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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.

Food - melting moments

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.

Night and Day (1)

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.

england-lamb

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!

Daybreak in Denmark (3)

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?

Sunset 3

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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.)
Night and Day (1)
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.
Danish Pancakes - Done
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.
Daybreak in Denmark (3)
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?

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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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