I just read an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of a new series by S.E. Turner.  Because the new book I got to read (Sorceress of the Sapphire, Book One – Kingdom of Durundal 2) isn’t out yet, I can’t write a review, so I thought I’d rave about it here. I’ve never done this before, but I  think this series is the perfect read for the situation we’re in now – so here I go…

The Kingdom of Durundal series is listed as fantasy, a genre I don’t normally read – but I think it’s much more than that. The characters feel too real, and the problems they face too immediate, to be fantasy. To me, it feels like a historical look at what clan life used to be like in Scotland, or some other ancient realm before recorded time. And we all know that history repeats itself, like it or not. For the same reasons I love J.R. R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis’s novels, I am completely drawn to The Kingdom of Durundal.

Why? Horrible things happen to Turner’s characters, but they rise above their challenges and survive. Heroes spring up and save the day when least expected, when all seems lost. Whether old-fashioned ingenuity or analytical minds applying themselves in a genius way, or something just a little magical or beyond our understanding, the battle is always won. There is loss, there is heartbreak – people die and worlds change so much that you know deep down things will never be the same, but somehow, in the end, good always prevails over evil. Hope blossoms when you are sure that all hope is lost. I don’t know about you, but I find that inspiring, now more than ever.

In the author’s own words, The Kingdom of Durundal’s five books are made up of the following elements:  Fantasy, history, ancient mythology, sword and sorcery, battles, apothecary (herbal medicines), spirituality, honour, betrayal, vengeance, magic, sacrifice, coming of age, love, strength, courage.

It’s an amazing combination. Some things that I personally love about these books – the author interweaves themes like greed and selfishness, a struggle as contemporary as it is ancient – and redemption! Forgiveness, and second chances, delayed gratification and patience, make the characters so perfectly imperfect that you will fall in love with them just as I did.

https://www.amazon.com/S-E-Turner/e/B078Q7LZW9/

Click here to check out S.E. Turner’s novels on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/S-E-Turner/e/B078Q7LZW9/

I can’t tell you to rush out and buy Sorceress of the Sapphire, the first book in the new series, which I am thrilled to report, takes place a decade and a half later, but still in the Kingdom of Durundal, because it won’t be available until May 1st. But if anything I’ve said sounds interesting, it’s the perfect time to read A Hare in the Wilderness – Book 1, A Wolf in the Dark – Book 2, A Leopard in the Mist – Book 3, A Stag in the Shadows – Book 4, A Moth in the Flames – Book 5. By the time you’re done, the first book in the continuing series will be available for order, and you will thank me for recommending them.

Although a very minor disappointment in the total scheme of things lost because of the pandemic, it looks like our trip to Scotland, described in an earlier post –  is most likely not going to happen.

We receieved a note from one of our hosts this morning saying that they were cancelling all reservations. We’ve also confirmed that the Blair Atholl Castle’s Highland Games and Bagpipe and Atholl Highlanders Review scheduled for the end of May has been cancelled. So has the Taste of Granpian Food Show we were going to attend in Aberdeenshire in June. Oh – the Peat Inn in Fife, and the Kilted Fudge Company are closed until further notice.

I don’t know how to alter photos to include a big red X drawn across them, but we can scratch out the following:

Hope springs eternal, and I know we were all wishing that this situation would resolve itself quickly. But the experts seem to think we will be dealing with COVID-19 for a long time. On my best days, I manage to take things in stride – I am very blessed, and I trust in a God who is able to work all things together for good. I’ve been sticking to my diet, sleeping fairly well, and staying busy preparing take out food at my tea house instead of stressing out and eating everything in sight (my usual way of dealing with stress.)

BlueBelle 2016

I am blessed with a wonderful husband to be quarrantined with, a mortgage that’s paid off, a family that’s nearby, and some wonderfully faithful customers, so it’s all good. But I am afraid of what will happen if Mark or I gets the virus because of our reduced immune systems.

Sherrie - Mark

I usually survive the long, dreary winter and times of stress by dreaming about our next great adventure. Our trips to Europe sustain me and motivate me and inspire me mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s hard to find things to look forward to when we can’t see our friends or get together with our families or attend fun events or even regroup and recenter at a worship service at church.

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And isn’t it funny that I’ve been dreaming for weeks of having the time to get back to my painting, and now that I have extra time, I just can’t seem to get into it?

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I started to outline a new book, which I can set anywhere in the world, based on my memories and imagination. Right now, I’m thinking Portree, on the Isle of Skye. When Plum Tart Iris comes back from my proofreaders, I’ll have editing and polishing to do.  Spring is coming, and soon, there will be flowers to photograph and walks to take.

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Everything will be fine, right? And if this virus changes my life in a more significant way than the current minor disapointments we’ve all experienced, I will adapt. At least, I hope so.

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In the meantime, let’s all pray. Really pray. Keep looking up. Stay home. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Pray. Keep praying.

Take care and stay healthy!

Love, Sherrie

I commented to someone last week that I’ve been feeling sad and alone these last few weeks even though I’ve been surrounded by people and busier than busy at the Blue Belle and church. I blamed it on the wintertime blues. We’ve rarely seen the sun since returning home from Arizona (how thankful am I for that brief break from winter!)

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While friends on Facebook are posting pictures of the first blooms of spring, our snow keeps piling up and up and up. I think there’s almost a foot on the ground already, and another 3-5 inches are expected today.

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That’s when a friend said to me, “Don’t you always feel this way when you finish a book?” Sigh. She was right. I finished my rough draft of PLUM TART IRIS and wrote The End exactly two weeks ago. I’ve been feeling lost ever since.

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One of the many joys of writing novels, and hopefully reading them, is that the worlds we escape to, in this case, the Czech Republic, feel real. The characters become our friends, and sometimes, even more. If you’ve ever fallen in love with a character, you know the feeling – but fun as a fictional crush may be, it’s not just about “love.”

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When we write or read a good book, we explore new worlds, learn invigorating new truths, think about things that would otherwise never have entered our minds, and have the type of honest conversations that we rarely have in our real lives. In many ways, book relationships can feel more real than the ones that fill our everyday lives.

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As a writer, I bare my soul via the characters in my books, spend hours researching other cultures and historical backdrops, and conjure up visions of lush landscapes and tucked away, intimate corners of places we have visited on our vacations. It’s exhausting and exhilarating. The moments – days, weeks and months – I spend in the fictional worlds I create in my books are so dear to me that I often feel that I could stay there, in those places, with the people I have grown to love, forever.

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It’s no wonder I feel lonely now that I’ve written The End, closed the door, and started the process of moving on. I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m trying to catch up on some projects neglected while I was immersed in my novel, catch up on my reading, and even talk to some real people who haven’t heard from me in awhile, but there’s still something missing – namely Iris and Mikulas! So, what now?

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I could immediately begin another book, but I’ve still got edits to do, a cover to design, formatting and promotional materials to build, and a release party to plan for PLUM TART IRIS. Besides, I’m already feeling a little schizophrenic, planning Irish-themed festivities in honor of  SEASIDE DAISY, my current release, for Saint Patrick’s Day, editing and marketing PLUM TART IRIS, my Czechia mystery, while simultaneously planning a trip to Scotland. And of course, I have to devote at least some of my time to Iowa and Minnesota family, friends, and business pursuits.

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So what’s the solution? I’m not sure what to do about my dilemma, but I’ve been told that it’s great fun to binge read my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, one after the other, while the characters and details from the previous book are still familiar and fresh in your mind. If you fall in love with a fictional hero or heroine, it’s all good, because you’re bound to see them in the next book, and the next, and the next. The same holds true with NIGHT and DAY, and the sequel DAYBREAK. Many have told me they’ve gone back and reread one and then immediately gone on to the other. Those who originally read my Maple Valley trilogy had to wait a whole year between STORMY WEATHER, WATERLILY, and MERRY GO ROUND – now, you can see the story unwind through Rachael, Michelle, and Tracy’s lives all in one setting. 

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So, if you have the wintertime blues, there’s nothing like “good book immersion therapy.” The experience can carry you through to spring. Make a new friend, travel to a far off country, learn to dance or quilt or make teatime delicacies. Be inspired. Be my guest! All you have to do is open the door and take the first step. 

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The tickets are bought, the Airbnbs have been booked. We’re going back to Scotland for three weeks in May and June!

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At least one person has already made the comment, “Again?”, so I’ll explain our reasoning. The answer is, while we loved exploring a new country and seeing new sights when we went to the Czech Republic last summer, we found it exhausting and much more strenuous to vacation on completely unfamiliar turf while dealing with a foreign language in a place where it was rare to find someone who spoke English.

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov view

Our Czechia trip took far more research and planning than usual, and we struggled to get oriented and figure out the lay of the land. It wasn’t unpleasant – we saw some absolutely amazing sights, and I love the story that came out of the experience (PLUM TART IRIS, coming summer of 2020), but it wasn’t as relaxing or fun as going “home” to Scotland. (This will be our 4th trip and our 10th, 11th, and 12th weeks in country.)  Maybe one day, we’ll still morph into one of those couples who goes to the same cabin (stone cottage?) on the same lake (or should I say loch?) in the same state (country?) every single summer. Stranger things have happened!

B&W View

In our defense, Scotland has so many things to see, and such variety! From highland castles to seaside villages, remote islands to bustling towns and quaint country hideaways, each and every place we’ve visited has been full of charm. The things to do and see are basically limitless. Each time we go, we make sure to include a new island or region in our itinerary as well as some old favorites that bear repeating.

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Both of us had enough frequent flier miles to get a “free” overseas ticket, so long story short, we have a lot of connections and we’re flying into Edinburgh instead of Glasgow. But our only expenses were taxes and airport fees, so we can’t complain. We leave on May 18th.

For the first three nights, we’re staying in a stone cottage on a small farm with a stream running through the garden near Humbie, southeast of Edinburgh.  From there, we can explore previously unseen gardens, beaches, manor houses and abbeys in the Borderlands.

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We’ll spend our next 3 days in the same renovated barn we stayed in two years ago when we were in Aberfeldy, one of our favorite places in all the world.

I’ve already made reservations for a return visit to the famed Peat Inn, near St. Andrews, where we’ll enjoy lunch to break up our drive to the highlands.

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While in Aberfeldy, we’ll see the Atholl Highlanders and bagpipers marching in review and the Highland Games at Blair Atholl Castle for the third time. Love it!

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Then, it’s back to Dornie, home of Eilean Donan Castle (where SHY VIOLET and SWEET WILLIAM are set), for two nights. Loch Carron (where GOLDEN ROD is set) is an easy side trip from Dornie.

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Need I say more?

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Dinner at the Lochcarron Bistro, and a visit to Balnacra Pottery at the Smithy and Carron Pottery, Craft Shop & Gallery are on the list as well – maybe even Lochcarron Weavers – all great enticements.

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We’ll be spending one night in Portree, on the Isle of Skye before heading out on the ferry to a part of the Outer Hebrides Islands that we’ve never seen before – North and South Uist.

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I’ve been following a photographer on Instagram who posts photos of the sunsets on the Uists and I can’t wait to experience the magic. This photo of Loch Bee was taken from the bedroom window of Na h-Eileanan an Iar Bungalow where we’ll be staying for 4 nights.

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From South Uist, we’ll be taking a rather complicated jaunt on a couple of ferries to get to Tobermory, Isle of Mull (where BLUE BELLE is set.) Hopefully the seas will be calm that day!

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I’ve already made sure that Cafe Fish, where we ate 13 years ago on the harbor, is still open. They are, and my only problem now is what to order – the Haddock Mornay rolled haddock fillet stuffed with baby spinach and herbed mushrooms, and topped with a Mull cheddar sauce or the Café Fish Pie salmon, smoked haddock, fresh haddock and queenies in a creamy sauce topped with crushed potato  and cheese. I had the fish pie last time and loved it, but I had Haddock Mornay in 2016 on the Isle of Arran and it was wonderful, too. My usual solution to this dilemma is to see if my nice husband will order one while I order the other, but every so often, he won’t cooperate… we’ll see… Maybe if he gets to play golf one day while we’re on Mull?

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Our third night on the Isle of Mull, we’ll be staying on the other side of the island, the Ross of Mull in Fionnphort, where we’ll be catching the foot ferry to the Isle of Iona, one of the oldest Christian religious centers in Western Europe. We hope to visit Duart and Torosay Castles on out way back to catch another ferry to the mainland. With that last jaunt to Oban, our island-hopping will be complete and it’s off to the Highlands again.

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We’ll be spending one night at Keltneyburn to break up our drive. It’s near Fortingall, a picturesque little town we’ve been to before.

Scot - Haggis

Our farm stay reservation in Aberdeenshire will be our home for the next two nights so we can attend the Taste of Grampian, a food and drink show near Inverurie with over 200 exhibitors – including our favorite food vendor, Kilted Fudge. Their Clootie Dumpling Fudge is the best!  I’m sure I’ll be able to enjoy some Haggis, tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips) as well.

Aberdeenshire is castle country, and we hope to see one or two that we missed last time we were there. I love castle gardens and hope to enjoy a bit of color. The bluebells, wisteria, and rhododendrons should still be in bloom in the highlands and the roses just beginning to bloom.

 

We’ll be circling back to Crail, another favorite spot, for our second to last night in Scotland. This is the sea view from the garden where we’re staying. Crail is along the east coast, a traditional Neuk village just a wee bit from Edinburgh. I’m glad we’ll be able to stay by the sea once more before we head home – and of course, I’ll need to visit Crail Pottery again.

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On June 9th, we’ll fly home to Iowa. I’ve been asked if this trip to Scotland means there will be another Wildflowers of Scotland novel. As of now, I have no ideas, but then, the whole point of traveling is to expand your mind and find inspiration in the things you see, experience, and learn. So, we’ll see!

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We appreciate your prayers for a safe and relaxing journey.

(Please note that while most of these photos were taken by me, there are a few (3) that I did not take because they are of places I have not yet visited.)

 

 

 

No this isn’t an advertisement for essential oils – but when I received an email from Young Living about Goldenrod, I couldn’t help but make some comparisons with my book Golden Rod. Their article opened with, “A bag of gold bullion or a bottle of Goldenrod? You’d think the decision would be an easy one, but fans of the oil would disagree…”  Words like, “priceless, hands-down one of our most popular oils, worth the wait, loved by men and women alike for its grassy, bittersweet aroma and long list of benefits, from elevating your skin care routine to amping up a romantic vibe,” made me think of my Golden Rod.

Golden Rod - WordPress

From a 5 star review of Golden Rod on Amazon: 

Goldenrod essential oil

What is Goldenrod essential oil used for? Excerpts from the following list from YL draws more parallels  between their Goldenrod and my Golden Rod to mind:

1. Brighten your outlook. Add some positivity to your day with the scent of Goldenrod to sweeten extra-special moments.

2. Deepen your massage. Soak in the relaxing scent and reconnect with your partner by giving each other a massage for a romantic night in.

3. Make bedtime the best time. Enjoy its earthy aroma as you drift off to dreamland.

4. Go for the bold. Use Goldenrod to create a pleasant, masculine scent for men for a calming personal fragrance.

5. Make a great first impression. Nervous about meeting someone new? Let the relaxing aroma help calm those first-date jitters. 

6. Drench your skin in hydration. Add a drop to your moisturizer for smoother, irresistibly touchable skin.

7. Cuddle up with your true love. Create a cozy night in with the unifying blend of Goldenrod. Planning a romantic getaway? Combine your natural charm with Goldenrod for a truly memorable weekend.

Golden Rod Flood Bay 2016

If I haven’t convinced you yet, here’s another review of Golden Rod:

Wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel by Sherrie Hansen. I found it to be a sweet comical romance. What started out as an untimely and unwanted involvement between strangers blossomed into an unforgettable journey and romance… I loved the way that Scottish lore and legend was crafted into this modern day romance. I loved the way that the history of the Scots and the culture from Scotland was crafted into this story.

Hansen did a fantastic job making the words fly off the page. The world she created came to life and felt real, as if I was really there with the characters, seeing, feeling, and wanting everything they did. Bravo!

Golden Rod

I think this reviewer captured the essence of Golden Rod, too:

A Legend Relived through Modern Day Romance:  A wonderful retelling of a Scottish legend through romance. The storytelling is beautiful and describes the beauty of Scotland in a way that will make you contemplate checking tickets for visiting the enchanting country. Through the story of Katelyn and Rod the author shows the fears and struggles we face daily. Katelyn as a character shows our aspect in the modern world, detached, cold and self centered at times. Preoccupied with her own problems she is not aware of anything around her or how her actions affect others. On the other hand through Rod we see the honorable, compassionate side of us. His love for Scotland is something that brings the realistic aspect in the story. His pride in his heritage and the land he calls home is something we can easily understand and with every right. His personality and love melt the walls Katelyn has built around her heart. I was truly impressed with the story and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books from this author.

Golden Rod Cattails

 

And one more of my favorites – a review from the UK:

Heavenly Tale – This was such an enjoyable book to read as my fascination and love of Scotland is parallel to the authors. I am intrigued by castles and the folklore concerning ghosts, and this story had everything – passion, romance, and history – entwined with the beauty of the atmospheric lochs and mountains. The ghosts were particularly likeable – in every sense possible; be prepared for a little flutter. Brilliantly paced, expertly written.

With that, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions – is Golden Rod right for you? If you haven’t already read it, I hope you’ll give it a try and see if you enjoy the essence of Golden Rod. If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

GoldenRod 2016

The New Year is traditionally a time to set your eyes on new endeavors and shake things up a bit. Some think of it as being a time to start out with a clean slate, but to do that, the old slate has to be wiped clean, an idea that’s always been very distasteful to me.

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I may as well admit that I’m one of those persons who likes to stay friends with my old boyfriends. Even when I found myself divorced and single once again back in the 1980s, I didn’t want to forget about the years I was married. Yes, things ended badly. Since we had no children when we went our separate ways, I had the opportunity to put the past completely behind me.  At one point, when my ex-husband wanted to get married again -this time to a devote Catholic woman, I got a call from a priest offering to annul my marriage. But saying that it never happened would have meant forgetting about all the wonderful friends I made in Germany, Oklahoma and Colorado Springs during the years we were married.  Wiping the slate clean would have minimized the impact of the adventures we shared and the unique places we explored while living in Europe. It would have meant turning my back on my ex-husband’s family, who I dearly loved. It would have meant forgetting about the lessons I’d learned and the woman I had become while going through the good and bad of our marriage. I didn’t want to do it.

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Now, I’m facing another metamorphosis – not nearly as life changing as a divorce, but a fairly significant event in my life.  After writing romantic suspense for a publishing house for the last several years, I’ve released an independently published mystery, Seaside Daisy. It’s a change, and one I’m very excited about. In addition to getting the knack of writing mysteries, I’ve also had to get acquainted with the mysteries of publishing, designing covers, and formatting text for Kindle and paperback books. It’s been a little daunting to say the least!

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So, the owner of a bookstore that carries my books contacted me today and wanted to put an ad in the paper advertising an event in February. The headline referred to me as the “Queen of Romance.” I don’t see myself that way, and at this point, I really don’t want to be viewed that way. I’m trying to appeal to a new group of readers who may not like romance, but who do like mysteries. I’m having fun exploring a new genre, and learning and growing by using a new set of building blocks to shape mysteries.

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I feel this way for a couple of reasons. First, my romance novels never fell into the mold of typical romances anyway. My characters are a bit older than normal and many were second chance at love stories rather than first loves. Many contain steamy scenes side by side with struggles of faith and family. My novels are character-driven and unique rather than formulaic or predictable. I loved being published by a mid-sized press who cared more for distinctiveness than being a match with a specific genre. One reviewer called my novels “the thinking woman’s romance,” but in fact, many men enjoy reading them, too. I think calling my novels romance novels hurt me in many circles, when in reality, they are far more than that.

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In some ways, I think I’ve been writing mysteries all along — the mystery of why Jensen’s great grandparents immigrated from Denmark to Minnesota in Night and Day, the mystery of the who’s trying to recover the centuries-old gold buried in Tobermory Bay in Blue Belle, In Golden Rod, the mystery of how two, 500-year-old ghosts can break a curse and save Lachlan Castle and Rod’s beautiful gardens from being razed to make room for a golf course… And then, there’s the mystery of love – how two people so very different from one another, each with their own lives, foibles, and passions can come together and forge a new life as one.      

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I’m not embarrassed to have written my romance novels – as I’ve republished each of them under my own name, rereading sections and looking at the reviews that have been posted over the years, I feel exceedingly proud of every one of them.  The characters still call out to me. Rose and Ian, Jake and Michelle, William and Lyndsie, Hope and Tommy Love, Rod and Katelyn – they still have the power to make me smile and bring me to tears. They were good books, with complex characters and intricate plots, when I wrote them, and they’ve stood the test of time. I don’t want to leave the past in the past and move on. I love the memories and meaningful images surrounding each of my “old” books. I would be losing so much if I were to ignore the part they’ve played in my life. But I’m ready to take my writing in a different direction to try to expand my readership. It’s fun and exciting, and it stretches me as a writer and as a person.

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I hope that no matter what kind of books you like to read, you can relate to my new “brand” — Explore the Mystery of Love with Author Sherrie Hansen. I think the Mystery of Love fits both my older novels and my new. If you haven’t already given them a try, I hope you will. As always, I love to get honest reviews in one or more of the many places you can post them – Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub to name a few. I’ve also received private messages with feedback from people who have shared emotions evoked by my books. I love it when those kind of connections are made. It’s a true honor when I discover that my fiction is someone’s reality.

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So – no matter what your “old year” has been about, or what your “new year” might bring, I wish you the best in your future endeavors.  I’ll be starting out the year with the first time performance of a new murder mystery over dinner on New Year’s Eve. Next on my list is finishing my work in progress, Plum Tart Iris, a Wildflowers of Czechia Mystery.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each of you!

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If you’ve read any of my novels, seen my B&B or my house, followed my photographic journeys on Facebook, or even paid attention to the clothes and hats I wear,  you know I love the imagery of flowers.

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Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William and Golden Rod all take their cues from flowers and the unique traits of the genus I’m writing about. I love drawing parallels and weaving the characteristics of the flower into terms and images that define the people in my books who are named after them.

SEASIDE DAISY, my new release, is my first mystery, the first of my books to be set in Ireland, and my first attempt at self-publishing. But it’s my 6th Wildflowers novel, and as such, I’d like to tell you why I chose to write about Ireland and seaside daisies, formally known as erigeron glaucus.

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Erigeron may look fragile, with its thin, tender-looking petals and pale colors, but it’s the perfect plant for coastal zones and seaside gardening. Wind and salt spray won’t affect this robust little plant. They grow well in sandy, dry soils and even prefer soil that isn’t too fertile. They thrive when dead-headed of finished flowers to encourage more blooms. The plants can be cut back at ground level to encourage new foliage. I can’t begin to describe how hard the frigid, biting winds were blowing the day my husband and I took these photos except to say, we raced to climb back into the shelter of our cozy car as soon as we’d snapped each picture. And we explored the Wild Atlantic Way in early June!

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When Daisy Fitzpatrick discovers a treasure trove of gold in a sea cave near her Granny’s shanty on Dingle Bay, she rents out her art studio in Dingle, buys an old mansion in Killarney, and overnight, finds herself a local celebrity with a wonderful new life. But when the real owner lays claim to the gold, she loses everything, including her fickle, new friends. Can Daisy find it in herself to start over? With Cavan’s help, the sea captain’s ghost, and her granny’s quilt to point the way, the quest for more gold is soon underway. But when a priest ends up dead and a pirate takes up the search, Daisy may have to learn the hard way that gold can be a blessing, or gold can be a curse. The Wild Atlantic Way might be a hard foe to tame, but the townsfolk of Dingle soon learn that even the roar of the sea is no match for a Fitzpatrick with her mind made up.

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My Seaside Daisy was certainly trimmed back to ground level when she lost the gold she’d thought would solve all of her problems. Her spent blossoms were definitely pinched off. A less hardy plant may have stopped blooming, withered up and died. But like her namesake, my Daisy soon started sprouting new growth. As you’ll soon find out if you read SEASIDE DAISY, the more adversity that comes her way, the more she thrives. I hope you’ll give my new mystery a try – I’m a firm believer that God makes beautiful things out of broken pieces… it’s been a recurring theme in my life, and in the novels I’ve written. Because I think we all know that the delicate-looking flowers growing along the Wild Atlantic Way – or anywhere the wind blows – aren’t just pretty faces.  

Pansy

SEASIDE DAISY’S SHANTY – an original song by Sherrie Hansen

Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way,

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

 

In early morn out on the sea,

The fog gives way to sun.

You can hear the seabirds singing

As the waves come crashing in.

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Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

 

The Captain’s ghost and Granny’s quilt

Are there to point the way

But a storm at sea and a pirate’s curse

Are turning the blue skies gray.

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Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way,

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

 

For gold can be a blessing

And gold can be a curse.

But true love is the greatest gift

Through better and through worse.

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Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s

On the Wild Atlantic Way,

There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end

In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.

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You’ll find SEASIDE DAISY and my other Wildflowers books at Amazon. Enjoy!

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Exhilarating and Exhausting are the words that seem to best describe our trip to Czechia from August 27 to September 17. We arrived in Prague tired and worn out and in need of rest and relaxation. When you own your own business (me) and are the only pastor on staff at a church (my husband, Mark), there are always a million things to do in advance before you leave on a trip.

Czechia - church roadside

This year was no exception, in fact, it seems like every year, there are more things on our To-Do list than ever before.

Czechia - Prague street

We enjoyed our first two days in Prague and had some wonderful experiences, but we also missed out on seeing several things that we should have due to our frazzled condition. The best thing we did was to schedule a spur-of-the-moment Airbnb Experience:  Ten Course Dinner in a Chef’s Home.

Czechia - Ladislov plate

Ladislav, our chef, was an amazing host, and we enjoyed excellent food and conversation around a table for 8 adjacent to the kitchen in his apartment.

Czechia - Ladislov

The other guests at our table were from Canada and Australia, so we all spoke English, in different accents. It was the highlight of our time in Prague. The B&B we stayed in was wonderfully historic and our host very gracious. We were able to walk a quarter of a mile to get on a bus which linked to trams and metros throughout Prague. The transport system was quite daunting for me, and even with it, we walked 7 miles up and down steep inclines, on cobblestones each day. We had our first taste of Czech garlic soup and cinnamon pastry trdelnik filled with ice cream and fruit in Prague. After an extensive search (we got lost), we found the Alfons Mucha museum and saw his portrayals of Slavic maidens. Sadly, the Slav Epic Exhibition I so wanted to see was no longer open.

Czechia - Prague houses

We saw the outside of Prague Castle from an outdoor cafe with a wonderful view of the castle and city below. We enjoyed a delicious Czech dinner where we had our first dumplings (both bread and potato).

Czechia - Dumplings

But the castle was closed by the time we were done, and our attempts to get there had been so traumatic (long story – think three or four story high escalators, an extremely steep hill, overweight and out of shape people who are terrified of escalators (me), hot, humid weather in the high 90s and no air conditioning anywhere, and one crazed taxi driver who tried to charge us $50 for a 3 block ride to a restaurant he never found) that you may understand why we never went back to see the cathedral, basilica, tower, palace, the hall that hosted knightly jousting tournaments, or the royal garden. We also missed the famous Astronomical Clock Tower in the main  square in Old Town, but we did walk across Charles Bridge twice and climbed millions of stairs to see the view of Prague from the top of the Klementinum Astronomical Tower and Old Library.

Czechia - Prague

What can I say? We were half-asleep and in a daze. These things happen when you’re in your sixties and you’ve just missed out on two nights of sleep.  I appreciated the lovely architecture and colorful facades throughout the city. I could see why people love Prague. But a big city person, I am not.

Czechia - church

Unfortunately, our next stop was Brno, another big city 2 hours to the south. We were supposed to stay in a renovated suite in an old 1820 spa house, but there was a water emergency and we were relegated to a city center apartment (which I avoid like the plague when searching for accommodations) which turned out to be filthy dirty. You don’t even want to know about the 3-4″ ginormous spider that came running out at me just before bedtime. Although my brave husband killed it, I still didn’t sleep that night.

Czechia - Brno dancers

The one good thing about our city center apartment was that it was near a tram stop that took us to the International Folklore Festival (one of our main reasons for visiting Czechia), where we had a wonderful time enjoying regional music, vintage bicycles, traditional dancing and more good food.

Czechia - Brno bicycles

We had quark dessert dumplings filled with strawberries and a sour cream sauce that were so wonderful I will dream of them until I die – and fried cheese, and more garlic soup. We climbed to the top of the city (twice) to see the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, a striking 11th-century Romanesque chapel, rebuilt in the Baroque and Gothic styles.

Czechia - Brno

Another highlight was the traditional dance review with costumed dancers from many countries.   

Czechia - Folklore Festival

When planning our trip, we figured we’d need a little peace and quiet after the hustle bustle of a festival in a big city, and boy, were we right! Our time in the tiny country village of Rojetin was our salvation.

Czechia - traditional cottage bed

The stars were brilliant, the countryside was gorgeous, and the quiet was just what we needed.

Czechia - garden door

While there, we were able to see three UNESCO Heritage Sites – a lovely church in Třebíč, a star shaped pilgrimage church in Zdar, and our favorite, the old town center of Telč with its Alpine style Italian Renaissance architecture.

Czechia - Telc cafe

Czechia - Telc

We also discovered a quaint town, Velkabites, where we watched them putting up an extremely high pole with a tree on top for an upcoming festival.

Czechia - Telc statue

It was the season of festivals. We dipped down to stay in Niederösterreich, Austria for the next two days because all the rooms in nearby Mikulov were booked for their annual Pálava Wine Harvest Festival.

Czechia - Wine cellar

We loved the storybook villages and wine cellars of the area, and the wonderful music, medieval processions, dance and fencing performances, historic market, and tasty homemade crepes, sausages and cheeses at the festival.

Czechia - Grape Arbor

But our best memory is of Austria, and a wonderful chef at a delightful restaurant just a few kilometers from our B&B. By the time we left, we were full of creatively prepared food, and we felt like we’d made a friend.

Czechia - Znojmo view

The next morning, we headed to Znojmo, where we stayed in an amazing B&B in an old bakery, and discovered a beautiful church with an amazing view over the heart of Bohemia.

Czechia - Znojmo church

The next few days were a confusing jumble. First, the person who planned this trip one snowy day in April while short on sleep (me), got mixed up and thought the towns of Cesky Krumlov and Karlovy Vary were one in the same.

Czechia - CK Window

Bzzt, wrong. Second, while I was sleeping in the passenger seat, our GPS directed Mark to go east, back to Prague, crisscrossing the country instead of driving a short ways north, from one town to the other. Third, we missed seeing a beautiful castle along the route we were supposed to have been going.

Czechia - Chesky Krumlov shop

In our defense, I will say that we were completely wiped out from walking miles and miles a day up and down hugely steep hills on cobblestones and rough rock surfaces. In the rain. 🙂 Or did I already mention that?

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov

Despite some rain while we were there, we loved Cesky Krumlov. I’m so glad we thought it was Karlovy Vary or we might have missed it. We actually liked it much better than Karlovy Vary.

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov river

It was quaint and beautiful, with a magnificent medieval castle and beautiful gardens, picturesque river walks, good restaurants, and (be still my heart) several hat shops.

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov view

Due to my confusion, we didn’t ever stay in Karlovy Vary. That was fine with me, because the nearby town of Loket, where we did stay, was smaller, more manageable and twice as delightful.

Czechia - Loket

I liked it so much that I’ve decided it’s going to be the settling of my next book, Plum Tart Iris, a Wildflowers of Czechia novel. We saw a spectacular sunset while eating outside at a great cafe wrapped in furry blankets to combat the chill from the mountain air.

Czechia - Loket sunset

The medieval castle was amazing, as was the river that curves around town on three sides, and a pottery shop and a creative tea house that I fell in love with.  I interviewed a few locals, and discovered some interesting historical facts that will define the plot of my new book.

Czechia - Karlovy Vary colunnades

But back to Karlovy Vary. I’d already committed to writing a murder mystery set there, so we had to research it. Since 1358, Karlovy Vary has for centuries been a popular destination for Europe’s elite, from royalty like Peter the Great to famous composers and writers including Beethoven, Chopin, and Goethe.

Czechia - Karlovy Vary spa

The town has 13 large springs and Neoclassical and Art Nouveau colonnades with drinking and bathing fountains.

Czechia - Karlovy Vary mineral water

We walked miles to experience as much of it as we could, but were glad to retreat to little Loket at the end of the day.  Have I mentioned that we were quite tired and very sore but this point?

Czechia - Cesky Krumlov table

Mark spent a lot of his time sitting on a bench while I explored the town. I may have been in as much pain as he was, but I am more stubborn. Or maybe not. He was hurting pretty badly.

Czechia - Pernstejn Castle near Zdar

Our next stop was a small castle in Jilove that was built by a famous doctor in the early 1900s, then taken over by the Nazis in World War II (Hitler even stayed there) and then, by the Communists after the war, who used it for visiting dignitaries, and then, turned it into a factory. It still needs a lot of work, but the new owner is working hard to get it renovated and we enjoyed being a small part of its history.

Czechia - woods

Our objective for this stop was to see the Bohemian Alps. Bohemian Switzerland is an especially picturesque region in the northwestern part of the country.

Czechia - sunset

After a run in with a lot of road construction and some unsavory Vietnamese entrepreneurs who were gatekeepers to the parks, we decided to forego the promised paradise of rock castles, ravines, scenic overlooks, mountains, and arches. However, while in the area, we drove through a bit of Germany, where I enjoyed a mug of hot Gluhwein and a German dinner and Mark had fun driving 100 miles an hour on the autobahn in our Mercedes rental car.

 

Czechia - crystal

Other highlights – when our plans to see more of the National parks soured, Mark researched and found a factory seconds outlet store at a glass bead factory where I bought millions of unique Czech beads for my art projects. It was heavenly! We also found a Bohemian crystal factory outlet store and came home with two treasures from their shelves.

Czechia - glass beads

Our last four days in country were spent in the small town of Lesany, just south of Prague, at an honest to goodness castle, where we hoped to get rested up before our trip home, since we always have to hit the ground running when we get back from a trip.

Czechia - Lesany

We could have gone back to explore more of Prague, but we opted to see some castles in the nearby countryside instead.

The medieval castle and surrounding village, Hrad Karlstejn, was incredible, and after climbing everywhere, we decided to splurge on a horse drawn wagon ride which took us part way to the top.

Czechia - Karlstejn Castle tower

We walked all the way down to take in the shops and eating spots along the cobblestone streets.

Czechia - Karlstejn Castle

In České Budějovice, the huge white Neo-Gothic Tudor Hluboká Castle, which is said to be the most beautiful of the Czech Republic’s many castles, was also stunning. We were able to find an English speaking guide who gave us a private tour of the huge chef’s kitchen in the castle.

Czechia - Hluboká Castle

Our final excursion and another favorite was Průhonice Park, which is home to Průhonice Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, was delightful. The formal gardens, wooded areas, streams, and ponds involved a lot of walking, but we persisted and got some beautiful photos.

Czechia - Roses

I had been longing for gardens and flowers and water, as we’re so accustomed to seeing them when we travel to Great Britain, and I was not disappointed.

Czechia - Průhonice Castle

I can’t begin to touch on the dozens of other quaint villages, delicious meals and delightful experiences we had or we would be here all day.

Czechia - after dinner

Suffice it to say, I’m so glad we went, and I so enjoyed walking where my Bohemian ancestors walked.

Czechia - country sunset

In other news, Seaside Daisy, a Wildflowers of Ireland Mystery, is now available in both paperback and Kindle versions.

Seaside Daisy Front Cover 10-17

Please grab a copy soon and let me know what you think! Reviews warm my heart!

Czechia - Plum Tart Iris

I plan on starting Plum Tart Daisy during NaNoWriMo this November while the trip to Czechia is still fresh in my mind. My goal is 50,000 words by November 30. Thanks for listening!

Czechia - Rose Garden

Some of you know that I lived in Germany for three years when I was younger. I traveled throughout Europe when I was there and soaked up as much of the local culture as I could. I loved living in Europe so much that part of me didn’t want to come home. Those years helped shape the person I am today in many ways, both good and bad, and provided the inspiration for several of my books.

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I’ve always believed that I inherited a good dose of wanderlust from my Danish ancestors. When we went on family vacations, my Dad loved to drive down random roads just to see what he would find. I’m a little more structured about what places I go and what I hope to see when I’m there, but just like my Dad, I love stumbling upon quaint places and unique sights.

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My husband also shares my love of traveling and exploring. That’s why we try to get away on a long vacation every year. This year, we’re headed to Czechia. Some of our friends go to the same cabin on the same lake or the same cabin in the same mountain valley every weekend, summer, or year. We like seeing new things each time we go. We’ve also been told by numerous friends to travel while we can, that the window of opportunity when folks have the good health, time and money to travel is narrow and short-lived.

Blog - Imix water

Maybe you’re at a time in your life when you can’t see the world due to whatever restraints keep you tied to one spot. If so, I’d like to invite you to take a vacation in your imagination. Open a bevy of books and you can read your way around the world. 

Quilt - bear

Start by reading NIGHT & DAY or DAYBREAK (by Sherrie Hansen, of course) and experience Copenhagen, Northern Minnesota, Prince Edward Island, the Mississippi River Valley, and The Faroe Islands.

Scotland - St. Conan's

Next, why not try Scotland? You can visit Loch Awe, Glasgow, and Tobermory, Scotland in THISTLE DOWN (a prequel novella,) and WILD ROSE, the first of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

Scotland - Celtic CrossScotland - Tobermory 5

The lovely Isle of Mull, home of the colorful Tobermory harbor and Duart and Glengorm Castles, Alsace Lorraine, and the French Riviera are featured in BLUE BELLE.

Wildflowers - Stripes

If the highlands call out to you, you can see the Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle in SHY VIOLET  and SWEET WILLIAM.

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Picturesque Loch Carron, Scotland is the setting of GOLDEN ROD. I love it there so much!

Ely - trees.jpg

Maybe you just want a short vacation to someplace cool with lakes and forests galore like the Northwoods of Minnesota. Duluth, Ely, and Embarrass, Minnesota  are featured in LOVE NOTES along with Harmony, California on the Central Coast.

Scot - Stornoway castle ceiling

Are you getting the feel for how far you can go just by cracking open a book? Depending on how fast you read, and how many books you devour in a few days time, you can see the world for less than $20 a week.

Ireland - beach.jpg

My next book, SEASIDE DAISY, is set in Ireland on the Dingle Peninsula. Ever since I visited Dingle and Killarney three years ago, I’ve been trying to recreate the feel of the place with my words so you can see it through your eyes.  This week, I attended a Songwriting Workshop and wrote a song called Seaside Daisy’s Shanty. I hope it puts you in the mood to visit Ireland when SEASIDE DAISY comes out this fall.

Seaside Daisy’s Shanty by Sherrie Hansen

In the meantime, I’m dreaming about a new book called PLUM TART IRIS set in Czechia, and one after that I think I’ll call COMMON PRIMROSE, set somewhere in Europe. None of us knows exactly what the future holds or where our journey will take us next, but I hope you’ll continue to follow my travels via my blog and Facebook, and accept my invitation to read my books.

The world is waiting!

Scot - Eilean Donan

Twenty-eight years ago, Sherrie Hansen 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. Sherrie grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and has lived in Bar Harbor, Maine, Colorado Springs, CO, and Augsburg, Germany. She attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL. After 12 years of writing romance novels late at night when she couldn’t sleep, she met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. Sherrie lives in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. With her Wildflowers of Scotland novels, “Wild Rose”, “Blue Belle”, “Shy Violet”, “Sweet William” and “Golden Rod”, and her new release, DAYBREAK, the sequel to NIGHT & DAY, she has eleven books in print, most featuring a “second-chance-at-love” story. Sherrie enjoys painting, playing the piano with the worship team at church, photography, decorating historic homes, and traveling. You can learn more about her books by visiting  http://amazon.com/author/sherriehansen

CZECHIA – even the name sounds exotic – and somewhat intimidating. When we made reservations for our first two nights in Prague and the address included the words Na Hřebenkách, Hlavní město Praha, Czech Republic, I started to wonder what we were getting ourselves into.

Czech - prague

We’re almost always in Europe the last week of May and the first two weeks of June. Last year, we spent Memorial Day weekend in Scotland enjoying holiday festivities at Kelly Castle, near St. Andrews and making our second visit to the Highland Games at Blair Atholl Castle near Aberfeldy and Pitlochry. I would happily have gone back to see the soldiers and pipers marching in their kilts to the beat of Celtic drums yet again, but a new adventure beckoned.

Scot - kilts

My husband spent a week and a half in the Holy Lands in April, and in May, we made an unexpected trip to California to bury his mother. Rather than leave on another vacation right away, we decided to wait until the last week of August and the first half of September. Since we were already jarred out of our familiar pattern, we decided to go in a different direction and explore another facet of my family history – Prague and the Czech Republic.

Grandmas

I have no idea what my Bohemian Grandma (Lorna, 1900-2000, in the center) would think of me traipsing halfway around the world to see where our ancestors lived before they settled in northern Iowa, but I’m excited to explore a new part of the globe. And nervous…

Romania - Castle

Mark and I have traveled to a few other non-English speaking parts of the world, but we’ve usually had a tour guide who was fluent in the native tongue – our friend Gabriella in Germany, our daughter-in-law, Cristiana in Romania, and our cousin Helle in Denmark. I could tell you some interesting stories about our adventures in Italy, Switzerland and France, where we were clueless when it came to communicating, but I’ll save that for another day. Suffice it to say, I have good reason to be worried about the language barrier in Czechia. Mark already has a Czech phrase book and audio tape and I hear him practicing every so often… we’ll see how that goes!

Blizzard photo 2

During one of our late spring blizzards when I was holed up in one of our houses, I started perusing the map of Czech Republic for places that we might like to visit. I’m feeling a little more confident now that I can picture our route in my head and have a general idea of what we’ll get to see.

Czech - Mucha

August 28, 29 – We’ll be spending our first two days in Prague in Sector 5 exploring the paintings of Alfons Mucha, who is known for his portrayals of Slavic maidens and a series of twenty monumental canvases known as The Slav Epic. We’ll also visit Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) where we’ll see St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, the Powder Tower, and the Old Royal Palace and Vladislav Hall, so big it was used to host knightly jousting tournaments. And of course, the 16th-century Royal Garden and Charles Bridge (Karlův Most).

 

August 30, 31, and Sept 1 – Brno, about 2 hours south of Prague, is our next destination.  We’ll be staying in a renovated suite in an old 1820 spa house with an outside seating restaurant adjacent to a park. We’ll be there during the International Folklore Festival, where we hope to enjoy regional music, dancing and foods. We’ll see the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, which has remnants of an 11th-century Romanesque chapel, rebuilt in the Baroque and Gothic styles, and the the 13th-century Špilberk Castle and Tugendhat Villa. We’re told the area is known for its wild “bear” garlic Czech soup. Sounds right up my alley.

Czech - Brno Old

I’m still trying to decide if I want to see the remains of some 70,000 people slain in war or killed by diseases such as the plague in medieval times between the 14th and 16th centuries at the nearby “Bone Church,” the Gothic All Saints Chapel.

 

Sept 2, 3, and 4 – We figured we’d need a little peace and quiet after the hustle bustle of a festival in the big city, so we decided to spend the next few days in the country village of Rojetin. The guesthouse where we’ll be staying is near three UNESCO Heritage Sites – the the historic and tragic Jewish Quarter in Třebíč, the star shaped pilgrimage church in Zdar, and the old town center of Telč with its Alpine style Italian Renaissance architecture. 

Czech - Austria

Sept 5 and 6 – We’ll be dipping down to stay in Niederösterreich, Austria for the next two days because all the rooms in nearby Mikulov were already booked for the annual Pálava Wine Harvest Festival. We’re looking forward to thermal spas, the idyllic wine villages of the area, music, medieval processions, dance and fencing performances, a historic market, and tasty homemade sausages and cheese.

Czech - Znojmo

All this time, we’ll still be within 2 1/2 hours of Prague. But on Sept 7, we’ll venture west to Znojmo and on to the heart of Bohemia. Our next destination, for Sept 8 and 9, is Cesky Krumlov. 

Czech - Chesky Krumlov

This town is often referred to by its old German name of Karlsbad, or Karlovy Vary . Established in 1358, Karlovy Vary has for centuries been a popular destination for Europe’s elite, from royalty like Peter the Great to famous composers and writers including Beethoven, Chopin, and Goethe. The town has 13 large springs and Neoclassical and Art Nouveau colonnades with drinking and bathing fountains. It’s also a prominent glassmaking center, and I’m already dreaming of finding a factory seconds outlet store where I can buy millions of unique Czech beads for my art projects.

Czech - Loket

The tiny medieval town of Loket, with its impressive castle and beautiful mountain views, only a half hour west, will be our home on Sept 10 and 11. 

Czech -little castle

Then, on Sept 12, we’re off to the Bohemian Alps and Jilove to spend one night in a little castle. Bohemian Switzerland is an especially picturesque region in the northwestern part of the country.

Czech - mountains

There are two national parks, Saxon Switzerland Park, which is in Germany, and its Czech sister, Ceske svycarsko National Park, on the Czech Republic’s side of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, which straddle the Elbe River. We’ll see rock castles, ravines, scenic overlooks, mountains, and arches in Bohemian Paradise (Český ráj). The region also has many old castles.

 

Sept 13, 14, 15, and 16 we’ll be in Lesany, just south of Prague, at an honest to goodness castle, where we’ll be able to get rested up before our trip home. We’ll see another famous castle, Karlstejn, and in České Budějovice, the huge white Neo-Gothic Tudor Hluboká Castle, which is said to be the most beautiful of the Czech Republic’s many castles.

Czech - Lesany Courtyard

We’ll also be near Průhonice Park, which is home to Průhonice Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park includes formal gardens, wooded areas, streams, ponds, and 25 kilometers of walking paths where we can go for walks IF we can still walk by then…

Come August, I hope you’ll follow along on our adventure via the photos I post on Facebook and Instagram. (Hopefully it’s obvious, but none of the photos of Czechia were taken by me since I haven’t been there yet. ) If any of you have been to Czechia, please feel free to give advice, suggestions or helpful tips!

S - Shy Violet

Several people have asked me if I intend to write a Wildflowers of Czechia novel when I return. The answer is, probably – there are already images of a poor but fiesty gypsy girl and a wealthy Italian diplomat’s son floating around in my mind. Some of those images date back to a wedding reception I went to in 1980 when I was in Budapest, Hungary – but that’s another story…

Ireland - daisy sea

In the meantime, I’m still hard at work on Seaside Daisy, my upcoming Wildflowers of Ireland mystery. Thanks for listening!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seaside Daisy – NEW RELEASE

NEW RELEASE!

Daybreak (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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