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With everyone so worked up about rumors of fake news, I’m glad I’m not a news writer. But yesterday, I more or less got accused of writing fake fiction. I was telling people about my book, Night and Day, and that it was loosely based on the story of why my great-great grandparents emigrated from Denmark.

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I told them the reputed true part of the story (my great, great grandma was a very beautiful woman, who my great, great grandfather brought to America to get away from another man who was in love with her). I then said that the rest of the book was a product of my wild imagination – one possible explanation of what might have happened in Denmark all those decades ago.

Night and Day - Maren Jensen Grave

I went on to describe Golden Rod, my most recent release, including the legends and castles that inspired the book. And then I mentioned ghosts.

Golden Rod

“So this book isn’t true,” said one of the ladies.

“None of them are true,” I said. “They’re fiction.”

“But if there are ghosts, Golden Rod can’t be based on a true story.”

“But it is,” I said. “We toured a castle in Scotland that has been under a curse for over 500 years. A traveling minister offered to bless the castle, and when his offer was rejected because the owners preferred to wait for the priest, he cursed the castle, promising that no eldest son would ever inherit. In all these years, none has.”

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“But if there are ghosts in the story…”

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“Fictional ghosts. All of my novels are fiction.” I told them about a second castle we toured, and the legend of a woman who fell from a fourth story window, and the upside down writing carved into the castle wall, 3 ½ stories up where no one but a ghost could reach. “It’s fiction based on a true story,” I tried to explain. “Just like Night and Day. And another of my books, Blue Belle, which was inspired by the tale of a Spanish galleon that went down in Tobermory Bay in 1588, fully loaded with gold that has never been recovered.”

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“But if it happened that long ago, no one knows what really happened.”

“Right. That’s why it’s fiction.”

Perhaps the real truth is that there’s a nugget of something that really happened in all my books – or very probably happened – or at least, very probably happened in some similar form, or in a slightly different way, or in a different time.

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The truth – altered just enough to protect the not so innocent, which in some cases might be me, and to throw family members, acquaintances, and any others who might judge me off the scent.  The truth – transformed just enough to convince the reader that this is a work of fiction, that the characters, incidents, and dialogs are products of the author’s imagination and not, under any circumstances, to be construed as real.

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Because the truth is, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. They’re all fiction, people. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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I write fiction. Still, everything that filters through my brain is based on the reality of my life, my experiences, and my beliefs. I’m a complex person, and so are my books. Real life occurrences inspire fictional stories. Imaginary tales spring from a nugget of truth, either learned or observed.

Fake fiction? You be the judge.

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Although my Wildflowers of Scotland books are contemporary, I always find a way to weave in a wee bit of history… an old kirk with architectural and religious artifacts gone missing, a sunken Spanish galleon filled with gold that was never recovered, a castle with a melancholy history all its own, or the Isle of Skye’s magical Fairy Glen. In GOLDEN ROD, I incorporated a touch of history via a 500-year-old castle that was cursed by a traveling minister when the owners refused his blessing, preferring to wait for the prayers of a Catholic priest.  At least, that’s what legend holds, and it would seem the legends are true, since no eldest son has ever inherited Lachlan Castle – not once in 500 years.

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From GOLDEN ROD:

A traveling Protestant minister who liked to speak in rhymes leveled the curse when the MacKenzie clan refused his blessing, preferring to wait until a Catholic priest could dedicate the newly built edifice.

Oh Lachlan, ye’re on shifting sand.

Nae eldest son shall have a hand

In furth’ring hist’ry on this land.

In the history of the castle, no eldest son has succeeded his father as heir of Lachlan Castle.

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All kinds of tragedies have transpired as a result of the minister’s curse, including ghosts Laird Valan MacKenzie and Lady Rosemary being stranded at Lachlan for over 500 years.

A ghost dressed in full Highland attire roams the castle and grounds at Lachlan, on the shores of Loch Carron. A favorite of locals, Laird Valan MacKenzie so desperately wanted a son to pass the castle on to that he may have taken his wife’s life when she bore him nothing but daughters. Laird Valan’s version of the event was that his wife tripped and fell to her death despite his best efforts to save her. Many a guest has seen Laird Valan’s kilt, plaid, and sporran. Legend has it that Valan will haunt the castle until an ancient curse is broken.

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I won’t ask if you believe in ghosts because it doesn’t matter. GOLDEN ROD is a work of fiction, so all I’m asking you to do is to suspend your disbelief while you’re reading the book. But whatever our beliefs, I think we all have thoughts on the subject of ghosts. Some of us are afraid of them, or would be afraid to stay in a place that’s haunted by ghosts. Others are fascinated or even intrigued by ghostly happenings and seek out places that are reputedly haunted. What about you? Maybe you’ve had your hair stand on end when you’ve been seated around a campfire listening to ghost stories. How do you react to the subject of ghosts?

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A ghost, known as the “Blue Lady” also frequents Lachlan Castle, on Loch Carron. She is thought to be the wife of Laird Valan MacKenzie, and mother to their five daughters. Her husband allegedly pushed her from a fourth floor window so he could take a new wife who might bear him a son. The ghost of Lady Rosemary MacKenzie, who ironically, was discovered to have been pregnant with a son at the time of her death, is said to have scratched the words, The Son You Always Wanted, upside down on the window sill outside the bedroom window where she fell. The inscription can still be seen there today. It is reported that the “Blue Lady” leaves the scent of rosemary and bluebells wherever she goes. Because her own life ended so tragically, legend holds that the “Blue Lady” will haunt the castle until a Lachlan love story ends with a happily-ever-after ending. Unfortunately, due to an old curse, the dreams of many a castle resident have ended tragically, perpetuating the haunting of the castle by Lady Rosemary.

BlueBelle 2016 I grew up watching tales of Casper the Friendly Ghost,  the classic Christmas Carol, and even Ghostbusters, so I’ve always been comfortable with the concept of ghosts. In church, we heard about the Holy Ghost, a comforting presence who was always with us. When I bought a house in St. Ansgar, Iowa and turned it into a B&B and tea house, locals told me about a friendly ghost who rescued the century old floor plans from the dump and returned them to the house when they were accidentally thrown away, among other adventures. So in one form or another, I’ve always accepted that ghosts are real.

In GOLDEN ROD, Rod MacKenzie has felt the presence of Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary since he was young, but never had a direct encounter with them – until Katelyn O’Neal arrives from America and stirs things up.

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Katelyn thinks the whole thing is a crock, and is convinced there has to be some sort of logical, scientific explanation for the odd things that are happening to her.

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Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary, the ghostly duo from GOLDEN ROD, have very distinctive personalities and a sometimes quirky sense of humor. As Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary get more and more desperate to break the 500 year old curse so they can finally rest in peace, the stakes grow higher.

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Once Rod discovers what they’re up to, he’s more than happy to comply, or at least humor them, except that Katelyn’s niece is dying, and if he has to choose who to help, a dying twelve year old or a pair of ghosts who’ve already been dead for five hundred years, the choice is clear. Except that nothing is clear – and Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary will do anything to change history and break the curse that binds them.

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You’ll have to read GOLDEN ROD to learn how the story ends. Here are the Buy Links for GOLDEN ROD at Amazon:
Kindle: http://a.co/3zRGCpF
Paperback: http://a.co/8oJpv4Q

In the meantime, I hope the ghosts that may haunt you are friendly ones.                                                                                                                                                                     Ghosts - blur of blue

What started it all was a stretch of wind-swept, treeless terrain and a bright blue cottage built from timber washed ashore after a shipwreck. I’ve always loved the notion of “if these walls could speak”. And building a house out of second-hand lumber sounds just like something a Hansen would do.

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How many men died aboard the ship this cottage used to be, trying to navigate the churning waters of the Atlantic, I’ll never know, but these much-treasured, repurposed boards live on as part of their legacy.

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Have I made my case? Writing a book set in Ireland is a perfectly fine thing to do. Still, I felt like I was cheating on Scotland the whole time we were in Ireland, Wales and southern England. Everyone who reads my blog knows that my love affair with Scotland has taken me through over five weeks of exploration of the bonnie country (in both 2007 and 2016) and five Wildflowers of Scotland novels – WILD ROSE and THISTLE DOWN, a prequel novella, set at St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe, BLUE BELLE, in and around Tobermory’s rainbow tinted harbor and cottages, castles and white sand beaches on the Isle of Mull, SHY VIOLET, set in Dornie at the magnificent Eilean Donan Castle, SWEET WILLIAM, in the nearby highlands and on the Isle of Skye, and now, GOLDEN ROD, set against the backdrop of Wester-Ross and lovely Lochcarron’s wooded shores.

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GOLDEN ROD is almost ready for the press. I’m very excited to know that soon, people will be holding freshly printed copies in their hands and reading the story of  Katelyn O’Neal, a well-intentioned but naïve American who inherits a castle in Scotland. Katelyn is thrilled to have an opportunity to sell Lachlan Castle to a wealthy bidder who is a client at the PR firm where she words because her twelve-year-old niece is dying and needs a very expensive, specialized treatment. Then she meets the “rightful” heir, Rod MacKenzie. As the “legal” heir, she has every right to cast Rod out of his home, and to destroy the beloved garden that is his legacy. She has no other choice if she wants to save Kacie’s life. But when a desperate pair of 500-year-old ghosts intervene, the whole course of history could change.  GOLDEN ROD is a two-week romp through a lifetime of legends that I think you’ll find both amusing and uplifting.

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But now, even as GOLDEN ROD is being birthed, a lass named SEASIDE DAISY is calling out to me. She hails from Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way in a town named Dingle. My fickle heart has already fallen in love with the people and places of Ireland’s western-most peninsula.

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Sea caves and standing stones dotting the shoreline, pale lavender and white seaside daisies with yellow centers bent almost flat from the pounding rain and wind – but still blossoming, and even thriving – tell a story of perseverance and determination that captivates my imagination.

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Colourful shoppes filled with driftwood sculptures, fuchsia fairies dangling from lacy branches, and sea glass and beach pottery made into jewelry, call out to me.

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Constantly changing, ever dramatic skies and rainbows appearing and disappearing in the mist stoke my curiosity until I know I cannot NOT tell this story.

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Bicycles. Black-faced sheep with curly horns. Hidden beaches, abandoned bothies, and crumbling battlements… The Wild Atlantic Way. Wild in what way?

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Overgrown rose gardens, fuchsia hedgerows, quirky hat hires, seafood chowder and Irish stew…  It may be a bunch of blarney, but it’s all so exciting and new!

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Scotland, it’s been swell. You know I’ll be back. There’s Aberfeldy, Dornoch, St. Andrews and Portree – and many more amazing castles waiting to be explored.

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But I need to find out about this new place and its wild, wonderful ways.

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Read GOLDEN ROD. You’ll agree with me when I say that after all they’ve been through, Rod and Katelyn need a vacation – or might it be a honeymoon? Perhaps they’ll find themselves on a ferry boat traveling across the Irish Sea? Michael and Isabelle from BLUE BELLE might be there, too, on a bicycle built for two, because Isabelle loves to pedal and Michael needs to know if Daisy will give Cavan Donaghue her answer true. Don’t you?  Only eight pages in and I’m already crazy over the likes of these two.

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An almost full moon reflected off a pond hugged by beds of flowers in blues, yellows and violets of various heights. In the center, a fountain trickled down the neck and breasts of a stone statue of a woman with full hips and voluptuous curves. The scene was framed by walls of stone and brick, etched with pink climbing roses and lavender wisteria. This is what they were going to destroy?

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As Mark and I head off on another trip to indulge our love affair with Great Britain and research settings of future books, I’m anticipating the release of GOLDEN ROD, the book inspired by last year’s journey to Scotland.

One of the things I most love about writing is the chance to scope out new locations – and with them, the likeable qualities and legends that give the place its charm. And when we get home, my pleasure is doubled when I get to sit down with my thoughts, reminisce about our experiences, and craft a story with word pictures about the places we’ve seen.

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Although Rod MacKenzie’s exquisite walled garden and the unique castle pictured on the front cover of GOLDEN ROD are fictional in the sense that they’re not located along the shores of Loch Carron, many of the other spots mentioned in the book are as real as you and me. In the text below, I’m going to share a snippet from GOLDEN ROD followed by a photo of the real life image that inspired it. Craigievar Castle, Leith Hall Garden and Crarae Garden, which I magically transported to the Lochcarron and the Wester Ross area of Western Scotland, are actually located to the east in Aberdeenshire and Argyll. Enjoy!

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The blue waters of Loch Carron disappeared, then reappeared. The road widened. Katelyn glanced out the window and caught sight of a rusty old gate surrounding a cemetery. The stones were all but covered with moldy-looking splotches of who knew what and some sort of green slime that looked straight from the pages of a horror flick.

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A few blocks later, a large white building appeared. The huge black letters on its side wall spelled LOCHCA, followed by an R dangling precariously from what looked to be one nail, and a tenuous RON. Which is exactly what she wished she’d done the second she set foot in Scotland – run. Rod might have fanciful – make that delusional – images of the town where he’d been raised, but all she could see was a place that needed a good PR person to improve and update its sad, sorry, broken down image.

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The town was comprised of a long row of houses on one side, with a sidewalk, a greenbelt, and the lake on the other.

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Rod pulled into a parking spot and came around to open the door for her. The sign on the front of the whitewashed building with blue trim and a slate roof said Waterside Café, Tearoom Takeaway. There were round picnic tables with bright blue umbrellas over the top in front. Rod straddled the bench of one, and motioned for her to have a seat.

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“Ye can go in and look at the menu board on the wall if ye like, or wait. They’ll bring ye a menu in a minute.”

“You don’t need one?”

“Nae. They know what I want.”

“How could they?”

“I’m a regular.”

“And you have the same thing every time?”

“For lunch, Stornoway Black Pudding Stack. It’s layered with apples and Stilton cheese. Pure dead brilliant.”

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 “M’Lady? M’Lady? Are ye here?” Valan MacKenzie stood at the window where his wife had fallen to her death 500 years earlier and started to sing her favorite song in the hope she would come to him.

When bluebells start to bloom each spring, I’ll come to ye. My love I’ll bring.

My heart for ye, it always breaks. But sadness will nae overtake.

For hope lives on in each new day. My love for ye will find its way.

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Rod was holding two large china plates. “I took the liberty of getting some essentials since ye were asleep when we reached the grocery. I thought ye’d enjoy trying a full Scottish breakfast – eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast. I skipped the haggis and the black pudding on yer plate since ye seemed a bit squeamish about them yesterday, but the rest should be-”

Her stomach had started to roil at the word eggs. It wasn’t that she disliked eggs, but the thought of eating such a huge breakfast when she was stressed out and in an unfamiliar place and it wasn’t even breakfast time where she was from…

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They walked through the laburnum archway he and his da had planted a decade earlier. The slender yellow fronds were just starting to fade.

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A minute later, Katelyn came flouncing down the steps of the blue and white house where Colin’s office was located. He’d never met anyone – man or woman – with so much attitude.

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The taller one smiled. “Is Sea Worthy booked for the rest of the afternoon or are you free? We were hoping to see Kilt Rock and Portree from the sea.”

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“Do ye like fish? I’ve two nicely smoked haddock filets that I picked up in Portree this afternoon. My mother used to make something called Haddock Mornay. It’s been years, but I think I can remember how to make the sauce.”

Katelyn looked up and smiled faintly. Aye, the lass was warming up to him awright.

“My mum would make a roux and then stir a wee bit of garlic salt and some buttery, soft white Cheddar from the Isle of Arran into the cream. If ye’re a fan of fish, the taste of the Mornay sauce, o’er a bit of mash, is pure dead brilliant.”

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Rod tried to put Katelyn out of his mind as he walked back to the cottage. The deep, mossy scents of the forest floor, the sun-warmed pine needles, and the last remnants of the bluebells filled his nostrils with the familiar scents he loved so much. He could have spent all evening in the woods.

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Katelyn twirled slowly, not willing to miss a single degree of the panorama spread out in front of her. “Thank you so much for bringing me here. I can’t imagine a place more beautiful than this one.” She peeked through the lacey fronds of Scotch pines and Douglas firs that stretched from blue waters to bluer skies.

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Rod put one arm around her shoulder and pointed with the other. “See the big white house on the other side of the loch? That’s Stromeferry, where my grandpa’s ferry used to operate.”

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Katelyn looked past the feathery fir trees and the hillside covered in bluebells, and the buttercups in bloom, and caught a glimpse of the sky. Moody, grey, towering clouds cast shadows into each valley, every fold of the hillside, turning sunshine to gloom. She felt as unsettled as a changeling, which she might as well believe in now that she’d met a pair of ghosts and God.

She could have stood with her neck arched, looking up at the roiling clouds, forever. It wasn’t because they were beautiful, or even captivating. They were on the move, ever-changing. They were frighteningly unpredictable. They were out of control, so various and sundry that one couldn’t be sure what was going to happen from minute to minute say nothing about tomorrow. Just like her life.

 

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I hope you’ll read GOLDEN ROD when it comes out next month! Although you’ll see a few familiar faces from my first four Wildflowers of Scotland novels, it’s not necessary to read any of them to enjoy GOLDEN ROD.

The only way Katelyn O’Neal can save her niece’s life is to ruin Rod Mackenzie’s. One 600-year-old Scottish castle. A rightful heir. A legal heir. Two desperate ghosts. GOLDEN ROD by Sherrie Hansen. Coming from Indigo Sea Press in June 2017.

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If Prince Rod of Lachlan sounds like something straight from the pages of a fairy tale, you’re right.

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When Katelyn O’Neal, a reluctant “princess” from Minnesota, inherits a castle from a great uncle she met only once, she views the whole ordeal as a huge bother, except that selling the castle to a rich developer will pay for a very expensive, experimental cancer treatment for her 12 year old niece, Kacie.

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Rod MacKenzie, the illegitimate but rightful heir to Lachlan, has used his own time and money to take care of the castle and its magnificent gardens for years – despite the fact that his grandfather wrote him out of his will. Rod would love to live happily ever after in the land of his ancestors even though he’s always known it was an impossibility.

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Add Laird Valan MacKenzie and the lovely Lady Rosemary, a pair of 500 year old ghosts who are bound to the castle by age-old curses, and would do anything to escape the place, and you have GOLDEN ROD, a two-week romp through a lifetime of legends that turns everything upside down.

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Lachlan – a centuries old castle on Loch Carron in Scotland. Kacie – a twelve year old girl whose dying wish is to see it. Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary – 500 year old ghosts who desperately want to escape it. Golden-Haired, Most Fair, Prince Rod MacKenzie – the rightful heir who loves Lachlan and its gardens even though he will never inherit.  Katelyn O’Neal – the legal heir who unwitting sold the castle to a low life scum at a high price.

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GOLDEN ROD, a Wildflowers of Scotland novel by Sherrie Hansen – coming from Indigo Sea Press in June 2017.

 

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There’s no better way to spend a wintery day than to plan a summer vacation. My home in northern Iowa got over ten inches of snow on Thursday night and Friday. The murder mystery we had scheduled for that night was cancelled due to 40 mph wind gusts and blizzard conditions. Thankfully, we didn’t lose power, because I was busy online, reserving rooms and planning our late May, early June trek through Wales, Ireland and southern England.

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Now that Mark and I are both in our 60’s, our goal is to take an adventurous vacation every year for as long as we’re able. Everyone we know says, do it now, while you can. We’re following their advice. We don’t want to be one of those couples who works too hard and waits too long to see the world, only to lose their health, their mobility, or one or the other of them to death.

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Last year, when we were in Scotland, we walked 7 to 10 miles nearly every day of our 2 1/2 week trip in order to see things like the Fairy Glen, the cows grazing on Claigan Coral Beach on Skye, the Fairy Pools, the ancient Standing Stones on Arran, the ruins of Findlater Castle on Cullen Bay, and Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire.

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In Romania, we went up and down hundreds of flights of stairs  to see Dracula’s Bran Castle. We strained our muscles to the max  to walk down steep inclines to the sea in Cornwall to see Tintagel Castle and again, in Clovelly, Devon. It wasn’t easy because we’re not in the greatest shape, but we did it, and we’re going to keep doing it as long as we can.

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This year, we’re off to Wales, Ireland and the south of England. We got a great price on our airline tickets, and have pinned down where we’re staying. Our first three nights will be spent exploring the coastal paths, beaches and sunsets of southwest Wales at Cardigan, where we’ll be staying in an restored, 18th century, attic apartment.

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We’ll move on to Northern Wales, where our home for three nights will be Glyn House, in Capel Curig, in Snowdonia in the Welsh mountains.

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From there, we’ll catch the ferry to Ireland, a new country for both of us. We’ll see the historic area north of Dublin from Hollow Stream B&B in the village of Kingscourt, which boasts a pub with live Celtic music the first Friday of the moth. Perfect timing!

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Our remaining time in Ireland will find us in a luxurious 1930’s home near Croom village in Limerick, a stone house in Killarney, Kerry, from which we can visit Dingle, on the far southwest coast of Ireland, and a 250 year old Georgian house in Cashel, Tipperary.

After ferrying from Dublin back to Wales, we’ll spend one indulgent night at a Georgian restaurant with rooms on the Llyn Peninsula on the far west side of Wales.

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On our first night back in England, we’ll be cozied up in a 17th century Cotswold stone farmhouse home in Evesham, close to Chipping Campden and Stratford upon Avon, and more important, my cousin Sarah and her family in Bicester. The B&B is beautiful, but it was the rare Soay sheep they keep that called out to me and said, “Boooook.”

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Our second to the last stop of the trip is just north of Devon, near the southern shore of England. If I don’t come home, this is where I’ll probably be…

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Our last two nights will be in a sweet Victorian cottage in Kent, somewhat near Gatwick Airport for ease of travel. We tried to think of ease and comfort when making a lot of our reservations… queen or king beds, no steep staircases or ladders leading to loft bedrooms, quiet countryside locations with plenty of parking, pretty gardens for relaxing,  two or three nights per location, and views to the west so I can watch the sun set.

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Even more important, I tried to find places that captured my imagination. As I learned when we stumbled upon St. Conan’s Kirk in Loch Awe, Scotland, an idea for a book (Wild Rose) can spring up from the most unanticipated locales. The same thing happened when I heard “Nathan” playing the pipes in front of Eilean Donan Castle and caught a glimpse of the pirate boat in the cove (Shy Violet and Sweet William).

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It was an old legend on a castle tour that primed the pump for Golden Rod, coming this summer.

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I’m not sure what about, or even if this trip will result in a new book, but it wouldn’t surprise me. My mind is already tantalized after choosing the places we’ll be staying. I can’t wait! If it’s still cold and snowy where you are, I hope you’ve enjoyed thinking about summer for a few minutes. If my preview didn’t do the trick, pick up a book and escape to a faraway place where the wildflowers are blooming and a summer breeze is blowing across the Atlantic. (Yes, that’s a hint.)

Until then, mar sin leat. 

We have to build our lives out of what materials we have. It’s as though we were given a heap of blocks and told to build a house. From Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace

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I think of this quote often when I’m looking back at my life – and, when I’m starting a new book. My entire life has been a construction project – building up, tearing down, rebuilding, renovating, remodeling and even starting over one or two times when the foundation has been kicked out from under me. As the years go by, I’m getting close to the age when I need to start downsizing, and finding a house / life whose size and upkeep is more manageable.

 

Another quote from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy and Joe says, The older I get the more mixed up life seems. When you’re little, it’s all so plain. It’s all laid out like a game ready to play. You think you know exactly how it’s going to go. But things happen…

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Things do happen – in life, and in our writing. Sometimes one mirrors the other. When I start a new book, I begin with a cast of characters who each have their own goals, dream, and motivations. They each have a past made up of previous experiences and encounters, loves and disappointments. More importantly, they have challenges, and problems, and people and things that threaten their well-being and threaten to keep them from their goals. I can plan exactly what I think should happen in a book, but at some point, the characters take over, pick up the building blocks I have strewn about, and write their own story. Ultimately, I can’t predict exactly what kind of house is going to get built in my books any more than I can my own life. It’s a good thing I like surprises, and that I’m a curious sort who loves to find out what lies around the next bend in the road.

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Twists and turns are part of the story. But bringing form and structure, color and life, and artistry and rhythm to the heap of building blocks is what a writer does. In writing, I work through my own problems, calm my anxieties, and find hope for the future. My wish is that you will do the same as you read my stories.

Like Maud said in Betsy’s Wedding,  Good things come, but they’re never perfect, are they? You have to twist them into something perfect.

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In my favorite Maud Hart Lovelace book, Heaven to Betsy, Betsy thinks, What would life be like without her writing? Writing filled her life with beauty and mystery, gave it life… and promise.

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Perhaps the magic of a good book occurs when a writer take an ordinary slice of life and turns it into a piece of art. In Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Maud Hart Lovelace wrote, Betsy was sitting in the backyard maple, high among spreading branches that were clothed in rich green except at their tips where they wore the first gold of September. In Betsy Tacy and Tib, It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.

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I learned to look for the beauty in my own back yard when I read books like Maud’s, set in small Minnesota farming towns, when I looked at the sunset through the lens of my first camera, and when my hardworking family took time to visit Minnesota’s lovely state parks and campgrounds. I learned to appreciate beauty when we traveled across the United States and experienced the vastness of God’s handiwork.

Maybe that’s why I love what Maud wrote in Betsy-Tacy and Tib:  In silence, the three of them looked at the sunset and thought about God.

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I firmly believe that God is the Master Designer. Not only can God paint an amazing sunset, He knows what will happen in my life – has known all along – and in the books I write, even before I do. He gave me the building blocks and the skills to build a life that I hope will glorify him.

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My nephew, Luke, wanted me to play a game with me last week. We each drew a card which told us what we were supposed to build out of the pile of red, green, blue and yellow Legos in the game box. While I stumbled and fumbled around, and came up with something that only slightly resembled a frog, Luke’s creativity amazed me! It’s not just about the building blocks, it’s about the way we put them together.

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Whether you’re a writer or a reader, a musician, a quilter, a farmer, a painter, a pastor, or a poet, I urge you to thank God for the building blocks you’ve been given, the construction skills you’ve learned and acquired, and the creativity and instincts to build a beautiful house where you can thrive and grow.

2016

 

In my new release, Lyndsie thinks she knows how her life will go, when suddenly William comes into her life and causes a minor earthquake. When her carefully constructed house starts to tumble and things go from orderly to confused, she has to decide when and how to rebuild her days, and how and where she will spend them. Things are a mess. Nothing goes right…

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And to find out what kind of house Lyndsie builds – western ranch style or a wee Scottish boothie – you’ll have to read the book.

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Twenty-five years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, divide their time between two different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet and Sweet William, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. If you hadn’t already guessed, Sherrie’s favorite books (from way back when) are the Betsy Tacy books by Minnesota author Maud Hart Lovelace.

 You can see what’s Sherrie’s up to at: 

https://www.facebook.com/BlueBelleInn

 https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

www.BlueBelleInn.com or www.BlueBelleBooks.com

https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

http://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Hansen/e/B007YXQJ4W/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Sherrie’s new release is Sweet William. https://amzn.com/B01H2TUD3U

He’s a real sweetheart. She’s a wee bit tart. When Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge, the atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. Will someone get cut, or will they find a recipe that works? Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear.

I think by now, anyone who has followed my travels to Europe or read my Wildflowers of Scotland novels has figured out how I feel about castles. Although it’s a wee bit unusual to see a man in a kilt in the Midwest where I live, I saw an abundance of them at the Minnesota Scottish Fair and Highland Games earlier this month.

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Cows dot the hillsides and valleys all over the countryside in the rural areas of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa that I frequent – castles, not so much.

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While castles and kilts are one of the main reasons I set my most recent novels in Scotland, in Sweet William, I also came home to my Minnesota roots and Midwest connections. And the common denominator is the cow.

My first introduction to the Highlander breed of cows, commonly called Hairy Coo in Scotland, was 9 years ago at a B&B alongside Loch Ness.

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The owner hadn’t fed the coos their dinner for the day, so they were all gathered by the fence, waiting patiently, when we arrived to check in. When I started taking photos, she told me to pay close attention to how thick their hides were. She said they’d had heavy snow a few months earlier, during the cold of winter, and that the 7 or 8 inches that had accumulated on the backs of each coo during the storm stayed exactly where it fell for 2 or 3 weeks, until a stiff wind and warming temperatures finally blew and melted off their white winter coats. Their hides are so thick that not even their body heat melted the snow away. That was my first glimpse into why many hardy breeds of cattle come from the highlands of Scotland.

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I started watching for hairy coo wherever we drove from that point on, and included a scene with a toppled coo in Blue Belle. Michael St. Dawndalyn was embarrassed that he didn’t know more about coo even though he was from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, deep in the heart of the dairy state.

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That’s only one of the Midwest Connections in the Wildflowers of Scotland novels. Although each of the characters in Wild Rose is native to the UK, beginning with Blue Belle, many of the main characters are from the Midwest.

 

Wisconsinite Michael and Virginia blue belle Isabelle are hiding out, hoping to escape their troubles by settling in a place far, far away from waging tongues and family dramas in their hometowns. When they discover that the world is a much smaller place than they’d thought, and it’s next to impossible to lose yourself in today’s electronic age, they end up back in the US to own up to the messes they were fleeing from.

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Both Violet and Nathan are from America, Nathan on a teacher exchange and Violet, on an ill-fated European Adventure. When they’re both haunted and very nearly destroyed by the past – despite their wish to create a new life for themselves in Scotland – they find that they’re made of stronger stuff than they’d once imagined.

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William, Michael’s cousin from southern Minnesota, appears at the very end of Shy Violet and steals the show with his buttery soft potato rolls and sweet Farm Boy BBQ sauce. The only one who’s not impressed is Rose’s niece, Violet’s friend, Lyndsie, who doesn’t like her meat – or her men – sweet. What happens next is like an episode of Chopped come to life, as sweet William and sassy Lyndsie spar in a charged cook-off.

Calamity strikes just when everything finally seems to come together, and on the other side of the globe, a whole new set of troubles present themselves.

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Scenes set in fictional Blue River, Minnesota and at the Minnesota State Fair will make Midwestern readers feel right at home. Fancy castle or farm house comfortable, there are quirky characters that readers can relate to in each of my Wildflowers of Scotland books.

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When I started researching cattle for Sweet William, I not only learned a lot about Highland cows, but French Charolais, and two other breeds that originated in Scotland – Belted Galloway and Aberdeen Angus. Without really intending it, cows became the unifying factor between Scotland and the United States.

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My nieces and nephew raise cattle and show heifers at their county fair in southern Minnesota, so I had expert advice to draw on. My niece, Victoria, educated me about the different personality traits of various breeds – which are skittish, gentle, or aggressive and likely to be mean, which have horns, and which are polled (hornless), which are able to withstand poor soil, rocky terrains and wet climates, and which produce lean meat and best care for their calves.

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When it comes right down to it, there are likely more differences in cattle than there are in people. Although living conditions, traditions and perspectives may vary from culture and country, I think human nature is pretty consistent from one part of the world to another. A reader recently wrote to me and said, “Boy, you know people. I have been practicing psychology and social work for 45 years and you must have been sitting in the office next to me. You know your stuff!” Whether I’m traveling in or writing about France, Romania, Germany, Denmark, or Scotland, I love observing interactions between people.

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I’ve been told by several readers that when I started writing my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, they missed the local color, familiar places, and quirky Midwestern characters from my first five books, which are all set in Minnesota or Iowa. If you doubt that people are the same everywhere, check out the church ladies in Wild Rose. In the meantime, I hope my local readers are pleased that Sweet William is partially set on a farm in Southern Minnesota. Wherever you’re from in the world, I hope you’ll feel “at home” when you’re reading my books.

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I’ve been hearing Scottish accents in my head for over a decade, and now, after returning from my second trip to Bonnie Scotland, my mind’s eye is just as steeped in images of the highlands and islands I’ve been writing about.

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Our trip was a flurry of wildflowers and walled gardens, castles and keeps, and lochs and legends. My mind is whirling with the characters and construct of a new story, ancient ghosts and curses, and modern day longings and desires set to clash like pitchforks and swords at Culloden.

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One of my characters is the “rightful” heir of a castle and as fascinated and enamored of Scotland as I am, the other is there only because she could find no other way to wiggle out of her duties as the legal heir of a castle she cares nothing about.

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Even more exciting is the sense of déjà vu I feel about the Wildflowers of Scotland books I’ve already written.

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As I spotted each of the wildflowers I’ve featured in Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, and Sweet William, and the castles and kirks that provide a backdrop for each of the stories, the characters have come to life for me all over again.

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One of the highlights of the trip was the day I left a copy of Shy Violet with a random staff member at Eilean Donan’s Castle Café, where many scenes in the book take place. A few days later, on our way back from the Isle of Skye, we stopped once more to eat lunch. The recipient pulled me aside, and in her delightful Scottish accent, said “I’ve begun to read yer book, and I’m loving it! Ye’re a very good author, and I thank ye so much.”

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The whole time we were at Eilean Donan Castle, I kept catching glimpse of people who looked like Nathan or Violet.

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William and Lyndsie, the stars of Sweet William, felt very close to me when we were on Skye – walking around the mysterious Fairy Glen at Uig, watching the cows graze on Claigon Coral Beach near Dunvegan and dipping a toe in the Fairy Pools at Glenbrittle. Because I know what happens to William while he’s on Skye, I had a deep, sense of foreboding until we were on our way home, and I knew everything was okay.

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There’s a magical connection between Scotland and me. I’m a Blue Belle, and always will be. (For those of you who don’t know me, I have a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn.)

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Loving the blue and white Saltire of Scotland is a natural extension of my love of blue.

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If you’ve yet to fall in love with Scotland, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of one of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels and see if the highlands and islands of Scotland resonate with you like they do me.

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Age old castles and blue-watered bays,

White sandy beaches and quaint cottage stays.

A rainbow of colors and chocolates, hand-dipped,

A valley of bluebells and sheep, freshly clipped.

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Legends galore, buried treasure, and more…

In the Wildflowers of Scotland novels, that’s what’s in store.

Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie Hansen Decker rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B – or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet and Sweet William, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

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You can see what’s she’s up to at: 

https://www.facebook.com/BlueBelleInn

 https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or www.BlueBelleBooks.com

https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Sherrie’s new release is Sweet William.

He’s a real sweetheart. She’s a wee bit tart. When Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge, the atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. Will someone get cut, or will they find a recipe that works? Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear.

Sweet William Front Cover

Mark and I just returned from a wonderful vacation to Scotland and my mind is reeling with all the things I need to do and catch up on.

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For starters, I approved the cover for Sweet William in the wee hours the night before we left, and it has now been released in both paperback and Kindle versions.

2016

I will be hosting a online release party for Sweet William on Friday, June 24 on Facebook with prizes and contests. If you’re not already a friend, please join me for a fun virtual celebration. I’m inviting guests from Hawaii, Romania, Scotland, England, Brazil, Germany, Minnesota and more, so you’ll feel right at home no matter where in the world you are.

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If you haven’t already read Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle and Shy Violet, now would be a great time to read the whole set!

Wildflowers of Scotland

I will be guest blogging at Eliza Knight’s blog, For the Love of Books, on Wednesday, June 22, at my publisher’s blog, Indigo Sea Press, on Sunday, June 26, and for Vonda Sinclair at Fierce Romance on Tuesday, June 28.  Watch for my upcoming interview with Author Pat Bertram, too!

I currently have real life book signings, appearances and speaking events set up at the following places:

Thursday, June 23, 2:30 – 6 p.m. Thompson Public Library, Thompson, IA

Saturday, July 9 – Minnesota Scottish Fair and Highland Games, Eagan, MN ?

Sunday, August 28 – 1:30 p.m. Austin Artworks Festival, Austin, MN

Monday, September 12 – 6 – 8 p.m. Hudson Public Library, Hudson, IA

Tuesday, September 20 – Austin Public Library, Austin, MN

Date to be Announced – Sweet Reads, Austin, MN

Sweet William Front Cover

 

 

 

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Sweet William

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Thistle Down

Love Notes

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