy, I spend my days dreaming of colorful characters and enchanted places, typing black words on a white screen to create worlds where flowers are blooming and the sunshine is golden.

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February is a time of romance. At my B&B, we lavish our customers with red strawberries dipped in chocolate fondue, seafood served in scallop shells on puff pastry hearts, and steaks topped with herbs de Provence and Roquefort cream. Yes, romance. You know what to do. Take a long soak in a bubble bath, let yourself dream a little, and start writing.

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March brings the winds of change. March is a time of new life – daffodils, kites and newborn lambs. But March is full of false starts and hopes dashed – thin crusts of ice with rushing water underneath, Easter snowstorms, cuteness and treachery all rolled into one. Sounds like the perfect time to hatch a plot, doesn’t it?

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With April showers and May flowers, come refreshment and a rainbow of colors. Rinse the cobwebs out of your mind and let yourself participate in the rebirth of the earth. Write with newly kindled passion. Step back, let go, and allow your characters to spring to life. Follow them and see where they take you.

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June and July are colored with the vibrant greens, pinks, purples, and yellows of summer. Hot and steamy, summer is filled with fireworks and fizzled relationships and a heightened sense of being. Let the hazy, lazy days of summer infuse your novel with short-term craziness. No need to commit to a specific plot. Just run with it. Feel the cool breezes – really feel them. Let yourself get a little sultry.

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Depending on where you live, August or September is a time of re-structuring. We’re forced to buckle down, go back to our studies, and get serious about finishing our summer projects. September is a month when forced disciplines and alarm clocks dominate out lives. What better time to start out fresh, wake up early and get an extra hour of writing worked into the schedule?

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The brilliant reds and oranges of October are a last hurrah that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Get your fill of color – and write – all you can. For the past several years, I’ve tried to have my novel half done by the end of October in hopes of being able to finish the rough draft during NaNoWriMo. Because my goal is to release one book a year, I have the first 10 months of the year to write the first half of the book. The end of the year is drawing near. Let October’s brilliance propel you into high gear. Do whatever you need to do to stay on track.

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By the time November rolls around, I’m ready for the challenge of writing 1667 words a day to write 50,000 words in November. I wrote large portions of Love Notes, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet in November because of NaNoWriMo. There’s no time to edit, rewrite or perfect. Just get the words on the paper. No matter how crazy or erratic your schedule, just get it done. There’s plenty of time to get picky come December or January.

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December is a prelude to winter, a time to tie up loose ends. Give your readers the gift of yourself, shining through the pages of your novel. December can be exhilarating, or for some, a downer. But there’s no need to drown in the dismal, sometimes depressing days. Let your writing be your Star in the East. Save on therapy sessions and write your heart out. Take those horrid or hilarious family gatherings and craft them into a scene. Make lemonade.

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And then, because you’re in the groove, the rhythm repeats. You get with the beat. Yes, Virginia, there is a time for every season. I do my edits and rewrites in December, January and February so I can send my manuscript to my publisher in March. They typically have it ready for release in July. For me, it’s a good rhythm. Write no matter what’s going on around you, and in a matter of time, the cycle of writing will come full circle.

Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. Watch for Sweet William coming soon! You can see what’s she’s up to at: 

https://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor/ 

https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

www.BlueBelleInn.com

https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

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

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sherrie and Mark 2013To friends and family on the occasion of Christmas 2015,

It’s been another exciting year – we have so much to be thankful for! Although we’ve resorted to a form letter once again, we hope to give you a little taste of what we’ve been up to in 2015.

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We both enjoy the awesome speakers and music at Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ gatherings. In May we participated in a continuing education event in OH, stopping at Sherrie’s nephew, Michael’s and Abby’s house in IN on the way back. In Oct, we drove to Dallas for the LCMC’s 15th annual gathering, staying with Mark’s cousin, Monte and wife Karen in OK on the way.

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We made two trips to Ely, MN; one in June for a few relaxing days with Mark’s Uncle Frank and Aunt Pat at their “cabin” on Bear Island Lake, and one in July with granddaughter Imix to see  cousins, aunts and uncles who were there to celebrate Pat and Frank’s 50th Anniversary.

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The next big event in our busy summer was Sherrie’s Mom and Dad’s 60th Anniversary Party, hosted by Corey and Kaye at Hansen Family Farms. Visiting nieces, nephews and cousins from all over the world (North Carolina to Seattle, and Boston to southern Brazil) made it a very special occasion, with great friends, good music, and a lot of delicious food all adding to the fun.

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After going a couple of years without a “real” vacation, we spent 17 days in Europe in July and August. We combined a visit to Romania to see Mark’s son, Erik, and his new wife with a stopover in the United Kingdom. Driving down narrow, hedge-lined byways on the “wrong” side of the road, enjoying plenty of caramel shortbread, eating at a pie pub with Sherrie’s cousin Sarah and family, visiting the quaint village where Doc Martin is filmed, climbing thousands of steps up to castles and down to the sea, and watching the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean while sheep grazed on the beach in Croyde, Devon, were all amazing adventures.

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The highlight of our 12 day trip to Romania was celebrating Erik’s wedding to Cristiana, or as Mark says, “chaperoning the honeymoon.” In Bucharest, we rented a car and circled the country with Erik and Cristiana as our personal Romanian-speaking tour guides. We spent an afternoon in Bacova, the ancestral hometown of Mark’s great grandmother as well as experiencing many beautiful castles, medieval towns, and the picturesque, traditional villages that dot the mountain valleys and countryside. Erik and Cristiana are well suited for each other and we enjoyed getting to know our newest member of the family and discovering a truly delightful corner of the world that we never would have thought to travel to if it weren’t for them.

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In addition to playing the piano at church, and working more hours at the Blue Belle than she has in years, Sherrie kept busy with the release of Shy Violet, her latest Wildflowers of Scotland novel, writing and casting numerous murder mysteries, and completing a 50,000 word writing challenge in November to finish the rough draft of Sweet William, her next book.

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Mark continues to find joy in his call at Zion Lutheran in Hudson, and enjoys watching our church family and Sunday School grow. In the midst of our busy, back and forth schedule, it’s an honor and a privilege to share our lives with and minister to the people at Zion.

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We are both thankful for the improvement in Mark’s mother’s health, and that Sherrie’s mom and dad have come through a trying year, medically speaking, and still continue to be active. It’s been fun to hear from each of you, too! Although we may not see you often, we continue to keep you close in our hearts and prayers. Until next year (or sooner if you travel our way!), we wish you a Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year.

Love, Mark and Sherrie

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This time of year, I feel a little like Dorothy living in Kansas at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. My dreams may be in living color, but the reality of wintertime in Iowa is cold, black and white.

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Starting in November, the vibrant greens, pinks, blues purples, and yellows of summer, and the brilliant reds and oranges of autumn are gradually replaced by a monochromatic palette of browns, grays, blacks, and whites. By the time January rolls around, the view outside my window is white, white and more white. Winter snow, fog, ice, and overcast skies dominate the landscape until late February – if we’re lucky, late April if we’re not.

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A friend of mine who’s an artist has tried to convince me that there are subtle shades of pink, blue and lavender lurking behind the obvious in my all-white, wintertime world. But hard as I try to see past the stark glare and focus on the subtle intricacies of white, I still miss color.

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I survive wintertime by surrounding myself with colorful images – bright foods, cheery Christmas and Valentine decorations, perky clothes, jewelry and hats, and photo collages from summertime vacation and events. I keep watch for the occasional breathtaking sunrise or sunset. And I write.

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Like Dorothy, I dream of far off places. I imagine colorful characters and places and things. I type black words on a white screen and with those words, create worlds where it’s springtime, where flowers are blooming and the sunshine is golden and warm.

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Like Dorothy, I love my family. I choose to live where it’s cold and white for several months of the year because there’s no place like home. But in my mind’s eye, I’ll take some color, please. True colors – bright, vivid pinks, blues, and purples to start. Green and yellow sound just peachy, too – don’t you think?

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So until springtime comes, happy winter to all – you can find me and my imagination hanging somewhere over the rainbow, at least until May.

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Source: Writing Thanksgiving

On this day of Thanksgiving, in the midst of mashed potatoes and turkey and stuffing, and even pie, I would like to take a minute to express my gratitude for each of you who reads the words I put together with paper and pen.

Today, I’d like to share ten things I am thankful for, from a writer’s perspective.

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  1. I’m thankful for a publisher who not only saw merit in my work and took a chance on me, but who encourages me to write what’s on my heart. Thank you for not pressuring me to write what’s selling, or what fits into a certain box.

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  1. I’m thankful for faithful readers who return to my stories again and again, and clamor for more. It means the world to me.

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  1. I’m also thankful for those adventurous new readers who take a chance on my books, who spend their valuable time and money on books by Sherrie Hansen even though there are millions of others to choose from.

 

  1. I’m especially thankful for those wonderful, glorious people who actually take the time to write and post reviews of my books. I am quite convinced they are angels!

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  1. I’m thankful that I come from a family of thinkers who talks things through, tries to figure things out, and speculates on possible outcomes. From my grandmas on down, the family members who influenced me the most, know how to tell a good story, nurture imagination, and ask the question “What if…?”

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  1. I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed to live a life sprinkled with novel (novel-worthy?) experiences. It hasn’t always been fun. It’s been traumatic at times. But it’s never been boring, and writing about some of the things that have shaped me, in story form, has been therapeutic and uplifting.

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  1. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to live in and travel to some very exotic locales. From Scotland to Romania, Bar Harbor, Maine, Colorado Springs and yes, even Lawton, Oklahoma, my sojourns and journeys have provided amazing backdrops for my stories, and opened my eyes to unique people, different ways of thinking, and alternate perspectives. I love it when I can escape my own comfortable little corner of the world and experience the grand adventure of seeing the universe through other people’s eyes.

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  1. I’m thankful for a supportive husband who encourages me to write and helps me make time in my hectic schedule for writing. I am thankful for his little acts of thoughtfulness, like driving us places while I write away in the car, my laptop propped on the open door of the glove compartment – yes, even at night when the light from my screen irritates him.

 

  1. I’m thankful for friends and relatives who critique my work, share candid opinions, and let me pick their brains so I can learn everything they know about cows and everything else under the sun. (Yes, Victoria, you will get credit for sharing your expertise on cows in the dedication for Sweet William.)

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  1. I’m thankful for a God and Savior who created me in His image, and gave me the gifts of creativity, artistry, music and passion. God could have designed us to be obedient, robotic type creatures, but instead, he gave us free-wills, and imaginations, even though He knew both good and bad would come from our choices.

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My sincere thanks to all of you who have read my blog, and in doing so, listened to and shared my thoughts. Anyone who has experienced the thrill of having someone read what they’ve written knows what a true joy this is. On this day of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for you.

November used to be one of my least favorite months. November is dull, dreary, gray, and, after a beautiful summer and fall, oh, so anti-climactic. And we all know what happens when the gales of November come early or the witch of November comes stealin’…

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For me, all that has changed. I look forward to November all year long – not because of the bitter winds or the colorless landscape, but because I do NaNoWriMo! NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing month, the time of year when writers young and old are issued a challenge to write 50,000 words (a short novel) in the month of November. This is accomplished by writing 1667 words a day for each of the 30 days in November, which is no small feat! Because it coincides with a slow time of year at my B&B and Tea House, it’s become my annual time of year to finish my work in progress. Because my novels average 95,000 or 100,000 words, that means I have the first 10 months of the year to write the first half of the book, and one short month to finish it.

The folks at NaNoWriMo recommend that for the month of November, you don’t take time to edit, rewrite or perfect. You just get the words on the paper, or in most cases, in your word processor. There’s plenty of time to get picky come December or January. Some people accomplish this mad blitz of writing by being highly organized and carefully plotting out each scene they intend to write. Others fly by the seat of their pants, dashing off anything that pops into their heads as it comes to them. Fresh, wild and unpredictable.

Shy Violet

My own plan of attack when I start a book is to wing it for the first quarter of the book or however long it takes to give the characters a chance to talk to me about who they are and what they want. By the time I’m a quarter or a third of the way in, I know their stories, and have a clear idea of what needs to happen in the rest of the book. But as NaNoWriMo looms, I make out a list of scenes that need to be included and figure out what POV they will be in, so I know who the antagonist and protagonist are and what conflict will drive the scene. Then, when I have time to write, I can just pick a scene and go. A big part of NaNoWriMo is the discipline to write every day – a definite challenge for those of us with crazy or erratic schedules. My best writing time always used to be late at night, but lately, I find myself more alert and productive first thing in the morning. Then, if I can stay awake after whatever business the rest of my day holds, I try to write a little more at night. I always try to meet my daily word count, but there are days I just don’t have time because of other commitments. I write in larger chunks whenever I can to make up for those days.

Blue Belle, a contemporary romance by Sherrie Hansen

As I said, for the past several years, I’ve attempted to have my next release half done by the time November rolls around in hopes of being finished with my rough draft by November 30. What a grand day of celebrating that is! I do my edits and rewrites in December-February so I can send the manuscript to my editor and publisher in March. They typically have it ready for release in June or July. For me, it’s a good rhythm. I wrote large portions of Love Notes, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet in November because of NaNoWriMo.

Some writers get involved with a local NaNo group that may meet at some public place or coffee shop for writing jags. Since I live in a small town / rural area and write at odd times of the night and day, often in my nightgown, I work alone. I do have some online NaNo buddies who act as cheerleaders and hold me accountable or inspire me if I get bogged down or discouraged. For me, the best part of NaNoWriMo is the little graph on my homepage that charts my progress. I love logging in to the NaNoWriMo website and entering my word count. I find the camaraderie, reminders and pep talks to be motivating.

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I completed my task of writing 50K words for NaNoWriMo twice. Although I’ve fallen a little short of the word count the other times I’ve participated, I got way more written than I would have without NaNo, and thus, I feel like I accomplished my personal goals.

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Whether you’re a new writer who’s always wanted to write a novel, or an experienced author who needs a jumpstart in your writing life, I urge you to give NaNoWriMo a try! You never know what might come from it… but it could be the next best-seller. Whatever the outcome, a little boost never hurts. Yes, this time of year can be a downer, but there’s no need to drown in the dismal seas of November. Let NaNoWriMo be your bright spot!

A.J. McCarthy

Indigo Sea Press

AJ: Mike, you are presently the head of Indigo Sea Press, a new publishing company located in North Carolina. Tell us a bit about your personal history in the publishing industry.

MS: Anita, as a child, I was always the kid who could be counted on to “take a dare.” Back in 2007 I was participating in an on-line literary contest with a number of other authors. Some of the really good writers in the contest formed a critique group and invited me to be a part of it. During our discussions and reading, I voiced the opinion that it was a tremendous injustice that the prevailing system of the book industry prevented so many fine authors from being published. The others in the group dared me to start my own publishing company. So the next year we started our first publishing company, Second Wind Publishing. Indigo Sea Press…

View original post 1,246 more words

It’s been a little over a month since we came back from our dream vacation to Romania, with a delightful stopover in Devon and Cornwall, England. While I cherish the memories of the exceptional things we experienced and the beautiful places we saw, it’s been so busy since we’ve been home that there’s been little time to bask in the glow of vacation bliss.

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The price you pay for being gone three weeks… bills and responsibilities at work pile up, an intimidating stack of mail needs your immediate attention, and the suitcase full of dirty laundry you brought back from the trip is daunting. You step off the merry go round for a few days, but the world keeps spinning, and sooner or later, you have to run fast and leap on to the carousel to catch up.

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But despite the busyness that’s plagued me since our return, I’ve been writing. With inspiring images newly etched in my mind and fresh voices echoing in my head, I can’t help myself. It’s amazing what clearing the cobwebs out of your mind and giving your brain a good spring cleaning will do.

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Being back from vacation has also reminded me that I love living near my extended family. I missed them while I was gone and am happy to be in a place where I can regularly visit them once more.

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I really do like my life, the way I earn a living, and the things that occupy my days. I feel a renewed sense of gratefulness for the things that I have and the life that I lead.

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I also feel challenged to take more mini-vacations – to go to a concert or take the time to attend a festival or community activity, to make time to read a book or go for a walk or take some photographs of the beauty that surrounds me right here, in my own back yard.

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I feel inspired to take better care of myself, to get more sleep, and to do simple things like eating breakfast, to pamper myself in little ways every day, not just when I’m on vacation.

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Sweet William, the Wildflowers of Scotland novel I’m currently working on, will be a better book because I took time out from my busy life and renewed my perspective. Seeing a different corner of the world infused my life with color and light and music – an unfolding drama that is vastly different from the daily grind that so often consumes me.

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Take a long vacation if you can – leave the country, do something drastically different than the norm, rediscover yourself in the faces of a foreign country. If you can’t, go for a walk, escape the house, even if only for an evening of music or fun, sign up for an online class, invite someone you don’t know very well to dinner… Shake it up. I promise you, you’ll only be better for the experience. And keep on writing, or moving, or dancing. You have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others. Rejuvenate!

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