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Here in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, we’ve been snowed in by a blizzard for the last few days. For two days, we were completely cut off from the rest of the world by 6 and 7 foot high drifts up and down our road. Now that the plows have come through, there are walls of snow 8 or 9 feet high on either side of the road, and the drifts that haven’t been already been blasted away are as hard as cement. Our temperatures heading into the month of March are forecast to be in the single digits, so there’s no sign of a spring thaw anytime soon.

Blizzard photo 2On Sunday, church was cancelled for the first time in decades, and I’ve been totally discombobulated ever since, wondering what day it is and awakening in the night thinking it’s time to get up and play the piano. Our schools have had 10 snow days in less than a month and at the rate we’re going, they may be making up days until the 4th of July.

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Not to complain… our electricity has stayed on and we have heat. We had plenty of warning that the storm was on its way so we were able to get where we needed to be before the weather turned the roads to glare ice and stock up on food to eat while we were snowed in.  Thank goodness!

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Is it just me, or do you get hungry for good old-fashioned comfort foods when something in your life isn’t going quite right?  This weekend, I’ve had meatloaf, home-grown sausage, egg salad sandwiches, and raisin cinnamon bread with a lot of smooth, creamy butter spread on top – and a lot of wonderful cheeses because I was supposed to have a cheese tasting party (it also fell victim to the blizzard).

Cheese

I have a lot of other foods that I associate with warm, cozy feelings – chocolate chip cookie dough (well, any kind of cookie dough), Grandma Hansen’s chicken pie with baking powder biscuits on top, homemade apple pie, Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter and butter sandwiches… I could go on… This is part of the reason I struggle with my weight.  But my point is that food does a great job of  soothing frazzled emotions and making us happy. So do books, and they’re a lot less fattening!

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Reading a favorite book can take you back to happier, less stressful times. Books can transport you to another part of the world, a different era in time, or an altogether unique universe where fantasy reigns. In a well-woven story, dreams can come true. The characters in a wonderful book can reassure you that things could be worse – that your life and your problems aren’t half bad after all. A good novel can help you to dream again, to move forward and keep trying when your own world seems hopeless.

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Books can fill your heart with hope. They can uplift you and make you laugh. They can provide a quick escape from the harsh realities of life and renew your perspective.

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That’s why I like reading a good book when I’m stranded in a blizzard, trying to relax, or feeling anxious and overwhelmed by what’s going on in my life.

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My love for books helped shape my business, a bed and breakfast and country inn called the Blue Belle Inn, just as my passion for good food has. If you come to visit, you’ll find rooms named Never Neverland, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Secret Garden, Anne’s House of Dreams, A Wrinkle in Time, and Heaven to Betsy from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy books. I’m a writer because Betsy Ray was, and if Laura Ingalls Wilder could make it through the Long Winter, then I can survive these horrible winds and snowstorms we keep having.

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If you’re an avid reader, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t picked up a book in awhile – I urge you to give reading a second chance. Whether you need comforting or calming, perking up or settling down, a good book can help. Hopefully, it will bring a smile to your face and a song to your heart.  Cookie dough might give you a momentary lift, but reading can change your life.

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This March, I’m going to be speaking to a group of bed and breakfast innkeepers on the subject of how and why we choose accommodations when we travel. Of particular interest to this group is:  When people are planning a trip, how do they start looking for a place to stay? Do they have a favorite booking platform or do they prefer booking direct? Do they even consider looking at B&Bs or do they automatically head for the big chain hotels? What are some things that attract or discourage them from staying at a  B&B? What catches their eyes, makes them stop and take a second look, and press reservations – or run as quickly as possible  to the local Motel 6?

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As an author of ten books, soon to be eleven, I often ask myself the same sort of questions. Why do people buy my books instead of the thousands of others on the book shelves or the millions of others available online?

Sometimes I think the hardest thing about being a writer is finding readers who are a good match with the books we’ve worked so hard to write.

This isn’t the Match Game, but I’m going to take a stab at helping you to determine if you and my books would make a good pair.

Love Notes - Winter

  1. You might like my books if you’re from Minnesota, Iowa, or anywhere in the Midwest.

I was born and raised in Minnesota. I’ve lived just 9 miles south of the Minnesota border, in Iowa, for the past 26 years. If you have ties to either state and like stumbling upon familiar places in the books you read, you will probably like my books. Most of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels even have Midwestern characters scattered throughout – hopefully just enough to make you feel at home.

Daybreak in Denmark (3)

 

  1. You might like my books if you enjoy being surprised when you’re reading.

My books are character-driven and as different from one another as each person is unique – anything but cookie cutter. Some have a mystery to solve, some are a tad bit suspenseful, others, completely relational in focus. A few have Christian fiction leanings, while others are on the steamy side. A number are set in Scotland, and soon to be two, in Denmark. Most are romances, but my new book, Daybreak, focuses on a married couple and what happens when happily-ever-after doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Golden Rod has a pair of 500 year old ghosts. Although I will admit to having kidnappings in two of my books, you’ll find that each of my novels follows its own unique template. I like to think they’re refreshingly unpredictable and far from formulaic.

Wildflowers

  1. You might like my books if you enjoy having characters from previous books reappear in future novels.

My books aren’t serials – each of them stands alone, but several are linked together in groupings for those who enjoy getting another glimpse of a favorite character or two. My Wildflower of Scotland novels (Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William, and Golden Rod) are interconnected through family and friends, as is the Maple Valley Trilogy (Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round) through the lives of three sisters, Rae, Michelle, and Tracy. Daybreak, to be released this summer, is a sequel to Night and Day, and has cameo appearances by characters from Love Notes and Sweet William.

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  1. You might like my books if you’re a follower of mine on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram.

I truly believe that the things we like, comment on, and post about on social media are a window into our general aura and a commentary of what’s important to us. If you like my perspective, the things I focus on and take photos of, the music I listen to, the foods I make at my B&B and teahouse, and the paintings I create in my spare time, you’ll most likely enjoy my books and the characters I write about, all of whom are at least some reflection of me, my style, and my passions.

Golden Rod (3)

  1. You might like my books if you’re a small town girl at heart.

Whether my books are set in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Canada, California, Denmark, Scotland or France, they have small town or even rural settings. They’re populated by people who love wide open spaces, seeing the sun sink into the horizon at the end of the day, and appreciate the quirky personalities that are a part of small town living.

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  1. You might like my books if you enjoy knowing both sides of the story – from a somewhat experienced point of view.

My books are all written in two or more points of view. At least one is a woman’s, and the other, a man’s. Some say I’m more adept at writing the male point of view. And speaking of characters, mine are a bit more grown up than some, with most ranging from their late thirties to early fifties. They’re not superhuman or stupendously sexy or heroic. They’re rarely virgins or too young to know better. They’re nice, normal, slice of life, girl or boy-next-door kind of people – believable, relatable, and loveable despite their flaws and shortcomings.

 

If you’ve read any of my novels, you can probably think of a few more reasons you enjoy my books and choose them over the millions of other options available to you. A friend of mine once said he never wanted to be accused of being normal. I’ve tried to apply this concept to every part of my life, whether my B&B, teahouse, art or writing. I don’t know if I’ve inspired anyone new to give my books a try, but I’ve enjoyed giving you a glimpse into what makes me and my books unique. To those who are already readers, thank you for coming along for the ride! It means the world to me.

P.S. If you’ve enjoyed one or more of my books like I hope you have, please remember that authors need reviews to attract prospective readers!

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I’m pleased to unveil the cover of my upcoming release, Wild Rose, the first of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels. The tentative release date is late April, so please watch for future updates. I’m also working on a novella – a prequel to Wild Rose, that I hope to release in early April, a teaser, to introduce you to Ian MacCraig.

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When Ian MacCraig tries to capture the thief who is stealing artifacts from his kirk in Loch Awe, Scotland, the last things he expects to find on his video is a woman engaging in a passionate romp under the flying buttresses.

Rose Wilson is mortified to learn that Digby, the online friend she met for a harmless rendezvous, is a common criminal.

Now that Ian, the constable, the board of Wilson Enterprises, and half the town have had a glimpse of Rose in all her naked glory, it seems even her family looks at her differently. What remains to be seen is how far Ian will go to defend Rose’s honor and if the church ladies will forgive Rose now that they know who she really is… and if Rose can believe she’s worthy of someone as good and kind as Ian MacCraig.

Wild Rose and Pastor Ian MacCraig… a match made in heaven or one hell of a predicament?

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It would have been very convenient if Tracy, the main character of my new book, Merry Go Round, had turned out to be a fan of Blood, Sweat and  Tears. It only makes sense that her favorite song should be the 1969 hit, Spinning Wheel. The song is one of my favorites, and it’s full of merry go round imagery. My readers know how I love weaving in double meanings, even triple meanings that speak to or reinforce the theme of my books.

As an author, you would think that I could just make it happen. If I want the main character’s favorite song to be Spinning Wheel, then that’s the way I write it. End of story.

Unfortunately for me, and I’m assuming other authors who get deep into their characters POV, this is rarely the way it happens. It’s almost like magic, as you get into writing a book, the way characters acquire minds and thought processes of their own – and have ideas that often take you by compete surprise.

Photo by Rose Hill. 

As I was working on Merry Go Round a couple of nights ago, I suddenly discovered that Tracy has a thing for Rita Coolidge’s music. I was re-writing a scene near the end of the book when the words to “Don’t Cry Out Loud” started floating through my brain. Then it was “Fool That I Am”, “We’re All Alone”, “Your Love Has Lifted Me Higher”, “The Way You Do the Things You Do”,  “Words”, “Fever” – a regular hit parade of Rita Coolidge songs, each one a perfect match with what was going on in Tracy’s life.

I know this may sound odd, but stay with me for a moment… Tracy went on to tell me that she had loved Rita Coolidge’s music from the time she was in junior high after being invited to a concert by a friend of hers. As usual, Tracy had only told her parents she would be staying over night at her friend’s house, not what they would be doing while she was there.

Her strict parents hadn’t let any of the Jones girl listen to rock and roll or popular country music, but after the concert, when Tracy told them that Rita grew up singing gospel in her church choir, her mother let her buy a cassette tape of her greatest hits (obviously, without looking at the song list). Tracy was always of the opinion that what her mother and father didn’t know, didn’t hurt them, and in this case, like so many others, kept the rest of Rita’s story to herself. I mean, isn’t that what headphones are for?

Then Tracy revealed the truly sad part of the story – at age sixteen, when Tracy started dating Trevor, her childhood sweetheart, she stopped listening to Rita’s music (because Trevor though she was too country) and started listening to Bette Midler, who was his his favorite.

Fast forward twenty years – when Tracy starts to reclaim her life, part of her journey is re-embracing Rita Coolidge. Thankfully, she’s learned that you don’t give up the music of your heart – for anyone.

Suffice it to say that when you read Merry Go Round (coming from Second Wind Publishing in late April), the song “Spinning Wheels” is never mentioned. But you will find snippets of several Rita Coolidge favorites. I’ll leave you with one:

As pretty as you are,
you know you could have been a flower.
If good looks could be a minute,
you know that you would have been an hour.

Well, you could have been anything that you wanted to,
and I can tell the way you do the things you do.
The way you do the things you do… The way you do the things you do.

I am Sherrie Hansen and it took a blizzard, and getting snowbound for three days, to make time in my crazy schedule to post a new entry to my blog.

In addition to writing books, I own a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn. My husband of almost 7 years is a pastor. My published books include Night and Day, Stormy Weather, and Water Lily. Merry Go Round is supposed to be coming out in February, but I’ve lost my daytime help at the Blue Belle, and am running way behind schedule on writing, too, after working 12 – 14 hours at the B&B pretty much every day since October 1.

I belong to a group called Shedding Light at Gather.com, and for our first assignment, or Ripple, as our creative leader, Mariana, calls them, we were asked to list ten things – fun things – that make you smile – that you do – or observe or watch or even imagining yourself doing.

Here’s my list:

1. I love rainbows and sunsets … over the ocean, behind the mountains, across the flat fields of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa where I grew up and now live.

2. I love taking pictures of things. People, not so much, because they never seem to look as good through the lens of my camera as they do in person. But things… places, colors, buildings, flowers… with my camera, I seem to have a knack for bringing out the beauty in everyday things.

3. I love writing books, weaving a story, developing characters, saying what’s on my heart in fiction form.

4. I love playing the piano at church – the contemporary worship service with the drummer and our worship team is my favorite.

5. I love Wednesdays because that is the day I pick up my nieces after school and take them on an adventure. The oldest is 9 and the youngest is 6. I’ve been doing this since the oldest was 6 weeks old. My time with them is absolutely the best time of my week.

6. I love snuggling with my husband. I was single for about 20 years before I met Mark – lots of nights spent alone in my bed. Now, we hold hands while we sleep (at least we start out that way) and I love the sense of being loved and cherished that I feel when he’s beside me.

7. I love the feeling of going home at night after a productive day at the Blue Belle Inn, of being told that what I’ve done has pleased people and provided a relaxing, enjoyable time for them.

8. I love reading a good book, whether romantic, spiritual, nostalgic or suspenseful, and listening to good music – bluegrass, country, Celtic, gospel, rock and roll. I love getting to enjoy other people’s creativity.

9. I love traveling – mostly in Europe or Canada. There’s something about getting out of the country that really helps me relax. Seeing the sights and experiencing a different culture is a true joy for me, inspiring and attitude enhancing in many ways.

10. I love days when I can hang around in my nightgown and watch TV, needlepoint, cook dinner for my husband, catch up with my writing or email and just relax and do things at my own pace… days where I don’t HAVE to be anywhere or do anything in particular.

Anyone feel like singing “These are a few of my Favorite Things”?

 

I’ve been wandering around Europe for the last 3 weeks, and have just returned home. (Happily exhausted.) We were a day and a half late arriving home due to delays at the airport – not long at all considering that a little over a week ago we were listening to reports that this errant volcano might continue to spew ash for 2 years and fearing we might either have to take a steamer home or make a new lives for ourselves in Europe.

Yes, I have a wild imagination. That is what makes me a writer. My imagination has gotten me into trouble on more than a few occasions, but most of the time, it serves me well. Like it or not, I can’t seem to shut if off.

What if…? I wondered constantly, while we explored one country after another…

We were in Switzerland for only one night, so we didn’t get any money switched into Swiss Francs, assuming we would use our credit card as needed. After we checked into our chalet, we  drove into town, parked inside a parking garage and walked around downtown Lucerne until the sun set. We had dinner, then took photos of the lighted buildings reflected in the water of the lake until we were very sleepy. When we went to retrieve our car, we found that the machine would not accept our credit card.

Being stuck inside a parking garage (I hate parking garages, and we were carrying large amounts of cash, which scared me greatly), late at night, in a city we’re unfamiliar with, with no way to call for help (our cell phones didn’t work in Europe – even if they had, whom would we have called?) is not my idea of fun. We started to walk, and thankfully, found a woman who worked in a nearby bar who was willing to trade us some Euros for a few Francs.

We escaped the parking garage unscathed… But what if…

The next day, we drove through the Gotthard Tunnel to Italy and stayed the night at a 400 year old villa with shuttered Romeo and Juliet windows that looked out to the sea. After making multiple trips up 6 flights of stairs with heavy suitcases because we had been told to not to leave any luggage in our car in Italy, we were so tired that we pretended we were Sleeping Beauty instead of Romeo and Juliet. (In the morning, we found out there was an elevator…)

We woke up early and were relieved to find that our car had not been tampered with… But what if…

After we had walked along the sea for several miles, snapped some magnificent photos, and eaten a hearty breakfast, we had a wild ride along the Mediterranean in our little rental car (which was big by Italian standards). My husband was very good at maneuvering his way through and around the narrow streets, traffic congestion and curves. Still, scooters were everywhere, along with millions of people, kids, cars, and bicycles. At some point, we were hungry and thirsty and wanted something to eat and drink. There were no places to pull over or to park for miles on end.

What if… I wondered… What if my husband let me out of the car long enough to grab what I needed while he circled around? Would he ever find me again? Would I ever see him again? The thought was slightly terrifying, and we decided not to risk it.

And then, I started to wonder… What if I didn’t want to be found? What if I wanted a new life? What if, instead of returning to the designated pick-up point, I slipped out the back door of the shop and never came back? What if I simply disappeared?

I had a few hundred dollars, my passport and a credit card in my purse. Where would I go? What would I do? Whom would I trust to help me? Who might I meet? What would happen to me? What would my life look like a few weeks, months, or years down the road?

And then, I was given a new question to ponder, should I ever get tired of asking “What if?”

After relaxing a bit in Provence,  we traveled to Aix-en-Provence, and met a fascinating woman who is a friend of a friend. She grew up just a few miles north of me, in Southern Minnesota.  At some point, after she was divorced and her children were grown, she sold her house and everything she owned and moved to southern France.

“Why?” I asked.

“Pourquoi pas?” she replied, without hesitating.

“Why not?”

More Stormy Weather?

In the literal sense, I hope not!

In the literary sense, I hope so!

Most of you know that my latest novel, Stormy Weather, came out in late November, right about the time we started upon the stormiest winter we’ve had in years. With all the stormy weather impacting travel plans and business at my B&B and tea house, it has been a slow winter.

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The good news is, we are all looking forward to spring! Although people keep reminding me that the month of March can account for our highest snowfalls of the winter (I hope not, since we already have several feet on the ground), we in Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota have decided to think optimistically and assume that these book signings and speaking engagements will all happen as planned!

If you’re anywhere near these locations, I’d love to see you! If not, you can order both Stormy Weather and Night and Day by calling the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House at 641-713-3113 (we accept MC, Visa, Discover and Am Ex) or by visiting www.SecondWindPublishing, or http://www.Amazon.com.

More Exciting News!

KSMQ (Minnesota Public Television, Channel 15 in Austin, MN) will be taping a segment of Cities on the Move from the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House on Monday, March 8th. Stephanie will be interviewing Sherrie about her books and the B&B. We’ll let you know an air date as soon as we find out when it will be broadcast!

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Book Signings, Speaking Engagements & Interviews

Charles City Women’s Club, Trinity Methodist Church, Charles City, IA – March 2nd at 1:30 pm

Nissen Library, St. Ansgar, IA – March 6 at 2 pm

Live Author Chat with Connie C. at www.gather.com – March 11 at 8 pm

Joice Public Library 22nd Annual Omelet Breakfast Fundraiser and 7th Author Invitational, Bethany Lutheran Church, Joice, IA – Saturday, March 13 from 8 – 11 am

Iowa Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers Assn Conference, Okoboji, IA – Sunday, March 21 – 3 pm

Thompson Public Library, Thompson, IA – March 30 from 3 – 5 pm (Rescheduled due to stormy weather.)  🙂

Danish American Center, Minneapolis, MN – Sunday, May 23 at 3 pm

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Purchase your copy of Stormy Weather or Night and Day at the Blue Belle Inn

or any of the following locations:

Hy-Vee West, Mason City

Hy-Vee, Austin, MN

Hy-Vee, Albert Lea, MN

Main Street, Austin, MN

Larsen’s Food Pride, Osage, IA

Sweeney’s on Main, Osage, IA

Saintly Stitches, St. Ansgar and Mason City, IA

Home Sweet Home and Thymeless Treasures, St. Ansgar, IA

Valhallas, Visalia, CA

The Book Loft, Solvang, CA

For more information, please visit www.BlueBelleBooks.com

Stormy Weather Contest – Check It Out!

I’m having a contest to celebrate the launch of my latest novel, Stormy Weather!  All you have to do to be eligible to win is to answer the questions below (which will also help you to get to know me a little better). One lucky winner will receive a book about stormy weather – and of course, the rainbows after the storms – illustrated with photos I’ve taken myself. All you have to do is answer the questions in an email and send the answers to secondwindpublishing@gmail.com. Please do NOT post your answers here so as not to spoil the fun for others. You can find more information about me or my new book (Stormy Weather) at www.SecondWindPublishing.com or my website, www.BlueBelleBooks.com. Good luck!

1. Sherrie worries about her sex scenes being too steamy because she:

A. is an old-fashioned girl at heart.
B. is married to a pastor and is afraid of what the church ladies will say.
C. has Baptist relatives who frown upon such things.
D. All of the above.
E. None of the above. Why worry? Be happy.

2. Sherrie’s response to the question, “Have any of the scenes in your books really happened?” would most likely be:

A. “Yes, but I’ll never tell which ones.”
B. “My books are works of fiction in their entirety. Any similarities to real people, situations, or events are purely coincidental.”
C. “Of course not. If I really had gone skinny-dipping, do you think I’d actually tell anyone about it?”
D. All of the above – depends on whether or not her mother is in the room.

3. Sherrie has lived in all of the following places except:

A. Bar Harbor, Maine
B. Lawton, Oklahoma
C. Colorado Springs, Colorado
D. Albert Lea, Minnesota
E. Wheaton, Illinois
F. Augsburg, Germany

4. When traveling to castles in Scotland, the beach in California, and a cabin in northern Minnesota, Sherrie takes along __________ so she can write whenever the mood hits her.

A. her AlphaSmart
B. a moleskin journal given to her by a dear friend
C. a plain steno notepad and a sharp pencil
D. a cute notepad with cherubs on top and a quill pen
E. a state of the art MacBook Pro.

5. Sherrie belongs to a great writing / critique group called:

A. Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Alpha Writers.
B. just Cherry Writers. (formerly known as Jenny’s Cherry Writers)
C. Romance Writer’s of America Elite Critique Group.
D. Very Berry Writers.
E. Juicy Romance Novelists, Inc.
F. The Rainbow Connection at gather.com

6. Sherrie can hardly wait until the next book in the __________ series comes out.

A. Diana Gabaldon Outlander
B. J.K. Rowling Harry Potter
C. Debbie Macomber Blossom Street
D. Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum
E. Sue Grafton Alphabet

7. Sherrie has read every book ever written by all of the following authors except:

A. LaVyrle Spencer
B. Jennifer Crusie
C. Sandra Brown
D. Pamela Morsi
E. Jill Marie Landis
F. Susan Elizabeth Phillips

8. In addition to writing, Sherrie keeps busy doing all of the following except:

A. playing the piano at church.
B. running a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.
C. fishing at her cabin on the lake.
D. taking her two young nieces on weekly adventures .
E. planning her next European vacation.
F. watching the latest episode of Big Break on the Golf Channel.

9. Night and Day, the title of Sherrie’s first book, refers to:

A. Midnight in Milwaukee and Daybreak in Delaware.
B. a romance between a night watchman and the host of an early morning talk show whose paths cross for a few seconds each morning.
C. Midnight in Minnesota and Daybreak in Denmark.
D. a romantic dance to Frank Sinatra’s hit song, “Night and Day”.
E. Midnight in Manhattan and Daybreak in New Delhi.

10. In Stormy Weather, Sherrie’s new release, one of the main characters is:

A. a well-known meteorologist.
B. a reckless storm chaser who fears nothing.
C. terrified of tornadoes.
D. haunted by childhood memories of a blizzard that claimed the life of her mother and father.
E. a cute young weathergirl who does the evening news for the local television station.

In my newly released book, Stormy Weather, several pivotal storms wreak havoc in the lives of the main characters, Rae, Luke, and Mac, both literally and figuratively.  Stormy Weather is a romance, so it will come as no surprise that it has a happy ending – the sunshine and joy after the rain, to quote the words of an old song, or if you prefer, the rainbow after the storm.

Anyone who saw “The Wizard of Oz” knows that “somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue.”  Had it not been for the tornado that hit Dorothy’s drab, Kansas world, she never would have traveled to the wonderful land of Oz, nor learned to appreciate her precious Auntie Em’s love, or that there’s “no place like home.”

Like everyone, my life has had many bittersweet moments. The very day my first book, Night and Day, was released, I had surgery to remove a recurrence of skin cancer and ended up with a 4″ scar on my neck that left my head cocked to one side for about three weeks. One of the proudest and most exciting moments of my life; and I looked and felt so terrible that I wasn’t able to celebrate or promote the book until some time later. On top of that, the recession had finally come to the Midwest, and I was tense and worried about the repercussions to my business and those of friends and family.

Two other times in my life come to mind as well… on my wedding day, almost 6 years ago, my back was out, and I was so stiff and sore that my friend had to lift my feet into the car to drive me to the church. Due to another medical condition, I was in excruciating pain during much of our dream vacation to Scotland 3 years ago. The term “grin and bear” it took on a whole new meaning.

These incidents are nothing compared to the heartbreak many of you have endured or are going though right now.

Yet, much as these temporary storms may have marred or impeded my enjoyment of some of the most precious and pleasurable days of my life, as always, clouds do dissipate, sunshine reappears, and joy is to be found on the other side of the rainbow. My husband, the pastor, is quick to add that a house built of the solid rock of Jesus Christ will withstand the worst of storms.

Is there a time in your life that you’ve experience joy in the midst of a storm? Sunshine after the rain? A rainbow so unexpected and lovely that you find yourself thinking the fray was almost worth it just to have experience that one blessed moment in time?

You’ll have to read Stormy Weather to experience the moment when Rae’s worst nightmare coincides with an event so profound that it will change her entire life.

I hope, as you read about what happens to Rae, that your faith will be restored – that you will be able to see through the wind and rain and sleet and snow that’s pommeling you to the blue skies on the other side of the rainbow, to experience the sunshine and joy awaiting you.

I hope to see you there!

When Night and Day, my first book, was published, I felt absolutely naked. Thoughts and deeds I’d been taught to keep private were suddenly on paper, exposed for all the world to see. Since I publish under my real name, there was no screening process involved. Anyone and everyone who chose to, could read the words I’d penned, knowing full well that I’d written them, imagining as they went which of the scenarios I’d described were purely imagination… and which really happened.

How much of yourself do you put in your books? Do you live in fear that an old lover, an estranged friend, an ex-employer, or a quirky relative will read your book and see themselves in all their thinly disguised, renamed-to-protect-the-not-so-innocent, glory?

Night & Day

I was somewhere with my mother a couple of weeks ago and a family friend was asking about my book, and the family legend upon which the historical part of the book is based. I told them the story… my great-great grandma, Maren Jensen, was a very beautiful woman. She was married, living happily and prospering in Denmark with her husband and three children, when my great-great grandfather suddenly packed up everything and moved the entire family to America. Why? To get his wife away from another man who was in love with her.

We don’t know the rest of the story… may never, but we do know that whatever happened changed the entire course of my family’s history.

This true tidbit of history certainly got my imagination going, and while what happens in the book is simply one scenario of what might have happened, compliments of my wild imagination, this grain of truth, as told to us by our Danish cousins, was the seed from which my book grew.

Here’s the funny part… When I finished relaying what we know of Maren’s story, my mother said twice, very adamantly, that the part about Maren was the only part of the book that was true.

Well… she can believe that if she wishes… really, it is better that she does… but I know that there is more truth contained in the book than I will ever divulge. Of course, I didn’t say anything, not particularly wanting to draw attention to myself or embarrass my mother.

A few days later, a customer at the Blue Belle who had just purchased a book, after learning that the book includes a steamy internet romance, leaned in with a conspiratorial look on her face and said, “So, it this story about your life? Didn’t you meet your husband on the internet?”

Well… I can truthfully say that the original draft of the book was written some time before I met my husband, so he is off the hook, but… To my chagrin, I could feel myself blushing. I’m sure, by the time five or ten seconds had passed, I was ten shades of red.

Yes, I’ve personally lived out some of the scenes in Night and Day – in one form or another. Others never happened – never will. It’s fiction, right?

She pressed for an answer. So, parts of the book are true?

“I’ll never tell which ones,” I finally stammered.

People have wondered the same thing after reading the book.

A friend of mine, a multi-published, award winning author, recently read Night and Day. Because her thoughts were relayed in a personal note, and not a public review, I will not use her name. She said that she had trouble reading the sensual scenes between Anders and Jensen. In her words, “I actually had gotten so close to your characters that I couldn’t invade their privacy. Kind of like peeking in the window when you and Mark are together.”

When Susan Barton of Romance Readers at Heart, who does not know me personally, reviewed Night and Day, she said “I actually had to shake myself quite frequently and remind myself that Jensen and Anders are not real people because their emails, phone calls, chats and finally, in-person conversations, are entirely genuine… This is a romance of the whole self.”

I take it as a compliment that my characters seem so real. All I’ll say is, in some cases, it’s no accident.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting another Second Wind author, Christine Husom, who attended a Writer’s Retreat at the Blue Belle Inn. While visiting, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the background story of her first book, Murder in Winnebago County, loosely based on the somewhat mysterious death of her own father. I had read and known the premise of her book was riveting, I never dreamed parts of it were true.

I can’t speak for Chris, but for me, writing about real life incidents – whether heartbreaking, embarrassing, confusing or comical – can be very therapeutic… a catharsis of sorts…

My world is full of “characters”. How about yours? How much of your book is based on real life people and experiences? Is there a danger that people from your past may recognize themselves in your books?

At the beginning of each book published, there comes a disclaimer, “This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, locations and events are either a product of the author’s imagination, fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any event, locale or person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”

The truth – or a stretch?

I’ll never tell – will you?

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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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