You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Love Notes’ category.

Today, I had the opportunity and pleasure of updating my novel, Love Notes, before its re-release from Indigo Sea Press. Love Notes is one of my favorites. I’m very proud of it just the way it is, but it was fun to be able to make a good book even better.

Sherrie library

Love Notes is set in Embarrass, in the far north of Minnesota, which among other claims to fame, is know for being the coldest place in the lower 48 states. Embarrass fell to 64 degrees below zero in 1996.

IMG_7215

In the article Finding Embarrass, I learned that the word Embarrass is French for obstacle. The realization only convinced me anew that Embarrass was the perfect setting for Love Notes. Just as many obstacles – inopportune cold weather being a common denominator – deterred the Finns who settled Embarrass, Hope and Tommy faced a multitude of conflicting goals and stumbling blocks that had to be overcome before their relationship began to heat up.

IMG_7201

Logistically speaking, I changed several of the last names of secondary characters to Finnish surnames, and added a bit or two about the wonderful Finnish saunas that Embarrass is known for. And of course, my more mature writer’s eyes spotted a few tiny changes that also needed to be made in the text. Hopefully I’ve taken Love Notes from good to better to the best!

IMG_7222

Love Notes will be available as a new release from Indigo Sea Press in a week or two. If you haven’t already read it, I hope you will. Love Notes has no steamy scenes, but plenty of passion. Don’t be deterred in your search on Amazon, as the book was originally published under my married name, Sherrie Hansen Decker, but is now listed by Sherrie Hansen.

IMG_3112

If I haven’t already intrigued you, here’s what a couple Amazon readers said about Love Notes:

“This is a great story to curl up with and be nice and warm while you read about folks who are battling the cold… the frozen lake… the snow storm… the heartless banker… all while finding love in all sorts of different places and sometimes in surprising ways. Sherrie Hansen will keep you turning the pages as you are drawn in for a marvelous journey of two people discovering first of all themselves – their weaknesses, but also their strengths – and, inevitably, each other.”

love notes dock

“Sherrie Hansen has given her readers another gift from her heart with Love Notes. Although much of the story is set in a frigid Minnesota winter, sparks fly between Hope Anderson, a widow and Tommy Love, an aging pop star. The book jump starts with a suspenseful water rescue and I was caught up in both the ensuing struggles and the growing romantic relationship between Hope and Tommy against the backdrop of the their opposing life visions and unexpected growing attraction. Add to that an unsavory backwoods man, and the financial problems Hope is working to resolve and it is a page turner with a heartwarming ending. Thanks, Sherrie Hansen!”

Sunset - sun

“Sherrie describes the setting so well that I could see and feel the near frozen temperatures and the cold water of the Lake. I could see the fog coming off the water and feel the fear of the character as they struggle to start the boat that is stranded on the Lake. I could feel the coldness in the air so much that I went outside and read the next few chapters just to get warm again.”

“An opening scene with winter coming, a dark storm brewing on the lake, paints assumptions that time will surely pull apart… And two great characters, both proudly, fiercely independent, slowly learn to see through different eyes. Forgiveness of others and self, acceptance of unwelcome advice, and finding what to stay true to when others guide you away, all these and more form a backdrop to Hope’s desire to keep Rainbow Lodge afloat and Tommy Love’s search for a song to revive his life and career.

IMG_2641 IMG_2631

Meanwhile each is freed from the past as God writes his Love Notes on their hearts, through song, through beauty, through faithful community, and through hope. The balance of finance and tradition in small towns is complicated. As well, “It’s complicated when two mature adults go into a relationship,” as one of the characters says. But complications can be anchored on solid ground and new life can be forged. This story kept me glued to the page, never knowing how I wanted the tale to end, but always sure the author would end it well. After all, she’s very clearly listening to the author of our lives as she writes these lives–Christian fiction indeed, where honest humanity meets heavenly hope.”

 

Advertisements

Okay – I’ll be honest. Part of the reason I write contemporary romantic suspense as opposed to historical is that I don’t have the time or inclination to do research. It’s not that I don’t enjoy history or investigating the past. And it’s not that I’m lazy – really. It’s simply that I’m already stretched so thin that I simply don’t have time. I own and operate a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn, and I’m a pastor’s wife in a different town, 85 miles away. I play the piano at church with a traveling band of musicians, and I’m very involved in the lives of my family. I write on the run whenever I have a spare second, often with my laptop propped on the door of the glove compartment while my husband drives us between our two homes. If I had to stop and do extensive research on a specific time period or worry about maintaining historical accuracy, I’m convinced I’d never finish anything.

BBI - Spring 2012  Zion 2013 Sunset shadows

To keep things simple, I try to write about locations I’ve been to or lived in, and occupations or fields I’ve worked in or been trained to do. I’m less likely to make silly mistakes that way. I’ve had characters who are Realtors (I’m licensed in the state of Colorado), interior designers, quilters, farmers, pastors, home renovators, and business owners in Minnesota, Iowa, California and Colorado – all things and places that are intimately familiar to me. No matter – it still takes an immense amount of time to research and validate facts, even for familiar scenarios.

Iowa - sunset 2010

Part of the problem is that my characters somehow seem to acquire minds of their own. Tommy Love giving up on building his dream house in northern Minnesota and buying a beachfront property in central California in “Love Notes” is one good example of a character who went traipsing off in different directions, pulling “my” story and stretching “my” plotline to include things that I never would have thought of on my own, and attempting actions and activities I’d never dare try. What could I do? I was invariably forced to follow his lead, searching for those tidbits of knowledge I was lacking to keep the story grounded and authentic.

Cal - Rachel SS

When I started writing “Blue Belle”, I had never been to Tobermory or the Isle of Mull, or even Scotland. When I finally set foot on the island, I had a strange sense of déjà vu because I was already so well acquainted with the place via the internet. One night, while I was sitting on a bench near the harbor, a woman walked by that looked exactly like I’d always envisioned Isabelle, my main character. It was eerie! I also had to change an entire scene that had Isabelle blithely scooting around Mull on her bicycle when I discovered how hilly the island is. It’s a very steep climb from the harbor street to the top of the hill where our B&B was!

67 Scotland - Tobermory 5

Scoping out a location is only the beginning. I spent almost an entire day researching European chocolates for Blue Belle. When I was in Mull, I even had to go to Tobermory Chocolates to taste their famous Rose and Violet Cream Chocolates. You know, so I could describe them accurately. I had to take tea at the Willow Tea Room in Glasgow, try Victoria Sponge with buttercream and berries and Mini-Battenbergs layered with almond paste, moist cake, and apricot jam, and sample Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Whiskey Sauce.  Not that it stops with the sweets. I had to taste pub grub – things like Cumberland Mash and Cottage Pie with  Thatched Roof  and Smoked Haddock Pie with Mashed Potatoes – at locations all over Scotland. And, I had to stay at several B&B’s so I could experience an authentic Scottish breakfast. Yes, we authors are forced to spend our time laboring over many such unsavory tasks. I spent a huge amount of time looking for Scottish slang, phrases, and speech idioms that would define and give depth and reality to my characters and their conversations, yet be understandable to the average American reader. I researched castles and keeps, Cromwell’s practice of slighting, and the art of building with stones in both Scotland and Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

73 Scotland - Tobermory Chocolate

Isabelle is a journalist, so part of my research involved investigating the facts behind each of the stories she was working on in the book, from Mad Cow and hoof and mouth to puffins and vultures, a Celtic bathing pool, and the centuries-old gold some people believe is still buried on a sunken Spanish galleon in Tobermory Bay.

82 Scotland Bathing Pool

The thing I like least about research is that I’ve already learned some things the hard way, which, sadly, means I already know everything I need to know about them without doing a single Google search. The thing I love most about researching is that once you start looking for specific answers to certain questions, you discover amazing things that lead you in completely new directions that then become fodder for your plot, and on and on in an explosive chain reaction of knowledge. It’s fascinating!

WI2 - Thistle

One of the things I’ve always loved about reading books is the new worlds that are opened up to me as I see a place or situation through the eyes of each character. Being an author has stretched me even more. Research can seem like a necessary evil at times, and a thrill at others. But no matter how hectic my schedule is or how bad my attitude about having to jump out of the story and take the time to chase down facts and figures, research is a great opportunity to learn more things, broaden your perspective, and see the world in a different light.

117 Scotland Castle Statue

When I first began to write books, I remember saying that I would never write about murder and mayhem – that it just wasn’t in me to dwell on the grisly, gruesome details of such occurrences. These kinds of things were so foreign to my own life, that I couldn’t imagine the characters I concocted even remotely being in a situation where they’d encounter such experiences.  True to my intentions, the most traumatic things my characters in Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round have to deal with are squabbling siblings, backstabbing friends, insensitive parents, nosy neighbors, troublesome children, minor medical problems, the rare encounter with a wild animal , the occasional disruptive weather emergency, and of course, broken hearts.  Not that lions and tigers and bears – oh, my – tornadoes, and bats in the house can’t  be unnerving, or that unplanned pregnancies, nasty exes, finding out your husband is gay or being betrayed by someone you trust  can’t be demoralizing, but you get my point. Nothing really bad or evil came close to touching my characters.  No one died. No one was hurt so badly that they couldn’t be fixed. Nothing unbearable happened.

With the release of Love Notes and Wild Rose, my readers saw a slight shift to a more suspenseful mode – bad guys that were truly bad, a kidnapping, gunshots, murder.  I’d crossed a line. I think that part of it was that my own reading tastes changed. Several of my favorite authors changed over from romance to suspense / thrillers and I went along for the ride. I read new authors, like Second Wind’s Christine Husom, who writes about comfortable, folksy Midwesterners like me who suddenly find themselves dealing with murdered parents and dismembered bodies in cornfields and cults in their backyards, and does it with dignity and aplomb.  Sadly, I think some of it is that the world has turned into such a crazy place that I can now clearly envision my characters having run-ins with evil, despite their best efforts to steer clear of it. As awful occurrences get more and more prevalent, it’s easier and easier for my imagination to “go there”.

Storm sun beams Sunset - 8-24 close

So what are your thoughts? How do you account for our fascination with the morbid? I hear over and over again from readers that they’re not “into” romance, but that they love to read gritty mysteries and thriller or suspense novels. If you’re one of my readers, are you glad I’m inching towards the unthinkable? (Not to worry – there are still plenty of sweet, romantic moments in my books for those of you with tender hearts. ) Any of you who have read all of my books probably also noticed a shift from steamy to not so much. When I made this switch, I expected accolades, and have instead heard from many who are disappointed that I stopped crossing that squiggly line.  It’s interesting to me that while some readers find my steamy scenes offensive, they seem to have no trouble with reading about violent, evil people and the situations that ensue because of their hatefulness. Personally, if I’m going to “clutter” my mind with one thing or another, I’d rather it be with something I think of as beautiful and natural rather than deeds and actions that are ugly and perverse.

What do you think? Have we opened a can of worms with our mysterious fascination with the morbid? Does the art of writing and reading about it quell our fears or feed them? Does it give you a sense of triumphing over evil, or give you pause for fear we are planting the seeds of further evil? Do you feel anxious and terrified after reading a book where horrible things happen to good people, or do you feel inspired by people who get life’s worst thrown at them and live to tell the story?

I always illustrate my blogs with appropriate photos, so here is the most dark, foreboding photo I could find with it’s cheery, upbeat counterpart. Which would you rather read about?

Photo80Scotland - sheep

IMG_9755

I wear a lot of different hats in my life as a writer, the owner and manager of the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, a pastor’s wife, and a daughter, sister and aunt. And I don’t get it from strangers. My Grandma Hansen loved wearing hats. During the depression, she and my Great-Grandma Danny used to make matching mother daughter dresses out of feed sacks. They would go to the feed store with Grandpa and root through the pile of feed sacks until they found enough in the right fabric to make two dresses. They sewed the dresses on a treadle sewing machine. I remember pumping my short legs back and forth on it when I was a girl. Grandma told me once that she never minded wearing a feed sack dress as long as she had a pretty hat to make it an outfit.

Rose - hat

So she would take a few pennies of the money she raised selling the eggs her chicken laid (their only source of cash during the depression) and drive to the Millinery Shoppe in St. Ansgar to buy a hat.

Zion - Hollyhocks

Grandma Hansen was a multi-tasker, and a wearer of many hats, just like I am. She cooked enough for a threshing crew even when there wasn’t one, had a huge garden, entertained family, friends and neighbors on a regular basis, taught a Sunday School class, and always seemed to find time for a game of Aggravation or Sorry with the grandchildren.  She taught us how to make hollyhock dolls (with pretty little hats) and pick eggs and butcher chickens. She was a woman of many talents. But no matter how busy she was, she always had time to tell us a story.

Grace Corner - Bleeding hearts 2

When I think of how tired Grandma must have been at the end of a long hard day washing clothes on a wringer washer, sewing on a treadle machine, cooking over a wood cook stove and standing on her head out in the garden, it amazes me that she had the energy to tell us bedtime stories, And never just one… My favorites included Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Little Red Hen, The Three Little Pigs, and Chicken Little with Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey. There were also stories about our dad when he and his brother and sister were little. And there were stories from the Bible, stories about Jesus, and people he knew, like Nicodemus, Peter, and Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Grandma wove her stories with Billy Goat Gruff’s deep, scary voice, and Goldilocks sweet soprano. She held us spellbound for hours, telling stories that were new each time we heard them even though we had heard them hundreds of times.

baby-blue-cinderella

So it seems that I got not only my love of hats from my Grandma Hansen, but the gift of storytelling. As a writer of novels, I’ve spun tales of pure imagination in Night and Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily, Merry Go Round, Love Notes, Thistle Down and Wild Rose that I hope would make her proud.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

When I put on my chef’s hat and go to work in the kitchen of my B&B, I tell people how the Blue Belle Inn came to be, and how I concocted their favorite recipes, how I met my husband and what interesting guests we’ve had that week.

Sherrie - Mark

I really do wear a hat to church most Sundays, when I dabble at being a pastor’s wife. And I tell the old, old story with my hands and voice, as I play the piano and help lead worship. When I’m with my nieces and sometimes my nephew, I tell stories about their daddy when he was a baby, and about what happened in our family before he was born. I’m 16 years older than my brother, and someone has to pass down the stories and legends and funny family tales. Who better than I, the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter for generations back? It’s a sacred calling.

Danish Girl

I used to wish I had one outstanding talent that would propel me to some sort of greatness. I play the piano plenty well enough for our small church, but a concert pianist, I’ll never be. I was a straight A student, but I’m no rocket scientist. I am good at a small dabbling of different things instead of being great at one thing.

Sherrie - hat Sherrie - beach

Sherrie - pirateSherrie - porchSherrie - dreadsSherrie - Zion

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve decided I like wearing different hats – my purple one to parties, my velvet one to church, my straw hat to tea and my floppy Florida hat with the big brim to the beach. What I once rued, I’m now thankful for. I’m a storyteller, a preserver of legends, a mind set free to fly anywhere in the world my imagination may take me.

Sherrie library

So thank you, Grandma Hansen, for telling me about Indians and horse-drawn sleighs and one room schoolhouses and eloping to the Little Brown Church in the Vail, and all the stories of your life. My hat’s off to you.

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong anywhere? When I was a child, I often thought I must have been adopted. I loved to read and preferred to stay in the house while the rest of my family loved the outdoors and rarely opened a book unless they had to. I was and am very blessed to have a wonderful family, but in some ways, I’ve always been and will always be the odd one out.

IMG_7168

I felt the same way in school. I was smart and respected and had a close circle of friends, but I wasn’t athletic, and boys always liked me as a friend instead of a girlfriend, and I wasn’t a party-er and I didn’t dance because I was a Baptist. I read the Betsy Tacy books and wished more than anything that I would someday be part of The Crowd, but the truth was, I never really fit in. After I graduated, I went to Wheaton College, which might seem homogenous at first glance. But to me, it was a place of great diversity. I met people who were far odder than I, quirky individuals who bucked societal norms, did their own thing and didn’t care what anybody thought of them. Despite the occasional forays into uniqueness, there was still a typical Wheatonite – pre-med, ultra talented, superior intellect, old money or conversely, humbly raised children of pastors and missionaries – none of which fit me.

I got married to an officer in the army after two years of college. Our first duty assignment was in Augsburg, Germany. I won’t go into the mismatched marriage I was in at the time, except to say that in the midst of the ill-conceived mess I was in matrimonially, I felt very at home in Europe, and I found a great deal of acceptance within the military community. For the first time in my life, I started to feel like I belonged. Perhaps it was because the military attracted such a hodge podge of people. There were Okies from Oklahoma, hillbillies from Tennessee, southern belles from Charleston, South Carolina, proper to a fault West Point grads, gentle giants with black skin, and once I got there, a naive Midwest farmer’s daughter. I felt like I’d finally found my niche – and it lasted for all of about 10 minutes. Because the military is one of the most unstable, constantly shifting, always changing things in the world as far as places and spaces go. Command shifts, families transferring to different duty assignments, people staying in and getting out of the military, all set against the backdrop of a topsy turvy world where you’re always on alert, waiting for the next big things to happen – and it usually does.

Cal - Rachel SS

I felt I’d finally found my place in the world, and that that place only existed for a few short months in the space time continuum. Here today, gone tomorrow. When my marriage met a similar fate and poof – one day didn’t exist any more, it was a very hard thing. My ex-husband’s family had become mine, and then suddenly, they weren’t anymore. Disconnecting from the marriage and my role as wife was hard enough, but severing myself from the extended family was far worse.

I’m a farmer’s daughter. I was never a particularly good farmer’s daughter, but I was raised to put down deep roots, to commit for life, to count on people and things being there for a good long time if not forever. But the reality is that the whole world is like the ocean, or the sky – constantly changing, shifting, eroding, becoming more and more unrecognizable with every day that passes. And me?

Blue Belle winter

I’ve gone on to make my way in the world quite nicely. I’ve met with some successes, had a few dreams come true, and done quite well for myself. But in many ways, I still feel like I’m a misfit. I’m not a mother. I wear funky hats. I wouldn’t caught dead in nylons and can usually be found lazing around in Birkenstocks and slouch socks.  I’m a far from perfect pastor’s wife. Each of the walls in my dining room a different color. I’m awake when most people are sleeping, and asleep when I should be awake. If left to my own devises, there are more weeds than flowers in my garden. I play the piano but never the notes that are on the music.

Danish Pancakes - Done

I make round pancakes instead of flat. I write books with steamy scenes and God sightings – in the same chapter. I raise eyebrows, and have my own quirks, and march to my own drummer. I’ve never quite fit in and have finally starting to realize that I kind of like it that way.

Scotland - Rainbow 7

So Merry Christmas from the Island of Misfits. I rather like it here.  If you’re ever inclined to visit, please pick up one of my books… Jensen from Night and Day, Rae from stormy Weather, Michelle from Water Lily, Tracy from Merry Go Round, Hope from Love Notes, and soon, Rose from Wild Rose… characters who are full of foibles, characters who are sometimes a little off kilter or at odds with the world, characters who desire more than anything to find someone to appreciate them and love them just the way they are.

Scotland Duart Castle - Mull

Of course, there’s only one place in the world where we can truly find unconditional love, from someone who certainly knows what it felt like to be a misfit.  That’s what makes Christmas such a grand celebration!

believe

My husband and I were driving home from seeing the movie “Lincoln” last night when we drove over the rise that leads to our home and saw Zion Lutheran Church silhouetted behind the stand of pine trees – a sight that has become very familiar- and realized that it was almost exactly a year ago that we saw this beautiful view for the first time.

Since many of you were kind enough to listen to the tales of angst that proceeded our move and the grieving process that surrounded it, I thought I would offer a State of the Union address of sorts and catch you up on what’s been happening in my life since then. And although it’s a very “un-writerly” thing to do, I’m going to start with today’s news and go backwards.

I’m so excited to be nearly finished with a book called Wild Rose of Scotland. I set out to finish it for NaNoWriMo, and have almost met my goal. I love the way the characters and storyline have developed and think my readers will, too. It takes place at St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe, in Scotland. Ted is a pastor and Rose is a bit of a wild woman with a questionable past. The church ladies are aghast! There’s even a jilted ex-fiancé who Rose left standing at the altar in his kilt. And I think you’ll love them all. I have only 3712 words left to write to make my goal of 50,000 words written in the month of November.

It’s been a good month – getting up early every morning and writing has been a good discipline for me at a time in my life when I’ve moved from being a night owl to falling asleep at my desk before ten o’clock. If I can keep up this new habit throughout the winter, you can expect two new releases in short order – Wild Rose of Scotland,and then, Blue Belle of Scotland – with the possibility of a third Celtic tale called – Sweet William of Scotland or Shy Violet of Scotland or… who knows?

After vacillating between publishing books meant for mainstream romance readers and inspirational fiction readers, RWA and ACFW, Sherrie Hansen (Night and Day, and my Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily and Merry Go Round) and Sherrie Hansen Decker (Love Notes), steamy scenes or no steamy scenes, I’ve decided to go back to being Sherrie Hansen and let my books be what they will be.

I’ve always felt that my books are very character driven. They also have a “slice of life” quality that includes characters who are good and evil, meek and bossy, nice and nasty, Christian and non-Christians (sometimes, to confuse matters, it’s the Christians who are nasty and the non-Christians who are nice), and so on. There are committed Christians whose faith means everything to them, as well as lukewarm and occasionally rebellious Christians. There are people who don’t know what they want – or believe. They live their lives and interact in a very real, sometimes gritty, occasionally very painful world, where there are conflicts, temptations, joys and struggles.

As a writer, I believe my faith and values come into play when a character has to confront the conflicts life throws in their paths. How they deal with the conflicts and how they interact with the other people in their world depends on how deep their faith is and where they’re at in their spiritual walk. As a Christian writer, I feel strongly that there are always consequences to actions, and that sin or evil should not be glorified. But even the Bible does not sugarcoat the actions and failings of its central characters as the stories are told of how they lived out their lives in their contemporary cultures. I don’t feel it’s my job to censure or shield my readers, only to let God’s grace shine through in the way the conflicts in my books are resolved.

So I’m done trying to label my books as one thing or another. Part of the reason I love my publishers and working with a mid-sized, independent press is that they’re supportive of me and what I write even when it’s something unique or a little outside the conventional boxes. In Wild Rose of Scotland, you can expect some faith talk, some Bible verses, and some heated discussions on topics like grace and forgiveness – Ted is a pastor, after all. You can also expect some steam. I think you’ll find that it’s a very candid, real, and refreshing mix.

Some other changes in my life – we love our new home, our new church family, and the group of  folks our church has chosen to affiliate with (the LCMC – Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ). When I think of all the wonders God has brought about in our lives in the last 12 months, I’m amazed. On a very personal note, I’ve lost 80 pounds since the day after Mother’s Day – I think, an awesome reflection of the new, positive outlook these changes have brought about.

That’s where I’m at today. I hope you’ll watch for Wild Rose come spring! In the meantime, if you haven’t read Love Notes, this is a wonderful time of year to start. Hope Anderson and Tommy Love’s story – Love Notes – starts just as fall in turning to winter and ends on Christmas Eve with a very special Christmas song, “Hope, Joy, Peace, Love”.

You can get your copy here.

Merry Christmas!

One of the parts I like best about starting a new book is choosing the location where my story will be set. Local traditions, distinctive scenery, and quirky bits of historical lore can all be used to enhance the plot and bring life to your characters. Layering and interweaving them together or using symbolism to enhance the plot is pure fun for me.  Choosing the right season for your story is another fun exercise. My latest book, Love Notes, starts just about this time of year, when late summer / autumn is turning to winter.  The conclusion of Hope Anderson and Tommy Love’s story falls on Christmas Eve with a tender carol about hope, joy, peace and love. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about autumn and the images it brings to mind.

But first, I’m going to backtrack a bit. I have to admit that autumn is my second favorite season. My bed and breakfast, The Blue Belle Inn,  is named after a spring flower, and painted in springtime colors, so you can probably guess what my favorite season is.

To me, spring is a season of hope, and new beginnings. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t start Love Notes in the spring. Because for Hope and Tommy, certain things had to come to an end  – die – before any new growth could occur. Dreams, self, old business.

I love spring, when the first blossoms start to poke out of the brown, colorless, still-half-frozen ground.

Spring has humble beginnings, and finishes with a truly glorious display.

Fall, on the other hand, is slow and mellow. It sneaks up on you. Why is it that we think summer will never end? I mean, we know colder weather is coming. Fall is about denial.

Fall is the season of being finished, pleased with yourself, satisfied and content. Fall is the time of year when the fruits of your labors are seen to completion.

Now I sound like a farmer’s daughter, which I am.

Fall is nature’s last hurrah.

Fall is frisky squirrels scurrying frantically about, getting ready for winter.

Are your characters driven – under a tight deadline? If so, maybe fall is their time.

Fall is yellow, orange and red… exactly what we expect, most of the time. But fall is also every color of the rainbow.

Fall is full of surprises.

Fall is hazy nights, full of dust and chaff, and beautiful sunsets.

If fall is hazy, summer is lazy. The time when we go on vacation, take siestas, and stop to smell the roses.

Summer can bring stormy weather.

Summer is unsettling, volatile. Things can blow up in a hurry.

Summer can be crazy.

Summer can be relaxed. Sweet. Wet. Wild.

Summer is a blaze of glory. Hot and humid. A time when things grow and burst into color. Everything is at it’s best in the summertime.

Summer is the perfect time to lean back and enjoy a day of basking in the sun or relaxing on a porch swing.

Summer is sentimental.

Summer is a time when I take nothing for granted, because I know it won’t be long before…

Fall. And fall is fleeting. The inevitable frost kills things, makes things colorless and grey.

And fall, after all, leads to winter. Winter…  it’s icy cold. If you’re not careful, it will freeze your little tush off. The tip of my nose is always chilly in the winter.

Winter is a time of desolation. Isolation. Winter is beautiful, even majestic, in it’s own way, but so frigid and unyielding.

Crisp, clear. Blustery, blue.

Merry, dear. Winter has its own set of wishes, its own brittle warmth.

Which season is your favorite? What time of year were you born in? Have one or more seasons impacted your life? After all, we’re all characters living out a story line. Wild Rose of Scotland, the book I’m working on now, starts in the spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom. But there’s a long, hot, oppressive summer in store for Rose before she finally feels the graceful acceptance of fall.

One of the first things I saw on Facebook this morning was a photo of 6 or 7 women of every shape and size (including some who are quite large) lined up in a  row, part of the “Real is Perfect” campaign presented by SKORCH and Lane Bryant.  I pressed like. When I was growing up, if you didn’t look like the excessively thin model, Twiggy, or have a figure like Barbie, you weren’t considered to be pretty, say nothing about perfect. I’m glad that I (and evidently others) have learned that beauty comes in all different shapes, colors, and sizes.

Part of the reason I chose to accept the contract that Second Wind Publishing offered me for my novel, “Night and Day”, a few years ago is that it seemed like bigger publishers were looking for a more standardized idea of “beauty” in the books they published, and that an independent press was more likely to be open to unique stories that didn’t fit the current mold embraced by the masses.

I felt that my books were “different” in two major respects – one, that my stories were about what the publishing industry considers to be older characters (30′s and 40′s as opposed to 20′s), and two, that my books contained aspects of both faith and a conservative Christian world-view, and  some fairly lusty, what I call steamy, scenes.

My characters are real. They’re not perfect people living in an evangelical Christian bubble. They are touched by evil. Their temptations are much more than superficial , and  sometimes they give in to them.  When they do, they feel pleasure. When they do things that are opposed to what they believe is right, and when they do things in the wrong order, or at the wrong time, they also feel pain. There are consequences to actions, whether having sex before marriage or eating or drinking too much, or simply having the wrong focus and priorities in life.  Because my characters and situations are real, you see both. Diversity often brings dichotomies, and conflict, and I believe that makes for a good story.

Much to my delight, my books have been well-received, and garnered good reviews. Readers have been enthusiastic.  My publishers were supportive. I was thrilled that I was able to write the books of my heart without feeling pressure to color totally inside the lines. And then I tried to write a book for the Christian fiction market. “Love Notes” has no steamy scenes. Hope’s faith has remained strong even in the face of losing her husband, and almost losing her home. Tommy Love grows more and more convicted of his selfish ambitions and turns back to God. There is a clear Christian message.
In a review of “Love Notes”, Sheila Deeth says “Sherrie Hansen Decker’s Love Notes is Christian romance where fiction is lifted up, not bogged down by faith. Genuine hope kindles slowly in human hearts. Beautiful music soars. Trials come, not because the characters are sinners but because they’re human and the world around us is wounded. The bad guys are drawn with space awaiting healing grace, and the scenery, towns and countryside are vivid with beauty and darkness side by side, hope hiding in the shadows.”  And,  “This story kept me glued to the page, never knowing how I wanted the tale to end, but always sure the author would end it well. After all, she’s very clearly listening to the author of our lives as she writes these lives—Christian fiction indeed, where honest humanity meets heavenly hope.”

In the Timberjay newspaper out of Tower, Minnesota, a recent reviewer said “Anderson is struggling to reopen the resort owned by her late husband, who died in a car accident. Tommy Love is a local boy who found national fame in the music business, who is now looking for a peaceful spot to call home. Their two paths collide when a local banker tries to foreclose on the resort in order to sell the property to his old friend, Tommy Love. The book is an inspirational Christian romance, with plenty of intrigue and adventure. It is also a novel that explores the complications and hurdles when two middle-aged adults, with very different histories, fall in love. The weather, as in any novel set in northeastern Minnesota, also plays a significant role in the story. In an interview with author Pat Bertram earlier this year, Decker said “I hope each reader will have their faith in miracles renewed. I’m a firm believer in second chances. I know from personal experience that God can take the most adverse scenario and make something beautiful out of it – in His time.”
When “Love Notes” was first published, I joked that if every one who had griped about the steamy scenes in my previous books bought a copy of “Love Notes”, it would be a best seller. But I’m not laughing any more, because certain Christians evidently feel that “Love Notes” is not Christian enough. First, an “influencer” from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), declined to recommend the book to her friends because it contained the word bi-ch (uttered by the bad guy). Now, a Christian bookseller has declined to sell the book in her bookstore even though it has a “great story line”, because the main characters sleep under a shared blanket to stay warm in an ice storm after the power goes out, and the bad guy hopes to have sex with his ex-wife, and other characters have “sex thoughts”. Even more insulting was her assessment that “God is mentioned, but neither main character really knows God and who He is.”
So, what to do? I will not be writing any more books for the Christian market. I am going to write real books with real characters who struggle with issues of faith within a real world context. If their struggles lead to passion, some “steam” will be included. If that’s not where the story goes, you can join the ranks of those who were disappointed when I told them “Love Notes” didn’t have any steamy scenes. And as for the Christians who are so confident that their  particular brand of Christianity is so perfect, I would remind you that there was not one perfect disciple, who said one perfect set of words when he came to Christ and who lived a perfect life thereafter. There were 12 different disciples, each one unique, each of whom came to Christ from a different place, and in a different way. Each had different weaknesses and strengths, their own personal doubts and struggles, a different style of writing, and a unique ministry. Yet God used them all. There are also prostitutes and murderers and adulterers and and sex thoughts in the Bible.  It’s a  real book about real people living in a real world. And I think it’s the perfect book.
As for “Love Notes”, I’m sure it is far from perfect. But it is real and I hope you will read it and decided for yourself if you agree.

Sometimes a story is born of a place – an exotic locale tugs at your heart, captures your imagination, and you are off and running. I had that experience at St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe, in Argyle, Scotland a few years ago.  The book I’m working on right now, Wild Rose of Scotland, practically plotted itself while I stood under the flying buttresses in the church yard and wandered through the lofty stone church.

The same thing happened to me in Florida a couple of winters ago. A trip to the Everglades followed by a brief excursion to the Pink Palace, a 1920’s era hotel on St. Pete’s Beach, and my mind started swimming with kidnapped heiresses and gangsters and missing ransom and a double cross and alligators and crocodiles and a canoe slipping through the swamp grasses and voila! A story was hatched.

At other times, a story comes void of a location. When I first started dreaming about Isabelle MacAllister and Michael St. Dawndalyn in Blue Belle of Scotland, I had never been to Scotland. My characters were firmly etched in my mind, but they needed a home. I researched several different Scottish villages online and fell in love with Tobermory, Scotland, on the Isle of Mull. When I finally got to visit Tobermory, Blue Belle of Scotland was already written.

A strange sense of deja vu followed me around the island from the moment the ferry docked at Craignure and we drove our rental car out of the hull of the ship. Seeing places that I had researched and written about was thrilling – and a bit weird. There were odd circumstances come to life, things that I couldn’t possibly have known but nailed perfectly – a woman walking towards me on the street who looked exactly like my mental image of Isabelle. I loved it! In an odd sort of way, it felt like home.

Love Notes, my latest, released earlier this summer, was born of characters and stories of old lodges and honeymoon cabins and music and contentment, a jumble of experiences and tales told to me by my Aunt Pat and Uncle Frank when we were visiting them at their cabin on Bear Island Lake, in northern Minnesota.

Rainbow Lake Lodge, the fictional setting of Love Notes, is a figment of my imagination, a conglomerate of lodges I’ve visited in Yosemite National Park and on Prince Edward Island, Canada, with a good dose of Burntside Lodge, Ely, MN mixed in.

Tommy Love needed humble beginnings with a Mayberry RFD flavor, where everybody not only knows your name,but everything else about you – for 5 generations back. They needed to be Minnesota nice and a little quirky, too. Ely, bustling with tourists and newcomers panning for gold, was a little too big and upscale to be a good fit. That’s when I decided Embarrass, MN was a perfect match for my cast of characters. Love Notes was nearly finished by that time, so I went back and researched Embarrass, then changed the story until it fit.

This past week, I visited Embarrass for the first time in several decades. Again, I had a a sense of deja vu as I matched digital pictures to real locations. I had a few tense moments, too. It is about five miles from the “Welcome to Embarrass” sign and any semblance of the town. I was starting to feel – well, a little embarrassed, thinking I had written about a town that didn’t exist, when we finally found the town hall. From there, it was another 5 or so miles to the outskirts of the actual town, and another mile or two to the  bank (credit union) and welcome center. The expression “Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it”, is very appropriate in the case of Embarrass.

When I started introducing myself as an author who had written a book set in Embarrass, I was thrilled to find I’d made precisely the right choice of locations. I’d soon had lovely chats with Diane, the city clerk, who bought my last copy of Love Notes, the friendly hostesses and resident poet at the Nelimark Homestead House, and Pat, the delightful hostess at Homespun Acres – an antique and gift shop in a barn – and Northern Comfort B&B.

In true Minnesota fashion, in mere minutes of meeting these folks, I knew where they were from, what year their grandparents had homesteaded their farms, and how they arrived in Embarrass, among other fascinating tidbits. Definite material for a sequel should I ever choose to write one. I left with warm memories, new friends, a bond and a few treasures from the antique shop. I didn’t confess that I am half Danish instead of Finnish, but I felt a tie to Embarrass regardless.

Storybook settings, whether born in the first moments of inspiration or researched  in retrospect, are a crucial element in any story. If you ever have the chance to visit Embarrass, Minnesota, I would urge you to go and immerse yourself in the local color for a day or two – or maybe take in a Finnish sauna at the Northern Comfort B&B. If it isn’t likely you’ll get up that way anytime soon, I hope you’ll read Love Notes. Better yet, I hope that when you turn the last page, you’ll feel like you’ve been to Embarrass. I’m happy to say I have been.

In a few hours, I’ll be speaking at the Artworks Festival in Austin, MN, my hometown, also know as Spam Town USA (the kind in a can that’s good to eat).

Maybe it’s because Austin was the stage for most of my childhood dreams and wishes that I feel a little sentimental about the difference between how I hoped my life would turn out, and how it has.  It was under the clear, blue skies of Austin that I dreamed of meeting my own tall, dark, mysterious Prince Charming, and living happily ever after in a house filled with babies and love, surrounded by a white picket fence and window boxes filled with pink geraniums. Given the era I grew up in, the happy young wife and mother I envisioned in my wishes probably looked like Gidget, Barbie, Cinderella, and Twiggy all rolled into one.  My, how the world has changed in a few short decades. And my, how different my life has turned out to be than what I envisioned all those years ago.

Whether I was wishing upon a star or praying for the perfect man to come into my life and make my dreams come true, my life has been nothing like the way I imagined it would be. The things I’ve done, the places I’ve been, the things I’ve accomplished would have been incomprehensible to me back then.  In some ways, I’ve far exceeded my hopes and dreams. I also have a handful of regrets, and a small part of me still mourns for the way things might have been.

One of the other Austin artists appearing at the festival is in a wheelchair. I’m told he was paralyzed in a football game in the late 80’s. He is exceptionally talented and has accomplished much in his life. I’m sure when he was growing up, he didn’t envision being injured. I wonder, would he have excelled at art in the way he has if that moment hadn’t redefined his life and shaped his perspective?

Things happen – often differently than we wish or hope –  I believe God uses those things to take us from being rough pieces of coal to shining diamonds, to bring out the best in us.

The main character in my recently released, LOVE NOTES, is a woman named Hope Anderson whose youthful hopes and dreams died with her husband in an auto accident. Hope’s “Plan B” is to finish renovating and reopen Rainbow Lake Lodge, to see it bubbling with families, children, and laughter again – she believes, the perfect way to honor her late husband’s legacy.  Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, that dream is also about to die.

Sometimes it’s very hard to see the silver lining, to find the rainbow after the storm.

I did not live happily ever after.  It took a few years for God to “work all things together for good” – I call it being blessed with “God’s Perfect Plan B”. I never did have children, but God gave me an extended family who loves me, brothers and sisters who are kind enough to share their children with me, nieces and nephews who love me and are a wonderful part of my life.

He gave me a Bed and Breakfast and a Tea House, music to lift my soul, friends and activities that I enjoy, a new chance at romance, and many books to write.

Romans 5:2-5says ” Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Our youthful hopes and dreams may have to be altered and adapted over the years, but one thing that never changes is God – our strength, our comfort, and our hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  I like Romans 12:12, too. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”


Sherrie Hansen Decker lives in a 116 year old Victorian house in northern Iowa who, just like her, got a second chance when she rescued it from the bulldozers grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie has enjoyed learning about hope and love, and the difference a little faith makes while telling the story of Hope Anderson and Tommy Love in “Love Notes”.  “Love Notes”  is Sherrie’s fifth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing (her debut Christian Inspirational novel). Sherrie attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL and University of Maryland, European Division, in Augsburg, Germany. Her husband, Rev. Mark Decker, is a pastor and Sherrie’s real life hero. She enjoys playing the piano with their worship team, needlepointing, renovating and decorating historic houses, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephews.  

You can learn more about Sherrie’s books at:

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=24

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenDecker

www.BlueBelleInn.com / www.BlueBelleBooks.com

https://twitter.com/#!/SherrieHansen

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

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,167 other followers

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

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: