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Please indulge me… I don’t mean to brag, but both of these reviews were recently posted on Amazon Canada by a new reader of my books and touched me so deeply that I wanted to share them with you. If you’ve questioned what my books are about, or whether or not you should try reading one of them, perhaps this will help.

Daybreak in Denmark (3)

NIGHT and DAY

“Sherrie Hansen’s book Night and Day blew me away.

This was my Sunday afternoon read and the storytelling was so engaging I didn’t stop turning the pages until I was finished. But it still me kept me up late into the night because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

This NEVER happens to me! First, I can’t remember the last time I finished a book in one sitting! Second, it’s rare that I lose sleep over a book unless I’m reading it!

Night and Day is not a typical contemporary romance novel. It is sophisticated, mature, exceptionally written, and deeply, emotionally engaging. I am not a romantic, not really, but Night and Day has me questioning my cynicism, believing in romance, and seeing men through a new lens.

Sherrie Hansen is not only a beautiful storyteller, but she is also an accomplished writer. Her characters are vivid, realistic people that carry the weight of their pasts into their current lives. I identified and bonded with Jensen, a late-30s unmarried woman clinging to her roots while at the same time aware that time is ticking and she’s failing to realize her dream of having a family and a happy ever after.

Jensen leapt off the pages for me and became real, a friend I wanted to have, a woman I wanted to be. Jensen has little character quirks that if not well-written (and seldom are) can be off-putting, but under Hansen’s careful handling, they become endearing, sometimes a little maddening, but an integral part of who Jensen is and what makes her so believable.

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Jensen is loved by two men – Ed, who gives her the physical love she needs, but his own painful past prevents him from letting go emotionally and Anders, who loves her with all his heart, who tells her in his words and his emotional support but can’t be a presence in her life because they are separated by distance and their own stubbornness.

The story is so skillfully handled that I couldn’t predict the outcome until towards the end of the book. And it wasn’t a prediction by then, it was Hansen leading me to its beautiful conclusion.

Another element to this book that’s important to note is the deep ties Jensen has to her past, to her great-grandmother, Maren, who emigrated to the US from Denmark. A bundle of letters written by Maren in Danish tell a story of love, romance and difficult choices. Hansen deftly weaves the two love stories together using the letters as a catalyst for the growing relationship between Jensen and Anders. It’s beautifully done.

Night and Day is an emotional rollercoaster of a romance novel. It’s contemporary but set in the early days of internet, when dial-up connections were slow and unreliable. This is a clever inclusion as it adds an intense element to the story telling, an atypical roadblock on the often, rocky path to love.

I think this was Hansen’s first book and it is so obvious that she wrote it with love in her heart. I did not want this book to end, ever. I didn’t want to let go of Jensen’s story. I cannot wait to read Daybreak, Sherrie Hansen’s sequel to Night and Day. I just have to wait for another lazy Sunday afternoon because I have no doubt how I will be spending it.”

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DAYBREAK

“Sherrie Hansen is a storyteller and understands the vagaries of life in all its messiness. She doesn’t write perfect characters which ironically is what makes her characters perfect.

They are right and wrong in their thoughts, their relationships, their selfishness and their desires. They struggle with the difficulties they encounter, get side-tracked by them so badly sometimes that they lose sight of the big picture. Like every single one of us!

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It’s almost impossible to review this book and do justice to it at the same time. It had me on an emotional roller-coaster from page one because the interplay and conflict between the characters is so identifiable.

This extended to the relationship between Jensen and her parents, Jensen and Anders, Jensen and Bjorn (her stepson), Anders and his son, Anders and his boss and so on.

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It subtly showed that life is not perfect and that sometimes everything spins out of control in a way that takes you away from what you believed were your dreams, your beliefs, your priorities. In their desire not to hurt one another, Jensen and Anders do exactly that. Their story left me fuming and crying and frustrated. But also made me reflect on my own behaviour towards the ones I love and what truly is important in life.

Finally, this book, like Night and Day, was beautifully written and exceptionally edited, two critical components of a five-star book.

I shall be reading a lot more of Ms. Hansen’s books.”

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Daybreak – Chapter 1

Anders Westerlund flipped over a packet of cucumber seeds and read out loud, “Plant after all danger of frost has passed.”

Even in April, daybreak in Danemark was a chilly affair. Jensen kept insisting that the Copenhagen winter they’d just experienced was mild compared to what she was used to in Minnesota, but there was still a good chance that the tender new shoots poking up from the ground could freeze before spring actually arrived.

Anders wished he had more time, but the brutal fact was, he did not. If he could just coax some summer flowers into blooming and get the garden greened up before he had to go, he would feel better about leaving Jensen. He wanted to do as much as he could to make her transition easy.

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Another gust of cold air swirled around his neck, then wormed its way under his collar to chill his shoulder blades. According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, the average date of the last frost was the 18th of April. To be absolutely sure, they recommended waiting until May 7th. But it had been a warmer than usual spring, and Anders was feeling lucky.

Why he felt so optimistic was beyond him. Everything in his life was uncertain, and at least one of the drastic changes about to unfold was not welcome. The only thing he knew for sure was that he was not going to be around when it was time to reap his harvest.

He planted one hill of cucumbers, one of eggplant, and another with one of Jensen’s favorites – zucchini squash, each at the base of their own trellis. He liked his vegetables planted amidst his flowers. There was no room in his tiny yard for a separate vegetable garden with long, well-spaced rows like Jensen’s sister-in-law had in America. Here in Danemark, every inch of land was precious and put to good use.

He moved to the south side of the house and dug in a row of corn just far enough out from the foundation so it would catch the rain. He tucked a few delicate, curly leafed basil that he’d seeded in the house into a window box with some geraniums and planted his fledgling tomato starts in a basket with multiple openings that was designed to hang over the fence.

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He’d put in the lettuce, potatoes, beets, carrots, kale, red cabbage, dill, broccoli and radishes almost two weeks ago, the day after the Christiansens had come. He hoped he had not seemed rude when he had ignored Jensen’s parents so soon after they had arrived, but the growing season was short in Danemark. If you did not work the ground as soon as the frost was out, your garden would not amount to much. Besides, when houseguests stayed for almost a month, you could not put your entire life on hold for the duration of their visit.

With Jensen expecting, and everything else that was going on, he was glad his onions, peas and spinach had been planted on schedule. He had not expected Jensen to help. With a belly so big she could hardly tie her own shoelaces, her only form of exercise was waddling around the neighborhood on their nightly walks. He loved pampering her, and doing for her so she could rest as much as possible. If he had not had so many things to get done at work before the baby came, he would gladly have driven her and her parents to Als.

The important thing was that Jensen would be here to water and weed the garden once he was gone. At least, he hoped so. It brought him joy to imagine Jensen picking the peas, digging out the potatoes, and enjoying a good spinach salad when the time came, especially since he would not be around to do it.

He swallowed his frustrations, straightened his back and thrust his shovel into the ground between two clusters of late-blooming tulips. The crab-apples were in full bloom and each time the wind blew, a smattering of petals wafted down around him.

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Springtime. New life. Daybreak. His favorite time of day and his most cherished time of the year – although he had to admit that being snuggled up with Jensen over the course of this year’s long, icy winter had done much to improve his opinion of cold weather.

Even with spring well underway, the nights were cool enough to cuddle under Jensen’s quilts. But the days were warm enough to ride bicycle and work in his garden. Life was good – had been good, during their honeymoon period. Now, changes were in the wind.

Jensen and he were going to be parents together. He was so excited for the baby to arrive he could hardly bear it.

Everything would be perfect if he didn’t have to leave.

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His cell phone jingled in his pocket. Probably Jensen. She knew his schedule, knew he wouldn’t have left for work yet. He flipped the top open and found Bjorn on the line.

They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes before Bjorn asked the question that was on both of their minds.

“Have you made a decision yet?”

“Decision?” Anders made a clucking noise with his tongue and moved out of the way of a honey bee that was honing in on his tulips. “The only decision they gave me was Greenland or the Faroe Islands. I was given no choice about moving.”

“You could find another job. You could take early retirement. You could move to America.”

“None of these things are options, Bjorn. At least, not at this time. You’ve read the newspapers.”

“An occasional news bite on Facebook or Twitter.”

“The Euro is nearly worthless. The world’s economy is in shambles. My retirement funds have suffered greatly. I am blessed to have a job that pays me well. With a new baby on the way…”

“I get it,” Bjorn said.

Anders held his breath. He knew that Bjorn had mixed feelings about being displaced as his only child. He did not want to argue with Bjorn when he was halfway across the world. A good fight was not nearly as satisfying when you could not hug each other at the end of the fray.

“Have you told Jensen yet?”

Anders truly believed that Bjorn loved Jensen. Still, adjusting to having a new step-mother and all the changes that came along with her had been difficult for his son. He knew that. So when Anders heard a tinge of gloating in his son’s voice, he understood. Bjorn was still disappointed that he and Jensen had not settled in Minnesota, and somehow, the knowledge that he would soon be one of two offspring rankled on him.

Anders stabbed his shovel into the ground. “I will tell Jensen soon. And I will soften the blows by giving her a choice – she can stay here in Danemark, watch over the house and tend the garden while I am gone, or return to America to be with her family.”

“Good luck with that one,” Bjorn said.

“The situation is far from ideal. She will have to adapt.”

“So when are you going to tell her?”

“Tonight when she returns from Als. It has to be soon. My boss wanted me to leave next week, but I have told him I will not go until the baby is born.”

“Jensen’s not going to be happy.”

“Believe me, I am well aware of that fact. I did not want to cast a pall of sadness over her parent’s entire visit, but I am sure that telling her now, when her parents are still here to comfort her, is a good thing to do.”

“I hope you’re right. If it was me, and someone was going to hit me with some bad news, I wouldn’t want anybody around to watch the fireworks.”

“Jensen has very much respect for her parents. Perhaps they will even agree to delay their flight home and stay longer so they can help Jensen with the baby when she comes. She is very close to them. Having them here to help her consider her choices will make her feel much better. I am sure of it.”

Except that he was not. These days, he was not sure about anything.

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Daybreak is available as a paperback now. The Kindle version should be available any day.

If you want to read Night and Day to hear how the story begins, click here.

Night and Day (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first published book – Night and Day – is set in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota and Copenhagen, Denmark with a brief interlude on Prince Edward Island, Canada. My tagline, “It’s midnight in Minnesota and Daybreak in Denmark”, speaks to the fact that Jensen and Anders connect via the internet, each from their own corner of the world.

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My latest release, Wild Rose of Scotland, is set at St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe.

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The second book in my Wildflowers of Scotland series, Blue Belle, takes place in Tobermory, a picturesque old village whose rainbow-colored storefronts are reflected in the waters off the Isle of Mull.

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For a writer / innkeeper / restaurateur / pastor’s wife whose life is too busy and complicated to plan a vacation anytime in the foreseeable future, “traveling” to these exotic locales in my mind is like taking a mini-vacation. Hopefully, my readers will also enjoy visiting the quaint spots that provide a backdrop to the adventures of Jensen and Anders, Ian and Rose, and any other of my characters who are lucky enough to find their homes in such beautiful places.

But we all can’t live in Colorado. Nor can we go on vacation all the time. My Maple Valley trilogy – Stormy Weather, Waterlily, and Merry-Go-Round – are all set in a fictional town patterned after Osage, Iowa, just 11 miles from where I live. The stage for these books is set with cornfields, cabbage patches, and contented cows grazing in pastures. The secondary characters are small town… well… characters. And it’s not one bit boring. To the contrary, writing about my hometown and the area surrounding it has been very enlightening.

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Looking at my very ordinary world through the eyes of my characters has shed a whole new light on what was once deemed plain. These people see things in my world that I never would have noticed. With their help, I’ve discovered a whole new meaning to the phrase, Beauty in Your Own Backyard. It’s amazing, the things I see when looking through the rose-colored glasses of the three Jones sisters.

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So, wherever it is you find yourself, take a look around. Whether you’re reading – or writing – a book set in Windermere, England, Apple Valley, Minnesota, Moonstone Beach, or Weedpatch, California, there are beautiful sights to behold no matter where you go in the world – a simple wildflower, a spectacular sunset, the moon glinting off a lake (or maybe even a mud puddle).

And next time you’re lucky enough to be able to take a vacation to some lovely new location, by all means, take your camera, your moleskin journal, your steno pad, or your Alphasmart. Take photos, record each memory, soak in every ounce of scenic beauty that you can.

All I’m suggesting is that when you come home, keep your camera out. Try looking at your own, everyday world through the eyes of someone who’s seeing those same, familiar haunts for the very first time. Take notice of the extraordinary, and you’ll discover all kinds of unique beauty – right in your own backyard. Learning to see the Cinderella side of your soot and ashes world, to appreciate the sights you take for granted, will make you a better writer, a better mother, a better lover, a better everything under the sun.

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Sherrie Hansen

http://www.SecondWindPublishing.com

A couple of my friends were chatting on Facebook the other night. The first one asked for recommendations on what books to read this summer. At the end of one of her comments, she said, “Don’t bother to recommend romances, they’re a waste of time.”  When I responded, another friend said they weren’t referring to the kind of romances I write, but the ones that have no plot, and are just an excuse to include one sex scene after another. (I’m paraphrasing as best I can remember… but bottom line, they were not being complimentary to the romance genre.)

Forgive me if I confess to being a bit offended. And forgive me again when I say, I know exactly what they mean.

I’m reading a romance novel right now that’s written by a best selling author and published by a major house.  It has no plot to speak of.  Basically, something bad happened, long before the book began, and the book is spent reliving the past and discussing its implications on the present and future – ad nauseum. I like the characters, but all they ever do is go to work, go on dates, and make love. They sit and think about things – a lot. They talk about things, but they have no real goals, no motivation. No one is trying to keep them from attaining their non-existent goals. They are surrounded by friends – loving, supportive allies who want them to resolve their problems and be happy. They rehash the same old things again and again. I must care enough about the characters to find out what happens to them, because I’m still reading, but I find myself skimming over entire scenes because I am bored.  This is not a good thing.

It irritates me that authors who have the honor of being published by major houses write such drivel. It irritates me that readers, who are obviously buying their books by the thousands, don’t have higher expectations. It irritates me that their publishers don’t demand more from them. But most of all, it irritates me that I am being lumped into the same category as these writers, and writers who write the literary equivalent of porn flicks, just because I write romance.

To assume that my books have no worth simply because they end happily, and include a love story, is just plain insulting.   Reviewer Sheila Deeth called my first book, Night and Day, a thinking woman’s romance. I love that phrase. I have much to learn as an author, and Night and Day is certainly not perfect, but it’s also not trite, mindless, or a waste of time. Here’s what Sheila said:

“Some romances, you know exactly which protagonists are going to get together. You know it will be perfect. You’re just waiting for the characters to work it out for themselves. But Sherrie Hansen’s Night and Day isn’t that kind of romance. These characters are all too real and too flawed for a perfect world. They’re stubborn. They cling to dreams and don’t want to compromise. Their relationships struggle to pass each all-too-human hurdle, and even as the story nears its close, it’s not clear which lives will stay entwined and which connections will quietly unravel. Is love just an idealized dream after all, or are dreams the stuff of love?

Sherrie Hansen creates sprawling farm and comfortable home, American countryside, Danish streets, wobbling bicycles, squabbling siblings, lovers’ arguments… Her scenery and her characters are all equally real, from Anders despising all things American, to Jensen delighting in all things historical, to practical Ed and misunderstood Tara, and parents who’ve moved away to Arizona. The love in these pages isn’t syrupy sweet, the characters aren’t cutouts chasing after dreams, the internet’s not perfect and neither is love, or homeland. But the mysteries of a hundred-year-old romance have messages for an all-too-modern internet relationship, and the lessons of lilacs cut to make them bloom are relevant to all.

I loved following these characters as their relationships grew. I loved wondering what choices Jensen would make, and whether she and Anders could ever turn fairy-tale into reality. I loved the side characters. I loved the conversations. I loved the world…

Sherrie Hansen’s created a thinking woman’s romance, as full of depth and feeling and love as any other, but seasoned with history, internet, real relationships, common sense and hope; a wonderful novel, highly recommended.”

And one more thing, while I’m on the subject of romance. You could do worse. My husband and I just finished listening to all three books in the Hunger Games trilogy. Despair, disillusionment, detachment, and depression – from beginning to end. I’m of the opinion that this world needs a few more happy endings. I believe the world needs a little more love.  And if people find a little hope, joy, peace and love – a little romance – in the midst of all the negative things that pervade our world, is there anything so wrong with that? Take a chance on romance. Look for a novel by Lyn Cote, Pamela Morsi, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Julie Garwood, Jill Marie Landis, LaVyrle Spencer, or Debbie Macomber, to name a few. You’ll find plenty to hold your interest… action, adventure, worthy protagonists and antagonists, symbolism, meaning, depth.

I write novels that are commonly known as romance novels. Because romance novels have negative connotations for so many people, I chose to use the word love in the title of my blog, fearing if I used the word romance, most people wouldn’t even read the article. But don’t be mistaken. I’m proud to be a writer of love stories. I’m a thinking woman, and the romances I write are well worth a few hours of your time. Try one – you’ll be surprised at what you might learn.

I decided to write about my online aura bright and early this morning. As I lay in bed, slowly waking up, I had the words all planned out… clever words, put together with onomatopoeia and alliteration and all kinds of good “stuff”.  And then my day began. My husband had an early morning doctor’s appointment at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I tried to go back to sleep after he left, but the phone rang several times in a row. I took room reservations for my B&B for a total of 16 nights and started processing the paperwork. I found out a friend had just gotten out of the hospital – and I didn’t know she’d been in. I answered an email about a do-it-yourself murder mystery party. I checked my email, facebooked for a few minutes, then got another phone call reminding me to email some photos to my ad rep at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I followed Kaila’s instructions,  had to resend one photo, and minutes later, proofed the ad. I had barely enough time for a quick shower and then it was off to the Blue Belle to fix lunch for several customers and throw together food, party games and prizes for Tanya’s baby shower. The party was a hit and Tanya liked the gift my husband picked out last night in the big city.  My husband and I climbed into the car as soon as it was over and headed for Thompson, where we scrubbed out the refrigerator, returned some folding chairs that mistakenly got moved to Hudson, and reclaimed a few odds and ends that didn’t make it into the moving trucks last weekend. While Mark finished up at the house and said a few last goodbyes, I and my portable keyboard went to Merle’s house with Mary Ann so the three of us could practice for my upcoming birthday / Blue Belle 20th anniversary party.  We drove the hour long drive home with a quick dinner stop at Subway in Lake Mills. Thank goodness they’re open until 10 p.m. Now, it’s after 11 p.m. and I and my aura are shot.

I was going to talk about the fact that some people have an encouraging online aura, others a humorous aura, and others still, an aura that’s sexy, cute or funky.  Some of my online friends have a bitter, cynical aura. Some come across as being crabby, complaining and whiny. Some have a faithful aura out of which shines a love for God and their fellow man. What kind of silent vibes do you transmit over the internet? Does your online aura personify the kind of person you are in real life, or do you use the internet as an opportunity to set your alter-ego free? If you met an online friend in real life, would they immediately recognize you?

Your words and the things you post, twitter, share and like, all make a statement about who you are – what’s important to you. In cyber space, all we have are words. Make each one count! Let your words shine with the essence of you!

If the subject of internet romance / relationship fascinates you like it does me, get a copy of my first book, Night and Day, and find out how a chance online meeting when it’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark transforms the lives of Jensen Marie Christiansen and Anders Westerlund.

My goal this morning was to write a blog that made me sound perky and pleasant… the kind of person you’d want to buy a book from. Instead, I probably sound exhausted – because I am! (But in the best way possible.) Keep smiling.

I can’t remember if my husband said it in his sermon on Christmas Eve at Zion Lutheran Church in Hudson, or if it was Pastor Mike from Faith E-Free Church in Austin, MN where we worshiped with my family on Sunday morning, but somewhere in the last two days I heard the phrase “Christmas is a time of new beginnings”.
Granted, there are aspects of the Christmas spirit that we should hold on to all year long – love, joy, peace, a spirit of generosity – but in many ways, Christmas is a spearhead that jump starts a whole host of events – a time to move on.
We all love a well-told story full of conflict followed by a happy ending, and certainly the Christmas story has it all… a tenuous engagement in which Joseph learned his virgin bride was pregnant with God’s son, a long, arduous, inconveniently timed journey to Bethlehem, the inability to find a place to stay the night, the stress of Mary’s impending delivery… and the grand culmination:  A baby born, a star shining in the night, a heavenly host singing “Alleluia,” shepherds bowing down in adoration, animals lowing, God’s incarnate presence in the flesh… The Christmas story is a masterpiece loved by all.
But the story does not end there. There is a sequel, and a great one at that.
Fast forward two years, and Mary and Joseph are visited by wise men, then warned in a dream that they should flee to Egypt. An evil King Herod is bent on killing Jesus – and is willing to go to great lengths to accomplish his goal. Perhaps an omen of things to come? The Bible says Mary pondered all of these things in her heart – I can only imagine what must have gone through her head – and Joseph’s – as these events unfolded. I love the song, “Mary, Did You Know?” because it looks past the Christmas story and forward to the miraculous transformation Jesus would bring into our lives as an adult, the Son of God.
If we only come to church at Christmastime – if we don’t ever read – and live out – the sequel to the Christmas story, we have missed the best part. If we don’t move on, past the sweet, little babe laying in a manger, to getting to know Jesus as a friend and Savior, we have missed the real story.
This Christmas season is also a time of moving on for my husband and I as he transitions to a new call at a new church, full of new possibilities, new growth, and new life. Although we hardly have King Herod hot on our tails, there have been some traumatic scenarios surrounding our decision to move. We’ve also said a lot of bittersweet good-byes in the last few weeks as we leave behind a church, a home and friends that we love dearly. But because we believe that God is calling us to live out a new chapter in our lives, we’re also excited and joyful about the sequel that is about to be written.
I am working on my own sequel, too. Almost three years ago, I wrote the last lines of my soon-to-be published book, Night and Day, and left Anders and Jensen in a happy place, planning a life together in either Denmark or Minnesota – maybe both. Hopes were high. Their future looked bright. A happy ending to their story was delivered as promised, and all was well.
But many of my readers wondered what happened next. They wanted to know the rest of the story. They wanted more.
For a long time, I was content, in my mind, to leave Anders and Jensen where they were. And then, a call from Pat Bertram, one of my fellow authors at Second Wind Publishing, for stories about springtime and renewal, got my mind going, and suddenly, I, too, felt a need to revisit Anders and Jensen, to find out what they were up to, and where they had been since I left off.
And so, Daybreak in Denmark was born, and the happily ever after has morphed into a complex new situation fraught with conflicts and less than perfect situations and — wondrous, magnificent, new life. Because life moves on, whether we want it to or not. At this Christmas season, let’s not forget the past – the sweet, inspirational message of the Christmas story – but let us also remember that seasonal sentimentality only goes so far, and that new life and growth will only thrive in our lives if we have the courage to move on and see what happens when we turn the next page, write a new chapter, and fully immerse ourselves in the sequel to the story.

It’s the day after Christmas, and it’s time to move on!

I’ve sold a rash of books recently, to new and old acquaintances who are excited to meet a real, live author in person, and curious to know what prompted me – an otherwise ordinary person – to write a book.

“Are the books true?” I’m often asked. “Are they about you? Did you really…?”

My answer usually depends on whether or not my mother is around.

The truth (well, part of the truth) is that some of the things that happen in my books really have happened to me – in one form or another. Yes, Virginia, there really is an Anders. Although I have never met him in real life (and he is not from Denmark), our online friendship had a big impact on my life, and resulted in one of the main characters in my first book, Night and Day.

In Stormy Weather, there are several inciting incidents in the book that did really happened, not exactly as they occurred in the novel, but in such a way that the characters of Rachael, Mac and Luke were born. Luke is probably a combination of two or three different men I’ve known. And yes, I really am terrified of tornadoes. And I really do love rainbows.

In Water Lily, the main character, Michelle, struggles with issues of low self-esteem, something I’ve grappled with all of my life. And my ex-husband really is from St. Louis, and he really does have absolutely perfect, very white teeth.

The characters and plot of my new novel, Merry Go Round, due to be released on May 22, are distinctly different from and very far removed from my actual life experience. I’ve never had children. As fate would have it, I am married to a minister now, but I had not even met Mark when the book was written. Tracy and Clay, the main characters, are complete and total figments of my imagination.

But even in Merry Go Round, there is a snippet of something that really did happen to me, and that is that I once loved a man who turned out to be gay.

In my experience, life’s little disappointments often turn out to be the fodder for great and wonderful things… the kick in the pants that catapults you to a new level of maturity, the catalyst that spurs you to move onward and upward to a new personal best, the lost job that leads you to a new, twice-as-rewarding career, the heartbreak that leads you to discover the true love of your life…

There was also a boy, when I was about sixteen, that I knew well, and had a huge crush on. One day, he called my house, presumably to talk to me. Instead, he falteringly asked to speak to my younger sister, who he asked out on a date. They did not end up married. He did not turn out to be gay. Their first date was a trip to the county fair. Knowing my sister, they probably rode the Zipper instead of the merry-go-round. But a little disappointment (which at the time seemed great), made a big enough impact on me that almost forty years later, it became part of a story called Merry Go Round.

I see two of my nieces every Wednesday. They are six and nine. Sometimes, when they tell me what happened at school, as I listen and watch them fight and tease and live out the little dramas that make up their lives, I wonder which of these events they will remember when they are fifty-four, which of their little disappointments will one day weave themselves into the stories that make them who they are, or even change the course of their lives.

I received a very warm welcome from Erik and friends at the Danish American Center in Minneapolis yesterday. I spoke about “Night and Day” and its Danish connections, our recent trip to Denmark, and the creative process of writing a book.

My first book, Night and Day (It's Midnight in Minnesota and Daybreak in Denmark...)

The Melting Moments (little Danish butter cookies with almond frosting) I took were a great hit and the book signing went well! My Mom and Dad went along and so did my husband, Mark.

I told several family stories and told about my niece making Danish aebleskivers when I was talking about new generations of Danes. I also told them about the delicious pork roast with the crackled skin and brown gravy that my Danish cousin’s daughter, Anne-Sofie, who is 21 years old, made for us when we were in Hillerod last month. (Red cabbage and new potatoes, too!) My mouth still waters thinking about it! It was so fun getting to know another generation of Danish relatives, who will hopefully keep the family relationships and stories going strong for another several decades!

My Danish cousin, Helle, me, Anna-Sofie, her daughter, and Boyda, her mother, who wrote letters to my Grandma Victoria for decades.

Another of Maren Jensen’s descendants (my Mom’s second cousin, Shirley) also came to hear my presentation and bought a copy of Night and Day for each of her brothers and sisters. It was a great day, and I enjoyed meeting all the fellow Danes at Danebo! I even met a fellow Betsy-Tacy / Maud Hart Lovelace fan!

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Daybreak – New Release! (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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