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Some asked me a few days ago whatever made me want to write books set in Scotland.

thistlePageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Blue Belle Front Cover DraftShyViolet Final Front Cover

Night and Day, my first book, is set in Minnesota and Denmark. (It’s midnight in Minnesota and Daybreak in Denmark…)

Bicycle2010

My next three books, Stormy Weather, Water Lily and Merry Go Round, the Maple Valley trilogy, were set in Iowa, my adopted state, and Minnesota, my home state. The backdrops for these stories required no research, since I grew up here and have lived here most of my life. Love Notes is set in Embarrass and Ely, Minnesota, where Mark’s aunt and uncle own a cabin on a lake that we often visited.

Ely - dock

And then, I took a long,very out-of-the way detour to Loch Awe, Argyle (Thistle Down and Wild Rose), Tobermory, Isle of Mull (Blue Belle), and Eilean Donan Castle, near Skye (Shy Violet) all in Scotland.

67 Scotland - Tobermory 5

So, why the fascination with Scotland? Why do I write books set in Scotland, and more important, why should you read a book set in Scotland? If you’ve been across the pond to visit Bonnie Scotland, I probably don’t need to say another word. You understand. Or, perhaps I should just say Sean Connery or “Jamie Fraser” and leave it at that. For those of you who still need convincing, I’ll do my best.

Scotland Urquart Castle on Loch Ness

The History:  A sunken Spanish galleon, fully loaded with gold, castles – ravaged and rebuilt, crumbling and re-crafted, standing stones and shifting borders, Roman ruins and Viking invaders, Celtic legends, kilts and clans. No offense to the dear Iowans I live amongst, but these things are a wee bit more intriguing to me than cornfields and cattle. Scotland’s multi-faceted history lays the groundwork for tantalizing plot lines.

13 Scotland - Band in Kilts

The People:  The thing about people is that they’re very likely the same no matter where they live. Sure, people have their quirks, and those quirks may be different depending on the place you live, but there are basics of the human condition that are consistent no matter where you go in the world. Read Wild Rose and tell me that church ladies aren’t church ladies no matter where you go. That said, Scots are much like the Minnesotans I grew up with – hardy and able to thrive despite harsh climates, caring, generous and giving, friendly, thrifty and a bit stubborn at times. Maybe it’s our common Nordic and Celtic ancestry?

199 Scotland - Mountains

The Scenery:  Mountains, seashores with white, sandy beaches, lighthouses, age-old castles, half-timbered buildings, ancient ruins, formal and quaint cottage gardens, birds, wildlife and wildflowers, ancient villages, grazing sheep, green pastures, lochs, heather in the highlands, rainbow-colored waterfronts reflected in the harbors… I could go on… You may not have been to Scotland, may never be able to go, but trust me – it’s a beautiful corner of the world and you’ll enjoy seeing it through my eyes or the eyes of another writer of Scottish novels. Have a wee nip and come along for the ride.

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Why Not? Who knows exactly what prompts a writer to write a particular character, storyline or setting? When it happens, you don’t argue. You bask in the sweet passion of inspiration, thank your muse for what he or she has laid on your heart to write about, and go with it.

181 Scotland - Cambo gardens4

I could go on about the food, the delightful Scottish accent, pubs, teahouses, the cute names Scots have for everything, and all the other reasons I love Scotland, but I think you get the picture. The fact is, I love going on a little mini-vacation in my mind each and every time I return to the Isle of Mull, Argyle, or Skye for another Wildflowers of Scotland novel.

135 Scotland - Rainbow 5

Part of my fascination with Scotland is probably a form of escape. I know about the problems, deficiencies, and irksome idiosyncrasies of my own country, state, town, and backyard. It’s much easier to paint an idyllic scene of my own imagination with only the problems I want included in my plot than to face the boring, mundane conditions of my own world. I can ignore pesky things that might drag me down and let my imagination run wild. It’s easier to do that when I’m writing about Scotland.

BBI - Spring 2012

Coming Soon from Second Wind Publishing

Once, when I showed someone I’d met in Scotland a photo of the B&B I own in northern Iowa, they said, “It looks like something straight from the pages of a fairytale, like a place I’ve always dreamed of.” Well, for me, Scotland is the place I’ve always dreamed of – the land of my fathers, the place where I can run to and embrace with my imagination. Reach out your arms and think Celtic love knots, fairy glens and stone cottages with thatched roofs. Start with Thistle Down, and then read Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet. Common wildflowers in an uncommon land. I hope you’ll join me!

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From Author Sheila Deeth, on the Wildflowers of Scotland novels:  A cool blend of mystery, humor, suspense and romance, and wholly believable, delightfully flawed characters is genuinely enticing in this wild romp through the Scottish countryside with Sherrie Hansen.  Evocative, sensitive, sensible and sweet, these are tales with plenty of action and adventure, making a truly lovely read.

When a poor choice and some wild fluctuations in the space time continuum leave school teacher Violet Johansen stranded in the car park of Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland, Violet wonders if she’ll ever find her way back to her comfort zone. She has two choices – to trust a piper who looks exactly like someone she dated a decade ago, or a band of nefarious pirates.   

Pirates.

21 BB 153 Scotland - Pirates

Pipers.

Scottish Bagpipe player 5

People – mistakes – from the past that rise up to haunt you at exactly the worst possible moment…

Scotland - Graveyard

A castle that’s been ravaged and rebuilt…

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Passion.

Food - Teatime

Paintings.

Shy Violet - painting

People from the past who threaten to tie you down for all eternity.

119 Scotland Lion Growl

Can Violet and Nathan’s fragile new friendship survive to see love reborn? Or is the past so set in stone that nothing can change it?

26 BB Flower - Violet Pair

Shy Violet.  Is it Violet’s turn to bloom, or will the past crush her hopes for the future? Will the promises Nathan made prevent him from enjoying the present he’s found in Violet?

ShyViolet Final Front Cover

“A cool blend of mystery, humor, suspense and romance, and wholly believable, delightfully flawed characters is genuinely enticing in this wild romp through the Scottish countryside with Sherrie Hansen.  Evocative, sensitive, sensible and sweet, these are tales with plenty of action and adventure, making a truly lovely read.”  Author Sheila Deeth, on the Wildflowers of Scotland novels

SHY VIOLET by Sherrie Hansen – coming May 1 from Second Wind Publishing

Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-three years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  Sherrie has also lived in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine. She grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota. After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Shy Violet” is Sherrie’s eighth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

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

Books Titles: Night and Day, Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round, Love Notes, Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Thistle Down (a prequel novella), Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet

SHY VIOLET BY SHERRIE HANSEN… Coming May 1, 2015…

ShyViolet Final Front CoverFood - violet tarts

Violet looked at Nathan, asleep in his cold, sterile, hospital bed, and something inside her just snapped. What was she doing? Fighting in front of Nathan at a time like this, when venom and vinegar were the absolute last things on her mind and love was all that mattered.

She shrunk back against the wall. Because violets are beautiful, but they have fragile, thin-skinned petals and short little stems and they can only survive in sheltered, shady spots in the forest. They’re not made to weather fierce storms or a powerful sun. And if someone steps on them and tramples then into the ground, that’s probably where they’ll stay – crushed for all eternity.

“Violet?” Lyndsie knew her well enough to know that something was wrong.

Violet opened her mouth and tried to find the words to express what she was feeling. And failed. Who did she think she was, anyway? Sure, she could stand up to Stacy for – what had it been? Like two minutes? The mouse looking the lion in the eye for a nanosecond before scampering away, fearful for its life.

Nathan had known Stacy for years. He’d loved her enough to ask her to marry him. He may have realized it was a mistake to proceed with the marriage, but they had a history – a long, deep, trusting, evolving relationship. He and Violet had shared a couple of weeks of wild lovemaking and a handful of heart-to-hearts. That was it.

Nathan might think he loved her – who really knew? They certainly didn’t have the all-important communication thing down or he would have known she hadn’t been kidnapped and they wouldn’t be in the mess they were in. Even if Nathan did love her on some level, he didn’t trust her. Lyndsie had told her Nathan believed she had taken a $10,000 bribe from his father and left drugs in his apartment, then tipped off the police to get him in trouble.

There was no way she could go head to head with Stacy over Nathan. She didn’t have the courage. She didn’t have the resolve. She didn’t have the guts. She didn’t have the right.

Stacy gave her a look – a mere look – and she could feel what little bravado she had left withering like a shade-loving wildflower in a hot desert sun. Impossible.

From Shy Violet by Sherrie Hansen

Flower - violet sunshine

I’ve been watching back to back episodes of the TV show Chopped on the Food Network this week because I’m working on a murder mystery called “A Taste of Murder:  The Galloping Gourmet Gets the Trots”. The simple, three act murder mysteries I write for the Blue Belle Inn B&B’s acting troupe are fun, mostly silly, crowd pleasers. They always end where they’re supposed to, because someone invariably confesses at the end of Round 3. As simple a format as they are, I’ve learned several things while researching and working on them.

MM - Taste of Murder

On the show, Chopped, the contestants have 20 – 30 minutes to prepare an appetizer, main course, or dessert from the often odd and usually unrelated mystery ingredients in their baskets. When the countdown ends, they immediately put their hands in the air, step back from their work stations, and hope that what’s on their plate is good enough to avoid being axed on the chopping block. No matter that your delicious milk chocolate sauce – the one you infused with melted gummy bears because that’s what was in the basket – is still on the stove, momentarily forgotten, never to be drizzled over your hastily made Chantilly crepes. When the time is up, there’s no chance to fuss, make corrections, re-plate, or change your mind about this or that. You’re done. Finished. The end has come.

Food - Cupcakes

Sometimes, I wish knowing where to end my novel was as structured and simple as that. Hands in the air. Step back from your laptop. The end.

Zion - 2013 Sunset

This week I heard back from one of my beta readers, who told me she didn’t like the ending of my soon-to-be-released Wildflowers of Scotland novel, Shy Violet. What she said – and I think she’s absolutely right – is that I had a tight strand of a story with characters and drama masterfully braided in to a focused story line when all of a sudden, about 50 pages from the end, the story started to fray apart.

Sunset 2014 Grass

What I’d done was to introduce William, who’s going to be the hero of the next book in the series – Sweet William, and pull back the characters from the previous book in the series, Blue Belle, so I could use their wedding as a backdrop for the last few scenes of Shy Violet. In doing so, I stole the thunder from Violet and Nathan’s story and left Shy Violet with a weak, disconnected ending instead of a strong finish.

228 Fence - Hairy Coo babies

Although I didn’t realize it consciously at the time, I wasn’t sure how Shy Violet should end. Although I love my characters and the premise of the book, I was ready to be done with the story. I’d been working on it for over a year, and I’d already moved on emotionally. As I read back over the ending, I could see that I was scrambling to make my word count by adding scenes that never should have been part of the story.

139 Scotland - Mull sunset

So, when is it time to say, The End? How do you know when your story is finished? What makes a good ending? Most of us are taught to focus on the beginning of our story – the magical first scene, first page, first line – the all-important hook. After all, if you don’t get the beginning right, it won’t matter how the book ends because no one will read it. But there’s a lot to be said for a satisfying ending, too. In the restaurant business, it’s commonly held that customers base their tip on how full their waiter keeps their coffee cups at the end of the meal. Sweet, well-timed endings are what make a customer – reader – leave satisfied and eager to come back. What makes a great ending?

A good ending ties up all your loose ends quickly and concisely. No need to endlessly linger – if you haven’t made your case for inclusion of the thread by now, it probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.

No need to micromanage every little detail. Find a good balance and wrap things up.

A satisfying ending may include a teaser or leave you wondering what happened next. Embrace the mystery and let your reader fill in a few of the blanks. Imaginative readers like feeling that they’re part of the story.

Think hard and long about introducing new characters or themes toward the end of a book. If you’re writing a series, it’s tempting to move things in the direction you’re planning to go in your next book, but it may not serve the story and can be a serious distraction.

Scotland Sunset

Don’t be too predictable. A wonderful ending may include a surprise, or a twist that no one saw coming. Now is not the time to throw in something way out of the blue, but being startled or caught off guard can be intriguing if it builds naturally from a multi-dimensional, sometimes unpredictable character.

Endings can be happy, sad, maudlin, or inconclusive. They can leave you hanging or satisfy you on a deeply personal level. Asking yourself what kind of ending fits the theme and characters in your book will steer you in the right direction.

Let your characters tell you how and when the book should end. If your characters aren’t talking to you, maybe they’re not ready to end the book. Give them a little time, let things settle and sink in, and they’ll eventually tell you where they want to go. I often need a little time to absorb things and make sense of something that’s happened, especially after a very climactic scene or event. Your characters do, too.

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Focus on the things that really matter. A good ending reflects the crux of your book, the theme or common thread that runs throughout the entire book. Ask yourself what the book is really about. The answer may surprise you, and it may be different than whatever the book was supposed to be about. That’s what your ending should be about, too. Addressing the things your readers have come to care about while reading the book creates a comforting consistency.

If you’re still stuck, go back and read the first two scenes of your book. Think of the beginning and ending as bookends to the story in between. The ending should be a mirror image of the start.

If you’re still not sure you ended the book at the right time or in the right place, let it sit for at least a few days. Read the last few scenes of the book out loud. If the end of your book evokes emotions in you, and gives you a deeper understanding of your self and the world you live in, then raise your hands in the air and step back from the table. Your book is done.

Food - violet tarts

If you’re dissatisfied or bored, or left feeling cold or confused, then be glad that as writers, no one holds a stopwatch over our heads and demands that we deliver a hot, perfectly-plated, artistic-looking, delicious-tasting product in 20 minutes or less. Be glad you’re a writer and not a chef.

Endings are complex, and they’re just as important as beginnings, because once you have a reader, you want to keep them, move them on to your next book, and the next, and the next. That’s what a good ending does. Questions asked demand answers. The world is full of symmetry, and I believe that finding it in the pages of your book will eventually give you the perfect ending.

ShyViolet Final Front Cover

You’ll be happy to hear that I’ve re-written the ending of Shy Violet twice now, and from all indications, I finally got it right. Hopefully, in a few weeks, you can read it and be the judge!

Happy endings, whether you like things nice and tidy and tied with a ribbon, or helter-skelter, with a few loose ends left dangling…

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RAGGED ROBIN – New Release

PLUM TART IRIS – New Release

Seaside Daisy

NEW RELEASE!

Daybreak (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

What You’ve Missed

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