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I’m spending the night at my parent’s house in the country tonight, and the stars are shining brilliantly in the inky black sky. While it’s dark and clear in Minnesota, it was so foggy I could hardly see to drive when I left Iowa. In both places, all I had to do was open a window to feel fresh air.

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A few evenings ago, I was at a conference in downtown Minneapolis, on the 14th floor of a Hilton Hotel, hemmed in by skyscrapers on four sides, fighting off waves of panic as I rode the elevator higher and higher and higher off the ground.

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The views from our permanently sealed windows were beautiful in a manmade sort of way, but I missed seeing the sun sink into the horizon at night. The small patch of sky directly overhead told me little of what the weather was doing.

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My brief visit to the big city reminded me of the tale of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse. In the version I remember, a very proper, slightly haughty town mouse goes to visit her cousin in the country. The country mouse welcomes the city mouse with delicious, old-fashioned food and warm, heartfelt hospitality, but the visiting cousin is not impressed. She then adjusts her fancy hat and invites the country mouse to visit her in the city for a taste of the fine life.

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When their decadent, uptown feast is interrupted by a pair of big city fat cats, they have to scurry to safety. After this, the country mouse decides to return home, preferring the peace and quiet of the country to the opulence and excitement of the big city.

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Once upon a time, I dated a big city boy. At first, he thought he might enjoy living in the county, but as time went by, he realized it was not the lifestyle for him. I wasn’t interested in residing among the steel and glass giants of the city, so that was the end of that.

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In the land of fictional relationships, a character may give up his or her chosen lifestyle to be with the one they love, but in real life, it’s hard to reconcile concrete differences that go to the core of what makes us unique. In my first book, Night and Day, it’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark when Jensen and Anders meet. Since they both love their respective countries, they struggle as to whether she should leave her home, or he, his, or if they should pick somewhere halfway in between and both be homesick.

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In Golden Rod, my new release, Katelyn comes to Scotland from Minnesota to sell a castle she inherited. She doesn’t like international travel and has no intention of staying for more than a week or two. Rod is bound to MacKenzie land that’s been in his family for centuries. Their differences go even deeper than the ocean between their two homes. Katelyn lives in Minneapolis and works for a big company. She is mortified at the thought of losing her job and salary and is loyal to a boss she has always trusted and respected. Rod spends his time at sea or working in the walled garden at his family’s castle.  He’s a fiercely independent entrepreneur who controls his own destiny. Sink or swim, it’s all on him.

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I worked for a boss in a big city before I moved back to Iowa to open the Blue Belle Inn B&B. It was a hard adjustment to go from a consistent salary to a haphazard income that fluctuated seasonally and at the whim of my customers. Gradually, I learned to trust myself and adapt to the variety of lean and leaner times. I had learned in Colorado Springs, as Katelyn eventually does, that bosses and bankers can be unreliable, and sometimes, even cities can be boom or bust fickle. But then, so can relationships, weather, and a million other things in this world. People accuse the Midwest of being boring, but to me, it feels reliable, secure, and stable.

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Perhaps the ultimate comfort comes from staying near the places we grew up. For me, that’s the flatlands of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa – black dirt, farmland, bean and corn fields, big skies and unfettered horizons in all four directions.

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My dad and I were watching reruns of the Andy Griffith show last night. There are several episodes with Country Mouse, City Mouse themes. When I was young, there was a time I couldn’t wait to escape to the big city. Now, I see what a hold the country has on me. Much as I occasionally enjoy being wined and dined and courted while visiting the big city, I will never live in one again. For me, country is comfortable, easy, and filled with delights.

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The closest I typically come to cities these days is to fly in and out of airports in the world’s major hubs before taking the shortest route out of the city and heading to the nearest village, mountainside, or ocean-side drive. In recent years, I’ve bypassed London, Bucharest, Edinburg, Paris, Copenhagen, Milan, Denver, Phoenix, L.A., and Munich for more remote, secluded locations. Country mouse to the core.

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But some real life stories do have happy endings. When I met my husband, I told him if he married a Minnesota farmer’s daughter, he’d be stuck in the alternately freezing cold or hot, humid Midwest for good. My roots grow deep. He grew up visiting Disneyland and surfing in southern California, and went to law school in downtown Los Angeles. Did he realize I was serious? If he didn’t then, he does now. Thankfully, he appreciates my farm family and loves them like this own. So, sometimes, love can overcome differences like Country Mouse, City Mouse. And for that, I’m very happy.

Sherrie and Mark 2013

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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.

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“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.

Golden Rod

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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My love of bluebells is no secret.

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They bloom in the woods near my B&B every year in late April or early May.

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I’ve watched their pink and purple buds turn into intense, periwinkle blue flowers, then fade to a soft, sky blue, since I was a little girl.

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I’ve written a book named Blue Belle. The B&B and tea house I’ve owned for 25 years is called the Blue Belle Inn.

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Familiar as bluebells are to me, I’ve recently learned a few new lessons while walking through the bluebell wood.

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It’s possible to be broken, bent, and beautiful at the same time.  One most likely leads to the other, like the beauty of a mosaic made from broken pieces.

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You can focus on the beauty of a place, or the ugliness. Stuff happens. It’s your choice what you dwell on.

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For every hill you struggle to climb, there’s an easy cruise down the other side, and a beautiful view from the top besides.

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Even when you feel hollow and empty inside, you’re a thing of beauty to someone who needs shelter from the wind.

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Finding your own little niche to grow in is one of life’s greatest gifts.

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No matter how bad you have it, someone else always has it worse.

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Being front and center isn’t always the best place to be. Wallflowers are much less likely to get stepped on than flowers that grow in the middle of a pathway.

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You can lift your eyes upward to the tree tops, or follow the shadows down into the valley.  Your choice.

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Being uprooted is never fun, but there’s always a bright spot on the horizon.

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Sunshine or shadow – it makes all the difference.

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Some people live lengthy lives in obscurity, others are chosen to be loved intensely for but a moment.

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Some are fortunate enough to find a clear, straight, well-marked path.

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Everything you do and say is a reflection on the things you love most – the real you.

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Sometimes the path winds  so much that you can’t see what’s around the bend. But that’s okay. It’s good to be surprised.

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I’m in a time of transition in my life. Are you? Wandering in the bluebell wood, I was reminded that there’s no better way to find your way than in new lessons learned from the comfort of the familiar.

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

Golden Rod painting

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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One of the highlights of 2016 for me has been that I’ve started to paint. I won’t say I learned to paint, because except for a 3-4 minute online tutorial on how to paint flowers and leaves, I haven’t had a teacher. I have had a lot of inspiration and encouragement, from both people and places.

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A favorite quote from my favorite author, Maud Hart Lovelace, who wrote the Betsy Tacy books –  “Isn’t it mysterious to begin a new journal like this? I can run my fingers through the fresh clean pages but I cannot guess what the writing on them will be.” (from Betsy in Spite of Herself). For me, the new year has long been the time to start a new diary, write the first words in a blank journal, or begin a new book. I’ve always had a wild imagination, an abundance of curiosity, and plenty of thoughts and opinions. But painting has taken me to a whole new layer of creativity. Here’s why I like to think of 2017 as a blank canvas.

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When we write, we start out with white pages. When I paint, I begin with a stretched linen canvas, painted black. It provides a good base, a medium for blending, and the perfect contrast and background for other colors. Black separates the colors and keeps them from becoming muddled. It gives the painting a sense of unity. Unless you’re a lot younger and much more pristine than I am, it seems fitting to start out with a canvas that’s been woven, wet, starched and stretched, maybe even painfully so.

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To me, the black represents the past – triumphs and treasures, mistakes I’ve made and ongoing struggles. Much as I might wish that some of those events never even happened, I realize that they’re the foundation of who I am, and that the finished painting will be many times more beautiful because of the richness of my past experiences and the things I’ve learned along the way. The wonderful thing about painting is that I can start out fresh and cover the background with colorful new dreams and experiences.

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I can paint whatever I like on my canvases. If I don’t like how they turn out, I can choose new colors, or alter the lines, or even start completely over again. There are no rules, no rights or wrongs, no preconceived notions to worry about. It’s all good.

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I don’t begin to know what 2017 will hold. I hope to see Golden Rod finished and published. All things considered, I feel a great sense of anticipation about what the year will bring. I wouldn’t be human if it wasn’t mixed with a little trepidation about what lies ahead. There are some significant milestones in store for me – a big birthday, and the 25th anniversary of the opening of my bed and breakfast and tea house.

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The important thing is that 2017 will be filled with all kind of opportunities – to choose the high road, focus on the good, to choose hope over despair, and people over technology. Don’t be afraid to add some color to the mix. Create some new hues, try something you’ve never done before. Travel to new places and sing a new song or two. For the rest – “Brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. “ (Philippians 4:8)

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Wishing you many blessings and many colorful landscapes in 2017. It’s a blank canvas – pick up your brush and paint.

 

 

 

Sweet Man or Bad Boy – Who’s the Sexiest? Can a sweet man – a servant – be sexy? The hero of a book?

Woman may pick a sweet man over a bad boy in real life, but in the books they read, it’s an established assumption that most women are attracted to the alpha male prototype. The alpha male demands, takes, plunders, and is strong, cocky and unyielding. The alpha male is a conqueror, a warrior, the stereotypical hero. As I think about men I most admire, I wonder why it is that women so often desire thrills over security; a sense of danger, excitement and adventure over someone who gives us comfort and protection. Is it true that women crave a man who acts aloof and indifferent instead of eager and polite? Is it a turn-off when a man lavishes a woman with attention or acts like a perfect gentlemen? Do women really prefer a bad boy whose lifestyle is a roller-coaster of excitement, rather than the steady positive force of a good guy? Why is it that women view sweet men as less-desirable and relegate them to a comfortable but dull status?

Sweet William Front Cover

In my new release, Sweet William, William is strongly male, but he’s wired with an intense desire to serve others. There are plenty of cranky servants out there, reluctant heroes who help others because they have to, or get paid to do it, or because they’d feel guilty if they didn’t. It’s questionable if these people are true servants, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, especially since they often grow into the role, especially in a book, where all good characters have a growth arc. But William truly is a sweetheart.

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When Violet goes into labor, and all her help falls through, William changes his plans to help Lyndsie at Rabbit Hill Lodge. He sets aside his own wishes and desires when his mother needs him at home on the farm. He opens his arms to his brothers when they need help. William exhibits selfless behavior over and over again, from the moment he wishes Lyndsie would win their unofficial Chopped competition to the day in the haymow when he keeps his pants zipped despite the fact that Lyndsie is ready and willing.

 

What is it about a sweet man that can be a turn-off to some women?  A sweet man can be an introvert or an extrovert. He can be a powerful executive, or like William, a farmer. He can be rugged and masculine, or studious and intellectual. It’s less about looks or occupation, and more about a mindset, a world view that permeates everything he says and does. So why, despite the obvious advantages of being with a sweet man, do sweet men irk some women no end?

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Does the fact that those men are considerate and thoughtful make them weak, or less desirable? I think William is the sexiest hero I’ve ever written. And at the end of a long, tiring day, my husband is far more desirable to me than any alpha male. Maybe part of the reason I think sweet men are sexy is that I’m married to one. My husband is a pastor, and he not only serves his congregation, he serves me in hundreds of little ways through every day. I’ve always believed that for a man to be attractive to me, he has to be my equal at the very least – intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, physically. There’s nothing stronger, sweeter, or sexier, than a man who draws a warm bath for his exhausted lady at the end of the day, fixes her breakfast in bed, or takes care of the laundry or the kids or the dishes so his partner can relax, write, or have some time to herself.

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Many of my male characters tend to be caring men – Pastor Ian in Wild Rose, Michael St. Dawndalyn, the psychologist in Blue Belle, Nathan, the school teacher, in Shy Violet.  I’ve written a few alpha males – Anders in Night and Day, Tommy Love, the rock star, in Love Notes, and Clay Alexander in Merry Go Round. I adore them in their own way, especially toward the end of their character arcs.

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But there’s something about a sweet man, a man who puts others’ needs ahead of his own, that melts my heart. I hope William, Sweet William, will endear himself to you, too.

If you’re not sure how you feel, try reading Sweet William and see if you agree.

Writing and painting, although both creative expressions, are often viewed as being on opposite ends of the spectrum.

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Writers paint pictures with their words. Artfully crafted descriptions help readers visualize the setting of each scene, the appearance of the main characters, and movement within the scene.

Artists take a scene from their imagination and bring it to life with vividly colored paints, textiles or other mediums that you can see, touch, and feel. The only verbal expression that may come into play is a suggestive title of one or two words.

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Both mediums communicate emotion and tell a story. Both require the reader to bring their own interpretation and understanding to fully experience what the author or artist has conveyed through the words or visual expression they’ve chosen to convey.

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As a writer who’s always labeled myself as a visual learner, I think there’s good reason to combine word art and visual art.

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Some writers compile a storyboard to look at and refer to while writing a book.  Whether they tag related visual images on Pinterest or actually make an old-fashioned collage with cutouts from a magazine, these writers find it helpful to surround themselves with tangible images of their characters and setting. It’s become increasingly popular for authors to create a trailer to use in marketing their books – just one more way of pairing visual cues with the written word to enrich the reading experience.

Painting - Northern Lights.jpg

 

I’ve long taken photos to use in tandem with my books, even used my photographs on the front cover of my books for a creative tie-in.

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Then, a friend who’s an artist and the leader of an online group called Shedding Light, challenged the members of the group to paint. I resisted for awhile, thinking I didn’t have the time or the talent. But I’ve always been attracted to artistic expression, collected painting that called out to me, and found peace in having beautiful images in my home. Finally, I gave into my fascination and picked up a brush. The paintings I’ve done so far are all reminiscent of Scotland, the setting of my last 5 books. In June, my husband and I visited several castles in Aberdeenshire, and saw hundreds of sheep and boothies dotting the hills of Skye, so I’m fortunate to be able to paint images that are fresh in my mind. When I start writing Golden Rod, my next Wildflowers of Scotland novel, in earnest, I’ll look back at the paintings I’ve done and let my imagination travel back in time.

Painting - Moonlight Mirage

 

When I’m writing, I’m required to be acutely aware of the pitfalls of using poor grammar, being overly wordy or cliché, not structuring my scenes just so, and a million other infractions that contradict the way a writer is “supposed to write”. When I paint, there are no rules – the more unique, creative, or even bizarre, the better. Painting is my time to let loose, relax, and spontaneously create what I see in my mind’s eye – with no restraints.

 

Which calls out to your heart – visual images or the written word? The ability to use one medium to enhance the other is a gift – and an opportunity not to be missed. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination.

Painting - Flowers

(All photos and paintings used in this blog are Sherrie Hansen originals. The credit for my title goes to Michael Card, from his song, That’s What Faith Must Be.)

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Twenty-four 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.

 You can see what Sherrie is 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’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.

B&W View

 

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.

B&W Flag Castle  B&W Blair Atholl

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.

B&W Stained Glass

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

B&W Bluebells

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.

B&W Lighthouse

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.

B&W Mountains

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.

B&W Blue Belle Inn

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.)

B&W Gifts

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

B&W Bride

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.

B&W Swan

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.

B&W Burns House

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.

B&W B&B

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

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Golden Rod – New Release!

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Night and Day

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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